National / International News

Silicon Galley? Seeking innovation off-shore

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:47

Could Silicon Valley become more of an island? An island is both an outpost with its own rules that's also a bit cut off from the wider society -- a combination of characteristics which emerged during a series of conversations on whether an island of innovation would end up a richer or poorer place if left to its own devices. 

I invited Dario Mutabdjiza, CEO of a start-up called Blueseed, to explain his out-to-sea vision at a Half Moon Bay California pier that may end up launching a thousand entreprenuerial ships. If he can raise enough money, Mutabdjiza would like to put a collection of floating dorms and offices just past the limit of current US immigration law, about 12 miles out to sea. The "venture capital row" near Stanford is about 30 minutes away from this wharf.

“The most realistic possibility would be [to use] a cruise ship, a used cruised ship,” Mutabdjiza says. The cost to maintain the floating real estate might even be competitive with the Bay Area's high-priced commercial rental space.

“They're beautiful, they have rooms, they have theaters, they have restaurants.  Any cruise ship would be good enough to begin with. We wouldn't have to do much retrofitting.”

 

Sailing Through Immigration Laws 

Many entrepreneurs and-or engineers have bright ideas they'd like to develop in the United States, but it's a difficult process getting them a full-time work visa to pursue that dream, Mutabdjiza says, who sees a more flexible business multiple entry visa as an easier get: “What you cannot do on those [traditional full-time work] visas, and that's where Blueseed comes in, you cannot legally work in the United States. So the work on their startup would happen [with a business multiple entry visa] on a ship. The coding and the business development, and the networking activities would happen in Silicon Valley.”  He concedes the work visa concerns could be better solved if the U.S. Congress changed immigration laws. 

If this seems familiar--a floating solution to a policy problem--you may remember how the overseers of British broadcasting denied the public consistent rock n' roll until pirate radio stations went on the air from ships at sea. 

 

Maritime Urban Planning 

Another Northern California-based outfit even has a grander vision: Entire floating cities in an attempt to solve what's seen as a broken government that stands in the way of innovation.

“The end goal is to see a thousand floating cities each competing for citizens,” says Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute, which wants to break what supporters see as a government monopoly… on government.

“It's strange to think of governance as a technology, but a technology is something we use to get things done.  Most technologies advance through innovation and competition in the marketplace,” he says. “Right now just a few big firms have that monopoly on government.  IF we can open up the blue frontier to humanity, each competing for citizens, we'll see great advances in government.”

Floating cities could be part of a liberatian-flavored utopian community -- think Hershey, Pennsylvania or the community in Texas tried by cereal tycoon C.W. Post.  When the Seasteading Institute put up a survey, more than a thousand people said they want in.

“I think that people who are called to the seasteading want to do good for the world,” Hencken says.

 

Pirate Bay (IRL)

Might a community beyond the reach of many existing laws attract pirates? “I think that while there have to be rules, there has to be safety out there,” Hencken replies. “The ocean is a harsh environment, it's not a place that will invite people to do bad things.”

The first goal would be to start small with a ship docked in the protected harbor of a friendly country, which isn't likely to be California or the U.S. any time soon. 

Financially, Mutabdjiza rejects any accusation that Blueseed’s vessels will be used as offshore tax dodge, saying a typical venture capitalist looking to invest would insist that that a start-up incorporate-and therefore pay taxes-in actual U.S. jurisdiction.

 

Tomorrow, our Silicon Island conversations continue with one of the Valley's most influential venture capitalists, Tim Draper.  He wants Silicon Valley to be its own state and is pushing a ballot initiative to make it so. 

Queen reach six million album sales

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:34
British rock band Queen make UK chart history, becoming the first act to sell six million copies of an individual album with their first Greatest Hits collection.

UK seeing 'right kind of growth'

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:24
The UK economy is starting to see the right kind of growth, says the CBI, but it warns that uncertainty ahead of the election could be a "mood killer".

Two dead after car and van crash

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:24
Two people, aged 80 and 77, die and another is seriously injured in a crash between a car and van in Aberdeenshire.

Should the post office sell personal loans?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:23

Imagine you've just walked into a U.S Postal Service branch office in 2016.

Mail that package -- check.

Buy stamps – check.

Apply for a loan --- uh, check?

The Service’s independent Inspector General wants post offices to provide basic financial services, both to help low-income people who are underserved by banks and to shore up its own ailing balance sheet. If you want to meet unbanked and underbanked people, go stand outside ACE Cash Express in Arlington, Virginia. Stevenn Foster just paid off a $500 payday loan, "and interest was $136,” he says, referring to the fees. That gives his short term loan an effective APR of several hundred percent.

“If that’s what they say I have to pay, I pay, I don’t have no problem with that,” Foster says. “I mean, they been good to me.

He can’t get a loan from his regular bank. In fact, most people here say they’re grateful to have somewhere to cash checks and pay bills.

But just a block away, there’s a post office.

David Williams is Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service and if he gets his way, that post office would offer some of the same services as ACE Cash Express, for less. He says that would be a huge draw for the 68 million people who are underserved by banks.

“People that are currently in a pretty desperate situation,” he says. “They live in economic deserts today, they don’t have access to anyone other than these enterprises that charge 300% plus (for a loan).”

Post offices already provide money orders. Williams thinks they should expand to provide pre-paid debit-type cards (people could load cash or paychecks onto the card), savings products, and even simple loans.

He says collecting a fraction of the money now spent on interest and fees for payday lenders and other banking alternatives would bring in nine billion dollars a year. That’s the payoff for the Postal Service, which has lost about 25 billion dollars since 2011, due in part to a Congressional requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits.

So, does additional revenue + helping the underbanked = win-win?

Lauren Saunders is managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. She likes the creative approach to reaching people underserved by traditional banking. But, “getting into loans, I think, is a little more of a tricky area,” she says.

The idea is that borrowers at post offices  would arrange to have loan payments automatically withheld from their paychecks. That would lower risk and interest rates.

“A lender may feel confident they’re gonna collect on your loan if they get to take part of your paycheck before you get it,” Saunders says. “But that doesn’t mean you can afford it, and that you can make it through the month, and pay for the necessities and expenses that you have, without getting yourself into a cycle of debt.”

Even with better terms, many low-income people just can’t afford more debt.

Still, the Inspector General’s postal banking idea is gaining steam with Congressional Democrats. The Postal Service itself says it’s evaluating the recommendations.

Should the U.S. Postal Service get into financial services?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:23

Imagine you've just walked into a U.S Postal Service branch office in 2016.

Mail that package -- check.

Buy stamps – check.

Apply for a loan --- uh, check?

The Service’s independent Inspector General wants post offices to provide basic financial services, both to help low-income people who are underserved by banks and to shore up its own ailing balance sheet. If you want to meet unbanked and underbanked people, go stand outside ACE Cash Express in Arlington, Virginia. Stevenn Foster just paid off a $500 payday loan, "and interest was $136,” he says, referring to the fees. That gives his short term loan an effective APR of several hundred percent.

“If that’s what they say I have to pay, I pay, I don’t have no problem with that,” Foster says. “I mean, they been good to me.

He can’t get a loan from his regular bank. In fact, most people here say they’re grateful to have somewhere to cash checks and pay bills.

But just a block away, there’s a post office.

David Williams is Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service and if he gets his way, that post office would offer some of the same services as ACE Cash Express, for less. He says that would be a huge draw for the 68 million people who are underserved by banks.

“People that are currently in a pretty desperate situation,” he says. “They live in economic deserts today, they don’t have access to anyone other than these enterprises that charge 300% plus (for a loan).”

Post offices already provide money orders. Williams thinks they should expand to provide pre-paid debit-type cards (people could load cash or paychecks onto the card), savings products, and even simple loans.

He says collecting a fraction of the money now spent on interest and fees for payday lenders and other banking alternatives would bring in nine billion dollars a year. That’s the payoff for the Postal Service, which has lost about 25 billion dollars since 2011, due in part to a Congressional requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health benefits.

So, does additional revenue + helping the underbanked = win-win?

Lauren Saunders is managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. She likes the creative approach to reaching people underserved by traditional banking. But, “getting into loans, I think, is a little more of a tricky area,” she says.

The idea is that borrowers at post offices  would arrange to have loan payments automatically withheld from their paychecks. That would lower risk and interest rates.

“A lender may feel confident they’re gonna collect on your loan if they get to take part of your paycheck before you get it,” Saunders says. “But that doesn’t mean you can afford it, and that you can make it through the month, and pay for the necessities and expenses that you have, without getting yourself into a cycle of debt.”

Even with better terms, many low-income people just can’t afford more debt.

Still, the Inspector General’s postal banking idea is gaining steam with Congressional Democrats. The Postal Service itself says it’s evaluating the recommendations.

'Look beyond exams,' schools urged

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 01:00
A cross-party parliamentary group urges schools to be "more than just exam factories" and promote character and resilience.

Barclays: profits down, bonuses up. Why?

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:53
What’s happening at Barclays?

Parents 'unaware' of online activity

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:52
More than one in five young people in Northern Ireland spend five or more hours a day online but many parents are unaware of what they are doing, according to a new study.

Australia GM crops row goes to court

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:46
An Australian farmer is suing after his farm was allegedly contaminated by genetically modified crops blown over from his neighbour's farm.

U.S. And Canadian Women's Hockey Brings Plenty Of Heat To The Ice

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:44

The two teams will meet Wednesday in an early round game, but they have an intense rivalry that has often turned to heated clashes on the ice. The players are neither embarrassed nor proud of the fighting, but, yes, it could happen again.

» E-Mail This     » Add to Del.icio.us

With An Air Bag, Help During An Avalanche Is A Cord-Yank Away

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:31

Air bags stored in backpacks are saving the lives of backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. They look something like car air bags, but they work on an entirely different principle. These keep you safe simply by turning you into a larger object, and that helps you rise to the top of debris.

» E-Mail This     » Add to Del.icio.us

With An Air Bag, Help During An Avalanche Is A Cord-Yank Away

NPR News - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:31

Air bags stored in backpacks are saving the lives of backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. They look something like car airbags, but they work on an entirely different principle. These keep you safe simply by turning you into a larger object, and that helps you rise to the top of debris.

» E-Mail This     » Add to Del.icio.us

A film legend's dramatic escape from the Nazis

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:30
He is one of British cinema's most acclaimed cinematographers, but in 1939 Douglas Slocombe's efforts to film the German invasion of Poland forced him to make a dramatic escape.

Tesla's 'fair price' China strategy - will it work?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:25

There’s a reason the big automakers charge as much as they possibly can in China for their top end models: China’s rich are always willing to spend more.

"From the point of view of having something everybody knows is expensive, as a means to show you’ve made it," says Michael Laske, CEO of the vehicle testing company AVL China, "I think people are more inclined to want to spend higher prices."

But Tesla announced the price of its Model S electric car in China will only be 50 percent higher than its U.S. price.  That's a far cry from typical pricing behavior by foreign automakers in China, which are known for marking up the price of their high-end vehicles by up to 200 percent.

Tesla says the 50 percent markeup is necessary to account for unavoidable taxes and shipping costs.

"It's kind of a good marketing tool," says Jack Perkowski, founder of JFP holdings. "But they need that because they have some other shortcomings they have to overcome."

Like trying to sell electric vehicles in a market where ‘environmentally conscious’ is largely regarded as a foreign spending habit.

But forget Chinese consumers, says AVL’s Michael Laske. China’s government is the one at the controls of the economy, and it wants more electric vehicles on China's expanding network of expressways.

"I think the Chinese government strategy is to try be a market leader in the electrification area," says Laske, "So any company that comes in and supports this approach I think will be welcomed."

Laske says Chinese automakers are five years behind their foreign counterparts in internal combustion engine technology, and the government would prefer to leapfrog over gas guzzler,s and focus their energies on developing innovative electric vehicles - a smart choice, given China's big supply of rare earth metals like lithium, which is used to make batteries for electric cars.

Tesla plans to open operations in a dozen Chinese cities, and expects to achieve a third of its overall growth from China by the end of this year.  It's an ambitious goal for a newcomer, but one that Laske thinks is reachable. After all, Tesla only sold around twenty thousand cars last year, and China now has more than a million millionaires – many of them looking for the newest flashy sports car.

Sellafield costs rise 'astonishing'

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:16
The estimated cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria has risen by almost £2.5bn in a year, a report says.

VIDEO: EU rules on child drugs 'cost lives'

BBC - Tue, 2014-02-11 00:06
EU rules must be changed to allow more testing of potentially life-saving cancer drugs on children, says Institute of Cancer Research.

US envoy set to meet Narendra Modi

BBC - Mon, 2014-02-10 23:58
The US ambassador to India is to meet controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in what is seen as a major shift in the US stance.

Power station output 'could double'

BBC - Mon, 2014-02-10 23:31
The output of the Cruachan hydro electric power station in Argyll could be more than doubled under plans revealed by Scottish Power.

Top marks for Ceredigion's education

BBC - Mon, 2014-02-10 23:16
The standard of schools in Ceredigion is classed as excellent by inspectors, the only council in Wales to receive the highest rating.

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR
BBC World Service
Next Up: @ 05:00 am
Democracy Now

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4