National / International News
The president of Kentucky State University, Raymond Burse, has given himself a $90,000 pay cut in order to increase the wages of the university's lowest-paid employees. He tells Melissa Block why.
Douglas Preston wrote an open letter supporting book publisher Hachette in its dispute with Amazon, which has since spread among his readers and throughout the literary community. More than 900 other writers have signed on, including John Grisham and Stephen King.
The murder trial of Olympian Oscar Pistorius is nearing its conclusion in South Africa. To hear more about the closing arguments, Audie Cornish speaks with BBC correspondent Milton Ngozi, who has been covering the trial in Pretoria.
There's a lot of debate over whether United States or European Union online privacy protections are better. They certainly take different approaches.
To that point, we have the tale of two online privacy activists: Parker Higgins in San Francisco, and Xander Bouwman from the Netherlands. Higgins is 26. Bouwman is 21.
Higgins works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Bouwman is an information sciences student and volunteer activist.
In theory, the EU has it better: Privacy law across the Atlantic actually guarantees protection of personal data, and new digital privacy legislation being considered by the European Parliament would strengthen those guarantees.
How does that affect the average person? If Bouwman did a Google search, Google would have to tell him before it shared his tracking information outside the EU.
Bouwman likes that: "I would want to know if Google is behind a page, and using analytics to make a profile of me," he says.
The differences continue. When Bouwman logs onto Facebook, he has the right to access all the data Facebook has on him. That is something Higgins doesn't have.
Europe isn't perfect. It would be almost impossible for Bouwman to get all of his Facebook data, because enforcement in Europe hasn't been strong. It's left up to privacy regulators who don't have much power.
As Higgins contends: "The laws are important here, and it's great that this is happening in Europe. And I'm jealous of it in the U.S. But at the same time, if it's about enforcement, you know, these companies can collect sort of whatever they want."
"Yeah, Parker I can only agree with you here, " says Bouwman.
The lawyer's point of view
Now, Higgins and Bouwman aren't lawyers. So I'm going to bring a law professor into the conversation.
David Sorkin teaches information technology and privacy and consumer law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
He says in the U.S., we enforce our digital privacy rights, albeit privately.
"That is, the right to sue," he explains. "And sometimes, that would have to be in the form of a class action. Whereas in the EU it's mostly data protection commissioners, regulators, who impose the rules and enforce them."
The data protection legislation the EU Parliament is considering would give privacy regulators a lot more enforcement power.
U.S. tech lobbyists and government officials say the EU legislation is too rigid, and the U.S. system is more nimble with its many different privacy laws, covering everything from health data to video rental records.
"There's a huge gulf across the Atlantic which is taking many years to resolve and I think is many years off yet," says Simon Davies, founder of Privacy International.
But our 20-somethings don't want to wait that long. So Bouwman says his generation is taking things into their own hands.
"I held a CryptoParty in Amsterdam a few months ago," he says. (A CryptoParty is a chance for privacy nerds to get together and swap tips for evading online profiling and tracking.) "It might sound really wild because it's called a party but usually we host these at public libraries."
Higgins says it's not just a European thing. He holds CryptoParties, too.
Higgins and Bouwman say, if they CryptoParty hard enough, they can stitch together their own privacy blanket. They hope eventually, pokey lawmakers and government officials will catch up.
ISIS militants in Iraq have managed to gain control of a key piece of infrastructure in the country, the Mosul Dam. It’s not the first time the group has taken over a supply of water, electricity, or oil.
It’s likely they will attempt to extort Iraqis in the area, who rely on the dam for water and power. ISIS has shown a “great ability to be self-supporting and self-financing and a great ability to carry out extortion schemes,” says Tim Arango, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times.
The worry is that ISIS could open the Mosul Dam and flood the area, as they did with the Fallujah Dam earlier this year. Arango says it will probably be difficult to retake the dam, since the structure itself is very fragile. It’s unclear if ISIS has the “capability to maintain it.”
“A very small crack in that dam could just start the water flowing.”
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
What if the key to happiness lay in numbers?
Or more specifically, economics. On its face, that seems fairly nuts. Our joyous memories are generally about people or feelings: a night of dancing with abandon, a hug from a child, the certainty of helping another person.
The search for happiness has bedeviled generations of lovers, writers; even the founders of our country of course who took only a swipe at its pursuit – not attainment – in our Declaration of Independence.
And yet, we buy, inserting money into this equation.
For the essentials: shelter, food, security for our families.
The more frivolous things. To fill a need, perhaps? The post-breakup pair of shoes. The clichéd mid-life crisis sports car.
I’ve been reading some economic research on happiness that my friend Jim Tankersley turned me on to. Richard Easterlin, a professor at the University of Southern California, examined research on money, psychology, and contentment.
Back in the 1960s, a social psychologist named Hadley Cantril asked people what they would need “for their lives to be completely happy,” Easterlin writes. And pretty much everywhere, no matter their circumstances or culture, people ranked their level of living first, then the desire for a happy family life.
Easterlin goes on to cite studies showing that married people tend, on average, to be happier than single ones (debate away, as needed).
And then comes the part that really intrigues me: our measure of happiness isn’t fixed. It depends on our neighbor’s.
So while research showed that people with a higher income tend to report being happier, that didn’t hold up over a whole life.
“Indeed, if happiness and income are compared at any point in time,” Easterlin writes, “those with more income are, on average, happier than those with less. But what happens to happiness as income goes up over the life cycle – does happiness go up too? The answer is no; on average, there is no change.
So what’s going on? Well, we’re doing everything our mothers told us not to, and comparing ourselves to our other people. No matter how well we do, if it’s not better than everyone around us, we don’t feel like we’re attaining something, because our internal norms are changing. And p.s., Easterlin says it makes us kinda Grinchy: “The subversive effect of rising internal norms also explains why people think that over the life course more money will make them happier, when, in fact, it doesn’t.”
So what to do?
Awhile back, I interviewed a psychologist, Ryan Howell, about this paradox.
Here’s the trick: spend on experiences, not things.
There is a reason that mental snapshot of your last vacation brings you so much joy. The “buy high” you have from a physical thing? It doesn’t go away if you’re investing in adventures, connections and people. Year after year, you can unpack those memories and savor them.
Et voila! Money just bought you happiness.
Maybe the dismal science is good for something.