National / International News

China blocks virtual network use

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:15
China has blocked several popular services that let citizens skirt state censorship systems and reach banned sites.

Vic and Bob win slapstick award

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:10
Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are recognised as comedy legends at Bristol's annual slapstick festival.

Train mum handed 'good manners' note

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00
A young mother hopes to find a stranger on a train who left her a note calling her a "credit to her generation".

A responsible approach to Artificial Intelligence

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it’s usually known, is gaining ground fast. Microsoft’s Cortana is all over Windows 10, and German researchers claim they have introduced emotions to Mario, a famous video game character. All of this is making some people wary.

People like Ryan Calo, Assistant Professor of Law at University of Washington & Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. 

Calo recently signed an open letter that detailed his and others’ concerns over AI’s rapid progress. The letter was published by the Future of Life Institute, a research organization studying the potential risks posed by AI. The letter has since been endorsed by scientists, CEOs, researchers, students and professors connected to the tech world.

What they want is research that works towards creating socially responsible AI. That is, algorithms that don’t inadvertently “disrupt our values,” or “discriminate against people who are disadvantaged or people of color,” says Calo.

Isn’t it our responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen? Sure, says Calo, but he doesn’t think it’s that simple or even straightforward. He thinks it’s more a question of how AI evolves and how much agency it develops. Would it develop to such an extent that an AI system could break out of it’s given role and attempt to do more?  

He says we need more research to understand how AI could be harmful, even if it isn’t at this moment. If we use AI to drive cars in the future, he adds, “it’s conceivable that they’ll act in harmful ways.”

“That’s a more plausible scenario than a robot twisting its moustache trying to plan to kill humanity,” he says. “What's exciting about AI is precisely what’s dangerous about it.” 

The FHA lowers charges to new borrowers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

First-time homebuyers will find it a little easier to afford a monthly mortgage payment starting Monday. The Federal Housing Administration is lowering the rate it charges to insure mortgages by half a percent, which will add up to an average savings of about $75 a month, according to the FHA.

FHA loans are popular with first-time homebuyers, because they require a smaller down payment—as low as 3.5 percent. The federal government hopes lower monthly payments will spur as many as 250,000 new homebuyers into the market, in addition to reducing monthly costs for the expected 2 million borrowers who the government projects will take out FHA loans over the next three years.

But Jim Parrott, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center and a former housing advisor in the Obama Administration, says the change will likely help only some potential first-time homebuyers—For most, the obstacle is the tough standards for qualifying for a loan in the first place.

"There are probably more folks out there who are being locked out of the market because they can't get a loan than those who are simply unable to afford the loans that are being offered," Parrott says.

Still, Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac says the drop in monthly mortgage costs will help make some medium-sized cities more affordable: Denver, parts of Seattle and Boston, and Minneapolis, for example.

The top 1 percent is richer in some states than others

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

Income inequality has increased since the Great Recession, and President Barack Obama has prescribed an antidote in the form of so-called ‘middle-class economics’—tax reforms and education spending to help the bottom 99 percent of earners climb the economic ladder.

On Monday, the Economic Policy Institute issues a report, “The Increasingly Unequal States of America,” that offers a new look at income inequality in states and regions of the U.S.

According to the report, the average income among the top 1 percent of earners is $1.3 million a year. (Note: income includes pre-tax wages, salary, bonuses, employee compensation via asset transfer [e.g., 401k contributions or stock option grants], and investment income such as dividends, interest and capital gains; most recent income data in the report is for 2012.)

In Connecticut and New York, the average income among the top 1 percent is more than $2 million a year. And in those states, the income ratio between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent is approximately 50:1; significantly higher than other states, says economist and report co-author Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Pennsylvania.

“This is pretty thin air at the top of the income distribution," he says.

The highest incomes and widest income disparity result from the resurgent financial sector, says Price, as pay for bank and hedge fund managers soars again.

In oil patch states such as North Dakota, the top 1 percent are also doing better than before the recession. But in that state, the income gap is not nearly as great as in Northeast states dominated by the financial sector. In North Dakota, average income for the bottom 99 percent has risen 21 percent in recent years, Price says. In New York and Connecticut, pay for the bottom 99 percent has declined.

A map displaying the income threshold for being in the top 1% in each state.

Economic Policy Institute

How art institutions are changing their business model

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

New data from the National Endowment for the Arts shows attendance for operas, plays, dance and art museums continues to fall.

Just 33 percent of American adults report attending at least one those events in a year. And the people showing up are getting older to boot.

Through a series of reports, the NEA wants to give the industry some more insight into what consumers want, as more institutions are realizing if they want to keep the lights on, it’s time to change the business model.

For example, if you run a symphony, the business model used to be: play gorgeous, amazing music and your audience will come. That strategy doesn’t play anymore, says Brent Reidy with AEA Consulting.

“The reality is that decades ago and centuries ago, art was something that was closer to more people and we need to get back to a place where society understands our value and really embraces us,” he says.

With nearly a third of organizations in the red according to a 2013 survey, some art institutions are taking a closer look at their customers.

As many as 31 million Americans say several factors—including time—kept them away from the opera, or a museum.

So institutions are getting out of the galleries and concert halls and making art more convenient.

At a subway stop in Chicago, the Chicago Opera Theater held a pop-up performance a few years back. In Detroit, weather-proof reproductions of masterworks were placed in neighborhoods. Another way to grow audience is bring new people in.

The Philadelphia Orchestra hosts PlayIN events—really jam sessions—often at one of city’s premier venues. The talented and the beginners all come here to play with the orchestra’s world class musicians.

The idea is to win hearts and minds of people like Makeda Wubayeh, a 12-year old who is new to the scene. 

“Before today, I didn’t really think about coming here. But once I came here there was something about it that was special,” she says.

As important as the experience was for Wubayeh, it won’t pay the bills. For these landmark institutions, professional musician Stanford Thompson says artists must redefine their roles.

“Musicians are citizens and scholars,” he says. “They are artists. These are community leaders. I believe that they are educators, I believe that they are social workers in a way.”

Thompson says what will drive traffic to these institutions is when actors, singers and musicians start stepping off the stage and into struggling schools, to mentor students and teach them to find value in art. 

How art institutions are changing their business model

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 02:00

New data from the National Endowment for the Arts shows attendance for operas, plays, dance and art museums continues to fall.

Just 33 percent of American adults report attending at least one those events in a year. And the people showing up are getting older to boot.

Through a series of reports, the NEA wants to give the industry some more insight into what consumers want, as more institutions are realizing if they want to keep the lights on, it’s time to change the business model.

For example, if you run a symphony, the business model used to be: play gorgeous, amazing music and your audience will come. That strategy doesn’t play anymore, says Brent Reidy with AEA Consulting.

“The reality is that decades ago and centuries ago, art was something that was closer to more people and we need to get back to a place where society understands our value and really embraces us,” he says.

With nearly a third of organizations in the red according to a 2013 survey, some art institutions are taking a closer look at their customers.

As many as 31 million Americans say several factors—including time—kept them away from the opera, or a museum.

So institutions are getting out of the galleries and concert halls and making art more convenient.

At a subway stop in Chicago, the Chicago Opera Theater held a pop-up performance a few years back. In Detroit, weather-proof reproductions of masterworks were placed in neighborhoods. Another way to grow audience is bring new people in.

The Philadelphia Orchestra hosts PlayIN events—really jam sessions—often at one of city’s premier venues. The talented and the beginners all come here to play with the orchestra’s world class musicians.

The idea is to win hearts and minds of people like Makeda Wubayeh, a 12-year old who is new to the scene. 

“Before today, I didn’t really think about coming here. But once I came here there was something about it that was special,” she says.

As important as the experience was for Wubayeh, it won’t pay the bills. For these landmark institutions, professional musician Stanford Thompson says artists must redefine their roles.

“Musicians are citizens and scholars,” he says. “They are artists. These are community leaders. I believe that they are educators, I believe that they are social workers in a way.”

Thompson says what will drive traffic to these institutions is when actors, singers and musicians start stepping off the stage and into struggling schools, to mentor students and teach them to find value in art. 

A9 cameras 'have cut speeding'

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:59
The number of drivers caught speeding on the A9 has fallen dramatically since average speed cameras were introduced, according to new figures.

Venus through to quarter-finals

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:57
Venus Williams beats sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final since 2010 in Australia.

Safety dilemma as hosts advance

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:53
There are fears the Ebibeyin Stadium is too small to host Equatorial Guinea's quarter-final on Saturday and may cause safety problems.

VIDEO: LIVE: First female bishop ordained

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:51
The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop at a ceremony at York Minster

'Soldiers killed' in Ukraine clashes

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:50
Intense fighting with between Russian-backed rebels and army units in eastern Ukraine sees seven soldiers killed in 24 hours, the military says.

AUDIO: 'Jilted John' finds honeymoon partner

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:41
After being jilted three times, a man who tried to auction his ex-fiancée's honeymoon place finally finds a holiday partner.

Cameron: People 'deserve tax cuts'

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:37
The Conservatives will make the case for lower taxes at the election with "every bone in our body", David Cameron will say.

Nigeria repels new attack on key city

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:31
Nigeria's military repels a new assault by militant Islamist group Boko Haram on the key north-eastern city of Maiduguri, an army source tells the BBC.

This little bitcoin went to market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:30
25 states

Financial regulators in 25 states have given their blessing to the first ever regulated bitcoin exchange, which opens for trading on Monday. As reported by re/code, the exchange is run by Coinbase, and arrives on the heels of the Winklevoss' — dare we say, Winklevii — announcement that they hoped to open their own regulated exchange for bitcoin.

2 percent

The portion of the 3.5 million jobs added to the economy since mid-2009 that pay between $38,000 and $68,000, no where near the number lost during the recession. In a new series, the Associated Press explores the role of technology plays in "hollowing out" of middle class jobs.

$75 a month

That's how much the FHA estimates homebuyers will save when it lowers the rate it charges to insure mortgages by half a percent. FHA loans are popular with first-time homebuyers because they require a smaller down payment. But some say the change will likely help only some of these home hunting rookies.

11.8 percent

The portion of borrowers using income-based repayment with their federal student loans at the end of last year, nearly doubling the year before. The New York Times' Upshot traces the rise of these types of loans, and how they're combatting the country's record $1.1 trillion in student loan debt.

$1.3 million

That's how much, on average, the top 1 percent of Americans earn a year. But not all 1 percenters are created equal. A new study shows that income gap is narrower in states where wages are rising for the bottom 99 percent.

Mubarak's sons released from prison

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:23
The two sons of Hosni Mubarak are released from jail, a day after the fourth anniversary of the uprising that ousted the former Egyptian president.

Anti-austerity coalition in Greece

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:22
The far-left Syriza party joins hands with the right-wing Greek Independents to form an anti-austerity governing coalition in Greece.

Consultant accused of sex assaults

BBC - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:12
A consultant paediatrician is charged with sexually assaulting a teenager who was an out-patient at the hospital where he works.

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