National / International News

Carney warning over Scots pound plan

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:29
The Bank of England governor says an independent Scotland would need to give up some power to make a currency union with the rest of the UK work.

Scientist To W.Va. Lawmakers: 'I'm Not Drinking The Water'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:29

An environmental scientist from Marshall University said water samples taken from a downtown Charleston restaurant had traces of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. "It's frightening, it really is frightening," he said.

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Bullying head teacher struck off

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:24
A former Cardiff head teacher who bullied staff and threatened parents is struck off the professional register.

US Fed further tightens stimulus

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:21
The US Federal Reserve reduces its monthly bond purchases from $75bn to $65bn in the second straight month of winding down stimulus efforts.

On A Roman Street, Graffiti Celebrates 'SuperPope'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:21

What can't Pope Francis do? First he's Time's "Person of the Year," then he's a Rolling Stone cover story. Now, graffiti art in Rome is depicting the pontiff as a comic-book caped crusader. Even the Vatican approves.

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UK seeks pair over politician murder

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:16
UK prosecutors ask Pakistan to trace two suspects believed to have been involved in the 2010 London murder of Pakistani political figure Imran Farooq.

A Boarding Pass Design That's So Much Better Than What We Have

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:16

You're in a hurry and just want to make your connection. Unfortunately, your boarding pass doesn't make it easy to quickly see the information you need. A British designer has an answer.

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Distress call helicopter lands safely

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:14
A Super Puma helicopter with 14 people on board lands safely in Shetland after sparking a full-scale emergency.

Can two TV stations share the same airwaves?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-29 12:11

There's a bit of a technical issue in this country: The amount of data being gobbled up by smartphones is increasing ad jnfinitum, but the digital plumbing has limits. Only so many tweets and YouTube videos can flow through it.

The FCC has proposed a solution, one that takes its inspiration from a pre-school lesson: Sharing is Caring. The FCC wants TV stations to share the spectrum with one another other, essentially doubling up on a single channel. And the very first experiment of this digital sharing idea is about to begin.

The two stations taking part in this experiment are KLCS, a PBS station, and KJLA, a commercial Spanish language station, both in Los Angeles. "We decided we would rather be informed than not informed," says Alan Popkin, director of TV engineering at KLCS.

In describing this experiment he uses this analogy, "You don't jump out of an airplane and then invent the parachute on the way down."

The experiment will begin off-air, then move to non-peak hours, and eventually, the entire schedule of both stations will be transmitted from one channel. The results will show whether two channels can be packed into one without compromising the quality of the broadcast, and will look at out how TV's will know which channel to display, when faced with two programs on the same part of the spectrum.

If channel sharing works, it could save stations a lot of money because two stations could share the cost of transmission.

"There would be one tower and one transmitter and that would cut down a lot on the cost of operation," says Lonna Thompson, chief operating officer* and executive vice president of the Association of Public Television Stations. In addition, she says, each station would be able to sell its unused bandwidth to the FCC in an Incentive Auction next year.

"The incentives auction is an effort that the FCC is leading to create incentives to use spectrum as efficiently as possible and to free spectrum for mobile broadband services," says Scott Bergmann, vice president of regulatory affairs with CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group.

Companies like T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint are currently arguing over how much of the spectrum each company should get. Bergmann says mobile carriers could use their share to improve services for customers by providing greater capacity, faster speeds, and less congestion.

"The channel sharing pilot is an effort to make the incentive auction successful," Bergmann says.

The auction is scheduled for mid-2015 and is expected to generate $25 billion.

*CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we misidentified Lonna Thompson’s position at the Association of Public Television Stations. She is the chief operating officer. The text has been corrected.

Coulson 'knew what went on' at NoW

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:52
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who is accused of conspiring to hack phones, knew "exactly what went on on his watch", a former reporter tells the Old Bailey.

VIDEO: William Roache 'a perfect gentleman'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:47
Some of Coronation Street actor William Roache's co-stars appeared as defence witnesses at his trial in Preston Crown Court on Wednesday.

US snooping sows distrust - Merkel

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:33
Angela Merkel says US and British spy programmes "sow distrust" among allies, in her inauguration speech of her third term as German chancellor.

Labour plans 'one member, one vote'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:15
Miliband plans for major call on union relationships

A Milk Mystery: Did Gloomy Weather Make Us Love The Stuff?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:14

The latest twist in this evolutionary whodunnit has us questioning whether the lack of vitamin D from the sun played any role in our complicated, sometimes dangerous, love affair with milk. New DNA analysis of ancient farmers from sunny Spain suggests that this theory may have gone sour.

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Fed Will Continue To Taper Its Stimulus Program

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:12

The Federal Reserve said the economy continues to improve, so it is slowing its purchase of bonds by $10 billion a month.

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Roache 'always a perfect gentleman'

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:11
Coronation Street actor William Roache was "always a perfect gentleman", his on-screen wife tells a court.

Spy Chief Says Classified Leaks 'Pose Critical Threat' To U.S.

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:51

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, listed "insider threats," alongside cyber attacks and terrorism. This marks the first time unauthorized disclosures are given such prominence in a threat assessment report.

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Neanderthals gave us disease genes

BBC - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:46
Gene types that influence disease in people today were picked up through interbreeding with Neanderthals, a major study in Nature journal suggests.

What tapering in the U.S. has to do with Turkey and South Africa

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:37

WE GOT 99 PROBLEMS, AND CURRENCY’S ONE.

India, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina – they’ve all had currency depreciations.  Brazil has faced inflation concerns.  The MSCI Emerging Markets Index, an average of emerging market stocks, has fallen nearly 7 percent this month, recently reaching a five month low. Emerging market equities have lost more than $995 billion in value since May. 

To explain this, we have to talk about money -- and how money moves. 

THAT GIANT SLOSHING SOUND

"There are trillions of dollars sloshing around global markets looking for high returns," says Gerald Epstein, director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  That money belongs to hedge funds, institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, and regular investors alike. 

With productive investments few and far between, "there’s more money out there, more money looking for more speculative investments."

During the depths of recession, the one place you wouldn’t be getting higher returns was in developed countries like the U.S. On the one hand, their economies weren’t doing well. And on the other, Central Banks were keeping interest rates low. 

"It’s kind of simple," says Andrew Burns, manager of Prospects at the World Bank. "In the past, if you’re an investor, you have options.  You could invest in U.S. Treasuries; they were giving a return of 1.5 percent last April. Or you can invest in Brazil where you’re getting return of 5 or 6 percent, maybe it’s a little bit risky."

So investors put money into developing economies.

EASY COME....

At the same time, commodity prices were high, fueling emerging markets to the point they were leaders in global growth.

"The last four or five years, supported by very strong commodity prices, we’ve had very material capital flows into these countries," says Robert Kahn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.   "These are small economies relative to the U.S. or Japan, and their ability to absorb this capital is not as great, and there is a tendency for these markets to go through boom bust cycles."

EASY GO.....

When the Fed first started talking about tapering last May, it became clear to investors that the economy was getting better, and interest rates in the U.S. would start to rise.  And they have.  The return on some treasury bonds has nearly doubled since then.

"In that context you say, ‘You know what? I had $100 over here in Brazil. I’m gonna pull some of it back in the United States,”" says the World Bank’s  Burns.

“The Fed’s decision to taper was a trigger for these outflows,” says Kahn, “but at the end of the day, it’s not the primary reason for it.”  Rather, it was the simple realization that there are safer -- and possibly better --  investments reappearing elsewhere in the developed world.  

SOPHIE’S CHOICE

And indeed, money moved out.  Local currencies continue to fall. As a result, it becomes more expensive for people in affected emerging markets to buy food and energy from abroad.  Inflation sets in.  Politicians in these countries then have to make a “Sophie’s choice”, says Professor Epstein.  In order to fight that inflation, and in order to incentivize investors to keep their money in the country, governments have raised interest rates.  That creates a drag on the economy.

"Turkey doubled the interest rate, interest rates have gone up in South Africa, Argentina," says Epstein. "And not only does this slow down their economy -- which if they already have a high unemployment rate is a big problem -- but it might also backfire." Backfire as in "push some companies into bankruptcy, further scaring off international investment."

Epstein argues there are few good options for lower income countries other than to control capital flows, a tool which has its own risks.

COMPLACENCY VS. PREPAREDNESS

On the one hand, many emerging markets came out of the global financial crisis in fairly good shape.  But it doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable – as has become evident.

"Policy makers got complacent in these countries," says Kahn, "because they had access to very cheap money... We’ve seen before when things reverse – when commodity prices fall and capital flows turn around – it can be pretty hard. We’re at the beginning of that cycle."

WE’RE NOT DONE YET

"It’s not going to be smooth," says Kahn, "and there’s still more turbulence to be seen."

The process of global capital reallocation is not over.  Throw in the fact that developing countries aren’t making as much from commodities, China is buying less from them, and a spate of political scandals, and it may be a very rough ride for lower income countries, indeed.

Brazil's Slaves Are Being Freed, But Owners Go Largely Unpunished

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-29 10:37

In the past 20 years, almost 50,000 enslaved Brazilian workers have been freed from some 2,000 worksites. But an estimated 200,000 remain trapped in slavery, due to deep-seated impunity: Slaveholders can pay hefty fines and civil damages, but criminal convictions and jail time are rare.

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