National / International News

'Participatory budgeting' goes to the White House

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:40

Representatives from Vallejo, California are visiting the White House Tuesday to talk about "participatory budgeting," a unique democratic process where residents propose and choose city-funded projects.

Residents in this small San Francisco Bay Area city voted-in participatory budgeting after the city went through a bankruptcy in 2008. A small portion of the city's overall budget is allocated to the process, made available through a sales tax. This year, residents have $2.4 million to work with.

That pot of money has sparked ideas. On a weekday evening in February, about 60 residents broke up into small groups at Glen Cove elementary school for a brainstorming session. They proposed everything from more street lighting to a day-use center for the homeless. One 28-year old resident proposed an outdoor fitness center.

"Similar to Venice Beach, like a 'muscle beach' type, but at the waterfront," says Vincent Trujillo.

Other Vallejo residents want a public bank, more ice cream trucks and meditation classes to end student truancy.

"Often participatory budget events are quite cathartic," says Alea Gage, an administrative analyst at the city manager's office who acts as a liaison for the participatory budging process.

Gage says residents may even have fun while getting closer to government.

"At our final [brainstorming] assembly... we had Motown tunes on, and we even got some of our city council members to boogey a little bit," says Gage.

Vallejo residents are now in the process of wittling down 620 ideas. The projects go for a city-wide vote in October after nine months of work shopping. Last year, potholes and street repair got the most city-wide votes.

"Potholes represent a basic level of service, and they indicate quality of life," says Gage.

But participatory budgeting is not just repairing streets. City Manager Dan Keen says it's also restoring confidence.

"What we earned was some good will, from... a segment of the community that 'the city cares about us, they want to know what we have to say, and when we give them our feedback, they followed through and they did what we asked,'" says Keen.

Keen says at first, he didn't believe residents would show up for something as mundane as city budgeting.

"I was dead wrong about that," he says.

One city council member says residents need to use the process or they might lose it. Less than 600 people showed up for the brainstorming sessions.

The challenge for them is fitting their imagination inside city limits.

Colombian paramilitary boss arrested

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:38
A Colombian paramilitary suspected of killing Carlos Castano, boss of the country's largest paramilitary group, is arrested in the city of Medellin.

Fish discards ban 'could harm' wildlife

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:37
A ban on skippers throwing unwanted fish back into the sea may actually be bad for the environment, according to academics.

VIDEO: House explodes after police killing

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:25
A policeman has been shot dead by a man who was later killed in a house fire, according to authorities in New Hampshire.

Exactly what does the phrase Boko Haram mean?

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:21
Militant Islamist group Boko Haram has gained notoriety with the kidnapping over more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria. What precisely does the group's name mean?

Deep-sea 'graveyard' discovered

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:19
The discovery of a deep-sea graveyard is shedding light on the fate of dead ocean giants, scientists report.

Turtles learn from drift experience

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 02:12
Scientists try to understand why adult turtles select the migration destinations they do by combining ocean-current and satellite-tracking information.

Stalking victim 'failed by police'

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:58
A stabbing victim makes a complaint about police who logged 125 reports of stalking before she was attacked, but "failed to act".

Parents reveal school run fears

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:46
Over two fifths (41%) of parents are aware their child has had a near-miss traffic accident on their journey to or from school, says a transport charity.

VIDEO: Mortensen on playing the bad guy

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:33
Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen has stepped away from Middle Earth for his latest role - playing a 1960s con artist in Two Faces of January.

US warns Beijing on South China Sea

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:27
US Secretary of State John Kerry warns China that the introduction of a drilling rig into seas disputed with Vietnam is "provocative".

AUDIO: 'Many more midwives needed'

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:18
Louise Silverton and Maureen Treadwell discuss draft guidelines that suggest healthy women should be encouraged to give birth in a midwife-led unit or at home.

Tributes paid to rugby great McLeod

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:06
Tributes are paid to Scottish rugby great Hugh McLeod, from Hawick, who has died at the age of 81.

Three river death kayakers named

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:05
Three men from the same family who were killed after going kayaking together in the River Tyne are named.

A canary in the coal mine... and in your Mac

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:00

Canaries can be useful creatures. Coal miners used to bring them into the mines as a warning sign of methane or carbon monoxide. A dead canary meant the miners needed to get out of there pronto.

Now a clever loophole in the rules regarding NSA requests for information is letting companies warn their customers in the same way a little yellow bird might signal trouble. 

It's called a "warrant canary", and several major companies like Apple have already used it in their "transparency reports."

The idea is that while the NSA can enforce rules on companies to not tell their customers when their information has been acquired, it is still within a company's rights to tell their customers what they haven't been asked. If a transparency report gets released without a statement saying that the NSA has not requested information, then a customer can infer that the request has been made.

The idea originated from a public library that posted a sign on its door each day saying that the Government had not yet asked for any information on the patrons. The insinuation was that if ever the library did not post the sign, it meant that the NSA had made a request.

According to Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, it's not only a clever way to let customers know if their information may have been acquired by the NSA, but also a way for the private sector to agitate Government agencies on the issues involved in privacy.

"To mix my fowl, it’s a game of chicken played with a warrant canary. Under the first amendment, it may well be much more dicey for the government to insist that a company lie rather than to tell a company it may not speak."

UN appoints first woman commander

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 00:51
For the first time, a woman will command a UN peacekeeping force, as Norway's Major General Kristin Lund is appointed to lead troops in Cyprus.

VIDEO: Play therapy to help brain scans

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 00:45
A pilot scheme is helping young people have a brain scan without being sedated by teaching them about it through play.

Heathrow and Gatwick unveil plans

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 00:44
Heathrow and Gatwick airports both unveil revised expansion plans as they attempt to secure permission to build the UK's next runway.

Suspended nurses inquiry 'alarming'

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 00:44
Calls for "no stone to be left unturned" are made after confirmation that seven hospital nurses have been suspended amid allegations of falsifying records.

VIDEO: Spain politician shot dead in public

BBC - Tue, 2014-05-13 00:26
A top politician in northern Spain has been shot dead in public and two women have been arrested.
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