National / International News

Tracking Ebola through online data

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 02:00

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization held a briefing on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa endorsing the use of untested drugs. As information comes out about those affected by the virus, more is being learned about its origins and impact, partly thanks to an online tool called HealthMap.

The program uses algorithms to pull information off the web that could inform researchers about disease outbreaks. In fact, it identified the spread of a virus in Guinea nine days before the World Heath Organization announced the Ebola outbreak. 

“HeathMap is essentially a data aggregation tool, organizing content from hundreds of thousands of sources,” says John Brownstein of the Boston Children's Hospital and co-founder of HealthMap.

The project sources material from all over the internet; including news, social media, and health ministry data.

In this particular case, the first public hints of the Ebola outbreak came from local media in Guinea — news stories of mysterious illnesses.

The tool, which has been around since 2006, has evolved to integrate real-time social media based data.  

Of the project's strengths is the fact that the data collected provides a broader awareness of what’s happening at the population level.

 

The high price of alleged police misconduct

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 02:00

 The FBI is investigating possible civil rights violations after a police officer in suburban St. Louis fatally shot an unarmed teenager on Saturday. The death of Michael Brown, 18, stirred a night of unrest in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, where the incident happened.

Many of the costs these kinds of cases of alleged police misconduct can have on a community are impossible to quantify — in terms of loss of life, and loss of confidence in civic institutions. 

"The greatest cost is loss of faith in the police department, which then cause crime to spiral out of control," says Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But there are also some very specific costs to a community, with dollar amounts attached. For example, a string of notorious police brutality cases in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, connected to one police lieutenant, John Burge, cost the city of Chicago more than $100 million, says Simpson.

The money went to court fees, lawyer fees, and multi-million dollar payouts to some victims.

As Tim Lynch, director of the Cato institute's Project on Criminal Justice, points out, all that money has to come from some place. “The tax payers of these various cities pay the costs,” he says.

The money usually comes through a city's general fund, says Professor Simpson. Meaning, if a city has to spend a lot on a big police misconduct case, “it diminishes the ability to provide services to citizens, and it raises their property taxes.”

According to a review of public records by the Cato Institute, American cities spent at least $347 million between 2009 and 2010 on settlements and judgments related to police misconduct. Lynch says the amount could be even higher. Many municipalities do not make information on lawsuits involving police misconduct publicly available.

Spanish priest dies of Ebola virus

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:54
A Spanish missionary who contracted Ebola in Liberia dies in hospital in Spain, officials say, as the virus claims more than 1,000 lives in West Africa.

Woman 'hanged in festival toilet'

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:50
A woman who died at a music festival in Hampshire was found hanged in a campsite toilet, an inquest hears.

Farah reveals hospital airlift drama

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:43
Double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah reveals he was airlifted to hospital after collapsing following a training run.

VIDEO: 2014 Scottish vote in numbers

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:39
A summary of the findings in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, conducted by ScotCen Social Research between May and July 2014.

England right to retain Cook - Vaughan

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:39
Former England captain Michael Vaughan admits he was wrong to say Alastair Cook should be replaced as skipper.

Choir tops 4m hits with Shakira song

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:27
An all-male Oxford University choir's charity cover version of Shakira's Hips Don't Lie is watched more than four million times on Youtube.

NI transplant team wins 53 medals

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:24
The Northern Ireland transplant team returns with 53 medals and the coveted Rosebowl from the British Transplant Games in Bolton.

Managers 'guilty of leftover leave'

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:24
Two out of five managers did not use all their holiday entitlement last year, a survey suggests, prompting a warning to businesses.

S Korea ferry rescue 'ill-equipped'

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:24
South Korean coast guard officers say they did not have the right training or equipment to rescue passengers from the stricken ferry, Sewol.

No damages for prisoners denied vote

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:22
The European Court of Human Rights rules that the UK has again breached prisoners' rights by failing to give them the vote - but refused to award damages.

Hospital: Spanish Priest With Ebola Dies

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:15

A spokeswoman for a Madrid hospital says a Spanish missionary priest who was evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for Ebola has died.

» E-Mail This

VIDEO: Twitter tributes to Robin Williams

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:04
Hollywood stars have been taking to Twitter to pay tribute to actor and comedian Robin Williams who has died at the age of 63.

Why buying Bitcoin is like stepping into the Wild West

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 01:00

It’s green lights and blue skies for Bitcoin, baby! The government’s attitude seems to be laissez-faire, states are giving it the thumbs-up, the Fed is shrugging its shoulders and saying it has no jurisdiction.

Which is why the CFPB’s recent memo of Bitcoin is such a buzzkill.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – I know, it even sounds like the nanny state – “We’re here to protect you from your own poor financial decisions…” (whatever) – the CFPB says that using Bitcoin and other virtual currencies is like “stepping into the Wild West.”

CFPB head Richard Cordray probably should have added, “and not in a good way” to that statement, because I’m pretty certain that most Americans would say that “stepping into the Wild West” would actually be totally cool (ten gallon hat, anyone? Fringed hide jacket? … Leather chaps?).

But several economists say that Cordray is right on the money (as it were). Virtual currencies look very similar to the money issued by banks during the Wild West, they say.

So, the Wild West – Buffalo Bill and Jesse James? Seriously?

Exactly. The Wild West is both a geographical designation and a period in time. It’s a romantic name for the American western frontier, created as America expanded in the latter half of the 19th century (1850-1900). In 1850, most of the area west of Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois was still unsettled, with the exception of Texas, and the rapid expansion across those lands to the Pacific Ocean over the next 30 years was something of a lawless land rush.

Did they even have a banking system back then?

Not at first. Congress made several attempts to create a national bank between 1781 and 1836, but without much success. It didn’t help that Andrew Jackson, who was president in 1836, believed that central banks were the spawn of the devil, pretty much, and only gold and silver should be used as currency. Boy, he would have hated Bitcoin.

So, what did they have?

Basically, from 1836 until 1865, they had a free for all. It was actually called the Free Banking period, and pretty much anyone could open and run a bank, so long as you had a certain amount of capital, a security deposit to back any note issuance, and enough silver or gold or whatever on hand to convert a banknote into that metal on demand.   

No wonder Butch and Sundance went into the bank robbery business!

That’s right, hoss. Unlike banks today in the U.S., banks in the Wild West had to keep a fair amount of precious metal in their vaults. If they had vaults, that is. And many did not.

Sounds sketchy.

It was. Not only was there a risk that your bank might get robbed and you’d have to wait a long time to swap your banknotes for gold, there was also the danger that your bank might run out of precious metal because all your neighbors wanted to exchange their notes at the same time. And then there were the wildcats.

What? Wildcats?

Yeah. Wildcat bankers were people who set up banks, often in remote areas “where the wildcats roam,” and then issued notes to the public without ever having any intention of paying them back. These scumbags would then skip town and leave the poor townspeople with a bunch of worthless scrip.

There are some crazy stories of bank fraud from way back then, including bankers displaying boxes of nails and broken glass and claiming they were full of silver dollars to gull the unsuspecting locals.

I bet those guys went to jail.

When they were caught, yes they did.

OK, so how is all of this similar to Bitcoin?

It’s similar because right now, we’re in a Free Banking period for electronic currency creators.

Anyone can set up an electronic currency company, and there are right now no regulations covering these ventures. Anyone can buy Bitcoin or Dogecoin or whatever, and anyone can accept payment in those currencies. Regulatory organizations are signaling their concerns, but so far they’re keeping their hands off. Then there’s the rhetoric that proponents of electronic currencies like to use. It reads a lot like the libertarian rationale behind the Free Banking reforms, which were conceived in part as an escape from a corrupt system dominated by special interests (doesn’t that sound familiar?).

So are virtual currency companies the new Wildcat banks?

Not necessarily. Most virtual currencies appear to have been set up for ethical reasons, and their founders and supporters want them to succeed. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe. If you are a Bitcoin user, you should be every bit as concerned as someone who put his money in an independent bank in 1850. The CFPB notes that virtual currencies are not backed by any government or central bank. This means that is those companies fail, you may not get your money back, you will have no recourse to a regulator, and there is no government organization that has insured your money with that company. If the company goes down, in other words, the chances are that your money will go with it.

What about bank robbers?

They may not wear Stetsons and bandannas, and use dynamite and a long fuse, but robbers exist in the virtual world, too. The CFPB says “if a hacker gains access to a consumer’s Bitcoin “private keys,” which are 64-character codes that unlock the consumer’s funds, the consumer can lose all their virtual currency. Fraudsters are also taking advantage of the hype surrounding virtual currencies to pose as Bitcoin exchanges, Bitcoin intermediaries, and Bitcoin traders in an effort to lure consumers to send money, which is then stolen.”

So, step into the Wild West if you wish. But bring a pair of six-shooters. And maybe a getaway horse.

VIDEO: 'Glorious Twelfth' reignites grouse debate

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 00:57
The start of the grouse shooting season has reignited debate over the future of the practice.

VIDEO: UK pork farmers hit by sanctions

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 00:52
UK pork farmers will face pressure to lower prices because of Russia's ban on food imports from a number of Western countries, say experts

Killer's escape bid from prison van

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 00:51
The man convicted of murdering a waiter in Kirkwall 20 years ago is thought to have made an escape bid while being taken to hospital.

VIDEO: The smart drones of the future

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 00:11
How drones are being developed for a wide range of future uses.

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.Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4