National / International News

VIDEO: The hunt for Myanmar's missing bell

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:42
A new search has begun in Myanmar for the Dhammazedi Bell - said to have fallen into a river near the country's capital in 1608

VIDEO: Besson makes Scarlett superhuman

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:16
French film director Luc Besson talks about his new science fiction thriller called Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson

Holyrood to pass blue badges bill

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:13
Proposals aimed at tackling the misuse of disabled parking badges are expected to be passed by the Scottish Parliament later.

10 theories on how uptalk originated

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:13
Did Neighbours change the way British people speak?

Experimental Vaccine For Chikungunya Passes First Test

NPR News - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:12

Using a new technology, scientists have created a vaccine for an emerging mosquito-borne virus. The vaccine was safe and produced some degree of immunity in a preliminary study.

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The bit of Scotland where English people go to get married

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:11
The village that has two weddings per person per year

Windows XP upgrade proves tricky

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:11
Upgrading Windows can be tricky and expensive

VIDEO: Living in Britain with no English

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:11
Newsnight's Jim Reed talks to English language learners to find out how hard it is to live in Britain if you do not speak the language.

Brewing a beer revolution in Africa

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:11
Starting a beer revolution in Africa

VIDEO: The beer hunter of Mauritius

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:11
Oscar Olsen, the "beer hunter", says he wants to start a beer revolution across Africa.

Where houses 'cost' more than London

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:09
Map reveals 62 places more expensive than London

Payday brokers 'drain' bank accounts

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:05
Complaints about payday loan middlemen - so-called credit broking websites - have more than doubled in a year, the Financial Ombudsman says.

'Video-less' 3D game made for blind players

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:02
The video-less video games

EE top in UK mobile performance

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 15:00
EE has again been ranked top overall in research comparing the performance of the UK's mobile networks, with Vodafone coming last.

Where all those charges on your phone bill come from

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:53

Starting on Sept. 1, Chicago residents will see their phone bills go up, thanks to higher fees collected by their city government. The nominal purpose is to fund 911 operations.

However, the acknowledged goal is to raise money that the city desperately needs to pay for pensions. And the widely-understood rationale among politicians is: If we raised the same amount by hiking property tax bills, people would notice, and complain. But people are used to seeing taxes and fees tacked onto phone bills. Who’s going to notice another few bucks? 

Which raises the question:  What are all those damn fees on your phone bill? 

1.  No matter where you live, some are sneaky taxes from all levels of government.

Experts confirm: Government officials love to sneak taxes and fees into phone bills— and anywhere they can that isn’t an actual tax bill.

"The bias is toward hiding taxes," says David Brunori, a professor at George Washington University and deputy publisher of Tax Analysts. "That is true at every level of government. Politicians would rather have you pay the tax and not know about it."

And yes, wireless phone bills in particular have become a favorite hiding place, says Scott Mackey, a consultant to the wireless industry with KSE Partners. "Really from 2003 to about 2012 we saw sort of a steady upward increase in wireless taxes and fees," he says.

2.  Though in some places, you'll pay more taxes than others.

Mackey publishes a report every couple of years on wireless tax rates from state to state.   The Tax Foundation made a sortable list from his last report.

"Chicago is going to be prominently featured in the 2014 report," says Mackey.  The new 911 fee will make the effective tax on cellphones the country's highest.  

3. A lot of items that look like taxes are just extra charges from your phone company

Chicago politicians are not the only ones who figure they can sneak an extra charge into your bill without you noticing. Your phone company probably does the same thing. Marc-David Seidel is a business professor at the University of British Columbia and the co-founder of a site dedicated to making sense of phone bills.

He says the heading "taxes and fees" on your bill should be a giveaway. 

"The fact that it’s grouped together called taxes and fees, instead of just taxes, is a really high signal that there’s other stuff in there that’s actually not mandated," he says. "It’s just a company-specific fee."

Every company charges a different mix, he says, and they change all the time. If you really want to know what you’re paying— and why— he recommends looking for a consumer-advocate office in your state.

4. And then there's the cramming scam.

The FTC recently accused T-Mobile of bilking customers out of millions of dollars by allowing third parties to place bogus charges on their bills, and taking a cut.  T-Mobile's public defense was essentially:  Hey, we stopped doing this a few months ago—and it's not like the other carriers are better. 

Marketplace recently looked at how those charges end up on phone bills in the first place, and our friends at Ars Technica have been covering the story for years.

Here's an example the FTC says comes from an actual T-Mobile bill:

VIDEO: Assange 'to leave embassy soon'

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:50
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has suggested he will leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London "soon".

VIDEO: UKIP MEP sorry for 'ting tong' remark

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:43
Comments made by a UKIP MEP about a Thai constituent have been described as outrageous by the woman's husband.

Suarez makes Barcelona debut in 6-0 win

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:33
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez makes his Barcelona debut as a late substitute in their 6-0 victory over Mexican side Club Leon.

Camouflage sheet inspired by octopus

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:23
Basing their work on the techniques used by octopuses and cuttlefish, US engineers have produced a flexible, colour-changing material.

VIDEO: Docks transformed for Alice film

BBC - Mon, 2014-08-18 14:12
Gloucester Docks is converted into a film set for the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

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