The high cost of news

The Newseum, Washington’s newest museum, opens Friday, April 11, in a symbolic Pennsylvania Avenue spot about midway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Adorned on the outside with an enormous marble tablet bearing the text of the First Amendment, the $450 million, seven-level edifice’s intent is to spread the gospel of the importance of a free press to democracy.

But the privately funded museum already is taking flak for pricing itself beyond the budget of most tourists, who can visit the slew of well-loved Smithsonian museums in the same neighborhood for free. Entrance to the Newseum will cost $20 for each adult, $13 for kids 7 to 12; and $18 for senior citizens. Children 6 and under enter free.

Given that the news media are held in about as low regard as Congress in the minds of most in the public, some critics wonder how many four-person families will be willing to shell out $66 to see a bunch of news-related artifacts and whiz-bang exhibits.

It may be just a reflection of the world’s delight at the coming end of the George W. Bush era, but the overseas image of the United States is on the rise, according to a BBC World Service Poll.

We’re now held in higher regard in many of the 23 countries recently polled by the British media network. However, the improvement isn’t vast — the number saying the United States has a positive influence on the world has risen from 31 percent last year to 35 percent now — but it’s the first upward progress since 2005.

The upcoming anniversary of last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech will be spotlighted by coast-to-coast “lie-ins,” where people will sprawl on the ground in groups of 32 to represent the number of university victims who were killed by a student wielding two semi-automatic handguns. They won’t be on the ground for more than a couple of minutes. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped organize the April 16 protests, says that is to demonstrate the short time it can take to purchase a gun.

Eliot Spitzer was far from alone in attracting scrutiny by the feds for the banking maneuvers he allegedly made to hide cash payments to high-priced hookers. His money transfers, which reportedly followed classic money-laundering techniques, triggered “suspicious-activity reports,” which banks are required to file and which often spawn probes by FBI or other federal agents.

The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network just reported that 325,000 such reports were filed during the first six months of 2007 alone. Of those, 48 percent were characterized as money-laundering ploys; others were tied to credit-card, check and identity-theft frauds.

Meanwhile, the FBI reports that Internet-related crime continues to rise. The Internet Crime Complaint Center says more than 90,000 reports of fraud and other wrongdoing perpetrated over the Net were referred to police around the country last year. The losses attributed to these crimes hit $240 million, which is $40 million higher than those in 2006.

(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)