National News

What Is Really Tearing America Apart

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 07:11

While the nation focuses on healing race and gender issues, we encourage political divisiveness.

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Rethinking a corporate inversion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 07:00

A $54 billion pharmaceutical merger is up in the air after the U.S. Treasury Department said it would crack down on so-called corporate inversions — that’s when a U.S. business merges with a foreign company to save money on taxes. Illinois-based AbbVie Inc. is reconsidering an agreement to buy UK rival Shire PLC.

AbbVie hasn’t called off the merger, but the company says its board is rethinking the deal in light of new tax regulations. The Treasury Department announced changes last month that make inversions less attractive.

It’s likely that AbbVie will renegotiate rather than walk away, says tax consultant Robert Willens, and not just because the company risks a $1.6 billion breakup fee.

“They’re going to lose a lot of credibility if they pull out of the deal in response to the Treasury announcement, after telling the market for weeks that the deal was primarily motivated by business reasons,” he says.

To comply with the Treasury rules, AbbVie could restructure the deal so that Shire shareholders had more control.

“But that’s not necessarily a desirable result for the acquirers,” says Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “I’m not sure we’re going to see a lot of those kinds of deals go through.”

Still, several high profile inversions are moving forward, including Burger King’s acquisition of Canadian chain Tim Horton’s. Medical device maker Medtronic said it would refinance its deal to buy Irish company Covidien to comply with the new rules.

Willens says new inversions have slowed down since the regulations changed, but stopping them would require tougher action by Congress. The rules do not address a practice known as “earnings stripping,” for example, which allows a foreign parent company to essentially lend money to its American subsidiary, and then deduct the interest payments from its taxes.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that a bill to stop corporate inversions would save the U.S. Treasury about $20 billion over ten years. 

12 Trekkers Killed In Blizzards, Avalanche In Nepal's Himalayas

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 06:56

The dead include four Canadians, two Poles and an Israeli. The trekkers were caught out in unseasonable conditions around Mount Annapurna, the world's 10th-highest peak.

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A New Credential For The Tech Industry

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 06:47

General Assembly, an alternative education program, announces a new set of credentials for software-related jobs.

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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 05:55

The New York Times reports that between 2004 and 2011, American troops repeatedly encountered chemical weapons caches dating from the Iran-Iraq war. At least 17 U.S. service members were injured.

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Book News: Big Names And A Few Surprises Among National Book Award Finalists

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 04:43

The prominent literary prize narrowed its nominees to 20 writers — a mix of heavyweights and many new ones. And across the Atlantic, Richard Flanagan won Britain's biggest award, the Man Booker Prize.

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Get To Know The Finalists For The 2014 National Book Award

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 04:40

The shortlists — for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature — were announced Wednesday on Morning Edition.

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More Clashes In Hong Kong Between Police, Pro-Democracy Protesters

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 03:57

Authorities say they are investigating reports of excessive force after tear gas and riot batons were used to subdue demonstrators.

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In The World Of Chefs, Asian-American Women Are Turning Up The Heat

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 03:03

Food writers have argued that Asian-American chefs are having a moment. But in this coverage, there's a glaring absence in this most recent celebration of Asian-American chefs: women.

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PODCAST: Netflix goes ultra-high-definition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 03:00

A merger in the pharmaceutical industry is up in the air after the U.S. Treasury Department cracked down on what are called corporate inversions. Illinois-based AbbVie is reconsidering a $54 billion deal to buy UK rival Shire. More on inversions and why the Obama administration wants to stop these deals from happening. Plus, Netflix has quietly raised prices for a service almost no one uses: streaming video in 4-K, or ultra-high-definition, used to be available for eight or nine dollars a month. Now, a subscription is $12 a month. Only a few manufacturers make devices with 4-K displays. So, why raise the price on a service that's not in high demand? And the price of oil is falling that's partly because the oil industry's been booming in this country. Well, a consequence of that growth is a shortage of regulators who oversee drilling.

 

CDC: Second Dallas Nurse 'Should Not Have Traveled'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:42

Amber Vinson, who treated Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital and has tested positive for Ebola, was on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas a day before reporting symptoms.

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One shortage in booming oil fields: regulators

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Regulators in Wyoming are hemorrhaging employees. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration lost a quarter of its inspectors last year. The state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fared no better. And Mark Watson, the oil and gas supervisor, says rehiring, especially for specialized positions, is extremely difficult.

“They're in demand and we don't pay as much,” he says.

“You know, that job," he says, "we’re competing with someone in industry that might have 20 years of experience and we probably would pay 50 percent less than what they could get in industry.”

That’s right. 50 percent less. Watson says he’s talked to new graduates whose first offers out of college are $25,000 more than he makes as the state’s top oil and gas regulator. And it’s not just him. Nationwide, petroleum engineers working in industry make 70 percent more than those working for governments, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“In the boom times, I’ll say, we especially have a hard time competing with industry when it comes to recruiting and retaining people,” says Michael Madrid, who heads the minerals division of the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. Right now, Madrid’s division is actually mostly staffed.

But there’s concern about the future, and not just in Wyoming. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office says BLM offices nationwide could find themselves short-handed as the boom continues. And Madrid says that would be bad for everyone, including industry.

“The work will eventually get done, but there’s long, significant delays if we’re short-handed,” he says.

Which is bad for those who want to keep the boom booming.

This story comes from Inside Energy, a public media collaboration focused on America’s energy issues.

 

 

 

 

Avocado sales ripen around the world

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

The U.S. is the biggest importer of Mexican avocados—We eat about 1.7 billion pounds a year. But Mexico is eyeing an even larger market: Asia.  

Behind 20-foot-doors in a chilly warehouse, hundreds of thousands of avocados are ripening in cardboard boxes. 

“We take the rooms up as far as 72 degrees,” says Luis Galicia. He’s the assistant manager at Mission Produce’s ripening center in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Customers want to sell and use avocados at different stages of softness. So, Galicia explains, the avocados are heated to ripen only a certain amount, and then chilled at about 38 degrees.

The avocado business, he says, is hot. Mexican avocado sales increased by about 30 percent the first half of this year—and that’s not the result of a Chipotle rush or a Super Bowl guacamole bump. Yes, avocados are a popular condiment for sandwiches at Subway and breakfast items at Denny’s, but the real growth is happening in Asia. Japan is already the second largest importer of Mexican avocados. And in the first six months of 2014, Mexico sent nearly $3 million dollars worth of avocados to China.

Eduardo Serena, Marketing Director of the Mexican Avocado Industry, says for the first time, the industry will have marketing campaigns specifically designed for China and Japan.  

Maura Maxwell, Latin America editor for The Market Intelligence Group, says marketers will have their work cut out for them.

“The thing with China is there isn’t an avocado consuming habit,” she says. “People aren’t familiar with the fruit yet.”

Consumers need basic education about when the fruit is ripe—Black on the outside for Hass avocados is a good thing, but Maxwell says many people assume the soft bumpy pear-shaped fruit is rotten.

Right now, Serena says the most popular ways to eat avocados in Japan is with sushi, or fried. 

“In China in particular, they like to use as smoothies as a juice, and also of course in soups,” Serena says. In today’s avocado awakening, there’s no wrong way to eat the fruit.

So go ahead, toss on the Tabasco, limón, or soy sauce.

 

 

Netflix raised prices on a service nobody uses (yet)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Until recently, streaming Netflix video in 4K, or ultra-high-definition display, was available for $8 or $9 a month. It now requires a $12 dollar-a-month subscription. 

Only a few manufacturers make devices with 4K displays, and it’s probably not too late to be the first on your block to get one.  

"We’re expecting 10 million of these 4K TVs to be sold this year, worldwide," says Eric Smith, who looks at home-entertainment devices for Strategy Analytics. "And most of them are in China, actually."

But prices are dropping, and sales will probably go up. Smith says in a few years, a third of new TVs may be 4K.

Strategy Analytics projects that sales of ultra-high-definition TVs will climb in the next few years.

Eric Smith/Strategy Analytics

Overall, getting 4K will mean paying more: a new TV, and probably more bandwidth, since the sharper picture takes four times as much data.

For Netflix, producing shows like “House of Cards” in 4K means spending more. The company says that’s why it's raising prices. 

But, despite the costs, the tech ramp-up in video will continue. 

"We’ll get to three-dimensional, eventually we’ll get to holographic projection," says Larry Hettick, who looks at consumer services for Current Analysis, a telecom consultancy. "And as the price point becomes bearable to consumers, then eventually they’re going to pay for it."

Medicare open enrollment brings change

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Medicare’s open enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. 

The open enrollment is for Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage, and for private Medicare Advantage plans. You can enroll in Medicare at age 65. The open enrollment period is when you tweak your coverage.

“It’s a little bit like eating your spinach," says Tricia Neuman, director of Medicare policy research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Nobody likes to do it.”

Neuman says most seniors are reluctant to change their Part D prescription plans, but should consider it.

“Just to be sure that there are no surprises," she says. "That might mean having greater difficulty seeing a doctor or difficulty getting a prescription you want to fill.”

Medicare is getting a few surprises from baby boomers. Almost two million more are expected to enroll this year.

They smoked less than their parents—Their problem is obesity. 

“They’re likely to cost more than their parents did but not just because of living longer lives," says Kate Baicker, a health economist at Harvard. "But also because of having more complicated health conditions."

Conditions like diabetes and heart disease, for instance.

Another Texas Health Care Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 01:16

A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. has tested positive for the disease.

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Should You Stock Up On Chocolate Bars Because Of Ebola?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 23:41

The virus has already caused one spike in chocolate prices, because cocoa is grown in countries that border Ebola-stricken Liberia and Guinea. Prices went back down — for the moment.

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'Culture Of Violence' Pervades Rikers' Juvenile Facilities

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 23:40

Automatically charged as adults in New York, the 16- and 17-year-old boys are at risk for assault by both corrections officers and other inmates. But advocates say reform efforts are moving slowly.

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Nonprofit NFL Seeks Super Bowl Volunteers, Again

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 23:39

The NFL is looking for 10,000 volunteers for this season's Super Bowl. Commentator Frank Deford thinks other causes are more deserving.

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Supreme Court Blocks Abortion Rules That Closed Most Texas Clinics

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 20:27

The Fifth Circuit court had ruled that the laws, requiring admitting privileges and pricy upgrades, could go into effect as it considered the case. The Supreme Court decided otherwise late Tuesday.

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