National News

U.S. Files Criminal Charges Against Chinese Officials Over Cyberspying

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 05:42

The Justice Department accuses five Chinese officials of stealing trade secrets by spying using military and intelligence facilities. These are the first charges of their kind to be made by the U.S.

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AT&T’s $48.5 billion bid for your everything

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 05:16

AT&T is buying satellite TV company DirecTV in a $48.5 billion deal. Like so many other media mergers, the news has executives and Wall Street analysts tossing around corporate buzzwords. There’s the old favorite “synergy,” of course. But “bundle” is the key word for this proposed combination.

“They can bundle this with a broadband product and offer a bundle of voice, video and broadband, which they haven’t been able to do in a lot of their footprint up until now,” says Jonathan Chaplin at New Street Research.

Grabbing America’s biggest satellite provider allows AT&T to expand its move to sell more services on one bill nationwide.

If the deal goes through, AT&T would be the second largest American pay TV operator. Its 26 million customers would be just behind a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable, which would have 30 million if its own proposed merger goes through.

AT&T is already offering significant concessions, enough that Wall Street expects regulators will let its deal go through.

Mark Garrison: Media mergers tend to be heavy on corporate buzzwords. Synergy is an old favorite. Bundle is popular these days and Jonathan Chaplin at New Street Research says this deal is bundle-icious.

Jonathan Chaplin: They can bundle this with a broadband product and offer a bundle of voice, video and broadband, which they haven’t been able to do in a lot of their footprint up until now.

AT&T wants to sell you everything on one bill. Grabbing America’s biggest satellite provider lets them do that nationwide. If all goes through, AT&T will be the second largest pay TV operator. That means regulators will take a close look. Chaplin and other analysts believe AT&T’s offer to make concessions will be enough.

Chaplin: This is a deal that’s gonna get through.

DirecTV’s Latin American business is also a factor, says Macquarie senior analyst Amy Yong.

Amy Yong: That is a clear growth opportunity for AT&T over the next few years.

The companies expect the deal to close within a year. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

AT&T, DirecTV And Finding A Prom Date: Reactions To Merger

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 05:14

"It's kind of like trying to find a date before the prom," one analyst says of consolidation in the media industry. Some experts are criticizing the deal's strategy and potential impact on consumers.

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Russia Says It Has Ordered Its Troops Away From Ukraine Border

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 04:55

This is the second time Russia says it is moving its troops, but NATO says it has yet to see a significant shift in the position of Russian forces.

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Russia and London: The ties that bind

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 03:31

Banks, brokers, markets -- London has it all.

Add to that a sturdy legal system and you can begin to understand why it's the financial capital of the world. The city is loved by its locals and foreigners seeking a safe -- and profitable -- haven. 

Jamison Firestone, an American lawyer based in London, has years of experience helping American and European companies do business in Russia. Firestone, who previously lived and worked in Russia, fled the country after his law patner Sergei Magnitsky died in Russian custody when he was arrested on tax evasion charges. Magnitsky's supporters say he was beaten and killed by Russian authorities for calling attention to corruption, something Russian officials deny.

The whole affair is just one example of why Russians are looking to take their money out of Moscow and park it elsewhere, according to Firestone. Click on the audio player above to hear more.

 

Russia and London: The ties that bind

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 03:31

Banks, brokers, markets -- London has it all.

Add to that a sturdy legal system and you can begin to understand why it's the financial capital of the world. The city is loved by its locals and foreigners seeking a safe -- and profitable -- haven. 

Jamison Firestone, an American lawyer based in London, has years of experience helping American and European companies do business in Russia. Firestone, who previously lived and worked in Russia, fled the country after his law patner Sergei Magnitsky died in Russian custody when he was arrested on tax evasion charges. Magnitsky's supporters say he was beaten and killed by Russian authorities for calling attention to corruption, something Russian officials deny.

The whole affair is just one example of why Russians are looking to take their money out of Moscow and park it elsewhere, according to Firestone. Click on the audio player above to hear more.

 

South Korea's President Will Disband Coast Guard

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 03:24

President Park Geun-hye announced the changes a bit more than one month after the ferry Sewol sank, killing more than 300 people. It also comes as South Korea prepares to hold national elections.

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Robots, the space program and innovation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 02:39

A robotics competitions gets underway on Monday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. College students have to build and design a robot that can dig lunar solid, for example, to be used during a mission to Mars.

Experts say competitions like these help foster innovation and can even help bring ideas to market.

 "That's one area where I think you might be getting neat ideas on the cheap," says Ross Mead, a doctoral student studying robotics at the University of Southern California. 

He says the competitions are exciting and also give companies, or NASA, the opportunity to see problems solved in different ways.

Given the deep budget cuts to NASA, competitions are an especially good idea for the space agency. 

"NASA's leveraging the budget they have with trying to stimulate people working outside of NASA to come up with things that could be really helpful to them," says Tom Kinnear, who teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. 

But perhaps the greatest reason competitions work Kinnear said, is that people love to win.

Why Education Is The Most Important Revolution Of Our Time

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 02:03

The ways learning happens in the US are shifting rapidly. We're out to capture learning in its natural habitat, from soccer fields to science labs, boardrooms to bedrooms. Welcome to NPR Ed.

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Russian President Putin Orders Troops Near Ukraine To Return Home

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

The Kremlin announced Vladimir Putin's decision on Monday. The move appears to indicate Putin's intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine.

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Campaigns versus coding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:00

Congressional candidates sometimes come from surprising backgrounds. Former comedians. Former American Idols. Now, thanks the current race being held in New Jersey's 2nd district, you can add programmer to that list of resumes.

Dave Cole is a former techie who grew up in New Jersey before graduating from Rutgers University. After a stint in the White House, where he helped build whitehouse.gov, he moved into the private sector to work for a startup that specialized in online maps called MapBox. According to Cole, it's a move that helped him see what government could learn from startup culture:

"Working in the private sector gave me such an opportunity to see the contrast to the way things get done, but also, how there really are good solutions out there to some of the problems that the government is facing."

 Cole says his background in coding, and the transparency of the coding community, also has a strong influence on how he thinks Congress can be more effective:

"One of the ways running for Congress can be more open is if people who are running are just completely transparent about their platforms. It’s exactly the way the best software is built in the open source community."

Part of his belief in the values of technology comes from exposure at a young age; Cole says his mom bought him a computer when he was eight years old. It's a privilege that he wants to extend into the school system, teaching coding to kids at a younger age:

"I think of it like a foreign language -- It enriches your life, and it’s something that once people are encouraged and they can see all the creative possibilities that come from it, that creates jobs."

The British have solved unemployment, once and for all

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-19 00:47

I am anchoring Marketplace Morning Report from London this week. While on the road, I am scouting for big ideas and I may have found a doozy.

Some iconoclastic economic thinkers just over the river in the Vauxhall area of London have constructed a device that wipes out unemployment.

Roll this baby out into the economy and everyone who wants to have a job would get a job. If it works as promised, not just Britain but the rest of the developed world including the U.S., could have full employment.

Outsourcing of jobs to poorer parts of the world? No problem. Robots and algorithms taking away human jobs, not to worry. And what is this device that would solve what is one of the greatest and most persistent economic problems?

Well, it is not a device in the sense of an electronic contraption. But it is a mechanism, a policy mechanism that is being put forth by experts at the New Economics Foundation here in London, among others. The idea is quite simple (although implementation will be tougher; I'll get to that in a moment).

Here is the idea: the 21-hour work week.

The NEF's proposal allows people to choose to work fewer hours. For the purposes of my discussion, let's do it by official decree: the order comes down that people can only work about half the hours they work now. That means it would take two people to do what is now one job. I do six shows a day as we roll through the time zones, including our ever-popular podcast.

With a 21-hour work week, I might do three of them a day and leave early. That means we could hire one more anchorman. Two people have jobs instead of one. Sure, the boss might try to cut my pay nearly in half, but if every working woman and working man was being paid less, prices should eventually drift downward to compensate.

Think of the benefits. If I were only working 21 hours in a week, I would have more time to do volunteer work, write a book, read a book, ride my bicycle, clean the basement -- more time to be a more balanced human being.

Yet, what might employers say about this 21-hour work week device to rid the developed world of unemployment once and for all? They generally don't like the idea much. You see, if there are two people doing the work of one -- that means two health care plans, two company pensions -- which could be a huge expense.

This suggests the 21-hour work week is more likely to come first to countries (like those in Europe) that have universal health care.

Another criticism that comes to mind about chopping the work week down the middle in order to produce full employment? Possible effects on income inequality. People who live off their wages and salaries as their hours are cut would find their incomes dropping (and their free time rising). People who live off their assets, their investments, might not see the same kind of decline in income. This might widen the gap between the richest and everyone else.

It is not just the New Economics Foundation here in London pushing a voluntary version of this. Up the road in Scotland, a policy group called the Jimmy Reid Foundation is trying to make the case for Scots working few hours. And, with all due respect to our UK hosts this week, the idea has a tradition in the U.S. as well. Not a glorious tradition, but a tradition. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt apparently put a stop to a bid to cap the American work week at 33 hours.

Even with the mass unemployment of the Great Depression, shorter work weeks were seen as just too radical a notion.

AstraZeneca Board Rejects New Offer From Pfizer

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-19 00:44

In a statement Monday, AstraZeneca's board said it "reiterates its confidence in AstraZeneca's ability to deliver on its prospects as an independent, science led business."

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One rich Londoner unconcerned by wealth gap

Marketplace - American Public Media - Sun, 2014-05-18 23:45

What is the collective noun for plutocrats? A plethora, perhaps? If so London has a plethora. And a big one.

According to the Sunday Times newspaper, the British capital is now home to 72 billionaires – many of them foreigners. Indian steel magnates, Russian energy oligarchs and Greek shipping tycoons. 

With 72 of them, London has more billionaires  than any other city on the planet. New York has only 48. That  abundance of rich people is not exactly fueling national pride in Britain. In fact it's stoking fresh concern about growing income inequality – especially in London.

Not that wealthy London residents see themselves as part of the  problem.

Yvgeny Chichvarkin – reportedly worth around $250 million -- does not even regard himself as a member of a  metropolitan elite. 

"Compared with people on the Forbes rich list, I'm rather poor," he says, while sitting in his business premises  in London's exclusive Mayfair district.

Chichvarkin made his fortune from the sale of the cellphone business he built from scratch in Russia before he settled in London. He claims that he does not flaunt his money.

"I drive an eleven-year old Porsche," he says. "And although I love good food and wine, if I'm busy I will buy a hamburger for lunch."

While he plays down his own wealth, the 39-year old entrepreneur is more than happy to cater to the extravagant needs of the super-rich. His main British business is an exclusive wine store called HEDONISM; located just off Berkeley Square.

It stocks some of the finest and most expensive vintages in the world. Chichvarkin is particularly proud of his Chateu d’Yquem 1811 Sauternes – for $160,000.  Yes, that's $160,000 for one bottle.

"I'm sure we will sell it," he says. "We have - two different customers – who are thinking about buying it."

Running a business in London’s richest neighborhood, rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, surrounded by opulence, Chichvarkon is not worried about London's growing inequality.

"It's not so terrible like in Russia or Venezuela," he shrugs. "Poor people in the UK have hot food, clear water, and a TV. And a mobile phone. They're not really poor, like Russian poor people."

The Russian begrudges paying what he calls "crazy taxes" to fund the benefits of Britain's "idle poor."

"A lot of them do nothing. But our shop creates a lot of taxes for them to do nothing," he says.

He says he's ticked off that if he sells that one bottle of Chateau d’Yquem, the sales tax alone will keep two or three people on welfare for a year.

Pa. Democrats Aim For Spot To Challenge GOP Governor

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 23:27

Pennsylvania is among six states holding primary elections Tuesday. Gov. Tom Corbett is unchallenged in the GOP primary, but the general election is a different story.

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Hacking The Brain With Electricity: Don't Try This At Home

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 23:24

Small jolts of electricity to the brain can treat diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson's. But some healthy people are trying electrical stimulation to make the brain sharper. And it may not be safe.

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Six Words: 'You've Got To Be Taught' Intolerance

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 23:21

A huge hit upon its release, the 1949 musical South Pacific still resonates with contributors to The Race Card Project — particularly a song about how prejudice is learned, not innate.

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1950s Crooner Jerry Vale Dies At Age 83

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 23:06

Jerry Vale, the beloved singer known for his high-tenor voice and romantic songs in the 1950s and early 1960s, has died. His biggest hit was "You Don't Know Me."

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3 Face Charges In Turkey Mine Disaster Amid Anger

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 22:50

Prosecutors arrested 3 people, including a company manager, on charges of negligence. A total of 25 people were detained for questioning — 6 were freed and the other 16 in custody may face charges.

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The First American Teenager, Millennia-Old And Underwater

NPR News - Sun, 2014-05-18 13:00

DNA from the skeleton of a 12,000-year-old teenage girl found on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula shows that today's Native Americans are descended from Siberians who spread southward across North America.

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