National News

Congress could hit dead end with highway funding

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-07 03:00

Congress is back after the July 4th recess with at least one major piece of legislation that really needs to get worked out: funding for transportation.

The Highway Trust Fund is financed by an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which hasn’t increased in 20 years. And that’s just part of the reason there may not enough money.

“Sometime in August, perhaps late July, you’ll see the trust fund running low on fumes to the point where the Federal Highway Administration will have to slow down payments to states,” says Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit based in Washington DC. “The immediate effect would be a slowing down or termination of construction projects around the country.”

That means a possible dip in jobs -- According to the Obama administration, as many as 700,000 jobs in all.

But there’s also a long term reason to be concerned.

“The road network suffers dramatically, the transit systems can’t expand, and all of this really has an economic downside to it," says Jack Basso, a former Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and CFO at the US Department of Transportation.

Basso says poor infrastructure slows the movement of people and goods. Plus, he says those bridges and roads become even more expensive to fix later on.

 

Walmart to highlight women-owned businesses

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-07 03:00

Shoppers at Walmart this Fall might notice something new on some of the products on store shelves: a little logo that says it was made by a women-owned company. It will first appear on Maggie’s Salsa, Anise Cosmetics, the Smart & Sexy brand of underwear, and the household cleaner called CLR. 

“Women in general, if there’s a product that they can tell is a women-owned product, they’ll actually buy that product over the next product,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, one of the organizations working with Walmart on the logo.

Those organizations will be watching closely to see if the logo affects sales in either direction. Women buy more cosmetics, but CLR skews male. It’s an open question whether the logo will help combat gender stereotypes, or perpetuate them. 

In general, though, consumers think highly of women-owned businesses. 

“There might be a sense of trust, and confidence in the fair dealings in the organization,” says Laura Kray, Professor of leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. 

And, even if consumers have no opinion, just seeing the logo could get consumers to want to learn more about gender issues in business. 

“It brings that issue to the forefront and actually makes people look into it and say what is this and why is it important?” says Marlene Morris Towns, Teaching Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. 

Backers of the symbol are talking with Macy’s and Office Depot about expanding its use to those stores.

 

Stressed Out: Americans Tell Us About Stress In Their Lives

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-07 03:00

NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a poll in March and early April to find out how stress is affecting people in the U.S. Here's what we found.

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Eduard Shevardnadze, Former Georgian President, Dies At 86

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-07 02:55

The former Soviet minister and Georgian president is credited with helping end the Cold War. He died Monday following a long illness, his spokeswoman tells the media.

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When is an app art?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-07 02:00

The Museum of Modern Art in New York added the first downloadable app to its collection this month: Björk’s Biophilia, which the singer released in 2011 along with an album of the same name.  

The app opens to a swirling constellation with a brightly colored star for each song from the album. In a recent demo, Paul Galloway, who manages MoMA’s Architecture and Design collection, selects a song called “Virus,” the screen of his iPad filling with gently jostling pink cells

“It’s like looking in a microscope down at cells,” he says, noting that Björk is using the virus as a metaphor for love.

 As the song progresses, small green virus cells come into view and start to attack the existing pink cells.

“Like a virus needs a body, soft tissue, as soft tissue feeds on blood,” Björk sings. “Someday I'll find you, the urge is here.”

If Galloway flicks the green virus cells off screen, the vocals stop.

The whole display is oddly beautiful and mesmerizing. Each song has its own unique design and way for users to interact with it.

“You now becomce a part of the team that’s creating Björk’s music,” says Galloway. “That’s a really powerful thing to enable your users to do.”

Beauty and interactivity – these are two elements of Biophilia that make the app art, says Galloway.

“[What] we also look for is this something that’s moving the field forward,” he adds. “Is it a masterpiece? Because we aspire to be a museum that’s chock full of masterpieces.”

Galloway thinks this is Björk’s equivalent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

While it’s the museum’s first downloadable app, it follows other digital acquisitions in typography and video games like Tetris.

It’s the latest example that museums are taking digital art seriously, says Heather Corcoran, the executive director of Rhizome, an art and technology organization. She says it’s natural for artists to work with technology as a medium given its current impact on culture. But even still, she notes this app is part of MoMA’s design department.

“I think that design within museums has a lot more freedom to push boundaries,” she says. “It’s not quite as attached to this really established canon of art history, so a lot of the most adventurous collecting is happening within the design departments.”

Corcoran says digital art can also present new preservation challenges for museums, as technology becomes obsolete very quickly -- much faster than a painting would need restoration.

It’s something MoMA is very aware of.

“This iPad is going to look hilariously dated in five years,” says Galloway. “That’s really soon, so how do we make sure this thing lives and continues to impact people? It’s a headache.”

Allan Sloan is angry about the flight of corporations

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-07-07 02:00

When Bank of America merged with NationsBank and moved out of its headquarters in San Francisco after 94 years to decamp to North Carolina, people said that's just business. When Boeing announced it was moving its headquarters halfway across the country after 85 years as a mainstay of the Seattle economy, people said that's just business, too.

So, isn't it just business when companies move their headquarters to places like Bermuda or Ireland for the purpose of saving on taxes out of the U.S. completely? Executives of the cruise ship company Carnival work out of Miami, but the company's tax home is Panama. The GPS navigation company Garmin has letterhead that reads Kansas, but its tax home is Switzerland. The medical devices company Medtronic is based in St. Paul, but after its planned merger with Covidien, its tax home could also move to a foreign land.

The insider lingo for this tax maneuver is "inversion," and inversions are perfectly legal. Let me say that again: they break no law. But, longtime Marketplace contributor Allan Sloan is angry and thinks companies should stop with the inversions, and stop now.

It may matter that Mr. Sloan is angry. He is senior editor-at-large for Fortune Magazine and a veteran business writer who knows now to kick up a ruckus when he wants to. His Newsweek cover story in 1996 about mass layoffs in corporate America is the stuff of legend. Its headline, "Corporate Killers," drew the ire of many a corporate chief and went on to become a topic of national conversation.

Sloan has written the cover story for the latest Fortune. The article is about these inversions but its headline is in plain English. Sloan's article carries the title: "Positively Un-American." Sloan argues American taxpayers get stuck paying what the companies who shift their tax home to other countries save. By one estimate, we are talking more than $19 billion over 10 years.

Again, Sloan acknowledges that inversions are legal. Companies say they adopt this strategy to increase shareholder value. Sloan rejects that argument, saying long-term shareholder value will come from investing in the USA, not from leaving it. Then, in case anyone has missed that he is angry about this, Sloan calls the companies who switched tax homes "deserters."

Yes, fighting words, I know.

What bugs Sloan most is seeing companies that benefit in so many ways from being in America seeming to abandon it. Sloan told me he is the grandson of immigrants and comes from a family that would have been destroyed if the United States hadn't welcomed them. He thinks it is just plain wrong for companies to switch their tax home just to make more money.

"They don't even leave," Sloan told me. "They just go off and stick you and me with the tab, and that makes me pretty angry." Did I mention he's angry?

Some elected officials are talking about legislation to make switching tax homes less attractive to companies. Many corporations oppose this, arguing a better strategy would be for the U.S. to lower corporate taxes. Sloan is not opposed to comprehensive tax reform, he just doesn't see it happening any time soon. What is happening soon is that more and more U.S. companies are running the numbers on this "inversion" thing and switching to foreign addresses.

Speaking of which, there is a pharmacy on almost every American street corner by the name of Walgreen's. It is a brand so American that you can see a Walgreen's in the background of that famous photo of the sailor kissing a lady on VE day in Times Square. The Walgreen company is now thinking of moving its tax residence out of the United States, with a decision possible any day now.

Ex-President Of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze Dies At 86

NPR News - Mon, 2014-07-07 01:09

Eduard Shevardnadze, a groundbreaking Soviet foreign minister and later the president of an independent Georgia, died Monday at the age of 86, his spokeswoman said.

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A Presidential Contest ... For Obama's Library

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 23:18

There are 13 presidential libraries and soon there will be a 14th, for President Obama. Places vying for the prize stretch from Hawaii to New York. Chicago is so eager it's pitched multiple proposals.

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For Many Americans, Stress Takes A Toll On Health And Family

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 23:18

Half of Americans say they've had a major stressful event in the past year, according to a poll by NPR, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Here's how it hurts.

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Raw Milk Producers Aim To Regulate Themselves

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 23:17

To create accountability and transparency, some raw milk producers are coming up with guidelines for testing and safety. But federal agencies say all raw milk is still risky to consume.

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The Marines Are Looking For A Few Good (Combat-Ready) Women

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 23:16

The Marines will be required to open ground combat jobs to women in 2016. Now more than 160 female Marines have volunteered for a grueling training course that will determine their readiness.

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TSA: Some On U.S.-Bound Flights Must Turn On Phones

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 22:30

Passengers at some overseas airports that offer U.S.-bound flights will be required to power on their electronic devices in order to board flights, the Transportation Security Administration said.

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Programs Target Poverty In Obama's 5 'Promise Zones'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 14:48

The idea is to basically carpet-bomb specific urban neighborhoods and rural areas with programs like after-school classes, GED courses and job training, with the goal of turning those areas around.

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Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 11:12

Even when the justices ruled together on cases, there was clear disagreement between them. Meanwhile, high-profile decisions in which they split 5-4 seemed particularly partisan.

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California Highway Patrol Probing Videotaped Beating Of Woman

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 10:55

The woman was walking barefoot as she wandered in and out of traffic on a freeway. In a video taken by a passing motorist, the officer is seen repeatedly pummeling the unidentified woman.

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Novak Djokovic Beats Roger Federer For Wimbledon Title

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 09:16

Djokovic won the Grand Slam men's singles final in five sets: 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.

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Separate Attacks In Uganda, Kenya Leave Dozens Dead

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 06:21

The extremist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for killing 13 people in a village on the coast of Kenya. In Uganda, 17 died in attacks on police stations.

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Report: Most NSA-Intercepted Data From 'Ordinary Internet Users'

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 05:04

Nine out of 10 communications snagged by the National Security Agency were not from legally targeted foreigners, The Washington Post says.

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Israel Arrests 6 Jewish Youths In Teen's Death

NPR News - Sun, 2014-07-06 04:17

The killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir is thought to have been out of revenge. Meanwhile, Khdeir's American cousin, reportedly beaten by Israeli police, has been placed under house arrest.

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