National News

Only neutrality will keep net free, says Franken

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-14 01:00

One of the most vocal supporters of Network Neutrality, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota recently spoke about the issue in even starker terms, calling the fight over net neutrality the "Free Speech Issue of Our Time."

Sen. Franken argues that if given the chance to monopolize access to higher speed, large corporations will dominate the internet, which up to this point has been an equal opportunity space. It's why he and fellow Net Neutrality believers argue that internet providers should be reclassified as "common carriers," subject to the same restrictions as other public utilities.

With FCC chair Tom Wheeler reportedly playing around with the idea of an internet "fast lane," Sen. Franken says he would most likely work on counter legislation if, in fact, the FCC moves forward with the idea. He believes that at the end of the day, the idea of providing faster service for those who can pay infringes on the constitutional rights of American citizens.

"You want someone’s individual blog to travel as fast as the New York Times. It’s a first amendment issue. That should be non-partisan."

 

China accuses GSK foreign executive of bribery

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-14 00:02

Chinese authorities have accused a foreign executive with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline of ordering his subordinates to bribe Chinese doctors in order to boost the company’s drug sales in China.

China’s government will now prosecute Mark Reilly, the foreign executive for GSK for bribery. For the Chinese government to go after a non-ethnic Chinese foreign executive is unprecedented and in this case, the executive in question - Mark Reilly - returned to China from his home in the UK to assist with the police investigation.

According to Jim McGregor, author of "One Billion Customers," Chinese leader Xi Jinping is doing his best to show his country that the Party will root out corruption. Part of that strategy, says McGregor, is to go after foreign companies.

“When China has troubles and they want to clean up an industry or stop certain practices, they’ll usually go after the foreign companies because they’re not connected politically like a state-owned company who is connected to all kinds of people and it’s very complicated to go after them because you affect a whole network of people, so foreign companies are more of a free-fire zone,” says McGregor.

The move has long-time China hands like McGregor asking: If China's government plans to charge GSK with giving millions of dollars' worth of bribes in China, what does it plan to do about the Chinese officials and doctors who were allegedly on the other side of the bribes?

The Olympics: A Modern Day World's Fair (And Money Magnet)

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:47

World's Fairs still exist, but just two cities bid to host the 2017 Expo. In contrast, seven U.S. cities are vying for the 2024 Olympics, and the games just signed a $7.75 billion deal with NBC.

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Too Young To Smoke, But Not To Pick Tobacco

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:46

Minors can't buy cigarettes in the U.S., but they can farm tobacco. A new Human Rights Watch report says the practice is hazardous; cigarette makers say there are some safe roles for kids on farms.

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Obamacare Prompts Firm To Consider Dropping Its Health Plan

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:46

A Cleveland catalog company says jumps in insurance costs may force it to stop offering a group health plan to its 700 workers. But first, the firm is pushing for healthier habits among employees.

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China Puts Brass On Trial In Fight Against Military Corruption

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:45

China's fast-growing armed forces face increased scrutiny over how they are spending what is now the world's second-largest military budget.

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New Orleans Police Hope To 'Win The City Back,' One Kid At A Time

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:44

In a city notorious for its murder rate, more than 90 percent of victims are black. To help break the cycle, police are testing a new approach: trying to win the hearts and minds of middle-schoolers.

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When a slow news week involves a plane crash...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-13 23:00

Here's what I want to know: When did it become August and I missed it?

I mean, yes, there've been a few things happening business- and economy-wise since Monday, but honestly, it's been kind of slow. Sitting here early in May, you'd just think there'd be... more, you know?

So with that, a couple of themes and/or trends I've got my eye on:

  • I know I say this on the air all the time, but I'm constantly amazed by how enduring the effects of the financial crisis are. To wit, the announcement Tuesday by Mel Watt, the head of the FHFA, that he's going to make sure there's still plenty of liquidity – money – in the mortgage system. We'll see whether that's a smart idea or not, but it's yet another sign it ain't over yet. See also: Geithner, Tim and his new book, about which you heard... well... elsewhere on public radio.
  • Bigger really is better. The Wall Street Journal's been all over this, but apparently AT&T wants to buy DirecTV for $50 billion, in part to keep pace with the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal. Roll that in with the still-burbling Pfizer/Astra Zeneca talks over in London – at $106 billion, if you can believe that – and I think it spells M&A boom.
  • Pay no attention to the stock market. That is all.

Special bonus thing: Last week I was talking about going out in Jim Fallows' plane for another installment of the project we've got going with him – American Futures. He flies a Cirrus SR-22, for reasons that'll become clear in about three sentences. Anyway, Jim came and picked me up in Birmingham, Alabama, and flew us back over to Columbus, Mississippi. Nice easy flight, if a little bumpy. But that's not what I wanted to mention. Two days after I got back to Los Angeles, Jim posted this on his blog at the Atlantic. Crazy, huh?

The radio story – about Columbus, Mississippi, and what we found there (not about planes parachuting safely to earth) is set to air next week.

Pentagon OKs Manning Transfer For Gender Treatment

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 20:52

Pvt. Chelsea Manning, formerly named Bradley, was convicted of sending classified documents to WikiLeaks. The soldier has asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman.

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A history of telecom mergers, charted

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-13 20:17

AT&T is reportedly close to making an offer to buy DirecTV in a deal that would value the satellite dish TV operator at nearly $50 billion.

According to the Wall Street Journal: 

"A deal could boost the flow of cash that AT&T could use to pay its dividend and fund a build out of its broadband Internet infrastructure, analysts have said. It also comes as AT&T increasingly views video—whether via pay TV service or delivered over the Web or its wireless network—as central to its future.

Adding satellite TV capabilities also could allow AT&T to free up valuable bandwidth on its Internet connections to customer homes."

The possible merger has us thinking about the history of media consolidation:

Tea Party Favorite Captures Nebraska Senate Primary

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 19:39

The bitter race highlight fissures within the Republican Party. Also Tuesday, two women set the stage for history-making in West Virginia.

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Judge Strikes Down Idaho's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 18:35

Gay couples can begin to marry as soon as Friday morning unless an appeals court puts a stay on the decision. It was the second state in less than a week to have its ban wiped out by a judge.

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Oscar-Winning Director Malik Bendjelloul Dies At 36

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 16:46

Swede Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man, won a Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 2013. He died in Stockholm.

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Wildfire Evacuation Orders Lifted For Most In Southern California

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 16:25

More than 20,000 residents around San Diego have been allowed to return home. In Santa Barbara County, a small number of homes and business still must stay away.

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Obama Sanctions Individuals In Central African Republic

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 16:00

The sanctions against an ex-president of the CAR and four other rebel leaders comes amid escalating sectarian violence.

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Longtime Congressman John Conyers Off Primary Ballot

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 15:09

A local election official says the Detroit Democrat, who has served in the U.S. House since 1965, failed to collect enough valid signatures.

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Sorry, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-05-13 14:29

Former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner has a new book out, as you may have heard. 

As part of the publicity campaign, the website Charitybuzz auctioned off lunch with Mr. Geithner today, with proceeds to benefit the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights.

$50,000 was the winning bid.

Nice and all, but a good deal shy of the 2013 record holder... a $610,000 lunch with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

 

 

Last Chance To See Astronaut's 'Space Oddity' Video

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 14:06

The YouTube video of astronaut Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station is set to come down as the licensing agreement on the iconic David Bowie song expires.

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2 Die In W.Va. Mine With Troubled Safety Record

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 13:22

A review of federal mine safety data shows that the Brody mine had a rate of violations more than twice the national average for underground coal mines.

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Pub Owner Frustrated That Health Plan Prices Keep Jumping

NPR News - Tue, 2014-05-13 12:53

The ACA may eventually smooth out the volatility in health insurance costs for small businesses. But for the next few years, it could be a bumpy — and expensive — ride for some firms.

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