National News

SunTrust To Pay Nearly $1 Billion For Mortgage Practices

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 14:51

The bank's mortgage-lending subsidiary agreed to pay $968 million and acknowledged that it failed to comply with federal requirements for processing FHA loans.

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How Yahoo's Diversity Numbers Compare With Google's

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 14:41

Yahoo has released its diversity figures as the tech industry grapples with a gender gap and low numbers of blacks and Latinos in its ranks.

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What, Exactly, Are U.S. Interests In Iraq's Turmoil?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 14:11

Some warn that the violence gripping the country could lead to another Sept. 11. But experts are skeptical, and Americans are wary of new military entanglements.

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The market for smokeless tobacco keeps on growing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:56

Smokeless tobacco is about a $6 billion industry, says Bloomberg Industries analyst Kenneth Shea.

“Growing sales [are] at about a 6 percent annual rate, which is pretty good, particularly compared to cigarettes which grow at about 1 percent a year,” he says.

Shea says cigarette sales still command 85 percent of total tobacco sales, but products like chew and snuff are growing. Part of the draw, says Shea is that it’s getting harder and harder to find a place where you can smoke.

Harvard Public Health Professor Gregory Connolly says R.J. Reynolds and Altria parent company of Phillip Morris – have also done a great job luring consumers in.

“You can get twice the amount of nicotine out of a tin of Copenhagen than you do out of a pack of Marlboros,” he says.

Connolly says part of the problem is that regulations aren’t as tight for smokeless tobacco as they are for cigarettes.

“We banned all candy-like flavors, so you can’t get cherry cigarettes,” he says. “But [we] totally exempted smokeless tobacco. So you can buy lemon smokeless tobacco, minty smokeless tobacco, you name it.”

The National Institutes of Health considers chew a growing national problem.

Northwestern oncologist Dr. Mark Agulnik says he sees evidence of the product’s popularity in his office every day.

“We certainly see fewer smokers. The only group that has not changed over time is the group that has been exposed to smokeless tobacco,” he says.

Agulnik says he’s not sure whether the death of famous baseball player Tony Gwynn will slow smokeless tobacco sales.

But the doctor says at least people are talking about chew.

Something he says they weren’t doing last week.

4K TV: The shape of things to come, someday

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:54

Netflix is now streaming more 4K content, including Breaking Bad and a few movies. That follows a trend of growing 4K content, which is also called Ultra HD.

It’s very unlikely you’ll be watching, because only a handful of people have 4K TVs. Maybe you’ve never even heard of 4K -- and that’s OK, because hardly anyone has.

“Awareness is incredibly low,” says Glenn Hower of Parks Associates, a consumer technology research company. “Consumers, they aren’t familiar with the terminology. They don’t know what 4K is, what it means.”

4K promises an enhanced viewing experience, with four times more pixels than HD. But some reviewers who have done side-by-side comparisons say it’s pretty hard for mere humans to tell the difference unless they stand extremely close to the screen.

All those pixels cost a great deal of money. Ben Arnold with NPD Group says a 4K television can cost 50 percent more or double the cost of a comparable HD television. That’s a key reason why he estimates there are only around 100,000 4K sets in use in America.

A key to selling 4K sets is the existence of 4K content. There isn’t much out there now. Companies that offer it, whether they are cable, streaming or broadcast, could score by picking up new customers. Or they might regret it, like companies that recently invested in home 3D, which has been a disaster.

Mark Garrison: First, it’s OK if you’ve never heard of 4K. Hardly anyone has, says Glenn Hower of Parks Associates, a consumer tech research company.

Glenn Hower: Awareness is incredibly low. Consumers, they aren’t familiar with the terminology. They don’t know what 4K is, what it means.

4K screens promise enhanced pictures, with four times more pixels than HD. And you will pay dearly for them.

Ben Arnold: On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from 50% more to double.

Ben Arnold with NPD Group estimates there are only around 100-thousand 4K sets in use in America. We’re all smart enough to know if we wait, prices will drop. Electronics manufacturers and retailers want us to buy now. Jim Willcox at Consumer Reports says it’ll only happen if we get something to watch.

Jim Willcox: Content’s clearly one of the things that drives hardware. There’s always that chicken and egg situation when you have a new format.

Netflix and others that offer 4K might make money on new customers. Or they might regret it, like companies that recently invested in home 3D, which has been a disaster. Jonathan Sterne is a communications technology professor at McGill University.

Jonathan Sterne: There isn’t one recipe. But without content, you won’t have mass uptake. So someone basically has to take a bet on it.

One thing we’ll probably see more of: nature documentaries. The TV business loves them, believing close-ups of cuddly animals and bright birds get people to open their wallets for fancy TVs. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Why the Fed sees inflation differently than you

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:53

Thanks to the Labor Department, we got a read Tuesday on the state of the U.S. Economy. The latest Consumer Price Index indicates inflation is up.

Federal Reserve policymakers, who are meeting in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday, will pay close attention to that report, although they view it through a different lens than the rest of us.

The Fed wants to get ahead of inflation, because when the Fed changes its policies, that doesn’t have an immediate effect.  “It’s a long and variable lag process,” says Kevin T. Jacques, a professor of finance at Baldwin Wallace University. “It just takes a lot of time.”

Drought in the Midwest gives cattle farmers an edge

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:51

Spring has sprung in Rolla, Missouri, and cattle farmer Ken Lenox has noticed an increase in business.

“We’ve never dreamed of $2 a-pound cattle and they were well over $2 a-pound.”

When we last spoke with Lenox, he was dealing with temperatures below 14 degrees. The frost is now gone from his fields and he’s not only seeing a boom in his cattle business, but in his hay crops too.

“We just finished up 150 acres of hay. We just got rid of our spring calves that we sell. So things are looking up.”

Take your tips from the June Vogue and spend $343,368

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:39

Just because it's a fun thing to do, I guess, Noah Veltman, a data journalist at WNYC added up what it would cost to buy all the items and products featured on the editorial pages of the June 2014 editions of ten major magazines -- Vogue, InStyle, Cosmo and others.

 He's not even talking about the stuff featured in ads. At the top of the charts is Vogue... with a cumulative price tag of $343,368. Coming in at number ten? Real Simple...almost $16,000.  

Ga., Mo. Inmates Put To Death; First Since Botched Oklahoma Execution

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:33

Georgia and Missouri have executed inmates — the first since April's botched execution of a prisoner in Oklahoma. Florida is scheduled to execute an inmate later on Wednesday.

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How to hide a corporate jet

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:09

In March 2014, Jos. A. Bank, the men’s apparel retailer known for its big sales and splashy advertisements, was bought by its competitor Men’s Wearhouse for $65 a share.

But it turns out Jos. A. Bank didn’t advertise all of its merchandise. Jos. A. Bank leases a Dassault Falcon 2000EX – a $24 million private plane that does not show up on any of the company’s financial statements.

"I thought 'If a company had a jet, it would show up somewhere,'" says Bethany McLean, Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair. "But as it turns out, it’s quite common that it doesn’t, and quite legal. Although, you could ask questions about whether this is following the letter of the law and violating the spirit of the law."

How does a company get away with leasing a private jet and not entering it on their records?

"This is possible because of a company’s so-called ‘perks’ or extra compensation," says McLean. "They only have to be disclosed when they’re personal use."

Jos. A. Bank says the jet is used 100 percent for business; therefore, it doesn’t have to be disclosed as executive’s compensation. The company is headquartered in Maryland, but the jet is hangered in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the former CEO Richard Wildrick lives.

If Wildrick uses the jet for his commute to and from Jos. A. Bank headquarters, then it’s considered personal use, right?

 "It would be," says McLean. "But the company very smartly set up a little office in Palm Beach, so therefore the office to office travel is business use and doesn’t have to be disclosed."

Suspect's Capture Doesn't Arrest Benghazi Suspicions

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 13:06

The capture of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a key suspect in the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack, did little to change the political polarity of the event.

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Hubble To Search For Last Stop On Pluto Probe's Itinerary

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:59

Before NASA's New Horizons probe visits Pluto next year, scientists hope they can find another "icy body" at the edge of the solar system for a final flyby.

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India's Transgender Community Turns Seat Belt Safety Into Video Hit

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:57

India's transgender community is on a roll. Known as hijras, they recently won court recognition as part of a third gender. Now they're starring in a popular video urging drivers to buckle up.

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Lightning-Fast Trades Go Beneath The Congressional Microscope

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is holding a hearing on problems in the financial markets caused by high-frequency trading firms.

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Will The Trouble In Iraq Draw U.S. And Iran Closer Together?

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

Thomas Erdbink of The New York Times talks to Robert Siegel about the possibility that the U.S. and Iran will cooperate in response to Iraq's unrest.

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White House Plans To Mark Off World's Largest Ocean Sanctuary

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

The White House is announcing the creation of the world's largest marine sanctuary. The plan would make large sections of the Pacific Ocean off limits to fishing and energy exploration. The boundaries will be set after the White House consults with fishermen, scientists and other stakeholders

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U.S. Commandos Catch Alleged Leader Of Benghazi Attack

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

U.S. special operations forces have captured one of the men suspected of playing a key role in the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. Ahmed Abu Khatallah has been associated with one of the militias involved in the attack that killed four Americans. Currently being held outside Libya, he will face trial in a U.S. federal court.

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Settlement Brings An Early End To Apple's Price-Fixing Case

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

Apple has reached an out-of-court settlement with states' attorneys general and a number of other complainants over e-book price fixing. Apple had been facing some $800 million in damages.

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Philly Schools Teeter On Brink Of Layoffs, Struggling For Funding

NPR News - Tue, 2014-06-17 12:06

Philadelphia's school district once again needs tens of millions of dollars to avoid layoffs. With just a few weeks left before the district approves a new budget, school leaders are asking the city, the state and labor unions for help filling a $96 million budget hole.

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