National News

Reports: FCC Poised For Changes To Net Neutrality Policy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 14:51

According to reports, the FCC is set to approve a system in which Internet service providers offer a faster pipe to American homes to content companies willing to pay for it.

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Obama Gets A Taste Of Jiro's 'Dream' Sushi In Name Of Diplomacy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 14:19

On the first leg of his Asian tour, the president stopped by the iconic sushi restaurant. David Gelb, who directed a documentary about the restaurant, says eating there is amazing and nerve-wracking.

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Goodbye, productivity. Hello, HBO.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 14:00

It's an impressive list of high quality television: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, plus mini-series like Band of BrothersJohn Adams. 

These are all of the HBO shows that will be made available next month to Amazon Prime customers.

To some, it will feel like a necessary perk, what with Amazon Prime membership costing more than it used to. To others, it's a farewell to productivity, because let's face it, this is a lot of television to watch. Just how long will it take you to get through all of this content?

Assuming you take no potty breaks, don't sleep, and eat in front of your laptop or television, it will take this long:

Thanks to the website tiii.me, which allows you to calculate how much of your life you've spent watching tv based on what shows you've seen, it will take a grand total of 21 days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes to blaze your way through all of the HBO content.

If you're an Amazon Prime member, maybe don't plan on doing much for the month of May.

Costly Hepatitis C Pill Shreds Drug Industry Sales Record

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:31

Sovaldi has been found to be remarkably effective in curing most patients with common forms of hepatitis C in a matter of months. But the clinical success comes at a high price.

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In Age Of Custom-Tailored Ed Tech, Teachers Shop Off The Rack

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:24

Even as investment in education technology grows, teachers say free tools are just as effective as paid ones.

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Want Botox? A wrinkle filler?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:23

Valeant, a pharmaceutical company, is trying to look good. It’s made an offer for Allergan, the company that produces Botox. Over the past couple of years, Valeant has bought up other pharma companies including Solta, Obaji and Medicis, makers of skin-smothing-lasers, creams and fillers. Valeant isn't looking to make more by increasing R&D, but you don’t have to wrinkle up your forehead to figure out why it wants to buy the company that produces Botox.

“They are clearly going to have a monopoly in the marketplace," says Dr. Jack Berdy,  CEO of SmoothMed, a service that provides botox treatments in Manhattan. Berdy notes Valeant already bought the company that makes Dysport – a Botox competitor.

“I can’t imagine the company Valeant, who would look for economics in a takeover, maintaining both products in the marketplace," he said. "One of them would probably disappear.”

Along with a lot of jobs -- for some people, Valeant's offer is going to create stress (and wrinkles). Seamus Fernandez, an analyst with Leerink Partners, agrees.  “That’s a fair conclusion,” he says.

Fernandez says the international market for cosmetic dermatology is worth billions every year. And with the potential for consolidating workforces, Valeant is trying to be efficient.

“Most doctors are pretty busy, they would much prefer to just talk to one person who could go through and update them on what’s new on all the products they use, rather than having to have a bunch of different sales people come in from each company,” says David Krempa, an equity analyst with Morningstar.

Fernandez says, unlike the wrinkles it fixes, the market for cosmetic dermatology is growing – at about 12 percent a year.

The Times takes James Franco down (at least) a notch

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:16

About one James Edward Franco:

An actor, yes. But also: A poet! A novelist! A filmmaker! And an artist.

Not so fast, says Roberta Smith, co-chief art critic for The New York Times. Some of Franco's photographs are on display at a gallery in New York, and Smith isn't impressed.

Franco "remains embarrassingly clueless when it comes to art," she writes in her review. "The deep content here, beneath the entitled narcissism, is a confused desperation that seems to drive Mr. Franco's pursuit of visual art."

She continues: "It's hard not to feel some sympathy for him, while also wishing that someone or something would make him stop."

Ouch.

Why Are We Spiteful, Even Though It Bites Us Back?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:14

Most of us aren't as maleficent as the fairy in "Sleeping Beauty," but we're still apt to spite others, even at risk of harming ourselves. Psychologists are trying to figure out why.

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IRS employees who don't pay their own taxes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:12

More than 1,000 IRS workers who failed to pay their taxes still received performance bonuses.

In all, 28,000 tax workers with substantiated conduct issues collected $2.8 million in bonuses for 2011 and 2012.

Andrew Biggs with the American Enterprise Institute generally favors performance bonuses for federal employees. But, Biggs says, “it is difficult to have employees working for the IRS who didn’t in fact pay their own taxes. That undermines the credibility of the agency as a whole.”

The IRS is considering a policy change.

But in order to make conduct issues affect performance bonuses, the IRS must negotiate a new agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union.

Brazil Becomes One Of The First To Adopt Internet 'Bill Of Rights'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:09

President Dilma Rouseff signed the bill into law to kick off an international conference about the governance of the Internet.

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The NYPD learns about #backlash

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:06

The New York Police Department got a big lesson in social media this week. It created a Twitter hashtag – #myNYPD – to get people to tweet pictures of happy New Yorkers standing with smiling officers. But this being both New York, and social media, the NYPD didn’t get quite what it expected.

Not only did it backfire – now the hashtag has spread on Twitter to other police departments like Los Angeles and Chicago.

Twitter users sent in scores of pictures of New Yorkers who appear to be abused, beaten, even run over by officers. Some of the photos may be old or misleading, but the NYPD fell into a trap that has sunk many a social media campaign before it. 

“Part of me is kind of incredulous. Didn’t they expect they would get this kind of backlash?” says Ann Handley, head of content at MarketingProfs, and co-author of Content Rules. “You can’t get people to talk about how great you are on Twitter.”  

The NYPD could have learned something from McDonald’s' experience two years ago. It wanted people to send in nice comments with the hashtag “#McDstories.” They got something else entirely, says Howard Fencl, Vice President at the crisis communications firm Hennes Paynter Communications. “Trolls came out of the woodwork with ‘my brother found fake fingernail in his french fries, #McDstories,” he says. "People are sick of spin.” 

Some companies have more success jumping into what everyone is already talking about on Twitter. After Colorado legalized marijuana, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted a picture of empty ice cream shelves, which went down well with Twitter users. 

But if you’re big and important, the public might just be itching to knock you down a peg.

“The Police Department. McDonald's. You talk about taking it to the man, not every organization is ‘The Man’,” says Jay Baer, founder of the social media consultancy, Convince & Convert.

Baer says social media doesn’t create hate; it just uncovers it. 

CIA Is Quietly Ramping Up Aid To Syrian Rebels, Sources Say

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 13:05

The White House has decided to provide more covert training and weapons, including anti-tank missiles, in a bid to counter President Bashar Assad's growing strength in the civil war.

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Unbeliebable: Justin Offends Asian Fans With Shrine Visit

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:53

While visiting Tokyo, the pop star posed for photos in front of the highly controversial Yasukini Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals.

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Education May Help Insulate The Brain Against Traumatic Injury

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:26

People recover better from serious brain injuries if they've had more formal education, researchers say. They're not sure why book learning promotes cognitive reserve.

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Slowly And Sweetly, Vietnam's Chocolate Industry Grows

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:14

French colonists planted cacao in Vietnam in the 1800s, but the crop was outpaced by coffee and cashews. Now French expats are helping the country become a respected producer of high-end chocolate.

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Amazon is paying its employees to quit

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:09

How much would your boss have to pay you to get you to quit your job?

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos offered the company’s full-time warehouse employees $2,000 to $5,000, depending on tenure, to quit. In a letter to shareholders, Bezos explained:

“The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

This deal is especially healthy for the company’s bottom line says Nancy Koehn, historian at the Harvard Business School. She says Bezos is taking a line from the Zappos playbook.

“It is as much a financial and strategic issue as it is an image or PR issue,” Koehn says.

She notes how difficult it can be to get rid of an employee that doesn’t fit in well with the company. If handled poorly, a lawsuit would be much more expensive than $5,000.

But don’t expect all employers to offer the same deal. Koehn thinks it’s unlikely to become a new trend in working America.

Big-Time Home Sales Stoke Hope For Northeast Housing Market

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:01

Realtors are seeing reasons for optimism in the housing market. As Kaomi Goetz of WSHU reports, one historic home sale suggests the high end of the market is booming again — in Connecticut, at least.

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Chile Wildfire Litters Questions In The Ash Of Burned-Out Homes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:01

In Chile, a fire that started in the hills above Valparaiso continues to burn. The blaze has killed 15 people and destroyed 2,500 homes in the area that surrounds Valparaiso. Reporter Alexandra Hall looks at some of those affected.

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Moscow Answers Ukrainian Offensive With Warning Of Its Own

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:01

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said his country would respond if its citizens or interests came under attack in Ukraine. At the same time, the interim Ukrainian government has called for a new offensive on pro-Russia militants holed up in government buildings across eastern Ukraine. Western diplomats are scrambling to find a way to de-escalate the crisis.

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Slaughter In South Sudan Raises Fears Of Future Violence

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 12:01

Prompted by calls for violence on the radio, South Sudanese rebels have slaughtered hundreds of civilians. As Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International explains, details are just starting to emerge.

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