National News

An 'Idiot With A Gun' Leaves Families In Kansas Reeling

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 05:05

As family members of those killed Sunday outside Jewish centers near Kansas City speak, they're focusing on fond memories of their lost loved ones. But they're crushed by the gunman's senseless acts.

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Ukrainian Military Says It Is Moving Against Pro-Russia Protesters

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 03:25

Special forces will try to dislodge armed men who are occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine. Russia's role in those protests "seems much more evident," NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

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Runner Returns To Boston With A New Outlook On Life

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 03:24

Demi Clark was just feet from finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon when her life changed forever as a bomb went off next to the course. Now she's back for another go and a chance to inspire others.

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Sometimes Getting Along Comes Down To How You Say 'Gravy'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 03:03

A recent study on immigrant job-seekers in the United Kingdom reminds us again of the importance of code-switching: Unwritten cultural codes in conversation can have far-reaching impacts.

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Did You See It? If Not, Here's The 'Blood Moon'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 02:35

The view was great across much of the Americas early Tuesday as the moon turned red during a total lunar eclipse. If you missed it, the next one comes on Oct. 8.

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IRS budget problems help tax evaders

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 02:22

The IRS says it will audit fewer people this year than it has in many years. And, in telling us that, it's walking a fine line.

It wants you to know it's tough on tax cheats. It also wants you to know that it doesn't have enough money to be as tough on tax cheats.

"We hear a lot about people going to prison for tax fraud, but at the same time, the IRS needs budgetary resources," says Joshua Blank, faculty director of the Graduate Tax Program at New York University School of Law.

With a smaller budget and staff, the agency says fewer than one percent of returns will be audited this year. The IRS hopes that number will get a hostile Congress to increase its budget.

"A less enforced tax system rewards tax evaders, which in turn hurts everyone else," says Joel Slemrod, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

Fewer audits means the IRS is also losing the deterrent effects of what happens when someone tells all his friends about his experience, saying something like, "And, here's what they caught me on. They caught me on home office deduction, or they caught me on something else, and I had to write a big check. Geeze, I hope you don't have to go through that," says former IRS acting commissioner Kevin Brown, now with PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The IRS hopes it can simultaneously scare you, and scare Congress into giving it more money.

It's Tax Day! Now for pot dealers, too

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 02:16

The deadline to file income taxes is April 15. For many businesses, deductions on things like labor and rent help to keep tax bills low. But that's not the case for marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical or recreational use.

It's frustrating for business owners like Erica Freeman, who runs Choice Organics near Fort Collins, Colo. She's marking a big milestone this month. After voters legalized recreational pot in the state, Freeman spent thousands opening a new shop right next to her medical dispensary.

"...a whole separate video surveillance and security systems—and all of those kinds of things," she says.

Freeman and many other licensed marijuana business owners file taxes. But because of an Internal Revenue Service code known as 280E—originally written for illegal drug traffickers—they can't write off retail expenses associated with the business.

"I mean, all of these things are necessary for the front of the house, and therefore it's really not eligible to be written off," she says.

Recent rulings from tax court have allowed businesses to write off costs associated with growing marijuana. But the income tax rate for pot shops in Colorado can be as high as 70 percent. That's according to Jim Marty, a tax accountant who works with dozens of dispensaries across the state.

"Depending on where they're at it can be catastrophic," says Marty, who adds that the situation is particularly onerous for dispensaries just starting out.

"If they have losses—real, cash-basis losses—it can be a shock to them to find out that they owe taxes in years when they haven't made any money."

In California, 280E is even a problem for nonprofit dispensaries. Aaron Smith with the National Cannabis Industry Association says stores that sell medical marijuana can't get tax-exempt status from the IRS. That means they're filing taxes as for-profit businesses.

"The cruel irony behind this is that illegal drug dealers almost never even file income taxes," he says. "So this provision really only affects the legitimate state-licensed marijuana providers."

The Association recently hired a full-time lobbyist to push reform in Congress. In Colorado, a solution could come from the courts. Arguments on one dispensary's tax case are expected to be heard later this year.

The GM hearings could be just for show

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 01:06

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has been getting a lot of heat from Congress for the troubles at GM. In a blog post yesterday, Barra promised "accountability" from senior leadership when it comes to dealing with future safety problems at the company.

We ask: just who is accountable? Marketplace regular Alan Sloan, senior editor-at-large at Fortune magazine has been watching Barra, who's only been in the job since January 15th,  try to weather the storm which originated years ago. Sloan says Congress is villanizing the wrong person.

Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

Bleeding out

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 01:00

Heartbleed continues to dominate the news and scare the daylights out of all of us. The massive data flaw has thrown a huge curveball to millions of companies and the collective fix is a big, expensive deal. 

"When you add up all these IT hours as well as physical costs, you know, buying additional software for security reasons for these companies. I have to believe that the cost will probably be in the billions," says tech consultant Tim Bajarin.

Another blow that's a bit harder to calculate: the PR cost

"You first need to fix the issue. Plug the hole and then secondly, you need to re-instill confidence in your user base so that Heartbleed doesn’t continue to drain you, even after the fact," says data consultant Will Riegel. He says many consumers have scaled back online shopping and other transactions and coaxing them back will require outreach.

Riegel says it will take months before we can start to assess the full economic impact of Heartbleed.

Neel Mehta, Bug Bounty Hunter

Heartbleed is going to cost a lot of people a lot of money. But even before IT departments everywhere kicked into overdrive to install patches, there were already big bucks at play courtesy of a bug bounty paid to the man who discovered Heartbleed, Google security researcher Neel Mehta. For his discovery, he received $15,000, which he charitably donated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a group that was in the midst of crowd-funding for new encryption tools designed specifically for journalists. Though, some estimate that with the scope of security flaws like Heartbleed, future bounties could yield prizes closer to $100,000 - $500,000.

In the meantime, if you know an IT guy/gal burning the midnight oil, go ahead and buy them this shirt.

Voodoo Dolls Prove It: Hunger Makes Couples Turn On Each Other

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:25

To see if low blood sugar sours even good relationships, scientists used an unusual tool: voodoo dolls representing spouses. As hunger levels rose, so did the number of pins.

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The 7.5 Million Insured Through Obamacare Are Only Part Of The Story

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:24

Millions signed up for health insurance through state exchanges and HealthCare.gov. But another several million bypassed the exchanges and bought health coverage directly from insurers.

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A Small Tablet Company Brings High-Tech Hopes To Haiti

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:23

A tablet computer assembled in Port-au-Prince makes the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation the latest player on the high-tech stage. Economists hope such jobs help grow Haiti's middle class.

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Where's The Whole Grain In Most Of Our Wheat Bread?

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:22

Not all whole grain breads are created equal. Choosing breads with fully intact grains (think nuggets of whole rye, wheat or millet) may help control blood sugar and stave off hunger.

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After 25 Years Of Amnesia, Remembering A Forgotten Tiananmen

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:22

The bloody 1989 crackdown in Beijing changed China, NPR's Louisa Lim explains in a new book. She also chronicles the brutal repression that took place in another city — and remained hidden until now.

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Social Security Chief: Women Live Longer, So They Should Save Early

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 23:21

For women, lower average career earnings translate into smaller Social Security payments. Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin says women shouldn't wait to start saving for retirement.

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Ukrainian Jews Celebrate Passover In Uncertain Times

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 14:03

The holiday has a powerful message this year for Jews in Ukraine, who have found liberation from what they saw as a corrupt government. But with violence in the East, their story is still unfolding.

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Ooops! US Airways Accidentally Includes Lewd Photo In Tweet

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:59

Airlines commonly use Twitter to address the concerns of customers. When US Airways did that Monday, its response included a graphic picture of a naked woman.

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Survey results: What's your type?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:55

The break-up of a graphic design duo has resulted in a lawsuit of $20 million – over fonts. Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler worked together for 15 years to create some of the most famous and ubiquitous fonts around– used by GQ, Martha Stewart, the New York Jets and Saturday Night Live. They won awards for their typefaces - before the relationship turned sour.

When this story broke, we found out one thing for sure: Wow, Marketplace fans care about fonts. Here are the results of our font survey:

You like...

Sally Herships/Marketplace

And you really, really don't like...

Sally Herships/Marketplace

Gene Linked To Alzheimer's Poses A Special Threat To Women

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:43

Scientists have figured out one reason women might be more vulnerable to Alzheimer's: A risk gene doubles women's chances of getting the disease but has minimal effect on men.

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Kraft hits refresh button on vintage brands

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 13:41

Maxwell House coffee gets a makeover today. The Kraft brand is unveiling a new logo, new packaging, and, bringing back its “good to the last drop” tagline – to remind consumers how good it is, it says. But is it a good idea to tinker with a classic brand’s identity?

An idea that might have seemed great a few decades ago-- we're talking about Quaker Oats’ old version of Aunt Jemima--might not seem so hot just a little bit later. But even when brands need to make big changes, they need to step carefully, says Dave Reibstein, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business.

“In general, what it is you want to do is to be very, very, very consistent with your brand,” Reibstein says, especially to avoid the worst case scenario. “I walk down the aisle and I don’t even see it."

Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at the Stern School of Business at New York University, cites Brawny paper towel's sucessful handling of an image problem the brand had with its illustrated spokeman.

“The Wall Street Journal described him as a 70s porn star," Meyvis says.

But, Meyvis notes, that brand handled its image right–by taking baby steps. It slowly shrank the problem mustache, and character, until they were replaced by one a little more up to date. But Matt Egan, senior director of strategy for Siegel+Gale, a brand consultancy based in New York, says even though Kraft says its coffee has a brand new campaign, relying on its old slogan, "Good to the last drop," may not do the trick.

"When a food company resorts to talking about goodness," he says, "that’s always a sign they don’t have much of a real story to tell."

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