National News

As Country Changes, Rubio, Republicans Try To Adjust

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-14 01:00

On gay rights and immigration, Republicans running for president, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are trying to navigate a tricky course between their party and the country at-large.

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Republicans Are Making Foreign Policy The Obamacare Of The 2016 Election

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-14 01:00

The GOP still has the health care law in its sights, but now also promises to do away with Obama's opening to Cuba and nascent deal on nuclear development with Iran.

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A warning on the bond market

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-04-14 00:49

The Fed came out with a warning this week about the bond market. Fed executive Vice President Simon Potter expressed concerns that extreme volatility like the October “flash crash” could become more common, perhaps the result of high frequency trading, or more surprisingly, too much regulation. Simon Potter doesn’t know exactly what caused the October spike. It could be because of high speed trading. Or because reforms enacted by regulators after the financial crisis, like increasing the amount of capital banks hold, could have unintentionally created more volatility.

The bond Flash Crash happened past October, actually wasn’t a crash at all, it was the opposite, a spike. In a 15 minute period, the yield on the 10-year treasury jumped more than two percent, which may not sound like a lot, but statistically speaking it was a price swing that should only happen once every 1.6 billion years.

Year After Denying Federal Control, Bundy Still Runs His Bit Of Nevada

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-14 00:18

Rancher Cliven Bundy successfully stood down Bureau of Land Management agents near Las Vegas. He's considered a symbol for a national movement to wrest Western lands from U.S. agencies' authority.

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Big Bills A Hidden Side Effect Of Cancer Treatment

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-14 00:17

Cancer treatment is increasingly expensive, even for patients who have insurance. Some doctors advocate discussing the costs of cancer treatment as they would hair loss, pain or other side effects.

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In N.D., Church Ceremonies Push Town To Grapple With Gay Rights

NPR News - Tue, 2015-04-14 00:15

In a small community in southeastern North Dakota, tension between compassion and faith is ever-present in residents' attitudes toward same-sex marriage.

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Volunteer Deputy Charged In Oklahoma Man's Shooting Death

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 23:34

The sheriff's office says Robert Bates, who was volunteering on an undercover operation, mistakenly pulled out his handgun instead of his stun gun and shot the suspect as he struggled with deputies.

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Transcript: NPR's Full Interview With Sen. Marco Rubio

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 19:03

Rubio spoke to NPR about his run for president, Indiana's religious freedom law, the president's deal with Iran and immigration.

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Airplane Makes Emergency Landing After Worker Trapped in Cargo Hold

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 15:56

Alaska Airlines Flight 448 returned to Seattle, after the pilot heard "banging from beneath the aircraft." It turned out that a ramp agent had fallen asleep in the cargo hold.

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Rubio 'Very Confident' He's Ready To Be President On 'Day No. 1'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 13:39

The Florida senator could be the youngest Republican in the presidential field, but he is fully confident he has the experience to lead.

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Clear Fruit Brandies Pack An Orchard Into A Bottle

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 13:23

French-style eaux de vie have made a comeback in the U.S. thanks to the farm-to-table movement. Dozens of distilleries are now crafting dry, fragrant spirits from fruits that might have been wasted.

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Blackwater Security Guards Handed Lengthy Sentences For Iraqi Killings

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:40

Three of the Blackwater security guards were found guilty of manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter, while a fourth was convicted of first-degree murder.

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Why do people overpay their taxes, then get refunds?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:34

As of the first week of April, 2015, 99 million taxpayers had filed their individual returns with the IRS. Of those, more than 77 million—or approximately 77 percent—had received refunds. The average refund was running $2,815, about $20 higher than the same time in 2014.

Overall, 118 million American taxpayers (including individuals and businesses) received tax refunds in 2014 (for the 2013 tax year); they got a total of $373.5 billion back from the IRS. All told, the IRS collected $3.1 trillion in gross taxes in 2014, including business and individual income taxes, estate, gift, excise, and employment taxes.

Listener John Thomas of Nevada asked this question: “I’ve always wondered why so many people seem to overpay their taxes and then have to claim a refund. I’m wondering whether there’s a conspiracy there with the government encouraging people to overpay, because they get free money essentially until people get their refund.”

CPA Rich Sotta in Portland, Oregon, says a lot of his tax-preparation clients intentionally have too much withheld, knowing from prior years’ experience that they will get a substantial refund—often several thousand dollars or more. “It’s so they don’t have a huge tax bill they have to pay in April,” says Sotta. “It’s peace of mind knowing that they’re getting refunds.” He says some taxpayers want a buffer in case their tax situation changes and their tax bill goes up unexpectedly—for instance, if they have sources of income that fluctuate year-to-year.

Sotta says, it’s true, letting the government over-withhold is like giving the government an interest-free loan. But, he says, “if you aren’t of the habit of being able to budget for yourself, I think it’s a way of saving.” Otherwise, he says, those people would fritter away the extra income in their paychecks away.

That predictable April refund windfall can be used by taxpayers to make a big-ticket purchase, take a vacation, pay down debt or build savings.

Hersh Shefrin, a professor of behavioral finance at Santa Clara University, says research shows most taxpayers who receive refunds do indeed devote a substantial portion to intended uses like this, rather than splurging and spending most of it right away.

Shefrin says the refund also triggers a response in our brains: “It lights up the reward centers—the nucleus accumbens is the area that gets activated. And there is a dopamine rush when the check actually arrives and you open it. It has a positive hedonic effect.”

Shefrin says engineering a large refund through over-withholding can also be evidence of smart, self-aware financial planning. “People recognize they have difficulty accumulating enough savings on their own. So they look for ways to help themselves counter the temptations of everyday life.”

Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center, dismisses the idea of an IRS conspiracy to get American taxpayers to over-withhold, in order to make more money available for government spending. He says if the IRS encouraged more withholding, some taxpayers could wind up in trouble in April if their tax bills were higher than expected.

Williams acknowledges that if the government wasn’t getting more than $300 billion in tax withholding payments that it will ultimately refund, it would have to borrow more. But, right now the government’s borrowing costs are low, less than 1 percent. “Essentially, what the taxpayers are doing is giving the government a short-term loan,” says Williams. “That makes it easier for the government to cover its bills in the short run, it doesn’t have to borrow as much. But in the long run, it all washes out.”

New York Investigates Retailers For Unpredictable Work Schedules

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:33

Retailers rely on systems that require workers to be ready to work a shift — whether or not they end up working. The state attorney general is looking into the way big retailers handle scheduling.

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At 800 And Aging Well, The Magna Carta Is Still A Big Draw

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:25

The Magna Carta is sometimes called England's greatest export. Issued by an embattled King John 1215, the document is now on display at the British Library and is pulling in large crowds.

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SpaceX To Launch A Spacecraft And Attempt To Land Its Rocket on a Floating Barge

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:21

The rocket is carrying supplies to the international space station. SpaceX hopes to land the reusable rocket onto a platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Who Needs 1 SuperPAC When You Can Have 4?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:12

SuperPACs, financed by unlimited but disclosed donations, now appear to be the presidential candidate's new best friend. One backing Sen. Marco Rubio is revving up, and Sen. Ted Cruz already has four.

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Senators Try To Revise No Child Left Behind — A Few Years Behind

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 12:02

Tuesday, senators begin working out the details of a bipartisan update to the No Child Left Behind education law. The proposed revision would give states more control over school accountability.

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Sandwich Monday: Breakfast In A Tin

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-13 11:54

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a British delicacy: All-Day Breakfast in a can. We may be using the word delicacy incorrectly.

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HBO Now's impact on 'Game of Thrones'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-13 11:41

When HBO announced HBO Now, the media company's new standalone streaming service, analysts considered "Game of Thrones" its flagship title.

"Game of Thrones" is one of the most popular original content dramas in the market right now," says Lawrence Low, head of regional sales at anti-piracy research firm Irdeto. "It’s premium, original content that has appeal with many different demographics. Maybe even more importantly...it appeals to many countries, not all of which have the access they would like to the show." 

HBO Now offered streaming capability for $14.99 a month, cheaper than the traditional path of cable plus a premium subscription, which was formerly the only route to HBO content (without borrowing your cousin's password). "Game of Thrones" is considered the most pirated show in history, and now, four episodes of the new season have already leaked. So, could HBO Now combat piracy by making the show, and other HBO content, easier to acquire legally? 

"I think it's less about piracy and more about capturing that growing number of Americans who aren't subscribing to cable. There's this number thrown out that there's about 10 to 11 million people in the U.S. who don't subscribe to cable, a lot of them millennials," says Natalie Jarvey, who covers digital media at The Hollywood Reporter. 

For "Game of Thrones" season five, HBO went to work to make the show easier for international audiences to access, too. The season premiere was simulcast across 170 countries. In the past, episodes were staggered for up to weeks at a time for global markets. That delay could have made piracy a worthy pursuit for viewers abroad in the past – the U.S. ranked third when it came to "Game of Thrones" piracy, behind Brazil and France.

"It goes back to the idea of availability ... I think people are pirating because they can't find the content anywhere else," Jarvey says. "While HBO Now might help with some of that, HBO Now right now is only in the U.S." 

One reason that HBO may not have allowed its content to be viewed a la carte in the past was due to a concern of increased piracy. But, the digital-only TV show "House of Cards" was only the fifth most-pirated show, according to anti-piracy research firm Irdeto, behind traditional-TV "Game of Thrones," "Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad," and "Vikings."

"The mode of distribution is not really the question," says Low. "Digital format or streaming does not make content harder to find illegally. The other challenge for content owners and distributors is having rights to distribute in all the territories they have coverage. Even Netflix does not have rights to 'House of Cards' on its service in all of the countries where it is available."

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