National / International News

North Carolina weighs the future of filming tax breaks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:23

These days, you don’t have to be in Hollywood or New York City to make a blockbuster movie.  Southern states like Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina now have a big chunk of the action.

But in North Carolina, it’s not clear if the tax credit that has helped lure big movie productions to the state will continue.

North Carolina fought hard to get the makers of “Iron Man 3” to film in its borders.  It was a top grossing movie last year.

The mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina is Bill Saffo.  He recently invited Governor Pat McCrory to visit the film studios and staff in his city to see the economic impact first-hand. Saffo worries about the blow his city would take if the state’s package of film incentives ended.

“God help us, I hope we can keep it and save it for all of us for many years to come,” said Saffo.

“Iron Man 3” was filmed in Wilmington.  So was the hit television series “Under the Dome”.  Saffo believes subsidies helped bring them, so he wants the state to continue its lucrative 25 percent tax credit, giving  filmmakers up to $20 million in tax refunds. Not everyone in North Carolina agrees.

A radio ad from “Americans for Prosperity North Carolina” is airing in Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington.   It says, “Tell Raleigh to put North Carolina first, not Hollywood producers.  Stop the Hollywood handouts.” Americans for Prosperity is a group that lobbies against excessive government spending.

Debate over film industry subsidies is growing nationwide as well.

Kevin Clark is Executive Director of the Association for Film Commissioners International.  He says now is not the time for states to pull the incentives - film-making brings jobs.

“They’re well-paying jobs, they are usually above what the median income is in the area,” said Clark.

North Carolina, like several other states, has to decide what level of subsidy, if any, is appropriate.  Right now, lawmakers are deadlocked over a state budget for a fiscal year that has already started.

Iowa's Corn Farmers Learn To Adapt To Weather Extremes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 13:17

Studies warn that climate change will threaten corn production in coming decades. Meanwhile, farmers are experimenting with new planting methods in hopes of slowing soil erosion from torrential rains.

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Two found shot dead in Herefordshire

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:59
Two people are found dead from gunshot wounds in the Ledbury area, police confirm.

Unlocking France's Secrets To Safer Raw Milk Cheese

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:58

A British cheesemonger wants to translate a French guide to raw milk microbiology into English. She says it has the potential to revolutionize our approach to cheese flavor and safety.

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The Trans-Siberian Railway's long journey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:53

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's longest railway line, stretching between Moscow and Vladivostok. 

"It’s a railway along which wars have been fought. It’s a railway that united the world’s largest country, Russia," says Christian Wolmar, author of "To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Railway". "And it's a major artery of Russia and, therefore, incredibly important."

Before it was built in the 19th century, there was no simple way to get to the depths of Siberia. Today, it still acts as the main form of transportation between many Russian towns, including the rural Vladivostok and Irkutsk.

"There aren’t many flights and they’re very expensive for ordinary Russians," says Wolmar. "And the roads are just too long."

Wolmar tells us more of the story behind the 5,700 mile long railway in the audio player above. 

Ebola Shuts Down The Oldest Hospital In Liberia

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:50

Ebola has claimed another victim. Reeling from the loss of staff and unable to cope with the deadly virus, St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital has closed its gates.

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Colorado Case Puts Workplace Drug Policies To The Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:32

The urine test employers typically use to detect marijuana picks up cannabis smoked or swallowed days or weeks earlier. Should firms be allowed to fire workers who legally use marijuana at home?

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Glossary: Marbles Edition

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:28

Everything you need to know to talk like a mibster.

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Gaza's Casualties Of War Include Its Historic Mosques

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:27

More than 40 mosques in the Gaza Strip were destroyed or damaged in the recent fighting.

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U.S. Response In Iraq: From Emergency Solution To Slate Of Paths Forward

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:09

The U.S. has begun sending humanitarian aid and conducting limited airstrikes in the attempt to protect Iraq's refugee populations. Going forward, the U.S. is facing several possible approaches there.

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In Ferguson Shooting's Tumultuous Wake, Leaders Call For Peace And Protest

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

Tensions are still high in a Missouri town where a black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday. Religious leaders and activists are calling for calm and peaceful demonstrations after three nights of protests that alternately involved looting and police in riot gear.

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Russian Convoy Heads To Ukraine, Bearing Aid — But Some Suspect Foul Play

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

A Russian convoy of nearly 300 trucks has left for eastern Ukraine, carrying what Russia claims to be humanitarian aid. Ukrainian leaders suspect the convoy could be a cover for a military operation. Katherin Hille of the Financial Times joins Robert Siegel to discuss the situation.

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South Sudan's Leaders Jostle For Power As Prospect Of Famine Looms

NPR News - Tue, 2014-08-12 12:05

South Sudan is facing the worst food security situation in the world, according to the United Nations and the Obama administration, which announced it would provide another $180 million to help feed the people of South Sudan. The U.S. has been warning that the country could face famine as rival political factions fail to make peace.

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Why you should be wary of your financial adviser

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 11:52

Usually, it’s pretty easy to tell when someone just wants your money: the extra complimentary sales clerk, telemarketers who bungle your name or car dealers.

But what about financial advisers?

William Percy learned the hard way that they don’t always have their clients' backs.

Percy lives in Colorado, but he worked as a phone installer in California until the late '90s. Before he retired, he met with an adviser who he says gave him this pitch: “Hey, don’t take your pension and get $1,000 a month. Take this and you can get $2,400 a month.”

She sold him a variable annuity, which Percy thought he could live off for the rest of his life. But the market turned, the principal shrank and the fees piled up.

“It just wasn't as guaranteed as [she] said it was,” he explains, adding that he later found out the adviser was being paid each time she sold someone one of these products.

“To me, that was all she looked at... how many clients she could bring in,” he says.

“Financial services firms are able to portray themselves as trusted financial advisers,” says Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “They’re certainly relied upon as trusted financial advisers by investors, but many of them simply aren't subject to a requirement to act in the best interest of their investors.”

When it comes to retirement planning, Roper says the problem is a few key loopholes in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). One such loophole is that the people who give one-off advice don’t have to act in the client’s best interest.

Brokers just have to recommend products that are “suitable,” says Roper. “But they can recommend the worst of the suitable products, the one with the highest costs or the poorest performance if it happens to be the one that offers them the highest financial compensation.”

This can short change people of tens or even hundreds of thousands in retirement savings. ­­­

The Department of Labor is planning to propose an update to ERISA in January.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a trade group, agrees that it would be helpful to create a uniform standard for investment advice, but is concerned that the Labor Department’s update might push firms to cut back on services to less well-off customers.

“The negative consequences are potentially so great in terms of not having access to someone to talk to, not having access to certain investment options,” says Lisa Bleier, SIFMA’s managing director and associate general counsel.

Instead, the group is advocating for the Securities and Exchange Commission to create a standard that applies more broadly, which the Department of Labor could then follow.

In the meantime, as Percy found out, access to financial advice can occasionally create more problems than it solves.

“I knew what [the adviser told] me,” he says. “But there is no way for the lay person to know everything. It’s like when you sign your automobile contract, do you know everything that’s in there?”

VIDEO: First look at Land Girls memorial

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 11:45
The invaluable work done by tens of thousands of women during the First and Second World Wars is being commemorated in a work of art.

'None bigger than this, the World Cup semi-final'

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 10:45
England women's coach Gary Street and Ireland counterpart Philip ‘Goose’ Doyle will put friendship aside for their World Cup semi-final.

20 years of online shopping later...

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-08-12 10:39

Twenty years ago this week, someone paid $12.48 plus shipping for this:

We're not talking about Sting's 1993 album – “Ten Summoner’s Tales" – for its musical merits.  It is, in fact, pretty average as far as Sting albums go, with two hit singles and a few Grammy nominations.  No, "Ten Summoner's Tales" has made it into the annals of contemporary history as the unremarkable item purchased in the first "online secure commercial transaction." It was the sale that proved online retail safe enough to make it, well, average. 

From the New York Times on August 11, 1994

"At noon yesterday, Phil Brandenberger of Philadelphia went shopping for a compact audio disk, paid for it with his credit card and made history.

Moments later, the champagne corks were popping in a small two-story frame house in Nashua, N.H. There, a team of young cyberspace entrepreneurs celebrated what was apparently the first retail transaction on the Internet using a readily available version of powerful data encryption software designed to guarantee privacy.

Experts have long seen such iron-clad security as a necessary first step before commercial transactions can become common on the Internet, the global computer network."

Tech-watchers had high hopes for retail on that "global computer network". In March of 1994, researchers at USC's Information Sciences Institute put out a paper called "Electronic Commerce on the Internet". In a section titled "Vision", they wrote:

"Every aspect of the acquisition process is handled seamlessly; participants need never revert to off-line paper communications. Buyers can browse multimedia catalogs, solicit bids and place orders. Sellers can respond to bids, schedule production, and coordinate deliveries. Third parties lubricate the marketplace via such value-added services as specialized directories, brokering, referral, and vendor certification." 

After that, the phrase "e-commerce" started popping up everywhere (it was almost as pervasive as Marketplace host David Brancaccio's favorite, "information superhighway").  By 1999, the Census had begun requesting e-commerce data as part of the overall economic picture. Commerce Department surveys showed the number of people shopping online rocketed from 13 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2001.

Retailers waded straight into those "Fields of Gold". 

Today, those numbers have quadrupled. Forrester says approximately 69 percent of Americans regularly buy products online, and those consumers generally do 16 percent of their shopping over the Internet. In their words, more and more people shop from rooms "besides their office," like the living room or the kitchen, on tablets and cell phones –  many of which they bought online in the first place.

 To put it mildly, e-retail continues to grow:

Robin Williams and the link between comedy and depression

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 09:51
Why do many comedians struggle with depression?

'Thousands' trapped by Iraq rebels

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 09:46
Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped by militants on a mountain in northern Iraq and need "life-saving assistance", the UN warns.

UK warns over Israel export licences

BBC - Tue, 2014-08-12 09:41
Ministers identify 12 export licenses to Israel that they would suspend in the event of what they describe as "significant hostilities" resuming in Gaza.

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