National / International News

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Judicial Campaign Fundraising Case

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

The Supreme Court today heard arguments testing whether states may prohibit candidates for judgeships from soliciting campaign donations personally.

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'State Of The Union Machine' Patches Together Speeches Of Presidents Past

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

The "State of the Union Machine" randomly generates text based on different presidents' actual speeches. Their words and phrases can be patched together to create a multi-administration text.

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Obama Tries To Spread State Of The Union Messages Outside Speech

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

This year, the many of the policy initiatives in President Obama's State of the Union address have been anything but closely guarded secrets. The president has previewed several proposals in the days leading up to the speech. And media consumers now have more options than ever for taking in the speech.

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New York Under Pressure For Locking Up Teens In Adult Prisons

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

A commission report this week found that incarcerated young people — most of them black and Hispanic — face a high risk of assault and victimization behind bars and an increased risk of suicide.

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ISIS Demands $200 Million Ransom For Japanese Hostages

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

The Japanese government is facing a ransom demand of $200 million for the lives of two Japanese men held by the self-described Islamic State. The demand was made in a video posted online, in which a hooded fighter gave Japan 72 hours to come up with the money.

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Obama Could Get More Cheers From Republicans On Trade

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday, there's likely to be a deep partisan divide on many of the proposals. Trade is one area where Republicans will be applauding while many Democrats are sitting on their hands.

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State Of The Union Preview

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

A preview of what to listen for in President Obama's State of the Union address.

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Montana Governor Declares State Of Emergency After River Oil Spill

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

As much as 50,000 gallons of oil has spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana. Those who live in surrounding cities have been told not to drink tap water. In 2011, more than 60,000 gallons of oil spilled in the same river.

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BP Back In Court For Final Phase Of Gulf Oil Spill Trial

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

The third and final phase of the civil trial against BP opened on Tuesday. The last segment will determine the amount of fines BP will pay in the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Thaw Begins On U.S.-Cuba Relationship Frozen In Time

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

U.S.-Cuba talks start Wednesday to revive a relationship that has been frozen in time. Cuba policy is likely to feature prominently in President's Obama's State of the Union address.

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Political Turmoil Threatens To Derail Haiti's Delicate Recovery

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:26

Haiti's President Martelly has formed a new government that he rules by decree. He's appointed some new ministers and a prime minister but hasn't said when new elections will happen. The U.S. has pledged it's backing of Martelly, but many are worried that the continuing political turmoil is hurting reconstruction efforts.

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Oil traders are hedging their bets

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:18

Delta Airlines reported a fourth-quarter loss Tuesday because the company’s fuel-hedging contracts overshot the falling price of oil.

Some energy traders and banks seem to think that they might have better luck than Delta. With the forecast for crude starting to trend upward, investors are buying cheap oil and storing it in the hope of turning a profit in the future.

One preferred storage method: Parking the oil on so-called “VLCC’s,” or very large crude carriers, capable of carrying millions of tons of oil in a single delivery. Normally that’s what these tankers would be doing, except almost no one wants to ship oil when the price is so low. 

U.S. is a bright spot in slowing global economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:10

The International Monetary Fund has revised downward its global economic projections. The IMF predicts China will grow 6.8 percent in 2015 (the October 2014 estimate was more than 7 percent, compared to growth topping 10 percent in recent years) as it tries to deflate an investment bubble. The eurozone is projected to grow 1.2 percent. Japan is expected to grow just 0.6 percent. 

The United States is the bright spot in this forecast. The IMF now predicts higher growth for the U.S. than it did in October – 3.6 percent in 2015. The U.S. economy is benefiting from declining oil prices and low inflation. Plus, says Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics in Toronto, the U.S. is relatively insulated from troubles in Europe, Asia and other developing countries because of its size and its relatively low dependence on exports.

“Exports are a fairly small part – 11 to 12 percent – of U.S. GDP,” says Ashworth. “And within that, the U.S. main trading partners are Canada and Mexico, which have actually been doing quite well.”

Overall, the IMF expects global growth of 3.5 percent this year. 

Courtesy of: International Monetary Fund

 

Auction houses filled with high-end art – and drama

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:07

The business side of the high-end art world is as dramatic as a Baroque masterpiece – lots of light and shadow.

"Where insider trading is against the law in the financial markets, it is completely legal and actually frequently practiced in the art world," says Michael Plummer, a founder of Artvest Partners, an art advisory firm. Previously, he was COO of Christie’s Financial Services, and also worked with Sotheby’s for years.

 "That’s kind of the game of playing in the art world is that if you are an insider, and you have inside information, then you tend to capitalize on it," he says. And dramatic life events cause works of art to end up at auction houses in the first place.

 “Death, divorce and debt. These are the main consignors,” says David Nash, a co-owner, with his wife, of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash galleries in Manhattan. Before the gallery, Nash spent 30 years at  Sotheby's overseeing paintings, so he well knows how that same drama can trickle down, or up, to the staff.  

"It was pretty high pressure when I left. Now it’s 10 times worse," he says. "Soon as you’ve had one $400 million dollar sale, you’ve got to take the phone call the next morning for the next one.”

And both auction houses seem like they're giving in to some of that pressure, considering Christie’s is replacing its CEO, Stephen Murphy. Sotheby’s CEO, William Ruprecht, who served for 14 years, is also stepping down. Both companies want to become more profitable.

“What is making them less profitable is the intense competition between both houses,” Nash says.

While there are plenty of high-end pieces of art, only two auction houses can handle works of a certain worth. That means there’s often an auction before the auction when the two houses are bidding against each other as they try to offer better deals and land the customer.

"How far are you willing to go to get something that you have to have?” asks Michael Plummer. “Same psychology that’s in the auction room, that puts two people bidding against each other to drive something up to $140 million is the same psychology that puts two auctioneers bidding against each other to get that piece to the auction itself."

And it can seem worth it, for either Sotheby’s or Christie's to do what whatever is needed to lock down a deal to sell a headliner work of art, except it’s not, Plummer says.

“They just don’t make the kind of money that you think they do. When you see those hundreds of millions of dollars of sales, they’re not bringing in the money that people expect that they are, and that I know is a shocking thing to a lot of people.”

Even if you sell a $140 million painting, most of the commission may be given away to the client. Auction houses also offer guarantees that can sound an awful lot like gambling. To secure high-ticket items, the house may guarantee a minimum sale price. But if that sale doesn’t go through, the house is stuck buying that very same, and very pricey, piece of art. One of the problems Sotheby’s is facing, Plummer says, is too much focus on high end sales – the kind that often come with guarantees.

Still, both auction houses say they’re coming off of three years of record-setting sales. while it may seem counter intuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership. While it may seem counterintuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership, according to David Schick, a luxury industry analyst at investment banking firm Stifell.

"Making a change – I wouldn’t say getting rid of – making a change is easier when times are good," he says.

Auction houses filled with high-end art – and drama

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2015-01-20 12:07

The business side of the high-end art world is as dramatic as a Baroque masterpiece – lots of light and shadow.

 

"Where insider trading is against the law in the financial markets, it is completely legal and actually frequently practiced in the art world," says Michael Plummer, a founder of Artvest Partners, an art advisory firm. Previously, he was COO of Christie’s Financial Services, and also worked with Sotheby’s for years.

 "That’s kind of the game of playing in the art world is that if you are an insider, and you have inside information, then you tend to capitalize on it," he says. And dramatic life events cause works of art to end up at auction houses in the first place.

 “Death, divorce and debt. These are the main consignors,” says David Nash, a co-owner, with his wife, of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash galleries in Manhattan. Before the gallery, Nash spent 30 years at  Sotheby's overseeing paintings, so he well knows how that same drama can trickle down, or up, to the staff.  

"It was pretty high pressure when I left. Now it’s 10 times worse," he says. "Soon as you’ve had one $400 million dollar sale, you’ve got to take the phone call the next morning for the next one.”

And both auction houses seem like they're giving in to some of that pressure, considering Christie’s is replacing its CEO, Stephen Murphy. Sotheby’s CEO, William Ruprecht, who served for 14 years, is also stepping down. Both companies want to become more profitable.

“What is making them less profitable is the intense competition between both houses,” Nash says.

While there are plenty of high-end pieces of art, only two auction houses can handle works of a certain worth. That means there’s often an auction before the auction when the two houses are bidding against each other as they try to offer better deals and land the customer.

 

"How far are you willing to go to get something that you have to have?” asks Michael Plummer. “Same psychology that’s in the auction room, that puts two people bidding against each other to drive something up to $140 million is the same psychology that puts two auctioneers bidding against each other to get that piece to the auction itself."

 

And it can seem worth it, for either Sotheby’s or Christie's to do what whatever is needed to lock down a deal to sell a headliner work of art, except it’s not, Plummer says.

 

“They just don’t make the kind of money that you think they do. When you see those hundreds of millions of dollars of sales, they’re not bringing in the money that people expect that they are, and that I know is a shocking thing to a lot of people.”

 

Even if you sell a $140 million painting, most of the commission may be given away to the client. Auction houses also offer guarantees that can sound an awful lot like gambling. To secure high-ticket items, the house may guarantee a minimum sale price. But if that sale doesn’t go through, the house is stuck buying that very same, and very pricey, piece of art. One of the problems Sotheby’s is facing, Plummer says, is too much focus on high end sales – the kind that often come with guarantees.

 

Still, both auction houses say they’re coming off of three years of record-setting sales. while it may seem counter intuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership. While it may seem counterintuitive, this could be the right time to make a bid for new leadership, according to David Schick, a luxury industry analyst at investment banking firm Stifell.

 

"Making a change – I wouldn’t say getting rid of – making a change is easier when times are good," he says.

What's Going On In Yemen?

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 11:54

Yemen has once again been plunged into chaos as rebels reportedly have taken the presidential palace. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran all have an important stake in the troubled country.

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Parents Who Shun Vaccines Tend To Cluster, Boosting Children's Risk

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 11:45

Parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated live near others who do the same, a study finds. That increases the risk that children will become infected, even if they've had their shots.

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Obama to set out US vision in speech

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 11:30
US President Barack Obama will propose tax hikes on the rich to help working families, in his annual State of the Union address to Congress.

Supreme Court Rules For Muslim Inmate In Prison Beard Case

NPR News - Tue, 2015-01-20 11:30

The court said a ban on beards violated the prisoner's religious freedom. The state of Arkansas had argued that the beard presented security concerns and that it could be used to hide contraband.

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Folk rock musician 'abused girl, 11'

BBC - Tue, 2015-01-20 11:29
A folk rock musician who found fame in the 1970s goes on trial accused of sex offences against an 11-year-old girl.

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