National News

Judge Strikes Down Arkansas Ban On Gay Marriage

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 14:27

The move clears the way for gay couples to wed in the state. Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office is expected to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

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Why Apple would want to buy Beats

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 13:40

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said the company was going to go on a shopping spree and now it looks like the company is making good on that. Apple has reportedly made a bid to buy Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. Beats was started by Rapper Andre "Dr. Dre" Young in 2008. It's best known for its headphones: they’re colorful, stylish and cost about $200.

"It’s certainly clear that this is a huge growth category within retail," says Ben Bajarin, a tech analyst with Creative Strategies. He says status headphones are big business. And Beats’ revenue reportedly topped $1 billion last year.

Not everyone agrees. "They certainly don’t need the headphone company, which makes second rate headphones based on marketing," says music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz. He thinks Apple would be a lot more interested in Beats’ music streaming service. Steve Jobs famously opposed the subscription music model and, instead, championed iTunes' current model, where you buy a song outright.

"The paradigm is shifting as I speak," says Lefsetz. "Apple iTunes sales are down, streaming revenue is up. Apple caught flat-footed, they’re trying to solve this problem by buying Beats."

But Apple doesn’t need to buy its way in to the streaming business says James McQuivey, a media and technology analyst at Forrester Research. "The subscription business is something Apple could have done by lifting a finger at any point during its history," says McQuivey. "This is not a unique skill set, industry relationship, technology, none of that."

McQuivey thinks the possible Beats buy would likely be part of a larger strategy. After all, Apple is sitting on $151 billion in cash and its shopping spree has just begun.

 

Publicis + Omnicom ≠ Merger

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 13:38

This was the first line of the press release—"Publicis and Omnicom agree to terminate proposed merger of equals." Big news if you care about the advertising industry. But even for those who could give a flip about the ad business, there's that "merger of equals" thing to think about.

The term sounds like an enlightened modern marriage. And in fact, when Publicis Chairman Maurice Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren first announced their "engagement" last summer, there were flowers, adoring looks, and the arc de triumph in the background.

Publicis Chief Executive Maurice Lévy, left, and Omnicom CEO John Wren at a news conference announcing the merger in July. (Via Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal)

"They looked like best friends," says Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University's Lubin School of Business in New York. It was like a portrait for a wedding announcement. "Big smiles. Great scenery in the back."

The ideals driving a "merger of equals" really are noble, says Lawrence Hrebiniak, emiritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. The conversation between CEOs who want to embark upon one usually goes something like this, he says:

"We're both competent, we're both good, we're both capable, so let's, like adults, get together and decide how best to run this new large company that benefits from both of our sets of skills and capabilities."

But you can probably guess how this romance usually ends. "How do I put this," says Hrebeniak. "There's no such thing as a merger of equals."

Instead well-intentioned attempts often turn into a clash of cultures and battle for control. Our financial person's better than yours. Our marketing head is more aggressive than yours. "You have divisions, you have politics, people pushing for one person or another to lead the show," Hrebeniak says.

The only successful merger of equals that Sri Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, can think of wasn't technically a merger of equals at all. And that helped, she says. "People don't start feeling that everything has to be absolutely split down the middle."

That was back in 1998, when Norwest bank acquired Wells Fargo, and took its name.

Weekly Wrap: Yellen's dark notes on housing

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 13:36

For a look at what's been happening on Wall Street and elsewhere Marketplace's David Gura talks to Cardiff Garcia of FT Alphaville and our own Lizzie O'Leary, who's recently been named host of our new show, Marketplace Weekend, which'll launch next month.

Up for discussion is Apple's rumored plans to purchase Beats Electronics, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's Senate testimony on the housing market.

Click play above to hear more.

Europeans Are Getting Fatter, Just Like Americans

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 13:14

A huge number of adults in Europe will be obese or overweight by 2030, a study predicts. Ireland has the dubious honor of leading the way.

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Home-Wrecker: Woman Doesn't Like Neighbors, Demolishes Their Home

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 13:11

Ana Maria Moreta Folch said she was doing her neighborhood in St. Johns County, Fla., a favor. She was charged with criminal mischief, a third-degree felony, and released on $10,000 bail.

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Keep Or Kill Last Lab Stocks Of Smallpox? Time To Decide, Says WHO

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:51

"If smallpox is outlawed, only outlaws will have smallpox," says one NIH virologist. Others say keeping vials of deadly virus just invites a horrific accident or theft. WHO is about to vote — again.

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Faced With Pentagon Budget Cuts, Congress Finesses The Numbers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:31

The Pentagon's congressionally-imposed budget cuts ran into a powerful opponent this week: Congress itself. The House Armed Services Committee rejected $5 billion worth of proposed cuts.

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Want to buy a home? Better bring cash

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:28

If you're buying real estate these days, you should probably come with bags of cash. More and more people seem to be doing that at least.

Last quarter, a third of the existing homes sold in the U.S. were purchased entirely in cash.

Who's buying them this way? Retirees, foreign investors and Americans who can, i.e. those who don't want to bother with trying to get a mortgage.

Something that's still tough.

Heisman Winner Slides In NFL Draft, Caught By Cleveland

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:11

The NFL draft opened Thursday night, and as sportswriter Stefan Fatsis notes, it wasn't short on drama. The most talked-about draftee, quarterback Johnny Manziel, slid to the 22nd pick. Stretched across the whole weekend, the draft has become all but ubiquitous.

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On Victory Day, Fanfare In Crimea And Turmoil In Eastern Ukraine

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:11

As Russians celebrated their World War II victory, President Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Crimea since its annexation to Russia. Meanwhile, pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine are preparing for a referendum Sunday.

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After Setbacks In Battle, Syrian Rebels Seek Victories In D.C.

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:11

The new Syrian rebel leader Ahmed Jarab is in D.C., trying to get more support. He is meeting with members of Congress and the State Department, as well as National Security Adviser Susan Rice. President Obama is also expected to drop by. While the U.S. is considering stepping up its secret weapons shipments, some military analysts and officials say this aid may already be too late.

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Meet NPR's New Chief Executive: Jarl Mohn

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:11

NPR announced the selection of its new CEO: Jarl Mohn, a longtime radio DJ and former media executive, who's been a venture capitalist and corporate board member in recent years.

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Ahead Of Wildfire Season, Scientists Study What Fuels Fires

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 12:11

The federal fire scientists hope to hand off their findings to fire managers, who have to make the quick decisions on where to deploy resources that could protect lives and property.

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Spain Fines Team Of Racist, Banana-Throwing Fan, But Is It Enough?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:59

Soccer, Spain's national pastime, has been tainted by racism. After two recent ugly incidents, debate is raging over how to punish racist fans, and if the teams they love should be held responsible.

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NBA Picks Dick Parsons As Interim CEO Of Los Angeles Clippers

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:46

Parsons previously served as CEO of Time Warner. The appointment comes in the wake of the scandal surrounding racist comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whom the league banned for life.

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Not-So-Social Media: Why People Have Stopped Talking On Phones

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:37

There was a time when teens would spend hours on the phone gabbing with friends. Now, that's the stodgiest behavior imaginable. Even for older people, a ringing phone is an unwanted intrusion.

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Opinion: Of course P. Diddy should speak at graduation

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:14

Moguls, icons and millionaires like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were also welcomed back to their unofficial alma maters after dropping out of school. But Sean Combs, who many readily accept to host a party or give a shout out, is somehow shelled out of the realm of successful individuals who have made it without higher education.

America, you can't be that selective. If we are to teach hip-hop in universities, we can certainly have one of its most successful moguls speak to our students, no?

What makes Combs' story so special wasn't his rise to the top as a drop out. It's his rise to the top as a black man…who dropped out. And frankly, if we're to compare Jobs, Gates and Combs, let's get one thing clear - their starting points were not the same. There's this thing called "privilege."

Combs perfected the art of business. His Sean Jean clothing line, the unprecedented Revolt TV, or popularizing the "Vote Or Die" campaign that bolstered the numbers of young voter registration (and led to Barack Obama's presidential win). Howard University is still at the helm of that success.

Isn't demonizing and excluding Combs from academia for his musical content, or because he didn't make his money as a lawyer or doctor, a nuanced way to say this subset of black culture isn't good enough for Howard University?

Howard does need someone suggesting to its African-American graduates that he couldn't have made it without the knowledge he acquired at the esteemed college, and, possibly, insight to navigating in this faux "post-racial" world as educated black people.

And for that, I'm certain Bill Gates or Steve Jobs couldn't provide any insight or advice.

The triple tax break of a Health Savings Account

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-09 11:13

Higher deductibles and rising premiums got you down? We’re getting hammered by the high costs of healthcare and even employers are feeling the pinch.

To help offset some of the costs, many employers are now asking their workers to take a closer look at health savings accounts, or HSAs. With an HSA, you can get a triple tax break while saving money on healthcare expenses.

But are they the right move for everyone?

Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance says there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. “But it is an option for many more people now that so many of us are dealing with higher healthcare deductibles,” Lankford says.

Who can qualify for an HSA? If your health insurance plan has a deductible of at least $1,250 for an individual and $2,500 for family, you’ll most likely qualify for an HSA. That covers a lot of the Silver and Bronze plans for sale on the insurance exchanges. You can open them up with a bank, brokerage firm and many employers are now offering them to encourage employees to choose a cheaper, higher deductible plan.

Some employers are even contributing as much as $1,000 themselves to get the ball rolling.

Lankford says the benefit is in the tax savings. “It’s a triple break,” she says. “It’s either pre-tax with your employer, or tax-deductible if you’re buying on your own. The money grows tax-deferred, and you can use it tax-free for any medical expenses.”

The money continues to grow and you don’t have to use it every year, unlike a flexible spending account (or FSA). Lankford recommends depositing money every year and letting it grow until retirement and using it for Medicare expenses or even long term care.

The cash can be used to pay for deductibles or Medicare premiums, and even for portions of long-term care costs.

"It's a great way to build a tax-free stash of money for future healthcare costs,” she says.

The best time to jump into an HSA is when you’re young and healthy without too many fixed medical costs. If you’re older with more costs or are dealing with a medical condition, you’ll really need to crunch the numbers to see what kind of plan will leave you better off in the long run.

"For someone with higher fixed costs like diabetes it might not be a great deal,” Lankford says. “You need to not just look at premiums but look at what are your regular expenses for medicine, for doctors. If you have a condition where you have similar medical expenses every year, do the math and add it up. In some cases you may come out ahead with lower premiums but sometimes the higher premiums might leave you with lower expenses at the end of the year."

Employers are excited about the plans because anything that encourages people to take on a higher deductible plan will save the boss some cash.

And who doesn’t want to save their company some money?

Turkish Man On Dating Show Was Ax Murderer; He Also Killed Wife

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-09 10:51

The 62-year-old appeared on a show called Luck of the Draw and said he'd learned from his past and was now an "honest person looking for a new wife." The host wasn't convinced: She told him to leave.

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