National News

Yahoo Says Email Accounts Were Hacked But Not How Many

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:50

The company, which provides the world's second-largest email service, says "the list of usernames and passwords that were used to execute the attack was likely collected from a third-party database compromise."

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No Breakthrough, But 'Bit Of Common Ground' In Syria Talks

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:46

It's hoped that the talks will resume on Feb. 10. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says a "wide" gap remains between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition. But he believes they may agree on more than they realize.

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Advice for Janet Yellen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:38

When you're in a position of power, you get no shortage of unsolicited advice. Bearing that in mind, we wondered what sort of advice people might have for Janet Yellen, as she becomes the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's term ends today. We took a sampling, not just from those who know the Fed, but from some regular folks, too.

DONALD KOHN, Former Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve

Dear Janet,

Better you than me. May the force be with you.

Your friend,

Don Kohn

 

ED MORALES, a tourist from California we caught up with near the Fed building in Washington

Dear Janet,

Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Obviously going in and talking with your coworkers... Give them the respect that you would want, and obviously you would receive the same respect in return. And it would make for a better work environment.

Sincerely,

Ed Morales

 

SUSAN TENDALL, of North Potomac, Md.

Dear Janet,

If I were to give advice to my four grown children on the first day of their jobs, I would tell them to try and find somebody they can mentor with. Take lots of notes, review those notes every night until you know what you’re doing, and keep a smile on your face and to not give up.

Sincerely,

Susan Tendall

 

JOHN MAKIN, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Dear Chairman Yellen,

Congratulations on your appointment as Fed chairman. One of the things that's important to remember is that the usual problem the Fed faces – rising inflation – is no longer present. In fact, deflation is a primary threat to a stable and growing economy. As you proceed with deliberations with the FOMC, I hope that you will put a higher priority on avoiding deflation.

With very best wishes for success in what I’m sure you know is a challenging job,

John H. Makin

Early bird alert! You can file your taxes starting today!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:31

Income tax season is upon us. Today is the first day you can file, electronically or on paper. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets! Ready your calculators. Nah. Let’s be honest, most early filers are not filing early, unless they know they’re receiving a refund.

“There’s certainly no reason for them to let the IRS keep their money for two months or more, till April 15th,” says John Ams, executive vice president of the National Society of Accountants.  "They want to get it now and I would certainly not blame them.” 

But though we may be reluctant to think about it, Ams says there are multiple reasons to get an early start.  There are people who qualify for tax credits -- and want their money. And then there are the uber-responsible taxpayers -- those who are sensible enough to think well beyond the end of this tax year, and all the way into the misty future years of their retirement. Chuck McCabe, president of the Income Tax School, says this kind of advance planning is yet another good reason to file early.

If you do  you can get your refund in time to fund an IRA.  

“You can actually deduct the amount you plan to contribute to an IRA from your tax return even though you haven’t opened the IRA yet,” he says.

Tax magic! McCabe notes that even for those of us who owe the IRS and are planning, instead of mature and responsible fiscal action to fully embrace procrastination -- even we should still file early. Filing an extension, notes John Ams, won’t help postpone the real pain.

“It’s the return that’s not due till Oct. 15th,” he say. “You do not get an extension of time to pay. The money is still due April 15th.”

We know you don't want to, but here are 10 reasons to file your taxes early:

  1. Get it over with already! If you think you’ll owe taxes, you find out sooner how much you’ll owe. Filing early will give you time to budget, or, to save money before the balance is due. And, if you find out you owe a ton, you can always make a payment arrangement with the IRS.
  2. Get your refund, now. The National Society of Accountants says in recent years early filers have received refunds in 21 days. Taxpayers filing nearer the deadline day waited an average of 31 days. Why wait for your money?
  3. Help the children. Having your tax return may help in getting financing. Banks and other lenders, especially small business lenders, often require current tax returns to be submitted with loan applications. And if you have children applying for college financial aid, your tax return information may be required for the financial aid form.
  4. Take your financial responsibility to the next level. Use your tax refund to fund an IRA. The IRA contribution doesn't have to be funded until your tax filing deadline (April 15 for most people).
  5. Prevent mistakes. Want a a sleep deprived, overworked accountant doing your taxes? Not so much. One extra zero, or a missing deduction could hurt, big time. Get your taxes done early when your tax preparer is feeling energetic and ready to go.
  6. Buy yourself time. The last minute is no time to discover a wrinkle that complicates your tax situation. Nor is the last minute the time to make a hurried and careless mistake in your return – a mistake that could trigger an audit.
  7. Prepare for the ultimate battle. Let's say you do get audited. Filing early means you had time to get your paperwork together and think through your decisions. Maybe the IRS has questions about deductions for your home office or chartiable contributions but you are READY. Bring it taxman! 
  8. Beat the criminals to your refund. Identity theft is a pricey problem when it comes to taxes. If a thief files a false return using your stolen identity (before you file a real one) it could take up to a year to get your money back. Beat the bad guys by filing your return first. 
  9. Skip the line. If you're one of the three out of ten taxpayers who still mails in your returns on paper the line at the post office in April is going to be LONG. Skip the hassles and file now.
  10. Sleep better. You know you will.

(Answers adapted from the National Society of Accountants and the Income Tax School.)

Reports: Insider Satya Nadella Likely To Be Microsoft's CEO

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:00

CEO Steve Ballmer announced last summer that he would be retiring. The search for a successor may be coming to an end. News outlets report that one of Microsoft's executive vice presidents is in line to take over. There's also word that co-founder Bill Gates may be replaced as chairman of the company's board.

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Congressman's Exit Closes Book On 'Watergate Babies'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 04:01

It wasn't just the gargantuan size of the Democratic class of 1974 that made it historic. The members of the class were young, relatively new to public office and remarkably certain they could remake Washington in their own image.

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Brain Surgeon Walks 6 Miles Through Storm To Save Patient

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 04:00

While ice blasted Birmingham, Ala., a doctor at one hospital heard that a patient might die at another without specialized surgery. "It's not going to happen on my shift," he said.

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Air Quality Worries Dampen Chinese New Year Fireworks

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 02:00

China is greeting the Year of the Horse with a little less fanfare, noise and smoke, after severe air pollution choked scores of cities last year. Firework sales are down, and more people say they're forgoing the ancient and beloved good-luck tradition for the sake of their lungs and health.

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For A Twist On The Lunar New Year Dumpling, Add Green Tea

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 00:19

A Chinese cookbook author remembers her childhood in China, where dumplings were steamed to conserve precious cooking oil. Recently she gave her favorite steamed dumplings an update.

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Rep. Waxman Leaves Behind A Legacy Of Health Laws

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 00:04

California Rep. Henry Waxman, elected in 1974 in Watergate's aftermath, has announced his retirement. The Democrat leaves behind one of the most substantive legislative records in the House's recent history, and was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

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Weeks Later, More Questions Than Answers In W.Va. Chemical Spill

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 00:02

State officials in West Virginia say they can no longer detect any MCHM, the industrial chemical that spilled recently, in most areas. But other public health specialists say they don't trust those assurances.

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Super Bowl Ads Go Healthy: Selling Yogurt With A Steamy Kiss

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 00:01

Advertising during the big game is traditionally the realm of beer, chips and soda. But better-for-you foods will also make a play for viewers' wallets this year. Expect clever ads pitching nuts, yogurt and whole grain cereals.

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Commuting To Distant Oil Fields: Good Money, At A Price

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 00:00

With thousands of oil-related jobs in western North Dakota, some of the region's new workers are putting down roots. But many more commute from states where jobs are hard to come by — and that can mean being separated from spouses and children for weeks at a time.

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Yahoo Email Account Passwords Stolen

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 23:09

Usernames and passwords of some of Yahoo's email customers have been stolen and used to gather personal information about people those Yahoo mail users have recently corresponded with, the company said Thursday. Yahoo didn't say how many accounts have been affected.

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Global currency traders may be fixing the '4 p.m. Fix'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 17:24

Unlike the stock market’s closing bell at the end of the day, the trade in currency operates around the clock. And since there’s no end-of-the-day benchmark, the foreign exchange market draws a line in each day’s trading at 4 p.m. London time.

Joe Marston, a small-time, retail foreign exchange trader, says whatever exchange rates happen to be within a 60-second window become what’s known as the "4 p.m. Fix."

"The 4 p.m. Fix was devised so everybody around the world knows what the price is at 4 o’clock," says Marston. "So that’s the benchmark."

It’s an important benchmark. Multinational companies and pension funds use it as a price to make enormous foreign currency deals.

And regulators suspect traders may have rigged the 4 p.m. Fix to make more profit.

Here's how it works:  On a quiet trading day, Marston shows on his computer screen that the Euro hovers at about $1.35 in U.S. dollars.  But just moments before the 4p.m. Fix was set, the numbers on Marston’s screen start to tick upward.

"It’s moving up a little bit," says Marston. "Sometimes the market can actually move quite violently a few minutes before."

That movement has attracted the attention of U.S. and European regulators.

"Round about exactly 4 p.m., there appear to be jumps in the exchange rate that disappear after a few minutes," says Mark Taylor, a former currency trader who's now dean at Warwick Business School. Taylor says if you look at the 4 p.m. Fix over several months, you see a very suspicious pattern. 

"What it suggests is that people are deliberately trying to manipulate the market around that time."

Traders at some of the world’s largest banks are suspected of collaborating through online chat rooms with names like "The Cartel" and  "The Bandits’ Club," and they’re believed to have conspired to combine billions of dollars in trades to shift the 4 p.m. Fix. It’s what’s known in trader-speak as "Banging the Close".

"It suggests that you’re banging something in order to move it," says Taylor. "And you’ve only got to move the market a small amount for a small period of time for that to translate into literally millions of dollars of profit."

Taylor says the concern is that banks make their profits by charging clients the higher 4 p.m. Fix rate, while really putting currency trades through at a lower price once the market settles down. Richard Payne at Cass Business School says, for the moment, these are just allegations. But this is possible, he says, because the global currency market is largely unregulated, and concentrated among a handful of players.

"There are only a few big banks that control the vast majority of currency trading on the planet, says Payne, "and we can all name them – Deutsche Bank, Barclays, UBS."

That list includes Citigroup and JP Morgan. No bank would comment for this story. But many have already suspended their top currency traders as investigations continue.  And any proof of wrongdoing could bring steep fines.

Beer Drone Can Buzz The Skies No More, FAA Says

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 17:15

Lakemaid calls itself the fishermen's lager. It had been testing using drones to deliver beer to anglers in thousands of ice shacks, from the frozen northern lakes' combination bait and beer shops.

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Peyton Manning's New Jersey tax bill

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 16:38

Writing at Forbes, a tax lawyer has pointed out that Peyton Manning -- who will have played twice in New Jersey this season -- will owe the Garden State tax man about $46,844 dollars for the slice of his paycheck he gets for working there.

Catch is, the loser's check from the game is $46,000 even. So if the Broncos lose (...which they won't...), Manning would be paying to play.

Of course, he makes something like $15 million a year. So.

Advice for Janet Yellen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:35

When you're in a position of power, you get no shortage of unsolicited advice. Bearing that in mind, we wondered what sort of advice people might have for Janet Yellen, as she becomes the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's term ends today. We took a sampling, not just from those who know the Fed, but from some regular folks, too.

DONALD KOHN, Former Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve

Dear Janet,

Better you than me. May the force be with you.

Your friend,

Don Kohn

 

ED MORALES, a tourist from California we caught up with near the Fed building in Washington

Dear Janet,

Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Obviously going in and talking with your coworkers... Give them the respect that you would want, and obviously you would receive the same respect in return. And it would make for a better work environment.

Sincerely,

Ed Morales

 

SUSAN TENDALL, of North Potomac, Md.

Dear Janet,

If I were to give advice to my four grown children on the first day of their jobs, I would tell them to try and find somebody they can mentor with. Take lots of notes, review those notes every night until you know what you’re doing, and keep a smile on your face and to not give up.

Sincerely,

Susan Tendall

 

JOHN MAKIN, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Dear Chairman Yellen,

Congratulations on your appointment as Fed chairman. One of the things that's important to remember is that the usual problem the Fed faces – rising inflation – is no longer present. In fact, deflation is a primary threat to a stable and growing economy. As you proceed with deliberations with the FOMC, I hope that you will put a higher priority on avoiding deflation.

With very best wishes for success in what I’m sure you know is a challenging job,

John H. Makin

Russia's Love Affair With Vodka Lures Many To An Early Grave

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 15:35

Russia has a big problem with vodka, which is a key factor in the country's abysmal life expectancy, researchers say. But measures like banning vodka sales at night have had an immediate effect on a young Russian man's chances of living to age 55

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Small Cuts To Food Stamps Add Up To Big Pains For Many Recipients

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-30 14:58

The proposed farm bill would cut nearly $1 billion a year from the food stamp program, known as SNAP. While it's far less than what Republicans had originally wanted, the proposal will affect roughly 850,000 households, many of which are still struggling from cuts made only three months ago.

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