National News

Tech Week: C-E-Bros, Diversity Numbers And The Beats Deal

NPR News - Sat, 2014-05-31 01:20

The Snapchat CEO's fraternity-day emails surfaced, Apple made its biggest acquisition and Google disclosed the uneven gender breakdown of its staff. Take a look at the week's top headlines in tech.

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Investor Carl Icahn Reportedly At Center Of Insider Trading Probe

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 17:14

The billionaire is said to be under investigation for possibly tipping off pro golfer Phil Mickelson and sports gambler "Billy" Walters ahead of market-moving stock trades.

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An Old-Fashioned Newspaperman Takes The Helm In A Digital World

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 15:53

Dean Baquet, the new executive editor of The New York Times, is a proud defender of old-school newsroom values. But, he says, he recognizes that both he and the Times need to adapt to the digital era.

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What a billion dollars buys you this week

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 14:47

There have been a lot of billion dollar deals in the past couple days. Sales, proposed fines, buyouts. If you’ve got a couple billion dollars lying around the house, you had a lot of options. So, on the off-chance you’re a billionaire, here are some of the things you might have been able to buy this week: 

$1 billion

A clean river. Los Angeles city officials want to turn Los Angeles River into a scenic urban oasis, and that plan just got a bit more likely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommending approval of that $1 billion proposal. This all still has to be voted on by Congress, but it’s looking like the Los Angeles River might not be a concrete corridor for much longer.

$2 billion

The worst franchise in sports history. That’s what former Microsoft tycoon Steve Ballmer seems like he’ll be able to buy from noted racist-remark-maker Donald Sterling if and when his deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers goes through. Beating out bids by David Geffen, Grant Hill, and Oprah Winfrey, the deal still requires final approval from the NBA. And though Sports Illustrated named the Clippers the "worst franchise in sports history," their fortunes appear to be looking up.

$3 billion

A whole bunch of headphones. Beats, the high-end headphone manufacturer and music streaming service owned by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, might seem like an odd fit for Apple, purveyor of shiny gadgets and computers. But Apple disagrees, to the tune of the $3 billion it will spend on Beats. Apple doesn’t have to build a subscription music service itself, and instead just supplants one already in place.

$5.7 billion

Lots and lots of meat. Or not. When Pilgrim’s Pride offered to buy Hillshire Brands for $5.7 billion, everything seemed alright (or more accurately for the two huge meat companies, kosher). Then food-giant Tyson swept in with an even bigger offer and made everything a bit more complicated. The deal still hasn’t been finalized, but you could consider Hillshire the king of the prom right now.

$10 billion

Forgiveness, or at least freedom from further prosecution. That’s what BNP Paribas, the largest bank in France, might have to pay in order to avoid criminal prosecution. The U.S. Justice Department suspects that BNP Paribas ignored sanctions and did business with countries like Sudan and Iran, but won’t press criminal charges if the bank pays a very large fine. And the actual amount they have to pay might be far less, and BNP Paribas is looking to pay less than $8 billion. 

A Columbus, Miss. QUIZ! How well do you know this Southern city?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 14:07

We're continuing our American Futures series with The Atlantic's James Fallows this week. Kai and James have been traveling across the U.S. looking at how small towns are living and working in a new economy.

Next stop: Mississippi to the city of Columbus -- A town with a long history in the South.

How much do you know about this small town? Take our quiz! And check out our reporting from Columbus.

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Cleveland Patrolman, Five Others Charged In Deadly 2012 Car Chase

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 14:03

Prosecutors say Patrolman Michael Brelo fired more shots than any of the officers who together pumped 137 rounds into the vehicle, killing two unarmed suspects.

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Is The Deck Stacked Against Black Boys In America?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 14:03

A new White House report exploring the intersection of race, poverty and justice suggests the answer is still a resounding yes.

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Shinseki Couldn't Outflank Election-Year Politics

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 13:54

By President Obama's own admission, politics had a lot to do with why he decided to accept VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation.

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What’s Ballmer buying? An 'expensive plaything'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 13:45

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is buying the LA Clippers for $2 billion. It’s a record-breaking sum if the deal goes through, though for Ballmer, it’s fairly small compared to his estimated $20 billion fortune. For his money, he’ll get a team that’s poised to greatly increase its TV revenues and the thanks of fans grateful to be rid of Donald Sterling, disgraced after his infamous racist rant. But above all, he’s getting a remarkably expensive plaything.

“He’s not getting a sound economic investment. He’s buying a big toy,” says Andy Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. “It’s a vanity purchase. He gets a lot of exposure, ego massaging.”

$2 billion is more than what most analysts think the team is worth, with some valuing it at a quarter of that price. But in the bonkers world of sports business, all that matters is what one super-rich person will pay.

Regardless of what the team’s true value is, Ballmer will almost certainly benefit from a far richer TV contract when the current one expires. Some estimate the Clippers next deal could triple what they’re making now.

“All of the big deals that we’ve seen in recent times that are really startling have been fueled by the money that’s coming in from freshly negotiated or to-be negotiated TV contracts,” says Clemson University sports economist Skip Sauer.

After all, another LA team, baseball’s Dodgers, sold for $2.1 billion. The new owners went on to sell the media rights for billions more in a 25-year agreement. But of course, the Clippers are far less popular and successful than the Dodgers. Trying to change that could soon be Ballmer’s problem.

Weekly wrap: Numbers, nudging

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 13:42

There was a lot to talk about in the economy this week.

For starters, the revised number for Gross Domestic Product growth came out yesterday and things are not looking so good. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy contracted in the most recent quarter by one percent.

"I think this just shows that the economic growth we have now isn't very robust. It's no time to get complacent, but it's not all bad news. Things are getting a little better," says Cardiff Garcia from the blog FT Alphaville.

However, many argue that in one more quarter, we'll be back in another recession. 

Nela Richardson, chief economist for the brokerage and referal site Redfin, believes we should fear these numbers because the goals set by the Feds are not as attainable as they make it seem. 

"What it would take for us to reach the 3 percent that the Fed has been forcasting is for us to grow in the second half of this year by 5 percent... I just don't see any evidence of where this growth is going to come. And the reason I'm so troubled is because business investment plumeted so much... There's no indication that the seeds of growth that would hit 5 percent in the second half of the year are actually starting to bloom in the spring swoon," says Richardson.

The inflation number also came out this week. And it appears we had a small increase in inflation.

"It has all kinds of beneficial effects. It also can be a sign that the economy is starting to grow again. But the good thing about inflation when it doesn't spike too quickly is that it means that households are incentivised to spend money because their money is going to worth a little bit less each year. It also means that businesses are incentivised to invest," says Cardiff.

The still looming problems at the VA

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 13:32

President Barack Obama announced Friday morning he had accepted Eric Shinseki’s resignation. The retired four-star general is no longer the secretary of Veterans Affairs.

While Shineski’s departure may quiet the political storm around how VA hospitals tried to hide long wait times for veterans, it does little to fix the larger task of figuring out what is wrong with the VA health care system and how to fix it. 

This is a big job, and many people would say Shinseki’s successor will be in an unenviable position.

“Good luck to whoever comes in,” says Michael Useem, head of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is a turnaround, a restructuring.”

That has been done successfully, he notes, many times in the private sector, but the new head of the VA will face certain pressures someone in the private sector probably wouldn’t. 

“It’s a highly politicized environment with not a lot of resources to allocate,” says Tom D’Aunno, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

About those resources…

“The system’s growth has been slower than the growth in the demand for services,” says Jack Needleman, a public health professor at UCLA.

The VA has a pretty big budget, but most of it is tied up in pensions and disability. It is possible Congress could step in and give the agency more money.

Some lawmakers want to make it easier for the agency to hire and fire staff, but Needleman wonders if that should be at the top of the agenda.

“What we have learned from decades of work studying health systems and quality is it’s often a system problem, not a personnel problem,” he says.

And the Veterans Health Administration is a big system that is pretty decentralized.

D’Aunno says there will be additional pressure to fix things fast, but, he adds, real reform would take time.

“This is not about making heads roll,” he says. “This is about doing actual problem solving.”

According to D’Aunno, the new secretary’s first objective should be to build trust among the VA’s ranks, to find out exactly what has gone wrong.  

House Vote Aims To Derail DOJ Processing Of Clemency Petitions

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:45

Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly said language inserted by lawmakers to prevent the hire of additional Justice Department attorneys is "absurd."

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Google gets a makeover

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:41

A story from the Marketplace Desk of "Yes, the internet actually is making us stupid."

 

Google apparently changed its logo this week. Nothing major, really.

Just a tweak. A tiny tweak, you might say.

They moved the second "g" one pixel to the right, and the "l" one pixel down and one to the right.

Makes it more...readable...apparently.

Check out this .gif from Gizmodo -- it all makes sense now, right?

Gizmodo

 

 

One estimate of the cost of new EPA rules: $51 billion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:39

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency will announce the Obama Administration’s biggest concrete push to combat global warming: The first-ever regulations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce put out a report in advance of the rules, saying, in effect: "Hey, this is going to cost a whole bunch of money."

The Chamber estimated that EPA’s regulations could reduce Gross Domestic Product  by up to $51 billion a year.  

Yale economist William Nordhaus — called the father of climate economics — does some quick math in his head when he hears that figure. "That’s a little more than two-tenths of a percent of GDP," he says, "So, that would be one hundredth of one percent off the growth rate."  In other words, he says, given the enormous size of the U.S. economy, and the fact that it grows every year, $51 billion is a rounding error.

Karen Harbert, who runs the arm of the Chamber that put out the $51 billion figure, cites a contrasting view of one- or two-tenths percent of GDP. "I think the White House put it best on Thursday with their energy plan," she says, "when they were giving credit to the oil and gas sector for creating jobs. They said, ‘It was significant, they added .2 percent to GDP!’"

There’s also the cost/benefit analysis: What benefits could the money produce?  In this case: The plan is to mitigate global warming.

There are likely to be side benefits as well, says Dmitri Zenghelis, from the London School of Economics, who compares it to technological advances driven by Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. "You tend to find that you solve that challenge and provide all sorts of spillovers which give you things like Internets and hand-held devices and touch-screens," he says.

"But let's not kid ourselves," he says. "It's not going to be win-win. There are going to be some transitional costs, and there will be some losers in the interim." Those losers can be expected to complain about their costs. 

In the end, those losses don't justify inaction, Nordhaus says. "There’s just no argument I’ve heard for postponing this," he says. "Because it is going to get worse, it is going to get more costly, and the longer we wait, the steeper up the damage curve we go."

An analogy might be a homeowner who notices a couple of loose bricks in the wall of his or her house. A repair guy provides an estimate, which sounds expensive. But if the work doesn't get done now, the expense will only multiply.

That analogy sounds about right to Dallas Burtraw, an economist with Resources for the Future. "You have a problem that you know inevitably is going to catch up with you," he says, "but any single day, it seems to make sense to procrastinate."

Border Agency Revises And Makes Public Its Use Of Force Policy

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:39

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske has released documents regarding the use of force along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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SpaceX Unveils A Sleek New Ride To Orbit

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:38

The private space-launch company has taken its Dragon capsule design and taught it some cool new tricks.

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Retired Army Gen. On Shinseki: 'I Don't Look Up To Any Man More'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:34

For more on Gen. Eric Shinseki's decision to step down, Robert Siegel turns to Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former Vice-Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army.

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Shinseki's Apology Punctuates A Long Career Of Service

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:14

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized for lengthy waits at VA facilities, saying he's ousting the leaders of a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., after stories about delays in care there. Shinseki's decision to resign marks a muddy end to an illustrious career, which began when he joined the Army nearly five decades ago.

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VA Secretary Shinseki Steps Down Amid Reports Of Systemic Problems

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:14

Gen. Eric Shinseki is stepping down as the secretary of veteran's affairs. The decision comes in the midst of growing outrage over scheduling issues in the VA health system.

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An American Suicide Bomber In Syria

NPR News - Fri, 2014-05-30 12:14

The U.S. State Department has confirmed that an American was involved in carrying out a suicide attack. The man, who was fighting in Syria against President Bashar Assad's regime, had ties to Florida.

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