National News

Legal pot sales could top $10 billion by 2018

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 12:02

Roughly half of U.S. states now permit medical marijuana use with a prescription. In Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, buying marijuana for recreational use has been legalized as well. By 2017, legalization advocates predict another dozen states could follow suit – including the biggest prize for marijuana businesses – California.

Revenues from marijuana production and sales in the U.S. states where it is legal could top $10 billion dollars by 2018 (up from $2.6 billion in 2014), according to research by the ArcView Group, which promotes investment in the emerging cannabis industry.

The business holds high potential for reward – and risk – for anyone thinking of taking the plunge. This was evident at a pair of major cannabis conventions last November in Las Vegas – an investor "pitch-a-thon" put on by ArcView and the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, hosted by the publication Marijuana Business Daily.

Among the several thousand who attended: Filmmaker and talk-show host Ricki Lake, working on a documentary called “Weed the People,” about the potential benefits of cannabis as a cancer treatment; and bootstrapping entrepreneurs such as Jill St. Thomas of Colorado, purveying her “Mad Hatter” line of cannabis-infused coffees, teas and "mocktails," and Gracen Hook of Washington, trolling for investors for what he called the first pot-themed resort with a “five-star restaurant, a spa conducive to cannabis tourism and a 40-room hotel.”

Tripp Keber, CEO of Denver-based Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, one of the fastest-growing cannabis companies nationwide, was offering pot-infused soft-drinks, candy and fudge. “If you look at Colorado alone, this year it’s forecast to exceed $700 million – that’s massive expansion,” Keber says.

The federal government remains an obstacle to people trying to build regional or national marijuana businesses. 

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which puts cannabis in the same class of illegal drugs as heroin. And federal tax and banking rules make routine business activities – like paying the rent or sending product-samples through the mail – a nightmare of financial risk.

Bruce Granger helped found a state-of-the-art marijuana production and retail company in Denver called Kind Love. The company’s new facility in a Denver warehouse district is brimming with the latest agricultural technology and climate control systems, not to mention plenty of security.

And Kind Love has plenty of customers. But, says Granger: “Banks are nervous to take our money.” Federal money-laundering rules don’t allow banks that are FDIC-insured to handle proceeds from illegal drug-sales, he explains. “Think about running a business and not being able to use a bank account," he says. "How do you do accounting? Most people don’t have a bank statement. So it’s all cash.”

Brooke Gehring runs Live Green Cannabis, a chain of medical and recreational pot-stores in Colorado that do tens of thousands of dollars in sales every day. Managers carry that cash around – in their cars and briefcases – to deliver the payroll. “They have one of our armed security officers with them, to collect and sign off for payment in cash," Gehring says. Previously, she was a bank compliance officer, so she is aware of how closely banks are scrutinized. “As much as banks like fees, they’re not going to risk their insurance or their reputations to bank this industry that still remains federally illegal," she says.

States predicted as likely to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults 21 or older, or medical marijuana. As predicted, voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia approved recreational-marijuana legalization in November 2014. Voters in Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize recreational marijuana production, distribution and retail sale in 2012.

The ArcView Group, ArcView Market Research

To complicate the business further, the IRS tax code doesn’t allow businesses selling federally illegal drugs (including those legal under state law) to deduct most business expenses from their tax bill. So they’re taxed not just on profits, but on all revenue.

Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer has introduced legislation to do away with what he calls these “punishing” federal rules for state-legal cannabis businesses.

“If you care about money laundering or tax evasion or just theft, forcing legitimate businesses to pay their taxes with shopping bags full of $20 bills is insane,” Blumenauer said in an interview at the ArcView investor conference. “Let these legitimate businesses have fair taxes and banking services. They’ll be better off, but so will society.”

Blumenauer predicts that the reform bills he supports – HR 2240, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, and HR 2652, the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act – will receive bipartisan support, even in this deeply divided Congress.

Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington oppose marijuana legalization. But key conservatives, such as California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, are working in with Blumenauer and fellow liberals on this issue.

These lawmakers and advocates say they want to give the emerging cannabis industry room to grow and experiment – on the right side of the law.

Life Flows Back Into The Waters Of Baghdad's Tigris

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:53

Some of the world's loveliest cities hug great rivers: think Cairo and the Nile. Baghdad's lifeblood is the Tigris. After years of war, commuter boats and even a rowing club ply its waters once again.

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Apps help employees care for aging parents

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:39

Owen Tripp designed a healthcare app for companies to offer workers. It links people digitally to top medical specialists, for, say, second opinions. Some firms bought it, and some surprised Tripp.

"Those employers really wanted to make sure that they could offer it not only for their employees' needs, but for the family around the employee," he says, specifically parents.

More employees are asking for benefits that help them care for aging parents. Will companies respond in general? Those chasing top talent might, they're in a compensation arms race. But many are still assessing if eldercare benefits pay off.

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Goldman Sachs argues for a big bank breakup

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:37

For years, we’ve been talking about whether some of the country’s largest banks are “Too Big to Fail” and what to do about them. Should the government somehow force them to be smaller? And would the public be better off? The question of banks and size came up again this week when a Goldman Sachs report argued that JPMorgan Chase should split itself in smaller pieces – not for the benefit of the public, but for the company’s shareholders, because the bank is now subject to increased capital requirements after the financial crisis.

Former Korean Air Executive Faces Prison Over 'Nut Rage'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:16

A week after she was arrested over a tantrum on a tarmac in New York, Cho Hyun-ah faces charges of interfering with the inquiry into what officials say was a breach of aviation laws.

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For Europe, cheap oil is all boon and little bust

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:07

The long-feared threat of European deflation finally materialized at the end of 2014, according to data released today. Consumer prices in the Eurozone fell for the first time since the 2009 global financial crisis. But it’s not entirely bad news: Prices are falling in large part because oil is so cheap, which acts as a windfall for consumers and a stimulus for Europe’s economy.

"It is a massive stimulus for Europe, and it also hits the right people, it is going to everybody, there are lots of knock-on effects for industries," says Ken Rogoff, a Harvard University economist.

Since Europe imports most of its energy, cheap oil is all boon and little bust. Rogoff says the problem is that the European Central Bank has been trying to create a healthy level of inflation for years. “What makes it a little bit difficult for them is they’ve been struggling to get inflation up to 1 percent and ideally 2 percent,” he says.

Not all countries in the Eurozone are seeing outright deflation. Germany, for instance, is still OK. But the central bank will be under pressure to act. “The worry is, is that you could  end up, in some countries, getting into a deflationary spiral,” says Howard Archer, chief European economist for IHS analysts. “There would be a risk of that happening, in Italy, for example, and perhaps Greece as well.”

The next trick the central bank  has to pull off, according to Archer: Decide which countries should receive stimulus and how much.

For small businesses, nothing but blue skies

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:03

Optimism among small businesses is at a seven-year high, according to a recent study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Olalah Njenga, a small-business owner and CEO of YellowWood Group in Raleigh, North Carolina, expects 2015 to be a great year.

"I believe that small business, in general, the optimism is really kind of through the roof going into 2015," Njenga says. "My colleagues are feeling it, my clients are feeling it."

Although she's optimistic, Njenga worries about things that could impact her clients' industries.

"Not getting some firm decision from the FCC on crowd funding, that’s something that is definitely keeping me up at night and tax reform is always going to keep me up," says Njenga. "But things like net neutrality and cyber security are definitely at the top of my radar because I am a previous tech employee, and I have some clients in the tech space."

Intel commits $300 million to diversify tech ranks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:00

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has pledged to spend $300 million to increase diversity within Intel and at other high-tech companies. Krzanich made the announcement Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

Women, African-Americans and Latinos have long been underrepresented in the technology industry, a challenge some attribute, in part, to fewer women and minorities earning degrees in engineering and computer science. Intel says it will reach out to historically black colleges and other minority-centered institutions, expand engineering scholarships and bolster mentoring programs.

The company has firm plans to hire more women and minorities in the next five years: Krzanich is tying executive compensation to the success of Intel's diversity initiative.

How diverse are tech companies right now?

Intel commits $300 million to diversify tech's ranks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:00

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has pledged to spend $300 million to increase diversity within Intel and at other high-tech companies. Krzanich made the announcement Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

Women, African-Americans and Latinos have long been underrepresented in the technology industry, a challenge some attribute, in part, to fewer women and minorities earning degrees in engineering and computer science. Intel says it will reach out to historically black colleges and other minority-centered institutions, expand engineering scholarships and bolster mentoring programs.

The company has firm plans to hire more women and minorities in the next five years: Krzanich is tying executive compensation to the success of Intel's diversity initiative.

How diverse are tech companies right now?

U.S. airlines are least punctual ... in the world

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 11:00

American airlines – meaning airlines in the United States, not the airline company – are the least punctual in the world. That's according to a study published by OAG, a company that provides global aviation flight schedules.

Of the top 20 punctual airlines, 13 are based in Europe and five in Asia. Just two are from the United States: Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines.

You can read a full report on Quartz.

Compound From Soil Bacteria May Help Fight Dangerous Germs

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 09:15

A natural compound kills germs that have become resistant to antibiotics, researchers say. If it works in humans, it could help combat diseases like tuberculosis.

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United In Grief, Cartoonists Show Solidarity With 'Charlie Hebdo'

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 09:03

From France to Australia, India and the U.S., cartoonists around the world paid tribute to their colleagues at the French magazine that was attacked today.

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A Magazine Staff Is Slaughtered, A French Nightmare Is Realized

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 08:13

The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo kept taking jabs at Islamic radicals despite a 2011 firebombing that destroyed its office.

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Why Some Chefs Just Can't Quit Serving Bluefin Tuna

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 08:01

Japanese sushi chefs can't say no to Bluefin tuna on offer. Some American chefs can't, either, even though conservation groups and marine biologists have been badgering them about Bluefin for years.

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For 'Charlie Hebdo,' A History Defined By Humor, Controversy — And Cartoons

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 07:46

Renee Montagne talks to NPR's David Folkenflik about the provocative editorial stance adopted by the French satirical magazine, which was attacked by gunmen this morning in Paris.

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AirAsia Flight's Tail Spotted In The Java Sea, Official Says

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 07:22

It might provide clues to what caused the flight to crash Dec. 28 with more than 162 people on board. An aircraft's black boxes — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — are located in its tail.

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Quiz: The source of public college revenue? Students.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2015-01-07 06:21

Median tuition at public college rose 55 percent between 2002 and 2012 as other funding sources declined, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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'Charlie Hebdo,' A Magazine Of Satire, Mocks Politics, Religion

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 06:14

The magazine that was the target of a deadly attack today is part of a long tradition of French satire dating to the days before the French Revolution.

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Between Speech And Religion, Freedoms Often Spell Friction

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 06:03

Renee Montagne speaks with Suzanne Nossel, executive director for PEN American Center, to discuss how issues of free speech and religious freedom can clash.

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Education Plan: Sell Goat, Ride Bus 500 Miles, Sneak Into Prez's House

NPR News - Wed, 2015-01-07 05:35

Getting into high school was a long, strange journey for 11-year-old Ugandan orphan James Arinaitwe. It started when his grandmother sold the family goat to pay for shoes and a bus ticket.

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