National News

Google's New Car Lacks A Steering Wheel (And Brakes)

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 03:58

The tech company built three prototypes from scratch, creating compact cars that look like they're on an extreme no-options diet. For now, their top speed is 25 mph.

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When College Isn't Worth It

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 03:49

Higher education always pays off. Except if you do these three things.

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Ukraine Promises To Crush Insurgency; Chechnya Denies Sending Troops

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-28 03:22

Chechnya's leader says the country hasn't sent fighters to join rebels in eastern Ukraine, denying a charge that gained substance when Chechens were reportedly found after recent fighting.

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Employers must treat ACA stipends as taxable income

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 03:01

A recent IRS ruling underscores how serious the Obama Administration is about encouraging employers to keep providing health insurance to their workers.

If businesses stop offering the benefit and give employees a stipend to help cover costs on the health exchanges they must treat that as taxable income, or face fines of more than $30,000 dollars a year per worker.

There’s some concern that as the Affordable Care Act picks up steam, employers will get out of the healthcare business. But PricewaterhouseCooper’s Ceci Connolly says that overstates what she’s hearing from company executives.

"They’re saying we want to know what our options particularly for saving some money," she says. You’d think dropping employee health insurance might do that, but Connolly says the math is pretty clear.

As long as companies can write off contributions, employers and employees make out better than if worker’s got a stipend for an exchange because everyone would pay taxes on those stipends.

On top of that, Brian Marcotte with the National Business Group on Health says many employers question these exchanges.

"What’s different in terms of how care is delivered, how care is managed? Is it any better than what’s being done today," he says.

Remember many of the country’s largest employers are self-insured. Marcotte says businesses continue to believe they can do a better job controlling costs, but would be happy for the exchanges to prove them wrong.

When is hummus really hummus?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 02:56

Sabra has spent millions of dollars making hummus mainstream in the U.S. Now, it wants the Food and Drug Administration to rule on what is and is not hummus.

The word "hummus" means chickpea, and Sabra wants the FDA to rule that new, chickpea-free dips like black bean hummus and edamame hummus should not get to use the name.

Instead, the company wants the FDA to define hummus this way: "The semisolid food prepared from mixing cooked, dehydrated, or dried chickpeas and tahini with one or more optional ingredients," says Greg Greene, Sabra's director of marketing.

If it succeeds, the FDA will issue what's called a Standard of Identity. Lots of foods have these, determining what can be labeled juice, or mayonaise, or this one for milk: "The lacteal secretion of an animal."

The National Milk Producers Federation has been fighting names like soymilk and almond milk for years now. To milk producers and Sabra, these FDA definitions help avoid customer confusion.

It's also, of course, about money: If you've invested a lot marketing milk or hummus, you don't want some newcomer stealing your identity.

Everybody's talking about Cuba

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 02:06

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a delegation to Cuba this week to, in its words, "develop a better understanding of the country’s current economic environment."    

“One thing it will do is open people’s eyes to some of the opportunities that may be down there, ” says former Deputy Secretary of State and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. Negroponte, who is not on the trip, now heads the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and recently signed a public letter the Society sent to President Barack Obama, asking him to ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba while continuing to push for human rights reforms. 

Why all this attention to Havana now? It’s partly because the administration has already eased up a bit.

“We should broaden out what is in our national interest to do with Cuba,” says Ted Piccone, acting vice president of the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program. “It’s in our interest to have better relations with the country.”

Texas A&M study says if the U.S. ended travel and financial restrictions on Cuba, the U.S. would be $1.1 billion richer. 

New trade venue is in talks to become a full-fledged financial exchange

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-05-28 01:36

Driven in part by Michael Lewis' recent book, regulators are taking hard looks at the widespread practice of ultra-high frequency trading in financial markets.  

Lewis' book argues that regular investors lose out when technology gives some traders the ability to jump in and out of trades with lightening speed. The fast folk say there's nothing wrong with what they do. At the center of Lewis' book is an upstart financial trading system out of New York City called IEX that looks for ways to use technology to insulate clients from high speed traders nibbling on the edges of their prices. Now the Wall Street Journal says IEX is in talks to raise several hundred million dollars in cash to turn itself into a full-fledged financial exchange with all the necessary regulatory permissions and safeguards. IEX isn't commenting about this, but the head of Market Operations at this maverick out was willing to talk about his efforts to thwart the fast boys, as he sees it.

Don Bollerman, Head of Market Operations at IEX, joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss. 

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