National News

Risks Of Popular Anxiety Drugs Often Overshadowed

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 13:21

Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. Patients and addicts often mix them with prescription painkillers — sometimes to deadly effect.

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Why farmers can't wait to pick Vidalia onions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 13:03

Even if you’ve never been to south Georgia, you’ve probably tasted the region’s most famous vegetable. It’s almost time for this year’s Vidalia onions to start showing up in the produce aisle.

Some Georgia farmers are beginning to harvest the $120 million crop this week. But that's not going over well with some other growers -- or Georgia's agriculture commissioner, who wants farmers to wait to pack and ship onions until next Monday, April 21.

The dispute centers around what's best for the Vidalia brand.  To be labelled a Vidalia, onions must be certain approved varieties, and must be grown in a 20-county region in southeast Georgia. They're know for their sweetness, a product of the soil and water conditions in the region.

"Matter of fact, they only make you cry when they’re gone," says Delbert Bland, by all accounts the biggest grower of sweet onions in the nation.

Standing in a field of onions, with narrow green shoots sticking out of the ground, Bland says Vidalias grow rapidly during the final two or three weeks before harvest.

Close-up of the onion shoots. (Sarah McCammon/Marketplace)

"If you come out here tomorrow, you’ll see cracks all over this dirt," Bland says. "That’s just how fast they grow at the very end."

His company, Bland Farms, raises close to 3,000 acres of onions. He says a lot of them are ready to harvest and sell.

But the leader of Georgia’s agriculture department, Commissioner Gary Black, says farmers have been rushing onions to market to take advantage of higher prices early in the season. He says some grocers are complaining to him about quality.

"Quality," Black says, "meaning taste, shelf life, appearance."

As guardian of the Vidalia trademark, Black says he wants to make sure onions aren’t in stores before they’re ready. So he set April 21 as the official packing date. That means farmers who harvest and pack early could be fined as much as $1,000 per illicit onion bag.

"In most growers’ minds, that’s been the earliest date that a real, true reliable Vidalia onion could be put into the marketplace," Black says.

But harvesting too late carries its own risks, says George Boyhan, a vegetable specialist with the University of Georgia Extension. 

"In my professional opinion, that’s insane," he says.

Boyhan started working with Vidalia farmers in the late 1990s. He says harvesting too late can expose the crop to diseases.

"Onions we’d harvest in the second or third week in May, we always had problems with those bacterial diseases," Boyhan says.

But many farmers support a later start to the season. Bo Herndon is chairman of a growers’ advisory panel that helped choose the April 21 pack date. Herndon says he won’t harvest until early May - even though some of his competitors are starting earlier.

"I think it’s all about the dollar," Herndon says. "And if they pick right now they’re not gonna be ready. They’re gonna be green and whoever gets them isn’t gonna be happy with them."

Bland, meanwhile, has pushed back, taking the agricultural commissioner to court. He says it's not good business to wait to harvest - even if other farmers would like him to.

A road sign for Bland's farm. (Sarah McCammon/Marketplace)

"They don't want someone to go to market before they do," Bland says. "We're all onion growers, and yet we all compete with each other or market share."

 This year, that competition isn’t just playing out in the grocery aisle, but also in Georgia courtrooms.

What's left of Yahoo without Alibaba

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 13:00

Everyone who knows anything about Yahoo knows the company is doing well mainly because it owns a big chunk of another company, Alibaba. The Chinese internet giant is expected to go public by the end of the year. The word is, it'll be valued anywhere between $100 billion and $150 billion dollars. And Yahoo owns 24 percent of Alibaba.  

Yahoo! released earnings Tuesday. Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B. Riley, says Alibaba is the reason Yahoo’s stock has doubled since CEO Marrissa Mayer took over two years ago. 

"Investors obviously clamour for the stock of hot private companies before they go public. So right now, Yahoo is a way for them to own Alibaba stock," Sinha said.  

Brett Harris, an analyst at Gabelli and company, says:  "So let’s just start with what we know, we know they have $4 billion dollars in cash, so we can take that out of the $34 billion we’re starting with," Harris said. 

The $34 billion is what Yahoo is worth. After the cash, subtract another $9 billion for Yahoo’s stake in Yahoo Japan. That brings us to $21 billion, which is the value of Yahoo’s share in Alibaba. That's assuming its values at $150 billion dollars when it goes public.

 

Shea Huffman/Marketplace

 

"So, we’re getting the U.S. business for free. Essentially,  the stock is giving no valuation to the U.S. business," he said. 

Harris says while Yahoo’s core business is in decline, the company still generates about $1.5 billion in cash a year.

Colin Gillis is an analyst at BGC and he says, when Alibaba goes public, Yahoo will have to sell 10 percent of its share.

"So this is the question you have this tremendous chunk of cash. This is your chance to fix the business if you can use it effectively and wisely," Gillis said. 

He said the pressure for Marissa Mayer to fix Yahoo will be greater than ever. The company has barely moved the needle on revenues. Gillis said once Alibaba goes public, pressure on Meyer to manage a turnaround will be even greater than ever.

Sending Money On An Overseas Round Trip To Avoid Taxes

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 12:47

Some investors avoid paying taxes in a move called round-tripping — shifting money offshore, then investing it in U.S. stocks or bonds. A study estimates it costs the U.S. billions in lost revenues.

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Beer: Saving a town from drought

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 12:36

There's been a bit of rain, but the West Coast is still recovering from a drought of historic proportions. It's been so bad, in fact, that the state of California came out with a list not too long ago of cities that are just flat out going to run out of water. The town of Cloverdale just north of San Francisco in Sonoma County got that diagnosis back in January. State officials said it had just 100 days left, but the Bear Republic Brewing Company, which calls Cloverdale home, stepped up with a plan. It would loan the city $466,133,000 to dig two new wells.

Bear Republic owner Ricardo Norgrove says the future of the city's water supply is not just good for his business, it's critical to the town he calls home: "I'm fifth generation Sonoma County. I want to be here. So for this to last and to be a generational brewery, meaning I can pass it onto my kids and my kids' kids, we need to be setting the foundation for today. That's what we're trying to do."

Norgrove isn't just helping find more water, he's cutting back in his business. He says Bear Republic accounts for 1.5 percent of the city's water use, but that's much less than other microbreweries, which soak up between 6 and 8 million gallons a year.

"The industry average today is somewhere between 6.5 and 7 gallons of water utilized to make one gallon of beer. We're running about 3.5 gallons of beer to one gallon of beer produced, so we're really conserving water in all types of operations in the brewery. It's just a culture now within the brewery."

Norgrove says his company has considered moving somewhere without the water woes, but he believes the problem will eventually be one his business would have to grapple with anywhere. 

"This is not just a local problem, this is a global problem. We do see other folks moving to communities and other states that have less regulations, but eventually it's going to catch up to everybody."

If the drought has you thirsty, Ricardo Norgrove recommended his ten favorite beers to wet your whistle:

1) Beer Republic Brewing Co.'s Racer 5 IPA (of course)

2) Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

3) Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

4) Hoegaarden Wit

5) Firestone Walker Wookey Jack

6) Pabst Blue Ribbon (The ol' classic)

7) Old Style

8) Negra Modelo

9) Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

10) Anderson Valley Brewing Company High Rollers Wheat

Ukraine's Army Launches Campaign Against Eastern Militants

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 12:00

Ukraine's army began a "special operation" in the east of the country Tuesday, moving against pro-Russian militants who are occupying government offices across the region.

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Boston Mourns A Tragic Anniversary With Voices Of Victims

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 12:00

One year has passed since bombs rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The city honored victims of the tragedy Tuesday with a tribute, including speeches from three of the victims themselves.

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We're paying more to pay taxes

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:37

Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Inflation is riding at just about 1.5 percent, at an annualized rate, as Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reported.

Buried just slightly deeper in the data, though was this: Inflation in the tax preparation and accounting fees category is up 5.1 percent.

So not only are we paying taxes this April 15, we're paying more to pay them.  

Obama's Tax Rate Rose — And He Can't Blame Anyone But Himself

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:35

President Obama, like many wealthy Americans, is paying more of his income to the IRS. He and the first lady paid $98,169 in taxes for 2013 on income of $481,098.

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Behold Ukrainian Easter Art: Incredible, Inedible Eggs

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:28

Even 2,000 years ago, people seemed to know that the egg could be a source of life. And an ancient art form has been passed down, transforming a symbolic source of food into a dazzling decoration.

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Despite Worries, Boston Survivor Heads Back To The Start Line

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:14

At last year's Boston Marathon, Carol Downing was just half a mile from the finish line when bombs exploded and injured two of her daughters. This year, she's returning to complete the race.

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Saturn Might Have A New Baby Moon Named Peggy

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:12

The Cassini spacecraft spotted a disturbance in the sixth planet's outermost main ring that is thought to be caused by a tiny moon.

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Ukraine's economy, as felt on the street

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 11:08

Ukraine launched a "special operation" on Tuesday to push pro-Russian militants out of an airbase they had occuppied in the eastern part of that country. In Kiev, the interim government declared a victory over rebels by saying the air base had been "liberated". But there was no sign of militants.

"You drive along normal roads, the traffic police keep an eye on everybody's speed, you get to town squares [and] you see people playing in playgrounds, buses running on time, so that's all on one side," said the BBC's James Reynolds in Donetsk. "But then when you see some of the occupations, you see men walking around with sticks, balaclavas, ski masks. You see protesters inside Ukrainian government buildings, taken over by Russian protesters, stocking up on food, on macaroni."

In Washington, the administration said it was not considering sending arms to Ukraine but that it was "seriously considering" additional sanctions. 

"Ukraine needs help from abroad, that's what the interim government knows, and indeed, where Ukraine should get that economic help from abroad is what precipitated this crisis back in November," Reynolds says. "Essentially the problem from Ukraine is that its got to choose help and it has to either choose, 'do you get the bulk of that help from Russia ... or do you go to the EU and the United States?'"

Russian stock market shares fell about three percent.

Born to fly

Marketplace - American Public Media - Tue, 2014-04-15 10:51

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up April 16, 2014:

  • In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on construction of new homes for March.
  • The Federal Reserve releases its latest Beige Book summary of commentary on current economic conditions.
  • "Protecting Your Personal Data: How Law Enforcement Works With the Private Sector to Prevent Cybercrime": The name of a House field hearing being held in Philadelphia.
  • Actor Charlie Chaplin was born on April 16, 1889.
  • And aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867. He and his younger brother, Orville, took flight 36 years later. 

Gingrich 2012 Campaign Still Owes $4.7 Million

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 10:26

Topping the list of the former GOP presidential candidate's creditors is an air charter company called Moby Dick Airways. The second biggest creditor? Newt Gingrich himself.

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Details On Abortion Coverage Still Elusive In Some Health Plans

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 08:47

Both supporters and opponents of abortion want to know whether their insurance provider covers abortion. But in some states, consumers are still having a tough time figuring that out.

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Think You Can Mail Your Taxes At Midnight? Think Again, Gramps

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 08:43

Back in the day — say, up until about a decade or so ago — the big news on April 15 was always about last-minute filers lining up at post offices as the clock ticked down. Now? It's a different story.

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WATCH: Israel's New Low-Cost Airline Has Catchy Safety Video

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 08:24

The safety message is described as a "sort of cross between a Ricky Martin video, mixed with Devo's 'Whip It' and a heaping spoonful of Robert Palmer's 'Simply Irresistible.' "

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TurboTax Maker Linked To Fight Against 'Return-Free' Tax System

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 08:20

People who took a stand against a proposed tax-filing change were part of a grass-roots campaign orchestrated to help Intuit, according to nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.

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Giant South American Bird On The Run In The U.K.

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-15 08:06

The bird, which newspapers say stands 6 feet, can run 40 mph and is "capable of disemboweling a human," escaped last month from a farm in Hertfordshire after apparently being spooked by a local hunt.

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