National / International News

Nancie Atwell Of Maine Wins $1 Million Global Teaching Prize

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:36

A teacher who instills a love of books and writing has beaten out 5,000 educators around the world for a global honor.

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US tycoon 'didn't mean' confession

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:33
Lawyers are denying that an American millionaire facing a first-degree murder charge confessed to the killing in a private recording.

Some same-sex couples still struggle at tax time

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:30

Last month, a federal judge made Alabama the 37th state where same-sex marriage is legal. Weeks later, the state Supreme Court put an end to that. Filing taxes as a same-sex couple is also confusing — not to mention costlier.

Eva Walton and Kathryn Kendrick dated for three years. They got married in Washington D.C., and last September, they had a big wedding in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Just a few years ago, there weren't many places where same-sex couples could get married, especially in the South. Since then, gay couples in dozens of states have gained the right to marry, the latest of which was — briefly anyway — Alabama, where Walton and Kendrick live.

“So the marriage equality boom that's happened since we started dating really opened up our options for what marriage would look like,” Walton says.

They had no idea what their taxes would look like. They spent most of last year in Georgia, where same-sex marriage still isn't recognized. They moved to Alabama in December and had one month of income there. Just as soon as she got W-2's in the mail, Kendrick got to work.

“I went onto TurboTax and you know you go through these series of questions, like, 'Have you had any major life events lately? Have you moved states? Gotten a new job? Purchased a house?' And you know, I was just marking yes to all of these things. Then it asked, "Is this a same-sex marriage?' When I selected yes," Kendrick says, “TurboTax said ‘You will need to download this file instead of continuing because you live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.’ But federally you were recognized, and so it was just a separate packet and I couldn't continue doing the online registration.”

And that was the end of simple online tax returns.

“I just felt like it was completely unfair,” Kendrick says, "and I also thought, 'I have to hire someone to do this because I don't know if I'm going to get everything right.'”

It's frustrating, says Robin Maril, senior legislative council at the Human Rights Campaign. “It's been pretty confusing for a lot of folks given the patchwork of marriage laws.”

Federal taxes are pretty straightforward, the government has recognized same-sex marriages since last tax season. Things get muddy if a couple marries in one state, but lives in another where same-sex marriage isn't recognized, or when couples move from one state to another.

And they get even muddier in states like Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court month halted same-sex marriages this month, just a few weeks after it complied with a federal judge's ruling to allow them.

But even when couples are clear on what to do, it's still a headache. “The biggest hurdle is couples that live in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, they could be looking at filing up to five separate tax returns,” says Cindy Hockenberry from the National Association of Tax Professionals. 

Not to mention the worksheets, doing and undoing their federal returns to arrive at Adjusted Gross Income as singles and as a couple.

“Yup, more dividing more adding, more double-checking your calculations to make sure you didn't transpose numbers, put the wrong income on the wrong return, that kind of thing.”

There's more potential for error and preparing the returns costs more, she says. And figuring out who gets to claim the mortgage interest or the kids as deductions? It’s sound kind of like a divorce.

“It kind of is!” Hockenberry said. ”Because you're going from joint income to separate income.”

Death sentence for Egypt's Badie

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:27
Egypt sentences to death the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and 13 others, state media say.

Ahead of a close election, Israel's Netanyahu buys bread

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:26

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have a little trouble getting to sleep tonight.

On the eve of the country’s elections, early reports show him trailing in the polls.

He’s got a long record as a political strongman. He’s touted his foreign-policy credentials for months. And in a last-minute attempt to woo conservative voters, the incumbent today withdrew support for a plan that would have created a separate Palestinian state.

But these Hail Mary attempts to sway the election seem to indicate how out of touch the PM may be. For Israelis, it’s all about the economy, stupid.

“You talk to Israelis privately and many of them will feel that they live from month-to-month on credit-card debt,” says Kevin Connolly, Middle East correspondent for BBC. “You buy something with a credit card in Europe, it’s a one-time transaction. Buy something with a credit card here [in Jerusalem] and you’ll be asked if you want to split the cost of that sweater or new pair of shoes into maybe 10 or 12 payments.”

Connolly says the cost of living is very high in Israel, causing many people to turn to credit just to put food on the table. While economic woes have always been a big political issue, it would seem that Netanyahu got that memo a bit late; he now appears to be changing the tone of his campaign.

“He released some television footage … He was going around one of the big markets in Jerusalem buying bread. The signal was that he gets it on the issues of the economy,” says Connolly.

Still, it’s hard to know what impact this shift will have until Israelis go to the polls tomorrow.

Excitement Over Mexico's Shale Play Fizzles As Reality Sets In

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:23

Mexico has opened up its oil and gas fields to foreign investors. But they're slow to enter, as low oil prices, drug violence and other challenges trump the lure of a vast and undeveloped shale bed.

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Does Success Of HBO's 'The Jinx' Herald New Form Of True-Crime TV?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 11:03

HBO's docu-series The Jinx ended Sunday with murder suspect Robert Durst seeming to admit guilt. NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans says that moment may also have created a TV genre with its own set of rules.

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North Sea poised for tax cuts

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:58
The UK government may cut taxes for the sector in response to the falling oil price.

Can Durst 'confession' be used in court?

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:55
Could Robert Durst's inadvertent bathroom "confession" make a difference in his trial over the murder of Susan Berman?

VIDEO: Miliband rules out SNP coalition

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:52
Labour leader Ed Miliband rules out going into coalition with the Scottish National Party if there is no overall winner of May's general election.

VIDEO: Met faces abuse cover-up claims

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:45
The police watchdog is investigating alleged corruption in the Metropolitan Police, including claims it covered up child sex offences because MPs and police officers were involved.

Van Gaal gives Young England hope

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:34
Manchester United's Ashley Young credits Louis van Gaal with injecting the confidence that may bring an England recall.

Obamacare Cut The Ranks Of The Uninsured By A Third

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:33

The percentage of people without health insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent from 20.2 percent in 2012, according to federal officials. The uptick in coverage has been biggest for Latinos.

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Death toll rises in Vanuatu cyclone

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:23
A UN team in Vanuatu says 24 people are confirmed dead and 3,300 have been displaced by Cyclone Pam, with communication to outlying islands still down.

The TARP police are still on call

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:22

TARP, or the "Troubled Assets Relief Program," was a major part of the bank and automaker bailout that Congress passed in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

The government's last major TARP holding — a stake in Ally Financial — was sold in December 2014.

That doesn't mean TARP is entirely over. 

SIGTARP, or the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP, is headed by Christy Romero. SIGTARP has the legal authority to investigate and prosecute misuse of TARP funds. Dozens of scammers have already been prosecuted, and Romero says that so far her office has recovered $1.57 billion in taxpayer money.

American TP is getting more luxurious

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:20
662

The number of Chicago police officers accounting for nearly half of the abuse complaints leveled against the 13,500-member force from 2001 to 2006. Turns out, despite the high costs of lawsuits, very few police departments do this kind of number-crunching to avoid them. Many of the largest departments don't consistently track the spending or circumstances around these cases.

$1.4 billion

That's how much Americans spent on quilted, ultra soft, lotioned, scented and other "luxury" toilet paper last year, the Washington Post reported, and that number is on track to eclipse regular and budget TP spending in the years to come. It's an "affordable indulgence" and brands are embracing the trend with all kinds of new varieties and boy band pitchmen.

7.5 fluid ounces

The size of Coca-Cola's mini cans, which several nutritionists and bloggers have pitched in blog posts and articles as a "good snack," the Associated Press reported. Many of the post writers have worked with Coke in the past, or were paid to recommend the smaller-portion sodas. The company likens the practice to product placement, and the AP notes it comes at a time when cola sales are falling in the U.S.

30 years

That's how long ago America Online was just taking shape, reaching a million subscribers a year later. CEO Steve Case left the company more than a decade ago, and now he's a venture capitalist in Washington. Case sat down with Marketplace Tech at SXSW Interactive to talk about Facebook, the state of tech in D.C. and "the third wave of the Internet."

43.4 million

That's about how many digital cameras were sold last year, a 30 percent drop from 2013 and a new low for the decade. On his blog, Gigaom founder Om Malik traces the fall of the standalone camera and charts it along with the iPhone's rise.

American TP is getting more luxuious

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:20
662

The number of Chicago police officers accounting for nearly half of the abuse complaints leveled against the 13,500-member force from 2001 to 2006. Turns out, despite the high costs of lawsuits, very few police departments do this kind of number-crunching to avoid them. Many of the largest departments don't consistently track the spending or circumstances around these cases.

$1.4 billion

That's how much Americans spent on quilted, ultra soft, lotioned, scented and other "luxury" toilet paper last year, the Washington Post reported, and that number is on track to eclipse regular and budget TP spending in the years to come. It's an "affordable indulgence" and brands are embracing the trend with all kinds of new varieties and boy band pitchmen.

7.5 fluid ounces

The size of Coca-Cola's mini cans, which several nutritionists and bloggers have pitched in blog posts and articles as a "good snack," the Associated Press reported. Many of the post writers have worked with Coke in the past, or were paid to recommend the smaller-portion sodas. The company likens the practice to product placement, and the AP notes it comes at a time when cola sales are falling in the U.S.

30 years

That's how long ago America Online was just taking shape, reaching a million subscribers a year later. CEO Steve Case left the company more than a decade ago, and now he's a venture capitalist in Washington. Case sat down with Marketplace Tech at SXSW Interactive to talk about Facebook, the state of tech in D.C. and "the third wave of the Internet."

43.4 million

That's about how many digital cameras were sold last year, a 30 percent drop from 2013 and a new low for the decade. On his blog, Gigaom founder Om Malik traces the fall of the standalone camera and charts it along with the iPhone's rise.

US Ebola aid worker 'critical'

BBC - Mon, 2015-03-16 10:20
The condition of a US aid worker evacuated from Sierra Leone after testing positive for Ebola changes from serious to critical, hospital officials say.

Ebola Patient Being Treated In Maryland Is In Critical Condition

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-16 09:52

The American patient, whose identity hasn't been publicly released, was taken to the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center last week, after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone.

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Canada proposes tougher standards for oil tankers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-16 09:46

North America has seen four oil train disasters in the last month. Trains carrying crude oil have derailed and caught fire. Even before these events, Canadian authorities toughened standards for railroad tank cars. Now they’ve proposed even tighter rules.

Thicker steel walls will be required for tank cars, as well as shields on top and outer thermal “jackets” to protect in case of fire.

Chris Barken, professor and executive director of the University of Illinois Rail Transportation and Engineering Center, says the changes will “make it much less likely to overheat and suffer a thermal tear, such as we’ve seen in a number of these recent accidents.”

Thinner-walled cars were blamed for a Quebec disaster two years ago that killed 47 people. Of the cars that derailed, 94 percent spilled oil that burned.

Canada plans a 10-year phase-in of new tank cars, which strikes some critics as too slow. Critics also say the current oil train safety conversation is too narrow. It’s a complex issue and they want it to include issues of train speed, tracks, bridges, insurance coverage and routes.

 

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