National / International News

People hurt in Longleat train crash

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:50
Two carriages overturn at Longleat Adventure Park, leaving six people injured.

Same-Sex Marriages On Hold In Virginia After Supreme Court Weighs In

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:35

The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked an appeals court ruling that would have allowed gay marriages to begin in Virginia tomorrow.

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VIDEO: New dates rewrite Neanderthal story

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:31
Modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed in Europe 10 times longer than previously thought, a study suggests.

Texas governor pleads not guilty

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:05
Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry pleads not guilty to charges he abused his power in an attempt to pressure a political adversary to resign.

Man Utd complete £16m Rojo signing

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:03
Manchester United announce the £16m signing of defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon on a five-year deal.

Myanmar's young tourism entrepreneurs

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 11:01
Myanmar's young tourism bosses confident about the future

Why Vegetables Get Freakish In The Land Of The Midnight Sun

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:57

Long summer days in Alaska help cabbages, turnips and other vegetables grow to gargantuan sizes. These "giants" are celebrated at the annual state fair, which kicks off on Thursday.

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How can you be sure a medical app actually works?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:53

Your smartphone will see you now: the wild west of medical apps

If you take a virtual stroll through the iTunes store or Google Play, you will find nearly a hundred thousand health apps – everything from fitness trackers to blood glucose monitors. Out of all these apps, only about 100 have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. Some lawyers are calling for more regulation.

Nathan Cortez went to law school in Silicon Valley. He wears a black Fitbit bracelet and his iPhone is stocked with apps like WebMD. But some apps scare him.

“I’ve got an app that you can use to record your heartbeat or bowel sounds,” he says. “And it spits out a diagnosis. Just the thought you can hold your cell phone up to your chest and receive a serious diagnosis of a heart problem is a little mind blowing.”

Scary diagnoses

Cortez is a law professor at SMU in Dallas. He outlined the potential dangers of medical apps in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. And while Cortez talks about hypothetical dangers, he has real life examples of malfunctioning apps.

For example, a rheumatoid arthritis app created by Pfizer in 2011: “It was basically a calculator,” he says, “trying to calculate a score for how severe your rheumatoid arthritis is.”

And it wasn’t working.

“In that case, you may have seen treatment decisions made based on erroneous calculations.”

The blood glucose app from drug company Sanofi was recalled because it miscalculated insulin doses.

Right now the FDA categorizes apps on three levels of risk. It only has jurisdiction over the riskiest products, and does not even review all of those.

Why? Cortez says it’s mainly politics, and a fear of stifling innovation.

The FDA is sensitive to accusations of over-regulation. This month the agency announced even more exemptions for mobile health products that allow users to track, log, trend, and share data with doctors. New rules clear Apple’s product HealthKit, an app to track everything from blood pressure to lung capacity, from regulation.

The regulatory hurdle 

In the past decade, the FDA has confirmed the medical claims of roughly 100 apps, or .1 percent of what’s out there. One app that has been cleared is called My Vision Track.

MyVision Track App 

MyVision Track

“We believe that a regulatory approved medical app costs you about 10 times as much and takes about 10 times as long as doing one that’s not regulated,” says creator Mike Bartlett, with Richardson-based company Vital Art and Science Inc.

Bartlett had to organize multiple months-long clinical studies to prove that My Vision Track can monitor the progress of retinal diseases such as macular degeneration. But he’s not upset about the expensive, arduous process.

“I would be very cautious about using something that’s unproven,” Bartlett says. “And we know that there are vision tests that absolutely don’t work.”

Regulators walking a fine line

Regulators are walking a fine line between letting snake oil salesmen roam free and discouraging legitimate developers.

Chuck McCoy, head of North Texas Angels Network, says so far he hasn’t heard complaints from investors about too much red tape.

“The FDA over regulates in many areas,” he says, “but if you are going to make clinical claims about a device, there has to be some scientific basis for those claims.”

So far, the FDA has taken a fairly lenient view of the medical app ecosystem, says Dr. Chandra Duggirala, a physician with the San Mateo Medical Center. Last year, he made an experimental device for Type 2 diabetes with promising early results. But he wasn’t able to secure funding that would have brought it to market. Duggirala says the lenient stance could change once people start using medical apps that don’t just track, but also diagnose health conditions.

“So far, not many medical apps are hugely popular in a way that would attract FDA attention," he says. "Once that happens, I’m sure there will be some regulatory hurdles for everybody to cross."

Most entrepreneurs agree the FDA over-regulated medical devices. Now, the question is whether they’re under-regulating mobile medical apps.

The business of pop music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:52

It's hard to think of a side of the music industry Linda Perry hasn't seen; from playing out of a coffee bar in San Francisco to producing music to having her own VH1 reality show. It's a career path some might call unstable, even with all of her successes.

"I've lived out in a park sleeping on the grass with no place to go, I've not eaten, I've been there," says Perry. "There's nothing you could do to me, nothing you could take away from me that would make me feel like I wasn't going to be all right. I would just start all over again."

But even when she's had success, Perry doesn't feel she's actually tasted it.

"Honestly, I don't feel ever very successful because I haven't had a hit in a while, because I don't search for them," Perry says. "To be where I am now, I love it -- I love writing songs, but I don't want to write the songs everyone else is asking me to write. I'm waiting for when people want the real thing again, and that's when you'll start hearing my hits again."

Part of the reason music has become so big, she says, is because of the business that drives a sort of endless cycle.

"Things get greedy, music gets s***ty, movies start losing the plot, we complain, independents show up, there's going to be a girl who's going to sell a million records out of the trunk of her car, you know what I mean?" she says. "And then the next time it'll be even bigger."

The business of pop music

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:52

It's hard to think of a side of the music industry Linda Perry hasn't seen; from playing out of a coffee bar in San Francisco to producing music to having her own VH1 reality show. It's a career path some might call unstable, even with all of her successes.

"I've lived out in a park sleeping on the grass with no place to go, I've not eaten, I've been there," says Perry. "There's nothing you could do to me, nothing you could take away from me that would make me feel like I wasn't going to be all right. I would just start all over again."

But even when she's had success, Perry doesn't feel she's actually tasted it.

"Honestly, I don't feel ever very successful because I haven't had a hit in a while, because I don't search for them," Perry says. "To be where I am now, I love it -- I love writing songs, but I don't want to write the songs everyone else is asking me to write. I'm waiting for when people want the real thing again, and that's when you'll start hearing my hits again."

Part of the reason music has become so big, she says, is because of the business that drives a sort of endless cycle.

"Things get greedy, music gets s***ty, movies start losing the plot, we complain, independents show up, there's going to be a girl who's going to sell a million records out of the trunk of her car, you know what I mean?" she says. "And then the next time it'll be even bigger."

Beheading Video Sets Off Debate Over How — Or Whether — To Portray It

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:52

A video that shows an American journalist being beheaded by extremist militants has sparked outrage, along with arguments over whether the images should be restricted online.

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The Ice Bucket Challenge And Other Good Causes: Do Stars Really Help?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:48

When Tom Hiddleston and Lady Gaga take the Ice Bucket Challenge, it makes a big splash. But do stars really make a difference in fund-raising and public awareness when they endorse a charity?

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Obama: Foley video shocks the world

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:40
US President Barack Obama says the beheading of journalist James Foley is "an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world".

Fear over Somali radio closure

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:21
The manager of a radio station in Somalia tells the BBC he is in hiding after the authorities took it off air, accusing it of spreading hate messages.

VIDEO: WW1 soldier died fighting aged 67

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:14
At 67, Henry Webber was one of the oldest known British men to die in active service.

'Five failures' led to baby's death

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:05
There were five failings in the care given to a mother in labour which lead to her baby's death, a coroner rules.

Got a tax credit you can't use? You can sell it

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:04

States spend billions on tax incentives for all kinds of business activity. Here’s one example of the growth in state tax credits: In the year 2000, only four states gave film tax credits. Now, almost 40 do.

Still, lots of businesses never rack up enough of a tax liability to actually use the tax credits states give them. Perhaps they’re an out-of-state film company with a low tax bill, or a nonprofit or start-up with none at all. One way for states to entice those groups is with transferable, or sellable, tax credits. So the secondary market for those credits is growing too.

To show you how sophisticated the market for buying and selling state tax credits is getting, let’s follow the path of an incentive named Betsy.

Okay, it’s actually "BETC", which stands for Business Energy Tax Credit – but it’s pronounced Betsy.

BETC is from Oregon. The state said to businesses there: "Invest in renewable energy or energy conservation, and you can get this tax credit."

Our BETC’s story starts at the Port of Portland, an economic hub that relies on a dredge, called  the Dredge Oregon, to clear navigation channels along the Columbia River.

The dredge was getting old.

“It wasn’t particularly environmentally friendly,” says Tatiana Starostina, the Port’s senior finance manager.

So the Port undertook a $20 million project to overhaul the Dredge Oregon’s engine, pump and generators. The Port says the overhaul will reduce the dredge’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

To help pay for all this, the Port got a BETC from the state. But there was a wrinkle: “Well, because the Port is a government entity,” says Starostina, “obviously we cannot use the tax credit to its original purpose.”

The Port doesn’t pay taxes, so a tax credit doesn’t do much good unless it can monetize it.

“Monetize means we literally sell it,” says Starostina – at a discount, of course. Then the company that buys BETC gets to apply the full credit to its state tax bill.

“It would be like a Groupon,” says Rob O’Neill, the man the Port asked to sell BETC.

O’Neill is a partner with Moss Adams, an accounting firm that’s helped facilitate the transfer of over $500 million in state tax credits since 2007. He says the firms that buy larger tax credits, those worth more than $1 million, are typically Fortune 500 companies.

He also says the secondary market for tax credits is growing.

By some estimates, there are up to 200 state tax credits that are transferable or directly cashable (called refundable). Companies are selling their unused film credits, credits for historic preservation, job creation, renewable energy, even farmworker housing.

But O’Neill says, until now, the market’s been a bit of a black box.

“A lot of people were calling tax directors, and CFOs, and people they meet on the golf course, and try and sell them a tax credit,” he says. “And no one really had transparency with respect to the market.”

Now, O’Neill was preparing to list BETC on a new digital exchange, kind of like a Craigslist of tax credits. Buyers and sellers would be able to log in, click on Oregon, and then see BETC’s listing: a $647,190 credit available for 73.6 cents on the dollar.

Then, at the last minute, BETC sold the old fashioned way, off-exchange. O’Neill got a call from “a large, public, transportation equipment manufacturer.”

He described the buyer on the condition it not be named.

Still, O’Neill wants to nudge more tax credit business online. Moss Adams is one of at least half a dozen companies starting private exchanges through a platform called The Online Incentives Exchange, which also hosts a new public exchange.

“What’s critical is to bring the tax credit market into the modern era,” says OIX’s co-founder Danny Bigel.

Rob O’Neill agrees. “Everything’s moving to the web, and so I think it’s just a matter of time before the business community starts to accept that this is the way credits will transfer in the future,” he says.

Meanwhile a company with almost $2 billion in revenue gets a deal on a state tax credit. The Port of Portland gets to use BETC’s proceeds for its dredge project. Oregon achieves its energy efficiency goal, although it does lose more than half a million dollars in tax revenue from a business that might not need public help.

That’s all from the path of one little tax credit in a market of incentives worth billions.

Got an Oregon tax liability? This $2.6 million credit is available for 25 percent off.

Warning issued over oil predictions

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 10:04
A leading oil industry figure says the Scottish government's predictions for North Sea oil recovery are up to 60% too high.

Uni boss faces sex harassment probe

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 09:51
Plymouth University's chairman of governors is to be investigated about claims of sexual harassment of female staff.

Job loss fears at medical business

BBC - Wed, 2014-08-20 09:35
Northern Ireland's largest, private medical group says it may have to lay off 50 staff following a cut in the number of patients referred by the NHS.
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