National / International News

US inmate ends hunger strike in Cuba

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 14:10
US contractor Alan Gross, who has been in jail in Cuba for more than four years, ends a week-long hunger strike, his lawyer says.

Murder bid charge over hammer attack

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:42
A man is charged with attempting to murder three women who were attacked with a hammer in a central London hotel.

Kenya poaching drive hits officials

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:35
Kenya's government suspends five officials from the wildlife service, amid growing alarm over the poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Millennials 'Talk To God,' But Fewer Rely On Religion, Survey Finds

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:31

The new Carnegie Mellon study found that 62 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds report talking to God, but just 52 percent said they turned to religion for guidance.

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Last-minute tips for tax procrastinators

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:30

April 15 marks the last day to file your taxes ... unless you hit the panic button and file an extension.

You can file an extension, but…

You still have to pay your estimated taxes. According to Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax attorney in Pennsylvania, “the IRS wants you to pay what you paid last year, that’s a good rule of thumb. If nothing has changed remarkably, if you paid as much as you owed last year, you should be fine. The penalties and interest come when at the end of the extension, you still owe a bucket of money. you want to try and approximate what you owe as much as possible.”

If you can’t pay your taxes in full:

- Pay in installments

At IRS.gov, taxpayers can enter into an installment agreement with the IRS. “There are some restrictions and some limitations,” says Erb. “The one to keep in mind the most is that you have to owe less than $50,000 to qualify for the installment agreement. And it’s for individual taxpayers. Business taxpayers generally still have to go through the normal channels.”

- Pay a little bit now and a little bit later.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be frightened of making partial payments,” Erb says. Even if you have to pay a penalty and interest payments, that’s an improvement over leaving the full tax bill untouched.

Use a tax preparer ...

Though filing your taxes can be a labor of love for many people, Erb says there are times it’s worth using a professional. “If things have changed in your life, I highly recommend using someone … you know whether you’ve had a baby or whether you’ve gotten married and life events, you usually want somebody that can kind of help you get guided through the process because it’s my experience that the folks who are worried about getting their taxes done, it’s generally not that they are worried about making a mistake, it’s that they often are just kind of overwhelmed and I think those people tend to under-deduct.”

... But beware of preparer scams

“When you hire a tax preparer you want to make sure that they are credentialed, and that they know what they are doing. The IRS still require tax preparers prepare returns for compensation, those folks still need to have a PTIN number, you can think of it like a Social Security Number for preparers, so the IRS knows who’s preparing that return.”

... And IRS scams too

Scammers frequently pose as IRS representatives through email and phone calls, and threaten fines and arrest if you don’t immediately send money. “If you owe taxes, if anything has gone wrong with your filing, most of the time they’re going to contact you through a letter. They’re not going to text you. They’re not going to call you. And they’re not going to email you. And a lot of these identity thefts schemes that are going on right now are from folks posing as representatives from the IRS. Kind of the most prevalent one right now is when IRS allegedly, someone from the IRS, calls up folks, they’re kind of targeting immigrants and the elderly in particular, and say, ‘you owe money to us. We’re going to arrest you tomorrow if you don’t pay us now.’ And then they’re asking for debit card information over the phone.

 

What's your tax story? Leave us a comment on our site or Facebook page, or tweet us @LiveMoney.

Wal-Mart: Everday low (organic?) prices

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:29

Walmart has announced a new line of prepared organic foods — ketchup, pasta sauce, breakfast cereal — marketed under the name Wild Oats. And cheap: Wild Oats spaghetti sauce will cost the same as Ragu brand. But it's one thing to try to grow demand for organics by offering lower prices. Supplying that demand could be tough, especially at low prices. Already, supplies of commodities like corn, wheat and soybeans are tight.

"There’s not as many acres," says Tim Daley, who buys and sells organic soybeans for Stonebridge, a brokerage in Iowa. "Maybe three or four percent of the marketplace is organic. And a lot of that is still coming in from offshore."  

If not for imports, he says, prices would be even higher. "And they’re already high. So if you’ve got $14 soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade, you’ve easily got $24 or $28 soybeans."

That's conventional beans, versus organic beans. 

Increasing supply can’t happen overnight. 

"It takes three years for a producer to achieve organic certification," notes Kellee James, CEO of Mercaris, a company that supplies market data on organic commodities. "So even if tomorrow prices go up and a producer decides he wants to grow, say, organic wheat, it’s going to take three years for that supply to come online."

Walmart says it plans to keep prices in line by locking in five-year contracts with producers.

Which may not work, says Paul Mitchell, who teaches agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin. If market prices go up everywhere else, he thinks producers will want to re-negotiate.

"They’re going to ... say, 'Look, WalMart. We sold you our can of corn at $1.50 a can, organic. And now the market price is $2. Well, we don’t want the $1.50 anymore. We want to sell it for $2.'"

And if they don’t get it? Tim Daley, the soybean broker, says beans under contract might “disappear, magically" when market prices climb. "That has happened out here, more than a few years in a row.”

Digital comics: Violent sci-fi meets Joan Didion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:29

This week Amazon announced it has bought ComiXology, a popular online store and digital reader for comic books, graphic novels and the like. 

Now, there is a select group of you, i.e., comics nerds  fans, to whom this will mean quite a bit more than it means to say, me. I am not a comics fan. Or at least — I haven’t been one. 

Then I called up Douglas Wolk, a man who writes about comic books, as well as writes comic books, and I started to get pretty excited about comics and the economics behind them. 

Wolk is currently working on a series called "Judge Dredd Mega City Two," which he describes as "probably the closest that incredibly violent sci-fi gets to a tribute to Joan Didion." I am intrigued. 

Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, the five-issue mini-series by Douglas Wolk and drawn by Ulises Farinas.

Ulises Farinas

Wolk says, part of why he can write crazy mash-ups like this is because of the weird way the comic books business has worked for many years.

"Comics have the strangest economics of just about any medium I can think of," he said. 

Unlike regular books, where a store can return unsold copies, with comic books, a store buys a certain number from a publisher on a non-refundable basis. That means publishers of comics can gauge ahead of time how many copies will be profitable to print, so it's easier to take risks on books that might only appeal to niche markets. 

And tapping into those niche markets has become even easier with the rise of digital comics, according to Calvin Reid, a lifelong comic book fan and senior news editor at Publishers Weekly.  And that’s a good thing for comic book sales, since sales for physical comic books have reached a plateau in recent years. 

"Even in the early nineties there were comics that hit real mass market numbers, a million or so," Reid said. "But now, you sell 100,000 copies, and everyone pays attention."

Even so, physical comics that you can hold in your hand are still a more than $600 million industry.  There's just something addictive about flipping through the pages, says Jeff Ayers, a manager at Forbidden Planet, a revered comic book store in Manhattan that still does brisk business. It's great to be able to read a comic on your phone, Ayers told me. 

"But I'm not inclined to bring phone in to the bath tub, where I would be a comic book," he says.

Reading a comic book tribute to Joan Didion….in the bath tub?  I might try that.

'If you can run the OMB, you can run anything.'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:29

President Obama has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The OMB is something of a proving ground. 

Past budget directors have gone on to become White House chiefs of staff and cabinet secretaries. 

"It isn't such a big agency, but the subject matter covers everything that the government does," says Alice Rivlin, who led the OMB when Bill Clinton was president. "If you can run the OMB," she adds, "you can run anything."

And it seems to be true, given the resumes of recent OMB directors:

Jacob Lew: Director, OMB (twice) then White House Chief of Staff then Secretary of the Treasury

Rob Portman: Director, OMB then U.S. Senator

Joshua Bolten: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff

Mitch Daniels: Director, OMB then Governor of Indiana then president of Purdue University

Alice Rivlin: Director, OMB then Federal Reserve vice chair

Leon Panetta: Director, OMB then White House Chief of Staff then CIA Director then Secretary of Defense

Police officer killed by tanker

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:28
A 35-year-old off-duty police officer dies after being hit by a tanker on the M8, police confirm.

5 Takeaways From The Equal Pay Debate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:06

While Republicans launched some effective counterattacks on the equal pay issue, keep in mind the White House is making a political case to voters — not a statistical argument to economists.

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VIDEO: Paedophile 'can keep victim photos'

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 13:03
Police say they cannot destroy photos of a paedophile's young victim on his laptop because the images are not classified as indecent.

In which the government acknowledges Google

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:54
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 13:43 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google

And finally, it seems Congress has discovered the amazing powers of the internet. No joke.

From the Congressional Record, Senate Bill 2206 was introduced just last week, and which the legislative language tells us can be cited as the Let Me Google That For You Act.

S.B. 2206 would abolish the National Technical Information Service, collector and disseminator of almost 3 million government scientific, technical, engineering, and business reports, because, yes, you can just Google 'em for free.

Marketplace for Friday April 11, 2014by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title In which the government acknowledges GoogleStory Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

NSA Denies It Knew About Heartbleed Bug Before It Was Made Public

NPR News - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:54

Bloomberg reported that the spy agency knew about the critical Internet vulnerability for two years and used it to gather intelligence.

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VIDEO: Film Review - the week's new releases

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:52
Film critic Jason Solomons reviews the week's new film releases, including Irish black comedy Calvary, Mumbai romance The Lunchbox and Half Of A Yellow Sun - set in 1960s Nigeria.

US refuses visa for Iran's UN choice

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:48
The White House refuses to issue a US visa to Iran's nomination for UN ambassador, who was involved in the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Injured Afghan girl's joyous homecoming

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:46
Injured Afghan girl returns to joyous welcome

Foreign buyers dominate London market

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:44
Foreign buyers dominate London's luxury housing market

How digital media is reinventing comics

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:40
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 18:00 https://www.comixology.com/about

Comixology is an online platform that allows you to digitally buy, read, and discover comics.

For the uninitiated, the term "digital comic" might sound like someone simply scanned a paper copy of their favorite issues of Batman into their computer. The scope of the digital comic world is actually pretty wide, with artists and writers taking advantage of the medium to play around with what a comic can be, and how to distribute content.

Here's an excellent debrief on the world of digital comics. Plus, check out these examples of digital comics that capitalize on the possibilities of the medium.

News Comics

Among the freedoms of publishing a digital comic is the ability to stretch what a comic can be. The team behind Symbolia, for example, use the medium to tell news stories with sound, links, animations, and interactive charts. 

You can check out more about Symbolia here.

Self-Published

Digital comics also allow artists to self-publish and sell their own comics. Artist Dean Trippe's Something Terrible is an autobiographical work about how his interest in Batman helped him cope with being the victim of rape at a young age.

You can read more about Trippe's story here.

Free download of first issue

Not unlike the mobile game model known as "freemium," publishers of digital comics will sometimes offer a first issue for free in the hopes that readers will be hooked enough to purchase subsequent issues.

The critically-acclaimed "Saga" series, for example, offers its first issue free for download here.

Subscription Series

There's also the option of subscribing to a series, which is not unlike subscribing to a newspaper's phone or tablet app. In addition to regularly receiving new issues, subscribers often have access to classic comics that have been uploaded by the publisher. Access to Marvel's annual subscription costs $99.

You can check out more about Marvel Unlimited here.

by Tobin LowStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No

White fails to qualify for Worlds

BBC - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:38
Jimmy White fails to make it through qualifying for the World Championship after a 10-4 defeat by Ian Burns.

How 'Choose Your Own Adventure' was born

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-04-11 12:14
Friday, April 11, 2014 - 14:51 Sushiesque/Flickr/Creative Commons

A party for choose your own adventure.

Ed Packard was a lawyer for RCA records. But it wasn't his true calling. Ed wanted to be a writer, and one fateful night back in 1969 he was telling his daughters Caroline and Andrea a bedtime story about a character named Pete marooned on a desert island.

"I was tired from a long day at work, and I couldn't think of what should happen next in the story. So I asked them. I got two different answers. I could sense that this was an unusual approach. They could not just identify with the main character. They could be the main character." 

Ed penned his first book on the train from his home in Connecticut to his law office in New York. He got an agent at William Morris who told him his first book "The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island" would be a big hit. But after countless doors were slammed in his face by children's book publishers who told him his work was more like a game than a book, Ed gave up.

He put his manuscript in his desk drawer and left it there to collect dust.

It was only after he met a young literary agent named Amy Berkower through an old college buddy that the books finally got a good, hard second look a decade later. And with the help of another upstart in the publishing business, Joelle Delbourgo at Bantam, "Choose Your Own Adventure" exploded into a phenomenon that rewrote the book on children's literature.

This story is part of Marketplace's new collaborative series with Mental Floss Magazine. For the full story, follow the link here.

As fans of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books ourselves, we here at Marketplace decided to build a choose your own adventure story to navigate and re-live the week's business news. Try it out:

Marketplace for Friday April 11, 2014

In partnership with Mental Floss.

by Tommy Andres and Ariana TobinPodcast Title How "Choose Your Own Adventure" was bornStory Type FeatureSyndication Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond No
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