Business & Education

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Episode 685: Larry vs. The IRS

Apr 4, 2018

Note: This episode originally aired in 2016.

A lot of people dream of not paying their taxes. Larry Williams did just that. He scoured the fine print of IRS code, talked to lawyers, settled on a plan, and then...stopped paying taxes.

Today on the show, we tell his story. It starts on a camping trip, winds through a jail cell in Australia and a courtroom in California, and it ends up in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Another top adviser to President Trump is leaving the White House. An administration official tells NPR that DJ Gribbin, architect of the president's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, "will be moving on to new opportunities."

This latest staff departure comes as the infrastructure plan hits a roadblock in Congress.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump has been insisting in recent days that the post office has been undercharging Amazon for delivering its packages to homes around the country. Here's the president yesterday at a White House meeting.

Martin Sorrell, the CEO of the advertising giant WPP, is under investigation by an independent law firm because of "an allegation of personal misconduct," the company says.

The company does not describe the nature of the misconduct, but says the allegations "do not involve amounts which are material to WPP." The company had revenues of $21.4 billion in 2017.

Musical collaborations between artists who normally do their own thing have been around for a long time. Back in the 80s collaborations were rare enough that when one did become a hit, it was a big deal.

The trend began gathering pace in the 1990s, and hasn't stopped. Today, about 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100 songs are now collaborations, up from just 5 percent in 1990.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest might be the rising popularity of hip hop.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Personal information of up to 87 million people — mostly in the United States — may have been "improperly shared" with Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm used by the Trump campaign that has recently come under fire.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET

Police questioned Nasim Aghdam in her car just hours before she opened fire on YouTube headquarters on Tuesday, wounding three people and apparently killing herself, the Associated Press reported.

Updated at 4:27 p.m. ET

Fear and uncertainty over a growing trade dispute with China continued to weigh on investors Wednesday, with markets opening sharply lower before recovering by early afternoon.

The major U.S. indexes — the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq — all fell more than 1 percent in morning trading but rebounded to close higher. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 231 points, or 1 percent, and the S&P 5oo closed up 1.1 percent.

Following its successful public listing yesterday, the music streaming service Spotify is now worth around $25 billion, making it the largest music company in the world — but when Spotify first débuted, back in 2008, it was reasonable to think it would fail.

Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET

China's leaders followed President Trump in taking another step toward a new trade war, announcing a plan to put steep tariffs on $50 billion of U.S. imports. China's proposed 25 percent tariffs would target a wide range of American products, from soybeans and whiskey to airplanes and cars.

"China currently buys about $14 billion worth of American soybeans each year — almost a third of the entire U.S. crop," NPR's Dan Charles reports for our Newscast unit. "Prices for U.S. soybeans tumbled by 3 to 5 percent" on the news, Dan adds.

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Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill on April 10 and 11 before the a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, followed by one before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to answer questions about how the company protects its users' data.

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Soon, we might not be able to believe our own ears.

New technologies for creating faked audio are evolving quickly in the era of active information campaigns and their use of "fake news."

This has serious repercussions for politics: Influence-mongers could create fake clips of politicians to undermine them — or politicians could deny they said things they were really recorded saying, calling it fake audio.

Dan Shefet is an unlikely tech revolutionary. He's not a young math geek who builds driverless cars, nor does he promise to make a tech product for the masses. His crusade is different. The 63-year-old year old Shefet has staged an astonishingly effective campaign in Europe to thwart the torrent of fake news and damaging personal attacks that course through the Internet by taking on the tech giants.

Updated at 6:35 a.m. ET on Wednesday

China responded on Wednesday to the Trump administration's published list of Chinese exports that could soon be subject to a steep 25 percent tariff.

The White House list covers some $50 billion worth of Chinese goods in sectors such as aerospace, robotics, IT and machinery.

In a much-watched case, a Michigan agency has approved Nestlé's plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the state. The request attracted a record number of public comments — with 80,945 against and 75 in favor.

Back in 1907, America's financial system was pretty unsophisticated. There was no central bank, barely any kind of regulatory framework, and no backstop in case of a crash.

Meanwhile, the economy was growing fast, with people borrowing and investing at a dizzying rate. And when people lost confidence in a kind of unregulated lending institution called a trust, panic spread through the economy.

The world's most popular music streaming service, Spotify, went public today. Shares were expected to start trading around $130 each, but ranges for the opening price went as high as $169, and at the time of this writing its stocks were trading at $155, making the company worth about $27.4 billion. (You could safely expect these figures to fluctuate widely over the coming hours, days, weeks and months.)

Editor's note on April 11, 2018: NPR has retracted the story that was previously on this page because it did not meet our standards. "Fairness" is one of our guiding principles, and to that end we have pledged to "make every effort to gather responses from those who are the subjects of criticism." In this instance, that did not happen. The story referred to one individual as the "author" of a website that another person said had posted defamatory information about him.

It started with a warning email last summer, from a security researcher who told Panera Bread that its website was exposing sensitive customer data. But after the problem went unfixed for months, the researcher went public with proof of the flaw. Another analyst said Panera's response was "half-baked."

President Trump has argued in recent days that the U.S. Postal Service has lost a fortune delivering Amazon packages at a discount.

However, some of the agency's problems might lie with the president. The top planning and oversight board at the Postal Service has been unable to meet and consider matters such as the agency's long-term relationship with Amazon, because the president has failed to appoint any of the nine governors to the 11-member Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.

Dozens of cameras meet visitors to the Beijing headquarters of SenseTime, China's largest artificial intelligence company. One of them determines whether the door will open for you; another tracks your movements.

The one that marketing assistant Katherine Xue is gazing into, in the company's showroom, broadcasts an image of my face with white lines emanating from my eyes, nose and corners of my mouth. It estimates I am a 37-year-old male (I'm 44) with an attractiveness score of 98.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As the U.S. and China ratchet up a tit-for-tat tariff dispute, it has been said often in the last few weeks: "No one wins a trade war."

Nevertheless, staying out of a war is often the best way to win, or at least not to lose.

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