Farm bill plows under direct payments PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press   
Sunday, 02 February 2014 08:00

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Farm subsidies that have guided agriculture through record profits in recent years are going away in the five-year farm bill that could become law in the coming week. But new subsidies in the legislation could be just as generous, and farmers aren't complaining.

Gone are direct payments, a politically untenable system in which landowners got fixed amounts per acre, whether crop prices were high or low — or even if they didn't plant at all. Those will be replaced by a choice of one of two different subsidy approaches that require producers to suffer losses before they can get payouts. The bill also contains a new insurance-based program for cotton farmers.

"We loved the old farm bill," said Woody Anderson, who grows 3,500 acres of cotton in west-central Texas near Colorado City. But farmers knew political support for direct payments was fading, he said.

"We felt like this insurance type program was innovative. It was reform, if you will, and it was the best we could get in the time that we're trying to operate in and get a new farm bill," he said.

Diver killed working on Concordia in Italy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press   
Sunday, 02 February 2014 07:57

ROME (AP) — A diver died Saturday while working on the shipwrecked Costa Concordia, apparently gashing his leg on an underwater metal sheet while preparing the wreck for removal, officials and news reports said.

Italy's civil protection agency, which is overseeing the removal of the Concordia from Tuscany's coast, said the diver hailed from Spain.

Tuscany's La Nazione newspaper said the diver had been working on preparations to affix huge tanks onto sides of the Concordia to float the ship off its false seabed and tow it to a port for eventual dismantling. It said he apparently gashed his leg on an underwater metal sheet and was then unable to get free, bleeding profusely before a diver colleague was able to bring him to the surface. The report said he was conscious upon surfacing but later died.

The diver, who wasn't identified by authorities, is the first to die in the line of work on salvaging the Concordia ever since it slammed into a reef off Giglio island on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 passengers and crew. A diver died last year, but the causes were reportedly unrelated to the work.

U.S. Sen. Reed blasts $66B profits on student loans PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Sunday, 02 February 2014 07:58

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed on Saturday called on Congress to do a better job of making student loans affordable after a report showed the federal government earned an estimated $66 billion in profits from student loans originated between 2007 and 2012.

The Rhode Island Democrat was reacting to a Government Accountability Office report released Friday. A previous Congressional Budget Office report estimated that the government will pocket an additional $185 billion in profits on new student loans made over the next 10 years.

"The GAO report makes clear that Congress must do a better job of pricing student loans closer to the actual cost to the government," Reed said in a statement. "Students and parents who borrowed at needlessly high rates should be given an opportunity to refinance at a lower rate.

"The bigger question that the report does not address is that the student loan programs were originally seen as an investment, not a profit center or even a cost-neutral proposition," Reed said. "We invested in offering low-cost loans to create opportunity, spur innovation, and grow our economy."

AT&T reduces rates for high-data plans PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by ANICK JESDANUN, AP Technology Writer   
Sunday, 02 February 2014 07:56

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T is reducing cellphone rates for family plans with large amounts of data.

The new rates are available starting Sunday and apply to plans with at least 10 gigabytes of data shared by two or more phones on a single account. Savings start at $10 per phone per month. A family of four sharing 10 gigabytes will pay $160 a month combined instead of $200 under the most recent rates.

The changes represent AT&T's latest effort to get customers to pay more overall by upgrading from lower-use plans. In some cases, families will actually pay less if they upgrade. That family of four, for instance, already pays $170 monthly for a 4 gigabyte plan and $180 for 6 gigabytes. If they upgrade, they will pay just $160. But for the most part, more data means more revenue for AT&T Inc.

David Christopher, chief marketing officer for AT&T's wireless business, said the offer is designed to give families a worry-free experience as they consume more data for video and social networking.

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