Analysis: Amazon's billion-dollar tax shield

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This piece is part of a Reuters series on corporate tax avoidance, and focuses on how Amazon has set up branches in different countries and has orchestrated payments between them in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Some reporting had been done by different media outlets on how Amazon was evading taxes overseas, but Reuters decided to look into what might be happening in the U.S. To find this information, they examined accounts filed in six countries by 25 different Amazon units.

The main analysis of this data was tracking payments between the units to assess the minutiae of how taxes were being avoided.

To do this, the reporter would have needed to be able to create customized computer lists to track money going between specific units, and would also have needed to do basic math with large sums.

The story includes a short slideshow, but no graphics. However, because of the complexity of the topic, there is an associated video called "Amazon's billion-dollar tax shield: decoder."

The video breaks down the issue into small pieces, showing how Amazon set up the tax-evasion system over time, and why this system works the way it does.

Mexican-American singer feared dead in plane crash

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A small plane that crashed in northern Mexico Sunday is believed to have been carrying popular Mexican-American singer and reality show star Jenni Rivera, 43, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The plane, which was carrying six people in addition to Rivera, was discovered in a mountainous area south of Monterrey late Sunday. There were no survivors.

A government spokesman said the plane left Monterrey at about 3:30 a.m. and was scheduled for arrival outside Mexico City an hour later, the Associated Press reported. But aviation authorities lost contact with the plane about 10 minutes after takeoff.

Rivera, known as "Diva de la Banda," was born in Long Beach, Calif., the Associated Press reported. She is the daughter of Pedro Rivera, who launched an independent record label in 1987, the Los Angeles Times reported. Rivera's four brothers are also involved in the music industry -- her brother Lupillo Rivera is a popular singer.

Rivera, who has five children and two grandchildren, was reportedly seeking a divorce from her third husband, former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, the Associated Press reported.

First storm of the season pummels the metro

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Over a foot of snow fell on the Twin Cities metro area Sunday, causing snow emergencies to be declared in more than ten cities, the Star Tribune reported.

Snowfall was most intense Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service predicted up to 15 inches could cover the area by the end of the day.

According to the Pioneer Press
, the storm caused traffic accidents across the state. One fatal accident was reported in Goodhue County.

At 1:30 p.m., most Metro Transit buses were running behind schedule.

Flights were also affected, the Star Tribune reported. More than 150 flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul airport were cancelled.

St. Paul's historic Union Depot re-opens

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St. Paul's Union Depot, a 20th century landmark that closed in 1971, re-opened Saturday to Metro Transit buses and passengers, the Pioneer Press reported.

The opening, which was made possible by a $243 million renovation, is expected to serve buses, light-rail and Amtrak by 2014.

Next month, Jefferson Regional Bus Lines will open at the site, the Star Tribune reported.

According to the Star Tribune, the opening celebration included a morning dedication ceremony, movies in the evening and activities throughout the day.

According to the Pioneer Press, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the depot is "historic, iconic and one of the great railway stations of the 20th century."

"But that doesn't mean it can't also be modern, efficient and one of the great American railways stations of the 21st century," she said.

Nurse who took royal prank call found dead

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Two Australian radio hosts prank-called the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated this week and elicited information about her from one nurse after their call was answered by another.

The nurse who answered the call, 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead Friday, the New York Times reported. Her death was apparently a suicide.

The radio hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, called King Edward VII's hospital Tuesday morning and posed as Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth, the New York Times reported. After Saldanha answered the call, she directed them to another nurse who they tricked into revealing information about the Duchess of Cambridge, who is pregnant and was being treated for severe morning sickness.

According to the BBC
, Saldanha, who is married and the mother of two, was not disciplined by the hospital and the royal family did not complain about the incident.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of the company that owns the station that broadcast the show, said the event is "tragic," the BBC reported. But, he added, "I think that prank calls as a craft in radio had been going on for decades. They are done worldwide and no-one could reasonably have foreseen what happened."

According to the BBC, the station, 2Day FM, has suspended all advertisements until Monday and has taken Greig and Christian's show off the air until further notice.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear gay marriage cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear two major same-sex marriage cases, marking what some say could be a decisive move in the "defining civil rights issue of our time," the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The two cases center respectively on California's Proposition 8, which struck down the state's legalization of same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally-married same-sex couples, the Associated Press reported. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Supreme Court will likely hear the cases next spring.

Many supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated the news, the New York Times reported. According to the Associated Press, opponents of same-sex marriage were pleased by the announcement.

"We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8," John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, told the Associated Press.

Some supporters of same-sex marriage concerned about what could happen if the court decides that same-sex marriage is not constitutionally protected, the New York Times reported.

"There is no question that it is a risk," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told the New York Times. "If they nationalize it and reject it, that's going to take decades to come back to the court."

Analysis: Council fuming over airport noise vote

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In this piece, Star Tribune reporter Eric Roper focused on concerns by Minneapolis city council members over the lack of public information about a proposal to concentrate plane routes.

Council members voted on the proposal at their Nov. 12 meeting, but this information is not the focus of the story. Rather, Roper used commentary from several city council members on their confusion about the issue, and their anger about the lack of information available to their constituents.

The story incorporates graphics showing the proposed changes to plane routes, and emphasizes the council members' frustration by including the fact that Lisa Goodman, who represents downtown, had to rely on a graphic in the Star Tribune to find out if the changes would affect her constituency.

The story also includes a quote from Goodman saying she thinks the proposal is being pushed through before "people find out what they're actually up to." This suggests to the reader that the changes are going to be negative for Minneapolis, and that the public should be concerned both about the changes and about the lack of information.

It may have been helpful to know how much information is typically offered to the public on issues like this one, in order to fully understand the issue at hand. However, it is clear from the anger from the four council members quoted in the story that this is out of the ordinary and a matter of concern.

Asperger's disorder to be dropped from psychiatric manual

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"Asperger's disorder" was dropped this week from the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, representing -- along with other revisions -- the first change in almost 20 years, the Associated Press reported.

The diagnostic guide is used in different ways across a number of nations, the BBC reported. According to the Associated Press, the manual affects who receives treatment, what insurance companies will cover and which students qualify for special education.

Asperger's will be incorporated under the new umbrella term "autism spectrum disorder," the Associated Press reported. Many healthcare experts already use the term, which encompasses mild to severe autism.

While some are concerned that Asperger's being dropped will prevent children previously diagnosed with the disorder from receiving treatment or being able to enroll in special education, the implementation of an umbrella term may have the opposite effect, the Associated Press reported.

In some states and school systems, children diagnosed with Asperger's were not provided with services, or received fewer services than those diagnosed with autism. Now, anyone previously diagnosed with Asperger's will fall under the new autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and be treated accordingly.

Another change to the manual is the addition of "disruptive mood disregulation disorder," a diagnosis for unusually bad and frequent temper tantrums, the Associated Press reported. According to the BBC, supporters of the addition say it will address the high number of children being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Little Falls teens slain during Thanksgiving break-in

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Two Little Falls teens, cousins Nick Brady and Haile Kifer, were killed Thanksgiving Day by a homeowner after breaking into his house, the Pioneer Press reported.

Byron Smith, 64, shot 17-year-old Brady and 18-year-old Kifer multiple times as they entered his basement. According to the Pioneer Press, he put their bodies in a workshop, and police were notified a day later after receiving a call from a neighbor.

Brady and Kifer were connected to a burglary the previous day. They apparently stole prescription medicine and coins from a home south of Little Falls.

A funeral was held Saturday, the Star Tribune reported. Community members wanted to focus on good memories of the two teens and show support for their families.

But questions remain about how and why the incident occurred.

"It's been really sad. A lot of people want to know what happened," Shania Morawczynski, a classmate, told the Star Tribune.

Bill would provide greater restrictions for guardians

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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo announced a proposed bill Friday that would create stricter background checks for the guardians of vulnerable adults, the Star Tribune reported.

The bill, which was written by state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, would also protect against financial exploitation.

According to the Star Tribune, the bill comes in the wake of the prosecution of former guardian Terri Ann Hauge, who stole tens of thousands of dollars from the bank accounts of multiple wards.

Hauge had been suspended from practicing law in 1995, the Pioneer Press reported, but was still able to serve as a guardian because Minnesota Law does not require the disclosure of suspensions.

According to the Pioneer Press, the new legislation would require background checks every two years instead of the current five years. It would also require potential guardians to disclose information that could impede their ability to be a guardian, including whether they had a license denied, suspended or revoked in the past.