Herbalife revealed on Wednesday that the Federal Trade Commission has opened a civil investigation into the practices of the nutrition company, which sells weight-loss shakes, vitamins and other products.
Moments after Herbalife made the announcement, its stock price plunged. At 1:51 p.m., it had lost 12 percent of its value.
Bloomberg explains that hedge fund manager Bill Ackman accused the company of running a pyramid scheme. Bloomberg adds:
"The probe marks an achievement for Ackman, who in 2012 made a $1 billion bet against Herbalife's shares and started working to persuade regulators to shut the company down, saying it misleads distributors, misrepresents sales figures and sells a commodity product at inflated prices. The company has repeatedly denied Ackman's allegations and won allies including billionaire Carl Icahn.
"'Herbalife welcomes the inquiry given the tremendous amount of misinformation in the marketplace,' the company said in the statement."
NPR's Planet Money took a look at Ackman's claims back in January. As they reported, the "multilevel marketing" scheme used by Herbalife isn't new. Amway and Avon use the same kind of structure. Essentially, distributors make more money by making other people distributors.
But whether its illegal presents a complicated question:
"Ackman argues that Herbalife is all about recruiting new distributors, and not about selling weight loss shakes and vitamins to real customers.
"Not surprisingly, Herbalife disagrees. The company says it has millions of customers around the world. The CEO went on CNBC and accused Ackman of 'market manipulation' — a typical accusation CEOs hurl against shorts.
"So, who's right here? How hard can it be to tell whether a giant company is a pyramid scheme? In this case, weirdly, it's really hard.
"For a company like Herbalife, the difference between being a legitimate business and being a pyramid scheme comes down to what happens on the ground with all those people who signed up to sell products.
"If it's a legitimate business, they're mostly selling the products to people who actually want to use them."
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared Saturday. Five days later, there's no word about what happened to it or the 239 people on board.
But, says, Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot who runs the popular Ask The Pilot website, such contradictions are "somewhat common," given how many entities, countries and statements are involved. There can be language problems, he says, as well as terminology issues.
"In the attempt to simplify the confusing vernacular of aviation, the messages get garbled," says Smith, the author of Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel. Questions, Answers, and Reflections.
Here are some examples of contradictions and erroneous facts in Malaysia:
— When Contact Was Lost: On Saturday, Malaysia Airlines said that Flight MH370 disappeared from radar at 2:40 a.m. On Sunday, after six statements the previous day, the airline said the plane was last heard from at 1:30 a.m.
— Stolen Passports And Off-Loaded Luggage: Also Saturday, it emerged that two men listed as passengers on the flight - an Austrian and an Italian - weren't on the plane. News reports said their passports had been stolen in Thailand. Malaysia's government then said it knew of the reports, and it then raised the number of people traveling on the flight with false passports to four. It later revised that number to two.
Both of these travel documents used to board the flight were on Interpol's list of stolen passports, and the agency expressed frustration that passports weren't checked against its database. A Malaysian official responded that this was difficult to do because there were millions of names on the list.
On Monday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, said five passengers never made it to the flight, and their luggage was off-loaded before Flight 370 took off. That statement turned out to be wrong. It emerged, instead, that four passengers who bought tickets never checked in.
— Identities: At a news conference Monday, Azharuddin said the two passengers who were using false passports were "not Asian-looking males," contradicting his country's home minister who previously said they did. When pressed by a reporter what the two men looked like "roughly," Azharuddin replied: Mario Balotelli:
This is what Balotelli looks like.
This is what the men who boarded the flight using false passports looked like:
The men, it turned out, were Iranian. But the images released by police had one other thing in common: their lower halves were identical. But on Wednesday, Malaysian authorities denied they had doctored the photographs, saying it was a photocopying error.
— Location: The plane went missing over the Gulf of Thailand, and that's where the search was initially targeted. A day later, Malaysia's air force said the plane may have turned around before it disappeared.
Malaysia Airlines said Tuesday the search was now focused on the west of the Malay peninsula. Indeed, it was expanded to the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. But Azharuddin said that didn't mean that they believed the plane was off the western coast. He said the search was taking place on both sides.
Also Tuesday, a local newspaper quoted Malaysia's air force chief as saying a military radar had detected the plane at 2:40 a.m. to the Strait of Malacca. On Wednesday, he denied making those comments, but said the military hadn't ruled out the possibility that the plane turned back.
Who's To Blame?
One reason for so much confusion is that this story is fast changing.
"In a dynamic situation like this, there's opportunity for misinformation," says Anthony Brickhouse, a former investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board who is now an associate professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
He says it's not anybody's fault.
In addition, responsibility for a crash investigation lies with the country where the wreckage is found. In this case, there is no wreckage, making jurisdictional oversight difficult to establish. Under international treaties, if the wreckage is found in international waters, the state where the airline is registered - in this case Malaysia - is in charge of the investigation.
"This is a special case," he says. "Usually, within a few hours or days, you have some evidence. With this situation, because we don't know where the plane is, there's more confusion, and it's hard to say how it's going to play out."
After 30 years on death row, 64-year-old Glenn Ford has walked out of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola a free man after a judge voided his 1983 murder conviction based on new exculpatory evidence.
Ford was convicted of killing Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport man he'd done occasional yard work for. Rozeman, a jeweler and watchmaker, was found dead in 1983.
"Ford and a pair of brothers were eventually accused of murder and theft of assorted jewelry from Rozeman's store, but only Ford stood trial. A Caddo Parish jury convicted him of first-degree murder and decided he should be put to death. Ford has been on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola since being transferred there in August 1988."
New evidence, however, corroborated Ford's statement that he had not been present nor involved in Rozeman's killing on November 5, 1983 and he was set free on Tuesday.
"My sons — when I left — was babies. Now they grown men with babies," Ford told reporters on Tuesdayeaking as a free man for the first time in nearly three decades.
"My mind's going all kinds of directions, but it feels good," Ford, 64, told reporters, according to WAFB.
"I was locked up almost 30 years for something I didn't do," said Ford, who wore a denim shirt, a hat and dark-rimmed glasses. "I can't go back."
Ford's attorneys, Gary Clements and Aaron Novod, say his trial was compromised by the suppression of evidence and inexperienced counsel.
Expensive new drugs for hepatitis C may work better than older treatments, but their high cost undermines their value, a panel of experts said Monday during a daylong forum in San Francisco Monday.
"The price makes it very hard for the health care system," said Steve Pearson, who oversaw the meeting Monday for the California Technology Assessment Forum, a group affiliated with health insurers that holds public meetings to weigh evidence on new treatments.
The 15-member panel, which included representatives of hospitals, insurers and patient advocates, didn't recommend how use of the drugs should be prioritized. Solvadi, which hit the market late last year, is made by Gilead Sciences and costs $1,000 a pill. Slightly less expensive is Olysio, made by Johnson & Johnson. A course of treatment with the drugs can cost $66,000 to $84,000, or more.
The panelists and experts who testified nearly all agreed that because of the cost and for medical reasons, not every patient with hepatitis C needs to be immediately treated with the new drugs. It is estimated there are at least 3 million Americans with the viral infection.
"I can't imagine how that would be feasible without bankrupting our system," said Rena K. Fox, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "What I really wish for is that we could push back on the price, rather than make patients wait. But since we don't have the ability to change the price, we have to decide which patients are the most urgent."
The drugmakers defend the prices, citing research costs and evidence that shows the pills cure many patients.
Waiting might be a better answer for some patients — particularly those with little or no liver damage — because other treatments are expected to hit the market within a year, outside experts and some panel members said. Patients with more advanced liver damage from the virus would be treated first.
Healthier people had also waited to use the older drugs, hoping for something to come along that would have fewer side effects.
Hepatitis C is a chronic liver infection that can take years or decades to progress. Over time, it can lead to cancer, cirrhosis or the need for a liver transplant.
At least 70 percent of those infected have no symptoms. The virus is spread mainly by intravenous drug use, but many people were unknowingly infected by poorly sterilized medical equipment and blood transfusions before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992. Some may also have been infected through tattoos and piercings with contaminated needles.
Patients may not want to wait, said Ryan Clary, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, a consumer group partially funded by the drug industry. Television advertisements sponsored by Gilead are encouraging people to be screened for hepatitis and to talk with their doctors about new treatment options. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C.
"If I was hepatitis C-positive and someone said there's this great treatment, but can you hold off because you're healthy and it might bankrupt the system ... patients don't think like that," said Clary, who spoke at the forum.
Private insurers, as well as those serving Medicaid patients, are wrestling with how to cover the new drugs. Many say they will require prior approval and may be limited to the sickest patients. Some Medicaid insurers have asked states for additional help in paying for the drugs.
A draft report prepared in advance of the San Francisco forum estimates that if every patient in California with advanced liver damage were treated, the cost would be $6.3 billion.
The panel's recommendations — including votes on questions about the effectiveness of the new treatments compared with older regimens — will be released within a month.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, whose tenure has been marked by controversial decisions on immigration policy and a contentious relationship with the White House, says she will not seek another term in office.
As The Arizona Republic explains, to run for a second full term, the Republican would have had to mount a legal challenge to the state's term limits. In 2009, as dictated by the line of succession in the Arizona constitution, Brewer, then secretary of state, completed the final year of Democrat Janet Napolitano's term. Napolitano left office to become President Obama's Homeland Security Secretary.
Brewer won reelection in 2010. The Republic adds:
"Brewer made the announcement on her home turf, at Park Meadows Elementary School in Glendale, at an event attended by students and current and former Brewer staffers. A banner hanging behind the podium read 'Champion of the Arizona Comeback.'
"'I'm saddened to be leaving this post next year but I'm proud of the remarkable progress we've made for the state,' Brewer said, adding that being governor has been her 'proudest role.'
"'I will continue to champion and cheer Arizona from the sidelines,' she said."
Nationally, Brewer will be remembered for championing a law that asked police to check the immigration status of those stopped for another violation. The Obama administration argued that the law usurped the responsibilities of the federal government.
Brewer took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 2012 sided with Obama administration when it struck down a key part of the law.
That decision was preceded by a tense confrontation with President Obama on the tarmac of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Brewer said Obama confronted her over how she described a 2010 meeting in her book Scorpions for Breakfast. Brewer wrote that during that 2010 meeting Obama lectured her on immigration.
When they met on the tarmac in 2012, there were fireworks that culminated with an AP photograph of Brewer pointing at Obama in an animated manner.
More recently, the Republican stalwart surprised many by vetoing a bill that "would have allowed business owners in her state to refuse to serve gays and others if those customers somehow offended the proprietors' religious beliefs."
Update at 3:14 p.m. ET. So, Who's Running?
The Washington Post reports on who is vying for Brewer's spot:
"Several Republicans have already lined up to run for Brewer's seat including Secretary of State Ken Bennett and state Treasurer Doug Ducey. Democrat Fred DuVal has the inside track on other side. Republicans are favored to hold the seat given Arizona's conservative tilt."