If you want to send a bunch of oranges by truck from Florida to Baltimore, no one cares who made the truck. Or if you want to fly computer chips across the country, it's fine if the plane is made in France. But if you want send cargo by ship, there's a law that the ship has to be American made.
Here's why: a 90-year-old law, called the Jones Act. Every time you want to send something from one US port to another, the cargo must travel on a ship built in the US, staffed by mostly Americans, and flying the American flag.
Today on the show, we look at the all the unexpected places this law pops up: on cruise ships, cattle farms, and in New Jersey, where a guy really, really needs salt.
A federal judge dropped charges on Wednesday against an Indian diplomat because she enjoys diplomatic immunity.
As Krishnadev reported back in January, the case of Devyani Khobragade, who was indicted on charges of falsifying visa documents for her Indian maid, "sparked a diplomatic row between India and the U.S."
According to a grand jury indictment, Khobragade said she was going to pay her maid $9 an hour. She actually paid her $3.
The indictment noted that Khobragade allegedly made "the Victim often work up to 100 or more hours per week without a single full day off, which, based on the promised salary of $573 per month, would result in an actual hourly wage of $1.42 per hour or less."
When American authorities arrested Khobragade, she was handcuffed and strip-searched.
Indian officials demanded an apology. Ultimately, the U.S. asked Khobragade to leave the country.
"The judge's ruling said Devyani Khobragade had diplomatic immunity when she was indicted on charges of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her housekeeper and lying about the maid's pay. But the ruling leaves open the possibility prosecutors could bring a new indictment against her.
"The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan didn't immediately comment on its plans.
"Khobragade's attorney, Daniel Arshack, praised the ruling.
"'The judge did what the law required, and that is: that a criminal proceeding against an individual with immunity must be dismissed,' Arshack said. 'She's (Khobragade's) hugely frustrated by what has occurred. She is heartened that the rule of law prevailed.'"
A New Jersey judge likely made history this week when he released an opinion that found women can keep the biological father of their children out of the delivery room.
NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports the ruling involves a couple who got engaged after the woman became pregnant but later broke up. The man sued for the right to be present at the birth of his child. Jennifer filed this report for our Newscast unit:
"The case was argued by telephone — while the New Jersey woman was in the hospital to give birth.
"The judge ruled that requiring the father's presence would pose 'unwarranted strain' on the mother.
"He cited a patient's right to privacy and a pregnant woman's right to control her body. The ruling says women also are not obligated to inform a father when they're going into labor. Some fathers' rights groups say the decision is discriminatory. The New Jersey ruling applies only to biological fathers not married to the mother.
"Across the U.S., more than 40 percent of births are outside marriage."
The Newark Star-Ledger digs deep into the opinion, which was made public Monday. The paper reports that Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed writes that this is likely the first opinion of its kind in the United States .
Mohammed, the paper reports, based his opinion on two landmark Supreme Court cases — Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — related to abortion.
"The high court established in those rulings that an expectant mother has a stronger right over her body and over her unborn child than the father. A court majority in Casey ruled that women are not even required to tell their spouses about abortions, Mohammed noted.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court has also struck down a law requiring that minors notify their parents before they get abortions, ruling in 2000 that the law infringed on those minors' privacy rights.
"In light of the court rulings, Mohammed wrote, it strains logic to ask a pregnant woman to notify the father when she goes into labor."
The Affordable Care Act — which many see creating challenges for businesses — could benefit a particular group of business people: entrepreneurs.
Joshua Simonson was reluctant to give up his job at a Portland, Ore., area grocery store, New Seasons Market, which he says had provided excellent health care for him and his family. He had a pre-existing condition that has prevented him from getting insurance in the private market, but one key development helped convince him to quit and start a farm.
"One of the biggest factors was the Affordable Care Act," Simonson says, "that our family would be able to be covered by health care starting the beginning of 2014."
Now, the young entrepreneur runs a 26-acre farm near Sheridan, Ore., where chickens till through the flower beds and goats graze on the lawn. He has 3,000 egg-laying hens, whose eggs he and his partner will sell in the Portland metropolitan area. Soon, they'll add pigs and raise chickens for meat.
It had been hard to leave a job that provided health care, especially since he had trouble getting coverage in the past.
"I was ineligible for any health care. I'd been denied by five different companies because I have back problems," says Simonson, who's broken three vertebrae in his back. "Nobody wanted to cover me because of that."
Economists call what held Simonson back job lock, or entrepreneur lock.
"Entrepreneur lock has proven to be a significant barrier to potential entrepreneurs," says Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship.
"To the extent the Affordable Care Act unlocks that job lock — that entrepreneur lock — one effect is to provide a boost to entrepreneurship overall," Stangler says.
The U.S. system of employer-provided health care deterred people from quitting a job to start their own business, says Susan Gates, one of the authors of a study by the Rand Corporation in 2011.
"People considering leaving a job with good health insurance faced a daunting challenge in purchasing health insurance on the individual market," Gates says.
The study concluded that this particular challenge was reducing the number of entrepreneurs. The study also calculated that making health insurance more accessible and affordable in the individual market could increase self-employment and entrepreneurship by a third.
"There's no question that the health exchanges provide a set of opportunities that didn't previously exist," Gates says.
Stangler believes the ACA could help boost employment by creating somewhere around 25,000 additional new businesses each year. He's not overly concerned that the employer mandate for companies with 50 or more workers might hurt entrepreneurship: Few companies ever get that big, he says.
The ACA could actually help small firms compete for employees, Stangler says, because they could essentially use the exchanges as their health insurance plan. However, Stangler does worry that by limiting the availability of inexpensive catastrophic policies, the ACA could raise costs too high for some entrepreneurs.
A bill aimed at punishing Russia for sending its forces into Crimea by imposing sanctions on Moscow and providing economic aid to Ukraine has passed a key vote in the U.S. Senate.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-3 to pass the measure that authorizes $1 billion in loan guarantees to the new government in Kiev as well as the freezing certain Russian assets in the U.S.
The three votes against the bill came from Republican lawmakers whose "objections include how the U.S. will pay for the loan guarantees and provisions in the bill expanding the lending authority of the International Monetary Fund," The Associated Press says.
The bill also directs the Obama administration to help the new Ukraine government identify and recover illegal assets claimed by the country's ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, as well as members of his family and government.
The committee's chair, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, writes in The Washington Post:
"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has miscalculated by starting a game of Russian roulette with the international community, but we refuse to blink, and we will never accept this violation of international law.
"The unity of purpose displayed at the U.N. Security Council, by the European Union and the Group of Seven nations in support of Ukrainian autonomy and in opposition to Russian authoritarianism demonstrates the world's outrage and will serve as a call to action."
"If approved by the full Senate, the bill would have to pass the House to become law. Even if it passes, the bill is not expected to be finalized until later in March; Congress leaves Washington on Friday for a week-long recess.
"The Obama administration has been pushing Congress for a year to approve a shift of $63 billion from an IMF crisis fund to its general accounts to maintain U.S. influence at the lender and make good on a commitment from 2010.
"Some Republicans worry about the IMF's lending to richer European nations and possible losses on loans by the fund.
"Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he opposed including the IMF reforms in the bill. 'This legislation is supposed to be about assisting Ukraine and punishing Russia,' he said in a statement."