Wonkbook: What you need to know about Obama’s possible inversion intervention

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Correction: Yesterday's Wonkbook improperly stated the number of Americans who appear on a U.S. government database of known or suspected terrorists. That number is 25,000 Americans or legal residents. 


(Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 9.8 million. That's the number of people who changed their racial or ethnic identity on Census forms in some way between 2000 and 2010.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: This chart shows how consumers are skimping on spending as though the recession never ended.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) Inversion intervention; (2) wrapping up the Africa summit; (3) drug dilemmas dissected; (4) legal marijuana fallout; and (5) our robot overlords or coworkers?

1. Top story: The Obama administration's possible tax inversion intervention

Administration may take action against companies that incorporate overseas to lower taxes. "About three weeks after Secretary Jacob J. Lew said officials had scoured 'obscure provisions' and determined that Treasury couldn’t act on its own, the department said yesterday it had begun exploring its options. In an inversion, a company moves its legal address outside the U.S. to lower its tax bill, typically by buying a smaller company....Treasury’s statement puts companies on notice for possible new rules, even as Lew continues to push for legislation. It also alters the prospects for at least eight U.S. companies with pending inversions as well as dozens of others that have carried out the transactions and might become subject to limits on their American operations." Richard Rubin in Bloomberg.

Explainer: These are the companies abandoning the U.S. to dodge taxes. Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

Why it's tough for Congress to act: Every loophole has its lover. "Businesses complain that the high federal tax rate of 35 percent on corporations is what propels them to exploit every opportunity to shave their tax bill. And Washington is listening: Lowering that nominal rate in exchange for pruning the crop of special-interest deductions is a principle embraced by President Obama and Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee. But the truth, explains Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat...is that 'businesses all want to get rid of the other guy’s tax deductions — and reduce rates.'" Patricia Cohen in The New York Times.

Obama aides let firm use inversions as part of auto bailout. "While executives continue to run Delphi Automotive Plc from a Detroit suburb, the paper headquarters in England potentially reduces the company’s U.S. tax bill by as much as $110 million a year....The Delphi case also highlights how little attention the administration paid to the tax avoidance technique until recently. Only this year did Obama include a measure in his annual budget proposal to prevent some tax-driven address changes....Thanks to gaps in a Congressional ban on contracts with inverted companies, his administration continues to award more than $1 billion annually in government business to more than a dozen corporate expats." Zachary R. Mider in Bloomberg.

One way the effort might work: 'earnings stripping.' "When a U.S. company acquires a foreign firm, and decides to domicile overseas in a low-tax country like Ireland, it will often load the U.S. subsidiary up with debt that is 'owed' to the foreign headquarters. Interest payments on this debt can often be deducted from taxable income. If the debt is considered 'excessive,' the practice is known as “earnings stripping.'...The Obama White House has already proposed that Congress pass a law that would effectively end such... arrangements, but Congress hasn’t acted. The Treasury Department could instead decide to act unilaterally to prohibit the practice, effectively by amending 163(j) in the tax code." Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.

Foreign firms are pushing back. "Talk of cracking down on U.S. corporations that move offshore is making some other companies nervous — notably, foreign-owned concerns, which are warning of cuts to their U.S. employment or investment if they're caught in the cross hairs....Foreign firms' concerns could complicate efforts to move against inversions. They could also encourage policy makers to adopt relatively narrow restrictions that would leave the U.S. vulnerable to tax avoidance." John D. McKinnon in The Wall Street Journal.

Why did Walgreen's back down from its inversion move? "Walgreen Chief Executive Officer Greg Wasson said the company...ultimately could not overcome concerns about 'the potential consumer backlash and political ramifications' if the Internal Revenue Service challenged the move. The U.S. Treasury, too, is exploring methods to discourage such inversions by U.S. companies. Walgreen also faced the significant risk of lost business with the U.S. government, Wasson noted, given the company’s heavy reliance on reimbursements from Medicare. For many analysts, however, the company’s decision to remain based in the U.S. was overshadowed by a weak outlook for much of the next two years." Justin Bachman in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Is the inversion wave just beginning? "So far this year, about a dozen U.S. companies...have merged with foreign firms and shifted their headquarters offshore to avoid U.S. taxes, analysts say. Dozens of additional deals are in the works, according to administration and congressional officials, and other companies are quietly contemplating the move. Last month, CVS Caremark chief executive Larry Merlo met with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and urged him to act to stop the rash of expatriations. Otherwise, Schumer said that Merlo warned him, CVS 'might be forced to do it, too,' to duck a total tax bill expected this year to approach 40 percent." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

The biggest winners in the inversion wave: lawyers. "Shayndi Raice of The Wall Street Journal has a story...on 'How Tax Inversions Became the Hottest Trend in M&A.'...Raice explains that tax and M&A lawyers from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a giant New York firm, took a bike trip to Southern France in 2010, when merger activity — and hence legal fees — had fallen off. The lawyers were looking for ways to boost business. And they hit upon one....The Skadden, Arps lawyers came back from their bike tour and started pitching bankers at J.P Morgan Chase & Co, Deutsche Bank and Perella Weinberg Partners, Raice reports. And those banks started pitching the idea to clients in Europe." Yuval Rosenberg in The Fiscal Times.

BARRO: Inverting the debate. "There is a third option...abolishing the corporate income tax and increasing the tax burden on shareholders. The economists Alan Viard and Eric Toder have a plan to do this; they would offset repeal of the corporate tax by taxing dividends and capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income, and by taxing those gains every year, not just when the stock is sold. The big disadvantage of the Viard-Toder plan is that it would lose revenue....The Viard-Toder plan has a number of advantages; for example, it would end the tax incentives that encourage corporations to finance themselves with debt instead of equity. Another big plus is that it would make inversion pointless." Josh Barro in The New York Times.

SCOTT: How do you solve this kind of problem? "What is the solution to inversions? There probably isn’t one in the short term. As Sullivan has pointed out before, until the political calculations change on Capitol Hill, which would require significantly more public demand, both anti-inversion and earnings stripping legislation are long shots. So those craving some kind of congressional intervention should root for major, brand-name companies (like Walgreens) to explore or propose inversions. That’s the only way voters will take notice and influence rank-and-file Republicans to actually care about the issue." Jeremy Scott in Forbes.

GARVER: Corporations aren't patriots. The tax code is the problem. "For hundreds of years, people have remarked on the futility of expecting corporations to behave as though they have some sort of conscience....So, the Obama administration’s recent push for 'economic patriotism' as an antidote to the trend of 'corporate inversions'...feels like little more than an attempt to wring some political advantage from a problem that can really only be solved through legislation. Specifically, through corporate tax reform." Rob Garver in The Fiscal Times.

Top opinion

KRISTOF: Fighting Ebola for us all. "Some people have blamed Brantly and another American missionary infected, Nancy Writebol, for bringing the danger to themselves, even objecting to their return to Atlanta to be treated for the disease at Emory University Hospital....On the contrary, this Ebola outbreak underscores why we have not only a humanitarian interest in addressing global health, but also a national interest in doing so." Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

SALAM: The coming private transit revolution. "Consumer protection, the chief justification for the regulation of taxi services, is baked into Uber’s business model, as drivers and passengers rate each other, and Uber doesn’t allow drivers who fall below a certain rating to make use of the service while drivers have the discretion to not pick up passengers who’ve been deemed abusive or otherwise problematic by other drivers. Uber doesn’t just illustrate how excessive regulation retards innovation — it illustrates how new business models can render certain (not all) regulations obsolete." Reihan Salam in National Review.

MORRISSEY: No, the tea party still isn't dead. "This dynamic — of conservative challengers, win or lose, forcing longtime incumbents to be more conservative — seems to be lost on the media....But look: The true test of the Tea Party won't be in primary victories this week or this year, but in the impact of the conservative grassroots movement on the Republican Party. We have already seen incumbents who have rarely if ever had to deal with intraparty challengers shift their focus and message in response. The lack of banner wins in 2012 certainly didn't persuade most of these incumbents to dismiss that pressure — in fact, the ones who succeeded most were the ones who prepared soonest and most vigorously." Edward Morrissey in The Week.

WEISSMANN: The dangerous plan to make college cheaper by busting 'the college cartel.' "The hope is that once Washington breaks the hold of today’s accrediting agencies, new, high-tech approaches to education can flourish....Any conversation about fixing our broken accreditation system needs to think about both sides of the equation: making room for new ideas and pushing out bad ones. Right now, the majority of politicians are focused mostly on the first half, which should worry us all. You can talk about smashing the cartel all you want. But I’m not sure anybody would be happy with what might take its place." Jordan Weissmann in Slate.

AZIZ: Let's trade the corporate tax for a pollution tax. "If we love the fruits of entrepreneurship...why disincentivize them with a tax? After all, shareholders in corporations (as well as customers and employees) already pay taxes on their income and capital gains....Well, cutting the corporate tax to zero right now would blow a big hole in the government's finances....But there's no reason why that cannot be made up by other taxes on things that we actually want to disincentivize. Like, rather importantly, pollution. Corporations should be taxed to some degree for the negative side effects they create, like pollution and environmental degradation. But it's not like all corporations are polluting at the same rate." John Aziz in The Week.

IOFFE: If Putin falls, the West better have a plan. "Before the West celebrates the possibility of Putin being forced from the throne, we should consider what might come after him. This is not an argument against sanctions or against political change in Russia. But the country’s history tells us that prolonged economic malaise often brings about political turmoil, the result of which has never been a democratic Russia." Julia Ioffe in The New Republic.

LANE: Obama takes cues from Lincoln on immigration. "Not since Abraham Lincoln pondered his Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 has a president considered ordering a more sweeping adjustment to membership in the American community than the mass relief for illegal immigrants that President Obama is said to be contemplating. There is obviously no analogy between slavery and the disadvantages the undocumented face today....Still, the essentially permanent presence of some 11 million people whose labor and cultural contributions benefit the United States — yet who must exist on the margins of society — creates dilemmas both practical and moral." Charles Lane in The Washington Post.

Surfing animal interlude: Pigabunga!

2. The ethical and policy dilemmas over who gets new drugs

As WHO convenes ethics panel, who should get experimental Ebola drugs? "The use of an experimental drug to treat two Americans diagnosed with Ebola is raising ethical questions about who gets first access to unproven new therapies for the deadly disease. But some health experts fear debate over extremely limited doses will distract from tried-and-true measures to curb the growing outbreak — things like more rapidly identifying and isolating the sick. The World Health Organization is convening a meeting of medical ethicists next week to examine what it calls 'the responsible thing to do' about whatever supplies eventually may become available of a medicine that's never been tested in people." Lauran Neergaard in the Associated Press.

What are some other key ethical questions? "Typically, new drugs go through years of trials before being approved for wide distribution. Even if the potential benefits far outweigh the risks, plenty of other questions remain. Given the limited quantities of many experimental drugs, how would authorities decide who receives it? Who would pay for it? Who is responsible if a drug does more harm than good?" Brady Dennis and Lenny Bernstein in The Washington Post.

Quotable: "I think we've got to let the science guide us....I don't think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful." — President Obama, arguing for improving public-health infrastructure to tackle the Ebola outbreak instead of speeding up delivery of experimental drugs. Margaret Talev and Lisa Lerer in Bloomberg.

Boston-area firm also has experimental drug it wants to try out on patients flown to U.S. "Sarepta Therapeutics says it has enough doses of its injectible drug — AVI-7537 — to treat about two dozen patients within a week and could ramp up a supply for another 100 patients within a few months. Such a move would be highly risky, but in the case of such a dangerous disease, the risks could be worth it in the eyes of some patients and their doctors." Tracy Jan and Felice J. Freyer in The Boston Globe.

So does a Japanese company. "Fujifilm’s U.S. partner MediVector Inc. in Boston is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to submit an application to begin using the drug in humans for Ebola, according to Department of Defense spokeswoman Amy Derrick-Frost. If successful, the drug would be one of the first allowed by U.S. regulators to fight the deadly disease in humans." Cynthia Koons, Kanoko Matsuyama and Robert Langreth in Bloomberg.

How the experimental-drug push clashes with FDA policies. "Even if it seems that patients have nothing to lose, the FDA has argued that its clinical trial system ultimately benefits more patients. In 2003, a patients' rights group went to court seeking expanded access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients. The Abigail Alliance argued that patients with 'desperate diagnoses' had a constitutional right to potentially lifesaving treatments that had passed an initial round of safety testing. But that would have removed a powerful incentive for patients to participate in clinical trials, FDA backers argued. A federal appeals court ultimately sided with the FDA, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case." Monte Morin in the Los Angeles Times.

More generally, should terminally ill have 'right to try' experimental treatments? "Arizona could become the latest state to allow those who are terminally ill to try experimental treatment not yet approved by the FDA. This 'right to try' ballot initiative will be put before voters in November. If passed, Arizona would join Colorado, Louisiana and Missouri in allowing the practice....There are between there 500,000 to 1 million people with terminal illness in the United States, said Victor Riches, a spokesperson for the Goldwater Institute, which is pushing for the measure in Arizona and working with potential sponsors for bills in other states in 2015." Hunter Schwarz in The Washington Post.

Another drug dilemma: Price of Sovaldi is shock to system. "When it comes to the number of patients treated, Sovaldi looks more like a mass-market drug. But when you look at its price, it looks a lot more like a specialty drug....Put those things together and you start to see why insurers and state officials are so nervous. The total estimated sales for the drug in its first year dwarf those of both cheaper mass-market drugs and more expensive specialty drugs. But Sovaldi is far from the most expensive drug currently on the market. Specialty drugs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment are becoming increasingly common." Margot Sanger-Katz in The New York Times.

Watchdog: Some Medicare 2012 spending on HIV drugs appear questionable. "The report offers a litany of possible fraud schemes, all paid for by Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D....The report raises new questions about Medicare’s stewardship of Part D. A ProPublica series last year showed that Medicare’s lax oversight has enabled doctors to prescribe massive quantities of inappropriate medications, wasted billions on needlessly expensive drugs and exposed the program to rampant fraud....Previous inspector general reports have criticized the way Medicare oversees doctors and pharmacies, but this one focuses on patients and potential fraud and abuse." Charles Ornstein in ProPublica.

Other news on the Ebola outbreak:

FDA authorizes emergency Ebola test. Monte Morin in the Los Angeles Times.

This jet was transformed into an Ebola quarantine unit. Megan Garber in The Atlantic.

The Ebola outbreak is overwhelming aid workers and scaring away reinforcements. Jason Koebler in Vice.

What does the Ebola outbreak mean for businesses? Jonathan Wood in Forbes.

Customer service interlude: Watch this prankster call out bad customer service.

3. Wrapping up the U.S.-Africa summit

Summit ends with U.S. challenging Chinese edge in Africa. "Obama’s administration sought to use the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that ended in Washington yesterday as a way to spur investment in a continent that holds some of the richest mineral deposits, fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. While China has stolen a march on the U.S., with its trade with Africa surpassing $200 billion last year — more than double that of the U.S. — contrasting investment styles mean American businesses have the potential to profit....Leaders of more than 40 African countries, business executives and U.S. officials pledged to renew efforts to boost investment." Brian Wingfield and Chris Spillane in Bloomberg.

Long read: U.S. moves to cash in on Africa's promise. Don Lee in the Los Angeles Times.

U.S. companies had actually been falling behind. "Sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed nearly 6 percent annual economic growth for the past decade. And the robust expansion is expected to endure through the decade. Ernst & Young calls Africa the world's second-most attractive market for investment behind North America. Yet as Africa gains momentum, U.S. business activity there has all but stalled. U.S. direct investment in Africa essentially flat-lined between 2010 and 2012....Over the same period, China...and the European Union...poured money into a region they see as rich with natural resources and economic potential. U.S. corporate profits in Africa fell in 2013 for a second straight year." Paul Wiseman in the Associated Press.

Africa's growing energy needs test climate-change policy. "Some of the electricity needed...would come from fossil fuels such as natural gas, which Africa has a lot of. Some of it could be through renewable energy...in the form of mini-grids that can exist apart from the main electric grid. Improving energy efficiency will also play a key role....Initiatives the Obama administration has launched to bolster energy and electricity in Africa incorporate renewable and natural gas generation. Legislation in the House and the Senate would set guidelines for improving electricity access and development in Africa. Investors...are bullish on the continent's renewable energy potential. But as African nations continue to grow and demand more electricity, nations that currently provide a bulk of greenhouse gas emissions will have to cut even further." Zack Colman in the Washington Examiner.

How security could affect Obama's Africa ambitions. "Obama...did not announce any major initiatives to combat ongoing threats of terrorism and the rise of extremist groups. Instead, he said the U.S. will continue to be a 'reliable partner' by offering training, equipment and money to help African countries counter violence....Even African leaders were torn about how much to emphasize security....In Africa, as around the globe, Obama resists pressure to intervene militarily unless U.S. interests are at risk or Americans are threatened....He said this week that he would like a more explicit plan for how NATO should engage with African countries and regional organizations so the U.S. is not perceived as trying to dominate the continent." Anita Kumar in McClatchy Newspapers.

Ebola gets its moment. "President Obama opened the last day of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Wednesday by saying the United States and its global partners will 'do whatever we can' to meet the threat of the Ebola virus." David Jackson in USA Today.

Audio: How anti-bribery laws in Europe are bringing U.S. investors to Africa. Gregory Warner in NPR.

Science interlude: Five fun physics phenomena.

4. The fallout from the fragmented legalization of marijuana

Washington state starts sales of marijuana edibles. "Washington became only the second state to permit sales of recreational marijuana edibles....The state has now certified the facilities to make the edibles, tested them for strength, contamination and consistency, and reviewed their appearance and packaging....Edibles have proved popular in Colorado, especially among people who prefer to avoid smoking marijuana. But the rollout in Colorado came with concerns, including a spike in the number of children and pets being treated for accidentally overdosing on the pot-infused foods....Washington state's regulations aim to help prevent such incidents by making edibles labeling much clearer and making it easier for people to tell how strong an edible is. Colorado is considering similar rules." Trevor Hughes in USA Today.

U.S. marijuana industry group launches first food-safety course for marijuana. "The National Cannabis Industry Association launched its first Food Safety Basics course specifically for marijuana industry professionals. It is based on a curriculum originally developed by the National Restaurant Association, and participants in Denver will learn about subjects including food borne illnesses, proper personal hygiene, how to prevent cross-contamination, sanitizing, and more." Daniel Wallis in Reuters.

States bordering Colorado grappling with spillover consequences of pot. "Just a few miles away from that dispensary is the Nebraska border — and in that state, there’s a very different view of Colorado’s social experiment. After Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use on Jan. 1, opened the floodgates for cannabis businesses and their customers, border towns are grappling with the consequences....It’s a concern not just in Nebraska, but Wyoming and Kansas — where marijuana seizures had shot up 61 percent." Gabe Gutierrez and Olivia Santini in NBC News.

Green gold rush, gray market. "The gold rush of legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington is creating a confusing market of goods and services, from illegal Craigslist pot deliveries to a marijuana vending machine and a food truck selling pot-infused sandwiches....The marketplaces are surrounded by a web of laws and regulations intended to keep buyers paying taxes and transactions aboveboard. But...entrepreneurs are flooding the market with products and services operating in a gray area. Some ventures are completely illegal but the vendors escape prosecution by trying to stay low key. Others grab headlines that are misleading at best." Trevor Hughes in USA Today.

Startups seize marijuana opportunity as fragmented laws hold back big firms. "The size of the legal cannabis industry in the United States, measured by sales of the plant, was $1.5 billion in 2013, according to ArcView, which projects it will reach $2.6 billion in 2014 and $10 billion by 2018 — figures that do not include the growing numbers of ancillary businesses. The entire industry is dominated by small businesses, Mr. Dayton said, both because it is so new and because marijuana’s legality remains murky. Banks, for example, have been reluctant to take deposits or make loans to dispensaries because the drug is still illegal under federal law." Eilene Zimmerman in The New York Times.

D.C. to vote on legalizing marijuana. "Across the country, drug laws have come under fire, with critics saying they place too many people behind bars. These laws are also criticized for disproportionately impacting minority groups. D.C. recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana....Were the voter initiative to pass, it would legalize marijuana possession without putting in place any regulation or taxation structures....The legalization effort could hit additional snags in Congress, as the federal government has special authority over the District." Michelle Hackman in The Wall Street Journal.

What's at stake? Oh, just the federal government's stance on pot. "Moving forward, pro-pot activists believe that once voters legalize possession and cultivation, chances are high the council will move to regulate the marijuana trade and the federal government could find itself forced to send a clear policy message." Hannah Hess in Roll Call.

Chart: Where Americans smoke marijuana the most. Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

Other legal reads:

On-line voting battle pits the blind vs. the blind. Greg Gordon in McClatchy Newspapers.

The path to the Supreme Court for gay marriage could depend strongly on a case in Ohio. Mark Berman and Robert Barnes in The Washington Post.

The tricky racial politics of undoing gerrymandering in Fla. Philip Bump in The Washington Post.

Long read: For a million fugitives, freedom starts at county line. Brad Heath in USA TODAY.

Wannabe human interlude: Watch this bear walk around upright like a human.

5. Should we welcome our new robot coworkers?

Will you lose your job to a robot? Silicon Valley is split  in survey. "On one side were the techno-optimists. They believe that even though machines will displace many jobs in a decade, technology and human ingenuity will produce many more, as happened after the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The meaning of 'job' might change, too, if people find themselves with hours of free time because the mundane tasks that fill our days are automated....The other half agree that some jobs will disappear, but they are not convinced that new ones will take their place....They fear a future of widespread unemployment, deep inequality and violent uprisings." Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times.

Primary source: AI, robotics and the future of jobs. Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson in Pew Research Center.

Part-time workers find full-time jobs elusive. "Their numbers remains stubbornly higher in the current economic recovery....The number of unemployed people is 24 percent higher now than it was in December 2007 when the recession began. But the number of...involuntary part-time workers...is 66 percent higher....One reason is a gap in the kinds of skills needed to find work in an increasingly technological workplace. Many employers also remain uncertain about the economy and hesitant about deeper financial commitments. And hiring part-time instead full-time employees is one way that some businesses are getting around the costs of a mandate in the health care law." Patrick Gillespie in McClatchy Newspapers.

The public is pessimistic about the economy despite its improvements. "The reason: Many are still digging out from the Great Recession. According to our poll, a combined 71% say the recession personally impacted them 'a lot' or 'just some.' When asked if it’s STILL having an effect on them, 64% answer in the affirmative....But as Americans are still digging out of the Great Recession, they don’t believe Washington has grabbed a shovel. In fact, they think the political system is making things worse. Per our poll, 71 percent say the economic problems facing the country are due to the inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done to improve the economy." Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann in NBC News.

Charts: The economy is improving a little, and Americans are taking notice — a little. Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Other economic/financial reads:

U.S. home prices slowed down in June. Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. judge tells New York bank to hold onto Argentine bond funds. Maximiliano Rizzi in Reuters.

Bank of America close to $16 billion settlement in mortgage securities inquiry. Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

Trade gap narrows more than expected. Lucia Mutikani in Reuters.

U.S. exports to Russia plummet 34 percent amid sanctions battle. Ian Talley in The Wall Street Journal.

Kids say the darndest things interlude: This child "apparently" gave an adorable interview at a fair.

Wonkblog roundup

Unemployment insurance prevented 1.4 million foreclosures. Matt O'Brien.

You can still get a taxpayer-subsidized haircut at the Senate barbershop, but manicures are out. Christopher Ingraham.

A surprising number of people change their race and ethnicity from one Census to the next. Emily Badger.

The rise of the American almond craze in one nutty chart. Roberto A. Ferdman.

These are the companies abandoning the U.S. to dodge taxes. Danielle Douglas.

Some struggling homeowners may soon find it easier to get mortgage help. Dina ElBoghdady.

Why immigrants are the best thing that happened to Medicare. Roberto A. Ferdman.

A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast. Justin Levitt.

Et Cetera

FDA's new gluten-free regulations kick in. Mary Clare Jalonick in the Associated Press.

$11 billion later, high-speed rail is still inching along. Ron Nixon in The New York Times.

Lawmakers' costly plan to fix the VA is temporary — or not. Lisa Mascaro in the Los Angeles Times.

Russia bans some foods from U.S., EU in retaliation for sanctions. Michael Birnbaum in The Washington Post.

DOT says rail insurance inadequate for oil-train accidents. Kathryn A. Wolfe in Politico.

The Obama administration is no longer seeking temporary shelters for undocumented kids. Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

Schools holding breath as migrant children arrive. Jolie Lee in USA Today.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail us.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams and Ryan McCarthy.

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