Business

Economy
6:21 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Mortgage Giants Ease Down Payments For First-Time Homebuyers

A new directive from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 8:05 pm

A federal directive will go into effect Saturday making it easier for some Americans to come up with a down payment to buy a house.

The vast majority of home loans are guaranteed by the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The regulator in charge of Fannie and Freddie will allow first-time homebuyers to put down as little as 3 percent.

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Business
4:26 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Low Gas Prices Expected To Continue As Crude Oil Drops To $58 A Barrel

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 6:16 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shots - Health News
1:43 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Confusion Over Job-Based Insurance Can Shortchange Consumers

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 7:20 am

Misunderstandings about whether some types of job-based coverage disqualify consumers from signing up for subsidized insurance through the health law's marketplaces may lead some people to buy skimpier employer plans instead.

In recent weeks, some of the people called assisters, who help shoppers find coverage, say consumers are being told by employers that their bare-bones plans meet the minimum requirements under the law. That kind of insurance would cover preventive benefits, for instance, but might leave out prescription drugs and emergency care.

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The Two-Way
1:23 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Wealth Gap Between Races Widened During Recession, Study Says

Occupy Wall Street protesters join a labor union rally in Foley Square before marching on Zuccotti Park in New York's Financial District in 2011. A new report shows that wealth inequality between whites and nonwhites grew during the Great Recession.
Jason DeCrow AP

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 3:50 pm

The Great Recession has widened the wealth gap among white, black and Hispanic Americans, with median net worth in white households increasing to 13 times that for African-Americans, a new Pew Research Center study shows.

The study also shows that from 2007 to 2013, the wealth of white households has grown to 10 times that of Hispanic households.

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Technology
5:18 am
Fri December 12, 2014

After Law Requires Payments To Papers, Google News Shuts Down In Spain

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 2:40 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Economy
4:35 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Controversial Budget Bill Would Roll Back Dodd-Frank Provision

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 6:39 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Planet Money
4:35 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Iceland Experiments With A Jubilee Of Debt Forgiveness

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 6:39 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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The Two-Way
2:29 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

'Cromnibus' Spending Bill Passes, Just Hours Before Deadline

The U.S. Capitol is seen at dusk Thursday. The House approved a massive spending bill just hours before a midnight deadline to fund the federal government.
Shawn Thew EPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 8:08 am

Post updated at 9:38 p.m. ET.

A massive federal spending bill finally won the House's approval Thursday night, less than three hours before a midnight deadline that threatened a federal shutdown. The measure's fate had been in doubt after it narrowly survived a rules vote earlier in the day. The final tally was 219-206.

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NPR Ed
9:57 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Community College Programs Can Lead To Big Payoffs — In The Right Fields

Dental students use practice dummies Aug. 27 in a newly renovated section of Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Mich. Health care is one field for which a recent study found that a community college degree produced a strong financial return.
Zach Gibson MLive.com/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:54 pm

When it comes to higher education, we've all heard the talking points: More people than ever are pursuing four-year degrees — despite skyrocketing tuition costs — because they don't have many other choices if they want to be competitive in the workforce.

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Politics
5:15 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Pension Deal In Spending Bill Will Cut Benefits Before Safety Net Fails

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:13 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Around the Nation
3:54 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Here's Why Retailers Keep Sending You Catalogs

The number of catalogs mailed in the U.S. peaked in 2007, according to the Direct Marketing Association. It's come down since then, but last year it reached 11.9 billion.
NPR

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 7:51 pm

Many things made with paper have become relics because of computers and the Internet: the Rolodex, multivolume encyclopedias, even physical maps.

Now take a look in your mailbox or somewhere around your house. There's a good chance you'll see a shopping catalog, maybe a few of them now that it's the holiday season.

"I ignore them," says Rick Narad, a professor at California State University, Chico. "I get them in the mail sometimes, and they don't make it into the house. I walk past the recycling bin, and they go right in."

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The Two-Way
6:07 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Stocks Are Battered As Oil Hits Another 5-Year Low

Today was another big day for energy news: Oil prices fell to a new five-year-low, below $61 per barrel on world markets; the U.S. said its supplies of crude oil increased last week; and OPEC said it expected lower demand next year.

The news prompted a selloff on Wall Street. Jim Paulson, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, tells our NPR's Newscast unit investors fear global economic tumult.

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The Two-Way
12:53 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Detroit's Bankruptcy Is Over, Michigan's Governor Says

Gov. Rick Snyder speaks today flanked by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (left) and emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Snyder said that the nation's largest municipal bankruptcy will end at midnight.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 1:59 pm

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said today that Detroit's bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, will end at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday.

"The financial emergency in the city of Detroit will be defined as wrapping up today," Snyder said at a news conference in Detroit.

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The Salt
4:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Mexican Megafarms Supplying U.S. Market Are Rife With Labor Abuses

At the end of the day, Roma tomatoes are ready for transport in Cristo Rey in the state of Sinaloa. Half the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico.
Don Bartletti Los Angeles Times

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 9:06 pm

"Product of Mexico" — it's a label you see on fruit and vegetable stickers in supermarkets across the U.S.

It's also the name of an investigative series appearing this week in the Los Angeles Times.

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Economy
4:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Cheap Crops Mean Tight Times For Midwest's Fledgling Farmers

Like many beginning farmers, Grant Curtis wants to invest in his operation, but expectations of low prices are tying his hands.
Abby Wendle Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 6:18 pm

Farmers who just got into the business in recent years found it was a good time to both plant and harvest.

"We were all spoiled little brats the past two years, with $5, $6, $7 corn, yep," says farmer Grant Curtis.

He's sitting in the captain's chair of his combine on a brisk, overcast day in western Illinois. He's driving back and forth over rows of corn on his family's farm. Then he arcs the 80,000-pound machine off course towards a single stalk he missed.

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The Two-Way
7:42 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Congress Will Get A $1.1 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill This Week

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 10:10 am

Faced with a Thursday deadline to finance the U.S. government, leaders of both parties in Congress have worked out a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government until October 2015. But a vote isn't likely to come before the day of the deadline.

Update at 8:45 p.m. ET: Welcome, Cromnibus: Bill Is Published

The House Committee on Appropriations gives an overview of the newly published bill:

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Law
4:16 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Employers Are Not Required To Pay For Security Time

The court's ruling came Tuesday in a case involving Amazon warehouses and a temp agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Hourly workers were required to wait in line for an average of 25 minutes after they clocked out.
Ross Franklin AP

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 5:03 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that companies do not have to pay workers for time spent in anti-theft security screening at the end of a shift.

The decision is a major victory for retail enterprises and manufacturing businesses that could have been on the hook for billions of dollars in back pay for time spent in security screenings.

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Parallels
2:19 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Argentina: Where Cash Is King And Robberies Are On The Rise

A newsstand owner counts Argentine pesos in Buenos Aires. Many Argentines carry large amounts of cash, saying they do not trust banks. This has contributed to a surge in robberies.
Leo La Valle AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 6:30 pm

Leonel Kaplan, an Argentine jazz musician, often has to travel abroad.

Before a recent trip to Europe, he went to a bank in Buenos Aires to change money and then went to get a haircut. Kaplan felt happy and relaxed and took the bus home after what had been an uneventful trip.

That, however, was about to change.

"As I get down from the bus, a motorcycle with two people wearing helmets cuts me off," he recalls. "One gets off and takes out a gun and says to me directly, 'Give me the 500 euros you got in the bank.' "

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Governing
5:11 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Sources: FAA May Require Licenses To Fly Commercial Drones

Amazon is developing an unmaned aircraft project that it hopes will deliver purchases in 30 minutes or less. The FAA has been struggling to write regulations for such aircraft, but is expected to release rules this month.
AP

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

Drones, drones, drones.

Everybody wants one. Amazon, to deliver packages, Hollywood to shoot movie scenes, agriculture interests to monitor crops.

And everyone is waiting for the FAA to issue regulations as to how commercial drones might be allowed to operate in the U.S. Those regulations are supposed to come out by the end of the month.

The FAA has been struggling to write the rules for unmanned aircraft for several years. In 2012, Congress told the agency to get on with it and set a deadline for final regulations by September 2015.

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Business
5:11 am
Tue December 9, 2014

That Nest Egg Needs To Last As Long As You Do. So How Do You Start?

While people can often estimate how much they might need for 10 or 15 years of retirement, that calculation becomes more difficult for retirement that could last 20 years or more.
Gary Waters Ikon Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 6:22 pm

Retirement for baby boomers will look different than it did for their parents — Americans are living longer, health care costs more, fewer people have pensions today, and many people facing retirement haven't saved much.

All of that makes managing the nest egg you do have even more vital. But many people need and want guidance on what they should do to make sure their retirement savings last.

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Economy
5:06 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Some Liberals And Tea Partiers Unite To Oppose Trade Deals

Protesters of varied stripes and political affiliations gathered outside the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative where negotiators from 12 nations were meeting to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
James Clark NPR

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 6:15 pm

When it comes to environmental regulations, taxes and the minimum wage, business groups generally object to President Obama's positions, while liberals support him.

But one issue blurs the usual political lines: trade.

Just last week, Obama told the Business Roundtable he would push to complete massive trade deals with both Asian and European nations. "If we can get that done, that's good for American businesses," he said.

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Business
4:58 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

GOP Leaders: Gas Tax Hike Could Fuel Fixes To Bad Roads And Bridges

Thomas Harden of Chicago pumps gas into his truck. He says he wouldn't support a gas tax increase.
David Schaper NPR

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 1:57 pm

Gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years. The price at the pump in many states is almost a full dollar cheaper than it was last spring.

So some politicians think this is a good time to raise gasoline taxes. Several states are tired of waiting for Congress to fix the federal highway trust fund, so they're considering raising gas taxes themselves to address their crumbling roads.

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Parallels
4:17 am
Mon December 8, 2014

U.S. Tech Firms See Green As They Set Up Shop In Low-Tax Ireland

The Apple campus in Cork, southern Ireland, employs 4,000 people — though its financial benefits are felt across the city. But Ireland's attractive tax laws — which have lured other industry leaders — are now under scrutiny.
Paul Faith AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 8:54 am

Here's a fact that might surprise you: All of the top 10 U.S. companies that were born on the Internet — including Google, Amazon and eBay — have overseas corporate headquarters in Ireland.

The American tech sector is huge in Ireland. It's growing rapidly — and having a huge impact on life there.

But the tax system that's fueling the growth is also infuriating some people in the U.S. and Europe — and has Ireland reconsidering its tax code.

A City, And Country, Transformed

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Asia
4:57 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

'A Universe Beneath Our Feet': Life In Beijing's Underground

Zhuang Qiuli and her boyfriend Feng Tao sit on the bed in their basement apartment two floors below a posh condominium. Since this photo was taken, the couple has moved above ground.
Sim Chi Yin VII

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 1:26 pm

In Beijing, even the tiniest apartment can cost a fortune — after all, with more than 21 million residents, space is limited and demand is high.

But it is possible to find more affordable housing. You'll just have to join an estimated 1 million of the city's residents and look underground.

Below the city's bustling streets, bomb shelters and storage basements are turned into illegal — but affordable — apartments.

Claustrophobic Living Quarters

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The Salt
5:18 pm
Sat December 6, 2014

Getting Your 'Shine On Is Becoming Increasingly Legal

Cynthia Thomas puts labels on bottles of moonshine near Union Springs, Ala., Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Last year, High Ridge Spirits — Alabama's first legal distillery since Prohibition — joined the growing trend of more than 600 craft distilleries operating around the country.
Dave Martin AP

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 9:31 pm

Moonshine might bring to mind an illegal backwoods still in the mountains of the South, carefully hidden to evade authorities. In recent years, though, legal distilleries have been popping up in sort of a moonshine renaissance — and artisanal hooch is now a thing.

In Alabama, legal moonshine starts in an 80-gallon kettle in a horse barn in rural Bullock County. The man in charge is Jamie Ray.

"This where I'd steep the grain. I'll add a sack of rye to this ... Let it seep for a couple of hours and that converts the grain to a simple beer," Ray says.

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Economy
4:47 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Labor Secretary: Job Growth Is Good, But Wages Need Help

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 6:30 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez joins me here in the studio to talk about those new jobs numbers. Welcome back to the program.

U.S. LABOR SECREATRY THOMAS PEREZ: Melissa, it's always a pleasure to be with you.

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Economy
4:47 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

'Blockbuster' Jobs Report Shows 321,000 Added To Payrolls

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 6:30 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Goats and Soda
4:27 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Baby's Necklace Could End Up Being A Life Saver

Vikram is the first child to wear a Khushi Baby necklace, which will keep track of his immunizations. He's at a vaccine clinic in Rajasthan, India.
Ruchit Nagar Courtesy of Khushi Baby

Meet Vikram. He's that cute baby in the picture above. Now, take a closer look at his neckwear.

It's traditional for newborns in northern India to wear a black thread necklace as a symbol of good health and good fortune, but Vikram's got a high-tech version. The round pendant on the string is a wearable device called Khushi Baby that carries his vaccination history inside a computerized chip about the size of a dime.

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Business
3:38 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

2014: The Year When The Job Market Finally Turned The Corner

A construction worker clears wood from a platform that spans the Penn Station railroad tracks in New York City on Nov. 18. Construction jobs rose by 20,000 according to the November jobs report.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 4:23 pm

As 2014 winds down, you might want to save that calendar hanging next to the fridge.

Maybe even frame it.

After so many years of misery for the middle class, 2014 is now looking like the one that finally brought relief. The November jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department, had blowout numbers showing a surge in job creation, an upturn in work hours and a meaningful boost in wages.

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The Two-Way
8:33 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Economy Adds 321,000 Jobs In November, Unemployment Holds Steady

The number of jobs added each month, dating back to 2004.
BLS

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 10:14 am

The November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the U.S. job market continues to improve at a steady pace.

Here are the two big numbers from Friday's report:

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