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In the chicken and pork industries, nearly every aspect of the animals' raising has long been controlled by just a handful of agriculture conglomerates. But the cattle industry is still populated by mom-and-pop operations, at least at the calf-raising level.

Here's a classic story of how a multimillion-dollar company gets started.

A young guy named Seung Bak is on a trip to China. He gets back to his hotel room late one night and turns on the TV.

"I'm flipping through channels, and in the middle of China they are showing Korean dramas all around the clock," Bak says.

Over the next two days, European leaders will gather for yet another critical summit in Brussels. They'll try to come to an agreement to boost European growth, save Spanish banks and relieve financial market pressure on Spain and Italy. Each national leader will also face a trade-off that involves sacrificing sovereignty to get economic stability.

Just imagine the political fallout: Nov. 2, only days before the election, tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of workers receive letters warning that they could be out of a job.

That's exactly what some in the defense industry say will happen if Congress doesn't act soon to reverse sequestration — the across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in January if Congress doesn't agree on a plan to cut the deficit.

Do You Lie To Your Spouse About Spending?

Jun 27, 2012

It's wedding season and that's when newlyweds get their first taste of marital bliss and marital challenges, including managing finances. A new survey for the American Institute of CPAs found that 30 percent of couples are deceitful about their spending. Guest host Viviana Hurtado finds out how couples can better manage money with Louis Barajas.

"Pending home sales bounced back in May, matching the highest level in the past two years, and are well above year-ago levels," the National Association of Realtors reports. The association says that:

There was a 1.1 percent increase in new orders for so-called durable goods in May from April, the Census Bureau says. That's more than economists had forecast, Bloomberg News reports. According to Reuters, economists thought Census would say orders went up about 0.4 percent.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Let's turn now to proposed rules to protect patients from abusive debt-collection practices, specifically at nonprofit hospitals. The rules come from the Treasury Department. They were required by the 2010 federal health law. Jenny Gold, of our partner Kaiser Health News, has more.

JENNY GOLD, BYLINE: When Deb Waldin arrived at the emergency room of Fairview Health Services, a nonprofit hospital system in Minnesota, on a scale of one to 10, she says her pain was a 12.

The collapse of the housing market has led to plenty of finger-pointing in Washington. Two easy targets are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These government-backed mortgage giants had to be rescued by taxpayers and now owe the government $188 billion. Still, Fannie and Freddie, which currently make the vast majority of home loans possible, are crucial to supporting the housing market right now.

The nation's housing crisis has touched countless people. Increasingly, the well-off are among them.

Housing counselors around the country say they are seeing more people struggling to keep their million-dollar homes. It's a twist on a familiar story of hardship — but one that involves some very big numbers.

Moving Up, Falling Down

Orbitz Targets Mac Users For Pricier Hotels

Jun 26, 2012

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You know the ads that poke fun at the hapless, square PC compared with the hip and clever Mac?

(SOUNDBITE OF AN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hello, I'm a Mac.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And I'm a PC. And I feel inadequate.

What's Driving College Costs Higher?

Jun 26, 2012

Just days before student loan rates are set to double for millions of Americans, President Obama and congressional leaders haven't reached an agreement on legislation to keep those rates at 3.4 percent.

The debate reflects the growing concern over the debt burden many take on to get a college education. About two-thirds of bachelor's degree recipients borrow money to attend college, and collectively, student debt has topped $1 trillion.

We always liked the lofty design of euro notes. Until Planet Money reader Peter Minnig wrote in to point out the secret messages hidden in the notes — clues that suggest all may not end well for the euro.

What follows are a combination of clues Minnig pointed out, and those we found ourselves.

(Sorry about that giant "Specimen" printed across the bills. We're just following the European Central Bank's anti-counterfeiting rules.)



Home prices rose in nearly all major U.S. cities in April from March, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report.

There's lots of chatter today about The Wall Street Journal's report that:

"Orbitz Worldwide Inc. has found that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see."

Which costs more, a bottle of Fat Bastard or a Tselepou (TSe-le-po)? What about a Cupcake versus some other name that's difficult for Americans to pronounce? Turns out, when it comes to wine, research suggests that the name alone can affect how much consumers are willing to pay for it. But is it that easy to dupe an oenophile?

What's A Taxi Ride Worth? You Set The Price

Jun 26, 2012

In a recession, watching the meter on a taxi tick higher and higher can be distressing. But in Burlington, Vt., the Recession Ride Taxi lets customers set their own price.

Eric Hagen is a Wall Street banker-turned-cab-driver whose one-man "pay-what-you-want" taxi service has accrued dozens of faithful customers.

'I'd Be Walking'

The Making of Meat-Eating America

Jun 26, 2012

We eat a lot of meat in this country; per person, more than almost anywhere else on Earth. (Here's a helpful map of global meat-eating.)

But why? What makes an American eat ten or twelve times more meat than the average person in Mozambique or Bangladesh?

Say you've spent years studying the real economy, with all its messiness and uncertainty. Then you stumble into a world where there's a record of everything everyone has ever done.

This, more or less, is what just happened to Yanis Varoufakis.

"It's like being omniscient," Varoufakis told me. "It's mesmerizing."

Struggling Dairy Farmers Find a 'Moo' Business Model

Jun 25, 2012

A year and a half after Aaron Bell lost his contract to sell milk to H.P. Hood LLC from his 45 cow dairy operation in Edmunds, Maine, he found himself leaving a voicemail with his lease agent.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A lot of taxpayer money is at stake in this next story. The number of public charter schools is growing. When they attract students, they also attract public funding - and that is also true when the charter school is an online school.

One dominant force in creating online charter schools is a company called K-12. Now, traditional school districts are fighting the company's efforts to set up a virtual academy.

Here's Dave DeWitt of North Carolina Public Radio.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. And I want to let you know that reporters at the Supreme Court are reading and listening to a decision this morning, on Arizona's immigration law. The Court has thrown our parts of the law, but retained the show your papers provision that allows police to stop and frisk suspected illegal immigrants. We'll bring you more as we learn it.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You know, if you're weighed down by worry, you find a distraction. That at least is what Europeans are doing amid their economic trouble. They've been turning to their favorite sport - soccer. This weekend saw the last two Euro 2012 quarterfinals. This is a huge competition viewed in Europe, as second only to the World Cup. NPR's Philip Reeves of course has been following the action. He's on the line from London.

Hi, Phil.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Hi.

Congress has a matter of days left to work out a compromise or interest rates on some federal student loans will double. Five years ago, lawmakers offered students a reprieve — by cutting Stafford loan interest rates in half — but that ends July 1.

That's left many students worried that their heavy debt burden is about to get heavier.

When Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of most major U.S. banks on Thursday, you'd have thought Friday would be a tough day for bank stocks.

But bank stocks ticked up — largely because investors were relieved. They had feared the downgrades would be worse. The Dow Jones industrial average was recovering from Thursday's 250-point drop, the second-worst of the year.

UPDATE at 10:10 a.m. EST:

U.S. stocks open up a day after their second-worst showing of the year, apparently shrugging off the concerns over banks.

Here's our original post:

NPR's Chris Arnold reports this morning on the fallout from Moody's announcement yesterday that it was cutting its rating on 15 big banks in the U.S. and Europe.

Speaking with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, Arnold called the downgrade "a repositioning of credit worthiness of almost the entire banking industry."

Fifteen major banks were downgraded Thursday in a reflection of the slowing global economy and volatility in financial markets. In a sweeping move, Moody's cut the credit ratings of some of the world's largest financial institutions, including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a budget deal in California.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This deal comes just days before the start of the new fiscal year. It cuts social programs and it would knock three weeks off of Californian's school year unless voters approve a proposal for new taxes.

Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

BEN ADLER, BYLINE: The Democrats running this year's California budget process say they have one overarching goal: to bring years of festering shortfalls to an end.

When it comes to health care, even the seemingly easy things become hard.

Take coverage for young adults under the Affordable Care Act.

Tech companies from Seattle to Silicon Valley, intent on transforming how we shop, have set their sights on the electronic payments industry.

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