Business

Parallels
10:37 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Like It Or Not, Scotland's Drama May Hit Your Wallet

The Saltire, the flag of Scotland, flies near the Union Jack in Gretna in Scotland. Some economists say Thursday's vote on Scotland's independence could have wide-ranging economic impacts.
Andy Buchanan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 4:37 pm

Does news of Scotland's independence vote make your eyelids feel heavy?

Americans may feel a yawn coming on when told of a political squabble playing out in a distant land less populated than metro Atlanta.

But economists say this Thursday's vote is no snoozer. You may wake up to find its outcome has triggered another global financial upheaval.

To understand the risks to your economic health, let's first review a couple of basics:

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Your Money
5:17 am
Tue September 16, 2014

With Debt Collection, Your Bank Account Could Be At Risk

Conrad Goetzinger and Cassandra Rose struggle to pay their bills as $760 is garnished from their paychecks every two weeks by debt collectors. Twice, Goetzinger's bank account has been emptied by collectors after he failed to payoff a loan for a laptop.
Eric Francis AP for ProPublica

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 8:36 am

Kari Fiotti moved back to Omaha, Neb., in 2009 after a decade living in Italy. She had divorced her husband and returned to the U.S. to start a new life.

Then, Fiotti, 44, took a pricey fall.

"When I came back, I fell and I broke my wrist without insurance," she says.

Her doctor, she says, rejected her offer to make partial payments. So, like millions of Americans, her debt — which had grown to $1,640 with interest and fees — was turned over to collectors.

Fiotti soon learned how hard they would try to collect her unpaid bills.

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Energy
3:43 am
Tue September 16, 2014

With U.S. Oil Supply Climbing, Some Call For End To Export Ban

Pump jacks are seen in an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation near Lost Hills, Calif. Much of the U.S. oil industry wants to lift an export ban that followed the 1970s energy crisis.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 10:37 am

An oil drilling boom that has made the U.S. the world's leading oil and petroleum product producer has some people urging an end to the four-decade ban on exporting domestic crude.

Some in the oil industry are launching a campaign to lift the ban, and they hope to win over a skeptical public.

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Business
5:11 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

With Turmoil Roiling Abroad, Why Aren't Oil Prices Bubbling Up?

A soldier guards a pipe en route to the Kawergosk Refinery near Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, in July. Fighting in northern Iraq forced the closure of the country's largest oil refinery, Baiji, and cut production from the Kirkuk oil field this summer.
Safin Hamed AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 8:32 am

The price of oil has been falling — a drop that you may already have noticed at the pump. Gasoline prices have dropped noticeably since June, and oil is now well below $100 a barrel.

That decline has happened even as conflicts have flared in or near oil-producing regions. Normally, oil prices are expected to spike higher amid turmoil — so why have they been trending lower?

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Your Money
5:04 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Millions Of Americans' Wages Seized Over Credit Card And Medical Debt

Kevin Evans relaxes in his small apartment after arriving home from work. Evans, who lost income and his home in the recession, is now having his wages garnished after falling behind on his credit card payments.
Colin E. Braley AP for ProPublica

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 10:52 am

Millions of Americans are still grappling with debt they've accumulated since the recession hit. And new numbers out Monday show many are having a tougher time than you might think.

One in 10 working Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 are getting their wages garnished. That means their pay is being docked — often over an old credit card debt, medical bill or student loan.

That striking figure comes out of a collaboration between NPR and ProPublica. The reporting offers the first available national numbers on wage garnishment.

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Goats and Soda
4:28 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Philip Morris Sues Uruguay Over Graphic Cigarette Packaging

Smoking has declined by about 4 percent annually in Uruguay since the country required graphic warnings on cigarette packages.
Matilde Campodonico AP

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 8:08 am

Shopping for cigarettes in Uruguay isn't a pleasant experience. Photos of decaying teeth, premature babies and gruesome hospital scenes wrap around every pack. In fact, the country requires manufacturers to cover at least 80 percent of the packaging with medical warnings and graphic images.

Cigarette giant Philip Morris International sees this requirement as a violation of a treaty law. So it's suing the country of Uruguay for $25 million.

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The Two-Way
2:47 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

Heineken Owners Reportedly Rebuff SABMiller's Purchase Offer

Visitors look at old boil tanks at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam last month. As it celebrates 150 years of brewing, Heineken has also reportedly rejected a takeover offer from SABMiller.
Lex Van Lieshout EPA/LANDOV

Originally published on Sun September 14, 2014 8:08 pm

In a move seen as a way to fight off a potential takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev, large brewer SABMiller has reportedly offered to buy Heineken. The family that controls the Dutch-based brewer rejected the idea, according to Bloomberg News.

Citing "people with knowledge of the matter," the business news agency says SABMiller made its offer in the past two weeks. The two companies would not comment on the story, but Bloomberg portrayed it as part of SABMiller's strategy to remain a competitor to AB InBev — instead of becoming one of its many acquisitions.

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Goats and Soda
1:22 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

In The Quest To Make A Difference, 'A Path Appears'

In Malawi, Biti Rose Nasoni used a CARE microsavings program to start a business selling doughnuts.
Nicholas D. Kristof Random House

Everyone wants to "make a difference" but with an overwhelming array of charitable causes and organizations, the question is: how? Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn set out to find the answer in their new book, A Path Appears.

They profile a nurse in West Virginia who helps a teenage mother through the tough early days of parenting. And they tell the story of a woman in Africa who gets a small loan and starts a business that supports her family.

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Goats and Soda
8:20 am
Sun September 14, 2014

Africans Are Introduced To The Blood Pressure Cuff

Esther Okaya has a health problem that is a growing concern in Sub-Saharan Africa: high blood pressure.
Gregory Warner NPR

Originally published on Sun September 14, 2014 2:40 pm

Some blame witchcraft. Others think it's a bad batch of moonshine.

But Esther Okaya, who lives in Korogocho, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, says even teetotalers are falling victim. One minute quarreling with a neighbor; the next minute, dead.

And it's happened to her.

Okaya's husband left her. He took the money for her children's school fees. A few mornings later, her 9-year-old son shuffled home after being turned away by the teacher.

And then she felt it. It was as if her heart seized up. She could not breathe.

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Planet Money
4:21 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

When Investors Buy Alibaba Shares, They Won't Get What They Paid For

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 6:32 pm

When the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba goes public, it's going to the biggest public offering ever. When investors buy their shares, however, they won't be buying an ownership stake in Ali Baba's profitable websites. Instead, they will be buying shares in a holding company based in the Cayman Islands. It's illegal for Chinese Internet companies to accept investment from outside the country, but Alibaba has found an ingenious way to still get the $20 billion they want from outside investors.

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All Tech Considered
2:43 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Apple Takes A Swipe At The Credit Card

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday. The company unveiled a new mobile payment system called Apple Pay, which uses security built into the latest iPhones.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 10:40 am

It started with the iPod. In 2001, Apple promised to do away with stacks of CDs and put 1,000 songs in your pocket. Thirteen years later, the music industry is unrecognizable: Most brick-and-mortar record stores have closed, and a pocket-size hard drive filled with music seems quaint in a world with YouTube and Spotify.

We didn't know it at the time, but the introduction of the iPod began Apple's shift from Macs to consumer electronics, which resuscitated the ailing computer-maker's fortunes and helped transform it into the world's most valuable company.

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Shots - Health News
11:44 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Health Costs Inch Up As Obamacare Kicks In

Whoa!
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 2:45 pm

Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.

But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.

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The Salt
9:07 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Food Is Cheap, At Least Compared With 4 Years Ago

Soybeans in a field in Springfield, Neb., on Wednesday. The nation's corn and soybean farmers will bring in by far the largest harvest ever this year, driving down the price of the commodities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Nati Harnik AP

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 2:30 pm

Around the globe, it's become easier for people to buy food. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization is reporting that its global food price index has now fallen to the lowest level in four years. That's because of good weather and big harvests in places like North America, Europe and China.

Almost all of the major food commodities have become less expensive: grains, vegetable oils, sugar and dairy products. Dairy prices, in fact, are down by almost 20 percent, compared with their peak a year ago.

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Business
6:47 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Survey: Companies Hold Back On Hiring Full-Time Workers

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:03 pm

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Economy
6:40 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Additional EU Sanctions Target Russia's Actions In Ukraine

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:03 pm

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Planet Money
3:29 am
Fri September 12, 2014

A Dozen Puffins Will Get You 800 Mackerel: Inside The Weird Economy Of Zoos

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:03 pm

Under the endangered species act, buying or selling an endangered animal requires a permit. The permits are hard to get — even for zoos and aquariums.

But there's a loophole.

"If I donate or loan an endangered species to you, I need no permit," says Kris Vehrs of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

So a barter system has sprung up among zoos and aquariums to trade animals without using money. They even do it with species that aren't endangered. But barter can be complicated.

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Goats and Soda
3:24 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Fast-Moving Ebola Slows Down Liberia's Economy

Not every business has been hurt by the Ebola epidemic: Stephen Kollie says his newspaper stand is thriving because people are hungry for the latest Ebola information. But many of his usual expatriate customers have left the country, he says.
Tommy Trenchard for NPR

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 10:30 am

Postwar Liberia had struggled back onto its feet in the past decade, after the civil war, and was just catching its collective breath when Ebola landed. One of the lasting effects of Ebola on the country is likely to be its impact on the economy.

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Goats and Soda
3:21 am
Thu September 11, 2014

The Alibaba Effect: How China's eBay Transformed Village Economics

Handsome Zhang — that's his real name in Mandarin --€“ runs a shipping company, one of many supporting businesses spawned by East Wind village's furniture industry. The shipping business helped Zhang, 25, buy this Kia sports car.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 10:58 am

The Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba is poised this week for what could be one of the biggest IPOs in Wall Street history. One reason Alibaba has been so dominant in China is its business-to-consumer platform, Taobao, a sort of Chinese eBay.

Last year, Taobao and Alibaba's brand-name retail site, Tmall, drove nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in transactions.

Along the way, Taobao has even transformed village economies.

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Law
7:54 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Ferguson's Plan To Cut Back On Court Fees Could Inspire Change

A line of people wait to speak during a meeting of the Ferguson City Council on Tuesday. The meeting was the first for the council since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a city police officer.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 11:02 am

Here are just a few of the fees the city court in Ferguson, Mo., can bill you for:

There's a fee to plead guilty. That's $12.

You even pay for your own arrest warrant.

"The sheriff can charge you for the mileage that it costs them to serve a bench warrant," notes Alexes Harris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington.

Each individual fee may seem small, but there are at least a dozen, and they add up. Harris, on her computer, pulled up Ferguson's municipal code.

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America's Changing Mall Culture
3:22 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Here's What's Becoming Of America's Dead Shopping Malls

New transit-oriented, mixed-use walkable downtowns, like this one in Rockville, Md., are often replacing indoor shopping malls and strip malls that once defined suburban America.
Federal Realty Investment Trust Courtesy of WDG Architecture

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 10:56 am

Chances are your local mall is hurting. There are roughly 1,200 enclosed malls in the U.S. and only about a third of them are doing well.

Online shopping, the recession and demographic shifts are some of the factors killing shopping malls. And as these changes leave behind huge concrete carcasses, they're being "reimagined" into everything from medical centers to hockey rinks.

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The Salt
2:23 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Why Food Pilgrims Will Wait Four Hours For A Taste Of The Sublime

Aficionados line up outside Hot Doug's, a gourmet hot dog diner in Chicago, in May. Owner Doug Sohn has announced that he will shut the doors in October after nearly 14 years.
M. Spencer Green AP

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 12:04 pm

During a trip to Austin, Texas, last year, Sarah Grieco and her friends stood in line for two hours to taste the famously delicious smoked meat at La Barbecue.

Before that, Grieco, 25, says she queued up for pork belly pancakes in Seattle, and ramen burgers in New York. And she and a friend waited three hours for the flashy cronut at Dominic Ansel Bakery.

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Economy
5:06 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Is The Economy Suffering From Secular Stagnation?

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 8:11 am

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

The Two-Way
6:52 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Harvard Study Says Economy Is 'Doing Half Its Job.' Guess Which Half

People wait to sign up for unemployment Sept. 3 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, N.J., where thousands of workers at the closing Revel and Showboat casinos recently were laid off.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 11:36 am

Need more evidence that the U.S. economy is moving on two tracks? A new Harvard Business School study, released Monday, may confirm your fears.

The report, "An Economy Doing Half Its Job," involved a survey of 1,947 alumni. The Harvard-educated business leaders expressed concerns about U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. But they were far more optimistic about the future for U.S. corporations than for that of workers, the survey showed.

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All Tech Considered
1:38 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Try This On For Size: Personal Styling That Comes In The Mail

A standard "trunk" from men's online styling service Trunk Club.
Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 11:43 am

These days, you don't have to be a model — or a real housewife of reality TV — to have a personal stylist. You can get one online, for a reasonable monthly fee. The services, in which clothes are picked out for you and sent in the mail, are catching on among the time-starved and the fashion-challenged. Like my editor, Uri Berliner.

"Most days I couldn't even tell you what clothes I have on, what color they are," he says.

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Parallels
3:26 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Archaeologists Chase Private Funds To Preserve Greek Antiquities

The youths of Ancient Messene once trained at this Doric stadium, which cost more than $3 million to restore. It's one of the most impressive and popular ancient sites in Greece, in part thanks to an infusion of private funds.
Joanna Kakissis NPR

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 3:22 pm

About seven years ago, just as Greece was falling into its worst recession in a half-century, veteran archaeologist Xeni Arapogianni made an important find in a forest of olive trees above the city of Kalamata, in the southern Peloponnese.

"It was an asclepio, an ancient healing center, but one that has not been recorded in any ancient or modern source," says Arapogianni on a recent day, as she walks on the bone-white stone foundation. "It's an entirely new discovery. And it tells us a lot about the ancient city that it came from."

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The Two-Way
5:00 pm
Sat September 6, 2014

China's Alibaba Could See $155 Billion Valuation In U.S. IPO

Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma delivers a speech during the Softbank World 2014 annual forum in Tokyo in July. Alibaba is preparing for a multi-billion-dollar stock offer on the New York Stock Exchange.
Yoshikazu Tsuno AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 7, 2014 11:08 pm

Preparing for its initial public offering, e-commerce company Alibaba estimates its stock will sell for $60 to $66 a share. The retailing giant will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, in what's expected to be one of the biggest IPOs ever.

NPR's Zoe Chace reports:

"Alibaba says that it expects to raise about $24 billion in the IPO — and yeah, that would be the biggest. More than Google, Facebook, Visa — the heavyweights.

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Strange News
3:42 pm
Sat September 6, 2014

The Kid Who Crowdfunded His College Education — In 1987

"I honestly believe," argued Mike Hayes, "that no one will feel that it's a hardship to send a penny to me."
Aron Hsiao iStockphoto

Would you give a penny to help a deserving stranger attend college?

A plethora of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending services such as Kickstarter and Upstart have grown up in recent years to help you answer that Sally Struthers-esque question and to provide prospective college students with a host of options for soliciting donations and loans from friends, family members and total strangers.

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Economy
4:44 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

A Disappointing Jobs Report May Mask Economy's Strength

Jessica Pimentel fills out an application during a job fair in Sunrise, Fla. The latest employment numbers indicate a slowdown in job growth, but many economists are skeptical that the economy is weakening.
Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 8:39 pm

The latest employment numbers indicate a slowdown in job growth, but many economists aren't buying it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that only 142,000 jobs were added in August. That's way below what analysts had expected. And many economists don't think it represents the true strength of the U.S. economy.

Economists from across the country voiced skepticism about the government's data.

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Economy
5:02 am
Fri September 5, 2014

How Close Is The Economy To Full Employment?

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 11:55 am

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

Business
3:28 am
Fri September 5, 2014

In Market Basket's Win, Did Workers Change The Game?

Market Basket meat manager Bob Dietz of Methuen, Mass., (center) and other workers celebrate after watching a televised speech last month by restored Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas at a store in Chelsea.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 10:58 am

Labor unions are looking for lessons in the recent worker victory at New England supermarket chain Market Basket. By using Internet technology to rapidly coalesce around a single demand, nonunion workers forced a sale of the company to their beloved CEO.

"I've never seen anything like it, that's for sure. And they prevailed, which is even stranger. They took on this and forced these people to sell their shares to this one guy," says Dennis Irvin with United Steelworkers Local 12012. "It's amazing, totally amazing!"

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