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Slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants throughout the country employ a lot of people. About a quarter of a million Americans prepare the beef, pork and chicken that ends up on dinner tables. But some of those workers could eventually be replaced by robots. The world's largest meatpacking company is looking at ways to automate the art of butchery.

Late this fall JBS, the Brazil-based protein powerhouse, bought a controlling share of Scott Technology, a New Zealand-based robotics firm.

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Japan has made progress recently in getting more women to join the workforce. The latest numbers show a greater percentage of Japanese women work outside the home than American women. But for a rapidly aging and shrinking population, that progress may not be fast enough.

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The Paris agreement to curb climate change calls for a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels and the greenhouse gasses they emit, especially carbon dioxide.

If you hail a ride using the on-demand app Lyft, that car could one day be self-driving.

On Monday, Lyft announced a new partnership with General Motors, which is pumping half a billion dollars into the software startup and joining the board. One of the things they're doing is planning to build an autonomous fleet.

They haven't released a specific timeline on when, though in the future, when you call the on-demand car service, the vehicle likely won't have a human driver.

Volkswagen's use of a "defeat device" to fool U.S. regulators has resulted in a federal lawsuit against the company. Volkswagen has acknowledged that millions of its diesel cars worldwide relied on a ruse to skirt emissions controls.

The civil complaint was filed in federal court in Detroit, with the Department of Justice acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency — which says it hasn't yet reached an acceptable agreement with Volkswagen over how to handle a recall.

China's stock markets stumbled badly on the first day of trading in 2016, with a 7 percent plunge forcing a market shutdown. The trigger mechanism that cut the day short in Shanghai and Shenzhen was created in response to last year's market crash, which brought trillions in losses.

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Texas Businesses Adapt To Open-Carry Law

Jan 2, 2016

The celebrations for the new year also marked a new open-carry gun law taking effect in Texas. Handgun license holders in Texas will now be allowed to carry their guns in visible holsters on their hip or shoulder.

Previously, Texans wanting to carry a handgun had to obtain a concealed handgun license and conceal their weapon. With the new law, the more than 826,000 state license holders will be allowed to openly display their handguns in most public places.

When East Cleveland's emergency medical squad gets called to treat a man with a severe nosebleed, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill case.

The patient walks woozily out to the ambulance from a tan house on a tree-lined street. Anthony Savoy, the head medic, calls ahead to University Hospitals, which has the closest emergency room. Savoy wants to make sure the ER has space for the patient.

Butter-flavored popcorn oil is in high demand at Oasis Foods, a manufacturer of cooking oils, mayonnaise and other products that restaurants and distributors often purchase by the ton.

"We get a rush this time of year with all the movie-going at the holidays," says Duke Gillingham, president of Oasis, at his factory in Hillside, N.J., just west of Newark Liberty Airport.

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Last year, snowpack across the Sierra Nevada was just 5 percent of average. Up and down the West Coast in fact, the 2014-2015 season was marked by late openings, early closings and some resorts not opening at all.

This year's strong start will be good news for farms and cities down the mountain later, but it's especially promising right now for people like Andy Wirth, the resort's CEO.

He took over in 2011, a record snowfall year, only to be followed by three dry years and then last year, the driest in 1,200 years.

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Episode 674: We Cooked A Peacock

Jan 1, 2016

In the 17th century, a good spice rub was the ultimate display of wealth. Back then, people would risk their lives for a sack of cloves. Today on the show: We cook a peacock pie recipe published in 1612, in the Netherlands. We try to re-create the taste that changed the world. Also, we make claret, an after-dinner drink.

If you want to try the food and drink of seventeenth century spice barons, the recipes are below, translated from Dutch by Christianne Muusers.

Oklahoma City residents woke early New Year's Day to a magnitude 4.2 quake. Earlier this week, a magnitude 4.3 quake struck the same area.

The state isn't historically known for earthquakes, but NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit that Oklahoma "has recently seen a dramatic rise in seismic activity." Here's more:

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We change our minds about purchases a lot in the U.S., especially after the buying binge of the holidays. Returns cost retailers about $260 billion each year. That doesn't include the cost to the environment of all that producing, shipping, and throwing away.

One of the companies on the receiving end of all those returns is trying to reduce the cost to retailers, and the cost to the environment.

This was a record-breaking year for rooftop solar power. It's booming across the country. But as more homeowners make their own power, electric utilities are making less money, and that's shaking up their business model.

Utilities in two states — California and Georgia — are handling the growth of solar in dramatically different ways.

Matt Brown recently got solar panels on his Oakland, Calif., home, but it's dark out right now — his panels aren't working. So Brown's appliances are running on electricity he's buying from his utility, Pacific Gas & Electric.

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Now let's talk about a company managing bad news. Volkswagen ends the year struggling to recover after admitting it cheated on emissions tests. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

Health insurers in several big cities will take some pain out of doctor visits in 2016. The plans will offer free visits to primary care doctors in their networks.

You read that right. Doctor visits without copays. Or coinsurance. And no expensive deductible to pay off first either.

In Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and more than a dozen other markets, people seeking coverage through the insurance exchanges can choose health plans providing free doctor visits, a benefit once considered unthinkable.

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A new era in Saudi Arabia was demonstrated at gas stations across the country on Monday night: Long lines of cars stretched from the pumps as drivers filled up to beat price hikes announced by the government earlier in the day.

It was an unusual scene for the world's largest oil producer, but it underscored the economic impact of dramatically lower crude prices on a government budget that relies on it.

The swift deadline to chop government subsidies on gas, water and electricity surprised Saudis, and some stations ran out of gas and shut down in the storm of demand.

Puerto Rico will default on bond payments worth about $37 million on Jan. 1, as it struggles to contend with a mountain of debt worth $72 billion, government officials said today.

Still, the commonwealth will be able to pay off most of the $328 million it owes on its general obligation debt — but that's only by clawing back some of the money from other government sources, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla noted.

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