Barges last month crowded an area on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis where barges are stored, loaded and unloaded. Shippers worry that the drought-shrunken river could shut to barge traffic entirely this month.
Credit Alan Greenblatt / NPR
George Foster, president of JB Marine, says he hasn't had to lay off any of his 110 employees but wonders when he'll see enough barge traffic to keep all of his workers busy. Along the affected stretch of the Mississippi River, some 8,000 jobs are thought to be at risk.
Credit Alan Greenblatt / NPR
The offices of JB Marine, a barge cleaning and repair business that is located atop an empty barge just south of St. Louis, now lean at a 30-degree angle because the Mississippi River levels are so low.
Credit Alan Greenblatt / NPR
The river has fallen fast enough that barges have been beached along its banks outside St. Louis.
Credit Alan Greenblatt / NPR
"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature," says Larry Rowe, captain of a JB Marine boat. People along the Mississippi are hoping for significant snowmelt to raise the water levels.
Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 10:53 am
The Mississippi River has provided George Foster with a living all his life. Now, with the river dropping to historically low levels, it's threatening to take his business down with it.
Foster's office sits atop an empty barge on the river, just south of St. Louis. His building tilts at a 30-degree angle because the water is so low. Visitors may want to stick out their fingertips for balance walking down his narrow hallway.
You practically can't visit a news site these days without seeing a story about why President Obama should or should not order the Treasury Department to strike a platinum coin "worth" $1 trillion and deposit it with the Federal Reserve.
Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne. A travel group in Britain is advertising a six-month job with an intriguing set of qualifications: comfortable in swimwear, happy to get wet at work. And this is key: mad about water parks. The job is water slide tester at the company's Splash World Resorts in places like Majorca and Turkey. It pays just okay, but the gig does promise plenty of thrills before the water slide tester retires that swimwear. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
And today's last word in business goes out by special request to people listening in their cars. A new study finds that the music you listen to can affect how safely you drive.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Researchers at London Metropolitan University studied how drivers reacted to different playlists over 500 miles. Some of the safest music, we're told, included tunes by Norah Jones and Elton John. They're soft and slow-paced.
And there's more trouble for Foxconn, the electronics giant which makes Apple products in China. The company is acknowledging that Chinese police are looking into allegations that Foxconn employees took bribes from parts suppliers.
Television makers are trying to find the next big thing that will get you to throw out your current TV and buy a new one. They thought it might be 3D TV. That didn't work out. So now they've come up with something new. They're showing it off this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which is where we found Rich Jaroslovsky. He writes about technology for Bloomberg News, and he told us about the newest new viewing experience.
Tsiferblat, or Clockface Cafe, in Moscow draws a young crowd, from students to entrepreneurs. The cafe provides Wi-Fi, printers, books and art supplies. Drinks, snacks, atmosphere and the space are free. All customers pay for is time.
Credit Corey Flintoff / NPR
Ivan Meetin, 28, has opened nine Clockface Cafes in Russia and Ukraine. He calls his entrepreneurial experiment "the social network in real life."
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is releasing Thursday much anticipated new mortgage rules, which will restrict the kind of subprime lending practices that caused both the financial and housing sectors to crash five years ago.
The new rules come at a time when regulators and banks are trying to find a middle ground between overly lax and overly tight lending standards.
Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 3:34 pm
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is resigning, opening up one more slot in President Obama's second-term administration. A former member of Congress, Solis was the first Hispanic woman to head a Cabinet-level agency.
Sophisticated hacking attacks on U.S. banks in recent months have distinctive qualities that are leading investigators to believe another nation may be behind the assault. The likely suspect is Iran, which officials believe may be trying to even the score for American hacking of its nuclear program.
At least nine U.S. financial institutions have been hit since September; more attacks are expected. And part of what makes them suspicious is that they seem calculated not to steal account data or money, but instead to disrupt the banking system.
The MaKey MaKey invention kit includes a plan for making a "banana piano," helping the Kickstarter project make it to the site's best-of-2012 list. Kickstarter says 2.2 million people pledged nearly $320 million in 2012.
Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 1:54 pm
Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site that pairs indie-minded inventors and entrepreneurs with online investors, fully funded more than 18,000 projects in 2012, according to its end-of-year analysis. The site says that in total, more than 2.2 million people pledged a total of nearly $320 million. For the year, 17 projects raised more than $1 million.
Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 11:02 am
Some kids can't get enough of online games where they can pretend to run a candy factory or decorate cakes. But children who play with these games may eat more, and eat more junk food, even if the game features fruit or other healthful choices, according to new research.
You might be feeling a bit hung over from all the 'fiscal cliff' negotiations. But the financial talks in Washington aren't over yet. In the coming months, the White House and Congress will face three major economic challenges. Host Michel Martin breaks down what you need to know for the next round of fiscal talks.
Originally published on Thu January 10, 2013 4:46 am
Update: At 6 a.m. ET. Jan. 10, White House Announcement:
The White House has officially confirmed that President Obama will nominate his chief of staff, Jacob "Jack" Lew, to be the next Treasury secretary. According to a statement, the announcement is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET today (Thursday).
Target says it will match the online prices of Amazon.com and others. Target knows that increasingly consumers are using mobile devices to check prices online as they cruise the aisles. And if the price is better somewhere else, that's where they'll buy it.
The Consumer Electronics Show opened this week in Las Vegas. It's supposed to give the world a glimpse of what's coming next in technology. But the absence of major consumer-technology companies such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, has led some to wonder whether CES still matters.
Insurance company AIG holds a board meeting Wednesday to consider joining former CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's lawsuit against the government over its handling of the AIG bailout in 2008. For more on the suit, Steve Inskeep talks to business reporter Michael de la Merced of The New York Times.
Alcoa, the biggest aluminum producer in the U.S., has announced it posted a profit of more than $240 million in the last three months of 2012. That's a big improvement from the same quarter the year before when it lost $190 million.
A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet aircraft is surrounded by emergency vehicles while parked at a Terminal E gate at Logan International Airport in Boston on Monday. A small electrical fire filled the cabin of the JAL aircraft with smoke about 15 minutes after it landed in Boston.
Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 3:44 pm
A fuel leak Tuesday on a Tokyo-bound Japan Airlines flight forced the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to cancel takeoff and return to the gate at Boston's Logan International Airport. It was the second incident involving a Dreamliner in two days.
Here's how Logan airport described the incident on its Facebook page:
Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 1:24 pm
In the European Union, unemployment rates in the region that uses the euro currency are at their highest ever, as a returned recession, falling income levels and persistent debt concerns trouble the region's economy, as its latest statistics show.
After nearly five years of economic crises, the European Union is also seeing more divergence between its member nations, particularly in the north, where economies have resilience, as opposed to the south, where unemployment rates are an average of more than 7 points higher.
A man enters a UBS bank in Hong Kong last month. The Swiss banking giant agreed in 2009 to identify the names of its U.S. account holders, part of a push by banking regulators to make it harder to hide income.
Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 5:43 am
Time was that a Swiss bank account was synonymous with confidentiality and keeping assets from prying eyes. No more.
Last week, Switzerland's oldest bank, Wegelin & Co., pleaded guilty in a New York court to helping Americans hide $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service over a decade-long period. Wegelin's plea, and a $57.8 million fine, forced the bank to shut its doors. It follows a $780 million settlement with UBS in 2009 that forced the Swiss banking giant to identify the names of its U.S. account holders.
Some other news: Some of the biggest banks in the country have agreed to pay more than $18 billion to settle allegations of wrongdoing in their mortgage lending. That's today's "Business Bottom Line."
Bank of America said yesterday it would pay more than $10 billion to the mortgage company Fannie Mae because of bad loans sold during the housing boom. And in a separate settlement, 10 banks agreed to pay more than $8 billion in total, to settle claims that they made errors in foreclosing on people's homes. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
Samsung Electronics announced profits of more than $8 billion for the final quarter of 2012. Samsung's Japanese competitor Sony unveiled a water resistant smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
In Australia, McDonald's is nicknamed Macca. Executives of the burger chain are allowing some McDonald's restaurants there to change their signs to read "Macca's." But the change is only temporary, in honor of Australia Day later this month.
Kodak cameras and related products will be back in the marketplace this year, but they won't be made my Kodak. The photo pioneer stopped making digital cameras about a year ago. Now it is licensing its name to another camera maker.
Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 4:51 am
Federal officials along with investigators from Boeing are trying to determine what caused a fire to break out on a new 787 jet parked at the Boston airport Monday. The fire, in an auxiliary power unit, is just the latest in a string of electrical systems problems on Boeing's flagship airplane.