What's the coolest new gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week? It's too soon to tell. But I have an early favorite for the title of oddest new gadget: the HAPIfork and HAPIspoon. They may sound like characters from a nursery rhyme, but this fork and spoon connect to the Internet and can monitor and record how you eat.
The HAPI utensils measure how long your meals last, how long you pause between each bite and how many mouthfuls of food you consume.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 3:52 pm
It's become an annual tradition: bidding up an outrageous price for a Pacific bluefin tuna during the first auction of the new year at Toyko's Tsukiji fish market.
And on Saturday, a bluefin tuna big enough to serve up about 10,000 pieces of sushi fetched a mind-boggling price: $1.76 million. That's about three times as much as last year's tuna and equates to about $3,600 per pound for the 489-pound fish.
Bank of America and Fannie Mae have agreed to settle legal issues stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis. The bank will pay Fannie Mae $3.6 billion in cash and will also spend $6.7 billion to repurchase certain mortgages sold to Fannie Mae.
Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:59 pm
We don't hear much about bank liquidity, partly because it sounds so dull. It's much more fun to talk about prop trading (fear the London Whale!) or structured finance (synthetic CDOs are crazy!).
But if you're trying to figure out how safe banks are — and how willing they'll be to make loans to ordinary people — liquidity is at least as important as other, more-dramatic-sounding corners of finance.
So the new liquidity rules global banking regulators released yesterday are a big deal for the real economy.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:26 pm
Ten of the nation's major mortgage servicing companies, including household names such as Bank of America and Citibank, have agreed to pay $8.5 billion to resolve claims that they abused some homeowners when they foreclosed on mortgages during the recent housing crisis, the Federal Reserve and the Comptroller of the Currency announced late Monday morning.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 7:43 am
Bank of America announced this morning that it will pay the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) $3.6 billion in cash and will buy back $6.75 billion worth of mortgages to resolve claims related to mortgage-backed securities sold to Fannie Mae by the bank and Countrywide Financial Corp. (which BofA acquired in 2008.
Google chairman Eric Schmidt is visiting the Hermit Kingdom, where few people have ever been allowed to access Google, let alone the billions of web pages it can search for information. Schmidt is part of a delegation led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Last week's fiscal cliff deal not only raised payroll taxes for working Americans and hiked the income tax for the top 2 percent, it also extended tax breaks and preferences for a wide range of industries and special interests. We've been hearing about this for days, and NPR's Steve Henn has even more.
Now, today's last word in business is phygital. No, that's not a word describing how you feel about two hours into watching "The Hobbit." This movie's going on and feeling a little phygital. No, it's not a feeling. It's a concept that computer manufacturer Lenovo announced over the weekend at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Designers and sisters Kate (left) and Laura Mulleavy acknowledge the audience after the Rodarte fall 2012 collection show during Fashion Week last February in New York.
Credit Fox Searchlight, Niko Tavernise / AP
In this film publicity file image released by Fox Searchlight, Natalie Portman is shown in a scene from Black Swan. Fashionistas flipped over the film's forward-thinking ballet costumes by Rodarte, sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy.
Protesters demonstrate outside a Starbucks coffee shop in London last month. Protests were held at Starbucks throughout the U.K. after it was revealed that the coffee chain had paid almost no corporate taxes for the last three years.
Credit Jacques Brinon / AP
French actor Gerard Depardieu arrived Saturday in Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. Putin offered Depardieu citizenship after the actor said he was leaving France to protest a new tax rate of 75 percent on incomes of 1 million euros and higher.
Credit Andrew Medichini / AP
During his New Year's address last week, Pope Benedict XVI decried "unregulated financial capitalism" as a source of global conflict.
Originally published on Sun January 6, 2013 8:17 am
As 2013 begins with wealthy Americans in line for bigger tax bills, they're not alone. Tax fairness takes the spotlight worldwide this year, as cash-strapped governments look to impose more of the burden on well-heeled companies, individuals and institutions, and to catch and punish tax cheaters.
This week, as the U.S. Congress averted a plunge off the fiscal precipice, British Prime Minister David Cameron sent a letter to leaders of the Group of Eight countries that make up about half of the world's economic output.
Foreign buyers are pushing the prices of prime London real estate through the roof. Neighborhoods such as West London, Kensington and Chelsea are particularly popular.
The apartments at One Hyde Park have been mostly purchased by foreign-registered buyers, according to The Guardian. It said the prices ranged from 3 million to 136 million British pounds ($4.9 million to $221 million).
Few Western countries are as conservative about home ownership as Germany, where less than half the country's citizens own property.
German banks have tough lending rules. Would-be buyers are usually asked to provide hefty down payments to secure mortgages, meaning few Germans even think about buying a home until they are settled and financially secure.
But the European debt crisis appears to be changing the traditions around home ownership. The resulting surge in homebuying, some officials warn, is driving prices too high and threatens the nation's economy.
The latest figures show December was another month of steady, moderate job growth. But for many people still struggling with long-term unemployment, the situation hasn't actually changed much at all.
For Alecia Warthen, the last eight months have been painfully stagnant.
She was the first person in her family to finish college, after growing up in one of the roughest sections of Brooklyn. She had earned an accounting degree and worked as a bookkeeper for most of the last decade.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. The new last-minute tax deal cobbled together by Congress and the White House has produced at least one surprise winner, electric companies. That's because the two sides agreed not to increase the taxes that most people pay on dividends. NPR's Elizabeth Shogren explains why that is welcome news to the electricity business.
Now, evidence that size really doesn't matter - that is, size of audience. Al Gore sold the cable channel he started, Current TV, to al-Jazeera for $500 million. How many eyeballs does the Qatari-owned news channel get for that money? Well, here's some context. Here are some TV audience numbers. When NBC came in first among the broadcast networks for viewers last week, Neilson estimated they had 7.3 million viewers.
The first key to thinking about 3-D printers is this: Do not think printer. Think magic box that creates any object you can imagine.
In the box, razor-thin layers of powdered material (acrylic, nylon, silver, whatever) pile one on top of the other, and then, voila — you've got a shoe, or a cup, or a ring, or an iPhone case.
It's miraculous to see. Press a button, make anything you want. But just how important is 3-D printing? Unlike earlier big-deal technologies (like, say, the tractor) 3-D printing won't really replace what came before.
Following years of moving jobs overseas, some companies are deciding there are benefits to manufacturing products here at home. Guest host Celeste Headlee discusses the latest jobs numbers and the new trend called "insourcing." Headlee talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Sudeep Reddy and journalist Charles Fishman.
UPDATED: 4:50 p.m. Looking for a little weekend reading? The Food and Drug Administration has just the thing. On Friday, the agency released two proposed rules designed to boost the safety of the nation's food supply, encompassing hundreds of pages.
That's right in line with economists' expectations and is another sign of steady, though modest, growth in employment. In November, employers added an estimated 161,000 jobs. The average monthly gain in 2012 was 153,000 jobs, BLS says. That's the same average as in 2011.
NPR's business news starts with a roundup of auto sales.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: We mentioned the other day that auto sales numbers for 2012 were looking like they were going to be very good. Now we have the numbers. For the auto industry, sales increased by 13 percent in 2012 and the major carmakers were profitable.
NPR's Sonari Glinton tells us why.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: 2012 brought with it the third straight year of double digit growth for the auto industry.
U.S. employers continued to add jobs at a modest but steady pace last month. Despite worries about the fiscal cliff, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent. There were no big surprises in Friday's report from the Labor Department.
The Federal Trade Commission has closed its long running anti-trust investigation of Google. While the search giant agreed to change some of its business practices, the FTC did not launch a formal anti-trust case against the company or impose any financial penalties.
California has a new law in affect this year that bars employers from forcing employees to hand over their social media passwords. Some companies have been asking for these passwords to keep tabs on employees.
Ruben Fragoso checks out appliances at Best Buy in Miami in April 2010, when Florida residents were taking advantage of a federally funded discount for Energy Star-rated appliances. Legislation just passed by Congress as part of the fiscal-cliff deal includes tax breaks for energy-efficient appliances.
Whether you're a homeowner who bought an energy-saving refrigerator last year or a company hoping to build a wind farm, the tax package Congress just approved may give you a reason to cheer.
"It's got something in there, a Christmas gift if you will, for almost everyone — American homeowners, workers who commute via transit, and manufacturers of efficient equipment like clothes washers, dryers, refrigerators," says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy.