And today's last word in business is: Dress like Diller.
In Beverly Hills, Phyllis Diller's estate will be auctioned off next month.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
On stage, the late comedienne dressed like a disheveled, chain-smoking housewife with freakish hair - and now some lucky bidders can too. The sale will include many of her trademark props: blond fright wigs, feather boas, ankle boots and cigarette holders.
Some Bank of America branches with drive-through tellers from Georgia to Texas have already closed the lanes, according to spokeswoman Tara Burke.
She wouldn't divulge exactly how many are closing. She did say the decision is not a cost-cutting move but a response to the way people are banking.
About 13 million customers bank by mobile phone and 29 million participate in online services. Among them is 19-year-old Brittney Sprague who says, "Not too many folks will really miss the drive-through teller because everybody uses apps. It's all about the new technology."
We'll begin NPR's business news with fallout from the Fed.
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GREENE: Stock markets across Asia fell and India's currency continued its plunge after minutes from the July meeting of the Federal Reserve were released yesterday. The records from that meeting showed that officials were comfortable with scaling back its huge bond-buying program as the economy grows stronger.
In just the past week we've seen a bunch of signs that the housing recovery is gaining steam. Data out Wednesday showed that existing-home sales rose to their highest level in nearly four years, while prices were up 14 percent from a year ago.
Retailers Home Depot and Lowe's both reported strong earnings growth and attributed that to the housing rebound.
And most important for the economy, homebuilders are hiring more workers and building more houses.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has teamed up with other tech giants to pursue the goal of providing Internet service to five billion people in the developing world. The group, called Internet.org, says data can be used more efficiently and participating partners can work cooperatively to make access to the web affordable in emerging economies. Zuckerberg makes the case on his Facebook page for how a global Internet infrastructure can be created. But the document doesn't have tangible commitments from Facebook or other participating companies.
Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 11:45 am
What's a baker to do when all foodies can talk about, on both sides of the Atlantic, is the cronut craze, a croissant-doughnut that NPR reported on earlier this year? Simple: Come up with an equally addictive hybrid dessert.
Citing the billions of people worldwide who can't access the Internet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the leaders of other technology firms are launching an ambitious project to narrow the digital divide Wednesday. The plan focuses on widening access via mobile phones.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," Zuckerberg says. "Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."
Home Depot says it has had "one of the best quarters in its recent history." It credits the recovery in the housing market. Main rival Lowes also benefited from the housing recovery, and strong demand for home refurbishings.
Among the news organizations following every development in Egypt is Al Jazeera. And now they are making a bit of news of their own. Al Jazeera America went on air yesterday afternoon, entering the crowded and competitive world of cable TV news in the United States. The new network is available in about 45 million households.
But as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, there are many people inside the industry skeptical that its promise of thoughtful and serious news coverage will woo American audiences.
Some of America's biggest retailers announced new steps yesterday aimed at improving safety standards in Bangladesh's troubled garment industry. Wal-Mart and the Gap were among the companies that formed a group called the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety after the deadliest accident ever in the garment industry.
NPR's business news starts with some home improvement.
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MONTAGNE: Home Depot says it had one of the best quarters in recent history. The number behind that claim, a 17 percent jump in earnings this past quarter. The company credited the recovering housing market in the U.S. and said spending by both contractors and regular customers was up.
And let's stay in Colorado to hear about another business traditional to the West - gold mining. After peaking a couple of years ago, the price of gold has fallen dramatically, which has forced many gold mines to close. Bucking that trend is the largest mine in Colorado - and it's expanding aggressively, taking the long view. From Colorado Public Radio, Ben Markus reports.
The American workforce is graying. And while many people aren't saving enough for retirement, that's especially true for women. Guest host Celeste Headlee speaks with reporter Paul Solman and aging specialist Helen Dennis, about a gender gap in retirement earnings.
Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 7:15 am
We told you recently about new allegations of violations at three Chinese factories that make Apple's popular iPhones and iPads. Now, we have more allegations of labor violations – this time against Apple's main rival, Samsung, and its operations in Brazil.
Farmers are getting older. In the last census taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 25 percent of farm operators were more than 65 years old. Neighbors and younger farmers would like to have their land. But for a variety of reasons, it's hard to convince an older farmer to give it up.
CEO Gary Knell announced on Monday that he is leaving NPR to take the helm at National Geographic Society. The offer was too good to refuse, Knell told NPR staffers, giving him the chance to lead a larger educational and publishing and television organization on a "global stage."
Some politicians across the country are getting crafty — trying to woo businesses to their states. But in North Carolina, it wasn't an elaborate government sales pitch that got a company in Connecticut interested in expansion. It was the state's high unemployment rate.
Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 4:25 am
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported the Justice Department is investigating the bank over improper energy trading. That follows the news that the anti-bribery unit of the Security and Exchange Commission is looking into whether JPMorgan hired the children of Chinese officials to help win business.
Shanice is about to start her job as the receptionist at a new local government office in London. She also happens to be a hologram. Officials say that at a cost of $19,000, she's much cheaper than a living and salaried alternative.
Back in this country, a major hedge fund manager, Philip Falcone and his company, Harbinger Capital Partners, have agreed to pay $18 million to settle charges over the improper use of his company's money.
As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, Falcone is also barred from the securities industry for five years.
The aid propping up both sides of Egypt's ongoing political crisis largely comes from regional rivals. Saudi Arabia leads the financial support of Egypt's military rulers. Qatar leads the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Renee Montagne talks to Max Rodenbeck, Middle East correspondent for The Economist, about funding sources
The Egyptian Exchange was shut down at the end of last week as protests and violence raged in Cairo and elsewhere. It re-opened on Sunday, but trading hours were shortened to give employees more time to get home before curfew. Many foreign investors reportedly pulled out of the exchange earlier this year.
For a long time, investors aiming for city profits have maintained that the smart money was on emerging markets. Economic growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China, the BRIC countries as they're known, has outstripped opportunities in the U.S. But in recent months, there is evidence that trend is starting to change. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports investors are turning back to markets in the U.S. and other developed economies.