Civil rights advocates have long relied on a principle called, "disparate impact," to prove minorities are discriminated in housing. Now, the Supreme Court is poised to review whether it's a legitimate tool in such cases. Host Michel Martin speaks with investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has written about the issue for ProPublica.
All right. And our last word in business today is snakebite.
Over the next couple of weeks skies in many parts of Asia will be lit up with fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Year of the Dragon is ending and Sunday marks the start of, yes, the Year of the Snake.
We'll begin NPR's business news starts with strong winds in Spain.
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GREENE: Spain has a pretty good location in the south of Europe. They are accustomed to good weather, plenty of sunshine, clear skies and wind - which the country is putting to good use. Spain has become a leader in renewable energy.
In fact, the countries wind farms have broken a new record, as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.
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Boeing engineers in the Pacific Northwest are voting on whether to authorize a strike. The labor dispute is playing out against a dramatic backdrop. Here, the engineers are needed, now more than ever, to help fix the batteries on Boeing's flagship 787 Dreamliner.
As Ashley Gross of member station KPLU reports, that's given the engineers something that is rare for unions, these days - leverage.
Congress likes to say it no longer does earmarks, the provisions that direct federal dollars to serve local interests or campaign supporters. And though that may be true, it's also a fact that targeted provisions are still useful in moving legislation — even critical legislation like the bill that pulled Washington back from the fiscal cliff last month.
The National Transportation Safety Board says the battery fire on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner was caused by multiple short circuits in a single cell, but it still doesn't know what caused the problem. The NTSB also says the process the FAA used to approve the plane needs to be reviewed.
Movies are big business in China, and 2012 was another record year: Theaters raked in about $2.7 billion, pushing China past Japan to become the world's second-largest market.
Those blistering sales were expected; China's ultimate box-office champ, however, was not.
Hollywood blockbusters usually do well in China. And last year, competition was stiff, including a new installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.
Thursday marks the beginning of New York Fashion Week, where big-name designers like Michael Kors, Anna Sui and Vera Wang will debut their Fall 2013 collections. It's part of an industry that generates billions of dollars of revenue for New York City, employing hundreds of thousands of workers. But the real business of fashion happens several blocks south of the glamorous Lincoln Center runways,in New York's Garment District.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 8:16 pm
Germany was the world's most future-oriented country in 2012, followed by Switzerland and Japan, according to the "Future Orientation Index." Researchers found that in Germany and 10 nations last year, more people used Google to search for "2013" than for "2011."
The 11 countries represent a gain over 2011, when only seven countries had as many searches for the upcoming year as for the prior one.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 12:54 pm
Lower-calorie foods are driving growth and profits for chain restaurants, according to fresh research, suggesting that people are making smarter choices when it comes to burgers and fries.
We're still ordering the burger and fries, mind you. But we're going for smaller portions and shunning sugary drinks. French fry sales dropped about 2 percent from 2006 to 2011, while sales of lower-calorie beverages rose 10 percent, the study found.
NPR's business news starts with Boeing's battery problem.
Boeing's new fleet of Dreamliner 787 aircraft is grounded. But there is one in the air right now. The FAA cleared the plane's flight this morning from Fort Worth, Texas to Seattle. Engineers at the Boeing factory there will study the plane's lithium ion batteries and look for ways to reduce fire risk. Regulators around the world grounded the Dreamliner last month after batteries overheated on two planes. Only crew are aboard the 787 currently on its way to Seattle.
And we have news of another fire sale. Our last word in business today is the buy of a lifetime.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That's what some are calling the sale of a 20-acre estate outside Cedar Falls, Iowa, which sold for a winning bid of around $600,000. The precise amount was not disclosed. One expert says to build something like that estate today would cost $1.5 million.
In exchange for multibillion-euro bailouts, Greece was required to sell state-owned assets. But the sweeping privatization process is behind schedule. In addition, European governments are nervous that Chinese, Russian and Arab companies are lining up to take advantage of the Greek fire sale.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 5:12 pm
What do the Kansas City Royals, C. Everett Koop, Jack Nicholson and the United Methodist Church all have in common?
Turns out the Major League Baseball team, the former surgeon general, the actor and the denomination's general board and church society are all enemies of firearms, and as such have made it onto the National Rifle Association's list of "National Organizations With Anti-Gun Policies."
Epic water battles are the stuff of history and legend, especially in the West. And as a severe drought drags on in the Midwest, a water war is being waged over a river that irrigates agriculture in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.
It's that last border crossing where this water war is under way. Kansas has gone to the Supreme Court to argue that Nebraska uses too much water from the Republican River, and that there's not enough left for Kansas farmers.
The economy may be on the rebound, but life is getting tougher for some people in the middle class. With rising gas prices, insurance costs, and higher payroll taxes, people are feeling squeezed. Host Michel Martin asks if there's any financial relief in sight.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 12:29 pm
Update at 2:25 p.m. ET. It's Official:
Praising Sally Jewell as an executive who turned outdoors equipment retailer REI into one of the nation's most successful and environmentally conscious companies, President Obama just said he is nominating her to be his next interior secretary.
Noting that Jewell, who in a previous job worked as an engineer for Mobil, has also climbed mountains in Antarctica, the president joked about that being "just not something I think of doing."
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 11:30 am
Business leaders involved in homebuilding, oil drilling or automaking are happy about the way 2013 has kicked off. Lower- and middle-income consumers, on the other hand, are feeling like the year has kicked them in the head.
"Consumers have not rebounded with the arrival of the new year," says Ed Farrell, director of consumer insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center. "Middle-income Americans were particularly hard hit this month and appear to be losing ground."
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 4:07 pm
Wednesday, Hasbro announced that it was welcoming a new member of the Monopoly-token family. And because it asked the Internet, it wound up with a cat. (For whatever reason, the Internet was not offered Gotye or a bacon cupcake.)
GREENE: The U.S. Postal Service has just announced the end of first class mail deliveries on Saturday. It is part of an effort to slow enormous financial losses. And NPR's Yuki Noguchi has come into the studio to tell us what all this means for customers and the Postal Service. And Yuki, so when will my Saturday deliveries stop?
Monopoly players, your game will never be the same. Hasbro, which has been making the for some 80 years, is retiring a game piece. The iron will no longer be passing Go or stopping at Park Place. The company ran a Save Your Token campaign, and only eight percent of respondents fought for the iron. The winner? That little Scottie dog, who may prefer the old iron to the token replacing it - a cat - though players using the cat may get nine chances to win.
NPR's business news starts with a big cable buyout.
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GREENE: Liberty Global is the cable company owned by American media mogul John Malone. Malone is about to have a much broader reach. His company already operates in 14 countries. And now Liberty Global has reached a deal to buy the British cable company Virgin Media for about $16 billion.
We're also tracking a story that federal authorities call one of the biggest credit card fraud rings in U.S. history. Eighteen people are alleged to have created an elaborate web of fake identities and sham companies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.