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On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess."

Episode 647: Hard Work Is Irrelevant

Sep 13, 2017

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Most companies reward hard work. This is why people get paid overtime, and why full-time workers make more than part-time ones.

But, if you think about it, hard work alone says nothing about how much value you create. You could be toiling day and night, and be mostly useless to your employer. To your employer's bottom line, what really matters isn't how much you put in, but what you deliver.

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Last week, as Irma approached, Tesla increased the battery life of its electric cars to help drivers evacuate. As Julia DeWitt from our Planet Money podcast reports, this was a welcome surprise that also raised some questions in the minds of Tesla owners.

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On a clear day, Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich can see Mount Adams from the vineyard where she works in Hood River, Ore. But lately, she's had difficulty seeing to the end of her property line.

With the Eagle Creek Fire burning along the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River has been cloaked in heavy smoke for more than a week. The fire now covers roughly 36,000 acres and has been burning since Sept. 2. Fire crews don't expect to be able to contain it until the end of the month.

FDA Moves To Rein In Drugmakers' Abuse Of Orphan Drug Law

Sep 13, 2017

The Food and Drug Administration is changing the way it approves medicines known as "orphan drugs" after revelations that drugmakers may be abusing a law intended to help patients with rare diseases.

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The organic eggs in your grocery store are supposed to come from chickens that have year-round access to the outdoors. That's according to long-standing organic regulations.

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The Department of Transportation released its revised guidelines on automated driving systems Tuesday, outlining its recommended — but not mandatory — best practices for companies developing self-driving cars.

Roughly half of Florida's homes and businesses remained without electricity on Tuesday, two days after Hurricane Irma plowed through the state. A lot of the business recovery efforts there will depend on how quickly power can be restored.

On her way to work Tuesday morning, Carol McDaniel, vice president of human resources for the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, made her way through darkened neighborhoods.

When the worst of Irma's fury had passed, Gene McAvoy hit the road to inspect citrus groves and vegetable fields. McAvoy is a specialist on vegetable farming at the University of Florida's extension office in the town of LaBelle, in the middle of one of the country's biggest concentrations of vegetable and citrus farms.

It took a direct hit from the storm. "The eyewall came right over our main production area," McAvoy says.

Early leaks of new designs had stirred anticipation for Apple's new smartphone — and on Tuesday Apple delivered on all the predictions with a $699 iPhone 8 and a $999 special-edition iPhone X (as in "10"). The 10th-anniversary iPhone is the biggest redesign in years, with an all-screen front that eliminates the home button and can use facial recognition to unlock the display.

But it was the new Apple Watch that got Wall Street — and many tech observers — excited on launch day.

Now that Hurricane Irma has left Florida, gasoline supplies are slowly coming back into the state. But thousands of gas stations remain closed anyway.

That's because with electricity out throughout the peninsula, even stations that have access to gas have no way to get it into people's vehicles.

"Power is the issue. Most of these gas stations don't have backup generation that can allow the pumps to work," says John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital, an energy investment firm.

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Today at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple CEO Tim Cook made a dramatic introduction.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM COOK: This is iPhone 10. It is the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.

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Tesla owners who were in Hurricane Irma's path in the Southeast recently got an unexpected boost to help them, after the carmaker remotely upgraded vehicle batteries to their highest capacity.

The boost gave customers' cars an extra 30 to 40 miles, but it's also temporary: The batteries will lose their extra juice this weekend.

The move came at the request of a customer who was worried about traffic and the range between charging stations during a massive evacuation that saw millions of Americans leave their homes in Florida, Georgia and neighboring states.

Ever bought a car? Applied for a job? Checked your credit score? Then you’re probably in the system. The U.S. credit system.

Updated at 3:47 p.m. ET

President Trump is hosting a dinner at the White House Tuesday night for a bipartisan group of senators. On the menu: his plan to overhaul the tax code.

Republican leaders in the Senate are making plans to advance tax legislation on a simple, party-line vote. But after dissenting Republicans torpedoed the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump is eager to line up some Democratic supporters for insurance.

Crowds poured into the streets in major cities across France to protest changes that President Emmanuel Macron wants to make to the country's labor code, waving flares and brandishing signs with sarcastic slogans such as "slackers of all nations unite."

The show of opposition, led by the far-left union CGT, is seen as the first major test for the recently elected leader.

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There has been yet another twist in a long-running scandal in Brazil. It has engulfed many of the rich and powerful, including several former Brazilian presidents. NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Rio de Janeiro.

Americans owe more than ever before, with household debt hitting a record of nearly $13 trillion. And auto loans, home loans and credit card debt are all still on the rise, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That has some economists saying the lessons of the bubble of borrowing in the run-up to the Great Recession have already been forgotten.

Journalist Franklin Foer worries that we're all losing our minds as big tech companies infiltrate every aspect of our lives.

In his new book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, Foer compares the way we feel about technology now to the way people felt about pre-made foods, like TV dinners, when they were first invented.

Pollinators such as bees play a key part of producing the beans that go into your morning cup of coffee.

In fact, they are responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of coffee production by increasing the plants' yield, Taylor Ricketts, the director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, tells The Two-Way. Bees actually increase the quality of the beans by making their size more uniform.

France's busiest port, Boulougne-sur-Mer, sits just across the English Channel from Britain, in the Calais region.

Seagulls glide above scores of brightly painted boats docking to unload the catch of the day — mainly sole but also cod, roussette, crab and scallops.

It's all sold at a bustling seaside market where Marie-Laure Fontaine sells seafood from a fishing boat called Providence.

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Back in 2007, the hype around Apple's new phone was all about the keyboard — or lack thereof.

"In fact, some experts think the days of the telephone keypad are numbered," NPR's Laura Sydell wrote in advance of the release of the very first iPhone by Steve Jobs. It's fair to say, the forecast triumph of the on-screen keyboard has proved true (RIP BlackBerry Classic).

Cancer drugs cost far less to develop than industry-backed research asserts, an analysis published Monday asserts. Research and development costs are a major reason that drug companies justify high prices, so this dispute has a direct bearing on the cost of medical care.

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