Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 5:54 pm
If you think grains of rice or kernels of corn are free gifts of nature, think again. Seed companies — and the FBI — take a very different attitude, and walking off with the wrong seeds can land you in very serious trouble indeed.
In two apparently unrelated cases this week, federal prosecutors arrested citizens of China and charged them with stealing seeds that American companies consider valuable intellectual property.
Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., listens as President Obama announces his nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt was nominated in May, but Republicans blocked his confirmation until this week.
Credit Jacquelyn Martin / AP
More than 90 percent of home mortgages flow through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. Fannie and Freddie get to decide who can qualify and who can't for loans they guarantee. And they just got a new top boss.
Seven months after his was nominated, the U.S. Senate this week confirmed former Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant companies that control much of the mortgage market.
The vote occurred after Democrats changed the rules on filibusters — now the Senate can confirm presidential nominees with a simple majority.
For people who watch the U.S. housing market, Watt's confirmation is a very big deal that could mean easier credit.
Jakarta, Indonesia, has some of the worst traffic on the planet. For some local entrepreneurs, all those people stuck in their cars are potential customers.
In a middle of one Jakarta traffic jam, a guy pushes his chicken cart through the cars, clanging his pots. Men walk down the center lane selling nuts, crackers as big as your head and other treats. They're all trying to make eye contact with the drivers.
The citrus industry is facing a crisis. It's called citrus greening — a disease that has devastated orange production in Florida since it first showed up eight years ago. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new effort to try to control the disease before it destroys the nation's citrus industry.
Two agricultural scientists from China have been accused of trying to steal patented seeds from a biopharmaceutical company in Kansas.
Separately, six men from China, including the CEO of a seed corn subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate, were charged Thursday with conspiring to steal patented seed corn from two of the nation's leading seed developers, prosecutors said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
It wasn't immediately clear if the arrests were related, but The AP wrote of the group of six charged:
House Speaker John Boehner leaves a news conference Thursday, after criticizing conservative groups that he said held too much sway in Republican politics, "pushing our members in places where they don't want to be."
Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 4:05 am
The House has approved a bipartisan budget deal to cut around $23 billion from the federal deficit over 10 years while removing the threat of a possible government shutdown until 2015. A shutdown deadline had loomed for Jan. 15.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 also sets spending levels for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, which its backers say will add more stability to both the U.S. economy and the government's operations.
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Audie Cornish.
Reporters today gave White House press secretary Jay Carney a tough time over the way the administration controls President Obama's image, in this case literally by limiting the situations in which professional photojournalists get to take pictures of the president. News organizations have formally protested and NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now to explain
Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 3:57 pm
Somewhere between a food pantry and a traditional grocery store lies an opportunity to help feed those in need.
Enter "social supermarkets," a European model that offers discounted food exclusively to those in poverty. The stores have grown in popularity across the continent, and this week, the U.K. opened its first. Dubbed Community Shop, the store is located in an impoverished former mining town in South Yorkshire.
A passenger checks his cellphone while boarding a flight in Boston. The Federal Communications Commission is proposing new rules to allow using cellphones for data and voice calls during airline flights.
Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 3:04 pm
Update at 4 p.m. ET: Commissioners Approve Rules Proposal
By a vote of 3-2, the FCC has approved the initial proposal to allow passengers on U.S. flights to use their cellphones for voice calls — something that's been forbidden on U.S. flights. The vote opens the door for further consideration by the commission's five members, as well as comments from the public.
Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:14 am
Already under orders from a court to partially shut down production because of concerns that spicy smells from its Irwindale, Calif., plant are irritating neighbors' eyes, noses and throats, Huy Fong Foods has now been told it can't ship its Sriracha hot sauce until at least 30 days after bottling.
Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:18 am
Data such as the weekly figures on jobless claims are supposed to be "seasonally adjusted" to account for temporary factors that aren't really connected to the underlying strength or weakness of the economy.
But Thursday morning's report seems to underscore how hard it can be to make such adjustments.
Passengers told a virtual Santa what they wanted before boarding their flights. While they were in the air, secret shoppers at their destination hit the stores. The passengers arrived in Calgary to find their gifts on the baggage carousel.
NPR's business news starts with a bank writing another big check.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: The Royal Bank of Scotland was fined $100 million yesterday for violating American sanctions on Iran and Cuba. The bank had given its U.K. employees step-by-step instructions on how to keep transactions from being detected for sanctions violations.
Last year, the London-based banks Standard Chartered and HSBC also received fines for breaking U.S. sanctions. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
California, according to recent budget numbers, is slowly recovering from its years of multi-billion dollar budget deficits. The state is on track to turn a $2.5 billion budget surplus at the end of the current fiscal year. But that's general fund money. It does not address another gaping deficit. The state owes almost $10 billion to the federal government for money spent on unemployment benefits.
Enrollment is picking up in new health insurance marketplaces. But the 365,000 who've signed up as of November 30 is a fraction of just one high-visibility group – those whose previous insurance has been cancelled because it didn't meet Affordable Care Act standards.
They're people like Doug Normington, a 58-year-old self-employed videographer in Madison, Wis., who has struggled to buy new insurance since late October.
Some of the biggest ski resorts anywhere lie in U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' Colorado district, dotting the peaks of Summit and Eagle counties, about a hundred miles west of Denver. The area has a high rate of uninsured people and also, it turns out, health plans that are much more expensive than similar plans in surrounding regions. So expensive that Polis, a Democrat, has asked the federal government to exempt some of his constituents from the requirement to buy health insurance.
Ireland is about to become the first European country to emerge from an international bailout in the wake of the financial crisis. Like other European countries, Ireland has been in a period of austerity — higher taxes and more cutbacks.
The nation's technology sector has been protected, however, as Ireland makes a concerted effort to attract foreign businesses through tax incentives and development programs.
But Ireland's methods have also been criticized — locally and internationally.
This story is part of a project on commuting in America.
Millions of commuters across the country have a new way to get around. In the past few years, bike-sharing systems have popped up from Boston to Minnesota to Washington, D.C. They're supposed to make commuting easier, greener and cheaper. But the people who arguably need these bikes the most are often the least likely to access them.
In Mexico, Dec. 12 is the day to celebrate the country's most revered religious icon: the Virgin of Guadalupe.
As many as 6 million pilgrims have made their way to the Mexican capital to pay homage to the country's patron saint on Thursday, and one woman has taken her devotion of the Virgin and turned it into a multimillion-dollar company.
We recently published a story about how used clothes that get donated in the U.S. often wind up for sale in markets in Africa. As part of the story, we published some photos of used T-shirts we found in a couple of markets in Kenya.
Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:38 pm
Unless Congress acts very quickly, some 1.3 million workers will lose their extended jobless benefits on Dec. 28.
Democrats were scrambling late Wednesday to link an extension of benefits to a budget deal that is expected to get a vote as soon as Thursday. But if the effort fails, they will come back at it in 2014.
"We're going to push here after the first of the year for an extension of emergency unemployment insurance when the Senate convenes after the new year," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Wednesday.
Meatpacking plants used to be located in urban centers like Kansas City and Chicago. Over the past few decades, many plants have moved to rural Midwestern towns, which have seen a huge influx of immigrants as a result. Yesterday, we reported on tiny Noel, Mo., which has struggled to help assimilate the newcomers who work at a large poultry plant.