Now we turn to a scathing report on expensive conferences held by the IRS. The report by the agency's own inspector general noted the IRS spent about $50 million on employee meetings between 2010 and 2012.
NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.
WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Some of the most egregious examples of questionable spending occurred at a 2010 gathering in Southern California. The IRS paid dearly for some lavish hotel rooms, and spent $34,000 for lodging and related expenses for employees who lived nearby.
Hey mutual fund investors: Think you can beat the market? Charley Ellis, who's worked in investment management for 50 years, doubts it. That's because the fees actively managed funds charge can get expensive.
NPR's Uri Berliner is taking $5,000 of his own savings and putting it to work. Though he's no financial whiz or guru, he's exploring different types of investments — alternatives that may fare better than staying in a savings account that's not keeping up with inflation.
A U.S. trade agency says Apple infringed on its Asian rival Samsung's patent in its manufacture of some older models of the iPhone and iPad.
Bloomberg reports on the order from the U.S. International Trade Commission: "It's the first patent ruling against Apple in the U.S. that affects product sales, covering models of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3, iPad 3G and iPad 2 3G made for AT&T Inc."
Philadelphia is training owners of Chinese takeout restaurants to cut some of the salt in their menu items.
The city is working with about 200 takeout restaurants, providing free cooking lessons and tips on adding flavor without salt. None of the restaurant owners were paid to participate in the program, which offers advice such as how to find suppliers who sell low-sodium ingredients at a reasonable price. Participants are also encouraged to limit the number of soy sauce packets they hand to customers.
Smoking is expensive, and not just for the person buying the cigs. Employers are taking hard looks at the cost of employing smokers as they try to cut health insurance costs, with some refusing to hire people who say they smoke.
But figures on the cost of smoking have been rough estimates at best, with a very general estimate of $193 billion a year nationwide.
Researchers now say they're got much tighter focus on the number: $5,800 per smoker per year.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later in the program, we'll talk about a new poll about attitudes of African-Americans about issues like work, health, and relationships. It turns a lot of what you've been hearing in popular media on its head, so we hope you'll stick around for that conversation.
One week after the S&P/Case-Shiller indices showed a 10.9 percent jump in U.S. home prices from March 2012 to March 2013 — the biggest year-over-year gain in that data since April 2006 — there's another report showing a similar jump in April.
Things are not going do well for the online game maker Zynga. The once high-flying gaming company has been struggling and now plans to lay off almost 20 percent of its staff; that's more than 500 employees.
Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.
But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.
And today's last word in business is back in black.
The news-making black yoga pants by the label Lululemon are back on store shelves and online. The sportswear company was forced to recall the pants two months ago because they were too sheer.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Lululemon blamed the see-through blunder on a style change and production problems. The retailer hired a new team to make the pants more opaque. The company said the fabric of the new pants has been put through an exhaustive range of tests.
NPR's business news starts with GM's continued revival.
Four years after being kicked out of the Standard & Poor's 500, General Motors returns to the index this week. The Detroit automaker will rejoin both the S&P 100 and 500 indices this Thursday after the stock market closes. GM replaces H.J. Heinz, which will no longer be a publicly traded company.
The Spanish city of Santander is using a network of sensors to help improve services and save money. Incidents reported to Santander's command-and-control center, where the city manages data from sensors and smartphone reports made by citizens, are plotted on a map of the city.
Credit Lauren Frayer for NPR
Iñigo de la Serna, mayor of Santander, is now the president of the Smart Cities Network in Spain.
Credit Lauren Frayer for NPR
Engineers are preparing to equip all dumpsters in Santander with sensors that gauge whether the container is full or empty. The sensors then transmit data to garbage collectors, alerting them to which containers need to be emptied.
Credit Lauren Frayer for NPR
Angel Benito owns Benito's Shoes in Santander, a store that sells its wares online via the Smart Santander phone apps and campaign.
Aside from the occasional ferry down from England, the old Spanish port city of Santander doesn't get too many foreign visitors. So imagine the locals' surprise when delegations from Google, Microsoft and the Japanese government all landed there recently, to literally walk the streets.
Now, in today's ALL TECH CONSIDERED, Apple on trial. The company is in federal court today fighting government charges that it colluded with book publishers to drive up the price of electronic books.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The Justice Department claims publishers used the introduction of the iPad as an opportunity to set higher prices. Five publishers have already settled civil charges with the government, but Apple has not. Laura Sydell is in New York, covering the first day of the trial. Hi there, Laura.
The federal probe of a hugely successful hedge fund may have investors ready to pull out much of their money. SAC Capital is under investigation for insider trading. Several published reports indicate outside investors are worried about that investigation and whether it will touch Steven Cohen, the firm's founder.
Like all great traditional Boston foods — the Boston Cream Pie, Boston Baked Beans, the Chicago Pizza at the Pizzeria Uno near Fenway — the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich is about to go national. Someday, Bostonians will talk about how they heard it play when it was just a cool, local sandwich.
Ian: I never realized how pointless bagels were before.
Miles: I like a breakfast that forces me to take a nap right after waking up.
The U.S. economy started showing signs of recovery in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Four years later, the economy is slow to recover in some areas. The stock market and housing are showing signs of growth, while unemployment still lags behind.
The nation's largest retailer announced Monday that it will be delivering produce from farms to stores faster by buying fruits and vegetables directly from growers.
The plan is to source about 80 percent of fresh produce directly, explained Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of the food business for Wal-Mart U.S., during a conference call that we participated in Monday morning.
In many instances, Sinclair says it will be possible to "cut out the middleman," but he added that local wholesalers will continue to "play an important role for us in the areas we serve."
Hearing that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered Princeton graduates "10 suggestions" at their commencement ceremony Sunday, we had visions of those in caps and gowns nodding off during a treatise on the fine points of investing in municipal bonds.
Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 11:07 am
After capturing the imagination of people around the world last year with video of a bicycle made almost entirely out of cardboard, Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni is now hoping to capture money from folks who would like to own one.
NPR's business news starts with some European optimism.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
WERTHEIMER: The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, says he expects to see a gradual economic recovery in the eurozone nations this year. Speaking in Shanghai yesterday, he acknowledged the region still faces challenges, including record unemployment, but he cited growing European exports and rising regional stock markets as factors indicating better times ahead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
And Apple faces off with the Justice Department beginning today in a federal court over a price-fixing dispute. Last year, the government accused Apple of conspiring with five major publishing companies to raise prices on electronic books.
It's been three months since the start of across-the-board, federal spending cuts. Renee Montagne talks to David Wessel, economics editor at The Wall Street Journal, about how badly the sequestration is cutting into the economy.
Surf Air CEO Wade Eyerly stands in front of one of the airline's turboprop planes in Burbank, Calif. Eyerly boasts that Surf Air will offer frequent commuters a corporate jet experience for not much more than regular airline prices.
A new airline with an innovative, "all you can fly" business model is about to take off. Federal regulators have just given California-based Surf Air permission to begin passenger service.
Surf Air is a big idea with small planes. For a flat monthly fee, subscribers will be able to take all the trips they want among four California cities: San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
The airline's co-founder and CEO Wade Eyerly boasts that Surf Air will offer frequent commuters a corporate jet experience for not that much more than regular airline prices.
It has been a good week for economic news. Here's a quick rundown of the positive signs: Home prices showed their best gains in seven years. Consumer confidence hit a five-year high. The stock market set a new record. All just this week.
"We're seeing progress," President Obama said in the White House Rose Garden on Friday morning, "and the economy is starting to pick up steam. The gears are starting to turn again, and we're getting some traction."
You could tell from the tone of his voice that he was leading up to a "but."