NPR's business news starts with a Fed status update.
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is in front of the Senate Banking Committee this morning. It's his semi-annual report to Congress.
And Bernanke is facing questions, as he has for years, about the Fed's bond buying program that's been pumping money into the economy and keeping interest rates low. Some lawmakers fear this policy could eventually cause inflation.
Barnes & Noble Chairman and chief stockholder, Leonard Riggio, is looking into the possibility of buying the company's retail book business, but not the Nook, the e-book, the company had staked it future on.
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That news comes as the company is set to release its third quarter earnings on Thursday. Barnes & Noble has already signaled the report will be disappointing, especially with the e-reader.
NPR's Lynn Neary reports on the future of the bookstore chain.
Joe Kummer, president of Propulsive Wing in Elbridge, N.Y., is rooting for having a drone test site in upstate New York. He says it could save him trips to the West Coast to try out new drone prototypes.
In three years, the federal government is expected to open the skies for the civilian use of drones. But before that, the Federal Aviation Administration will set up six drone test sites around the country. Stiff competition to get one of the sites is anticipated — driven by hopes of attracting thousands of new jobs.
The recession forced Mid-Atlantic Builders Executive Vice President Stephen Paul to cut the company's staffing. But he says the firm is being efficient with half the original number of employees.
Credit Marie McGrory / NPR
Christian Cerria has helped Mid-Atlantic Builders shrink the number of workers needed on a work site. The firm uses smartphones and tablets to fix designs and send them back to the office without shuttling workers back and forth.
Years into the economic recovery, hiring remains slow. Many businesses learned to do more with less during the recession, so they don't need to bring on as many people now.
These new efficiencies have led to what economists call "labor displacement," which is taking place around the country. One business in Rockville, Md., is doing the same amount of work with half its original staff.
Two things are noticeably absent from the offices of Mid-Atlantic Builders: people and paper.
For Darden Restaurants, the company behind Olive Garden and Red Lobster, its earnings projections out last week were not pretty. Sales will fall, it said, and company CEO Clarence Otis called higher payroll taxes a "headwind."
After a two-year tax break, the payroll tax, which funds Social Security payments, went back up to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1. The 2-percentage-point increase is an extra $80 a month in taxes for someone earning $50,000 a year.
The long-awaited BP trial opened Monday in New Orleans. The oil giant is in court to determine how much it should pay because of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Audie Cornish talks to Jeff Brady.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 12:50 pm
If Congress fails to make a deal on government spending and taxation before Friday, federal cuts of more than 85 billion dollars will be enacted. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley discusses the politics of a potential deal and the options for avoiding sequestration.
Now, the Opinion Page. It's a no-brainer, that's how secretary - former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich described President Obama's recent proposal to raise the federal minimum wage. The plan would boost minimum pay from 7.25 an hour to $9. In a syndicated column, Reich wrote, a mere $9 an hour translates into about $18,000 a year, still under the poverty line.
In its bid to reshape itself for the future, Yahoo is returning to a workplace culture of the tech industry's past. The Internet giant has reportedly notified its employees they'll no longer be allowed to work from home.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 9:36 am
Bad news for those whose shopping trips at Ikea are partly motivated by the allure of the store's famous meatballs: The giant Swedish furniture retailer on Monday said it had recalled a batch of frozen meatballs sent to more than a dozen European countries after tests detected traces of horse meat.
Food inspectors in the Czech Republic discovered the horse meat DNA last week in 2.2-pound packs of frozen meatballs labeled as beef and pork and sold under the name Kottbullar.
European budget problems prompted governments to cut back on investments in digital services and broadband networks. Industry officials say this damages Europe's ability to compete.
Terri Schultz reports from Brussels.
TERRI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: The European Union's own officials acknowledge there's a serious disconnect between what Europe is doing and what it needs to do to stop falling behind in the telecommunications industry.
NPR's business news starts with a new economic forecast.
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INSKEEP: The latest survey of economic forecasters by the National Association of Business Economics predicts 2 percent growth this year. That is down from last year's 2.2 percent. The current budget battle in Congress is partly blamed for slowing the economy now.
The survey goes on to say that next year could be better if budget issues are resolved by then. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
And today's last word in business is: pirates beware.
If you download copyrighted material illegally, you might get a warning from your Internet service provider starting as soon as today. That's according to blogs covering file-sharing communities like Bit Torrent, where users share and download movies and music for free. Big copyright holders like the Motion Picture Association of America, have been working with Internet providers on ways to punish online pirates, although we do not yet know what the punishment might be.
Bad weather can mean big losses for homeowners and insurance companies. So recently, the insurance industry built a laboratory in rural Richburg, South Carolina in hopes of developing more weather-resistant buildings. The latest experiment was a giant, indoor hailstorm.
Julie Rose of member station WFAE takes us inside.
JULIE ROSE, BYLINE: Tanya Brown has had a single obsession these past two years...
TANYA BROWN: I'm a research engineer and the lead engineer on this project.
Despite its dark themes (slavery and the Civil War are hardly feel-good topics), Lincoln, like other Oscar nominees, has done very well at the box office. Disney has spent about $10 million campaigning for the best-picture prize, hoping for a payoff down the line.
How much is a best-picture Oscar worth? Not the statuette — winners are required to sell that back to the Academy for a buck if they want to get rid of it. No, what's the Oscar worth at the box office?
President Obama's plan to jump-start the economy starts with increasing the minimum wage and avoiding sequestration. Host Michel Martin talks about those challenges and others, like rising gas prices and expanding waist lines. She's joined by NPR's senior business editor Marilyn Geewax and Wall Street Journal economics reporter Sudeep Reddy.
Let's talk about another meeting happening today. Senior officials from Boeing are sitting down with the head of the Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing wants its 787 Dreamliner fleet back in service. It's been grounded for more than a month. Neither Boeing nor safety investigators have discovered exactly what caused two 787 batteries to overheat and in one case catch fire last month. But, Boeing believes, it can mitigate any future risk with a series of fixes.
NPR's business news starts with a Japanese visit to the White House.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with President Obama at the White House today. For Abe, the primary focus of the summit is re-vitalizing Japan's security alliance with the United States in the face of the threat from North Korea as well as tensions between Japan and China.
But as NPR's John Ydstie reports, the leaders will also discuss economic issues.
On Sunday, nominees who do not win an Academy award will nevertheless take home about $47,000 worth of consolation gifts - which sounds like a lot, but in 2010 the swag was worth a lot more - more than $90,000.
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This year, goodies include trips to places like Australia, Hawaii and Mexico. The gift bags may also include such useful items as hand illustrated tennis shoes, portion controlled dinnerware, and a book by Leeza Gibbons.
The Buckeye Tool Expo in Dalton, Ohio, is held in a massive hall filled with bearded men in black hats and women in white bonnets. A few horses and buggies are tied up outside.
The Amish have chosen to forgo many of the delights of the modern world, but they still need to drill, sand and cut wood. This trade expo shows off all the loopholes that let the Amish get their hands on power tools.
Here's a headline that may sound familiar: Miami is in the middle of a condo boom.
Just seven years ago, Miami had a similar surge in condo construction. But it all came crashing down. There was an international banking crisis, and the Florida real estate bubble burst — taking down investors and many developers.
But new towers are once again reshaping the city's skyline.
Peter Zalewski, a real estate consultant with Condo Vultures, says 19 condo towers are now in the works in Miami, with 7,000 total units.
Nearly half of all Native American tribes across the country are benefiting from casinos and other gaming revenues. For most, it's their largest source of income. But growing threats to that revenue due to competition from non-Indian gaming are forcing many tribes to look for other investment opportunities.
In a dramatic example of that diversification, one group of Native Americans is buying nearly half the hotel rooms in Minnesota's capital.
Those baggage fees, cramped seats and tiny pretzel bags to the contrary and notwithstanding, airline passengers enjoyed good times in 2012, according to an annual recap from Airlines for America, the industry trade group.
Four former executives from Peanut Corp. of America and a related company are facing federal criminal charges for covering up information that their peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella bacteria.
The charges are related to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella back in 2009. More than 700 people became ill, and federal investigators traced the source of the bacteria to peanut butter manufactured in Blakely, Ga., by the Peanut Corp. of America. The company is no longer in business.
Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 11:31 am
The New York Times points out something rather interesting about an otherwise mundane business story. Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter earnings report tells the tale of how changes in the tax code has both helped corporations and hurt them.
As the Times puts it, during the fourth quarter of last year, "the tax code gave and the tax code took away."