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If you're like most Americans, you don't have a 529 college savings plan.

If you're like most Americans, you don't even know what it is.

All the more reason to keep reading.

That's because, with the new tax law, Republicans have made important changes to 529 plans that will affect millions of taxpayers, not just the ones saving for college. Before that news, though, a quick primer.

When The Cash Register Doesn't Take Cash

Jan 8, 2018

General manager Erica Ritchie smiled politely before breaking the news to the young woman with a $10 bill in her hand.

"We're actually cashless," said Ritchie inside Bluestone Lane, a bright cafe in the shadow of City Hall in downtown Philadelphia.

"Oh," said the young woman, a bit sheepishly, before handing over a credit card to pay for her small coffee.

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Pennsylvania Coal Mine To Close

Jan 7, 2018

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

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Support For Marijuana In Coal Country

Jan 6, 2018

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Dunkin' Donuts has removed all artificial dyes from its doughnuts, nearly one year ahead of schedule, as the company continues to work to find replacements for synthetic coloring in its other menu items.

Rick Golden, Manager of Donut Excellence for Dunkin' Brands, announced the news on Thursday, saying that "bright, colorful confections" are a hallmark of Dunkin's doughnut lineup. The colors will remain, but the artificial colorings will be gone.

Last year was one of the worst for the retail industry, with record setting bankruptcies and store closings — 8,000 across multiple national chains. And so far, things are not looking up in 2018.

On Thursday, Sears Holdings Corp., the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced it is closing 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears locations, as it grapples with weaker in-store sales.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

College football is a big deal in a lot of states.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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You may already know the headline jobs numbers the government released this morning: The unemployment rate held steady last month at 4.1 percent. The economy added 148,000 jobs.

But these numbers are just the surface of the monthly jobs report; the report has a huge amount of information about how the job market is working (or not working) for people in different industries, and different age groups.

The U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department says, issuing the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, unchanged from November.

Analysts had predicted the Labor Department report would show another month of solid job gains. But it's a sharp dropoff from the revised November result of more than 250,000 jobs.

If you are a scientist, entrepreneur or a Nobel laureate, you might have a future as an expatriate in China.

The guidelines were released jointly by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security.

The special visas — the first of which has already been approved — can be obtained in as few as five days, the government says.

Applications for the visa can be completed online and are free, the ministries say.

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The week after Christmas is usually a short and slow one for town officials in New Paltz, N.Y. — but not this time.

"When we opened town hall Wednesday we had almost 100 voicemails from people inquiring about how they could prepay their taxes," says Daniel Torres, the town's deputy supervisor.

And the phones kept ringing. People started lining up. Torres says the clerk's office has a only few people working in it.

"The clerk's office was so overrun. After a certain while we couldn't even pick up the phones anymore," he says.

This is the third and final report in John Ydstie's series on Germany's manufacturing strength.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished above 25,000 for the first time, as the long rally in stock prices showed no signs of letting up.

A strong report about hiring from payroll processor ADP helped push stocks higher. Financial stocks did especially well, and an increase in oil prices has benefited the energy sector.

The Dow finished the day at 25,075, a gain of 0.61 percent. Both the Nasdaq composite index and the Standard and Poor's 500 index also finished at record highs.

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For the last several months, Congress was almost all tax bill almost all the time. Lots of regular business got postponed.

As a result, there is an insane amount of economic policymaking that has to be done by both Congress and the president by the end of the month.

From tariffs to immigration to funding for the military and social programs, the next 27 days are going to be huge.

A new threat to New England's shellfish industry seems to be establishing itself more firmly, and regulators are trying to stay ahead of potentially deadly blooms of toxic algae that may be driven by climate change.

Thirty years ago, four people died from amnesic shellfish poisoning after eating cultured mussels from Canada's Price Edward Island. The mussels contained domoic acid, a neurotoxin produced by a class of algae called pseudo-nitzschia. The toxin turned up in PEI mussels the next year, but for decades after that wasn't heard from again on the Eastern Seaboard.

The Trump administration is proposing dramatic changes to policies on offshore leasing for oil and gas, opening the door to radically expand drilling in waters that were protected by the Obama administration.

It's the "largest number of lease sales ever proposed, " Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters. The proposed plan to sell offshore drilling leases in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic over a five-year period was detailed Thursday.

The city of Fort Collins, Colo., will build a system to deliver "high speed next-generation broadband to the entire community," after its City Council enacted a ballot initiative that voters approved in November. The move comes despite resistance from cable and telecom companies.

Aurora, a startup company led by three veterans of Google, Tesla, and Uber, has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai with the goal of putting autonomous vehicle technology on the market within three years — and doing so "quickly, broadly and safely."

The partnerships will pair Aurora's sensors and software — its machine learning and artificial intelligence technology — with two companies that together produce more than 15 million vehicles each year.

Self-driving Hyundai models will be on the market by 2021, the company says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts consumers will be paying less for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey in early 2018 than at the start of 2017. Not so for eggs.

This is the second of three reports from NPR's John Ydstie on Germany's manufacturing strength.

Manufacturing accounts for nearly a quarter of Germany's economy. In the U.S., it's about half that. A key element of that success is Germany's apprenticeship training program.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he will push a new law aimed at clamping down on fake news, saying he hopes to have it in place by the end of the year.

Speaking at a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Wednesday, Macron said such a law was essential, especially during elections.

"The freedom of the press is not a special freedom, it is the highest expression of freedom," Macron said. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we have to be strong and have clear rules." Adding that, "A law will follow in due course."

When it comes to reporting on Spotify and the company's strained relationship with songwriters and publishers, it's beginning to sound like a broken ... system. But a possible fix is in.

Just two days before New Year's Eve, the music publishing company Wixen, which manages the compositions of a wide cross section of artists from Neil Young to Rage Against The Machine, filed a lawsuit against Spotify over its failure to properly license those works before making them available to stream.

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Two years ago, international sanctions against Iran were largely lifted. People expected the economy to come surging back. But so far, it's been a disappointment. Unemployment is high. Prices are rising. Corruption is persistent. A surge in the price of eggs was the last straw.

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