Business news

The city of Detroit may be on the skids financially, but one of its traditional "big three" automakers just scored a big win.

For the first time since it began making such comparisons between sedans in 1992, Consumer Reports magazine has given its top rating to a model made by a U.S. automaker — not one made by a European or Japanese company.

There were 343,000 first-time claims filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Employment and Training Administration says. That was up from an estimated 336,000 the week before.

The increase is from what had been a 10-week low. But basically, claims have been ranging between the mid-330,000s and mid-370,000s all year. Like other employment indicators, the jobless claims figures have been signalling that job growth remains modest.



A former executive at Goldman Sachs will take the stand again in his civil fraud trial this morning. Fabrice Tourre is accused of misleading investors about a security he marketed and sold in the months leading up to the subprime mortgage collapse.

Tourre began testifying yesterday afternoon, and NPR's Jim Zarroli was there. Jim, good morning.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So give us the background, here, if you can. What is Fabrice Tourre accused of, exactly?

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost roughly as much land as makes up the state of Delaware.

"If you put the state of Delaware between New Orleans and the ocean, we wouldn't need any levees at all," says John Barry, vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. "There is this large buffer of land that has disappeared, and that buffer makes New Orleans much more vulnerable to hurricanes."

Many businesses that don't offer health insurance to all their employees breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when they learned they'd have an extra year to comply with the new health care law or face stiff penalties.

Teams of workers are mobilizing in the Gulf of Mexico to try to stem a natural gas leak at an offshore drilling rig that exploded and caught fire Tuesday. The rig off the Louisiana coast has been partially destroyed by the out of control blaze, and firefighting boats are on the scene.

That Crunchy Taco will no longer come with a side of toy.

Taco Bell announced Tuesday that it is ditching kids' meals and the trinkets that come with them at its U.S. locations. The items will begin to come off menus starting this month, the company says, and should be completely gone by January 2014.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Billionaire Steven Cohen is fighting back. He faces federal charges that he didn't do enough to prevent insider trading at his hedge fund SAC Capital. As The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, Cohen's firm issued a rebuttal, claiming that he never saw an email that's an important part of the government's case.

Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

Get Howard Buffett into the cab of a big ole' farm tractor and he's like a kid — albeit a 58-year-old, gray-haired one. He's especially excited when it comes to the tractor's elaborate GPS system, which he describes as "very cool."

"I'm driving hands-free," says Buffett, the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

He says that the tractor has been automatically set to plant 16 perfect rows of seeds, "so it makes everything more efficient. And it's going to give you a better crop in the end."

Vermont, New Hampshire and Delaware get a notable benefit of being small: faster Internet connections. In the latest Akamai State of the Internet Report, they top the list of states with the fastest average connection speeds, and make the top 10 states with fastest peak connection speeds, too.

Check out the rankings, which include download speeds measured in megabits per second, and the year-on-year change for those numbers.

Budgeting 101

Jul 23, 2013



I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, it's the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. And wouldn't you know, there's an app for that. Our regular contributor Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of the blog, will tell us more about them in just a few minutes. But first, to matters of personal finance. You might remember that last week we talked about how the summertime is a good time to do a mid-year check-in on your personal finances.

The number of part-time workers has roughly doubled in the last few years. For most of those employees, that means short hours, erratic schedules and low pay. Host Michel Martin talks with NPR's Marilyn Geewax, and fast-food worker Amere Graham, about the high costs of part-time work.



And for our last word in business today, the world is not flat and neither are some new TVs.


That's right. LG is taking preorders in the United States for its new 55-inch TVs. They're not flat, they're curved. Samsung already sells something like this in South Korea.

MONTAGNE: The screens bend away from the viewer. Apparently, what's known as OLED technology allows for super-thin, flexible screens and vibrant colors.



NPR's business news starts with a streaming success.


Residents Forced To Live Without Landlines

Jul 22, 2013

Last fall, Hurricane Sandy damaged homes, buckled boardwalks and ruined much of the infrastructure of the small vacation spot of Fire Island, just off the coast of New York. The storm also destroyed many of the island's copper phone lines. But the island's only traditional phone company has no plans to replace them. Instead, Verizon is offering customers a little white box with an antenna it calls Voice Link.

"It has all the problems of a cellphone system, but none of the advantages," says Pat Briody, who has had a house on Fire Island for 40 years.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Britain's largest drug maker GlaxoSmithKline said today that some of its senior executives may have broken the law in China. The company faces allegations that it bribed Chinese doctors and hospitals to buy its drugs. NPR's Jim Zarroli has the story.

As we reported during Coffee Week in April, coffee aficionados pay top dollar for single-origin roasts.

The professional prospectors working for specialty coffee companies will travel far and wide, Marco Polo-style, to discover that next champion bean.

We've been looking at working conditions in Bangladesh where the collapse in April of a building that housed garment factories killed more than 1,000 people.



Speaking of pouring a drink, how about raising a glass to this bookseller. Today's last word in business is one generous retailer.


We learned last week that J.K. Rowling - of Harry Potter fame - was also the hidden author of the crime novel "The Cuckoo's Calling." She had released it under the nom de plume, Robert Galbraith.

GREENE: After that was revealed, the price of a signed first edition immediately jumped to more than $1,500 on sites like eBay.

GlaxoSmithKline says that some of its executives appear to have violated Chinese laws. In response, the company is pledging changes in the way it operates — which would bring down the prices of some of its drugs in China. Chinese authorities accuse the company of bribing doctors and officials to boost sales and raise the price of medicines.

When a young Indian-American woman walked into the funky L.A. jewelry boutique Tarina Tarantino, store manager Lauren Twisselman thought she was just like any other customer. She didn't realize the woman was actress and writer Mindy Kaling.

"I hadn't watched The Office," Twisselman says. Kaling both wrote and appeared in the NBC hit.

Detroit this week became the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy. Host Jacki Lyden talks with NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton about what Detroit's fiscal woes means for the nation's auto industry, which is famously linked to the city.

Long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who covered every president from Eisenhower to Obama, has died at age 92, according to The Gridiron Club & Foundation.

Few Detroiters think the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history is great news.

But plenty see it as an opportunity. Many Detroit business owners hope the bankruptcy will mean more stability and certainty, in a city that has had little of either in recent years.

Sandy Baruah, head of the Detroit Regional Chamber, says the bankruptcy filing did not come as a surprise to him, nor should it surprise anybody else.

The SEC on Friday filed civil charges against Steven A. Cohen, the founder of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, accusing the billionaire of failing to prevent insider trading.

The Securities and Exchange Commission in a statement Friday afternoon said:

Three of the four major wireless companies are out with new plans for those who want the latest smartphone sooner. The plans, with names like Verizon Edge and AT&T Next, essentially let you rent a phone for six months or a year and then trade it in for a new one — but there's a catch.

"You're paying essentially twice," says Avi Greengart, who is research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis and does some consulting for the industry.

Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen of failing to supervise two of his employees who have been charged with insider trading. Cohen is the founder of SAC Captial Advisors. Audie Cornish speaks with NPR's Chris Arnold.

It's been 30 years since Trading Places came out. And, to be honest, I never really understood what happened at the end of that movie. Sure, Louis Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) get rich, and the Duke brothers lose all their money. But what actually happens? How does it work?

I recently talked to Tom Peronis, a guy who has spent years trading OJ options. He walked me through every step of Winthorpe and Valentine's plan.

1. Give The Duke Brothers Bad Information

So much fascinating tech and culture news, so little time. But we certainly think you should see the journalism that's catching our curiosity each week, so each Friday we'll round up the week that was — the work that appeared in this blog, and from our fellow technology writers and observers at other organizations.


Can Bankruptcy Boost Broke Detroit?

Jul 19, 2013



This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later we'll head into the barbershop as we do just about every Friday. We'll hear from the guys on why financial planning advice from McDonald's to its employees fell flat and other news of the week, that's later. But first, we turn to Detroit. The city declared bankruptcy yesterday, making it the largest municipal bankruptcy in this country's history. It all comes after decades of decline from the city's bloom years as the center of the nation's auto industry.