Business

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The Last Word In Business

Apr 20, 2012

Vegetarians and others were highly distressed after finding out that Starbucks uses a red coloring in some of its drinks that's made from crushed bugs. An online protest campaign delivered thousands of angry emails to Starbucks headquarters.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And I'm Lynn Neary.

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The Florida judge in the case of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in February, set bail this morning of $150,000. Zimmerman took the stand during the hearing and told Martin's parents that he was sorry for the loss of their son. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, but he claims self-defense. Cable TV news channels carried the bail hearing live.

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Some other news. The Federal Reserve and other banking regulators have granted banks a two-year grace period to come into compliance with the Volcker Rule. That's one of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill passed a couple of years ago. It restricts American banks from making trades that put the bank and depositor funds at risk.

But as NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, regulators are struggling to iron out the details.

Two billionaires took the stand this week — both named Larry. Google's Larry Page and Oracle's Larry Ellison have very different styles and personalities. And that came across in court.

Business News

Apr 20, 2012

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NPR's business news begins with a poor reception for Nokia's new smartphone.

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Yesterday, we reported on the fundraisers that lobbyists hold for Congressmen every day in Washington. Today, we hear what happens inside those events. The stories are part of our series on money in politics.

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon accident killed 11 men and sent oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry says it has learned valuable lessons from the disaster that are making drilling safer today.

But there's still a pressing issue looming for the oil industry: Oil field workers are retiring in huge numbers, leaving a workforce that's younger and — more importantly — less experienced.

On the eve of the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the IMF's managing director, Christine Lagarde, says there's a spring wind blowing in a recovery for the world economy.

But, she cautioned, there are still dark clouds on the horizon — a reference to the continued threats posed by Europe's sovereign debt crisis. Lagarde says making sure the IMF has the resources to manage that threat is this meeting's top priority.

TV Goes To The Dogs At Home Alone

Apr 19, 2012

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A new TV channel is going to the dogs.

BECKY LUBEACH: It is TV that is shot from a dog's perspective.

CORNISH: That's Becky Lubeach of DOGTV.

LUBEACH: It's been enhanced, that the colors that they see pop out. And the music has all been composed for them.

CORNISH: In other words, entertainment made not for you, but for your stay-at-home hound. No sitcoms about dogs. No "Jersey Shore," no ads either.

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For those of you boycotting Starbucks over the red dye made from crushed bugs it's been using, this Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® is for you.

As we reported last month, vegetarians and others who'd rather not eat insects protested when they found out the the company uses cochineal, the red "juice" a tiny white bug called Dactylopius coccus exudes when crushed, to color certain food and drinks.

Business News

Apr 19, 2012

The $760 million factory is part of Ford's plan to double its production there by 2015. The new factory should up Ford's production in China to 1.2million cars — about half of what it produces in the U.S.

The Last Word In Business

Apr 19, 2012

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And now to the news that the country's biggest digital book seller is teaming up with one of the biggest names in spy fiction, which brings us to our last word in business.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CASINO ROYALE")

DANIEL CRAIG: (as James Bond) The name is Bond, James Bond.

NEARY: Amazon has acquired the rights to publish all 14 of the classic James Bond novels.

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At their annual meeting, Citigroup shareholders gave a no-confidence vote to a $15 million compensation package for the company's CEO. It's the first time this kind of vote has happened at a Wall Street firm. Lynn Neary talks to Columbia Law School professor Robert Jackson about the implications of the vote.

U.S. companies and the U.S. government have long complained that China purposely undervalues its currency to maximize its exports. But on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered some praise to China for making its currency more responsive to market forces.

It was international news recently when a small fishing boat was found adrift in the Pacific Ocean, several hundred miles from the Panama town where it launched. After 28 days at sea, only one of the three men who had been onboard was still alive. The other two died from lack of water and exposure.

This story is part of our series on money in politics.

We imagine the lobbyist stalking the halls of Congress trying to use cash to influence important people. But it doesn't always work that way. Often, the Congressman is stalking the lobbyist, asking for money.

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on a GOP measure to cut taxes on small businesses.

Now, the mental image most of us have of a small business is probably something like this: a handful of employees, a shop, maybe a restaurant or a little tech firm.

It turns out the reality of the nation's 28 million small businesses is, in many cases, quite different.

House Republicans say their tax cut would help millions of small businesses.

Benjamin Davies, a urologic cancer specialist, doesn't mince words.

On Twitter today, the good doctor said he would fire on the spot any medical resident who biopsied the prostate of an 81-year-old man.

And that would include Warren Buffett, the 81-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who disclosed Tuesday that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Business News

Apr 18, 2012

At Citigroup's annual meeting Tuesday, 55 percent of shareholders voted against big paychecks for the firms top executives. Citigroup's latest pay package saw the CEO take home some $25 million, despite dwindling share values. The vote is not binding, but analysts call it historic.

The Last Word In Business

Apr 18, 2012

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In the world of advertising, the success of a billboard often depends on its location. And in the sporting world, what's a better local than the tall, imposing bodies of professional basketball players - which brings us to our last word in business: basketball billboard.

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At an NBA meeting last week, team owners floated the idea of slapping corporate logos on team uniforms.

The turmoil in Europe appears to have died down, at least for now. Interest rates have fallen except for Spain. European Central Bank officials say they have contained the crisis — even if a recession occurs. But not everyone is so sure, and the recent rise in interest rates in Spain is making some investors nervous.

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The Supreme Court yesterday handed a victory to the generic drug industry. In a unanimous decision, the high court said generic drug makers can challenge how the big pharmaceutical companies describe their patents to the Food and Drug Administration.

It sounds like an obscure legal battle, but as NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, it has potentially big implications for the industry.

Paul Schubert and his wife decided to buy a new car last summer — a really fuel-efficient one. After a lot of research, they settled on a Toyota Prius. But there was a problem: They couldn't find one.

The tsunami that devastated Japan in March had dried up supplies of the Prius, which is made in Japan, and a dealer told them they would have to wait — "about four months," Schubert says. "And we thought, well, it'd be, probably, end of November, early December before we were going to have a car."

The Schuberts still had a working car.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a small-business tax cut bill offered up by Republicans. It's just the latest piece of legislation to focus on small businesses, which are widely praised in the political discourse as engines of job creation. The adoration is nearly universal — and it reflects something beyond economic reality.

"Small businesses create 2 out of every 3 jobs in this economy, so our recovery depends on them," President Obama said in 2012 at a New Jersey sandwich shop where he met with small-business owners.

Before Facebook and MySpace transformed how we interact virtually, there was another kind of Internet — a 1980s network, where users connected via phone lines and communicated through simple lines of text.

And while that may sound outdated, that version of the Internet is still very much alive.

'A Lot More Elegant'

Pat McNameeking, a college student in Concord, N.H., is one champion of this throwback social network known as SDF, or Super Dimensional Fortress.

Warren Buffett, 81, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, his Berkshire Hathaway company announced Tuesday afternoon. The cancer is at Stage 1, according to MarketWatch. The billionaire investor's condition is not life-threatening, he says.

Buffett send a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to inform and reassure them. Here's the text of that letter:

Angry Birds — a mobile phone game in which players use a slingshot to propel birds at tiny little green pigs — has been a runaway hit since its 2009 release, with more than 700 million downloads, a TV show and a feature film in the works. It isn't alone. NPR's Neal Conan talks with New York Times Magazine critic-at-large Sam Anderson about people's fascination with — and addiction to — what Anderson calls "stupid games."

Chrysler, Ford and General Motors gained market share in the past couple years. Helped by Toyota's much-publicized recalls, the problems that Japanese carmakers faced after last year's earthquake and tsunami, and an improving reputation for the quality of American-made vehicles, Detroit's Big Three grabbed 47 percent of sales last year — up from 45.1 percent in 2010 and 44 percent in 2009.

Our friend Micki Maynard of Changing Gears, though, reports that the Detroit companies' comeback — in terms of market share — may be over.

The Last Word In Business

Apr 17, 2012

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They say the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes. But half that statement appears to be under challenge by one late rap star and some special effects, which brings us to today's last word in business - virtual comeback.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CALIFORNIA LOVE")

TUPAC SHAKUR: (Singing) California love.

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