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The general election campaign between President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is heating up. In Florida Tuesday, Obama highlighted what Democrats consider a major vulnerability for Romney — the relatively low taxes he's paid on a multimillion dollar income.

A tax-the-rich proposal named after Warren Buffett has little chance of passing this year, but that hasn't stopped the debate over what impact it would have.

Some economists are skeptical that a 30 percent minimum tax on people with million-dollar incomes — known as the "Buffett rule" — would do much to reduce the deficit or boost the economy. But the Obama administration says the proposal is necessary to make the tax code more equitable.

The wireless phone industry has a plan to take the profit out of the market for stolen smartphones. At the urging of police chiefs across the country and federal regulators, the industry is developing a database of stolen devices.

The Last Word In Business

Apr 11, 2012

Officials in San Gabriel Valley set up a quarantine zone after a lemon tree was found infected with citrus disease. That disease almost wiped out Florida's citrus crop a few years back.

Natural Gas Glut Leads To Lower Prices

Apr 11, 2012

The U.S. is facing a growing surplus in natural gas. Renee Montagne talks to Amy Myers Jaffe, of the Energy Forum at the Baker Institute at Rice University, about the glut. She expects some consolidation in the industry.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure might get help by having the amount they owe reduced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This is a hot topic in Washington, D.C., with many Democrats pushing for these so-called "principal reductions" to try to help the housing market. On Tuesday, a top federal regulator came a step closer to allowing the move.

Cars Increasingly Outsell Trucks In US

Apr 10, 2012

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now the return of the car. March was a good month for the auto industry. Almost all the major companies - foreign and domestic - saw their sales go up. And it was an especially good month for the car - the regular old sedan or coupe. In the U.S., cars outsold trucks by 54 to 46 percent. That's a trend that keeps going up, and it's very different from the middle of the last decade, when trucks outsold cars. To find out what's behind this trend, we turn to NPR's Sonari Glinton. Hi, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

America's reliance on coal to produce electricity has declined by more than 20 percent in recent years — but in 2011, the U.S. exported coal at a rate not seen in 20 years, according to the AP. And much of the new surge in coal exports comes from Asia and Europe.

Here's a rough guide to who's buying America's coal, based on the AP story:

  • South Korea: Up 81 percent to more than 10 million tons.
  • India: Up 65 percent, to 4.5 million tons.

The practice of employers asking job applicants for their account login information for Facebook and other social media sites is meeting its backlash, as Maryland is poised to be among the first states to ban the practice. The state's General Assembly has passed the bill, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Martin O'Malley, reports The Baltimore Sun.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Moving on to another billion dollar tech deal, Microsoft has agreed to pay AOL over $1 billion for hundreds of patents. Microsoft outbid several rivals, including Amazon and eBay, in a deal which saw AOL's stock price jump by over 40 percent. The over 800 patents include internet search, email and customized advertising and are seen as a push by Microsoft into the lucrative smartphone and tablet market.

Machine Evens Sushi-Making Playing Field

Apr 10, 2012

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And our last word in business today: sushi bot.

It's where raw fish and robots meet up. More specifically, it's a cutting-edge, sushi-making machine. A company called Suzumo introduced a prototype at a food expo in Tokyo last week.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: It is true that a skilled chef has trained for a long time. However, with Suzumo sushi-making machines, everyone can make stable-quality sushi very easily.

Government regulators in the U.S. and Europe are putting pressure on the online advertising industry to adopt a new Web browser option called "do not track." The option is designed to let people request more privacy from the websites they visit.

But there's no consensus yet on how much privacy users should expect. An Internet industry task force convenes Tuesday in Washington to try to hash that out.

Some browsers, like Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox, already come with a "do not track" button. Other browsers are expected to add the feature soon.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Facebook likes Instagram - that's the top of our business news.

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This is a story about what can happen when no one is looking. For the patients at Universal Pain Management, a medical clinic in northern Los Angeles County, Dr. Francis Riegler is always looking.

Riegler huddles with the clinic's nurse practitioner over a computer printout. The one-page report from the state's drug-tracking system shows that a patient was on the hunt for more Vicodin, a powerful pain reliever that he was already getting from Riegler's clinic.

The recession brought widespread unemployment across the U.S., but it also prompted a spike in the number of freelance or independent workers.

More than 30 percent of the nation's workers now work on their own, and the research firm IDC projects the number of nontraditional office workers — telecommuters, freelancers and contractors — will reach 1.3 billion worldwide by 2015.

In Greece, more than 21 percent of the working-age population is jobless. For Greeks under age 25, the rate is more than double that.

Some young Greeks are frightened that the economy, now in free fall, will take years to recover, so they're leaving for jobs abroad. A few entrepreneurs, however, are trying to start businesses during the worst recession in decades.

A magnet for these young entrepreneurs is CoLab, a business incubator in a weathered building near the Athens Cathedral in the city center. CoLab opened in 2009, with just one occupant — a Spanish travel writer.

The question of how far the government can go in forcing a business — in this case cigarette makers — to warn consumers about its product is before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.

For more, see our video, Inside The Matzo Factory, and see Adam Davdson's latest NYT Magazine column

The matzo business may be the most heavily regulated business in the world.

Facebook's decision to acquire Instagram for $1 billion set off strong reactions among Instagram users Monday, when the deal was announced. And if any users of Instagram's photo-sharing service were in love with the deal, they seemed to be keeping pretty quiet about it.

When your kids are infested with head lice, a certain amount of panic — even desperation — can spread through the house. But one biologist has made it his mission to find a better way to rid his home of a common household pest.

AOL is selling a trove of patents to Microsoft for about $1.1 billion. The announcement sent AOL's share price soaring. A shareholder group had been complaining that the struggling company hadn't acted to realize the value of its patents. Many tech companies have been moving aggressively to assemble large patent portfolios as they battle over intellectual property.

'Hacking For Sale' A Lucrative Business

Apr 9, 2012

Security firms like Vupen are selling hacking techniques to the highest bidder — typically government agencies — for six-figure price tags. Audie Cornish talks to Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg about the market for security vulnerabilities and who's buying them.

What Makes Gas Prices Continue To Rise?

Apr 9, 2012

Why does a gallon of gas at the pump cost an average of $3.93? Why might it soon hit $4? Robert Siegel asks Robin West, the chairman of PFC Energy, an energy consulting firm.

"I'm excited to share the news that we've agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook," Mark Zuckerberg just announced.

No, You Can't Deduct That

Apr 9, 2012

For our NYT Magazine column this weekend, we talked to 20 accountants, tax lawyers and policy wonks. Among other things, we asked them to list some ridiculous deductions their clients have tried to take.

Here are a few of our favorite answers, broken into two groups: relatively common, somewhat ridiculous; and less common, more ridiculous. Nothing on the list is tax deductible.

Relatively Common, Somewhat Ridiculous

Mike Wallace, the CBS News correspondent who became famous for his two-fisted interview style and his hard-hitting conversations with politicians, celebrities and newsmakers, died Saturday. He was 93.

Wallace had been with the weekly CBS News magazine 60 Minutes since its inception in 1968. Working with producer Don Hewitt, Wallace became known for interviews in which he refused to be led away from topics his interview subjects found uncomfortable.

Sony Reportedly Cutting 10,000 Jobs

Apr 9, 2012

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news begins with big layoffs at Sony.

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MONTAGNE: The one-time leader in entertainment technology is trying to regain its edge, and that means painful changes. According to Japanese news reports and The Wall Street Journal, Sony plans to eliminate 10,000 jobs worldwide. That's about 6 percent of its overall workforce.

The Nation: Treading Dangerous Water With Jobs

Apr 9, 2012

George Zornick is a writer for The Nation.

The jobs data released this morning is a clear disappointment: only 120,000 jobs were added, which is less than what analysts predicted and barely enough to keep up with population growth. The unemployment rate went down slightly, to 8.2 percent, but only because the labor force shrank as people stopped looking for work.

Weekly Standard: A Disappointing Jobs Report

Apr 9, 2012

Irwin M. Stelzer is a writer for The Weekly Standard.

Business News

Apr 9, 2012

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with labor woes at AT&T.

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MONTAGNE: AT&T and union officials have agreed to extend contract negotiations, preventing a mass walkout by some 40,000 unionized workers. The deadline to agree on the new contract had been yesterday. AT&T is seeking concessions from its workers, including cuts in pension contributions, and also an increase in health care premiums. The union is calling those concessions unrealistic.

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