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Two giant ships move through the Panama Canal's two parallel channels at the Miraflores locks, heading toward the Pacific Ocean.

The orange and white Bow Summer is a tanker. The deck of the Ever Dynamic is stacked high with burgundy and blue shipping containers. More boats like these are backed up in both the Pacific and the Atlantic waiting to enter the narrow waterway.

Global trade has grown dramatically, but the Panama Canal — one of the most vital transit routes — hasn't changed its basic structure since it opened in 1914.

But that is about to change.

The first in a 3-part series airing this week on Morning Edition.

When Facebook goes public later this spring, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, will be following in the footsteps of a long line of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs that includes Steve Jobs and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But there was a time when the idea of an engineer or scientist starting his or her own company was rare.

A nonprofit foundation set up to support scientific research of interest to the Food and Drug Administration is finally starting to take off after years of struggling financially — and it's about to get some long-promised funding from the FDA.

But some critics worry that this foundation, which will also raise money from private sources including industry, could provide a way for the food and medical industries to sway FDA decisions.

As we've reported, fish fraud – labeling a less-desirable species as a more desirable one – is more widespread than you'd think. Olive oil, too, isn't always what it seems. And honey from Asia is fraught with suspicion.

The turmoil in the housing market over the past few years has scared a lot of people away from homeownership. That means many people who can afford to buy are now renting. With so much demand for apartments, rents are once again on the rise. And in places like New York City, they're near record highs.

A few weeks ago Lauren Weitz got her first apartment in the city. Every night when she gets home from the office, she upholds a New York City tradition.

Shopping apps and retail websites give consumers the power to compare prices, read reviews and shop on the go. Stephanie Clifford, business reporter at The New York Times and market researcher Paco Underhill discuss how many brick-and-mortar stores are altering pricing strategies.

How Much Would You Pay For A Flying Car?

Apr 3, 2012

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And that brings us to our last word in business, flying cars. Finally, they're here. Well, almost here. We're not exactly in Jetsons' territory quite yet. But a company in Massachusetts says its prototype flying car, called the Transition, completed its first flight and will be ready for sale within the next year.

The two-seat vehicle soared to 1,400 feet in its maiden voyage. The car - can we call it that - is expected to cost $279,000, and 100 buyers have already plunked down their deposits.

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Mobile gaming, or at least playing games on a cellphone, is nothing new. Just think of all the quick, sometimes mundane rounds of Snake you played if you were one of the lucky owners of that brick of a Nokia phone from the late '90s and early 2000s.

Yet as smartphones evolved in recent years, the number of games available on them grew rapidly, as well. It has become common to see users of Android phones and iPhones wrapped up in intense sessions of games like Angry Birds or Draw Something.

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Well, from a classic American company to a classic industry. It turns out automobiles are improving, so much so in fact, that the U.S. seems to be entering a golden age of vehicle quality and reliability.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has this story about the demise of the lemon.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Please step into the door.

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NPR's business news starts with what happens in Vegas...

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GREENE: What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, especially if it involves taxpayer dollars.

The head of a federal agency has resigned after reports of inappropriate spending at a conference near Las Vegas. Martha Johnson led the General Services Administration, which manages the federal government's property.

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Sixteen years - that is a long time to be number one. And this week, media critics and TV viewers are wondering whether NBC's "Today Show" can stay on top. There was a time, of course, when the name Katie Couric was synonymous with the "Today Show," helping them make it the ratings winner in morning news. And this week, Katie Couric could be the one who helps break that winning streak. Couric now works for ABC, and all week, she's guest hosting rival show "Good Morning America" with George Stephanopoulos.

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The city of Detroit is broke - verging on bankruptcy, in fact. And we may have come to a moment of reckoning. This week, Michigan's governor is giving city officials a choice: either they allow the state to help run Detroit's finances, or the state will appoint an emergency manager with total authority over budgetary matters. WDET's Quin Klinefelter reports.

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Avon Rejects Coty's Buyout Offer

Apr 3, 2012

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, to news of a failed cosmetic takeover.

Avon, the global cosmetics company known for its door-to-door sales, has rejected a $10 billion takeover bid from Coty. That company is best known for things like its Lady Gaga and Calvin Klein fragrances.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports that Avon believed the offer was just too low.

Two of the biggest behind-the-scenes players in the health care industry have become one.

For the health policy world, the Supreme Court's tough questioning of the individual mandate last week was a seismic event.

But in Hartford, Conn., the city sometimes called the epicenter of the insurance industry, David Cordani isn't quaking.

Cordani is the CEO of Cigna, the nation's fourth-largest health insurer. He says the insurance industry started changing itself before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. And the changes will continue regardless of what happens at the high court.

When you think of cutting-edge technology, power tools don't generally come to mind. Take the table saw: Many woodworkers are using 30-year-old saws in their wood shops and, among the major tool companies, there hasn't been much innovation since those decades-old tools came out.

But more and more inventors are trying to make these saws safer — and David Butler is one of them. At his home in Cape Cod, Mass., Butler flips on the fluorescent lights in his basement turned wood shop.

The rising cost of oil isn't just a hit to the family budget. Businesses are hurt, too. Few are more affected than firms like FedEx. It deploys nearly 700 planes and tens of thousands of trucks and vans every day to deliver packages around the world. And few business leaders are more focused on finding alternatives to petroleum-based fuels than FedEx CEO Fred Smith.

Shortly after Smith founded Federal Express, the 1973 Arab oil embargo almost killed it. The experience imprinted Smith with a keen interest in the price and availability of oil.

Tax Day 2012 is looming — and after we file our returns, many of us will try to figure out what to do with the seemingly innocuous but possibly crucial documents we use to prepare our returns. Filing electronically can make those records easier to manage. But what should we really keep, and for how long?

Most experts recommend holding on to financial records for three years after they're used in a tax return — that's the amount of time the IRS has to audit taxpayers.

Producers Blame EU Regs For Egg Shortage

Apr 2, 2012

With the Easter holiday right around the corner, Europe is facing an egg shortage. The egg industry blames the shortage on new European Union rules for chicken welfare.

The Last Word In Business

Apr 2, 2012

David Greene has the Last Word in business.

Later this week, the Labor Department will release data indicating how many jobs the U.S. economy gained or lost in March. Recent months have seen more robust job gains, but there have been a lot of concern lately over whether those gains can last.

Quaker Oats Man Sheds Some Pounds

Mar 31, 2012

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Has the guy on the Quaker Oats box been doing Ashtanga yoga? The white-haired man with pink cheeks under a broad black Quaker hat is getting a makeover. Larry, as he is apparently known among ad men and women, is associated with heritage, trust, and quality by consumers. But after being an oatmeal cover boy for 134 years, PepsiCo, which now owns the Quaker brand, wants to refresh his image a bit to make the link between oatmeal and energy and healthy choices.

This story is part of Planet Money's series on money in politics. This post was originally published on March 30. It was updated on April 6.

Most of the nitty-gritty action in Congress happens in committees.

Not surprisingly, campaign contributions flow to members of the committees that big donors are really interested in — like, say, the ways and means committee, which oversees the tax code.

"Pink slime" has been all over the news recently. Now the fear over the so called slime is beginning to have economic effects. This week Beef Products Incorporated, or BPI, temporarily closed down a total of three meat processing plants in Kansas, Texas and Iowa. The social media backlash over the processed meat may end its use, which could mean a lot of lost jobs. So the governors of those states are doing damage control. On Thursday they toured the only BPI factory still open, in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

An audit has found serious violations of Chinese labor laws at some factories that supply parts for Apple products. Robert Siegel speaks with Auret van Heerden, CEO of the Fair Labor Association, about his organization's report on several Foxconn sites in China.

President Obama is expected to sign another stopgap funding bill that avoids a weekend shutdown of thousands of transportation construction projects. The measure gives a 90-day funding extension for road, bridge and rail construction projects.

Best Buy Rethinks Big-Box Model

Mar 30, 2012

Best Buy is trying to wriggle out of the big box. The electronics retailer has a lot of real estate in its giant blue stores, but it isn't profitable space: In its most recent quarter, the company reported a $1.7 billion loss. So it's shedding stores and workers — and rethinking its big-box concept.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And today's last word in business is, can you eat that?

You've heard of mystery meats, right? Well, how about mystery powders - courtesy of the ever-innovative food industry?

NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey asked me to come up and have a sneak peek at what she's cooking up for Monday's MORNING EDITION.

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GREENE: Allison Aubrey, you always get me into trouble somehow. Why am I up here at your desk?

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Anything standing out here?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Apple has been under scrutiny for working conditions in factories in China, factories that make its iPhones and iPads. And it responded by enlisting a workers' rights group. Now, the Fair Labor Association has released its audit of Apple's largest supplier, Foxconn. It found more than 50 violations of both its code of conduct and Chinese labor laws, at three Foxconn factories. NPR's Steve Henn reports.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with BlackBerry backpedaling.

Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, says it's turning its focus back to corporate customers. This follows its failure to break into consumer markets dominated by iPhones and androids. Last quarter, the company lost $125 million. Analysts say BlackBerry's main problem is its trouble running third-party applications. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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