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The days of peak BlackBerry in the U.S. capital are hard to forget. The swift clackety-click of the keyboard and the soft trrrrrrr of the trackpad scroll invaded every corner of Washington: You'd hear it on the Metro and in building hallways, at dinner tables and in bars, in elevators and, yes, even bathroom stalls.

By all accounts, technology has made us safer.

Cars are more maneuverable because of tire design changes. Jet engines are less likely to fail midflight thanks to better propulsion mechanics. Clinical diagnoses are more accurate thanks to improvements in medical imaging.

Over the past half-century, such advances have forced a drop in deaths caused by technical lapses. And now, technology is used to reduce fatalities caused by human error. But we need more.

David Greene talks to Eli Hager of the Marshall Project about abuse in the private prisoner transportation industry. He co-authored a report published Wednesday in partnership with The New York Times.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Money is on sale! Come in and enjoy the low, low prices!

On Tuesday, borrowed money got cheaper — and cheaper. For example, Bankrate, a consumer financial services company, started the day by saying lenders were offering 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at an average of just 3.4 percent.

By the end of the day, Zillow's mortgage rate tracker was showing that the national average had slipped down to 3.27 percent.

"The middle class is disappearing" has been a standard line during this election cycle. As it turns out, it's not wrong.

From Tree To Tap: Maple Water Makes A Splash

Jul 5, 2016

Kate Weiler was in Mount Tremblant, Quebec, when she found bottled maple water in a local coffee shop. With one sip, she was hooked on the single-ingredient water with a hint of sweetness.

"I loved the idea that it was natural, plant-based hydration from a local, sustainable source that tasted great," says Weiler.

Maple water wasn't sold in her hometown of Saint Albans, Vt. In the process of searching for — and failing to find — a source where she could order it, Weiler decided to launch a business to bring the functional beverage to market.

Nearly four years after laying off thousands of workers and announcing that it was going out of business — and three years after Twinkies returned to store shelves — Hostess Brands LLC, the maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs, is preparing to take its stock public.

The plan is emerging after big changes at Hostess: its business is smaller and leaner; it has far fewer employees; and those employees are no longer represented by a union.

Outside Susan Holmes' house in southeastern Oklahoma, visitors are welcomed by an entryway lined with oxygen bottles and a machine that collects and concentrates oxygen from the air.

"I take two inhalers twice a day," Holmes says. "And I have a nebulizer that I use four times a day, and I use oxygen at night."

She says her asthma returned when she moved to Bokoshe, a decaying town of about 500 people that is flanked by old coal mines. The huge pits have now been filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash.

As president of ABC News, David Westin oversaw coverage of the Clinton impeachment, the September 2011 terrorist strike, U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the financial crisis.

He guided the network during the death of his chief anchor, the near-killing of another covering combat, and the substance abuse tribulations of a third. He also instituted deep staff cuts at the behest of ABC's corporate owners, The Walt Disney Co.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Before the folk rock band The Lumineers released their newest album, Cleopatra, in April, they played a series of secret shows. Emphasis here on "secret."

"There was a large concern about the album being sort-of released via grainy video and leaked out online," said Wesley Schultz, the band's lead singer.

So the band decided to lock up people's phones — not take them away, exactly, but just lock them up for the show. Like a timeout.

A replica of Noah's Ark has been built in the rolling hills of northern Kentucky and it is, quite literally, of biblical proportions. The wood structure stands seven stories high and is the length of one and a half football fields.

"Knee-high by the Fourth of July" is an old favorite saying, when you'd drive past a field of corn out in the country. And many of the old favorite varieties, called heirloom corn, have lots of new friends.

In recent years, seed companies have been reporting big sales numbers for these varieties. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri says sales are "skyrocketing" — a fitting verb for the fireworks holiday.

A steady rain falls on velvet green terraces, releasing a powerful scent of newly harvested tea. A ripple of voices tumbles down the hillside as a man barks orders.

The tea pickers, all women, many in bare feet, expertly navigate the leech-infested slopes. Balancing hampers on their backs loaded with freshly plucked tea leaves, they descend for their morning tea break.

Robert Sauchelli doesn't have a solar panel, but he's all for the idea — before he retired, he devoted 21 years to energy efficiency work at the Environmental Protection Agency. To show his support, Sauchelli has been paying an extra 7.4 cents per kilowatt-hour to a clean power company, called Green Mountain Energy, through his energy supplier in Brooklyn, Con Edison.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Why Are Diamonds Worth So Much?

Jul 2, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Did you know the United Kingdom is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to aid for global health and development?

The amount given in 2015 was the equivalent of $18.7 billion in U.S. dollars. That's second only to the $31.08 billion from the United States. It's an impressive total given the comparative size of the two countries and their economies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

U.S. transportation authorities are investigating the deadly collision of a Tesla Model S car. And many reports say the fatal crash has heightened concern about self-driving cars. Which may be true. Except — Model S isn't a self-driving car.

Whenever July 4th lands on a Monday, travel surges as Americans take advantage of the long weekend. And you might assume the extra demand for gasoline would send pump prices higher.

But this year, drivers are discovering that prices have been falling in the run-up to the holiday — down to the lowest mid-summer levels in more than a decade.

So you think that beer you brewed in your kitchen is ready for prime time, and you're thinking, "Maybe I should take the plunge and set up a little craft brewery."

You're not the only one with dreams infused with hops and malting barley. During the past couple of years, new breweries were being launched at the rate of three a day in the U.S.

New District Brewing is one of them. It just popped up in a cinder-block building in an Arlington, Va., light-industrial park.

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