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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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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.

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.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

At some point, you likely received a present from a prepaid gift card from the person who wasn't exactly sure what you'd want. Residents of New Jersey may not be able to buy them for much longer. American Express has pulled its gift cards from the state, and other big industry players are threatening to do the same. They oppose a new law that would allow New Jersey to claim unused gift card balances after two years. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

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.

In 2012, the federal tax return deadline is Tuesday, April 17 — so if you haven't already filed your income tax return, you have about one week left to shop around for different options to finish your taxes, or request an extension.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, eager to get an education under the new post-Sept. 11 GI Bill.

Many vets looking for a school find they are inundated by sales pitches from institutions hungry for their government benefits. Now, lawmakers are looking for ways to protect vets without narrowing their education choices.

A Brief History Of The Mobile Phone

Apr 8, 2012

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A new Smartphone goes on sale. The Nokia Lumina 900 represents the Finnish company's big and somewhat desperate effort to regain a toehold in the all-important U.S. market.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman offers this brief history of America's infatuation with the mobile phone.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: In The iconic 1987 film "Wall Street," Michael Douglas strolls the beach with and uses his cell phone to congratulate an associate on making a ton of money.

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At a government-run public middle school in Bangalore, the blackboard's cracking, the textbooks are tattered and most of the students are barefoot.

But with all those challenges, the biggest obstacle that teachers face in keeping kids in school is hunger. Many students show up at school having had nothing to eat for breakfast.

On mornings one student comes to school hungry, the thought of school makes her break down, she says.

"When I had to get on the bus, I would start crying," says K. Suchitra, 13.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs last month according to the Labor Department. A few years ago, that would have had economists cheering. Today, they're using words like disappointing. Here's the problem, 120,000 is half as many jobs as the economy added in February and far fewer than most observers were expecting.

The U.S. economy added only 120,000 jobs in March, far below expectations. The job gains were the smallest in five months. The report isn't a conclusive verdict on the economy. It could be an off month of weak growth or the sign of something more troubling — a serious hiring slowdown.

Hiring Climate Affects Small Businesses

Apr 6, 2012
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You don't go through corporate communications to meet the executive steering committee at Gideon Shoes.

Instead, you walk through a basketball court with graffiti-covered walls and into a sound studio. There, Gideon employees are warming up their talking points: rap lyrics.

"There's no excuses in this life, so I'm fighting on. ... The flame inside my heart is more like a firestorm," they rap.

The team is made up of Suhkdeep Bhogal from India, Thane Poloai from Samoa and Allan from New Zealand, who doesn't want to give his last name.

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