In just the past week we've seen a bunch of signs that the housing recovery is gaining steam. Data out Wednesday showed that existing-home sales rose to their highest level in nearly four years, while prices were up 14 percent from a year ago.
Retailers Home Depot and Lowe's both reported strong earnings growth and attributed that to the housing rebound.
And most important for the economy, homebuilders are hiring more workers and building more houses.
When the drug company Merck Animal Health announced plans to suspend sales of its Zilmax feed additive last week, many observers were shocked.
Yet concern about Zilmax and the class of growth-promotion drugs called beta agonists has been building for some time. In an interesting twist, the decisive pressure on Zilmax did not come from animal welfare groups or government regulators: It emerged from within the beef industry itself, and from academic experts who have long worked as consultants to the industry.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has teamed up with other tech giants to pursue the goal of providing Internet service to five billion people in the developing world. The group, called Internet.org, says data can be used more efficiently and participating partners can work cooperatively to make access to the web affordable in emerging economies. Zuckerberg makes the case on his Facebook page for how a global Internet infrastructure can be created. But the document doesn't have tangible commitments from Facebook or other participating companies.
Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:45 pm
What's a baker to do when all foodies can talk about, on both sides of the Atlantic, is the cronut craze, a croissant-doughnut that NPR reported on earlier this year? Simple: Come up with an equally addictive hybrid dessert.
Citing the billions of people worldwide who can't access the Internet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the leaders of other technology firms are launching an ambitious project to narrow the digital divide Wednesday. The plan focuses on widening access via mobile phones.
"There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy," Zuckerberg says. "Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."
Alabama Power Co. is trying to stop what it calls "an unusually effective scam."
The power company says its customers have been called for months by people pretending to be from Alabama Power. The customers are told they have a short deadline to make a payment. They are instructed to go to a local retailer, buy a reloadable debit card for a given amount, and then call another phone number to share the account number on the card. Alabama Power says the fraud has focused on commercial customers because they are more likely to have larger bills.
Home Depot says it has had "one of the best quarters in its recent history." It credits the recovery in the housing market. Main rival Lowes also benefited from the housing recovery, and strong demand for home refurbishings.
Some of America's biggest retailers announced new steps yesterday aimed at improving safety standards in Bangladesh's troubled garment industry. Wal-Mart and the Gap were among the companies that formed a group called the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety after the deadliest accident ever in the garment industry.
NPR's business news starts with some home improvement.
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MONTAGNE: Home Depot says it had one of the best quarters in recent history. The number behind that claim, a 17 percent jump in earnings this past quarter. The company credited the recovering housing market in the U.S. and said spending by both contractors and regular customers was up.
And let's stay in Colorado to hear about another business traditional to the West - gold mining. After peaking a couple of years ago, the price of gold has fallen dramatically, which has forced many gold mines to close. Bucking that trend is the largest mine in Colorado - and it's expanding aggressively, taking the long view. From Colorado Public Radio, Ben Markus reports.