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Stocks plunged in Asia on Tuesday as global oil prices slid and investors worried that China's currency would continue to lose value. European markets also fell as oil prices slumped again.

From Shanghai, NPR's Frank Langfitt reports for our Newscast unit:

"The Shanghai Composite was down more than 6 percent, hitting the lowest level in about 14 months. Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng indexes were both down around 2 percent. Panic selling came as crude oil dropped back below $30 a barrel in Asian trading.

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Charles Koch says he's not really spending all that much on politics. As one of the billionaire Koch brothers, Koch has made massive infusions of money to political causes — some of it in direct contributions to candidates, and much of it through support for think tanks and other political groups. The organization of donors led by Charles and his brother David has vowed to spend $889 million to influence the 2016 election.

Yet in an interview with NPR, Charles Koch suggested he is merely playing defense, not offense. The libertarian-leaning industrialist said he is outspent.

San Diego is the largest city in the country to commit to using only renewable energy, a goal that political parties, environmentalists and business groups hope to meet over the next 20 years.

That's right. There is broad consensus to reach this environmentally ambitious plan.

"A thriving business environment is one in which the quality of life is high so that we can attract the best and brightest talent from around the nation [and] around the world," says Sean Karafin, with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

If you are getting spooked by plunging stock prices, you may be trying to figure out where the economy is heading.

Here's one new sign that better days are coming:

In the latest survey of business economists, most — 58 percent — say their companies plan to raise workers' wages this winter. That's the most upbeat wage outlook since mid-2014, according to the quarterly survey done by the National Association for Business Economics.

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In a tweet that was a lot longer than 140 characters, the CEO of Twitter announced some high-level departures at the company. Jack Dorsey's tweet came late last night and, as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, after months of falling stock prices.

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There are some signs that the long-running turnaround effort at McDonald's may be working. The company announced today that it beat fourth-quarter profit estimates and that sales increased both at home and abroad. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports.

The National Football League signed a five-year, $400 million contract with Microsoft in 2013 that gives teams custom Microsoft Surface tablets to use in training and, more importantly, on the sidelines during nationally televised games.

Coaches and players use the tablets to review plays and analyze data in real time — or at least that's how it's supposed to work.

Overall, natural gas is by far the most popular source of home heating in the U.S. But in the Northeast, homeowners are much more likely than in other regions to use heating oil.

Many homeowners are smiling this winter, because fuel prices are down 50 percent from two years ago.

But not everyone is happy. Buying heating oil is a little like playing poker: Bet on the wrong price and it'll cost you.

Steve Miller has some customers on offer. Millions of them in fact.

The chief medical officer at Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., has been essentially auctioning off his 80 million customers to the drug companies that will give him the best deal.

"Who wants my market share?" Miller says. "Whoever will give me the best price, I will reward you with an enormous amount of market share."

Meet The Most Pampered Vegetables In America

Jan 25, 2016

There's a small corner of the restaurant world where food is art and the plate is just as exquisite as the mouthful.

In this world, chefs are constantly looking for new creative materials for the next stunning presentation.

The tiny community of farmers who grow vegetables for the elite chefs prize creativity, too, not just in what they grow but in how they grow it. They're seeking perfection, in vegetable form and flavor, like this tiny cucumber that looks like a watermelon — called a cucamelon.

As the old saying goes, the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions. In other words, sharply falling stock markets are crying wolf about half the time.

Dyke Messinger, who runs a small manufacturing company in Salisbury, N.C., thinks stock investors have been overreacting during this sell-off.

"It is bizarre to me when we see what we believe is good core strength in the U.S. market," he says.

North Carolina is one of the country's largest poultry producers — and getting bigger. Large-scale chicken farms are spreading across the state. Government regulations have allowed these farms to get much closer to where people live. That's not just a nuisance. Neighbors say it's also a potential health hazard.

Craig Watts is an industrial chicken farmer in Fairmont, N.C. He contracts with Perdue and has raised birds for more than 20 years. Still, he says sometimes it's a struggle to meet the demands of the industry.

When Southern California Gas Company finally manages to seal a natural gas storage well that's been leaking for months, the company will have to shut the well down permanently, California regulators say.

And in the meantime, the company will have to minimize air pollution from the ongoing leak and fund an independent study on potential health impacts on the surrounding community.

A divorced New York businessman billionaire with a mixed political history and knack for controversy and grabbing the spotlight might run for president. Another one.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is again weighing a possible independent bid for the White House after seeing an opening in a chaotic and unpredictable 2016 race.

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If self-driving cars kind of freak you out but you like the idea, there's now an alternative. They're called semi-autonomous cars, and you're still the driver, but so much is automated that it may not feel that way.

At $1.22 a gallon, a gas station on Columbus, Ohio's southwest side is drawing customers from all parts of the city. Stan Cartwright drove there from across town.

"I came for the gas price. I live on the East Side, and so, you know, I had to make a little bit of a commute, but it was worth it," he says.

The bargains aren't just in Columbus; drivers all around the state are saving money.

"Prices in Ohio tend to be very, very competitive," says GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.

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Stock markets rallied Friday, but the year hasn't started off so great for Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 500 points for a bit on Wednesday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index has dropped about 7 percent this month and markets around the world have lost trillions(!) of dollars in value.

Some experts predict we are headed for — if not already in — a bear market, or one in which prices are falling and investors start selling aggressively.

As researchers have searched for ways to explain the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S., many have posited that a child's race or ethnicity alone can put them at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Kim Eagle, a professor of internal medicine and health management and policy at the University of Michigan, was skeptical of this thinking. His hunch was that poverty was a much more important part of the equation.

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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/.

When Netflix announced its expansion to 130 countries, including Kenya, Nairobi-based IT specialist Mark Irungu says he was thrilled.

He had never failed to find ways to stream Netflix, even when it was blocked in Kenya.

But, he says, touching his heart, "that morning, when I saw that Netflix is global? I can't compare it to anything else."

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Fashion icon Grace Coddington is leaving her post as creative director of American Vogue. We learn more about her legacy, and what the change could mean for one of the most famous fashion magazines.

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OK, now, we've been exploring what might happen now that sanctions have been lifted against Iran. As we've been doing that, we found a rug maker who has been anxiously waiting for this day.

When the first Mac computer came out in 1984, it cost nearly $2,500 and had a floppy drive for storage. In 2016, a spate of computers with a price as low as $5 and a lot more storage are hitting the market, and they may be opening up a new era of experimentation.

Recently, I got a look at one of these low-cost computers — the $9 CHIP, which has 4 gigabytes of storage.

Kevin Schiller had no idea what hit him.

With 21 years on the job, the building engineer for Macy's department stores had been in and out of every nook and cranny of many of the retail giant's Texas stores, including the storage room in the Macy's in Denton, Texas.

One minute, the stocky, 6-foot-2 Schiller was searching there for a floor drain. The next, he was sprawled on the floor, stunned, confused and bleeding slightly.

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