Business & Education

Business & education news

The number of people filing first-time clams for unemployment insurance rose by 8,000 last week, to 365,000 from 357,000 the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says.

It adds that the "4-week moving average," which is supposed to give a slightly broader look at the trend in claims, "was 365,500, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week's revised average of 368,250."

But according to The Associated Press:

Maureen O'Brien told her daughter Emily Macri: dream big.

She could pick any college she wanted and they would figure out a way to pay for it.

Macri chose the University of Vermont, which costs more than $49,000 in tuition and fees per year for out-of-state residents.

O'Brien and her daughter co-signed a private student loan from Sallie Mae for $24,000 and a $30,000 Parent PLUS loan, a federal loan program for parents. And that was just for Macri's first two years of college.

Ex-First Lady Aims To Make Alabama A Bamboo Power

Aug 1, 2012
Shawn Henning / Flickr

Several investors including former Alabama first lady Marsha Folsom say they plan to build a bamboo processing plant in Alabama and turn the state into "the Silicon Valley of bamboo." Folsom has joined the founders of bamboo flooring company Teragren and two other partners to launch Resource Fiber LLC. Officials say Folsom will head plans to build an Alabama processing plant that will employ about 100 and open next year. Folsom said bamboo is a $25 billion industry centered in China, and Alabama is uniquely situated to capture a piece of the market.

"August 1st will be another day that will destroy investor confidence just like the May 6th [2010] flash crash."

That rather ominous sounding pronouncement comes from Joseph Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading LLC in Chatham, N.J., in a Bloomberg News report about what happened early this morning on Wall Street.

Microsoft announced that Hotmail — the email service with 324 million users — will transition into a web and more social version of Microsoft's Outlook.

Reuters reports that Microsoft made the announcement, as they showed off their free web version of the email program it is renowned for.

Reuters adds:

Housing, the sector that led us into the recession, now looks to be one of the brighter spots in the economy. Homebuilding is at its highest level in nearly four years. More homes are selling, and at higher prices.

The question, of course, is whether this is a solid enough foundation to sustain a full housing recovery.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says housing woes are largely behind us.

An epic battle between the two biggest smartphone makers begins Monday in a federal district court in San Jose, Calif., where computing giant Apple is asking for more than $2.5 billion from rival phone maker Samsung for patent violations.

The suit would be the most expensive patent violation in history, and it's just one front in Apple's war against phones running Google's Android operating system.

We've been talking a lot lately about what's been dubbed the "LIBOR rate fixing scandal," where some of the biggest banks in the world have been accused of manipulating a key global interest rate.

How To Set Up An Offshore Company

Jul 27, 2012

Setting up an offshore company in a tax haven is surprisingly easy. A simple Google search offers up thousands of companies willing to help you do it.

Rebeca Espinal admits with a shy smile that she's a straight-A math student. She's a high school graduate who dreamed of going to college.

Instead, Espinal, 17, is working in a Charlotte, N.C., factory that makes gas turbines and generators. She is an apprentice with the German company Siemens.

"I was planning on getting a degree in international relations, but with financial aid and how difficult it is to pay for college and everything," she says. "So when Siemens came along and gave me the offer, it was too good of an opportunity to just let it go.

Ford says that 485,000 Ford Escapes and Mavericks — which are sold in Europe — may have problems with its throttles.

The AP reports Ford issued a worldwide recall for model year 2001 through 2004 small sports utility vehicles "that are powered by 3-liter V-6 engines with cruise control."

The AP adds:



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

In the Midwest, the drought is doing a number on the nation's biggest agricultural crop, corn. The USDA says half of the country's cornfields are in poor or very poor condition, and the short supply is driving up the price. Now, a fight between livestock farmers and ethanol producers over the high priced corn crop. Farmers say ethanol factories have an unfair advantage.

NPR's Dan Charles reports.

While the job market remains sluggish, temporary work is one area that's done very well in the economic recovery. Companies are keeping their temps longer and are even using them to fill professional and high-ranking positions.

The average daily number of temporary workers employed during the first quarter of 2012 was more than 2.5 million. That's up from a low of 2.1 million in early 2009, according to the American Staffing Association.

This fall, the U.S. Navy will contract three Cold War-era aircraft carriers — the USS Forrestal, the USS Saratoga and the USS Constellation — for scrapping. Often called "supercarriers" owing to their massive size, the ships contain nearly 60,000 tons of steel and other metal each.

All three carriers are likely to be sent to the landlocked city of Brownsville, Texas, to be ripped apart.

Ford Motor Co. intends to prove that good things come in small packages — really small packages. The company has taken engine downsizing to a new level with its new three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which has been introduced in Europe and is set to hit the U.S. market next year.

The EcoBoost offers more power than many conventional four-cylinder engines, with fuel economy numbers a hybrid could envy. Early fans are calling it a modern "little engine that could," and Ford is betting that American customers are ready to embrace a three-cylinder engine.

Apple reported its financial results for the quarter ended June 30, and depending how you look at it, they're either amazing or disappointing.

The company says it made $8.8 billion in profits over the course of three months. That's more than enough to buy every share of Alcoa, the global aluminum giant, which was worth just under $8.6 billion when the stock market closed this afternoon.

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been trading attacks over the issue of American jobs being moved overseas.

The president has pounded Romney for the investments made by his former firm Bain Capital in the 1990s. Not to be outdone, the Romney campaign has suggested most of the money from the president's stimulus program went to create jobs overseas.

Corn Crop Hit Hard as Much of Alabama in Drought

Jul 21, 2012
photo of scorched corn
andypowe11 / Flickr


Almost 90 percent of Alabama is under drought conditions and for 59 percent of the state the drought is moderate to exceptional.

The U.S. Weather Service's drought monitor shows conditions are the driest in the farming heavy southeast and eastern sections of the state and is threatening crops that need lots of moisture.

Judge Orders Birmingham to Cooperate with the State

Jul 21, 2012


A Jefferson County Circuit judge has ordered Birmingham school officials to not interfere with the state school board's efforts to take over the finances of the city's schools.

After a hearing on Friday, Circuit Judge Elisabeth French ordered school board members not to interfere with decisions of state Superintendent Tommy Bice to ensure city schools open for the fall in a timely manner. The judge also ordered board members to make sure Bice and his staff have access to school system records and computers.

LIBOR Spotlight Shifts To U.S. Regulators

Jul 21, 2012



There's another dimension to that unfolding LIBOR scandal which cost Barclays, the British bank, its CEO and $450 million in fines after it was revealed that the bank had been manipulating international lending rates. Attention has shifted to why U.S. financial regulators, who knew about the rate rigging, didn't move to stop it more swiftly.

We're going to put that question to Robert Smith, correspondent for NPR's Planet Money. He joins us from New York. Robert, thanks for being with us.


Alabama Jobless Rate Up to 7.8 percent in June

Jul 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent in June, an increase that state officials are calling seasonal.

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations released the state's jobless rate on Friday. It was up four-tenths of a percent from May's unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, but it's still well below the jobless rate from a year ago.

Mine Project Gets Tax Breaks from Tuscaloosa Co.

Jul 20, 2012
coal in transport bins
Arnoldius / Wikimedia Commons

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)  An underground coal mine project to be developed over the next six years has been granted significant tax incentives. The Tuscaloosa News reports Hoover-based Walter Energy has been granted about $25 million in tax abatements by the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority for the $1.2 billion project. The development will touch four Alabama counties, but most will be in northern Tuscaloosa County, where the mine will be located.

Birmingham School Board Sued by B.O.E & Attorney General

Jul 20, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Attorney General Luther Strange and the Alabama Board of Education have filed a lawsuit against the Birmingham's school board and its members.

Strange, the state school board and State Superintendent of Education Thomas Bice filed the lawsuit Friday.

The lawsuit claims Birmingham's school board is in a state of financial and political crisis. The lawsuit asks the court to affirm that Bice and the state school board have complete authority and the responsibility to manage the financial operation for Birmingham's school board.

For Stockton, Calif., Bankruptcy 'Freezes Everything'

Jul 20, 2012

Many cities around the country are faced with growing costs and shrinking revenue. Despite making sweeping cuts, Stockton, California recently became the largest city to file for bankruptcy. Host Michel Martin talks with Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston about how she's managing a city that's operating in the red.

Ford Issues Recall

Jul 20, 2012



NPR's business news starts with a recall from Ford.


MONTAGNE: A recall from Ford Motor Company comes with a strong and unusual message. If you own a certain 2013 model of the Ford Escape, the company says stop driving it. Ford issued this warning yesterday and said dealers will come pick up the SUVs from owners and drop off a loaner car.

Famed Harlem Entrepreneur Dies

Jul 20, 2012



And today's last word in business is: Sylvia - Sylvia Woods, the name behind soul food haven Sylvia's.


It's a restaurant, and for many, it's much more. The Harlem institution has been around for half a century, but it will never be the same because yesterday, Sylvia Woods died at the age of 86, on the same day New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was due to celebrate her legacy.

GM Retirees Face Friday Pension Deadline

Jul 20, 2012



You've got to escape from your Escape.

Now, today is an important day for more than 40,000 salaried retirees of General Motors. They're facing a major financial decision. This evening marks the deadline for accepting a pension buyout.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton explains.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The GM retirees have two choices: either take a lump-sum payment - which can range from 400,000 to $800,000 - or their pensions will be shifted from GM's books to the private insurance company Prudential.

Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)

Jul 19, 2012

Tuesday's show presented the common-sense, no-nonsense Planet Money economic plan — backed by economists of all stripes, but probably toxic to any candidate that might endorse it.

You can still listen to the show, but we've had some requests for a post with our six-step plan spelled out in brief.

So here they are, along with a few words about each of the economists who helped craft it:

A First As A Public Company, Microsoft Reports Quarterly Loss

Jul 19, 2012

Microsoft made a $6.2 billion accounting adjustment this quarter that threw it into negative territory for the first time as a public company, the AP reports.

Microsoft took the charge mostly based on the acquisition of aQuantive, an online advertising company Microsoft acquired in 2007.

As MSNBC reports, the "charge was an acknowledgement that the company's struggling online services division — which lost about half a billion dollars in the previous quarter — is a significant financial drag on the company." Microsoft, remember, is the owner of the search engine Bing.

On Wednesday, investors paid Germany to hold on to their money for a couple years.

That's right: Germany got to borrow more than 4 billion euros (about $5 billion), and instead of Germany paying interest to its lenders, the lenders are paying Germany. This a lot like Citibank paying you a smidgen to carry a balance on your credit card or to take out a loan (without also charging you interest).