Business & Education

Business & education news

Household Debt : Falling. Slowly.

Aug 29, 2012

The New York Fed just put out its latest report on household debt. It's a good, quick-ish look at the debt picture for ordinary Americans. Here's the key graph:

It shows:

* Household debt is overwhelmingly about mortgages.

* Mortgage debt shot up during the housing boom, and has slowly — slowly — been falling for the past several years.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its GDP numbers today, saying that during the second quarter of this year, the United States economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate.

That's up from its original estimate of 1.5 percent.

The BEA reports:

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Not so long ago, the journalist James Fallows made a prediction about China. Many Americans worry about the power of a rising China, but Fallows argued that in the next few years Americans may have more to worry about from China's weakness.

China's economic boom has altered the world economy, but its growth is slowing down. And we're going to talk about that with Beijing-based economist Patrick Chovanec. He's on the line from Beijing.

Welcome to the program.

PATRICK CHOVANEC ECONOMIST: Good to be here.

Judge To Rule Later On Ala. Prepaid Tuition Plan

Aug 27, 2012
Tax Credits / Flickr

A judge says he will rule later on whether a new law can be applied retroactively to Alabama's prepaid college tuition plan. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick heard arguments from both sides Monday and took the case under advisement. At issue is a settlement the board of the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan reached with many participants to pay less than full tuition because of the plan's financial problems. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in March that the settlement violated state law. The Legislature revised the law in April.

ACT Says A Quarter Of High Schoolers Are College Ready

Aug 24, 2012

The people at ACT, best known for the assesment test taken by many college-bound high schoolers, have finished crunching 2012 numbers and they report that just 25 percent of high schoolers who took the test are college ready.

A freshman class is arriving at Penn State this week. But a child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the school last fall is casting a shadow over the school's "Welcome Week."

Millions of college students are heading back to campus soon, and as any parent footing the bill knows, they're hungry for more than just knowledge — they want food, and lots of it, at all hours.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a big patent ruling.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is a case of Apple against Samsung - and if that sounds familiar, it's because there's more than one patent case here.

While a jury in California deliberates a huge multibillion dollar patent infringement case, which we've been discussing this week, a ruling on a similar case with the same players has been issued today in South Korea.

The Last Word In Business

Aug 24, 2012

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And today's last word in business is: duh. That's right, D-U-H.

That's a Colombian beer, and it's at the center of a brewing legal battle between two businessmen and 20th Century Fox. The golden ale was originally called Duff Beer, and it looks just like the beer served up at Moe's Tavern on "The Simpsons." But 20th Century Fox complained that the two brothers who founded the company were infringing on a trademark here - Duff, it's from "The Simpsons." So the brothers said they changed the name to DuH.

The only remaining laboratory of one of the greatest American inventors may soon be purchased so that it can be turned into a museum, thanks to an Internet campaign that raised nearly a million dollars in about a week.

The lab was called Wardenclyffe, and it was built by Nikola Tesla, a wizard of electrical engineering whose power systems lit up the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and harnessed the mighty Niagara Falls.

Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven't been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.

Only Nintendo's Wii U might be on shelves for the holiday season.

The console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.

Try asking a gamer like Ryan Block what would entice him to drop a few hundred bucks on a new console.

Alabama Tuition Plan Paying Full Rates For Fall

Aug 22, 2012
Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer / Facebook

State Treasurer Young Boozer says Alabama's prepaid college tuition plan will pay full tuition for the fall semester while it waits for a court to rule on the legality of making reduced payments.

Alabama's plan currently has more than 36,000 participants, and more than 19,000 of them eligible to attend college this fall. Boozer said Wednesday there is no way to know when the court will rule.

The Last Word In Business

Aug 22, 2012

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. And our last word in business today is Wi-Fi donkeys. Just follow along here.

A theme park in Israel called Kfar Kedem, or Village of Yore, depicts life in Israel in the first and second centuries. The Times of Israel describes it as a Galilean version of Colonial Williamsburg.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On the fishing-boat piers of New England, nearly everyone knows a fisherman who was lost at sea.

Boat captain Joe Neves remembers when a crew member got knocked overboard. "We heard him screaming 'Help me!' " Neves says, grimacing. "But you know, on the water at night, your head is like a little coconut." They didn't find him.

Mike Gallagher discovered a friend who was entangled in still-running hydraulics. "I knew right away he was dead," he says.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The business school at UCLA wants to go into business for itself. The Anderson School of Management is part of a public university. Of course, it's in California and the school's leaders find that being part of public education in California right now is a little maddening. Budget battles and state budget cuts have become normal.

Will Stone reports on what the school wants to do instead.

In a new study, The Pew Hispanic Center says that for the first time ever, Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the country's college campuses.

It's a report that marks many firsts for the ethnic group, which has been making great strides in education since 1972.

Among them: For the first time, there were more than 2 million latinos ages 18 to 24 enrolled. They reached a record 16.5 percent of all college enrollment. Hispanics make up a little more than a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in two-year colleges.

Bill Would Make Changes To School Start Date Law

Aug 20, 2012

Two state legislators say they will introduce a bill in the Legislature that allows local school boards to set start and stop dates for the school year in their systems.

The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Holtzclaw of Madison and GOP Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood is being pre-filed this week. It would change a law passed by lawmakers this year that requires the first day of school be no earlier than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and the last day be no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.

American is currently seeking to cut costs in bankruptcy protection so the flight attendants' union pushed hard for this vote — warning that rejecting the contract could mean even deeper cuts or furloughs. The company's trying to cut about a billion dollars in labor costs. Mechanics and other union workers had previously accepted new contracts but pilots rejected American's latest offer earlier this month.

Refinance activity continues to boom, fueling the home-loan market. Low interest rates have created a class of "serial refinancers" — those lucky enough to borrow at lower rates — and given them new opportunities to spend their freed up cash.

Settlement attorney Robert Gratz never used to be on a first-name basis with his clients.

"In the past, our practice was such that you'd see people, and that was the end of it," he says.

Gratz now sees the same faces all the time, of clients refinancing again and again — these days in the mid-3 percent range.

UAB President Carol Garrison Stepping Down

Aug 16, 2012
uab.edu / University of Alabama at Birmingham

The president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham has announced that she is stepping down after 10 years. Carol Z. Garrison announced Thursday she is leaving but will continue to serve in her position until an interim president is named. Garrison was named the sixth president of UAB in 2002. She came to UAB from the University of Louisville, where she was acting president. She was hired after the tumultuous departure of UAB's former president, W. Ann Reynolds. UAB has seen record enrollment for three consecutive years, reaching 17,575 in fall 2011.

There was no change in the consumer price index last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

It's the second month in a row that the index was flat — a sign that inflation remained in check for the first half or so of summer. Whether that trend will continue, however, is uncertain.

Austal USA To Add 1,000 Jobs At Mobile Shipyard

Aug 14, 2012
Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Flickr

Alabama's governor says the state will provide $5 million and job training to Austal USA to help the shipbuilder add up to 1,000 jobs in Mobile.

Gov. Robert Bentley was in Mobile on Tuesday to announce an agreement with the Australia-based shipbuilder.

The agreement calls for the state to provide $1 million a year for five years, which will help with the expansion of the Mobile complex.

Ryan Vasquez

Robert Robinson owns Sundries and Specialties. It’s a brand new business, and he wants a brand new website to go with it.

“Well the front page I wanted to show various items like what we may sell,” Robinson says.  “Our store being sundries and specialties we may sell sundries, which is various items and then we specialize in jewelry or certain antiques. So I want the picture to represent that situation and describe some stuff about or business.”

After months of sitting on their wallets, Americans went shopping in July. The uptick reported Tuesday is boosting economists' hopes for a reasonably strong back-to-school season. And retailers are looking for clues about how the holiday shopping season will turn out later in the year.

"This is a good report," Chris Christopher, an economist with IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, wrote in an assessment of the latest report. "It indicates that consumers came back after hunkering down" during the year's first half when sales were "dismal."

Is Drought Slowly Killing US Farms?

Aug 14, 2012

Farmers and ranchers continue to suffer from one of the country's worst droughts in 50 years. President Obama recently announced the government will buy up to $170 million of meat from farmers. But some say it's too little too late. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with Virginia farmer John Boyd and Harvest Public Media reporter Peggy Lowe.

July saw the largest retail sales increase in months, according to the Commerce Department. But not all the news is rosy. NPR Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax joins guest host Jacki Lyden to take a look at consumer spending and the "back to school" season.

Judge Rules Against Birmingham School Board

Aug 13, 2012
alsde.edu / Alabama Department of Education

A judge has ruled that the state Department of Education will remain in control of the Birmingham school system and Birmingham school Superintendent Craig Witherspoon will continue in his job.

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a settlement with Facebook in which the social media leader agrees to get users' approval before making any privacy changes and agrees to periodic third-party audits for the next 20 years on how it handles user privacy.

We told you about this settlement back in November, but today, Reuters reports, after a period of public comment, the settlement has become official.

The Last Word In Business

Aug 10, 2012

Denny's Corp. is opening a flagship restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. It will take up 6,400 square feet and include a full bar and wedding chapel. And of course, it will be open 24-7.

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