Business & Education

Business & education news

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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NPR's business news starts with a Justice decision.

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As several news outlets had predicted last month would happen, Google is going to pay $22.5 million — the largest civil penalty the Federal Trade Commission has ever levied — to settle charges that it wasn't straight with users of Apple's Safari browser about how it would track their Web surfing.

For more, see our posts The Price Of College Tuition and What America Owes In Student Loans.

Tuition has gone through the roof in the past decade. But so has financial aid.

There were 361,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Employment and Training Administration says. That's down 6,000 from the week before (that previous week's total was revised up by 2,000).

Claims have stayed in a range between 350,000 and 400,000 all year. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has also varied little: it's low this year has been 8.1 percent and the high has been 8.3 percent.

Thousands Attend Birmingham Job Fair

Aug 8, 2012
Wikimedia Commons

A job fair featuring more than 100 employers drew an estimated 5,000 people seeking work in Birmingham. People began lining up three hours before the event began Wednesday at the city's convention center. The job fair was put together by the office of Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes part of metro Birmingham and much of the state's impoverished Black Belt region. Sewell says the unemployment rate in her district is 18.8 percent, or more than 10 percentage points above the national level.

A drop in natural gas prices is hurting balance sheets across the petroleum industry. The second-largest natural gas producer in the United States — Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy — has been hit especially hard.

After 23 consecutive years of touting its increasing natural gas production, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon told investors during a conference call Tuesday that the company projects its gas output will drop about 7 percent in 2013.

The following exchange has played out over and over in the last ten days:

Point: "NBC's coverage of the Olympics stinks, because everything is tape-delayed and cut to shreds, and also the announcers are awful and they only care about American athletes, and by the time I get to watch anything, I already know what happened."

Counterpoint: "People are watching in huge numbers."

Point: "But quality."

Counterpoint: "But business."

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NPR's business news starts with an airline refund.

Refunds are starting to arrive in the bank accounts of Southwest Airlines' customers who were billed multiple times for promotional fares booked on Friday. Some customers paid for their discounted air travel as many as 20 times, according to the Associated Press. The company blamed the problem on a computer glitch.

Two days after Chick-fil-A set a one-day sales record thanks to a show of support for company President Dan Cathy and his outspoken stand against same-sex marriage, it's "National Same-Sex Kiss Day" for gay rights activists.

Ala. Seeking Waiver From No Child Left Behind

Aug 2, 2012
Andy Grant / Flickr

Alabama education officials say they will ask the U.S. Department of Education to give Alabama a waiver from the goal of the No Child Left Behind law to have all students performing at the proficient level in math and reading by 2014. Deputy State Superintendent Sherrill Parris says the state plans to submit the request by early September and expects to get an answer by December. She's optimistic Alabama will get a waiver because 33 states already did. She said Alabama's waiver request will be based on implementing Alabama's new student achievement goals, called Plan 2020.

Education Fund Revenue On Pace To Meet Expenses

Aug 2, 2012

A state official says the Alabama Education Trust Fund should collect enough state income taxes and other levies to meet its spending target for this fiscal year and avoid across-the-board cuts. Assistant state Finance Director Bill Newton made the comments Wednesday. Newton also predicted the state general fund, a major source of state money for Medicaid, prisons and other non-education areas of government, should collect enough revenues to meet its trimmed spending target for the year without further cuts.

Austin Docter has worked at a shellfish plant in Shelton, Wash., for 18 years and has a lot of words to describe what he calls the flavor profiles of oysters: Minerally. Metallic-y. Sweet. Buttery.

"Wherever oysters are grown, they take on the characteristics of the algae and water that they grow up in," Docter says. "It's a lot like French wine."

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:

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

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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.

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