Business & Education

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Are the mutual funds you invest in efficient wealth generators or overpriced losers sucking money out of your retirement account with fees? It turns out most Americans don't know.

We asked the members of NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group, and most respondents said they had "no idea" if the investments in their 401(k)s or IRAs were "good, bad or ugly." That holds true with broader surveys as well.

The nation's central bank is proposing rules to help ensure that if a big bank were to fail, the costs of a bailout would not fall on taxpayers.

The changes would mark "another important step in addressing the 'too big to fail' problem," Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday.

The rules would force some major banks to issue long-term bonds that — in an emergency — could provide a cushion of capital to cover losses, rather than leaving it to taxpayers.

In Wednesday night's GOP debate, moderators pressed GOP candidates on their massive tax reform pans. Moderator John Harwood asked Donald Trump about the idea that his massive tax cuts would make the economy take off "like a rocket ship" (an idea that Trump staunchly defended).

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International is ending its relationship with Philidor Rx Services, because of questions raised about whether it was using the specialty pharmacy to boost sales of Valeant drugs over cheaper versions.

As a result, Philidor will shut down as soon as possible, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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Ten million people still don't have health insurance two years after the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Some never bought a policy. But 20 percent went to the trouble of signing up on, or one of the state insurance exchanges, and even made payments. Then, those 2 million people let their insurance lapse.

NPR asked visitors to our Facebook page to tell us why.

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It's a Wednesday night inside a Meijer store in Grand Rapids, Mich., and artist Carson Brown roams the aisles for hours. He's on a particular mission that night: hunting for products that are the perfect shade of blueberry blue.

In his cart: blue buckets, a blue ironing board, blue storage bins, blue Listerine, blue loofah sponges and blue shampoo.

Republican presidential hopefuls squared off over economic policies last night. The candidates defended their plans to simplify the tax code. It turns out, that's kind of complicated.


Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is near the top of the polls. So it's not surprising that his tax plan came under the scalpel in the CNBC debate Wednesday night. Carson denied that his plan for a flat tax of 10 percent, based on the biblical principle of tithing, would cost the government more than $1 trillion:

The prepaid debit card company, co-founded by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, will compensate some customers who temporarily lost access to their money due to a technical problem this month.

For Caracas housewife Anny Valero, today is grocery day — whether she likes it or not. Here's why: It's Monday, and if Valero doesn't go now, she'll have to wait four more days to buy food.

In Venezuela, government supermarkets sell price-controlled food, making them far cheaper than private stores. But Valero explains that people are allowed in state-run supermarkets just two days per week, based on their ID card numbers. The system is designed to prevent shoppers from buying more than they need and then reselling goods on the black market at a huge markup.

One Internet commenter in France will have less to spend on French cuisine after being fined for writing a review of an eatery that had yet to open.

Miracle. Game changer. Marvel. Cure. Lifesaver.

For Dr. Vinay Prasad, each one of these words was a little straw on the camel's back. At oncology conferences, they were used "indiscriminately" to describe new cancer drugs. Journalists bandied them about in stories.

Finally, the pile of hyperbole broke the camel's back.

The U.S. economy grew at a considerably slower pace during the third quarter as companies cut back on the size of their inventories, the Commerce Department said.

Growth came in at an annual rate of 1.5 percent — a sharp slowdown from the 3.9 percent gain recorded in the preceding quarter. The economy has grown at about 2 percent so far this year.

Stories about classical music that appeared on NPR's website have been found to include portions of others' work, according to a joint statement by NPR and member station WQXR, where the writer of those reports was based. The 10 articles were submitted over a period of several years.

The pundit world is still trying to decide which of the 10 Republican candidates for president won the third Republican debate of the 2016 race.

But it didn't take long for there to be consensus on one thing: CNBC was the night's "biggest loser."

About 55 miles east of Capitol Hill, one small business — International Green Structures — is trying to stretch beyond its base in Stevensville, Md., to go global.

IGS, which has about 50 factory workers, makes fiberboard out of compressed wheat. The panels, used to build durable housing, are both "green" and red-white-and-blue-American-made.

After posting a gain of around $4 billion in the second quarter of 2015, Royal Dutch Shell says it lost more than $7.4 billion in the third quarter. Lower oil prices played a role, as did the costs Shell incurred when it shut down large-scale projects.

Faced with crude oil prices that have now been slumping for more than a year, Shell and other oil big companies are restructuring their businesses and cutting costs.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports:

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Uber has shaken up what it takes to get from point A to point B in cities across the country with a simple premise: If you need a ride, a driver nearby could pick you up within minutes.

Behind that idea is an algorithm, which promises to keep supply and demand in constant balance, encouraging drivers toward busy areas and tempering customer requests by increasing the price of each ride. It's called surge pricing.

Episode 518: Your Organs, Please

Oct 28, 2015

Changing behavior is hard. That's something that organ donor advocates know firsthand. When the state of Michigan found itself with the lowest donor rate in the country, something had to change.

The state tried putting up billboards. Tabling at community fairs. Nothing worked. Today on the show: The story of one woman who found a way by partnering with one of the more hated American institutions.

Music: Jon Lemmon's "Wonder."

Two of the nation's largest drug store chains want to merge, a deal that's certain to face intense scrutiny from federal regulators worried about its potential harm to consumers.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, the company that owns Walgreens drugstores, said yesterday that it has agreed to buy Rite Aid for about $9 a share, in a deal worth about $17 billion.

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On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve again decided not to raise interest rates.

While Chair Janet Yellen has suggested she'd like to raise rates this year, policymakers decided now is not the time, NPR's John Ydstie reports:

IBM's big-data ambitions have been well-known for years, thanks to the high-profile Watson computer that's been delving into all kinds of industries.

The latest is weather.

Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?

For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first giveaway. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you'd notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)

Reporting its first quarterly loss in at least 15 years, Volkswagen is adjusting its profits forecast for 2015. The company says its sales revenue rose — but that costs related to an emissions-cheating scandal overwhelmed earnings to finish at a $1.8 billion loss.

On Tuesday, Walgreens confirmed that it plans to acquire drugstore competitor Rite Aid for $9.4 billion.

As The Wall Street Journal first reported, the move "would create a drugstore giant at a time when companies in nearly every corner of the health-care industry are seeking to gain advantage from bulking up."

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports for the Newscast unit:

Ever wondered how a few companies — namely Coca-Cola and PesiCo — created multibillion-dollar empires marketing flavored sugar water?

Nutrition scholar Marion Nestle, one of the most dogged chroniclers of the U.S. food industry and its politics, did. She was intrigued by the power of Big Soda and how it's responding to flat sales in the U.S.

The latest clash in the cybersecurity vs. privacy debate played itself out in Congress on Tuesday when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. Supporters say the bill, approved 74-21, will help stop hackers by getting companies that have been breached to share information about the embarrassing attack with federal law enforcement. The House passed its version in April.