Economy & Business

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Two seemingly common-sense, bipartisan food reforms have gotten mugged on Capitol Hill in recent days. If you're a loyal reader of The Salt, you've heard of them.

American gourmets and lovers of Italian food products, your days as food smugglers are over.

No more stuffing your suitcases with delicacies bought in Italy, hoping the sniffer dogs at JFK or other American airports won't detect the banned-in-the-USA foodstuffs inside your luggage.

In the U.S., they're called cured meats, the French say charcuterie and in Italy, the word for cured-pork products is salumi.

Four years ago, 21 men with intellectual disabilities were emancipated from a bright blue, century-old schoolhouse in Atalissa, Iowa. They ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s, and for most of their adult lives they had worked for next to nothing and lived in dangerously unsanitary conditions.

Earlier this month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won a massive judgment against the turkey-processing company at which the men worked. The civil suit involved severe physical and emotional abuse of men with intellectual disabilities.

Hundreds of underground passageways wind like a maze beneath the Egypt-Gaza border, providing a way for Gazans to maneuver around the 2007 Israeli-led economic blockade that took effect after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.

And while subterranean tunnels may seem like something out of a thrilling spy movie, the reality and practicality of these channels is somehow not surprising.

After a long bumpy ride that started five years ago, the domestic airline industry seems to be pulling up and smoothing out.

The number of passengers planning to fly this summer will tick up 1 percent from 2012, climbing back to the highest level since 2008, an industry group said Thursday.

The airlines' profit outlook is also brighter, as jet fuel prices have settled down a bit. Passenger complaints are quieting down, too.

This week, Google, already a leader in mapping, created more space between itself and its competitors by more deeply mining the data users provide the company when using its various services.

At the Google developers' conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps, crowed about the company's mapping app for the iPhone — and couldn't quite stop himself from taking a dig at Apple.

"People called it sleek, simple, beautiful, and let's not forget, accurate," he said.

A couple generations ago, when older Americans retired they could rely on pension plans to support them. Then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many companies switched their retirement plans over to 401(k) accounts. The security of workers' retirement savings suddenly became subject to the vagaries of the stock market.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Thirty million dollars is a lot of money, but how do you divide it among the families of the three people killed, the dozens maimed, the hundreds who spent time in the hospital, the thousands who witnessed the blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last month?

A study published online recently in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives documented slightly elevated levels of arsenic in samples of chicken purchased at grocery stores in 10 cities in the U.S.

So how did trace amounts of this toxin end up in supermarket poultry?

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Gov. Walker appears to be a quarter-way to his goal of creating 250,000 private sector jobs from 2011-2015.

Billionaire investment legend Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has had its credit rating lowered from AA+ to AA by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.

In a statement, S&P says that even though Berkshire Hathaway has an "excellent business profile," the lower credit rating "better reflects our view of BRK's dependence on its core insurance operations for most of its dividend income." (S&P's statement is posted on its website, but you have to register to view it.)

Thursday morning's economic news:

-- There were 360,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, up 32,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says. At 360,000, the pace was the fastest since the last week of March. But it remained well below the 400,000-and-higher rate that lasted from mid-2008 into 2011.

Copyright 2014 North Country Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/.

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