2011 was the worst year on record for sales of new homes. The dismal year was capped by a drop in home sales in December.
The AP reports:
"The Commerce Department said Thursday new-home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 307,000. The pace is less than half the 700,000 that economists say must be sold in a healthy economy.
"About 302,000 homes were sold last year. That's less than the 323,000 sold in 2010, making 2011 the worst year on records dating back to 1963.
The new food safety recall for salt really got our attention. How could salt be contaminated with salmonella?
If your blog's named The Salt, you've just got to find out. So we dug into the story, and found that it's a collision of two distressing trends: contamination of herbs and spices, and safety issues with organic products.
Over the past week, 21,000 more Americans claimed unemployment benefits, the Labor Department reports. Like most economic news, that's the bad news. The good news, reports the AP, is the that the four-week average is down 2,500, which "still signals a healthier job market."
The Commerce Department also has some good news on the economy: Orders for durable goods rose 3 percent, last month.
The AP reports that this marks a gain for the second straight month. The AP adds:
As the Republican presidential hopefuls head into their final televised confrontation Thursday night at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville (at 8 p.m. ET on CNN), NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that the debate could sway the outcome of the close race.
Usually, there is lots of formality and protocol when a president steps off Airforce One and walks onto a tarmac. But, yesterday, when President Obama landed at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, he was greeted by Gov. Jan Brewer and very quickly the welcome turned into a serious and tense discussion.
Standard issue military eyeglasses are considered so unflattering, service members have an acronym for them: BCGs or Birth Control Glasses. For the first time in more than 20 years, the military is updating its look. Instead of those thick brown plastic frames, recruits can get sleeker black plastic specs.
Fans of Uggie in the silent movie The Artist were outraged when the dog didn't get an Oscar nomination. Now Uggie's owner tells a magazine that movie was the Jack Russell terrier's last. He's retiring the 10-year-old animal. Uggie wants to relax.
Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 8:23 am
President Obama will flesh out the energy goals he laid out during his State of the Union address today. He'll start talking about natural gas in a UPS Facility in Nevada and continue on to the Buckley Air Force base in Aurora, Colo., where the Air Force is installing a one-megawatt solar array.
Reuters reports that in Las Vegas, Obama will propose a tax credit that helps offset the upfront costs of buying natural gas trucks.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Take a map of the United States and stick pins in every state President Obama visits this week, and you would have a partial picture of how he hopes to win re-election. The president is visiting states he hopes to win this fall.
Cuban-Americans are an important part of the Republican presidential electorate in Florida. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have reached out to these voters in Spanish-language TV and radio ads. Romney, in particular, has racked up many endorsements from prominent Cuban-American political figures.
Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are scrambling to tie up votes in Florida, which holds its winner-take-all primary next Tuesday. Steve Inskeep talks to conservative writer David Frum about the state of the GOP race.
They say two things are certain: death and taxes. But Amazon is still hoping to avoid at least one of those things. The online retailer is reportedly promising Florida lawmakers it will create up to 3,000 jobs in the state and build new distribution centers in Florida, if lawmakers give Amazon a two-year break from collecting state sales tax.
And let's go next to my home state of Indiana, where state lawmakers now look certain to pass controversial right-to-work legislation.
Democrats have been trying to block that bill. But yesterday it passed the state's Republican-controlled House. And so Indiana is poised to become the first state to approve this kind of legislation in a decade.
We have more from Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting.
And our last word in business today comes from Alaska Airlines. The carrier has been putting prayer cards on the meal trays it serves passengers since the 1980s. Flying can be nerve-wracking and the airline figured people might find comfort in a psalm from the Old Testament, along with the soothing image of a beach or the mountains.
It was also a marketing strategy so the airline could differentiate itself from competitors. Many passengers didn't mind.
The Sundance Film Festival wraps up this weekend in Park City, Utah. Movies and more movies have been on offer at the gathering, famously backed by Robert Redford. Our own Kenneth Turan is taking it all in and joined us from member station KPCW in Park City.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Well, let us begin with the dramatic films. What stands out for you this year?
The federal government has come out with its new standards for school meals - less fat, less salt, less sugar and more fruits, grains and vegetables. Devin Katayama from member station WFPL reports on how the Louisville, Kentucky school district is trying to comply with the guidelines and satisfy student tastes.
DEVIN KATAYAMA, BYLINE: Meet fourth grade food critic Jackson Schleff.
Newt Gingrich, a self-described space nut, has long been a supporter of the U.S. space program. Now the Republican presidential hopeful is proposing what he calls a bold program that would send Americans back to the moon and beyond.
During a campaign event on Florida's Space Coast — hard-hit by the recession and the space program's uncertain future — Gingrich talked about coming of age at the time of Sputnik, the first satellite, launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union. He recalled reading science-fiction author Isaac Asimov and Missiles and Rockets magazine.
Just four years ago, Starbucks seemed to be losing its mojo. Howard Schultz, the man who made Starbucks a household name, returned to the company as CEO. He closed hundreds of stores, streamlined operations and set the company on a path to record revenues and strong profits.
Starbucks serves 60 million beverages a week, which adds up to big profits. The company reports its earnings Thursday. In a bid to further expand its consumer base, Starbucks has a new roast and plans to produce more retail products to sell outside of its coffeehouses.
The value of Iran's currency — which had been sliding steadily for months — took another plunge this week. Faced with new economic sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, the rial now seems to be in free fall.
But at least part of the dive could be linked to currency manipulation by the government itself in an effort to fund candidates in upcoming elections.
In images posted on the Internet, hundreds of Iranians are seen gathered outside the headquarters of the Bank Melli in Tehran Monday. They wanted to buy dollars, but there were no dollars to be had.
Greece is broke. But there's no blueprint for a country to declare bankruptcy, so Greece's creditors are sort of making things up as they go along.
"You're taking some sort of loss," Hans Humes of Greylock Capital Management told me. "But it's like, how much of a loss do you take? There's this thing called sovereign immunity. You can't go in and take the Acropolis."
Alice Waters has moved from the kitchen to the garden to the soap box in her 40 years as a pioneer of the sustainable and locally grown food movement. But on one recent night, The Salt found her "hanging" in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.