The U.S. economy hit an important milestone last week: Gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the country, returned to pre-recession levels. But the gains were made with millions fewer workers. Part of the reason is technology, as computers and machines continue to replace humans.
We used to think about machines taking over mundane jobs, like twisting a screw into a toaster on an assembly line over and over again. But more recently, technology is eliminating higher-skill jobs.
About 3,000 people gathered at the Port of Oakland Wednesday, and effectively shut it down. People flooded the port area and blocked exits. The protest remained largely peaceful until the late evening, when police responded to a bonfire.
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was found guilty of conspiring to sell weapons to South American terrorists Wednesday. Host Renee Montagne talks to Michael Sullivan about the conviction of the so-called "Merchant of Death."
We're going to hear now about a very small race that's making big political waves. The race is for the school board of Wake County, North Carolina. It comes after a policy using family income to create economic diversity in the schools was tossed out by a Republican school board in 2009. This Tuesday, a runoff election for one seat on the board may put the Democrats back in the majority. Dave DeWitt of North Carolina Public Radio reports the school board race is attracting national attention and big money.
Some towns in New York are rushing to ban horizontal hydrofracking, a controversial technique for capturing natural gas trapped deep under ground. The state itself has yet to approve fracking, but Dryden, N.Y., isn't taking any chances. Town supervisors approved a ban based on local zoning. David Chanatry of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College reports, the Dryden's ban is the issue in next week's town board elections.
NPR's business news begins with a bleaker forecast from the Fed. Just when we were beginning to hear some more positive economic news, the Federal Reserve reminds us not to get too excited. It's predicting slower growth and less improvement in the unemployment rate through 2013 than previously expected. This news comes after a two-day meeting of the Fed's policy-making committee, in which it decided against taking new measures to stimulate the economy for now.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. To understand the European debt crisis, it helps to keep track of both the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, Europeans have agreed on a bailout deal that among other things would cut the debts of Greece. It's being held up by the Greek prime minister's plan to hold a referendum on austerity measures. Europeans have told Greece it's got to decide soon if it wants to be part of the eurozone or not.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a number of promises to fellow leaders of the eurozone countries at a summit meeting in October. Now Italy's economy is starting to become a growing concern for European Union leaders and financial markets.
America's original discount store has filed for federal bankruptcy protection and plans to close its 46 stores. This isn't the first time the company has filed for bankruptcy, but it appears to be its last. The company cited increased competition from department stores, private-label discounters and the economic downturn.
First Solar, viewed as the golden child of the solar industry, hold its quarterly call today with nervous investors. They're on edge because the Arizona-based company announced a CEO shake-up late last month and have said almost nothing publically since then. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Peter O'Dowd reports.
In the coming months, the Obama administration will decide whether to approve the Keystone pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmental advocates will try to encircle the White House on Sunday in a show of solidarity against the project. Steady protests have made this one of the most high-profile environmental decisions of the Obama presidency.
White House spokesman Jay Carney often tries to distance the president from the decision-making process over the pipeline.
Occupy Wall Street protesters have shut down operations for the day at one of the nation's busiest shipping ports.
Port of Oakland officials said in a statement late Wednesday that the peaceful rally attended by thousands of demonstrators forced them to cancel typical evening maritime activity. Officials at the nation's fifth-largest shipping port say they hope the work day can resume Thursday.
Students are borrowing more money to pay for college than ever before. New data shows that students who graduated in 2010 carried 5 percent more debt than in the previous year. And education debt is expect to grow in the coming years, as students struggle to pay higher tuition costs.
After a two-day orbital chase, the Shenzhou 8 spacecraftlatched onto a prototype space lab module called Tiangong 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET (1:30 a.m. local time Thursday in China). Ten minutes later, the docking was complete.
After emerging from a crisis talks with other European leaders, Greece's prime minister said the referendum on whether to accept the terms of a European Union bailout was also about whether Greece wanted to remain part of the union.
The AP reports:
George Papandreou told reporters after a meeting with European leaders Wednesday, "I believe it's crucial that we show the world that we can live up to our obligations."
"This is not a question only of the program, this is a question of whether we want to remain in the eurozone."
A former New Orleans police lieutenant has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for his role in a cover-up of deadly police shootings after Hurricane Katrina.
Michael Lohman faced a maximum of five years in prison after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to obstruct justice. Noting that Lohman cooperated in their case, prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle to limit his prison time to two years.
Lemelle rejected that recommendation, ordering Lohman to begin a four-year sentence on Jan. 2.
We've been focusing on Greece, today, but Italy is facing its own crisis: President Silvio Berlusconi called for an emergency meeting to enact a series of reforms meant to keep his country from spiraling into a debt crisis.
Faith-based health providers got a chance to vent about new federal rules that require them to offer prescription contraceptives as part of their health insurance plans at a House subcommittee hearing today. They also proposed some changes.
But backers of the rules say the revisions sought by opponents would render the requirement meaningless.
Herman Cain's sexual harassment crisis worsened Wednesday with a third woman telling a news organization that he sexually harassed her when they both worked at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, in another stunning turn, a male Republican pollster went on the record with a news organization to say he actually witnessed Cain's alleged harassment of one of the former trade association employees and indicated that the Republican presidential candidate's behavior wasn't exactly a secret at the time.
Prime California wine country areas like the Napa Valley could soon be facing rising temperatures, according to climate change studies. So some wineries are thinking of switching to grapes that are better suited to a warmer climate. But when vineyards have staked their reputations on certain wines, adapting to climate change is a tough sell.
The group of hacker activists Anonymous made news last month when it announced an operation that targeted the Zetas, one of Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels. In the past Anonymous has gone after tech firms like Sony and authoritarian governments across North Africa.
Usually, they bring down websites by overwhelming them with requests. On occasion, they'll deface official sites and in on other occasions they will hack databases and release private information.
India has unveiled what its government says is the world's cheapest tablet computer, along with a promise to make the device available to the country's college students, and possibly, to those in high school as well. The government says it's a major step toward bridging the country's gigantic digital divide.
The tablet is called "Aakash," the Hindi word for "sky," and boosters say it could give Internet access to billions of people.
The Aakash was developed for the government by Datawind, a London-based company founded by two brothers from India's Punjab state.
Wal-Mart's recent decision to cut benefits for new, part-time employees may be part of a trend, as companies grapple with higher health costs.
That's the view of John Rother, the new president of the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care, who chatted with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel about the country's growing pack of part-time workers and why companies are rolling back their benefits.
What would you say to a cheap, easy way to stay slim, one that would help avoid serious illness and early death? How about if it made your neighbors healthier, too? It could be as simple as biking to the store.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin were wondering if getting people out of their cars just a wee bit would create measurable improvements in health. health. So they gathered up data sets on obesity, health effects of pollution, and air pollution caused by automobiles in 11 Midwestern cities, and did a mashup.
Questioning the motives of those seeking the truth about the sexual harassment allegations against him when he led the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain said he suspects critics on the political left of attacking him for racial reasons.