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Money Talking

New Yorkers crave informed and intelligent business and economic news. Every week, WNYC's Business Editor Charlie Herman hosts regular WNYC contributors Joe Nocera (The New York Times) and Rana Foroohar (Time) to bring you those stories. It’s a conversation that goes beyond the headlines.  Context, conversation and insight. That’s WNYC's Money Talking.

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New Tech City

Photos: Kids + Technology = Surprise

Monday, March 17, 2014

How do your kids interact with technology? Did your daughter know how to tweet emojis before she could read? (She's not alone.) Or maybe your son crafted his very own laptop out of paper? It's wild out there. 

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GM Recalls 1.2 Million SUVs For Problem With Air Bags

Monday, March 17, 2014

This is separate from General Motors' recall of 1.6 million small cars for a problem with ignition switches. The company believes the recalls will trim $300 million from profits this quarter.

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Attorneys General Ask Big Retailers To Pull Tobacco From Stores

Monday, March 17, 2014

In letters sent to Wal-Mart and other store chains, officials ask the companies to follow the example of drugstore chain CVS, which has announced it's ending sales of tobacco products.

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Morning Edition

Clothing Retailer Lands End To Split From Sears

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lands End, the outdoor clothing retailer, will spin off from Sears Holdings Corp. next month and operate as a stand-alone, publicly traded company.

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Morning Edition

New Generation Of Blimps Set To Take Flight

Monday, March 17, 2014

The new re-designed Goodyear blimp is slated to take off on its inaugural flight Monday.

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Morning Edition

Balancing College Dreams With Financial Realities

Monday, March 17, 2014

The cost of college in the United States keeps climbing, forcing many students and their parents to rack up hefty debts to pay for a college degree.

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Morning Edition

Chinese Tech Giant Alibaba Plans To Launch IPO In U.S.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Alibaba, known as the Chinese Google, announced plans for an initial public offering in the U.S. The IPO could be one of the biggest in the tech sector's history, but investing could bring risks.

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Paying For College: No Easy Answers For Many Families

Monday, March 17, 2014

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of tuition more than tripled between 1973 and 2013. That reality has been forcing more and more students to take on staggering debts.

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PRI's The World

The arrest of a Ukrainian businessman may be another sign of the US playing hardball with Russia

Monday, March 17, 2014

Last week police in Austria, acting on a warrant from the FBI in the United States, arrested Dmitry Firtash. He's one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessmen, with ties to deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and possibly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Austrian authorities said he's been under FBI investigation since 2006. And a statement from the US Attorney's office handling the case said Firtash was being charged in connection to an "international corruption conspiracy," and that the charges are unrelated to the current crisis in Ukraine.

But some believe his arrest could be a message to Moscow that the US is willing to put pressure on wealthy oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin.

Dmitry Firtash's company controls much of the natural gas that flows between Ukraine and Russia's state-owned energy giant, Gazprom. Orysia Lutsevych, of the think-tank Chatham House, says having Firtash in custody could help open the lid on Russia's sometimes-secretive gas trade.

"If Europe and the US decide to act upon Putin, in terms of pressure and sanctions," says Lutsevych, Firtash "would have a lot of valuable information in terms of how the business is built, because it's not so obvious."

Lutsevych also points out that Firtash has a stake in other Ukrainian sectors, besides gas. He also owns one of the major TV channels in Ukraine.

"So between the gas trade and major TV stations, he was always fused with Ukrainian politics," says Lutsevych. "His support or opposition was instrumental to a lot of political leaders in Ukraine. And you know it's up to a court to prove whether he's guilty or not, but he has been polluting [the] political system for quite some time."

And his influence may reach further. Along with many other Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, Firtash has made a kind of second home in London. Helen Goodman, a member of Britain's Labour Party, claims Britain's Conservative-led government has financial ties with Firtash.

"Now, I don't have any evidence that the law has been broken," says Goodman. "But there have been a number of reports of members of the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party directly, receiving money from large Ukrainian businessmen; not directly, but indirectly."

For example, public records show Britain's Conservative Party received over $100,000 since 2006 from a British company closely linked with Dmitry Firtash. That may not sound like much by American standards, but it could go a long way in Britain, a country with tighter campaign spending rules. 

And Goodman is concerned that could sway any future action on Ukraine by the British government.

"We've got a number of diplomatic options which we can take," says Goodman. "We can take economic sanctions. We can freeze assets. And it's very important that those decisions are not influenced in any way by the private financial interests of either individuals or a political party."

No one with Britain's Conservative Party would comment for this story. But speaking in the House of Commons, British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed Goodman's questioning about a possible link between the Conservative Party and Ukrainian oligarchs. "Well. I find the Honorable Lady's question ridiculous in the extreme," said Hague. "I almost don't know where to begin to ridicule it."

However, Orysia Lutsevych of Chatham House, says that after Firtash's arrest, there'll be growing pressure on British politicians to explain their links with the Ukrainian businessman. "It's a question of whether you want to be associated with this person or not," said Lutsevych. "People have a right to be suspicious and to ask questions, especially if you have some links to an oligarch."

And people are suspicious. British Ukrainians have targeted Firtash and other oligarchs in London with demonstrations. Earlier this year, protesters gathered outside the London Stock Exchange to express their anger that London's financial industry has embraced the Ukrainian oligarch. They chanted, "Firtash out!"

Dmitry Firtash now awaits a US extradition request. His bail in Austria has been set at over $170 million.

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FDIC Sues 16 Big Banks, Accusing Them Of Fixing Interest Rates

Friday, March 14, 2014

The lawsuit claims the banks' manipulation of the London interbank offered rate caused failed U.S. banks to suffer substantial losses.

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Companies Tap Celebrity Power For Extreme Vegetable Makeover

Friday, March 14, 2014

If mom can't nudge kids to eat veggies, Maybe Disney teen stars will be more effective. Increasingly, companies are marketing healthy food to kids. Turns out, it's good for their bottom line, too.

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Got Bulgogi? The (Maybe True) Story Behind A 'New York Times' Ad

Friday, March 14, 2014

This quarter-page ad wasn't touting a brand or institution. It was pitching grilled beef as an example of the inherent attractiveness and value of Korean culture. So, who's behind this ad?

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Hong Kong Says UBS Tried To Rig Interbank Lending Rate

Friday, March 14, 2014

UBS, which was fined for manipulating the Libor rate in 2012, was censured by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the territory's de facto central bank.

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Obama Pushes For Overtime Pay Protection

Friday, March 14, 2014

President Obama says he wants to ensure proper payment for overtime work. The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy and NPR's Marilyn Geewax discuss what that could mean for workers and businesses.

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Morning Edition

Conn. Papers Fight Proposals To Alter Publication Of Legal Notices

Friday, March 14, 2014

Municipalities in Connecticut are mandated by law to publish public notices in a daily newspaper. Some say switching to posting online would save money. Newspapers fear the loss of revenue.

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Morning Edition

Ignition Switch Recall Straddles Old And New GM

Friday, March 14, 2014

General Motors is at the center of several investigations involving last month's recall of 1.6 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches. The recall comes at a pivotal time for the company.

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Morning Edition

Happy National Pi Day

Friday, March 14, 2014

Math lovers rejoice. Friday is March 14 — that's 3-14. Pi, 3.14, is the ratio used to compute the circumference of a circle. It's also pronounced pie — making it the appropriate day to eat pie.

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Morning Edition

Senators Agree To Compromise Extending Jobless Benefits

Friday, March 14, 2014

Negotiators in the Senate reached a bi-partisan deal to extend unemployment benefits for 5 months, retroactive to the end of last year. A full Senate vote isn't expected until later this month.

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Morning Edition

BP Allowed To Seek Oil Leases In The Gulf Of Mexico

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday lifted a ban that kept BP from bidding on new federal contracts. The suspension had been in effect since 2012.

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Morning Edition

A Boom In Oil Is A Boon For U.S. Shipbuilding Industry

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ten supertankers are under construction and there are orders for another 15, but just three years ago the tanker market was barely moving.

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