And today's last word in business is a Christmas con.
Just when we want to be thinking about generosity around the holidays, a story of extortion.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Police in Italy have arrested four alleged mafia gangsters for forcing shop owners to buy poinsettias for as much as $140 each. Owners who refused to partake in the Christmas special would have their shops vandalized.
You're listening to MORNING EDITION on NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene.
There's another milestone today in the long effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. The international overseeing the effort is unveiling more details of its plan and this is all a bit complicated. The first stage could be the hardest - moving the chemicals overland in the middle of a civil war to a Syrian port.
For 160 years, the pianos made by Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world. So when hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, it struck fear in the hearts of musicians: Would the famously handcrafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency? Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change.
Many economists and investors think there's a good chance that at the end of their two-day meeting that begins Tuesday, Federal Reserve policymakers will announce that they'll begin reducing their $85 billion monthly stimulus, their third round of quantitative easing, or QE3.
The analysts think recent economic data, like a drop in the unemployment rate to 7 percent and a budget deal in Washington, have brightened the outlook for the economy enough that the Fed can pull back.
When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.
But now, there's a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.
Democrats in Congress are promising to try to retroactively extend emergency unemployment benefits after the new year. With the House already in recess, the benefits are expected to expire at the end of the month.
The Senate is still in Washington working on a bipartisan budget agreement passed by the House before it left town last week, but the bill does not include a benefits extension.
Are American kidsbeing adequately prepared in the sciences to compete in a highly competitive, global high-tech workforce? A majority of American parents say no, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.
California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at Rhodium Group, California's carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. That's in large part because California shut down one of its few remaining nuclear power plants.
That rise in carbon emissions underscores the huge impact nuclear power can have in efforts to combat climate change.
Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.
For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character.