Passengers told a virtual Santa what they wanted before boarding their flights. While they were in the air, secret shoppers at their destination hit the stores. The passengers arrived in Calgary to find their gifts on the baggage carousel.
NPR's business news starts with a bank writing another big check.
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INSKEEP: The Royal Bank of Scotland was fined $100 million yesterday for violating American sanctions on Iran and Cuba. The bank had given its U.K. employees step-by-step instructions on how to keep transactions from being detected for sanctions violations.
Last year, the London-based banks Standard Chartered and HSBC also received fines for breaking U.S. sanctions. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
California, according to recent budget numbers, is slowly recovering from its years of multi-billion dollar budget deficits. The state is on track to turn a $2.5 billion budget surplus at the end of the current fiscal year. But that's general fund money. It does not address another gaping deficit. The state owes almost $10 billion to the federal government for money spent on unemployment benefits.
In Mexico, Dec. 12 is the day to celebrate the country's most revered religious icon: the Virgin of Guadalupe.
As many as 6 million pilgrims have made their way to the Mexican capital to pay homage to the country's patron saint on Thursday, and one woman has taken her devotion of the Virgin and turned it into a multimillion-dollar company.
Some of the biggest ski resorts anywhere lie in U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' Colorado district, dotting the peaks of Summit and Eagle counties, about a hundred miles west of Denver. The area has a high rate of uninsured people and also, it turns out, health plans that are much more expensive than similar plans in surrounding regions. So expensive that Polis, a Democrat, has asked the federal government to exempt some of his constituents from the requirement to buy health insurance.
Ireland is about to become the first European country to emerge from an international bailout in the wake of the financial crisis. Like other European countries, Ireland has been in a period of austerity — higher taxes and more cutbacks.
The nation's technology sector has been protected, however, as Ireland makes a concerted effort to attract foreign businesses through tax incentives and development programs.
But Ireland's methods have also been criticized — locally and internationally.
This story is part of a project on commuting in America.
Millions of commuters across the country have a new way to get around. In the past few years, bike-sharing systems have popped up from Boston to Minnesota to Washington, D.C. They're supposed to make commuting easier, greener and cheaper. But the people who arguably need these bikes the most are often the least likely to access them.
Unless Congress acts very quickly, some 1.3 million workers will lose their extended jobless benefits on Dec. 28.
Democrats were scrambling late Wednesday to link an extension of benefits to a budget deal that is expected to get a vote as soon as Thursday. But if the effort fails, they will come back at it in 2014.
"We're going to push here after the first of the year for an extension of emergency unemployment insurance when the Senate convenes after the new year," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Wednesday.
Meatpacking plants used to be located in urban centers like Kansas City and Chicago. Over the past few decades, many plants have moved to rural Midwestern towns, which have seen a huge influx of immigrants as a result. Yesterday, we reported on tiny Noel, Mo., which has struggled to help assimilate the newcomers who work at a large poultry plant.