Jim Zarroli

Companies like Google and Facebook are very much caught in the middle of the current debate about national security and privacy. Press reports have said the companies are required to turn over huge amounts of customer data to government agencies like the National Security Agency, but the companies are often barred from saying anything publicly about the requests they receive.

In recent decades, a quiet revolution has been transforming the way Washington works.

Because the U.S. government does not have the workforce to complete all of its tasks, it employs private companies like Booz Allen Hamilton to do the work for it. Booz Allen is the company where Edward Snowden, who said he leaked secrets about the National Security Agency, most recently worked.

Over the past 25 years, this contract workforce has grown and plays a major role in the U.S. government, says Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University.

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And Apple faces off with the Justice Department beginning today in a federal court over a price-fixing dispute. Last year, the government accused Apple of conspiring with five major publishing companies to raise prices on electronic books.

About 2,200 passengers were being flown back to Baltimore on Tuesday, a day after their cruise ship caught fire on its way to the Bahamas. There were no injuries aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas.

But in the wake of the incident and others like it, the cruise ship companies have something of a black eye. The industry is now trying to reassure passengers it's OK for them to sail, adopting what it called a passenger "bill of rights."

When Hurricane Sandy swept through New Jersey last year, it destroyed many homes and businesses. It also obliterated the boardwalks that are the center of social and economic life in the towns.

In the months since, many of these towns have rushed to rebuild their boardwalks, but not everyone thinks the money has been well spent.

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NPR's business news begins with worker safety in Bangladesh.

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Eight people died Wednesday in a fire at a Bangladeshi sweater factory. This follows the much deadlier collapse of the Rana Plaza building, where more than 900 people died.

The deaths are taking place in a garment sector that has seen explosive growth over the past three decades. The country has managed to lure clothing-makers through a combination of low wages and light regulation.

As a manufacturing center, Bangladesh has little to recommend it. The roads are poor. There's no port to speak of. The electricity is notoriously unreliable. It's politically unstable.

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New York City is notoriously crowded, and it's only getting more so. The city estimates it will have 1 million more people by the year 2030, many of them single. Where to place all these newcomers is a major challenge.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has announced plans to put up an experimental building of micro-apartments that could be replicated throughout the city. And the Museum of the City of New York is looking at ways to make better use of the city's housing stock.

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DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Hackers got into the Associated Press's Twitter account yesterday and sent out a fake tweet saying that the White House had been attacked. Though the tweet was discredited very quickly, it created a swift and panicked reaction on the stock market.

Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

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Two prominent Harvard economists have admitted there are errors in an influential paper they wrote on government debt. This paper was widely cited in recent budget debates. But the economists insist their mistakes do not significantly change their research.

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This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. Steve Inskeep is in Venezuela, reporting this week on that country's presidential election, and he'll be on the program tomorrow. I'm David Greene.

Almost 5 million Americans are considered long-term unemployed, meaning they have been searching for work for at least six months.

This week, their plight is getting a bit tougher as the government cuts their unemployment benefits — part of the automatic reductions in federal spending that took effect recently.

On a recent day, about 40 people turned out at a Manhattan jobs center run by the New York Labor Department to get advice on looking for work. These are all people who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks.

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He took his name from a 13th century saint who gave up his wealth and threw in his lot with the poor. As cardinal in Argentina, he eschewed the trappings of power and privilege, taking public transportation and even cooking his own meals.

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Well, new plans may be in the works at Dell. The board of the computer company is said to be weighing several takeover offers. Dell's founder has allied with the private equity firm Silver Lake to take the company private.

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When she got out of college and moved to New York, Elizabeth Cline liked to shop at vintage-clothing stores. They were the kinds of places tucked away on side streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where a lot of hunting and a little luck might reward you with a great, inexpensive cocktail dress that no one else had.

Then she discovered the world of "fast fashion" — chains like Forever 21, H&M and Zara — and it redefined her whole notion of bargain shopping.

Several states are rushing to establish a foothold in online gambling — an activity that federal officials were only recently trying to ban.

Just a while ago, the federal government actually viewed online gambling as a crime. Lately, the Obama administration has taken a more permissive stance. It now allows states to sell lottery tickets online.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had expressed reservations about online gambling a month ago and had vetoed an earlier version of the bill. But in the end, the pressure to sign the legislation was just too great.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it could seek more than $5 billion in damages from Standard & Poor's, the nation's biggest credit ratings company, a day after it sued the company, alleging that S&P defrauded investors by giving triple-A ratings to risky subprime mortgage investments.

The Justice Department may seek as much as $5 billion from Standard and Poor's. In a lawsuit filed Monday night, prosecutors accuse the firm of misleading investors with fraudulent credit ratings on dozens of different mortgage bonds. It's not yet clear whether federal officials plan to file a similar suit against the other big rating firms, Moody's and Fitch. Regulators would like to see the industry be more competitive and less dependent on the firms whose securities they are rating.

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