Refinance activity continues to boom, fueling the home-loan market. Low interest rates have created a class of "serial refinancers" — those lucky enough to borrow at lower rates — and given them new opportunities to spend their freed up cash.
Settlement attorney Robert Gratz never used to be on a first-name basis with his clients.
"In the past, our practice was such that you'd see people, and that was the end of it," he says.
Gratz now sees the same faces all the time, of clients refinancing again and again — these days in the mid-3 percent range.
For more: Why does the government subsidize crop insurance in the first place? We try to answer that question in our latest podcast.
The federal government spends about $7 billion a year on crop insurance for U.S. farmers. Policies are sold by private companies, but the government sets the rates, so the companies can't compete on price.
People enjoy a sunny day on the beach in Knokke, on Belgium's North Sea coast, in April 2011. This summer, the weather hasn't been as nice — and resort owners and officials are feeling litigious over a pessimistic weather forecast.
Parts of Europe are experiencing extremely rainy weather this summer. But some tourist towns in Belgium and the Netherlands say their season has been blighted too — not by bad weather but by bad weather forecasting.
The mayor of the Belgian seaside resort of Knokke says it's a crime that tourism there is down this year. He means that literally.
A barista processes a customer's payment using Square, a device that turns a mobile device into a card swiper. More businesses are using the devices to simplify credit card payments. Others are embracing technology that allows consumers to pay with their cellphones.
The "know your farmer" concept may soon apply to the folks growing your coffee, too.
Increasingly, specialty roasters are working directly with coffee growers around the world to produce coffees as varied in taste as wines. And how are roasters teaching their clientele to appreciate the subtle characteristics of brews? By bringing an age-old tasting ritual once limited to coffee insiders to the coffee-sipping masses.
Gumar Ganiyev opens the gates of the compound where members of the Islamic sect he belongs to have lived in seclusion since the early 2000s outside Kazan, capital of the Russian province of Tatarstan, earlier this month.
Credit Nikolay Alexandrov / AP
Self-proclaimed "messenger of God" Faizrakhman Satarov approaches the Kazan house earlier this month. The sect's founder says he had a revelation from God that true Muslims must separate themselves from society.
Credit Corey Flintoff / NPR
For nearly two decades, sect members quietly built houses and dug living quarters inside their compound in Kazan. Authorities say that 20 children of sect members have not been allowed to leave the premises, attend school or be examined by doctors.
The recent headlines in the Russian press were sensational: Members of a reclusive Islamic sect were said to be living in an isolated compound with underground burrows, some as deep as eight stories underground, without electricity or heat.
Reporters have descended on the compound, on the outskirts of the city of Kazan, but have had only limited access and have not been able to confirm all the allegations by Russian officials.