Plagued by Killer Smog and Overpriced Coffee, & 4 More Things to Know Today

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A Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Beijing, China. 25-May-2012
AlamyA Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Beijing, China.
Here's a quick rundown from the world of business and economics this morning: the things you need to know, and some you'll just want to know.

• There are prices to be paid for expanding your economy at a gallop, and China pays plenty of them. Today, anyone looking out across that nation's northern cities can see that winter has arrived there -- or rather, they can't, because the smog is so appallingly bad. In the city of Harbin, for example, visibility dropped to around 11 yards Monday, and small-particle pollution soared to 40 times higher than the international safety standard -- a record, by the way, though one we're sure nobody would want to break. It's a pretty clear case of cause and effect: Harbin's city heating systems were fired up on Sunday, and by Monday, you could barely see your hand in front of your face.

• While we're on the subject of the world's rising economic superpower, China has a big complaint with Starbucks (SBUX) -- and it's probably the same one you have: Why does it charge so much for coffee? This may shock those of us in the U.S. who feel we're paying through the nose for our lattes, but Starbucks charges more in China than it does elsewhere -- about a third more than in the United States.

• But back in America, the biggest news involving your money today is a no-brainer: the continuing glitches in the Obamacare websites. The administration has called out the computer cavalry, expanding the team that's trying to get the system working properly. And President Obama plans to speak publicly about the problems Monday. But in the meantime, the website is producing far more complaints than anything else.

• We all know that taking out a student loan requires filling out a raft of complicated paperwork, but paying it back, at least, ought to be simple. Unfortunately, it's not, the advocates over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau inform us in a new report. Some loan servicers -- the companies lenders hire to collect payments on private student loans -- make a concerted effort to maximize fees and penalties for borrowers, making the already expensive endeavor of getting an education that much costlier.

• The Federal Trade Commission is on the verge of giving the thumbs up to Office Depot's (ODP) merger with Office Max (OMX). Though the marriage of the two big brick-and-mortar office supply stores might seem at first glance to raise an antitrust issue, the FTC doesn't see that as a problem, because Amazon (AMZN) and the rest of the e-commerce crowd will keep competition robust and prices reasonable.

• And finally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into reports about brake problems on the 2009 Hyundai Genesis. The agency has seen 23 complaints from owners about incidents when they had to push much harder than normal on the brakes to get their cars to stop. The probe, which will decide whether a recall is warranted, involves about 40,000 cars. (Troubling yes, but at least it's not spiders making the airbags randomly deploy.)

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17 Comments

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delton RIP.

Are we kidding ourselfs ? Stock trade's It's like being on a roller coster with no light at the end of the tunnel. The Us is so deep in dept it's self & soon to crash. Homo Depot,Lowes,and many other home building or people who are just doing small up dates&repairs but no big moves at any hardware stores. I seen more help in the store then people shopping. Bj's is doing well as people have to eat. Best buy is crying out to pull in people to thier stores,after $ and useing a so called tech expert to hook up my sound system that people pay for I now know I would not let the Geek Sq set up a tonka toy.

October 22 2013 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
willypfistergash

computer cavalry?

Hey barry and kathy...perhaps a dry run sometime over the last three years might have been in order. Too busy trying to give amnesty and take away our guns I guess.

October 21 2013 at 8:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
linmarco

No matter what the topic, the President and Obamacare somehow always manages to make its way into the conversation. If it's as abad as its critics claim, come November 2014 look for the voters to vote people into office who will repeal it. We will then go back to the way it was before and that should make them happy. Some may be unhappy but the repeal will have come about the same way as the bill itself, through the ballot box. I suspect those who will have had their success will then start complaining aboiut something else.

October 21 2013 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brokedogleg

Won't be long that fog of pollution will drift over the US and negate the last few years reduction we've had.

October 21 2013 at 7:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bigwave48

hey China, welcome to the world of Deregulation, is the money worth, not being able to
go outside, and watch your children choke on the smog.

October 21 2013 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
siscosdad

Anything that's bad news for China and/or Obama is good news to me.

October 21 2013 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Heather Ann Czerniak

China is becoming what the US once was. But I'm inclined to be sympathetic about the overpriced coffee, though. You can't buy a cup of coffee anywhere in the US for under a buck anymore!

October 21 2013 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Heather Ann Czerniak's comment
willypfistergash

Head into a your average diner or cafe....It may cost more than a buck, but they'll refill it as many times as you'll let them.

October 21 2013 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kulween Singh

Green Tea and Nuclear Energy .

October 21 2013 at 4:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
crazychris379

OMG OVERPRICED COFFEE
there needs to be an investigation

October 21 2013 at 3:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crazychris379's comment
willypfistergash

Or brew your own.

October 21 2013 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wongtpa

Obama believes that China should be the American model!

October 21 2013 at 2:43 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wongtpa's comment
siscosdad

I always go against what obama believes. He is galactically wrong, always. China is an oppressive communist country which was created by the slaughter of thirty million people (30,000,000) and BHO wants us to be like them? Smog where you can barely see your hand in front of your face? Let them stay where they are and endure what they have created.

October 21 2013 at 4:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to siscosdad's comment
BULLMAN

Good.

October 22 2013 at 1:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
ersedillo

Hey siscosbraindeaddad, it's conservatives who want deregulation. duh!

October 22 2013 at 3:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down