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Roundup: Google says barges may be interactive learning space; Starbucks to hire 10,000 vets, military spouses; more

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Google says barges may be interactive learning space

Internet giant Google said it is exploring using two large barges on the East and West coasts as interactive learning centers. A statement released Wednesday by Google helps to end weeks of speculation about the purpose of structures on two barges, one being built in the San Francisco Bay and one floating off Portland, Maine. “Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above,” said the statement. “Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.” In a follow-up, a Google spokeswoman said the company was referring to both barges. Google has been building a four-story structure in the San Francisco Bay for several weeks, but managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory.

Starbucks to hire vets, military spouses

Starbucks said it plans to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. The Seattle-based coffee company said it will develop a system dedicated to matching the skills of veterans and military spouses with jobs throughout its organization. Starbucks said it has nearly 200,000 employees worldwide. Several companies in recent years have committed to hiring veterans or military spouses. Earlier this year, for example, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it planned to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. Starbucks Corp., which has about 20,000 locations around the world, said it will designate five cafes in military communities where a portion of each transaction is donated to Operations GoodJobs and Vested in Vets.

Domestic airfares down 3.6% from 2012

Complain all you want about airlines, but at least fares are not on the rise. When adjusted for inflation, domestic airfares dropped 3.6 percent in the April-through-June period, compared with the same period last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The average domestic fare — including round trips and one-way fares — during that period this year was $378, compared with the adjusted-for-inflation total of $392 for the same time in 2012, the bureau reported Wednesday. Even when the fares were not adjusted for inflation, the average fare was down from the average of $385 in the second quarter of 2012, the bureau said. But the fares don't include extra charges that passengers pay to check baggage, upgrade to roomier seats, connect to wireless Internet and buy food or drinks on board, among other expenses. A study released in September found that 53 airlines around the globe collected $27.1 billion in extra passenger fees in 2012, a 20 percent increase over 2011.

Government to sell variable-rate Treasurys

The government said it will begin selling Treasury securities next year that have variable interest rates. It's the first new Treasury security in 17 years. Treasury officials said Wednesday that the initial offering on Jan. 29 will be in a range of $10 billion to $15 billion. Auctions will occur each month. The securities will have a two-year maturity and the rate will be allowed to go up or down. It will be pegged to rates on three-month Treasury bills. The government expects more investors will be drawn to the prospect of earning higher yields if rates go up. And it believes the attractiveness of the new security will offset any risk of having to pay more to borrow funds.

Tesla shares plunge on battery shortage, heavy research spending

Tesla Motors Inc. shares plunged Wednesday after the electric car maker said a battery shortage was limiting sales and that it is spending heavily on research and development to bring new models to market. Shares of the automaker dropped about 15 percent, or $25.65, to $151.16. Tesla shares have been on a run for most of the year, rising about 400 percent before this reversal. Some analysts have cut their price targets for the company and have told investors to sell the shares.

Wells Fargo to pay $335M to settle FHFA dispute

Wells Fargo & Co. will pay $335 million to resolve claims that it allegedly misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about risky mortgage securities that it sold them prior to the housing collapse. The San Francisco-based bank disclosed in a regulatory filing Wednesday that it settled the claims with Fannie Mae in its first quarter and Freddie Mac in its third quarter. According to the filing, the settlement with the organizations, which fall under the Federal Housing Finance Agency, totaled approximately $335 million. Wells Fargo and FHFA declined to comment further.

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