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Amazon.com has been thriving, despite the economic downturn. Shares in the company are now worth more than five times a much as they were five years ago, thanks in part to innovations such as its electronic book reader, the Kindle, or its move into data storage of all kinds of things "in the cloud."

But it's just these futuristic lines of business that have some shareholders worried. 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – JP Morgan Chase, the second largest bank in the country, is lobbying Gov. Chris Gregoire to line-item veto a requirement that the bank alert Washington cash assistance clients of an ATM fee the bank charges.

Colin Fogarty / Northwest News Network

Your car may be your most-prized personal possession, but the vast majority of the time it's parked not doing anything. Now, several startup companies propose to help you capitalize on your car's downtime by renting it to perfect strangers.

Following the example set by California last year, the Oregon Legislature is set to tweak its insurance rules to smooth the road for person-to-person car rentals. One company already has hundreds of registered users across the Pacific Northwest, even though the service has not officially launched in that region. And, another company plans to include Washington state this summer.

Shawn McClung / Flickr

New air services connecting Seattle to Iceland and Asia have helped Washington state lead the nation in attracting visitors from overseas, according to the U.S. Commerce Department and Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tying with Nevada for the highest percentage growth in foreign visitors from 2009 to 2010, Washington state visits increased by 32 percent compared with an 11-percent growth nationally.

Among top U.S. cities, Seattle and Los Angeles led with a 33-percent increase in attracting foreign visitors. Other cities with double-digit increases were Las Vegas with 31 percent; Atlanta, 25 percent, and San Diego, 24 percent.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is trying to make its work more conspicuous.  That’s one explanation the billionaire couple gave for its new campus during a grand-opening event Thursday night.

About a thousand people packed into the campus' new grand atrium, which has a wall of glass four stories tall. 

Bill Gates spoke briefly, thanking his parents for setting an example of civic volunteerism. He quickly turned the microphone to his wife, saying, "The person who really had responsibility was Melinda, and let me thank her as I invite her to the stage."

Tom Paulson / KPLU-Humanosphere

More than a thousand workers at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have moved into their new campus across the street from Seattle Center. Celebrations are planned tonight (Thursday) and this weekend. Foundation leaders say they want to be more visible to the public.

(A public open-house is this Saturday, from 10am-4pm. Advance registration is required, here.)

Investors in Bellevue-based drugstore.com gather Thursday for their annual shareholder meeting. It's likely the last time they'll meet there. 

The online-retailer is being acquired by its biggest brick and mortar competitor: Illinois-based Walgreens. 

seattebeernews.com

At the beginning of the year Poulsbo had no breweries. Now it has four.

The breweries produce small batches in kegs. None are bottling yet, but they hope to grow.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Home prices in major markets around the U.S. dropped to their lowest levels since 2006 in March. But not in Seattle.

After falling almost two percent in February, Seattle home prices were up a modest 0.1 percent in March, but still down 7.5 percent compared to March 2010.

NBBJ Architects

Everything about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking big these days.

Photo by MïK / Flickr

Grays Harbor Paper has shut down its mill in Hoquiam, putting a dour end to what had been a success story for 18 years. 

240 workers are losing their jobs. Many were shocked by the announcement, according to King-5 news.

“I thought this place was going to be in for the long haul,” said Tony Harris, who had worked for Grays Harbor Paper for two years.

Charla Bear / KPLU

A new effort could make internet speeds 100 times faster for some small businesses and residential customers in Seattle. Mayor Mike McGinn announced a plan to bring fiber optic broadband to Pioneer Square as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the neighborhood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Washington's jobless rate is down to 9.1 percent after the state added an estimated 5,800 jobs in April.

The potential for new electronic billboards has brought an overwhelming negative response from Tacoma residents. So, the Tacoma City Council has approved a six-month moratorium on all billboards in the city, while a new policy is worked out.  

That reverses a legal settlement with Clear Channel. The company negotiated an agreement to put up new digital billboards in exchange for removing hundreds of traditional ones. Now, that agreement is on hold and the company is threatening to return to litigation.

Image courtesy of voipnovatos.es

Microsoft's biggest acquisition ever might have people in the region worrying about layoffs. Often when companies merge, redundant workers get pink slips.

But it sounds like employees of the Redmond tech giant don't have much cause for concern with Microsoft's $8.5-billion purchase of Skype.

Keith Seinfeld / KPLU

One of the most prominent demolition jobs since the Kingdome imploded is underway in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. This time, there will be no explosion, and the building is private instead of public. 

The 25-story McGuire Apartments saga is a sad one, says Doug Lo, a Belltown resident who was snapping photos with his phone, from across the street, at 2nd Ave. and Vine St.

"It's a nice building, and in this modern age, you'd think they would have built it correctly, from the get-go," he said.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

A gigantic bridge-shaped piñata spewed more than four hundred pounds of candy last night in south Seattle. It was part of the Cinco de Mayo celebration going on in the city's South Park neighborhood. 

Earlier in the day, officials broke ground on a new $130-million-dollar bridge that's going to re-connect that community to major highways.

Justin Shearer / flickr.com

Remember the bidding wars over Seattle area homes before the housing bubble burst? Well, we're not returning to those crazy days just yet, but the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) says there are signs that the market may be warming up a bit. Home sellers in some neighborhoods are seeing multiple offers again. But it's not a boom; overall, the latest numbers show fewer sales and lower prices than a year ago.

Seeking Opportunities Developing Occupations (SODO, Inc.)

The recession has been tough on workers in the trades. The latest state unemployment report showed construction had a particularly bad month between February and March. That’s not stopping a job fair aimed at attracting more women to building and repair industries.

AP

Boeing’s CEO says it was likely sloppy work, not a design flaw, that resulted in a hole in a Southwest Airlines jet. On April 1st, a Boeing 737 developed a 5-foot tear in the roof while in flight.

Ben Margot / AP

"Initial Public Offering," or I-P-O, is a buzz term that was talked about a lot in the boom years of the late 1990s – especially in Seattle, where lots of high-tech startup companies were thriving at that time.  They've been pretty scarce lately.  But they may be coming back.

Charla Bear / KPLU

Some industries are slowly creating jobs again, but construction isn’t really one of them. The state lost about 2,400 construction jobs just last month, according to state employment economists. But in Seattle, hope could be on the horizon.

The clanking and pounding sounds of construction are starting to return to the city. Some builders who work on high-rise projects have been able to dust off their nail guns, thanks to a growing demand for apartments.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell say Wall Street speculation in the oil and gas market is directly affecting small business in Washington. 

At a news conference held at Local Roots Organic in Seattle they were joined by several business owners who said high gas prices are taking a toll on their bottom line.

File photo

Despite the massive fraud that has emerged as the U.S. tries to dig itself out of the foreclosure mess at the heart of the great recession, there are still huge numbers of honest folks working in the real estate business. 

That's according to professional appraisers in Washington state, dozens of whom have signed an on-line petition. 

Emergency measures in a new law go into effect immediately, creating the infrastructure needed to get more housing counselors working with banks and preventing people from losing their homes.

Paula Wissel

The Associated Press reporters and photographers around the country weren't tweeting or uploading their stories to Facebook today.  They also refrained from using their personal cell phones or cars for business.

Flickr, @photo

A surprisingly solid March – that's the consensus about last month's retail sales.  Despite cold weather and climbing gas prices, shoppers spent a lot more money last month than they did in March a year ago.

Costco and Nordstrom are among the local companies that are benefiting.

AP

Federal officials have issued an emergency order requiring inspections of Boeing planes with similar construction to the Southwest Airlines plane that had a 5-foot tear that led to an emergency landing last week.

The Federal Aviation Administration order Tuesday applies to Boeing 737-300s, 400s and 500s that have a similarly constructed joint where pieces of the plane's skin meet. The joint is at about the midpoint of the passenger cabin.

Ted S. Warren / AP

When disaster response in Japan turns to rebuilding, Northwest timber companies and sawmills should see an increase in exports. But an industry consultant says the slow pace of disaster recovery means those new orders may not come for months. 

Stock prices for some North American timber companies spiked in the immediate aftermath of the Japan disaster. Wall Street anticipates a surge in Japanese demand for logs, lumber and plywood to rebuild homes.

AP

Boeing says it’s providing technical assistance to federal aviation regulators and to Southwest Airlines in the wake of Friday’s mid-flight incident where a hole appeared in the skin of a 737 airliner at 34,000 feet.

The Seattle Times reports that the sudden rupture has experts concerned because the stress-related failure of the aircraft’s aluminum skin occurred mid-fuselage. That's a place that was not previously thought to be vulnerable to that kind of damage. 

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