Microsoft Surface design team member Panos Panay demonstrates the new tablet during a news conference at Milk Studios on June 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Microsoft Surface design team member Panos Panay demonstrates the new tablet during a news conference at Milk Studios on June 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. - 
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The very wealthy have access to lots of things most of us don't -- that's just the way it goes. But what about when it's a matter or life or death?

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will travel via high-speed rail today to showcase Amtrak's new faster service. Amtrak is hoping to lure travelers away from other means of transport, like airlines.

Macy's looks back to icons including Marilyn Monroe and Madonna to attract shoppers in their teens and 20's. Target broke ground on a new Chicago location this week. The new store will be at the site of the city's former Cabrini-Green housing project. Wal-mart is accused by some Indian politicians of giving $100 million to an Indian supermarket chain.

Yesterday, Microsoft reported a 22 percent decline in profit for the third-quarter. One week from today, the company will release it's much anticipated Windows 8 operating system.

European markets closed down pretty sharply despite the announcement of agreement on a plan for a European banking union. In the latest quarter, the global economy took a toll on everything from jet engines to Big Macs -- GE and McDonalds both disappointed with their earnings reports this morning, and both stocks are off almost three percent.

Sales of existing homes fell in September, by about 1.7 percent. On the upside, prices continued to increase, as far fewer foreclosures and short sales hit the market. In fact, the National Association of Realtors says part of the reason for the drop in sales is that the number of homes on the market was extremely low -- people have been reluctant to sell.

The state-controlled Russian oil firm Rosneft is reported ready to enter a multi-billion dollar joint venture in Russia involving the British oil giant BP. The deal would create the world’s biggest listed oil company, bigger than Exxon Mobil or Shell.

Most of you, are probably familiar with the "five-second rule."You know: if you drop food on the floor, it's totally safe as long as you pick it up before you count to five. Yeah, not surprisingly the scientific basis of that is hazy. So scientists from Clorox and San Diego State Univ recent set out to test it, using baby carrots on various surfaces. What a surprise: the five second rule is way bogus. A kitchen countertop, interestingly, was germiest of all. What researchers don't tell us is the question all of us around here naturally asked this morning: Well, how many seconds do I have?

And finally, Killington Ski Resort in Vermont is one of the largest ski hills in New England. And this year eco-conscious skiiers can hang a little more loose knowing they're being powered to the top of the mountain using cow manure. Vermont's a big dairy state, so Killington bought into a renewable energy program from the local utility, that let bacteria feed on barn waste to generate methane. Pretty slick all around.

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Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich