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PODCAST: Spam spreads its wings, and 228 'boosts of goodness'

A can of Spam made by the Hormel Foods is pictured outside a store in front of a delivery truck in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The three U.S. automakers are out today with their U.S. sales results from the past year. Here are the top line numbers: General Motors saw sales rise 3.7 percent in 2012. Ford's sales were up 5 percent for the year. And at Chrysler, which was hit especially hard during the financial crisis, sales were up 21 percent.

When the fiscal cliff took center stage, the House set aside a relief bill for areas affected by Superstorm Sandy. House Speaker John Boehner now promises a vote on it tomorrow -- he took real heat from lawmakers in affected areas. The Senate passed the $60 billion package in December. It has now been two months since Sandy came ashore --  what difference does this delay in Washington make for those hard hit areas?

The pace of layoffs slowed in December. The firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says 2012 brought the lowest number of layoffs since 1997. Jobless claims rose slightly last week, though the labor department cautions that a holiday week can be difficult to interpret. The payroll processor ADP says the private sector added 215,000 jobs last month. That was more than economists expected, suggesting that expectations could be surpassed again when the official U.S. monthly jobs report for comes out tomorrow.

And now to spread some news from the food industry. Try not to think too hard about this combination: Skippy is being acquired by the maker of Spam. Minnesota-based Hormel is looking to diversify its offerings, especially overseas -- Skippy is the number one peanut butter brand in China.

It's been four months now since cab fares in New York City went up almost 20 percent -- the city's first major fare increase in years. So have tips gone up accordingly? Fuhgeddaboudit. New data from New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, and reported by the New York Times, show tips have not risen nearly as fast. The result is that the typical tip has fallen from about 20 percent of the fare to around 15 percent. The data can only track payments with credit cards -- maybe folks with cash are more generous.

A photographer died in LA yesterday while trying to photograph a Ferrari owned by Justin Bieber. It's a reminder that the market for celebrity photos can push paparazzi to take risks. Folks are asking if the industry need new regulations to protect public safety.

The Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera is buying Current TV. That's the cable network founded by Al Gore in 2005. The deal is reported to be around $500 million. Al Jazeera plans to replace Current's programming with its own. The move could give it access to tens of millions of US homes.

And finally, the story of a spiraling act of generosity in Winnipeg. The other day, a customer lined up at the coffeeshop chain, Tim Hortons, spontaneously offered to pay for the order of the person behind him. That next person was moved by it, I guess, and did the same for the person behind them. This went on for three hours -- 228 orders, in all, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. The company calls it a "boost of goodness." They had no comment on customer number 229, who was apparently just like: "Hey, cool: free coffee."

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.
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