US Chamber of Commerce President on Shutdown: 'Pain in the Neck'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- What does the business community think of a possible federal government shutdown?

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue said Friday it would be a “pain in the neck” but only severely effect businesses and the economy if it were to last “several weeks.”

“I’ve been telling people, let’s do this. Push it right up to the line, do whatever you have to do, but let’s not shut down the government,” Donohue told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington.

“It’s happened many, many times, but we’ve got a million things on our plate all around the world. It would be helpful not to do it,” he said. “If it happens and it’s in a short period of time, it’s a little bit of a mental exercise and we go out and do it and get on with it.”

Donohue, who declined to assign blame for the budget gridlock, said he believes the looming debate over the debt limit and long-term entitlement spending has more serious implications for the business community and economy as a whole.

The Obama administration has warned of dire consequences unless the $14.3 trillion ceiling is raised before the debt limit is reached, likely sometime before May 31.  But Congressional Republicans have threatened to block an increase unless the administration commits to curtailing entitlement spending.

The Chamber’s top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, said the he expects Republican lawmakers will ultimately agree to raise the debt limit, but not without concessions from the administration.

Donohue described relations between the business community and the White House as cordial, saying he appreciates steps President Obama has taken to “change his song.” But he suggested that on matters of substance, little has changed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toyota to Resume Vehicle Production at All Plants in Japan

TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- After having to shut down most of its operations in Japan due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Toyota announced Friday that it will begin producing vehicles again at all of its Japanese plants on April 18.

The Japanese automaker said it will build cars through April 27, after which production facilities will go on their annual spring holiday break until May 10.  The plants will operate at about half capacity leading up to the break, and post-holiday production will be determined after the automaker assesses its parts supply.

Toyota was forced to stop manufacturing vehicles in Japan after the quake struck.  Most recently, the automaker had resumed producing repair or replacement parts in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Meat Institute Urges Lawmakers to Deem Inspectors 'Essential'

Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/ Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American Meat Institute sent a letter to the Obama administration Thursday, urging officials to deem meat and poultry inspectors as "essential personnel," allowing them to continue working should the government shut down.

According to the institute, close to 8,000 inspectors oversee 6,200 plants across the U.S., ensuring that products are "safe, wholesome and properly labeled and that livestock are treated humanely."  Should they be classified as "non-essential," plants will have to cease operations.

Although a work stoppage seems unlikely, being that meat inspectors were deemed "essential" in past shutdowns, the institute said it has yet to receive assurance from the government.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tax Tip: File Returns, Check Refunds on Your Smart Phone

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New for people filing their taxes this year: a host of smartphone applications, including apps that allow you to submit your returns and check up on your refunds.

"If you're an iPhone user or have an Android phone, you can actually file your taxes from your phone," says Mary Beth Franklin of Kiplingers Personal Finance magazine.  She says Turbo Tax has an app called Snap Tax that can do just that.

"You take your W2 form that you receive from your employer that lists your annual earnings and your deductions; you take a picture of it with the camera on your phone; you answer a few questions and boom you file your taxes," Franklin says.

Filers interested in using Snap Tax can download it for $14.95.

But some apps are free, including one from the Internal Revenue Service called IRS2Go.  The IRS app can be found at the agency's website,  It works with both iPhones and Android phones and features news from the IRS and more.

"[Users] can download this phone app and one of the features of IRS2Go app is checking on the status of your refund as well," says Jodie Reynolds of the IRS.

Some tax prep firms also have their own free apps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Submit Your Ideas, Make Some Cash

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever had what you thought was a simple, money making idea and wondered if anyone would be interested?

Well, guess what?  "Companies are looking for those ideas," says Steven Key, author of One Simple Idea.

And you don't have to reinvent the wheel to pocket some cash.  Key says you can make a profit by simply coming "up with small improvements on existing ideas."

For example, he explains, "If you got a new kitchen gadget, that's perfect."  You make your pitch "and if they like it, they take it to market for me, they take all the risk, and I get the royalty check every time they sell one."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Global Food Prices Falling from Record Highs in Recent Months

Jupiterimages/Pixland(NEW YORK) -- Global food prices fell for the first time in eight months, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. 

While the index averaged 37 percent above prices in March of last year, the March 2011 index averaged 230 points -- down 2.9 percent from February's peak prices.

The FAO says oil (down 7 percent after nine months of increases) and sugar (down 10 percent from January and February) prices are leading the decline with cereal following behind.  On the other hand, FAO says, dairy and meat prices were up, but only slightly in the case of meat.

The FAO attributes the dropping prices to "sluggish import demand" with "economic uncertainties" to go with the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East as well as Japan's efforts to recover from an earthquake and tsunami.

"The decrease in the overall index this month brings some welcome respite from the steady increases seen over the last eight months," said David Hallam, Director of FAO's Trade and Market Division.  He added, "But it would be premature to conclude that this is a reversal of the upward trend."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Oreck Must Pay FTC $750K, Stop Health Claims  

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Oreck Corporation claimed its Halo vacuum and ProShield Plus air cleaner could prevent illness.  Now, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that the company has agreed to stop making these "allegedly false and unproven claims" and will pay the FTC $750,000.

Oreck began advertising the two appliances together during the 2009 holiday season, calling them the "Oreck Flu Fighters," according to Consumer Reports.  The ads claimed that using both the $400 air cleaner and the $600 vacuum together would "help reduce the flu on virtually any surface and in the air in your home."

It was not long after Oreck introduced the pair of appliances that Dyson challenged their health claims, filing complaints with the National Advertising Division (NAD), a branch of the Better Business Bureau.  NAD referred the case to the FTC when Oreck rejected the agency's review process.

Consumer Reports notes that both products have been tested at its in-house laboratory.  The Halo UVX was tested "the same way we test all models," the consumer buyer's guide said.  They said that a vacuum "need not kill pest as long as it removes them from the home."  However, the ProShield Plus, which was tested along with other air purifiers on the market, did not rate well.

Oreck no longer claims to kill germs on its website, Consumer Reports says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


On McDonald's Menu: Burger, Fries and a Career

Tim Doyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Philip Birden loves his "McJob." He does everything from working at the cash register to making hash browns at a McDonald's in Chicago. And he has dreams of turning this job into much, much more.

"Your teachers tell you that at the beginning of time -- I remember being in eighth grade -- 'You don't want to work at McDonald's,'" the 20-year-old said. "But when you work here, you'll have a different feeling about working at McDonald's."

This month, McDonald's Corp. hopes to find thousands more like Birden. The company wants to fill 50,000 jobs in one day -- so if you like to smile, enjoy working with customers and are looking for a career, the company wants you to apply April 19.

Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, said that the move signaled the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company is in good shape and that officials were confident it would meet the hiring number.

"Franchisees and company-owned restaurants are geared up for this," Fields said. "We're excited about the future. We want to invest in our people. We have a great opportunity to do, unlike anyone else."

She said the company also was redefining the term "McJob," which may not be so easy because the term has become a sort of dirty word implying low wages and dead ends. To change that perception, McDonald's has launched a massive campaign in popular magazines and even on YouTube.

Fields said that of the 2,600 franchisees, 50 percent had started as restaurant workers, and 30 percent of the company's executive level once were part of store crews.

If the company reaches its hiring goal of 50,000 -- a nearly 7 percent increase in staff -- it will mean about four new employees per restaurant. Fields said the company's latest initiative would leave a lasting impact on communities across the U.S. A new study estimates that those added workers will pump more than $1 billion into the economy.

The jobs primarily are in the restaurants and cover a variety of positions. The company welcomed senior citizens, those looking for part-time work and students, Fields said. The flexible hours option allows people to work shifts from three hours a day to a full day.

Fields said the fast-food chain encourages employee development, sending workers to classes and offering up to 50 college credits.

People can apply online or in person. McDonald's will have employees conducting interviews and accepting applications April 19.

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio


Despite Positive Jobs Report, Aftershocks in Japan Drive Stocks Down

Comstock Images/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Another optimistic employment report couldn't compete with Mother Nature when it came to the markets.

The Dow closed down 17 points, the Nasdaq lost four and the S&P gave up two by the end of Thursday's trading.

First-time jobless claims took another drop for the third time in four weeks.  The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average is down as well, which drove stocks up early on.

But word of a strong aftershock in earthquake-ravaged Japan forced the markets down Wednesday.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Digging for Deals, Fashionistas Turn Sights to Web

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Look around Megan O'Brien's jewel box of a New York City apartment and you'll find evidence everywhere of her shopping obsession.

"My sheets, my pillow cases, most of the books on that shelf and down there, my throw pillows, the jewelry behind there," O'Brien pointed out as she took us on a tour of her apartment. She estimated that about 30 percent of the clothes and shoes in her closet also are from the online shopping site Gilt.

Twenty-something, single, and fashion-conscious: she's the ideal customer for online luxury retailers like her personal favorite, Gilt Groupe.

Checking online, as she does each day, she pointed out a few of the deals. "A cashmere wrap from $350 to $149...That's not bad."

Gilt Groupe is a club -- the latest trend for all fashionistas. Once they join, they have the chance to buy designer items at 40-70 percent or more off retail. Clothing, shoes, and accessories for women, men, and children. Toys and books. Home furnishings such as linens, furniture, and dishes. Even discounts on hotels and vacations.

Those discounts may be deep, but the selection is top drawer. For many, it can be addictive.

"My favorite is when they give you the price that it was, and they slash it and give you the price that they'll sell it to you for," said O'Brien. "That's what gets you every time!"

Insiders know new offerings are posted at noon, and like O'Brien, they're ready to pounce.

"12:02 they go live," said O'Brien. "Me and my coworkers, it's like the whole building kind of shuts down for like 15 minutes." Four years ago, entrepreneurs and glamour girls Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Alexis Maybank figured out how to take the New York designer sample sale global.

"We took that experience of always sneaking out of work to try to get some of these terrific insider deals and try to bring that online to nationwide audience," said Maybank.

In the beginning, Gilt's popularity was fueled by word of mouth.-- you had to know someone to be invited to join. Then members would sign on to get deals, such as a $1,600 designer dress for $500--still pricey, but more than half off. Gilt still requires membership, though to be honest, anyone with a computer and a valid credit card can join.

Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lyne shows took ABC News on a tour of the company's Brooklyn warehouse. It's 200,000 square feet of designer clothes, jewelry and shoes -- all waiting their turn on the web.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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