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Tuesday
Feb152011

Sony Ericsson Introduces Smart Phone for Gamers

Photo Courtesy - Sony Ericsson(LONDON) -- Sony Ericsson introduced the first ever PlayStation-certified smart phone Monday.

The Xperia PLAY will feature a four-inch multi-touch color screen and a slide-out control pad with buttons similar to those on Sony's PlayStation Portable.  The gaming-inspired smart phone will run on Android software and will have a built-in 5.1-megapixel digital camera, as well as a front-facing camera.

The Xperia PLAY will be available through Verizon Wireless and is set to hit stores sometime in April.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb152011

Clothing Prices Expected to Rise by 10 Percent

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Low inflation, cheap overseas labor and low materials cost have kept clothing prices in the U.S. low for years but those bargains may soon be coming to an end.

Retail and consumer experts at Strategic Resource Group say clothing prices are projected to go up by 10 percent or more as the year goes on, with the biggest increase expected to occur during back-to-school time.  The price hikes are due to the price of cotton doubling over the past year and a steep increase in the cost of creating synthetic fabrics.

Virtually all of the popular brand names will be affected, including Levi Strauss, North Face, Nautica, Wrangler and Lee.

Hardest hit will be those retailers catering specifically to middle- and lower-income shoppers, who will likely shy away from paying more for clothing and accessories.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Gas: Prices Inch Up to New February High

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Energy Department reported Monday afternoon that the national average price of a gallon of unleaded has reached $3.140 -- slightly higher than last week’s price of $3.132, making it the highest price ever posted during the month of February (data in this series going back to 1990).
 
Crude oil prices, however, are well off their recent highs. Oil prices fell 77 cents to settle at $84.81 a barrel in New York trading Monday.
 
Gasoline prices tend to go up quickly when oil prices are rising, and will fall at a much slower pace when oil prices drop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Feb142011

Tax Tip: Some Help for the Self-Employed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In this economy, many people who haven't been able to find jobs have started working for themselves.  And in the eyes of the IRS, it's a whole different ballgame.

For the first time, you might be facing estimated quarterly payments, the 1040 Schedule SE and a whole lot of organizing. “A person should be keeping an excel spreadsheet or using some software to keep track of everything,” said accountant Janice Hayman, who says there's a new tax break for the self-employed this year.

“Their health insurance premiums will now be, for 2010 only, deductible against their self-employment tax.”

And for next year's taxes?

“The self-employed also get a benefit of the employees’ reduction in FICA tax,” Hayman said. “There's a two percent reduction from 6.2 percent down to 4.2 percent.”

It's like getting a 2 percent raise in 2011.

Hayman warns again to keep your records, because the self-employed are more likely to face an audit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

General Motors Announces Bonuses For Hourly Workers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DETROIT) – In documents unveiled Monday, it was revealed that General Motors plans to give bonuses of at least $4,000 to each of its 45,000 hourly workers in the United States.

The car giant, which employs over 200,000 people across the globe, is on track to make its first annual profit since 2004. General Motors was a recipient of several billion dollars in federal relief money, which was paid back in full by April, but it has already announced over $4 billion in profit through the third quarter of last year.

This move by GM comes after an announcement by Ford, which said it will be giving bonuses of $5,000 to its United Auto Workers employees.

Both GM and Ford announced white-collar workers within their companies would be getting bonuses as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

JCPenney Accused of Gaming Google

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You'd better think twice before trying to game Google.

For websites that want to be found with the web's most popular search engine, the company lays out some very specific guidelines. But color outside the lines, and you might find that your prime page-one search ranking has slipped to the barely-visible back pages on Google.

In a recent search engine showdown, Google buried several JCPenney links in its search rankings after learning that the company was accused of employing so-called "black-hat tactics" to get a leg up online.

To dominate rankings for search terms like "black dress," "bedding," "area rugs" and other consumer searches, JCPenney allegedly paid to have thousands of links added to hundreds of websites across the Web, according to The New York Times. Some of the sites featuring JCPenney links were nuclear.engineeringaddict.com, casino-focus.com and other sites that had little to do with Penny's business, the Times reported.

The additional links to JCPenney pages boosted the retailer's presence on the Internet because Google's algorithms consider a site more search-worthy if it looks more popular online. But paying for links is a big Google no-no.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News. But after learning of JCPenney's search scheme from The New York Times, Google confirmed the tactics violated its guidelines and told the Times that it would bury the rankings as a penalty.

JCPenney says it was not aware of the illicit links.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Job Went Overseas? Tough Luck, Says Congress

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congress on Saturday failed to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides aid to some 150,000 workers unemployed because their jobs were outsourced overseas or their company couldn't compete with imported goods. In the past two years, about 360,000 Americans have qualified for TAA benefits, which include reimbursement for schooling and retraining costs to find jobs in a new and different industry.

The benefits paid vary by state, but an average worker enrolled in a year-long training program gets around $15,000, in addition to what TAA pays for tuition.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, in a Feb. 9 statement urging Congress to extend the program's benefits, called TAA "an essential lifeline" helping trade-impacted workers get job training, placement assistance and income support needed to help them succeed in "a tough job market."

Originally created in 1974, TAA has been modified and expanded several times. Economist Howard Rosen, executive director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Coalition and an architect of part of that expansion, says that until a few years ago TAA was "a tiny program" with modest scope. There were only about 50,000 people enrolled in it, and its budget was about a half a billion dollars a year. But as anxieties about job losses due to globalization have increased, the program has expanded.

The biggest changes came in 2009. Up to then, only workers who'd lost jobs in manufacturing could qualify for benefits. After 2009, however, coverage expanded to include service workers and those who lose jobs when their employers shift production overseas. The expansion also gave benefits not just to makers of finished goods but to makers of components. Result: Funding for retraining has almost tripled.

Republican critics of the program, who call it ineffective, have estimated that its continuation would cost $620 million for the remainder of 2011 and $6.5 billion over the next decade.

Extension of the 2009 enhancements came up for a vote in Congress Saturday, but legislators took no action. That outcome was the result of a Byzantine political stalemate, in which extension of TAA was held hostage by Republicans trying to force Democrats to approve a trade deal involving sleeping bags.

What does Congress' inaction mean for people now receiving TAA benefits?

Nothing, says Rosen, for persons already approved and receiving benefits. They can expect to receive 100 percent of what's been promised them. The rub comes for new applicants. It's unclear for now exactly what will happen to them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Feb142011

What Kind of Things Could You Buy with the National Debt?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite a pledge by President Barack Obama on Monday to freeze federal spending for the next five years, the United States budget deficit will continue to grow. As it balloons to over $14 trillion, a bit of perspective can help put the debt into real terms for the average consumer. Using the figures provided by usdebtclock.org, here's how the national debt breaks down to more than $45,000 per citizen. That's up from just more than $20,000 per citizen back in 2000.

As for what these numbers mean in more tangible terms, the national debt could buy you 4,080,522,307 tickets to the Super Bowl at $3,676 per ticket. That means you could cover attendance for the next 56,674 Super Bowls if the venue held 72,000 people.

Speaking of football, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward made $5,804,680 last season. If his salary remained stagnant, the national debt could fund his playing career for over two million more years. He may need the help if there's a lockout next season in the NFL.

Home foreclosures have been a huge problem ever since the economy collapsed, but if you had more than $14 billion, you could purchase 61 million homes at an average price of $242,000.

Not to put all your eggs in one basket, but you could see a lot of Lady Gaga shows if you had money equivalent to the amount of the national debt. StubHub says that Gaga's shows might have been a "little monster" on your credit card bill, ranking as the priciest act of 2010 with tickets coming in at an average of $407. You'd be able to buy 36,855,036,855 tickets to see her perform.

All things considered, it might be better to just keep your money in the bank.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Butcher Gets Creative: You Gonna Eat That? And Wear It, Too?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A restaurant in New York City has taken sustainability to a whole new level.

At Marlow and Sons in neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, animals are now going from local farms to the table ... to your drawers and closet. These aren't leftovers but leather goods made from the tanned hides of the very grass-fed cows and pigs that populate the menu.

It's the waste-not-want-not ethos of the environmental movement taken to its logical conclusion.

"One of the things that really motivates us is supporting farmers," says Kate Huling, 32, who, along with her husband, Andrew, owns Marlow and Sons and a neighboring butcher shop called Marlow and Daughters. They have another restaurant called Diner.

They’re "trying to connect people with food that they eat, the food that nourishes them and gives them energy," Huling says.

The bags, which she designed, are simple and elegant. What they are not, is cheap: Costing $300 and $400, they come with their own hip imperfections. The bags have natural nicks and marks that give them a handsomely rustic look.

Huling has also produced wallets and vintage-looking footballs, as well as medicine balls.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Mayors to NFL: Work Stoppage will Hurt Our Cities’ Economies 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the stalemate continues between the NFL and the players’ union over a new labor agreement, the mayors of Minneapolis, Miami and Houston have sent letters to the league expressing their concerns about what a lockout would do to their cities’ economies.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter that a lockout “will hurt working families” in his city.

Citing studies that estimated the economic impact of an NFL game, Rybak said “these dollars support a wide variety of good jobs for workers in the hospitality, hotel and service industries.”

Representatives from the NFL and the players’ union met in Washington last week, but no agreement was reached. A second day of meetings was cancelled.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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