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Monday
Dec132010

IT Employment Sees Modest Growth in November

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- The information technology industry added 600 jobs in November, continuing its modest, month-over-month growth, according to a monthly IT employment index developed by TechServe Alliance.

While last month's numbers were significantly weaker (12,000 jobs were added in October) than preceding months, the index still reflected a trend of growth, which has been unbroken for 12 consecutive month.

TechServ Alliance CEO Mark Roberts advises that we keep November's moderate growth in perspective.

"IT employment has now grown every month for the last 12 months.  While we will continue to see month-to-month variances given the dynamic nature of the economy and labor markets, our bullish forecasts for the coming year remain unchanged," he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Toyota Conducting Recall of 2011 Sienna Model

Courtesy - Toyota(TORRANCE, Calif.) -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. is conducting a voluntary safety recall of some cars in its 2011 Sienna line.  The reason given is that it wants to replace a potentially faulty bracket connected to the break light.

Owners of the affected vehicles will receive official notification of the recall via first-class mail from Toyota by January 2011, along with instructions on what to do should the owner experience break light problems. 

No other Toyota or Lexus vehicles are involved in this recall. 

Toyota will also post this information on its website, toyota.com/recall. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Continental Airlines Introduces New Fee to Hold Airfare

Photo Courtesy - United Continental Airlines(NEW YORK) -- It looks like the airline industry has found a new fee to squeeze some extra cash out of the flying public: the rate lock fee. Continental Airlines on Monday afternoon announced "FareLock," a new service which allows passengers to pay fees starting at $5, and rising to $9 or more, to hold a seat at a given price as a hedge against rising airfare. The price can vary depending on the itinerary and other factors.

Continental, which merged with United Airlines but is still operating as a separate airline, is the first carrier to offer such a service but, as with baggage fees, expect the rest of the industry to soon follow Continental's lead.

Continental, Delta, United and other airlines currently allow customers to get a full refund on any ticket within 24 hours of purchase. Some travelers take advantage of the system by booking, canceling the next day and then rebooking to ensure the best fare. American Airlines currently allows customers to hold a ticket -- and the fare -- for 24 hours for free.

Continental said that, for now, it won't abandon its 24-hour cancellation policy and that its new FareLock just gives travelers more options and more time to decide.

Customers may choose FareLock when booking reservations at continental.com and opt for a 72-hour or a seven-day hold. They may return to complete the transaction at any time between purchasing the lock and its expiration, or they may choose an auto-ticketing feature which tickets at the end of the lock period, the company said. FareLock fees, beginning at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a seven-day hold, will vary based on a number of factors such as the itinerary, number of days to departure and the length of the hold. While tickets can still be canceled with 24 hours, the FareLock fee is non-refundable.

Fees are big business for the airlines. The Department of Transportation on Monday revealed that Delta Air Lines collected the most fees of any of the U.S. carriers, hauling in $1.26 billion in fees so far this year, Neidl noted. United/Continental was second with $922 million followed by $784 million collected by American. Neidl said that even though Southwest does not charge for the first two checked bags, it still collected $22.5 million in fees for third bags and overweight bags.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

A&P Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Photo Courtesy - The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.(MONTVALE, N.J.) -- The company that operates grocery store chains A&P, Waldbaums and Pathmark has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company said Sunday it made the move to “restore the Company to long-term financial health,” and assured shoppers that each of its 395 stores would remain open and fully stocked throughout the reorganization.

“It will allow us to restructure our debt, reduce our structural costs, and address our legacy issues,” A&P President and CEO Sam Martin said of the restructuring.

The company announced in October what it called a “turnaround” plan, which included assigning a new management team, reducing costs and enhancing customer experience.

A&P -- which employs more than 40,000 workers -- also operates stores under the Super Fresh, Best Cellars and The Food Emporium labels.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

Public Pensions in America's Biggest Cities Face Underfunding Crisis

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Two professors of finance are giving a sharp rap on the knuckles to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and other major cities.  Their warning: better fix your pension problems fast.

An analysis by Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester and Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management finds that public pension plans for America's 50 biggest cities and counties are underfunded by $382 billion -- or $14,000 for every household in those same cities.  Some of the biggest plans may run out of money to pay promised benefits in as little as five to eight years.

Michael Zuccht, general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, says the problem has been building for decades.  Year after year, municipalities have put off fully funding their pension obligations, just kicking the can down the road.  Now, though, with the Baby Boom retiring, that road is running out.

"For 30 years elected officials have failed to meet these 'boring' obligations," says Zuccht, referring to his city's and others' pension plans.  "They preferred to spend their money on 'exciting' things like parks and libraries and recreation.  Guess what?  It's come due now.  It's hit the fan."

Cities claim their liability is less -- only $190 billion, or $7,000 per household.  But Rauh and Novy-Marx say this lower figure is the result of government accounting that assumes too rosy a return on assets and underestimates the cost of pension promises.  The professors use private sector accounting standards, then calculate how long the assets in each fund (as of June 2009) could keep paying out the benefits promised, as of that same date.

Philly, by their reckoning, has just five years until it can't pay.  Boston, Chicago and New York, have eight.

Of the 50 cities in the study, 20 won't be able to pay their promised benefits after 2025.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec132010

NYC Considers "Crash Tax" for Accident Response

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Strapped for cash, a growing number of municipalities have begun charging for responding to accidents -- services that have long been covered by taxpayers.  Sometimes, the victim's insurer will pick up the tab for these new fees -- but sometimes the insurers will refuse to pay.

This past week, New York City joined the growing debate over what some are calling a "crash tax."  Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city wants to begin charging accident victims hundreds of dollars each as one way to help plug the city's multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

Under Bloomberg's "crash tax" plan, car fires with injuries would incur a bill of $490.  A car fire with no injuries would cost $415.  And a crash with no injuries would receive a "discount" -- a bill of only $365.

Although critics say the New York Fire Department could easily find more savings in its budget -- such as by eliminating the paid drivers of fire chiefs -- Bloomberg said he had little choice.

"Would you like them to close fire houses?" Bloomberg said.  "I don't think so.  So they've got to raise the money."

Some municipalities have instituted accident-recovery fees at the prodding of collection companies that have offered their billing services, in return for a percentage of the revenue raised.  The AAA and the insurance industry oppose such fees, saying accident response and public safety are basic government services that should be paid for with general taxes.

"Crash taxes" are just some of the extreme measures states and cities are taking around the country to counter billions of dollars in budget deficits. 

In New York State, Gov. David Paterson has proposed legalizing ultimate fighting, a move that would generate $2.1 million a year.  Arizona slashed its Medicaid program, leaving 98 residents ineligible for life-saving organ transplants.  California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to open up the coast off of Santa Barbara to oil drilling to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues.  And one of New Jersey's more crime-ridden cities, Camden, recently sent pink slips to about half of its 380-member police force.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec122010

Senator Wants FTC to Better Police Online Return Policies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Charles Schumer is warning shoppers to be aware of return policies for online purchases this holiday season.  Many online retailers charge as much as 25 percent for returns.  Schumer is asking the Federal Trade Commission to do more to protect consumers.

It may be too late for many holiday shoppers to take the return fee into account.  A reported 106 million people shopped online on so-called Cyber-Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving.  That is a record.

Schumer told reporters, "Restocking fees are a gratuitous attempt to make a buck off the consumer."

Actual stores and shops are required to post return or restocking fees at the point of purchase but there is no such requirement online.  The New York Democrat is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to require online retailers to make clear to shoppers what their return policies are.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec122010

Do You Own the Truck of the Year?

Photo Courtesy - Janette McVey for Chevrolet(PHILADELPHIA) -- Motor Trend magazine has named the Chevrolet Silverado HD its 2011 Truck of the Year. The award was given to General Motors CEO Dan Akerson Saturday in a ceremony before the 111th Army-Navy college football game at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. Chevrolet has the rare distinction of winning both the 2011 Truck of the Year and 2011 Car of the Year, the latter for its Volt. 

The Silverado HD was released to consumers this past summer, and set a new standard for truck efficiency. With 11 percent better fuel economy, the Silverado can still tow 21,700 pounds or carry 6,635 pounds.  

"With more capability and technology than ever before, we believe the Chevrolet Silverado HD sets the bar for heavy-duty trucks," Akerson said. "It's a great honor to have such a respected authority as Motor Trend agree."

Motor Trend's truck and car of the year will be featured in a January issue of the publication.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Gas Prices Up as Consumers Prepare to Travel

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Gas prices at the pump are surging this holiday season to a two-year high.

A gallon of regular unleaded gas averaged $2.97 as of Friday, up nearly 10 cents in the past week and 34 cents higher than December of last year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Hammer Time For Mail-Order Gold Dealers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the price of gold has continued to rise, local and federal officials have been pushing forward with efforts to protect consumers from what they are calling predatory practices by some precious metals dealers.

The House of Representatives Wednesday passed legislation aimed at preventing companies that pay cash for gold jewelry from ripping off customers. At the same time, the Santa Monica, California City Attorney announced a court had placed Superior Gold in receivership after the city sued the company, which sells gold coins and bullion, largely through advertising on conservative talk radio and TV programs.

The so-called GOLD Act is an attempt to tackle what Rep. Anthony Weiner called "deceptive marketing, misleading return policies and low-ball payments."

The New York Democrat has specifically focused attention on the company Cash4Gold, which became well known after airing a commercial starring pitchmen Ed McMahon and MC Hammer during the 2009 Super Bowl. The company's ads promised consumers they could make a quick buck by selling their unwanted jewelry. "Cash4Gold has used these bad economic times as a golden opportunity to fleece hard-working people in need of an extra dollar," Weiner said. "The passage of this bill is an important step towards giving consumers who want to sell their gold the protections they need."

The legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 324-81 but has not yet been taken up by the Senate, would impose fines on companies that melt down a consumer's gold before an offer is accepted and would mandate that companies make certain returned jewelry is insured with the mail delivery company at the same monetary value as the consumer originally insured it.

Chuck Bell, programs director of Consumers Union, credited the legislation for presenting "much fairer rules of the road for online cash-for-metals transactions."

Cash4Gold spokesman Evan Nierman said that consumer purchases of jewelry and precious metals are normally regulated by the individual states, and the proposed law would mark a break with precedent. "This new national bill appears to override the authority of the states, create additional federal regulation of the private sector and serve as the first federal law to explicitly regulate consumer return policies which also are typically handled at the state and local level," said Nierman.

Nierman said Cash4Gold had "worked side-by-side" with law enforcement and regulators in many states. He said Cash4Gold had also worked closely with Florida officials to craft legislation regulating gold-buying by mail, and that the Florida bill should be a model for a national bill.

"Nearly one million customers," said Nierman, "have found Cash4Gold to be a great option for anyone seeking a fast, secure, simple, convenient and discreet transaction."

In California, the announcement that Superior Gold was coming under a court-ordered receivership came several months after Santa Monica officials first disclosed an investigation into that company, as well as Goldline, another popular precious metals dealer.

In its lawsuit against Superior, Santa Monica officials have alleged the company took payments from customers but failed to provide the coins they had promised. The complaint also alleged that Superior induced customers, through false and misleading statements, to buy more expensive collectable or foreign coins instead of the basic gold bullion that customers typically want, and charged prices purported to be far higher than fair market value for the coins while concealing markups through false and deceptive pricing practices.

California Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg signed a temporary restraining order this week prohibiting the company and its president, Bruce Sands, from "taking customer payments, advertising, or conducting any other business under a name other than Superior Gold Group." And it freezes assets the court says belong to the company and to Sands, including a Malibu home and a 2003 Lamborghini coupe.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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