Entries in Texas (20)


Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Tour Conn. Gun Manufacturing Plants

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WEST HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry will tour gun manufacturing plants in Connecticut on Monday and extend an open invitation to manufactures to set up shop in Texas.

During the job tour, Perry will visit the Colt manufacturing plant in West Hartford, Conn., and Connecticut gun-maker Mossberg & Sons in North Haven, Conn., hoping to lure them and other firearm companies to Texas.

A number of gun-makers in Connecticut have said they're looking into leaving, after the state passed some of the toughest gun laws in the country in response to last year's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The legislation bans the sale of certain types of weapons but doesn't restrict manufacturing.

Colt's president says that Colt was proud to call Connecticut home for 175 years, but, now needs to consider all options.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Fourth Richest Woman in US Discovered Hiding in Texas

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's one thing to live for years undetected with a fortune of $12.7 billion. It's another to do it as the 77-year-old daughter-in-law of the late, pneumatic, reality-TV phenomenon Anna Nicole Smith.

As to how a 77-year-old could be the "daughter" of someone who, if she were alive today, would be 44, is a question we'll get to in a minute.

As for how the 4th richest woman in the United States—whose $12.7 billion puts her behind only three other women—could have escaped detection until now by billionaire-hunters, Peter Newcomb, editor in charge of the Americas for Bloomberg News's Billionaire Index, has an explanation.

"She's extremely low-key," he says.

Elaine Tettemer Marshall is not the kind of woman to dance on tables, buy Hawaiian islands or throw her underwear out of cars. Both before and after the 2006 death of her husband, E. Pierce Marshall, she apparently has led a circumspect and quiet life.

Newcomb tells ABC News he and his Bloomberg colleague Matthew Miller stumbled on her fortune only after they got to wondering one day who owned the minority stake in Wichita's Koch Industries, second-largest closely-held company in the U.S.

The majority owners are the Koch brothers, Charles and David, famous (or infamous, depending on your politics) for bankrolling conservative causes. Though the brothers own most of the fabulously profitable company (whose sales Bloomberg puts at $110 billion a year), they do not own it all. Some 15 percent belonged to E. Pierce Marshall. And this share, after his death, passed to Elaine.

Her estimated worth of $12.7 billion, says Newcomb, puts Elaine behind two Wal-Mart heiresses, Alice and Christy Walton; and candy company beneficiary Jacqueline Mars.

Bloomberg says that the ability of Elaine and Piece Marshall to avoid publicity contrasted sharply with the ability of Pierce's father, J. Howard Marshall, to attract it. He never did that better than in 1994, when, at the age of 89, he wed former stripper and Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, 26, at the time. As J. Howard's wife, she became Elaine's mother-in-law.

Years of legal wrangling between Smith and the Marshall family followed J. Howard's death in 1995, the upshot of which was that Smith never inherited a cent of the family fortune, says Bloomberg.

A representative for Elaine Marshall declined to comment on Bloomberg's revelation of her wealth, beyond saying that Mrs. Marshall does not own any Koch stock in her own name.

Bloomberg started its Billionaire Index in March with a ranking of 20 wealthy individuals. Updated daily, it since has grown to include 100. Make that 100-and-one.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


$60 Million for a High School Football Stadium?

Darrin Klimek/Thinkstock(ALLEN, Texas) -- To say that football is a big deal in Texas is a bit like saying it snows in Alaska.

“There’s a long tradition in both film and novels of how important high school football is in Texas,” said Tom Palaima, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and a former representative of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a faculty organization that monitors sports expenditures on college campuses.

Friday Night Lights, anyone?

Still, it’s hard to imagine that a high school would invest $59.6 million in its football stadium. But that’s precisely the cost of the sparkling new Eagle Stadium at Allen High School, in Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb. The stadium -- which boasts a video scoreboard, artificial turf, a multi-level press box, a weight room, a wrestling room and seats for 18,000 -- opened Thursday with a pep rally and introduction of the 2012 team.  The new season begins on Aug. 31.

While students and their parents seem to be thrilled with it, some Texans are less impressed. Yes, the stadium was funded with a $119 million bond package approved by voters in May 2009 -- passing with 63.66 percent of the vote, no less. (The bond issue also includes $36.5 million for a transportation, maintenance and nutrition center and a $23.3 million auditorium for the district’s performing arts programs.)

But does a high school need a $60 million football stadium, especially when state education budgets are so slim? Never mind that the median household in Allen is $95,000 per year, almost double the national average.

“It’s lamentable that people want to do this with their own money and the money of their community,” said Palaima.  ”Young men and women are now understanding at the age of 8, 9, and 10 that their way to get into a good college or university is by participating in sports and not putting a focus on academics.”

Allen High principal Steve Payne disagreed. “We are an exemplary high school,” he told ABC News. “I think our first class facilities tell everybody that we have first class academics and first class kids. Without them, we wouldn’t have those first class facilities.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked the 5,700-student school 99th out of 1,842 schools in the state of Texas, and 1,219th out of 21,776 schools nationwide. Eighty-five percent of students go on to college, said Payne.

Allen football coach Tom Westerberg told Fox Sports Southwest that most of the negative publicity comes from people outside of town.  "I don’t really worry about that a whole lot,” he said.  "We’ve drawn quite a few people to the games and I think for the majority of the big games it will be full.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top Six States Facing Major Financial Stress

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report by the State Budget Crisis Task Force paints a chilling picture of what's ahead for U.S. states, even long after the 2008 recession officially ended.

The pessimistic analysis identifies major threats to fiscal sustainability, including out-of-control Medicaid spending; reductions in federal state-aid; underfunded state retirement plans; an eroding tax base; and laws that allow states to use gimmicks to hide their fiscal troubles.

The co-chairs of the Task Force -- former Fed chairman Paul Volker and former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch -- say state governments are coping with the "unprecedented challenges" in their attempt to keep providing "established levels of service with uncertain and constrained resources."  States' ability to continue to meet their obligations to their own employees, to their creditors and to their citizens, say the chairmen, "is threatened."

The report's recommendations include the following:

  • Reduce budget gimmickry.  States should, for example, replace cash-based budgeting with modified accrual budgets, so that legislators and the public can see how revenues earned in any given fiscal year relate to obligations incurred in the same year.
  • Enact forecasts and plans that extend at least four years into the future; encourage independent review of these forecasts.
  • Strengthen state 'rainy-day' funds.  Examples of successful funds, such as those created by Texas and Virginia, should be copied by other states.
  • State pension systems need to account more clearly for the risks they assume and for the potential shortfalls they face.  States should create mechanisms to ensure that required contributions are paid.
  • The federal government should shore up states' eroding tax bases by making it easier for states to collect taxes on goods and services sold over the Internet.

The report examines in particular the health of six states -- California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia -- because, say its authors, these account for more than a third of the nation's population and almost 40 cents out of every dollar spent by state and local government.

Here's a sampling of the challenges facing these six states, which the report says face major threats to their ability to provide basic services:

1. Illinois -- Medicaid Spending
Medicaid, says the report, is the single biggest spending category in most states' budgets and is growing faster than both the economy and state tax revenues.  If trends of the past decade continue, the gap between Medicaid spending and state tax revenue growth will increase by at least $22 billion annually within five years.  Illinois, by the end of the current year, will face accumulated unpaid Medicaid bills estimated to total $1.9 billion.

2. New York -- Reduced Federal Aid to States
When the federal government gets around to taking significant steps to reduce its budget deficit, predicts the report, "such action could wreak havoc on the states."  Even a 10 percent cut in federal aid would cost states a collective $60 billion, the equivalent of eliminating all states' spending on libraries, parks and recreation.  Such a cut would cost New York and California more than $6 billion each, but New York's cut per capita ($316.5) would be highest of any of the six states.

3. California -- Underfunded Retirement
Under current actuarial assumptions, says the report, state and local government pension funds are underfunded by approximately $1 trillion.  Despite that shortfall, California and other states have continued to sweeten pension benefits, some retroactively, on the basis of assumptions that in hindsight were too optimistic.  California's unfunded liability, based on the current market value of its fund's assets, is greatest of the six states: $135.8 billion.  Illinois is next, at $92.5 billion.

4. Texas -- Eroding Tax Base
The report calls states' sales tax revenues "volatile and eroding."  Reasons include a nationwide shift in consumer spending away from goods toward more lightly-taxed services.  An increase in cars' fuel efficiency has reduced revenue from fuel taxes.  Texas' situation is complicated by the fact that it has no income tax, and so relies "far more heavily" on the sales taxes than do most states.  Sales taxes, says the report, have been diminishing relative to the economy.  "A 1 percent change in personal income now produces only about an estimated 0.7-0.8 percent increase in sales tax revenue," the report says.

5. Virginia -- Local Government Fiscal Stress
"Fiscal stress rolls downhill," says the report.  Suffering states have tried to pass their troubles down to cities, towns and counties -- for example, by cutting aid to primary and secondary education.  Such moves, however, result in no net reduction of a state's fiscal stress: The pea is just hidden under a different walnut-shell.  While laws in some states prevent local governments from raising property tax rates to offset those housing-bust declines in value, Virginia's towns and cities can raise taxes all they want, and some are doing so.  What good is achieved?  Says the report: "This kind of compensating mechanism only turns potential stress for local governments into actual stress for property owners."

6. New Jersey -- Laws and Practices That Hinder Fiscal Stability

Short-term budget gimmicks, says the report, only serve to destabilize a state's long-term finances.  One of the most notorious gimmicks, it says, is capitalizing future revenues to produce a balance in a current year, borrowing cash "not just from the year ahead but from many years into the future."  An obvious way to end the practice is to put in place "a multi-year financial and capital plan linked to the annual budgeting process."  Multi-year planning has been practiced successfully by many states, says the report, but New Jersey isn't one of them: the state has no such plan in place.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bank of America, Countrywide Whistleblower Kept 3-Year Secret

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Would you be able to keep a secret for four years that was so big it would make the five large U.S. banks pay up about $25 billion in a legal settlement?

Kyle Lagow of Plano, Texas, had to keep a secret even from his wife and five children that he was one of the whistleblowers who led to this year's $25 billion mortgage settlement with banks over inappropriate lending schemes. His lawsuit led to a $1 billion settlement with Countrywide Financial's parent, Bank of America, in February with the U.S. attorney's office. Lagow's suit was finally unsealed under the U.S. False Claims Act in May, when he was awarded $14.5 million, a percentage of the settlement.

Lagow, 50, said the settlement is a "start" in settling improper mortgage practices with FHA-sponsored loans, but that was only 6 to 10 percent of his company's practice.

"The conventional side is massive. I don't know how to put a number on it," Lagow said with a deep Texas drawl. "There were such a large number of loans that went through the machinery. Will Congress do anything and say, 'We need to fix this machinery before it's going to happen again?' Who knows?"

It all started because Lagow was an appraiser from 2004 to 2008 with LandSafe Inc., a subsidiary of the subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

During his time working at Countrywide, which was purchased by Bank of America in January 2008, Lagow witnessed his company making bad loans on homes with low collateral. During that heyday of housing lending, executives encouraged appraisers to boost home values for sales.

"The game was rigged when you brought the people into it," he said.

Lagow said he tried to make suggestions of how to "fix" the situation.

"You go in there, figure out who was taking advantage of them, you lower the interest rates, make it easier to stay in their homes," Lagow had proposed to the company. "There were three or four things I wanted to do and they looked at me like I was nuts and said, 'No thanks, Kyle. Go back to doing your job.'"

Lagow complained to company executives about the inappropriate appraisal and lending practices, but they didn't find impropriety after investigating the matter, according to the suit.

"If you're an unsophisticated homebuyer, you walk in and all you want is the American dream," Lagow said. "You don't sit down and analyze that they own the appraisal business, mortgage business, and has a joint venture with the builder. No one was looking out for them."

He said he was never given a clear reason for losing his job in November 2008, but that the company "wanted to go in a different direction."

"My suspicion was that they didn't want Bank of America to know what they were up to," he said. "That's just my opinion."

As the recession deepened, and seeing "a lot of people who were damaged" in the housing market, Lagow contacted Hagens Berman LLP in Seattle in the spring of 2009. Lagow said he chose to contact the law firm because it previously filed a related suit against KB Homes.

"I went to them and I said, 'What can I do to help you? How can I help these people get back on track and make them whole?'" Lagow said.

In May 2009, he filed his lawsuit against Countrywide and various executives and it was sealed as part of the wider Department of Justice investigation. He could not speak a word of the lawsuit, the federal probe or that he was trying to help fix a "rigged system" to anyone, while being unemployed and nearly broke.

"If you can imagine being in a bad economy and, all of a sudden, your income dropping to nothing and not being able to tell people or your wife and kids ... it was probably worse on the kids," he said. "Your kids looking at you like you are a failure. A lot of people would have bailed out. It was pretty tough. There were a lot of money issues and lack of money and, in your own mind, you think they're looking at you because you failed."

Three years later, the suit was finally unsealed, allowing Lagow to finally tell his family his secret, as reported by Reuters. He said he sat his family down in May, and explained the lawsuit to them and that it had been resolved.

"I don't think anybody believed until the funds actually hit the bank," he said.

Shayne Stevenson, one of his attorneys, said Lagow deserves the payment he received after all those years of waiting for legal process at professional and personal risk.

"Kyle, like most whistleblowers, did not come to a law firm trying to make a lot of money," Stevenson said. "He came to the firm because he wanted to help homeowners and appraisers who were being mistreated by Countrywide."

Because Lagow couldn't speak with anyone about the lawsuit, he said he was in constant contact with his attorneys, like Stevenson and Steve Berman.

"I bugged them at all hours of the day," Lagow said of Stevenson and an earlier attorney who worked on the case, "and I continued to drive both of them nuts."

He said he is leaving most of the $14.5 million, minus attorney fees and taxes, to his five children, ages seven to 26.

Unemployed for three years and, even at 50 and being hopefully a little bit wiser, Lagow said he is still actively looking for a job.

"There's some organization out there who is going to look at this and say, 'Here's a guy who wants to do things right. We want that person on our team or part of our organization. We want the credibility and we want to say we try to do things right.' I don't know what firm that is because I haven't been able to find it yet," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Top 100 Tollway Violators’ in North Texas Owe More Than $9M

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Amber Young of Dallas is first on the North Texas Tollway Authority’s list of the top 100 highest unpaid toll invoices, which claims she owes the agency $179,596.43 for 8,366 instances.

The top 100 toll violators on the list released Wednesday combined for more than 430,000 missed tolls and more than $9 million in unpaid tolls and fees.

According to NTTA’s website, “The list of names…was publicized as part of an ongoing toll collection effort and as a service to those customers who owe the authority for their use of toll roads.”

Michael Rey, media relations manager for NTTA, said publishing the names will change the way the agency will pursue people with outstanding tolls.

“If you have forgotten about it, we haven’t,” said Rey.  “Here is your opportunity to check and see if your name is on the list.”

Tollway authority officials added that if people aren’t able to pay right away, they will work with them.  If customers aren’t willing to cooperate or ignore warnings, NTTA plans to file lawsuits.

Officials hope that the threat of lawsuits will decrease the amount of unpaid tolls.

“Filing civil lawsuits will be a broader reach and will involve more people being contacted by the NTTA,” said Rey.

Officials also are hoping to set up a system that would prevent repeat offenders from using tolls.

“No one likes to pay a toll and we understand that,” Rey added. “Ninety-two percent of our customers pay and others who get the same benefit of traveling of the road should pay, as well.  It is a fairness issue.  The overwhelming sentiment that we’re hearing is that, ‘If I pay, everyone should.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Widow Sues Firm for Giving Drug Test to Dying Husband

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Texas widow says in a lawsuit that her late husband's employer ordered a drug test on him as he lay dying on the floor -- and waited hours before calling 911.

Alejandra Perez, 56, said her husband, Benino, loved his job at Texas Industries (TXI), a cement and construction company.  After 38 years there, he was planning to retire in two weeks.  But then he had an accident at work, falling several feet and hitting his head.  He gradually lost consciousness and later died at a hospital.  He was 67.

Benino Perez was working as a loader and batch man at the company's Dallas headquarters on July 1, 2011, when the accident happened.

The suit, filed by Perez in a Texas district court on June 7, claims that while he "lay unconscious on the ground," a fellow employee ordered a drug test to be performed on him, and only after two hours were paramedics called. Perez said co-workers unzipped his pants and took urine from him.

"How could they do that?" she said in an interview with ABC News.  "Why did it take them so many hours to call the ambulance?  Even kids know how to do that."

Perez said her husband had just had a physical about a week prior to the accident and he was "fine."

She is suing the company for $15 million for actual and punitive damages, saying the company was negligent in failing to train employees and provide proper equipment, and for the wrongful death of her husband.

She and her lawyer said they are not sure why a drug test may have been given.

"There was a total lack of training and safety equipment for Mr. Perez on the date of the accident and reprehensible conduct on the part of a worker doing a drug test on an unconscious, dying employee instead of getting him immediate medical help," said Perez's attorney, Domingo Garcia.

"He died a pretty agonizing death," Garcia said, adding that Benino was on life support for several hours in the hospital before he died.  "It's been emotionally gut wrenching for the family, especially for his wife.  It's taken a very heavy emotional toll."

The company denies that he was given a drug test that delayed a call for an ambulance.

"No drug testing was performed prior to calling 911, nor was it made a prerequisite before medical attention was sought for Mr. Perez," said TXI in a statement.  "At any time when a TXI employee has immediate medical needs, the first and highest priority is to ensure that their needs are promptly met.  Any drug testing analysis would have been done under the care of the paramedics or at the hospital."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Neiman Marcus Sued over Returns Policy, Employee Affair

Comstock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Sex, money, shopping and betrayal spurred a woman scorned to file suit against Neiman Marcus after the luxury retailer, known for its generous return policy, refused to take back $1.4 million worth of merchandise.

During the three years Patricia Walker spent bedridden recovering from a traffic accident, her then-husband Robert Tennison's spending spiked at the retailer's Dallas location. He showered her with an outsized pile of gifts. But all the while, according to the suit, he was allegedly carrying on a secret affair with Favi Lo, his wife's trusted Neiman Marcus personal shopper.

Lo earned a steep commission from the sales, which were made using Walker's account, her attorney, Mark Ticer, said.

He noted a correlation between the spike in sales from 2007 to 2010 and the affair.

"Ms. Walker had no idea it was going on at all. She was in the perfect spot to be vulnerable after the horrible accident," he said.

In 2010, Walker wanted to return the haul of luxury goods to the store, which is known for its generous return policy.

Neiman Marcus sent employees to look at the merchandise Walker had requested to return, but the store never followed through or offered an explanation for not taking the items back, Ticer said.

Neiman Marcus declined ABC News' request and that of ABC affiliate WFAA for comment and cited the ongoing litigation.

The bonanza of luxury goods, from $285 pajamas to crystal sculptures and enough jewelry to fill a store's display case, now sits unused in storage. Much of it isn't even Walker's taste, Ticer said.

Walker spent $100,000 per year before her accident at the retailer. Her husband's spending on her account outpaced her spending by hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ticer said.

Still unaware of her husband's affair with Favi Lo, Walker closed her account in 2010. She learned of her husband's relationship with Lo a few months later while engaged in divorce proceedings, Ticer said.

For Walker, the lawsuit is about more than just getting her money back.

"The real villain in this case is Neiman Marcus," Ticer said. "After learning of this affair decided they weren't going to do anything about it."

Ticer said Lo was not disciplined and continues to work at the retailer's NorthPark Mall location. An attempt to reach her for comment was unsuccessful.

"It's a sad story about breach of trust and profits over people," Ticer said. "And Neiman Marcus isn't taking responsibility."

The upscale chain's return policy is: " If for any reason you are not satisfied, we will gladly accept your timely return of unworn, unwashed, or defective merchandise. Returned merchandise should include the vendor packaging and tags and be in the same condition as when it was received. Used merchandise cannot be returned unless defective. A pickup and/or restock fee may apply."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Anger Room' Allows Stressed-Out Customers to Smash TVs, Other Junk

ABC News(DALLAS) -- Have you ever been angry or stressed out enough to smash something to bits? Instead of becoming the Incredible Hulk and destroying your own home, a Dallas-based company offers the "Anger Room" as a place where paying customers can throw, beat or shatter everything around them in a controlled environment.

The Anger Room builds mock kitchens, living rooms and replicas of actual workplaces, and fills them with big-screen TVs, VCRs, fax machines, desks, potted plants -- the list is endless. Customers then pay money to destroy them.

Hugo, a 24-year-old retail salesman from Dallas who asked that his last name not be used, paid $45 for 15 minutes inside the Anger Room and said it was worth every penny.

"I can't afford a psychiatrist, but I can afford this," he said, as he crushed a large TV with a baseball bat.

The brains behind the operation is founder Donna Alexander. The 30-year-old entrepreneur said she came up with the idea for the Anger Room when she was 16, but opened her first one in 2008 in her own garage. It was -- pardon the pun -- a smash hit.

"I had strangers showing up at my house so I said I have to find a real legit place," Alexander said.

Which was easier said than done. Alexander said it took her three years to find a landlord who would put up with the mess. She set up shop in a Dallas strip mall and started advertising, mostly online. Before long, customers were lining up to make appointments, sign waivers, put on safety gear and choose a soundtrack, such as Eminem, or Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," to prepare them for destruction. The rooms are filled with discarded junk Alexander and her staff pick up from people's garages.

According to the Anger Room website, sessions start out at the 5-minute "I Need a Break" for $25 and go up to "Total Demolition," a 25-minute session for $75.

"The only time I think someone might need a shrink is -- we have a 25-minute session. Nobody last 25 minutes," Alexander said.

Most customers are "normal 9-to-5'ers," Alexander says. "We get a lot of high-level executives, people who own their own businesses, they come from all walks of life," she said. And at least half of her clients are women, from mothers blowing off steam after a stressful day with the kids to ladies with relationship problems who take their anger out on mannequins.

"[They] put pictures on them, write on them and then they try to beat the crap out of them," Alexander said.

But she said most of her customers sign up to relieve job stress, not personal stress. And there are limits to how angry clients can get in the Anger Room. Alexander said she has had to turn down people who asked to bring in chainsaws and machetes. She also advises them not to rip the wires out of the walls.

Alexander said she doesn't pretend this environment is a legitimate mental health treatment. But to her critics, who have said the Anger Room is dangerous or glorifies violence, she said, "You can't tell me that you have never been angry before. You can't tell me that. If you haven't ever felt like that maybe you are the crazy one."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Austin, Texas Launches Anti-Junk Mail Program

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hate that junk mail clogging your box? The Resource Recovery program in Austin, Texas has a new service that lets residents say no to bulk mail they don’t want. And there are ways you can accomplish the same thing wherever you live.

Through the Catalog Choice program, residents will be able to opt-out of receiving unwanted phone books, catalogs, coupons and credit card solicitations at no cost. Within 90 days of a request, account holders are supposed to stop receiving the unwanted mail.

“This is a great step for consumer choice, consumer protection, and takes us closer to our Zero Waste goals. I have heard from many citizens that no longer use phone books, but have no opportunity to stop receiving them. This solution will help stop not only the delivery of unwanted phone books, but also junk mail and credit card offers to our mailboxes and doorsteps,” said Council Member Mike Martinez.

The Catalog Choice service is part of Austin’s efforts to reach zero waste by 2040 or sooner, which would reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90 percent.

Austin is one of several cities partnering with Catalog Choice. According to the service’s website, 20 million opt-outs by over 1.4 million account holders have already been processed since its launch in 2007.

Austin is one of many cities partnering with Catalog Choice to reduce waste. Catalog Choice connects 1.5 million consumers nationwide with 4,200 direct mail companies to fine-tune mailing lists. Registering for Catalog Choice is free. Users need only provide an email address and the address where they would like to stop receiving unwanted mail. Once registered, users have access to an alphabetized company directory that allows mail opt out.

More than 100 billion pieces of unsolicited mail are received by Americans each year, according to a statement by the city of Austin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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