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Wednesday
Dec012010

Unemployment Benefits Expire After Extension Bid Fails in Senate

Photo Courtesy - Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Federal unemployment benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans expired Wednesday at midnight after Congress failed Tuesday to pass an extension for another year.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to urge his colleagues to extend the benefits, but to no avail.

"Now it is time to govern.  Now it is time to act.  Now it is time to do what we have always done in a situation like this -- to pass a promptly and timely extension of unemployment insurance benefits," Reed said.

"Acting now is the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do, the wise economic thing to do," he added.

He cited that the jobless benefits serve as an economic stimulus that is more effective than tax cuts for the wealthy, one of the Republicans' priorities during the lame-duck Congress.

But Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts objected to the Democrats' bid to move forward with the jobless benefits bill.  Brown said Democrats should have allowed more time to work on the bill, rather than taking a week-long break for the Thanksgiving holiday and spending the past few legislative days working on a food safety bill.

"Seven days?  Give me a break.  We should have spent time working on this.  But we need to work on food safety?" Brown said on the Senate floor.

The consequences of ending the extended benefits aren't entirely clear, though most agree it could hurt the recovery.  The Labor Department estimates that 635,000 people could lose all benefits by Dec. 11, with more than 1.6 million losing them by Christmas.  The ripple effect, some argue, could be devastating.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

Delta Hiring 1,000 Flight Attendants; Over 100,000 Have Applied

Photo Courtesy - Delta Airlines(ATLANTA) -- Delta Air Lines is having what might possibly be the most-popular job search in a long time. More than 100,000 people have applied for just 1,000 openings as flight attendants.

Part of the reason behind the huge turnout might be the nation's persistently high unemployment rate, but the airline says that a lot of people just want to fly.

"I realized that I didn't want to be in an office 9 to 5," said Jordan Leonard, a flight attendant who has worked 20 years for Delta and now also helps with hiring.  "I'm about to go all around the world; Europe, South America, Asia.  You name it, I've probably been there."

And it's exactly that international focus that Delta is seeking.

U.S. airlines have finally returned to profitability, in part by cutting flights.  Some of those flights are returning now but more importantly Delta is making an aggressive push into new, more-lucrative international routes.  And that's really where most of these 1,000 new flight attendant jobs come in.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

GM, Chrysler to Add 2,000 Engineering Jobs Collectively

Photo Courtesy - Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(HAMTRAMCK, Mich.) -- General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC both announced on Tuesday plans to hire a combined total of 2,000 engineers to their staff.

General Motors said it will hire 1,000 engineers and researchers in Michigan to help in its expansion and development of electric vehicles.  The additional workers will bump up the automaker's team of electric-vehicle engineers to about 3,000.

Chrysler said it will also add 1,000 engineers and high-tech workers to assist in the development of its small and midsize cars.

GM's workforce expansion will occur during the next two years, with initial hiring beginning immediately.  Chrysler will begin adding its new employees during the next four months.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Cybershopping Yourself Out of a Job?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Office workers went online Monday en masse, using their employers' time to shop for everything from fruitcakes to holiday vacations, but what many such buyers fail to realize is that they may also be buying themselves a one-way ticket to the unemployment line.

Cyber Monday spending was projected to top $950 million, with 60 percent of customers shopping from work. A Shop.org survey released last week estimated 70 million Americans will shop from work at some point during this holiday season.

As much as Cyber Monday is a boon to retailers, it's a headache to employers who expect workers to work.

Most employers prohibit using office time and office computers for any sort of personal use, including shopping. Employees expressly agree to those terms when they sign employment contracts.

Yet according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com, 29 percent of workers say they have shopped online during past holidays, and 27 percent said that this year they intended to spend an hour or more; 13 percent said two hours or more.

All that shopping doesn't go unnoticed. Forty-seven percent of employers monitor employees' online activity, while 21 percent have fired employees for general Internet misuse, and five percent specifically for holiday shopping.

"Even if employers allow online shopping, employees should use good judgment and not abuse the privilege," said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Excessive shopping is a red flag that could put someone's job at risk."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Booking Errors Lead to Massive Discounts for Savvy Travelers  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Next month, Matthew Klint, his brother and his uncle are all flying to Las Vegas and staying in two rooms at a five-star hotel. The total cost: $44. Throw in a $200 food and drink credit and they are actually making $156 off the trip.

How did Klint score such a deal? The 24-year-old Philadelphia law student saw a promotion -- possibly an error -- on Expedia's Canadian website and snagged it quickly.

Then he started booking other trips for friends and family. Ultimately, Klint purchased 15 tickets, most of them for free.

"I always recommend to people: book now and ask questions later," said Klint, who also has a blog about flying called Live and Let's Fly.

A few hours after Klint booked the tickets, Expedia caught the error and changed its promotion requiring all trips to start in Canada.

Expedia declined several requests for an interview and would only say that it is honoring all bookings.

Gary Leff, who runs the blog View From the Wing and reposted the Expedia offer, said such deals come around from time to time but travelers need to act fast.

"They're usually human glitches, working with computers," Leff said. "They seem to happen every so often. But not as often as they used to."

While they might not be as frequent, thanks to social media and the Internet the number of travelers taking advantage of such deals seems to have grown.

Airlines also make mistakes and tend to honor such errors.

"Hotels are more iffy," Leff said. "Sometimes, you win, sometimes you lose."

Most often, these deals come when something gets entered into a computer incorrectly, said Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare-search site FareCompare.com and an ABC News columnist.

One New Year's Eve, Air Canada was switching over its website and for a brief time was offering tickets for zero dollars.

"In order to take advantage of mistakes," Seaney said, "it has to be in real time because they are fleeting."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Google in Talks to Buy Groupon

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) – In what would be the online search giant’s largest acquisition to date, at an estimated $5 billion, Google is in talks to buy Groupon, a popular online coupon company, according to Financial Times.

In only two years of operation, Groupon is estimated to have brought in $350 million in revenue. The marketing company offers daily coupons, or “Groupons,” that offer big deals for those who recommend the offer to friends through various social networking sites.
 
Industry analysts say the acquisition could help Google bolster its share of social network advertising in its effort to lessen Facebook’s share.

The deal would surpass Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick three years ago, which had a price tag of $3.1 billion.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Level 3: Comcast Put “Tollbooth” on Streaming Video

Photo Courtesy - Netflix, Inc.(PHILADELPHIA) -- Just as Netflix announced it would make streaming videos cheaper for customers, Internet provider Comcast has announced it will charge more to stream such content to its customers.

After Netflix announced they would use the service of Level 3 to help stream movies, Comcast countered by announcing they would charge Level 3 a fee to send that video to Comcast Internet users.

Level 3 has called the move an Internet “tollbooth” that is counter to the spirit of an open Internet.

“Comcast is putting up a tollbooth at the borders of its broadband Internet-access network, enabling it to unilaterally decide how much to charge for content which competes with its own cable TV and Xfinity-delivered content,” Level 3 chief legal officer Thomas Stortz said. 

Comcast – which has a bid to own NBC – denied the claim, saying the fee followed a move by Level 3 that would nearly double traffic sent through Comcast.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Kardashians Pull Prepaid Debit Card Off the Market Amidst Criticism

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Kardashian card is no more, and the reality TV stars behind the prepaid debit card debacle don't want to talk about it.

"We are not working with the bank anymore and that's all we're allowed to say," Kourtney Kardashian told ABC News on Tuesday.

On Monday, Dennis Roach, lawyer for Kim, 30, Khloe, 26, and Kourtney, 31, announced the Kardashian sisters were pulling their name off the Kardashian Prepaid MasterCard after being slammed for the card's hefty fees. The decision came in the wake of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's investigation into the card. He called the card's fees "predatory."

Last week, Blumenthal -- who is the state's U.S. Senator-elect -- warned consumers of the perils of credit cards marketed at young adults and revealed that he demanded University National Bank, which issued the Kardashian Kard, provide specific details about how the card is promoted and sold in Connecticut.

"Keeping up with the Kardashians is impossible using these cards -- laden with pernicious and predatory fees that swallow card value," Blumenthal said in a statement. "These cards are feckless financial tools designed to promptly diminish in value with virtually every transaction -- and even when consumers don't use the card at all."

In addition to Blumenthal, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, chastised the Kardashians for promoting a fee-heavy card and cautioned other celebrities against blindly promoting products.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Home Prices Across US Are Dropping, Index Shows

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Home prices are falling in the biggest cities in the country, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index of home prices.

The index of 20 cities found that prices slipped seven-tenths of a percent in September.  The hardest hit city was Cleveland, Ohio, where home prices slid three percent.

S&P Indices Vice President Maureen Maitland says it seems the housing recovery really hasn't taken hold yet.  "If you look at these numbers, the third quarter, and you look at them compared to what had been going on earlier this year, these are disappointing numbers," she says.  "Any boost that we had gotten in early spring now seems to be gone, and the momentum appears to be moving in a negative direction."

Maitland adds that although home prices are up about six percent since April 2009, these are disappointing numbers.  "At best, I think what we can say with the housing market right now is that they seem to have leveled off at the bottom," she says.

Several factors are to blame for the drop, according to Maitland, who says, "It really looks like there's just too much supply out there and not enough demand, and given the fact that the unemployment rate is still high above nine percent, there's really no economic recovery that's supporting a housing recovery."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Websites Use Social Networks to Pick Presents for Your Friends

Photo Courtesy - Hunch [dot] com(NEW YORK) -- Every year around this time, holiday shoppers fret and fuss over what to get their friends and family.  But this year, a few new Web tools offer to provide shoppers with gift ideas.

Using profile information pulled from Facebook, these websites try to match your friends' preferences and interests with products you can buy online.

"Every e-commerce site has this problem of gifting, and it's a significant chunk of e-commerce," said Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch.com, a recommendation engine that recently launched a social gift finder tool with Gifts.com.

But now that social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, have helped turn the Internet from just a "Web of cookies and computers" into a Web of people, he said, companies like his can add a layer of tools that analyze people and their preferences to personalize the Internet and their purchases.

Hunch.com, for example, asks users a series of questions to develop a "taste profile" for them, which it then uses to help make recommendations about anything from books and movies to restaurants and gadgets.  Its latest project, in partnership with Gifts.com, combines Facebook profile data with its own taste-based algorithms to help shoppers find potential gift ideas for friends and family.

Once you allow the site to import information from your Facebook account, it looks for what your Facebook friends have "liked" or identified as interests.  It then builds a list of possible gifts for each friend, which you can refine by answering questions based on what you know about them.

Etsy, Amazon and eBay, together with Facebook, have launched similar tools that help shoppers spot gifts for friends. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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