Senate to Vote on Bill to Reduce Wage Disparities Among Sexes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is set to take up a controversial bill designed to ensure equal pay for equal work and reduce pay disparities between men and women.

On Wednesday, senators will convene on Capitol Hill to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already passed the House.  President Obama calls it a "common sense bill" that would make it easier for women to file class action lawsuits against employers accused of sex based pay discrimination.  It will also require companies to be more aware of pay practices.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis this legislation is long overdue.  "The last time we actually made any changes in this law was back in 1966, almost 50 years ago, through the Equal Pay Act," she says.  "That was supposed to help end sex based wage discrimination and yet we find that we have not made enough of an impact, therefore we need this, and it helps to close those loopholes."

But some say the new act will burden businesses with extra paperwork.

"You're basically putting this huge paperwork burden on a company to report to the federal government -- to report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," says Brian Darling, Director of Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.  "And in the end, it's not going to do anything to help women make more money.  It's just going to enrich trial lawyers."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Pledges $500 Million to Bring Financial Services to World's Poorest

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged nearly 200 influential world leaders to work together to build a financial structure that will "bring savings to the poor." 

To that end, Gates, whose husband Bill Gates is chairman of Microsoft Corporation, also pledged $500 million over the next five years from the charitable foundation the couple founded.

On Tuesday, world leaders gathered in Seattle at the Global Savings Forum, billed as "the first global gathering focused on the role of savings in the developing world," where Gates spoke about bringing financial services, specifically savings accounts, to the millions of people worldwide that are living on less than $2 per day.

"This is an amazing moment.  The stage is set for incredible breakthroughs," Gates told forum attendees.

Gates added that statements last week on savings by the G20 "proves financial inclusion is on the global agenda at the highest level."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Chevy Volt is ‘Game-Changer,' Car of the Year 

Photo Courtesy of Chevrolet dot com(DETROIT) -- The Chevrolet Volt has been named the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, as announced in the magazine’s January issue.

The magazine hailed the Volt as a “car of the future,” which somehow emerged from the rough emotional and political GM rollercoaster.

Chris Theodore, a Car of the Year judge and industry expert, told Motor Trend he was blown away by the car’s technology.

"This is a fully developed vehicle with seamlessly integrated systems and software, a real car that provides a unique driving experience,” Theodore said.

Motor Trend called the Volt one of the most hyped yet controversial choices in the 61-year history of the award -- a car that emerged from the much-scrutinized transition from Old GM to New GM as a game-changer.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pre-Black Friday Bargains: Why It Pays to Wait

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Black Friday is a cultural phenomenon in which consumers take part in the thrill of the deal. This year, the mania is more intense than ever. Black Friday deals have been leaked two weeks early –- many posted on Facebook -– all to get you in the mood to buy.

So where are the deals, and is it worth it to wait? Many retailers have to guess almost a year early how many big-ticket items, like televisions, to order. If they overbuy, you get the deals.

At Walmart, for example, an Emerson 32-inch LCD HD TV that typically goes for $328 has been slashed to $198. Target and others have similar deals. But the deepest discounts this year will be on some of the biggest sets. Best Buy is offering a 50-inch Panasonic plasma set -– regular price $999 –- for $699 after Thanksgiving. At Sears, there’s a 55-inch Samsung LCD for almost $1,000 off.

It's not just the big-ticket items like TVs where deals can be found. Retailers are spending loads of money to get you into their stores, so they're going to do everything they can to make sure you leave with a shopping bag or two.

Other hot deals include a five-piece luggage set for $38.88 at JCPenney and KitchenAid Cutlery, on sale for $80. Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader is $99.99 after having been reduced from $149.99.

And, of course, there are the toys. Zhuzhu pets, one of last year’s must-have holiday items, are $4 at Walmart, 50 percent off the regular $8 sale price. At Toys R Us, Buzz Lightyear and Lincoln Logs are each 50 percent off.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Watchdog Warns of 'Potential Crisis' from Foreclosure Fraud

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Foreclosure fraud problems could cause the U.S. housing market to collapse, push the "precarious" financial system into disarray and shatter the economy's fragile recovery, a government watchdog warned in a new report due out Tuesday.

"Even as the government's response to the financial crisis is drawing to a close, severe threats remain that have the potential to damage financial stability," the Congressional Oversight Panel concluded in the first federal report on the foreclosure fraud problems.

"If documentation problems prove to be pervasive and, more importantly, throw into doubt the ownership of not only foreclosed properties but also pooled mortgages, the consequences could be severe.  Clear and uncontested property rights are the foundation of the housing market.  If these rights fall into question, that foundation could collapse."

While the Treasury Department has said that evidence to date shows that mortgage-related problems pose no threat to the financial system, the watchdog cautions that such a view is "premature."

While under a best-case scenario, the problems could prove "overblown" -- the work of only "a handful of employees" at mortgage servicers who failed to follow proper procedure.

Under a worst-case scenario, the servicers will not be able to prove that they own the mortgage loans they claim to own.  Under such a scenario, the banks, the government and homeowners would all end up hurting.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Facebook Updates Messaging Service, Not 'E-Mail Killer'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Facebook users, a new e-mail address is heading your way. As expected, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new messaging system at a San Francisco event Monday, but be careful before calling it "e-mail."

"We don't think a modern messaging system is going to be e-mail," Zuckerberg said.

As part of the new service, which will initially be invitation-only, Facebook users will receive an e-mail address. But Zuckerberg emphasized that the new application is much more than e-mail.

"This is not an e-mail killer, this is a messaging system that includes e-mail as one part of it," Zuckerberg said.

Users will be able to receive e-mail messages through their Facebook accounts if they want to and will be able to limit messages to only their friends or friends of friends.

Considering that Facebook has 500 million members worldwide, an e-mail program would instantaneously become a major force on the Web. Hotmail leads the Web in e-mail services with about 346 million users, Yahoo e-mail is a close second with 303 million users and Gmail has about 186 million worldwide users, according to ComScore data from July.

Facebook's announcement means further competition in an already crowded arena. AOL launched a new Web-based e-mail service, called Project Phoenix, Sunday. The new program is available only to a limited number of users now, but will open up next year to those who sign up to use a beta site.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


October Retail Sales Rise More Than Forecast

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Shoppers opened their purses more than expected in October, as retail sales climbed 1.2 percent, the most in seven months. The rise in consumer purchasing was the biggest gain since March, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday. The October number was strong compared with the 0.7 percent jump most economists were expecting.

Americans are shopping again, which means the sputtering economic recovery is getting a much-needed jolt. Companies are capitalizing on the shopping spirit, offering incentives to get customers to spend. Just this week, Wal-Mart announced it will offer free shipping on some 60,000 items over the holidays.

The retail industry is on the path to hiring the most seasonal workers since 2006. In October alone, stores hired 150,900 workers, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That's three times more jobs than last year at this time, when just 47,600 holiday jobs were added.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Smoked Turkey Products Recalled

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Texas company that produces hickory-smoked meats is recalling about 2,609 pounds of turkey breast products after they may have been contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

New Braunfels Smokehouse, based in New Braunfels, Texas sells several ready-to-eat meat and jerky products. The recalled turkey items were produced on Aug. 4 and sold nationwide through catalog and online sales.

Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne pathogen that can cause high fevers, headaches and nausea. It can sometimes cause deadly infections in elderly people, infants and those with weakened immune systems.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends using precooked or ready-to-eat food soon after you purchase them to lower the risk of Listeria growing in the refrigerator.

The New Braunfels turkey products in the recall include:
-  one-pound packages of Smokehouse Sliced Smoked Turkey with label package code 2210
-  four-to-six-pound packages of Honey-Glazed Spiral Sliced Smokehouse Hickory Smoked Boneless Breast of Turkey with label package code 2180
-  four-to-six-pound whole breast packages of Stegall Boneless Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast with label package code 2210
-  four-to-six-pound whole breast packages of Stegall Spiral Sliced Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast with label package code 2180 or 2210

The packages includes the code, P-975 inside the USDA mark of inspection seal.  To find out more about the recall, call 800-537-6932.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Deficit Commission Is 'Shock Therapy,' Sen. Conrad Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A top senator on the president's deficit commission is standing strong in the face of fierce backlash against the commission's draft recommendations.

"You know, a certain amount of this is shock therapy," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., told ABC News on Sunday. "There are different options and, of course, what everybody has fastened on is the most extreme of the options. But, look, the important thing for people to know is that we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. That's utterly unsustainable. It can't continue much longer, so it's got to be dealt with."

Asked if he would be willing to get on board with one of the more controversial parts of the proposal -- eliminating so-called tax expenditures -- Conrad said, "There is one proposal that eliminates all the tax preferences, all the tax deductions, all the tax exclusions, and uses 90 percent of the revenue to reduce rates," he said. "I don't favor that approach.”

"Fundamentally, if we're going to raise revenue, I don't think the way to do it is to raise rates. I think the way to do it is to eliminate some of the loopholes that exist in the system," the senator said.

The co-chairmen of National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Wednesday released a draft proposal for reducing the nation's deficit and debt. It called for substantial cuts in spending, cutbacks in Medicare and Social Security payments, along with some tax increases.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Holidays Come Early: Retailers Seek New Ways to Drive Traffic

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Black Friday is still two weeks away but retailers are already starting some of their big holiday sales. There is growing optimism that consumers may be willing to spend again this holiday season, and it seems stores will do almost anything to get your money.

Dragged down by the recession, 2008 and 2009 were hardly festive for business. But this year, things are looking up. According to the credit card companies, retail sales are up more than 3 percent. Retailers have already added three times as many seasonal workers as last season, and one of the country's bellwethers – Macy’s – rang up better than expected profits last quarter.

“Prices are at a level that are appealing to consumers and there's a lot of product newness out there to stimulate consuming,” retail analyst Dana Telsey said.

The Christmas lights have already been strung up outside a Macy's department store in New York City, where some say they're tired of not spending money -- and what better time to start shopping than the holidays?

“I think people want to spend...that's what I'm noticing,” said one shopper.

That's why big business is getting a head start. Best Buy kicked off its early black Friday sale this week. Holiday sales at Target begin the Sunday before Thanksgiving and launches its online sale a full week before "Cyber Monday."

“E-commerce allows retailers to be able to start the holiday season earlier than they do in their stores,” Telsey said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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