United Continental Holdings Announces Close of Merger

Photo Courtesy -- United Continental Holdings, Inc.(CHICAGO) -- United Continental Holdings, Inc., formerly UAL Corporation announced Friday that both Continental Airlines and United Air Lines, Inc. are now wholly owned subsidiaries of United Continental Holdings, Inc. 

Common stock of United Continental Holdings began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday under the symbol UAL.

Jeff Smisek, who will serve as president and chief executive officer said, "We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future."

United expects the merger to deliver $1 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies by 2013, including between $800 million and $900 million of incremental annual revenue.

Although "Continental and United, operating under United Continental Holdings, Inc., will immediately begin the work to fully integrate the two companies," customers shouldn't expect to see a more seamless union until early to mid 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


SEC: Computerized Trading Caused 'Flash Crash'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday that a major sell-off by a mutual fund caused the so-called "flash crash" back on May 6 that caused the Dow to drop nearly 1,000 points in minutes.

Identified by The Wall Street Journal as Kansas-based Waddell & Reed, the company apparently decided to sell $4.1 billion worth of futures contracts, electing to computerize the order.

Within 20 minutes, computers pushed the volume of shares onto the market, effectively flooding it and triggering other automated sell orders, which snowballed into the massive sell-off. Manually entering the trade could have taken five hours.

Regulators have recalibrated market circuit breakers and the report says the SEC will determine whether that is enough.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Government Rescue Ends Sunday

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government's $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the financial system will come to an end Sunday, bringing to a close one of the most controversial programs in economic history.

But the political ramifications of the Wall Street bailout live on and seem sure to haunt lawmakers come November.

Supporters say the Troubled Asset Relief Program rescued the country from another Great Depression. Critics counter that it simply handed money to the same Wall Street banks that plunged the country into recession in the first place and, moreover, it failed to help Main Street Americans.

The political back-and-forth has been fierce. Republicans, led by President Bush, first pushed the program through Congress in the fall of 2008. But with the 2010 mid-term elections fast approaching, Republicans are trying to capitalize on the program's unpopularity by tying Democrats, including President Obama, to the bailout.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been put on the defensive, standing up for a program that was the brainchild of a Republican administration. While the president has repeatedly noted that he understands why the program is so deeply unpopular, he also continues to defend its effectiveness.

Obama said in Rolling Stone magazine last week the program will ultimately cost taxpayers far less than had initially been feared.

"The truth of the matter is that TARP will end up costing probably less than $100 billion, when all is said and done," he said. "Which I promise you, two years ago, you could have asked any economist and any financial expert out there, and they would have said, 'We'll take that deal.'"

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thousands Line Up for 'Save the Dream' Program, Hoping to Prevent Foreclosure

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Thousands of people have gathered in Los Angeles in a last ditch effort to keep their homes from going into foreclosure. 

Men and women from all over the country stood in line Thursday for a program called "Save the Dream," hoping that an advocacy group can help them renegotiate their mortgages.

The turnout highlights the nation's high foreclosure rate. Some 24 percent of all home sales in the second quarter of this year were foreclosure homes, according to RealtyTrac. These homes, reclaimed by the bank, typically sell at more than a 25 percent discount. Since the recession started in 2007, 2.3 million homes have been foreclosed. The spike is coming down, but just last month, 340,000 homes received a foreclosure notice.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of people began camping out on line at noon Wednesday, like teenagers hoping for concert tickets. But there's a lot more at stake -- all of the people gathered are at risk of losing their homes.

Shirley McCoy became the 1,117th person in line when she arrived at 6:10 a.m. She's a widow with cancer on a fixed income, and she bought her home with more than 50 percent down.

"I'm never late, I make every payment, but I still get denied," said McCoy.

Wachovia Bank has rejected her twice for refinancing, but she vows to continue to fight as long as she can.

The organizers of the "Save the Dream" event put people like McCoy in direct contact with bank representatives. They held exactly the same event in 2009, but more people are showing up this year, even though the recession is now technically over.

California is one of the states that has been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. One out of 10 homes that have been foreclosed upon nationwide are in Los Angeles County.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Delta Shows Support For Breast Cancer Research With New "Pink Plane"

Photo Courtesy -- Delta Airlines | PRNewswire(ATLANTA) -- With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Delta Air Lines is showing its support with the debut of its new Boeing 767-400 signature "pink plane." 

Throughout October, the airline company will also donate 100 SkyMiles to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation each time a customer downloads the Delta iPhone application or uses the app to check in for flights, up to one million miles. 

Delta also said Thursday it will continue donating proceeds from in-flight pink lemonade and jelly bean sales.

“The personal impact breast cancer has had on me and so many of our customers, employees and families has motivated Delta to always give more in our support of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation,” said Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


BP Products To Pay Largest Single-Facility Clean Air Act Penalty For Releases Of Hazardous Pollutants

Photo Courtesy -- PRNewsFoto(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced BP Products North America Inc. will pay $15 million in penalties to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act at its petroleum refinery in Texas City, Texas. 

The penalty is the largest ever assessed for violations of the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention and is the largest civil penalty ever recovered at an individual facility.

According to the Department of Justice, after Thursday's settlement, the federal government will have collected approximately $137 million in criminal, civil and administrative fines related to safety violations at the Texas City refinery.

BP will also spend an estimated additional $500 million to improve safety at the refinery.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Employer Background Checks: Often Exaggerated?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Many employers perform criminal background checks before or a short time after hiring a new employee, a new survey finds, but widely publicized reports on financial credit checks may be exaggerated.

"I do think there's a misconception out there that all employers are doing these types of background checks," said Elizabeth Owens Bille of the Society for Human Resource Management.

As for information posted on social networking websites such as Facebook, Bille says  employers have the right to investigate if they choose to do so.

"You might find information about [a candidate's] personal characteristics like their health, their religion." But she says that employers typically take great pains not to uncover such information.

The survey of more than 600 firms was conducted by EmployeeScreenIQ.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Facebook and Skype in Talks to Team Up

Photo Courtesy - FacebookFacebook and Skype are talking about joining forces.  Published reports say both companies are expected to combine services, allowing Facebook members to sign in to Skype using their Facebook Connect accounts.  Users could then send text messages, voice chat and video chat with their Facebook friends from within Skype.  A deal is expected to be announced within the next few weeks. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


McDonald's Fights Back Against Report It Will Drop Health Care Plan

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's and the Obama administration are firing back at a Wall Street Journal report saying the fast food giant is considering dropping its "mini-med" health insurance for hourly workers because of the new health care reform law.

"Media reports stating that we plan to drop health care coverage for our employees are completely false," said Steve Russell, a senior vice president and head of human resources for McDonald's, in a written response to the article. "These reports are purely speculative and misleading."

That sentiment was echoed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday.  "The McDonald's story is flat out wrong, and I am sorry that they were not more accurate in their reporting," she said.

Nearly 30,000 McDonald's employees currently participate in the plan, which provides a maximum of $2,000 to $10,000 a year in basic medical coverage at a cost of $14 to $32 a week, according to the company. Home Depot, Disney, Blockbuster, Staples and other big retail chains with large populations of hourly employees offer similar plans.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed a memo by McDonald's, asking federal officials to determine if their most basic health insurance plans can be exempted from the medical loss ratio requirements of the new health care law. The law requires that 80-85 percent of the premiums received go directly to patient care, not to other expenses like overhead, executive salaries or dividends for shareholders.

The McDonald's plan, according to the report, has higher overhead costs because it provides insurance to a highly transient population of hourly workers in its restaurants and would not likely meet the minimum requirements of the new law.

An HHS spokeswoman called the story premature.

"The new law provides significant flexibility to maintain coverage for workers. Additionally, this story is premature as guidance on the new medical loss ratio rules has not even been issued," said Jessica Santillo. "The administration is working closely with businesses like McDonald's that are committed to providing health benefits to protect health coverage for their employees."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Top States or Territories for Women by Earnings

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Puerto Rico is the only state or territory in the United States where women earn more than men, raking in 103 percent of what men earn, according to data from the 2009 American Community Survey released by the United States Census earlier this week.  However, Puerto Rico is not a high-paying area for either sex, and the estimated median for women's earnings on the island was only $20,563 in 2009.

In fact, only women located in Washington, DC brought home more than the estimated $45,485 average median salary for men in all 50 states.  There, women earned an estimated median salary of more than $54,000 in 2009.  While female earners in the nation's capital trailed men in the same area by more than $7,000, D.C. is likely to pay women 88 percent of the earnings of men.

"What explains the unusually high earnings in the District of Columbia is those are largely government jobs and a more narrow base of employment than what you would get in other states," said Evelyn Murphy, president of grassroots organization The Wage Report.

Even D.C.'s high-paying jobs have failed to generate equality.  Across 10 locations, women employed by the state, local or federal levels of the government failed to take home more than their male counterparts in the same sectors.  At the government level, women may run into some "bias for promotions and some within the grade," Murphy said.

In the 10 states or territories that made the list for best areas for women earners, more women older than 25 held a bachelor's or master's degree than men, except in Rhode Island.  While only a small percentage of men or women hold advanced doctoral or professional degrees, more men hold such degrees in all 10 areas.

Top Ten Areas for Women by 2009 Median Earnings:

1 - District of Columbia - $54,698
2 - Massachusetts - $45,062
3 - Maryland - $44,937
4 - New Jersey - $44,166
5 - Connecticut - $43,900
6 - New York - $40,584
7 - California - $40,019
8 - Virginia - $39,354
9 - Rhode Island - $39,248
10 - Alaska - $39,017 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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