Archive for May, 2010

Yankee Stadium’s ban on laptops — good or bad move?

Should more ball parks, stadiums, concert halls, theaters and other venues join Yankee Stadium in banning laptops, including the iPad?

The Bronx ball park has a policy that prohibits fans from bringing laptops inside, and iPads are included in that ban, Associated Press reports. The team says it’s a security-and-safety issue.

Ironically, AP writes, Yankee Stadium is among the most tech-savvy parks in the majors. Every player has a computer screen at his locker, in fact.

Major League Baseball says the issue of allowing iPads into stadiums is a team-by-team decision.

So what do you think? How much of a safety issue are laptops — possibly a larger gadget getting in the way of all the movement in the stands, or beer splashing on the machines?

Should consumers who purchased tickets be able to bring in what they want — within reason — or does each venue have the right to make its own rules — no matter the limits?

What about books, newspapers and magazines? Should you be able to …

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Are you concerned about privacy on Facebook and other social sites?

Do you think this is long overdue?

Addressing mounting criticism over privacy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in a Monday column that “we just missed the mark” and promised “a simpler way to control your information” will arrive soon.

Zuckerberg’s column appears in the Washington Post.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook, MySpace and several other social-networking sites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers’ names and other personal details, despite promises they don’t share such information without consent.

The practice sends user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users click on ads, the WSJ reported.

The problem comes as social networking sites face increasing scrutiny over their privacy practices from consumers, privacy advocates and lawmakers, the WSJ said.

How concerned are you? Are you considering getting rid of your social media accounts?

Or is this just …

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Will mortgage rates under 5% get your attention?

Mortgage rates have fallen unexpectedly below 5 percent again. Will that drive you back into the housing or refi market?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the financial turmoil in Europe has caused many international investors to seek a safe haven for their money in the U.S. That has pushed domestic mortgage rates to the lowest levels of the year — and back near 50-year lows, the WSJ reports.

The housing industry had been bracing for a period of rising mortgage rates, triggered by the end of the Federal Reserve’s $1.25 trillion mortgage-securities purchase program.

Instead, the WSJ writes, many in the industry now say rates could drift as low as 4.5 percent this summer from 4.86 percent now, instead of rising to 6 percent as some economists projected. That makes for significantly lower payments for buying homes or refinancing mortgages.

The refinance business “exploded” last week, Jeff Lazerson, chief executive of Mortgage Grader of California, told the WSJ.

Will it …

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Power Breakfast: Ga. lags in bank oversight, airport, school chiefs, Coke, oil spill, mortgage rates, Korea, AOL

It’s not what you want to read after the banking crisis here.

Georgia leads the nation in bank failures, but the state is leaving key bank examiner positions vacant because of a tight budget, Associated Press is reporting. There’s no sign the jobs will be filled anytime soon.

AP writes that among states with the highest number of bank failures, only Georgia has reduced oversight, according to a review by the wire service and interviews with state officials. Since Oct. 1, 2000, 40 banks in Georgia have collapsed.

“Is this a time to be having fewer bank examiners?” asked Joe Brannen, president of the Georgia Bankers Association. “I think just about everyone you ask would say no.”

Over the last two years, six Georgia bank examiner positions have become vacant and haven’t been filled, an AP review of state budget documents found. During that same period, 32 Georgia banks have gone under, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: Can Wall St. break world markets’ fall, school cuts, unemployment, Macy’s, financial overhaul, oil spill

Today is a big day on Wall Street. Can U.S. investors break the fall that has been gripping world markets recently?

Once again Friday, world markets tumbled, extending a wave of selling amid growing fears that Europe’s debt crisis could spread and undermine global economic growth, Associated Press reports.

In early trading in Europe, markets in Britain, Germany and France all fell.

That follows retreats in Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and India, AP wrote.

But stock futures on Wall Street pointed to modest gains following the Thursday’s big sell-off, AP said. The Dow plunged 376 points yesterday.

Investors fear debt problems in countries like Greece and Portugal will spill over to other countries in Europe, AP said. That could then trigger a cascade of losses for big banks and, in turn, hinder economic recovery in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Also in the AJC:

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Delaware trounces North Dakota at Home Depot’s annual meeting

Where should Atlanta-based Home Depot be incorporated?

In Delaware, where it is now, along with a zillion other companies? Or in upstart North Dakota, which has passed a law giving shareholders more input in corporate affairs?

That question was the 10th and last among shareholder proposals voted on today during the company’s annual meeting at the Cobb Galleria.

The proposal, by John Chevedden of California, would have moved the company’s incorporation to North Dakota, so shareholders would gain more rights, including an annual vote on executive pay practices.

But company officials, opposed the move, saying it would mean incurring “substantial expense and would result in a costly diversion of significant management time and resources.”

In the end, the vote wasn’t much of a nail biter. The status quo prevailed, with corporate champ Delaware garnering 95 percent of the vote to 5 percent for North Dakota.

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Open-air stadium could raise suite revenue for Falcons

How’s this for a theory about why the Falcons want an open-air stadium?

Selling suites to the well-heeled corporate community may be easier and more lucrative in a non-domed environment.

Company execs would be more concerned about protecting their entertainment dollars — and their guests — by purchasing suites because the weather is unknown and uncontrollable. That could raise the Falcons’ revenue — a suite deal, so to speak.

What do you think? Is that part of the Falcons’ calculus? Or is it way off the mark?

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Power Breakfast: Falcons seek open-air stadium, jobless rate, UPS, IRS vs. UGA, AGL, financial reform

The era of indoor pro football in Atlanta could be coming to a close, if Falcons team officials have their way, AJC reporters D. Orlando Ledbetter and Leon Stafford write.

Rich McKay, the football team’s president, said Wednesday that the Falcons lean toward a new open-air stadium for their next home field, the reporters write. The team, which now plays in the Georgia Dome, also wants to stay downtown on the campus of the Georgia World Congress Center.

“Our first preference would be to be downtown,” McKay said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s something that (Falcons owner Arthur Blank) is focused on. If we can make it happen, we are going to try.”

But the Falcons desire for autumn skies overhead could clash with the some of the Dome’s biggest moneymakers, each of which prefer to play indoors, the reporters write.

The Dome also is home to the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the SEC football championship, noted Frank Poe, executive …

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Ga. jobless rate drops to 10.4% but long-term unemployment rises

Georgia’s unemployment rate declined slightly to 10.4 percent in April, but long-term unemployment is becoming a bigger problem, the state Labor Department reported today.

While the unemployment rate declined 0.1 percent from March, the number of unemployed Georgians who have been out of work at least 27 weeks rose to 215,100 in April. That was a 5.1 percent increase from March and a 152 percent surge from April 2009, the Labor Department said.

The long-term unemployed now account for 43 percent of the 489,010 jobless workers in Georgia, according to the Labor Department.

“Although our job market is slowly improving, the continuing increase in the number of long-term unemployed Georgians is troubling,” said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. “The specter of structural unemployment is beginning to cast a long shadow across the American workplace.”

April’s report represents the 31st consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, …

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Power Breakfast: Home Depot’s profit up, Dekalb job freeze, AirTran pilots, MySpace vs. Facebook, Thailand, oil

It looks like Home Depot will have some good news for shareholders when it holds its annual meeting at the Cobb Galleria on Thursday morning.

Sales at Home Depot’s existing U.S. stores rose for the first time in four years during the first quarter, the company said Tuesday. That’s an indicator that consumers are beginning to spend again on their houses, AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos writes.

Home Depot also posted a 41 percent profit gain for the quarter and boosted its outlook for the year. It expects a 3.5 percent rise in sales, following last year’s 7.2 percent decline, Ramos reports.

Do-it-yourselfers, not professional contractors, are leading Home Depot’s sales turnaround as the housing construction and remodeling market continues its sluggish recovery.

“Our sales are an indication that the economy is recovering and the consumer is back,” Carol Tomé, the company’s chief financial officer, told Ramos. “Not back in a strong way, but back.”

Also in the AJC:

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