Archive for April, 2012

Bad economy causing more domestic violence

More than one-half of law enforcement agencies nationwide that responded to a survey said that the economy is responsible for an increase in domestic violence.

The study, by the Police Executive Research Forum, found that 56 percent of the 700 agencies responding cited the troubled economy as being behind the problem, USA Today reported.

That’s up from 40 percent just two years ago.

“When stresses in the home increase because of unemployment and other hardships, domestic violence increases,” Camden, N.J. Police Chief Scott Thomson said. “We see it on the street.”

The police study seems to support three-year-old findings by the National Domestic Violence Hotline whose Katie Ray-Jones said financial stress was a factor in “intensifying and escalating” reports of domestic abuse.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the forum, said, “You are dealing with households in which people have lost jobs or are in fear of losing their jobs. That is an added stress that can push people to …

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Atlanta is No. 1 for young female earners

Women are closing the earnings gap with men, according to new census data.

 Single women ages 22-30 with no children earn more than men in 147 out of 150 major U.S. cities, according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data. 

And Atlanta women are leading the way, according to an interesting news story by AJC Bargain Hunter Lauren Davidson who explores the trend.   Davidson notes that from 2000 to 2010, Atlanta men had a 48 percent jump in median earnings, from $32,654 to $48,256, but women saw a 71 percent increase, from $22,916 to $39,228, according to the census data.

Liza Mundy, an author and journalist, explores the implications of this trend in the article and says in that more households will be supported by women than men within a generation.

“Women are still getting their minds around their new bread-winning status,” Mundy said. “Women are proud of their earnings … but they are still struggling to embrace the idea that they are providing not only for themselves …

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Costco now offering mortgage loans

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

How about a Costco mortgage to go with that 30-count package of three-ply toilet tissue rolls or that 35-count shrink-wrapped package of ready-made green tea?

The wholesale membership club competitor has entered the full-service mortgage loan business, and it’s already issued more than 10,000 loans, according to a CNN Money report. The loans include traditional mortgages, refinancing and loans for veterans.

Costco has teamed up with First Choice Bank to give members access to lenders with competitive loan terms through an online portal.

Members plug in their mortgage request information and the site provides a list of possible lenders. The member then decides which lender to pursue, instead of lender after lender contacting the Costco member. The lender doesn’t get the member’s identity until after it is chosen.

Costco also eventually plans to offer health and auto insurance, and student loans, the report says. The warehouse retailer already …

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Ford owners sue over costly repair linked to broken spark plugs

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Scores of Ford owners may be in for a costly surprise when they drop off their vehicle for a tune-up.

Channel 2 Action News reported Friday  that owners of many 2004 to 2008 Ford models with a certain engine are being charged hundreds of dollars extra to remove spark plugs that break when mechanics try to replace them.

Ford, which alerted dealership mechanics to the problem in 2006, issued a special tool to remove the plugs but didn’t issue a recall to vehicle owners, according to Channel 2. The problem has triggered several lawsuits by angry Ford owners.

The affected vehicles include the popular F-150 pickup, Mustang, Expedition, Lincoln Mark LT and other models that have a Triton 5.4-liter engine. The spark plug problem generally isn’t noticed until after the vehicle goes in for its first tune-up at 100,000 miles.

Ford F-150 owner Roger Miller was shocked when what he thought would be a routine service turned into a $400 job. “I thought it …

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Judge: Tainted order to cost KFC $8 million

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

KFC has been ordered to pay $8 million to the family of a girl whose parents said she consumed tainted chicken that left the child brain damaged and paralyzed.

Monika Samaan was 7 when she was stricken by salmonella poisoning in 2005 after eating a KFC chicken Twister in Sydney, Australia, her lawyers argued in a New South Wales court, according to a report by

A Twister is a wrap that has chicken strips or roasted chicken, tomato, lettuce and  mayonnaise wrapped in a tortilla.

The child’s parents said she was in a coma for six months and was left with spastic quadriplegia resulting from severe brain damage after eating the food.

KFC, which denied its chicken was tainted, plans to appeal the ruling. “We believe the evidence showed KFC did not cause this tragedy,” a company official said in a statement.

Even with the Australian dollar exchange rate, Louisville, Ky.-based KFC still would be facing a $7.6 million payout if it loses its …

Continue reading Judge: Tainted order to cost KFC $8 million »

LaHood calls for nationwide ban on cell phone conversations, texting while driving

(Jason Getz, AJC)

(Jason Getz, AJC)

(Updated 3:04 p.m.)

If it’s left up to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, no driver on U.S. roads would be allowed to talk or text on cell phones while behind the wheel.

LaHood on Thursday called on Congress to ban talking or texting while driving any vehicle on any road in the nation, according to a Reuters report.

LaHood told a group of doctors, advocates and government officials in San Antonio that the problem of accidents connected to cell phone use is a “national epidemic.”  The National Transportation Safety Administration reported 3,000 traffic deaths attributed to distracted driving last year, many blamed on cell phone use.

He said he was not too concerned about people who eat or apply makeup while driving because “not everyone does that,” Reuters reported.

“But everyone has a cell phone and too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving,” the secretary was quoted as saying.

LaHood has been pushing for …

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Average Georgia tax refund this year: $640

Tax season isn’t over for those filing extensions, but the deadline for most people has come and gone. That makes it a good time to take a look at the state’s numbers for the 2011 tax year, as recorded by the Georgia Department of Revenue.

The average state tax refund is running at about $640, a figure that will change as more refunds are processed.

As of April 20, 2.2 million refunds totaling $1.4 billion have been paid out.

About 3.8 million returns had been received by the state through April 20, about 85 percent of the total expected  returns.

Last  year, 3.3 million refunds were issued, and the number should be about the same this year.

Once again this year, it’s taking about 7-10 days to process a refund for a return filed electronically, and about 4-6 weeks for one filed on paper.

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MetLife: No more reverse mortgages

(Associated Press

(Associated Press)

MetLife, the nation’s largest provider of reverse mortgages, is getting out of that business, the company announced Thursday.

MetLife, also the nation’s largest life insurer, decided earlier this year to stop taking mortgage applications through its MetLife Bank and leave mortgage lending altogether.

The company has 23 percent of the reverse mortgage business in the U.S., according to Reverse Mortgage Insight, a market data company.

Reverse mortgages have been popular among retires but have been less attractive in recent years, with loans now at a seven-year low, according to RMI. Part of the downturn can be traced to the plunge in home values.

The difference between a conventional mortgage loan and a reverse mortgage is that with the first, the homeowner pays the loan back in monthly installments over the life of the loan, and with the second, the homeowner essentially takes out a line of credit against a home’s equity, with the lender …

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Should TSA delay background checks on airport workers?

(Bita Honarvar, AJC)

(Bita Honarvar, AJC)

Channel 2 Action News reported this week that the Transportation Security Administration is dealing with such a backlog in conducting employee background checks at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and other airports that it is allowing airport employers to hire workers without them.

TSA spokesman Jon Allen said the agency is processing checks and security threat analysis as quickly as possible. He told Channel 2 the TSA has given airport employers “interim regulatory relief” in hiring, although the backlog at Hartsfield-Jackson has been resolved.

Allen said security has not been undermined since the new policy was issued and that checks will be done eventually.

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, however, accused the TSA of being incompetent. “You can’t put unsecured people or people that you haven’t checked in a secured environment,” Broun told Channel 2.

Previously, any new employee was required to undergo both a TSA criminal background check and a …

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate drops to 8.7 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in March, as employers laid off fewer workers in a wide swath of industries, the state labor department said Thursday.

The jobless rate dropped from 9 percent in February and from 9.6 percent a year ago.

Employers in construction, manufacturing, trade and administrative and support services laid off fewer workers, the labor department said.

Among the core metro counties, Gwinnett is doing considerably better than the regional average. Its jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in March. Cobb had the next lowest rate at 8.1 percent, followed by DeKalb (9.1 percent), Fulton (9.4 percent) and Clayton (10.7 percent).

The city of Atlanta is still experiencing higher than average rates. Its unemployment rate was 10.8 percent in March, down from 11.3 percent in February and 11.8 percent a year ago.

Last week, the labor department said Georgia’s unemployment rate declined in March for the eighth consecutive month to 9 percent.

The …

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