Archive for April, 2013

$1,500 Google Glass eyewear in the mail

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googleglass2Are you one of the lucky ones to get a first glimpse through Google’s new mobile computing eyewear?

The company has begun shipping 8,000 pairs of Google Glass to individuals who entered a contest to be the first to try out the new eyewear. The winners have to fork over $1,500 for the privilege.

It’s one of the next big steps in bringing “wearable computing” to market. Apple reportedly is working on Internet-connected wristwatches.

As put it, Google Glass essentially frees data from desktop computers and portable devices like phones and tablets, and places it right in front of your eyes.

Google Glass displays data, photos, videos and other content on a small prism screen in the upper-right lense. The display is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away, Google said. The futuristic spectacles have a camera, touch pad, battery and microphone built into its frame, which comes in different …

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Regal cutting theater workers’ hours due to Obamacare

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Phil Skinner,

Phil Skinner,

Regal Entertainment Group, which operates Regal Cinemas and United Artists Theatres in metro Atlanta and has more than 6,800 theaters across the country, plans to cut the hours of thousands of employees to avoid having to provide costly health care insurance coverage under Obamacare, according to a company memo obtained by Fox News.

Non-salaried workers will be made part-timers, putting them below the average 30-hour-a-week threshold where employers must provide health insurance under the under the Affordable Care Act or face a possible penalty, according to Fox’s report.

REG is joining other companies that have announced plans to either cut workers or their hours to avoid facing increased health care costs under Obamacare. Starting in 2014, some businesses with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees that do not offer health coverage to those employees may face penalties. A full-time …

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Dish Network offers $25.5B for Sprint Nextel

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

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(Updated 5:37 p.m.)

Did AT&T and Verizon see this coming?

Dish Network, the satellite TV provider, wants to go into the cellphone business by acquiring Sprint Nextel Corp. in a $25.5 billion cash and stock deal.

Dish has been struggling to grow its subscriber base for satellite TV service, which had 14.1 million customers at the end of last year, compared with DirectTV’s 20 million subscribers.

Sprint is trying to move out of its No. 3 spot among cellphone service providers, especially with the threat of a combination of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS.

Of the nearly 3.8 million metro Atlantans age 18 and older with wireless plans, Sprint ranks No. 5 among providers with a 10 percent local market share, according to data provided by Scarborough Research. Nextel has less than 1 percent of the market. The metro wireless leaders are No. 1 AT&T (34 percent); No. 2 Verizon Wireless (22 percent); No. 3 MetroPCS …

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Amtrak ridership hits record levels

Amtrak is having a good year so far.

March set a record as the single best month ever in Amtrak’s  history. October, December and January set individual monthly records, the railroad said Tuesday.

Overall ridership grew about 1 percent in the first half of 2013, despite Superstorm Sandy and other severe weather events.

Rebounding strongly from such service disruptions, Amtrak ridership grew nearly 1 percent in the first six months of 2013-2014, compared to the same period the prior year. In all, 26 of its 45 routes posted ridership increases. Amtrak expects to end the fiscal year at or above last year’s record of 31.2 million passengers.

“The continued ridership growth on routes across the country reinforces the need for dedicated, multi-year federal operating and capital funding to support existing intercity passenger rail services and the development of new ones,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Routes with ridership growth in the October-to-March period …

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Were you in foreclosure in 2009 or 2010? A settlement check could be in the mail

Were you in foreclosure in 2009 or 2010?

If so, a check could be in the mail for you, under a settlement reached between top banks and U.S. regulators earlier this year.

The $3.6 billion cash settlement is to compensate 4.2 million borrowers who were wrongfully foreclosed on. The payments will be split among borrowers who were in foreclosure in 2009 or 2010 and had home loans serviced by one of 13 banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo.

Cash payouts will range from between $300 and $125,000, according to regulators. Payments will begin going out on Friday, the Federal Reserve announced on Tuesday.

The cash payments are supposed to go to borrowers who were at any stage of the foreclosure process during the height of the housing crisis.

The largest numbers of borrowers will receive between $300 and $600. Borrowers who were foreclosed on while they were on active duty in the military would receive the top amount –  $125,000 each. About 50 borrowers who were …

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Many have given up looking for work

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Many more people stopped looking for work last month than in February, a revelation that cast a pall over a recent string of month-to-month employment gains nationally and locally.

The question on the minds of many is whether this is just a blip or sign of something more disturbing for the months ahead.

People who are out of work are no longer counted as unemployed once they stop looking for a job, a major reason why the national unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent in March, the lowest in four years, from 7.7 percent a month earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The unemployment rate for metro Atlanta is 8.3 percent.

Only 63 percent of Americans were working or looking for work last month, the lowest participation level in nearly 34 years. Economists say many of those who had been job hunting became so discouraged that they gave up the search. Others may have stopped looking because unemployment benefits had run out. The …

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The cell phone turns 40: What would life be without it?

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(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

Remember your first cellular phone? Was it the size of a lunchbox?

For those of you into milestones, today is the 40th anniversary of the ubiquitous cell phone. The Motorola DynaTAC made its debut April 3, 1973, a creation of engineer Martin Cooper.

The first device weighed a little over 2 pounds, was 9 inches tall, relied on 30 circuit boards and took 10 hours to recharge. Cooper told UK’s  The Telegraph that “you could only talk for 20 minutes before the battery ran out…which is just as well because you would not be able to hold it up for much longer.”

Cooper’s first call was to Bell Labs rival Joel Engel: “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.” The phone was priced at $4,000 when it went on sale in 1983.

Today the wireless phone is a mini computer. It is a fraction of its original size and weight, provides all manner of news and information, photo …

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Atlanta hotel rates skyrocket for Final Four

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Jack and Judi Hamilton enjoy martinis with their standard poodles in the lobby of the Hotel Indigo Atlanta-Midtown. (Phil Skinner,

Jack and Judi Hamilton enjoy martinis with their standard poodles in the lobby of the Hotel Indigo Atlanta-Midtown. (Phil Skinner,

Atlanta hotels will be charging big bucks for rooms during the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament this weekend, in some cases at least 200 percent more than the week after a championship team is crowned.

Rooms at the top dozen hotels in Downtown and Midtown will cost an average 167 percent more than regular rates, according to, a booking website.

Accommodations will start at around $300 a night at most hotels, although cheaper rooms for around $200 are available farther north in Buckhead and rooms for less than $100 are available beyond the Perimeter, I-285.

The tournament will be held at the Georgia Dome beginning April 6. The nearby Residence Inn Atlanta Downtown by Marriott at 134 Peacthree Street is increasing rates for a suite to $599 a night from $192, a 212 percent hike, …

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