Economy

Consumer spending falls in April 2013

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On May 31, 2013, a government report found that consumers pulled back on spending in the month of April 2013, as their income remained steady. The report mentions that spending decreased 0.2% in April 2013 when it was adjusted for inflation. According to economists, they expected a rise of 0.1%, so the result was disappointing.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation’s economy. One of the reasons for the pull back in spending is thought to be weak income data, which remained unchanged while adjusting for inflation. The disposable income fell by 0.1%.

Economists have feared that the cutback in consumer spending would be a drag on the economy in 2013. The cutback in spending is also known as the sequester, which includes employee furloughs. The report released might even be a warning sign of economic headwinds.

An earlier report by the government mentioned that the retail sales rose slightly in April 2013, as strong car sales helped to make up for weakness in other sectors. It was also clear that the report does not mention how consumers spend money, but just how much money they are spending, saving or paying in taxes.

Business

Walmart fined for improper disposal of hazardous waste

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American-based retail giant Walmart has been recently criticised for dumping pollutants from its stores into drains of 16 California counties. The retail giant will have to pay a fine of  $81 million as part of the plea after it pleaded guilty to improper disposal.

For more than a year, the retailer has been facing criticisms for various reasons. Now the company has pleaded guilty of dumping hazardous waste in various sites in California. Walmart will now have to pay this huge amount in order to settle misdemeanour charges around the issue. The fine also covers misdoings in Missouri. This also brings an end to an investigation that lasted for about a decade.

The retailer admitted that it negligently dumped the pollutants into the drains across California and also tossed waste into local trash bins. Some material was improperly taken to product return centres throughout the US, without any safety documentations.

It was also pointed out by the officials of Walmart that the case covered incidents which had happened between 2003 and 2005, but they insisted that the company has now changed its procedures. Brooke Buchanan, spokesperson for the company, said that they have fixed the problem and are obviously happy that this is a final resolution.

Business

All Nippon Airways begins 787 Dreamliner operations

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The All Nippon Airways of Japan has once again started the commercial flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is the first time flights were resumed since the planes were grounded due to safety reasons.

After resuming the service, the first plane landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Sunday, May 26, 2013, after a short flight from Sapporo in northern Japan. Meanwhile, other airlines in the country have already started with 787 flights, but All Nippon Airways (ANA) is the biggest Dreamliner customer of Boeing, with 17 planes.

Overheating battery problem on an ANA flight led to a plane being grounded back in January 2013. This incident was followed by a separate battery-related emergency on Japan Airlines flight. Since then, planes have been modified with new battery systems and have also been given approval to fly again by the US Federal Aviation Authority. The Dreamliner flight on Sunday, May 26, 2013, was the first of five that were scheduled by ANA during May 2013. The airline will begin a full commercial schedule on June 1, 2013.

The first test flights were conducted in April, 2013.

Business

McDonald’s defends obesity allegations

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Fast food giant McDonald’s was recently faced with allegations that it serves unhealthy food which causes obesity. Don Thompson, the company’s chief executive, defended these concerns and said that they do not sell junk food.

Thompson added, “We sell a lot of fruits and veggies at McDonald’s and we are trying to introduce even more.” These comments were made by Thompson at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, where six out of 13 shareholder questions were related to McDonalds’s role in obesity epidemic and a few dozen protestors rallied outside the company’s suburban Chicago campus. In recent years, McDonald’s has come under increased pressure over its high-calorie food, which has contributed to the obesity in the US.

In 2012, the company agreed to provide nutritional information on its menu, after a long time opposing the change. The company has also been trying to erase its junk food reputation by offering fruit smoothies, salads and apples in its Happy Meals.

Thompson also disputed allegations that the company targets African-Americans by using prominent black athletes like gymnast Gabby Douglas and basketball player LeBron James. The chief executive defended the company by saying that it did not particularly target minority communities or children.

Business

Amazon announces e-book fan fiction sales in US

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Internet shopping giant Amazon has announced that the fan fiction authors will be able to sell some of their work on the firm’s Kindle e-book platform. The fan fiction is literature that is inspired by popular films, books and TV shows and were written by enthusiasts.

This recent move has been taken looking at the difficulty of publishing outside blogs and online fanzines due to copyright issues. A deal has been made with Warner Brothers, enabling fan fiction that is based on three TV series to be self-published. The series include The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girls and Pretty Little Liars, which is under the agreement between Amazon and Allow Entertainment which is owned by Warner Brothers Television Group.

Authors will be able to upload their writing for sale through a new platform which is called Kindle Worlds. The service will be initially available only in America. So far, no launch date has been announced for the platform. 35% will be received by the authors for the overall price of their work in royalty payments if they have written 10,000 words or more.

20% will be received by the authors of works of 5,000-10,000 words under a new pilot scheme for the shorter series.