McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Business Budget for Monday, December 30, 2013

Updated at 8 a.m. EST (1300 UTC)

This budget is now available on MCT Direct at http://www.mctdirect.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.


^Southwest Airlines struggles with being on time


But, surprise. It's not an airline that cynics love to hate, mega-carriers United Airlines or American Airlines. And it's not an ultra-discounter like Spirit Airlines.

It's perennial consumer favorite Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier out of Chicago Midway International Airport and the airline that will fly more passengers this holiday season _ and this year _ than any other airline. It typically sits atop customer satisfaction ratings, with such consumer-friendly policies as free checked bags and no fees to change a flight.

But recently, Dallas-based Southwest has had the worst on-time rates in America _ a shocking turn for an airline that once topped the industry in punctuality year after year and regularly bragged about it.

900 by Gregory Karp. MOVED



^Bitcoin: It's money, only digital

BITCOIN:AT _ Forget Amex.

For Christmas next year, you could be buying your dog a discount bed with bitcoin, the digital currency that's become infamous as a way of sidestepping the traditional financial system.

The discount online retailer Overstock.com plans to start accepting the alternative to government-minted money by the end of June, said the company's chief executive Patrick Byrne. The news first broke late last week on the bitcoin blog NewsBTC.

The Salt Lake City company will be the largest Internet outfit of its kind to make the move, opening the door for regular folks to start getting comfortable with bitcoin.

"Here's the first big mover, and we're going to see more come along behind it," said Aaron Williams, the founder of Atlanta Bitcoin, a local operator of one of world's first bitcoin ATMs (made to dispense the currency into digital wallets).

"It definitely gives it more legitimacy in the retail space, and it gives more legitimacy in the eyes of potential adopters, because one of the big questions people always ask is: Where can you spend it?"

700 by Sean Sposito in Atlanta. MOVED

^Spreading bitcoin use


Bitcoin, the international digital payment system and currency and one of the hottest technology and finance topics this past year, could become a widespread vehicle for trade, believe the leaders of a Miami group. To further that view, Miami International Bitcoin will be participating in the North American Bitcoin Conference slated for Miami Beach in January.

"The thing that's really exciting about bitcoin is that, here in South Florida, we have a half billion people to the south of us who do not have access to a banking system that works well, capital markets, credit _ things that we take for granted," said Charles Evans, business professor at Florida Atlantic University and one of the founders of Miami International Bitcoin.

1350 by Lance Dixon. MOVED


^Philanthropy grows in 2013, but so does need

PFP-PHILANTHROPY:KC _ Nonprofit fundraisers, like retailers, hold their breath in late December, waiting for the important end-of-year receipts.

This year, many charities are optimistic _ more than they've been since 2008, when the stock market crashed, withered the portfolios of foundations and individuals, and crimped corporate giving.

Fund developers and nonprofit leaders say the quest for contributions remains challenging and competitive. But finally, good hearts and good financial planning are combining to create what appears to be an improved year for philanthropy.

Nationally, giving is likely to be up 12.5 percent over last year, according to Atlas of Giving, a company that mines data to measure and forecast the numbers. That's nearly double the increase from 2011 to 2012 and translates to about $415 billion in contributions.

"There is a lot less anxiety about the economy," Kathryn Harvel, director of philanthropic giving at Children's Mercy Hospitals, said about donors this year.

1650 (with trims) by Diane Stafford in Kansas City, Mo. MOVED

^David Lazarus: When the right to sue goes away


And it doesn't look as if officials are buying into the business world's claim that such provisions are in consumers' best interest.

"If you were to look in your wallet right now, the chances are high that one or more of your credit cards, debit cards or prepaid cards would be subject to a pre-dispute arbitration clause," Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said during a recent appearance in Dallas.

"The terms are not subject to negotiation," he pointed out. "Like the other terms of most consumer financial products, they are essentially 'take it or leave it' propositions."

Many businesses prefer arbitration because settlements are limited and because professional arbitrators, whose fees are typically paid by the company in a dispute, tend not to bite the hand that feeds.

700 by David Lazarus. MOVED



These features regularly move on Monday:


PFP-YIP-COLUMN:DA _ Examining current personal-finance issues.

1000 by Pamela Yip. (The columnist is on leave.)


PFP-TOMPOR-COLUMN:DE _ Insights on timely personal finance topics.

700 by Susan Tompor. MOVED


PFP-ONTHEMONEY:MCT _ A handful of personal-finance resources on a new topic each week.

200 by Chuck Myers.

Moving later


PFP-HOMEECONOMIST:MI _ Economist delves into the human element of personal finance.

By Brett Graff. (Moves once a month.)


PFP-SPENDINGSMART-ADV:TB _ Moved Friday _ Methods for managing spending and budgets.

1000 by Gregory Karp. MOVED


^ Kids and Money: Advice for mastering finances in 2014


Need some ideas for resolution making? I asked four financial education experts what one goal they would recommend for parents _ or their children _ to accomplish in the coming year.

750 by Steve Rosen. (For subscribers only) MOVED


(EDITORS: The Steve Rosen column is syndicated through Tribune Content Agency. The column is not a part of your MCT News Service subscription. To use this column, you must purchase the rights to it from Tribune Content Agency. Please call Rick DeChantal at either 800-245-6536, ext. 4544 or at 312-222-4544.)


MCT is now offering photo galleries for use on your websites and apps available at http://www.mctdirect.com/gallery/. In our stuffed photo gallery files you will find hand-picked groups of 10-20 hi-res jpgs, complete with slideshow-ready captions. For a limited time, these galleries are being offered as part of your MCT Photo subscription or are available for download a la carte. If you have content questions or suggestions, please contact the MCT Photo Desk at 202-383-6099 or mctphotohelp@mctinfoservices.com.


MCT News Service is available on our website, MCT Direct (http://www.mctdirect.com). Subscribers can access 30 days' worth of budgets with clickable links to stories and art; stories searchable by subject and category with links to images; and an easy-to-search archive of more than 1 million items _ stories, photos, graphics, illustrations, paginated pages and caricatures.

Subscribers who now receive the News Service via AP DataFeature can also have access to these Internet features. To obtain a user ID and password, please call Rick DeChantal at Tribune Content Agency, 1-866-280-5210, Ext. 4544 or e-mail rdechantal@tribune.com.

Some new Web browsers and add-ons to existing Web browsers that are designed to block pop-up advertising may conflict with a la carte purchasing on MCT websites. For more information on this problem and how to prevent it, please visit http://www.mctdirect.com/guide/use/blockpopups.php.

MCT Business Desk: Phil Blanchard, 202-256-6918, pblanchard@mctinfo.com

MCT News Desk: 202-383-6080, news@mctinfoservices.com

MCT Photo Service: 202-383-6099, photo@mctinfoservices.com

MCT Graphics Network: 202-383-6064, graphics@mctinfoservices.com


2013, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services