Monday AM January 21st, 2008

UH professor's book chronicles delayed motherhood trend...Amtrak reaches deal with workers that may help avoid strike...General Motors plans to chop $5 billion in annual U.S. labor costs by 2011...

The number of women who have delayed first-time motherhood until their mid-30's or beyond has grown tenfold over the past 30 years. University of Houston Professor Elizabeth Gregory has written a book about that phenomenon called Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood.

"I called this Ready because people, that's what people said. They were having children when they felt ready. And the four reasons that they gave me were education and work, but also finding the right partner—they didn't have to be married when they were 21 to whoever happened to be there. And self-development—that they felt like that they could go out into the world and explore, climb Mount Everest or go out, stay out late, you know, whatever they wanted before starting their family. And then once they did start their family, they felt that they were more focused than they would have been earlier because they had already done all of those things. They didn't wish that they were somewhere else. Women are just able now to choose for themselves when they want to start their families, where before there was much more social pressure to begin all at the same time. And what a lot of people talked to me about—one dynamic that they spoke about over and over again—was that they had seen their mothers stuck in marriages that were bad marriages, but that they couldn't leave because they couldn't afford to support their children."

Gregory, who is associate professor of English and director of the Women's Studies Program at UH, says the women she spoke with were choosing to establish themselves as individuals and in work before having their kids.

"And then when I started interviewing people, I got the sense of how many different dynamics were affected. Because once you start changing the way women are running their lives, obviously that changes the way that spouses are running their lives and the effect of, for the children is there, too, and it, the business world that they're participating in, and the family. You know, it could be talking about fertility issues, you could be talking about family dynamics, or you know, all those issues. Tracking that trend, this trend--just starting at 35 or later--has been growing since the mid-70's steadily. Two dynamics that they pointed to were higher wages--they were making higher wages—and that they had more clout at work, which meant basically that they had more experience and that because of that experience their employers trusted them so they were willing to negotiate a family-friendly schedule for them in a way that they might not have been willing for someone who had less experience. And also because of that experience, their employers wanted to retain them. So they had more of a motive to be accommodating. So they felt that that, having put in that early time, gave them a clout that made it more possible for them to combine work and family in an effective way."

Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood is published by Basic Books.


Amtrak has reached a deal with its workers, avoiding a possible strike at the end of the month. People familiar with the agreement say it adopts the recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board report issued last month. The agreement averts a possible strike that would have disrupted not only Amtrak passenger routes, but also commuter rail lines that use Amtrak's infrastructure.


General Motors says it plans to chop $5 billion in annual U.S. labor costs by 2011. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner says a large part of the reduction will come from the new contract agreement reached last year with the United Auto Workers. The contract shifts the obligation for about $46 billion in retired UAW worker health care from the company to the union, with the company pouring billions into a trust fund run by the union. The trust assumes the health care obligation in 2010. GM also looks for spending on U.S. hourly and salaried pension and health care will drop from an average of $7 billion per year over the last 15 years to around $1 billion per year starting in 2010.


Being a millionaire does get you noticed, especially when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS says that in the 2007 budget year it audited one out of every 11 taxpayers with incomes of $1 million or more. Among those with incomes of $100,000 or less, 99 out of every 100 escaped further IRS scrutiny. Still, the IRS says its auditing rates are generally up for people of all income levels. There were more than 31,000 audits of those with $1 million incomes, which is up 84 percent from the 17,015 audited in 2006. Overall, the IRS looked at nearly 1.4 million returns in the 2007 fiscal year.


Federal regulators plan to try again to test prototypes later this month for transmitting high-speed Internet service over unused television airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission says the devices--developed by Adaptrum, Microsoft, Motorola and Philips Electronics North America--will be tested in laboratory and real-world conditions. The agency said testing will take three months and issue a report about six weeks after the testing ends. Last year, a high-technology coalition submitted prototypes they said could transmit broadband Internet service over unlicensed and unused TV spectrum, known as "white spaces.'' The coalition says using white spaces could make Internet service more accessible and affordable, especially in rural areas. However, television broadcasters and the wireless microphone industry say such devices could interfere with programming. Initial prototype testing failed. In July, the FCC gave a failing grade to Microsoft's prototypes, saying the devices did not reliably detect and avoid TV programming signals and could have caused interference. Two weeks later, though, the agency said one of the Microsoft-built devices was broken, accounting for the failed results. If the tests are successful this time and the devices are approved, the coalition plans to introduce commercial devices for sale after the digital television transition in February 2009.


The London Stock Exchange opened a Beijing office Friday, stepping up its rivalry with U.S. markets to attract listings by fast-growing Chinese companies expanding abroad. The opening of the office came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was making a visit to Beijing. Chief Executive Clara Furse says the LSE offers Chinese companies access to a global pool of investors and the European Union market, as well as lower costs than U.S. markets. The London exchange currently has listings by 68 Chinese companies. Chinese companies have raised billions of dollars abroad in New York, London, Hong Kong and elsewhere. The LSE says 17 Chinese companies joined the exchange last year. Dozens of Chinese companies have shares traded in the United States, and both the Nasdaq market and the New York Stock Exchange have offices in Beijing to pursue new listings. Beijing is pushing its companies to "go global,'' encouraging them to do more business and raise investment abroad in hopes of reducing China's reliance on export-driven manufacturing.


Schlumberger reports its fourth-quarter net profits rose 22 percent on the strength of demand in the Eastern Hemisphere and Latin America. The Houston-based oilfield services company reports a net profit of $1.38 billion. Revenue rose 17 percent to $6.25 billion. For the future, though, Schlumberger is cautious, saying that shorter-term growth presents a more complex picture than the immediate past.


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