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Biz bits

By Wire services
Published February 15, 2004

- The recent bad press about Wal-Mart apparently got the retailer's attention. Critics have said Wal-Mart's "ferocious drive to push down prices" drove smaller stores out of business and held its suppliers hostage. Now, BusinessWeek says, "Not only is (Wal-Mart) lessening the pressure on its suppliers, it also appears to be less fixated on slashing its own retail prices." Wal-Mart executive Jay Fitzsimmons says it's not an about-face: "Prices will continue to go down, but not as fast."

- When it comes to gambling, the odds always have favored the casino. Now the casino industry is using technology to increase its odds even more, high-tech magazine Wired reports. It says blackjack tables are becoming "sophisticated hotbeds of surveillance technology:" Casinos monitor cards using invisible codes, track poker chips with radio-frequency tags and scrutinize players with facial recognition software. The odds of winning are getting worse, too, Wired says.

- Want to know what the food might look like on your next flight - assuming, that is, you are served any? posts photos taken by passengers in flight on more than 300 airlines, along with their ratings and comments.

- A financial planner can help craft a strategy toward your saving and retirement goals, but how do you choose a planner? The National Retirement Planning Coalition says to ask plenty of questions. Make sure you understand the fees you'd have to pay, the planner's record and his investment style. Understand how the planner gets paid - by you, or by the company whose financial products he recommends.

- Get ready for the Twinkie tax. Already pulling in a big tax take from alcohol and cigarettes, New York and about a dozen other revenue-starved states are considering a snack attack, Forbes says. Targeted are potato chips, cookies, soft drinks and candy - a $30-billion-a-year business. Forbes says advocates are "under the misguided impression that by charging a few extra cents per can or bag they can trim their budget deficits and encourage the rest of us to slim down." Fat chance, the magazine says.

- Compiled from Times wires and Web sites

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]

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