The week that was: Many happy (belated) returns

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In this Inaugural edition of The Week That Was, we look at life's inevitabilities -- taxes and death -- as well as inequities in women's pay, Apple's bad day and the most commonly counterfeited products. And, despite the frigid weather, we do it without lip-syncing a single word.

Many happy (belated) returns

Because the good people on Capitol Hill couldn't get along, your tax refund will be a little late this spring. The IRS says it will start processing individual returns Wednesday, eight days later than planned, because negotiations over tax cuts expiring Dec. 31 went into overtime. That meant the Internal Revenue Service has to update its forms and make sure its computers will process returns accurately.

The cremation trend

CNBC's Tyler Mathisen reported that 42 percent of families are now choosing cremation over burial of their loved ones, double the rate of 15 years ago. As you might expect, cost is the primary reason: A cremation is about one-third the cost of a traditional burial, which can average about $7,700 including the casket and burial vault. But he also mentions two other reasons -- the Catholic Church's 1963 lifting of a ban on cremation and the fact that family members are now more likely to settle in different parts of the country, making cremation seem more a more practical option.

The glass salary ceiling

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed women still make slightly more than 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. In Pennsylvania women are paid 81.6 cents, and West Virginia women earn 74.7 cents for every dollar a man makes. The data are based on the annual average of median weekly wages for full-time employees.

The Post-Gazette's Joyce Gannon reported the same trend is found among nonprofits in the Pittsburgh region. While male executive directors on average enjoyed a salary of $126,690, their female counterparts earned $94,232 on average. That's about 74 cents to every dollar men receive, a penny less than in 2010 when the last executive pay survey was done.

Sour Apple

Apple Inc. sales were up, but its shares still fell 12 percent to $450.50 on Thursday because it missed Wall Street's revenue forecast after reporting that iPhone sales were not as robust as expected and Mac sales actually declined. After another loss Friday, Apple is no longer the Most Valuable U.S. Company. That title belongs to Exxon Mobil.

Knocking out the knockoffs

The website 24/7 Wall Street reports that wallets and purses are the most counterfeited products, leading a list of fake goods that it says pulls $250 billion out of the U.S. economy every year. The other items in 24/7's list of Top 10 knocked-off products: watches and jewelry, clothing and accessories, consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets, footwear, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, movie and music CDs, computers and accessories, labels and tags, and toys.

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Steve Twedt: or 412-263-1963.


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