TODAY

– August 19, 2014

Valley hospitals get nod for maternity care

Fresno's Saint Agnes Medical Center recently received an honor from Healthgrades for its maternity care — the seventh straight year to receive the recognition.

Saint Agnes received the Healthgrades Maternity Care Excellence award. It was the only Fresno hospital to receive the award, which was also given to Madera Community Hospital and Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Healthgrades is an online resource for information about physicians and hospitals viewed by more than 224 million visitors.

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Latest Local News

Written on 08/19/2014, 1:31 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stocks are closing higher after investors got some encouraging news about home building and corporate earnings.
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:26 pm by SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press
(AP) — Officials say a California wildfire that has forced about 1,000 people from their homes in the foothills near Yosemite National Park is holding steady amid higher humidity and calmer winds. The blaze around the Madera County community of Oakhurst remained at a little under 2 square miles on Tuesday. It has destroyed eight structures and was threatening about 500 homes around Oakhurst, which is about 16 miles from a Yosemite entrance. The wildfire began Monday and was fueled by gusty winds and dry brush. It comes on the heels of another blaze around Yosemite this summer and last year's Rim Fire, which raged for two months across 400 square miles of land. The Rim Fire threatened thousands of structures, destroyed 11 homes and cost more than $125 million to fight.
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:25 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down from the company's board, bringing to a close 34 years with the software giant. Ballmer says he plans to devote more time to his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, civic contributions, teaching and study. Microsoft published Ballmer's resignation letter on its website Tuesday along with a response from current CEO Satya Nadella thanking him and wishing him well. The 58-year-old says he plans to hold on to his Microsoft stock — he says he's the biggest shareholder outside of index funds — and will continue to offer feedback on products and strategy. Ballmer stepped down as chief executive in February. He says his resignation from the board is timely as the company prepares for its next shareholder meeting.
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:23 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down from the company's board, bringing to a close 34 years with the software giant. Ballmer says he plans to devote more time to his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, civic contributions, teaching and study. Microsoft published Ballmer's resignation letter on its website Tuesday along with a response from current CEO Satya Nadella thanking him and wishing him well. The 58-year-old says he plans to hold on to his Microsoft stock and will continue to offer feedback on products and strategy. With 333.3 million shares worth $15 billion, Ballmer's 4 percent stake in the company makes him the largest individual holder of Microsoft shares. A few institutional investors hold slightly more. "I bleed Microsoft — have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer wrote. "I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can." Ballmer stepped down as chief executive in February, and since then Microsoft shares have risen about 24 percent. He says his resignation from the board is timely as the company prepares for its next shareholder meeting set for sometime this fall. Nadella thanked Ballmer for his support during the transition period and used the opportunity to reiterate the company's new focus on mobile devices and cloud computing. "Under your leadership, we created an incredible foundation that we continue to build on — and Microsoft will thrive in the mobile-first, cloud-first world," Nadella said. Ballmer's departure leaves the board with 10 members. It has no immediate plans to replace him. The company adds a new board member about once every year or so. The most recent addition was John Stanton, chairman of wireless technology investment fund Trilogy Equity Partners, in July.
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:16 pm by Ben Keller, Business Journal staff writer
The 10th annual California Wine Month kicks off in September with a reception at the San Joaquin Wine Company's new tasting room in Madera. Nearly 100 festivals and other events are planned throughout the state as part of the yearly celebration of the grape harvest and the latest wines of the season. Around a dozen wineries in Madera County will also join in the celebration when they gather together with local restaurants and food producers on Sept. 12 at the San Joaquin Wine Company, located at 21801 Avenue 16 in Madera. The event, put on by the Madera Vintners Association, will last from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring wine tasting and food sampling in the San Joaquin Wine Company's tasting room and Latin jazz band Encanto performing in the outdoor park. There will also be a chance to participate in the People Choice Awards by voting for the favorite wine and restaurant of the evening. Tickets for the event are $35 and can be purchased online at www.maderawinetrail.com/eventcalendar.htm. Food vendor booths can also be reserved by applying on the website before Sept. 5. Wine lovers can sample the local wines and food all year long as part of the Madera Wine Trail winding its way past participating wineries throughout the county. Wine trail weekends take place in February, May and November with wine tastings, food pairing and entertainment at the following wineries: • San Joaquin Wine Company, 21821 Ave. 16, Madera• Birdstone Winery, 9400 Road 36, Madera• Fasi Estate Winery, 42515 Road 208, O'Neals• Ficklin Vineyards, 30246 Avenue 7 1/2, Madera• Golden Valley Grape Juice & Wine, 11770 Road 27 1/2, Madera• Idle Hour Winery, 41139 Highway 41, Oakhurst• Chateau Lagoity Winery, 11219 Road 26, Madera• Quady Winery, 13181 Road 24, Madera• Pacific Crest Vineyard and Wine Co., 33137 Avenue 9, Madera• Papagni Wines, 9505 Road 30 1/2• Sumner Peck Ranch Winery, 14439 N. Friant Road, Friant• Westbrook Wine Farm, 49610 House Ranch Road, O'Neals
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:15 pm by BARBARA ORTUTAY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Privacy-wary parents are increasingly pausing before they post photos, names and other information about their wee ones on social media. Some are choosing a complete blackout, while others opt for nicknames and a few carefully selected snapshots. Here are some social media tips for parents, relatives and friends. — ASK FIRST, POST LATER If you don't know how a parent feels about having photos of their kids posted on Facebook, Instagram or elsewhere, ask before uploading a photo and before you tag the parents in a photo. This goes even for close relatives. Actually, it's not a bad idea to ask everyone you post a photo of if they're cool with it, especially if the snaps were taken at a party, swimming pool or any other less buttoned-up situation. It can prevent awkward conversations later. — LIMIT AUDIENCES Facebook's privacy settings are complex, but they also offer granular settings that let you pick who can see your updates. One way to do this: Create a "secret" group and add the members you want. The problem here is that anyone in the group can add new members to the group. Another way to limit the audience of each post you share is to click on the right tab under your update, which may currently say "friends" or "public." Click on "custom" and choose which of your Facebook friends you want to share with and which ones you'd like to exclude. It's simpler on Instagram, where you can either lock your account or set it to public. — TALK TO YOUR KIDS Opinions on the age at which parents should start talking to their kids about Internet and social media use vary. Some parents start as soon as their child is old enough to use a smartphone, which can be as early as 2 or 3 years. Amy Heinz, who blogs about her kids, often talks to her 8-year-old about posts she writes about him, but says her younger children, who are 5 and 3, know about the blog but "don't have a concept" of what it means exactly. Caroline Knorr, parenting editor at the nonprofit Common Sense Media, waited until her son was 15 before posting a photo of him on Facebook — and asked his permission first. — GO THE OLD-FASHIONED ROUTE Some parents opt for e-mailing or texting photos to one person or to a small group rather than sharing them more widely on social media. Online storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox also let you distribute photos privately, as do photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. Of course, there's always the old-fashioned snail mail method, if you can still find a place to print snapshots. — DON'T EMBARRASS THEM That photo of your little one with pea soup all over her face, or the one that shows her first time on the potty might be funny at the time, but think about what she may think of the photo if it's still online when she's a teen. Today's generation of parents did not grow up with the reality that their private moments growing up will be documented and often posted on the Internet for all eternity. Before posting a photo or anecdote, take a moment to imagine a conversation about it with your child 10 or 15 years from now.
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:11 pm by JASON DEAREN, 
GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press
(AP) — A California billionaire environmentalist is pouring millions of dollars into the Florida governor's race to buy television ads attacking Gov. Rick Scott as a friend of polluters and utility companies, giving the campaign of Democratic front-runner Charlie Crist a boost as polls show a tightening race. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has put both Scott and the Florida Republican Party on the defensive, prompting them to hit back with their own ads attacking Steyer as a hypocrite. They have also sent letters threatening television stations with lawsuits if they carry the ads, which Scott's lawyers say are misleading and defamatory. So far, one Fort Myers station has stopped running them. Steyer's so-called "super PAC," NextGen Climate, set off the blitz of attack ads more than a week ago. One ad targeted Scott's environmental record, including campaign contributions of $200,000 from oil interests that profited from permits to drill in Florida. Another ad criticized Scott over a state law that allowed Duke Energy to charge customers for nuclear power projects that have since been cancelled. While they don't mention him by name, the ads benefit Crist, who is getting in effect millions of dollars in donations. A spokesman for Crist said that the former governor has met with Steyer and welcomes his support. Polls show Crist and Scott in a tight race. The ads are scheduled to run until the end of the month in the Tampa Bay area, southwest Florida and in Palm Beach County, according to station files posted by the Federal Communications Commission. While NextGen would not say how much it planned to spend, it noted that Steyer has said he'll spend whatever it takes to succeed. Steyer, a major Democratic donor who has hosted President Barack Obama, is often painted as a liberal version of the conservative, big-spending Koch brothers. But Steyer's spending revolves around one theme: changing policy to combat climate change. NextGen has organized for years against the Keystone XL pipeline project and spends liberally to get politicians elected who support his environmental goals. Still, some have accused Steyer of hypocrisy because of his former investments in fossil fuels. Farallon Capital Management, the fund he once co-owned, invested in coal mining projects that are projected to produce greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come. In a blog post in June, Steyer said those investments occurred at a time when climate was not "on my radar." His aides said he had a scheduling conflict Monday and was not available for comment. With $50 million of Steyer's money, NextGen wants to raise $100 million total this election season to spread around key races in seven states. While so far it appears the group has fallen far short of that goal, NextGen is moving strongly into Florida with a field program to motivate voters and the ads. The group's prime reason for targeting Scott is his refusal to accept climate change, which researchers say could lead to massive flooding in Florida over the next decade as sea levels rise. During his first campaign in 2010, Scott said he was skeptical of climate change. This year, Scott said "I'm not a scientist" when asked about it. "As a climate denier who refuses to accept basic scientific fact, (Scott) has put Florida's communities, infrastructure and economy directly in harm's way," NextGen spokeswoman Suzanne Henkels said. "(We) will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his extreme anti-science position and highlight the important choice voters face in November." Scott's campaign responded with its own ads branding NextGen's accusations as "fiction." "Charlie Crist's allies don't live by the truth, or the facts," said Matt Moon, the Scott campaign's communications director. "They are lying and our campaign is putting any station airing this ad on legal notice that it would be a violation of the law to air Charlie Crist's allies' latest work of fiction." Scott's campaign contends for example that it never "took a nickel" from the company that has sought drilling permits. But campaign finance records confirmed that Let's Get to Work, a political organization backing Scott's re-election, did accept four checks of $50,000 each from members of the Collier family -- which owned mineral rights on land near the Everglades on which drilling was permitted -- in early 2013. The ads mentioning Duke contend that Scott did nothing while the company collected "billions" from consumers. The law that authorized the fee that Duke has been collecting was actually passed in 2006 when Jeb Bush was governor. Scott did sign into law last year a measure that scales back what utilities can collect but it did not require them to refund any of the money that has been paid for the two cancelled nuclear plants.
Written on 08/19/2014, 10:44 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown and local governments say California's pension board is making the nation's largest public retirement system vulnerable to additional pension spiking by misinterpreting reforms passed two years ago. A committee of the California Public Employees' Retirement System will vote Tuesday on the type of pay that can be used toward calculating pensions for workers hired after Jan. 1, 2013. The full board is scheduled to vote Wednesday. Brown is objecting to counting extra pay given for short-term promotions, which he says disregards his pension reform law passed in 2012. Separately, some municipalities and the League of California Cities oppose counting pay differentials such as those for working alternate shifts and special assignments toward final pension payouts. CalPERS says the anti-spiking provisions of the 2012 law will remain intact.
Written on 08/19/2014, 10:31 am by Associated Press
(AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to one debate with his Republican rival, Neel Kashkari, in the 2014 governor's race. The one-hour debate — first reported by KQED News on Monday — is scheduled for Sept. 4 in Sacramento. Brown has previously said he was unsure whether he would debate Kashkari. Brown is far ahead of Kashkari in pre-election polls and had significantly more money in his campaign account last month. Dan Newman, a spokesman for the Brown campaign, tells KQED News (http://bit.ly/1tgTcMr ) Brown will not participate in any additional debates. Kashkari had called for Brown to debate him 10 times. KQED says it is producing the September debate along with the he Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California.
Written on 08/19/2014, 10:09 am by Business Journal staff
Home sales slipped throughout the Valley in July, even as housing inventory continued to grow. According to a new report from the California Association of Realtors, home sales in Fresno County declined 1.7 percent from June to July and 12.6 percent compared to July 2013. The price of a median home in Fresno County stood at $201,530 in July, up 0.2 percent from $201,080 the prior month and up 9.6 percent from $183,870 a year ago. Sales in Tulare County fell 0.7 percent during the month but increased 3.1 percent in the year-over-year comparison. The county's median home price fell 1 percent in July to $174,670 from June's price of $176,520. That's still up 11.2 percent from $157,140 a year ago. Kings County saw its home sales come down 12.7 percent from June, still up 1.5 percent from last year. The median price of a home in the county stood at $175,450 in the month, down 9.8 percent from $194,440 but up 1.2 percent from $173,330 a year ago. Home sales in Madera County were down 15.4 percent compared to June and 43.6 percent year-over-year. The county's median home price was up 2.4 percent in the month, going from $206,250 in June to $211,110 in July. That's also 20.1 percent higher than $175,710 last year. Home sales may have dropped in July but the available supply of houses was on the rise. Fresno County's unsold inventory index, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, stood at 4.8 months in July, up from 4.5 months in June and 3.5 months in July 2013. Tulare County's index was up to 4.1 months in July compared to 3.9 months in June and 3.5 months a year ago. Kings County's index stood at 3.8 months in July, up from 3.5 months in both the month and year before. Madera County's index increased to 4.8 months compared to 3.9 months in June and 2.2 months last year. Statewide, home sales totaled 398,940 units in July, up 1.2 percent from 394,250 in June but down 10 percent from 443,500 in July 2013. "It's encouraging that home sales have risen in the past two months, but low housing affordability and stringent underwriting standards are still holding back sales," said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. "However, recent news of changes to how credit scores are determined should make it easier for first-time buyers who are on the cusp of qualifying and others who are having a difficult time getting a loan because their credit scores are less than satisfactory."

Latest State News

Written on 08/19/2014, 1:25 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Former Microsoft CEO Steve...
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:23 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Former Microsoft CEO Steve...
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:11 pm by JASON DEAREN, 
GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press
(AP) — A California billionaire...
Written on 08/19/2014, 10:44 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown and local...

Latest National News

Written on 08/19/2014, 1:31 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stocks are closing higher...
Written on 08/19/2014, 1:15 pm by BARBARA ORTUTAY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Privacy-wary parents are...
Written on 08/19/2014, 9:25 am by RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Sports Writer
(AP) — Mid-American Conference...
Written on 08/19/2014, 9:22 am by KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
(AP) — A defense attorney grilled a key...