TODAY

– November 24, 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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Written on 11/24/2014, 11:55 am by STEVE PEOPLES, 
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press
(AP) — The conventional wisdom in the Republican Party is changing.
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:45 am by Business Journal staff
The Fresno County Office of Education hosted the annual Educator of the Year awards Friday, recognizing a school employee, administrator and teacher for 2014. The following winners were chosen in each category, according to a news release:  School Employee of the Year • Selena Rico, Fresno Unified School District – Rico is a Child Welfare and Attendance Specialist in the Department of Prevention and Intervention for Fresno Unified School District. She has been in education for 14 years. “In my job I’m able to express my passion for identifying and helping families who are struggling and disadvantaged,” she said. Administrator of the Year • Hank Gutierrez, Fowler Unified School District – Gutierrez is the principal of Fowler High School. He has been in education for 20 years. “I owe everything to the people of Fowler who had a positive influence in my life,” he said. “I will be that positive role model for your child, upholding the rich ethics and values that my mother, family and this community instilled in me.” Teacher of the Year • Magdalene Bowman, Washington Unified School District – Bowman is a teacher at West Fresno Elementary School. She has been in education for 20 years. “Teaching is my passion and I think that is reflected in my love for my students,” she said. “In my class, there’s always a buzzing environment of collaborating, moving, learning through fun activities, communicating, laughter, creating and reflective questions.”
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:34 am by Business Journal staff
Visalia-based Family HealthCare Network has donated $5,000 to Self-Help Enterprises to aid in local drought relief efforts. The funds will be used to help some of the thousands of residents in the South Valley without water to drink, cook, clean or shower, according to a news release from Family HealthCare Network (FHCN). “As a health care provider, we know that the drought has had serious effects on many families in Tulare County, with a direct impact on their health and quality of life,” said Kerry Hydash, president and CEO of FHCN. "The holidays can be a struggle for many families and FHCN wanted to do its part to provide some relief for families in need.”
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:31 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Dominion Resources is adding to its solar power portfolio. The Richmond-based energy company says it has acquired a 20-megawatt solar energy facility in California from Canadian Solar Inc. Dominion says the West Antelope Solar Park is located in Los Angeles County. The company says the project has a 20-year power purchase agreement and an interconnection agreement. The project's addition brings Dominion's solar generating capacity in development, under construction or in operation to 344 megawatts with facilities in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Utah and Tennessee. The company says its renewable portfolio also includes about 850 megawatts of capacity generated by biomass, water and wind in Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Dominion Resources Inc. is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy.
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:09 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno will play host today to H.E. Bako Sahakyan, president of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in his first visit to the San Joaquin Valley. Sahakyan is scheduled to be welcomed by luminaries including Sergey Sarkisov, consul general of Armenia in Los Angeles, as well as Rep. Jim Costa, state Sens. Tom Berryhill and Andy Vidak as well other state and local elected officials at an invitation-only reception in Downtown Fresno tonight. Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas introduced a measure to the board that led to Fresno County in April 2013 becoming the first county in California to officially recognize the independence of Nagorno Karabakh Republic, also known as Artsakh. Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus that has traditionally been Armenian territory. A former Soviet territory, Nagorno Karabakh declared its independence in 1991, electing a legislature a year later. Nearby Azerbaijian desputes the independence of Nagorno Karabakh, which led to armed conflict that ended with a cease-fire in 1994, though relations continue to be tense. Sahakyan became president in 2007, according to his official website.
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:31 am by JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press
(AP) — Against the team of hackers, the poor car stood no chance. Meticulously overwhelming its computer networks, the hackers showed that — given time — they would be able to pop the trunk and start the windshield wipers, cut the brakes or lock them up, and even kill the engine. Their motives were not malicious. These hackers worked on behalf of the U.S. military, which along with the auto industry is scrambling to fortify the cyber defenses of commercially available cars before criminals and even terrorists penetrate them. "You're stepping into a rolling computer now," said Chris Valasek, who helped catapult car hacking into the public eye when he and a partner revealed last year they had been able to control a 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Ford Escape by plugging into a port used by mechanics. These days, when Valasek isn't working his day job for a computer security firm, he's seeing how Bluetooth might offer an entry point. Automakers are betting heavily that consumers will want not just the maps and music playlists of today but also Internet-enabled vehicles that stream movies and the turn dictation into email. The federal government wants to require cars to send each other electronic messages warning of dangers on the road. In these and other connections, hackers see opportunity. There are no publicly known instances of a car being commandeered outside staged tests. In those tests, hackers prevail. One was the Defense Department-funded assault on a 2012 model American-made car, overseen by computer scientist Kathleen Fisher. Hackers demonstrated they could create the electronic equivalent of a skeleton key to unlock the car's networks. That may take months, Fisher said, but from there it would be "pretty easy to package up the smarts and make it available online, perhaps in a black-market type situation." The project's goal is more than just to plug vulnerabilities — it is to reconceive the most critical lines of computer code that control the car in a way that could make them invulnerable to some of the major known threats. The model code would be distributed to automakers, who could adapt it to their needs. That should take a few more years. The industry is participating — and not waiting. One major association representing brands including Honda and Toyota is helping establish an "information sharing and analysis center" patterned after efforts by big banks to try to thwart cyberattacks. "Before, when you designed something, you looked at how might components fail," said Michael Cammisa, director of safety for the Association of Global Automakers. "Now, you have to look at how would somebody maliciously attack the vehicle."The so-called Auto-ISAC will allow participating companies to evaluate the credibility of threats and, in the event of an attack, let one warn others so they could test their own systems. The effort was announced this summer at the Cyberauto Challenge in Detroit, one of an increasing number of programs focused on auto hacking. Several days later, in China, organizers of a cybersecurity conference announced success in their challenge to hack a Model S made by Tesla Motors. Another American company, General Motors, has checked how Boeing and defense companies create systems to repel hackers, according to Mark Reuss, GM's executive vice president of global product development. Cybersecurity is "one of the highest priority things that we have," Reuss said. "We have got to make sure that our customers are safe."
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:27 am by MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — A procrastinator's holiday wish come true: Presents ordered at the last minute can now show up under the Christmas tree that same day. Amazon, Target and Macy's and other retailers are offering speedier delivery, including overnight and same-day options that will continue even past the holidays. The focus on faster shipping is one way retailers are catering to shoppers who've become increasingly finicky and impatient. Since the recession, it's not enough to get lower prices; they want the deepest discounts. And when it comes to ordering online, orders need to be shipped fast. "I'll pay extra to get something right away," says Wendy Connors, a 47-year-old mother of three who lives in Menlo Park, California. Quick delivery is important for retailers as they head into the winter holiday shopping season, a time when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales. U.S. shoppers are expected to spend $61 billion online in November and December, according to research firm comScore. Retailers can't afford a repeat last year when UPS and FedEx failed to deliver some packages by Christmas due to a combination of poor weather and overloaded systems, causing angry customers. Neither of the top two deliverers said how many packages were delayed, but noted it was a small share of overall holiday shipments. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru fears that the industry could be ill-prepared for the influx of online ordering again this year. She points out that the growth UPS and FedEx are forecasting this season is below growth estimates for online spending by the retail industry. UPS forecasts it will deliver 585 million packages in December, an 11 percent increase over 2013, and FedEx expects to deliver 290 million packages, an 8.8 percent increase from last year. But research firm ComScore expects online spending will grow 16 percent to $61 billion. It's not a direct apples-to-apples comparison, Mulpuru concedes, but the difference in estimated percentage growth could spell trouble for shippers and retailers this holiday. "I don't know if there's enough bandwith ... to accommodate full demand," she says. Retailers are hoping that speedier delivery options will help spread out shipments throughout the season so that there's not a big crunch toward the end like there was last year. Amazon expanded its Sunday delivery service, adding more than 10 distribution centers and 15 smaller sorting centers that sort packages by ZIP code and transport them to U.S. Postal Service offices. It also expanded same-day delivery, available for $5.99 per order to members of its $99 annual Prime loyalty program, to more cities. In August it expanded from 4 to 12 cities on the East and West Coast. Other online retailers are offering same-day delivery, too. Google relaunched its Google Shopping service, which costs $10 a month for membership or $4.99 per order, offers same-day delivery from Costco, Toys R Us and other retailers in about 6 metro areas. And eBay has retooled its "eBay Now" same-day delivery service, introduced in 2012, from a stand-alone app to a method of payment available on its site within the eBay app and website. "Shoppers don't shop by saying what do I want now," says eBay's head of local, Tom Allason. "They shop by saying what do I want, and then when and where can I get it." Tech companies aren't the only ones offering same-day delivery. Macy's, Bloomingdale's and six mall chains partnered with tech company Deliv to offer the service in major markets. Deliv founder and CEO Daphne Carmeli says there's been a boost in holiday demand already, but she declined to give figures. Same-day delivery is mainly available in big cities, but elsewhere retailers still are working to cut delivery times. In October, Target rolled out a program to ship items directly from 140 stores in 40 markets, covering most of the country. Shipping directly from a store speeds up delivery because stores are often closer to customer's homes than a warehouse. Target spokesman Eddie Baeb says that cuts shipping in half, from an average of 4 days to 2 days. Toys R Us, Nordstrom and other retailers also have begun using their stores as mini warehouses to ship items directly to shoppers. Best Buy, which shipped items from 400 stores last holiday season, said it will ship from all 1,400 stores this time. It also is giving customers precise delivery information: During the checkout process, Best Buy will give precise get-it-by delivery dates on about 60 percent of products, compared with previously when it would just let shoppers know delivery times within five to eight days. Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly says the shipping process has been an "intense area of focus."
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:23 am by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — That's not mistletoe. From new marijuana strains for the holidays to gift sets and pot-and-pumpkin pies, the burgeoning marijuana industry in Colorado is scrambling to get a piece of the holiday shopping dollar. Dispensaries in many states have been offering holiday specials for medical customers for years — but this first season of open-to-all-adults marijuana sales in some states means pot shops are using more of the tricks used by traditional retailers to attract holiday shoppers. Here's a look at how the new recreational marijuana industry is trying to attract holiday shoppers: OLD-FASHIONED DOORBUSTERS Traditional retailers sell some items below cost to drive traffic and attract sales. Recreational marijuana retailers are doing the same. The Grass Station in Denver is selling an ounce of marijuana for $50 — about a fifth of the cost of the next-cheapest strain at the Colorado dispensary — to the first 16 customers in line Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That works out to less than $1 a joint for the ambitious early-rising pot shopper. Owner Ryan Fox says his Black Friday pot is decent quality, and says he's selling below cost to attract attention and pick up some new customers. As Colorado dispensaries approach a year of being able to sell weed to all adults over 21, not just card-carrying medical patients, Fox says retailers have to do more than just sell pot to get public attention. Pot shops are using old and new media to tout the sales. One dispensary is taking out a full-page "Happy Danksgiving" ad in The Denver Post and is inviting shoppers to text a code for extra savings. VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS Sweets and marijuana seem to go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. Many dispensaries this time of year resemble a Starbucks at the mall, with holiday spices and festive music in the air. One of the state's largest edible-pot makers, Sweet Grass Kitchen, debuted a new miniature pumpkin pie that delivers about as much punch as a medium-sized joint. The pie joins holiday-spiced teas, minty pot confections and cannabis-infused honey oil for those who want to bake their own pot goodies at home. Even some edibles makers that specialize in savory foods, not sweets, are putting out some sugary items for the holidays. "It just tastes too good, we had to do it," Better Baked owner Deloise Vaden said of her company's holiday line of cannabis-infused sweet-potato and pumpkin pies. HOLIDAY STRAINS Some shops are angling for high-end holiday shoppers, not an increase in foot traffic. Colorado Harvest and Evergreen Apothecary timed the release of some top-shelf strains of potent pot for the holiday season. Spokeswoman Ann Dickerson says they're "sort of like the best bourbon or Scotch that will be competing on quality, rather than price." GIFT WRAPPING What holiday shopper doesn't appreciate free gift wrapping? Or a gift set ready to pop under the tree? The Growing Kitchen is making $49.99 gift sets for both the medical and recreational pot user. The sets include the edible-pot maker's new Mighty Mint cookie, a pot-infused confection new for the holiday shopping season, along with marijuana-infused salves for muscles sore from the ski slopes. Other dispensaries are offering free gift totes and stockings with purchases. GIFT CARDS For the shopper who wants to give pot but doesn't know how the recipient likes to get high, Colorado's 300 or so recreational dispensaries so far have been able to issue only handwritten gift certificates. That's because banking regulations prohibit major credit cards companies from being able to back marijuana-related gift cards the way they do for other retailers. Just this month, a Colorado company started offering pot shops a branded gift card they can sell just like other retailers. The cards are in eight Denver dispensaries so far, and coming soon will be loyalty cards similar to grocery-store loyalty cards that track purchases and can be used to suggest sales or new products to frequent shoppers. CANNAGIFTS FOR THE MAIL Just because marijuana can't legally leave Colorado doesn't mean dispensaries don't have items for out-of-state friends and family. Some dispensaries are highlighting some non-cannabis gift items — things like T-shirts, rolling papers and lotions made with legal herbs. The sets are for shoppers who want to give a taste of Colorado's new marijuana industry without breaking federal law by mailing it or taking it out of state.
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:21 am by MARK KENNEDY, AP Drama Writer
(AP) — Sting is hoping his star power can plug up a leaky ship. The singer-songwriter will play the role of an inspirational foreman onstage in "The Last Ship" starting Dec. 9 at the Neil Simon Theatre. The musical, for which Sting supplied songs and lyrics, has been struggling at the box office. "I'm so excited. I think it will give us a little light. Frankly, we need a blip in sales to be viable," Sting said Monday. "You have to do whatever it takes." The show, with no big stars and a challenging story to sell, brought in only $536,000 last week, less than half its $1,243,000 potential and the theater was only 60 percent full. Mixed reviews haven't helped. "This was never going to be easy. I didn't anticipate a shoo-in at all. I expected a battle because I want to succeed against the odds," Sting said. The move isn't unprecedented. Green Day's frontman Billie Joe Armstrong made several onstage visits to his show "American Idiot." But others from the pop world — including Bono and The Edge from U2 and Trey Anastasio from Phish — chose to stay offstage even after their shows sprung a leak. Producer Jeffrey Seller said Sting was eager to do anything to right the vessel. "It needs help. It's more ambitious, it's more challenging than other Broadway musicals," he said. "The Last Ship" is a semi-autobiographical story about a prodigal son who returns to his northern England shipbuilding town to reclaim the girl he abandoned when he fled years before. He finds the workers are now unemployed and entertaining the idea of building one last boat to show off their skill and pride. Seller said he blamed himself for the slow tickets sales. "I feel like I have failed to find the right door to open to communicate effectively the passion, the spirit and the beauty encapsulated in this show," he said. He said he hoped Sting's presence would generate 5,000 to 6,000 more customers a week and hopes to raise the weekly take to $625,000 a week, which puts it in the black. Sting, born Gordon Sumner, drew on his childhood, growing up in Newcastle to write the story. He was last onstage on Broadway in 1989's revival of "The Threepenny Opera" and said he knows the musical is good — it just needs to find an audience. "We win the battle in the theater every day. Hands down, we win the battle," Sting said. "Outside, the perception is not what it should be. So I'm hoping I can give us more of a groundswell, more of a tipping point." Sting replaces Jimmy Nail in the foreman's role. He said he needed Nail's blessing before he could "entertain this idea." Nail apparently readily agreed and will now be Sting's understudy. Seller said there was a certain poetic flair to the fact that Sting will now play the foreman "whose job it is to lift up his men, to raise their spirits." The project began as a CD and PBS concert special before it was turned into a stage version for a pre-Broadway stop in Chicago this summer. Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning lyricist Brian Yorkey ("Next to Normal") and Tony-winner John Logan ("Red") wrote the book, and Tony-winner Joe Mantello ("Wicked") directs. The cast album comes out Dec. 16. ___Online: http://thelastship.com
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:15 am by KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press
(AP) — From board rooms in Japan to songwriter's rooms in Nashville, a debate is brewing in music industry circles about the financial and creative value of streaming music, even as its popularity and impact skyrocket. Streaming music, predicted by many analysts to become the primary digital means for fans to consume music, has such influence now that Billboard will start tallying streaming numbers into the formula for its Billboard 200 chart. But even as consumers wrap their arms around the technology, many in the music industry question whether streaming music revenues will match up. At a recent investor meeting in Tokyo, Sony Music Chief Financial Officer Kevin Kelleher said a lot of conversation had been happening about streaming services in light of pop star Taylor Swift's recent decision to pull her catalog off Spotify. "The key question is: Are the free, ad-supported services taking away from how quickly and to what extent we can grow these paid services?" Kelleher said, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A Spotify representative declined to comment to The Associated Press, but company CEO and co-founder Daniel Ek has addressed some critics on its website. He notes that the company has paid out $2 billion since it started in 2008. Swift's actions touched a nerve in Nashville, a microcosm of the vast shifts in the musical economy. Country artists Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert and Justin Moore followed in Swift's lead to remove or limit music that's available for free to Spotify's 50 million users. Swift and Aldean have cited concerns about whether the service fairly compensates all the stakeholders who help make the music, a message that resonates among many Nashville artists. "If I was in the position of Taylor, I would have done the same thing," up-and-coming country singer Chase Rice said. "You want people to buy your music." Rice also sees potential with streaming music. He's built a fan base with his energetic live shows and his presence on Spotify, where he has more than 13 million streams so far. "But for young artists like myself, Spotify is great because you can sell albums, but the most important thing is getting the music out there," Rice said recently. "However that happens. And Spotify allows that." "All of the sudden the shift feels very seismic," said David Macias, founder of Thirty Tigers, a Nashville-based marketing, distribution and management company that works with Rice. "How do you reconcile getting 70 cents a download wholesale to six-tenths of a cent streaming? It doesn't intuitively feel correct." Macias said musicians should mistrust the structures that pay them but notes that several artists he works with have made six figures off Spotify. "I think when artists are saying they aren't getting paid, it's because of the label relationship they are in, not because Spotify is not paying," Macias said. "Somebody is getting paid." Songwriters and publishers, who represent a large voice in country music, are unhappy with the "freemium" model, in which ads support the free part of the streaming service while trying to entice fans to sign up for subscription-based premium services, said Mike Steinberg, senior vice president for licensing for Broadcast Music, Inc., the performing rights organization that collects license fees on behalf of songwriters and publishers. Spotify says 12.5 million of its users pay $120 per year for its premium service. "The ad revenue supporting the free-to-listener part of the Spotify model provides insufficient compensation to artists and labels for their creative work," Steinberg said. "And, since songwriters and publishers are getting only a small fraction of that, you can imagine the frustration and dissatisfaction we are hearing from them." Rodney Clawson, who has written No. 1 country songs for artists such as Aldean, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, called the revenue he gets from music streaming so small, "it's an absolute joke." "I personally think that streaming services are an amazing technology and have an exciting future — if they can figure out a way to properly compensate the people that are providing them with the product they are selling," Clawson said. "If they can't, they need to go out of business." Paul Roper, president of Nashville-based Dualtone Music Group, said his act The Lumineers receives 1 million streams a week, which remains consistent even as album sales ebb and flow. He also gets valuable consumer data and exposure for his new artists such as Shakey Graves, who is benefiting from partnering with Spotify on playlists. "We are in a unique moment in time where access model/streaming is starting to scale, but we haven't hit the full revenue potential of the model yet," Roper said in an email. "Once we hit subscriber numbers of 50 million, the debate will be nonexistent." But Roper said Spotify has to be aggressive to keep those top name acts from abandoning the service too soon. "Spotify is in a tough spot for what Taylor's precedent means for how other superstars will interact with the service," Roper said. "They are under a lot of pressure to increase premium subscribers and grow the per-play rate quickly. We are still in the infancy of this market and the general public is uninformed on how it works." __Online:Spotify: www.spotify.com

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Latest National News

Written on 11/24/2014, 11:55 am by STEVE PEOPLES, 
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press
(AP) — The conventional wisdom in the...
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:31 am by JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press
(AP) — Against the team of hackers, the...
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:27 am by MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — A procrastinator's holiday wish...
Written on 11/24/2014, 10:23 am by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — That's not mistletoe. From new...