TODAY

– October 31, 2014

Barneys case stirs talk of 'Shopping While Black' 


(AP) — The usual scenario involves suspicious glances, inattentive clerks or rude service — not handcuffs.

Yet when a black teen said he was wrongly jailed after buying a $350 belt at a Manhattan luxury store, it struck a nerve in African-Americans accustomed to finding that their money is not necessarily as good as everyone else's. Shopping while black, they say, can be a humiliating experience.

Much attention has been paid to the issue over the years — Oprah Winfrey complained that a Swiss clerk did not think she could afford a $38,000 handbag, and even President Barack Obama has said he was once followed in stores. But according to shoppers interviewed Monday, many people don't recognize how prevalent retail discrimination is, and how the consistent stream of small insults adds up to a large problem.

"It's one thing if you don't understand. But don't ever tell me it doesn't happen to me," said Natasha Eubanks, who shops often at high-end stores in New York City. "You can't assume it doesn't happen just because it doesn't happen to you."

Sometimes, Eubanks said, it takes clerks more than five minutes to simply acknowledge her presence. Or they brush her off after a token greeting. Or they ask her question after question: "You're a black girl up in Chanel. They want to know what you're doing here, and what you do for a living."

She says she has dealt with this type of treatment at least 20 times in New York City.

"I don't look like that typical chick who walks into that type of store," said Eubanks, owner of the celebrity website theYBF.com. "It feels differently than when you go into a store and are treated properly."

Trayon Christian's problem was not how he was treated when he went into Barneys New York — it was what happened afterward. In a lawsuit filed last week, the 19-year-old said that he bought a Ferragamo belt at the Manhattan store, and when he left he was accosted by undercover city police officers.

According to the lawsuit, police said Christian "could not afford to make such an expensive purchase." He was arrested and detained, though he showed police the receipt, the debit card he used and identification, the lawsuit said.

After Christian's lawsuit was filed, another black Barneys shopper said she was accused of fraud after purchasing a $2,500 handbag, and the black actor Robert Brown said he was paraded through Macy's in handcuffs and detained for an hour after being falsely accused of credit card fraud.

For Yvonne Chan, the reports were a painful reminder of when she worked in a liquor store in a predominantly white Massachusetts town. Every few months someone would be caught stealing, and about half the time it was a black person.

"You find yourself watching black people. (The stealing) only happens once in a while, but it changes your perception," Chan said.

Chan, a graduate student, always tried to remind herself not to act on stereotypes, but, "Like it or not, I'm going to have a preconceived notion of races from my experiences. As much as I would like to force my brain not to think like that and put everyone on an even playing field, stereotypes play a role in our society ... we skew the view of people as individuals."

Those skewed views can affect who gets arrested for retail theft, said Jerome Williams, a business professor at Rutgers University who has studied marketplace discrimination.

Many people justify racial profiling by saying that black customers are more likely to steal. But one study has shown that white women in their 40s engaged in more shoplifting than other demographic groups, Williams said.

"The reason they don't show up in crime statistics is because people aren't watching them," said Williams.

Statistics showing that black customers steal more "are not really an indication of who's shoplifting," he said. "It's a reflection of who's getting caught. That's a reflection of who's getting watched. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Dido Kanyandekwe knows he is being watched. "But I joke with them; I see them looking at me and I say, 'Hello, I see you!' And I wave," said the 18-year-old college student in New York City, who was in Barneys on Monday buying a $600-plus pair of Italian designer sneakers.

"Most black people don't have the money to buy stuff at Barneys," said Kanyandekwe, the son of wealthy parents, before paying for the black leather shoes with a credit card. "But that does not mean all black people are not able to buy these things."

Black people are not the only ones who can face unequal treatment in stores. Hispanics have made the same complaints. And Sher Graham, a white woman who lives in Mobile, Ala., says black servers in the fast-food restaurants she visits often wait on black customers first.

A few months ago, she said, a black cashier started talking to black women standing in line behind her about their order.

"When I brought this to her attention, she just shrugged her shoulders and completely ignored me. This action happens more times than not here in the Gulf Coast region," Graham, a consultant and speaker, said in an email interview.

Yet if the number of complaints is any guide, the experience is most common for African-Americans.

Candace Witherspoon, a wardrobe stylist in Los Angeles, went to a store in Century City last April to buy a purse and shop for one of her celebrity clients. She was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. In a letter to the company, Witherspoon said the sales associate barely greeted her, then ignored her, in contrast with her treatment of white patrons.

"As the other customers left, she said 'Thanks ladies for shopping. Have a good day.' When I left she gave me a nasty look and didn't say anything," Witherspoon's letter said.

Toni Duclottni, who runs a fashion web site in Los Angeles, recently went to a Beverly Hills department store intending to spend about $4,000 on shoes. But she took her business elsewhere after being ignored.

"It's frustrating to be constantly ignored and people pretend it doesn't happen," she said.

To her, the solution is simple.

"They rush to judgment, they jump into it assuming something without speaking to a person," Duclottni said. "They'd be surprised if they just walked up and said, "Hello, can I help you find something?' They'd be surprised."
___
Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.

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Written on 10/31/2014, 11:45 am by hannahesqueda
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Written on 10/31/2014, 11:44 am by Associated Press
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Written on 10/31/2014, 11:43 am by ben
The Fresno Monsters hockey team may soon have a new venue to play games when a planned 1,800-seat arena is built at the Gateway Ice Center.But hockey is just one program proponents hope to expand when the 44,000 square-foot multi-purpose facility comes to fruition at Marks and Clinton avenues.Plans to expand the Gateway Ice Center have been a dream for the last 15 years. It wasn’t until the impending closure of the underperforming facility last year that the local nonprofit Lace ‘Em Up Foundation formed with the aim of purchasing the rink from longtime owner Bob Glassman.Now with a feasibility study underway by Firland Management, the nonprofit hopes to double the space as a larger attraction the whole Valley can enjoy for activities both on and off the ice.“There’s lot of opportunity for kids in west Fresno to have somewhere to go after school and hopefully we can tie it with the school districts here and start up some programs,” said Bryce Dale, Fresno Monsters general manager and one of 10 board members running the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation.Besides hosting local kids’ hockey teams as well regional and statewide tournaments, Dale mentioned many other uses during the summer months when the ice is removed and 20,000 square feet of concrete is left open for youth sports leagues like basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer.Among them, Dale said, Children’s Hospital Central California’s Adaptive Sports Program began using the Gateway Ice Center around six weeks ago to give individuals with physical and health impairments the opportunity to play sports that they normally couldn’t.For one thing, he said, the new ample sheet of ice and 29-foot high ceilings will provide enough viewing capacity to accommodate anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people. That’s a much larger draw compared to the Gateway Ice Center’s smaller practice rink where the junior hockey team has played for the last two seasons since ending its relationship with Selland Arena in downtown Fresno.“We had about 650 people come to our games on a regular basis (at Selland). 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However, a lot of that will depend on fundraising efforts, kick started so far by local groups like Children’s Hospital Central California and Big Brothers Big Sisters.Bob Glassman and the ownership group have been especially supportive, Blair said, having worked closely with the foundation to hone its vision and spending $170,000 remodeling the current sheet of ice.“This place does not make a lot of money. It’s a break even facility,” Blair said. “But the owners want to see ice sports stay in the community. They have been more than gracious keeping this place open.”Other local partners donating and helping spread the word about the new arena include the America Red Cross, Saint Agnes Medical Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County, the Marjaree Mason Center and the Poverello House.Those wishing to donate to the cause can do so by visiting the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation website at www.laceemupfoundation.com.While an exact amount is still a long way off, Dale said the estimated cost of the new arena is around $10 million, helped in large part by the federal New Market Tax Credit program designed to spur revitalization efforts of low-income and impoverished communities.Once money is received from the program, Dale said the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation can assume ownership of Gateway Ice Center, leaving them to fill the gap with fundraising. The foundation is also putting out requests right now as it seeks to secure naming rights for the new facility.First opened in 1995, the Gateway Ice Center now sees around 150,000 come through its doors each year for birthday parties, corporate events, hockey games and other skating outings. Blair said the new arena is expected to increase attendance while providing other needed perks to the city.“The amount of visitors you can get with a two-sheet facility is enormous,” Blair said. “And that also brings a lot of money to the area from out of town. They have to eat and they have to stay in a hotel. They have to get gas and their kids will want snacks. That’s all local tax money being brought in from somewhere else.” Ben Keller  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3465 or e-mail ben@thebusinessjournal.com
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:41 am by hannahesqueda
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Written on 10/31/2014, 11:35 am by Leah
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Written on 10/31/2014, 11:29 am by gabrieldillard
The City of Kingsburg will once again host a business plan contest with the winner receiving $25,000 worth of goods and services to help start a business.It is the second year of The Launching Pad contest, which will culminate with three finalists pitching their business ideas to a panel of local judges during Kingsburg’s Swedish Festival on May 16, 2015.Contestants have until Dec. 1 to fill out a short application for the contest. A panel will review the application and select up to five semi-finalists to receive help in preparing their own business plan. From there, three semi-finalists will be selected to pitch their business in front of a live audience May 16, with the winner announced that day.Sherman Dix, a member of the Kingsburg Economic Development Committee, created the program.Economic Development Coordinator Jolene Polyack said in a statement, “Sherman’s contest is perfect for Kingsburg.  We focus on fostering the small start-up businesses and this contest is a way to get the word out that we really do want those types of businesses here in Kingsburg.Starting a new business can be daunting. If we help navigate would-be owners through the maze of start-up bureaucracy, they can shift their attention to the actual business itself and increase their odds of success.”The rules for the contest include• Future business must be located in the City of Kingsburg• Applicants must be 18 or older• No home-based businesses, winner must occupy a commercial space• Must be a new business to Kingsburg (expansions from other cities do qualify)• Top 3 must be willing to present their idea to a panel in front of a live audience The goods and services to be received by the winner are nearly all donated from local Kingsburg businesses. They include pay roll service for one year, printing services, business cards, software program, accounting services, business consultation and a free Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce membership for a year.Links to the application may also be found at the City of Kingsburg’s website:  www.cityofkingsburg-ca.govKingsburg residents Kim Regier and Diana Weston won the inaugural business plan contest with their business, Matt i Dalen (Swedish for “Heart of the Valley”). The pair have opened a storefront in Kingsburg featuring handmade products and foods from all over the Valley, including furniture, candles, paintings and jewelry to cookies, spices, soaps and jams.Javier Garcia and Misty Almendarez, finalists in last year’s contest for their Sports Fan Barbershop, have also opened their business in Kingsburg. Venture forum Nov. 6The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State and the Central Valley Fund have joined forces again to host the 9th Central Valley Venture Forum Nov. 6 in Fresno.Réal Desrochers, head of private equity for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) will each deliver a keynote address.Desrochers’ talk is entitled “Investment Opportunities in California and Around the Globe. Where is CalPERS allocating capital over the next 24 months?” Costa’s talk will discuss “Election Impacts for Business — 2015 and Beyond.”The forum will also feature a panel discussion titled “California and Mexico Trade and Investment — The Central Valley Secret.” Other sessions will cover how to raise investment capital in the Valley.The event will also feature the annual Valley Entrepreneur Showcase, when five new or early-stage businesses will give a pitch to a panel of investors in hopes of winning a “best in show” award.This conference provides the only venue in the Central Valley for growth companies to demonstrate their readiness for private equity investment,” said Tim Stearns, executive director of the Lyles Center, in a statement. “Entrepreneurs can learn and make valuable connections in this powerful yet informal setting.”Pasadena-based tequila company PaQui Tequila was crowned the winner of the 2013 Entrepreneur Showcase.In the ancient Aztec language, PaQui means “to be happy.”
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:24 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Authorities say safety netting could have prevented the death of 64 birds at a Southern California solar energy plant. The Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1xGAjDA ) says the birds died this month at the Genesis solar plant near Blythe after getting mired in wastewater evaporation ponds that contained an oily toxic chemical. The California Energy Commission says safety netting designed to keep birds away from the plant was destroyed by high winds in August and never replaced. Roger Johnson, who oversees environmental compliance for the commission, says new netting's been ordered but won't be installed before year's end. However, authorities say the 10 acres of ponds are being drained and people stationed around them to keep the birds away.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:22 am by Leah
Some 724 private residential wells in Tulare County have gone dry this year, says an October 21 Drought Task Force report heard by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors this week.The pace of well failure in the county has increased this month with numbers climbing around 40 percent since the first of the month as the long hot summer has dragged on.As much as 75 percent of the dry wells are in the Porterville area hard hit by plunging ground water levels and plenty of rural wells.Private wells along the Tule River east of town have been particularly affected with flows on the river in the past few years minimal.The status report also says 291 households in the county are receiving bottled water deliveries. The task force is monitoring well drilling with new permits issued for 1,476 new wells, up around 54 percent. The county has distributed 52,000 food baskets since it was formed in March.The small town of Seville has benefited through the coordinated effort with bottled water, a grant for new storage tank and a new well. The US Department of Agriculture has also helped with more than $4 million to a score of rural county towns to dig new wells. Cameron Creek and Farmersville each received grants. The county is looking for mobile shower and laundry units for people affected by the water shortage. Currently some households have only the option to take sponge baths.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:21 am by gabrieldillard
An environmental group last week released documents it contends show the federal government and Westlands Water District nearing a settlement of litigation regarding drainage problems on the Westside of the Valley.The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) issued a press release headlined “Obama selling out California to Westlands Water District” on Oct. 16 which claims that the Obama administration had reached a settlement with Westlands that would forgive $360 million in debt, continue the flow of subsidized water to the district and allow it to continue to pollute state waterways.It also released a document dated Dec. 6, 2013 laying out principles of a settlement agreement between the United States and Westlands.Gayle Holman, public affairs representative with Westlands Water District, said last week that no final agreement had been struck.“Until something has been finalized, it’s very inappropriate to comment,” Holman said.Holman did dispute C-WIN’s assertion that Westlands discharges tainted runoff into Central Valley waterways.“That is badly misinformed,” she said.Westlands quarrel with the federal government stems from what it sees as the Bureau of Reclamation’s obligation to provide an adequate drainage system for irrigation runoff in the Westlands Water District during construction of the San Luis reservoir in the 1960s.As part of the proposed settlement released by C-WIN, Westlands would let the government off the hook for providing drainage service in exchange for forgiving capital debt obligations reported to be about $360 million.Westlands would also agree to retiring about 100,000 acres of land within its service area and capping its contract deliveries of 1.1 million acre-feet of water from the Central Valley Project at 75 percent.This year, users south of the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta received a 0-percent allocation from the Central Valley Project.As C-WIN points out, the settlement is still subject to approval by Congress. But California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is expected to “shepherd” the proposal through Congress, according to C-WIN.“This ‘settlement’ is essentially a wish list by Westlands,” said Tom Stokely, spokesperson for C-WIN.“It is crony capitalism at its worse, and it demonstrates once again the corrosive power of money and corporate influence in Washington,” he added. Gabriel Dillard  |  Editor can be reached at:490-3467 or e-mail gabriel@thebusinessjournal.com
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:20 am by Associated Press
(AP) — A Southern California woman has been charged with helping bilk Medicare out of $22 million by billing for unnecessary care. A federal indictment unsealed Thursday charges Angela Avetisyan of Glendale with fraud and conspiracy. A Los Angeles doctor, Robert Glazer, was previously charged. Authorities say Avetisyan was Glazer's office manager and co-owned a Los Angeles home health care agency. The indictment alleges that the two created phony prescriptions and documents used to bill Medicare for home health services, hospice services and items such as power wheelchairs that were unnecessary or never delivered. The indictment says documents also were sold to providers who billed Medicare, which paid out some $22 million. A message left for an Angela Avetisyan in Glendale wasn't immediately returned. Glazer's office number is disconnected.

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