TODAY

– July 29, 2014

Blueberry and blackberry tours, tastings planned

A blueberry and blackberry field tour is planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, departing from the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

The tour, sponsored by the University of California Cooperative Extension, Tulare County, and the UC Small Farm Program, will stop at small and large farms and packing facilities; van transportation is available for 20 people, while a caravan will be arranged for the rest of the group. The cost is $20 to $35.

Topics to be addressed include blackberry sunburn protection, blueberry field design, soil and water acidity and blueberry packing and cooling.

A subsequent blueberry and blackberry field day event is planned from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the Parlier center, at 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., eight miles from Highway 99’s exit at Manning Avenue. A tour of blueberry trials and demonstrations is on the menu, along with tastings of about 50 blueberry and blackberry varieties. The cost is $25 to $35.

Presentations by blueberry experts and UC researchers will take place, and educators from the University of North Carolina will attend. That school’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention researches sustainable agriculture practices.

Those interested in the events can register online at http://ucanr.org/bbd

Web Poll

Will you follow Fresno's new lawn watering restrictions?

Blogs

gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 07/29/2014, 9:49 am by BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
(AP) — The NBA and the Los Angeles Clippers are ready to move on, even if Donald Sterling wants to keep fighting.
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:45 am by 
STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
(AP) — Despite some good news, Medicare and Social Security still face long-term financial problems as millions of baby boomers reach retirement. Social Security's disability program is already in crisis as it edges toward the brink of insolvency. Getting relief from a slowdown in health care spending, Medicare's giant hospital trust fund won't be exhausted until 2030, the government said Monday. That's four years later than last year's estimate. As for Social Security, its massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034. The disability trust fund, however, is slated to run dry in just two years. At that point, unless Congress acts, the program will collect only enough payroll taxes to pay 81 percent of benefits. "The fact is, without bipartisan action, benefits will be cut," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare issued their annual report Monday on the financial health of the government's two largest benefit programs. Together, they accounted for 41 percent of all federal spending last year. Though both programs are "fundamentally secure," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said, "the reports also remind us of something we all understand: We must reform these programs if we want to keep them sound for future generations." There is little appetite in Congress to tackle such big issues. However, the longer Congress waits to act, the more difficult it will become to avoid either large tax increases or significant benefit cuts in both programs, said economist Charles Blahous III, one of two public trustees."What is changing is that we are rapidly running out of time," Blahous said. If Congress acts quickly, Social Security could be shored up for several generations through relatively modest changes to benefits and revenues. However, many advocates oppose any cuts to benefits, while many Republicans in Congress oppose any increase in taxes. "The president will not support any proposal that would hurt Americans who depend on these programs today, and he will not support any effort that slashes benefits for future retirees," Lew said. In 2030, when the hospital trust fund is expected to be depleted, Medicare will collect enough payroll taxes to pay 85 percent of inpatient costs. Medicare is adding 10,000 new beneficiaries a day as baby boomers reach age 65. But the report said costs per beneficiary were essentially unchanged in 2013, for the second year in a row. That is a contrast with previous years, when both per-person costs and overall enrollment were growing. Experts debate whether the health-spending slowdown is the result of a sluggish economy or represents a dividend from Obama's health care overhaul, which cut program spending to finance coverage for the uninsured. Congress and the administration later agreed to more cuts. How all those trends converge, "no one knows and there is an active debate going on," Blahous said. "That debate is certainly not one that the trustees are going to settle." The trustees are the secretaries of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor Departments, as well as the Social Security commissioner and two public trustees — a Democrat and a Republican. Social Security's disability program could be shored up in the short run by shifting tax revenue from the much larger retirement program, as Congress has done in the past. However, that would slightly worsen the retirement program's long-term finances. Lew endorsed such a move Monday. If the two trust funds were combined, they would have enough money to last until 2033, the report said. That's the same exhaustion date as in last year's report. The trustees are projecting a 1.5 percent increase in monthly Social Security payments to beneficiaries next year. That would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in the 1970s. The increase will be based on a government measure of inflation. Medicare's Part B monthly premium for outpatient care is expected to remain unchanged for 2015, at $104.90. Average premiums for prescription coverage are expected to increase by less than $2 a month. Medicare's hospitalization deductible is projected to rise to $1,248 in 2015, an increase of $32 from this year.
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:42 am by DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press
(AP) — Within minutes, the line at the food truck parked on a busy Queens thoroughfare extended several people deep. Hipster foodies looking to sample vegan pizzas or fusion tacos? Nope, these were children, agonizing over whether to pick the ham-and- cheese or the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, the regular or chocolate milk. It was part of a summer meals program that tries to make sure the children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the academic year don't lose out just because school's out. Instead of the kids coming to where the food is, the food goes to where the kids are. New York City's Department of Education put its first truck in service a couple of years ago, and this year it has four — one that goes to Orchard Beach in the Bronx and three that go to a park and two library branches in Queens. "By bringing the food to them we're able to extend our reach in ways that previously were unattainable," said Eric Goldstein, CEO of the department's Office of School Support Services. Goldstein said about 75 percent of the city's 1.1 million public school students are eligible during the school year for daily free or reduced-price meals, which the city provides and gets reimbursed for by the federal government. Participation during the school year requires filling out paperwork, and not all eligible students take part. There's no paperwork in the summer. But while participation in the summer meals program is on the rise, with 7.6 million meals served in summer 2013, up from 7.1 million in 2012, it's still lower than when school is in session. That mirrors what's seen around the country, where only a small portion of the 21 million children who get meals during the school year have access to them in the summer when it can be more of a logistical challenge for parents to get kids to food sites. Other places around the country have started using mobile delivery systems for their summer meals programs. In Baltimore, a summer meals program drops meals off at 11 sites, while in Waco, Texas, school buses go to certain designated sites and kids get on the bus to get their meals. In Florida's Palm Beach County, a church uses a retrofitted school bus to deliver meals to kids at three apartment complexes. However, New York City was one of the first to offer mobile deliveries and "most probably resembles a traditional food truck, perhaps more than almost anybody in the country," said Josh Wachs, chief strategy officer for the organization Share Our Strength. The organization's No Kid Hungry program helped the city get trucks for its mobile food offerings. The trucks are white with bright colors. They're decorated with text that promotes the free meals, and a number people can text to find the food service location closest to them. Something that is conspicuously missing is any reference to the idea that this of part of any anti-hunger program aimed at low-income residents. That's on purpose, Wachs said. "Having a food truck-style vehicle makes it fun for kids, and reduces the stigma often associated with free meals that has limited participation," he said. Participation with the trucks hasn't been an issue. In 2012, 122,000 meals were served out of trucks. In 2013, it had jumped up to 320,000, Wachs said. And Goldstein said that so far this summer, 65,000 more meals have been served via the trucks than at the same point last year. Many of those have been at the truck outside the Queens Public Library branch on Main Street in the Flushing section of the borough, which had served more than 84,000 meals as of last week. They were eaten by people like 10-year-old Azwa Sadat and her 6 ½-year-old sister, Zoya, who come by the truck a couple of times a week with their mother, Ifath, on their way to the library. They both had chocolate milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and said they liked coming to the library even more because they knew the truck would be there. "It smells good," Azwa said. Ying Li passed by the truck with her 5-year-old daughter, Sherry. "It's very convenient," she said, as the two went on their way to get her 7-year-old son from summer day camp. Of course, kids being kids, it wasn't going to be perfect, as Sherry held onto her milk but seemed reluctant to eat her sandwich. "She doesn't really like the bread," Li said with a laugh.
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:37 am by MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — This much is clear: The Federal Reserve will make another cut this week in its monthly bond purchases, which have been aimed at keeping long-term loan rates low. This much is not: When will the Fed start tightening its interest-rate policy to thwart any runaway inflation? How will it do so? And when will the Fed start paring its enormous $4 trillion-plus investment portfolio — a step that will put upward pressure on interest rates? On those questions, expect no definitive signals Wednesday, when the Fed issues a statement after a two-day policy meeting. In many ways, the improving U.S. economy no longer needs so much help from the central bank: Hiring is solid, and unemployment is on the cusp of a nearly normal 6 percent rate. Manufacturing is strengthening. Consumers are voicing renewed confidence. Yet in other ways the economy the Fed will assess this week is less than fully healthy. The housing rebound appears to be faltering. Workers' pay remains flat. Turmoil overseas poses a potential threat. And even the sinking unemployment rate isn't as encouraging as it seems: It's dropped in part because many people have given up on their job searches or retired early. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they're actively seeking work. Accordingly, the Fed is expected to reaffirm its plan to leave its key short-term rate at a record low near zero "for a considerable time" after it ends its bond purchases. "The economy is doing a little bit better, but there are still a lot of risks out there," said David Wyss, an economics professor at Brown University, noting global turmoil from Ukraine to the Middle East. The statement the Fed will release will almost surely announce a sixth $10 billion cut in its monthly bond purchases to $25 billion. Chair Janet Yellen told Congress this month that the Fed intends to end its new purchases by October. By then, its investment portfolio will be nearing $4.5 trillion — five times its size before the financial crisis erupted in September 2008. After the crisis struck, the Fed embarked on bond purchases to try to drive down long-term rates and help the economy recover from the Great Recession. Even after its new bond purchases end, the Fed has said it will maintain its existing holdings, which means it will continue to put downward pressure on rates. The Fed has kept its target for short-term rates near zero since December 2008. Most economists think it will start raising rates by mid-2015, though some caution that the Fed could do so sooner if the economy keeps generating jobs at a robust pace — five straight months of 200,000-plus increases. Still, in testifying to Congress, Yellen stressed that at 6.1 percent, the unemployment rate still exceeds the Fed's target of 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent. And she noted that high levels of long-term unemployment and weak wage growth are still a problem. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said chronically lagging pay growth, in particular, will stop the Fed from raising rates before 2015. By then, Zandi said, "the unemployment rate will be well below 6 percent, the amount of slack in the labor market will be winding down and we should start to see better wage growth." Yellen attributed the struggling housing rebound in part to last year's rise in mortgage rates, which occurred after the Fed chairman at the time, Ben Bernanke, began discussing possible cuts in bond purchases later in the year. Investors were jolted by the prospect of reducing the purchases — a step the Fed didn't take until December — and sent long-term bond rates up. "The Fed really wants to be careful and tread cautiously this time," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. Many think the Fed will first signal an impending rate hike by modifying the phrasing it's used at each meeting this year: That it plans to keep short-term rates at record lows "for a considerable time" after its bond buying ends. Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Morgan Stanley and a former top Fed economist, recalled the last time the Fed started raising rates— in 2004 — after a prolonged period of low rates. Back then, he noted, the Fed said it planned to keep rates low for a "considerable period." It modified that wording six months before its next rate increase by saying it would be "patient in removing policy accommodation." Many analysts expect a similar word change before any rate increase this time. Besides discussing short-term rates, Fed officials this week will likely debate how to unwind their investment holdings. They face a delicate task in shrinking the portfolio to more normal levels without destabilizing markets. The Fed's bond purchases allowed it to inject money into the financial system, which wound up as reserves held by banks and helped keep loan rates low. To reverse that process and raise borrowing rates, the Fed is considering a variety of tools. One would be to increase the interest it pays banks on excess reserves they keep at the Fed. David Jones, author of a new book on the central bank's 100 year history, said any new exit details might not be revealed until the Fed releases the minutes of this week's meeting in three weeks. Those minutes, Jones said, "may be the most interesting thing to come out of the meeting."
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:30 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Authorities say a Nevada man is dead after falling through a skylight at the Ocean Spray fruit juice distribution center where he worked. Clark County coroner's officials say 53-year-old Harry Lentz died at a hospital after the Saturday morning accident at the Black Mountain Distribution Center in Henderson. Nevada's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating. Lentz's ex-wife, Lane Lentz, told the Las Vegas Sun that her former husband worked for Ocean Spray for 20 years as a mechanical and electrical technician. She says the Las Vegas man often worked on the roof to maintain the air conditioning.
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:28 am by MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press
(AP) — Crayon manufacturer Crayola is building a family attraction in Florida, similar to the one it operates in its home state of Pennsylvania, and more could be on the way around the country. The company said Tuesday that Crayola Experience Orlando will open next summer at The Florida Mall. Crayola Experience Orlando will feature 25 hands-on activities in 70,000 square feet of space. One attraction will let children create their own unique crayon with a personalized wrapper. Another will let kids appear on their own coloring page. "We definitely feel like there's an opportunity to expand in major markets around the country," said Crayola CEO Mike Perry in an interview before the announcement. Crayola, a subsidiary of Kansas City, Missouri-based Hallmark Cards Inc., said it chose Orlando for its second venue because it's a top family destination. The area has three major theme park resorts — Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld — and many more specialty parks and attractions, some built around children's brands, such as Legoland Florida in nearby Winter Haven. Crayola Experience has its origins in a single floor of interactive activities the company offered at a visitors' center it opened in 1996 in Easton, where the company is headquartered. The company said the center was primarily founded as a tool to help revitalize the downtown of the eastern Pennsylvania city. With a decision made to "dip its paint brush into the attractions industry," the company said, the facility was completely redesigned and re-opened in May with activities spread throughout four floors.
Written on 07/28/2014, 2:22 pm by Business Journal Staff
The Bureau of Reclamation has released for public review a draft environmental assessment of a WaterSmart grant of $696,000 to Tulare Irrigation District to help fund proposed construction of a 8,300-foot-long water conservation and reuse pipeline. The pipeline would convey a portion of the tertiary treated wastewater from the City of Visalia’s newly upgraded Water Conservation Plant. The treated wastewater would be used by TID’s agricultural customers. Construction of the pipeline will start in a few months and take two to three years to complete, said J. Paul Hendrix, general manger of Tulare Irrigation District. Reclamation would also approve a 25-year exchange of a portion of the City’s treatment plant water for a portion of TID’s Central Valley Project water. WaterSmart is the U.S. Department of the Interior’s sustainable water initiative to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. Through WaterSmart grants, the Bureau of Reclamation provides 50-50 cost-share funding to irrigation and water districts, tribes, states, and other entities with water or power delivery authority. Additional WaterSmart information is available at www.usbr.gov/watersmart. The draft EA can be viewed at www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa_projectdetails.
Written on 07/28/2014, 1:55 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stocks are ending little changed as traders wait for key economic and earnings reports later this week. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than a point to close at 1,978 on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 22 points to 16,982. The Nasdaq fell. The tech-heavy index dropped four points to 4,444. Wall Street is in the middle of second-quarter earnings season, when big companies report springtime results and tell investors how they think the rest of the year will shape up. ExxonMobil and MasterCard are among the heavyweights posting earnings this week. On Wednesday, the government will release a report on gross domestic product between April and June. Family Dollar soared 25 percent after Dollar Tree announced plans to buy the rival discount store.
Written on 07/28/2014, 1:49 pm by Business Journal staff
Central California Health Care System and Fresno maternity retailer Pum Bum have teamed up to help provide clothing and other products for women veterans. Central California Health Care System (CCHCS) is a veteran assistance program that includes benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also widows and dependents. Veterans can go through CCHCS for a referral to the program. Once approved Pum Bum will take care of sizing and offer recommendations for products including nursing bras and support belts. Pum Bum is located on the southeast corner of Champlain and Perrin avenues in the Pizza del Fiore shopping center. Veteran who would like to apply should visit: http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/
Written on 07/28/2014, 1:31 pm by Business Journal Staff
Recognizing decline in parcel value because of the drought, Fresno County Assessor-Recorder Paul Dictos has reduced the assessments on grazing parcels that are subject to a Williamson Act contract. The assessments are expected to be lowered by an average of 50 percent for the 2014-15 assessment roll. Since artificial irrigation is generally not used for grazing parcels, the current drought has significantly reduced the animal carrying capacity of grazing parcels within Fresno County. “This decline in value will provide some tax relief to the owners of those parched properties”, Dictos said in a release.

Latest State News

Written on 07/29/2014, 9:49 am by BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
(AP) — The NBA and the Los Angeles...
Written on 07/28/2014, 12:29 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Closing arguments are underway...
Written on 07/28/2014, 12:27 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Fire officials say a private...
Written on 07/28/2014, 12:26 pm by JUDY LIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown travels to...

Latest National News

Written on 07/29/2014, 9:45 am by 
STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
(AP) — Despite some good news, Medicare...
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:42 am by DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press
(AP) — Within minutes, the line at the...
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:37 am by MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — This much is clear: The Federal...
Written on 07/29/2014, 9:30 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Authorities say a Nevada man is...