TODAY

– January 26, 2015

It's what's for dinner, big-time

U.S. red meat producers set a record in November, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's California Livestock Review, producing 4.33 billion pounds, a 9% increase from the 3.96 billion pounds produced in November 2009.

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Written on 01/26/2015, 12:19 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Standard & Poor's rating agency on Monday downgraded Russia's credit grade by one notch to junk status, citing a weakened economic...
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:18 pm by 
JOSH LEDERMAN, JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. A man later came forward to say he was responsible and didn't mean to fly it over the complex. The man contacted the Secret Service at midmorning after reports of the crash spread in the media. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the man had been interviewed by Secret Service agents and was cooperating with the investigation. "Initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device," Leary said. He added that investigators were interviewing others to corroborate the man's story, as well as examining evidence from the scene. A U.S. official said the man is a Washington resident and that investigators don't currently have any reason to doubt his story. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex until officials could examine the drone. The White House later said it did not pose a threat. The drone crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m., Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter — a commercially available unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be useful for commercial operations like aerial photography and inspections. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were traveling in India, but their daughters, Sasha and Malia, may have been at home. White House officials declined to comment on the daughters' whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president's trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest. Still, the incident was likely to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies — as well as White House security. The Secret Service is still recovering after a string of breaches that raised questions about whether the president is adequately protected. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a chief critic of Secret Service leadership, said the agency has been working for some time to figure out how to deal with the threat posed by unmanned aircraft. He said a wake-up call came in 2013 when a camera drone crashed in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign event in Germany. "Any time you can breach the White House perimeter, it's deeply concerning," Chaffetz said in an interview Monday. "You don't know if it's some guy in a van down by the river controlling the drone or somebody who has some very nefarious intentions." Although remote-controlled airplanes and related toys have been available for decades, White House aides could not recall any similar incidents having occurred in the past. The incident comes just as policymakers are, for the first time, grappling seriously with how to integrate unmanned aircraft into the nation's skies. The recent proliferation of inexpensive drones has prompted growing fears about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. Technological advances have also made it easier to equip drones with advanced capabilities such as cameras, raising privacy issues as well as concerns that such devices could carry weapons. Industry experts said that to carry and fire a weapon, a drone would need more engines and more propellers than most commercially-manufactured quadcopters. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules to permit commercial flights by small drones, but no date has yet been set for release of the proposal. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration bans commercial drone flights — with some exceptions — and hobbyists are barred from flying drones above 400 feet in altitude or within 5 miles of an airport. Airspace around the White House is heavily restricted to protect the president and other sensitive sites in the vicinity. Yet Monday's crash wasn't the first time police have responded to reports of drones in the area. Last August, District of Columbia police reported the arrest of a person who got stuck in a tree while trying to retrieve a small drone lodged in the branches. And in July, U.S. Park Service police investigated reports of a small quadcopter in the vicinity of the Lincoln Memorial, according a compilation of recent incidents by the FAA. The response from emergency officials to Monday's crash was swift and intense. Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed the White House, and the entire perimeter was locked down for about two hours. After daylight, more than a dozen officers fanned out to search the lawn with flashlights, and there was a heavier-than-usual presence of Secret Service agents on the roof of the White House. The agency recently has faced persistent questions about its effectiveness and ability to protect the president. Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence and run into the executive mansion before being subdued. ___Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:16 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Kaiser Permanente nurses in California have approved a new contract that boosts pay and improves patient care along with health and safety protections for nurses, a union official said. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work at 21 hospitals and 65 clinics across Northern and Central California voted last week to approve the new three-year deal, the California Nurses Association said Monday. About 18,000 Kaiser nurses in the state went on a two-day strike in November, and another walkout was planned for last week but an agreement was reached. The California Nurses Association represents the Kaiser nurses. Those workers are part of the National Nurses United organization. Under the new contract, roughly 540 registered nurse positions will be added, which nurses say should substantially improve the quality of care for hospitalized patients. It also signals a "renewed commitment" to training and employment opportunities for new graduates at a time when many hospitals have frozen hiring, the union said. The new contract includes a 14 percent pay raise over three years, the union said. Under the contract, a new committee of nurses will work with management to address concerns nurses have about care standards at Kaiser facilities. The contract also includes paid time for 25 registered nurses annually to participate in the union's disaster-relief program, which has dispatched hundreds of nurses to help with medical services following disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The union appreciates the commitment Kaiser's leadership made to address concerns, Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. A Kaiser representative did not have an immediate comment Monday. The union said it is now committed to helping mental health workers finalize a contract. About 2,600 psychologists, counselors and therapists held a two-day strike earlier this month to bring attention to what they say are inadequate staffing and long wait times for appointments.
Written on 01/26/2015, 11:29 am by Hannah Esqueda
Centerpoint Athletic Club was recently acquired by local fitness chain Sierra Sports Clubs.  The central Fresno gym is one of five sports clubs now owned by the group. Robert and Juli Mitchell purchased the gym from Mark Geis earlier this month and club members have already been notified.  "It worked out great for [Robert Mitchell] and it worked out great for me," Geis said. "The sale just makes sense for both of us." Tina Naffziger will serve as the club's new manager once Geis, who purchased the club in 2003, transitions to his new role as director of corporate wellness and sales with Sierra Sports Clubs. In the new position, he will work with local businesses and corporations to develop health and fitness incentive programs for employees and help companies meet new requirements under the Affordable Healthcare Act. In addition to Centerpoint, Sierra Sports Clubs owns four other fitness locations throughout Fresno: Sunnyside Fitness and Tennis in southeast Fresno, Shapemakers in northeast Fresno, Sierra Athletic Club on Blackstone Avenue near Shaw Avenue and Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in northwest Fresno. Geis said he estimates total membership to be around 10,000 between all five locations.  For now, Centerpoint is expected to keep its name and current club members will have the option of upgrading their plans to allow for usage of all five facilities.  "The idea is that once they're in the Sierra Sports Club family, they can go anywhere," he said. Having access to the other four facilities will be a plus for current members as they will now have access to more in-house trainers, exercise classes, handball and racket sport courts, pools and banquet and catering services, Geis said.  "They're pretty well located all over Fresno so now our club members will have a choice to go to five different athletic clubs," he said. 
Written on 01/26/2015, 11:10 am by Business Journal staff
Robert Keenan, the longtime director of the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings Counties (BIATKC) announced earlier this month that he plans to retire at the end of January. Keenan, 68, took the reins of the influential association in 1990 and has been affectionately known as “BIA Bob” for his aggressive and enthusiastic advocacy for home building and development-related issues across the South Valley. “Bob’s influence has extended far beyond the local chapter level and includes significant contributions to the legislative and regulatory environment statewide,” said Mike Knopf, president of Quad Knopf in Visalia.   “His extensive knowledge of the building industry, combined with his passion, steadfast focus and tireless determination have caused Bob to be recognized across California as a warrior for the building industry,” Knopf added. Keenan, who survived a cancer scare in 2005 that required the removal of part of his jaw bone, said he plans to remain in Visalia, where he lives with his wife. “We’re going to do some traveling,” he said. “And my wife has a honey-do list that should last ‘til I’m 90.” A retirement party will be held for Keenan at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia on Feb. 6. Mike Lane, a former member of the Visalia Planning Commission and past president and CEO of Lane Engineers Inc., has been hired to replace Keenan. His first day on the job will be Tuesday. Established in 1989, the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings Counties is a nonprofit organization that represents builders, developers, subcontractors and associated building-related businesses.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:59 am by NEDRA PICKLER, 
JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex until officials could examine the drone. The White House later said the drone did not pose a threat. The Secret Service launched an immediate investigation into the origins of the drone, which crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said officials were also working to identify any suspects and determine what their motive might have been. The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter — an unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be useful for commercial operations like aerial photography and inspections. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. The Secret Service said the drone discovered Monday was of the commercially available variety. The president and first lady Michelle Obama are traveling in India and were not present for the incident, but their daughters, Sasha and Malia, may have been at home. White House officials declined to comment on the daughters' whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president's trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest. Still, the incident was likely to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies — as well as White House security. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules for drone operations that would replace an existing ban on most commercial flights. Although remote-controlled airplanes and related toys have been available for decades, the recent proliferation of inexpensive drones has prompted growing fears about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. Technological advances have also made it easier to equip drones with advanced capabilities such as cameras, raising privacy issues as well as concerns that such devices could carry weapons. White House aides could not recall any similar incidents occurring at the complex.Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed the White House just after the crash, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the grounds. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when those who work there were allowed inside. After daylight, more than a dozen Secret Service officers fanned out in a search across the White House lawn as snow began to fall. They peered down in the grass and used flashlights to look through the large bushes that line the driveway on the south side of the mansion. It was not immediately clear that the Secret Service could have done anything to prevent the incident. Yet the episode joins a string of recent security breaches at the White House that have fueled questions about the agency's effectiveness and ability to protect the president. Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence and run into the executive mansion before being subdued. An independent panel that investigated the agency's leadership and practices after that September incident, and the disclosure of a previously unreported security breach, recommended hiring a new director from outside. That report was the second critical review of the agency responsible for protecting the president. In November, the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Secret Service, released an internal investigation about the fence-scaling incident that found poor training and staffing and a series of missteps led to the breach. Homeland Security investigators found, among other things, that uniformed agents patrolling the White House grounds the night of Sept. 19 mistakenly assumed that thick bushes near the mansion's front door would stop the intruder.___Associated Press writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:56 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court is ordering lower courts to take a new look at a dispute over a chemical company's efforts to cut costs in its health plan for retired workers. Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday wrote the court's opinion that threw out a judgment in favor of the retirees of the Point Pleasant Polyester Plant in Apple Grove, West Virginia. M&G Polymers USA LLC is the current owner of the facility. Lower courts ruled that some retirees had been promised lifetime, cost-free health benefits. The Supreme Court did not decide whether the courts came to the right conclusion, only that they employed faulty legal reasoning in interpreting a 15-year-old agreement dealing with retiree pensions and other benefits. The case is M&G Polymers USA LLC v. Tackett, 13-1010.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:49 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Power was being restored Sunday to tens of thousands of people who lost electricity in Southern California after fierce Santa Ana winds gusting as much as 89 mph toppled trees and power poles. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Saturday's outages affected more than 54,000 customers — mostly in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Spokeswoman Terry Schneider said crews worked through the night to restore power, leaving only about 1,500 without power Sunday morning. The Santa Ana winds downed numerous trees and power poles across the region. The damage included a large billboard that blew down in Burbank, while a big tree fell into the kitchen of a house in Van Nuys. Scattered outages also left 1,700 Southern California Edison customers without power in Fontana and Ontario east of Los Angeles. Also in Ontario, the winds helped fuel a fire at a green waste recycling facility.Ontario deputy fire chief Mike Pelletier said crews were working through the night to ensure that the blaze was contained to the property. No one was injured and just a barn and two sheds were damaged. Pelletier said no homes were immediately threatened. Crews hoped to have the blaze knocked down by dawn. The National Weather Service says a gauge in the mountains near Julian in San Diego County registered a gust of 89 mph at 7:30 a.m. An 82 mph wind gust was recorded in the Malibu hills Saturday afternoon. The winds kicked up Friday night and were expected to continue Sunday, though they were expected to be somewhat weaker, the National Weather Service said. The Santa Ana winds are generated during cooler months when westward currents reach fierce speeds as they squeeze through Southern California mountain ranges and buffet coastal areas. The winds lower humidity and making vegetation susceptible to fire. Meanwhile, a high-surf advisory warning of up to 11-foot-high surf was in effect through Sunday. Authorities said the winds blew two kayakers out to sea off the coast of Malibu. They were reported missing for about an hour before Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguards helped them paddle back to shore.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:41 am by FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press
(AP) — WikiLeaks on Monday criticized Google for failing to swiftly inform the secrets-spilling group about U.S. search warrants issued seeking emails and other personal information from three of its staff. The warrants, issued in March 2012, required the Internet giant to hand over the phone numbers, IP addresses, credit card details, contents of all emails and other details for Google accounts used by Sarah Harrison, Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Faerrell. The existence of the warrants, which cite an espionage, fraud and conspiracy investigation, was disclosed to WikiLeaks in December. "We are astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two and a half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records," WikiLeaks' lawyer Michael Ratner said in a letter to Google chairman Eric Schmidt that was published online Monday. The letter adds that Twitter took legal action in order to alert WikiLeaks of a similar warrant in 2011. Google didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. "We don't know if Google tried to litigate it or not, but that's one of our requests to Google," Ratner, who is with the New York-based Center For Constitutional Rights, said during a news conference that was broadcast online. Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish former judge who now represents WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said the warrants appeared to be part of a "fishing expedition" by U.S. authorities against the website. WikiLeaks has repeatedly published sensitive U.S. government documents ranging from classified diplomatic cables to Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports. Harrison said that while the data handed over by Google wouldn't have included any internal communication between WikiLeaks staff, U.S. authorities would have been able to gather information about her private life from an old Gmail address. WikiLeaks said it has requested U.S. prosecutors explain whether the three — none of whom are American citizens — are witnesses, subjects or targets of the investigation.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:40 am by Business Journal Staff
Community Medical Centers (CMC) has entered into a formal agreement with UCSF Fresno to expand pediatric specialty care and pediatric medical education at its facilities.     The announcement was made in a memo from CMC president Tim Joslin to all hospital employees. In it, Joslin said the partnership will create higher-acuity pediatric services at Community Regional Medical Center and an expansion of the current pediatric medical education program on the campus.  "An immediate goal — by this summer — is to increase the availability of pediatric medical specialists at Community Regional," Joslin said in the memo. CMC and UCSF Medical Center later released a joint statement saying the two groups have signed a formal letter of intent to expand pediatric and women's health services in Fresno and the Central Valley. Already, CMC and UCSF partner to train 300 medical residents and fellows through the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program at the CRMC campus. Currently, pediatrics is one of 22 specialties offered in the graduate medical education program.  The expanded partnership is expected to be finalized this fall and both groups have announced their desire to develop a clinically integrated health system to facilitate better sharing of information in order to manage patient health. Other goals for the partnership include improved access to high-quality pediatric services in Fresno and surrounding communities and increased integration of the academic and training missions of UCSF and CRMC.  "This is the next logical step in our relationship with Community," said Michael Peterson, interim associate dean for UCSF Fresno, in a prepared statement. "The medical school is committed to serving the Valley, and our leadership team in San Francisco is excited about the opportunity to partner with the Community Regional Medical Center and build a leading-edge women's and children's program." News of the partnership between CMC and UCSF comes soon after Valley Children's Hospital's announcement that it will build its own pediatric residency and fellowship programs. Previously, the hospital had been working with UCSF Fresno.  CMC and Valley Children's Hospital have been competing for pediatric patients for some time and things began to heat up when Valley Children's cancelled its agreement with Sante Community Physicians last fall. The independent physicians group is affiliated with CMC. 

Latest State News

Written on 01/26/2015, 9:49 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Power was being restored Sunday...
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:41 am by FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press
(AP) — WikiLeaks on Monday criticized...
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:40 am by BRANDON BAILEY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — IBM is pooh-poohing a published...
Written on 01/26/2015, 8:42 am by The Associated Press
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Latest National News

Written on 01/26/2015, 12:19 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Standard & Poor's rating...
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:18 pm by 
JOSH LEDERMAN, JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the...
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:59 am by NEDRA PICKLER, 
JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the...
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:56 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court is...