– October 30, 2014

Foreclosure activity drops in Madera County

Foreclosure activity rose throughout the state in October.Foreclosure activity rose throughout the state in October.Madera County was the one bright spot when it came to foreclosures in October as the rest of the Central Valley saw spikes in new filings.

According to new data from Property Radar, there were 34 notices of default filed in Madera County during the month, down from 50 in September and 87 last year.

Notices of sale, which serve as a homeowner's final warning before a home goes to auction, totaled 29 in October compared to 39 the prior month and 96 in October 2012.

There were 229 notices of default filed in Fresno County during the month compared to 202 the month before and 434 in October 2012, while notices of sale totaled 207 in October compared to 204 in September and 473 a year ago.

Tulare County saw 139 notices of default in September, up from 114 the prior month but down from 199 last year. Notices of sale dropped from 240 a year ago and 105 in September to 96 last month.

There were 39 notices of default filed in Kings County during October compared to 34 in September and 61 a year ago, while notices of sale fell to 33 from 37 the prior month and 69 in October 2012.

Throughout California, notices of default totaled totaled 7,869 in October, up 15.7 percent from 6,802 the prior month but down 45.2 percent from 14,358 a year ago.

Notices of sale came in at 7,215 in October, down 4.1 percent from 6,928 the month before and 59.2 percent from 17,700 last year.

Of the 8,720 homes that went to foreclosure auction in October, 5,676 were cancelled, 1,934 went back to the bank and 1,110 were sold to a third-party buyer.

If restaurants raised prices 10% to pay for higher minimum wages, would you dine out less?


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Latest Local News

Written on 10/30/2014, 10:36 am by Business Journal staff
A few months after launching a revamped website, the Madera County Economic Development Commission has become even more user friendly with a new mobile...
Written on 10/30/2014, 10:19 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The American Red Cross mishandled its responses to Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and often seemed more focused on public relations than on helping storm victims, according to a report from investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica and NPR published Wednesday, the second anniversary of Sandy. The report ( cites internal documents and interviews with current and former Red Cross staffers who said the organization repeatedly failed to get relief supplies to people who needed them. American Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press that the organization disputes many of the allegations in the story. She called it "distorted and inaccurate." According to the story, Red Cross veteran Richard Rieckenberg, who helped coordinate the relief effort in Mississippi after Isaac struck in August 2012, said one Red Cross official gave an order to send out 80 trucks that were empty or carrying a few snacks instead of being filled with meals and basic supplies like diapers. The volunteers "were told to drive around and look like you're giving disaster relief," Rieckenberg said. He said the official who gave the order wanted to impress visiting Red Cross brass. The Red Cross stationed hundreds of volunteers in Tampa, Florida, and kept them there long after it became clear that Isaac would bypass the city, according to the report. The report also found many volunteers used up their available time in Tampa and never did go to storm-hit areas. "After how long they were in Tampa, they obviously could not redeploy," said Bob Scheifele, who helped coordinate Isaac relief in Louisiana. "They consumed all their available time and went home." The Red Cross told ProPublica and NPR that it was responding to early forecasts that Tampa might be in Isaac's path. "The volunteers and resources we deployed to Florida did not come at the expense of other states," it said. The report said the problems continued when Sandy struck the New York-New Jersey area in October. Rieckenberg said that in November 2012, at the peak of the post-storm crisis, 15 emergency response vehicles were assigned to public relations duties while people in neighborhoods like the Rockaways lacked food and drinkable water. Rickenberg said that accounted for 40 percent of the available emergency response vehicles in the state — a claim the Red Cross denies, although it could not say how many vehicles were in New York that day. Relief workers from other groups often found the Red Cross efforts in New York to be ineffectual, the report said. Volunteers from Occupy Sandy said one Red Cross truck brought a truck full of pork lunches to a Jewish retirement high-rise. In her email to AP, Borrego said: "It is regrettable that ProPublica and NPR have used the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy's landfall to paint a distorted and inaccurate picture of a Red Cross response that helped tens of thousands of people who urgently needed our services with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support. Our mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and that alone is what guided our service delivery decisions during Sandy and during every emergency."
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:16 am by 
(AP) — For-profit colleges that don't produce graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon face the wrath of the federal government. Schools with career-oriented programs that fail to comply with the new rule announced Thursday by the Obama administration stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs. To meet these "gainful employment" standards, a program will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income or 8 percent of total earnings. The Education Department estimates that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students won't pass. Ninety-nine percent of these programs are offered by for-profit schools, although affected career training programs can come from certificate programs elsewhere in higher education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the department wants to make sure that programs that prey on students don't continue abusive practices. However, Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, calls the effort "nothing more than a bad-faith attempt to cut off access to education for millions of students who have been historically underserved by higher education." Some questions and answers arising from the new rule: Q: Who goes to for-profit colleges? A: Students seeking training in areas such as nursing, truck driving, culinary arts and auto repair. Such fields attract many nontraditional students, including veterans and workers laid off during the economic downturn. About two-thirds are over the age of 24. Half have dependents and almost 40 percent work full time while enrolled, according to the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Students at for-profit schools are more likely to live at or below the federal poverty level and receive food stamp benefits than students in other sectors of higher education. About 1.3 million students enrolled last spring at a for-profit school, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That was about a 5 percent decline from a year earlier. Q: In what ways are for-profit colleges under fire? A: The regulation, which goes into effect on July 1, is the latest step in a yearslong fight by the Obama administration to improve outcomes and end aggressive recruiting at for-profit colleges. In 2012, the for-profit colleges convinced a judge that similar regulations were too arbitrary. Last summer, the Education Department reached an agreement with Corinthian Colleges, a chain based in Santa Ana, California, to sell or close its more than 90 U.S. campuses. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this year filed suit against the large, for-profit college chain ITT Educational Services Inc. alleging that it pushed students into high-cost private loans that would likely end in default. The company denied the charges. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has aggressively investigated the industry. At the state level, several attorneys general have also pursued action. "These regulations are a necessary step to ensure that colleges accepting federal funds protect students, cut costs and improve outcomes," Duncan said. Q: Why is the sector a target? A: The industry has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education. Some veterans' advocates have accused it of aggressively targeting veterans because of their federal GI Bill money. Critics say the schools are too expensive and a waste of money not just for students, but for taxpayers who fund the GI Bill and other loan and grant dollars used by a large chunk of students to help pay to attend for-profit colleges. Q: What's the other side of the story? A: For-profit colleges argue that they provide educational programs to students who have historically been left out of higher education and that the regulations would reduce the educational opportunities for students most in need of training programs. They say it's unfair to target just career-oriented programs because poor outcomes can be found in other areas of higher education. In the proposed regulation released earlier this year, another measurement proposed to judge these programs was the default rate of student loans. But that was removed in the final regulations because the Education Department said that doing so would create more streamlined regulations. The for-profit sector says that was done to appease publicly funded community colleges that would have gotten snared under that metric. "We will vigorously contest all these issues to help ensure that students, employers and communities are not harmed by such an arbitrary and biased regulation," Gunderson said. Q: Are advocates for tougher regulations now happy? A: Not necessarily. Some of them say the regulations don't go far enough. Rory O'Sullivan, deputy director of the advocacy group Young Invincibles, said the administration caved by scrapping the student loan default rate component. "By failing to include a default rate standard, the administration ignores the most vulnerable students: those who withdraw from failing programs with debt but no degree," O'Sullivan said.
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:13 am by 
ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press
(AP) — Federal regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children. That claim is bogus, and the company misled consumers by suggesting that its formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing the risk of allergies, the Federal Trade Commission alleged in a complaint filed in federal court. The FTC says it wants Gerber to pull its claim from formula labels and advertisements. Gerber Products Co., also doing business as Nestlé Infant Nutrition, said it disagrees. "We are defending our position because we believe we have met, and will continue to meet, all legal requirements to make these product claims," said Kevin Goldberg, vice president and general counsel for the New Jersey-based company. At issue is how far Gerber went when claiming that its formula could prevent one type of allergy in infants known atopic dermatitis, a skin rash known as baby eczema. According to the FTC, Gerber had petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for permission to connect its use of partially hydrolyzed whey proteins to reducing atopic dermatitis. The FDA agreed, but only if Gerber qualified its statement by making clear that there was "little scientific evidence" for the relationship. Instead, packages of Good Start Gentle formula in 2011 suggested it was the first formula approved by the FDA to reduce the risk that a baby would develop allergies in general. No qualifier was included, and the labels could easily be interpreted to mean that the formula could prevent a child from developing life-threatening food or environmental allergies. "I love mommy's eyes, not her allergies," said one advertisement, released by the FTC. "Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company's ads failed to live up to that trust," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection. "Gerber didn't have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents' allergies." In its statement released Thursday, Gerber reiterated the claim that its formula can help prevent baby eczema, and said the company had been authorized by the FDA to feature that claim. "Gerber always has and will continue to treat its mission of delivering nutrition and benefits to infants as its top priority," Goldberg wrote. "We believe the information conveyed in our marketing is important for parents who have children at risk for atopic dermatitis, the most common allergy in infancy." With Gerber suggesting that it refuses to settle, the case will likely be decided by a district court in New Jersey, where Gerber's headquarters is located.
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:08 am by ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
(AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering matching online prices from competitors such as, raising the stakes for the holiday shopping season. The world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has matched prices of local store competitors but has not followed other retailers including Best Buy and Target in matching prices of online rivals. But last month, Wal-Mart started to test the strategy in five markets: Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Phoenix; and northwest Arkansas. The move was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Wal-Mart is trying to rev up sluggish sales in the U.S. as it battles competition from online retailers, dollar stores and drugstores. At the same time, it's also dealing with a slowly recovering economy that hasn't benefited its low-income shoppers. As a result, Wal-Mart's U.S. namesake stores, which account for 60 percent of its total business, haven't reported growth in a key sales measure in six straight quarters. But matching prices from sellers that don't have the costs associated with running brick-and-mortar stores could also hurt profits. Wal-Mart's move underscores how stores are being forced to step up their game for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for about 20 percent of retail industry's annual sales. The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, forecasts a 4.1 percent sales increase to $616.9 billion for November and December from last year. But online sales, which are included in the forecast, are expected to increase anywhere from 8 percent to 11 percent. Overall, stores need to ply shoppers with deals and free shipping to win their money. Target Corp. announced this month that it's offering free shipping on all items for the holiday season until Dec. 20. As for Wal-Mart's price-matching policy, Deisha Barnett, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, says many store managers have matched online prices for customers on a case-by-case basis. "Taking care of the customers who shop our stores is what we always aim to do," she added. Wal-Mart has been trying to reclaim its role as the low price leader. This year, it rolled out an online tool called Savings Catcher that compares prices on thousands of products with those of some of its store competitors. If the tool finds a lower price elsewhere, it refunds the difference to shoppers in the form of a store credit. That's different from traditional pricing matching because Savings Catcher does the work for the customer. Wal-Mart told investors earlier this month that since the national launch in August, it's had more than 5 million people using the tool and almost 3 percent of all receipts are submitted through the application. Wal-Mart has matched advertised prices from competitors' physical stores for several years. In 2011, it simplified the policy by making sure workers have the advertised prices of competitors on hand at the register, eliminating the need for shoppers to bring in an ad from a rival store.
Written on 10/30/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writer
(AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook says he's proud to be gay. The public declaration, in an essay written for Bloomberg Businessweek, makes Cook the highest-profile business CEO to come out as gay. Cook said that while he never denied his sexuality, he never publicly acknowledged it, either. The executive said that for years he's been open with many people about his sexual orientation and that plenty of his Apple colleagues know he is gay. Cook wrote in the column, published Thursday, that it wasn't an easy choice to publicly disclose that he is gay, but that he felt the acknowledgement could help others. "I've come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important," he wrote. Three days ago, Cook challenged his home state of Alabama to better ensure the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Alabama is among the states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it also doesn't offer legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Cook is a native of Robertsdale, Alabama, and attended Auburn University. The announcement is a "huge deal," said Richard Metheny of executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. "This really sets the stage for 'It's OK,'" he said. "Anything CEOs do is very magnified, very complicated, and it affects a lot of people. ... There's no taking away that he has become a role model and will have a positive influence on lots of people that would like to be comfortable being out in the world of business." "I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," Cook wrote in the essay Thursday. The executive said that "being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day." Cook said he's been lucky to work for a company that "loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people's differences." Cook, 53, succeeded Apple founder Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Inc. in 2011. Apple Inc. has been an outspoken champion for diversity since Cook succeeded Jobs as CEO. The company has trumpeted the phrase, "Inclusion inspires innovation," as a rallying cry. Cook has reinforced that message on his Twitter account with periodic posts supporting gay rights in the workplace. Cook's public declaration that he is gay comes a little more than two months after Robert Hanson — the former CEO of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. — wrote a piece for Time in which he talked about being an openly gay man for as long as he's been in business and running companies. Hanson is currently the CEO of luxury jewelry brand John Hardy. There are no other publicly gay CEOs of major companies. United Therapeutics Corp. CEO Martine Rothblatt, who was born male and is now female, has been open about her transgender status.___AP Technology Writer Mae Anderson contributed to this report from New York.
Written on 10/30/2014, 8:57 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — ABC says "The View" is being claimed by the network's news division after 18 seasons under ABC's entertainment side. In its announcement Thursday morning, ABC said the shift will allow "The View" to "fully draw on the vast resources of ABC News." This move is the latest in a drastic makeover for the daytime chat show, whose ratings have slipped in recent years. At this season's start, three new co-hosts — Rosie O'Donnell, Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace — joined moderator Whoopi Goldberg. Barbara Walters, a founder of the program, retired last summer from on-camera participation. The shift recalls a similar move by "Good Morning America," which for 20 years was produced by ABC's entertainment division before being taken over by ABC News in the mid-1990s. ___Online:
Written on 10/29/2014, 4:47 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno ranked 15th in job growth so far this year out of nearly 360 metro areas across the U.S., according to a new analysis by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The analysis showed many cities and states still recovering slowly from the loss of jobs during the recession. Some were rebounding faster than others, however. Fresno, for example, added 11,470 nonfarm jobs from January to September for an increase of  3.78 percent over the same period last year. That includes 2,930 new jobs in education and health services, 2,640 in transportation and utilities, 1,310 in government, 1,430 in retail, 1,060 in construction and 870 in leisure and hospitality. Quite a bit farther down the list, Visalia-Porterville ranked 201 for job growth out of all metros listed. Adding 1,300 nonfarm jobs in the last nine months, the area experienced a 1.15 percent growth in jobs so far in the year over 2013. The Hanford-Corcoran area ranked 247 on the list, adding just 240 jobs in the year for a change of 0.67 percent over last year. At No. 273 on the list, the Madera-Chowchilla metro added 160 jobs in the year for a 0.44 percent change from the year before. Holding the top spot on the list was Ocean City, New Jersey increasing 5.52 percent from last year with 2,320 nonfarm jobs added so far in 2014. New York City had the most jobs added so far in the year with 124,740 new nonfarm jobs for an increase of 1.44 percent over the year before. California ranked No. 9 out of all U.S. states for job growth, adding 337,430 new nonfarm jobs so far this year for a 2.24 percent change from 2013. Adding 20,040 jobs so far this year, North Dakota has held the top spot among states every year since 2009, largely thanks to oil and gas production. The United States has added about 2.43 million jobs so far this year, a 1.79 percent increase from the year before when 2.26 million nonfarm jobs joined the economy.
Written on 10/29/2014, 3:42 pm by Business Journal staff
The California High-Speed Rail Authority will be holding a workshop in Visalia Nov. 5 teaching small businesses how to get certified and bid for work on the project. The workshop will last from 9 a.m. to noon at the Visalia Employment Connection One-Stop Center located at 4025 W. Noble Ave., Suite B. During the workshop, representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority will join with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Department of Transportation and the California Department of Veterans Affairs to provide technical assistance for businesses to complete their online small business certification from the California Department of General Services. Small business participants will also learn which agencies are likely to buy their products or services, how to market themselves to the state and how to use the state database to get solicitation and find out about contract opportunities. The workshop is free but those interested in attending should make reservations to Peggy Chiok at and include their full name, business name, address and contact number. More information about the workshop can be found by contacting Chiok (559) 445-5157. Businesses interested in participating in the high-speed rail project can find out more by visiting and the Small Business Program webpage at
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:52 pm by 
SUE MANNING, Associated Press
(AP) — One pet owner made a promise when her toy poodle fell ill and its vision started to dim. If her dog lived, she would help it overcome any disabilities and give a paw up to other pooches in the process. Silvie Bordeaux of Los Angeles kept that vow after Muffin survived a cancer scare but lost his sight. She created Muffin's Halo Guide for Blind Dogs, a device that encircles a dog's head and prevents blind pets from running into walls and furniture. "If the halo hits the wall first, it will slow them down," said Dr. Christin Fahrer from Eye Care for Animals in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles. That will minimize trauma to the face, the veterinarian said. The halo is made of lightweight copper tubing that attaches to cloth wings and a harness fitted around the neck and chest. Other products do similar work, such as the infamous cone, known for its use after surgery to protect wounds or stitches, and vests and headbands that also have a piece encircling the head to deter collisions. They are among a multitude of products peddled to pet owners confronting canine old age, disabilities and injuries. Companies make walkers and lifts or one-of-a-kind mobility equipment for dogs with joints that ache or no longer work. Dog stairs allow older pets to get on beds or sofas and ramps help them into the car. But some owners improvise, making slings, homemade wheelchairs or tripod lifts so they can hoist dogs with ailing hips or missing limbs up stairs or over obstacles. Whether ready-made or owner-constructed, the products can prevent old or hobbled dogs from being turned into shelters, where euthanasia is likely a given. Bordeaux had shelter dogs in mind when launching her line of halos, thinking their chances of adoption would improve if they used the product. "It might help shelter pets more than average pets in some ways because their environment is constantly in flux," said Fahrer, the veterinarian. But she said blind dogs don't think about their lack of sight — they just adapt and move on. "We are the ones who struggle with the concept of our pets being blind," Fahrer said. "We struggle with what it would be like for us. Our pets don't drive or read, but we use our vision every moment of every day. It's a different world for them." Bordeaux set up a nonprofit to get her halos to blind dogs in shelters and rescues. The devices range from $69.95 to $129.95, and come in different designs, such as angel's wings, butterflies and football uniforms. "They can eat and sleep and play and run with it on," Bordeaux said. "It's like their superpowers." When a blind dog wears a halo, it holds its head higher, its gait changes and its spirits soar, said Los Angeles dog trainer Bronwyne Mirkovich, who volunteers for the American Maltese Association Rescue. When you put the device on her dog named Max, "it's like putting an action-hero suit on a little boy," Mirkovich said. "It's like he's bumping with a shield or cane, he's super confident."

Latest State News

Written on 10/30/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writer
(AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook says he's...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:52 pm by 
SUE MANNING, Associated Press
(AP) — One pet owner made a promise...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:40 pm by Terence Chea, AP Writer
(AP) — California's deepening drought...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:34 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — California is requiring a 21-day...

Latest National News

Written on 10/30/2014, 10:19 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The American Red Cross...
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:16 am by 
(AP) — For-profit colleges that don't...
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:13 am by 
ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press
(AP) — Federal regulators announced...
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:08 am by ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
(AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is...