TODAY

– March 3, 2015

Food bank to receive $45K from Walmart

The Community Food Bank got 3,442 votes from Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together campaign.The Community Food Bank got 3,442 votes from Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together campaign.The Community Food Bank of Fresno will receive $45,000 as part of Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together initiative.


In all, 40 organizations across the country will split up $3 million in total grants as part of the campaign that had Facebook users voting through "likes" for the organization they thought would do the most good in alleviating hunger.

The Community Food Bank received 3,442 votes, coming in at 11 out of 100 food banks and partner feeding agencies to be selected.

Forty of those organizations, including Community Food Bank, will receive $45,000 each while another 60 are set to receive $20,000.

The grants are intended to support efforts like local backpack programs that provide meals to children at their schools and programs to teach families how to grow their own healthy foods.

Last year, the Fresno Community Food Bank received $50,000 from the Fighting Hunger Initiative, which was first launched in 2010 as a $2-billion commitment by Walmart to help fight hunger in America.

The Community Food Bank, established in 1992, serves 160 thousand people every month and distributes 22 million pounds of food every year through shelters, churches and other partner agencies.

 

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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:46 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A 9-year-old Fresno girl has won the 14th annual National Elementary School Spelling Bee. Her winning words: "hydrofoil" and "paucity."
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:41 am by TOM KRISHER, 
DEE-ANN DURBIN, AP Auto Writers
(AP) — Freezing temperatures and drifts of snow took a small bite out of U.S. auto sales in February, but most automakers still reported gains thanks to the strong economy. Toyota led major automakers with a 13.3 percent gain over last February. Others came in below analysts' predictions. Chrysler, General Motors, Honda and Nissan all saw gains of 6 percent or less. Ford's U.S. sales were down 1.9 percent, as dealers lacked the inventory to meet demand for the new F-150 pickup truck. Volkswagen's sales fell 5.2 percent. All automakers report U.S. sales on Tuesday. Analysts had predicted an 8 percent increase over a year ago to nearly 1.3 million vehicles, based on the strength of the U.S. economy. Falling unemployment, low interest rates and new versions of big sellers like the Jeep Cherokee — which saw sales jump 19 percent in February —drove buyers to dealerships in many cities. The forecasting firm LMC Automotive pushed up its 2015 forecast by 40,000 vehicles, based on strong demand. The firm is expecting U.S. sales to top 17 million this year for the first time since 2001. Still, LMC said it became apparent as the month went along that bad weather in the mid-South and on the East Coast was hurting sales. Colonial Volkswagen of Medford, Massachusetts, had almost no customers for a two-week period at the start of the month. Ken Cataldo, the dealership's general manager, said he and his staff spent much of the time clearing snow from cars and moving them around the lot just north of Boston in order to plow snow away. "It was the worst two weeks of my life in the car business," said Cataldo, who's been selling cars for 29 years. As temperatures warmed at the end of the month, some customers came out of hibernation. Colonial ended up selling 75 cars, still short of its goal of 115 and the normal monthly sales of 130, Cataldo said. He's hoping to make up for the lost sales this month. "We've already put February in the rear-view mirror," Cataldo said. There were also obstacles to overcome on the other side of the country. LMC said a dispute that halted some shipments of car parts into West Coast shipyards may also have impacted sales. The impasse was settled on Feb. 21. In California, gas prices soared to more than $3.30 per gallon after an explosion at a refinery; nationally, they rose around 30 cents per gallon. But the national average of $2.44 per gallon is still $1 less than a year ago, according to AAA. Consumers and businesses still shopped for trucks and SUVs despite the higher gas prices. GM said sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup jumped 24 percent last month to 45,395. And small SUVs continue to be one of the hottest segments in the market. Toyota sold nearly 22,000 RAV4 SUVs, up 33 percent from a year ago and a February record for the vehicle. Toyota, with total sales of 180,467, bucked the industry with double-digit sales increases for the Camry, Corolla and Avalon sedans as well as SUVs and trucks. Prius hybrid sales were down 6.6, the victim of lower gas prices. GM's sales rose 4.2 percent to 231,378. It got a boost from big SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, which saw sales nearly double over last February. Ford's sales declined nearly 2 percent to 180,383. Every Ford and Lincoln brand car except for the Mustang was down, and key SUVs like the Escape and Edge also saw sales declines. Ford blamed lower sales to commercial and rental fleets for some of the losses. Pickup sales are also slow as the company ramps up production of the new F-150. Ford says it won't have normal levels of truck inventory on dealer lots until the end of June. Chrysler sold 163,586 vehicles for its best February in eight years. Sales of the Jeep brand rose 21 percent increase as Americans continued their shift away from cars toward small and large SUVs. Honda's sales were up 5.0 percent to 105,466. Sales of its Fit subcompact jumped 81 percent after a recent redesign, but sales of other cars like the Accord and Civic fell. Nissan's sales rose 2.7 percent to 118,436, a February record for the Japanese automaker. Nissan was led by the Rogue small SUV with a 24.6 percent sales increase. Volkswagen's sales fell 5.2 percent to 25,710. Big sales gains for the new Golf couldn't overcome lower sales elsewhere in the German automaker's lineup.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:38 am by JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer
(AP) — The U.S. has so much crude that it is running out of places to put it, and that could drive oil and gasoline prices even lower in the coming months. For the past seven weeks, the United States has been producing and importing an average of 1 million more barrels of oil every day than it is consuming. That extra crude is flowing into storage tanks, especially at the country's main trading hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, pushing U.S. supplies to their highest point in at least 80 years, the Energy Department reported last week. If this keeps up, storage tanks could approach their operational limits, known in the industry as "tank tops," by mid-April and send the price of crude — and probably gasoline, too — plummeting. "The fact of the matter is we are running out of storage capacity in the U.S.," Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Citibank, said at a recent symposium at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Morse has suggested oil could fall all the way to $20 a barrel from the current $50. At that rock-bottom price, oil companies, faced with mounting losses, would stop pumping oil until the glut eased. Gasoline prices would fall along with crude, though lower refinery production, because of seasonal factors and unexpected outages, could prevent a sharp decline. The national average price of gasoline is $2.44 a gallon. That's $1.02 cheaper than last year at this time, but up 37 cents over the past month. Other analysts agree that crude is poised to fall sharply — if not all the way to $20 — because it continues to flood into storage for a number of reasons: — U.S. oil production continues to rise. Companies are cutting back on new drilling, but that won't reduce supplies until later this year. — The new oil being produced is light, sweet crude, which is a type many U.S. refineries are not designed to process. Oil companies can't just get rid of it by sending it abroad, because crude exports are restricted by federal law. — Foreign oil continues to flow into the U.S., both because of economic weakness in other countries and to feed refineries designed to process heavy, sour crude. — This is the slowest time of year for gasoline demand, so refiners typically reduce or stop production to perform maintenance. As refiners process less crude, supplies build up. — Oil investors are making money buying and storing oil because of the difference between the current price of oil and the price for delivery in far-off months. An investor can buy oil at $50 today and enter into a contract to sell it for $59 in December, locking in a profit even after paying for storage during those months. The delivery point for most of the oil traded in the U.S. is Cushing, a city of about 8,000 people halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa at an intersection of several pipelines. The city is dotted with tanks that can, in theory, hold 85 million barrels of oil, according to the Energy Department, though some of those tanks are used for blending or feeding pipelines, not for storing oil. The market data provider Genscape, which flies helicopters equipped with infrared cameras and other technology over Cushing twice a week to measure storage levels, estimates Cushing is two-thirds full. Hillary Stevenson, who manages storage, pipeline and refinery monitoring for Genscape, says Cushing could be full by mid-April. Supplies are increasing at "the highest rate we have ever seen at Cushing," she says. Full tanks — or super-low prices — are not a sure thing. New storage is under construction at Cushing, and there are large storage terminals near Houston, in St. James, Louisiana, and elsewhere around the country that will probably begin to take in more oil as prices fall far enough to cover the cost of transporting the oil. Also, drillers are cutting back fast because oil prices have plummeted from $107 a barrel in June. And demand is showing signs of rising. While the Energy Department reported another enormous rise in crude stocks last week, up 8.4 million barrels from the week earlier, it also reported that diesel and gasoline supplies fell more than expected. That leads some to conclude that demand for crude will soon pick up, easing the glut somewhat. But many analysts believe oil prices will fall through the spring, before summer drivers start to relieve the glut.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:36 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is warning about the overuse of testosterone-boosting drugs taken by millions of U.S. men, saying the popular treatments have never been proven safe or effective for treating common signs of aging like low libido and fatigue. The agency says drugmakers must clarify that their drugs are only approved to treat low testosterone levels caused by disease or injury, not general aging. Additionally, the FDA warned Tuesday that the drugs can increase the risk of heart attack and said drugmakers must add that information to their warning labels. The federal rebuke comes after years of industry marketing for new pills, patches, gels and injections that promise relief from low testosterone or "Low-T." The advertising blitz has pushed sales of testosterone drugs to over $2 billion.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:35 am by DAVID McHUGH, 
GREG KELLER, Associated Press
(AP) — Top automakers are vowing not to give up on weak-selling electric vehicles — even as they unveil an array of powerful luxury cars with conventional engines aimed at a growing global market. BMW AG CEO Norbert Reithofer said Tuesday at the Geneva International Motor Show that his company cannot do without battery-powered vehicles such as its i3 urban compact. "In the future, electric drive vehicles will be in demand," he said, adding that the Munich-based automaker could not meet its targets to reduce emissions without them. Only about 75,000 of the 12.5 million vehicles sold last year in Europe were electrics or hybrids. Still, auto companies have sunk billions into developing alternative propulsion vehicles over the long term due to government requirements to limit vehicle emissions and with an eye to restrictions on autos in China due to heavy air pollution. The European Union requires companies to average 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer (0.6 miles) for their new cars by 2021, down from a limit of 130 grams per kilometer this year. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said hybrids combining internal combustion and batteries were "truly attractive cars that represent the best of both worlds" and serve as a bridge to future no-emissions vehicles. Daimler introduced a rechargeable plug-in hybrid of its C-class sedan at the show. Zetsche cautioned, however, that the long-life batteries needed for electrics to conquer the market are at least five years off. The calls to keep developing alternative-drive cars come even as high-end luxury cars take pride of place at this year's Geneva show. Lamborghini, Ferrari, Audi and McLaren all are unveiling high-speed machines costing hundreds of thousands, while Daimler has the Maybach Pullman stretch limousine, which will go on sale for north of 500,000 euros ($561,000). Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn stressed his company's commitment to new technologies even as the company's Lamborghini brand showed off its Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, a sleek beast of a sports car with an enormous 750 horsepower and a top speed of over 217 mph (350 kph). It puts out 375 grams per kilometer of CO2. Volkswagen also unveiled a concept sport coupe that's hybrid-driven and can reach 150 mph. It emits only 46 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Auto executives were cautiously optimistic for sales this year in China, the United States and Europe - the three sales pillars for export-oriented German carmakers. Expectations are tempered by worries over Russia's conflict with Ukraine and economic difficulties in Brazil, another key market. Analysts at IHS Automotive foresee global car market growth of 2.4 percent, held back by shrinking demand in Russia, which appears headed for recession. BMW's Reithofer reported the company's sales slide 17 percent there last year. Auto sales grew last year in Europe by 5.6 percent, the first growth since 2007. The emphasis at the show on luxury vehicles highlighted the split in the market between steady sales to the wealthy and shakier demand for moderately priced vehicles. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, whose vehicles are more in the mass-market end of the market, said that "we were scraping the bottom of the barrel but now we're seeing the beginning of recovery. It's not phenomenal but I'll take it."
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:34 am by 
KEN THOMAS, Associated Press
(AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton used a personal email account during her time as secretary of state, rather than a government-issued email address, potentially hampering efforts to archive official government documents required by law. Clinton's office said nothing was illegal or improper about her use of the non-government account and that she believed her business emails to State Department and other .gov accounts would be archived in accordance with government rules. "Like secretaries of state before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any department officials," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said. "For government business, she emailed them on their department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the department asked former secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said 'yes.'" "Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved," he said. For Clinton, the new developments, first reported by The New York Times, place a spotlight on her tenure in the Obama administration as she prepares to launch a widely expected 2016 presidential campaign that Republicans have already started to deride as a third Obama term. They also come after recent examinations of the fundraising practices by the charitable foundation started by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Republicans quickly pounced on Clinton's use of the personal email account, arguing that she failed to comply with the law while serving in the State Department. Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign, said Clinton "should release her emails. Hopefully she hasn't already destroyed them. Governor Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing." She noted that Bush recently released personal emails from his two terms as governor. Former technology executive Carly Fiorina, another potential GOP presidential candidate, said the report "once again raises serious questions as to Hillary Clinton's definition of leadership. Does she believe that leadership means acting outside the law? Does she believe that leadership can exist without transparency?" Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agency asked former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Clinton last year for records that should be preserved. In response to that request, Clinton provided emails from the personal account that she used during her time as the nation's top diplomat in President Barack Obama's first term from 2009 to 2013. However, she also said that the department has "long had access to a wide array" of Clinton's records, including emails sent between her and officials with an official state.gov email address. Harf says Clinton's successor, John Kerry, is the first secretary of state to primarily use an official state.gov email account and that the department is now updating its records preservation policies to bring them in line with current regulations. That includes regularly archiving all of Kerry's emails. Among the messages Clinton provided were 300 that met the criteria for a request for relevant emails from the House Select Committee investigating the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomat mission in Benghazi, Libya, Harf said. Those emails have been turned over to the committee, she added.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:32 am by STEVE PEOPLES, 
BILL BARROW, Associated Press
(AP) — Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has created an exploratory committee to run for president, becoming the first high-profile Republican candidate to formally enter the 2016 presidential contest. Carson, the only African-American expected to enter the race, rose to national prominence after criticizing President Barack Obama's health care law at the 2013 National Prayer breakfast. He quickly developed a loyal following among the GOP's most conservative voters. "Obviously, this is a very big step," committee chairman Terry Giles said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Today we begin the formal process of exploring whether or not Ben can win the presidency." In the eyes of the law, there is little difference between a presidential campaign committee and an exploratory committee, which allows Carson to begin raising money for a White House bid. Carson, 63, becomes the first in a large group of Republicans expected to enter the 2016 election. Several high-profile Republicans have acted like candidates in recent weeks. The group includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who created a political action committee in January that allowed him to begin adding staff, raising money and campaigning across the country. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker created a similar organization. South Carolina Lindsey Graham recently launched a "testing the waters committee." The first GOP presidential primary debate is set for August. While popular among conservatives, Carson remains virtually unknown to many voters. He described his outsider status can be as an advantage in a recent interview. "I see myself as a member of 'we the people,' " he said. "I see myself as a logical American who has common sense, and I think that's going to resonate with a lot of Americans, regardless of their political party or where they fit in that party." Carson has for months — at book signings and other speaking engagements — struck chords that resonated with tea party conservatives and Republicans who openly criticize the party's leaders on Capitol Hill and other members of the party's establishment. Carson has also compared Obama's Affordable Care Act to slavery and the Nazi government. He generally advocates flexible, individual health savings accounts and a more centralized medical electronic records system. Like the president, Carson has sharply criticized for-profit insurance companies as prioritizing profits over medical care. At one time, he advocated government offering catastrophic care coverage, and he has called in the past for much heavier regulation of private insurers and pay structures for medical providers. Carson draws from a personal story that began in Detroit, where he grew up in a single-family household. He would ultimately become the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. Though he is only now launching an official campaign entity, an independent political committee — "Run, Ben, Run" — has been raising money and recruiting staffers in early primary states. "We have no official relationship with that group," Carson said. Carson's committee began announcing the names of his senior political team on Tuesday. The group includes Ed Brookover, who previously worked on various Washington-based Republican campaign committees. Carson will also name a likely communications director, campaign manager and two deputy campaign managers, Giles said, adding that they are also building teams in Iowa and South Carolina. His national headquarters will be in the Virginia suburbs just outside Washington. While the exploratory committee doesn't compel Carson to run, he is expected to launch a formal campaign in late spring. "I'm certainly very hopeful that he will announce in May," Giles. "I think there's a great likelihood he will." Carson is the first major candidate to form a presidential campaign, although he's hardly the first to file papers with the Federal Election Commission. The FEC has presidential papers for 1,667 candidates on file for the 2016 campaign so far. Some 369 Republicans have taken some steps with the FEC to begin a presidential campaign. There are 350 Democrats who have done the same. -------------AP writer Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report. Barrow reported from Atlanta. Follow the reporters on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sppeoples and https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:31 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice says JPMorgan Chase will pay $50 million to 25,000 homeowners for failing to properly review payment-change notices sent to homeowners who were in bankruptcy. The Justice Department says JPMorgan Chase acknowledged it filed about 25,000 payment change notices that were sent to homeowners without a proper review. They were signed in the names of employees who no longer worked for the company or who hadn't reviewed the filings to check their accuracy. About 25,000 additional forms were signed by employees of another company who weren't responsible for checking the accuracy of the filings. The agency says the settlement will include cash, mortgage loan credits and loan forgiveness. The largest portion of the settlement, $22.4 million, will be made of up credits and second-lien forgiveness. It will go to about 400 homeowners who received inaccurate notices of payment increases during their bankruptcy cases. The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. JPMorgan Chase & Co. said the vast majority of its payment change notices were properly reviewed and correct, but the process for filing the notices electronically was flawed. The company said it has changed its system so the electronic signatures on those forms are correct. The company's shares fell 7 cents to $61.70 in midday trading.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:30 am by JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press
(AP) — Top business executives are pressing Congress to give President Barack Obama greater authority to negotiate international trade deals, citing the potential for increased hiring in the United States and greater competitiveness for their companies overseas. In a report Tuesday by the lobbying group Business Roundtable, the CEOs say their expectations for the economy have improved but that business needs more confidence to increase hiring. The group's survey of 120 executives found that more than half of the CEOs — 54 percent — said trade would allow them to boost their employment in the United States. Forging a 12-nation trade deal with Pacific Rim countries is one of Obama's top priorities this year. Most Republicans, who now control Congress, support broadening trade. But Obama faces resistance from a majority of Democrats who say such agreements put the United States at a disadvantage. Obama is asking for the power to negotiate deals that Congress can only approve or reject, but not amend. The Business Roundtable can be an influential player in business and economic policy and its trade push could help counter arguments that trade deals send U.S. jobs overseas. "When you think about those issues that are ripe for being dealt with in this Congress, to us it seems the most likely issue is trade," said Business Roundtable Chairman Randall Stephenson, the chairman and CEO of AT&T. "There seems to be broad bipartisan support for passing trade promotion authority for the president, the president himself is engaged and believes this is important as well." In a conference call with reporters, Stephenson said the group would lobby for Congress to grant Obama so-called "fast track" authority in the first half of this year. He cautioned that delaying until later in the year ran the risk of getting overtaken by 2016 election year politics. Stephenson said in addition to giving Obama expanded authority to negotiate trade deals, Congress should also overhaul the business tax system, a much more challenging political task than trade. He also called for spending on infrastructure projects and adopting regulations that encourage business investment, a common refrain among business leaders. The CEO survey also found that their six-month outlook for sales hit a three-year high during the first quarter of 2015. And while the CEOs are less bullish about economic growth this year than other forecasters, they still expect a better economic performance than they did in the fourth quarter of last year. According to the survey, more CEOs are planning to step up their investment in machinery, plants and other equipment in the next six months. Forty-five percent said they had such plans, up from 36 percent three months ago. Stephenson attributed that increase to a package of tax breaks passed by Congress late last year that provided clarity on the tax treatment of capital equipment spending. Stronger hiring, lower gas prices and some incipient signs of higher wages are encouraging consumers to spend more, Stephenson said, brightening the chief executives' sales outlook. Eighty percent now expect higher sales in the next six months, up from 74 percent in last year's fourth quarter. Despite the increased optimism, hiring plans were largely unchanged, with 40 percent of CEOs expecting to add jobs in the next six months, the same as three months earlier. That follows steady gains in hiring intentions for the past three years.____Associated Press economics writer Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this article.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:28 am by SAM HANANEL, Associated Press
(AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal courts can hear a dispute over Colorado's Internet tax law, a decision that could lay the groundwork for future changes in how states can tax retail sales to companies outside their borders. The ruling is a win for business groups that want to challenge the state's so-called "Amazon tax," which requires extensive reporting by out-of-state retailers that don't collect the state's 2.9 percent sales tax from Colorado customers. Online retailers claim Colorado is violating protections for companies doing business in other states. A federal court agreed that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But a federal appeals court ruled that cases challenging state taxes can only be filed in state court. The high court reversed, finding that retailers were not challenging the actual collection of taxes, only a law giving state officials information about people who owe taxes. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the federal law barring state taxes from being challenged in federal court does not cover "notice and reporting requirements" that might improve Colorado's ability to collect sales taxes from consumers. He said the lawsuit is also not seeking to restrain tax collection. Thomas did not directly address the legality of Colorado's law, but Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote separately to question the half-century-old Supreme Court case that bans states from collecting sales taxes on out-of-state purchases if a business — such as Amazon — does not have a physical presence in the state. "There is a powerful case to be made that a retailer doing extensive business within a state has a sufficiently substantial nexus to justify imposing some minor tax-collection duty, even if that business is done through mail or Internet," Kennedy said. Kennedy noted the "startling revenue shortfall" in many states from losing millions of dollars in taxes on Internet sales and the "unfairness to local retailers and their customers who do pay taxes at the register." Customers are technically required to pay sales tax to the state annually, though few know that or do it. The Colorado law requires larger online retailers to tell customers that they owe sales tax on their purchases. They also have to send an annual list of purchases to customers who spent more than $500.

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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:41 am by TOM KRISHER, 
DEE-ANN DURBIN, AP Auto Writers
(AP) — Freezing temperatures and drifts...
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:38 am by JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer
(AP) — The U.S. has so much crude that...
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:36 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Food and Drug Administration...
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:35 am by DAVID McHUGH, 
GREG KELLER, Associated Press
(AP) — Top automakers are vowing not to...