TODAY

– September 23, 2014

Bell back on financial feet after near-bankruptcy

(AP) — A Los Angeles suburb facing potential bankruptcy following a corruption scandal is back on its financial feet.

The state controller had warned that the city of Bell could end the year with a million-dollar shortfall. But City Manager Doug Willmore tells the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1gSnOAj) that Bell now has two years of reserves in the bank.

The city raised $15.5 million by selling property and got $5.5 million from firms it blamed for failing to prevent officials from giving themselves exorbitant raises.

Five former City Council members and assistant city manager were convicted of crimes.

Former city manager Robert Rizzo has pleaded no contest to 69 criminal counts. He's also agreed to plead guilty to filing a false income tax return.

Will you continue to support the Fresno Grizzlies if they lose the Giants affiliation?

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Latest Local News

Written on 09/23/2014, 11:22 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A handful of big companies pursuing overseas mergers to lower their tax bills came under pressure Tuesday after the U.S. unveiled rules to...
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:21 am by J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor
Paula Deen is ready to tell her side of the story behind the racist remark that decimated her career, but you'll need to pay to hear it. The former Food Network star has been working on a documentary about herself and her downfall — triggered in 2013 by her acknowledgment that she'd used a racial slur in the past — but it will only be available to subscribers of her new website, the Paula Deen Network. Recipe content on the site will be free, but viewers will need to pay $9.99 a month to view videos. "We hope to have it out the first of the year and tell everybody the true story of what really happened," Deen said of the documentary during a recent telephone interview. "It was a painful year for me. It was a hurtful year when I found myself being labeled for something I was not." The website, which launches Wednesday, will feature an ambitious array of original video content, including traditional cooking shows as well as lifestyle and game show segments, all starring Deen and her sons. The site, which will include no outside advertising or sponsors, also includes thousands of Deen's recipes, as well as menu planning tools. The site and documentary are part of a larger effort by the star and her backers to resuscitate her career after a one-two punch of public relations disasters cost her nearly all her book, TV and endorsement deals. In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she'd until then hidden. A year later, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. The experience was painful, but valuable, Deen told the AP. "I learned the power of words, how they have the ability to hurt and once you say certain words you can't un-ring it, not even 30 years later." Deen — whose comeback effort began earlier this year, when private investment firm Najafi Companies put up $75 million to $100 million to rebuild her — said she had opportunities to return to traditional television, but both she and her fans preferred the flexibility and social elements of the digital world. The new site, which is being overseen by longtime Deen producer Gordon Elliot, also will feature all of the content Deen produced during her more than 10 years at the Food Network. The network parted ways with her following the revelations about her comments. Deen wouldn't say how much it cost to acquire the videos, only that it was "very valuable to us." That content will be slowly rolled out for subscribers.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:20 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The International Space Station has accepted another SpaceX shipment. This one contains the first 3-D printer ever launched into orbit.Two days after blasting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the SpaceX cargo ship, Dragon, arrived at the space station Tuesday morning. German astronaut Alexander Gerst used the robot arm to grab the capsule. The Dragon is delivering more than 5,000 pounds of supplies. The 3-D printer — an experimental model — is the headliner payload. Also on board: mice and flies for biological research, fresh spacesuit batteries so NASA can resume routine spacewalks, and a $30 million instrument to measure ocean wind. NASA is paying SpaceX to stock the space station. Last week, the California-based company won the right to transport astronauts, too. That's still a few years off.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:17 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Procter & Gamble Co. is selling its Iams and Eukanuba brands in Europe to Spectrum Brands, shedding the remaining parts of its pet care business. Financial terms were not disclosed. The transaction includes 42 markets in Europe. P&G said that exiting the pet care business will help it focus on its core businesses. Its brands include Tide detergent and Pampers diapers. Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. is a consumer products company whose pet group brands include Tetra, Furminator and Dingo. In April, Cincinnati-based P&G said that it was selling 80 percent of its global pet care business — including North America and Latin America — to Mars Inc. Europe was not included in that transaction, except for Russia and Turkey. Mars later agreed to buy an additional 10 percent of P&G's pet care business in additional markets such as Japan, Australia and South Africa. The portion of the pet care business that Spectrum is buying has about $200 million in annual sales. Spectrum said in a statement that the acquisition will give its United Pet Group unit access to the growing European dog and cat food market. Its board has approved the transaction. Spectrum Brands, based in Middleton, Wisconsin, also has brands including Rayovac, Black & Decker and Farberware. P&G's deal with Spectrum is targeted to close next year. P&G's stock slipped 7 cents to $84.74 in morning trading Tuesday, while Spectrum Brands Holdings shares gained $2.62, or 3 percent, to $88.75.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:15 am by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press
(AP) — Outdoor clothing company Patagonia said Tuesday it has agreed to pay a $4,000 settlement to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah after rock climbing policies were violated in the making of a catalog photograph. The agreement came after park rangers discovered illegal climbing routes in the red rock park after seeing the photograph in a September 2011 Patagonia catalog. The images depicted a first climb on a new route. Rangers found illegal climbing bolts were embedded in rock, and other rocks had been moved to create three illegal climbing routes. Patagonia spokesman Adam Fetcher said a freelance photographer shot the image, and the company has no relationship with the two individuals pictured climbing. The company is reviewing its policies and reaching out to the photographer involved to find out what happened, Fetcher said. Climbing is allowed in areas of the park, but climbers are not allowed to place new bolts or fixed hardware. "We work very hard to makes sure every photo we publish depicts responsible climbing practices that align with Patagonia's broad environmental mission by asking vigilant questions and requiring locations always be identified," Fetcher said in a statement. He said the image featured in the catalog was an action shot and did not showcase gear or clothing for customers to order. Park Superintendent Leah McGinnis was not immediately available Tuesday for comment. McGinnis told the Salt Lake Tribune that the settlement will be used to remove the climbing bolts and fill in the holes. "We want to use this as an example to let people know that climbing is allowed in Capitol Reef, but there are certain rules to follow," McGinnis said. "It is up to people to figure out what the rules are before they do things in the parks." Patagonia apologized in 2006 and later stopped sponsoring a person who climbed Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah. The climber was not charged with any violation for the 2006 climb but the park tightened its policies to make it clear that climbing of named arches or natural bridges is not allowed.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:12 am by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Longtime technology guru Ray Ozzie wants to bring back the emotions of the human voice to phones. His mission began more than two years ago as Ozzie noticed people were increasingly communicating through texts, emails and social media posts instead of calling each other. "When you see nothing but words and numbers, it becomes very mechanical and very transactional," Ozzie said in an interview. "But when you hear the sound of someone's voice, it really brings it much closer to home." Ozzie, 58, Microsoft's former chief software architect, hopes to orchestrate voice's comeback through Talko, a mobile application being released Tuesday for the iPhone. A version for Android phones is expected in a few months. Talko sends the equivalent of text messages in the form of a spoken word. Talko users can record a voice message and send it over the Internet to anyone else with the app. Recipients listen to the recording when it's convenient, rather than being interrupted by a traditional phone call. All messages will be stored for 10 days, though users can buy a subscription — expected to be $5 to $9 per month — to permanently store messages. For the first few months, Talko will store all voice recordings for free. Users can choose to make their recordings available to more than one person, a feature that Ozzie believes will make Talko ideal for employees working in the same department of a company. The five DigitalGlobe workers who installed the app in July as part of Talko's testing didn't use it much initially, partly because they were so accustomed to texting and emailing each other or trying to schedule a conference call when they needed to talk, said Ed Locher, DigitalGlobe's senior vice president of corporate marketing. But Talko turned out to be valuable in the five days leading up to the launch of a DigitalGlobe satellite last month, Locher said. "It reminded me of a walkie talkie," he said. "It was much faster than texting or trying to set up a conference call." Ozzie isn't under the delusion that voice messages are going to supplant popular communications apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Tango, which combine texts and photo sharing. Talko also accommodates texts and photos to supplement the voice recordings. Another technology industry veteran, Alan Braverman, also is trying to give voices a new outlet on phones. Last week, his San Francisco startup incubator, Giant Pixel, released an iPhone and iPad app called Sobo that offers a vocal twist to Twitter, the popular short-messaging network. Sobo users can record six-second sound bites that are then broadcast to their followers. Braverman is best known as a co-founder of Yammer, a social networking tool for businesses that Microsoft Corp. bought for $1.2 billion in 2012. Meanwhile, the Messages app in Apple's new iOS 8 software for mobile devices also lets users record and send short audio messages. Recipients raise their iPhones to their ears to automatically play the message. Under default settings, messages expire two minutes after listening. Ozzie was well known before Microsoft bought one of his previous startups, Groove Networks, for an undisclosed amount in 2005. In the 1980s, he played a key role in creating a suite of document-sharing tools at Lotus Development Corp., now owned by IBM Corp. Shortly after joining Microsoft, Ozzie succeeded company co-founder Bill Gates as chief software architect, a role he held until he left Microsoft in 2010. The 11-employee startup behind Talko is funded by Ozzie's personal fortune and investments from venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners. Kapor Capital, a venture capital firm that includes Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, also is backing Talko. Although Talko is focusing on the business market, Ozzie said he hopes employees will have such a positive experience that they will encourage their family members and friends to install the app, too. "I really do believe it will spread by word of mouth," Ozzie said.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:10 am by 
CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper say they'll work to reduce the calories Americans get from beverages by 20 percent over the next decade by more aggressively marketing smaller sizes, bottled water and diet drinks. The announcement was made at the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday and comes as the country's three biggest soda makers face public pressure over the role of sugary drinks in fueling obesity. In many ways, the commitment follows the way customers' tastes are already changing. People have been moving away from soda on their own for several years because of concerns about sugar. But the industry group says the new commitment will accelerate the calorie-cutting. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the announcement shows "the industry is seeing the writing on the wall."
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:08 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Seattle residents who fail to separate food waste from trash will be fined. The City Council voted Monday to impose the fines for not composting. When the ordinance goes into effect next year, homeowners found with food scraps in their trash will be fined $1 for each violation KING reported Tuesday. The fine is up to $50 for a business or apartment complex. Seattle Public Utilities estimates that about a third to one-half of what now goes in the trash should be recycled or put in compost bins. The new law is aimed at helping Seattle reach its goal of having a recycling rate of 60 percent by 2015. The change is expected to generate an additional 38,000 tons of compost material every year. San Francisco also has a mandatory composting ordinance. Currently, residents of single-family homes in Seattle are encouraged but not required to dispose of food waste and some paper products in compost bins, The Seattle Times reported. Apartment buildings must have compost bins available, but residents of apartment buildings aren't required to use them. Businesses aren't subject to any composting requirements, Under the new rules, collectors will take a look when they dump trash into a garbage truck. If they see more than 10 percent of the trash should be composted, they'll enter the violation into a computer and leave a ticket on the bin that says expect a $1 fine on the next garbage bill. Collectors will begin tagging garbage bins with warnings Jan. 1. Fines start until July 1.Seattle Public Utilities asked the council to consider the ordinance because the agency is falling short of its recycling and composting goals. The council vote was 9-to-0. No public hearing was required.
Written on 09/23/2014, 10:38 am by Business Journal staff
The City of Firebaugh was awarded $70,000 from the U.S. Soccer Foundation to install a synthetic turf field that local youth can play on.The grant to Firebaugh was one of nine this year from the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Safe Places to Play program, with awards totaling $511,000 to build or enhance field spaces in areas that lack safe recreational spaces. Over the last two decades, the Foundation has helped create or improve hundreds of safe places for children nationwide by awarding more than $60 million in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. With its grant, the City of Firebaugh will install a synthetic turf field at Maldonado Park located at the intersection of Clyde Fannon Drive and Thomas Conboy Avenue. The park, which opened in 2008, currently consists of two baseball fields adjacent to a skate park and splash park. Planners have long sought funding to build a soccer field complete with synthetic turf that would fill a dirt lot in northeast corner of the park.
Written on 09/23/2014, 10:33 am by Business Journal staff
Distressed home sales dipped a little in Fresno and Kings counties in August while Tulare and Madera counties both saw increases in the month.According to the California Association of Realtors, distressed sales, which include short sales, sales of bank-owned properties and other foreclosure sales, stood at 15 percent of all home sales in Fresno County in August. That's down from 17 percent in June and 29 percent in August 2013. Distressed sales were down to 15 percent in Kings County in the month compared to 19 percent in July and 30 percent a year ago. Tulare County saw its distressed sales inch up from 18 percent in July to 19 percent in the latest month, still down from 28 percent in August 2013. Madera County also had an increase, with distressed sales coming up from 9 percent to 19 percent in the month. The county's share was 30 percent a year ago. Statewide, distressed sales made up 9 percent of all homes sales in August, down from 9.7 percent in July and 15.4 percent a year ago. The share of real estate-owned sales, including bank-owned homes, went down to 4 percent compared to 4.1 percent in July and 4.8 percent in August 2013. Short sales dropped from 5.3 percent in July and 10.2 percent a year ago to 4.6 percent in the latest month.Equity sales, or non-distressed home sales, stood at 91 percent in August, down from 90.3 percent the prior month and 84.6 percent last year. Housing inventory increased for all homes in August. The unsold inventory index for real estate-owned homes, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, went from 2.5 months in July to 2.8 months in August. The index for short sales rose from 5 months in July to 6 months in August, while the index for equity sales went from 3.9 months to 4.1 months.  

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Written on 09/23/2014, 11:20 am by Associated Press
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Latest National News

Written on 09/23/2014, 11:22 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A handful of big companies...
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:21 am by J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor
Paula Deen is ready to tell her side of...
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:17 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Procter & Gamble Co. is...
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:15 am by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press
(AP) — Outdoor clothing company...