– July 12, 2014

Comcast gains video subs in 4Q

(AP) — Comcast Corp. added 43,000 video subscribers in the fourth quarter — the first quarterly gain in six and a half years — as the nation's top cable TV company said that uptake of its X1 set-top box helped it retain customers and boost video-on-demand spending.

The company also said Tuesday that it has hiked its share buyback authority and is raising its quarterly dividend. Its shares rose in morning trading.

Net income in the three months through December rose 26 percent to $1.91 billion, or 72 cents per share, from $1.52 billion, or 56 cents per share a year ago. However, the increase was partly due to a one-time tax windfall of $158 million.

Excluding the tax gain, earnings per share came to 66 cents, slightly below the 68 cents per share expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $16.93 billion, beating the $16.65 billion expected by analysts.

Philadelphia-based Comcast is rolling out its X1 platform to new customers who sign up for at least three services — Internet, video and voice — and to other top customers where it has supplies. The set-top box allows users to navigate a slick interface like a website which can be controlled through mobile device apps and gives access to more content delivered via the Web. For the upcoming Winter Olympics from Sochi, for example, Comcast is bringing the breadth of NBC's live online coverage to big screen TVs for the first time through the X1 platform.

The company is likely to caution against too much optimism for a turnaround in video, however.

Cable operators have been losing market share to rival telecoms and satellite competitors for years, and fourth-quarter results are generally boosted by college students re-hooking up TVs as they start school and by higher TV use during cold winter months. For the full year, Comcast still lost 305,000 video customers to end the year with 21.7 million.

It added 379,000 Internet customers to finish the year with 20.7 million.

Overall cable revenue rose 5 percent to $10.66 billion in the fourth quarter.

NBCUniversal posted a 7 percent gain in revenue to $6.46 billion, helped by bigger audiences for broadcast network NBC, which has been bolstered by hits "The Voice," ''The Blacklist" and "Sunday Night Football" from the NFL.

The company said it is boosting its share buyback authorization to $7.5 billion — up from $1.5 billion authorized currently — with $3 billion to be spent in 2014. It raised its quarterly dividend by 15 percent to 22.5 cents per share.

In morning trading, Comcast shares rose $1.07, or 2 percent, to $53.56. Its shares are up more than 35 percent over the past year.

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Written on 07/11/2014, 2:59 pm by Leah
Visalia’s largest car dealer Don Groppetti said auto and truck sales in the Visalia market are up a strong 13 percent year over year. That’s more than...
Written on 07/11/2014, 2:58 pm by chuckharvey
A decline in farm workers from Mexico has some Fresno-area farmers investing in automated harvesters and planting crops that are less labor intensive, such as almonds.As another alternative, some farmers are simply cutting back on the crops they grow in response to labor shortages and lack of water. Mexican labor availability is on a sharp decline, not just because national immigration reform has stalled, but also because Mexican farm owners are enticing workers to stay home. With fewer farm workers and lack of a new immigration policy, the days of manual labor-intensive farming are dwindling, leading to a new day of robots and harvesting machines.However, industry experts don’t see automation and machines taking over San Joaquin Valley crop harvest operations completely.“You can’t mechanically pick cucumbers,” said Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. He added that most tree fruit, including apricots, is much too sensitive to be picked by machine.But more harvest machines are appearing on farms as worker numbers come up short.Changes in agriculture practices are expected to require a new age of ag education. Currently the U.S. agricultural education system trains farmers and food-system workers in higher-tech systems, but farm workers are primarily left out.A recent study by the University of California, Davis, found that Mexico’s fresh produce sector is expanding, adding workers and paying more in wages. Meanwhile the number of ag workers available in Mexico is falling, down 25 percent from 1995 to 2010, the study reported.So U.S. ag operations will have a tougher time finding workers. This is despite a 20 percent growth in pay for farmworkers in the U.S. since 2007 to nearly $11 an hour.Data from the study shows that while Mexico’s farm labor supply is declining, the demand for labor on Mexican farms is rising.The study, conducted by Professor J. Edward Taylor and Ph.D. student Diane Charlton of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, concludes that U.S. growers must shift to less labor-intensive crop production. It also suggested seeking migrant workers from countries other than Mexico or investing in labor saving agricultural technologies and management practices.It is quite a shift for California farms. Only 2 percent of the state’s hired farmworkers are U.S. born and most are from Mexico.With farmworker numbers also falling in Mexico, the country now depends on farm laborers coming up from Guatemala. The study pointed out that Mexico is in the transitional phase of being both a farm labor exporter and importer.The country had about 8.6 million farmworkers in 1997, but the number has steadily dropped to 6.1 million in 2010. The farm labor supply from rural Mexico is decreasing by 12,800 people annually, which works out to be a 0.15 percent decrease in the Mexican farm labor supply each year working in Mexico or the U.S.The study found that U.S. and Mexican farmers now compete for the dwindling supply of farmworkers.Cunha said he disagrees with the study’s finding that Mexican farms will persuade more of the country’s farm workers to stay at home. He said economic conditions in Mexico took a turn for the worse about two months ago and that will make working there less advantageous.The U.S. also attracts farm workers from Central America, Cunha said.Cunha pointed out that one of the problems the U.S. faces is an aging workforce. He said many of today’s farm workers are approaching age 60.Younger laborers are less attracted to farm work, Cunha said.But in terms of pay, U.S. farms will continue to lead the way, Cunha said. He pointed out that pay for farm workers in Mexico has grown from about $9 a day to about $30 a day.But it is well below what they can earn in the U.S.Still, finding enough farm workers to get through the long season remains difficult.Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno, stressed the need for immigration reform that allows Mexican farmworkers to earn legal status. Bedwell said he doesn’t disagree with the findings of the study.But the current system is not working, he said. He said the H2A visa program is too slow to handle the large numbers of workers needed in the U.S.Bedwell agreed that more mechanism is needed in the farm industry. But farmworkers will also continue to be vital, he said.The UC Davis study found that with fewer workers available, demand will increase for more skilled workers to handle mechanization and more productive labor planning and practices. With rising worker productivity will come a demand for higher wages.That could be good for rural communities, the study determined.As for ways to improve the farm labor supply in the U.S., the study found that legalizing Mexican farm workers is not a good option. Taylor and Charlton pointed out that legalization will increase workers’ economic options in the United States and that makes farm workers more mobile.They said farm work traditionally has been a first stop for new immigrants, who move on to non-farm jobs when they are able. Cunha said he questions that finding. “You have got to have a good guest worker program,” he said.Cunha added that it is important for workers to be able to go home and visit their families in the off-season. “They way it is now, that doesn’t happen,” he said. Chuck Harvey  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3466 or e-mail
Written on 07/11/2014, 2:56 pm by ben
Following a full build out next year, developers of an unlikely system in the farming fields near Firebaugh are counting on desalination as a solution to California’s water shortage.Unlike conventional desalination that uses an energy intensive process of reverse osmosis to remove salt and impurities, the Aqua4 technology by WaterFX relies on the sun’s rays to treat brackish groundwater.Since June 2013, the company has been turning out fresh distilled water for the Panoche Water and Drainage District from its pilot test facility located along North Russell Avenue just west of Firebaugh. WaterFX Founder and Chairman Aaron Mandell compared the device, made possible by a $1 million grant from the California Department of Public Health using Proposition 50 funds, to a magnifying glass that focuses sunlight onto a certain point. In this case, he said, a rotating solar mirror concentrates heat from the sun onto a thermal storage unit to evaporate water into steam. A natural distillation process then separates the fresh water from the heavier, salty brine, which can also be sold as fertilizer, sea salt or filler in construction materials“It’s the highest quality of water you can produce,” Mandell said. “It’s distillate, so it’s actually free of all mineral content and can be used for anything all the way up to medical applications, semi-conductors. If it’s going to be used for drinking or water irrigation, you actually have to add a little salt back in.”Currently, the 6,500 square-foot system is producing between 11,000 to 14,000 gallons of pure water per day out of the high salinity runoff collected from irrigated pistachios, almonds, tomatoes and other crops grown within the 90,000-acre Panoche Water and Drainage District.But using a 60-acre piece of land provided by the district, WaterFX will kick off an expansion project in January capable of supplying more than 2,000 acre-feet per year, or about 2 million gallons per day.A second phase after that could bring the total up to 7,000 acre-feet of fresh water per year.Mandell estimates the initial project, featuring some 36 machines and 70 solar mirrors similar to those used at the pilot facility, should take between six to eight months to build with around $30 million in capital from private investors.And once some of that capital is paid down in around five years, Mandell said farmers would begin to see the water dropping from about $2,200 an acre foot down to around $500. Not only is that comparable to what they might pay in wet years, he said, it’s also far lower than what’s expected from any of the 17 desalination plants being proposed along the California coast using reverse osmosis, which pushes water through a series of membranes at high pressure to squeeze salt out of the liquid. “We don’t have the same energy footprint so we use only about 20 percent of the electricity of a conventional desal plant,” said Mandell, who founded WaterFX in December 2012 after starting up several other energy-related companies in the last decade. “In some cases the cost of the water can be 70 percent electricity.”Besides farmers, Mandell said a portion of the treated water would be sold to municipalities at more manageable rates than what they’re paying now. For the Panoche Water and Drainage District, which comprises four water entities in the Firebaugh area, the benefits are two-fold, said General Manager Dennis FalaschiIn addition to getting back reliable water ready for crops in dry years when river allocations are low, the facility helps to get rid of the brackish groundwater that would otherwise end up as toxic drainage in the San Joaquin River.“They take our subsurface drain water that’s high in salts and high in boron,” Falaschi said. “It’s the water we have to leach from underneath the root zone of our crops.”While not the complete solution to the district’s water shortages, Falaschi said the system is definitely a welcome supplement considering growers this year are only getting 45,000 acre feet of water — about half of what they would get in wetter years.Solar desalination is just the latest method the water district has employed in the last few decades to conserve water and reduce drainage.Two reverse osmosis desalination facilities being funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the University of California Los Angeles are also in the experimental phase. Up to 80 percent of Panoche’s 90,000 acres are on drip irrigation to make watering more efficient as an intricate tile system underneath irrigated crops collects the unused saline water to be pumped to drainage canals.And Falaschi said around 6,000 acres of the district have been developed into a reuse area using wastewater to grow salt tolerant crops like pistachios and tall wheat grass while existing ditches have been lined with concrete to prevent seepage. “I just take the opportunity any time I get the chance to champion the success of this reuse area, as to what it’s done for water quality improvement in the San Joaquin River,” Falaschi said. “We’ve got national letters of appreciation from the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. So in spite what some of our critics in the Delta say, we’ve almost eliminated drainage in the San Joaquin River.”Mandell said WaterFX is already looking at other locations in California in which to deploy the Aqua4 solar desalination facility.“We really see this as a long term solution to the water problem in California, primarily because it comes with much higher reliability,” he said.A group of investors known as the Fresno New Energy Group is also proposing a desalination plant in the selenium-rich San Joaquin Valley.Formerly intending to treat water using energy from a 1,600-megawatt nuclear power plant, the group has now set its sights on a hydrogen-based process that will provide enough energy to remove contaminants from some 100,000 acre-feet of brackish groundwater at the start.Partnering with Hydrogen Technologies, Inc. of Stockton, the group will use the company’s hydrogen boiler technology to burn hydrogen and oxygen in a vacuum chamber in order to create heat and steam.John Hutson, president and CEO of the Fresno New Energy Group, figured the new endeavor would cost no more than $100 million and take less than five years to build.“This corporate re-alignment recognizes that technological innovations have occurred during the past few years which can provide carbon-free energy, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Hutson said. “HTI’s hydrogen boiler is ideally suited for this purpose. Besides helping to permanently solve our Valley’s agricultural run-off problem, it can also create a new, sustainable supply of water that is locally produced.” Ben Keller  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3465 or e-mail
Written on 07/11/2014, 2:50 pm by Leah
PresidentLee’s Air, Heating, and Building What we do:We are a commercial and residential air conditioning company specializing in service, repair, and retrofits. A typical day at Lee’s Air depends on the time of the year.  Nobody is looking to replace their air conditioner when it is 70 degrees outside. We spend the spring and the fall doing extensive training.  We have a training room set up where we have weekly trainings during the off season for the entire technical staff and additional trainings for newer employees in order to get them up to speed.  We don’t want our customers wondering which service specialist will show up and whether or not they are going to be able to do the job.  During the summers and winters, things are a lot more intense and we all try to play our own positions so that we can maintain great response times for our customers.  Last year, we averaged a 118 minute response time for our existing customers.  When it’s 110 degrees outside, people not only need their air conditioner to work, they need it working ASAP. Education:  B.S.  in management/finance from Brigham Young University Age: 30 years old Family: Spouse Samantha and sons Stephen and Ammon, ages 4 and 1 respectively How did you become involved in the home heating and cooling business here?I have lived in Fresno and Clovis on and off since I was 8 years old. When I was 15 and attending school in New Hampshire, I got offered a job from the guy that came by to fix my refrigerator. Since then, I have tried many times to get away from air conditioning-refrigeration but by the time I finished college, I had around nine years of experience in this industry and a degree in business. I realized that I probably would be happiest if I didn’t fight the obvious avenue in my life. Through several turns of events, I ended up purchasing half of Lee’s Air. You’re in the middle of your busy season, correct?The highest demand months are June and July. Typically, if something was going to break down, it will usually do so before August. To avoid being stuck in July with a broken air conditioner, have your system maintained. People get their oil changed on their cars but rarely get their air conditioners maintained.  It not only reduces the chances of breakdown but can increase efficiency. Not getting your system tuned-up — quarterly for commercial applications and bi-annually for residential systems — simply doesn’t make sense. Are today’s air conditioners more efficient in general?Systems are more efficient in general because of government regulations. We do recommend however asking your air conditioning company about the return on investment before getting too excited about paying a lot of money for super high efficiency equipment. In many cases, but not all, you will get a better ROI by replacing your duct system or going with a mid-level efficiency unit. What is your key business strategy?Keep revenue growth as a secondary ideal and then growth will come. Focus instead on taking the projects that you are good at and under-promising and over-delivering on the ones you do take on. Not all growth is good growth. Being a young, cocky, and over-eager business owner with 20 employees, it was/is hard to walk away from opportunities. Many long-time business owners from the area have warned me about the consequences of poor growth decisions. That strategy has helped our team nearly double our revenue in the past 3 years and increase net profit margins. What was the best advice you received? “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” – Thomas S. Monson What was your first job?I worked for Captain Wrench HVAC in Plaistow, New Hampshire when I was 15 years old. What do you like to do in your spare time?I enjoy wood working and reading non-fiction books. What are some of your favorite ways to stay cool in the summer?Sitting under my air conditioner, of course.
Written on 07/11/2014, 2:37 pm by chuckharvey
During a recent presentation by Stephen Kaffka an extension agronomist at UC Davis, Kaffka addressed the question, “does California have in-state feedstock production for bioenergy?”The short answer is that it does, but only a fraction is now going to biofuel use. Kaffka, who is director of the California Biomass Collaborative, pointed out that California crop production differs from other states in that it produces a high number of human food crops while other states focus more on feed and industrial crops.The high-demand for food crops would seem to make California a less likely candidate for production of biofuels like ethanol. However, he pointed out that biofuels can be produced without loss of profitable food crops like the Valley’s almonds, pistachios and grapes.That’s because crops used to produce biofuels can be grown as cover crops in the open rows between the long lines of trees and vines. The open rows in orchards have been traditionally used to get tractors and harvest rigs into the orchards.Fuel crops can also be grown in rows side-by side with vegetable and melon crops.So it wouldn’t take long to get biofuel crops growing and harvested for processing.“Bioenergy facilities are already here,” Kaffka said.Also, biomass-based energy creates new jobs, he added.In recent years, grasses have been planted in the rows to create an environmentally friendly environment that pits good insects against the bad ones. It also helps the soil by adding nitrogen.In addition, cover crops such as cotton have been planted with fruit and nut trees when the trees are small and unproductive. Almond trees have to be replaced about every 25 years and biofuel crops can provide biological control and cover while young trees are planted and reared, Kaffka said.But growing biofuel crops between rows of trees and vines is something that would be new to the San Joaquin Valley. Kaffka sees it as not only having potential to add value to the crop, but also the biofuel produced could eventually be used to run the tractors used in the orchards.Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, said the idea has potential. “Farmers are always looking to be more efficient,” he said.Currently the bulk of plants grown for biofuel production are planted in the Southeast and central eastern United States. But Kaffka reported that on an agro-ecological basis, California has many feedstock crop possibilities.California has 17 biofuel manufacturing facilities, but most produce fuel from vegetable oil and fats, oils and greases (FOG). Four of the state’s biofuel plants use imported corn grain to make ethanol fuel.Kaffka said that in California’s varied landscape, the challenge in producing biofuels would be to achieve high yields, low production costs and low carbon dioxide emissions.California has a Low Carbon Fuel Standard Program administered by the California Air Resources Board. It mandates reductions in the carbon intensity of fuels, but does not specify which types of fuels or how much of the fuel must be used.Potential biofuel crops for the state include sugar beets, sugar cane, sweet sorghum grasses, safflower, canola, camelina and meadowfoam. In many areas, the grasses will have to be salt tolerant.Kaffka reported that farmers could choose from 85 canola varieties and 61 camelina varieties. Both can be grown as row crops in fields with vegetable food crops.Kaffka said research on the potential fuel crops is being done at Parlier and on Fresno County’s Westside.Other fuel crop possibilities include crop residues such as corn stover, wheat straw, rice straw and citrus residue. Crop residues are listed under cellulosic fuels.In addition, wild mustard and radish are potential biofuel producers that grow wildly throughout the state without irrigation.Kaffka pointed out that Assembly Bill 118, the Alternative and Renewable Fuel Technology Program, provides grants and loans to support in-state biofuel production and alternative fuel infrastructure.He added that low-carbon biofuels could directly displace about 14 billion gallons of gasoline and 3.3 billion gallons of diesel used per year in California. It represents both an immediate and long-term opportunity to reduce green house gas emissions and petroleum dependence, Kaffka said.
Written on 07/11/2014, 1:46 pm by Business Journal Staff
Jason Karr, salesman at Derco Foods in Fresno, has been elected president of the Ag One Foundation at Fresno State. Established in 1979, the Ag One Foundation benefits, promotes and supports the university’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. It has raised more than $16 million in endowed funds, with more than 3,350 students receiving more than $2.4 million in scholarships and grants. Karr spent 12 years working in agricultural finance for Bank of the West. In 2012, he entered the tree nut export business with Derco Foods. “Fresno State is the premier agriculture college in California and Ag One is helping expand programs for the future as well as supporting students who will be tomorrow’s leaders,” Karr said in a release.  “Agribusinesses need highly skilled and driven individuals to manage their businesses.” Karr graduated from the Jordan College with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1998 and completed his master’s degree in business administration in 2005. He is a San Joaquin Valley native who grew up in Bakersfield and now resides in Fresno with his family. “As an alumnus of Fresno State, involvement in Ag One is a way to give back to the agricultural program,” Karr said. “I was a recipient of an Ag One scholarship and know the importance of supporting students and the college.” Elected at the May meeting, Karr and his new executive board began their one-year terms July 1: ·         Vice President Debbie Raven, CEO of Valley Small Business Development Corporation graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 1976 with honors in agricultural business management. ·         Treasurer John Migliazzo, an attorneywith the law office of Michael J.F. Smith, graduated in 2007 from Fresno State with a bachelor’s in agricultural communication and served as a student senator. He graduated from San Joaquin College of Law and passed the California Bar Exam in 2010. ·         Secretary Don Parreira, co-owner of Ultra Gro Plant Food, graduated from Fresno State in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Other new board members include: Gary Brunsvik of Bolen, Fransen Sawyers (Brigham Young University, 1979 and 1980); Nick Blom of Blom’s Ranch, Inc. (Fresno State, 1994); and Jonathan Andrews, of Andrews Farms (Fresno State, 2002).
Written on 07/11/2014, 1:40 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is ending slightly higher as investors assess corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 28 points, or 0.2 percent, to finish at 16,943 Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,967. The Nasdaq composite rose 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,415. Fastenal, which makes industrial fasteners, fell 4 percent after reporting revenue that fell short of analysts' estimates.The S&P 500 index had its biggest weekly loss since April after closing out the previous week at a record high. It ended down 0.9 percent. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.52 percent.
Written on 07/11/2014, 1:31 pm by ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
(AP) — A U.S. effort to discourage immigrants' repeated attempts to enter the country illegally by dropping them back in Mexico hundreds of miles away from where they were caught has been sharply scaled back after producing relatively modest gains. U.S. authorities insist the Alien Transfer Exit Program has contributed to overall achievements in border security and say the cutbacks reflected a need to shift resources to deal with Central Americans pouring into Texas. The government has flown or bused hundreds of thousands of Mexican men to faraway border cities since February 2008, believing they would give up after being separated from their smugglers. But government statistics and interviews with migrants in Mexican shelters suggest the dislocation is a relatively ineffective deterrent, especially for immigrants with spouses, children and roots in the U.S. After being dropped off, many get on another bus and head right back to where they started. Once there, they reunite with their smugglers for another attempt, taking advantage of a standard practice that they pay only when they cross successfully. "It's a nuisance. That's all," said Pablo Hernandez, 50, who lingered in the hallway of a shelter in Mexicali, swapping stories with other migrants after the U.S. government took him on a five-hour bus ride from Tucson, Arizona. Hernandez planned to take a commercial bus to the Mexican town of Altar to reunite with his smuggler, who provided a phone number and said he wouldn't demand his $3,400 fee until Hernandez made it. The challenges illustrate the limits and pitfalls of massive spending increases on border enforcement. Despite overwhelming numbers of Central Americans crossing in Texas, the Border Patrol is making strides by key measures, including a drop in the percentage of migrants who are arrested entering the country again after being caught. The recidivism rate for all migrants arrested on the Mexican border fell to 16 percent in the 2013 fiscal year from 17 percent a year earlier, 20 percent in 2011, 24 percent in 2010 and 27 percent in 2009. But results for ATEP, as the program is known, were higher: 25 percent last year, up from 24 percent the previous year, down from 28 percent the year before, 33 percent in 2010 and 34 percent in 2009. Last year's 9-point difference between ATEP and the overall rate matched the widest ever. ATEP has barely fared better than "voluntary returns," the term for migrants who are simply turned around without being charged. Criminal prosecutions have yielded the lowest recidivism rates. Without fanfare, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency largely withdrew from ATEP last June after spending $15.2 million to fly 50,295 Mexican men on 421 flights from Harlingen, Texas, to California's Imperial Valley, which neighbors Mexicali. ICE virtually stopped providing detention space for ATEP and pulled back on bus transportation. Thomas Homan, ICE's executive associate director for enforcement and removal operations, told a congressional panel in March that ATEP was "a good border enforcement strategy" but that ICE shifted money to flying home Central Americans who cross in South Texas, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with that crisis.U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, said in a statement that ATEP has disrupted smuggling networks and contributed to an overall decline in recidivism rates. The program, it said, "was designed specifically to create displacement and increase time between entry attempts." Asked to provide the cost, Customs and Border Protection said ATEP "uses resources that were already in place ... and cannot be separated from the normal cost of doing business." Until last year, ICE typically paid a night of detention, which cost an average of $119 a person. Air-conditioned buses still leave the Border Patrol's Tucson compound each weekday with up to 188 passengers. Two follow a 700-mile route east to Del Rio, Texas, where they are dropped off in the neighboring Mexican city of Ciudad Acuna. Two head about 300 miles west toward Mexicali. As ATEP grew, Mexicali became the top destination for those deported to Mexico, peaking at 66,517 in 2012, a 24 percent increase from two years earlier, according to Mexico's National Immigration Institute. Several migrant shelters opened in the sprawling city of 750,000 to handle the influx. Migrants gravitate to a breezy, sunlit hallway to discuss their next moves at the Hotel of the Deported Migrant, which housed up to 300 people a night after opening in 2010. The Mexican government offers discounted bus tickets and a limited number of free flights to their hometowns, but few consider it. Abel Delgado, who lived in the Phoenix area for 23 years and was a cook and construction worker before he was deported in 2010, was bused from Tucson after four days of walking through the Arizona desert. The 30-year-old planned to reunite with his smuggler for another attempt in Arizona after the summer heat, determined to rejoin his wife and daughters, ages 5 and 8. "If I didn't have family, I'd stay here," he said.
Written on 07/11/2014, 1:24 pm by TIM REYNOLDS, TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writers
(AP) — LeBron James is returning home to Ohio, reversing the decision he made four years ago that led to two NBA titles in Miami and crushed Cleveland Cavalier fans. James told Sports Illustrated for a story published Friday that he was signing with the Cavaliers because his relationship with Northeast Ohio is "bigger than basketball." "When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission," James said in the SI first-person story. "I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio." He spent his first seven NBA seasons in Cleveland. In four years with the Heat, he went to the NBA Finals four times, winning two championships. And now heads back to Cleveland to see if he can finally deliver on his promise of winning a crown for that title-starved city. For Cleveland, it's a new day. For Miami, it's the end of a championship run. "I am shocked & disappointed in today's news," Heat managing general partner Micky Arison wrote on Twitter. "However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories." James said he will always call Miami his second home. But the lure of his first one was simply too strong to ignore. James is from Akron, Ohio, not far from Cleveland. "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It's where I walked," James told SI. "It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me."I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can." He left Cleveland being called disloyal, a narcissist, a coward and a quitter — and that was all by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who wrote that infamous letter blasting James for choosing Miami. And now James will play for Gilbert again. "I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them," Gilbert said on Twitter. "I'm not having a press conference or a party," James told SI. "After this, it's time to get to work." And with that, the "Big 3" era in Miami ends much sooner than the Heat expected. James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all exercised options in their contracts to become free agents this summer, but the thinking was that they would re-do their deals to give the team financial flexibility in an effort to make upgrades to the roster. Instead, the game's biggest star is heading back to his roots. Bosh may now leave as well, with widespread reports that the Houston Rockets are preparing to give him a four-year contract offer worth about $88 million. And the Heat face a decidedly uncertain future, a stunning twist for a franchise that has won the last four Eastern Conference titles. Wade and Bosh all opted out this summer, as did longtime Heat forward Udonis Haslem, and those were considered good signs in a plan to keep James. Turns out, they were gambles that didn't pay off. "I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB," James told SI. "We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to (Mario Chalmers). I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that's exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I've talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. "I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years," James added. Bosh has made no decisions yet about what he'll do, a person familiar with his thinking told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the All-Star has not announced anything publicly. James doesn't turn 30 until December, so it's safe to say that he just may be reaching his peak. And the numbers he's put up in his first 11 NBA seasons already make him a lock to finish among the league's all-time greats. He's already 27th all-time in scoring with 23,170 points, and could climb into the top 20 next season. Since he entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick by the Cavaliers in 2003, no one has logged more minutes, scored more points or had a better plus-minus ratio than James. His teams have outscored opponents by a staggering 3,743 points with him on the floor over that span; for comparison's sake, Dwight Howard is No. 2 on that list, with a plus-2,312 ratio. Only Tony Parker and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs have appeared in more regular-season wins over the last 11 years than James. And he just seems to keep getting better; this past season was his seventh straight year where he posted a career-best in field-goal percentage, shooting just under 57 percent. "I'm ready to accept the challenge," James wrote. "I'm coming home."___Tim Reynolds reported from Las Vegas and Tom Withers reported from Cleveland
Written on 07/11/2014, 1:16 pm by ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press
(AP) — The White House said Friday that the federal government's budget deficit will drop to $583 billion this year, the lowest level of President Barack Obama's tenure. Last year's deficit was $680 billion. The latest update from the White House budget office is also $66 billion less than the administration predicted earlier this year when releasing the president's budget. Obama presided over trillion-dollar-plus deficits during his first term as the economy struggled to recover from a bad recession and financial crisis. Attempts to strike deals with GOP leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio have failed, though Obama was successful in muscling through a tax hike on wealthier earners in early 2013. Tight spending on annual agency budgets is also responsible for lower deficits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects an even lower deficit of $492 billion for the budget year ending Sept. 30. The White House has also lowered its economic growth forecast for the current year to 2.6 percent, reflecting the unexpected 2.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year. Its earlier prediction was for a 3.3 percent hike in GDP. Obama's March budget release called for a variety of tax increases and promised new help for the working poor and additional money for road-building, education and research. It also pulls back from controversial cuts to Social Security cost-of-living increases that had angered Democrats. The unexpected White House release came as the Treasury Department announced separately that the government ran a surplus of $71 billion for the month of June.

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