TODAY

– August 21, 2014

Boehner sees will to act on immigration in House 


House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.(AP) — House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the "vast majority" of House Republicans believe they need to deal with immigration, but that they'll take a methodical, step-by-step approach and won't be held to any deadlines.

Legislation to secure the border and enforce immigration laws will come first, Boehner said. As for whether the House could ever agree to provide legal status or a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, "Well, we're going to find out," Boehner said.

"Through all the conversations that have occurred, with my own members, with Democrat members, it's clear that dealing with this in bite-sized chunks that members can digest and the American people can digest is the smartest way to go," said Boehner, R-Ohio. "And so I'm much more concerned about doing it right than I am in meeting some deadline."

The Ohio Republican spoke at a news conference Thursday, a day after House GOP members met to hash out their way forward on immigration.

They emerged with a consensus on dealing with border security first and moving legislation in pieces, in contrast to the sweeping bill passed last month by the Senate on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote. What to do about the millions already here illegally remained unanswered.

With Democrats insisting on a path to citizenship, that left it unclear whether Congress will be able to get any kind of immigration bill to President Barack Obama's desk. The issue is one of the president's top second-term priorities.

At the White House Thursday Obama met with two of the lead authors of the Senate bill, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican John McCain of Arizona.

Despite the uncertainty, Schumer and McCain both expressed optimism about where things stand in the House.

"The caucus sent out a message yesterday, which was the right message, which is, doing nothing is not an option," Schumer said.

Obama took a largely behind-the-scenes role as the bill moved through the Senate, and McCain suggested it could be a mistake for him to mount a more public campaign in support of immigration reform as the House takes it up.

"We want to be very careful that we have the president's participation but these members, these Republican House members — many of them are in districts that they will be representing for a long time — do not feel that they have been unduly pressured by the president of the United States," McCain said. "So I think the president is walking a careful line here, and I think it's the appropriate one."

It's not clear whether the House will take any action this month before Congress breaks in early August for its annual month-long summer recess. That would push the issue to the fall, when fiscal and other deadlines loom that could compete with immigration on the legislative calendar. If the issue is delayed until next year, the politics could become even trickier because it's a midterm election year when all House members will face voters.

Rep. Peter King of New York said that if any legislation came to the floor for a vote this month, it would deal only with border security.

Other lawmakers said even that approach raised concerns. Dealing with border security, they said, could lead to negotiations with the Senate that could morph into a compromise granting citizenship for some of the immigrants in the country illegally. They sought and received assurances from Boehner that he wouldn't let that happen, according to Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Boehner also said he won't put any bill on the House floor that doesn't have the support of at least half of the GOP rank and file, a pledge that only increases the challenge for Democrats and others who want to give a chance at citizenship to millions now in the country illegally

In explaining their piecemeal approach, Boehner and fellow GOP leaders said the administration's recent decision to postpone a key element of the health care law shows it can't be trusted to carry through on commitments, such as the one in the Senate immigration bill requiring the borders to be secured before anyone here illegally can get permanent resident status.

Unlike the comprehensive, bipartisan bill that cleared the Senate last month, the House Judiciary Committee has cleared four smaller measures in recent weeks, none of which would include the possibility of citizenship.

One would toughen enforcement of immigration laws and includes a provision that would permit local police officers to enforce such laws as part of an attempt to raise the number of deportations.

Other measures would create a new mandatory system for employees to verify the legal status of their workers, create a new temporary program for farm workers and expand the number of visas for employees in technology industries.

By contrast, the Senate bill would increase border security, provide a pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million immigrants illegally in the country, expand the highly skilled worker program and set up new guest worker arrangements for lower-skilled workers and farm laborers.

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Written on 08/21/2014, 10:34 am by Gordon M. Webster
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Written on 08/21/2014, 10:14 am by PETE YOST, MARCY GORDON, Associated Press
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Written on 08/21/2014, 10:10 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 08/21/2014, 10:06 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
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Written on 08/21/2014, 10:01 am by SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer
(AP) — To win the hearts of frequent business travelers, United Airlines is going through their stomachs. The carrier has been looking for ways to woo back some of its top fliers who defected to other carriers following a rocky merger with Continental Airlines. So, it's upgrading first class food options and replacing snacks with full meals on some of its shortest flights. The changes, announced Thursday, mean that instead of potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and bananas, passengers on flights of at least 800 miles will get meals such as chicken and mozzarella on a tomato focaccia roll and turkey and Swiss cheese on a cranberry baguette. Currently, meals are only served on flights of 900 miles or more — trips that usually last close to two hours. Passengers on 13 extra routes, such as Houston-to-Des Moines, Iowa, will be getting full meal service starting in February. The move comes as American Airlines goes the other way, eliminating hot meals on most flights less than 1,000 miles starting Sept. 1. The change — which upset many frequent fliers — is part of American's merger with US Airways and does expand meals to some US Airways flights that previously only had snacks. Delta Air Lines serves first class meals on flights of more than 900 miles. That means United will offer full meals on more short flights than its competitors, although each airline makes exceptions for some key shorter business routes like the 731-mile trip between New York and Chicago. United already this month replaced two bland salad options with four heartier choices. Starting Sept. 1, three frozen and reheated sandwiches currently served will be replaced by eight sandwich and wrap choices made daily. In the fall, it will add Prosecco sparkling wine to its beverage menu. "Customers shouldn't have to make sacrifices just because they are onboard an aircraft," says Todd Traynor-Corey, the airline's managing director of food design. That might be true, but in an industry known for its razor-thin profit margins, food has always been a target of cost-cutting. With U.S. airlines each year carrying 645 million passengers domestically, every little food decision had big implications. In the 1980s, then American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall famously decided to remove a single olive from every salad. The thought was: passengers wouldn't notice and American would save $40,000 a year. It's been a decade since most airlines stopped serving free meals in coach on domestic flights. Dennis Cary, an airline consultant with ICF International, says meals alone won't drive passengers to one airline over another, but can help leave a better impression of a flight. "It's on the margin," Cary says, "but it's one of the things people like to talk about." United has been struggling since its 2010 merger with Continental. It lags behind American and Delta in the number of planes with Wi-Fi, its on-time performance slipped and a series of computer glitches have left passengers angry. Business travelers who fly weekly got fed up with the repeated problems; other airlines were successful in luring some away. CEO Jeff Smisek has struggled to collect the same high airfares from business customers that other airline do, leading to pressure from Wall Street analysts. Improving food could be a start to winning back some passengers.A hot meal on a two-hour flight might not sound like a necessity, but for busy frequent fliers it might be the only chance to grab a bite. "Business travelers, running from a meeting to catch an earlier flight, don't have the time stop and pick up food along the way," says Gary Leff, co-founder of online frequent flier discussion site MilePoint.
Written on 08/21/2014, 9:48 am by ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, 
MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writers
(AP) — Sears Holdings Inc. recorded a hefty second-quarter loss Thursday on another sales slump, raising more concerns about the future of a company that once was a staple of American shopping. The company, which operates Sears and Kmart, said it plans to do more cost-cutting to right the ship. That includes closing more stores beyond the 130 that it had announced earlier this year. But investors weren't encouraged. They sent shares down 4 percent in premarket trading. Sears, controlled by billionaire hedge fund investor Edward Lampert, lost $573 million, or $5.39 per share, for the period ended Aug. 2. That's more than double the loss of $194 million, or $1.83 per share, a year earlier. It marked its ninth straight quarterly loss. Revenue declined 10 percent to $8 billion from $8.87 billion. One bright spot was online and multi-channel sales, which increased 18 percent. The challenges facing CEO and Chairman Lampert are enormous. The company has been cutting costs, reducing inventory and selling assets to return to profitability. At the same time, it's shifting its focus on running a store network to operating a member-focused business called Shop Your Way. But its biggest albatross remains its stores, which have been criticized for being outdated and shabby. Lampert, a billionaire hedge fund investor, combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. But it has faced mounting pressure from nimbler rivals like Wal-Mart Stores and Home Depot. Sears is also facing broader issues that are tripping up many other retailers. Like other stores catering to the low- to middle-income customers, Sears is grappling with a slowly recovering economy that's not benefiting all Americans equally. It also is wrestling with shoppers' shift away from physical stores to PCs and mobile devices for shopping and research. Lampert said in a statement that the second-quarter performance was unacceptable even though he also said the chain has showed progress. "I am personally committed to investing in and driving our transformation, improving the profit performance of the company, ensuring our financial flexibility, all while creating shareholder value," said Lampert in a prerecorded call.Sears said it is still looking at options to sell its auto center business and Sears Canada operations. It recently spun off clothing business Lands' Ends as a separate public company. Sears also said it plans to improve pricing and promotions. And it said will continue to invest in its member-focused business called Shop Your Way where members receive incentives like extra discounts. Sales to Shop Your Way members climbed to 73 percent of eligible sales, compared with 71 percent a year earlier.Sales at Kmart stores open at least a year fell 1.7 percent. At Sears locations, the figure edged up 0.1 percent. Sales at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed. Its stock declined $1.44 cents to $34.51 in premarket trading.
Written on 08/21/2014, 9:44 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Family Dollar is rebuffing Dollar General's takeover bid, citing antitrust issues. The discounter's board supports its existing merger with Dollar Tree. Family Dollar Stores Inc. Chairman and CEO Howard Levine said in a statement Thursday that its board and advisers reviewed Dollar General Corp.'s offer and determined it wasn't reasonably likely to be completed on the terms proposed. Dollar General declined to comment. Family Dollar became a takeover target in part because of its business struggles. The Matthews, North Carolina company has been shuttering stores and cutting prices in hopes of boosting its financial performance. In June investor Carl Icahn urged the company to put itself up for sale. On Monday Dollar General — the nation's biggest dollar-store chain — offered about $8.95 billion, or a$78.50 per share in cash, for Family Dollar. The Goodlettsville, Tennessee company said at the time that it believed it could quickly address any antitrust issues and was willing to divest up to 700 of its stores in order to get the necessary approvals. In a letter sent to Family Dollar on Wednesday, Dollar General said that it believed the number of stores it was offering to divest was "more than sufficient to take this (antitrust) issue off the table." Last month Family Dollar agreed to an $8.5 billion deal with Chesapeake, Virginia-based Dollar Tree Inc. The transaction includes $59.60 in cash and the equivalent of $14.90 in shares of Dollar Tree for each share held. The companies valued the transaction at $74.50 per share at the time. Including debt and other costs, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree estimated the deal to be worth approximately $9.2 billion. Dollar General's stock declined 76 cents to $63 in premarket trading. Shares of Family Dollar shed 16 cents to $79.65, while Dollar Tree's stock fell 80 cents to $54.20.
Written on 08/21/2014, 9:43 am by FOSTER KLUG, JUNG-YOON CHOI, Associated Press
(AP) — Kim Min-koo has an easy reply to new American research that hits South Korea where it hurts — in the noodles. Drunk and hungry just after dawn, he rips the lid off a bowl of his beloved fast food, wobbling on his feet but still defiant over a report that links instant noodles to health hazards. "There's no way any study is going to stop me from eating this," says Kim, his red face beaded with sweat as he adds hot water to his noodles in a Seoul convenience store. His mouth waters, wooden chopsticks poised above the softening strands, his glasses fogged by steam. At last, he spears a slippery heap, lets forth a mighty, noodle-cooling blast of air and starts slurping. "This is the best moment — the first bite," Kim, a freelance film editor who indulges about five times a week, says between gulps. "The taste, the smell, the chewiness — it's just perfect." Instant noodles carry a broke college student aura in America, but they are an essential, even passionate, part of life for many in South Korea and across Asia. Hence the emotional heartburn caused by a Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital study in the United States that linked instant noodles consumption by South Koreans to some risks for heart disease. The study has provoked feelings of wounded pride, mild guilt, stubborn resistance, even nationalism among South Koreans, who eat more instant noodles per capita than anyone in the world. Many of those interviewed vowed, like Kim, not to quit. Other noodle lovers offered up techniques they swore kept them healthy: taking Omega-3, adding vegetables, using less seasoning, avoiding the soup. Some dismissed the study because the hospital involved is based in cheeseburger-gobbling America. The heated reaction is partly explained by the omnipresence here of instant noodles, which, for South Koreans, usually mean the spicy, salty "ramyeon" that costs less than a dollar a package. Individually-wrapped disposable bowls and cups are everywhere: Internet cafes, libraries, trains, ice-skating rinks. Even at the halfway point of a trail snaking up South Korea's highest mountain, hikers can refresh themselves with cup noodles. Elderly South Koreans often feel deep nostalgia for instant noodles, which entered the local market in the 1960s as the country began clawing its way out of the poverty and destruction of the Korean War into what's now Asia's fourth-biggest economy. Many vividly remember their first taste of the once-exotic treat, and hard-drinking South Koreans consider instant noodles an ideal remedy for aching, alcohol-laden bellies and subsequent hangovers. Some people won't leave the country without them, worried they'll have to eat inferior noodles abroad. What could be better at relieving homesickness than a salty shot of ramyeon? "Ramyeon is like kimchi to Koreans," says Ko Dong-ryun, 36, an engineer from Seoul, referring to the spicy, fermented vegetable dish that graces most Korean meals. "The smell and taste create an instant sense of home." Ko fills half his luggage with instant noodles for his international business travels, a lesson he learned after assuming on his first trip that three packages would suffice for six days. "Man, was I wrong. Since then, I always make sure I pack enough." The U.S. study was based on South Korean surveys from 2007-2009 of more than 10,700 adults aged 19-64, about half of them women. It found that people who ate a diet rich in meat, soda and fried and fast foods, including instant noodles, were associated with an increase in abdominal obesity and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. Eating instant noodles more than twice a week was associated with a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome, another heart risk factor, in women but not in men. The study raises important questions, but can't prove that instant noodles are to blame rather than the overall diets of people who eat lots of them, cautions Alice Lichtenstein, director of the cardiovascular nutrition lab at Tufts University in Boston. "What's jumping out is the sodium (intake) is higher in those who are consuming ramen noodles," she says. "What we don't know is whether it's coming from the ramen noodles or what they are consuming with the ramen noodles."There's certainly a lot of sodium in those little cups. A serving of the top-selling instant ramyeon provides more than 90 percent of South Korea's recommended daily sodium intake. Still, it's tough to expect much nutrition from a meal that costs around 80 cents, says Choi Yong-min, 44, marketing director for Paldo, a South Korean food company. "I can't say it's good for your health, but it is produced safely." By value, instant noodles were the top-selling manufactured food in South Korea in 2012, the most recent year figures are available, with about 1.85 trillion won ($1.8 billion) worth sold, according to South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. China is the world's largest instant noodle market, according to the World Instant Noodles Association, although its per capita consumption pales next to South Korea's. The food is often a low-end option for Chinese people short of money, time or cooking facilities. Japan, considered the spiritual home of instant noodles, boasts a dazzling array. Masaya "Instant" Oyama, 55, who says he eats more than 400 packages of instant noodles a year, rattles off a sampling: Hello Kitty instant noodles, polar bear instant noodles developed by a zoo, black squid ink instant noodles. In Tokyo, 33-year-old Miyuki Ogata considers instant noodles a godsend because of her busy schedule and contempt for cooking. They also bring her back to the days when she was a poor student learning to become a filmmaker, and would buy two cup noodles at the 100 yen shop. Every time she eats a cup now, she is celebrating what she calls "that eternal hungry spirit." In South Korea, it's all about speed, cost and flavor. Thousands of convenience stores have corners devoted to noodles: Tear off the top, add hot water from a dispenser, wait a couple minutes and it's ready to eat, often at a nearby counter. Some even skip the water, pounding on the package to break up the dry noodles, adding the seasoning, then shaking everything up. "It's toasty, chewy, much better than most other snacks out there," Byon Sarah, 28, who owns a consulting company, says of a technique she discovered in middle school. "And the seasoning is so addictive — sweet, salty and spicy." Cheap electric pots that boil water for instant noodles in one minute are popular with single people. Making an "instant" meal even faster, however, isn't always appreciated. At the comic book store she runs in Seoul, Lim Eun-jung, 42, says she noticed a lot more belly fat about six months after she installed a fast-cooking instant noodle machine for customers. "It's obvious that it's not good for my body," Lim says. "But I'm lazy, and ramyeon is the perfect fast food for lazy people." ___AP journalists Youkyung Lee in Seoul, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Didi Tang and Zhang Weiqun in Beijing, and AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this story.
Written on 08/21/2014, 9:32 am by Business Journal staff
The Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State admitted its 16th class this week, welcoming 50 high-performing students to the scholarship program. The honors college began in 1998 with a $1 million gift from Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, the patriarchs of the prominent agribusiness family and longtime supporters of Fresno State. Students enrolled in the college receive an annual President's Honors Scholarship for their undergraduate degree program up to a maximum of eight semesters, which covers their in-state registration and an optional credit for university housing. They are also required to perform at least 70 hours of community service during their first three years. There are also a variety of options and funding sources for Smittcamp students to study abroad. The latest cohort of 50 freshmen students were selected out of 500 applicants. Among them, 49 are from California while one is an international scholar from Vietnam. The 2014 cohort of President's Scholars are: • Tahrima Alam, Fresno (Clovis North)• Daniel Apuan, Palmdale (Paraclete)• Daniel Ashley, Fresno (Clovis)• John Ball, Fresno (Clovis West)• Alexa Becerra-Almendarez, Reedley (Reedley)• Wendy Bermejo-Estrada, Parlier (Parlier)• Breanna Berry, Clovis (Clovis)• Robert Brisco, Exeter (Exeter Union)• Megan Calabrese, Pismo Beach (Arroyo Grande)• Enrique Cazares-Navarro, Parlier (Sunnyside)• Haley Chapman, Fresno (Edison)• Jenna Danzer, San Diego (Mt. Carmel)• Emma DenBesten, Fresno (University High)• Zachary Emerzian, Fresno (Bullard)• Ai Enkoji, Fresno (Clovis West)• Yvette Espinoza, Fresno (Edison)• Brooke Ferdinandsen, Fresno (Clovis West)• Shoji Hishida, Fresno (Bullard)• Carragan Huerta, Clovis (Clovis)• Ashley Juskalian, Visalia (San Joaquin Memorial)• Joanie Kalmbach, Clovis (Buchanan)• Katie Karraker, Clovis (Buchanan)• Aubrey Lim, Fresno (home school)• Danielle Logoluso, Clovis (Clovis)• Kelli Lowe, Reedley (Reedley)• Samantha Mallory, Fresno (Clovis North)• Brenna Mandujano, Fresno (Edison)• Tanner Melton, Fresno (Edison)• Jenna Miller, Visalia (Redwood)• Shelby Moshier, Tollhouse (Sierra)• Huyen Nguyen, Hanoi, Vietnam (Hanoi-Amsterdam H.S. for the Gifted)• Rahul Nunna, Fresno (University High)• Shyam Patel, Fresno (Clovis West)• Jonathan Ray, Clovis (Sierra)• Lauren Ray, Fresno (Edison)• Joseph Reeves, Clovis (Clovis)• Hunter Reilly, Clovis (Logos Christian Conservatory)• Matthew Roby, Fresno (Clovis North)• Alicia Rodriguez, Madera (Madera)• Robert Rodriguez, Clovis (Buchanan)• Brandon Rowe, Corcoran (Corcoran)• Harrison Schmitt, Santa Clarita (Saugus)• Brandon Sepulveda, Sanger (Sanger)• Hailey Stinecipher, Fresno (Edison)• Ian Troupe, Fresno (Clovis West)• Jenna Van Fossen, Hanford (Hanford)• Griselda Vega, Fresno (Washington Union)• Brooke Weber, Sanger (Sanger)• Kaitlynn Webster, Fresno (University High)• Blake Zante, Fresno (Clovis West)
Written on 08/21/2014, 9:10 am by TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — When the subcompact Fit failed a crash test, Honda went back to the drawing board.  The tiny Fit, redesigned for the 2015 model year, initially flunked the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap test, earning just a "Marginal" rating. The test simulates a 40 mph crash between the front corner of a car and an object such as a utility pole. Honda engineers strengthened the welds on the front bumper beams, so energy from a crash would be spread over the entire front of the car. This gave the driver and passengers more protection and lessened the likelihood of injury. The change got the Fit an "Acceptable" rating in a second test, and earned it a "Top Safety Pick" designation. High crash-test scores are important because they help allay buyers' concerns about whether tiny subcompacts can adequately protect a driver and passengers in a sea of larger vehicles. Of all subcompacts, only the Fit and the Chevrolet Spark won the "Top Safety Pick" designation, the institute's second-highest rating. Honda Motor Co. started installing the stronger bumpers at the Mexican factory that builds the Fit in June. a rare step for an auto company, Honda is asking owners of all 12,000 2015 Fits sold before then in North America to return them to dealers, who will replace the bumpers. "We want to make our cars as safe as we can make them for our customers," said chief safety engineer Chuck Thomas. The replacement should take about 30 minutes, Thomas said, and involves removing the original bumper beam and bolting on the stronger one. He couldn't estimate the cost to Honda. IIHS crash test results are followed widely on the Internet and are especially important for subcompacts, which by design have less structure to absorb the impact of a crash, said Karl Brauer, senior auto analyst at Kelley Blue Book. Subcompact sales are down just under 1 percent so far this year, and the poor crash test scores for most of the segment are partly to blame, Brauer said. Many buyers, he said, wouldn't consider a subcompact it didn't get at least an "Acceptable" rating on the overlap test or a "Top Safety Pick" designation. "Just having not failed would make some people open to considering the car," Brauer said. Honda sold nearly 27,000 Fits through July, down almost 12 percent from a year ago. The Chevrolet Sonic is the top-seller in the segment, at almost 57,000, according to Autodata Corp. Russ Rader, an IIHS spokesman, said it's rare for automakers to call cars back to dealers after they are retested, but it has happened about two dozen times since 1999. Most were to change air bag deployment or fix post-crash fuel leaks, he said. All Fits built on or after June 9 have the new bumpers. Honda will notify owners of Fits without the stronger parts starting in late September and replace the beams free of charge.

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