TODAY

– August 28, 2014

Stocks end little changed as Fed meeting kicks off 


(AP) — Stocks are ending little changed as investors wait to see if the Federal Reserve will decide to start dialing back its stimulus or not.

The Dow Jones industrial average eased nine points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 15,875.26 Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down five points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,781. The Nasdaq composite fell five points, or 0.1 percent, at 4,023.68

Recent good news on the U.S. economy could increase the likelihood that the Fed decides to pull back on its huge bond-buying program as early as this week.

Frontier Communications surged 38 cents, or 8 percent, to $4.78 after the company agreed to acquire AT&T's fixed-line business in Connecticut for about $2 billion.

Delta Air Lines fell 98 cents, or 4 percent, to $26.94.

Should restaurants allow dogs on outdoor patios?

Blogs

gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 08/27/2014, 2:17 pm by Business Journal staff
Netafim USA of Fresno announced an agreement with Nebraska-based T-L Irrigation that will see the company's driplines watering fields from inside a pivot...
Written on 08/27/2014, 1:48 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks are drifting mostly higher as a main U.S. index sets a record for a third day in a row. The Standard & Poor's 500 eked out a gain of one-tenth of a point, enough to set another all-time high. The index closed at 2,000.12 points, a day after its first close above 2,000. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,122. The Nasdaq composite edged down a point to 4,569. Trading was quiet ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend in the U.S. with many investors away on vacation. Trading volume was about one-third below average. Express rose 13 percent after the clothing retailer's results beat financial analysts' expectations. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.36 percent.
Written on 08/27/2014, 1:42 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown say they have reached a deal that would offer $330 million a year in tax credits for Hollywood film productions over five years. The Democratic governor announced the bipartisan agreement Wednesday, before the Legislature was expected to consider it. Los Angeles lawmakers had been pushing to replace the current lottery system, which offers $100 million a year through a bidding process, as other states and countries increasingly try to lure productions. Democratic Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Mike Gatto of Los Angeles had sought $400 million a year in credits through their legislation, AB1839. Wednesday's compromise would rank applicants according to the number of jobs they expect to create and the overall economic impact to California. It also expands the program to include big-budget productions.
Written on 08/27/2014, 12:31 pm by Business Journal staff
Blue Dolphin Design & Engineering of Madera will host an event tonight to demonstrate the latest capabilities in 3-D printing from technology and software provider GoEngineer. The event, hosted by Blue Dolphin's research and development division, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at 40429 Brickyard Drive in Madera in the building shared by Blue Dolphin Design & Engineering and B-K Lighting. Demonstrations will feature FM and Poly Jet 3-D printing methods offered by GoEngineer. The company's resident 3-D printing expert Tyler Reid will also join Blue Dolphin President Mark Jackson to speak on 3-D printing and related topics. Pardini's Catering and Banquets of Fresno will be providing dinner, while Blue Dolphin will be giving away $1,000 in 3-D printing to one lucky guest. GoEngineer, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, provides businesses throughout the country with technology and software solutions ranging from 3-D printing and digital manufacturing to product simulation and Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Blue Dolphin Design & Engineering offers much of the same services. Founded by Jackson in 1999, the company's team of engineers and designers help inventors and business clients throughout the country develop and test product prototypes to get them ready for commercial production. Tonight's event is free, although those wishing to attend should make reservations to http://bit.ly/1vHzKsV or call Ashley Teter at (408) 213-1580.
Written on 08/27/2014, 12:20 pm by Business Journal staff
Several Central Valley cities fell low on a list ranking U.S. metros by how well they reflected the country's demographic and economic makeup. The list, compiled by consumer information website WalletHub, ranks 366 of the nation's largest metropolitan areas on metrics like age, gender, income and education level. According to WalletHub's methodology, the cities closest to the top best resemble the average diversity of the U.S., having characteristics that might be more appealing to entrepreneurs or consumers. Fresno ranked 323 on the list overall. In terms of socio-demographic characteristics like gender, age, race and household makeup, Fresno placed even lower at 331. Education stats, including the share of residents with a bachelor's degree or college experience, put Fresno down at 334. However, the city was higher at No. 290 for economic characteristics like unemployment rate, wealth gap and commute time, and even pulled off the 160 spot for housing stats, including median house price, vacancy rate and the rent-to-own ratio. Visalia made the list at 331 overall, with an economic rank of 358, a socio-demographic rank of 348, an education rank of 337 and a housing rank of 62. Hanford placed at 314 with a socio-demographic rank of 342, an education rank of 318, an economic rank of 263 and a housing rank of 169. Hanford was also mentioned by WalletHub has having the least resemblance to the nation in terms of gender, with 24.7 percent fewer females than males compared to the average gender makeup in the U.S. at 50.8 percent female and 49.2 percent male. Madera ranked 290 overall, with a socio-economic rank of 338, an education rank of 316, an economic rank of 313 and a housing rank of 34.
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:21 am by Ben Keller
With among the highest poverty rates in the country, the Central Valley has been a boon for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, offering high-speed Internet at a dramatically reduced price to low-income customers. Since its launch in 2011, the program has enrolled some 350,000 families, or 1.4 million low-income individuals, across the country, giving them access to broadband service for only $9.95 a month. Participating customers also have the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for just $149.99 with tax and receive free digital literacy training either in print, online or in person. In California, more than 46,270 households have benefited from the low-cost program, including 11,000 in the Central Valley. Bryan Byrd, director of communications for Comcast California, said one of the reasons it’s been so popular in the area has to do with the requirements that at least one child in the household be enrolled in the federal National School Lunch Program. Within Fresno Unified School District, for instance, around 24.1 percent of students are eligible for the low-cost or free lunch program, living in families at or below 130 percent of the national poverty rate. The share is even higher for all of Fresno County at 66.7 percent compared to the statewide average of 16.2 percent. “Fresno has one of the largest populations of families with children in the program so clearly we have given attention to Fresno,” said Byrd. The name Internet Essentials derives from the fact that having the Internet has become an essential tool for everyday life regardless of income, Byrd explained. Most schoolwork is done online, he said, while the same is true of many job applications and community services for groups like senior citizens. In February, Comcast provided Fresno with $100,000 in grant money for area nonprofit organizations to create Internet Essential Learning Zones — sites like libraries and schools offering enhanced broadband technology to give families access to the Web and Internet training. “There were 15 communities across the country, and Fresno Unified was recognized as being one of the most successful districts (for Internet Essentials),” Byrd said. Alexis Fernandez, a graduate of Sunnyside High School in Fresno, was limited to infrequent library trips for his studies when his family went without a home Internet connection for two years. Fernandez, now a freshmen at Fresno State studying business, said schoolwork and searching for jobs has been much easier since his family signed on with Internet Essentials last May. He also received a free laptop from the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County, one of four local organization that received Comcast grants earlier this year to help close the digital gap for low-income residents. “It's been great — I have everything at my fingertips. I could just quickly get my laptop instead of stressing out and having to go to the library tomorrow,” said Fernandez, who hopes to one day start his own retail business. Originally launched with download speeds of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of around 384 Kbps, Comcast has since increased the bandwidth offered under the program to now 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. That’s still well below Comcast’s basic broadband connection available under its xfinity service at an average of 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. The largest Internet provider in the U.S., Comcast offers cable TV, Internet and telephone services to 39 states and wireless Internet across much of the U.S. In California, the company’s service territory extends from Chico in the north to Tulare in the south and east to the Bay Area. Byrd mentioned some pockets, like Turlock, Orange Cove and Orosi, where Comcast doesn’t serve, while Internet speeds may vary throughout the state as well. “The way the cable industry developed, each town had its own separate cable system so depending on how much equipment or infrastructure, you may have inherited a system that wasn't completely built out and you don't' have as much bandwidth,” Byrd said.   Whether it’s for poverty or the remoteness of rural communities from broadband infrastructure, Internet access is still lacking in the Central Valley compared to the rest of the state. A report released in June by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 69 percent of residents have access to high-speed broadband Internet at home. The Central Valley had the lowest rates in the state at 60 compared to 80 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 77 percent in the Orange County/San Diego area, 68 percent in the Inland Empire and 64 percent in Los Angeles. Income factored in as well. While 92 percent of those earning $80,000 or more in California reported having access to broadband at home, only 53 percent of those earning $40,000 or less admitted the same.
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:12 am by TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
(AP) — Ravens running back Ray Rice is sitting out two games for domestic violence. A positive marijuana test triggered a yearlong ban for Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, costing him the 2014 season. Critics of the NFL's arbitrary policy toward domestic violence point to the contrast between the punishments and say it's time for the league to crack down on players who hurt women. Three members of Congress wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to reconsider Rice's suspension, the governor of Maine says he'll boycott the league, and numerous groups that advocate for women and families condemned the penalty as too lenient. League officials may soon take action on the matter. A person familiar with the NFL's plans says the league is looking into increasing punishments for players involved in domestic violence. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made on such a decision. "The first time with marijuana is different from the first time you are knocking your wife unconscious," said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families and a former judge in New York City. "It's not what they did was such a small sort of slap on the wrist. Punishment to me, they should have suspended for a season at least and let him appeal. At least you send a message that this is not tolerated, that this matters." Rice's suspension begins Saturday, a punishment handed down after grainy video showed him dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator unconscious Feb. 15. He has not divulged what happened in the elevator except to call his actions "totally inexcusable." His assault charges could be expunged once he completes a diversion program. So the NFL gave him the only punishment he likely faces in a suspension and a fine that totals more than $500,000. "My daughter is 2 years old now. One day she's going to know the power of Google. Me having to explain that to her, what happened that night, that's something I have to live with the rest of my life," Rice said at training camp. By comparison, Washington safety Brandon Meriweather was handed a two-game suspension for a hit during an exhibition game for a sixth violation of player safety rules. Broncos kicker Matt Prater has been suspended four games for violating terms of the league's alcohol program as a repeat offender. Gordon was suspended for two games last season, and his appeal of his one-year ban for violating the substance abuse policy at least a third time was rejected Wednesday. The NFL has guidelines bargained with the NFL Players Association setting out penalties for using illegal and performance-enhancing drugs. Domestic violence, covered under personal conduct, has been left to the discretion of the commissioner. The NFL's personal code of conduct makes it clear that domestic violence will not be tolerated, Kluger says. But she says the league didn't follow that code in punishing Rice. "It boggles the mind that they did not act in a way that ... sent a message that this is more serious," said Kluger, who helped oversee New York putting in courts that deal specifically with domestic violence. This is not a new issue for the NFL. Since January 2000, 77 players have been involved in 85 domestic violence incidents with six being cut by their teams, according to USA Today's NFL Arrests Database. The NFL suspended six players for one game each, and Rice now is the second player to be suspended for two games. Goodell has defended the Rice suspension, saying the league can't just "make up the discipline" and needs to be consistent. He also said Rice took responsibility and had not been in trouble before. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin sent a letter to Goodell and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome decrying Rice's punishment and suggesting the Ravens also discipline the running back. "The decision to suspend Mr. Rice for a mere two games sends the inescapable message that the NFL does not take domestic or intimate-partner violence with the seriousness they deserve," the letter said. The NFL has yet to punish Carolina Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who is awaiting a jury trial on his conviction for attacking his ex-girlfriend in his apartment in May. A judge gave him a 60-day suspended jail sentence and 18 months' probation, which he is appealing. What the NFL does next is being watched closely, according to a consultant who helps train police, lawyers and judges on domestic violence. "I hope they reflect and self-assess themselves and come out and say, 'We want to be the national standard for how we feel about violence against women,'" said Mark Wynn, a former Nashville police lieutenant working to prevent violence against women for 30 years. Goodell emphasized Rice's punishment was for a first offense. Wynn says a crisis line director told him victims don't usually call for help until the fifth incident. "The stronger voice of the NFL about this that we have no tolerance for violence against women, no tolerance of coercion, no tolerance of objectifying women, that to me would be a real pivotal moment for professional sports where they say enough is enough," Wynn said. ___AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich and News Researcher Judith Asubel contributed to this report.
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:04 am by Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. Forest Service officials say they're ready to unveil a plan Wednesday for what to do with millions of trees killed in California's Rim Fire that stand at the center of a conflict between environmentalists and loggers. Wildlife advocates want to leave the dead trees in place, saying snag forests provide a rich habitat for spotted owls and black-backed woodpeckers. Loggers say they favor sending the trees to sawmills to help pay for replanting the forest. Last year's Rim Fire was the largest wildfire in recorded history to sweep through California's Sierra Nevada mountains. A deer hunter has been charged with sparking the massive fire that started Aug. 17, 2013, and burned more than 400 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park's backcountry and private timber land.
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:03 am by 
MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Time Warner Cable said Wednesday that service was largely restored after a problem during routine maintenance caused a nationwide outage of its Internet service for hours. The company said it is still investigating the cause of the problem, which occurred with its Internet backbone — the paths that local or regional networks connect to in order to carry data long distances. The problem affected all of Time Warner Cable's markets and started at 4:30 a.m. Eastern, sparking widespread complaints on social networks. Service was largely restored by 6 a.m. The company is working to bring all customers back online. Time Warner Cable, which is in the process of being bought by rival Comcast Corp. for $45 billion, has about 11.4 million high-speed data subscribers in 29 states. The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the deal. The New York State Department of Public Service will investigate the outage as part of its review of Comcast's proposed merger with New York-based Time Warner Cable, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a Wednesday statement. There are major outages of at least one telecom provider every year, although typically they aren't national, said Tim Farrar, an analyst at TMF Associates. "AT&T had a major outage back in April, Comcast had one last October. Verizon Wireless had several national outages on its 4G network back in 2012," he said. "Usually it is related to bugs in new technology, and occasionally to routine maintenance where someone did something wrong." Separately, on Tuesday, the FCC said Time Warner Cable would pay $1.1 million to resolve outage reporting violations. The FCC found that Time Warner Cable did not report disruptions in service to its networks to the FCC in a timely manner. In addition to the payment, the company is submitting a three-year plan to make sure it will comply with the reporting rules. Time Warner Cable shares rose 64 cents to $147.23 during midday trading.
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:01 am by MEG KINNARD, Associated Press
(AP) — Have you ever been hurt in a company softball or kickball game? The South Carolina Supreme Court says you may be entitled to workers' compensation. On Wednesday, the court ruled that Stephen Whigham, who was injured in a company kickball game, is entitled to workers' compensation benefits because he was required to attend the game as part of his job. Whigham worked for Jackson Dawson Communications, a public relations firm. With the encouragement of his boss, he organized a kickball game as a team-building event for employees. He rented a facility and had T-shirts made. During the Friday afternoon game, Whigham shattered two bones in his leg while trying to avoid being tagged out. He underwent two surgeries and has been told that he'll ultimately need a knee replacement, according to court documents. A hearing will be held to figure out how much Whigham should get. Workers' compensation commissioners initially denied Whigham's claim, saying that he hadn't been required to be at the game. An appeals court upheld that ruling, but the high court said Whigham had to be there because he organized the game, so it had become part of his job duties. "Although the event may have been voluntary for company employees generally, the undisputed facts unequivocally indicate Whigham was expected to attend as part of his professional duties," the court wrote. Justices also pointed to testimony from Whigham's boss, who said he would have been "surprised and shocked" if Whigham hadn't showed up. In a dissenting opinion, two justices wrote they would have upheld the commission's decision to deny benefits because it wasn't clear if Whigham had to attend the game. Even if he had to be there, those justices wrote that it wasn't clear that he had to actually play.

Latest State News

Written on 08/27/2014, 1:42 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — California lawmakers and Gov....
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:04 am by Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. Forest Service officials...
Written on 08/27/2014, 10:59 am by Associated Press
(AP) — San Francisco officials are set...
Written on 08/27/2014, 10:56 am by 
BARBARA ORTUTAY, 
KEN SWEET, AP Business Writers
(AP) — Video games have been a...

Latest National News

Written on 08/27/2014, 1:48 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks are drifting mostly...
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:12 am by TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
(AP) — Ravens running back Ray Rice is...
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:03 am by 
MAE ANDERSON, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Time Warner Cable said Wednesday...
Written on 08/27/2014, 11:01 am by MEG KINNARD, Associated Press
(AP) — Have you ever been hurt in a...