TODAY

– October 30, 2014

Obama pressing business and labor on fiscal cliff

Obama said that he was not going to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that have the least positive impact on the economy.Obama said that he was not going to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that have the least positive impact on the economy.(AP) — In a challenge to Republicans, President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to extend expiring tax cuts immediately for all but the highest income earners as a way to eliminate half of the so-called fiscal cliff that threatens to send the economy back into recession.

"What I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford and according to economists will have the least positive impact on the economy," the president said at his first news conference since winning re-election last week.

Standing in the East Room of the White House, Obama pointedly noted he had campaigned on a platform that called for allowing tax breaks to expire as scheduled on Dec. 31 for the wealthiest income earners.

"A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs," Obama said. "They'll still be wealthy."

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have both said they are eager to compromise with the president to avoid the immediate tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the end of the year. But at the same time, they have said they won't agree to raise tax rates for the wealthy.

Boehner arranged a late afternoon news conference in the Capitol to respond to the president's remarks. The congressional leaders are slated to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday for the first time since the election, and are expected to agree to designate aides to begin the search for a compromise.

Obama met on Tuesday with allies from labor and liberal groups, and invited a group of CEOs to the White House for a mid-afternoon session, also to focus on the threat posed to the economic recovery by the combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

At the news conference, he laid out a two-step process for an overall compromise — immediate extension of all the expiring tax cuts except the top rate, followed by a comprehensive agreement in 2013 to overhaul the tax code and the government's big benefits programs, which include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Obama signed legislation two years ago extending the Bush tax cuts in their entirety after saying he wouldn't.

Asked why this time will be different, he said, "what I said at the time was what I meant, which is that this was a one-time proposition."

Now, he said, legislation that keeps most of the cuts in place but not those for the upper-income earners would be "actually removing half the fiscal cliff."

Asked if he viewed it as a deal-breaker if Republicans refused to allow the top tax rate to revert to 39.6 percent from the current 35 percent, he said, "I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit.'"

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president would bring to the table a proposal for $1.6 trillion in new taxes on business and the wealthy when he begins discussions with congressional Republicans, a figure that Obama outlined in his most recent budget plan. The targeted revenue is twice the amount Obama discussed with Republican leaders during debt talks during the summer of 2011.

Carney said the figure, combined with $1.1 trillion in spending cuts already signed into law, would reduce deficits by $4 trillion.

Earlier, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, part of the Democratic leadership team, said that many "many Republicans believe now is the time to sit down and talk more revenue." Durbin said the number of GOP lawmakers in the Senate willing to work toward accommodation now totals 20.

But Durbin also said "there is a great distance" between Republicans in the House and Senate, "and basically it comes down to the question of whether Speaker Boehner is willing to look for a bipartisan solution."

Durbin told MSNBC he thinks lawmakers should "use this fiscal cliff" to resolve a problem that has plagued Congress for four years.

The president pledged to raise taxes on the rich during his first term but backed off his stance in late 2010 after Republicans seized control of the House in the midterm election. During his meeting with labor leaders, Obama said he was not going to bend on letting tax cuts expire for top wage earners, according to a participant in the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session. The president said the tax issue was clear during the election and said he had extended those enacted during the George W. Bush administration once and would not do so again, the participant said.

The CEOs have urged Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts until a tax overhaul can be reached and prevent the spending cuts from taking place. The executives say the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff is hurting the nation's business climate and preventing hiring.

Obama will meet with several CEOs, including the heads of Aetna, Honeywell, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and Ford.

The participants include members of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group founded by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles that has pushed for a long-term plan to fix the nation's debt and deficits.

Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, served as co-chairs of Obama's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which proposed $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in additional revenues.

Among the CEOs attending the meeting are General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, who chairs Obama's jobs council, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, who are members of the council.

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Written on 10/30/2014, 9:16 am by 
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(AP) — For-profit colleges that don't produce graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon face the wrath of the federal...
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:13 am by 
ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press
(AP) — Federal regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children. That claim is bogus, and the company misled consumers by suggesting that its formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing the risk of allergies, the Federal Trade Commission alleged in a complaint filed in federal court. The FTC says it wants Gerber to pull its claim from formula labels and advertisements. Gerber Products Co., also doing business as Nestlé Infant Nutrition, said it disagrees. "We are defending our position because we believe we have met, and will continue to meet, all legal requirements to make these product claims," said Kevin Goldberg, vice president and general counsel for the New Jersey-based company. At issue is how far Gerber went when claiming that its formula could prevent one type of allergy in infants known atopic dermatitis, a skin rash known as baby eczema. According to the FTC, Gerber had petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for permission to connect its use of partially hydrolyzed whey proteins to reducing atopic dermatitis. The FDA agreed, but only if Gerber qualified its statement by making clear that there was "little scientific evidence" for the relationship. Instead, packages of Good Start Gentle formula in 2011 suggested it was the first formula approved by the FDA to reduce the risk that a baby would develop allergies in general. No qualifier was included, and the labels could easily be interpreted to mean that the formula could prevent a child from developing life-threatening food or environmental allergies. "I love mommy's eyes, not her allergies," said one advertisement, released by the FTC. "Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company's ads failed to live up to that trust," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection. "Gerber didn't have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents' allergies." In its statement released Thursday, Gerber reiterated the claim that its formula can help prevent baby eczema, and said the company had been authorized by the FDA to feature that claim. "Gerber always has and will continue to treat its mission of delivering nutrition and benefits to infants as its top priority," Goldberg wrote. "We believe the information conveyed in our marketing is important for parents who have children at risk for atopic dermatitis, the most common allergy in infancy." With Gerber suggesting that it refuses to settle, the case will likely be decided by a district court in New Jersey, where Gerber's headquarters is located.
Written on 10/30/2014, 9:08 am by ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
(AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering matching online prices from competitors such as Amazon.com, raising the stakes for the holiday shopping season. The world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has matched prices of local store competitors but has not followed other retailers including Best Buy and Target in matching prices of online rivals. But last month, Wal-Mart started to test the strategy in five markets: Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Phoenix; and northwest Arkansas. The move was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Wal-Mart is trying to rev up sluggish sales in the U.S. as it battles competition from online retailers, dollar stores and drugstores. At the same time, it's also dealing with a slowly recovering economy that hasn't benefited its low-income shoppers. As a result, Wal-Mart's U.S. namesake stores, which account for 60 percent of its total business, haven't reported growth in a key sales measure in six straight quarters. But matching prices from sellers that don't have the costs associated with running brick-and-mortar stores could also hurt profits. Wal-Mart's move underscores how stores are being forced to step up their game for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for about 20 percent of retail industry's annual sales. The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, forecasts a 4.1 percent sales increase to $616.9 billion for November and December from last year. But online sales, which are included in the forecast, are expected to increase anywhere from 8 percent to 11 percent. Overall, stores need to ply shoppers with deals and free shipping to win their money. Target Corp. announced this month that it's offering free shipping on all items for the holiday season until Dec. 20. As for Wal-Mart's price-matching policy, Deisha Barnett, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, says many store managers have matched online prices for customers on a case-by-case basis. "Taking care of the customers who shop our stores is what we always aim to do," she added. Wal-Mart has been trying to reclaim its role as the low price leader. This year, it rolled out an online tool called Savings Catcher that compares prices on thousands of products with those of some of its store competitors. If the tool finds a lower price elsewhere, it refunds the difference to shoppers in the form of a store credit. That's different from traditional pricing matching because Savings Catcher does the work for the customer. Wal-Mart told investors earlier this month that since the national launch in August, it's had more than 5 million people using the tool and almost 3 percent of all receipts are submitted through the application. Wal-Mart has matched advertised prices from competitors' physical stores for several years. In 2011, it simplified the policy by making sure workers have the advertised prices of competitors on hand at the register, eliminating the need for shoppers to bring in an ad from a rival store.
Written on 10/30/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writer
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Written on 10/30/2014, 8:57 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — ABC says "The View" is being claimed by the network's news division after 18 seasons under ABC's entertainment side. In its announcement Thursday morning, ABC said the shift will allow "The View" to "fully draw on the vast resources of ABC News." This move is the latest in a drastic makeover for the daytime chat show, whose ratings have slipped in recent years. At this season's start, three new co-hosts — Rosie O'Donnell, Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace — joined moderator Whoopi Goldberg. Barbara Walters, a founder of the program, retired last summer from on-camera participation. The shift recalls a similar move by "Good Morning America," which for 20 years was produced by ABC's entertainment division before being taken over by ABC News in the mid-1990s. ___Online:http://abc.go.com/shows/the-view
Written on 10/29/2014, 4:47 pm by Business Journal staff
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Written on 10/29/2014, 3:42 pm by Business Journal staff
The California High-Speed Rail Authority will be holding a workshop in Visalia Nov. 5 teaching small businesses how to get certified and bid for work on the project. The workshop will last from 9 a.m. to noon at the Visalia Employment Connection One-Stop Center located at 4025 W. Noble Ave., Suite B. During the workshop, representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority will join with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the California Department of Transportation and the California Department of Veterans Affairs to provide technical assistance for businesses to complete their online small business certification from the California Department of General Services. Small business participants will also learn which agencies are likely to buy their products or services, how to market themselves to the state and how to use the state database to get solicitation and find out about contract opportunities. The workshop is free but those interested in attending should make reservations to Peggy Chiok at peggy.chiok@hsr.ca.gov and include their full name, business name, address and contact number. More information about the workshop can be found by contacting Chiok (559) 445-5157. Businesses interested in participating in the high-speed rail project can find out more by visiting www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Doing_Business_with_HSR and the Small Business Program webpage at www.hsr.ca.gov/Programs/Small_Business.
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:52 pm by 
SUE MANNING, Associated Press
(AP) — One pet owner made a promise when her toy poodle fell ill and its vision started to dim. If her dog lived, she would help it overcome any disabilities and give a paw up to other pooches in the process. Silvie Bordeaux of Los Angeles kept that vow after Muffin survived a cancer scare but lost his sight. She created Muffin's Halo Guide for Blind Dogs, a device that encircles a dog's head and prevents blind pets from running into walls and furniture. "If the halo hits the wall first, it will slow them down," said Dr. Christin Fahrer from Eye Care for Animals in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles. That will minimize trauma to the face, the veterinarian said. The halo is made of lightweight copper tubing that attaches to cloth wings and a harness fitted around the neck and chest. Other products do similar work, such as the infamous cone, known for its use after surgery to protect wounds or stitches, and vests and headbands that also have a piece encircling the head to deter collisions. They are among a multitude of products peddled to pet owners confronting canine old age, disabilities and injuries. Companies make walkers and lifts or one-of-a-kind mobility equipment for dogs with joints that ache or no longer work. Dog stairs allow older pets to get on beds or sofas and ramps help them into the car. But some owners improvise, making slings, homemade wheelchairs or tripod lifts so they can hoist dogs with ailing hips or missing limbs up stairs or over obstacles. Whether ready-made or owner-constructed, the products can prevent old or hobbled dogs from being turned into shelters, where euthanasia is likely a given. Bordeaux had shelter dogs in mind when launching her line of halos, thinking their chances of adoption would improve if they used the product. "It might help shelter pets more than average pets in some ways because their environment is constantly in flux," said Fahrer, the veterinarian. But she said blind dogs don't think about their lack of sight — they just adapt and move on. "We are the ones who struggle with the concept of our pets being blind," Fahrer said. "We struggle with what it would be like for us. Our pets don't drive or read, but we use our vision every moment of every day. It's a different world for them." Bordeaux set up a nonprofit to get her halos to blind dogs in shelters and rescues. The devices range from $69.95 to $129.95, and come in different designs, such as angel's wings, butterflies and football uniforms. "They can eat and sleep and play and run with it on," Bordeaux said. "It's like their superpowers." When a blind dog wears a halo, it holds its head higher, its gait changes and its spirits soar, said Los Angeles dog trainer Bronwyne Mirkovich, who volunteers for the American Maltese Association Rescue. When you put the device on her dog named Max, "it's like putting an action-hero suit on a little boy," Mirkovich said. "It's like he's bumping with a shield or cane, he's super confident."
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:40 pm by Terence Chea, AP Writer
(AP) — California's deepening drought is shrinking its rice harvest, and that's bad news for farmers, migratory birds and sushi lovers. The $5 billion industry exports rice to more than 100 countries and specializes in premium grains used in risotto, paella and sushi. Nearly all U.S. sushi restaurants use medium-grain rice grown in the Sacramento Valley. The rice harvest is just the latest victim of California's historic drought, which has sharply reduced crop production as it enters its fourth year. With 95 percent of the state in "severe" to "exceptional" drought, farmers are leaving fields unplanted, cattle ranchers are reducing herds and almond growers are tearing out orchards. California, the nation's second largest rice-growing state after Arkansas, usually produces more than five million pounds of rice and sells about half of it abroad. But this year rice farmers only planted 420,000 acres — 25 percent less than last year — because of water restrictions, according to the California Rice Commission. On a clear October day, farmer Mike DeWit watched as a giant combine harvester cut and threshed a field of rice plants, discharging the grain into a tractor-pulled wagon. DeWit, who usually plants 1,000 acres of rice on his family farm in Woodland, outside Sacramento, said he only planted 700 acres this year because his water supply was cut by 30 percent. So he idled one of his combine harvesters, and hired one less worker and one less tractor. "I think it's the worst as far as the California rice industry is concerned on record," DeWit said. "One more dry year, and I think the impacts on California rice farmers will be devastating." The reduced plantings also impact migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on flooded rice fields as habitat. Every fall, millions of waterfowl fly south from Canada and Alaska to spend their winters in California's Central Valley. After the fall harvest, farmers usually cover their fields with water to break down the rice stalks, creating wetlands habitat for millions of ducks and geese that can feed on uncollected grains and other plants. "It is environmentally a very nice crop to have in the system. It mimics the natural system of a couple hundred years ago, when that area was wetlands," said Bruce Lindquist, a rice researcher at the University of California, Davis. In a typical year, rice farms flood 250,000 to 300,000 acres in winter, but this year as few as 50,000 acres may be flooded because of water restrictions, according to the rice commission. Conservationists are worried that waterfowl and shorebirds will be at greater risk for disease as they crowd together in fewer rice fields and wetlands. "When you have less rice out there, the impacts are significant for our environment, our economy, for the farms as well," said Jim Rice, a rice commission spokesman. This year, conservation groups are renting 14,000 acres from rice farmers and temporarily flooding them, turning the fields into "pop-up wetlands" for birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway. The rice commission doesn't track prices, but Taro Arai, who runs eight Japanese restaurants in the Sacramento area, said he paid 8 percent more for rice this year and expects to pay even more next year. Arai, "chief dreaming officer" of the Mikuni Restaurant Group, is concerned about the reduced supply and rising cost of California sushi rice, but he's reluctant to buy rice from outside the state. So he's looking into growing and harvesting his own rice as he prepares to open more restaurants in Northern California. "Sushi rice makes or breaks sushi for every restaurant in California or the United States," Arai said. "I hear the rumors there's a cheaper rice, but you want to eat high-quality California rice."
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:34 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — California is requiring a 21-day quarantine for people traveling from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients. Dr. Ron Chapman, the state's health officer, announced Wednesday that California is establishing a statewide standard to protect the public. Chapman says the extent of quarantines will be determined by county health officials on a case-by-case basis. Chapman says a number of California health care workers have volunteered to help combat the epidemic in West Africa. Officials have not said how many people, if any, have been quarantined. There are no reported or confirmed cases of Ebola in California. California is imposing the risked-based quarantines after the governors of New Jersey and New York were criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines. The Pentagon says troops returning from Ebola missions will be isolated.

Latest State News

Written on 10/30/2014, 8:59 am by MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writer
(AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook says he's...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:52 pm by 
SUE MANNING, Associated Press
(AP) — One pet owner made a promise...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:40 pm by Terence Chea, AP Writer
(AP) — California's deepening drought...
Written on 10/29/2014, 1:34 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — California is requiring a 21-day...

Latest National News

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