TODAY

– September 1, 2014

North Fork Casino passes skin-of-its teeth vote

The North Fork casino gaming compact has passed a key Assembly vote.The North Fork casino gaming compact has passed a key Assembly vote.Plans to build a casino off of Highway 99 in Madera County dodged a narrow bullet today with a vote by the state Assembly approving a gaming compact with the North Fork Rancheria.

The bill, AB 277, failed to garner the needed 41 yeses in the first two rounds of Assembly voting, but eventually passed on a 41-12 margin, with 23 Assembly members abstaining, according to the Twitter feed of Jim Miller, Sacramento bureau reporter for the The Press-Enterprise in Riverside County.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it would need 21 votes to pass. A vote has not been scheduled.

Senate approval could be the last roadblock for the casino, which would include 2,000 slot machines as well as a resort hotel. The North Fork Rancheria says the project would generate up to 4,500 jobs, $100 million in annual economic activity and $5 million in annual funding for Madera County.

Opponents of the project include operators of the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino in Coarsegold and a pair of influential gaming tribes in Riverside County that say the pact would set a bad precedent for tribes opening casinos off of their reservations. The North Fork Rancheria is based in Madera County's Sierra foothills.

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Related article: Gov. Brown approves North Fork's Madera casino

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Written on 08/29/2014, 3:22 pm by Leah
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(AP) — A federal appeals court is refusing Oracle Corp.'s request to reinstate a $1.3 billion verdict it won against German rival SAP SE in a long-running copyright dispute. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Friday that the jury's award was excessive. A trial judge in 2011 reached the same conclusion and slashed the verdict from $1.3 billion to $272 million. The appeals court gave Oracle a choice between an award of $356.7 million or a new trial. An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment. The legal battle revolves around SAP's $10 million acquisition of the small software services firm TomorrowNow, which helped service Oracle applications. Oracle uncovered evidence that TomorrowNow was breaking into Oracle's computers to steal instruction manuals and other technical information about software Oracle had copyrighted.
Written on 08/29/2014, 11:09 am by Business Journal staff
A former worker at the Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite National Park was indicted in Fresno Thursday on six charges alleging theft from the hotel. Jason Wilson, 34, was the assistant manager at Yosemite Lodge operated by Delaware North Parks and Resorts. While working there, Wilson allegedly manipulated 50 reservations and took approximately $87,800 in funds to which he was not entitled between October 2011 and December 2012, according to court documents. The indictment showed that in some cases, Wilson would cause the lodge to refund guests for their rooms after they left using phony reasons like bed bugs or mice. But instead of crediting the charge to guests, he directed the credit back to his own personal debit card or his wife's. Other transactions consisted of Wilson reversing charges issued when guests didn't appear for their reservations and then depositing the credit into his own account. The case is the product of an investigation by the National Park Service's Investigative Services Branch. Assistant United States Attorney Mia A. Giacomazzi is prosecuting the case. Wilson faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison if convicted of aggravated identity theft and five to 20 years and a $250,000 fine if convicted of wire fraud or theft.
Written on 08/29/2014, 10:35 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 08/29/2014, 10:27 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 08/29/2014, 10:09 am by Gabriel Dillard
We're excited to announce that voting starts Monday for our Best of Central Valley Business Reader's Choice Awards. Voters will be able to write in their favorite Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare County businesses in 25 different categories. Click here for a list of #BestofCVB categories.Voting runs through October 31. The winners in each category will be announced in the Dec. 12 print edition of The Business Journal. Winners will also receive a plaque during a planned December awards reception. We have already received some feedback and interest in the competition, so we hope the local business community will take part in determining the Best of Central Valley Business. Come Monday, go to our homepage at thebusinessjournal.com and click on the gold "Best of Central Valley Business" box on the right to cast your votes, limited to one submission per computer/mobile device.
Written on 08/29/2014, 9:08 am by MICHELLE RINDELS, 
JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press
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The accidental shooting death of the firing-range instructor in Arizona set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun. Instructor Charles Vacca, 39, was standing next to the girl Monday at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas, when she squeezed the trigger. The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and Vacca was shot in the head. Prosecutors say they will not file charges in the case. The identities of the girl and her family have not been released. The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the state's workplace safety agency, is investigating the shooting-range death, said agency spokeswoman Rachel Brockway, who declined to provide specifics on the examination. The coroner in Las Vegas said Vacca suffered from a single gunshot to the head. Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy told The Associated Press that it will take several weeks for blood-toxicology test results to be complete, and authorities were still investigating the shooting. The coroner said that an official cause of death was pending. Attractions similar to the Last Stop range have been around since the 1980s in Las Vegas, although the city has experienced a boom of such businesses in the past few years. One dusty outdoor range in Las Vegas calls itself the Bullets and Burgers Adventure and touts its "Desert Storm atmosphere." Excitement over guns tends to spike when there's fear of tighter gun restrictions, said Dan Sessions, general manager of Discount Firearms and Ammo, which houses the Vegas Machine Gun Experience. There's also the prohibitive cost of owning an automatic weapon — an M5 might go for $25,000, while a chance to gun down zombie targets with an AR-15 and three other weapons costs less than $200. "It's an opportunity that people may not come across again in their lifetime," Sessions said. Tourists from Australia, Europe or Asia, where civilians are barred from many types of guns, long to indulge in the quintessentially American right to bear arms. "People have a fascination with guns," said Cohen, who is from New Zealand and estimates about 90 percent of his customers are tourists. "They see guns as a big part of American culture, and they want to experience American culture." The businesses cast a lighthearted spin on their shooting experiences, staging weddings in their ranges and selling souvenir T-shirts full of bullet holes. But behind the bravado, owners acknowledge they are one errant movement away from tragedy. Cohen's business, for example, is installing a tethering system that will prevent machine guns from riding upward after firing — the same motion that killed the gun instructor this week. 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"They trusted the instructor to know what he was doing, and the girl could not possibly have comprehended the potential dangers involved." Still, the accident has raised questions about whether children that young should be handling such powerful weapons. "We have better safety standards for who gets to ride a roller coaster at an amusement park," said Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, a group seeking to reduce gun violence. Referring to the girl's parents, Hills said: "I just don't see any reason in the world why you would allow a 9-year-old to put her hands on an Uzi." In 2008, an 8-year-old boy died after accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun expo near Springfield, Massachusetts. Christopher Bizilj was firing at pumpkins when the gun kicked back. A former Massachusetts police chief whose company co-sponsored the gun show was later acquitted of involuntary manslaughter. Dave Workman, senior editor at thegunmag.com and a spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said it can be safe to let children shoot an automatic weapon if a properly trained adult is helping them hold it. After viewing the video of the Arizona shooting, Workman said Vacca appeared to have tried to help the girl maintain control by placing his left hand under the weapon. But automatic weapons tend to recoil upward, he noted. "If it was the first time she'd ever handled a full-auto firearm, it's a big surprise when that gun continues to go off," said Workman, a firearms instructor for 30 years. "I've even seen adults stunned by it." Scarmardo said his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and the watchful eye of an instructor is standard practice in the industry. The range's policies are under review, he said. ___Associated Press Writer Gene Johnson contributed to this report from Seattle.
Written on 08/29/2014, 9:04 am by KRYSTA FAURIA, Associated Press
(AP) — Over the long months that Victoria Mitchell lived in her car with her infant daughter, there was one bright spot in her life: doing laundry. Every month, Mitchell would trek to a local laundromat and take advantage of Laundry Love, a growing faith-driven movement that helps those who are homeless or financially struggling by washing their dirty clothes for free. Amid the comforting routine of fluffing and folding, volunteers befriend their patrons and often find ways to help that go beyond free soap and quarters. Mitchell, for example, now has a job and place to live after the Laundry Love volunteers pooled their money to help her family rent a starter apartment. They have also watched her daughter Jessica grow from a newborn to a curly-haired toddler. "You're not just checking a box to give a donation. You're spending the whole evening with these people and getting your hands dirty and it's intimate — you're doing people's laundry," said LuzAnna Figueroa, who volunteers at the group's Huntington Beach chapter and has grown close to Mitchell and her daughter. Richard Flory, a religion expert from the University of Southern California who has studied Laundry Love extensively, said Mitchell is just one example of how the organization can profoundly impact people through something as simple as washing their clothes. "It's an opportunity for people to live out their faith out in a concrete way, in a frankly elegantly simple model where you do something that's necessary for people who don't have the means to do it for themselves," Flory said. The movement began about 10 years ago with a small Christian church in Ventura, California, and has since spread to more than 100 locations throughout the country to people from all faiths. Christian Kassoff started the Huntington Beach chapter two years ago with his wife, Shannon. On a recent warm summer night, Kassoff glanced around the laundromat and smiled at the dozens of people who depend on him and the other volunteers for clean laundry each month. Classic hits from David Bowie and The Clash blasted through speakers as patrons pushed around wheeled metal baskets full of laundry and stuffed loads of dirty clothes — some not washed for weeks — into industrial-sized machines. Those doing their laundry also lined up outside to eat their fill of tacos as volunteers prayed inside before starting the night's washing. David Clarke, who has been coming to the laundromat for four months after losing his job as an aerospace machinist, estimates he's saved $200 on laundry in that time, but said he gets a lot more from the washing sessions than savings. "These people are wonderful people. They want to know what's going on in your life," he said. "They really care about you and how you're doing." Kassoff, his arms laced with tattoos, recalled a time in his life just over 10 years ago when he was in a similar situation to many of those who come — addicted to heroin and living in his car. At his lowest point, he said, he started attending services at his local Episcopal church. His newfound faith, he said, saved his life and motivated him to help others in need. "I'm not wealthy but I have the gift of time and a heart for it, so this fits," Kassoff said. Flory said that's why the movement has taken off — the simplicity and necessity of washing clothes. The Huntington Beach chapter began as an Episcopal outreach, but now welcomes volunteers of any faith, including members of a local mosque who started showing up recently. Juan Montes was reluctant to attend Laundry Love several months ago after a friend invited him to volunteer. He now goes every month and looks forward to the conversations he will have, even though his friend has stopped going. "It's changed me in the way that now when I see people who are homeless, I don't see them like an object. Now their stories come to mind, names come to mind because I've had conversations with them," he said.
Written on 08/29/2014, 9:01 am by 
LINDA DEUTSCH, Associated Press Writer
(AP) — When Shelly Sterling was approached by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about buying the Los Angeles Clippers, the wife of disgraced team owner Donald Sterling did not know who he was. But in short order she convinced him the team was worth an unprecedented $2 billion. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Shelly Sterling offered details about how she negotiated one of the richest deals in sports after her husband's racist rant to a girlfriend became public and prompted the NBA to ban him for life and decree he give up the team. At that point, Shelly Sterling stepped in. "I was given the task and I did it," she said Thursday. "I just did what I had to do." She signed up well-known litigator Pierce O'Donnell. He asked her how much she wanted for the team and she handed him a piece of paper on which was written, "$1.5 to $2 (billion),"shocking figures for a franchise that until recently was a perpetual loser. Prospective buyers started lining up. She got an offer of $1.65 billion from David Geffen and she said an Egyptian princess was entering the bidding war. Ballmer called her at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. "He was really enthusiastic," she recalled. "He said I want to come see you immediately." She put him off until the next day and quickly called a girlfriend to find out who he was. "He was a like a little child. He was so excited, so happy," she said of their meeting. "We sort of connected. I felt he would be good for the team." She said he asked her how much others had offered and then bid $1.9 billion. Though that was far more than most believed the team was worth, Shelly Sterling wasn't satisfied. "I told him: 'You won't have to build an arena or a practice field.' So he was getting a bargain. And I told him, 'We have great players, a great coach and you'll never have the chance to buy a team in Los Angeles again." After her speech, she recalled "He said, 'O.K. I'll give you two.' He really, really wanted the team." She said she extracted a promise that he would never move the team to Seattle, his hometown. The deal closed after a bitter probate fight with her husband. Ballmer gave Shelly Sterling the title, owner emeritus, and said she would have floor tickets for all games. In a wide-ranging interview just days before her 80th birthday, the elegant, blond wife of the beleaguered real estate mogul exuded the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger woman. For a half-century she had worked in Donald's shadow, renovating and decorating their properties while he built their business empire. "I never liked the spotlight. I didn't like to get up and speak," she said. "But you don't know your potential until you're thrown into something." She was thrown into the center of a publicity maelstrom with the release of explosive audio tapes of her husband denouncing his young girlfriend for bringing black men, including former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, to Clippers games. She declined to discuss details about her legal battle with V. Stiviano, the woman who released the tapes. "I think it was very unfortunate that she would have done what she did," Sterling said, adding: "She ruined our lives for our whole family." Once Ballmer's offer was accepted the drama moved to probate court. Sterling had removed her husband from the family trust saying he was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Doctors testified but he insisted he was in full control of his faculties. When she tried to approach him in court he growled, "Get away from me, you pig." It was a painful moment in a 59-year marriage and she said he has since apologized. She blames his illness. The marriage has had rough patches, she said, and they have been estranged since the death of their diabetic son from a drug overdose last year. She remembered their high school romance when "he crashed my 16th birthday party," and the years they spent building a real estate empire with 160 apartment buildings in Los Angeles. Asked if she knew her husband was unfaithful to her over the years, she said: "I can't say if I was blind to it or I didn't know to ask. I was raising my three kids and I was very involved in taking care of the buildings ... There were always excuses that he was working with one girl or another. Maybe I didn't want to realize it. " She considered divorcing Donald but was told by lawyers: "It was of no benefit.""What's the point at our age?" she said. "I still feel sorry for him. I think he's going to make it right and he'll be OK. " These days, she said, "We're on better terms. We try not to talk about the case. We have a business together so we have to talk." Asked about his mental condition, she said, "He's been a little better, a little sweeter and softer. Losing the team he loved was very hard on him," she said. "But I'll always feel it's our team."

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