TODAY

– December 18, 2014

Samsung motions to add iPhone 5 to patent case

Apple Inc.'s iPhone5Apple Inc.'s iPhone5(AP) — South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. says it has filed a motion with a U.S. court to add Apple's iPhone 5 to their ongoing patent battle.

 

Samsung says it filed the motion Monday with the California court, alleging that Apple's new phone infringes on eight of its patents.

The two companies are locked in a struggle for supremacy in the global smartphone market, leading to legal cases in courts across the globe.

Samsung released a statement Tuesday saying, "We have always preferred to compete in the marketplace with our innovative products, rather than in courtrooms. However, Apple continues to take aggressive legal measures that will limit market competition."

It said it had "little choice but to take the steps necessary to protect our innovations and intellectual property rights."

Should the United States normalize relations with Cuba?

Latest Events

Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Thu, Dec 18th, 2014
Fresno Chamber Mixer
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Fri, Dec 19th, 2014
CCHCC Toastmasters Meeting
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Fri, Nov 28th, 2014
Portraits with Santa at River Park
Wed, Jan 7th, 2015
San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium

Blogs

gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 12/18/2014, 10:12 am by ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press
(AP) — If the U.S. government's claim is correct that North Korea was involved in the unprecedented hack attack on Sony Pictures that scuttled Seth...
Written on 12/18/2014, 10:08 am by LAURA MILLS, VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press
(AP) — Vowing never to let the West defang his proud nation, President Vladimir Putin promised Thursday to fix Russia's economic woes within two years by diversifying and voiced confidence that the plummeting ruble will soon recover. In a live, three-hour news conference that has become a Putin holiday tradition, the Russian leader demonstrated unwavering confidence in his domestic policies despite the catastrophic collapse in the ruble. His fierce defiance toward the United States flared throughout as he insisted the West was trying to destroy Russia to grab Siberia's great natural resources. This year Putin held his televised extravaganza from a particularly strong vantage point: An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Thursday showed his approval rating among Russians stood at 81 percent — a level far above the ratings for other world leaders. Putin accompanied his message with trademark images of Russian pride, with video showing him surrounded by Sochi Olympic athletes, petting a baby tiger and greeting Russian cosmonauts. And his most stirring quotes evoked a famed Russian symbol — the bear. In his speech, the man who has led Russia for 15 years sought to soothe market fears that the government could use administrative controls, such as fixing the ruble's rate or obliging exporters to sell hard currency, to help stabilize the battered currency. Putin said the nation's hard currency reserves are sufficient to keep the economy stable, adding the Central Bank should not aimlessly "burn" its $419 billion in reserves. "Our economy will overcome the current situation. How much time will be needed for that? Under the most unfavorable circumstances, I think it will take about two years," he said. Putin also acknowledged that Western economic sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine were just one factor behind Russia's economic crisis, estimating they accounted for roughly 25 to 30 percent of the ruble's troubles. He said a key reason for the currency's fall was Russia's failure to ease its overwhelming dependence on oil and gas exports. After Putin finished his performance, the Russian currency traded at 60 rubles to the dollar late Thursday, the same level as Wednesday. Still, the currency has lost about half its value since January. Russia's benchmark MICEX index rallied 4.3 percent by late afternoon Thursday, but consumers voted with their feet, buying cars, electronics and home appliances in a desperate attempt to protect their savings before prices go up. Audi was the latest major company to suspend deliveries in Russia amid the ruble's turmoil. Apple halted online sales earlier this week. Putin struck a defiant note against the United States and the 28-nation European Union, saying the sanctions they slapped on Russia after it seized the Black Sea region of Crimea in March were part of a historical campaign to weaken Russia. He accused the West of trying to infringe on Russia's sovereignty, saying the Ukrainian crisis was just a pretext for Western action. To get his point across, he brought in the metaphorical Russian bear. "Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for our bear to sit quiet, rather than chasing around the forest after piglets. To sit eating berries and honey instead. Maybe they will leave it in peace," said Putin. "They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and his claws." By fangs and claws, Putin said he meant Russia's nuclear weapons, which are protecting its valuable natural resources. "Once they've taken out his claws and his fangs, then the bear is no longer necessary. He'll become a stuffed animal," he said. "The issue is not Crimea. The issue is that we are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist." Putin urged a political solution for the crisis in Ukraine, where pro-Russian insurgents have been battling Ukrainian government troops since April, leaving more than 4,700 people dead. He said Ukraine must remain one political entity, meaning that its pro-Russian, rebellious eastern regions should not break away. He also suggested the two sides hold a prisoner swap before Christmas. Yet he defended Russia's increased military activities, including stepped-up Russian military flights in the Baltics that NATO says are putting civilian flights at risk, as a necessary response to what he described as aggressive Western action. "We aren't on the offensive, we aren't attacking anyone, we are only defending our interests," he said. Putin said he was sure that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sincerely wanted a peaceful solution to the crisis but other forces in Ukraine don't. He urged the Ukrainian government to grant amnesty to the rebels and offer broad rights to eastern residents.Putin said Russia wants to have normal economic and security ties with the West but wants to cooperate on equal terms. In Brussels, the EU beefed up its sanctions against Russia with a ban Thursday on investment in Crimea and other economic penalties, including measures aimed at keeping tourists away. Beginning Saturday, Europeans and EU-based companies cannot buy real estate or businesses in Crimea, finance Crimean companies or supply services. EU operators will no longer be allowed to offer tourism services to Crimea's Black Sea beaches or other destinations. Cruise ships owned by any EU-based companies or flying an EU member state's flag will also no longer be allowed to call at Sevastopol or other Crimean ports except in an emergency. Despite his strong rhetoric, Putin still held out hope for normalizing ties with the West, saying Russia stands ready to expand its gas supplies to southern Europe using a prospective hub on Turkey's border. Turning to the ruble's collapse, he said the government should work with exporters to help stabilize the plummeting currency but not through formal orders. He said he had talked to the leaders of some of Russia's major companies to encourage them to sell more rubles — and one promised to sell $3 billion to help stabilize the currency. Putin shrugged off the dangers of any "palace coup" by some of his lieutenants amid Russia's economic crisis, noting his broad public support. He also raised the performance of Igor Sechin, his longtime confidant who heads the Rosneft state-controlled oil giant, ignoring a question about Sechin's hefty paycheck. In an apparent goodwill gesture hours before the press conference, a Russian tycoon under house arrest since September, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, was released. Shares in Sistema, a company that Yevtushenkov controls and manages, shot up more than 100 percent on Moscow's MICEX stock exchange on Putin's words that he hopes that the company will regain its stance on the market. One of Sistema's most lucrative assets — the oil company Bashneft — was transferred to the government this month, but Putin said money-laundering charges against Yevtushenkov have been dropped. ___John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed to this report.
Written on 12/18/2014, 10:04 am by BERNARD CONDON, 
ERIC TUCKER, 
MAE ANDERSON, Associated Press
(AP) — The unprecedented hack of Sony Pictures which a U.S. official says is linked to North Korea may be the most damaging cyberattack ever inflicted on an American business. The fallout from the hack that exposed a trove of sensitive documents, and this week escalated to threats of terrorism, forced Sony to cancel release of the North Korean spoof movie "The Interview." The studio's reputation is in tatters as embarrassing revelations spill from tens of thousands of leaked emails and other company materials. Federal investigators believe there is a connection between the Sony hack and the isolated communist nation, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to openly discuss an ongoing criminal case. North Korea has denounced the "The Interview" but earlier this month said the hack might have been carried out by sympathizers. The movie features a pair of journalists played by James Franco and Seth Rogen who are asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. The attack is possibly the costliest ever for a U.S. company, said Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at research firm Gartner. "This attack went to the heart and core of Sony's business and succeeded," she said. "We haven't seen any attack like this in the annals of U.S. breach history." A besieged Sony on Wednesday cancelled the Christmas Day release of the film, citing threats of violence by the hackers and decisions by the largest multiplex chains in North America to pull screenings. The hackers, who call themselves Guardians of Peace, had made threats of violence reminiscent of September 11th, 2001 if movie theatres showed the film. Sony later said it has "no further release plans for the film." "We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie," Sony Pictures said in a statement. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. government had no involvement in Sony's decision. She said artists and entertainers have the right to produce and distribute whatever content they want in the U.S. John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, called Sony's decision to cancel the movie a "troubling precedent that will only empower and embolden bad actors to use cyber as an offensive weapon even more aggressively in the future." How much the cyberattack will ultimately cost Sony is unclear. Sony faces trouble on several fronts after nearly four weeks since the hackers first crippled its computer systems and started dumping thousands of emails and private documents online. In addition to vanishing box-office revenue from "The Interview," leaked documents could muck up production schedules, experts say. There will be the cost of defending the studio against lawsuits by ex-employees angry over leaked Social Security numbers and other personal information. And then there are actors who might decide to work at another studio. Beyond the financial blow, some say the attack and Sony's capitulation has raised troubling questions about self-censorship and whether other studios and U.S. companies are now also vulnerable. "Artistic freedom is at risk," said Efraim Levy, a senior financial analyst at research firm S&P Capital IQ. "Are we not going to put out movies that offend some constituencies?"A breakdown of areas where Sony may suffer damage: BOX OFFICE LOSSES With a modest budget of about $40 million, "The Interview" had been predicted to gross around $30 million in its opening weekend. Doug Stone, president of film industry newsletter Box Office Analyst, forecast that Sony could have grossed $120 million in U.S. and foreign box office revenue from the film. It has already spent tens of millions on marketing. But Stone said the losses represent a single movie flop, than a spreading corporate disaster. Revenue from Sony Corp.'s "pictures" business totaled 830 billion yen ($7 billion) last fiscal year. "Disney wrote down $200 million on the "Lone Ranger" and didn't bat an eye," he said of the rival studio. "So while it would be a significant hit, it certainly wouldn't cause a financial collapse." STIRRED OR SHAKEN? A leaked script of the Sony's upcoming James Bond film "Spectre" led to an online frenzy of articles warning readers of "major spoilers." Seth Shapiro, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, thinks the potential damage from a hit to the blockbuster franchise is big. "How can they proceed if everyone in the audience has already read the script?" he said. "You basically need to start over and see how much you can salvage." Others disagreed, noting that people flooded to movies like "Titanic" though everyone knew the ending. And they question how many people would pore through details of the script anyway. "Most people don't read scripts," said veteran publicist Howard Bragman. "The Bond movie is going to do just fine." FLEEING TALENT? It's not yet clear if the leaks of sensitive emails will cause agents and top actors to think twice about working with Sony. In the short term, some think it may hurt, not only because of the insults directed at stars such as Angelina Jolie, but because the massive leak hurts prestige and indicates Sony is not being run as well as it should, said Shapiro. "Is Sony going to be the place of first resort for Hollywood A-List? No. Not tomorrow." Others say business interests will trump ego. "Studio people are always saying negative things about talent," said Gene Del Vecchio, a marketing professor at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. "Ultimately it's about business," he said. "That will outweigh the insults." But all bets are off if Sony decides to reshuffle the top executives at the studio. Some have speculated that co-chair Amy Pascal's job might be in jeopardy due to the insensitive nature of some of her remarks in emails. In an industry based on relationships, major changes at the top can affect projects for years, said Larry Gerbrandt, a principal at entertainment consulting firm Media Valuation Partners. "If the fallout leads to large scale changes at the senior executive level it will have a ripple effect for several years since it brings to halt most movies currently under development." Projects have to be written off, replacement executives hired — who will have their own ideas of what movies should be made — and the costs could easily get into the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. LEGAL WOES Earlier this week, four former employees sued Sony for not protecting their private information from hackers. The lawsuits seek class-action status on behalf of the nearly 50,000 Sony Pictures employees whose Social Security numbers and other private data was exposed. Legal experts said the cases are likely just two of many that will be filed over the data breach. A review of 32,000 emails from the inbox of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton that were dumped by the hackers on Monday showed the studio suffered significant technology outages it blamed on software flaws and incompetent technical staffers. Hackers targeted executives to trick them into revealing their online credentials. The files expose lax Internet security practices inside Sony such as pasting passwords into emails, using easy-to-guess passwords and failing to encrypt especially sensitive materials such as salary and revenue figures, strategic plans and medical information about some employees. Experts say such haphazard practices are common across corporate America. Sony potentially faces tens of millions of dollars in damages from a class-action lawsuit, said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. "This doesn't look good for Sony, which after all is a technology company," Handel said.___Tucker and AP Writer Ted Bridis reported from Washington, D.C. Condon, Anderson and Film Writer Jake Coyle and Business Writer Joseph Pisani contributed from New York. AP Writer Anthony McCartney contributed from Los Angeles.
Written on 12/18/2014, 9:59 am by DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press
(AP) — A lack of unanimity in both political parties toward President Barack Obama's sudden move to re-establish ties with Cuba complicates any congressional effort to scuttle the most significant change in U.S. policy toward the communist island in 50-plus years. His initiative faces some strong resistance among lawmakers, with criticism coming mostly from Republicans, who say the new policy rewards Cuba's decades-long policies of repression, human rights abuses and aggression. Some prominent Democrats voiced opposition, too. Opponents spoke of holding up money to set up a full-service U.S. embassy in Havana, blocking Obama's nominee as ambassador to Cuba or other such steps. But even if they were to pass sweeping legislation to stop what Obama wants to do, he could veto it and they are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority to override a veto. The GOP will control both the Senate and House come Jan. 6, but Republicans will face pressure from businesses and the farm industry — eyeing opportunities for commerce in Cuba — not to stand in the way of expanded ties. The Chamber of Commerce spent heavily in the midterm elections, investing $35 million to elect business-minded, predominantly Republican lawmakers. Its president, Thomas J. Donohue, said Wednesday that Obama's actions "will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish." The U.S. declared an embargo on most exports to Cuba in October 1960 and severed diplomatic relations in January 1961. Three months later Fidel Castro declared Cuba a socialist state — just a day before the doomed, U.S.-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion meant to topple him. After the hard-line Castro became ill in 2006, his brother, Raul, took charge of the nation, fewer than 100 miles off the southern coast of Florida. Now Obama says he will ease economic and travel restrictions on Cuba and work with Congress to end the trade embargo. This came after Cuba released American Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned for five years, and a Cuban who had spied for the U.S. In exchange, the U.S. freed three Cubans jailed in Florida. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., one of three lawmakers who flew to Cuba before dawn to escort Gross home, praised Obama's move. Leahy, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees foreign aid, said that over the years he's heard members of Congress tell presidents, "Hang tough on Cuba and those Castros will be out of there any day now." "That was said to President Kennedy, President Johnson, President Nixon, President Ford, President Carter — you see what I'm driving at," Leahy said. "The fact is they are there. The fact is, Cuba is still there. "Let's start finding out ways to at least work through our differences, embrace areas where we are alike." Another Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced opposition to the new Cuban policy. Menendez, whose parents are Cuban immigrants, said Cuba is not going to reform just because Obama believes that if he extends his hand in peace, the Castro brothers suddenly will "unclench their fists." The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said he understands the feelings of Cuban lawmakers who oppose Obama's decision because of the pain associated with their families' experiences in Cuba. "But I think we have to step back as a nation and say if we're ever going to move the Cuban people in the right direction of freedom, where they're going to have democratic elections, then we've got to have a new relationship with Cuba," Durbin said in Chicago. Splits were evident on the Republican side, too. Republican leaders in the House and Senate condemned Obama's action, as did Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American and potential presidential candidate. Rubio said the new U.S. policy would give Cuba a needed economic lift — something "the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come." More telling for the outlook in the new Congress was the response of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who was cautious but not critical of Obama's action. However, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who also went to Cuba to accompany Gross home, said Obama's move should not be seen as a concession. "My sense is that most of my colleagues feel that we're long past due" in moderating the U.S. stance on Cuba. "Certainly the policy is right and good politics usually follow good policy," Flake said. As well as restoring diplomatic relations, Obama plans to ease travel restrictions to Cuba for family visits, government business and educational activities, while tourist travel remains banned. Only lawmakers can revoke the trade embargo, though, and that appears unlikely to happen soon. ___Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.
Written on 12/18/2014, 9:54 am by BLAKE NICHOLSON, Associated Press
(AP) — The Obama administration's move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba could lead to increased sales of North Dakota crops to the communist island nation, though some issues would need to be sorted out, officials say. North Dakota farmers grow an abundance of dry peas, dry beans, lentils and potatoes, which are all big parts of the Cuban diet. Over the past 12 years, the state has exported an average of about $1 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba annually through a humanitarian food exemption to the U.S. trade embargo, according to North Dakota Trade Office data. The agency's executive director, Dean Gorder, said there is the potential for even bigger sales to Cuba. "The population of Cuba is about 11 million people. If you look at Africa with hundreds of millions of people, in the overall scheme (Cuba) is not a large market, but it still could be an important market," he said. "They need the food we produce." The biggest hurdle for North Dakota exporters to overcome when selling to Cuba is federally imposed banking restrictions. Some past sales have had to be conducted through foreign banks, Gorder said. Companies wanting to sell to Cuba also have to compete with cheaper Chinese beans, said Bill Thoreson, sales manager at North Dakota-based North Central Commodities and president of the U.S. Dry Bean Council. However, Cuba still could be a "substantial" market, he said. "If we have normalized trade relations with them and are able to do away with some of the banking regulations, I believe there's some real potential to do business with Cuba," he said. Thoreson said his company shipped some beans to Cuba after a hurricane several years ago, and that it would be very interested in doing more business there. North Dakota officials have long looked at Cuba as a potentially big market. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring organized a trade trip to the country four years ago, and former Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson visited Cuba eight times before becoming president of the National Farmers Union in 2009. "The Obama administration's announcement will not only help the people of Cuba — who clearly need economic development — but will also open new markets for U.S. family farmers, who are always interested in new trade opportunities," Johnson said. U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said easing trade restrictions could benefit U.S. farmers and the Cuban people, but that he thinks Cuba's government "needs to first change its approach to human rights." U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who visited Cuba in February, said the country could be a market for not only crops, but also American farm equipment. Normalizing relations "will support North Dakota's economy and help address low American commodity prices by opening new markets," she said. Gorder said officials don't yet know whether Cuba would be a big market for farm machinery. "We haven't done a lot of research into farming styles, what are their field sizes, what are their technological abilities," he said. "All those factors come into play."
Written on 12/18/2014, 9:02 am by Business Journal staff
Jalisco Jewelers is celebrating its first 25 years in business with a free dance for customers on Dec. 20.  The event will be held from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Rainbow Ballroom in downtown Fresno. Four Mexican bands will be featured that evening including Los Freddys, Sonora Santanera, Los Humildes de Rudy Flores and new norteno band Royal Norteno.  Jalisco will give away prizes throughout the evening, including jewelry and airplane tickets from sister company De Alba Travel which, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  "It is our way of thanking our customers for their preference during these 25 years," said Raul De Alba, president of Jalisco Jewelers, in a prepared statement. "At Jalisco Jewelers, our customer is 'the most valuable jewel' we have." The family-owned business has eight locations throughout the Central Valley, including Fresno, Handord, Selma and Madera. 
Written on 12/18/2014, 8:58 am by 
J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor
Have you picked a side yet? If not, you'd better think fast, because the battle lines are being drawn and they cut right down the dinner table. For if there was any theme to the food world in 2014, it was the prevalence of polarizing issues. Whether we were tussling over genetically modified organisms, or debating how healthy is too healthy for school lunches, or scolding one another for our gluten choices, this year our collective culinary consciousness seemed mired in disputes.So here's a roundup of some of the more contentious items on this year's menu of food news: — TO GLUTEN OR NOT TO GLUTEN Oh, that pesky grain protein. For several years now gluten has been the "new fat," that demonized ingredient-of-the-moment that countless Americans obsess over. And like so many dietary fads before it, the anti-gluten movement has heralded a tidal wave of products and promises. But this is no ordinary Snackwell's situation. Gluten — which can pop up unexpectedly across the food chain — really can make people diagnosed with celiac and other digestive disorders exceedingly ill. Except that those folks alone — by some measures about 3 million — can't account for the growth of the gluten-free market into a multi-billion-dollar industry. And there's our dispute. Experts increasingly — and with greater volume — question the value of going gluten-free without a diagnosis, yet plenty of people staunchly stand by anecdotal health benefits. And so we have a glut of gluten-free products, from doughnuts to dog food. Now even Fido can pick a side. At least we can now agree on what gluten-free means. As of August, the term is regulated, meaning manufacturers no longer can slap it willy-nilly on packages. — GMO, YES OR NO? Like it or not, genetically modified foods are on the menu. So this year, the debate centered on how much we should know about that. Advocates of GMOs — mostly business interests behind the industry — say the foods not only are safe but are key to managing the world's increasingly complex agricultural needs. Critics say we don't yet know enough about the foods to make that leap. But seeming to accept that the foods are here to stay, lately they have focused their efforts on legislation that would require labeling for foods containing GMO ingredients. That set the stage for big-spending battles to win over voters. In May, Vermont became the first state to require the labels, but that's on hold pending legal challenges. Ballot measures that would have required labeling in California and Washington already had been defeated, and a similar measure in Oregon failed this year. Chefs like Tom Colicchio and Jose Andres lobbied on behalf of labeling, while some companies tried to get out in front of the issue. In January, General Mills announced that its Original Cheerios would no longer contain GMO ingredients, but that's a rarity. And rather than allow the food industry to face a patchwork of state laws, next year Congress is likely to take up the issue. — LUNCH-LINE SHOWDOWN It's Michelle Obama vs. Congress in a weighty battle. To help address childhood obesity, the first lady made it her mission to help push through tougher nutrition standards for food served in schools. The changes — including prioritizing produce and whole grains — have been phased in since 2012. But it's been a struggle. Some schools asked to opt out, saying the healthier foods were too costly, too difficult to prepare and unpopular with kids. The first lady this summer said she'd fight "to the bitter end" to keep standards high. The opt-out request didn't fly, but this month Congress did greenlight easing off the requirements on whole grains, as well as delaying tougher standards on sodium. And the waistline war will wage on. Child nutrition and school lunches will come before Congress again next year, and the standards are almost certain to be reconsidered. — WAGES AND WORKERS Fast-food workers continued their push to get consumers thinking about the other side of the Dollar Menu equation. The "Fight for $15" campaign that seeks higher wages for fast-food industry workers organized protests and job actions around the country, sometimes resulting in arrests. Many fast-food workers make barely more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That's about $15,000 a year for a 40-hour week. And then there was the Market Basket battle. In a family/corporate feud more complex than a Tolstoy novel, the board of the New England grocery chain ousted its popular CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas. But workers — who praised him for generous pay and benefits — stood by their man and orchestrated weeks of job actions that hobbled the company. And customers — who love the company's low prices — stood by the workers by shopping elsewhere until Demoulas was reinstated and bought out opposing family members. — THE NEXT ROUND Fear not, there will be food fights aplenty to keep 2015 interesting. In addition to a continuation of this year's battles, we'll also see heightened tensions over restaurant reviews. Online sites like Yelp have taken heat for playing host to what some chefs feel is a business-bashing free-for-all. And in Texas, a cluster of restaurants has declared war on a newspaper food critic. Both spats could change the way reviews are handled. And next year could see plenty of name-calling. Or rather, name-changing. The European Union and the United States are at odds over efforts to restrict the use of food names such as Parmesan and brie to products made in the European regions for which they are named. U.S. lawmakers say it's all a bunch of baloney. Or should that be Bologna?
Written on 12/18/2014, 8:56 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of solid job security and growing confidence among employers. Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is the lowest level since late October. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 750 to 298,750. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The average has fallen nearly 13 percent in the past year, evidence the job market is improving. Companies are cutting fewer jobs as the economy expands and hiring has picked up. In the first 11 months of this year, employers have added 2.65 million jobs. That already makes 2014 the best year for hiring since 1999. The figures are "low enough to signal very strong payroll growth," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. The current level of applications is consistent with monthly job gains of about 300,000, he added. Just 2.37 million people are receiving benefits, down from more than 4 million a year ago. Some former recipients have found jobs, but many have used up all the benefits available to them. A federal extended benefits program expired at the end of last year. Barely a quarter of the 9.1 million people out of work receive unemployment aid. Still, hiring is accelerating. Employers added 321,000 jobs in November, the most in nearly three years. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent, down from 7 percent 12 months earlier. The average hourly wage rose 9 cents to $24.66, the biggest gain in 17 months. Over the past 12 months, hourly pay has risen 2.1 percent, above the 1.3 percent inflation rate. Other recent data also point to an improving economy. Shoppers spent more in November at retail stores and restaurants, as tumbling gas prices left them with more money to spend on other goods and services. And factory output rose at a healthy clip last month, fueled by more auto production. Manufacturing output has now surpassed its pre-recession peak.
Written on 12/18/2014, 8:55 am by MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
(AP) — The space station astronauts will have to wait until next month for their Christmas delivery. On Thursday, the SpaceX company announced it was delaying this week's planned launch of an unmanned supply capsule until January. SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said a test firing of the rocket engines earlier this week did not go precisely as planned at the Cape Canaveral launch pad. The company wants to conduct a second test on the Falcon rocket before committing to a launch, he said. Combined with the Christmas and New Year's holidays, as well as the sun's angles on the space station, the earliest the California-based company can launch is Jan. 6. The liftoff should have occurred Friday, already a few days late. NASA says the delay will not affect the space station or its six occupants: two Americans, one Italian and three Russians. The space agency is paying SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch supplies and experiments to the orbiting lab. Orbital's shipments are on hold, however, because of October's launch explosion. The Antares rocket blew up seconds after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia. Orbital Sciences said it will be 2016 before it can launch again with an improved Antares rocket from Wallops Island. The Virginia-based company is shifting much of its intended station shipment to an Atlas rocket that would fly from Cape Canaveral sometime later next year. A second Atlas might also be needed to pick up the slack.___Online:SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html
Written on 12/17/2014, 1:14 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is closing with its biggest gain in more than a year after the Federal Reserve said it was in no rush to raise rates. The Federal Reserve indicated Wednesday it was moving closer to raising rates from record lows because the U.S. economy and job market are strengthening. The Fed said it would be "patient" in its approach to raising rates. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 40 points, or 2 percent, to 2,012, the largest increase since October 2013. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 288 points, or 1.7 percent, to 17,356. The Nasdaq climbed 96 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,644. Energy shares rose the most Wednesday as oil gained. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.14 percent.

Latest State News

Written on 12/18/2014, 8:55 am by MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
(AP) — The space station astronauts...
Written on 12/17/2014, 11:26 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Stanford University wants to...
Written on 12/17/2014, 11:19 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Napster co-founder Sean Parker...
Written on 12/17/2014, 11:17 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Two Los Angeles men have been...

Latest National News

Written on 12/18/2014, 10:12 am by ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press
(AP) — If the U.S. government's claim...
Written on 12/18/2014, 10:08 am by LAURA MILLS, VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press
(AP) — Vowing never to let the West...
Written on 12/18/2014, 10:04 am by BERNARD CONDON, 
ERIC TUCKER, 
MAE ANDERSON, Associated Press
(AP) — The unprecedented hack of Sony...
Written on 12/18/2014, 9:59 am by DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press
(AP) — A lack of unanimity in both...