– April 27, 2015

Amtrak: Crossing gate down in Calif. train crash

Three Amtrak cars derailed south of Hanford on Oct. 1 after colliding with a big rig (AP Photo)Three Amtrak cars derailed south of Hanford on Oct. 1 after colliding with a big rig (AP Photo)(AP) — The crossing gate was down, lights were flashing and bells were ringing when a big rig crashed into a passing Amtrak passenger train on Monday afternoon, an Amtrak official said.


Investigators probing the cause of the crash south of the farming community of Hanford plan to look at the condition of the big rig's driver — identified Tuesday as Macario Medina, 32, of McFarland — and of the truck.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said 39 people were injured in the crash.

Authorities have described the injuries as mostly bumps and bruises although Graham said at least one person suffered a broken leg.

"The whole crew was shaken up, obviously, so what we do is give them immediate relief from duty if they need it and have counselors check in with them within a 24-hour period," she said Tuesday.

Investigators will first try to determine Medina's state and then look at the vehicle, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Jerry Pierce. Medina went through the warning arms and hit the train before his truck overturned, according to the CHP.

Pierce said Tuesday morning that he had not yet interviewed Medina, who suffered moderate injuries.

The impact from the truck pushed two of the train's four cars and its locomotive off the tracks.

The train traveled about 600 feet (180 meters) after the collision before hitting a switchback and derailing, the CHP has said.

Officials have not determined how fast the train or the truck were going, but the average speed for Amtrak through the area is 70 mph to 80 mph, while the speed limit on the roadway where the truck was travelling is 55 mph, according to the CHP.

After the crash, metal pieces from the truck could be seen inside the train, which was covered by cotton seeds. Several pieces of luggage were also scattered around the area.

The train was on its way from Oakland to Bakersfield. It was being pushed by the locomotive and was struck between the locomotive and the last car, Graham said.

The track, meanwhile, reopened Tuesday morning after crews replaced hundreds of feet of damaged track and some signal equipment, BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said. BNSF owns the line.

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Written on 04/27/2015, 4:42 pm by BRANDON BAILEY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — The iPhone is still the engine behind Apple's phenomenal success, even if attention lately has been focused on its new smartwatch.
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:49 pm by Business Journal Staff
Local business and community leaders from Fresno, Madera and Kings counties will gather tomorrow at Fresno State’s WET Center to announce the formation of the Central Valley Coalition for Reliable Energy. Organizers said the coalition is being formed to help support Central Valley Power Connect, a proposed new, major electrical transmission line PG&E wants to build along with BHE U.S. Transmission and Citizens Energy Corp. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. at the WET Center, located at 2911 E. Barstow on the Fresno State campus. Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, Sandy McGlothin, vice president of West Hills College, Debi Bray, president and CEO of the Madera Chamber of Commerce and Al Smith, president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce are among those scheduled to speak.
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:48 pm by Business Journal staff
First 5 Tulare County has announced the winners of its annual Hands-On Heroes program which recognizes local people and businesses for their support of children ages zero to five.  “This is an opportunity to bring together people who share a common cause of loving and providing for little children,” said Phil Cox, Tulare County Supervisor. “These heroes serve children every day, and deserve to be recognized and applauded for their commitment to children.” Cox served as the emcee for the awards ceremony recognizing the winners last week.  The Hands-On Heroes of 2015 included: • Health and Wellness: Karen O’Connor, Family HealthCare Network and the KinderCare Program. • Exceptional Volunteer: Julie Scaife and Sue Pierce, CASA of Tulare County • Early Care and Education: Edie Nugent, Visalia Unified School District Preschool Academic Learning Center • Behavioral Health: Kim Weeks, Tulare County Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Services • Parent Education/Strong Families: Lupita Aguayo, Tulare County Sheriff/Family Services of Tulare County, Gang Awareness Parenting Program • Outstanding Provider: Sierra View Medical Center Breastfeeding Program A special recognition award was also announced in memory of Patricia Howell, RN, with Tulare County Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Services. First 5 Tulare County is funded by Proposition 10. For more information on the organization visit
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:18 pm by chrisrose
(AP) — U.S. stocks are closing lower as health care companies weigh on the market and investors await a flood of earnings reports. Stocks appeared headed for new highs in the morning Monday, but then drifted lower, led by declines in health care. Mylan, a maker of generic drugs, slumped nearly 6 percent, after rejecting a $40 billion buyout offer from Teva Pharmaceuticals. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42 points to close at 18,037. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell eight points to 2,108. The Nasdaq fell 31 points to 5,060. Apple reports quarterly earnings late Monday, and is one of more than 150 companies in the S&P 500 that will turn in results this week. Investors will also follow a two-day meeting at the Federal Reserve that starts Tuesday.
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:15 pm by ALANNA DURKIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Maine must ensure that hayrides are inspected to help prevent accidents like one that killed a 17-year-old girl and injured more than 20 others last year, a state lawmaker said Monday. Republican Rep. Robert Nutting told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that someone who pays for a hayride should be able to expect that it has been judged to be safe. He was asked to introduce the legislation by the parent of one of the young people who was injured in the October accident at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls that killed Cassidy Charette, he said. "The tragic loss of Cassidy Charette's life may have been what it took to make things safer for all who look for a little fun and a little scare on an amusement ride," Nutting said. Authorities have said it appears that a mechanical problem caused the Jeep towing a wagon full of passengers on a Halloween-themed ride to crash down a hill in the woods and slam into a tree. The report detailing the findings of the state's investigation has not yet been released to the public. Most states don't have strict hayride regulations. The National Conference of State Legislatures said in October that Rhode Island is the only state that explicitly requires a permit to operate hayrides. In Maine and other states, operators must display signs warning of the rides' dangers, but there's no requirement that the rides be checked for things like working brakes. Nutting's bill would restore the ability of the state fire marshal's office to regulate amusement rides, which lawmakers inadvertently repealed last session. It would also specify that hayrides be inspected. But Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said requiring his office to oversee hayrides would be costly because his inspectors aren't trained to examine motorized vehicles and wagons. Some lawmakers on the committee suggested that state police, which oversee vehicle inspections, would be better suited for the job. The owner of Harvest Hill Farms didn't immediately respond to a message left Monday. But Barbara Peavey, co-owner of a corn maze in Corinna that operates hayrides, said in an interview that she thinks inspections are a good idea. "Anyone can hook up anything to a hayride now ... and they're not being checked," said Peavey, who runs Thunder Road Farm Corn Maize. "Everything else needs to be regulated for safety reasons, and I think this should be, too."
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:13 pm by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
(AP) — ESPN is suing Verizon in an escalating clash over how the popular sports channel is being sold in a discounted pay-TV package. The complaint filed Monday in New York's state Supreme Court alleges Verizon is breaking its contract with ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co., by unbundling the sports channel from the main programming line-up of Verizon's FiOS TV. The legal showdown could have ripple effects on how other pay-TV programming is packaged. Cable and satellite services are scrambling to retain subscribers as the advent of Internet video spawns new and less expensive ways to stay entertained and informed. Verizon is allowing customers to subscribe to a bare-bones package of 35 channels for $55 per month, with the option of adding other two other tiers of programming such as a sports package that includes ESPN. The streamlined packages are meant to appeal to budget-minded consumers weary of paying for dozens of TV channels that they rarely watch. Pay-TV providers such as Verizon are under pressure to give subscribers cheaper and more flexible choices as they face intensifying competition from Netflix, Hulu, and other online services that stream TV series and movies over high-speed Internet connections. Those market forces prompted Time Warner Inc.'s HBO, a long-time staple in pay-TV lineups, to recently begin selling an Internet-only service for $15 per month. "Verizon's current skirmish speaks to the trouble distributors will have in creating a slimmer package that is attractive both from an economic and content perspective," MoffettNathanson Research wrote in an analysis Monday. ESPN is fighting Verizon's discounted "custom TV" package because it gives subscribers the option of bypassing the sports channel in their programming selections. That violates pay-TV requirements stipulating that ESPN be included in the main bundle of programming, according to ESPN. Despite the alleged breach of contract, ESPN hasn't yet pulled its channel from the sports pack that Verizon is selling as part of its discounted service. New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. denies its new options break its ESPN contract. "Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want," the company said in response to ESPN's lawsuit. In its statement, ESPN said it favors innovation as long as it doesn't violate existing agreements. The sports channel recently worked out a deal that enabled Dish TV's Sling service to include ESPN and ESPN2 in an Internet video service that costs about $20 per month. ESPN is included in the main programming line-up of Sling, though. While ESPN took Verizon to court, CBS Sports Network disclosed plans to join Verizon's separate sports package beginning May 1. Few details of ESPN's claims against Verizon were available Monday because the material in the lawsuit is currently considered confidential. ESPN is highly prized by pay-TV providers and advertisers because the channel has the rights to a variety of major professional and college sports that still command large audience who watch the programming live instead of on DVR recordings that let viewers skip the commercials. The sports channel's allure has established ESPN as the most expensive channel in basic pay-TV channels, based on estimates from data provider SNL Kagan. ESPN charges pay-TV distributors $6.61 per monthly subscriber compared to just $1.65 per subscriber for the second most expensive basic channel, TNT.
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:11 pm by DAVE GRAM, Associated Press
(AP) — Food industry lawyers say there's not enough time to implement Vermont's new labeling rules for genetically modified products before the July 2016 effective date and are asking a federal judge to block them. The legal skirmishing continues a year after Vermont passed a law aimed at making it the first state in the country to require labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients. Maine and Connecticut passed laws before Vermont, but those measures don't take effect unless neighboring states follow suit. Vermont is trying to go it alone. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Foods Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers are asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would block the law from taking effect. "Plaintiffs have barely more than a year to overhaul their Vermont supply chains," wrote the groups' lawyers, Catherine Stetson and Matthew Byrne. "Thus the irreparable harm that will befall Plaintiffs' member companies absent a preliminary injunction ... grows increasingly imminent by the day." The Friday filing at the U.S. District Court for Vermont came in response to rules issued a week earlier by Attorney General William Sorrell to implement the law. In its court filing, the attorney general's office said the package of rules it had adopted "addresses many of the aspects of (the 2014 law) that Plaintiffs challenge." The food industry said in a response that it's not convinced. The new state rules include a possible escape hatch for companies fearing they may have to track the genetic origins of every ingredient in their products. A provision in the rules allows food manufacturers to say on labels that a product "may be" produced with genetic engineering. This would be allowed if the manufacturer does not know "after reasonable inquiry" whether the food contains an ingredient that's produced with genetic engineering. But the result could dilute the content of the labels and weaken the underlying purpose of the law, Stetson argued. "It really begs the question: Is the whole idea to benefit consumer knowledge? Simply saying for lots and lots and lots of different food products these may contain (genetically modified ingredients) doesn't really advance that interest," she said. That, in turn, could weaken the argument that there is a compelling enough state interest to limit manufacturers' First Amendment rights to control the contents of their labels. Stetson said there needs to be a strong "fit" between the purpose of the law and its effect. Sorrell said Monday that the law would require enough specificity, and that companies would not be permitted to use the "may be" terminology at will. "You can't turn a blind eye toward reality. If you know (the product contains genetically modified ingredients), you have to label," he said.
Written on 04/27/2015, 11:21 am by MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
(AP) — An isolated edge of vast West Texas is home to a highly secretive part of the 21st-century space race, one of two being directed in the Lone Star State by Internet billionaires whose personalities and corporate strategies seem worlds apart. The presence of Blue Origin, LLC, the brainchild of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, barely registers in nearby Van Horn, a way station along Interstate 10, a full decade after he began buying land in one of Texas' largest and most remote counties. Few visitors are allowed beyond the "No Trespassing" sign and a remote-controlled gate and into the desert and mountain environment reminiscent of the Air Force's renowned Area 51 in Nevada. The privileged who do get inside decline to describe what they've seen, typically citing confidentiality agreements. "No one gets in other than employees," says Robert Morales, editor of the weekly Van Horn Advocate newspaper. At the opposite end — of Texas and the competition — is the highly visible SpaceX venture, led by PayPal co-founder and electric car maker Elon Musk. His company contracts with NASA to resupply the International Space Station and is building a launch site about 600 miles from Van Horn, on the southernmost Texas Gulf coast, with the much-publicized goal of sending humans to Mars. SpaceX and Blue Origin are among several U.S. companies engaged in the private space business. Both men have seemingly unlimited resources — Bezos' wealth is estimated at nearly $35 billion, Musk's at $12 billion — and lofty aspirations: launching a new era of commercial space operations, in part by cutting costs through reusable rockets. Texas' glory days of space exploration, when "Right Stuff" Mercury astronauts trained in Houston and the city's name was the first word spoken on the moon by Neil Armstrong, are long gone. The utilitarian Space Shuttle fell to budget cuts, depletion and age, leaving astronauts to hitch rides on Russian rockets. Any success by the newcomers would offer "significant potential for re-invigorating space research and development in the state," said John Junkins, director of the Center for Mechanics and Control at Texas A&M's Department of Aerospace Engineering. Earlier this month, Bezos announced his company's new hydrogen rocket engine, designed for suborbital missions, had completed hundreds of tests at the West Texas site, adding, "soon we'll put it to the ultimate test of flight." That could come late this year. A more powerful engine for orbital flights, fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas, is being developed with United Launch Alliance, a venture of aerospace veterans Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Blue Origin officials declined requests for an interview and site visit. "I'm so sorry," spokeswoman Brooke Crawford said. "It's just the way it is." Bezos' love of space originated in Texas in the 1960s when his family moved to Houston, which dubbed itself "Space City USA." "For me, space is something that I have been in love with since I was 5 years old," Bezos, 51, said in a September interview with The Washington Post, which he purchased in 2013. "I watched Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon, and I guess it imprinted me." Over the last decade, he has bought at least seven ranches, totaling 1,900 square miles, near the Texas-New Mexico border and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. "It's very secretive out there," said Maricel Gonzalez, chief appraiser for the Culberson County Appraisal District. She declined to describe it, citing a nondisclosure agreement. A UPS driver who recently emerged from the compound also declined to talk. Nuny Morriss, a Van Horn city council member and FedEx delivery driver, said the site includes a "big warehouse-looking building and some offices ... But they don't let us go around in the back." Blue Origin's presence in Van Horn is minimal. Morriss recalled word getting out a few years ago about a scheduled launch. Traffic at the local airstrip suggested that VIPs were coming in, and local officials were eager to join them. "No one in town got invited," Morriss said. By contrast, SpaceX is frequently in the headlines thanks to its nearly $2 billion federal contract. Attempts to reuse booster rockets have been rocky; it's failed three times to land them on a platform off the Florida coast. SpaceX already has a rocket plant near Waco. With more than $15 million in state incentives, it's also building a launch site at Boca Chica Beach, near Brownsville. Musk hopes for at least 12 rocket launches a year, starting late next year. "The long-term goal is to create technology necessary to take humanity beyond Earth," said the 43-year-old South Africa native. David Kanipe, a former NASA division chief now teaching at Texas A&M, says Musk and Bezos were cool to his offers of assistance. "A lot of time these companies, maybe for good reason, they don't really want to use or benefit from the lessons learned from what NASA did for 40 years, 50 years," Kanipe said. "I pleaded with them: 'Let us help, use our experience.' But they have other ideas." All of the private space businesses have had setbacks, such as Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which lost a spacecraft and a pilot in October over California's Mojave Desert. "There's just a million ways it can go wrong," Kanipe said. "I think it's doable, but it's just going to take a while."
Written on 04/27/2015, 11:19 am by Associated Press
(AP) — An apparent cyberattack Sunday temporarily disrupted the main website of Thirty Meter Telescope, the organization trying to construct one of the world's largest telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. Thirty Meter Telescope spokeswoman Caroline Witherspoon confirmed that the company's website suffered a disruption, but could not say who was responsible for the attack. She said the site was unavailable for about two hours. "TMT today was the victim of an unscrupulous denial of service attack, apparently launched by Anonymous," said Sandra Dawson, a spokeswoman for the project. "The incident is being investigated." The site was running normally as of Sunday evening. Native Hawaiians consider the land on top of Mauna Kea to be sacred and have been opposing the telescope project. Hawaii Gov. David Ige recently arranged a halt in construction to further discuss the issue. A blog site called Operation Green Rights, which claims to be affiliated with the hacker group Anonymous, posted images on its page Sunday claiming responsibility for the attack. The page included screen grabs of both the Thirty Meter Telescope website as well as the main website of the Hawaii state government indicating that both had been attacked. Cindy McMillan, Ige's director of communications, could not confirm the government's sites were disrupted but had asked security personnel to investigate. All government sites were operational at the time of this report.
Written on 04/27/2015, 11:18 am by MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
(AP) — Surfers catching waves and mountain bikers pedaling through forests are used to the occasional low flying pelican or diving hawk, but these days outdoor recreationalists can find what's up in the air isn't a bird at all, it's a drone. This week top drone-makers, along with investors, regulators and inventors, are gathering in one of the most popular regions for outdoor activity in the U.S., California's Central Coast, to show off their devices, hear about new uses for airborne robots, and hit the waves and trails. Drones Data X Conference Santa Cruz, from May 1 to 3, will also feature experts explaining how unmanned-aerial vehicles can map remote areas or rescue hikers or swimmers. Federal regulators, who are still sorting out drone rules, will be on hand with updates on regulations about whether operators need to keep a drone within their line of sight, how high they can go and whether they can fly directly above a person. "Drones are in a bit of their Wild West period right now, but in the future they'll be used to transport people, medicine, goods; anything done on a highway will just as well be done by air," conference organizer Philip McNamara said.Spending on unmanned aerial vehicles is projected to double over the next decade, from about $6.4 billion a year to $11.5 billion a year, according to industry analyst Teal Group. McNamara said about 90 percent of the venture capital flowing toward drone technologies comes from the nation's high tech hub, Silicon Valley, about 30 miles from the conference. Santa Cruz economic development director Bonnie Lipscomb said the city hopes some firms will like what they see, from sandy beaches to redwood forests, as well as a university and tech startups. "It was a great opportunity to showcase not only our burgeoning tech scene but also our outdoor enthusiast paradise," she said. Local mountain bike and kite surfing companies are loaning gear and expertise to the conference. Sergio Capozzi at the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals said there is both crossover and conflict between outdoor recreationalists and drone enthusiasts. "There is likely an appropriate time and place for drones in nature. The challenge comes in finding the right balance of when and where drones are appropriate," he said. As prices go down and drone technology advances, park and wilderness visitors who want to use drones also need to make sure that everyone is having a safe and enjoyable experience, he said. He noted that, on the plus side, drones can be used to gather photos and videos that wouldn't be accessible otherwise. "Sharing these experiences encourages others to seek out similar experiences, in particular on public landscapes," he said. But Richard Dolesh, a vice president at the National Recreation and Park Association, said park managers aren't paying enough attention to increased drone use. "Drones are going to be everywhere and people who are managing outdoor land and outdoor recreation are pretty clueless right now about what it's going to take to effectively manage them," he said. Dolesh noted that national parks banned drones after visitors complained about their noise. "People travel long distances," he said, "for peace and solitude."

Latest State News

Written on 04/27/2015, 4:42 pm by BRANDON BAILEY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — The iPhone is still the engine...
Written on 04/27/2015, 11:18 am by MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
(AP) — Surfers catching waves and...
Written on 04/27/2015, 9:01 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Applied Materials has called off...
Written on 04/27/2015, 8:59 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The average national price of a...

Latest National News

Written on 04/27/2015, 1:18 pm by chrisrose
(AP) — U.S. stocks are closing lower as...
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:15 pm by ALANNA DURKIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Maine must ensure that hayrides...
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:13 pm by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
(AP) — ESPN is suing Verizon in an...
Written on 04/27/2015, 1:11 pm by DAVE GRAM, Associated Press
(AP) — Food industry lawyers say...