TODAY

– March 4, 2015

Nev. pushes back against SF patient dumping claims

(AP) — Nevada's pushing back against San Francisco's city attorney after he demanded a half-million dollar reimbursement for treatment of psychiatric patients allegedly bused to the city.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/17SCyoy ) the letter issued Monday by the Nevada Attorney General's Office says San Francisco hasn't provided sufficient evidence to support its claims. It also contends the city hasn't explained the legal theory behind its proposed lawsuit.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera threatened to sue Nevada after an investigation he says identified 500 discharged patients transported to California.

He says 24 of them ended up in San Francisco, and 20 needed emergency treatment upon their arrival.

Herrera gave Nevada until Monday to negotiate a settlement.

Herrera did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday morning.

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Written on 03/04/2015, 8:13 am by DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer
(AP) — Sony plans on putting its virtual-reality headset on consumers' noggins next year.
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:10 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in February for the 13th straight month, a private survey found. It was the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year. Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 212,000 jobs last month, a solid gain, though down from 250,000 in the previous month. January's figure was revised up from 213,000. The figures come just before Friday's government report on the labor market, which economists forecast will show an increase of 240,000 jobs, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report, which includes government agencies. A burst of hiring in the past year has lifted the number of Americans earning paychecks, and a sharp drop in gas prices means those paychecks can buy more goods and services. That has accelerated U.S. economic growth and encouraged companies to add jobs at a steady pace. Still, February's hiring was the slowest in nine months, according to the ADP data. Most economists have expected a slight slowdown, however, after a run of huge job gains. Employers added 423,000 jobs in November, and more than 1 million from November through January, the fastest three-month pace since 1997. More than 3 million people have been hired in the past 12 months. "Job growth is strong, but slowing from the torrid pace of recent months," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "Job gains remain broad-based, although the collapse in oil prices has begun to weigh on energy-related employment." Moody's Analytics helps compile the report. Those job gains are lifting consumer spending, which rose in last year's fourth quarter at the fastest pace in four years. Spending grew at a solid 0.3 percent rate in January, after adjusting for prices, which fell. Zandi also said heavy snow and unseasonably cold weather in the Northeast may have dragged down hiring last month. Still, he expects the economy to grow 3 percent this year, a level consistent with hiring of about 250,000 a month.
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:07 am by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. services firms' activity rose at a slightly faster rate in February, powered by hotels, restaurants and wholesalers. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its services index rose to 56.9 in February, up from January's reading of 56.7. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion. The survey suggests further growth in employment and imports, as a strong hiring streak over the past year has bolstered consumer spending. "The bottom line is that the US economy remains in good health," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Its survey of services firms covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the American workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services companies. Fourteen sectors reported growth in February, while four said activity lessened. In addition to hotels, restaurants and wholesalers, the sectors reporting growth include real estate, utilities, agriculture and financial sectors. Activity dropped for mining, construction and arts and entertainment. The decline in oil prices has hurt business for firms involved in drilling and construction. "Business conditions are seeing less money being spent on capital projects by the major oil companies," one construction firm said in the survey. Yet retailers countered that cheaper gasoline has boosted sales, helping to expand an economy where nearly 70 percent of all activity comes from consumer spending. The ISM survey indicated that many companies faced pressures because of the backlog caused by the West Coast port labor dispute, a contract disagreement that was largely resolved last week. The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the October-December quarter after climbing at a strong 5 percent rate in the summer. Even though overall growth slowed at the close of 2014, hiring has enjoyed a hot streak. Employers added roughly 1 million jobs between November and January, hiring at levels that economists say should support growth at an annual rate between 2.5 percent and 3 percent. Economists surveyed by the data firm FactSet expect the employment report being released Friday to show job gains of 240,000 in February.
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:52 am by AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Women who come to the U.S. from China to give birth to automatic American citizens may not be breaking the law by doing so, but it's illegal to lie about why they're coming into the country. That was the clear message federal agents sought to send when they searched three dozen California homes Tuesday in what may have been the biggest federal crackdown yet on so-called maternity tourism. The raids came as homeland security agents investigated three rings catering to such women, who must tell the truth about their visits on visa applications, authorities said. Recent cases in California have catered to wealthy Chinese visitors, most likely due to the country's large population, economic boom and ties to the region. Their numbers are unclear, and no arrests have been made or charges filed. "It is fertile ground for this kind of scheme," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement's homeland security investigations in Los Angeles. "These people were told to lie, how to lie, so that their motives for coming to the U.S. wouldn't be questioned." Shortly after sunrise, dozens of federal agents swarmed an upscale apartment complex in the Orange County city of Irvine, where authorities say a birth tourism business known as You Win USA Vacation Resort marketed to pregnant women who were then charged $50,000 for lodging, food and transportation. Investigators said women were also told to wear loose clothing to hide their pregnancies, and they were promised Social Security numbers and U.S. passports for their babies before returning to China. In one instance, a trainer in China helped fabricate employment and income information for an undercover federal agent posing as a pregnant client to secure a tourist visa. The undercover agent was encouraged to fly through Hawaii, where customs officers were believed to be more lenient than in Los Angeles, according to a copy of an affidavit in support of a search warrant. The business netted its owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past two years and helped Chinese tourists deliver more than 400 babies at just one Orange County hospital, the court papers said. Investigators obtained warrants for the searches in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties hoping to collect evidence of suspected crimes, including visa and tax fraud, immigration officials said. Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan said in response to the crackdown that compared with "4 million people traveling between our two countries every year, these cases are sporadic. The Chinese government always requests overseas Chinese citizens to abide by the laws." Authorities did not release details of their findings or say how many women they found. Whether the women will stay here to give birth will be handled on an individual basis; authorities say some may need to remain as material witnesses. The key draw for travelers is that the United States offers birthright citizenship. Maternity tourists believe citizenship will help their children secure a top-notch U.S. college education and provide a sort of insurance policy should economic conditions crumble in their home country — especially since the tourists themselves can apply for a green card once their American child turns 21. U.S. Customs and Border Protection warns on its website that officers at airports and on the border will consider a pregnant woman's due date, travel plans and medical insurance to determine whether she can enter the country. In Irvine, neighbor Linda Trust said she saw small groups of pregnant Chinese women together at the complex, and people bringing in platters of food and cases of diapers. "I don't think it's right," she said, adding that she had never seen any of the babies.
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:48 am by FENIT NIRAPPIL & KRISTIN J. BENDER, Associated Press
(AP) — California received a double dose of bad drought news on Tuesday, with state officials saying the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is far below normal and that residents again aren't coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown's call for a 20 percent cut in water use. Snow supplies about a third of the state's water and a higher winter snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall. Last weekend's Sierra snowfall pleased skiers and snowboarders but wasn't nearly enough to offset weeks of dry weather. The latest survey makes it likely California's drought will run through a fourth year. Brown declared a drought emergency on Jan. 17, 2014, and his office continues to underline the need for sustained water conservation. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, said there were 6.7 inches of snow on the ground at the survey spot near Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. "It's very meager and it is clearly flirting with being the lowest on record," he said. The survey found a snowpack water equivalent of just 0.9 inches. During the last snow survey on Jan. 29 there was a water equivalent of 2.3 inches in the same spot. Unless this month approximates the 1991 "Miracle March" with significantly more precipitation than normal, the traditional wet season will end on April 1 with an alarmingly low total. "There is no reason to think we will have such a good March again this year," Gehrke said. Meanwhile, a new report showed state water conservation slipping from December when Californians cut water use by 22 percent. Urban water use in January declined by only 9 percent compared to the same month in 2013, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. January was unseasonably dry and brought no measurable rainfall in downtown San Francisco for the first time in history. Overall water use stayed flat compared to the rainy December. The water board report showed conservation varied widely across the state, with communities in the South Coast area scaling back 9 percent and the San Francisco Bay Area by just 4 percent. The monthly data helps officials monitor the effectiveness of the state's emergency conservation regulations, which include a ban on washing cars using hoses that do not have a shut-off valve and restrictions on watering lawns. Later this month the board will consider extending and expanding these regulations. "It's hard to sustain a sense of urgency and emergency for a longer period of time, but unfortunately we don't have a choice," water board scientist Max Gomberg said at an agency meeting Tuesday. "We have to redouble the (conservation) effort."  
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:45 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The Curiosity rover has temporarily stopped work on Mars while NASA engineers investigate a short circuit. The space agency said Tuesday that the electrical problem was discovered over the weekend as Curiosity tried to transfer bits of powder from a rock that it had drilled into. The short circuit stopped the rover's robotic arm. Engineers are diagnosing the issue, and the testing is expected to take several days. Curiosity landed in a Martian crater in 2012. Since then, it has uncovered geologic evidence of an environment that could have supported microbial life early in the planet's history.
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:43 am by SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — The first set of lawsuits stemming from the crash of an Asiana Airlines flight in San Francisco two years ago have been settled, but dozens of additional cases remain after the accident that killed three Chinese teenagers and injured nearly 200 people. The settlement with 72 passengers who filed personal injury claims includes the airline along with Boeing Co., which made the airplane, and Air Cruisers Co., the New Jersey company that made its evacuation slides. A court filing Tuesday that disclosed the settlement did not include the financial terms, and plaintiffs' attorney Frank Pitre said those details are confidential. "This is the first positive step for these passengers to be able to get closure on a tragic, catastrophic crash and hopefully try to get their lives back together," Pitre said. "We're pleased we've been able to get this first phase resolved." Boeing spokesman Miles Kotay said the aircraft maker does not comment on pending litigation. Calls for comment to attorneys for Asiana and Air Cruisers were not immediately returned. Asiana Flight 214 was traveling from South Korea on July 6, 2013, with 307 people on board when the Boeing 777 slammed into a sea wall at the end of a runway during approach to San Francisco International Airport. The impact ripped off the back of the plane, tossed out three flight attendants and their seats, and scattered pieces of the jet across the runway as it spun and skidded to a stop. U.S. safety investigators blamed the pilots, saying they bungled the landing approach by inadvertently deactivating the plane's key control for airspeed, among other errors. But the National Transportation Safety Board also said the complexity of the Boeing 777's auto-throttle and auto flight director — two of the plane's key systems for controlling flight — contributed to the accident. The NTSB also faulted materials provided to airlines by Chicago-based Boeing, saying they fail to make clear the conditions in which the auto-throttle doesn't automatically maintain speed. Pitre said the passengers who settled had injuries that were less serious and have stabilized. At least 14 of the people with whom settlements were reached are minors, requiring the court to approve the agreements, according to Tuesday's filing.
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:39 am by SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — A billionaire investor in a Silicon Valley venture capital firm is set to testify for a second day in a high-profile sex discrimination lawsuit that has accused the firm of being an all-boys club where women were denied chances to advance and treated as second-class citizens. John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, will again take the stand Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court in the lawsuit brought by his former chief of staff, Ellen Pao, who says she was denied a promotion because she is a woman and was fired in 2012 after she complained and filed her lawsuit. The case has sparked debate over the treatment of women in the high-tech and venture capital fields, which are dominated by men. "I don't consider Kleiner Perkins to be a firm run by men," Doerr said Tuesday under questioning by Pao's attorney, Alan Exelrod. "We have many female partners." Doerr is among the most prominent venture capitalists in Silicon Valley in part for helping direct early investments in Amazon.com and Google after joining Kleiner Perkins in 1980. He sits on Google's board and served on boards that advised President Barack Obama about economic policy. His net worth is estimated at $3.5 billion by Forbes. Doerr appeared exasperated at times during hours of questioning by Exelrod, averting his gaze and shifting in his seat. Exelrod has argued that Kleiner Perkins had a male-dominated culture where his client received a book of erotic poetry from a male senior partner and experienced retaliation by a male colleague after she broke off an affair with him. Asked about the book of poetry, Doerr said Pao did not tell him the nature of the book during a 2007 meeting and did not seem upset by it. She was emphatic that her affair with the male colleague was in the past and not a problem, he said. Doerr said he did not recall telling an investigator that Kleiner Perkins was run by men and that Pao had a "female chip" on her shoulder. The investigator had been brought in by the firm and looked into Pao's complaint alleging gender discrimination and a complaint filed by a female employee who claimed she was sexually harassed. The investigator alleged that Doerr had made those statements. Pao initially worked as Doerr's chief of staff, writing his letters and speeches, among other duties, before becoming a junior partner in 2010 with full-time investment duties. The firm has denied wrongdoing and says Pao, 45, didn't get along with her colleagues — a requirement for the junior partner position — and performed poorly in that role. In a job review presented in court Tuesday, Doerr said Pao needed to improve her interpersonal skills and not be dismissive of peers who don't meet her expectations, though he otherwise praised her performance in her first year as his chief of staff. "People need to be able to confront disagreements on ideas and then agree and pull together as a team," Doerr said under questioning by Kleiner Perkins attorney Lynne Hermle. "Ellen lacked those skills." Venture capital firms, which provide much of the startup funds for tech companies, have a reputation as being even more insular and male-dominated than the companies they help launch. Women hold 15 to 20 percent of the technology jobs at tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo, according to disclosures by the companies.Venture capital firms are even more slanted toward men. A study released last year by Babson College in Massachusetts found that women filled just 6 percent of the partner-level positions at 139 venture capital firms in 2013, down from 10 percent in 1999. During questioning by Hermle, Doerr said he tried to increase the number of women in venture capital and the technology sector, including recruiting women and backing companies run by women. "Almost always, women are better leaders than men," he said. Pao is seeking $16 million in damages. The firm is seeking to limit any possible damages by arguing that Pao is well-compensated in her current position as interim CEO of the popular social media company Reddit and hasn't suffered financially since leaving Kleiner Perkins after filing her lawsuit.
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:35 am by BRANDON BAILEY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Millions of people may have been left vulnerable to hackers while surfing the web on Apple and Google devices, thanks to a newly discovered security flaw known as "FREAK attack." There's no evidence so far that any hackers have exploited the weakness, which companies are now moving to repair. Researchers blame the problem on an old government policy, abandoned over a decade ago, which required U.S. software makers to use weaker security in encryption programs sold overseas due to national security concerns. Many popular websites and some Internet browsers continued to accept the weaker software, or can be tricked into using it, according to experts at several research institutions who reported their findings Tuesday. They said that could make it easier for hackers to break the encryption that's supposed to prevent digital eavesdropping when a visitor types sensitive information into a website. About a third of all encrypted websites were vulnerable as of Tuesday, including sites operated by American Express, Groupon, Kohl's, Marriott and some government agencies, the researchers said. University of Michigan computer scientist Zakir Durumeric said the vulnerability affects Apple web browsers and the browser built into Google's Android software, but not Google's Chrome browser or current browsers from Microsoft or Firefox-maker Mozilla. Apple Inc. and Google Inc. both said Tuesday they have created software updates to fix the "FREAK attack" flaw, which derives its name from an acronym of technical terms. Apple said its fix will be available next week and Google said it has provided an update to device makers and wireless carriers. A number of commercial website operators are also taking corrective action after being notified privately in recent weeks, said Matthew Green, a computer security researcher at Johns Hopkins University. But some experts said the problem shows the danger of government policies that require any weakening of encryption code, even to help fight crime or threats to national security. They warned those policies could inadvertently provide access to hackers. "This was a policy decision made 20 years ago and it's now coming back to bite us," said Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, referring to the old restrictions on exporting encryption code.
Written on 03/03/2015, 1:17 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stock indexes are closing slightly lower, pulling the Nasdaq composite index back below 5,000. The decline Tuesday came a day after the Nasdaq closed above that milestone for the first time since the dot-com era 15 years ago. The Nasdaq declined 28 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,979. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 85 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,203. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost nine points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,107. The Dow and S&P 500 closed at record highs the day before. Energy stocks rose as the price of oil recovered. Utilities also rose, but the other eight S&P 500 sectors fell. Ford lost 2.4 percent after reporting lower sales last month as dealers couldn't keep up with demand for the new F-150 pickup.

Latest State News

Written on 03/04/2015, 7:52 am by AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
(AP) — Women who come to the U.S. from...
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:48 am by FENIT NIRAPPIL & KRISTIN J. BENDER, Associated Press
(AP) — California received a double...
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:45 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The Curiosity rover has...
Written on 03/04/2015, 7:43 am by SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — The first set of lawsuits...

Latest National News

Written on 03/04/2015, 8:13 am by DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer
(AP) — Sony plans on putting its...
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:10 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. businesses added more than...
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:07 am by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. services firms' activity...
Written on 03/03/2015, 1:17 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stock indexes are closing...