– January 30, 2015

Reyes appointed new Tulare Co. judge

Antonio Reyes was appointed the newest judge for the Tulare County Superior Court.Antonio Reyes was appointed the newest judge for the Tulare County Superior Court.Governor Jerry Brown appointed Visalia attorney Antonio Reyes as the newest judge for the Tulare County Superior Court.

Reyes, 60, has been in his own private practice since 1990. Formerly, he was a partner at various firms dating back to 1983, including Duarte and Reyes, Orduno and Reyes and Valdez Silva Orduno Candeleria and Reyes.

Before that, Reyes was an attorney at Nunez Silva and Orduno and at the Legal Services Program for San Gabriel Valley.

Reyes earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary's College of California.

Reyes fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Gerald F. Sevier last September. He will be paid an annual salary of $178,789.

With his appointment, the Tulare County Superior Court now has 19 judges.

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Written on 01/30/2015, 10:13 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 01/30/2015, 10:03 am by Business Journal Staff
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Written on 01/30/2015, 8:59 am by STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
(AP) — After a three-week flirtation with a new campaign for the White House, Mitt Romney announced Friday that he will not seek the presidency in 2016. "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney told supporters on a conference call. Romney's exit comes after several of his former major donors and a veteran staffer in the early voting state of Iowa defected to support former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would have served as Romney's most likely rivals for the support of the Republican Party's establishment-minded voters. In his call with supporters, Romney appeared to take a swipe at Bush, saying it was time for fresh leadership within the GOP. "I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee," Romney said. "In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case." The former governor of Massachusetts, who is 67, had jumped back into the presidential discussion on Jan. 10, when he surprised a small group of former donors at a meeting in New York by telling them he was eyeing a third run for the White House. It was a monumental change for Romney, who since losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama had repeatedly told all who asked that his career in politics was over and he would not again run for president. On Friday, Romney said he had been asked if there were any circumstance under which he would again reconsider. That, he said, "seems unlikely." "Accordingly, I'm not organizing a PAC or taking donations," he said. "I'm not hiring a campaign team." The exit of Romney from the campaign most immediately helps those viewed as part of the party's establishment wing, including Bush, Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The more conservative side of the field is largely unchanged, with a group of candidates that will likely include Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike HuckabeeIn the three weeks since the meeting in New York, which caught several in attendance off-guard, Romney made calls to former fundraisers, staff members and supporters, and gave three public speeches in which he outlined his potential vision for another campaign. "I'm thinking about how I can help the country," he told hundreds of students Wednesday night at Mississippi State University. In that speech, and what amounted to a campaign stop a few hours before at a barbecue restaurant with Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen in tow, Romney sounded every bit like a politician preparing to run. "We need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class," Romney said then. "You deserve a job that can repay all you've spent and borrowed to go to college." But as Romney sounded out his former team about putting together a new national campaign, he discovered that several of his past fundraisers had already made plans for 2016 and were now committed to Bush. Several key former Romney donors told The Associated Press this week that in Bush they see someone who can successfully serve as president, as they believe Romney could. But they also think Bush has the personality and senior staff needed to win the White House, something the former Massachusetts governor could not bring together in his two previous presidential campaigns. "I've got great respect for Gov. Romney, and I busted my buns for him," said Chicago investor Craig Duchossois, whose wife contributed $250,000 to a pro-Romney super PAC while he collected tens of thousands more for Romney's last campaign. "But I have turned the page." Romney also lost one of his most trusted political advisers on Thursday when David Kochel joined Bush's team. Kochel, who led Romney's campaign in Iowa in 2008 and 2012, is in now line to play a senior role in Bush's campaign should he run. Romney's decision against running clearly pained him, and he took no questions from supporters on Friday's call. "You can't imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country," Romney said. "But we believe it is for the best of the party and the nation."
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:57 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A federal appeals court said Friday that many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work. In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a conclusion reached earlier by the Federal Trade Commission that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products. POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products. "We see no basis for setting aside the commission's conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims about POM products," wrote appeals judge Sri Srinivasan, an appointee of President Barack Obama. The Federal Trade Commission Act does not allow, "and the First Amendment does not protect — deceptive and misleading advertisements," Srinivsan wrote. The other two judges in the case were chief appeals judge Merrick Garland and appeals judge Douglas Ginsburg. Garland was nominated by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg by President Ronald Reagan. The court upheld the commission's requirement that POM gain the support of at least one randomized, controlled, human clinical trial before claiming a causal relationship between consumption of POM products and the treatment or prevention of any disease. Ruling against the FTC on one point, the appeals court said it found inadequate justification for the commission's blanket requirement of at least two such studies as a precondition to any disease-related claim.
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:56 am by Business Journal Staff
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Written on 01/30/2015, 8:36 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' victory in the NCAA's championship football game. The university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes, The Columbus Dispatch reports ( ). Officials anticipate about $17 million in total royalty revenue for the year. Retailers say the team's story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries. "People were energized long before the game, and people are still coming through the door," said Lori Leavitt Watson, vice president of a flag store in Columbus. The fact that Ohio State hadn't won a championship in more than a decade has also helped increase sales, said Rick Van Brimmer, an assistant vice president for the school's trademark and licensing operations. When the Buckeyes beat the University of Miami for the title in 2002, royalties doubled from the previous year, bringing in about $5 million in total revenue. More than half of the money that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program then each receive 15 percent. The boost in sales is bigger than sports, Brimmer said. "It transcends athletics and helps us tell the overall Ohio State story," he said. "The world's eyes were on us for an incredible run to the championship, but we stay on their minds for a much longer time."
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:34 am by PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004. The University of Michigan said Friday that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month. Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years. Over the past six months, households with annual incomes of less than $75,000 have reported gains in confidence as big as households with higher incomes. Still, most consumers are expecting only modest wage income gains, which could constrain their spending. "Without sufficient wage gains, consumers will be forced to demand large price discounts to complete their purchases," said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Michigan survey. The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that an improving economy and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at a 4.3 percent annual pace, fastest since the first three months of 2006. Underlying consumers' improving mood: The job market is the strongest it's been in years. Employers last year added nearly 3 million jobs, most since 1999. Gasoline prices have plunged to $2.05 a gallon from $2.27 a month ago and $3.28 a year ago, according to AAA. Overall, the economy grew at a steady 2.6 annual rate the last three months of 2014. For the full year, it grew a modest 2.4 percent, pulled down by bitter winter weather at the start of 2014. Over the last nine months of last year, economic growth averaged at a healthy 4.1 percent annual rate.
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:32 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Wages and benefits rose at a slightly healthier rate last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers. The Labor Department said Friday that the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent. Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace. "While still quite tame, wages have picked up a little," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. "We expect more acceleration, especially if the unemployment rate falls some more, as seems highly likely." The employment cost index began to creep up last spring, increasing 0.7 percent in the second and third quarters. Wages and benefits rose 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter. The final three quarters of 2014 saw the strongest gains since the recession. And last year's annual increase of 2.2 percent is the biggest calendar-year increase since 2008. The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health. Higher pay can also push up inflation, which typically prompts the Fed to raise interest rates. Employers added nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, the best year for hiring in 15 years. That helped drive the unemployment rate down to 5.6 percent, the lowest in six years, from 6.7 percent a year earlier. Such trends usually push up paychecks, as companies are forced to offer higher salaries to attract a dwindling number of unemployed workers. Other measures of wages don't show any pickup. Average hourly pay, a gauge included in the monthly jobs report, rose just 1.7 percent in 2014, below the previous year's pace. Yet most economists think the employment cost index is a better measure of wages. It focuses on how pay levels change within occupations and industries. The average hourly wage figure is influenced by changes in which industries are hiring. As a result, big job gains in lower-paying sectors, such as restaurants and retail, can drag down average hourly pay. Higher wages can be a precursor for higher inflation. As Americans earn more at their jobs, they spend more, enabling stores and other businesses to raise prices. Consumers may not like higher prices, but the Fed would love to see them. Fed policymakers prefer inflation to be at about 2 percent a year. That provides them a cushion against deflation, a destabilizing fall in wages and prices. Yet prices rose just 1.3 percent last year, according to the Fed's preferred measure. They have been below the Fed's target for three years. The Fed's policymaking committee attributed much of the weakness to lower gas prices in a statement Wednesday. It also said it expects inflation will rise gradually to 2 percent in the "medium term" as the impact of the gas prices fades.
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:27 am by MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014, but a burst in consumer spending and the prospect of continued low energy prices are bolstering confidence that growth will strengthen this year. The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December period, the government said Friday. That was down from a sizzling 5 percent gain in the previous quarter. Though business investment, government spending and trade weakened, consumers signaled rising confidence by stepping up their spending at the fastest rate in nearly nine years. Thanks to steady job growth, tumbling oil prices and signs that pay may finally be picking up, Americans appear poised to keep the economy expanding at a solid pace. On Friday, the University of Michigan reported that its index of sentiment showed that U.S. consumers are more confident than they have been since January 2004. Also Friday, the government said wages and benefits are ticking up, a sign that steady job gains may be compelling employers to pay a bit more. An index that measures pay and benefits rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up slightly from 2 percent in 2013 and ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent. Though the overall GDP figure for last quarter was mildly underwhelming, many of the components of the report were consistent with an economy that's outpacing others around the world and is on course to post solid growth this year. Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the fourth quarter's slowdown is "nothing to worry about." Ashworth noted that the result was heavily influenced by a swing in the volatile defense spending category. He pointed to the acceleration in consumer spending as more indicative of where the economy is headed. "With the collapse in energy prices increasing households' purchasing power, we expect strong consumption growth to continue driving GDP growth in the first half of this year," Ashworth said. For 2014 overall, the economy grew a moderate 2.4 percent. The year began on a sour note as a brutal winter sent the economy into reverse. GDP dropped at a 2.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter. But the economy rebounded, with growth averaging a 4.1 percent annual rate over the next three quarters. Many analysts expect growth above 3 percent this year. That would mark a significant acceleration after a prolonged period of weakness. Since the recession ended in 2009, the economy's expansion has averaged 2.2 percent a year, far below the gains typical after a deep recession. In the October-December period, consumer spending — which accounts for roughly 70 percent of the economy — grew at a 4.3 percent rate, up from 3.2 percent in the third quarter. It was the best gain for consumer spending since the first three months of 2006. But business investment in equipment shrank after big increases in the previous two quarters. Economists partly blamed the weakness on cutbacks in oil and gas drilling by energy companies grappling with the plunge in energy prices. Government spending fell at a 2.2 percent annual rate after a 4.4 percent gain in the third quarter. The third quarter had been bolstered by a 16 percent rise in defense spending, which backpedaled last quarter. Trade reduced growth by a full percentage point in the fourth quarter. Business stockpiling added 0.8 percentage point. The government's estimate of GDP — the total output of goods and services — was the first of three for the October-December quarter. Even with the fourth quarter slowdown, the U.S. economy is still the star of the global economy. Europe is battling renewed weakness, Japan is in a recession, and even growth in China slowing. Last week, the International Monetary Fund cut its outlook for global growth over the next two years, warning that weakness in most major economies will trump lower oil prices. But the IMF increased its outlook for the U.S. economy, pegging growth this year at 3.6 percent. If that forecast proves accurate, it would mark the fastest annual U.S. growth in over a decade. "It took us awhile to get here, but I think the economy is finally off and running," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "Businesses are hiring aggressively, and the big drop in gas prices means that people have more money to spend on other items." Global oil prices have fallen nearly 60 percent in seven months, with the nationwide average for gasoline now around $2 a gallon. That decline translates into a savings for consumers of about $175 billion, Zandi said. "A big part of growth this year will be people spending their gas savings," he said. The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took note of the brightening economic picture while pledging to remain "patient" in deciding when to begin raising interest rates from record lows. The Fed has leeway to be patient because the weaker global economy has helped strengthen the dollar against other countries, and gasoline prices are plunging. Both developments are helping to hold down already-low inflation.
Written on 01/29/2015, 1:39 pm by 
ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated press
(AP) — A Colorado man accused of operating a "revenge porn" website has settled with federal regulators who said he broke the law by posting nude pictures of women without their consent or knowledge. The FTC says Craig Brittain of Colorado Springs, Colo., ran the website, which is no longer operational. Officials say the site worked like this: A man would obtain the images while dating the woman. But upon breaking up, the woman's ex would supply the photos to Brittain, who would post them along with the woman's full name, age, home town, phone number and link to her Facebook profile. The FTC says Brittain advertised a separate legal service that claimed to be able to take down the photos for a fee of up to $500. A phone number tied to Brittain's address had been disconnected, and he could not be reached for comment. It's unclear whether Brittain had a lawyer. The case signals an increased interest by regulators in revenge sites, which have proliferated in recent years in part because of lax laws aimed at protecting free speech on the Internet and preventing website operators from being punished for linking to content they believe is lawful. The case is the first of its kind for the FTC, which has the authority to sue companies for unfair and deceptive business practices. "One key factor in this case was the publication not only of victims' intimate images, but also extensive personal identifying and location information, which significantly increased the harm that victims could face," said Mark Eichorn, assistant director of the division of privacy and identity protection at the FTC. Under the settlement, Brittain is required to delete all of the images and other personal information he received while operating the site. He also is prohibited from publicly sharing intimate videos or photographs of people without their consent. The website, "," is no longer operational. Brittain won't be required to pay financial restitution. While the agency doesn't have the authority to seek civil penalties, it could demand that Brittain repay any women who paid his bogus legal service in an attempt to erase embarrassing photos. The FTC won't say publicly why it declined to seek refunds in this case. But it noted that it takes several factors into account when deciding whether to pursue money to pay back victims of a scam, including the person's ability to pay. "As to other cases, we can't confirm or deny the existence of any other investigations, but this remains an area we're interested in," Eichorn said in an email in response to questions by The Associated Press. An increasing number of states have taken on the issue of revenge porn, under pressure from victims who say these sites put them at physical risk. But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have questioned legislation they worry run afoul of the First Amendment. According to the FTC, Brittain made $12,000 off the site before it shut down in April 2013.

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