– July 25, 2014

Stocks slip below records; FMC falls 

(AP) — Stocks fell for the first time in seven days, ending a run that had pushed the indexes to all-time highs, as investors assessed corporate news.

Chemical company FMC fell the most in the Standard & Poor's 500 index after cutting its earnings forecast for the second quarter due because its Agricultural Solutions unit performed worse than expected in the period. General Electric and Wisconsin Energy both dropped after announcing acquisitions.

The stock market has climbed steadily in the last two months amid signs that the economy has recovered its momentum after being disrupted by an unusually harsh winter. Stronger growth should translate into higher corporate profits.

"The market has had a good run and it needs to pause," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

The S&P 500 fell a fraction of a point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,962.61. The index closed at a record 1,962.87 on Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 9.82 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 16,937.26. The Nasdaq composite index edged up 0.64 point, or less than 0.01 percent, to 4,368.68.

FMC dropped $3.65, or 4.9 percent, to $71.10 after the company lowered its earnings forecast for the second-quarter, saying that the impact of the cold winter had been much stronger than it had originally anticipated.

Investors were also watching deal news that produced both winners and losers.

General Electric dropped 29 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $26.68 after agreeing to acquire most of the power generation business belonging to Alstom, a French company. Wisconsin Energy fell $1.62, or 3.5 percent, to $45.27 after the company said that it was buying Integrys Energy for $5.8 billion.

Intergrys was among the winners. The company's stock jumped $7.40, or 12.1 percent, to $68.35 on the news.

Micros Systems also gained on deal news. The software company's stock rose $2.21, or 3.4 percent, to $67.98 after Oracle said it was buying the company for about $5.3 billion.

The stock market may be heading for a summer lull after its latest record-setting run, as investors wait for more confirmation that the economic outlook is improving, said Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. The S&P 500 is up 6.2 percent for the year after trading mostly sideways for the first three months of the year.

"After the big run we've had over the past couple of months, a week or two of consolidation isn't anything out of the ordinary," said Wren.

In government bond trading, prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction to its price, rose to 2.62 percent.

The price of oil fell 66 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $106.17 a barrel.

Among other stocks making big moves:

Lululemon rose $1.02, or 2.5 percent, to $41.25 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company's founder was working with Goldman Sachs to shake up the yoga clothing company's board. Lululemon's stock is down 30 percent this year as the company works on improving its business since pulling one of its popular yoga pants from stores last spring because they were too sheer.

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Written on 07/25/2014, 2:23 pm by Leah
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Written on 07/25/2014, 2:19 pm by ben
Local innovations are showing promise in alleviating the Central Valley’s air problem since being bolstered with funding from the Technology Advancement Program.Launched by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in 2010, the program relies on locally generated funds and support from the Environmental Protection Agency to reimburse projects or inventions that focus on renewable energy, waste treatment or minimizing pollution from vehicles and other mobile sources. To date, nearly $7.2 million has been awarded to groups developing technologies businesses can use to cut emissions while maximizing production. Sites within the district’s eight-county region host the research and development projects.Among them was the Association of Compost Producers with $230,000 for testing of a new biofiltration system that produces compost using an electric-powered conveyer system and solar panels to run aeration blowers underneath feedstock piles.Working together with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), the City of Bakersfield and other experts in the field, the team tested the concept for 22 days at the composting facility operated by Harvest Power in Tulare.According to Brian Stalker, environmental specialist with CalRecycle, the prototype extended Aerated Static Pile reduced carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 65 percent compared to the standard windrow composting method. “Generally when compost piles are built, they’re built with diesel loaders and turned with a Scarab [compost turner] similar to a large tractor,” Stalker said. “This process was all electrified so it didn’t need to be turned with the loaders.”An overhead sprinkler system also kept the piles of food and green waste moist during loading, Stalker said, meaning the water trucks driving through the rows in normal composting methods weren’t needed, cutting space requirements by half.Compared to the expensive vortex fabrics found in most composting operations, Stalker said there also was a significant cost reduction in using a thick biofilter layer cap made from finished, unscreened compost. Microbes in the layer further helped to break down the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) forced up through the composting pile by the solar-powered air blowers laid underneath.“It’s a lot faster. You don’t have to turn it, it saves on space, you get reduced air emission, which is huge in California,” Stalker said. “It’s just putting all the pieces together to get the biggest amount of impact.”Although Tulare’s extended Aerated Static Pile was torn down soon after testing, the setup has been in use for the last three months at the Mount Vernon composting site operated by the City of Bakersfield.Another $500,000 from the Technology Advancement Program went to TransPower of Poway, Calif. last year to help the company as it overhauled a diesel tractor with an electric propulsion system.The ElecTruck, currently undergoing final drive testing, is rebuilt from a yard tractor manufactured by Kalmar of Ottawa, Kan.But TransPower president and CEO Mike Simon said the finished product is much more sophisticated than its original form, with every mechanism from power steering and braking, air conditioning, lights, dashboard displays and even software rewired to the company’s battery-electric system.Also, a battery charger installed on the vehicle allows it to be plugged into any 220-volt outlet — with eight hours of use from two to four hours of charging — without burning out the battery like some chargers tend to do. “We have what we call a battery management system,” Simon said. “While the vehicle’s being charged, it constantly shuffles the charge around the battery pack to make sure that all the cells come up to the same voltage level at the same time.”Simon said the first ElecTruck funded by the air district will be complete and delivered to the Ikea distribution center in Lebec in the next month. And another four are in various stages of production, two of which will go to logistics company APL Terminals and another two soon after to a railroad company in the Los Angeles area.  “As we get into bigger quantities we hope to convert the tractors for more like between $300,000 and $400,000 but hopefully closer to $300,000,” Simon said.Now in its fourth year, $4 million is currently available from the Technology Advancement Program for emission reducing innovations in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.The program was put on hold last year to give the air district time to implement a more rigorous standard involving three to four contractors for each project instead of just the technology developer.  Kevin Wing, a senior air quality specialist with the air district, said projects are selected on the basis of how far along they are and the likelihood of being demoed and developed into commercial projects within one year of the grant.“We want to put them on the ground and see them work,” Wing said. “We don’t want to look for projects where it’s just an idea at this point.”Proposals this year will be accepted until Aug. 15. Approved projects will be announced on Dec. 18.More information about the program and how to submit a proposal can be found at
Written on 07/25/2014, 2:12 pm by chuckharvey
Drought and slashed water allocations are taking its toll on Valley farmers.At the same time, the groundwater table continues to fall. Water agencies would like to see the proposed Temperance Flat Dam built on the San Joaquin River to hold more water, especially in wet years. Although water conveyance from the north remains critical, groundwater is touted as the most important long-term water source for the Valley. And groundwater has to be recharged if the multitude of wells in the Valley are to keep operating.And recharge depends on being able to capture and hold more floodwater. Because percolation of water is a slow process, water must be stored on the surface in a reservoir prior to releasing it gradually for percolation.An $11 billion bond, scheduled to be on the November ballot, would include the cost of building Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River.Another, newer bill, AB 1331, would allocate 6.5 billion toward the dam project. The bill, now in the state Senate, will need to go to voters for a bond issue.Water experts say the need is critical because the groundwater level in the San Joaquin Valley is plunging at an increasingly greater rate.Another dry winter could put smaller wells out of service, especially on the Westside where were groundwater levels are especially low.The drought is three years along and has cost farmers $1.5 billion in revenue statewide, according to a recent report by the University of California, Davis. Total statewide economic cost of the drought is estimated at $2.2 billion.The Central Valley is hardest hit with projected loses of $810 million in crop revenue and $203 million in dairy and livestock value. The drought cost farmers an additional $453 million in well-pumping costs.In addition, overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause more wells to run dry — especially in the Tulare basin — if the drought continues.The report states that 428,000 acres, or 5 percent of irrigated cropland, is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California because of the drought.Also, 17,100 seasonal and part time jobs related to agriculture have been lost.In a story on the report, Kat Kerlin, environmental reporter for UC Davis, wrote that California agriculture is weathering its worst drought in decades due to groundwater reserves, “but the nation’s produce basket may come up dry in the future if it continues to treat those reserves like an unlimited savings account.”Indeed well diggers have been constructing wells at a rate never seen before in the Valley. And the current rate of water recharge is inadequate, especially in drought conditions.But water experts lament the fact that despite the value of the underground water supply, little has been done to protect the water reserve in dry periods. Specifically, the current reservoir system, including Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River, is not large enough to catch and hold floodwater during the especially wet years.Construction of Temperance Flat Dam would allow for the holding of twice as much water as the current system.That’s why area water experts insist that surface water holdings have to be part of an overall water conservation system. “It would create a steady supply for restoration,” said Randy McFarland, spokesman for the Friant Water Authority.George Soares, partner at Kahn, Soares & Conway law firm in Sacramento, agreed. He said greater water holding capacity on the San Joaquin River and in Sacramento is important to a sustainable underground water storage system.“We need to have a greater supply of water,” Soares said. And it needs to come from various sources, he added.“We need water storage for droughts and for El Ninos,” Soares added. And more water storage is not just important for dry years, but for wet years as well, he said.Soares said there is no reason for flooded cropland, which was the case in the mid-1990s.Those floodwaters could be held in reservoirs if the reservoir capacity was adequate, he said. Later, it could be slowly percolated into the soil.For now, water storage is seriously depleted.McFarland said water supplies from the delta would continue to be vital to area water users. He said the delta needs work to make it more stable.That does not necessarily mean construction of twin tunnels as Gov. Jerry Brown as proposed, McFarland said. But it needs to be made more sustainable, he said.He said greater surface water holding capability is vital. However many environmentalists oppose the holding of surface water, he said.Lack of surface water for recharging the underground aquifer is already taking its toll.“The groundwater system looks like it’s in collapse at every turn,” McFarland said. “We have land subsidence throughout the Valley.”He added that pumps are running at full bore. “Wells are going dry,” McFarland said.Water levels have plunged by 40 to 50 feet depending on the area.“If we continue this way there won’t be much water left,” McFarland said.He added that people are spending as much as $1 million on the east and west sides to get wells dug. Area well diggers have been swamped with work during the drought and that has created a backload on projects.However, water officials say that well demand has not drawn well diggers here from other parts of the country. That’s because drought has affected most of the West and well diggers are needed in many places outside California.
Written on 07/25/2014, 2:12 pm by KEN SWEET, AP Markets Writer
(AP) — Investors got some bad news about the American shopper on Friday, driving down stocks and sending the Dow Jones industrial average to a loss for the week. Two major U.S. companies — the retail giant Amazon and the credit card processor Visa — both said that the second half of the year was looking more troubled than originally expected. The cautious outlook from two companies so heavily exposed to consumer spending spooked investors, causing the stock market to fall at the open and remain lower throughout the day. "Visa put a lot of caution into the market this morning," said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 123.23 points, or 0.7 percent, to 16,960.57. It's the first time the Dow has closed below the psychologically notable 17,000-point mark since July 9. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 9.64 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,978.34 and the Nasdaq composite fell 22.54 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,449.56. With Friday's selling, the Dow fell 0.8 percent this week. The S&P 500 closed basically unchanged and the Nasdaq rose 0.4 percent this week. Visa was the biggest decliner among the blue chips, falling $7.97, or 3.6 percent, to $214.77. The credit card processor reported an 11 percent rise in quarterly profit but cut its full-year forecast on concerns about growth overseas. Because the Dow is a price-weighted index, and Visa is the most expensive stock in the Dow, Visa was having an outsized impact on it. Roughly 60 points of the Dow's decline can be attributed to Visa. Investors have closely watched Visa ever since the company went public in 2008. Credit cards that use Visa's payment system are in nearly person's pocket, and each time a consumer buys a product with a Visa card the company takes a small percentage. To see Visa give a cautious outlook is worrisome, Krosby said. "Visa represents the consumer and the consumer is one of the most important pieces for the future of this economic recovery," she said. Amazon's quarterly results didn't help boost investor sentiment either. Amazon's stock slumped 10 percent after the online retail giant late Thursday posted a much wider loss than analysts had forecast, hit by expenses. The Seattle-based company is focused on spending the money it makes to expand into new areas and products, including a smartphone, the Fire, which starts selling Friday. Amazon fell $36.60 to close at $324.01, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 index. Investors retreated from riskier stocks and moved into traditional havens at times of uncertainty: bonds and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note eased to 2.47 percent from 2.50 percent late Thursday as demand for the government bond rose. Gold climbed $12.50, or 1 percent, to $1,303.30 an ounceDespite the disappointing news from those consumer-focused companies, corporate earnings from the latest quarter have been solid. Of the 230 companies that have reported so far, 76 percent have beaten profit expectations and 67 percent have beaten sales expectations, according to FactSet. So far the S&P 500 is averaging a 6.7 percent earnings growth this quarter compared to a year ago. Investors had expected earnings to be up 4.9 percent when the results started to roll in at the beginning of July. Even with Friday's declines, the stock market remains near all-time highs, and the S&P 500 closed at a record Thursday.. That made some investors cautious. "I continue to see the level of complacency in the (stock) market to be unnerving," Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, which manages $25 billion in assets for private investors. "All of this geopolitical tension, the market trading near all-time highs, I think the market is at a critical state right now." Clemons said he doesn't believe the market is poised for a major sell-off, but instead thinks investors should brace for more volatility and more heavy-handed reaction to disappointing earnings or data, like Friday's Amazon and Visa results. In other company news: — Starbucks fell $1.71, or 2 percent, to $78.74despite the company reporting a profit that came in above analysts' expectations. The company also raised its full-year profit forecast. — El Pollo Loco surged $9.03, or 60 percent, to $24.03 on its first day of trading in the public market. The grilled chicken restaurant chain priced its shares at $15 per share late Thursday. .
Written on 07/25/2014, 2:11 pm by chuckharvey
High-speed rail in California remains a highly charged subject of contention by opponents who see it as a costly boondoggle that slices up valued farmland.And although initial building demolition for the project has begun, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors is reconsidering its support of high-speed rail, which it has supported for the past seven years. The board is scheduled to reconsider the matter July 29.Supporters of the project believe it could sharply reduce Fresno’s unemployment rate while providing new employers and jobs for years to come. In addition, they point out that Fresno could become the high-speed rail capital of the United States. However, they admit that if the supervisors withdraw support, it could be a big blow to local leadership in the high-speed rail project. It could also derail Fresno’s chances of landing a high-speed rail maintenance building.Some of the opposition stems from the fear that the project will go significantly over budget. The current price tag is set at $68 billion — revised from $33 billion when voters passed Proposition 1A, the high-speed rail bond act in 2008.State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, believes the cost would likely balloon to $350 billion. Vidak would like to see a revote on the high-speed rail proposition.He has called high-speed rail “a pie in the sky” effort.Also last November, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge rescinded the rail authority’s funding plan, ordering it to get more environmental clearances and determine how it would pay for the first 300 miles of work.Despite all the setbacks, supporters in both the private and government sectors are pleased that more than 70 construction companies have already been hired and an enthusiastic group of men and women are being trained in the construction trades that are vital to building a major rail project.So far, 22 participants have completed training in the Building Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program. The Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties Building and Construction Trades Council provides the program in partnership with the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board.Out of 22 participants, 11 are now employed in trades. The program is only in its first phase.Jump Start, a four-week pre-apprenticeship program focusing primarily on the plumbing, sheet metal and electrical trades, has 106 participants who have completed training with 65 employed, including 36 in construction work.Jump Start is funded by the Fresno County Department of Social Services. Already, 71 construction contracts totaling $56 million have been struck between San Joaquin Valley companies and high-speed rail, said Lee Ann Eager, CEO of Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.But many more workers would be needed, especially if Fresno is selected for a maintenance faculty.Leading a press conference in Fresno on July 18, Bob Jennings, Northern California regional director of the State Building  & Conference Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO, defended high-speed rail.“Benefits are economic, environmental and social,” Jennings said. He said that the ability to cut commute time to places like Los Angeles and San Francisco is also important.Henry Perea, Fresno County supervisor, described high-speed rail as transformational.“We’re over 50 years behind the world on high-speed rail,” Perea said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t catch up and it doesn’t mean we can’t surpass the world in the technology and systems, and that’s where we’re going.”He added that resistance to large projects is nothing new.“Most people don’t know that the Golden Gate Bridge had over 2,000 lawsuits filed against it,” Perea said. “People we’re saying this is too hard and too tough and it costs too much because we’re in the depression era. We can’t spend the money. We have ferryboats that can get people from point A to point B.”Perea asked, who would argue against the Golden Gate Bridge now? “And high-speed rail will be no different,” he added. Perea envisions high-speed rail moving people up and down the state.“And when you think about it, the population is going to double in the next 20-30 years,” Perea said.  “You can get to San Francisco in less than an hour. You can get to Los Angeles in about two hours.”
Written on 07/25/2014, 2:10 pm by ben
Following two large property purchases last year in Kings County, Pitman Family Farms of Sanger is moving its growth northward with the expansion of its poultry farms in Madera County.Earlier this month, the Madera County Planning Commission approved two conditional use permits for new buildings at its ranches in Madera and Chowchilla, said Robert Mansfield, lead planner with Madera County.With the approval, the company, known for its pasture-raised chickens, turkeys and ducks, will add three new poultry barn structures totaling 75,000 square feet at its ranch at Road 20 1/2 and Avenue 18 west of Madera. The expansion, spanning around 18.8 acres, will allow Pitman Family Farms to raise 200,000 chickens at the ranch, where the business first began its poultry operations around 1965, according to a Madera County staff report.Each of the three structures, constructed of galvanized metal, is 25,000 square feet, measuring 50 feet by 500 feet. Pitman Family Farms plans to hire four people at the build out.Originally, the company had planned to build eight new poultry barns totaling 200,000 square feet for several thousand new chickens.The project was later scaled back to meet the small facility size requirements of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.A second expansion will also take place east of Chowchilla, where Pitman Family Farms is planning to add four new barns totaling 100,200 square feet at its 90-acre poultry farm near the intersection of Road 26 and Avenue 26.That project, scaled back from 40 proposed structures, is in addition to the 11 barns already on the site, allowing the company to house 375,000 chickens at a time.The ranch was among the first for the company, established around 50 years ago, not long after Don Pitman began raising free-range turkeys and chickens in 1954 on a feed mill in Madera.Under Don’s son Rick Pitman, sons David and Ben and his wife Mary, the namesake for Mary’s Chickens and Mary’s Turkeys products, Pitman Family Farms has been on a growth spurt in recent years.Last summer, the business added 25,000 square-feet to its Sanger chicken processing plant at 1489 K St. Building improvements totaled about $2 million.Two new buildings totaling 14,000 square feet valued at $500,000 were also added to the complex along with solar panels.Pitman Family Farms is currently developing 110 acres of land purchased last October in the Hanford Industrial Park. Other plans are underway from the purchase of Cargill’s 16-acre feed manufacturing facility in Hanford last August. The company is also growing its ranch near Traver with seven new chicken barns.Pitman Family Farms has operations scattered throughout the Central Valley, including around 12 chicken ranches, three turkey ranches, one duck ranch, a duck hatchery, a chicken hatchery and a feed mill in Madera.The products are a big hit at upscale stores such as Whole Foods thanks to its use of non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) feed and humane methods of raising poultry in open fields and euthanizing its birds with gases instead of the traditional method of electrical baths that inflict much more suffering during slaughter.In March, Pitman Family Farms won Whole Foods Market’s “Supplier of the Year” award for perishable products, one of two companies nationwide to win the chain’s Supplier of the Year honors. Out of thousands of Whole Foods suppliers nationwide, fewer than 50 have received such an award.The Business Journal’s most recent food processors list showed Pitman Family Farms has around 600 employees in the Central Valley.
Written on 07/25/2014, 2:09 pm by Leah
The federal Department of Transportation announced late last month that Merced’s city-owned airport would lose its flight subsidy under the Essential Air Service program this fall after falling short on the threshold of serving at least 10 passengers per day.Under a 2012 Federal Aviation Administration requirement, airports within 175 driving miles of a large- or medium-hub airport must average at least 10 enplanements a day to qualify for the program (Alaska and Hawaii are excluded). In California, El Centro also lost eligibility Visalia will retain the subsidy — geared toward rural communities — with five airlines competing to serve the community, including the existing carrier Great Lakes Airlines.Even though Merced’s eligibility under the Essential Air Service program was terminated, a community may petition to restore its eligibility in a joint filing with an air carrier.That is why airlines are still competing to serve Merced this summer in tandem with Visalia applications. Merced has requested a waiver to an end of service scheduled for Oct 1.Merced officials said in a letter to the Department of Transportation that the existing carrier Great Lakes made many scheduling changes in 2012, resulting in some cancellations.The Department of Transportation on May 21 requested proposals from airlines interested in providing Essential Air Service at Visalia for a new term.In response to the request, five air carriers submitted proposals: Wyoming-based Great Lakes Aviation, San Francisco-based Boutique Air, Hawaii-based Makani Kai Air, Oregon-based SeaPort Airlines and Hawaii-based Mokulele Airlines.A 2012 proposal from SeaPort Airlines had the carrier operating small nine-passenger planes that would offer Visalians daily service to Oakland, Burbank and San Diego with one plane running a circuit each day.The Essential Air Service program has come under fire from conservative critics such as Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Granite Bay), who represents part of Fresno County and delivered these remarks on the House floor a couple of years ago.“This program shells out nearly $200 million a year — including $114 million of direct taxpayer subsidies — to support empty and near-empty flights from selected airports in tiny communities, most of which are just a few hours’ drive from major airports,” he said.In 2012, Great Lakes requested an annual subsidy of $1,697,929 compared to $1,857,912 requested by SeaPort.Great Lakes flies twice daily to Los Angeles International Airport from Visalia. It has served Visalia for the last six years.
Written on 07/25/2014, 1:43 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Fast food workers say they're prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years. About 1,300 workers are scheduled to attend sessions Friday and Saturday at an expo center in Villa Park, Illinois, where they'll be asked to do "whatever it takes" to win $15-an-hour wages and a union, said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the national effort and a representative of the Service Employees International Union. The union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests that began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a protest outside this year's McDonald's Corp. shareholder meeting that resulted in more than 130 arrests. "We want to talk about building leadership, power and doing whatever it takes depending on what city they're in and what the moment calls for," said Fells, adding that the ramped-up actions will be "more high profile" and could include everything from civil disobedience to intensified efforts to organize workers. "I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us," perhaps even by occupying the restaurants, said Cherri Delisline, a 27-year-old single mother from Charleston, South Carolina, who has worked at McDonald's for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour. Delisline said she and her four girls live with her mother, but the family still has difficulty paying utilities and the mortgage while providing for her children. She said she has not been to a doctor in two years and does not get paid if she stays home sick. "To have a livable wage, it's going to need to be $15 an hour," said Delisline. "We make the owners enough money that they have houses and cars and their kids are taken care of. Why don't (they) make sure I can be able to do the same for my kids and my family?" The campaign comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats across the country have attempted to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour translates to about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, though many fast-food workers get far fewer hours. Obama and others have called for increasing it to $10.10. Fast food workers say even that's not enough because most people working in the industry now are adults with children, rather than teenagers earning pocket money. The restaurant industry has argued that a $15 hourly wage could lead to business closings and job cuts, though the Seattle City Council recently voted to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour, phased in over several years. A McDonald's spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment. The National Restaurant Association said Thursday that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership. "Instead of demonizing an industry that opens doors for workers of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, the focus should be on finding better solutions to lift individuals out of poverty," including policies that increase education and job training, said Scott DeFife, the association's executive vice president of policy and government affairs. Turnout for the protests has varied, but they've struck a chord at a time when the gap between the country's rich and poor has widened. Executive pay packages also are coming under greater scrutiny, including that of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson, who was given a pay package worth $9.5 million last year. Nevertheless, shareholders this year overwhelmingly voted in favor of McDonald's executive compensation practices. Nancy Salgado of Chicago said she and her two children share a bedroom after being forced to move into an apartment with two other adults after her hours at McDonald's were cut from 40 a week to about 24. "I don't think $15 will make me rich. ... I just want an apartment for my family and be able to have my kids in their own room, to not have to wait for the washing machine or the bathtub, and I don't want to be behind on bills if I take time off or get sick," said Salgado, who earns minimum wage after 12 years with the company. "If we've got to stop working and shut down (restaurants) to get it, that's what we're going to do," she said.
Written on 07/25/2014, 1:41 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Russia's consumer protection agency has filed a suit against McDonald's for allegedly selling food that does not meet legal standards. The case was announced Friday on the website of the agency, Rospotrebnadzor, which said it comes in the wake of inspections of two of the company's restaurants in Novgorod. According to the statement, some food was found with microbial contamination and several items had caloric values two to three times higher than allowed by national regulations. The suits asks that sale of McDonald's products that do not meet the regulations be declared illegal, but it was not clear what penalty the company could face. The two restaurants in Novgorod were to be fined 70,000 rubles ($2,100). The consumer protection agency is often alleged to initiate legal actions for political ends.
Written on 07/25/2014, 1:31 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno County public health officials are warning the community that this year's West Nile Virus season could be one of the worst in a decade. A couple of indicators really stick out, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health and Fresno County mosquito abatement districts: • There have been five human cases of West Nile Virus this year, with four classified as "neuroinvasive" and requiring hospitalization. In all of 2013, eight human cases were reported, and two classified as neuroinvasive. • There have been 36 positive West Nile Virus mosquito samples this year as of last week, nearly double the 20 samples reported in the same period last year. “Residents should intensify efforts to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites as well as to eliminate all mosquito breeding sources,” said Dr. Ken Bird, Interim Health Officer, Fresno County interim health officer. “West Nile Virus is a serious, and potentially fatal, disease.” Fresno County residents are urged to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using mosquito repellent, especially in the early morning and evening; making sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens; eliminating standing water around homes or businesses and reporting dead birds and dead tree squirrels to Residents can also call (800) 821-1577 to speak to a mosquito abatement district representative or  and/or

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