TODAY

– July 25, 2014

New GM boss Barra stands behind lossmaking Opel 


(AP) — New General Motors chief Mary Barra has stressed the company's support for its struggling Adam Opel AG subsidiary in Europe, saying Opel workers will get the job of building a new vehicle at the main plant in Germany.

Barra said it was "no accident" that Opel's headquarters in Ruesselsheim was the destination for her first foreign trip since becoming CEO on Jan. 15.

"I thought it was very important to reinforce in person my commitment and GM's commitment to Opel," she said during a brief appearance before journalists Monday. She called Opel "clearly a vital part of our company."

Barra reiterated the commitment made last year by her predecessor Dan Akerson to turn Opel around after years of losses.

She said Opel's Ruesselsheim assembly plant would be the site for a new vehicle that for competitive reasons she couldn't name. The plant, which produces the Insignia model, will lose production of the Astra compact when the current model is replaced. The company is closing another plant in Bochum at the end of this year.

General Motors Co., which has headquarters in Detroit, considered selling Opel to Magna International in 2009 but changed its mind. Akerson went to Germany last year and underlined the automaker's commitment to turning its European business around by rebuilding its brand image and launching new models.

GM now aims to return Opel to break-even by mid-decade, and is plowing 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) into the European business. Opel will roll out 23 new models and 13 new engines over the next several years.

Barra cited the company's success with recent models such as the tiny Adam city car and the Mokka small SUV as grounds for optimism. Opel's market share inched up to 6.8 percent in the European Union from 6.7 percent last year. Still, the division lost money, recording an operating loss of $200 million in the third quarter.

Europe's mass-market carmakers are struggling with weak demand in an economy that is recovering only slowly from a financial crisis. The economy is growing again but unemployment remains painfully high at 12.1 percent.

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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.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:56 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Six hospitals in Riverside and San Bernardino counties have been fined by state health officials for mistakes during surgery and other care that harmed patients — and in one case led to death. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1pkvESq ) that the penalties came as part of a broad enforcement action by the California Department of Public Health. The biggest fine of $200,000 was issued to Southwest Healthcare System after a female patient fell when nobody was watching. The woman, who was a patient at Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta, died as a result of bleeding in the brain. A patient at the same hospital had gauze left in him after receiving a pacemaker.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:54 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The on-demand ride-sharing app Lyft says it is starting limited service in New York City after reaching agreement with state and city officials to resolve regulatory issues. New York's attorney general and Department of Financial Services say the company agreed to operate "in full compliance" with existing laws and regulations, and that it will start its city service Friday night with commercial drivers only. Lyft also says it will suspend operations in Buffalo and Rochester Aug. 1 while resolving issues there with state authorities. San Francisco-based Lyft's plan to enter the New York City market two weeks ago was halted after the state officials sued. They claimed the company operates as a traditional for-hire livery service using mobile technology that is subject to regulations, not a peer-to-peer transportation platform as claimed.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:52 am by Associated Press
(AP) — California teachers earned an average of about $85,000 per year in salary and benefits last year, while 100 superintendents made more than $250,000 each, according to data provided by hundreds of school districts statewide. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday (http://lat.ms/1ri076d ) that a new database has been released online that allows users to search and download detailed employee compensation figures for superintendents, teachers, principals and other staff members at school districts. The figures are part of Transparent California, which compiles compensation data for a variety of public sector employees. The education section of the website has more than 581,000 individual compensation records from last year for about two-thirds of districts statewide. It is operated by the California Policy Center, a Tustin-based, nonpartisan think tank.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:50 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The chief designer of the new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge says more than 2,000 bolts and rods on the span do not need to be replaced. The bolts and rods were called into question after 32 other bolts cracked when they were tightened last year. But bridge designer Marwan Nader told bridge oversight officials at a meeting on Thursday that the other 2,200 bolts and rods on the span are likely to be more corrosion-resistant than the 32 that failed. Although they will need extra protection against corrosion, Nader said they can remain in place. A final decision about replacing at least some of the remaining bolts is still pending. But according to the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1o02lDa), Steve Heminger, chairman of the bridge oversight panel, said he was encouraged by Nader's assessment.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:15 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Police say an out-of-town Amazon employee was the operator behind a drone that buzzed the Seattle Space Needle this week. Witnesses told police they saw the craft fly back into a fifth-floor room in a nearby hotel. Police contacted the man who admitted operating the drone equipped with a camera Tuesday. He told authorities he wanted to try out the recently purchased craft. Police had received reports the drone had crashed into the landmark of Seattle's 1962 World's Fair but they saw no evidence of that. The man agreed not to fly his drone in public while in town.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:11 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Pot may be legal in some states — but the neighbors don't have to like it. Marijuana and hemp have joined wacky paint colors and unsightly fences as common neighborhood disputes facing homeowners' associations. Though a few HOAs have willingly changed their rules to accommodate for legal marijuana use or home-growing, many more are banning home pot smoking. Homeowners' associations can't ban members from using marijuana in their homes when it's legal. But if neighbors can see or smell weed, the law is clear — HOAs have every right to regulate the drug as a nuisance, or a threat to children along the lines of a swimming pool with no fence. "The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn't mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette," said Richard Thompson, who owns a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations. Thompson said his home condo development in Portland, Oregon, is a prime example of how marijuana's growing acceptance has sparked neighbor conflicts. "As soon as spring and summer come around, we hear complaints about marijuana smoke because people are out on their patios and they have the windows down," he said. It's not clear how many homeowners' associations have confronted marijuana conflicts in the 23 states with some form of legal marijuana. But lawyers who specialize in HOA disputes, as well as a Colorado regulatory agency that advises HOAs, say there are growing conflicts among neighbors who want to smoke pot and others who don't want to see it or smell it. "What we're really seeing more now is regulating the associations' common areas," such as smoke wafting onto playgrounds or others' porches, said Erin McManis, an attorney in Phoenix whose firm represents hundreds of Arizona HOAs. The Carrillo Ranch homeowners association in Chandler, Arizona, earlier this year took the rare step of withdrawing a proposed ban on residents smoking medical marijuana in their front and backyards and on their patios. The HOA planned a meeting on the topic in March, but withdrew the proposal after many residents opposed the ban as too harsh. "This is a personal-freedom issue where people were going to dictate how other people should live," Carrillo Ranch resident Tom LaBonte told The Arizona Republic in February, when the HOA dropped its proposal. HOA lawyers say the Carrillo Ranch case illustrates the value of HOAs when the law changes, as with marijuana. "Coming together and working on issues is something associations have been doing for a long time," McManis said. "We're hopeful that's how it's going to go forward now with medical marijuana." Smoke isn't the only neighbor complaint posed by loosening marijuana laws. Growing pot and hemp is prompting neighbor disputes, too. A suburban Denver retiree learned the hard way this spring that he needed neighbors' permission before growing hemp. Jim Denny, of Brighton, Colorado, learned about marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin and decided to try the crop on a 75-by-100-foot plot in his yard. But Denny's hemp plot ran afoul of his homeowners' association, which ruled the hemp experiment unacceptable. "As soon as they heard about it, they said, 'We're not going to let anyone grow marijuana here,'" Denny said. "I explained to them that hemp is not marijuana, but they were dead-set against it." So with his hemp plants about 2 feet tall, Denny invited hemp activists to come transplant them to somewhere without opposition from a homeowner association. Denny sold the plants for about $3 each, a good price for a plant whose seeds can cost up to $10 each because it can't be imported. Hemp activists volunteered to pay Denny's fines for flouting the HOA, which could have run to $600 a day. But Denny decided that living peacefully with his neighbors trumped making a political point. "I had people calling up and saying, 'It's just a shame; we'll pay your fines all the way through to the end.' But I decided in the end not to fight it," said Denny, a technical writer and former software engineer. "At the end of the day, I live here."
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:06 am by Business Journal Staff
The Fresno Arts Council has announced the 2014 winners of the Horizon Awards. The annual Horizon Awards are given to recognize individuals, organization and businesses that have made significant contributions toward the enrichment of life in the Fresno community through excellence in the arts. The awards ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fresno Arts Museum, 2233 N. First St. A reception with appetizers will immediately follow.   The Fresno Arts Council selected the following winners and provided commentary: Artist, Bill Bruce is a self-taught painter who got his start in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. He was a member of a group of artists, calling themselves the Artist’s Consortium, exhibiting in small storefronts and Golden Gate Park. Bruce has exhibited at Le Bault Gallery in San Francisco, Coffee’s Art Gallery on the Fulton Mall and has been a member of the Fig Tree Gallery since 1990. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts District Association and is a regular participant in the downtown Art Hop program. Abstract expressionism has been the greatest influence in his work as an artist. His work includes sculpture, three-dimensional art, photography and making use of nontraditional objects to provide artful directions. Business, KMPH- Great Day is a consistent and valuable contributor to the promotion of local artists and art venues through its monthly Arthop segment. KMPH television personalities are regular participants and supporters of community arts and cultural events throughout the year. They regularly provide on air promotion for many of Fresno’s art organizations. Great Day plays an important role in insuring that local talent is exposed to the greater community.      Educator, Janice Stevens is a writer and teacher of writing. Her students have gone on to publish books and many other miscellaneous published pieces. She herself is a published author whose works have served to educate and inform the public on Fresno’s architectural past, the veterans’ experience, and California missions. Her monthly history column “Pastimes” in the Central Valley magazine is published by the Fresno. Her creative works have been heard on air through “Valley Writers Read” on KVPR.   Citizen, Bryan Medina is a poet who has staged the Inner Ear Poetry Jam for 13 years. This thriving event brings new poetic voices to a microphone each year and is one of the longest running events of its kind in the Central Valley. Medina has also put on and or contributed to numerous other events that also have become a part of the artistic fabric of Fresno and shed much deserved light on poets, musicians, and artists of all genres.   Special Award, Vida Samiian hasserved as dean of California State University College of Arts and Humanities. She has had many accomplishments at CSUF, the community, and the San Joaquin Valley including oversight of the development of University High School, CSU Summer Arts in Fresno for 13 years, and the advancement of the CSUF music Department. Her literary publication, The Normal received national recognition. Samiian has also been a staunch supporter of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Fresno Art Museum and students of the arts. She is responsible for the establishment of many arts scholarship funds. Youth, Keegan Bamford learned to read music in kindergarten and has been passionate about it ever since, He started playing the cello when he was 9 years old and was in the advanced orchestra at Bullard Talent for four years, playing principle cellist for two of the four years. His passion for and talent with the cello have made it possible for him to attend University High School, Fresno Orchestra and Opera Academy, and the Colorado Music in the Mountains summer conservatory. He was also selected to play with the Fresno State orchestra. He has been in many honor orchestras throughout the years and he serves as a mentor and guide to fellow cello students. Tickets to the awards ceremony are $20 and are available by calling the Arts Council office at (559)2379734 or online at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-fresno-arts-council-presents-horizon-awards-2014-tickets-12308867153?aff=efblike. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:06 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The House passed a bill Friday that would gradually increase the popular child tax credit and make it available to more families with higher incomes. However, millions of low-income families would lose the $1,000-a-child credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire. The bill also aims to make a dent in illegal immigration by prohibiting people without Social Security numbers from claiming a portion of the credit reserved for low-income families. The bill passed by a vote of 237-173. House Republicans say the bill strengthens the tax credit by increasing it as inflation rises, and by making it available to more middle-income families. "It is time we make some simple improvements to the child tax credit, so it keeps up with the cost of raising children," said Rep. Dave Camp R-Mich., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. The White House threatened to veto the bill, saying it favors high-income taxpayers over the poor, while adding $90 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade. Five million of the poorest low-income families would lose the credit in 2018, the White House said. An additional 6 million low-income families would see their tax credits reduced. The bill "would raise taxes for millions of struggling working families while enacting expensive new tax cuts without offsetting their costs, reflecting fundamentally misplaced priorities," the White House said.House Republicans dispute the Democrats' argument, saying the bill is silent on low-income families. Current law calls for the enhancement for low-income income families to expire. The bill simply lets it happen. "The opponents make a false claim, that somehow this bill eliminates benefits for millions of low-income families," Camp said. "That's just wrong." Under current law, the child tax credit is gradually reduced and phased out for individuals making more than $75,000 a year and married couples making more than $110,000 a year. House Republicans say the income limit for married couples amounts to a marriage penalty because it's less than double the limit for single tax filers. The bill would increase the income threshold for married couples to $150,000, allowing more families with higher incomes to claim it. The bill would index the income limits to inflation, meaning they would increase over time as consumer prices rise. The amount of the credit would also increase with inflation, rising above $1,000 as consumer prices go up. At the other end of the income spectrum, the child tax credit is also available to families that don't make enough money to pay any federal income taxes. These families get payments similar to tax refunds when they file their tax returns. In 2009, Obama signed a law that made the payments available to more low-income families — the poorest of the working poor. That provision, which has since been extended, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017. Democrats see these types of payments as an important tool to fight poverty — and as a way for low-income families to benefit from the tax code. Some Republicans say these provisions are simply more government expenditures disguised as tax breaks. "This is basically a benefit check handed out by the IRS," said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas. The bill would require taxpayers claiming these payments to provide a Social Security number, making it hard for immigrants to claim them, whether they are in the country legally or not. The requirement would save the Treasury $24.5 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which analyzes tax bills for Congress.
Written on 07/25/2014, 10:13 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Turkey inaugurated a high-speed rail service Friday linking Ankara to Istanbul which will cut travel time between the country's main two cities by half. The launch suffered a mishap however, with a technical fault causing the train to stop for 15 minutes until it was repaired. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other dignitaries opened the service, making the first high-speed journey with stops at two stations along the way where the Turkish leader delivered campaign speeches for presidential elections on Aug. 10. Private NTV television and other reports said a wire failure caused the train to stop about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Istanbul, but the problem was quickly repaired. Transport officials say the new tracks, permitting speeds up to 250 kph (155 mph), will reduce travel time from about seven hours to three and a half hours. The opening of the service suffered several delays, including an accident during a test run earlier this month in which a train slammed into a rail maintenance vehicle.

Latest State News

Written on 07/25/2014, 11:56 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Six hospitals in Riverside and...
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:54 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The on-demand ride-sharing app...
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:52 am by Associated Press
(AP) — California teachers earned an...
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:50 am by Associated Press
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Latest National News

Written on 07/25/2014, 11:15 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Police say an out-of-town Amazon...
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:11 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Pot may be legal in some states...
Written on 07/25/2014, 11:06 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — The House passed a bill Friday...
Written on 07/25/2014, 10:13 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Turkey inaugurated a high-speed...