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– October 22, 2014

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Written on 10/22/2014, 2:14 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Visa Inc. says it will increase its quarterly dividend by 20 percent.
Written on 10/22/2014, 2:13 pm by Brian Melley, AP Writer
(AP) — A federal judge has fined a California company $25 million for misleading 110,000 people to buy into a work-at-home scheme that almost never paid off. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson banned The Zaken Corp. on Wednesday from advertising or selling work-at-home business opportunities in the future. The Justice Department says the Thousand Oaks company claimed associates who purchased a $148 business plan could earn $3,000 to $6,000 in a few hours by locating excess inventory that Zaken would sell. Customers often received very little in return, including an outdated telephone directory of mostly defunct businesses. Pregerson says fewer than 1 percent of customers earned any income. Prosecutors say the company aggressively tried to sell additional business tools for hundreds or thousands of dollars. A telephone listing for the company was disconnected.
Written on 10/22/2014, 2:11 pm by Business Journal staff
Two Fresno organizations were awarded $20,000 each from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as part of the utility's program to support economic and job creating efforts throughout its Northern and Central California territory. Now in its second year, PG&E's Economic Vitality Grant Program is investing $200,000 to support the work of 10 organizations that prop up small businesses and promote workforce development. Among them, the Fresno Career Development Institute will use its $20,000 grant to support job skill training and career pathway support for 20 single mothers and fathers from underserved communities. Another $20,000 will go to the UC Merced Small Business Development Regional Network in Fresno to support training for business consultants available to local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Other grantees include the Kern Economic Development Corporation, Butte County Economic Development Corporation, the City of Monterey, United Roots in Oakland, Mujeres Unidas y Activas in San Francisco, America’s Job Center of California in San Luis Obispo, New Vision Santa Rosa and the Downtown Stockton Alliance. The nonprofit organizations were selected out of nearly 130 applications based on factors like community need, strength of plans presented and demonstrable links to job creation.
Written on 10/22/2014, 2:09 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks are ending lower, breaking a four-day winning streak, as a drop in the price of oil dragged energy companies lower. The energy sector in the Standard & Poor's 500 index sank 1.7 percent, more than twice as much as the rest of the market. Small-company stocks and transportation shares also fell sharply as traders unloaded riskier assets. The market started higher, then turned lower at midday as the price of oil fell. Traders have worried about a steady decline in the price of oil as global demand for energy recedes. The S&P 500 index fell 14 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,927 Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 153 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,461. The Nasdaq composite fell 36 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,382.
Written on 10/22/2014, 1:45 pm by Business Journal staff
Property values in the southern San Joaquin Valley increased 5.5 percent in the last year, the state Board of Equalization reported. The region, made up of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, combined for $3.96 billion in assessed property values in 2014-15, an increase of $206.4 million over 2013-14. Fresno County had a 5.7 percent growth in assessed value, while Tulare County grew 4.8 percent, Kings County grew 1.1 percent and Kern County grew 5.9 percent. "Higher property values are an encouraging sign that California's economic recovery is finally gaining traction throughout our state," said BOE Member George Runner, who covers the agency's second district. "This is good news, especially for homeowners still underwater and workers who still need jobs." Statewide, the total value of state and county assessed property increased for the fourth straight year, rising 6.1 percent from the previous year to $4.918 trillion. The value of state-assessed property, mainly privately owned public utilities and railroads, totaled $93.3 billion in the latest year for a 2.7-percent increase. In all, 55 out of 58 counties posted year-over-year increases in assessed value, with most of those increases being more than 2 percent.
Written on 10/22/2014, 12:13 pm by Business Journal staff
China Peak Mountain Resort will be conducting a hiring fair all day Friday and Saturday at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis. Representatives from the resort will be at the former Gottschalks location at 1200 Shaw Ave. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 and 25. China Peak is hiring for the 2011-2012 winter season and needing to fill more than 300 positions. Available positions include:• Building and yard/janitorial crew• Cashiers/guest services• Food service• Hotel personnel• Lift attendants• Parking attendants• Purchasing/warehouse• Rental technicians• Ski/snowboard instructors• Terrain park crew A banner will be displayed outside the building, which is east of the mall entrance. For those that miss the event, another job fair will be held at China Peak on Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Employees at the resort benefit from free skiing and riding privileges, plus discounts on food and services. More information about employment opportunities can be found online at www.skichinapeak/employment.aspx. China Peak is located about 65 miles northeast of Fresno near Huntington Lake. The 1,400-acre resort was long known as Sierra Summit before former employee Tim Cohee acquired it in 2010.
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:38 am by 
RYAN NAKASHIMA, 
MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writers
(AP) — So long Silicon Valley. These days entrepreneurs and engineers are flocking to a place better known for wave surfing than Web surfing. Amid the palm trees and purple sunsets of the Southern California coastline, techies have built "Silicon Beach." In the past few years Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and YouTube have opened offices on the west side of Los Angeles from Santa Monica south to Venice and Playa del Rey. They are joined by hundreds of startups including Hulu, Demand Media and Snapchat, which nixed a $3 billion takeover offer from Facebook. Major Hollywood players like The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. have launched startup accelerators to help local tech entrepreneurs. The city of Los Angeles even hired its first chief technology officer, former Qualcomm executive Peter Marx, earlier this year. "Historically, Silicon Valley has been the center of gravity for tech and startups but I think more and more, these types of companies can be built anywhere," says Erik Rannala, who moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with his entrepreneurial partner William Hsu several years ago. Rannala and Hsu oversee MuckerLab, a technology incubator in Santa Monica, California, that has invested in 45 startups such as flower marketplace BloomNation and online tuxedo rental outfit The Black Tux. Many of the ideas for the companies were hatched in MuckerLab's concrete-walled space, which is covered with white boards and sticky tabs. The vibe is eclectic. No office-park chic here. Companies allocate ample space for bikes and surfboards so employees can hit the beach after work. Social media software maker Epoxy TV, founded by Juan Bruce and Jason Ahmad, is located in a Venice complex formerly owned by the late actor Dennis Hopper. They still get his mail. One of Hopper's sculptures adorns the yard and inside, there's a staircase to nowhere designed by renowned Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry. The Venice scene also has helped online razor service Dollar Shave Club recruit employees, according to founder and Philadelphia native Michael Dubin. "It's very different to be at the heart of Venice than to be in the heart of Mountain View," says Epoxy TV's Ahmad. "Culturally it's just a vastly different place." What's happening here is part of a growing movement of U.S. cities seeking to duplicate the formula that turned northern California's Silicon Valley, slightly south of San Francisco, into a mecca of society-shifting innovation and immense wealth. Cupertino-based Apple Inc., Mountain View's Google Inc. and Menlo Park-based Facebook Inc. collectively have created more than $1 trillion in shareholder wealth while routinely paying employees six-figure salaries, generous benefits and stock options that can generate multimillion-dollar windfalls. All the prosperity has caused the cost of living in Silicon Valley to soar. It's nearly impossible to buy even a small home for less than a $1 million in San Francisco and many other nearby cities. Tiny apartments can cost $2,500 to $3,500 per month. Prices like those are one more reason that less expensive, but still enticing places like Los Angeles make sense to tech entrepreneurs, says Chris DeWolfe, who runs a rapidly growing company called the Social Gaming Network in Beverly Hills. "It's more affordable to live almost anywhere in Los Angeles, and you still get a great variety of life here with an amazing culture, super beaches and great hiking," DeWolfe says. "And the sun is almost always shining." The only thing that remains as a major benchmark for Los Angeles is to give birth to a city-defining company in the same way that Facebook, Google and Apple have defined Silicon Valley, or how Amazon and Microsoft have reshaped Seattle. On the other opposite side of the U.S., New York's "Silicon Alley" has been a high-tech cove for the past 15 years. Boston and Washington D.C. also have had some success cultivating a vibrant technology scene, though neither city has coined a catchy nickname that has stuck. Billionaire Steve Case, who co-founded AOL Inc. in Virginia, is trying to spread the tech gospel in U.S. cities that have been brushed off as rusty relics of a bygone industrial era. In June, Case visited more than 100 entrepreneurs and startups during a bus tour of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville, Tennessee that he called the "Rise of the Rest." This month he followed up with another round of technology-preaching stops in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Madison, Wisconsin; Des Moines, Iowa; and Kansas City, Missouri. "This tech phenomenon in other parts of the country besides Silicon Valley is only going to increase as it becomes easier and cheaper to start companies," Case predicts. DeWolfe said he had trouble luring technology engineers to Beverly Hills a decade ago when he was trying to expand MySpace, the social networking forerunner to Facebook that he co-founded. That's no longer a problem now that there's a steady stream of local students graduating with engineering degrees from local colleges like CalTech, UCLA and USC, says Marx, Los Angeles' chief technology officer. Those students are flocking to local universities inspired by southern California's own success stories, including Internet search engine Overture Services of Pasadena, which Yahoo Inc. bought for $1.3 billion; MySpace, which News Corp. bought for $650 million; YouTube channel producer Maker Studios of Culver City, which sold to Disney in May for up to $950 million; and virtual reality headset maker Oculus of Irvine, which agreed to a $2 billion sale to Facebook in March. Meanwhile, venture capitalists continue to pour more money into Southern California startups. In the first nine months of this year, venture capitalists invested $1.6 billion in startups based in Los Angeles County and neighboring Orange County. That's up 26 percent from the same time last year, according to figures compiled by PricewaterCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.That's still a pittance compared to Silicon Valley, where venture capital investments nearly doubled to $17 billion during the same period. DeWolfe, who shuttles between Social Gaming Network's Beverly Hills headquarters and a San Francisco office, doubts Silicon Beach will ever come close to matching Silicon Valley's technology prowess. "There is something about Silicon Valley lore that you will never be able to reproduce, no matter how much you say you want to," he says. That doesn't mean Silicon Valley can't be toppled from its perch, Case cautions. "It's important to never get cocky or complacent. Fifty or 60 years ago, Detroit was like the Silicon Valley of its day. You have to constantly attract talent and constantly innovate."___Liedtke reported from San Francisco.
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:35 am by TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — The U.S. government is now urging owners of nearly 8 million cars and trucks to have the air bags repaired because of potential danger to drivers and passengers. But the effort is being complicated by confusing information and a malfunctioning website. The government's auto safety agency says that inflator mechanisms in the air bags can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are deployed. The inflators are made by Japanese parts supplier Takata Corp. Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem, which they claim could affect more than 20 million cars nationwide. On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added 3.1 million more vehicles to an initial warning covering 4.7 million cars and SUVs. Car owners might have difficulty determining if their vehicle is equipped with the potentially dangerous air bags. The warning covers certain models made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Most of the 7.8 million vehicles are subject to existing recalls. But manufacturers have limited the recalls to high-humidity areas, excluding cars and trucks in states to the north. NHTSA says owners in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and "limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana" should pay special attention to the warning. Worse yet, the regulatory agency has twice corrected the number of vehicles affected and acknowledged that a list it released Monday wasn't completely accurate. The agency urged people to use its website to see if their cars are affected — but a feature allowing people to check for recalls by vehicle identification number malfunctioned Monday night and still wasn't operational Wednesday. Automakers have been recalling cars to fix the problem for several years, but neither Takata nor NHTSA have identified a firm cause. The agency opened a formal investigation into the problem in June, and a theory put forth in agency documents suggests the chemical used to inflate the air bag can be altered by high humidity, making it explode with too much force while deploying. "It's in a total state of uproar right now," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader. NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement that responding to the recalls is essential to keep people safe. "It will aid in our ongoing investigation into Takata air bags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures," he said. The agency, he said, is tracking down the "full geographic scope" of the issue. Kathryn Henry, a spokeswoman for the safety agency, said it is unclear whether a high number of inquiries caused its website to malfunction. Until it's repaired, she urged car owners to go to manufacturer websites or call their car dealer. General Motors, which sold two models with the faulty air bags, planned to notify about 10,000 customers by overnight mail. The models covered are 2003 to 2005 Pontiac Vibes in high humidity areas and Saab 9-2X models. The cars were made by other manufacturers — the Vibes by Toyota, and the Saabs by Subaru. The rare warning by regulators comes three weeks after a Sept. 29 crash near Orlando, Florida, that claimed the life Hien Thi Tran, who suffered severe neck wounds that investigators said could have been caused by metal fragments flying out of the air bag on her 2001 Honda Accord. Her Accord was among the models being recalled. One police agency concluded that the air bags caused her wounds, while another is still investigating. NHTSA is seeking information in the case. On Monday, Toyota issued a recall covering passenger air bags in 247,000 older model vehicles including the Lexus SC, Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia and Tundra. Like many earlier recalls, Toyota's recall covers vehicles only in areas that have high absolute humidity. GM and Toyota each told customers not to let anyone sit in the front passenger seat until repairs are made. Toyota said it's working with Takata to pinpoint the cause of the rupture and to gauge the influence of high absolute humidity, which is a measurement of water vapor in the air.
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:33 am by BARBARA ORTUTAY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — A new study confirms what many Internet users know all too well: Harassment is a common part of online life. The first-of-its-kind report by the Pew Research Center found that nearly three-quarters of American adults who use the Internet have witnessed online harassment. Forty percent have experienced it themselves. The types of harassment Pew asked about range from name-calling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. Half of those who were harassed said they didn't know the person who had most recently attacked them. Young adults — people 18 to 29 — were the most likely age group to see and undergo online harassment. Women ages 18 to 24 were disproportionately the victims of stalking and sexual harassment, according to the survey. And people who have more information available about themselves online, work in the tech industry or promote themselves on the Internet, were also more likely to be harassed. Starting this summer, people involved in an online campaign termed "Gamergate" have been harassing several prominent women in the video game industry and their supporters for criticizing the lack of diversity in games and how women are portrayed. One of the targets is Brianna Wu, a software engineer and founder of game developer Giant Spacekat. Wu, who is in her mid-30s, said she has frequently been harassed online, but it's gotten worse this year. Earlier this month, people threatened her and her husband with rape, death and castration on Twitter and posted her address online, she said, and they have been trying to impersonate her on the Internet to smear her reputation. She got so frightened that she left her home in Boston. Wu went to the police, but most people harassed online don't. According to Pew, just 5 percent of those who were harassed reported the incident to law enforcement, while nearly half confronted the person online. Forty-four percent said they unfriended or blocked the person. But victims of harassment often don't know where it's coming from. Thirty-eight percent of people who were harassed online said a stranger was behind the threats, and another 26 percent didn't know who the person was. Among other key findings from Pew: — Two-thirds of those who were harassed said the most recent incident took place on a social networking site or app, while 22 percent saw it happen in the comments section of a website. Sixteen percent, meanwhile, said it happened in online gaming. — Men were more likely to be called offensive names than women. Of all Internet users (89 percent of the U.S. population), 32 percent of men and 22 percent of women were called names. Men were also more likely to be physically threatened. — Not everyone said they were hurt by online harassment. While 14 percent of people found their most recent incident "extremely upsetting," 22 percent said it was "not at all upsetting." The rest of the people surveyed had reactions in between. The telephone and online survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 among 3,217 respondents. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:31 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Google is introducing an application designed to make it easier for its Gmail users to find and manage important information that can often become buried in their inboxes. The service, called Inbox, can sort electronic receipts and bank statements into bundles so they can be quickly fetched. This method is similar to the way that Gmail currently separates promotional emails from other communications sent to its Gmail users. Google says Inbox can also figure out the key points of an email, such as travel itineraries, event times and photos, and highlight the information. Inbox can also be used to create to-do lists. Invitations to test Inbox will begin to be sent out Wednesday. Recipients can then invite their friends and families to check out Inbox.

Latest State News

Written on 10/22/2014, 2:14 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Visa Inc. says it will increase...
Written on 10/22/2014, 2:13 pm by Brian Melley, AP Writer
(AP) — A federal judge has fined a...
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:38 am by 
RYAN NAKASHIMA, 
MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writers
(AP) — So long Silicon Valley. These...
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:31 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Google is introducing an...

Latest National News

Written on 10/22/2014, 2:09 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks are ending lower,...
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:35 am by TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — The U.S. government is now...
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:33 am by BARBARA ORTUTAY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — A new study confirms what many...
Written on 10/22/2014, 11:26 am by TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — The U.S. government has told BMW...