– September 23, 2014

Nev. pushes back against SF patient dumping claims

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

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

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

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

Herrera gave Nevada until Monday to negotiate a settlement.

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

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Written on 09/22/2014, 4:26 pm by Business Journal staff
Dr. Charles Boyer, dean of Fresno State's Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, announced today that he will step down at the end of the...
Written on 09/22/2014, 2:03 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — SpaceX founder Elon Musk says over the next three to four years the company expects to spend $100 million in South Texas on the first commercial orbital spaceport.Musk was joined Monday by Gov. Rick Perry and other officials as SpaceX broke ground at the state's southernmost tip. The ceremony marked the start of construction of the $85 million site at Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville. The site will be used to launch commercial satellites. Perry is providing $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund toward the project and another $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure. California-based SpaceX is expected to create 300 jobs at the site. The company already has a rocket testing facility in McGregor, in Central Texas, that employs 250 people.
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:47 pm by STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer
(AP) — Worries about the outlook for growth in China and a slide in the price of oil pushed the stock market to its biggest loss in almost seven weeks Monday. Investors are nervous about China following a run of soft economic data that suggests growth in the world's second-largest economy is slowing. The worries about China helped push down the price of oil. That in turn weighed on energy stocks. The stock market has struggled to gain traction this month as investors have weighed signs of an improving economy in the U.S. against evidence of slowing growth in both Europe and Asia. "We've got China weighing down on stocks," said Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors. "The lack of transparency there always creates greater uncertainty." The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 16.11 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,994.29. The loss was the biggest one-day decline for the index since Aug. 5. The index is down 0.5 percent this month. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 107.06 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,172.68. The Nasdaq composite dropped 52.10 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,527.69. The losses were broad, and all 10 industry sectors that make up the S&P 500 declined. Energy stocks were the second-biggest decliners, slumping 1.4 percent as the price of oil fell. Companies that rely the most on consumer spending, such as entertainment and media conglomerates and retailers, fell the most. The price of oil dropped on concerns that Libya's production is picking up at a time when global economic indicators point to weaker demand from countries including China. Benchmark U.S. oil fell 89 cents to $91.52 a barrel. Analysts say U.S. oil could test the $90 mark sometime this week. Smaller companies were also among the biggest decliners as investors shunned the riskier parts of the market. The Russell 2000, an index which tracks small-company stocks, fell 1.5 percent, more than other indexes. The Russell has dropped 3 percent so far this year, compared with gains of 7.9 percent for the S&P 500 and 3.6 percent for the Dow. Some analysts say investors should regard any pullback in stock prices as an opportunity to add to their holdings. Recent reports on the manufacturing and the service industries have been strong. Hiring is picking up and inflation remains tame. "The fundamentals in the U.S. have been coming in strong, beyond expectations," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at Voya Investment Management. "It's a modest pullback. If anything I would take it as an opportunity to build positions." On Monday, stocks were also hurt by a report showed that fewer Americans bought homes in August as investors retreated from real estate and first-time buyers remained scarce. If the trend continues it could dent consumers' confidence, said Allianz's Hooper. "It really speaks to much of middle-class America. The largest component of their net worth is their home," she said. "It could really put a damper on consumer spending and consumer sentiment." The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes fell 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million. That followed four months of gains. August sales fell from a July rate of 5.14 million, a figure that was revised slightly downward. The report weighed on homebuilding stocks. Hovnanian fell 14 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $3.80 and Beazer Homes fell 52 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $18.09. St. Louis-based chemical firm Sigma-Aldrich was among the day's winners. The company's stock surged $34.03, or 33.2 percent, to $136.40 after agreeing to be acquired by Merck, a German drug company. Merck is paying $140 a share from Sigma-Aldrich, a premium of 37 percent over Friday's closing price. Apple also bucked the slump, logging a small gain of 10 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $101.06. The technology company said that it has sold more than 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, a record for a new model, in the three days after the phones went on sale. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 2.7 cents to $2.585 a gallon, heating oil dropped 3 cents to $2.687 a gallon and natural gas rose 1.3 cents to $3.85 per 1,000 cubic feet. Metals remained weak. Silver continued its recent descent, falling to its lowest level since the summer of 2010. The price of an ounce of silver fell 7 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $17.77 an ounce. Precious metals, including gold, have been pressured by the recent strength of the dollar, low global inflation and rising stock markets. Gold is trading close to its lowest price since the start of the year. Gold edged up $1.30, or 0.1 percent, to $1,217.90 an ounce. Copper fell five cents, or 1.7 percent, to $3.04 a pound. U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year government bond, which falls when prices rise, dropped to 2.55 percent from 2.58 percent. In currency trading, the dollar weakened against both the Japanese yen and the euro. The Japanese yen has been trading at six-year lows against the dollar in anticipation that the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next year while the Bank of Japan will maintain an easy monetary policy. On Monday, the dollar edged down to 108.77 yen. The euro rose a fraction to $1.2849.
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:43 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — A judge has recommended a six-month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who posted doctored photos on her firm's website that show her arm-in-arm with high-profile people like President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney. During a July trial, experts testified that dozens of photos were altered to make it appear as though Svitlana Sangary was in the presence of celebrities. In an 18-page decision this month, Judge Donald F. Miles said Sangary failed to remove the deceptive images despite being warned by the State Bar and demonstrated disregard for the disciplinary process. The photos were still on the site as of Monday. The California Supreme Court will decide on the recommendation. Sangary told The Associated Press she would have a comment later Monday.
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:35 pm by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
(AP) — Call it health care law numerology. The Obama administration has had to revise and refine some initial enrollment numbers for health insurance sign-ups after they turned out to be too optimistic. At other times, metrics less favorable to the president's overhaul leaked out after officials claimed not to have such data. Parsing the numbers is a new pursuit for administration officials from President Barack Obama on down, to lawmakers of both parties and a gaggle of outside analysts. The latest data tweak — an administration announcement that 7.3 million paying customers signed up for subsidized private insurance as of mid-August — set off more speculation. Some said it may prove overly rosy. "They have been playing fast and loose with these numbers," said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski, a critic of Obama's law who has also skewered proposals from the president's Republican foes. "Until we get an outside audit we are not going to know what the heck is going on." Others say an administration trying to get a complex program running smoothly deserves the benefit of the doubt. "They have two challenges," said Dan Mendelson, CEO of the market analysis firm Avalere Health. "One is technical implementation, and the second one is the political environment. Being fully open on the implementation side is impossible in the context of a hostile political environment." Earlier this year, Avalere showed that the administration's initial numbers significantly overstated Medicaid enrollment under the law. Candidates for Congress are noisily debating another set of numbers. They have to do with costs, an even murkier element. Republicans claim the law has saddled taxpayers and privately insured people with huge cost increases, while Democrats say it has helped to rein medical inflation, saving hundreds of billions of dollars. Economists shrug off such claims, saying the impacts have generally been modest — and mixed. The Affordable Care Act created new insurance markets — or exchanges— where middle-class people who don't have health coverage on the job can buy a subsidized private plan. It also expanded Medicaid to serve more low-income adults. After Medicare Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced the updated 7.3 million private sign-ups at a congressional hearing last week, other administration officials fanned out to insist that reporters must not compare those numbers to the more than 8 million enrollments trumpeted in May. At the hearing, Tavenner seemed to have no such qualms. She explained to Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., how to make such a comparison. The 8-million figure, she said, probably included some people who may since have found another kind of health insurance, either through a job that includes coverage or by qualifying for Medicaid. Others likely did not finalize their enrollment by paying their first month's premium Laszewski said even Tavenner's new, lower number could be high. He's skeptical because the administration hasn't shown how it's doing the math. And there are other variables. Enrollment could decline later in the year because about 115,000 people who couldn't prove they were citizens or legal residents will lose coverage at the end of this month. Another winnowing seems likely after Nov. 1, when people whose incomes differ with what the government has on file will see their premiums change. Some may drop out if their subsidies are slashed. Here are more illustrations from the health law numbers game: —Medicaid Muddle. Under the law, states can expand Medicaid to cover more low-income uninsured people. Earlier in the year, administration reports on the Medicaid expansion included many people who were renewing their existing coverage under the program — not joining anew because of the expansion. Officials say they are now providing a more accurate count. —Targets? What targets? Even before last fall's chaotic debut of, administration officials steadfastly insisted they had no enrollment targets for the exchanges. But The Associated Press obtained an internal memo to former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that listed monthly numerical targets for each state. Even so, some officials insisted those were not targets. The memo said "Enrollment Targets" in the subject line and repeated the word a dozen times in the text. —Disclosing Discrepancies. Around the middle of May, administration officials maintained that they could not confirm or provide any estimates about the number of people with citizenship, immigration or income discrepancies that could affect their new coverage. However, an internal slide presentation dated May 8 indicated 2.1 million enrollees had such data discrepancies as of the end of April. The slides were provided to AP. ___Associated Press writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:30 pm by RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer
(AP) — A survey released Monday from the Pew Research Center indicates American support for same-sex marriage could be leveling off after several years of dramatic growth in acceptance of equal rights for gays and lesbians. The study's authors caution it's too soon to draw any definitive conclusions. But the new released Monday found a 5 percentage point drop since February, from 54 percent to 49 percent, in Americans who want legal recognition for same-sex relationships. The poll of 2,002 adults, conducted Sept. 2-9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. "Since we've seen this upward trend for so long, we're cautious because it's too early to say what this means for long-term trends," said Jessica Martinez, a researcher in Pew's Religion and Public Life Project. "As we continue to ask this question in other surveys, we'll keep an eye on where this moves." The findings were part of a survey in which nearly three-quarters of Americans said religious influence in public life was waning and most saw that as a negative trend. About half of respondents said churches and houses of worship should speak out more on public issues. Nearly half of all the respondents said businesses that provide services for weddings, such as florists, should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples if the owners have religious objections. The Pew survey also found the percentage of people who consider gay relationships sinful had increased from 45 percent a year go to 50 percent last month, although other surveys have found that people with religious objections don't always oppose legal recognition for gay relationships. The campaign for recognition of gay marriage has grown to become a broad mass movement supported in recent years by a majority of Americans. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage, while petitions for recognition in several other states are moving through the courts. The Gallup organization said support for gay marriage first rose above the 50 percent mark in its surveys in 2011, and has remained above half since. Gallup's latest survey, this past May, found acceptance of gay marriage at a new high of 55 percent. But the group's researchers found support was increasing by smaller margins than it had during the era of fastest growth so far, between 2009 and 2011. Robert Jones, chief executive of Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit group that conducts surveys on religion and public life, noted that support for gay marriage has been driven by younger people, who tend to be far more accepting of same-sex relationships than their parents. He said polling by his organization over this past summer showed fluctuations in support, but backing remained between 56 percent and 51 percent. "The fundamentals underneath the trend remain very solid — in the generational breaks that are driving this," George said. "The long-term curve on this trend doesn't show any retreat." ____Pew survey:
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:28 pm by BRANDON BAILEY, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Yahoo's stock fell Monday as investors grappled with uncertainty about the Internet company's future in the wake of last week's record-setting Wall Street debut by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Silicon Valley-based Yahoo reaped more than $9 billion from selling some of its shares in Alibaba's initial public offering, and the company has promised to return at least half of the after-tax proceeds to shareholders - likely through stock buy-backs. While CEO Marissa Mayer has not said what she'll do with the rest of the proceeds, analysts believe she could use the remaining $3 billion or so for acquisitions to help Yahoo revive its struggling advertising business and expand its online video programming. But at least some investors are fleeing Yahoo now that they're able to buy Alibaba shares directly, according to Brian Wieser, an Internet stocks analyst at Pivotal Research. Prior to Alibaba's IPO, Yahoo —due to its large stake in the Chinese company— was one of the few ways U.S. investors could tap into the growth of e-commerce in the world's most populous country. Yahoo's stock has risen more than 30 percent over the last year, largely on the strength of investor excitement about Alibaba's booming business. Yahoo shares fell 5 percent to $38.81 Monday afternoon. Many investors lack optimism about Mayer's chances of regaining some of the advertising business that Yahoo lost in recent years to newer rivals like Google and Facebook. "My expectations for Yahoo's core business are pretty muted," Wieser said. "There should be pretty tepid growth, if any, in the near term." That didn't stop Wieser and a handful of other analysts from raising their price targets for Yahoo's stock. Yahoo, which acquired its stake in Alibaba back in 2005, still holds more than 380 million shares in Alibaba, worth more than $34 billion at Monday's trading price. The remaining stake in Alibaba raises the possibility of a big, future payday for Yahoo investors if the company sells more of its shares in the future. Those Alibaba shares also represent the bulk of Yahoo's stock market value of $38.5 billion, suggesting that investors are putting little value in the company's core business. Since she was hired from Google two years ago, Mayer has overhauled Yahoo's online services and hired some big names like former CBS newscaster Katie Couric to anchor Yahoo's online news operation. Mayer has also begun to modernize Yahoo's online advertising programs. But sales have remained flat in recent quarters while other major online companies have seen significant advertising growth. Mayer could use some of the new Alibaba cash to continue a buying spree that has seen Yahoo acquire dozens of smaller companies since she became CEO. While many of those deals were aimed at acquiring technology or talent to help improve Yahoo's online consumer offerings, Mayer has more recently turned her attention to the company's advertising platform and its video programming. While there's always the possibility of a headline-grabbing deal, on the scale of Mayer's move to buy the social blogging service Tumblr for $1 billion last year, analyst Martin Pyykkonen of Rosenblatt Securities said in a recent report that it's more likely she will focus on smaller deals to improve Yahoo's advertising technology. One area of focus might be to enhance the company's automated selling tools, which critics say are not as powerful or effective as Google's or Facebook's. Some analysts have speculated that Yahoo could buy AOL —or that AOL might try to buy Yahoo. But Wieser said it seems unlikely that either company's management would agree to be acquired by the other.
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:08 pm by Business Journal staff
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 42 California counties, including most of the Central Valley, as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses from the drought. Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties are included in the designation, which makes qualified farm operators in the region eligible for low interest emergency loans from the USDA's Farm Service Agency. Farmers in the counties have eight months from the Sept. 17 declaration date to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses from Jan. 1 of this year on. "Our hearts go out to those California farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling California producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.” For more information, including a list of all counties where a primary natural drought disaster was declared, visit
Written on 09/22/2014, 1:05 pm by Ben Keller, Business Journal staff writer
The long shuttered Azteca Theater in downtown Fresno is reopening Sept. 26 with music, dancing and performances reminiscent of its Hispanic entertainment roots. Following years of renovation work, the theater, located at 838 F St. in downtown's Chintatown district, opens it doors from 6 to 9 p.m. with its first live performances in more than two decades. The bilingual event will feature a comedy act, a dance performance by Caris & Company, a Bachata singer and caricatures by artist S.W. Parra, among other acts. Fresno's Full Circle Brewing will also be there serving locally-brewed beer and mead/wine and showing a silent film with live piano music starting at 8 p.m. The event is free of charge but those wishing to attend should first "Join" as guests at The theater, also known as Teatro Azteca, was built by Gustavo Acosta in 1948 as the first Spanish-only theater in Fresno, seating more than 700 people. It continued to be the entertainment and social center for the Valley's Mexican-American community after actor and entrepreneur Arturo Tirado took over in the 1956, staging various music, vaudeville, comedy and theatrics acts, as well as films. The theater even served as a rallying point for farm labor leader Cesar Chavez when made his famous march for farmworkers from Delano to Sacramento. After Tirado retired in the 1980s, the theater remained open under different owners, showing kung-fu and other budget films. After closing in the early '90s, however, the property fell into derelict conditions, becoming a home for squatters and animals and suffering from holes in the roof, stolen equipment, and other signs of aging, while 10 large murals depicting Mexican and Aztec life were removed or destroyed. Under new owner, theater organ enthusiast David Owens, Azteca Theater partially opened in 1999, its lobby transformed into a gallery and gift shop. Since then, more renovations have taken place, most of them in the last year when Owens and the building's new lessee Laura Barboza of Fresno performing group Expressiones Teatral invested to fix the theater's sagging roof and marquis, install new seats and carpeting and patch and paint the walls. Owens, who formerly owned the D'Italia Hotel and the Peacock Hotel buidlings in Chinatown, said he hopes the theater will become a vital attraction drawing people and businesses back to the area of F Street that has fallen subject to vacancies and blight since its heyday in the '50s and '60s. "We're on the cusp of getting over the hump and getting he place open doesn't mean it 's as beuatuiful as we would like but it's headed int right direction," said Owens. "There's been a lot of community support and people that want to perform and be something positive int he community."
Written on 09/22/2014, 12:46 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — A national survey says the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline has dropped another 9 cents over the last two weeks, to $3.37, bringing the decline to 34 cents over the last 13 weeks. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that falling crude oil prices drove the declines, but the drop was also heavily impacted by a crash in prices of ethanol and the fact that winter-grade gasoline costs less to produce. If crude prices don't rise, the average prices at the pump may drop a few more cents. Jackson, Mississippi, had the lowest price among cities surveyed in the Lower 48 states, with $3.03 a gallon. San Francisco had the highest at $3.79 a gallon. The average price for a gallon in California is $3.67, down 8 cents from two weeks ago, with Fresno the low average in the state at $3.56. The average price for a gallon of midgrade gasoline was $3.59 a gallon, and premium was $3.74.

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Written on 09/22/2014, 2:03 pm by Associated Press
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