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FDA to announce new calorie count rules Tuesday

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 9:32am

You can run, but it's getting harder to hide from knowing exactly how many calories are in whatever you're eating. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will update its rule book, requiring everything from movie theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts on their menus. 

The new rules, required under the Affordable Care Act, are meant to fight growing obesity in the U.S. (Video via YouTube / SlimGenics)

The move has been praised by some activists. A public health professor at New York University told The Washington Post, "This is great news for public health and, hopefully, an incentive to restaurants to reformulate their offerings to be lower in calories.”

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg was equally positive saying “This initiative is really all about trying to provide consumers with information that they can use to make more informed food choices for themselves and their families."

Still, not everyone is thrilled they'll have to start showing customers just how much they're consuming.

One example: movie theaters. One of those large tubs of buttery popcorn can hold up to 1,200 calories according to WebMD

According to The New York Times, the Obama administration received a lot of pushback from both theater and pizza chains who weren't keen on sharing calorie counts. A research fellow with the Heritage Foundation told the Times the new rules amounted to "a shocking power grab."

But, the new rule set has its allies in the industry, too. The Wall Street Journal says the National Restaurant Association was in favor of the changes and more than 200,000 restaurants throughout the U.S. will have to update their menus now. 

Whether adding calories to menus actually changes peoples' eating habits is still up for debate though. 

Some point to a 2008 Starbucks study by Stanford that found out of 100 million transactions, displaying calorie counts only resulted in about a 6 percent drop in average calories purchased. (Video via Starbucks)

The new rules will be announced on Tuesday with restaurants and other businesses having one year to implement the changes and vending machines two years.  

This video includes images from Getty Images and jayneandd / CC BY 2.0.

More office rentals available than apartments

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 9:31am

Ventura County has high vacancy rates for commercial office space that contrast with low vacancy rates for residential apartment buildings, the National Association of Realtors reports in a national survey released Monday.

The county's overall office vacancy rate for the final quarter of this year stood at 18.2 percent, while the regional vacancy rate for apartment buildings stood at only 2.6 percent, the association reports.

The vacant office space stems from a decline in office jobs and a change in the way people work since the Great Recession. Local economists say more people now work as independent contractors.

The apartment rental market has been strong all year, having benefited from better economic conditions and a tighter mortgage market that makes it more difficult for consumers to buy homes.

In its forecast, the association projects office vacancy rates nationwide will drop to 15.7 percent from 16.2 percent in 2014. Apartment vacancy rates nationwide are expected to tick up from 4 percent in 2014 to 4.1 percent in 2015.

Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, said low housing inventory and strong demand for rentals will spur multifamily construction and keep rents rising above inflation next year.

The decline in national office vacancy rates will result from job growth exceeding the availability of new inventory coming onto the market, according to the association. Improved manufacturing activity should lead to a declining vacancy rate for industrial space, while retail space is forecast to decline 0.2 percent as consumers spend more as a result of personal income gains and lower gas prices.

Ferguson Area Clergy Lead Peaceful Protest

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 9:26am
A sunrise prayer vigil and dozens of clergy marching in the streets here Tuesday was a stark counterpoint to the destruction and looting that took place Monday night just miles away in Ferguson.

How to own a second home

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 9:19am

Daydreaming of owning a second, seasonal home?

It sure sounds enticing, but fulfilling this dream takes attention to detail and a firm vision of your long-term goals.

Two financial factors may help bring your daydreams closer to reality: The 80-year long-term stock market rise (despite some slides) and interest rates that remain historically low (past performance is no guarantee of future results).

In addition to housing costs and interest rates (not to mention your lifestyle preferences, the home's location, and conditions of the real estate market), you should take many considerations into account before purchasing a second home. If the factors add up, owning a vacation home may bring years of happiness. But if the time isn't right, re-evaluate your long-term goals to see if you can buy this home in the future — and avoid a ton of hassles today.

Issues to explore: Location, location, location: Heeding the first rule in any real estate transaction, think about how far you wish to travel from your primary residence or business to reach the second home (and the travel costs involved). Then consider the area's natural or recreational opportunities, economic history, and property taxes.

Financial preparedness: Ensure that the new home won't compromise or threaten your long-term financial goals. If you have a chronic illness or medical needs, for example, you want your income, assets and savings to cover those costs first. Your financial advisor may be able to help assess your preparedness and guide your strategy to buy a second home while keeping your long-term goals on track.

Count all costs: The true cost of owning a vacation home goes beyond the purchase price and mortgage interest rate (if you choose to obtain a loan.) Maintenance, utilities, property and state taxes, prices of seasonal activities, weather concerns and insurance all change constantly and add up quickly. Consult with a real estate agent as well as with a tax advisor as you evaluate these variables.

Investment, rental property, legacy or fun house: If interested in this property purely for investment, think about improvements the home may require, the availability of skilled help in the locale and the economic history and vitality of the community. Also consider how long you want to — or must — retain the property to get a reasonable return on investment.

Tax implications arise if you hope to derive income from renting your vacation home (a tax advisor can enumerate them). Renting your property may force you to incur some additional expenses — repairs of tenants' damage, for example.

If you hope to simply treasure time at a second home — escape for solitude, recreation or making memories — the new place can potentially turn into your retirement home. Is that attractive to you? Do you hope one day to make your vacation home a legacy to be handed down for generations or is your interest more short-term?

Co-ownership: When owning a vacation home, more might seem merrier (costs can be split), but make sure you iron out what happens if one owner can't pay the agreed-upon share of expenses.

Consider forming a limited liability company, which exempts you personally from legal and financial liabilities of ownership. With the LLC owning the property, details are outlined from the beginning in case someone runs into financial trouble. Another option may be for an individual or couple to own the property and rent to others.

If you want to create a legacy, a trust can facilitate passing the property generation to generation with the least confusion. Discord created with the other owners may outweigh the benefit of sharing the mortgage payments, taxes and other expenses, however.

Regardless of what you decide, consult an attorney to fully understand the implications of your decisions. When you're thinking about a second home, your heart and head must work together so you meet all of your needs.

Heidi Clute is the owner of Clute Wealth Management, a registered investment advisor in South Burlington, Vt., and Plattsburgh, N.Y.
She writes for AdviceIQ, which delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors.
(c)2014 AdviceIQ
Visit AdviceIQ at www.adviceiq.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Fires destroy Ferguson buildings; rioters loot

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 8:24am

The City of Ferguson, Missouri dealt with unrest Monday night and into Tuesday morning as protesters rioted.

They were reacting to news that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson is not being indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Wilson is white, and Brown, 18, is black and was unarmed at the time of his death.

Weeks of protests followed the shooting, and unrest then also included looting and rioting. 

More coverage from our sister TV station, KSHB, in Missouri

The following is a timeline of events that unfolded Monday night, Nov. 24, in Ferguson.

12:45 a.m. Central Time: The number of protesters has dwindled, and buildings that were on fire are destroyed. Smoke continues to filter throughout Ferguson. 

Midnight CT: Fires continue to destroy multiple buildings in Ferguson, Missouri — fires started by rioters. People also continue to loot and vandalize businesses, though protest crowds had dwindled significantly in some parts, according to CNN reporters at the scene.

11:30 p.m. CT: FAA places airport in St. Louis under Temporary Flight Restriction.

11:20 p.m. CT: Police are using bullhorns to request protesters leave the area so firefighters may more easily get to the buildings that are on fire. Some buildings are engulfed in flames but no firefighters are able to get to them because there are too many fires occurring.

11:05 p.m. CT: Armored vehicles hauling S.W.A.T. members have arrived, likely due to the possibility of gunshots fired. Police confirm smoke used to clear crowd in beginning of rioting, but tear gas also being used.

11 p.m. CT: A storage facility is engulfed in flames. Police continue to use tear gas to clear crowds. CNN reports items inside a beauty salon on fire may be exploding. Because it is unclear whether the popping noises are those items or are gunshots, firefighters have vacated the salon, which continues to burn.

10:50 p.m. CT: At least three buildings were on fire, according to reporters in Ferguson.

10:30 p.m. CT: Fires continue, and while many protesters are still out in Ferguson, Missouri, reporters say the crowd has dwindled a bit. Some protesters are shouting profanity at police and members of the media. One building is engulfed in flames and is destroyed. CNN reports the building is a Little Caesars pizza restaurant.

10:20 p.m. CT: A beauty salon is on fire inside, and firefighters are on scene. Police are looking on the roofs of buildings to make sure no one in on them. Reports indicate gunshots fired appear to have cleared the crowds a bit. Protests continue.

10:15 p.m. CT: More businesses appear to be vandalized, and car horns can be heard. At least two cars are on fire, according to CNN reporters. Crowds are chanting, "no justice, no peace." Looting continues. Law enforcement is pushing people out and asking them to leave the area. 

10 p.m. CT: Ferguson stores are being looted. Some protesters may be heard chanting, "hands up, don't shoot." Elsewhere, a Washington Post reporter tweeted that about 2,300 people have gathered in front of the White House in Washington. D.C. and the crowd was chanting, "black lives matter." That protest appeared to remain peaceful.

9:50 p.m. CT: A woman appeared to be in cardiac arrest near the Ferguson police station where protest riots began occurring within the past hour. Police officers are still dispersing tear gas and shooting bean bags into the crowds.

9:45 p.m. CT: A car engulfed in flames near the Ferguson, Missouri police department is a police cruiser. CNN Reporter Don Lemon reports hearing gunshots fired. Reporters are wearing bullet proof vests and gas masks, he said.

9:40 p.m. CT: Police are pushing down the street and car alarms sounding as crowds in Ferguson get more violent. A fire is seen in a trash can. "This night has turned quit violent," reported CNN.

9:30 p.m. CT: Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri are throwing rocks and attempting to overturn a police cruiser Monday night. Tear gas has been released to attempt to disperse crowds following the announcement that a grand jury chose not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Watch live coverage below:


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No indictment for Ferguson, Mo. police officer

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 8:24am

A grand jury chose not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown.

The decision was followed by violent protests, looting and clashes with St. Louis police, who responded with tear gas, riot gear and armored vehicles.

"The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction," said St. Louis Country prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch at a press conference. "They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against officer Wilson."

That Wilson shot Brown to death was not in question, McCulloch said. The issue before the grand jury was if lethal force was justified for the police officer. The 12 jurors heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, he said.

McCulloch said physical evidence showed Brown was charging at Wilson when he was shot. That contradicted some eyewitness testimony that Brown was surrendering. Presented with physical evidence, he said some eyewitness accounts then changed.

President Barack Obama, speaking at the White House after the decision, called on protesters to refrain from violence. He also said the Ferguson case exposed deep racial issues.

"This isn't just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America," Obama said.

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The grand jury result provides some legal clarity after months of tension. However, state and local officials were prepared for protests, even violence.

"Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of that decision people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon at Monday press conference hours before the grand jury announcement.

Nixon declared a state of emergency ahead of the decision and activated the Missouri National Guard.

Wilson is white, and Brown, 18, is black and was unarmed at the time of his death. Weeks of protests followed the shooting, and unrest included looting and rioting.

Some businesses and schools were closed in anticipation of the grand jury decision.

Demonstrators would be allowed to express themselves, said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, even if it means inconvenience to the city such as slowed traffic.

"But turning violent and damaging property will not be tolerated," Slay said.

The police response to the initially peaceful protests drew criticism for the use of tear gas, riot gear and armored vehicles.

A small number of protesters attacked squad cars, tossed molotov cocktails and shot at officers, who responded with tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets.

More than 1,000 police officers have received additional training ahead of the decision. A combined command of state, St. Louis County and St. Louis city will provide security for expected protests. The National Guard will be made available if needed.

Watch live coverage below:

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Information from The Associated Press is used in this report.

Protests Spread in U.S. Cities Following Decision

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 8:05am
Protests broke out in a number of U.S. cities following the decision on Monday by a grand jury not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager.

Man arrested after stolen vehicle pursuit

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 7:56am

A man was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with a stolen vehicle pursuit in Ventura and Saticoy area, officials said.

Ventura police saw the driver commit a traffic infraction about 2:15 a.m. near Telegraph and Wells roads.

As police attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver failed to yield and quickly drove away, officials said.

The vehicle turned south onto Wells Road where it reached speeds of 70 mph and continued into the Saticoy area. 

Officers pursued the vehicle through the surrounding residential roadways and eventually onto Aster Street, officials said.

The man and passenger abandoned the vehicle upon reaching the end of Aster Street and were last seen running west through Saticoy Park.

Police searched of the area using a police dog, officials said.

The man, later identified as Mauricio Yepez, 21, of Oxnard, was found by the police dog hiding in a yard west of the park, officials said.

He was arrested in connection with being in possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and evading police.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Office assisted during the incident, officials said.

Ferguson Legal Fight Extends Beyond Grand Jury

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 7:52am
A grand jury’s decision to reject charges against a white officer in the shooting death of a black teenager in Missouri likely won’t be the last word from the courts on the tragic events of Aug. 9.

Ali Smith Talks About Her New Book, ‘How to Be Both’

NY Times Books - November 25, 2014 - 7:00am
Ali Smith says her much-lauded new novel, “How to Be Both,” explores how every great narrative is always about what is on the surface and what is hidden underneath.

Bookends: What Makes the Russian Literature of the 19th Century So Distinctive?

NY Times Books - November 25, 2014 - 7:00am
Francine Prose and Benjamin Moser discuss the great Russian writers and their approach to the human heart and soul.

Clues Show How Green Electricity May Be in 2050

Ventura County Star Top Stories - November 25, 2014 - 5:41am

Clues to the United States’ energy future are everywhere, if you know where to look.

By 2050, the technology will likely be available to provide 80 percent of the country’s electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

But even if the nation doesn’t adapt to that degree, it is clear that the way Americans get their electricity and how it’s generated will be vastly different than today, toppling the current model of power flowing in one direction, from major power plants into American homes.

In the era to come, much of the power generated in the U.S. will come from renewables, and much of it will be generated on rooftops and in backyards, and the buildings using that electricity are likely to be much more energy efficient than they are today. That means many people will feed power back into the grid, a two-way system that changes the energy landscape dramatically.

In many ways, the country is already squarely on that path. Renewables now generate 20 percent of California’s electricity, a percentage expected to grow as new solar power generators come online and Los Angeles connects itself to a new wind farm proposed for eastern Wyoming, potentially generating power for 1.2 million homes in the Los Angeles area.

Texas also broke a record for wind power production this year. Wind turbines have been built atop buildings in New York City.

After Hurricane Sandy knocked out power for tens of thousands of people for weeks, it inspired a widespread interest in microgrids, another way to lessen reliance on power plants.

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Among the longer-term trends, according to Doug Arent, executive director of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, or JISEA, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., is a clear push toward low-carbon energy.

The lab published a 2012 study showing that the U.S. could obtain 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050 in part because every corner of the U.S. would be able to generate power from renewables, not just the sunniest, windiest places.

By 2050, he said, the U.S. is likely to see a lot of more distributed generation from solar panels, small wind turbines and other small power generators supplying electricity to individual buildings or groups of buildings.

While nuclear power generation is likely to remain flat because it’s too expensive to develop new reactors, the percentage of power in the U.S. generated by renewables is likely to double each decade as federal climate-related regulations force utilities to retire their coal-fired power plants, Arent said.

“The pace of change is being driven by the remarkable changes in technology cost, especially solar, which is dropping in price quickly,” Warren Lasher, director for system planning for the operator of Texas’ main power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said.

The cost of electricity generated from utility-scale solar power installations has dropped by more than 70 percent since 2008, according to research from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab, allowing some heavily coal-dependent utilities such as Georgia Power to explore solar.

“That’s an indication even in areas where solar isn’t world class, solar is becoming a cost-effective option,” Lasher said.

Within the next five years or so, big box stores and other commercial building owners are likely to adopt rooftop solar on a large scale as solar panel prices drop, helping to usher in the new era of distributed power generation, he said.

“If commercial facilities facilities see this as a cost-effective investment, then we might see development that’s only limited by how many people are licensed to install solar on rooftops,” Lasher said.

The trend toward distributed power generation reverses the usual one-way flow of power from a major plant to consumers, but it also requires a power grid that can effectively manage this two-way street.

So, the federal government is pushing for utilities to build a “smarter” power grid, one that can adjust power production and flow based on how much electricity homes and businesses are using at any moment and forecasting how much energy can be expected from renewables.

Looking to 2050, all the country’s most populous regions will generate their power differently, but the trend is toward a much greater reliance on energy efficiency and renewable power produced both at major wind and solar installations and on rooftops.

“For Los Angeles and Chicago, maybe that means more wind from America’s heartland,” Mark Brownstein chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund’s U.S. Climate and Energy Program, said. “For New York, maybe it’s some combination of distributed solar plus wind and even some hydro imported from Canada.”

And for everywhere else, it’ll be more of the same: Greater efficiency, locally produced energy, more renewables, more wind turbines and solar panels big box stores.

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Protesters Turn Out in U.S. Cities Following Decision

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 3:42am
Protests broke out in a number of U.S. cities following the decision on Monday by a grand jury not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager.

U.S. Buys Up Ebola Gear, Leaving Little for Africa

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 3:39am
The few global suppliers are ramping up production, but they are still straining to meet demand, especially since anxiety has risen in the U.S.

Ferguson Police Officer Not Charged in Black Teen's Shooting

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 3:34am
A grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking renewed unrest in Ferguson Mo., which became a national flash point over race and justice during weeks of turmoil this summer.

Chuck Hagel Resigns as Defense Chief

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 3:25am
President Obama announced Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will step down from his position, marking a major realignment in leadership amid multiple military challenges.

Ferguson Hit by Looting, Arson

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 3:01am
Peaceful protests in Ferguson, Mo., gave way to looting and arson in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer in the summer shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Iran, World Powers Fail to Reach Deal

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 2:50am
World powers failed to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran and extended talks for seven months, exposing deep divides between the sides and putting the diplomatic effort at risk from domestic discord in the nations involved.

Police Rarely Criminally Charged for On-Duty Shootings

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - November 25, 2014 - 1:07am
Police are rarely charged criminally for on-duty shootings, but law-enforcement officials and critics differ on whether this should be the case.
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