Your West Valley News: Local news from Phoenix's West Valley communities - Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, El Mirage, Youngtown

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  • Countryside teacher earns recognition

    Heather Rankin, a seventh-grade teacher at Countryside Elementary School in Surprise, has been named the October Teacher of the Month by Taylor Morrison, in partnership with KEZ 99.9 FM.She was nominated by student Anthony Villari. His letter read, in part, “She has high expectations for her students, she teaches them to be good citizens, she is well-organized,  makes the children think outside the box, she makes the children shine and want to learn. Mrs. Rankin is at every fundraiser, she supported and cheered on her students in their sporting events. She truly cares and prepares her students to be successful in life.”Each month, a Valley K-12 teacher is selected from all the entries to be recognized for their outstanding contribution to education. KEZ’s Marty Manning will visit the teacher’s school to surprise them with their “Excellence in Education” Award, plus the surprise visit will be broadcast during the Beth and Friend’s Show.All winning teachers will be rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education plaque and prizes from KEZ & Taylor Morrison. At the culmination of the school year all the teachers gather together for a banquet where $999 is awarded to one special teacher.

  • Program helps with construction careers

    Individuals interested in getting a foot in the construction industry can apply for ADOT’s Construction Academy, a three-week program designed to expose people to various trades within the construction field.The program, hosted by ADOT’s Business Engagement and Compliance Office, is open to veterans, minorities and women interested in a career with the construction industry.The program includes various introductory courses in the transportation construction industry that are taught by industry experts. Some of these courses include heavy equipment, highway electrical, materials, traffic technology and highway survey.Those interested in applying for the Construction Academy can do so online at the ADOT website or by picking up an application at the Business Engagement and Compliance Office.Upcoming three-week courses will be held early next year in late January and in April.Visit the azdot.gov/business/business-engagement-and-compliance/on-the-job-training-program/construction-academy for information.

  • Glendale council declines to revisit company’s billboard plan

    GLENDALE, Ariz. – If a Phoenix billboard company is to erect a pair of its billboards along Loop 101 in north Glendale, it will have to so do by resubmitting an application to the municipal officials.The City Council, by a margin of 4-3, decided Tuesday against considering rescinding its earlier denial of a request by Rose Law Group on behalf of Becker Boards to rezone a slice of Palm Canyon Business Park off the freeway near Bell Road in order to erect a pair of 85-foot-high static billboards there.The governing body, citing opposition from local residents and officials in neighboring Peoria, rejected the application by a 5-2 vote March 24.Councilman Gary Sherwood, one of two members supporting the request, asked for the matter to be reconsidered. He was supported by colleagues Norma Alvarez and Sammy Chavira. The business park lies within Sherwood’s council district, the Sahuaro District.Chavira, who originally voted against the application in March, said the billboards are an instrument for promoting business and promoting Glendale and would drive people there.“I’m a huge proponent when it comes to advertising for our city,” he said.

  • Group studies Civil War

    John W. Kohl and Joye Kohl will be the featured speakers at the Nov. 10 monthly meeting of the West Valley Genealogical Society.John Kohl received his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Oregon. Following a career in higher education, he retired from Montana State University as professor and dean emeritus. Joye Kohl is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, receiving a master’s degree from American University and her doctorate from Montana State University, where she also taught. She is a genealogist and writer of family histories.They have spent many years researching the Civil War and visiting all the sites and battlefields along the route of the Wisconsin C-3 Voluntary Infantry of John Christian, Kohl’s great-grandfather, and Jacob Cumley, his great-great grandfather.They will share their expertise through a presentation, “What Were Your Female Ancestors Doing During the Civil War — The Role of Women During the Civil War.”The meeting, followed by the speaker, is at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the First Presbyterian Church, 12225 N. 103 Ave., Sun City.  The meeting is open to anyone interested in pursuing their family history.The society, 12222 N. 111th Ave., Youngtown, is offering the following educational opportunities for November:

  • Dysart candidates address top issues

    Two Dysart Unified School District four-year seats are up for grabs on Nov. 4, with incumbents Tracy Sawyer-Sinkbeil and Blossom Tande seeking re-election and facing off with Spencer Bailey. Their bios and some of their views on key key issues follow:NAME: Spencer BaileyYEARS IN DISTRICT: 9 yearsOCCUPATION: OrthodontistTHREE MAIN ISSUES IN THE DISTRICT: Since moving to the district, I have seen many positive changes and improvements made. As a governing board member I would like to help the district improve in all areas so as to make the Dysart district the envy of school districts in the state of Arizona. As a governing board member, the responsibilities are to serve every resident and student of the Dysart district by:1. Developing district policies with extensive community involvement and then enforcing the implemented policies.

  • Symphony quartet offers preview at Rio Salado

    A sneak peek at the West Valley Symphony’s 2014/15 season and a performance by the symphony’s quartet awaits those who attend a free all-day community event offered by RISE Learning for Life, a part of Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in  Surprise.Join maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg at 10 a.m. Friday at 12535 W. Smokey Drive, Surprise, for an overview of the upcoming season, including Great Early Romantics, the Holiday Season concert, Going Places, Romance is in the Air and Shall we Dance?The West Valley Symphony Quartet begins its performance at RISE at 1 p.m.RISE offers this community event annually to give the public a chance to experience classical music in an informal educational atmosphere. Because of the popularity of the event, persons planning to attend should RSVP at 480-377-4296.• The 26 classes scheduled at RISE include a look at the birth of the United States by retired history teacher Mike Dubin. The American Revolution class meets from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday.• Immunologist Dr. Enoc Hollemweuger discusses the basics of allergies, how they affect our lives and different approaches to treating and managing allergies at a RISE Learning for Life class beginning at 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

  • Survey: Harassment a common part of online life

    NEW YORK (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. Case in point: Celebrities. Stars such as the actress Jennifer Lawrence had nude photos stolen and posted online recently in a widespread hacking scandal in late August. Lawrence, 24, later told Vanity Fair that she considered looking at the pictures a sex crime. It can be difficult for police to go after online bullies in part because "our legal system hasn't quite caught up with technology," said Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University who studies online aggression. On top of that, adults are generally hesitant to report harassment because they might view it as a "child or teenage problem." "But the Internet has no age limits," Dowdell said. "People look for outlets for aggression and the Internet is a wonderful place because it's anonymous and you don't have to be truthful." Social networking companies have sometimes been criticized for not doing enough to stop online harassment, even though it's standard policy to ban threats, bullying and harassment. But they have at least tried to respond to complaints. Twitter, for example, changed its policy recently after some users sent crude, altered images of Robin Williams to his daughter Zelda following the actor's suicide in August. The company now says it can remove images of deceased individuals that circulate on its site. Trendy new social networking site Ello, meanwhile, recently added tools people can use to block or mute users who are bothering them. The ad-free, decidedly anti-Facebook website was criticized early on for not providing blocking features that are standard practice for social networks. Though online harassment is as old as the Internet itself, the Pew survey is particularly timely as conversations around it have grown louder in recent months — and not just because of the celebrity hacking scandal. Beginning this summer, people involved in an online campaign dubbed "Gamergate" have been harassing several prominent women in the video game industry and their supporters for criticizing the lack of diversity and how women are portrayed in games. 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. "You can have many different (personas) online," Dowdell said. "So you might think 'I'm going to block Scaryfriend123' and Scaryfriend says 'Fine, I'm going to use my other name Superniceguy' and you just don't know." 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.

  • FedEx, UPS make plans for a better holiday season

    DALLAS (AP) — Facing an even bigger mountain of packages this holiday season, FedEx and UPS are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that frustrated shoppers and gift-recipients a year ago. Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping. An estimated 2 million packages were late at Christmas. On Wednesday, FedEx Corp. said it expects deliveries between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to rise 8.8 percent over last year, to 290 million shipments. Volume is expected to surge on each of the first three Mondays in December, with FedEx predicting a peak of 22.6 million shipments on Monday, Dec. 15. The delivery companies and Internet retailers are benefiting from a strengthening economy and optimism about consumer spending. At the same time, they're dealing with consumers who increasingly enjoy the ease of shopping on computers and mobile devices but expect the goods to show up almost as quickly as if they had shopped at a store. That expectation is often fed by online retailers, who hold out the promise of free delivery until right before Christmas. About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, according to ShipMatrix Inc., which makes software for shipment tracking. The firm's president, Satish Jindel, said UPS and FedEx were at fault only 30 percent of the time. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery but tried to save money and didn't pay the delivery companies for that speedier service, Jindel said. The merchants face tough competition for consumers who base purchases first on price, and second on free shipping, and the faster the better. "Every single year the percentage of retailers offering free shipping goes up," said Vicki Cantrell, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation. "The consumer expects it. The retailer may or may not be able to afford it." Target Corp. has started offering free holiday shipping for any item on its website, a first for the retailer as it tries to compete better against online rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. The timing of the offer was stunning — weeks before the unofficial kickoff of holiday shopping. Cantrell said Target, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers are getting better at the shipping game. They will ship items from stores instead of a central warehouse if that is faster, or tell online customers when the product they want can be picked up at a store near their home. Those strategies could relieve pressure on the delivery companies and satisfy the shopper more quickly. The retail federation's online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year. To meet that demand, online retailers such as Amazon and the delivery companies are hiring more. FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year. United Parcel Service Inc. says it will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies wound up scrambling to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned, which increased costs and cut into profits. FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays, said the company's chief commercial officer, Alan Gershenhorn. He said that UPS had improved it forecasting and package tracking. UPS has not issued a holiday forecast. Shares of FedEx fell $1.41 to $158.47; UPS shares fell $1.69 to $99.06.

  • Project aimed at improving habitat for deer, quail

    KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) — A $1.1 million effort planned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to improve habitat for mule deer and scaled quail is focused in several parts of the state. The Kingman Daily Miner reports efforts to improve mule deer habitat are focused on a hunt unit encompassing southern Mohave County in northwestern Arizona and in two hunt areas north and northeast of Phoenix. The targeted scaled quail habitat is in two hunt units east of Tucson in southeastern Arizona. The department says both efforts are aimed at restoring wildlife populations that are now dwindling and to meet the demands of both hunters and wildlife watchers. Department spokesman Bill Andres says the work includes prescribed burns to "reopen and reinvigorate" desert shrub lands that are thick with overgrown vegetation.

  • Arizona poised to purchase homes on freeway route

    PHOENIX (AP) — Plans for a 22-mile extension of the Loop 202 freeway around the Phoenix area's southern edge are nearing final approval, and the owners of about 200 homes have been told to get ready to find new places to live. "It's kind of sad because all my kids were born in this house," said James Voss, who bought his home in 2000. The proposed South Mountain Freeway would extend from Interstate 10 near the Ahwatukee section of southeast Phoenix to Interstate 10 on the metro area's west side. The project has been on the drawing boards for about 20 years, but the state Department of Transportation recently sent letters to people whose property lies in the path of the freeway. "The letter was just advising residents — specific residents — that their house was potentially in the right-of-way area for the proposed freeway and that they would soon be contacted by an appraiser to begin the process of appraising their home," ADOT spokesman Tim Tait said. However, Tait said the department won't begin actually buying properties until the Federal Highway Administration approves the project. ADOT expects federal approval for the $1.8 billion project early next year. That would set the stage for home demolition in 2015 and the start of freeway construction in 2016. Construction would take four or five years. "This really shouldn't be a startling revelation to any of the homeowners in the alignment," Tait said. "It's been well-known in the corridor that properties would have to be acquired." Kelly Roberts, a homeowner who received an ADOT letter, said she has conflicted feelings. "It was mixed feelings of a little bit of relief that this might be coming to an end, and then feelings of 'Oh, shoot, we're going to be displaced from our home,'" Roberts said.

  • Arizona activists defend ballot deliveries

    PHOENIX (AP) — A coalition of Arizona advocacy groups defended its practice Wednesday of dropping off early ballots for voters. The grassroots organizations are facing an outcry in the wake of surveillance video posted last week that shows a volunteer hand-delivering numerous ballots to a Maricopa County elections office a day before the Aug. 26 primary. "It's a nonstory. Nothing that they did was illegal," said Tony Navarrete, a spokesman for immigration advocacy group Promise Arizona. "It was them making the promise to voters that they were going to turn in their ballots during the primary." The video has been viewed more than 360,000 times on YouTube. A.J. LaFaro, the Republican Party's chairman for Maricopa County, said he witnessed the man, who is a canvasser for Citizens for a Better Arizona, dropping off a box full of ballots. Lafaro said "ballot harvesting" raises issues about the security of those ballots before they're counted, even though signatures on ballot envelopes are checked by election workers. "From the time those ballots are mailed to the time they're turned back in, lots of things can happen," LaFaro said. Ramiro Luna, Citizens for a Better Arizona field director, criticized LaFaro and others for referring to canvassers as "thugs." According to Luna, canvassers knock on doors —mostly in Hispanic communities — and encourage voters to participate. But they are trained not to touch a ballot or mark it in any way, he said. "The ballot is something we keep as sacred. It is between the voter and the election department. All we are doing is providing a service to make sure the ballot is counted and is turned in on time," Luna said. LaFaro acknowledged the Republican Party has been doing the same thing when it sends get-out-the-vote volunteers to canvass neighborhoods. "On occasion we offer to take their ballot and deliver it for them," LaFaro said. "If it's not illegal, we're going to make that offer." But he argued it was on a much smaller scale compared to Democratic-leaning groups. "We don't comprehend, nor do we subscribe to what we see out there on the progressive-socialist side," LaFaro said. "That gentleman bringing in several hundred ballots, what function does that serve? We still cannot comprehend why they do it." Maricopa County Elections spokesman Daniel Ruiz said there is no law covering how a ballot gets to the poll. What counts is whether the ballot is signed and the signature can be verified. However, voters who don't plan on mailing a ballot or dropping it off in person should make sure to give it to someone they trust, Ruiz added. LaFaro said he will urge the Legislature to change the law when it returns in January to make the process illegal. The collection of ballots by groups like Citizens for a Better Arizona has become an issue in the Arizona secretary of state's race. The practice would have been banned under a major 2013 election law rewrite that the Legislature repealed this year after opponents collected enough signatures to send it to the ballot. "I see no reason why any individual, whether it's a candidate themselves, a campaign operative, a party individual, myself, you, anybody, should be in possession of an extraordinary number of ballots," Republican candidate Michele Reagan said at an Oct. 7 debate. "It creates a system where there is an opportunity for fraud, and that is not acceptable." Democrat Terry Goddard agreed that banning mass collections should be considered, within limits. "I agree that what Sen. Reagan occasionally calls harvesting is wrong and whatever that means should be abolished," Goddard said, while warning that not all collections should be banned. "Let's look carefully before we jump, because the thing at stake is your right and my right to vote, and it seems to me that under every circumstance we ought to protect that right."

  • Arpaio's lawyers pan critique of investigations

    PHOENIX (AP) — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office says a court-appointed official's critique of the agency's investigation into alleged wrongdoing by some of its officers contains mischaracterizations. Arpaio's lawyers say in court papers Tuesday that the report alleges investigators failed to act on information provided to them while they examined shakedown allegations against a former deputy. It also says supervisors of the deputy, whose arrest led to the investigations, didn't take appropriate action against him. The report has not been released to the public. The lawyers say the document unfairly suggested the sheriff's department wasn't investigating allegations in good faith, and that the criticism centers on the fact that no criminal charges have been filed against officers. "Such a conclusion, especially given the genesis of this particular investigation, presumes the guilt of MCSO deputies," the attorneys wrote. The critique was made by Robert Warshaw, who was appointed to monitor the agency by a judge who ruled Arpaio's officers have racially profiled Latinos in its patrols. The judge asked Warshaw to investigate allegations against a witness in the profiling case, now-deceased deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz. Eighteen months after the profiling trial, Armendariz was accused of shaking down immigrants who are in the country illegally. Armendariz was arrested five months ago after investigators found driver's licenses, wallets belonging to other people, bags of evidence and more than 100 license plates at his Phoenix home. Another discovery at Armendariz's home involved an estimated 900 hours of videos taken from cameras mounted on his eyeglasses and dashboard that were supposed to be turned over in the profiling case. Armendariz told investigators he was innocent, and he implicated former colleagues on Arpaio's immigrant smuggling squad. After his arrest, Armendariz resigned and was later found dead in his home in a suicide by hanging, officials say. Warshaw's report on the investigation into Armendariz's allegations hasn't been publicly released. The sheriff's office has repeatedly denied requests by The Associated Press for updates on the investigations, and investigative reports and related documents sought through public records requests haven't been released. The attorneys who pressed the racial profiling case against Arpaio's office filed a response to Warshaw's report, but that filing is under a court seal. The American Civil Liberties Union, the driving force behind the profiling case, declined to comment on the filing by Arpaio's lawyers. The sheriff's office says in its latest filing that nearly 9,000 videos taken by officers during the course of their work have been collected in the investigation. It says the videos have generated 39 internal investigations. Arpaio's lawyers said Warshaw's criticism underscores the monitor's misunderstanding about the distinction between investigations that examine criminal allegations and those that focus on policy violations. The sheriff's office also said the monitor alleged that Armendariz's supervisors failed to take administrative action against him. Arpaio's lawyers said it already has an administrative investigation into the matter. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ordered that a copy of Warshaw's report be sent to county and federal prosecutors. He set a Tuesday hearing to discuss the critique. Arpaio's attorneys have asked the judge to close discussions of the Armendariz investigations, while opposing lawyers said they should be open to the public.

  • Accomplished organist takes stage in Sun City West

    The Sun City West Organ and Keyboard Club’s featured artist is Marco Mendez, an internationally acclaimed organist and keyboardist.Mendez is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music. He gained admission to this world-renowned conservatory at age 12. He has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious halls and venues including the Lady of Czestahova Shrine. He has toured all over the U.S., Europe, Latin America, South America, Japan and China.He will entertain starting at 7 p.m. Monday in Summit Room A of the Palm Ridge Recreation Center.The concert is $2 for members of the SCW Organ and Keyboard Club. Guests are invited and encouraged to attend for $7 per person, payable at the door. Doors open at 6:30. For information, contact Ron Aron at 623-537-9092 or organ.scwclubs.com.

  • 'Red Death' musical set to works of Edgar Allan Poe

    Ghostlight Theatre will present “The Red Death: Musical Stories from Edgar Allan Poe.”The show is a new, contemporary musical based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Daniel Tenney, local composer and playwright, has taken four of Poe’s short stories and adapted them into a musical. Inspired by composers such as Steven Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown, Tenney’s version of the classic stories is at once spooky and poignant.“The Red Death” includes classic tales such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” as well as lesser-known works by Poe. The show is fun and scary, tragic and moving -- perfect for Halloween. “The Red Death: Musical Stories from Edgar Allan Poe” runs Saturday through Nov. 1.Tickets are $12 for general admission and $8 for students, and are available at showtix4u.com, the Ghostlight Theatre box office, 13541 W. Camino del Sol, Sun City West, or by calling 1-866-967-8167.

  • Symphony quartet offers preview at Rio Salado

    A sneak peek at the West Valley Symphony’s 2014/15 season and a performance by the symphony’s quartet awaits those who attend a free all-day community event offered by RISE Learning for Life, a part of Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in  Surprise.Join maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg at 10 a.m. Friday at 12535 W. Smokey Drive, Surprise, for an overview of the upcoming season, including Great Early Romantics, the Holiday Season concert, Going Places, Romance is in the Air and Shall we Dance?The West Valley Symphony Quartet begins its performance at RISE at 1 p.m.RISE offers this community event annually to give the public a chance to experience classical music in an informal educational atmosphere. Because of the popularity of the event, persons planning to attend should RSVP at 480-377-4296.• The 26 classes scheduled at RISE include a look at the birth of the United States by retired history teacher Mike Dubin. The American Revolution class meets from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday.• Immunologist Dr. Enoc Hollemweuger discusses the basics of allergies, how they affect our lives and different approaches to treating and managing allergies at a RISE Learning for Life class beginning at 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

  • FedEx, UPS make plans for a better holiday season

    DALLAS (AP) — Facing an even bigger mountain of packages this holiday season, FedEx and UPS are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that frustrated shoppers and gift-recipients a year ago. Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping. An estimated 2 million packages were late at Christmas. On Wednesday, FedEx Corp. said it expects deliveries between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to rise 8.8 percent over last year, to 290 million shipments. Volume is expected to surge on each of the first three Mondays in December, with FedEx predicting a peak of 22.6 million shipments on Monday, Dec. 15. The delivery companies and Internet retailers are benefiting from a strengthening economy and optimism about consumer spending. At the same time, they're dealing with consumers who increasingly enjoy the ease of shopping on computers and mobile devices but expect the goods to show up almost as quickly as if they had shopped at a store. That expectation is often fed by online retailers, who hold out the promise of free delivery until right before Christmas. About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, according to ShipMatrix Inc., which makes software for shipment tracking. The firm's president, Satish Jindel, said UPS and FedEx were at fault only 30 percent of the time. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery but tried to save money and didn't pay the delivery companies for that speedier service, Jindel said. The merchants face tough competition for consumers who base purchases first on price, and second on free shipping, and the faster the better. "Every single year the percentage of retailers offering free shipping goes up," said Vicki Cantrell, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation. "The consumer expects it. The retailer may or may not be able to afford it." Target Corp. has started offering free holiday shipping for any item on its website, a first for the retailer as it tries to compete better against online rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. The timing of the offer was stunning — weeks before the unofficial kickoff of holiday shopping. Cantrell said Target, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers are getting better at the shipping game. They will ship items from stores instead of a central warehouse if that is faster, or tell online customers when the product they want can be picked up at a store near their home. Those strategies could relieve pressure on the delivery companies and satisfy the shopper more quickly. The retail federation's online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year. To meet that demand, online retailers such as Amazon and the delivery companies are hiring more. FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year. United Parcel Service Inc. says it will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies wound up scrambling to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned, which increased costs and cut into profits. FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays, said the company's chief commercial officer, Alan Gershenhorn. He said that UPS had improved it forecasting and package tracking. UPS has not issued a holiday forecast. Shares of FedEx fell $1.41 to $158.47; UPS shares fell $1.69 to $99.06.

  • Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles

    DETROIT (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 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. The problem also is drawing attention from Congress. Staff members for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked NHTSA to brief them on the Takata air bags. They also plan to meet with automakers, a committee spokeswoman said. NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement that car owners should respond to the recalls to stay safe. The agency, he said, is tracking down the "full geographic scope" of the issue. Kathryn Henry, a spokeswoman for the 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 dealers. 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. 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.

  • Mobile wallets offer different way to pay

    Ever stand at a cashier fumbling through your overstuffed wallet for the right credit, debit or loyalty card? An end to the frustration may be on its way, according to Consumer Reports.For several years, a number of companies have been trying to get you to input the details of your payment cards into a “mobile wallet” — an app that is stored in your smartphone. Then you can make a payment from the card of your choice and even accrue applicable loyalty points simply by waving your smartphone over a card terminal.Problem is, there haven’t been many merchants that can actually read the data stored inside mobile wallets. Google Wallet, which was introduced in 2011, and Isis Wallet, backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and launched nationwide in 2013, require merchants to have or buy equipment that includes a technology known as near field communication, which has not yet been widely adopted. As a result, Google Wallet and Isis Wallet work at only about 200,000 U.S. merchants compared with 12 to 15 million that take plastic.But now a new player, LoopWallet, launched in February, uses magnetic pulse technology that allows its mobile wallet to work with 90 percent of existing card readers. That might be enough critical mass for the technology to become a viable option. However, a lot of pieces still have to come together for mobile wallet technology. Allied Market Research, based in Portland, Oregon, projects that mobile payments will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 127.5 percent, reaching a global market size of more than $5 trillion by 2020.Should you consider making the switch to LoopWallet or one of the others? Here’s what Consumer Reports says to consider:• The benefit. More smartphone owners are finding that their handsets are a convenient payment device, with 30 percent using them to make online purchases, 24 percent to pay bills and 17 percent to pay for store purchases, according to a recent Federal Reserve study. Mobile wallets provide one more payment option in today’s cell-savvy world.

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  • Mobile wallets offer different way to pay

    Ever stand at a cashier fumbling through your overstuffed wallet for the right credit, debit or loyalty card? An end to the frustration may be on its way, according to Consumer Reports.For several years, a number of companies have been trying to get you to input the details of your payment cards into a “mobile wallet” — an app that is stored in your smartphone. Then you can make a payment from the card of your choice and even accrue applicable loyalty points simply by waving your smartphone over a card terminal.Problem is, there haven’t been many merchants that can actually read the data stored inside mobile wallets. Google Wallet, which was introduced in 2011, and Isis Wallet, backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and launched nationwide in 2013, require merchants to have or buy equipment that includes a technology known as near field communication, which has not yet been widely adopted. As a result, Google Wallet and Isis Wallet work at only about 200,000 U.S. merchants compared with 12 to 15 million that take plastic.But now a new player, LoopWallet, launched in February, uses magnetic pulse technology that allows its mobile wallet to work with 90 percent of existing card readers. That might be enough critical mass for the technology to become a viable option. However, a lot of pieces still have to come together for mobile wallet technology. Allied Market Research, based in Portland, Oregon, projects that mobile payments will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 127.5 percent, reaching a global market size of more than $5 trillion by 2020.Should you consider making the switch to LoopWallet or one of the others? Here’s what Consumer Reports says to consider:• The benefit. More smartphone owners are finding that their handsets are a convenient payment device, with 30 percent using them to make online purchases, 24 percent to pay bills and 17 percent to pay for store purchases, according to a recent Federal Reserve study. Mobile wallets provide one more payment option in today’s cell-savvy world.

  • Limit usage of sweeteners

    Dear Dr. Blonz: I continue to hear that high-fructose corn syrup is a dangerous food additive that is much worse than regular sugar. Is this true? — J.B., Walnut Creek, CaliforniaDear J.B.: Let’s take a look at high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and compare it to “regular” sugar, also known as sucrose. Both are composed of the same two simple sugars (monosaccharides): glucose and fructose. In the case of sucrose, the two simple sugars are bound together, but in HFCS, they are not.This is an important characteristic, because fructose on its own is about 1.4 times as sweet as glucose. When bound to fructose as part of a sucrose molecule, the sweetness is less potent. Honey is also a 1:1 blend of glucose and fructose, but with honey, as with HFCS, the two are not bound; this explains why honey tastes sweeter than sucrose.The creation of HFCS begins with cornstarch, which is not noticeably sweet. Cornstarch is made up of long chains of glucose molecules all bound together. Cornstarch gets converted to corn syrup by breaking apart the individual glucose molecules. This gets done using a starch-digesting enzyme, similar to what goes on in our body when we eat starches.Corn syrup then gets converted to HFCS through the use of a specialized enzyme that converts glucose into fructose. Not all the glucose is typically converted, and the percentage in the final product depends on its intended use. A typical HFCS is about 55 percent fructose, 45 percent glucose. It is called a “high”-fructose corn syrup because standard corn syrup is primarily glucose.How does HFCS compare to sucrose? A study in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at whether HFCS might not satisfy like other sweeteners, which could then lead to excess consumption (and an increased risk of obesity), but it found no differences between HFCS and sucrose. In the same journal in May 2008, they looked at the effects of beverages sweetened with HFCS, sucrose, fructose and glucose. The study reported no differences in a number of physiological measures, including 24-hour blood glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels. Another study in the December 2013 issue of Nutrition Research reported no significant difference in the metabolic effects of HFCS versus sucrose at low, medium or high levels of consumption.

  • OPINION: The Romney revival

    Run, Mitt, run.” That was the chant as Mitt Romney appeared at a rally for Joni Ernst, the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa. The 2012 GOP standard-bearer hears those words a lot as he campaigns around the country this fall, and they trigger two questions.Will he run? Can he win?“I’m not running for office,” Romney insisted in Iowa. And his wife, Ann, reiterated this week that the family was “done, done, done” with presidential politics.And yet. Romney really believed that he would win two years ago, and there have to be long days — and late nights — when the dream comes creeping back and won’t quite die. Remember the adage popularized by the late Mo Udall, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1976 against Jimmy Carter: “The only cure for presidentialitis is embalming fluid.”And Romney has gotten a lot of encouragement lately. In a Des Moines Register poll, he was the only Republican to lead Hillary Clinton in Iowa, a state Barack Obama won twice.More seriously, a huge vacuum is starting to emerge in what might be called the PEC sector: the Pragmatic-Establishment-Centrist wing of the Republican Party. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey wants to run, but his brand has been blemished by the George Washington Bridge scandal. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, seems gripped by a case of terminal indecision.

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