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  • Missing woman, 78, found safe

    PHOENIX -- A Silver Alert has been canceled for a 78-year-old woman who was reported missing.Maricopa County Sheriff's Lieutenant Brandon Jones said Barbara Peters was found by Phoenix police in West Phoenix just before 8 a.m. Thursday and she is OK.Peters was last seen leaving a La Quinta Inn near 83rd Avenue and Greenway Parkway Wednesday morning.Jones said Peters told hotel staff she was on her way to Santa Monica, California.MCSO officials said Peters had not spoken with her family since 10 p.m. Tuesday night. There was no word on how Peters ended up in West Phoenix.

  • 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 for information.

  • 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.

  • Gasoline prices in Arizona at $3.04 per gallon

    PHOENIX (AP) — Gasoline prices around Arizona have fallen to their lowest level since January 2013. Officials with Triple-A Arizona said Thursday that the average statewide price for unleaded regular gasoline is $3.04 a gallon. That's almost 10 cents lower than last week. This week's national average is $3.07 per gallon, down by more than 8 cents from last week. Triple-A analysts say prices should remain low, barring unforeseen circumstances. The East Valley area (Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Ahwatukee, Apache Junction and Queen Creek) has Arizona's lowest average gasoline price at $2.93 a gallon, and Flagstaff has the highest at $3.36. Missouri has the lowest average gas prices among states in the continental U.S. at $2.78 a gallon with California having the highest at $3.45 a gallon.

  • Border deaths drop to 15-year low

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The number of people who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped to the lowest level in 15 years as more immigrants turned themselves in to authorities in Texas and fewer took their chances with the dangerous trek across the Arizona desert. The U.S. government recorded 307 deaths in the 2014 fiscal year that ended in September — the lowest number since 1999. In 2013, the number of deaths was 445. The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector finished the 2014 budget year with 115 deaths, compared with 107 in the Tucson sector, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press. It marks the first time since 2001 that Arizona has not been the deadliest place to cross the border. Arizona has long been the most dangerous border region because of triple-digit temperatures, rough desert terrain and the sheer volume of immigrants coming in to the state from Mexico. But more immigrants are now entering through Texas and not Arizona, driven by a surge of people from Central America. The Tucson and Rio Grande Valley both saw their numbers of deaths decline from 2013, although Arizona's drop was more precipitous. Border enforcement officials say the lower numbers are in part due to increased rescue efforts as well as a Spanish-language media campaign discouraging Latin Americans from walking across the border. Tucson Sector Division Chief Raleigh Leonard says the addition of 10 new rescue beacons that were strategically placed in areas where immigrants traverse most often has been a factor in the decrease in deaths. "I think we can all agree that crossing the border is an illegal act, but nothing that should be assigned the penalty of death," Leonard said in an interview. Immigrant rights advocates are skeptical that it is solely the Border Patrol's efforts contributing to the decrease in deaths. "At best, what the Border Patrol is accomplishing is a geographical shift in where these deaths are happening — rather than adequately responding to the scale of the crisis," said Geoffrey Boyce, a border enforcement and immigration researcher at the University of Arizona and a volunteer with the Tucson-based nonprofit No More Deaths. The Rio Grande Valley sector was flooded with a surge in unaccompanied minors and families with children who turned themselves in at border crossings in Texas. Most were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence and a poor economy have driven out huge numbers of people. That surge has dwindled recently, however, as U.S. and Central American authorities have launched a public relations campaign warning parents against sending their children to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Tucson Sector, once the busiest in the nation, has seen a steep decline in border crossers. Fewer Mexicans are crossing into the U.S. as the economy here has faltered and drug violence at home has improved. The Border Patrol also responds to hundreds of cases each year of immigrants who need to be rescued while crossing the desert, long an issue in the Arizona desert. The Border Patrol conducted 509 rescues in the 2014 fiscal year in the Tucson sector, compared to 802 in 2013. Some of the rescues are made with the help of beacons that were activated 142 times this year. The beacons are 30-feet tall, solar-powered and have sun reflectors and blue lights on top that are visible for 10 miles. The beacons also have signs in three languages directing users to push a red button that sends out a signal for help. Agents respond usually within 10 minutes to an hour. The agency has a team dedicated solely to rescues, called Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue. Agents in this elite group spend their days searching for immigrants and responding when one seeks help. They assist not only those who cross the border in search for jobs, but also drug mules and smugglers who become injured or dehydrated in the summer heat. It was only 10 a.m. and already 95 degrees on a day in late June when the unit's agents provided medical assistance to a 28-year-old man suspected of smuggling drugs near Sells, Arizona. The thin man had an ID from El Salvador and said he lived in Tucson. He oscillated between Spanish and English, but his message was the same: He was in extreme pain. The agents gave him a gallon of a sports beverage. He was to drink it slowly, they told him, or else it would make him sick. Next, they connected a saline bag intravenously and checked his vitals. The agents monitored him and re-examined his vitals, concluding that he wasn't dehydrated but suffering from muscle fatigue. Minutes later, agents who used a drug-sniffing K-9 to search the area found several bundles of marijuana and another suspected smuggler. The men were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, but were not charged with smuggling because the loads of marijuana were not found on them. "To us, it could be a mule, an illegal immigrant. They're all the same. They're human beings," Leonard said.

  • Fountain Hills High teacher quits over fake claims

    PHOENIX (AP) — A science teacher and volleyball coach at Fountain Hills High School has resigned after it was revealed she lied about having a doctorate and an Olympics medal. Phoenix TV station KPHO reports the Fountain Hills Unified School District Governing Board unanimously accepted Christie Slegers' resignation Wednesday night. Slegers was hired as a teacher in 2013 and began coaching girls' varsity volleyball this fall. She told the school and her team she was an Olympic silver medalist in the sport. USA Volleyball says Slegers "was not a member of the official delegation/team for the 1984 U.S. Women's Olympic Volleyball Team. Slegers' employment application with the school district states that she has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamline University and there is no mention of a Ph.D.

  • Police in Arizona: Girl left in car for hours dies

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Police in southern Arizona say a 7-month-old girl died this week after being left in a car for up to eight hours before her father noticed her unconscious in the back seat. Tucson police have identified the baby as Isabel Ledo Herrera but say they are withholding some information as the investigation continues. No arrests have been made. Sgt. Chris Widmer says detectives confirmed that the father was driving his vehicle and that he didn't know anyone else was in it. Widmer says the father immediately called 911 when he noticed his daughter. Authorities received a 911 call at 5:19 p.m. Wednesday. The girl died at a hospital after firefighters found her unresponsive. Widmer says preliminary information indicates the child was in the car for as long as eight hours.

  • CDC details new Ebola response and prep teams

    ATLANTA (AP) — New federal Ebola response squads — likened to public health SWAT teams — are being readied to rush to any U.S. city where a new Ebola case might be identified, officials say. Meanwhile, the government has formed a second set of teams to prepare hospitals in cities deemed most likely to see a new Ebola case, should one turn up. Three of those teams have already been sent out. Health officials this week first shared details about the two sets of health squads. The teams are "ready to go — boom — if we have another case of Ebola," said Dr. Jordan Tappero, one of the leaders of CDC's Ebola response effort. The government has been criticized for its handling of the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian, came down with Ebola symptoms last month, a few days after arriving in Dallas from West Africa. He was admitted to a Dallas hospital in late September and died Oct. 8. Duncan's illness and death created public fear as health officials had to track down and monitor scores of people he came in contact with. No one in the community has been infected, but two nurses who cared for him were. Since then, CDC officials have said they should have sent more people to Dallas when Duncan's case first surfaced — particularly infection control specialists, who could have provided better guidance to the hospital. Last week, President Barack Obama announced a push for a faster federal reaction. "We want a rapid response team, a SWAT team essentially, from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as possible, hopefully within 24 hours, so that they are taking the local hospital step by step though what needs to be done," he said. More information: CERT TEAMS The CDC has developed two sets of teams, identified by the acronyms CERT and FAST. The CERTs — for CDC Ebola Response Teams — are the squads Obama was talking about. They are to be made up of 10 to 20 people each, who can be sent to a hospital right after a new case of Ebola is lab-confirmed, or even before confirmation, if health officials believe a person is very likely to be infected. They are drawn from a list of roughly 100 CDC workers and others, scattered across the country. No CERT team has been deployed yet but the 20 or so people at the top of the list are on standby, with bags packed. FAST TEAMS Three FAST teams were assembled last week. These are smaller, preparatory teams: FAST stands for Facility Assessment and Support Teams. They're involved in checking out hospitals that have volunteered to handle Ebola cases, making sure they are ready to handle everything from the first encounter with a patient to the disposal of Ebola-infected medical waste. HOSPITALS The government is trying to identify up to 20 hospitals around the country that are designated Ebola referral centers. An emphasis has been on reviewing hospitals in the five cities with airports where all travelers from West Africa are now being funneled. The FAST teams have already been sent to three of them — New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The other two cities are Atlanta and Newark. The government hopes to release a list of primary Ebola hospitals in those five cities this week, CDC officials said. Meanwhile, federal, state or local officials have already named some hospitals. CDC officials confirmed that one is Emory University Hospital in Atlanta — which already has been treating Ebola patients. In Chicago, local health officials this week said four leading hospitals have agreed to handle Ebola patients — Rush University Medical Center, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. New York state officials have said they have designated eight hospitals to handle patients diagnosed with Ebola: New York City's Bellevue Hospital Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Montefiore Hospital Center; North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System; Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse; University of Rochester Medical Center, and Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island. OTHER TEAMS On Sunday, the Pentagon said it's building a 30-person medical support team that could go to help civilian hospitals deal with a future appearance of Ebola. The team is to include 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious disease protocols. The military team has a different orientation — they'll be there to provide medical care if a hospital needs more hands. The CERT teams are not there to care for patients. They would be involved in testing, coordinating communications with the public, ensuring that hospital workers are properly protected, and helping to track down people an infected person was in contact with, explained Dr. John T. Brooks, a CDC official who oversees the teams. The CDC also has teams in Ohio and Texas working on Ebola, Brooks said. They are not FAST or CERT teams. They were sent to help officials in those states to help track and prepare for potential cases related to Duncan or to a nurse who treated him and traveled to the Cleveland area.

  • Canada gunman wanted a passport to go to Mideast

    OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — He was a recent convert to Islam and a petty criminal with a long rap sheet, including a string of drug offenses. In recent weeks, he had been staying in a homeless shelter, where he talked about wanting to go to Libya to get away from drugs but griped that he couldn't get a passport. A picture began to emerge Thursday of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau a day after the 32-year-old Canadian launched a deadly attack on Canada's seat of government that forced the country — again — to confront the danger of radicalized citizens in its midst. In what the prime minister called a terrorist attack, Bibeau shot a soldier to death at Canada's tomb of the unknown Wednesday, then stormed the Parliament building, where he was gunned down by the sergeant-at-arms. Abubakir Abdelkareem, 29, who often visited the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter downtown, said he met Zehaf-Bibeau there. He said Zehaf-Bibeau told him he had a drug problem in Vancouver but had been clean for three months. Abdelkareem told The Associated Press that Zehaf-Bibeau wanted his passport to fly to Libya because he thought he could avoid drugs there. "As soon as I get it, I'm going to fly. ... Then there's no temptation," Abdelkareem quoted him as saying. But in the past three days, "his personality changed completely," Abdelkareem said. "He was not talkative; he was not social" anymore and slept during the day, said Abdelkareem, who concluded the man was back on drugs. Lloyd Maxwell, another shelter resident, said that Zehaf-Bibeau had lived for some time in Vancouver, then Calgary, then came to Ottawa specifically to try to get a passport, believing that would be more easily accomplished in the nation's capital. "He didn't get it, and that made him very agitated," Maxwell said. Maxwell said that he suggested to the man that he might be on a no-fly list, and "he kind of looked at me funny, and he walked away." The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed on Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau had applied recently for a passport, but said it believes he intended to go to Syria. Earlier this week, the Mounties said that there are about 90 people in the country who are suspected of intending to join the extremist fighting abroad or who have returned from such activity overseas. But RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was not among them. In an email to the AP expressing horror and sadness at what happened, Zehaf-Bibeau's mother, Susan Bideau, said that her son seemed lost and "did not fit in," and that she hadn't seen him for more than five years until having lunch with him last week. "So I have very little insight to offer," she said. In a brief and tear-filled telephone interview with the AP, Bibeau said that she is crying for the victims of the shooting rampage, not her son. "Can you ever explain something like this?" said Bibeau, who has homes in Montreal and Ottawa. "We are sorry." After initially reporting that two or three assailants may have taken part in the shooting rampage, Canadian police conceded Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was the lone gunman. The bloodshed raised fears that Canada is suffering reprisals — perhaps so-called lone-wolf attacks — for joining the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. On Monday, a man described as an "ISIL-inspired terrorist" ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police. Before the attack, Canadian authorities feared he had had jihadist ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey. Preime Minister Stephen Harper noted that both attacks were carried out by citizens born in Canada. "The fact of the matter is there are serious security threats in this country and in many cases those serious security threats continue to be at large and not subject to detention or arrest," he said. Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, said in Parliament that this week's attacks were probably "the acts of isolated, disturbed and deeply troubled men who were drawn to something crazy." "I do not believe that it was a vast network, or that the country is more at risk today than it was last week," May said. Court records that appear to be Zehaf-Bibeau's show that he had a long criminal record, with convictions for assault, robbery, drug and weapons offenses, and other crimes. Meanwhile, Kevin Vickers, the 58-year-old Parliament sergeant-at-arms credited with shooting and killing Zehaf-Bibeau, got a rousing standing ovation in the House of Commons for saving lawmakers' lives. Vickers, dressed in his ceremonial robe and carrying his heavy mace, acknowledged the applause by nodding solemnly. The former Mountie said in a statement that he was "very touched" by the attention but that he has the close support of a remarkable security team.

  • Burns' series gives PBS a ratings milestone

    NEW YORK (AP) — Ken Burns' series "The Roosevelts" earned PBS its biggest audience in two decades, making it the documentary maker's third most popular film after "The Civil War" and "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery." PBS said the seven, two-hour episodes that aired last month had an average audience of 9.2 million viewers. The most popular was the first night, on Sept. 14, which had 11.7 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company. "It was power, it was sex, it was death, it was betrayal," PBS chief programming executive Beth Hoppe said on Thursday. "But it was also World War I and World War II and the president of the United States and his wife. It was this epic tale but it was told in a very intimate way. It was a lot like 'Downton Abbey,' but it was real. The series gave PBS its highest weekly viewer average since 1994, when Burns' series "Baseball" aired. Although the "Lewis & Clark" documentary in 1997 had more viewers, "Baseball" was stretched across a longer period, so PBS had a larger weekly audience when the sports documentary aired. PBS went wall-to-wall with the history of Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, airing each episode twice on a given night and making them available online; full episodes were streamed more than 1.85 million times, PBS said. Streams were not included in the individual episode viewing figures. There was evidence that many people used streaming to keep up with the series as it went along, Hoppe said. After the opening episode, the fifth night — FDR's first two terms and the preparations for World War II — had the most popular episode. Each person who watched "The Roosevelts" saw an average of nearly four hours of the series, PBS said. Burns is working on a shorter documentary on cancer that will air in a few months for PBS. His next big documentary series, on the Vietnam War, is scheduled to air on PBS in 2016.

  • 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

  • '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, the Ghostlight Theatre box office, 13541 W. Camino del Sol, Sun City West, or by calling 1-866-967-8167.

  • 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 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,, 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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