Saturday News Briefs

March 20, 2015 9:01pm
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•  A new protest of expansion of hazardous waste facility

•  Medical program fully subscribed

•  And more….

State accused of racial discrimination by Kettleman City groups

People for Clean Air and Water of Kettleman City, Greenaction for Health, and Environmental Justice have filed complaints charging the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and California Environmental Protection Agency with racial discrimination due to their approval of the expansion of the Chemical Waste Management Kettleman Hills Facility hazardous waste landfill.

They contend the state’s go-ahead for expansion adversely impacts Hispanic and Spanish-speaking residents of Kettleman City because it excluded them from meaningful participation in the process.

“If we were not a poor, Latino town they wouldn’t have put the dump here in the first place, much less decide to expand it,” says Miguel Alatorre Jr, a Kettleman City resident and member of Greenaction’s Board of Directors. “I am convinced that it was a racist decision.”


UCSF Fresno residency programs fill 100 percent of available positions

For the fifth year in a row, every available spot for students has been taken in the University of California, San Francisco’s Fresno Medical Education Program.

As a result, about 100 new medical physicians and three oral and maxillofacial surgery dental residents will start their residency and fellowship training at UCSF Fresno this summer.

The UCSF Fresno residency programs that participated in the annual student-to-class match program Friday received more than 4,500 applications. UCSF Fresno currently offers medical and surgical residency training in eight specialties and fellowship training in 17 subspecialties.


State accuses cookie maker of stealing workers’ dough

A Vista-based company that sells its gourmet cookies to Whole Foods and gourmet grocery stores is being accused by California Labor Commissioner Julie Su of multiple wage theft violations, with assessments totaling $185,055.

The investigation revealed that Cookies con Amore systematically denied overtime pay, rest breaks and meal periods to 73 workers, and forced some of them to sign a statement agreeing to the wage theft violations, the state says.

“California workers deserve to be paid fairly and fully for their labor, and employers who deny them their wages and benefits will be held accountable,” says Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations.

Cookies con Amore was assessed $120,665 including $51,444 in overtime wages, and $69,221 in rest and meal time periods which will be paid to the affected workers, and an additional $63,800 in civil penalties.


Talent shortage aggravates recruiting and retention

While a majority of companies expect increases in hiring this year, a talent shortage is on the horizon, making recruiting and retaining the best employees harder, according to a new survey paid for by HireRight, an Irvine-based seller of on-demand employment materials.

According to the survey, 76 percent of respondents predict they will increase their workforce size, with 55 percent planning significant growth of 3 percent or more.

But the majority of hiring managers (51 percent) say "finding and retaining talent" is their top business challenge – making it the number one concern for businesses of all sizes, based on survey responses.

In line with this, the survey says that finding qualified candidates (62 percent) and keeping good employees (44 percent) were the top two talent management challenges.

"This year's report demonstrates a level of optimism not seen in many years and reinforces the heightened need to improve candidate experience and employee engagement," says Rachel Trindade, vice president of marketing, HireRight. "

The results are derived from answers by 3,119 respondents from more than 2,494 different organizations queried in October and November 2014. Survey questions included multiple choice, multiple selections, and open text. To maintain clarity, in some cases, “not sure” responses were excluded from survey responses when necessary.


Discovered: Vaccine that protects chickens against two infectious diseases

Microbiologist Qingzhong Yu and his colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., have created a vaccine that is effective against infectious laryngotracheitis and Newcastle disease, two of the most economically important infectious diseases of poultry. The diseases cause sickness and death in domestic and commercial poultry as well as in some wild birds throughout the world.

By using reverse genetics technology, Mr. Yu was able to generate new dual vaccines by inserting a gene from the infectious laryngotracheitis virus into the Newcastle disease virus LaSota vaccine strain, which has been used for more than 50 years to protect poultry from ND.

According to Mr. Yu, the new vaccines are safer than the current live-attenuated ILT vaccines. They can be safely and effectively given by aerosol or drinking water to large chicken populations at a low cost, the USDA says.


Simon Property Group ups its offer for Macerich

The Macerich Company (NYSE: MAC) says it has received a revised, unsolicited proposal from Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG) to acquire Macerich for $16.8 billion or $95.50 per share in cash and stock.

That’s an increase of about $800 million from Simon’s earlier offer.

Macerich says its board of directors will review the revised proposal with its financial and legal advisors. It had rejected the earlier offer.

Macerich is one of the country's largest owners, operators and developers of major retail properties, with a portfolio of assets in what it calls “strategic and high-barrier-to-entry markets” around the country.

It owns these Central Valley malls:

• Sacramento – Arden Fair

• Modesto – Vintage Faire

• Fresno – Fashion Fair

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