10-16-08Merced Sun-StarLively gatherings held on UC Merced campus to rally vote...DANIELLE GAINEShttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/story/500796.htmlIt was a busy political day at the UC Merced campus Wednesday. At least for Democrats.At a noon-time presidential rally, about 50 Obama supporters chanted near the quad... Republican students at the campus are having a tough time energizing their base...In an another nonpartisan event, the Associated Students of UC Merced came together with several university departments to host a presidential debate watch party at night.State Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, were present before the debate to answer questions about their work in Sacramento and D.C., respectively..."It is good to see all of you tonight and to see how engaged you are," he said. "It is not only good to see a Republican club on campus, but a Democratic one too."More than 75 students attended the event, which also provided free pizza so students wouldn't miss part of the debate while they waited in dinner lines at the cafeteria. After their opening remarks, Cardoza and Denham grabbed a slice of pizza and settled in next to each other to watch the debate.Bryant Ziemba, president of the Republicans at UC Merced, watched the debate with friends at his home off campus. "The Obama trend on college campuses has gone beyond politics," he said. "Now it involves fashion and fun and making friends."That makes it harder for Republicans -- especially young freshmen trying to make friends -- to make their beliefs widely known, he said...Silently engaged or vocally involved, the students on the campus represent an ever-growing vocal bloc within Merced's electorate... ...about 75 percent of the 2,718 students on campus are registered to vote.The next hurdle will be getting those students to the polls. Sabba and others on campus have arranged for buses loaded with goodies and snacks to shuttle between the campus and student polling places on Election Day. Modesto BeeDevelopers eyeing West Side parcel and its waterPossibility of 'water farming' worries many...Tim Moranhttp://www.modbee.com/local/story/464848.htmlThe proposed PCCP West Park LLC inland port and business park near Crows Landing and the bankruptcy of Diablo Grande resort and residential development in the hills west of Patterson are two of the biggest events to hit the West Side of Stanislaus County in the past several years.The two projects are linked by a once-controversial and nearly forgotten piece of farmland.The Marshall-Davis property, 153 acres at the west edge of the county-owned Crows Landing Air Facility, is part of the bankruptcy estate of the Diablo Grande partnership. It also sits within the footprint of the 4,800-acre West Park proposal, along Marshall Road near the end of the runway that would become part of the inland port in the West Park plans.The property was controversial because it was the only source of water for Diablo Grande 14 years ago when the golf courses on the property were developed.Well water from the Marshall-Davis property was pumped across Highway 33 and the federal and state canals and up the hill to Diablo Grande. Farmers in the area were concerned that the use of the well to export water from the valley to Diablo Grande would set a precedent for "farming water" -- buying property for the water rights and exporting the groundwater.Al Brizard, who was a neighboring farmer at the time, challenged the plan, saying it violated state law by exporting groundwater and not using it for the ground above the aquifer.An agreement was reached with area farmers and the California Farm Bureau Federation that said the Marshall-Davis well could pump no more than 1,200 acre-feet of water per year, for a period not to exceed five years.The Diablo Grande developers eventually reached an agreement with a Kern County water district to supply the resort, but the Marshall-Davis property was kept as an emergency water source.The Diablo Grande partnership will be selling the Marshall-Davis property in the next two months, and West Park developer Gerry Kamilos will be a bidder."We are interested in acquiring it; it's within the plan area," Kamilos said Monday. The property would be in one of the later phases to be developed, Kamilos said."Everybody has waited patiently to let the dust settle, for the Diablo Grande group to decide what they want to do with the property itself," Kamilos said. "We obviously anticipate some notice when that happens. They know we are interested and will be contacting us."Dwain Sanders, Diablo Grande's vice president of development, said Monday that there are "about a half-dozen" potential buyers interested in the Marshall-Davis parcel. He declined to identify them.The Diablo Grande bankruptcy should be wrapped up within two months, Sanders said.The wells and equipment on the property, and the water rights, are owned by the Western Hills Water District, which was formed to serve Diablo Grande, he said. That ownership will be retained by the water district when the property is sold, preserving the right to use the water as an emergency backup for Diablo Grande, Sanders said.Kamilos said he expected that, and that such an arrangement would pose no problems for West Park if it is successful in acquiring the Marshall-Davis property.Brizard, who also has served on the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, is worried about the precedent the Marshall-Davis well may set if its use changes when it is sold.He cites common law in contending that groundwater can be pumped only in quantities that benefit the land above it. The Diablo Grande agreement is very restrictive, allowing use of the Marshall-Davis well only for an emergency such as the breakdown of the water system that delivers the Kern County water to the development, Brizard said. It can't be used, for instance, in the case of a drought, he said.If those restrictions are lost when the property is sold, it could set a precedent for "farming water" in the area, Brizard said.Nike sues Wal-Mart for patent infringement...last updated: October 16, 2008 09:46:21 AMhttp://www.modbee.com/2020/story/465107.htmlPORTLAND, Ore. — Nike Inc. has sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc., alleging the giant retailer is selling shoes that infringe on Nike's patented designs.Nike says in its complaint, filed Monday, that the Wal-Mart shoes too closely resemble its Nike Shox footwear. Those shoes have a spring-like device in the heel.Nike wants the world's largest retailer to stop selling the shoes and seeks damages, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.Wal-Mart said it does not comment on pending litigation.Nike does not sell its own product in Wal-Mart and has long argued that its brand would be devalued if sold in discount chains.Fresno BeeJudge, Autry air debate at luncheon...John Ellishttp://www.fresnobee.com/news/local-news/v-printerfriendly/story/940527.htmlFresno Mayor Alan Autry and U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger took their long-running feud outside the courtroom Wednesday, with each man giving wildly different interpretations of the law in a lively and contentious debate. Autry called judicial precedent a myth. He cited the Declaration of Independence -- not the U.S. Constitution -- as the supreme law of the land. He said federal judges are always free to interpret the law. Said Wanger: "I am astounded by what I just heard." As the exchanges grew more pointed and edgy, Autry said to Wanger: "I'm glad there's no gavel in your hand, because now it's my time."What brought the men together Wednesday was a pair of recent cases presided over by Wanger. The veteran jurist described the legal basis for his recent controversial decisions involving the tiny delta smelt -- rulings that cut water deliveries to west side farmers -- as well as a settlement he approved in which Fresno agreed to pay $2.3 million to compensate the homeless for the city's destruction of their property. Autry has been openly critical of both decisions. Over the past two years, Wanger has expressed irritation at some of the mayor's comments, including one, during the homeless case, in which he told the judge to "enter the real world and find out the real truth."In June, Wanger even summoned Autry to his courtroom, where he essentially forced the mayor to retract complaints about the homeless settlement -- an agreement the city had negotiated and Autry had approved. Wednesday's debate, at a monthly luncheon for judges and lawyers, was the latest salvo in this ongoing exchange. The central point of Autry's argument was the "myth" that once judicial precedent is set, it can't be overturned.Autry maintains it can. He cited, among others, Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court's historic school-desegregation ruling. He compared it to the high court's 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, which accepted segregated institutions for black people as long as they were equal to those for white people. Those two Supreme Court rulings, he argued, show that the law can change and be interpreted with the passage of time. Based on that, Autry suggested that Wanger was free to interpret the law in the smelt and homeless cases.The Endangered Species Act, which was central to the smelt case, was passed 35 years ago, Autry said, when the state had 18 million people. The state now has 38 million people. That, he said, gives Wanger the right to interpret the law for today -- and issue a ruling that protected humans and not fish. He related this to his interpretation of a legal concept known as "judicial notice," which he said "lets a judge use common sense -- and thank goodness for that."But Wanger said that if he did as Autry suggested, he would be branded an activist judge. Judicial notice can only be invoked if there is no controversy, Wanger said. He then quipped: "You and I didn't go to the same law school." Autry didn't go to law school at all. He has a physical education degree from University of the Pacific. Wanger said he must follow the law and legal precedents set by the Supreme Court. If parties disagree, they can appeal.The Declaration of Independence is a "magnificent document," Wanger said, but it is "not the supreme law. That is the Constitution." Though both men spoke warmly of each other, there was clearly an edginess that emerged as the lunch hour wore on. At one point, Autry said he had "the highest regard for Judge Wanger. That's why I'm so hoppin' mad." Wanger, in turn, urged Autry to "avoid hyperbole" and "not to oversimplify."While Wanger spent much of his time speaking of the law, Autry went political at times. He suggested the central piece of the homeless ruling -- that the city save belongings seized during raids on homeless encampments -- would require the city to save a drug needle used by someone suffering from AIDS. And a child could pick it up, he said. Autry also said the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped represent the homeless, "ripped the city off," fleeced the homeless and then left in a "limo." Many of those in attendance -- largely from the city's legal community -- believed Wanger made the better argument.Carl Faller, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is now in private practice, said a district judge such as Wanger is bound to follow precedent set by the Supreme Court, and to do as Autry suggested would be "a violation of his role." Sales of new homes continue to lag 2007August figures are better than July's but still behind last year's...Sanford Naxhttp://www.fresnobee.com/business/story/940516.htmlSales of new houses in Fresno County picked up in August in what one veteran builder called a typical before-school spike, but the number of transactions still lagged from a year earlier. Developers sold 180 houses in Fresno County, down 11.3% from a year earlier, but up 12.5% from July. The median price of $260,000 was a decrease of 11.5% from August 2007 and a 2.3% dip from July, the California Building Industry Association reported...On Wednesday, 3,416 houses were listed for sale in Fresno and Clovis. That was down from 3,450 in August and a decrease of 31.4% from August 2007. The reduction of inventory is generally regarded in the industry as a good thing, as it means the market may be tightening up and ushering in the end of falling prices. Bonadelle said his company and others are competing with the foreclosures that dominate the market. Bank-owned properties are more than half of all existing-home transactions...Statewide, new-home sales fell 38.6% from August 2007 and increased 7.2% from July...MARIA PALLAVICINI: UC Merced finalizing med school proposal...Maria Pallavicini, PhD., is vice provost for health sciences and dean of the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced. http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/940292.htmlThe University of California at Merced began planning for health sciences and medical education programs before undergraduate students arrived on campus in fall 2005. Following three years of comprehensive planning, the UC Board of Regents in May authorized UC Merced to continue planning for a medical school. Thanks in large part to support from the Valley community, including elected officials who represent the region, UC Merced accomplished an important, early milestone and is now entering a new phase. The coming months will be intensely busy as we, at UC Merced, work diligently to finalize the medical school proposal. It is our goal to submit the full proposal to the regents next summer. A key component will be to define a trajectory and timeline with milestones that must be achieved to become an independently accredited medical school.Another crucial element of the proposal will be a comprehensive description of how organizations in the Valley will play essential roles in the new schools' education, research and clinical programs through various affiliations and partnership arrangements. To assist with medical school planning, Dr. Frederick J. Meyers, professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at UC Davis, joined UC Merced as executive director of medical education and academic planning. Dr. Meyers has a distinguished career in cancer medicine and research, palliative care and in medical education. The campus also retained the Washington Advisory Group, a respected firm that specializes in providing strategic advising services. The first task of WAG will be to assist UC Merced in extending a previous review of the potential to develop a network of organizations in the Valley interested and eligible to partner with the campus and in defining specific roles, responsibilities and contributions.The consultants will be in the Valley next week to meet with some of the prospective educational and clinical partners from Stockton to Bakersfield, including UCSF Fresno. Prospective partners will be evaluated on their willingness and ability to sustain a long-term relationship with the UC Merced School of Medicine; prior experience with medical education; interest of medical staff in faculty appointments; availability and variety of patients willing to participate in medical education and research; and particularly potential to develop public health studies that improve the well being of Valley residents.The site visits will result in recommendations for potential partners. The need to increase access to health care is so great across the Valley that there is a desire to be in all locations from the onset. However, to satisfy the Liaison Committee on Medical Education -- the body that accredits medical education programs leading to the MD degree in the U.S. -- and to uphold the quality associated with the University of California, our partners in the medical school must be those that best meet the required standards and have a mutual interest in being involved in medical education and research. One of the greatest ways to address the Valley's well-documented health care challenges is to establish a School of Medicine at UC Merced. The new school will help increase the number of physicians practicing in the region, particularly those capable of treating patients of diverse backgrounds. It will extend health sciences research throughout the Valley and foster the discoveries that improve health. The medical school will be an economic spark for the region and offer another educational opportunity for area students. Indeed, high standards have been set for the UC Merced School of Medicine. The Valley and its residents deserve nothing less. Establishing a new University of California medical school is a long-term process. The approval of campus and systemwide faculty, the UC Office of the President, the Board of Regents and funding from the California Legislature are necessary. Provided the proposal meets with all university and state approvals and there is commitment for new funding, the UC Merced School of Medicine is planned to open in 2013-2015. With 31% fewer primary care physicians and 51% fewer specialists practicing in the Valley than in California as a whole and with the Valley population growing at twice the rate of the state, the region needs a UC medical school now. Sacramento BeeVideo postscript to Sunday's story on Diablo Grande...Jim Wasserman...Home Front Real Estate Blog...10-13-08http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/real_estate/archives/016072.htmlI was stunned when I first saw Diablo Grande, the giant residential project in the hills west of Patterson, three weeks ago today. I had no idea it was so big, and so far along.Colleague Dale Kasler and I had motored up into the rolling landscape off Interstate 5 to research our Sunday story on luxury San Joaquin Valley projects hitting hard times. The story tells how big dreams and golf-course communities at Diablo Grande at Patterson and others in Fresno and Bakersfield sunk their developers into bankruptcy. Why? The Valley economy won't support these huge dreams of the really good life. And they all hit the market just before the housing bust.Diablo Grande, however, near Patterson, is the one that's well off the ground and may succeed in the long run. It's the last place on earth you'd expect to see a development like this, with a major golf course, a posh clubhouse and a scattering of regular and luxury homes. It is seriously in the middle of nowhere. But I was struck by comments of all the people we talked with: they WANT that. Most were from the Bay Area. They make what I think of as horrendous commutes. One homeowner who runs a car dealership in San Jose said he's putting 1,300 miles a week on his cars. They drive nine miles to a Save Mart for food and to Modesto for the mall. But in this car-crazy state no one seemed to mind.   They all said this, instead: "Listen."And they were right. You can hardly hear a thing. The stars at night are unbelievable, people said. Of course the newcomers who bought at foreclosure prices were a lot happier than the pioneers who have lost value since buying in 2005. But all like the setting where they live.Diablo Grande reminded me of what the Bay Area might look like if there was no Greenbelt Alliance. You can't develop hillsides there like they did in this project. Whether that's right or wrong depends on your point of view. Anyway, Diablo Grande has a new owner now, a big Mexican firm that runs resorts. So we'll see what develops in years ahead. Meanwhile here is a panoramic video I shot of the landscape from high up near the luxury houses. All you can hear is the wind.My View: Delta Vision: Facing facts about California water...Phil Isenberghttp://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/1317793.htmlLet's start with some facts:The water supply in California is static; it is not growing. Individual use of water has moderated slightly in California in recent years, but more people, businesses and farms means more water is required. We do not appear to be taking conservation seriously.The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in serious decline, as is the complex water delivery system that runs through the Delta. Improving the Delta ecosystem is a legally required condition of improving the water delivery system in California.The current system of governing water in California – letting more than 220 government agencies, federal, state and local, independently operate in the Delta – just does not work and needs to be changed.Few of us think about these things when we turn on the tap and watch the water flow.But as President John Adams said many years ago, "facts are stubborn things." The current drought is not good news, but it could be beneficial if it forces us to face up to our problems. We have to.The Delta is the source of much of California's water – a vast network of sloughs, wetlands and islands that supplies at least some of the drinking water to two-thirds of the state's residents.In 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger established the Delta Vision Task Force and told us to develop a vision for sustainable management of the Delta and a strategic plan to implement that vision. He told us that we were an independent body, and he wished to receive our independent recommendations. We have spent the last 20 months holding hearings, reading, thinking and debating ways to meet the governor's challenge.Today and Friday, the task force will meet in West Sacramento to complete its recommendations for the strategic plan. While our recommendations are as complex as the problems of water and the environment in California, they flow from seven overarching goals that should be state policy:• Legally acknowledge the co-equal status of restoring the Delta ecosystem and creating a more reliable water supply for California. Yes, these can occasionally be in conflict, but using the 'beneficial use/no wasting' language of our constitution and the long-established public trust doctrine will allow us to resolve any conflicts.• Recognize and enhance the unique cultural, recreational and agricultural values of the Delta. Apply for designation of the Delta as a federal natural heritage area, and designate the Delta as a state recreation area. Establish and fund a Delta Investment Fund to promote appropriate recreation, tourism and other uses, but adopt land-use rules that make sure urban development does not occur on flood-threatened lands.• Restore the Delta ecosystem as the heart of a healthy estuary. Put approximately 100,000 acres of land in the Delta into protected status by the year 2100 in order to achieve the goals of Delta Vision.• Promote water conservation, efficiency and sustainable use. Whatever else is done, there is no dispute that conservation must be undertaken by every user of water in California. If voluntary efforts are not successful, then mandatory measures are needed, and they must be coupled with increased water recycling.• Build facilities to improve the existing water conveyance system and expand statewide storage, and operate both to achieve the co-equal goal. Over the next decade or two, the state must have new water storage, above and below ground, and must also build new Delta water conveyance facilities. The task force prefers the "dual conveyance" approach, where water is transported both through and around the Delta.• Reduce risks to people, property and state interests in the Delta by effective emergency preparedness, appropriate land uses and strategic investments. People and property located in much of the Delta are exposed to great risks from flooding, sea-level rise and earthquakes. Increased protection must be provided, but new growth should be discouraged in areas subject to extraordinary risk.• Establish a new governance structure with adequate authority, responsibility, accountability, scientific support and funding. The task force recommends a five-person statewide commission appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The commission would oversee actions of various state and federal agencies in the Delta. The full details of our proposals can be found at www.deltavision.ca.gov.Is this easy to do? Not at all. We have over 150 years of habits and laws that have led to the current situation.Unfortunately, the habit of asserting regional or economic interests cannot solve our statewide problems. Delta Vision is based on the premise that California can progress when we act boldly and recognize that all of us live in one state, with a common future. Sacramento home builder files for Chapter 11...Jim Wasserman and Dale Kaslerhttp://www.sacbee.com/103/story/1317969.htmlThe excesses of the housing boom pushed another major Sacramento home builder and land developer on Wednesday to seek personal bankruptcy protection from creditors.Christo Bardis, co-founder of Sacramento-based Reynen & Bardis Communities, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento, the development firm announced. He listed liabilities of $100 million to $500 million and assets between $10 million and $50 million.Bardis' move came six months after his longtime partner in the company, John D. Reynen, sought similar protection. In a statement late Wednesday, Bardis called the bankruptcy filing a "difficult decision" and an "essential step in continuing to demonstrate that we take our obligations to creditors very seriously."Bardis said he believes the move is a "prerequisite to receiving reciprocal support from those creditors" and to keep the company alive for future home building.Bardis' lawyer David Meegan said, "We have some preliminary indications from certain of the creditors that they will support a plan that is mutually beneficial."Bardis personally guaranteed many of the same business loans as Reynen, Meegan said.The filings do not apply to the partners' 35-year-old building firm, which controls 18,000 acres of residential land in California and Nevada. But it's a fresh blow to an area company that ranked 70th nationally for U.S. home sales in 2005 and was named by colleagues in 2004 as Sacramento-area builder of the year.Company spokeswoman Michele McCormick described the filing Wed-nesday as a "necessary step" for the firm to continue talks with numerous creditors."It was difficult to move forward with one owner in bankruptcy and the other not," she said. "Both owners really need to be formally committed for restructuring plans to move forward."The court filing was another startling reminder of how a three-year housing downturn has crushed ambitious expansion plans hatched in the heydays of this decade's housing and land boom.Both Reynen and Bardis personally guaranteed bank loans obtained to expand their privately owned company throughout the fast-growing Central Valley and Nevada. That means creditors have rights to seize their personal property as collateral for unpaid debts. The bankruptcy filing enables Bardis to shield his personal assets from creditors.Most of the millions of dollars now owed by Bardis and Reynen were used to pay for thousands of acres of land that have since collapsed in value."Both he and John Reynen … backed a lot of these deals with their personal fortunes," said Dean Wehrli, a vice president with the consulting firm Sullivan Real Estate Advisors. "They were way, way too hungry for land during the good years and even a little bit beyond. … They were still buying even after it was obvious that things were changing."Wehrli said the duo bought land in choice locations throughout the Central Valley in an attempt to make Reynen & Bardis one of the premier land developers and builders in the area."They bought in good areas," he said. "It's just that they bought at the wrong time. They bought big chunks of land at the wrong time."Bardis' action Wednesday is the third by a major area land developer and home builder since April.Filing most recently, in August, was famed California highway contractor C.C. Myers, developer of the Auburn-area Winchester Country Club. Myers, too, personally guaranteed loans received to develop his luxury 409-lot residential and golf development.In August, Myers filed for protection against $41 million owed to Charlotte-based Wachovia Bank. The bank, stumbling from its own troubles with failing home loans, was recently bought by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co.A fourth area home builder, Sidney B. Dunmore, saw his regional home building empire dissolve into bankruptcy last year. But Dunmore, unlike Myers, Reynen and Bardis, did not personally guarantee loans he obtained to buy land and expand his company into the Central Valley. Creditors, however, are threatening to take his homes in Palm Desert and Granite Bay.Last April, McCormick said Bardis had no plans to file for bankruptcy protection. She said then it was believed that Reynen's actions would satisfy creditors.On Wednesday, she said discussions with creditors changed that belief.Reynen & Bardis Communities sold 24 homes from January through August of this year in El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties, according to Costa Mesa-based Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. That's down sharply from 140 sales last year.The 2008 bankruptcy filings come as Sacramento-area builders are on track to sell just 5,300 to 5,500 homes this year, according to the Folsom-based Gregory Group. That's a two-thirds drop from 2004, a top-selling year that fueled much of the thirst among regional builders for new land. Stockton RecordWal-Mart, builder to appeal denial...The Recordhttp://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081016/A_NEWS/81015020/-1/A_NEWSLODI - Lawyers representing both Wal-Mart and developer Darryl Browman on Tuesday filed appeals to the Planning Commission's Oct. 8 decision to deny an Environmental Impact Report for a Supercenter-anchored strip mall in west Lodi.The nearly identical letters included $300 filing fees from both Browman and Wal-Mart."City staff and its team of expert consultants have worked on the EIR for over two and a half years. We believe that the EIR complies with the December 19, 2005, Superior Court ruling and that there is substantial evidence in the record to support a finding by the City that the EIR complies with the California Environmental Quality Act," the letters state.The Planning Commission voted 5-1 to deny the report, wanting further analysis of how a Supercenter would affect small businesses and grocers in tough economic times.The appeal will take the report to the Lodi City Council. City spokesman Jeff Hood said the appeal will likely be on the Nov. 19 agenda.If the council certifies the environmental impact report, the Wal-Mart project will go back to the Planning Commission for review of the development's land-use permit, which includes a license to sell alcohol and a tentative zoning map.San Francisco ChronicleEPA tightens health standard for airborne lead...DINA CAPPIELLO, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/10/16/national/w080831D77.DTL&type=printableThe Environmental Protection Agency is slashing the amount of lead allowed in the nation's air by 90 percent.EPA officials, who were under a federal court order to set a new health standard for lead by midnight Wednesday, said the new limit would better protect health, especially children's health. Children can inhale lead particles released into the air from smelters, mines and waste incinerators and ingest it after it settles on surfaces.Exposure to even low levels of lead early in life can affect learning, IQ and memory in children. Lead can also cause cardiovascular, blood pressure and kidney problems in adults."Our nation's air is cleaner today than just a generation ago, and last night I built upon this progress by signing the strongest air quality standards for lead in our nation's history," Stephen Johnson, the EPA administrator, said Thursday. "Thanks to this stronger standard, EPA will protect my children from remaining sources of airborne lead."The new limit — 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter — is the first update to the lead standard since 1978, when it helped phase out leaded gasoline. It is 10 times lower than the old standard, which was 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter.EPA estimates that 18 counties in a dozen states across the country will violate the new standard, requiring state and local governments to find ways to further reduce lead emissions from smelters, metal mines and other sources.The limit announced Thursday is also within the range recommended in May by the agency's independent scientific advisory panel. By contrast, the Bush administration did not follow its own staff's advice or its science advisers when it set new health standards for smog and soot that were less stringent than recommendations...The new standard announced on Thursday would require the 16,000 remaining sources of lead, including smelters, metal mines, and waste incinerators, to reduce their emissions...No later than October 2011, EPA will designate areas of the country that fail to meet the new standard.Based on air quality data from collected from 2005-2007, 18 counties in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas would fail to meet the standard.On the Net:  EPA Lead site: www.epa.gov/air/leadState presents bold plan to clean up air...Kelly Zitohttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/16/MN3L13HNUJ.DTL&type=printableCalifornia regulators, following the lead of Bay Area air quality managers, would impose fees on the state's worst air polluters as part of a bold proposal to slash emissions to 1990 levels.The fees, along with green technology job training and a cap-and-trade system outlined Wednesday by the California Air Resources Board, would vault the state ahead of federal efforts to curb climate-changing greenhouse gases.The plan is "recognition of the severity of the problem and realizing that many of the leadership opportunities to act exist on the state level," board Chairwoman Mary Nichols told a conference of business leaders in Silicon Valley on Wednesday. "There was no excuse for us to stay on the sidelines. We had to work."Nichols' agency is charged with implementing California's landmark AB32, a 2006 law requiring the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 174 million metric tons by 2020. In June, the board released a draft plan that, among other things, calls for California to derive one-third of its energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind systems.The plan also includes further reductions in carbon emissions from cars and expanding existing energy efficiency programs.Wednesday's final 142-page proposal incorporated more than 40,000 public comments sent via e-mail, research reports and postcards, officials said. It is scheduled to go before the Air Resources Board for approval in December.The plan drew praise from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and at least one influential environmental group that called it not just "a pollution reduction plan ... (but) an economic stimulus plan."In its analysis of the proposal's impact on the economy, the board found that curbing carbon emissions and developing new green technology would boost economic production by $33 billion and add 100,000 jobs. Many of those jobs would come from new training programs at community colleges and other institutions.Some business groups, however, called the board's figures too optimistic."We continue to have concerns about the economic analysis and feel the program will be costly," said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief operating officer for Western States Petroleum Association, adding that tax credits could help offset some of the costs businesses would incur.Sprawl problemOthers said the plan doesn't go far enough, particularly on the issue of sprawl - blamed for forcing millions into long, costly commutes. The June draft report recommended land use policies that would trim emissions from new development by 2 million metric tons by 2020. The final report upped the total to 5 million metric tons. One group, however, advocated for even bigger cuts, on the order of 11 million to 14 million metric tons...Air Resources Board officials say certain parts of the plan will develop over decades. Over the next three years, the board will come up with detailed measures aimed at accomplishing the broader goals.One of those specifics will be the fees paid by large polluters. Similar to a first-in-the-nation program enacted this summer by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the state board would charge big emitters for each ton of carbon they release. The money would pay for the cost to monitor greenhouse gases.Nichols was careful to say that the Bay Area fees - which amount to 4.4 cents per metric ton of greenhouse gases expelled - would not overlap with the state fees."We're going to work with the (Bay Area) district to make sure businesses aren't penalized," Nichols said.Cap-and-tradeMeasures contained in Wednesday's proposal varied from the small - such as specific tire inflation standards for heavy-duty trucks - to the large. One of the most important is the cap-and-trade system, which is designed to make burning fossil fuels pricey and reward investment in renewable energy. The system sets limits on carbon dioxide emissions and allows companies to trade carbon credits based on amount of production.Regulators and lawmakers are working on a federal cap-and-trade system, Nichols said, but efforts are hampered by wide energy differences between regions. California is working with six other Western states and four Canadian provinces to create a regional carbon market...Contra Costa TimesNew vision for California Delta...Mike Taugherhttp://www.contracostatimes.com/environment/ci_10729923?nclick_check=1California will have to build more dams and a controversial canal and still it will not be able to deliver all of the Delta water that has been promised to cities and farmers, an independent panel says. The environmental crisis and water supply problems are so entrenched that nearly everything that has been suggested to fix the ailing Delta will have to be done, at least to some degree, according to the Delta Vision task force.That means building a canal around the Delta, erecting more dams, enforcing much more conservation. And, still, some water users could lose their historical claim to water because the state has promised much more Delta water than is available."If there is a static water supply, together with statutory promises that exceed the available water supply, competing with a strong environmental ethic and facing continued population growth, how does the state guarantee to provide more water than is available?" the task force's latest draft plan asks."There is no particular secret to the answer. Over time, California has to do almost everything suggested by the major voices in the water wars. No, not every dam, canal or environmental spending project everyone can imagine; but some of each are required."The panel will finalize its plan during a two-day meeting today and Friday, after which, the two-volume document will be sent to a committee of four state cabinet members and the president of the California Public Utilities Commission. That committee is expected to make recommendations to the governor by the end of the year, based the panel's final report. Those recommendations could include proposed legislation for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to embrace. The latest draft of the plan contains seven broad goals and dozens of recommendations to reach those goals. They include:· Putting the Delta ecosystem on equal footing with demands for water — and passing a constitutional amendment making the environment and water supply equally important. · Raising the profile of the Delta as a unique cultural, recreational and agricultural resource. · Restoring the ecosystem of the Delta — the West Coast's largest estuary — by restoring natural flows, removing pollution from farms, urban sewer plants and runoff, and re-creating wetlands. · Promoting greater water efficiency and conservation. · Building new reservoirs and an aqueduct to carry water around the Delta. · Preparing better for floods, earthquakes or other Delta emergencies while discouraging home-building in flood-prone areas. · Overhauling the government agencies that oversee the Delta's water supplies, environment and land use planning. Perhaps the most far-reaching of its recommendations, the report says, is to force state agencies to implement existing water rights laws.Laws that require the protection of the public trust and that require this natural resource be used reasonably have traditionally taken a back seat to the growing needs of water users, the panel noted. Endangered species laws have also been ignored or softly enforced.So far, water officials and environmentalists appear, in general, cautiously supportive. "It's hard to argue with the big picture vision, but we're going to argue over the details," said Tim Quinn,executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.Because any solution to the Delta's problems will take years, if not decades, the panel also endorsed a package of near-term actions designed to improve responses to levee failures, improve water quality and protect fish.Perhaps the most controversial issue that needs to be addressed in any discussion about the Delta's future is the question of conveyance: how will water be delivered? After 18 months of work, the panel, in its latest draft, still does not come to a definitive recommendation.But it does say that the most promising alternative might be a combination that uses existing plumbing, with modifications, and builds a canal around the Delta.Today, water is conveyed from Northern California through Delta channels to massive pumps near Tracy.The pumps draw water that can be of poor quality and kill millions of fish each year in the process.Many water agencies that rely on those pumps, particularly in the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, want to build a canal from the Sacramento River near the capitol, around the Delta channels and to the Tracy pumps.While that would reduce fish kills at the pumps, avoid the threat of levee collapses and draw higher quality water, opponents in Contra Costa and elsewhere fear it would result in a more polluted Delta and other environmental problems because less water would flow through the estuary.The task force supports further study of a "dual conveyance" option. This compromise would involve fortifying levees around selected Delta channels in order to secure a water delivery channel while at the same time isolating other channels from the suction created by the pumps. Those channels would, hopefully, prove better habitat for fish. At the same time, a new aqueduct would connect the Sacramento River to the pumps. With two intakes, water managers would be able to maximize water deliveries and minimize environmental harm.To find out moreThe Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force meets today and Friday at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza, 300 J St., Sacramento. The draft report and a Webcast link to the meeting are available at www.deltavision.ca.gov.Los Angeles TimesCalifornia issues plan to slash greenhouse gas emissionsOver the next 12 years, new regulations would seek to turn the climate change clock back to 1990 levels. More efficient electricity use, less traffic and cleaner cars are goals...Margot Roosevelthttp://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-climate16-2008oct16,0,736112,print.storyCalifornia forged ahead Wednesday in its bold attempt to turn back the clock of climate change, issuing its final draft of an economywide plan to slash the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.Over the next 12 years, new regulations would shrink the per capita carbon footprint of Californians by an average of four tons per year, cutting the level of electricity residents use with more efficient buildings and appliances, and reducing the amount they drive, by discouraging urban sprawl.The plan would force auto manufacturers to make cleaner cars, require utilities to build more solar and wind plants, and compel industries to hike energy efficiency to unprecedented levels."Despite a difficult economy, it is important that we move forward," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, adding that the plan would result in "tens of thousands more jobs and a boost to California's gross domestic production."California's climate blueprint would slash the state's emissions about 15% below today's level at a time when a consensus of scientists say that global warming is shrinking the state's water supplies, intensifying wildfires, and stressing plant and animal populations.Congress last spring balked at passing national legislation to curb planet-heating gases, despite international pressure on the United States to assume global leadership on the issue. Both presidential candidates have said they will push for a nationwide cap on greenhouse gases.California's plan was immediately attacked by a coalition of businesses, led by the California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. and the California Chamber of Commerce, which said the rules would result in "billions of dollars of increased energy costs." The group asserted that the plan would raise electricity rates by 11%, natural gas rates by 8% and gasoline costs by $11 billion a year.Mary Nichols, chairman of the Air Resources Board, which designed the plan and will vote on it in December, said overall Californians would save by using less energy.She said the board's plan has sparked "a robust conversation" across the state since a draft was completed in June. More than 90,000 copies of the document were downloaded in the first five days, she said. Since then, 40,000 comments have poured in "from postcards to 55-page dense analyses . . . . We read them all, logged them in, and they are up on our website."Environmentalists praised the blueprint as "an economic stimulus plan" that could spur a "clean tech" economy similar to Silicon Valley's technological boom. Venture capital investment in alternative energy companies has soared in the last two years.But some environmentalists said the plan did not go far enough in cracking down on sprawl."We can't afford another 10 years of business-as-usual land-use planning," said Audrey Chang, California climate director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.Environmentalists also criticized the design of a plan, which would allow some industries broad flexibility in meeting targets. Under the auspices of a Western trading plan that would include six other states and four Canadian provinces, California would give away as much as 90% of industry pollution permits for these industries, rather than auctioning them. That, said economist Christopher Busch of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "would generate windfall profits for polluters and enrich out-of-state corporate shareholders."The state's trading program also would allow up to 49% of the emission reductions from some industries to be "offset" by purchasing credits from pollution-cutting programs out of state. Angela Johnson Meszaros, co-chair of the board's Environmental Justice Committee, said that provision would export jobs and allow California factories to escape stricter clean-up rules."This plan does not put the health and welfare of California residents first," she said.Opponents on all sides will have more chances to weigh in. Complex regulations to implement the plan, such as one to reduce the carbon content of fuels, will be debated over the next dozen years.Meanwhile, the state's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which gave rise to the plan, has inspired emission limits in five states: Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts and Hawaii. More than a dozen other states have adopted or are considering greenhouse gas reduction goals.400 UC professors and staffers object to Schwarzenegger vetoThey seek restoration of funds and say his cut for a labor research program was politically motivated...Patrick McGreevy and Larry Gordonhttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-uc16-2008oct16,0,2559383,print.storyMore than 400 university professors and academic staff have sent a letter of protest to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, objecting to his veto last month of $5.4 million for a University of California labor research program and asking that the money be restored.At a time when unemployment in California is reaching a level not seen in decades, the letter said, the governor's action appears to be politically motivated and an excuse to ax a program his fellow Republicans have sought to kill. Its critics have said it is too close to unions."It violates the basic principle of the freedom to speak out and conduct research even on controversial topics," said the letter signed by the professors and staffers from UC and other California colleges and universities.Schwarzenegger has said his veto of money for the Miguel Contreras Labor Program, named after the late Los Angeles labor leader, was "difficult but necessary" because the Legislature chose not to make other cuts to balance the budget.The Contreras program has major centers at UCLA and UC Berkeley and also does research at some other UC campuses, serving as an umbrella organization for a number of research initiatives. Schwarzenegger also vetoed funding for the program two years ago, causing UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Berkeley center to step up private fundraising and tap other UC funds. On Wednesday, UC system spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said UC president Mark Yudof has promised to find money to keep the program open at least for the rest of the 2008-09 school year, although the exact amount of the funds and its source have yet to be determined.Professor Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute, said the veto was an attack on academic freedom that could set a bad precedent for other areas of research. "I think it is a slippery slope," he said.New York TimesHome Prices Seem Far From Bottom...Vikas Bajaj http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/16/business/economy/16housing.html_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=business&pagewanted=printThe American housing market, where the global economic crisis began, is far from hitting bottom.Home prices across much of the country are likely to fall through late 2009, economists say, and in some markets the trend could last even longer depending on the severity of the anticipated recession. In hard-hit areas like California, Florida and Arizona, the grim calculus is the same: More and more homes are going up for sale, but fewer and fewer people are willing or able to buy them. Adding to the worries nationwide are rising unemployment, falling wages and escalating mortgage rates — all of which will reduce the already diminished pool of would-be buyers. “The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls.”Despite the government’s move to bolster the banking industry, home loan rates rose again on Tuesday, reflecting concern that the Treasury will borrow heavily to finance the rescue.On Wednesday, the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages was 6.75 percent, up from 6.06 percent last week. While banks are moving aggressively to sell foreclosed properties, the number of empty homes is hovering near its highest level in more than half a century. As of June, 2.8 percent of homes previously occupied by an owner were vacant. Nearly 1 in 10 rentals was without a tenant. Both numbers are near their highest levels since 1956, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has such data.At the same time, the number of people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes decline is rising. The unemployment rate has climbed to 6.1 percent, from 4.4 percent at the end of 2007, and wages for those who still have a job have barely kept up with inflation... CNN MoneyCitigroup loses $2.8 billionBanking giant books its fourth straight quarterly loss but the loss was smaller than expected...David Ellishttp://money.cnn.com/2008/10/16/news/companies/citigroup/index.htm?postversion=2008101612NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Citigroup's losing streak continued after reporting a $2.8 billion loss Thursday, as the bank found itself stung yet again by credit and mortgage-related writedowns.During the third quarter, the company said it lost $2.8 billion, or 60 cents a share. A year ago, the company reported a profit of $2.21 billion, or 44 cents a share.This marked the fourth-consecutive loss for Citigroup, the nation's largest bank by assets. The company has lost more than $20 billion in the past four quarters.The latest results, however, were somewhat encouraging as the loss was smaller-than-expected. Analysts were expecting a loss of 70 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.Still, that did little to comfort investors as Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) shares tumbled 2% Thursday, extending Wednesday's painful 13% decline."[The numbers] still show that the company is mismanaged," said William Smith, president of SAM Advisors LLC, whose firm owns shares of Citigroup. "Part of this is the macro-environment as all the banks are having writeoffs. But Citi is above and beyond."Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit attributed the company's latest performance to more than $13.2 billion in writedowns the company took during the quarter, including a $4.4 billion charge in its securities and banking division.But Pandit gave an optimistic assessment of the company's ongoing restructuring plan. During the third quarter, the company sold assets while trimming its payroll by 11,000 workers as part of a previously announced layoff program."We expect these improvements will enable us to realize the full earnings power of our franchise as the economy stabilizes," Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO said in a statement.While writedowns continued to eat away at the company's latest results, Citigroup also found itself hit hard by credit costs during the quarter.Both its consumer banking and massive credit card business swung to a loss during the quarter, as the souring state of the domestic economy and housing market forced Citi to bulk up its credit loss reserves.But credit problems were not limited to the United States. Citigroup, which has a footprint in some 100 countries around the globe, reported rising credit losses in a handful of markets including Mexico, Brazil and India.Citigroup chief financial officer Gary Crittenden warned investors during a conference call Thursday morning that losses related to consumer credit could continue growing well into 2009.Citigroup's report is yet another dose of bad news for both the New York City-based bank and the overall financial sector. Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500), the investment bank that agreed last month to sell itself to Bank of America, announced a bigger-than-expected loss Thursday morning.Fearing further fallout in the banking sector both domestically and abroad, government officials around the world enacted measures in recent days to help prop up the industry.As part of that plan, top U.S. regulators unveiled plans to inject $250 billion into the nation's banking system, with half of that amount going to nine major financial institutions including Citigroup, as well as rivals JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500).Crittenden backed the plan, saying it would only further strengthen Citigroup's capital position. He said that the firm would not treat it like a "windfall" but pointed out that some of the money could be used for acquisitions."It does present the possibility of taking advantage of opportunities that were closed to us," he said. Citigroup has showed a lot of interest lately in bulking up its retail branch network.Last week, Citigroup pulled out of its plans to buy the banking assets of Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500) after it could not reach an agreement with Wells Fargo on how to split Wachovia's assets. Although Cit's proposed deal was brokered by the FDIC and prevented Wachovia from failing, Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) subsequently made an offer to buy all of Wachovia. That deal was approved by the Federal Reserve over the weekend.Since then speculation has turned to what Citigroup might try and buy next. Crittenden said that the bank also considered offers for two other banks recently. One is widely believed to be failed savings and loan Washington Mutual, which was ultimately acquired by JPMorgan Chase. ReutersWells Fargo may be surprised by its credit losses...Dan Wilchins...10-15-08http://www.reuters.com/article/americasDealsNews/idUSTRE49EAN720081015NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) has gotten through the credit crunch so far smelling like a rose, but a skunk may yet cross its path.Many analysts wonder if the company is setting aside enough money to cover losses as the United States struggles with the worst credit crisis since the Great Depression.Because of questions about Wells Fargo's readiness for increased credit losses, some fund managers argue that the bank's shares may be overvalued relative to others in the sector.Wells Fargo posted a $1.64 billion net income for the third quarter on Wednesday, or 49 cents a share, clobbering analyst estimates of 34 cents a share.But part of that better-than-expected performance came from setting aside just $2.495 billion for loan losses -- about $500 million less than the second quarter.Setting aside less money for losses is puzzling, because the bank's loan losses increased: the company charged off $1.995 billion for bad loans in the third quarter, or almost $500 million more than the second quarter."This should be a time when you set aside more money for losses, but Wells Fargo didn't," said James Ellman, president at Seacliff Capital in San Francisco.Wrote Richard Staite, analyst at Atlantic Equities in London, "The low reserve build will raise questions." Wells Fargo believes it has set aside enough money. The company's chief credit officer, Mike Loughlin, said in the company's earnings release, "Over the last 12 months, we have doubled the size of the (credit) allowance to address higher credit losses and support the strength of our balance sheet in these volatile times.""We believe the allowance was adequate for losses inherent in the portfolio at September 30, 2008," Loughlin added.Wells Fargo has allowances that are lower than its peers'. For example, the bank has a total of about $8 billion set aside over time to cover loan losses, about 1.6 times as much as its nonperforming loans. JPMorgan Chase & Co, on the other hand, has loan loss reserves equal to more than twice its nonperforming loans, excluding loans gained when it took on some of Washington Mutual's assets and liabilities.Wells Fargo is clearly highly confident in its capital strength. When Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other senior government officials met with nine banks to offer them capital on generous terms on Monday, Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich asked why the capital was necessary, the Wall Street Journal reported.But the ferocity of the credit crisis has routinely surprised banks over the last four quarters, and two fund managers that spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity believe Wells Fargo will be surprised.PREMIUM VALUATIONWells Fargo shares command a premium valuation. In a market where many bank shares trade at about their book value, Wells Fargo's shares are about twice their book value, and about three times their tangible book value.Even if the bank is a solid underwriter of loans, it may not deserve such a high valuation relative to its peers, the two fund managers said.The bank is also taking on substantial risk as it acquires Wachovia Corp (WB.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in a takeover originally valued at about $15 billion. That acquisition requires the bank to sell $20 billion of shares in a difficult environment for raising equity.Wells Fargo has done well during this downturn, but the bank still has big risks left on its balance sheet, including about $84 billion of home equity loans, not to mention other types of consumer loans."On every front, Wells Fargo and other banks are facing more pressure," said Sean Egan, principal at bond rating agency Egan-Jones Ratings.MarketWatch.comU.S. stock indexes rally into close in volatile bounce back...Kate Gibsonhttp://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=%7B3D695A1D%2D1D67%2D4B3B%2D8ED7%2D7CC748D86DED%7D&siteid=mktwLast update: 4:09 p.m. EDT Oct. 16, 2008Comments: 2NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock indexes shot higher in a late-session bounce back from the prior day's rout, after dismal economic data was overshadowed as the price of crude dropped below $70 a barrel for the first time in more than a year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU:Dow Jones Industrial AverageNews, chart, profile, more Last: 8,979.26+401.35+4.68%Who knew? Credit really does matterCommentary: Latest data show real impact of banking meltdown...Rex Nuttinghttp://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/knew-credit-really-does-matter/story.aspx?guid=%7B1875D7CE%2D2DCA%2D4C7F%2D9EBA%2D6E3D82179F17%7DWASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The credit squeeze that slammed the banks and the stock market over the past month is also pummeling manufacturers, otherwise known as Main Street. Two surveys of manufacturing firms released in the past two days show how devastating the loss of credit can be to all kinds of businesses, from autos to housing to chemical companies. The New York Fed's survey fell to the lowest level in its seven-year history in October, while the Philly Fed plunged to the lowest level in 18 years. See full story. It's not just that these surveys are showing such pessimism; it's the speed of the decline that's so troubling. As we know, the economy wasn't doing too well even before the most recent credit squeeze. September data show industrial production fell 2.8% and retail sales dropped 1.2%. But things changed dramatically in late September and early October, according to the Philly Fed survey, which plunged by 40 points in October, its biggest one-month decline ever. New orders, shipments, employment and unfilled orders all dropped at breath-taking speed. About a third of manufacturing firms say their own customers are having trouble getting the financing they need to buy. About one-in-seven factory owners say they are getting squeezed by their lenders. Nearly half of the firms say the credit crunch has forced them to scale back their investment plans in the near term. The global bailout plan is now being implemented, with banks lining up for their injection to inoculate against financial panic. Interbank lending should begin to thaw as government guarantees take the place of old-fashioned values such as trust, reputation and honor. The credit freeze is thawing slowly, however. The London interbank offered rate has inched down slowly since the plans were announced, but remains far too high. The commercial paper market continues to shrink, restricting the amount of money available to lend to businesses. See full story. As a result, mortgage rates jumped higher this past week, and GMAC is restricting auto loans to customers with the best credit ratings. Home builders' confidence tanks in OctoberIndex falls by three points to record low 14, reflecting credit, housing crisis...Rex Nutting, MarketWatchhttp://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/home-builders-confidence-tanks-october/story.aspx?guid=%7BE7F09EB0%2D5187%2D4FDC%2DB97E%2DBE37B1729ED2%7DWASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The doom and gloom mood in the U.S. home-building industry worsened in October as "profound uncertainties" about credit availability sent the home builders' sentiment index down to a record low, an industry trade group reported Thursday.The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index fell three points to 14 in October, two points below the previous low, NAHB said. The survey has been conducted monthly for 23 years. "Not surprisingly, builder confidence has taken a heavy hit from the recent financial market crisis," said Sandy Dunn, president of the NAHB and a builder from Point Pleasant, W. Va. The index "reflects builder assessment of recent events on Wall Street, the rapid deterioration in job markets and the corresponding weakness in consumer confidence," said David Seiders, chief economist for the builders' group. The builders called for another stimulus program from Congress "including a substantial incentive to spur home buying." The index has been highly correlated with data on housing starts, which are due out on Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch are forecasting that starts fell about 3% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 870,000, down 62% from the peak in early 2006. At 14, the index shows that only about one out of seven builders thinks the market is good. The index is based on a survey of about 450 builders who asked for their view of the market. All three subcomponents declined in October. The index measuring current sales fell three points to a record-low 14. The index for expected sales fell nine points to a record-low 19. The index of buyers' traffic fell two points to 12, matching the record low. The builders' index fell in all four regions of the country. Sentiment fell by four points in the Northeast to 17, fell by one point in the Midwest to 14, fell by four points in the South to a record-low 16 and fell by three points in the West to 10, matching the record low.Oil ends below $70 on economic fears, rising supplyPrices down over 50% from record; natural-gas supply up less than expected...Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatchhttp://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/oil-closes-below-70-down/story.aspx?guid=%7B34EFB903%2DFE27%2D42F7%2DA527%2D445307DCBAD0%7DSAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Oil futures closed below $70 per barrel Thursday for the first time in 14 months as fears that a global economic recession will slash demand for oil combined with three week's worth of rising U.S. crude and gasoline supplies to send prices lower for a third-straight session. Prices for crude have now dropped 52.5% from the record high intraday level of $147.27 from July 11 of this year. On Thursday, crude oil for November delivery fell $4.69, or 6.3%, to finish at $69.85 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was the lowest closing mark seen on Nymex since late August 2007. It hit an intraday low of $68.57 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex after the supply data were released. That's the weakest intraday level for a front-month contract since late June 2007. "The bottom line is that demand has dropped considerably, and ... reduced demand is putting a lot of pressure on the oil prices," said Charles Perry, president of energy-consulting firm Perry Management. "This will continue until there is a reduction in supply," with that cut likely coming from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, he said. "Then prices will remain stable until there is an improvement in the world economy." On Wednesday, crude futures fell $4.09, or 5.2%, to close at $74.54 a barrel on Nymex. Prices have fallen in all but two trading sessions so far this month. The Guardian (UK)European leaders join Brown in push for crisis summitIan...Traynor, David Gow and Nick Watt in Brussels http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/oct/16/europe-economyEuropean leaders are to go to Camp David on Saturday to press the US president, George Bush, to cap his eight years in power with a major international conference devoted to redesigning global capitalism.Amid a mood of growing panic, an EU summit ended in Brussels today with a clear message that there was no time to lose in coming up with concerted action to tackle the financial emergency that is swelling into a full-blown economic crisis worldwide.President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, are to lobby Bush to assent to a "Bretton Woods II" conference of at least 15 of the leading economies in the dying days of his presidency."The priority for us is the Saturday summit with the US president to prepare for the world summit which the world needs to recast the capitalist system, the financial and monetary system" said Sarkozy, who chaired the Brussels session.Gordon Brown is pushing for such a summit to add world trade talks to its agenda. He said a global action plan should be based on five principles: transparency, sound banks, responsibility, integrity, and global economic governance.The prime minister added that his proposal, unveiled on Wednesday, for international supervision of the world's biggest banks should be implemented quickly. He called for 30 cross-border "colleges of supervisors" to be established by the end of the year, each of them to monitor the activities of the 30 biggest banks.European leaders such as Brown, Sarkozy, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, sparred over who should take the credit for initiating the demand to overhaul world economic governance... The crisis may have originated in America, but Europe should take the lead in sorting out the mess, the heads of government have concluded."There is now a preparedness to look at things today which previously was not there," said Barroso.Brown said he wanted the world summit to take place before the end of the year. Sarkozy called for a November summit and has signaled his preference for New York as the venue. But the Japanese prime minister, Taro Aso, told parliament in Tokyo that the situation was not yet bad enough to warrant such a step.Sarkozy admitted that there was no full agreement on how to proceed, but dismissed suggestions that a world summit should wait until a new US president was in the White House in January."We would otherwise have a meeting in the spring and that's much too late. It's going to be a bad situation. We must have a summit before the end of the year. Europe wants it. Europe will get it."Sarkozy added that since the rest of Europe and the Americans in part were copying Brown's template for dealing with the banking emergency, they should also act in concert on the economic crisis.Sarkozy singled out better banks supervisions, cracking down on tax havens, tighter monitoring of sovereign wealth funds and hedge funds and curbs on executive pay.Brown echoed much of this, declaring that executive pay "must reflect the values of hard-working families. You do not reward excesses and irresponsibility"...The EU summit ordered the commission to come up with proposals by the end of the year to safeguard Europe's industrial competitiveness, a demand that reflects Sarkozy's more protectionist instincts.Brown said a new world trade deal would spell the death of protectionism.Associated PressStocks plunge anew as data points to recession...TIM PARADIS...10-15-08 http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gHs5OM3gFG_DytQQZFbWfgPT08MAD93R65AG0NEW YORK (AP) — Investors agonizing over a faltering economy sent the stock market plunging all over again Wednesday after a stream of disheartening data convinced Wall Street that a recession, if not already here, is inevitable. The market's despair propelled the Dow Jones industrials down 733 points to their second-largest point loss ever, and the major indexes all lost at least 7 percent.The slide meant that the Dow, which fell 76 points on Tuesday, has given back all but 127 points of its record 936-point gain of Monday, which came on optimism about the banking system in response to the government's plans to invest up to $250 billion in financial institutions.Wednesday's sell-off began after the government's report that retail sales plunged in September by 1.2 percent — almost double the 0.7 percent analysts expected — made it clear that consumers are reluctant to spend amid a shaky economy and a punishing stock market.The Commerce Department report was sobering because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. The reading came as Wall Street was refocusing its attention on the faltering economy following stepped up government efforts to revive the stagnant lending markets.Then, during the afternoon, the release of the Beige Book, the assessment of business conditions from the Federal Reserve, added to investors' angst. The report found that the economy continued to slow in the early fall as financial and credit market problems took a turn for the worse. The central bank's report supported the market's belief that difficulties in obtaining loans have choked growth in wide swaths of the economy."Even though the banking sector may be returning to normal, the economy still isn't. The economy continues to face a host of other problems," said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at ChannelCapitalResearch.com. "We're in for a tough ride."Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offered a similar opinion, warning in a speech Wednesday that patching up the credit markets won't provide an instantaneous jolt to the economy."Stabilization of the financial markets is a critical first step, but even if they stabilize as we hope they will, broader economic recovery will not happen right away," he told the Economic Club of New York.Analysts have warned that the market will see continued volatility as it tries to recover from the devastating losses of the last month, including the nearly 2,400-point plunge in the Dow over the eight sessions that ended Friday. Such turbulence is typical after a huge decline, but the market's anxiety about the economy was also expected to cause gyrations in the weeks and months ahead.Selling accelerated in the last hour of trading, a common occurrence during the eight days of heavy declines. One reason for the heavy selling: Mutual funds need to unload stock to pay investors who are bailing out of the market.Investors apparently have come to believe that Monday's big rebound over the banking sector was overdone given the problems elsewhere in the economy."It really doesn't come as a shock after Monday's gains were, I think, a little bit excessive," said Charles Norton, principal and portfolio manager at GNICapital, referring to the market's pullback.He contends that the government has taken so many steps to help the financial system that investors must now wait for some of the actions to help steady the economy."It seems like all the tools in the tool chest have mostly been used now and now it's back to reality," he said. "We're still faced with the fact that the economy is slowing and earnings aren't very good."Doubts about the economy were already surfacing in Tuesday's session, when investors halted an early rally and began collecting profits from stocks' big Monday advance. Wednesday's data confirmed the market's fears that the economy is likely to remain weak for some time, and that corporate profits are likely to suffer.Mark Coffelt, portfolio manager at Empiric Funds, said moves by European and U.S. government officials to begin investing directly in banks are easing worries about credit. But the steep pullback in stocks that began last month after the credit markets lurched to a near standstill has now created worries that consumers will spend less after seeing the value of their retirement accounts and other investments drop."Markets abhor uncertainty and so we got a lot of that resolved this weekend and we got the reward Monday but now people are saying 'OK, now what is the economy going to do?'""We're definitely going to get a slowdown from the terror of going through that," Coffelt said.The Dow ended down 733.08, or 7.87 percent, at 8,577.91. On Monday, Sept. 29, the Dow had its largest point drop 777.68. Wednesday's percentage drop was the biggest since the 8.04 percent of Oct. 26, 1987, which followed Black Monday, the Oct. 19 crash that sent the blue chips down 22.6 percent in a single session.The Dow's massive decline Wednesday marks its 20th triple-digit move in 23 sessions.Broader stock indicators also skidded. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 90.17, or 9.03 percent, to 907.84, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 150.68, or 8.47 percent, to 1,628.33.It was the lowest close for the Nasdaq since June 30, 2003, when the index finished at 1,622.80. The Dow and the S&P 500 are also at mid-2003 levels.The Dow is down 39.4 percent from its Oct. 9, 2007 closing high of 14,164.53. The S&P is down 42 percent from its high at the same time of 1,565.15. The Nasdaq's record high was 5,048.62, during the dot-com boom that swelled the index to levels it has not come close to regaining after the high-tech bubble burst.U.S. stock market paper losses came to $1.1 trillion Wednesday, according to the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index, which represents nearly all stocks traded in America.Wednesday's losses came as investors were hoping the market would recover from last week's terrible run, which erased about $2.4 trillion in shareholder wealth and brought the Dow to its lowest level since April 2003. The tumble occurred amid a seize-up in lending stemming from a lack of trust among institutions in response to the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the failure of Washington Mutual Inc., which had been the nation's largest thrift.The credit markets have been showing tentative signs of recovery, though they remain strained. The three-month Treasury bill on Wednesday was yielding 0.20 percent, down from 0.30 percent on Tuesday. Overall, yields remain low, showing that demand is so high that investors are willing to earn meager returns as long as their principal is preserved.The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.98 percent from 4.03 percent late Tuesday.About 350 stocks advanced at the New York Stock Exchange, while about 2,800 declined. Consolidated volume came to 6.4 billion shares, down from 7.97 billion traded Tuesday.The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 52.54, or 9.47 percent, to 502.11.Light, sweet crude fell $4.09 to settle at $74.54 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.In Asian trading, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost nearly 5 percent after rising more than 13 percent the previous two days. Markets in Australia, South Korea, China, India and Singapore also sank. Japan's Nikkei 225 index, however, ended up 1.1 percent after soaring 14 percent in the previous session.In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 7.08 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 6.49 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 6.82 percent. 10-16-08 Meetings10-20-08 Merced County Hearing Officer agenda...8:30 a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/hearing/2008/Agenda/102008ka.pdf 10-20-08 Merced City Council Redevelopment Agency agenda...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=6736 October 22 PLANNING COMMISSION, 7:00 PM              23 LOCAL AGENCY FORMATION COMMISSION,                  10:00 AM  10-21-08 Merced County Board of Supervisor meeting...10:00 a.m...not posted at this timehttp://www.co.merced.ca.us/boardagenda/webagenda/ 10-22-08 Merced County Planning Commission agenda...9:00 a.m.http://www.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2008/agendas/102208CV.pdf                10-22-08 Merced City Planning Commission meeting...7:00 p.m.http://www.cityofmerced.org/depts/cityclerk/boards_n_commissions/planning_commission/2008_planning_commission/2008_planning_commission_agendas.aspAgendas are posted the Monday before a Wednesday Planning Commission Meeting 10-23-08 LAFCo agenda...10:00 a.m.http://www.lafcomerced.org/pdfs/2008/10_23_2008/Agenda/102308.pdf MCAG November Calendarhttp://www.mcagov.org/November  6 - Technical Planning Committee Meeting November 12 - Technical Review Board MeetingNovember 20 - Governing Board Meeting