www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers W.Va. grist mill featured on stamp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM01/141029535 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM01/141029535 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:30:34 -0400 By Andrea Lannom An iconic West Virginia structure is now featured on a U.S. Postal Service priority mail stamp.

The stamp, which was issued at the end of last month, features an illustrated autumn scene of the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, standing out against rushing water and vibrant yellow and orange trees.

"It's a gorgeous, gorgeous stamp," said Tad Kelley, spokesperson for the Appalachian and Western Pennsylvania districts of the U.S. Postal Service. "It's one of many that we offer to commemorate photogenic sites around the country. Obviously, the Glade Creek Grist Mill is capturing the historic beauty of the mill."

The Grist Mill, which is located in Fayette County, is a 1976 re-creation of an old mill that once was nearby, according to a news release from the West Virginia State Parks. The mill was built from parts of three West Virginia mills.

"Our staff at Babcock was aware the mill was being considered as a stamp image, and we're delighted to learn it is a reality," Babcock Superintendent Clinton Cochran said in the news release. "The postmaster in Fayetteville called and told us it was being issued and we are honored. The stamp is beautiful."

Kelley noted that last year, the postal service offered the West Virginia statehood stamp, which celebrated the state's 150th birthday. This stamp featured a photograph by Roger Spencer, showing a morning view of mountains from Route 150 in Pocahontas County.

How was the Grist Mill chosen? Kelley explained the postal service has a stamp advisory committee that meets a number of times each year to vote on ideas and it sends more than 1,000 submissions to the postmaster general.

"We only release a certain number of commemorative stamps each year, but we also have series like legends of sports. In this case, it's 'beautiful areas of the U.S.,'" he said.

This stamp in particular is special because the committee voted for it to be priority mail rate of $5.75 instead of the general rate, he said. People can pick up the stamp individually or in a pane of 10 either at the post office or by visiting the U.S. Postal Service's website.

Generally, these stamps are available for one year, he said.

"Some collectors like to purchase in the sheet or pane and save it that way," he said. "Some like to frame them that way."

The postal service has printed 5 million of this stamp, Kelley said.

"Certain stamps like this, we believe will be popular," he said. "If you look at a stamp, it's a little window of American history. It's a piece of art. That's why for ages, people loved the beauty of a postage stamp. It elicits a reaction whether you're holding it in your hand or affixing it to an envelope. It's a piece of art that travels to a destination, to a loved one."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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Amazon expecting weaker holiday season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/ARTICLE/141029536 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/ARTICLE/141029536 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:29:08 -0400

By MAE ANDERSON

the associated press

NEW YORK - It might be a blue Christmas for Amazon.

The world's largest retailer gave a disappointing forecast for the crucial holiday quarter. The company also reported a wider loss than analysts expected for the third quarter.

Thursday's financial results could end investors' patience with Amazon's slim profit and its strategy of investing heavily in new products and services to spur revenue growth. The stock price tumbled 11 percent in after-market trading. That's on top of the 22 percent decline the stock has already suffered this year.

Amazon has long focused on spending the money it makes to grow and expand into new areas. It launched a smartphone, the Fire, earlier this year, and has been offering a set-top video streaming device, a streaming video service and several tablets and e-book readers.

The company has also been investing in services for its $99-a-year loyalty program, Prime. It has added a grocery delivery services and music streaming for Prime members as well as offering original TV shows such as the critically acclaimed "Transparent" starring Jeffrey Tambor.

But it is increasingly clear that what investors want more than revenue growth is a solid profit.

"The market was looking for more in terms of revenue and operating income and the fourth-quarter outlook," said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. "It's going to be a competitive landscape for retailers this holiday season and retailers will compete aggressively for consumers."

In a conference call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Thomas Szkutak defended its strategy and said the company is focused on "using its capital wisely so that over time we get good returns on invested capital."

But he agreed the company needed to be "selective" on new projects after years of a seemingly endless array of ventures.

Amazon said it expects holiday quarter revenue of $27.3 billion and $30.3 billion, below analyst expectations of $30.86 billion. That's an increase of 7 percent to 18 percent - slower growth than the prior-year holiday quarter when sales rose 20 percent.

Szkutak said the stronger dollar will hurt fourth quarter revenue by about 2.5 percentage points.

The holiday period is crucial because retailers make a chunk of their annual profit, about 20 percent, during the November and December period. Overall, the National Retail Federation expects sales during the period to be up 4 percent to $617 billion.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company was focused on making the holidays "easier and more stress free" than ever. The company has hired 40,000 seasonal workers and has expanded its Sunday shipping service. It now has more than 50 distribution centers in the U.S., up from 40 last year. And in July it announced it was opening eight smaller sorting centers for a total of 15 by the end of the year.

Speed of shipping is going to be a key for any retailer this holiday season, Hottovy said. Amazon offers free two-day shipping on many products through the $99-a-year Prime membership. But competition is heating up: Target said Tuesday that it would offer free shipping on all items this holiday season.

"Last year, retailers figured out price matching wasn't enough," Hottovy said. "You have to get products to consumers quickly and cheaply as well."

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Lottery to introduce $5 Monopoly-themed game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM05/141029554 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM05/141029554 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:30:32 -0400 By Jared Hunt The West Virginia Lottery plans to introduce a new $5 Monopoly-themed multi-state lottery game in January, the latest edition to the Lottery's electronic gaming portfolio, which currently includes Powerball, Mega Millions and Hot Lotto.

Lottery director John Musgrave told members of the state Lottery Commission Thursday the game, called Monopoly Millionaires Club, would launch Jan. 10 in West Virginia. It already launched in 23 other states Oct. 19. Nine other states, including West Virginia, plan to launch the game in the coming months.

"We think it's going to be an exciting game," Musgrave said. "It's been well accepted in other jurisdictions."

It will be the latest edition to what the Lottery refers to as its online gaming portfolio. That includes the existing games - Daily 3, Daily 4, Cash 25, Keno, Hot Lotto, Powerball and Mega Millions - for which consumers buy tickets through a networked electronic lottery terminal at retailers across the state.

The new game is based on the popular Monopoly board game.

Lottery marketing director Nikki Orcutt attended a launch event for the game Monday in New York City's Times Square.

She said the Monopoly game is differs from the other games that build large jackpots over time which are typically won by a single winner. Instead, this game is set to produce more million-dollar winners per drawing.

"The game is designed to create up to hundreds of millionaires per draw," Orcutt said.

Prizes for the game range from $5 to $25 million. The odds of winning on a given ticket are 1 in 10. By comparison, the overall odds of winning on a $2 Powerball ticket are 1 in 31.85.

To play, customers pick (or have the option of letting the retail machine pick) five numbers between 1 and 52. The computer will then randomly select a sixth "Property" number between 1 and 28, which will correspond with a matching property on a Monopoly board.

In addition, the computer will also create a multi-digit "Millionaires Club Number" that will be printed on the ticket.

Each Friday at 11:15, there will be a live televised drawing for the five numbers and property number. If someone matches all five numbers and the property number, they'll win the top prize, which starts at $15 million and will go up each week until it tops out at $25 million.

If someone hits the top prize, there will be an additional drawing for a pre-selected number of "Millionaires Club" numbers and those winners will win $1 million each. The number of potential "Millionaires Club" winners will start at 10 for the initial $15 million top prize level and continue increasing each week until someone wins the top prize. That leaves the potential for hundreds of people to win $1 million if several weeks go by without a top prize winner.

In addition to the weekly drawing, the game will also be tied to a Monopoly Millionaires Club television game show filmed in Las Vegas. Each ticket will feature a web code that can be used to enter an online drawing to appear on the TV show.

Those selected in this second-chance drawing will win a trip for two to Las Vegas where they will have a chance to participate in the game show. Game show contestants will have a chance to win $1 million during their appearance.

Online game sales provided $83 million out of the $1.2 billion in revenue generated by Lottery games last year. Orcutt said she hoped the introduction of a new game with promises of creating more $1 million winners could help boost sales in that category.

"Hopefully with the launch of this game we will see our online portfolio improve," Orcutt said.

For the month of September, the Lottery reported total revenue of $93.5 million, about 3 percent ahead of expectations of $90.5 million for the month. Revenue from video lottery at the state's four racetrack casinos, which has not declined as much as officials had forecast this year, was the main reason sales figures beat expectations. The casinos, which had been hobbled by increasing out-of-state competition, brought in $44.3 million in video lottery revenue, up from the $41.3 million that had been projected.

Since the fiscal year began July 1, Lottery revenues are running about $20 million ahead of expectations thanks to racetrack video lottery. The total revenue of $299.3 million is running 7.2 percent better than the forecast of $279.1 million due to better-than-expected racetrack video lottery sales of $149.6 million, compared to a forecast of $128.2 million for that category.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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Jared Hunt column: Jail inmates to learn 'Financial Peace' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM05/141029641 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM05/141029641 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:09:27 -0400 West Virginia regional jail inmates are about to become more educated about personal finances than the majority of Americans.

The state Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority announced Wednesday that it plans to begin offering Dave Ramsey's popular financial education course "Financial Peace University" to inmates.

Authority executive director Joe DeLong said in a news release the authority is offering the course as part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is designed to reduce the state's prison population through more effective rehabilitation methods and a focus on reducing the chance inmates will commit new crimes once they're released.

"Offering Financial Peace University to our incarcerated population is another important step forward in West Virginia's Justice Reinvestment efforts," DeLong said. "We recognize that each of these inmates will return to their roles in society in the near future and I strongly believe Dave Ramsey's teachings will better position them to transition more successfully."

Financial Peace University teaches people the basics for effectively managing finances and avoiding debt. It stresses the importance of creating and sticking to a monthly budget, keeping checkbooks balanced and adequately saving for potential emergencies.

Through a series of videos, Ramsey delivers an entertaining but informative message that encourages people to develop and use several practical tools and skills to manage their finances. It relies on a somewhat faith-based approach - at times using Biblical proverbs and sayings - to address budgeting, debt, savings and other topics.

The classes have been taught at churches, workplaces and other settings nationwide for the last several years. To date, more than 2 million families have participated in the courses.

The program has also produced results in the prison system.

The authority said 782 offenders have enrolled in other jail-based courses around the country and has a 73 percent completion rate. After six year, program officials found only two program participants ended up back in the court system after their release.

"Gov. Tomblin's Justice Reinvestment Initiative has initiated positive changes throughout the complex and diverse world of public safety," DeLong said. "This program has a proven track record of success and should incorporate seamlessly with the other changes that are already producing positive results is reducing West Virginia's rate of incarceration."

Completing the course will reduce an inmate's sentence by five days. They can also opt-out of the course and still take the authority's existing life skills course and get the same sentence reduction.

Jail officials have said one of the largest struggles inmates have to overcome is how to get back on their feet financially after getting out of jail, along with having to manage finding a job and a place to live. By actually completing this course, it's possible the inmates may be better prepared for this task than many Americans.

A 2013 Gallup survey found less than a third (32 percent) of Americans prepare a household budget - something that's absolutely essential in order to help ensure long-term financial security.

"Americans who prepare a detailed household budget are in the minority in the U.S.," Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe said at the time. "Good management of a family's finances - and the avoidance of financial difficulties - usually involves creating a family budget."

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Create West Virginia emphasizes importance of young people http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029649 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029649 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:27:05 -0400 By Marcus Constantino For the past six years, Create West Virginia's CreateCon conference has drawn community and business leaders from around the state. Jeff James, chairman of the Create West Virginia board of directors, says he hopes the conference can tap into a different demographic this year as it hits a college campus for the first time.

"We're real excited because a big, big chunk of attendees this year are college students," James said. "Of course, it's being hosted at Glenville State College, so some of their students are coming, but we also have University of Charleston, Fairmont State, WVU, a lot of people are sending in their college students. As you can imagine, we're really thrilled by that because so much of the innovation and stuff we talk about is carried on by the young people."

This year's CreateCon will be Oct. 26 to 28 at Glenville State College. James said more than 300 people have registered for the conference as of Wednesday afternoon. Registration ends Friday.

The Create West Virginia conference features 10 different "tracks," from diversity and economy of culture to technology and entrepreneurship. The group bills itself as a "grassroots movement" to build creative communities in West Virginia for a new economy.

James said Create West Virginia's sessions are helpful for both current and future business leaders in West Virginia.

"This is our seventh conference and historically we've attracted people from around West Virginia where it's kind of their job to care about this stuff," James said. "Economic development directors, entrepreneurship champions, stuff like that. We certainly have had college students come in the past but we're trying to make a concerted effort to broaden the audience so that it is about young people, people who have business ideas and are looking for reasons to stay in the state."

James said one of the most anticipated events in this year's conference is a keynote speech by Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft's Technology Policy Group and a developer of TV White Space technology. The technology uses unused television spectrum to transmit Internet service over-the-air, much like Wi-Fi, but over longer distances. The City of Huntington is using the technology to provide free Wi-Fi access points across the city.

Garnett will talk about the technology's possible uses in West Virginia and will demonstrate it for the audience.

"This is literally creating Wi-Fi via unused TV signals and it could be a really interesting breakthrough to getting Internet out to very rural places in West Virginia," James said.

This year's CreateCon will be combined with The Building Conference. Mostly geared toward city planners, architects and engineers, attendees can take sessions on public spaces, community design and sustainable building and design.

"This is the first year that we're actually holding essentially two conferences in one," James said. "We're combining The Building Conference, which started just a couple years ago and that focuses on building sustainable buildings and communities."

James said keeping young people in West Virginia will be key to developing the state's economy in the future. He hopes young attendees can learn that their talents can be put to use in the state to make a better West Virginia.

"We've really heard from young people that even if they don't have a job lined up after college, if they know that there's stuff like this going on and there's opportunities for internships and things, they're willing to stay," James said. "They just need to be given a reason."

Registration for CreateCon 2014 is open until Friday at createwv.org.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

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Companies meet job seekers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029660 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029660 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:03:32 -0400 More than 40 companies met with potential employees at the Gazette-Mail job fair Wednesday.

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Yeager pulls PEOPLExpress contract, seeking new carriers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM05/141029667 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM05/141029667 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:30:45 -0400 By Jared Hunt Yeager Airport officials have officially rescinded a contract proposal with grounded airline PEOPLExpress and is now talking to other carriers about beginning flights between Charleston and Orlando, Florida.

Airport executive director Rick Atkinson on Wednesday told members of the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, the airport's official governing body, that he and authority leaders had decided to pull the airports official flight offer with the company after it grounded itself indefinitely earlier this month.

PEOPLExpress was set to begin three-day-a-week direct flights between Yeager and Orlando International airports Oct. 16. The airport authority had received a $700,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant, which it intended to use to promote the Orlando flight.

However, the Newport News, Virginia-based carrier, which borrowed its name from the low-cost carrier that operated in the 1980s, suffered a series of setbacks following its June 30 launch.

In August, it experienced major delays when two of its pilots were unable to fly on the same day. Then on Sept. 19, a lavatory servicing truck on the tarmac in Newport News crashed into one of the company's planes, leaving it unable to fly.

The company had been leasing two Boeing 737s from Vision Airlines. The crash left PEOPLExpress with just one functioning plane to fly its scheduled routes. That plane then began experiencing maintenance issues, so the company decided to halt service until both planes could be completely fixed.

It had expected to resume flights by Oct. 16, the day the Charleston-to-Orlando flights were to begin, but on Oct. 9 announced it was suspending operations indefinitely. The company had ended its lease agreement with Vision Airlines and was instead seeking federal approval to operate as an indirect aircraft carrier, a move that would allow it to obtain additional planes.

With PEOPLExpress's future uncertain, Atkinson said airport leaders decided to do away with their existing contract and start trying to attract additional carriers to fly the route.

"(PEOPLExpress) had not formally accepted our offer on the grant agreement, but just to make sure, we sent them a formal letter saying that because you are unable to fulfill your obligations under the agreement and in the time frame it was offered, we have rescinded this offer and we are actively seeking other airlines to partner with and use the grant funds," Atkinson said.

"They sent back an email that said we understand and we hope to be up and operational and we will be talking to you when we are available to fly again," he said.

Atkinson said shelving the contract doesn't mean the airport couldn't enter into a new agreement with the company should PEOPLExpress launch again, it just gives executives flexibility to work with a new airline, should one come up.

He said PEOPLExpress was a good company, they just suffered an unfortunate series of events beyond its control.

"It wasn't that they were a fly-by-night operation, they were a startup and they had some events that happened," Atkinson said. "I hope it's not a death knell for them, because they're a good group of people and hope they can get back up and operational. But that the same time we have to look at what's best with this airport and this market and if we're able to enter into an agreement with someone else before they get back up, then that's what we'll do."

The airport had already spent about $18,000 marketing the route, including nearly $7,400 in advertising with Charleston Newspapers. Atkinson said those expenses are eligible to be reimbursed using the grant funds. Board members also asked the airport to hire an attorney to see if the money could be reimbursed by either PEOPLExpress or the insurance carrier for the truck that damaged the airline's plane.

"We will pursue that," Atkinson said. "I think that's better than going through the grant. If for some reason, that's not successful, it's possible we can get that cost recovered through the grant process."

Atkinson said a "silver lining" from the whole situation is that the airport now has hard data about the demand for the Orlando flight.

He said within the first 36 hours on the market, PEOPLExpress sold more than 2,000 tickets for flights on the route. Everyone who has booked a flight has since received a refund.

Atkinson said the sales figure has led a couple of airlines to investigate the possibility of adding the route.

"Given the fact that how the market responded in the first 36 hours of sales, it has raised some people's eyes about how much potential is available in this market," Atkinson said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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CAMC training staff to deal with Ebola http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029735 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM01/141029735 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:14:38 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Charleston Area Medical Center, like other hospitals throughout the country, will train staff in the wake of a potential Ebola threat.

"The best news at this point is there are no new Ebola patients in the country," said David Ramsey, president and chief executive officer. "More people will die this year from the flu. I would be more concerned about getting a flu shot."

Dr. Pinckney McIlwain, chief medical officer, made a presentation on Ebola training during the regular meeting of the CAMC Board of Trustee on Wednesday morning. He said information arrives daily from the Centers for Disease Control.

One challenge health officials face is that the initial symptoms of Ebola mirror those of the flu with fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola with unexplained bleeding or bruising eventually added to the list. The deadly Ebola virus is spread by exposure to blood and other bodily fluids.

While the mortality rate is high in Africa, it is much lower in the United States with proper supportive medical care, he said.

"The ability to keep people hydrated has a dramatic influence on survival," he said.

When screening patients for Ebola, he notes to ask about their symptoms as well as whether they have traveled to West Africa.

"There is a clear need to educate staff," he said. "Every person employed at CAMC has been taught to use personal protective equipment. There will be additional training with high level protective equipment as it becomes available."

He said officials must try to suppress speculation and panic.

"You can imagine during a bad flu season how many people would have to be screened," he said.

Officials recommend flu shots as well as frequent hand washing.

In other business, Ramsey reported that Dr. John Linton has accepted the position of dean of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center West Virginia University Charleston Division.

Also, board members received a booklet entitled "The Evolution of Heart Surgery at Charleston Area Medical Center" by Dr. Jamal H. Khan.

University of Charleston President Ed Welch, who heads the quality committee, reminded the board of an upcoming event at UC.

The UC Speaker Series at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28 will examine "how healthy is health care." Among topics to be covered are how local health care has been affected by the national Affordable Care Act, advances in medicine, and providing services to remote areas of the state. Speakers will be Ramsey and Steve Dexter, CEO of Thomas Health System. The event is free and open to the public. The series is sponsored by Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, Ramsey presented a "Heart and Soul" award to Gina Diddle, a nurse practitioner who works in the palliative care program. She was recognized for going the extra mile to care for an elderly patient who wanted to be at home with family during her final days. The patient's husband was suffering from cancer and too ill to visit her in the hospital. Diddle communicated with family and coordinated with Hospice to see the patient's wishes were fulfilled.

Diddle said her team deals with similar matters regularly and her co-workers should share in the award. She said she has heard it said that if you choose a job you love that you will never have to work a day in your life.

"That is what I have," she said.

Following the meeting, several board members toured the new Cancer Center, which is expected to begin receiving patients in May of 2015.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

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J&J to spend up to $200M on Ebola vaccine program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/ARTICLE/141029736 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/ARTICLE/141029736 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:36:14 -0400

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - Johnson & Johnson will start safety testing in early January on a vaccine combination that could protect people from a strain of the deadly Ebola virus.

The health care products maker says it has committed up to $200 million to speed up and expand production of a vaccine program being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

J&J is developing the vaccine with the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic. It involves a regimen in which two vaccines are delivered two months apart. The combination provided complete protection in animals against a virus strain similar to the one causing the current outbreak in West Africa that has killed thousands of people.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company says it will also determine whether its vaccine protects against the version causing the outbreak.

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More than 40 employers ready to hire at today's Gazette-Mail job fair http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM01/141029771 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM01/141029771 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:20:20 -0400 More than 40 companies, including Suddenlink, Constellium Rolled Products, NGK Spark Plugs, Macy's and Thomas Health Systems will participate in Charleston Newspapers' 2014 Fall Job Fair, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the upper lobby of the Charleston Civic Center.

Marcia Thomas, recruitment manager for Charleston Newspapers, is excited about this year's event, which she said has generated lots of interest among local companies looking to hire new workers.

"We have probably 15 more participating employers, or companies, than last year," Thomas said. "They're seeing our promo (ads) and they're calling us left and right to participate."

Social media sites, such as Facebook, also have played a role in catching the interest of regional businesses, where those in charge of hiring have responded positively to the opportunity to participate in such a large fair.

"National Travel is new this year; we're happy to have them," said Thomas, adding that Mardi Gras Casino and Resort will be back at the job fair for 2014.

More medical companies also will be participating in the Gazette-Mail event today, such as Genesis, Charleston Gardens, and Caring Senior Services. Thomas said she is happy to see more of the medical companies participating in the job fair this year.

Participating companies are looking to fill a wide variety of positions in many different industries - from temporary workers for the holidays, to part- and full-time workers.

There will be giveaways for both the companies and the job seekers in attendance.

The full list of participating businesses is: Stonerise Healthcare, Meadowbrook, Affiliate Services, United Talent, WesBanco, Patton Building, NY Life, Express Personnel, Casci, GMS, Rite-Aid, Adecco, Prestera Center, Security America, WKLC Rock, Ticketmaster, Suddenlink, Panera, Goodwill, IBEX Global, Mardi Gras, FLSmidth, Constellium Rolled Products, Charleston Gardens, Caring Senior Services, NGK Spark Plugs, Compliance Staffing Agency, Bluefield Regional Medical Center, Bath Fitter, Murray Energy, CKR Interactive/Genesis, Lexycon, Macy's, Blizzard Custom Cycle, GeStamp, Best Buy, Thomas Health Systems, West Virginia DHHR, US Food Services and Charleston Newspapers.

"It's going to be a positive and successful event," Thomas said.

Between 300 and 400 job-seekers typically come through the fair, seeking employment opportunities.

Thomas has advice for those who plan to attend today's event: "Be prepared. You want to make a good first impression," she said. "Dress neatly and bring your resume. Be ready to meet face-to-face and talk with employers."

For more information, or to find out how to participate in next year's job fair, call 304-348-4858. To view local job listings anytime, visit www.gazettemailjobs.com.

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WV gas prices fall below $3 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM05/141029799 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM05/141029799 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:04:55 -0400 By Jared Hunt Gasoline prices have dipped below $3 in some parts of West Virginia, as prices fall to their lowest levels in nearly three years.

At least 10 stations in and around Poca, Nitro, St. Albans and Cross Lanes were advertising regular unleaded at $2.99 a gallon Tuesday, according to price tracking website GasBuddy.com. The drop follows a 12-cent decline in the average statewide gas price in the last week.

The average price for regular unleaded across West Virginia was $3.218 Tuesday, down from $3.338 one week ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Tuesday's average is more than 22 cents less than the $3.441 average one month ago, and 21.3 cents less than the average price at this time last year.

AAA spokesman Michael Green said just 2 percent of stations in West Virginia were selling gas for less than $3 Tuesday. But he said that number is set to increase.

"Most people are still paying more than $3 in West Virginia, but we should see a few more stations in the coming days lower their prices," Green said.

Prices are falling as a result of a global sell off in crude oil markets. Crude oil costs represent about two-thirds of the final price of gasoline at the pump, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and prices have dropped nearly 20 percent since this summer.

A confluence of factors has driven the decline.

The explosion of oil extraction from shale regions in the U.S. helped boost domestic crude production in September to its highest level since July 1986. Crude stockpiles are greater than any level seen at this time of year for the past decade.

"We're producing a lot and we've got good supply," said Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association.

Meanwhile, drivers are beginning to drive less heading into the winter months, cutting demand. Concerns about global economic growth, particularly in Europe and China, have also caused international prices to drop.

Major oil producer Saudi Arabia, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel, has also decided against cutting output in order to keep prices aloft.

U.S. refineries have also switched away from their so-called summer blend, which is designed to produce fewer emissions but is more costly to produce, helping to ease prices.

"It's kind of a perfect storm," Vineyard said. "Everything overseas is working to our favor and so are things in the U.S."

Green said oil prices appear to be stabilizing around current levels, meaning consumers should soon see prices bottom out at the pumps. He said once those prices bottom in the next few weeks, they should remain at about that level for several months to come.

"There's little indication that we'll see any major increases until spring, when gas prices traditionally rise," Green said.

He said that should boost the broader economy heading into the holiday shopping season.

"The decline in gas prices has helped consumers save more than $200 million a day on gasoline since the summer," Green said.

As to why prices have only dipped below the $3 level in the Cross Lanes and Poca area, Vineyard attributed that to the local market forces.

She said prices tend to be lower in Cross Lanes to Teays Valley market because there are several different retail chains competing to get customers in that area.

"The more competition you have typically produces the most impact on price," she said.

The area also sees higher demand than other parts of the state.

"I think that's a bedroom community, where most people in the Teays Valley area are either commuting to Charleston or Huntington for work and they're usually filling up their tanks at night or before they go," Vineyard said. "So there's higher demand there."

Green said more retailers across the state may soon try to lower their prices to $2.99 to help attract more customers to their stores.

"Having a price like $2.99 helps bring customers onto the lot and into the stores to buy a cup of coffee or other things," Green said. "We'll definitely have stations offer lower gas prices in order to entice customers."

Vineyard agreed the lower gas prices are not only good for customers, but for the retailers too.

"We're thrilled to death," she said. "Our liabilities are less, our credit card expenses are less, we have less credit tied up in buying fuel, plus our customers are spending more, so it's a win-win for us."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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W.Va. coal mine company lays off 130 workers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/ARTICLE/141029831 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/ARTICLE/141029831 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:17:27 -0400 ALUM CREEK, W.Va. (AP) - After warning in August that hundreds of miners could lose their jobs, Boone County-based Coal River Energy has laid off 130 mine workers.

Coal River Energy spokesman James "Skeets" Loving confirmed the layoffs Tuesday.

In August, the company warned that 280 mine workers could be out of jobs.

Loving said the company laid off 130 employees on Oct. 11, while keeping 94 workers and finding other work for 56 others.

The affected mining areas are located near the border of Boone and Kanawha counties. Some are underground and some are surface mines.

The company pointed to poor coal markets and federal regulations.

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As food prices go up, McDonald's faces challenges http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/ARTICLE/141029866 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/ARTICLE/141029866 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 05:59:21 -0400

By LESLIE PATTON

Bloomberg News

CHICAGO - Mike Hiner used to take his grandsons to McDonald's when they wanted a treat. With higher wage and food costs pushing up prices at the Golden Arches, he's increasingly taking them to IHOP, Denny's and Chili's instead.

"Those meals are the same price," said Hiner, a 58-year- old geologist in Houston. "And they're better."

The loss of bargain-seeking customers like Hiner underscores a growing challenge for McDonald's Corp.: While the company still offers several items for $1, its menu is quietly getting more expensive. McDonald's said its prices were up about 3 percent through the end of June compared with 12 months earlier. That's more than the 2.5 percent gain in prices for food Americans purchased away from their homes in the year through August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The chain's diminishing appeal among budget diners - coupled with rising meat costs - are projected to take a bite out of third-quarter earnings due to be reported Tuesday. Analysts estimate that McDonald's revenue fell 1.8 percent to $7.2 billion in the period. Net income, which also were hurt by a food-safety scare in China, slid 11 percent to $1.36 billion, according to the projections.

Lisa McComb, a spokeswoman for the Oak Brook, Illinois- based company, declined to comment.

McDonald's famous Dollar Menu now includes items that cost more than $1, and other items are creeping above $5. At some McDonald's locations in Chicago's Loop, a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries and a drink totals about $7.50. Chicken Club sandwiches are $4.45, $4.99 and $5.19 at different Chicago McDonald's restaurants, without sides or a beverage.

McDonald's hasn't offered enough discounts and deals to attract diners, which contributed to its four straight months of U.S. same-store sales declines, UBS AG said in a study this month.

Some Americans are extremely price sensitive, and any increases may send them elsewhere, said John Gordon, principal at San Diego-based Pacific Management Consulting Group, an adviser to restaurants and franchisees.

"If you encourage and kind of seed the notion that you can come in for a couple bucks and get some food - and then you can't do that anymore - there's bound to be a reaction," he said.

Restaurants are being pressured into boosting prices because of rising beef, cheese and pork prices, as well as minimum-wage increases. Minnesota, California and Michigan have recently hiked minimum pay levels.

U.S. restaurants plan to boost prices 2 percent during the next six months, more than the 1.7 percent average increase from the prior 12 months, according to an October survey by restaurant researcher MillerPulse in Atlanta.

"There's no other option but to raise prices when commodities and labor are going up," said Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group. "You can't sell a lot of items for a $1 anymore and make any money."

The foods McDonald's has kept cheap include McChicken sandwiches and fruit-and-yogurt parfaits.

While holding prices for those items at $1 may have helped prevent the sales declines from being even worse, it's hurt profitability. Restaurant margin at McDonald's domestic company- owned stores narrowed to 18.3 percent in the second quarter from 18.7 percent the year before.

The pricing struggle is hitting the industry at a time when competition for frugal diners' spending already is increasingly fierce. Industry sales growth has stagnated the past few years - rising 0.8 percent in 2012 and 0.7 percent last year, according to a June report from IBISWorld Inc. McDonald's U.S. same-store sales fell 2.8 percent in August.

Making matters worse for fast-food purveyors is that casual-dining chains are advertising cheap lunches to appeal to diners who otherwise would have cruised through the drive-up window for a burger. Chili's is selling lunch combo meals, such as chicken quesadillas, fries and soup or salad for $7 as well as a double cheeseburger with soup or salad for $8.

Fast-food chains are trying to bridge the gap by moving away from $1 and value meals, adding more expensive fare instead. This year, McDonald's has tacked on Bacon Clubhouse burgers and chicken sandwiches to its menu.

Even the dollar menu hasn't escaped the push for fancier fare. McDonald's last year introduced the Dollar Menu & More, adding $2 and $5 items to a lineup that exclusively featured $1 eats since its nationwide introduction in 2002. The menu now includes a jalapeno double burger and a 20-piece chicken McNuggets.

The result has been that fast-food chains, long thought of as the cheapest place to grab a quick bite, may now have that reputation working against them, said Joel Cohen, president of Cohen Restaurant Marketing Group in Raleigh, North Carolina. The higher prices may be driving some customers to seek alternatives either at fast-casual chains like Panera Bread Co. or even at sit-down places, he said.

"It's sticker shock," Cohen said. "You're up at price where you could just about be dining at a casual-dining restaurant."

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Civic Center renovation concept features airy corridors, outdoor plaza http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM01/141029907 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM01/141029907 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:02:37 -0400 By Matt Murphy A renovated Charleston Civic Center could include new glassed-in corridors, an expanded convention center space and an outdoor plaza along the Elk River, according to concept renderings presented to city council's Finance Committee Monday night.

Produced by consultants Odell Associates, the renderings are meant to give the public an idea of what the Civic Center could resemble, or what the consultants "want this building to aspire to," said Odell architect Gaurav Gupte.

"This is a great concept," he said.

A final design by a to-be-determined design-build firm is expected by spring.

Odell will assist the city with the selection of the design-build firm and will oversee the construction process.

Reaction was positive from the roughly 50 council members and members of the public who witnessed the Odell presentation.

Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis, an at-large Democrat who is also a Finance Committee member, had one of the biggest smiles of everyone gathered. She said she believes the renovations will help "make Charleston a destination."

"You're going to see a very attractive facility," she said.

Davis said a recurring theme during the planning process was considering "what needed to happen and what has to happen" to keep the Civic Center viable.

"The thought was, can we do this?" she said. "We can. You can't help but smile."

Regardless of the final design, the consultants said they want to ensure several key upgrades are made, including addition of more convention space; a better separation of the convention space and Coliseum; and incorporation of the Elk River into the design of the facility.

"The city really does not need to turn its back to the river," Gupte said.

Design would also allow the Civic Center to host two large events at once - one in the convention space and one in the Coliseum. Currently, some of the larger events require the use of both spaces, eliminating the possibility of scheduling simultaneous events.

Under the current proposal, the convention center space - the current Grand Hall - would be expanded by about 20,000 square feet toward the river and the area would get a new kitchen and meeting rooms.

The Coliseum would see new concession areas and restrooms and would get a glassed-in hallway along its length, allowing pedestrians from the Charleston Town Center Mall to be out of the elements.

Much of the building's infrastructure - like its heating and cooling system - will also be upgraded.

"We found so much of the building's systems that were substandard and needed to be replaced," Wooland said. "They can't be repaired. They need to be replaced."

Besides the artist renderings, Odell also briefed council on its research behind the design, including market assessments and comparison of convention centers in nearby cities. Odell also used internal Civic Center and Charleston Convention & Visitors' Bureau data.

"Meeting planners look at the quality of space as much as the quantity of space to determine whether to book your building," Odell architect Michael Wooland said.

Wooland said he believes the convention and visitors' bureau should expand its target market to a four-hour radius from Charleston, instead of the current three-hour radius.

"We found that Charleston is well positioned to compete with these neighboring towns," he said.

The renovations are being financed by revenue from a tax increment finance district downtown and a half-cent city sales tax.

Molgaard initially estimated the project would cost about $50 million, but offered a revised estimate of about $60 million Monday night.

"This is going to be a larger project and it will be dictated on many respects how much revenue we can bring in," he said.

Now that Odell has presented its initial recommendations, the consultants and the city will begin the search for a design-build team. Three finalists are expected to be identified by Dec. 19, and the winning firm will be tentatively be selected by March 23.

The three finalists will each receive a budgeted $100,000 as an honorarium, City Manager David Molgaard said.

Construction could begin as early as the spring of 2015 and if on schedule, will wrap up in late 2017.

The Civic Center will not close during construction.

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About 550 W.Va. coal miners failed drug tests http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/ARTICLE/141029938 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/ARTICLE/141029938 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:51:55 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - In the last two years, more than 550 West Virginia coal miners have temporarily lost their mining certifications because they failed a drug test.

State Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training Eugene White released the numbers to a legislative panel Monday.

Over that timeframe, 79 mine workers were reinstated and 67 are currently in a treatment plan.

After not responding to temporary suspension letters at all, 269 miners are facing three-year suspensions.

White's report says prescription drugs are the main problem. Marijuana is second.

A wide-sweeping mine safety law that took effect in January 2013 requires coal mine operators and certain employers to screen for substance abuse.

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Helmick touts West Virginia's '$6-billion opportunity' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM01/141019121 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM01/141019121 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 19:50:12 -0400

By GEORGE HOHMANN

FOR THE WVPA

HUTTONSVILLE - State Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick calls it "the $6 billion opportunity," referring to the fact that less than $1 billion of the $7.3 billion worth of food consumed annually by West Virginians is raised in the state.

Helmick is mobilizing the state Department of Agriculture to build - or rebuild - another industry in the state. His first step is encouraging West Virginia farmers to raise more food, and he's starting with potatoes.

Americans consume 128 pounds of potatoes per person annually. Potatoes are a $4.3 billion business in the United States.

But West Virginia produces so few potatoes it isn't even listed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's production charts. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 342 West Virginia farms had a total of just 335 acres devoted to potato production. The state Department of Agriculture has 15 acres in potatoes and produces 250,000 to 300,000 pounds a year for use in state prisons and institutions.

Helmick says it wasn't always that way - in the 1920s and 1930s, West Virginians produced most of the food they consumed. He says as the state industrialized, it got away from farming, "... but agriculture is still here."

Helmick aims to revitalize West Virginia's potato-farming business by removing obstacles.

On Thursday, Oct. 16, he unveiled a potato-processing machine at the department's Huttonsville farm. The machine washes and dries potatoes, sorts them in three sizes and bags them. Department spokesman Butch Antolini figures the machine, at full speed, could process all of the state's potatoes in a day. Mike Teets, director of the department's Eastern Operations, bought the used machine in Canada for about $98,000. He figures it would cost $250,000 if bought new.

Helmick hopes West Virginia farmers will raise potatoes when they realize they don't have to buy such expensive equipment. They can use the state's machine for a small fee. The department also has acquired a potato digger to help with harvests.

The department is helping develop the state's agricultural business in other ways:

n Antolini said it contracted with Black Gold Farms of Grand Forks, N.D., to grow 14 varieties of potatoes on state property at Huttonsville and Lakin. Black Gold has harvested those crops and will soon report on which varieties grow best in the soil at those locations. The results will be shared with farmers around the state.

n Kirsten Rhodes, the department's special projects coordinator, has designed a logo dominated by a brown, lumpy, potato-like outline of the state. She hopes that when people see it they'll realize not all potatoes are from Idaho and will think, "Yes, there is a West Virginia potato."

Helmick's initiative seeks to buck a trend.

"Over the past decade, the potato industry has significantly consolidated growing operations," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The Census of Agriculture reported 15,014 farms that produced potatoes in 2007, down from 51,500 farms reported in 1974. Because of large capital investments in equipment and storage facilities, farmers have sought to maximize production through larger operations."

Helmick and his staff are convinced there is a ready market for West Virginia-grown potatoes.

US Foods, a major food distributor, receives three railroad boxcars of potatoes from Idaho every week at its distribution center in Hurricane, Antolini said. "That's the equivalent of 10 tractor-trailer loads of potatoes - more than 400,000 pounds of potatoes they're purchasing from Idaho - and it takes eight days to get here," he said.

Another major buyer is the West Virginia Potato Chip Co., producer of Mister Bee-brand potato chips. At full capacity, the company can use 100,000 pounds of potatoes a week.

In a 2012 interview, the owners of the Parkersburg company said they were buying potatoes from Florida in the winter, Alabama and the Carolinas in the spring, and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin in the summer.

Mister Bee's fryer already uses West Virginia-produced natural gas. Using Mountain State potatoes would allow Mister Bee to advertise that its potato chips are an all-West Virginia product, the owner said.

"We do have a sizable opportunity in West Virginia," Helmick told about 40 people who came to see the potato-processing machine in action. "We intend to take agriculture to the next level." He called the opportunity for West Virginians to grow the food consumed in the Mountain State "the greatest economic development project we have in West Virginia right now."

The Huttonsville potato-processing machine also can process carrots and onions. Antolini said plans are in the works to eventually buy and install a similar machine in the Huntington area.

Helmick said, "We've got to demonstrate that it can be done and I am confident once that takes place the private sector will take over."

The department plans to install a cannery in Tucker County next year, he said.

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Jared Hunt column: Shoppers plan to spend more on others http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM05/141019133 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM05/141019133 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 17:58:07 -0400 Holiday shoppers plan to splurge more on friends and family and less on themselves this year, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.

The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, found that individuals celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah this year plan to spend an average of $804.42, up about 5 percent from last year's total of $767.27.

"Retailers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic this holiday season, and one of the most important pieces of evidence is the confidence holiday shoppers are exuding in their plans to spend on gifts for their loved ones," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retail federation.

Consumers plan to spend an average of $459.87 buying gifts for family members this year, up 6.5 percent from the $432 they spent last year.

Family members aren't the only ones who'll receive more this year, either.

Shoppers plan to spend $80 on gifts for friends, up from $75 last year. Co-workers will get $26.23 worth of gifts, up from $24.52 last year. Other significant individuals in people's lives - including mail carriers, babysitters and pets - will get an average of $30.42 worth of gifts this year, up from $26.65 in 2013.

Meanwhile, the trend toward self-gifting, buying an item just to treat yourself, will decline this year following several years of gains. The survey found 56.9 percent of shoppers said they would take advantage of holiday sales to buy something for themselves, spending an average of $126.68 on those purchases. That's down from the $134.77 shoppers spent last year.

Spending on traditional holiday items, such as food and decorations, is expected to remain flat this year, however. Consumers plan to spend an average of $104.74 on food, on par with the $104.34 spent last year. They'll spend $53.68 on decorations (down 3 cents from the year before), $29.18 on greeting cards (up 4 cents) and $20.30 on flowers, poinsettias and potted plants (down $1.66).

While they plan to spend more, shoppers will also be hunting for bargains. The survey found that nearly three out of every four shoppers (74.7 percent) will be influenced by sales or discounts when deciding whether to shop at a particular store or online retailer.

"While not completely throwing caution to the wind, Americans' frugal spending habits will still be visible this holiday season as they continue to rely on discounts and sales and comparison shop," Shay said. "Consumers will put retailers to the test when it comes to the product mix and value companies can offer today's shopper who is focused on much more than just price."

Why are we even talking about all of this in October?

The NRF has found that four out of every 10 shoppers will have started holiday shopping before Halloween.

When asked what factors made them want to shop so early, 61.9 percent said it helps them spread out their spending, 51.7 percent said they like to avoid holiday crowds and 51 percent said it helps them avoid the stress of last-minute shopping.

As for those receiving gifts, 62 percent said what they want most is a gift card - something to keep in mind for those who do shop at the last minute and can't figure out what to get.

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Market turmoil: A gift for mortgage refinancers? http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/ARTICLE/141019190 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141018/ARTICLE/141019190 Sat, 18 Oct 2014 10:38:54 -0400

By JOSH BOAK and ALEX VEIGA

AP Business Writers

A sudden plunge in mortgage rates this week raised an urgent question for millions of Americans:

Should I refinance my mortgage?

Across the country, homeowners and would-be homeowners eager for a bargain rate fired off inquiries to lenders.

The opportunity emerged from the tumult that seized financial markets and sent stock prices and bond yields tumbling. Rates on long-term mortgages tend to track the 10-year Treasury yield, which fell below 2 percent for the first time since May 2013.

Accordingly, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported, dipped below 4 percent to 3.97 percent - a tantalizing figure. As recently as January, the average was 4.53 percent.

Ultra-low rates do carry risks as well as opportunities. Charges and fees can shortchange refinancers who are focused only on the potential savings. And falling rates are often associated with the broader risk of an economic slowdown that could eventually reduce the income that some people have to pay their mortgages.

Yet the tempting possibility of locking in a sub-4 percent rate has a way of motivating people.

"It gets people excited," said Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America. "It gets mortgage bankers excited. It gets prospective buyers excited."

The drop in rates could finally give homeowners like Issi and Amy Romem of Mountain View, California, the chance to refinance.

Amy Romem bought the condo at the peak of the housing boom for $400,000, using an adjustable-rate loan with an initial 5.875 percent rate that would reset after 10 years. The reset would amount to an extra $400 a month on the condo, which the couple now rents, Issi Romem said.

"Seeing rates go down even more is something I wasn't expecting," he said. "It reminds me that I need to do this now, before interest rates do go up."

Before this week, many bankers, lenders and borrowers had assumed that home loan rates would soon start rising closer to a two-decade average of 6 percent. That was based on expectations that the Federal Reserve would start raising its key short-term rate next year - a move that would likely lead to higher mortgage rates, too.

But that assumption fell suddenly into doubt as stocks plunged on Monday and Wednesday amid fears about global economic weaknesses, the spread of Ebola and the threat of the Islamic State militia group in the Middle East.

Seeking safety, investors poured money into U.S. Treasurys. Higher demand drives up prices for those government bonds and causes their yields to drop.

The yield on the 10-year note traded as low as 1.91 percent Wednesday before ending the day at 2.14 percent. A stock market rally on Friday helped lift the yield to 2.20 percent. That suggested that the moment to refinance might be fleeting.

"It's likely to be the last time we see these rates for a generation, if ever again," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com.

Even a slight drop in mortgage rates can translate into significant savings over the long run. For a median-priced home worth $221,000, a 0.5 percentage point decline in a mortgage rate would produce savings of $50 a month, according to a Bank of America analysis.

Still, it takes time for the savings to offset the costs of refinancing.

"There's no free lunch in this," noted Gary Kalman, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Lenders typically charge fees for paperwork on the loan and to pay for a home appraisal and title insurance, among other costs.

"You want to make sure the interest rate you're getting is dropping enough that it more than offsets whatever fees you may be paying," Kalman said.

Refinancing from a 5.5 percent rate - which some borrowers still have - to 4 percent would save $180 a month on a $200,000 mortgage. But the fees - averaging around $2,500 - mean it would take about 14 months to break even.

Research done this year by economists at the University of Chicago and Brigham Young University found that 20 percent of eligible households failed to refinance when rates first made doing so profitable in late 2010. They essentially cost themselves $11,500 in potential savings.

Those who missed those late rates last year now have a second chance.

"When you get these little boomlets like we see now, most of that is what drives refinancing activity," said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans.

While applications for refinancing have been rising this week at Quicken, Walters added, it's unlikely that many would-be home buyers will be able to benefit. It can take buyers months to mobilize, because they need to first find a suitable house in the right neighborhood. That makes it hard for them to immediately snap into action when rates drop, though it might coax them into looking.

"It's a bonus if rates are lower," Walters said, "but it doesn't dictate the decision."

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Boak reported from Washington, Veiga from Los Angeles.

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Thinner iPads, Mac updates introduced http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141017/ARTICLE/141019256 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141017/ARTICLE/141019256 Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:17:36 -0400

By ANICK JESDANUN

and BRANDON BAILEY

the associated press

CUPERTINO, Calif. - Apple unveiled a thinner iPad Thursday with a faster processor and a better camera as it tries to drive excitement for tablets amid slowing demand. The company also released an update to its Mac operating system and introduced a high-resolution iMac model that might appeal to heavy watchers of television over the Internet.

The new iPad Air 2, at a quarter of an inch "thin," also adds many of the features previously available on iPhones. That includes the ability to take burst shots and slow-motion video, and unlock the device with a fingerprint ID sensor instead of a passcode.

Meanwhile, Apple made its new Mac operating system, Yosemite, available as a free download starting Thursday. The new 27-inch iMac - which Apple is dubbing the "Retina 5K" model - went on sale Thursday as well.

The company also said Apple Pay, its new system for using iPhones to make credit and debit card payments at retail stores, will launch on Monday.

Much of the emphasis at Thursday's product-launch event centered on how Apple's devices work well together because the company makes both its hardware and software.

"They're designed to be incredible products individually but they're also designed to work together seamlessly," CEO Tim Cook said. "This is our vision of personal technology, and we are just getting started."

New iPads

It's been a year since Apple came out with a lighter, thinner full-size model called the iPad Air. Apple refreshed that with a device that is skinnier by 18 percent at 6.1 millimeters. The rear camera is boosted to 8 megapixels, matching what's found in iPhones. Previous iPads had a 5 megapixel camera.

The iPad Air 2 will start at $499. Apple also updated its iPad Mini device, with a starting price of $399. The new devices will begin shipping next week, with advance orders starting Friday.

Thursday's event comes as sales of Apple's iPads have dropped. Through the first half of this year, Apple had shipped 29.6 million iPads, a 13 percent drop from the same time last year. Apple plans to issue results for the latest quarter on Monday. Apple has been facing competition from cheaper tablets running Google's Android operating system. Google announced Wednesday that an 8.9-inch Nexus 9 tablet is coming next month at a starting price of $399, $100 less than the 9.7-inch iPad Air. It will run a new version of Android, dubbed Lollipop.

Besides competition, there's been an overall slowdown in tablet demand. This week, research firm Gartner projected worldwide shipments of 229 million tablets this year. Although that's up 11 percent compared with 2013, it's far less than the 55 percent growth seen last year and the more than doubling in sales in 2012.

Cook sought to address those concerns by pointing out that the 225 million iPads sold cumulatively since 2010 is more than any other product Apple has sold in the first four years after launch. He also said Apple sold more iPads in the past year than many manufacturers have for personal computers.

The step-up models of the new iPads will have double the storage of previous models. (Just like Apple's new iPhones). So the $599 iPad Air 2 will come with 64 gigabytes instead of 32 gigabytes, for instance. The $499 base model remains at 16 gigabytes.

Addressing competition from Android, Apple is also cutting the price of its 2012 iPad Mini model to $249. It had been selling for $299.

Mac update

The company unveiled new iMacs with a sharper display, following what Apple has already done on its mobile devices and MacBook laptops. The company says the new iMacs have seven times the pixels found on standard high-definition television sets. The new 27-inch iMacs have a starting price of $2,499. Apple will continue selling standard-screen models starting at $1,799 for 27 inches and $1,099 for 21.5 inches.

Apple also released its new Yosemite operating system for Macs as a free download. The Mac update includes aesthetic changes as well as new functionality, such as the ability to make phone calls with an iPhone nearby and a one-stop search tool for both locally stored documents and online resources.

Apple has been releasing Mac updates more frequently, in part to time them with annual changes to the iOS system for iPhones and iPads. Many of the new Mac features will complement what's found in iOS 8, including the ability to start tasks such as email on one device and finish on another.

During a demo, Apple executive Craig Federighi made a phone call to Stephen Colbert from his Mac and connected with the comedian. The call was actually being made through a nearby iPhone. Federighi also used Apple's upcoming Apple Watch as a remote control to control a Mac presentation being projected onto a big-screen set via Apple TV.

Apple Pay

Apple had already announced its new payments system, Apple Pay, but the iPhone feature wasn't made available right away. In announcing a Monday launch date, Cook said deals have been made with hundreds of additional banks since the service was announced last month. Cook also said additional merchants plan to accept Apple Pay by the end of the year.

With Apple Pay, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners will be able to make payments at brick-and-mortar stores by holding their phone near a card reader. The new iPhones have a wireless chip to transmit the information needed to complete the transaction. Owners of older models won't be able to use Apple Pay, even with the software update.

Consumers aren't likely to abandon plastic credit cards until a majority of retailers, especially smaller merchants, accept contactless payments such as Apple Pay. But Apple Pay may spur transactions over mobile Web browsers and apps this holiday season, since it lets consumers avoid typing in credit card information each time.

The new iPad Air 2 will be able to make browser transactions, but not payments at retail stores.

Apple Watch

Apple says it will release tools next month so that developers can begin making apps for the upcoming Apple Watch wearable device.

Rival smartwatches running Android have suffered from not having many useful apps from the start. Apple is hoping to have a strong app store in place when Apple Watch debuts next year.

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W.Va. litter control, solid waste conference set http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141017/ARTICLE/141019262 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141017/ARTICLE/141019262 Fri, 17 Oct 2014 10:48:56 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A three-day conference is set to focus on recycling, re-use and sustainability.

Officials say the 2014 West Virginia Educational Conference on Litter Control and Solid Waste Management is scheduled to begin Sunday in Huntington.

The event is sponsored by the Association of West Virginia Solid Waste Authorities and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Officials say nearly 200 participants are expected to attend, including municipal, county and state officials, as well as representatives from West Virginia's county solid waste authorities.

Sessions are scheduled to include topics such as dealing with meth lab waste, legislation and community outreach programs.

Attendees also will hear from Black Dog Salvage. The Roanoke, Virginia-based architectural salvage warehouse has been featured on a television called "Salvage Dawgs."

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