Into Antiques?

On ebay you'll find over 100 categories covering the Medieval and Renaissance periods, through Georgian, Regency and Victorian, to Edwardian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Antique Dealers in California

Linda Stamberger

Linda Stamberger, author of "Antiquing In Florida", is a Florida expert and freelance writer of many genres. Visit this site to read her articles - some of which are available for purchase - as is her book.

Brooks Novelty Antiques and Records

Brooks Novelty is an all-vinyl record store. We specialize in: jukeboxes, vintage soda machines, antique slot machines, pin balls, arcade games, neon clocks and signs, rare concert posters, old advertising signs and much more!

The Antique Company

Established in the late 1900's, we occupy a huge corner building with a small garden area that leads to another 1000 sq foot store (called TAC) that contains our Mid Century collection.

Vintage Westclox

Westclox photo identification gallery and history and information of clocks, watches and other timepieces. This site primarily displays American clocks made by Westclox that were made from the early 1900's up to about the 1960's.

Antique Appraisals On-Line

We are one of the country's largest, oldest, most qualified and respected appraisal services. The majority of our appraisals are estate and personal property evaluations for valuation documentation purposes. However, we have evaluated goods and personal property for natural disaster losses (hurricanes), theft, fire, freight and shipping damage after the loss has occurred.

Connoisseur Antiques

Featuring fine antique furniture, Connoisseur Antiques is a Los Angeles Antique Furniture Showroom specializing in antique clocks and mirrors, European and French antiques, Antique Lighting, Chandeliers, Sconces, Armoires and much more.

Liz's Antique Hardware

Antique Hardware is the backbone of our business. We offer a complete selection of door, window and furniture hardware, lighting and accessories circa 1890 to 1970.

San Francisco Antique and Design Mall

San Francisco Antique and Design Mall is the largest antique mall in northern California. We opened our doors in October 1997 with 75 dealers and today we have over 200 of San Francisco's most professional antique specialists.

Ambiance Antiques

Importer of 18th and 19th Century French Antiques

C'est La Vie Antiques

European Antique and Accessories in San Diego, CA.

Lang Antiques

We carry a large selection of fine antique jewelry, antique rings & antique engagement rings. We also have vintage estate jewelry, vintage estate rings & vintage estate engagement rings from the Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian & Art Deco style periods.

Once in a Blue Moon Online Thrift Store

We are an online thrift store featuring new, used, and unusual items.

Friday, June 29, 2012

California voters face fall ballot crowded with issues - Vacaville Reporter

California voters face fall ballot crowded with issues - Vacaville Reporter
SACRAMENTO (AP) -- California voters will be bombarded with major questions on the November ballot about raising their taxes, ending executions and limiting lifetime sentences for career criminals.

The marquee initiatives that qualified for the ballot by Thursday's deadline are competing tax measures, with one promoted by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to avoid more deep state spending cuts and another by wealthy Los Angeles civil rights attorney Molly Munger to boost education.

Labor unions will wage a high-stakes fight over political contributions, while other measures include a challenge to new political boundaries drawn for state Senate districts, tougher penalties for human sex trafficking, and regulations affecting auto insurance, genetically altered food and state budgeting.

A dozen measures have qualified for the ballot, but the number is likely to drop to 11 next week, when state lawmakers are expected to again postpone an $11 billion water bond. The bond was originally set for a vote in 2010 and is likely to be delayed again until 2014, when legislators think the proposed borrowing might have a better chance with voters.

Democratic lawmakers are moving to give Brown's tax proposal top billing on the ballot, pending a court challenge that Munger filed Thursday. His plan would raise the state sales tax and income tax for incomes over $250,000 a year, with the money going to the state budget, schools and public safety. Munger's competing plan would raise

income taxes for nearly all Californians, with most of the money going to public schools.

The heavy load of ballot measures makes it imperative for initiative supporters to get their message out if they are to have a chance, said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College.

"With 12 measures on the ballot there's a lot of confusion, and with confusion voters either don't vote or vote no," Pitney said. "That's the big challenge for all the campaigns, is to cut through the clutter."

The measures will crowd voters' ballots, but are nowhere near a record.

Voters sorted through 48 ballot measures in 1914, according to the secretary of state's office, including 17 initiatives placed there through the signature-gathering process. The remainder were put on by state legislators.

The 12 measures currently on this November's ballot are:

* Governor's tax measure: Increases income taxes on a sliding scale on incomes over $250,000 a year for seven years; increases the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. Aids the state's general fund, schools and public safety.

* Munger's tax measure: Increases income taxes for nearly all Californians on a sliding scale for 12 years. Provides some relief to the state budget for four years, but the bulk of the money goes directly for public schools.

* Water bond: Borrows $11 billion for environmental cleanups, water conservation efforts, sewage system upgrades and to explore building at least two dams. Lawmakers expect to postpone this measure until 2014.

* Union dues: Prohibits public and private employee unions, as well as corporations, from using payroll deductions to collect political funds from members.

* State budget: Requires a two-year budget cycle for state government. Bars legislators from increasing spending by more than $25 million without also making spending cuts or identifying new revenue sources in the same amount. Gives the governor more power to act in fiscal emergencies. Requires performance reviews and goals for all state and local governments.

* State Senate: Repeals the new state Senate maps drawn by an independent citizens panel. Senators are running in those new districts this year.

* Business tax: Repeals a 2009 provision that lets multistate companies choose the cheaper of two formulas for calculating their California tax liability: one that considers sales, property and payroll, or a "single-sales" formula based on product sales in California. A portion of the additional $1 billion raised would go for clean-energy projects.

* Death penalty: Abolishes the death penalty and makes life in prison without parole the harshest possible punishment. Converts condemned inmates' death sentences to life prison terms.

* Three-strikes: Allows a life sentence on a third "strike" conviction only when the new conviction is for a serious or violent crime.

* Human trafficking: Increases penalties for human sex trafficking to 15 years to life in prison. Requires that all registered sex offenders disclose to law enforcement the identities they use in online activities like social networking and email.

* Genetically modified foods: Requires mandatory labeling on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

* Auto insurance: Scales back restrictions that prevent insurance companies from setting auto insurance rates based upon a driver's history of coverage.


California Budget Trigger Cuts: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs $6 Billion In Automatic Cuts If Initiative Fails - Huffington Post

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have long warned of dire consequences if California voters reject a proposed tax hike on the November ballot. In adopting a $91.3 state billion budget, they made it clear it wasn't a hollow threat.

Lawmakers approved and the governor signed $6 billion in automatic cuts late Wednesday that will go into effect if the initiative fails. Distasteful provisions added in the final days of negotiations authorized shorter school years, less money for local police, and possible fee increases at the University of California and California State University systems.

"These trigger cuts are real," said Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu. "They will be catastrophic if the governor's initiative does not pass in November."

To make sure voters are paying attention, lawmakers also passed a separate measure that will likely give Brown's initiative top billing on the crowded fall ballot. Wealthy Los Angeles civil rights attorney Molly Munger and her rival tax initiative campaign sued the secretary of state Thursday, seeking to block what they called an abuse of power that would give the governor's proposal an unfair advantage.

The governor and lawmakers said the bulk of cuts will have to fall on public schools and universities because education accounts for more than half of state spending. The reduction could further harm the troubled education system that's responsible for more than 6 million students in nearly 10,000 schools.

Under the plan, school districts could reduce the public school year from 175 days to 160 for two years, tying Colorado for the shortest school year in the nation. California previously reduced the minimum from 180 days – the national average – in response to financial strains.

Brown said his tax proposal is fair and temporary.

"Our state budget problem was built up over a decade, and it won't be fixed overnight," " he said in a statement announcing he had signed the budget. "These temporary increases will ensure funding for our schools until the economy improves."

Brown, a Democrat, estimated the tax initiative will raise $8.5 billion in the new fiscal year starting July 1 by increasing the sales tax by a quarter cent to 7.5 percent for four years, and boosting the income tax on individuals who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years.

A recent Field Poll found California voters divided on Brown's initiative, with 52 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

Republicans blasted the way Democrats crafted the budget.

"It's a disgrace that Democrats are playing politics with the budget to sweeten the appeal for ill-fated taxes at the ballot box," Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare said after Democrats passed the budget package on a majority vote.

Republican state Sen. Anthony Canella said it's curious that K-12 education stands to be cut about $5.4 billion when state revenue is up compared to last year. He questioned whether labor rules will force school districts to keep paying teachers' salaries even if students log less days.

"Maybe you'll let the kids out of school but the teachers will still be employed and in addition to that, they'll get their full retirement for the year," Canella said.

In approving the budget with a majority vote, Democrats decided to give public universities additional funding if tuition is not raised next year and voters approve Brown's tax initiative. UC administrators supported the plan and said they would back off a proposal to increase tuition 6 percent this fall.

"We do think that it's a positive step toward bringing stability to funding for the University of California," said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein. But "it's going to take some extraordinary measures to balance our budget without a fee increase."

If voters reject the tax measure, the UC and CSU systems each face a $250 million cut, which would resurrect the possibility of a midyear tuition hike.

CSU's board of trustees has already approved raising tuition at the 23-campus system by 9 percent this fall, or $498, bringing the annual bill to $5,970 for in-state students. It remained unclear Thursday whether the university would rescind that increase.

Also included on the list of automatic cuts is a $20 million cut in grants to city police departments. In addition, the state Justice Department's law enforcement program would lose $1 million.

The Brown administration has defended state spending, saying general fund expenditures are down 11.3 percent since the peak of $103 billion in 2007-08. As a share of the state economy, general fund spending is at its lowest level since 1973, the budget states.

But add in bond spending, other sources of revenue and federal funding, and the state's total spending is the highest it has ever been. For the new budget, total state spending is at $225 billion.

Republicans noted that's an increase of 7 percent from last year.

Part of that growth is due to the federal stimulus act. The federal government handed states more money for education, infrastructure and other needs in an effort to counteract the recession, however the funding is expected to wind down.


Stockton, California, Files for Bankruptcy Protection - Bloomberg

Stockton, California filed bankruptcy after talks with bondholders and labor unions failed, making the agricultural center the biggest U.S. city to seek court protection from creditors.

The city of 292,000 listed assets of more than $1 billion and debt of $500 million to $1 billion in court filings yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento, California. The two biggest creditors named in the filing reflect the groups most likely to face cuts imposed as part of the bankruptcy: bondholders and city employees.

Stockton said its biggest unsecured creditor is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, , the largest U.S. pension fund, owed $147.5 million, followed by Wells Fargo Bank NA, as trustee for $124.3 million in pension obligation bonds, and Wells Fargo as trustee for three other sets of bondholders owed $107 million, according to court papers.

“We are extremely disappointed that we have been unable to avoid bankruptcy,” Mayor Ann Johnston said in a statement. “This is what we must do to get our fiscal house in order and protect the safety and welfare of our citizens. We will emerge from bankruptcy with a solid financial future.”

The Chapter 9 filing allows the city to suspend payments to creditors while it seeks court approval for a plan that balances its revenue with its debt. The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for defaulting on $10.2 million in debt payments and cutting $11.2 million in employee pay and benefits under union contracts that could be voided by the bankruptcy court.

“Citizens will not see any changes in service after July 1” the city said in a statement yesterday, referring to the date that a new budget will be in place.

Union Vote

A river port about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of San Francisco, Stockton ran out of options after three months of negotiations with creditors ended June 25 without enough concessions to close a $26 million deficit.

The city’s biggest union, the Stockton City Employees Association, was set to vote tonight on a new labor agreement that city officials proposed during the negotiations, association lawyer Joe Rose said yesterday in a phone interview. Rose declined to provide details about the offer, citing the confidentiality of the talks.

“Obviously, we are not going to be looking for any increases,” he said. “It’s all varying degrees of take- aways.”

The negotiations, which were required under California law before Stockton could file bankruptcy, helped both sides prepare, Rose said. That may make it easier to reach a deal in court, he said.

Contract Change

During the talks, the city established a secure website that included a large amount of financial data, Rose said. That information was used by the union’s financial adviser to assess the city’s fiscal situation.

The union, which represents workers other than police officers or firefighters, had its contract unilaterally changed by city officials, Rose said. The union is challenging that action, he said.

If a judge concludes the city violated state labor laws, the employees may have the right to a bankruptcy claim worth about $12 million, Rose said. The city would probably contest that claim, he said.

Wells Fargo (WFC) & Co. is acting on behalf of bondholders and not itself, said Elise Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based bank. The bank didn’t lend the city any money, she said in an e-mail.

The bank “expects to take an active role in the bankruptcy proceedings,” Wilkinson said. Stockton’s bondholders include individuals and institutions, such as mutual funds, pension funds and retirement accounts, she said.

Bank’s Efforts

“All our efforts in the bankruptcy proceedings will be directed toward achieving a recovery for the holders of Stockton bonds,” she said.

Cities like Stockton have the ability to amend their contract to change some benefits for future employees subject to collective bargaining rules, Brad Pacheco, a spokesman for Calpers, said in an e-mail.

Municipal bankruptcies in the U.S., while still rare compared to corporate filings, became more common after the housing and financial crisis began. Ten of 42 cases filed since 1981 came in the past four years, according to court records.

The biggest municipal bankruptcy was filed last year by Jefferson County, Alabama, which is trying to restructure $4.2 billion in debt, most of which is tied to sewer bond deals tainted by corruption.

Stockton’s bankruptcy will probably resemble the 2008 case of another California city, Vallejo, which exited court protection last year, Sacramento bankruptcy attorney Dale Ginter said. Both have been hurt by high labor costs, particularly health insurance for retirees, he said.

Retiree Health Care

“Retirees are not going to be happy,” said Ginter, who represented retired Vallejo workers in that city’s bankruptcy. “My prediction is that retiree health care is cut. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it cut to zero.”

Bondholders and current employees will probably also have to take less, said Ginter, who has reviewed city financial reports.

Stockton is the biggest city, by population, to file Chapter 9, according to Jim Spiotto, a bankruptcy attorney with Chapman and Cutler LLP who helped write a book about municipalities in financial distress. He identified the other major municipalities that have filed for bankruptcy as the San Jose School District, which sought court protection in 1983; Bridgeport, Connecticut, which filed in 1991; Orange County, California, filing in 1994; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Jefferson County, both of which filed last year. Vallejo sought court protection in 2008.

San Jose, Bridgeport, and Harrisburg all had their cases dismissed before they were able to enact plans to adjust their debt.

Creditor Talks

“We’ve worked really hard with our creditors and we’ve been unable to close the gap,” City Manager Bob Deis told the Stockton City Council on June 26. “If we get any agreements in the near future, then those will be honored in Chapter 9,” he said, referring to the federal bankruptcy code section under which municipalities and cities seek court protection.

Bankruptcy allows the city to break contracts with creditors without the threat of lawsuits, though it won’t assure the city’s recovery, he said.

Dale Fritchen, the only one of seven council members to vote against the plan, said he wasn’t convinced there was no alternative.

“I think it’s going to hurt Stockton more than it will help Stockton,” Fritchen said June 26.

Financial Review

In February, the city began a process during which it is required by state law to review its finances with help from a “neutral observer” who is picked in cooperation with creditors. That review is similar to a mediation process in which creditors have a right to participate, according to the law, passed last year at the request of California labor unions.

Salaries for current workers and benefits for them and former employees account for about 68 percent of the city’s general fund, the city said.

Stockton had the third-highest number of murders among California cities with a population of more than 100,000 people in 2011 with 58, behind Los Angeles with 297 and Oakland with 104, according to FBI data.

‘Crisis Level’

The city has cut services so much during the past two years that “public safety is at a crisis level,” officials said in a June 5 fiscal report. Unemployment, at 15.4 percent in April, was almost double the national average according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The collapse of the housing market left Stockton to contend with mounting retiree health-care costs and eroding tax dollars in the wake of the recession, amid accounting errors that overstated municipal revenues.

Negotiations with creditors began on March 27 and were extended to June 25. Calpers and Wells Fargo, the nation’s biggest home lender, and bond insurer Assured Guaranty (AGO) were among at least 18 creditors involved in the talks.

The case is In Re Stockton, 12-32118, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).

To contact the reporters on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware at; Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Pickering at; Stephen Merelman at

Enlarge image Stockton, California, Files for Bankruptcy Court Protection

Stockton, California, Files for Bankruptcy Court Protection

Stockton, California, Files for Bankruptcy Court Protection

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The old Bank of Stockton building stands in Stockton, California. Stockton “is fiscally insolvent and must seek chapter 9 bankruptcy protection,” city officials said in a June 27 statement after its council voted 6-1 to adopt a spending plan for operating under bankruptcy protection.

The old Bank of Stockton building stands in Stockton, California. Stockton “is fiscally insolvent and must seek chapter 9 bankruptcy protection,” city officials said in a June 27 statement after its council voted 6-1 to adopt a spending plan for operating under bankruptcy protection. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg


California growers join greens to query frack safety -

SALINAS, California (Reuters) - Hydraulic fracturing has brought together greens and growers in California through a shared concern about the impact of the practice on water in a state where it is often in short supply.

The strawberry industry lined up alongside environmentalists to voice their fears over fracking at a public hearing in Salinas at the Steinbeck Institute, named for a renowned author whose writing immortalized the region's agricultural history.

Fracking, or pumping chemical-laced water and sand into a well to open cracks that release oil and gas, has generated a fierce U.S. debate, leading to bans in one state and several municipalities. Yet the industry insists the practice is safe so long as wells are properly constructed.

California officials are on a tour to gather feedback from communities that may be affected by it, with plans to issue draft rules on fracking within three to four months.

"Farmers and environmentalists may not always see eye to eye, but we all rely on clean water," said Jonathan Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. "When you have the greens and growers speaking out on the dangers of fracking, it's time for the regulators to sit up and listen."

Jason Marshall, deputy head of California's Department of Conservation, said the latest workshop on the subject was the first to hear from the state's strawberry growers, who supply an estimated 88 percent of the U.S. crop.

"If there's a spill on their field, nobody's going to buy from them," Carolyn O'Donnell of the California Strawberry Commission, speaking for the growers, told the hearing on Wednesday night in Salinas.

The city is located at the northern end of Monterey County, which captures just part of the vast Monterey shale formation - estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration to hold 15 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, or four times that of the Bakken formation in North Dakota.

The Monterey shale was among the areas mentioned by the EIA this week when it forecast that U.S. production of such "tight" oil would double by 2035.

California is among the oldest U.S. sources of oil, with production going back to the late 19th century, but the industry is in long-term decline, falling by half since the mid-1980s.

Agriculture, on the other hand, remains a lucrative part of its economy, as well as a potent political force. About $4 billion in revenue was generated by agriculture in Monterey County alone in 2011, said Jocelyn Gretz, who has a masters in water management and now works for farmers in Salinas.

Tim Kustic, the state's oil and gas supervisor, told the meeting that most frack jobs of conventional California wells used no more than 500,000 gallons of water - which he compared with the 650,000 gallons that fill an Olympic swimming pool.

Such fracking has taken place in the state for 30 years, but there is more concern when it is combined with the "unconventional" practice of drilling horizontally through the reservoir.

A report on nationwide water usage in fracking by the Oakland, California-based Pacific Institute, which came out last week, said estimates varied from 2 million to 13 million gallons of water per well that was fracked and unconventionally drilled.

The combination of the two techniques is what opened up shale basins nationwide, and Marshall of the Department of Conservation said the potential for unconventional drilling in the state was a big reason for revisiting the regulations.

But given the level of public scrutiny, Marshall did not expect new rules to be finalized until mid-2013. As for state legislation to halt fracking, it has received little support.

"Most of the people in our area are not adamantly opposed to fracking as much as we are opposed to fracking without any additional information," said Paula Getzleman, co-owner of Tre Gatti Vineyards in southern Monterey County, where Venoco Inc has been active.

At least three exploratory wells had been drilled several miles away from her property, Getzleman said in a phone interview, though it was close to a vital local watershed. "Any spoiling of that water is going to affect everyone," she added.

Occidental Petroleum Corp is actively targeting the Monterey shale, though most of its acreage is over the hills in Kern County - the traditional home of the state's oil business.

(Reporting by Braden Reddall in Salinas; Editing by Patricia Kranz and Phil Berlowitz)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at:


California Says Au Revoir to Foie Gras - CNBC

"I never thought I'd see the day when I can smoke pot in California but not eat foie gras."

That was a comment from a man who paid $65 earlier this month to attend a party in San Francisco pairing foie gras with fine wines.

The party was supposed to be a secret farewell to a food banned for sale and production in the Golden State as of July 1.

However, animal rights activists discovered its location and set up a protest outside, shouting, "Helpless ducks are force fed!"

The party was thrown by Laurel Pine, owner of Mirepoix USA, an online seller of fine foods.

"Foie gras is probably about 40 percent of our business," she says. Pine's business used to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she has decamped to Reno, Nevada, because of the upcoming ban.

"I think it is the beginning of an agenda to really limit what people eat, and to try to change people's eating habits to not eat meat."

The bill, passed in 2004, gave the industry eight years to adapt before the law took affect. After Sunday, those caught selling foie gras produced through force feeding face fines of $1,000.

"It's not a ban on foie gras, it's a ban on animal cruelty," says John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party.

Burton authored the ban back when he was in the State Senate, and he says selling or producing foie gras will still be legal if it doesn't come from force fed ducks. Foie gras fans say when ducks gorge themselves, the product is inferior.

Chefs are outraged. "I think we just thought it was going to go away," says Greg Daniels of the ban. He owns the Haven Gastropub in Pasadena, where he sells a foie gras cheesecake. "To chefs around the world, they think it's ridiculous. It's the stupidest thing that Californians could ever do, and it just proves the Californians are stupid."

"What's next after foie gras?" asks Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre.

"You cannot replace foie gras."

Many chefs claim force feeding is not painful, as ducks have no gag reflex.

"Ducks have a collagen-lined esophagus that they are able to swallow entire fish," says Chef Daniels. He believes animals rights groups have gone after foie gras because it's an easier battle than taking on big companies which practice "factory farming of was easy to go after something that is considered a 'one percenter' food."

Opponents of the ban say it will impact California tourism, as foodies may choose to go to Las Vegas instead. John Burton, the bill's author, disagrees. "There's somebody, say, from Cincinnati, and they want to go to California. They want to see the beaches, Disneyland," he says. "'Oh, God, they don't have foie gras. Let's go to, you know, South Dakota."

Foie gras fans are hoping to have the law overturned. In the meantime, possession will still be legal, only the sale and production are banned. Some chefs wonder who might test the law by giving foie gras away for free and charging more for everything else.

Some of those at Laurel Pine's farewell party are planning to hire couriers to buy foie gras in Nevada and bring it across state lines. "Like prohibition, it'll come back," says one.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email


Contemporary furniture exhibition set to take the art world by storm -

A new art exhibition, featuring limited edition pieces of furniture worth thousands of pounds, has gone on display in Aberdeen.

The work by young, emerging Scottish designers is the latest craze taking the art world by storm.

The month-long exhibition held in Aberdeen’s Smart Gallery called ‘Forms of Curiosity’ features five contemporary furniture makers and a sculptor from Scotland.

Sally Reaper of the Smart Gallery said: “This is our third show at the gallery and I think it is really important for us to put on an exhibition that is quite different for Aberdeen.

“The importance of the show is about giving voice to Scottish craft, putting it in a gallery context and presenting it in an unconventional way.

“The pieces are so bespoke in design and as they are so individually handcrafted they really are one-off pieces. It is a great chance for the public to see these types of furnitures which they may not have encountered before.”

The exhibition ends on July 29.


French cry foul as California foie gras ban nears - Reuters

LOS ANGELES | Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:57am EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sunday marks a turning point in the culinary calendar of California when a ban enacted nearly eight years ago on foie gras - the gourmet food made from the fattened livers of force-fed ducks and geese - takes effect.

In advance of the July 1 date, some businesses have moved out of state and others have closed. Many chefs and restaurants have held foie gras dinners in a final toast to the delicacy they love, while animal rights activists have cheered and jeered. And n France, the major producer and consumer of the delicacy, politicians and chefs have cried foul.

"I'm sad. I'm disappointed. I'm going to get as much in as I can while we can," said Christina Kurtz, who attended a six-course foie gras dinner recently in the southern California city of Santa Monica, adjacent to Los Angeles.

Foie gras, which means "fatty liver" in French, is produced by force-feeding corn - a process known as gavage - to ducks and geese with a tube-like device in order to enlarge their livers. When fattened, the birds are slaughtered and the organs are harvested to make gourmet dishes.

The process dates back centuries, but in late 2004, then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning the sale of foie gras. The law included a grace period to allow chefs and farmers time to find alternative production.

Seven-and-one-half years and no new methods later, any restaurant serving the gourmet food will be fined up to $1,000.

It is unclear exactly how much foie gras is consumed in the state, but well before the ban, some California cooks had banded together as C.H.E.F.S. - the Coalition of Humane and Ethical Farming Standards - to raise awareness about how the ban will impact their profession.

"It's a treat for chefs to get to cook for people to enjoy foie gras. And it's an art, not everyone knows how to cook foie gras properly, and it's unfortunate for the consumer to have it taken away," said Nyesha Arrington, head chef at the Wilshire restaurant in Santa Monica.


The ban impacts a small group of farms and shops that have already moved out of state, including culinary website Mirepoix, which specializes in foie gras and other gourmet foods from a new home in Nevada.

Laurel Pine, founder of Mirepoix, said in the last month sales have boomed with most packages shipping to California. She expects that when June sales have wrapped up, she will have sold four times the usual amount of the delicacy.

"People in California are buying products they can keep in their freezer for the next two years," said Pine.

The ban has been a victory for animal rights activists, who have crashed some of the foie gras dinner parties, holding banners asking "how much cruelty can you swallow," and chanting "that's not dinner, that's diseased liver."

"Foie gras is a barbaric product. It never should have existed. It certainly should not exist now in 2012 ... Culture, tradition, none of it justifies torturing an animal," said Bryan Pease, co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League.

Yet, some farmers and foodmakers don't see gavage as cruel, and point out that the animals' physiology can handle the process. And the French, as a country, are upset.

"It's a question of cultural shock," said Marie-Pierre Pe, general delegate of the Paris-based Interprofessional Committee of Foie Gras. "Could you imagine France banning ketchup or hamburgers?"

Pe told Reuters the economic effect was negligible, given already low exports to the United States due to customs barriers and veterinary rules. France's foreign ministry weighed-in during an online press briefing on Thursday, saying the country "can only regret California's decision."

Star chef Andre Daguin likened the ban to the U.S. Prohibition against alcohol during the 1920s.

"This will spur consumption and people will make fortunes thanks to it. I wouldn't go as far as to say it will create a new Al Capone, but it's like that," Daguin said.

Some Californians agree.

"Truth is, it's going to be like pot where it's supposed to be illegal but anybody can get it," said Los Angeles chef Mark Peel. "If you want to get Cuban rum, you can, if you want to get Cuban cigars, you can ... you just have to do your research and find it."

Indeed, that won't be hard for customers of Mirepoix. Pine plans to open a foie gras shop on the California-Nevada border. (Reporting by Alicia Avila; Additional Reporting by Jean Decotte and John Irish in France; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Leslie Gevirtz)


California is most prepared for health care law - San Francisco Gate

No state is more prepared than California to move ahead with health care reform now that the Supreme Court has spoken.

The state, with the nation's largest number of uninsured people at 7 million, moved aggressively to implement the law from the moment it was signed by President Obama in March 2010.

Already, hundreds of thousands of low-income Californians have access to health care, thousands of people with pre-existing health conditions have coverage and parents can keep their adult children on their coverage until age 26.

The state has the potential to draw in billions of federal dollars to continue building the framework for the new law and to expand the number of people eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid health program for the poor, by as many as 3 million people.

Thursday's Supreme Court decision is "a victory for consumers; it's a victory for California," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer health advocacy group. "It's a huge relief for the half million who are already getting coverage under the law, it's a relief to millions who have new consumer protections they wanted to keep."

The ruling means continued health care for low-income Californians who are already covered through county-run programs and for young adults who have been allowed to stay on their parents' plans. Seniors stuck with high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs through Medicare will get relief, and thousands of people with pre-existing health conditions will not be denied insurance.

Virtual marketplace

A key element of the law is what's known as the health insurance exchange, a state or federal-run virtual marketplace where people in 2014 are expected to be able to buy insurance at competitive prices, many with the help of federal subsidies.

California was the first state to set up its exchange and is preparing to enroll people in fall 2013 for coverage in 2014.

The state has moved forward with other key elements of the law, such as expanding coverage to low-income residents who don't qualify for Medi-Cal under current rules. Already some 400,000 low-income Californians, mostly childless adults, are covered through temporary programs in 47 counties funded with the help of federal money. Most of these residents will be transferred in 2014 to Medi-Cal.

The state has also enrolled about 11,000 Californians in a new high-risk insurance pool created by the federal law for people whose medical histories make it difficult or impossible to get coverage.

Hope for the future

Uninsured residents like Edith Gonzalez, a 26-year-old Academy of Art University student in San Francisco, hope the federal law will help them.

Gonzalez had insurance when she needed emergency surgery last fall to remove her gall bladder. But, she said, her insurer denied her claim, saying the gall bladder issue was a pre-existing condition. Until she needed surgery, she said she didn't even know she had the problem.

Gonzales now has a $120,000 medical bill and can no longer afford health insurance. She hopes the law will enable her to buy coverage again, regardless of her health history. "The passing of this gives me an opportunity to really try to get insurance (companies) to see me as person, not just as a figure for some accountant," she said.

The element of the law already in place that lets grown children stay on their parents' policies until age 26 has particular resonance in this era of high unemployment.

Robin Hansen, of San Francisco, has two sons, age 19 and 21, with health conditions that would make it difficult for them to find coverage on their own. Now she's assured they won't be denied insurance when they're forced off her policy at age 26.

That will be in five years for her oldest, who has learning disabilities.

"I'm hoping he'll have a job where there will be some kind of insurance offered," Hansen said, "but if he does have to buy some kind of private or supplemental insurance, he won't be discriminated against."

For the health law's advocates, the one setback Thursday was the court's decision to strike down a provision to withhold federal funding to states that declined to expand their Medicaid programs to more people.

That ruling will probably not have an impact in California, however.

"California has already taken the initial steps to begin implementing the Medicaid expansion, so it's unlikely the state will pull back," said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform for Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts research and tracks health care policy.

Federal aid

Thursday's ruling means California, which has not committed general funds to the effort, stands to reap billions of dollars in federal funds for further expansion.

For the Medi-Cal expansion alone, between 2014 and 2019, the state expects to receive about $45 billion in federal matching funds, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To date, the Kaiser Family Foundation calculated that California has received about $270 million to expand its network of health centers and clinics to accommodate the growth in the number of patients covered under Medi-Cal.

Already, California has been granted $40 million in federal dollars to set up the exchange, and on Wednesday submitted an application for $196 million in additional planning and startup money for 2014.

Sally Pipes, president and chief executive officer of the right-leaning Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, argued that the federal government is not able to help the states as much as they need.

"Whatever the funds that come to California, it's not going to be enough to make a huge expansion of our Medicaid program," she said, adding that private insurance would continue to increase in cost. "It's going to cause more business to leave the state and more people to leave the state."

Hospitals and doctors had mixed views of the Supreme Court's decision.

Sue Currin, chief executive officer of San Francisco General Hospital, said health providers are concerned about physician shortages. She said elements of the health law have already provided coverage for more low-income residents.

"We've been on that road since 2010, and we're just thrilled it's going to continue," she said, adding that she hopes it will reduce uninsured patients in the county hospital's emergency department. "It's just going to take some time to work."

What the ruling means to Californians

California, which has about 7 million uninsured residents, has been in the forefront of putting many elements of the federal health law into place. The following are some of the benefits available to residents through the legislation:

Buying insurance: Consumers will be able to buy health insurance in 2014 through the California Health Benefit Exchange, the marketplace established by the health law. The federal government will help subsidize individuals and families making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

Low-income people: Already, more than 400,000 low-income adults, most of whom are childless and otherwise do not qualify for government programs, are receiving coverage through low-income health programs in 47 counties. Most of these recipients will transfer to Medi-Cal in 2014.

Temporary plan: About 11,000 Californians are receiving coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which was set up by the federal law for people whose medical histories make obtaining coverage impossible or unaffordable. The program will last until 2014, when insurers will no longer be allowed to reject applicants based on their health under federal law.

Children: Young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents' health insurance policies up to age 26. An estimated 350,000 Californians are currently receiving coverage through this provision.

Other changes: A series of changes affecting health insurers include the elimination of lifetime caps on health benefits and a requirement that insurers spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care. They can no longer reject children under 18 because of their medical problems, a rule that will extend to adults in 2014.

Victoria Colliver is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:


Sella Furniture Group falls into administration with loss of 19 jobs in Dundee - Courier

Nineteen jobs have been lost at the Dundee base of office furniture manufacturer Sella after the company collapsed into administration.

sella office furniture

The shutters down at Sella's site in Dundee.

The privately-owned firm — which has its headquarters in Bury, Lancashire and a factory at Gourdie Industrial Estate, Dundee — failed on Wednesday after suffering insurmountable financial difficulties.

Manchester corporate insolvency experts Bridgestones were called in to oversee the administration and the Dundee and Bury facilities were shut down with immediate effect.

Thirty-three employees across the two group sites lost their jobs.

The company produced several ranges of office furniure including desks, storage and seating products and also provided a planning service to map out customer requirements for new office suites.

The manufacturing process at Dundee involved computer-aided design techniques and machining on a CNC router.

Bridgestones managing partner Robert Cooksey confirmed the administration and said efforts are under way to find a buyer for the business.

Representatives of the company travelled to Dundee on Wednesday to visit the factory site, which is now standing silent behind a padlocked metal fence.

A statement released to The Courier on Thursday said: ''Robert Cooksey and Johnathan Lord were appointed joint administrators of Sella Office Furniture and Seating Limited on June 27, 2012, by the debenture holder Equip4Work Ltd.

''We are currently exploring all options with regards to the sale or disposal of the business.''

Unaudited abbreviated accounts for Sella signed by director Francis Duffy show a loss of £206,558 for the trading period ending August 31 last year.

Total assets less current liabilities were £186,462, but the accounts noted a debenture dated March 21, 2011.

The debenture related to a sum of £338,020 which was said to ''fall due'' after more than one year and meant overall net liabilities for the company in the red to the tune of £151,558.

The Courier contacted Dumfries firm Equip4Work for comment but none was forthcoming.

One former employee of Sella in Dundee — who asked not to be named — told The Courier the company had picked up a string of smaller orders in recent weeks but could not fulfil them.

The worker described the lay-offs as ''ridiculous'', saying: ''The company couldn't cut materials we had in our factory because we hadn't paid for them yet because we hadn't had money from someone else.''

Dundee West Joe FitzPatrick MSP said he would be raising the situation with enterprise minister Fergus Ewing.

He said: ''I am concerned to hear of 19 employees losing their jobs as a result of Sella Office Furniture going into administration.

''Given the information that the company locally seemed to be thriving with orders for manufacturing office furniture, I will be writing to the Minister for Enterprise Fergus Ewing to ask him to look into the circumstances of this company's collapse.''

He added: ''I will also ask him to ensure that support is provided to the employees losing their jobs with assistance in re-training or finding suitable vacancies.''


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