From the monthly archives: July 2014

July 31st 2014 edition of the Tribune Weekly Chronicle

WEEKLY-CHRON SUN STD 01.qxd Tribune Weekly Chronicle 07-31-14

072514-blackheroin-wpoe-p#2-FY14SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry along the California/Mexico border over the weekend intercepted 15 attempts to smuggle more than a ton of various narcotics, valued at approximately $2.6 million.


CBP officers at the six land ports of entry foiled attempts to smuggle heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine concealed in various areas of vehicles such as inside gas tanks, floors, tires, and inside the roof of a commercial trailer.


Two enforcement actions are highlighted below:


Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 25, a 47-year-old male Mexican citizen entered the Calexico downtown port of entry driving a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup.  A CBP officer referred the vehicle and driver for a more in-depth inspection.


While conducting an intensive search of the pickup, officers utilized the port’s imaging system and detected anomalies within both of the vehicle’s quarter panels.  Officers continued their inspection and ultimately discovered 11 wrapped packages of heroin hidden inside compartments built into the vehicle’s fenders.


The second incident occurred at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, when CBP officers encountered a 2001 Freightliner tractor-trailer that entered the Otay Mesa commercial facility carrying a shipment of watermelons.  Officers referred the truck and trailer to the dock for further examination.


Officers utilized the port’s imaging system and discovered anomalies within the roof of the trailer.  They drilled into a section of the roof and ultimately discovered 41 wrapped bundles stashed inside a hidden compartment built along the length of the trailer.


The bundles field-tested positive as marijuana and yielded a total weight of more than 1,570 pounds.  The marijuana has an estimated street value of more than $940,000.


In both cases, the drivers were turned over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigations agents for further processing.

CBP seized the vehicles and narcotics.


CBP officers also captured 18 other individuals wanted on outstanding felony warrants for such crimes as burglary, dangerous drugs, parole violations, and fraud.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry.  CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


dollar tree

Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

Dollar Tree  is buying its larger rival Family Dollar  in a cash and stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion. “This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers and strengthen and diversify our store footprint,” Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser said in a statement.

Discount chains have been struggling to boost sales as Walmart  and other retailers invaded their space by offering more items for a buck or less to lure more low-income consumers.

Family Dollar, in particular, has struggled to remain competitive among the deep discounters. Earlier this year, the company slashed prices and announced it would close 370 stores, in an effort compete with rivals like Dollar General and Walmart, which is diversifying its own retail strategy by building smaller stores that target a different audience that the giant mega-stores.

Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine abandoned the strategy the company had been using: discounting only certain items, while others remained at full price, and embraced the “everyday low price” strategy favored by Walmart and other rivals. But the strategy failed. Cost increases more than canceled out the revenue boost from the steep price cuts. Family Dollar recently reported a 6.1% sales decline during its second quarter.

With its focus on the lowest end consumers, Family Dollar has borne the brunt of what many still maintain is an economic recovery that has ignored lower income households.

Those weak results made Family Dollar the weakest of the Big Three dollar stores. Dollar Tree, with its focus on slightly higher-end customers than Family Dollar and stores in more suburban areas saw net sales grow 7.2% for the quarter ending May 4th. Same-store-sales and average transaction size also improved for Dollar Tree. Dollar General, which had been thought to be the most likely purchaser of Family Dollar, just posted its 25th straight quarter of improving traffic and overall sales growth of 7%.

The relatively weak results led Family Dollar’s stock to badly lag the other players in the industry. Prior to takeover chatter picking up last month, FDO shares were down more than 15% compared to slight gains for Dollar Tree and Dollar General.

The New Landscape for discounters

Post-merger Family Dollar and Dollar Tree will be better positioned to compete with Dollar General but the 800 pound gorilla is still Walmart.

The new combined company will have more than 13,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada and more than $18 billion in sales. That will give the chain some leverage with suppliers but nothing like what Walmart is able to command with its 11,000 stores that average roughly 10x the size of a Family Dollar. 

The merger doesn’t impact Walmart quite as directly as you would think. Together, the new company and Dollar General add up to only 15% of Walmart’s U.S. revenue. It is hard to move the needle when you go up against a company like Walmart with more than $260 billion in annual sales and 1.3 million employees in the U.S. alone.

That said, Walmart has been having a tough time in the U.S. market. In May, it reported its fifth straight quarter of negative sales. Just last week, it announced that the CEO of its U.S. division Bill Simon will step down and be replaced by Walmart’s head of Asia, Greg Foran.

Walmart has recently announced plans to accelerate its roll-out of Walmart Neighborhood Market as well as its even smaller Walmart Express operations. Walmart doesn’t have a choice but to expand smaller footprint stores. Its Neighborhood Markets are growing sales at stores that have been open more than a year at a greater than 4% rate, a rare bright light with the larger-box Super Stores struggling to stay flat.

None of which addresses Target  which has CityTarget stores of 80,000 feet in urban areas and last week announced a TargetExpress prototype that will be the same 20,000 foot size as the dollar stores.

The Big Winner: Carl Icahn

However, the Dollar Tree/Family Dollar combo will turn up the heat on Dollar General which was activist investor Carl Icahn’s first choice for a merger partner. Icahn, who owns a 9.4% stake in Family Dollar, has been pressuring Family Dollar to put itself up for sale. Icahn’s stated choice to pair Dollar General and Family Dollar was stymied by the retirement of Dollar General’s long-time CEO but as this deal proves yet again, it’s a mistake to underestimate Icahn’s ability to get things done.

And Icahn still comes away a winner. Based on SEC filings, Icahn will likely make $180-million dollars from the deal assuming he retained the stake he announced in late May. Not a bad haul for less than 4 months of work.


State Water Board Approves Emergency Regulation to Ensure
Agencies and State Residents Increase Water Conservation
For Immediate Release Contact: George Kostyrko
July 15, 2014 (916) 341-7365

drought1.jpg w=620&h=349&crop=1In response to the ongoing severe drought, on Tuesday the State Water Resources Control Board approved an emergency regulation to ensure water agencies, their customers and state residents increase water conservation in urban settings or face possible fines or other enforcement.
The new conservation regulation is intended to reduce outdoor urban water use. The regulation, adopted by the State Water Board, mandates minimum actions to conserve water supplies both for this year and into 2015. Most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors. In some areas,
50 percent or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping.
Many communities and water suppliers have taken bold steps over the years and in this year to reduce water use; however, many have not and much more can and should be done statewide to extend diminishing water supplies.
With this regulation, all Californians will be expected to stop: washing down driveways and sidewalks; watering of outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff; using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle, and using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated. The regulation makes an exception for health and safety circumstances.
Larger water suppliers will be required to activate their Water Shortage Contingency Plan to a level where outdoor irrigation restrictions are mandatory. In communities where no water shortage contingency plan exists, the regulation requires that water suppliers either limit outdoor irrigation to twice a week or implement other comparable conservation actions. Finally, large water suppliers must report water use on a monthly basis to track progress.
Local agencies could ask courts to fine water users up to $500 a day for failure to implement conservation requirements in addition to their existing authorities and processes. The State Water
Board could initiate enforcement actions against water agencies that don’t comply with the new regulations. Failure to comply with a State Water Board enforcement order by water agencies is subject to up to a $10,000 a day penalty.
“We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “And, more important, we have no idea when it will end. This drought’s impacts are being felt by communities all over California. Fields are fallowed; communities are running out of water, fish and wildlife will be devastated. The least that urban
Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve more, now, to avoid far more harsh restrictions, if the drought lasts into the future. These regulations are meant to spark awareness of the seriousness of the situation, and could be expanded if the drought wears on and people do not act.”

In addition to approving the emergency conservation regulation today, the State Water Board made a plea for water suppliers, communities and businesses to do even more. For example, water agencies are being asked to step up their programs to fix leaks and other sources of water loss, use more recycled water or captured stormwater, and find additional ways to incentivize demand reduction among their customers.

The new regulation was developed following two drought emergency declarations by Governor Brown. On January 17, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a drought emergency proclamation following three dry or critically dry years in California.

The April 25 Executive Order issued by the Governor directs the State Water Board to adopt an emergency regulation as it deems necessary, pursuant to Water Code section 1058.5, to ensure that urban water suppliers implement conservation measures.

As drought conditions continue, the State Water Board may revisit this regulation and consider other measures to enhance conservation efforts throughout the state.

Following Board adoption, the regulation will likely go into effect on or about August 1, following submittal to the Office of Administrative Law. The emergency regulation remains in effect for 270 days, unless extended by the State Water Board due to ongoing drought conditions.
For more information on the proposals leading to this Board action, please visit the Emergency Water Conservation website.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste – visit to find out how everyone can do their part, and visit Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.

Sec. 864 Prohibited Activities in Promotion of Water Conservation

(a) To promote water conservation, each of the following actions is prohibited,

except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with

a term or condition in a permit issued by a state or federal agency:

(1) The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes

runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and

public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;

(2) The use of a hose that dispenses potable water to wash a motor vehicle, except

where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to

cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;

(3) The application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks; and

(4) The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water feature,

except where the water is part of a recirculating system.

(b) The taking of any action prohibited in subdivision (a) of this section, in

addition to any other applicable civil or criminal penalties, is an infraction, punishable by

a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500) for each day in which the violation occurs.



Tribune Sun Page 01.qxd Holtville Tribune 07-25-14

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