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Shakespeare in the Park
Jul 28, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend
On August 2 and 3, head to the John Muir Amphitheater in Martinez for the Fifth Annual Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park, presenting A Midsummer Night's Dream . Bring a picnic lunch or purchase one f...


Contra Costa County Mayors' Healthy Cookoff
The 6th Annual Contra Costa County Mayors’ Healthy Cookoff competition will be held at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Thursday, July 31st . Nineteen Contra Costa County cities were invited to bri...
Jul 24, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend
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Bark For Life on Aug. 2 - Register Now
Woof’s happening? Dog of all sizes and breeds are invited to “take a bite out of cancer” at the fourth annual Bark For Life of Pleasant Hill. This cancer-fighting fundraiser will be held from 9 a.m...
Jul 21, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend
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Pleasant Hill's Blues & Brews
On Saturday, July 19 crowds of people came to enjoy the 5th Annual Blues and Brews Festival. It was a day of craft beer tasting, beach ball dodging, delicious food and free music, including Caroomp...
Jul 19, 2014 | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend
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BREAKING: PG&E charged with obstruction in NTSB’s investigation of deadly San Bruno explosion.

2014-07-29 17:32:26 -0700

A broken water main near the UCLA campus is spewing water into the air, and stranding cars and people in underground parking structures.

Television news reports show an immense geyser surging from the middle of the street on Sunset Boulevard. Streets on and near campus are flooded, and fast-moving sheets of water are pouring down the entrance of a parking structure and into campus athletic fields near Pauley Pavilion.

TV reports also show a car surrounded by muddy water up to the wheel wells and students wading through ankle-deep water.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey says fire crews have helped at least three stranded drivers.

There's no word on what caused the break.

2014-07-29 16:42:01 -0700

Dramatic surveillance video shows two women running for their lives on a railroad bridge, then dropping down on the tracks just before the train runs them over. Amazingly, both women survived.

"When the trains topped, the two women crawled out from under the engine, started running this way," Eric Powell, with Indiana Railroad, said. “(The conductor) yelled back and asked them, 'Are you okay?' One yelled she had stubbed her toe, (but was) otherwise fine. I'm sure their nerves were as shattered as his were." (WTHR.com)

Watching the video, It’s hard to believe that a stubbed toe was the worst of their physical injuries.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvpnqT1wtvM

The incident happened earlier this month on the Indiana Railroad bridge northeast of Bloomington at Lake Lemon. The bridge is 80 feet high. There are no walkways because pedestrians are not allowed.

The 100-car coal train braked hard, Powell said, but was across the bridge before it was able to stop.

Indiana Railroad plans to prosecute the two women for criminal trespass to send a message to others.

2014-07-29 16:15:33 -0700

Researchers in England are saying your physical appearance largely impacts how others perceive your personality. 

"Facial features like the shape of a person's jaw, mouth and eyes can almost instantaneously contribute to what kind of personality we sum up someone with. ... A lot can ride on a single selfie." (Via ABC)

It's no wonder people are taking so many darn selfies right now — apparently, a lot rides on those photos. 

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says, "Despite enormous variation in ambient images of faces, a substantial proportion of the variance in first impressions can be accounted for through linear changes in objectively defined features."

Yeah, that sounds like a bunch of scientific gibberish. So let's break it down. Researchers took 1,000 faces from the Internet and showed them to at least six people, who then rated their perceptions of the photo subjects' intelligence and other characteristics.

"They tracked 65 facial features, noting the subtle differences in the jaws, the eyes, the mouth and the cheekbones." (Via CBS)

Using that data, researchers built a model of how someone's face could quickly give impressions of three main characteristics: approachability, dominance and attractiveness. (Via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

Once the cartoon faces were created, it was test time again.

As BBC notes, the researchers' cartoons evoked the appropriate responses from people.

"When the researchers quizzed more participants about their impressions of the artificial, cartoon faces, the ratings matched. People said that the computer's cartoon prediction of an approachable face was, indeed, approachable - and so on."

Medical Daily points out previous studies have found links between facial expressions and first impressions, and this one follows suit. 

"The researchers suggest that the study could have implications for people who have to provide photos of themselves to get jobs, such as actors, models, and the like. For these people, putting their best face forward could mean the difference."

OK, so they've figured out an approachable facial expression. Does that mean we should wax our eyebrows into a perfect arch for first impression's sake? (Via jon collier / CC BY SA 2.0)

Eh, not really. The BBC quoted a doctor from the study who said, "It's very difficult for us to pin down with certainty that a given feature of the face is contributing to a certain social impression."

2014-07-29 15:44:25 -0700

Spurred to action by the downing of the Malaysian airliner, the European Union approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions Tuesday against Russia, including an arms embargo and restrictions on state-owned banks. President Barack Obama swiftly followed with an expansion of U.S. penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy.

The coordinated sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his country's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine whom the West blames for taking down the passenger jet nearly two weeks ago. Obama and U.S. allies also warned that Russia was building up troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine.

"Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress," Obama said. "It does not have to be this way. This a choice Russia and President Putin has made."

Tuesday's announcements followed an intense lobbying effort from Obama aimed at getting European leaders to toughen their penalties on Russia and match earlier U.S. actions. Europe has a far stronger economic relationship with Russian than the U.S., but EU leaders have been reluctant to impose harsh penalties in part out of concern about a negative impact on their own economies.

However, Europe's calculus shifted sharply after a surface-to-air missile brought down the passenger jet, killing nearly 300 people including more than 200 Europeans. Obama and his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy finalized plans to announce the broader sanctions Monday in an unusual joint video conference.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said the sanctions sent a "strong warning" that Russia's destabilization of Ukraine cannot be tolerated.

"When the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response," the two top EU officials said in a statement.

Obama, responding to a question after his announcement at the White House, said, "No, it's not a new cold war."

Still, U.S. officials say sanctions already rippling through Russia are having a detrimental impact on the country's economy. Russia's growth projections have been downgraded, and Obama said $100 billion in capital was already expected to flee Russia even before Tuesday's joint U.S.-European announcements.

The sanctions, Obama said, "have made a weak Russian economy even weaker."

Yet it remains uncertain whether the tougher penalties will have any impact on Russia's actions in Ukraine — nor was it clear what other actions the U.S. and Europe were willing to take if the situations remains unchanged. U.S. officials said they believe economic pressure remains their most effective tool, and Obama reiterated his opposition to sending lethal aid to the Ukrainian military.

The new European penalties include an arms embargo on Moscow and a ban on the unapproved sale to the Russians of technology that has dual military and civilian uses or is particularly sensitive, such as advanced equipment used in deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling.

To restrict Russia's access to Europe's money markets, EU citizens and banks will be barred from purchasing certain bonds or stocks issued by state-owned Russian banks, according to EU officials.

The specific targets of the EU actions will be published Thursday, when they will take effect.

U.S. officials said they expected Europe's list of targets to include some of the same energy companies, defense entities and financial institutions the Obama administration hit with sanctions the day before the Malaysian airliner was shot out of the sky. The White House has been pressing Europe in recent days to bring its penalties in line with the U.S., both to increase the economic pressure on Moscow and present a united Western front.

As part of that effort, Obama also announced an expansion of the U.S. sanctions on Russian economic sectors. Among the targets were three major Russian banks: the Bank of Moscow, Russian Agricultural Bank and VTB Bank, Russia's second largest bank.

Administration officials said 30 percent of the Russian banking sector's assets were now targeted by U.S. sanctions. The main function of the sanctions is to curtail the financial institutions' ability to access U.S. debt markets, not to block individual users from using their accounts or credit cards, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sanctions by name.

Chris Weafer, an analyst at the investment firm Macro Advisory, said the banking sanctions would have the most immediate impact on Russia and could trickle down to individuals.

"It will certainly tighten the local debt market," he said. "It will make it very difficult for small enterprises and individuals to access debt."

The U.S. also targeted the St. Petersburg-based United Shipbuilding Corporation, a defense technologies firm, and was blocking future technology sales to Russia's oil industry.

2014-07-29 14:50:38 -0700
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