Naturalization ceremony welcoming 70 new U.S. citizens

Seventy newly minted Americans stepped out of the Snider Recital Hall on Wednesday. They walked in representing countries as near as Mexico and as far as Iran, Ghana and Ukraine, but walked out waving the Stars and Stripes as U.S. citizens.

Five among them were California State University, Stanislaus, students, noted James Strong, provost at the Turlock campus. Strong invited the new citizens to return Saturday and celebrate their new country with the community fireworks display.

“There is no better week to do this than that one where we celebrate the independence of a nation of immigrants,” Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, told the crowd of new citizens and their cheering families.

Denham, whose father-in-law became a naturalized citizen, helped arrange for the special ceremony and spoke of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

The rich diversity and energy of its immigrants helps drive the economy of a nation with an aging population, noted keynote speaker Jose Rodriguez, CEO of El Concilio. “That diversity is what makes this country unique and the envy of the world,” he said.

“This is a country where what matters is not where you came from. What matters is where you want to go,” said Rodriguez, a California native whose farmworker parents came from Mexico.

Enjoy the opportunity to make an incredible life in the greatest country on earth.

Jose Rodriguez, CEO of El Concilio

“As I look across the room and see the diversity of our newest Americans, it brings me great joy, because it reminds me that we are a country bound together not defined by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by a common set of ideas,” he told the group. “Each one of you has a unique story and unique contributions you bring to this country, yet you all have one thing in common. You’ve all come in search of a better life, and my fellow citizens, you can have it.”

The July 1 ceremony, so close to the national holiday, held special significance, said Lynn Feldman, section chief of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fresno field office.

“Every year when you celebrate the Fourth of July, you can celebrate this anniversary for yourself as well,” she told the group after it had taken the oath.

654,949 immigrants became U.S. citizens in fiscal 2014

The Fresno office covers Modesto to Bakersfield, Feldman said before the event. While her office administers the oath of citizenship at ceremonies every month, she said the office holds mobile events about five times a year in areas farther from Fresno to make it easier for families to come.

“This is going to change everything,” said Ignacio Manzo Lopez of Merced, who emigrated from Mexico five years ago.

“We were dreaming of this day,” said Sajida Alkhateeb, who fled Iraq with her family five years ago in April. She said she feels safe now. Her son, Stanislaus State math major Mustafa Albayaty, and husband, Ahmed Albayaty, took the oath with her.

The couple were engineers in Iraq, but here work helping other immigrants. She works at the Stanislaus County Family Services Agency, and he works at the Davis High Language Institute.

13 Countries that were represented among the 70 individuals who became U.S. citizens

Clad in patriotic T-shirts and waving small U.S. flags, the young daughters of Donna Joy Aquitania cheered their mom’s new citizenship. Married to U.S. citizen Fred Aquitania of Merced, she had a three-year wait to take the oath after arriving from the Philippines.

“We’re proud of her,” Fred Aquitania said.

“I can vote,” said Mexico native Maria Gutierrez of Newman, who has lived in the United States for 37 years.

Outside the hall, volunteers waited with voter registration packets to help her and the other new citizens do just that.

Being able to vote also was a top priority for Ukraine native Igor Ivaskevych. “That actually was a pretty big part of it for me,” said the Modesto Junior College psychology major.

He took the oath with his brother. Both came as kids to the United States in 1999. Being a U.S. citizen will allow him to visit Ukraine without fear of not being allowed to leave, said Ivaskevych, who volunteers with the Modesto Sister Cities International program.

“I’m very proud, very happy this day came,” he said.

I personally enjoy hearing this type of thing and wish more would do it. People claim this is their country but are not willing to do what it takes to become part of it but only want to benefit from it…….

BP to pay record $18.7 billion to settle claims in Gulf spill

BP will pay a record $18.7 billion to resolve claims by the U.S. and five states along the Gulf of Mexico related to the 2010 oil spill.

The payments will be spaced out over as long as 18 years, according to the preliminary agreement. A record $5.5 billion will cover federal penalties under the Clean Water Act, topping the previous high of $1 billion. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas will also receive payouts for harm done in the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

“This agreement will resolve the largest liabilities remaining from the tragic accident,” BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said in a Thursday statement. “For the United States and the Gulf in particular, this agreement will deliver a significant income stream over many years for further restoration of natural resources and for losses related to the spill.”

The settlement comes on top of at least $28 billion BP has already spent on response, clean-up and compensation. It also exceeds by almost $3 billion the $43.8 billion the company set aside for fallout from the spill.

Shares gained 3.7 percent to 434.70 pence at 2:45 p.m. in London as investors welcomed news that the company had reached an agreement. A verdict in the Clean Water Act case was pending with a potential fine of as much as $13.7 billion. Under the agreement, BP will pay $5.5 billion over 15 years.

The company’s cumulative pre-tax charge will rise by about $10 billion at the end of the first quarter, BP said.

The three-month catastrophe was the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history. It began with the Macondo well blowout and destruction of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Eleven men died in the explosion.

That kind of money would have destroyed most other companies…….

Hey at least it is not Dawgs Blog…….

The single most useless Web site on the Internet is a page only one person can visit at a time

The Internet is supposed to be the world’s most inclusive medium: A miraculous tech utopia anyone can access. Which is why Justin Foley thought it might be funny to make a Web site that was, well … exactly the opposite.

Foley is the man behind, a site that — true to its name — only one person can visit at a time. You access the site by requesting a “ticket” for your 60-second window and then waiting in line; as of Tuesday night, there were only 40,204 other people you needed to get behind.

“It just sort of came to me,” said Foley, a Columbus, Ohio, web developer, in an e-mail to The Post. “The Internet was designed to be open and accessible; what if I made a website that was the antithesis of one of the defining qualities of the Internet?”

Foley initially launched the site in March, after learning a new programming framework that he was eager to try out. But the line to view the world’s most exclusive site was pretty short until this week, when Johnny Webber, the popular blogger behind Johnny Lists, ranked it first in a round-up of “completely useless websites.” (Runner-ups included, a 21-year-old site that literally consists of one purple screen, and, which is both literal and less than riveting.)

From there, the site turned up on Reddit’s front page, where so many tried to access it that the site went down. Woe to those poor souls who’d been waiting all along.

“I waited 8 hours and missed my spot the first time around,” one visitor complained. “Back here again and made it!!! ……..not sure what I should say now.”

More than 300,000 people had tried to enter the site as of Tuesday, Foley said; only 55,000 have been let in. Because you lose your ticket if the site refreshes or if you x-out of the tab, it can actually be pretty difficult to stay in line. On the flip side, of course, that means the line moves much more quickly than the high ticket numbers would imply: Foley says that roughly 8 of every 9 waiters bail before their turn comes up.

But what are we even waiting for? What’s the prize, the big mystery? Foley declined to say, though — based on some comments he made on Reddit several weeks ago — we suspect the site serves up random pictures of an Internet-famous animal that is not, ahem, a goat or a hamster. If you want to find out for sure, though, you’ll have to get in line.

“I [like] the unbiased exclusive nature of the way the queue works, first come first serve and only one person in at a time,” Foley said.

“Although if President Obama called and asked for an exception,” he added, “I’d certainly consider it.”

Don’t you guys wait in line for my site???

US probing airline collusion to keep fares high

The U.S. government is investigating possible collusion between major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.

A letter received Tuesday by major U.S. carriers demands copies of all communications the airlines had with each other, Wall Street analysts and major shareholders about their plans for passenger-carrying capacity.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce confirmed Wednesday that the department was investigating potential “unlawful coordination” among some airlines. She declined to comment further, including about which airlines are being investigated.

Thanks to a series of mergers starting in 2008, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United now control more than 80 percent of the seats in the domestic travel market. During that period, they have eliminated unprofitable flights, filled a higher percentage of seats on planes and made a very public effort to slow growth in order to command higher airfares.

It worked. The average domestic airfare rose 13 percent from 2009 to 2014, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And that doesn’t include the billions of dollars airlines collect from new fees: $25 each way to check a bag and $200 to change a domestic reservation. During the past 12 months, the airlines took in $3.6 billion in bag fees and another $3 billion in reservation change fees.

All of that has led to record profits for the industry. In the past two years, U.S. airlines earned a combined $19.7 billion.

This year could lead to even higher profits thanks to a massive drop in the price airlines pay for jet fuel, their single highest expense. In April, U.S. airlines paid $1.94 a gallon, down 34 percent from the year before.

Not a big surprise here in this country is it???