Back-to-school news: It was a surprisingly strong August for retailers. Wal-Mart, Target and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. rose more than analysts had expected, which is a curious showing given that consumer confidence last month fell to its lowest level in a year. (Bloomberg) So are folks worked up about the credit crunch or not? Like most anything about the economy, it depends on how you look at the numbers. From the WSJ:
Some retailers' comparisons with August 2006 were skewed by calendar changes. Last year's reporting period included 53 weeks, so many comparisons this year have been affected by the extra week in 2006. In addition, school went back into session later this year in some parts of the country, helping August steal some sales from July. As for last month, apparel retailers in particular were hoping the results were better than July's underperformance, when 11 of the 14 chains in Thomson Financial's general apparel categories and seven of the nine chains in its teen/child apparel category reported weaker-than-expected same-store sales.
Where Hsu?: Good question. Political donor and fundraiser Norman Hsu was scheduled to appear in San Mateo County Superior Court, but instead of dealing with 15-year-old felony fraud charges, he just didn't show. That's what happened in 1992 - and why he's been a fugitive from justice ever since. "We do not know where he is," said Hsu's lawyer, James Brosnahan. "We hope he will be in court today." It's all pretty embarrassing for Hillary Clinton, whose campaign had enlisted Hsu as a major bundler of donations from others. From the NYT:
According to the state attorney generalís office, based on information from Mr. Hsuís lawyer, Mr. Hsu arrived at the Oakland airport at 5:30 a.m. on a charter jet. From that point on, no one had any information on his whereabouts ó or any they would reveal. Adding to the intrigue is that he may be on the run with his passport: Mr. Brosnahan said that he had sent an assistant to Mr. Hsuís Manhattan condominium this week to retrieve it, but a 90-minute search proved fruitless.
Docs singing rent blues: Prices for space in modest medical office buildings are getting out of sight - and that's even if you can find anything available. Bev Hills, Santa Monica and Newport Beach are especially tight. Doctors who rely on insurance reimbursements say they canít pass on the higher costs because theyíre contracted to charge fixed prices. That explains why you see multiple doctors in medical suites. From the LAT:
Medical professionals seem to have worn out a bit of their welcome in Beverly Hills, once the most desirable addresses in the country for MDs. "There is only so much medical office we want in the downtown area," said Vincent Bertoni, the city's director of community development. Concerned about complaints from residents and other business owners about traffic congestion, city officials clamped down on medical office development in 2005. Before that, new medical buildings got preferential treatment from the city that allowed them to have less parking than regular office buildings and eased up on other restrictions such as limits on hours of operation.
Another bright idea...: That would be the Villaraigosa plan scale back modernizing LAX under the assumption that passengers are just dying to schlep up to Palmdale to get on a plane. To get things moving, the wise one had resurrected a five-county Airport Authority a while back. Good idea, but there's just one problem: The group's last meeting was six months ago, and the representative from Riverside County isn't even showing up. "It's just going nowhere," L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe told the LAT.
With its meetings in May, June and July canceled, the regional airport authority is shooting for Sept. 13 as its next session. That would be the agency's fourth since June 2006, when Villaraigosa announced that a reconstituted airport authority would implement his vision of "regionalization" -- making Los Angeles more like New York City or Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas with more than one major airport. Despite the slow pace, Villaraigosa aides say they already have made critical progress on regional air travel, bringing one United Airlines flight a day to the city's airport in Palmdale and 30 new direct flights per day to LA/Ontario International Airport.
Battle over VA land: It looks like the Veterans Administration wants to set aside several buildings north of Wilshire for "reuse" or demolition, which Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says is a "euphemism for privatization." VA officials, elected officials and residents of Brentwood and Westwood will be sort through all the semantics at a meeting today. The quabbling centers on a PricewaterhouseCoopers report - commissioned by the VA - that suggested the agency consider a mixed-use residential complex, a medical office building for non-VA doctors and other commercial uses. (LAT)
Elder protections proposed: The idea is an accreditation standard for financial advisers working with older Americans. That should eliminate the authentic sounding but made up titles like certified senior adviser and certified elder planning specialist. "Seniors should not be worried that the title after their adviserís name is just a marketing ploy," Sen. Herb Kohl said during a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The SEC and state regulators are expected propose guidelines prohibiting sales agents from using titles that imply an expertise in financial issues. (NYT)