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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
Lead stories from "First Look with Scott Cox's" Top Stories:
OILDALE WALMART WILL FOCUS ON GROCERIES: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open a new store in Oildale later this year that, unlike the company's traditional model, will focus on grocery sales. Already under construction at the intersection of North Chester and West Day avenues, the planned Walmart Neighborhood Market will be just 41,000 square feet -- a quarter the size of a standard Walmart. Spokeswoman Rachel Wall said the store will offer fresh produce, meats, dairy products, and frozen and dry goods, as well as a deli, bakery and pharmacy. Read the full story here.
SEARCH AND RESCUE WELCOMES BLOODHOUND SAVANNAH TO THE TEAM: She's newly employed and still learning, but Kern County sheriff's officials are betting Savannah will develop a knack for sniffing out trouble. A lot of responsibility will eventually be placed in the paws of 10-week-old Savannah, the sheriff's Search and Rescue unit's new bloodhound. She made her first public appearance Wednesday at Sheriff's Office headquarters. Search and Rescue Capt. Aaron Lynam bought Savannah two weeks ago. She will live and train with Lynam, who expects she'll begin official search and rescue work within 18 months. Read the full story here.
STATE APPOINTS NEW TOP REGULATOR OVER LOCAL OILFIELDS: A geologist with experience overseeing underground injection work in Bakersfield oilfields has been appointed Kern County's top oil regulator. When he reports to work May 1, 61-year-old Dan Wermiel will become the third man since 2011 to lead the district that produces more than 70 percent of the state's oil. His salary will be $9,806 per month. The district deputy position has been vacant since Burt Ellison left the job in late October, blaming state bureaucracy for his early retirement. Read the full story here.
WHAT'S TRENDING ON BAKERSFIELD.COM
In case you missed it, here are the stories that are trending across bakersfield.com.
WORKER DIES AFTER FALLING OFF RIG: A Taft man died Tuesday after falling off a production rig. James Dennis Robbins, 53, died from head and neck injuries. The accident happened at 10:34 a.m. in the 8000 block of West Lokern Road in McKittrick. Read the full story here.
LAWSUIT: PRISON GUARD HARASSED OVER RASTAFARIAN DREADLOCKS, BEARD: Solomon Stanley says he never thought his Rastafari religion -- which mandates followers to wear dreadlocks and a beard -- would cause him problems as a prison guard. But his refusal to cut his hair and beard has generated two lawsuits -- one in federal court in Fresno and another in Fresno County Superior Court -- that accuse prison officials in Delano of religious harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Stanley, 47, who lives in Visalia, is seeking $1 million in lost wages and damages for emotional distress. Read the full story here.
NEW BILL RESURRECTS OLD OIL TAX IDEA: Almost every year a politician in Sacramento proposes a new tax on California oil production. And every time -- so far -- it goes down in defeat. State Sen. Noreen Evans believes this year is going to be different. On Wednesday, the Santa Rosa Democrat hosted a press conference at Sacramento State promoting her new bill which would levy a 9.5 percent "severance tax" on every barrel produced in California, and 3.5 percent on every equivalent amount of natural gas. Half the estimated $2 billion in taxes generated by the bill would go to higher education, a quarter to state parks and a quarter to fund unspecified health and human services programs. Read the full story here.
THE TECH REPORT
GOOGLE INTERNET SERVICE: Google unveiled big expansion plans for its fast Fiber Internet service, stepping up pressure on incumbent cable and Internet providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Google, the world's largest Internet search engine, identified nine urban areas encompassing up to 34 cities across the U.S. as possible sites for deployment. Google Fiber is about 100 times faster than what most Internet users live with today, according to the company. The 34 cities being considered include San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto in California.
THE HEALTH REPORT
PHYSICIAN-RATING SITES: Researchers found that before picking a doctor, many people turn to rating websites to make an informed decision. The findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association say that 59 percent of people think the physician-rating sites were at least "somewhat important" when choosing a doctor. Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School analysed data from surveys where more than 2,000 people were asked what they thought of doctor-rating sites. Sixty-five percent of the respondents said they were aware that doctor-rating sites exist. 19 percent of those aware said they had visited one of the sites during the past year and 17 percent had done so more than once.
THE SPORTS REPORT
LIBERTY BOYS CLINCH SHARE OF SWYL BASKETBALL TITLE: Liberty's boys basketball season will not go into the history books as aesthetically pleasing. It will not be described as dominant. Not high-flying, not high-scoring, not run-and-gun. But then, none of that matters to the Patriots, who used another big fourth quarter to take down Independence 54-43 at home Wednesday night and secure at least a share of the Southwest Yosemite League title. Read the full story here.
DAVID FANUCCHI HIRED AS EAST FOOTBALL COACH: East High will announce David Fanucchi as its new football coach in a news conference at 1 p.m. Friday, the school announced Wednesday. Fanucchi, who was 47-36-1 in eight seasons at Garces ending in 2009, has been an assistant at Golden Valley for the past four seasons. Fanucchi will replace Dave Thorp, who resigned after three seasons, he said, to spend more time with his father, who is ill. Fanucchi is the second new local coach to be announced this week; Highland gave its job to Michael Gutierrez on Tuesday. Read the full story here.
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