Wednesday May 8, 2013

New milestone for Dow Jones industrial average: first close
above 15,000 points

NEW YORK (AP) -- Just two months after recovering the last of its losses from the financial crisis, the Dow Jones industrial average charged higher Tuesday, closing above 15,000 for the first time.

It was another milestone in the market’s epic ascent of 2013. Good economic reports, strong corporate earnings and fresh support from central banks have eased investors’ concerns about another economic slowdown. Many had been on the lookout for signs that a spring swoon would derail the rally, as happened in each of the past three years.

Instead, Wall Street has climbed almost 15 percent since Jan. 1.

"The thing that’s been driving stocks is rising confidence," said James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. "Economic growth, job creation and the housing market have been better than expected."

Tied down by civil war, Syria has limited options in response to Israel airstrikes

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian regime on Tuesday dispatched an obscure proxy, a Damascus-based Palestinian militant group, to threaten retaliation for two Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.

The relatively tepid response to Israel’s breach of Syrian sovereignty highlighted Syrian President Bashar Assad’s limited options as he, along with allies Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, is bogged down at home in a fight for survival against armed rebels.

Assad and visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi denounced Israel on Tuesday, but stopped short of promising retaliation. Commenting on the airstrikes for the first time, Assad said Syria is "capable of facing Israel’s ventures" while Salehi said "it’s high time to deter the Israeli occupation" from launching more attacks.

The airstrikes, which Israeli officials say targeted advanced Iranian missiles intended for Hezbollah, marked a sharp escalation of Israel’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. They also raised fears that a conflict that has repeatedly spilled over Syria’s borders in the past 26 months could turn into a full-fledged regional war.

Assad’s regime might be reluctant to open a new front against Israel with his army already stretched thin in the deadlocked fight with the rebels, but he has a history of operating through proxies such as Hezbollah. One Iranian official hinted the Islamic militant group might take the lead.

Attorneys: Suspect in Colorado theater shootings will plead not guilty by reason of insanity

DENVER (AP) -- The man accused in the deadly Colorado theater shootings wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Attorneys for James Holmes said in a court filing they plan to formally ask for the change of plea at a May 13 hearing.

A judge in the case previously entered a standard not guilty plea for the 25-year-old Holmes. If the judge accepts the new plea, Holmes would be sent to the state mental hospital, where doctors would determine whether he was insane at the time of the July 20 shootings.

If the doctors do determine that Holmes was insane, a jury could still find him guilty.

Stronger borders or no immigration overhaul: GOP says bill must ensure tougher security

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Landmark immigration legislation is doomed to fail in Congress unless border-security provisions are greatly strengthened, Republican senators bluntly warned on Tuesday.

"If in fact the American people can’t trust that the border is controlled, you’re never going to be able to pass this bill," declared Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

His admonishment, joined by those of other GOP lawmakers, came as both Democratic and Republican senators filed a flurry of amendments ahead of the first votes Thursday in a separate committee on the far-reaching bill to deal with an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and the millions more who might be expected to try to enter in the future. Some of the amendments could destroy the legislation’s prospects by upending the carefully crafted deal negotiated over months by four Republican and four Democratic senators, supporters say.

Border security was the major sticking point on Tuesday.

"If we’re going to get immigration reform through, if you’re going to get it through the House, we’re going to have to do a whole lot more on what is the definition of a controlled border than what is in this bill," said Coburn.

20 dead, 33 injured in gas tanker explosion in Mexico City suburb; death toll could rise

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A natural gas tanker truck lost control, hit a center divider and exploded on a highway lined by homes in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec early Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and injuring nearly three dozen, authorities said.

Officials at the Citizen Safety Department of Mexico State, which surrounds the capital, did not rule out the possibility the death toll could rise as emergency workers continued sifting through the charred remains of vehicles and homes built near the highway on the northern edge of the metropolis.

Residents pitched in to rescue people from the wreckage of the 5:30 a.m. explosion, crushed and burned cars and shattered homes. Television footage showed plumes of flame shooting out of homes in the pre-dawn darkness.

A huge piece of the truck’s gas tank was blown 50 yards by the blast, landing atop the wall of a house and cars parked outside. A number of pigs and other farm animals that were kept on patios were killed.

"It was thunderous sound. I thought we were all going to die," said Rita Enriquez, 42, a housewife who lives nearby. "When we ran out, we saw a car on fire and flames everywhere. Smoke was pouring all over the freeway."

Head of Boston Marathon compensation fund warns victims to lower their expectations

BOSTON (AP) -- The administrator of a fund created to help Boston Marathon bombing victims has a blunt message for them: Lower your expectations.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg said at a public meeting Tuesday that the $28 million One Fund Boston won’t pay out nearly enough to fully compensate the families of the three killed or the more than 260 injured, and may not pay much of anything to those with less serious injuries.

"There isn’t enough money to pay everybody who justifiably expects it or needs it," he said.

As victims grappled with the effects of the bombing, there was no resolution about where to bury one of the two suspects in the attack.

Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan says more than 100 people in the U.S. and Canada have offered burial plots for the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in a shootout with police, but officials in the cities and towns where they’re located have said no.

N.J. Gov. Christie: Secret weight-loss surgery was for my family, not presidential aspirations

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Gov. Chris Christie, who has both joked about his weight and said that it’s a real concern, secretly underwent a weight-loss surgery in February that experts say could help him if he gets exercise and watches what he eats.

He said Tuesday that he decided to have a band placed around his stomach to restrict how much food he can eat for his long-term health and for his family, not to lay the groundwork for running for president in 2016.

"This is a hell of a lot more important to me than running for president," Christie, a father of four, said at a news conference in Newark. "This is about my family’s future."

Christie, who appears thinner than he did earlier this year, said he decided to have the surgery around the time he turned 50 in September and initially planned to have it done in November. But Superstorm Sandy’s destruction in New Jersey pushed back the procedure until February, after the governor’s weight made news multiple times.

He said he suggested the idea and his family supported it.