Friday July 12, 2013

Stocks rise to record high after Bernanke says Fed is in no rush to curtail stimulus

NEW YORK (AP) -- Call it the Bernanke Boost.

The stock market, which has been marching higher for a week, got extra fuel Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank will keep supporting the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 surged to all-time highs. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note continued to decline as investors bought bonds. Stocks that benefit most from a continuation of low interest rates, such as homebuilders, notched some of the biggest gains.

The chairman made the comments in a speech late Wednesday after U.S. markets had closed, saying the economy needs the Fed’s easy-money policy "for the foreseeable future."

The U.S. economy needs help because unemployment is high, Bernanke said. His remarks seemed to ease investors’ fears that the central bank will pull back on its economic stimulus too quickly. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion a month in bonds to keep interest rates low and to encourage spending and hiring.

Police: 24 bodies now found in Quebec train derailment, explosions

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) -- Police say 24 bodies have now been found after the fiery weekend derailment of an oil train in a Quebec town.

Authorities have said everyone missing in early Saturday’s disaster is presumed dead, meaning 50 were killed in Canada’s worst railway disaster in nearly 150 years.

The intensity of the fire has slowed identification of the dead. The first to be identified by the coroner’s office is 93-year-old Eliane Parenteau.

Setback for Zimmerman: Judge rules jury may consider manslaughter charge

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- In an unmistakable setback for George Zimmerman, the jury at the neighborhood watch captain’s second-degree murder trial was given the option Thursday of convicting him on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Judge Debra Nelson issued her ruling over the objections of Zimmerman’s lawyers shortly before a prosecutor delivered a closing argument in which he portrayed the defendant as an aspiring police officer who assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands.

"A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jurors. "He is dead because a man made assumptions. ... Unfortunately because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks this Earth."

Because of the judge’s ruling, the six jurors will have three options when they start deliberations as early as Friday: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter and not guilty.

Zimmerman attorney Don West had argued an all-or-nothing strategy, saying the only charge that should be put before the jury is second-degree murder.

Battle of mandates: Health care law’s coverage requirements for employers, individuals

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If businesses get an extra year to meet a new health care mandate, why not everybody else?

Republicans, seizing on the White House delay for employers, are demanding that the Obama administration give individual Americans an equal break. But the White House says that’s just a thinly disguised gambit for dismantling the entire health care overhaul.

What to believe?

"If businesses can get relief from Obamacare, the rest of America ought to be able to get relief as well," declares House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

"A delay in the individual mandate is repeal by another name," responds White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri. It’s a political attempt to sabotage health care for the uninsured.

Cast as Hezbollah supporters, Lebanese Shiites are expelled from Sunni Gulf

BEIRUT (AP) -- When Ali Farhat was summoned to the immigration department in the United Arab Emirates, the 33-year-old Lebanese restaurant worker knew he would have to pack up his family and leave fast.

Like many Shiite Muslims working in the oil-rich Gulf state, Farhat says he popped up on the country’s deportation radar merely because of his sect, which its Sunni rulers associate with the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

"I felt like a criminal, but I did not know what I did wrong," said Farhat, who had lived in the UAE for 15 years before his expulsion in May. "It seems that my only crime was that I am Shiite."

Long considered by authorities as a security threat, hundreds of Shiites have been quietly expelled from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states on suspicion of being supporters of Hezbollah. The deportations have surged in recent months after the group publicly joined the civil war in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad, an archenemy of the Gulf’s rulers.

It is the latest fallout for Lebanese Shiites from Hezbollah’s high stakes and highly divisive military involvement in the war in Syria, and a sign of the growing sectarian fissures in the Arab world over Syria.

Admitted mastermind of 9/11 attacks allowed by CIA to design vacuum cleaner in prison

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Confined to the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania about a decade ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, asked his jailers whether he could embark on an unusual project: Would the spy agency allow Mohammed, who had earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, to design a vacuum cleaner?

The agency officer in charge of the prison called CIA headquarters and a manager approved the request, a former senior CIA official told The Associated Press.

Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities. But the agency had no long-term plan for him. Someday, he might prove useful again. Perhaps, he’d even stand trial one day.

And for that, he’d need to be sane.

"We didn’t want them to go nuts," the former senior CIA official said, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed’s interest in vacuums.

Boehner says GOP House members want to tackle immigration, but Democratic help needed

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the "vast majority" of House Republicans believe they need to deal with immigration, but that they’ll take a methodical, step-by-step approach and won’t be held to any deadlines.

Legislation to secure the border and enforce immigration laws will come first, Boehner said. As for whether the House could ever agree to provide legal status or a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, "Well, we’re going to find out," Boehner said.

"Through all the conversations that have occurred, with my own members, with Democrat members, it’s clear that dealing with this in bite-sized chunks that members can digest and the American people can digest is the smartest way to go," said Boehner, R-Ohio. "And so I’m much more concerned about doing it right than I am in meeting some deadline."

The Ohio Republican spoke at a news conference Thursday, a day after House GOP members met to hash out their way forward on immigration.

They emerged with a consensus on dealing with border security first and moving legislation in pieces, in contrast to the sweeping bill passed last month by the Senate on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote. What to do about the millions already here illegally remained unanswered.

Microsoft reorganizes company structure to be more like Apple and Google

NEW YORK (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. is reshuffling its business in an attempt to promote faster innovation and a sharper focus on devices and services. The move by the world’s largest software maker comes amid lukewarm response to the latest version of its flagship Windows operating system and a steady decline in demand for PCs as people turn to tablets and other mobile gadgets.

CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo to employees Thursday that the changes mean the company is "rallying behind a single strategy" and organizing by function. While it has been widely anticipated, it’s too early to tell how well the reorganization will help Microsoft compete with more nimble rivals like Apple and Google.

"You don’t make massive, sweeping changes like this unless something is wrong," said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, pointing to Wednesday’s reports of declining PC shipments around the world.

Worldwide shipments of personal computers fell 11 percent in the April-June period, according to data from research firms Gartner and IDC. Gartner Inc. said the PC industry is now experiencing the longest decline in its history, as shipments dropped for the fifth consecutive quarter. Analysts have blamed a massive consumer migration to tablets and other mobile devices for the falloff. But many observers also believe Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system --which comes installed on most new PCs-- has turned consumers off.

"We are ready to take Microsoft in a bold new direction," Ballmer said in a conference call with reporters and analysts. "We need to make the right decisions more quickly," he said.

Baby among 409 buried on anniversary of Srebrenica massacre

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Hava Muhic stood Thursday above the smallest pit in the cemetery, near her husband’s grave. It was dug for her baby girl -- who was born and died here 18 years ago on the day of the worst massacre Europe has seen since World War II.

Muhic’s baby is among the remains of 409 people recently identified after being found in mass graves, who were reburied at the Potocari Memorial Center on the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. This year’s commemorations bring the total of identified victims to 6,066. Another 2,306 remain missing.

Muhic is burying the daughter she never had a chance to see or call by name.

A simple wooden marker above the little green coffin says: Newborn Muhic (father Hajrudin) 11.07.1995 -- the single date marking both birth and death.

Muhic blames her child’s death on the frantic rush to seek safety among U.N. peacekeepers as Bosnian Serbs overran the town. A woman who helped her give birth in the U.N.compound told her the girl was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and that she was dead.

Inventor of iconic party game Twister dies in Minn.; game launched decades of awkward fun

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Twister called itself "the game that ties you up in knots." Its detractors called it "sex in a box."

Charles "Chuck" Foley, the father of nine who invented the game that became a naughty sensation in living rooms across America in the 1960s and 1970s because of the way it put men and women in compromising positions, has died. He was 82.

Foley died July 1 at a care facility in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. His son, Mark Foley, said Thursday that his father had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Foley and a collaborator, Neil Rabens, were hired in the mid-1960s by a St. Paul manufacturing firm that wanted to expand into games and toys. They came up with a game to be played on a mat on the floor, using a spinner to direct players to place their hands and feet on different colored circles.

"Dad wanted to make a game that could light up a party," Mark Foley said. "They originally called it ‘Pretzel.’ But they sold it to Milton Bradley, which came up with the ‘Twister’ name."