STOCKTON, California (AP) — Prosecutors in California said Thursday that they have obtained an arrest warrant for a tuberculosis patient who is contagious and has refused treatment, putting those around him at risk.
Eduardo Rosas Cruz, a 25-year-old transient, went to a hospital emergency room in March, complaining of a severe cough. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, medical staff told him to stay in a motel room, where a health worker would deliver his medication and watch him take it. But officials say he took off.
Health officials asked prosecutors to seek the warrant, in part, because Rosas Cruz comes from a part of Mexico known for its drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. Health officials are searching for Rosas Cruz, and his name is in a statewide law enforcement system, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor said.
"He could be in a homeless shelter. He could be around the corner from the courthouse," Taylor said. "We don't know."
Tuberculosis spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The disease most commonly infects a person's lungs and can cause death.
Health officials searching for Rosas Cruz were not immediately available for comment. In court papers filed in support of the warrant, officials say Rosas Cruz resisted treatment from the start. He also uses crack cocaine and methamphetamine, officials said, estimating that he would need medical care for seven months.
He went to the hospital after feeling shortness of breath for two weeks, had a high fever and had lost considerable weight, in addition to the cough, according to court papers.
Taylor, who prosecutors public health cases, said he seeks arrest warrants like this once or twice each year.
In mid-2012, officials arrested Armando Rodriguez, who refused tuberculosis treatment. Taylor said Rodriguez, age 34 at the time, was released in January 2013.
Taylor, who did not know the status of Rosas Cruz's residency, said he is not interested in punishing him through the criminal court system. Rather, Taylor said he is using the courts to protect the public's health.News Topics: General news, Health, Tuberculosis, Arrests, Diseases and conditions, Lung disease, Infectious diseases, Law and order, Crime
People, Places and Companies: California, Stockton, United States, North America
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An influential U.S. appeals court judge said Thursday that the nation's third lethal injection execution to be problematic in six months underscores his call to bring back firing squads.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said lethal injection was a "dishonest" attempt to disguise the brutal nature of capital punishment.
Kozinski first wrote of his distaste for lethal injection in a decision Monday, even while arguing against delaying the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in Arizona. Wood gasped for breath for more than 90 minutes and took nearly two hours to die Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection for killing his estranged girlfriend and her father.
Kozinski said properly trained firing squads are a "foolproof" way to quickly execute an inmate and avoid complications surrounding lethal injection.
In a dissent to Monday's ruling that put Wood's execution on hold but was overturned by the Supreme Court, Kozinski wrote: "Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments. But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf."
On Thursday, Kozinski said that he never liked lethal injection, a method that has been troubled by drug shortages and legal challenges. He said firing squads would never be hampered by a shortage of guns or bullets.
"I've always thought executions should be executions," he told the AP, "not medical procedures."
Kozinski said he supports capital punishment, but states and the federal government should abandon lethal injection and adopt a different method.
He mentioned the guillotine as another "foolproof" method but said he doubted the public would accept that form of execution.
Kozinski is a reliable conservative vote on the left-leaning 9th Circuit and is known for his well-written and often provocative opinions. He wrote about grappling with a death penalty case for The New Yorker magazine in 1997.
He was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.News Topics: General news, Executions, National courts, Criminal punishment, Law and order, National governments, Government and politics, Courts, Judiciary
People, Places and Companies: Alex Kozinski, Ronald Reagan, United States, North America
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The price of oil fell near $102 a barrel Thursday, erasing gains from the day before.
Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery dropped $1.05 to $102.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the Nymex contract gained 73 cents after the Energy Department reported a far larger drop in U.S. crude inventories than what analysts had expected.
Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, fell 96 cents to $107.07 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
The price of oil has stayed above $100 a barrel after a civilian jetliner was shot out of the sky last week over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists and as Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip added to risks of instability in the Middle East.
A day after being buoyed by signs of strong demand for oil from U.S. refineries, traders reversed course and worried about weakness in demand for gasoline.
The U.S. data Wednesday showed oil supplies fell by 3.97 million barrels for the week ended July 11. Analysts had expected a drop of 2.6 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts. But gasoline supplies rose by 3.4 million barrels, almost three times the increase that analysts were looking for.
"The main factor causing the renewed decline in U.S. crude oil stocks is the still record-high rate of crude oil processing by U.S. refineries, though they are clearly turning more crude oil into refined petroleum products at present than is actually needed," the Commerzbank analysts' note said, highlighting weaker U.S. gasoline demand.
In other Nymex trading:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $2.84 a gallon.
— Heating oil was flat at $2.87 a gallon.
— Natural gas gained 8.5 cents to $3.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.News Topics: Business, Oil and gas refining, Energy markets, Motor fuel markets, Crude oil markets, Brent crude markets, Gasoline markets, Commodity markets, Heating oil markets, Natural gas markets, Oil and gas industry, Energy industry, Industries, Financial markets, Refined petroleum product markets
People, Places and Companies: United States, North America, Middle East
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Australia's women set a world record in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Thursday.
They clocked 3 minutes, 30.98 seconds to surpass the 3:31.72 recorded five years ago by the Netherlands.News Topics: Sports, Record setting events, Women's swimming, Swimming, General news, Aquatics, Women's aquatics, Women's sports
People, Places and Companies: Glasgow, Australia, Scotland, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Europe, Oceania
The nearly two-hour execution this week in Arizona looked troubling, but was it unconstitutional? The U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the use of lethal injection six years ago, has held that "an isolated mishap" during an execution does not violate the Constitution. Here is a question-and-answer look at the current state of executions.
Q: Why did Arizona use a two-drug combination that was also involved in a similar lengthy execution in Ohio?
A: After more than three decades of using the same three-drug combination to put hundreds of inmates to death with few problems, states have scrambled in recent years to find alternative drugs because of a shortage rooted in European opposition to capital punishment. Some states have obtained supplies of compounded pentobarbital, which doesn't undergo the same type of federal regulations as regular pentobarbital, which is now unavailable. Other states, like Arizona, are turning to midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a painkiller.
Q: What caused the shortage?
A: Nine years ago, the European Union banned the export of products used for execution, citing its goal to be the "leading institutional actor and largest donor to the fight against the death penalty." In addition, U.S. manufacturers are now putting restrictions on the use of their drugs for executions.
Q: The Arizona execution lasted almost two hours. Doesn't that constitute cruel and unusual punishment?
A: The answer depends on whether the inmate felt pain — the state says he didn't — and whether any intentional actions to inflict pain can be proven. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that "an isolated mishap" during an execution does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, "because such an event, while regrettable, does not suggest cruelty or a 'substantial risk of serious harm,'" according to a 1947 decision allowing Louisiana to return an inmate to the electric chair after a botched attempt a year earlier.
Q: Have death row inmates challenged any of the new drugs?
A: Defense attorneys have sued over compounded pentobarbital as posing a potential threat since its purity and effect can't be guaranteed. Yet so far, executions with compounded pentobarbital in Missouri and Texas haven't been problematic. Attorneys have also challenged the use of midazolam and hydromorphone, arguing that they could cause pain as inmates struggle to breathe.
CURRENT LEGAL CHALLENGES:
— Oklahoma: Twenty-one death row inmates are seeking to halt any attempt to execute them using the state's lethal injection protocols, which they allege present a risk of severe pain and suffering in violation of the Constitution. The inmates' lawsuit followed the state's problematic April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett using a new three-drug method.
— Missouri: Death row inmates claim the state's refusal to name the drugmaker providing its execution drug, even privately to attorneys, makes it impossible to know whether the drug is suitable for an execution or violates the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
— In Ohio: Attorneys have unsuccessfully argued that the two-drug combination created an unconstitutional risk of suffering because of a phenomenon known as "air hunger" in which people experience terror as they strain to catch their breath.
— MISSOURI: Michael Worthington, scheduled to die Aug. 6 from a single dose of compounded pentobarbital for the rape and killing of a neighbor in 1995.
— TEXAS: Willie Trottie, scheduled to die Sept. 10 from a single dose of compounded pentobarbital for shooting his former girlfriend and her brother in 1993.
— TEXAS: Lisa Coleman, scheduled to die Sept. 17 from a single dose of compounded pentobarbital for the starvation of a 9-year-old boy a decade ago.
— OHIO: Ronald Phillips, scheduled to die Sept. 18 from a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone for the 1993 rape and death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter.News Topics: General news, Executions, Death penalty controversy, Constitutions, Criminal punishment, Prisons, Law and order, Social issues, Social affairs, Government and politics, Correctional systems
People, Places and Companies: United States, Arizona, North America
BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) — In the morgue at a small Gaza hospital, the anguished cries of those who lost loved ones in Israeli airstrikes fell silent Thursday when Ahmed Jadallah began attending to the corpses, one by one, on his wooden work table.
With swift, steady movements, Jadallah swaddled a toddler in a white burial shroud and later gently cleaned the soot-stained face of the child's father — Islamic rituals that momentarily reassured the grieving.
Father and son had been killed earlier in the day, along with the child's grandparents and uncle, when an airstrike on an adjacent house sent debris flying into the family's living room.
Over the past three decades, the 75-year-old Jadallah has dressed hundreds of "martyrs" — those killed in conflict with Israel. He said that his volunteer work fulfills an Islamic commandment and that he hopes it will earn him a place in paradise.
Despite his faith, he has found it harder to deal with the casualties from this round of fighting with Israel than from previous ones, especially when children end up on his table.
Nearly 790 Palestinians have been killed, including 190 children, and close to 5,000 wounded in more than two weeks of battle between Israel and Gaza's Hamas militants, according to Palestinian health officials.
"This is the toughest military operation we have witnessed," Jadallah said at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.
Jadallah's life mirrors the area's turbulent history: the 1948 Mideast war over Israel's creation; the Israeli capture of Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967; two Palestinian uprisings, one starting in 1987 and one in 2000; the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007; and three rounds of Israel-Hamas fighting in 2008-09, in 2012 and now, in an outbreak that began July 8.
Jadallah was born in 1939 in the Palestinian village of Isdud, in an area that is now part of the Israeli port city of Ashdod. Jadallah and his family fled to Gaza in the 1948 war, eventually settling in the Jebaliya refugee camp, close to the Kamal Adwan hospital.
Over the years, Jadallah made a decent living in Gaza selling vegetables he bought from Israel and producing concrete blocks for construction. In the 1980s, he began volunteering to dress those killed in confrontations with Israel for burial.
"I approach this job from a religious perspective and hope God will reward me for this," he said.
Under Islamic rules, those who die a natural death are usually washed before burial, while those killed in a holy war are buried as they are, even if bloody, reflecting the idea that they are already pure enough to return to God.
"I specialize in martyrs," Jadallah said.
Jadallah's job is to wrap them in the customary white burial shrouds, secure the shrouds with strips of cloth according to specific rules and wash their faces.
On Thursday, the morgue's refrigerators held eight bodies of those killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight. Among the dead were five members of the Abu Aita family from the Jebaliya refugee camp — Ibrahim, 66; his wife, Jamila, 55; sons Ahmed, 31, and Mohammed, 40; and Ahmed's son Adham, 4.
Their neighbors, the Ajramis, said they had received a warning from the Israeli military early Thursday that their four-story home would be targeted in an airstrike, and they fled with minutes to spare, but word didn't reach the Abu Aitas in time. The missile badly damaged the Ajrami home, and the debris killed five of the Abu Aitas.
After daybreak, relatives of those killed began arriving at the morgue, a small space that barely accommodates Jadallah's work table and three refrigerators for storing the bodies.
One woman whose husband had been killed in a different airstrike shouted hysterically in the waiting area, fighting with relatives trying to stop her from seeing his body. They eventually gave in, but she fainted after Jadallah let her look inside the refrigerator.
Two Hamas policemen manned the iron door to the morgue, trying to keep down the number of people getting inside so Jadallah could work.
As he pulled a body from a refrigerator and placed it on a large metal tray on the table, one of the policemen called out the name of the dead and asked the closest relatives to come in.
After the initial wailing and chaos, calm usually descended on the room as mourners watched Jadallah work.
He ripped narrow strips of white cloth that he draped like belts around each body to secure the burial shroud. Depending on the size of the body, he uses three or five such belts; it has to be an odd number.
Jadallah bandaged the heads of those who had suffered grave skull injuries and used water-soaked bandages to wipe soot and blood off the faces. He lifted the heavy trays and pushed the table himself, despite his age.
Once a body was prepared, relatives were called into the morgue and carried out the dead on an orange stretcher. Some chanted "takbir," praising God as the Almighty, usually followed by the response "Allahu akbar," or God is great, as they left with the body.
Jadallah, a father of six, said he shares the pain of those around him, even if he doesn't betray emotion while working. After handling so many of the dead over the years, he said he finds it hard to forgive Israel, let along consider the possibility of a peace agreement.
Israel has said it is striking Hamas targets in Gaza to harm the militant group's ability launch attacks at Israel, whether by firing rockets or sending infiltrators through tunnels.
Jadallah said conditions in Gaza, home to 1.7 million people, have steadily deteriorated since he was a boy, mainly because of overcrowding and the 7-year-old border blockade by Egypt and Israel.
"Spilling blood is not something small," he said. "But the war was imposed on us. Even if they (the Israelis) kill dozens, we don't care. We will get back our homeland."
Associated Press writer Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.News Topics: General news, War and unrest, Territorial disputes, Government and politics
People, Places and Companies: Palestinian territories, Israel, Gaza Strip, Middle East
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are ending little changed after a day of mixed signals on corporate earnings and the economy.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than one point, or 0.05 percent, to close at 1,897.98 Thursday, barely topping a record set the day before.
The other two major indexes fell. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped two points, or 0.02 percent, to 17,083.80. The Nasdaq eased one point, or 0.04 percent to 4,472.11.
Facebook rose 5 percent and was among the top gainers in the S&P 500 after beating earnings expectations.
The Dow was weighed down by Caterpillar, which fell 3 percent after the equipment maker's quarterly revenue fell short of forecasts.
Homebuilder stocks slid Thursday after the government reported that new home sales sagged 8.1 percent last month.News Topics: Business, General news, Stock indices and averages, Stock markets, Financial markets
People, Places and Companies: Caterpillar Inc
NEW YORK (AP) — Minimum and maximum temperatures in Fahrenheit, precipitation in inches and weather conditions as recorded for the previous day and forecast for the current and following day in each city as of 1900 GMT:
Rio de Janeiro;66;79;clr;0.00;75;82;pc;70;73;rn
x - Indicates missing information.
clr - clear
pc - partly cloudy
cdy - cloudy
rn - rain
sn - snow
Source: Weather Underground
ENDNews Topics: Weather forecasts, Weather, General news
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) — Florida police so far have released little information on the case of a Canadian law professor at Florida State University who was fatally shot in his home.
The shooting of Daniel Markel has stunned friends and colleagues, who have demanded to know whether Markel had surprised an armed robber.
Bob Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, says there are numerous reasons police withhold crime details from the public. "It's a way to test anybody who's either making a confession, who's trying to pin the blame on somebody else," Javis says.
Markel, 41, was born in Toronto. He joined the law school as a faculty member in 2005.News Topics: General news, Homicide, Education, Violent crime, Crime, Social affairs
People, Places and Companies: Florida, United States, North America
ARGELES-GAZOST, France (AP) — A brief look at the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday:
The stage: 145.5 kilometers (90 miles) from Pau to the summit finish at Hautacam, rated "beyond category" in the Tour jargon to describe the most difficult climbs. Along the way was the famed Tourmalet climb, a 2,115-meter monster also beyond a rating.
Winner: Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian known as The Shark won his fourth stage in dominant style, dropping French climbing specialist Thibaut Pinot and leaving him to finish 1 minute, 10 seconds back in second place. Polka dot jersey holder Rafal Majka was third, 1:12 back.
Yellow jersey: Nibali. He extended his lead in the overall standings and is all but assured of victory in Paris and becoming only the sixth man to ever win all three of cycling's Grand Tours.
Quote of the day: "He's probably considered the surprise of the race but I've known his potential for quite a while now and it's unfolding for everyone to see." Tinkoff-Saxo team boss Bjarne Riis, speaking of Majka.
Stat of the day: 15. The number of seconds that separate second-placed Pinot from third-place Jean-Christophe Peraud and fourth-place Alejandro Valverde, with just three stages left.
Next stage: Friday's 19th stage is a 208.5-kilometer (130-mile) flat stage from Maubourguet north to Bergerac in the scenic Dorgogne region. One small hill 13 kilometers from the finish will likely not be enough to prevent a mass sprint finish, where Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Griepel and Norway's Alexander Kristoff will try to add to their haul of stage wins.News Topics: Sports, Tour de France, Cycling, Road cycling, Events
People, Places and Companies: Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Rafal Majka, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Alejandro Valverde, Marcel Kittel, France, Western Europe, Europe
Average U.S. rates on long-term fixed mortgages were stable to slightly higher this week.
Here's a look at rates for fixed and adjustable mortgages this week and over the past year:Current avg. Last week 52-week high 52-week low 30-year fixed 4.13 4.13 4.58 4.10 15-year fixed 3.26 3.23 3.60 3.20 5-year adjustable 2.99 2.97 3.28 2.93 1-year adjustable 2.39 2.39 2.71 2.38 All values in percentage points Source: Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey News Topics: Business, Mortgage rates, Mortgages, Personal loans, Personal finance, Real estate
SAN DIEGO (AP) — "Under the Dome" is broadening its scope.
At a Comic-Con panel Thursday, "Under the Dome" star Mike Vogel teased the possibility of some of the characters leaving the impenetrable dome that encompasses the town of Chester's Mill, Maine, on the TV drama.
"A lot of people said, 'How do you maintain a show under a dome year after year?'" he said. "They've come up with a really exciting and interesting way of broadening the scope of our world. I think everyone's in for a real treat once that happens."
"Under the Dome" is airing its second season Monday nights on CBS (10 p.m. EDT).
Cast member Rachelle Lefevre said viewers will also see more about how the outside world is reacting to the dome.
"This season you will get your first glimpse of what the impact of the dome has been," she said.
And the death toll will rise, with producers not afraid to kill off main cast members.
"When you're dead, you're dead, but that doesn't mean you can't be an avatar at some point and come back," teased executive producer Neal Baer.
The four-day festival celebrating film, TV, video games, comic books, costumes and other popular arts continues through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center.
People, Places and Companies: Mike Vogel, Rachelle Lefevre, Neal Baer, San Diego, California, United States, North America
DETROIT (AP) — A U.S. man who killed an unarmed young woman on his porch immediately suggested to police it was an accident and that he didn't know his shotgun was loaded, according to recorded remarks played in court Thursday.
Theodore Wafer, 55, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who appeared on his porch a few hours after crashing her car nearby in Detroit.
Wafer told police that the victim looked like a "neighbor girl or something." McBride didn't live in the neighborhood, and an autopsy revealed she was extremely drunk.
Wafer's lawyers say he shot McBride in self-defense. Prosecutors say he should have called police if he feared for his safety.
Wafer met officers outside his home after they responded to an emergency call before dawn on Nov. 2.
"What happened here?" Sgt. Rory McManmon asked, according to the recording played by prosecutors.
"A consistent knocking on the door, and I'm trying to look through the windows and the door," Wafer said. "It's banging somewhere else so I open up the door, kind of like who is this? And the gun discharged.
"I didn't know there was a round in there," Wafer told McManmon. "I don't get it. Who's knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang — somebody wanting in."News Topics: General news, Homicide, Violent crime, Crime, Shootings
People, Places and Companies: Detroit, Michigan, United States, North America
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico has unveiled a system that will allow migrants living illegally in the U.S. territory to obtain a temporary driver's license.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Thursday that he expects more than 100,000 migrants will apply for the license. He noted the majority of migrants in Puerto Rico are from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico joins a handful of U.S. states in issuing such licenses.
The provisional driver's license would be issued only to those who have lived in Puerto Rico for a year.
Garcia stressed that police officers cannot arrest those carrying the provisional license because of their status.
Puerto Rico previously approved measures prohibiting officials at schools and hospitals from asking people about their status.News Topics: General news
People, Places and Companies: Puerto Rico, Caribbean, Latin America and Caribbean
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — It wasn't a golden return to the track after a six-year absence, and the top Commonwealth Games prize continues to elude Bradley Wiggins.
But, fresh from collecting silver in the team pursuit after losing out to the Australians in Glasgow, the 2012 Tour de France winner remained upbeat on Thursday about the bigger target on the horizon: The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Even at 34, the Englishman's enthusiasm and determination is clear. Even after the despair at being dropped by Team Sky for this year's Tour.
In the Glasgow velodrome, Wiggins said "it's like being a kid again really. I've really enjoyed the atmosphere and the intensity."
Wiggins was competing on the track for the first time since winning gold in the individual and team pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.News Topics: Sports, Tour de France, Olympic games, Summer Olympic games, Events, Road cycling, Cycling
People, Places and Companies: Bradley Wiggins, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Europe
Investing in airlines has long been the butt of jokes, especially when many U.S. carriers traipsed through bankruptcy court in the past decade.
Now riding a post-merger tide of higher fares and stable fuel costs, those same airlines are piling up profits — and sharing the newfound riches with investors.
American Airlines announced Thursday that it would pay its first dividend in 34 years, and both American and United Airlines announced big plans to buy back their own stock, a strategy designed to boost the value of remaining shares.
Those announcements came as American, United and Southwest reported record-setting second-quarter results, building on Delta's solid performance a day earlier.
Airlines are prospering as mergers have reduced competition, making it easier to keep prices high and raise billions from extra fees. They used bankruptcy to squeeze costs from employees and suppliers such as the smaller carriers that operate regional flights. They have benefited from stable fuel prices.
American Airlines Group Inc., the world's biggest airline company since American's December merger with US Airways, said it will pay its first dividend since 1980, a cash payout of 10 cents per share, which could cost nearly $300 million a year.
"It is hard to believe that less than eight months ago, American was in bankruptcy yet today we are reporting record profits, prepaying debt, making additional pension contributions and declaring dividends to shareholders," CEO Doug Parker said in a letter to employees.
Dividends are common in many other industries, but few airlines pay them. Southwest has been paying a dividend for more than 37 years and boosted it by 50 percent this spring. Delta Air Lines restored its dividend last year.
American also said it will spend up to $1 billion to buy back shares through the end of 2015, and United announced a similar $1 billion program to stretch over three years. They joined Southwest and Delta, which already buy back their own shares.
Fitch Ratings said the buybacks could pose a risk to airlines' improving creditworthiness if the companies stop focusing on reducing debt and holding large cash reserves. Fitch said it was surprised by the size of American's buyback plan, but it was reassured by the company's actions to prepay debt and buy out some aircraft leases.
The latest moves came as American reported net income of $864 million in the second quarter. Excluding special charges related to taxes and bankruptcy and merger costs, the profit was $1.5 billion, a quarterly record for American. At $1.98 per share, it beat analysts' forecast of $1.95 per share, according to FactSet. Revenue rose 10.2 percent as passengers paid 6.5 percent more per mile for their tickets.
United Continental Holdings Inc., created by a 2010 merger of two airlines that had both gone through bankruptcy, reported net income of $789 million in the second quarter, topping Wall Street expectations and marking a turnaround from the first quarter, when it lost $609 million and canceled 35,000 flights.
United has struggled with technology glitches and other issues that have left it behind other airlines in key revenue ratios, but second-quarter revenue rose 3.3 percent to $10.33 billion, slightly higher than Wall Street forecasts, partly due to higher "ancillary revenue" from extra fees.
Southwest Airlines Co. reported a record second-quarter profit of $465 million and set records for full planes and passenger fare per mile. Revenue rose 8 percent.
CEO Gary Kelly said that bookings were strong in July, with passengers paying about 3 percent more per mile than in July 2013. The company expects to grow through international flying that it picked up with the 2011 acquisition of AirTran Airways and expansion in Dallas, where a federal law that limited its flights expires in October.
"Demand is very strong, and it is balanced very nicely with the supply of seats," Kelly said on a conference call with reporters. "We're going to manage our growth very carefully so that we don't upset that balance."
Kelly said his biggest worries about the demand-supply balance centered on the economy or events in the Middle East causing a spike in jet fuel prices.
JetBlue Airways Corp. said earnings jumped six-fold to $230 million. Revenue grew 12 percent.
Airline stocks have surged in the past two years but have also had down days recently due to concern about growth in capacity on lucrative international routes.
In afternoon trading, shares of American Airlines fell $1.03 to $42.30; United lost $1.18 to $44.82; Southwest slipped 36 cents to $28.51; Delta Air Lines Inc. fell $1.09 to $38.06; and JetBlue fell 20 cents to $11.08.News Topics: Business, General news, Earnings reports, Passenger airlines, Airlines, Share buybacks, Earnings estimates, Stock prices, Dividends, Earnings, Financial performance, Corporate news, Transportation and shipping, Industrial products and services, Industries, Corporate stock, Leading economic indicators, Economy
People, Places and Companies: United Continental Holdings Inc, American Airlines Group Inc, Us Airways Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc, Southwest Airlines Co, Jetblue Airways Corp, Doug Parker, Gary C. Kelly
Throughout his long career, Woody Allen has been fascinated by magic, a theme he's explored frequently onscreen: playing a magician in "Scoop," sending Owen Wilson on time travel in "Midnight in Paris," or pulling Jeff Daniels out of a movie screen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo."
And though one might think, with the wave of terrible publicity he went through earlier this year, that a bit of magician-like escape into a bygone era or a movie screen is just what he might prefer, Allen is doing anything but disappear.
He's not only making movies on the same famously ambitious, one-per-year schedule he's adhered to for almost half a century. He's also actively promoting his latest, the lighthearted period romp "Magic in the Moonlight," even as he's busy shooting his next movie in Providence, Rhode Island.
But anyone who expected Allen to speak further on the personal issues that arose last year — the revival of accusations by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, that he abused her when she was 7 — will be disappointed. The 78-year-old director has held true to his word that he would say nothing further, following a February letter to the New York Times in which he vigorously denied the allegations.
The question does remain whether Allen's personal issues might affect the public reception of his new film, which stars Colin Firth as a cynical stage magician and Emma Stone as the young spiritualist whose magical powers he seeks to debunk. "One thing doesn't have to do with the other," says Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which releases the film on Friday.
Box office expert Paul Dergarabedian expects fans to agree.
"For fans, I think there's a total separation that occurs with Woody Allen," says Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "Coming in, you know there's this baggage ... but his filmmaking transcends all that. His audiences seem to keep lining up for his films."
So far, reviews for the new film have been mixed. In any case, Allen himself says he long ago stopped trying to figure out how his movies will be received.
"I have no idea," he said in a telephone interview, when asked about prospects for "Moonlight."
"I'm always disappointed in each movie when I'm finished," he explained, "because there's a big difference between the fantasy you have when you're home writing the thing, and you think, this is going to be so great ... and then you actually have to execute it, and Emma Stone can't possibly walk across the room as fast as you pictured, because no human can. ... And so I'm always disappointed, and I never have an idea which ones are going to resonate with an audience."
Dergarabedian notes that big-name actors "are still lining up to work with Allen." That would include Firth and Stone, both working with Allen for the first time.
"His work has had such a specific role to play in my whole relation with movies," Firth said, "that to suddenly be invited to join the narrative a bit is thrilling."
Stone is only 25 — less than half Firth's age — but still has a connection to Allen's films. "My mom showed me 'Annie Hall,'" said the actress, who noted that her family dog is named Alvy, after Alvy Singer, Allen's role in that film.
"I was incredibly nervous," Stone said of the prospect of working with Allen. But clearly it worked out: She's now shooting his new movie, along with Joaquin Phoenix.
In "Moonlight," you could say Firth has the requisite Woody Allen protagonist role. And his character, Stanley, exudes the same cynicism about magic and spiritualism that Allen feels. "He's a magician who'd love to be proven wrong," said Allen. Especially because "he knows that life is a tough, brutal, grim, meaningless grind full of heartache and tragedy, accruing to nothing."
If that sounds sober, listen to Allen's own (abridged here) view of life:
"In the end," he said, "you realize that you're just a human being on the face of the earth, an insignificant agglomeration of cells and neurons, and eventually that expires, and eventually everything expires. It's terrifying."
Allen says the best antidote is distraction, a gift he's been trying to give his audiences for 50 years. But don't expect a happy answer to the question of whether experience makes him a better director.
"I wish that were true," he said, ruefully. "In an art form, you start from scratch all the time. You gain a little technique over the years. But inspirationally — that's in the lap of the gods.
"If I'm lucky, I get a great inspiration and it's a good film. If I'm not lucky, I get less inspired, and it's not such a good film."News Topics: Arts and entertainment, General news, Movies, Entertainment, Science fiction and fantasy movies, Celebrity
People, Places and Companies: Woody Allen, Owen Wilson, Jeff Daniels, Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix
WASHINGTON (AP) — The risk of losing your job is getting smaller and smaller.
As the U.S. economy has improved and employers have regained confidence, companies have been steadily shedding fewer workers. Which is why applications for unemployment benefits have dwindled to their lowest level since February 2006 — nearly two years before the Great Recession began — the government said Thursday.
The trend means greater job security and suggests a critical turning point in the economic recovery. It raises the hope that workers' pay will finally accelerate after grinding through a sluggish recovery for the past half-decade.
When the economy sank into recession at the end of 2007, employers cut deeply into their staffs. And then during the recovery, they hired only hesitantly. Instead, they sought to maximize the productivity of their existing employees.
But in recent months, the picture has brightened. Employers have added 200,000-plus jobs for five straight months, and the unemployment rate has reached 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008.
Now, the steadily declining level of layoffs suggests that employers may have to hire even more aggressively and raise pay if they want to expand their businesses, said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisers.
"They've been continually working their workers harder and longer," Naroff said. "As a result of that, we have consistent growth and you can't lay off people anymore."
The shortage of laid-off workers searching for jobs means that more companies may need to pay more to attract talent. Thus far, wage growth has essentially only kept pace with inflation, and household incomes remain below their 2007 levels.
Most businesses have so far been hesitant to raise wages, so there may be a lag before workers see higher paychecks.
"But when the dam breaks, it's really going to break," Naroff predicted.
Some firms say they're already dealing with wage pressures.
Cleveland-based Applied Medical Technology has raised hourly pay for warehouse employees from $8.25 to $10. It did so both to attract new hires and because it heard that some of its employees had quit for raises elsewhere, said Jeff Elliott, the company's chief financial officer.
The company also started holding pizza parties and summer cookouts. Elliott said it's cheaper and easier to keep existing employees than to find and train new ones.
Throughout the economy, layoffs have fallen so much that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to a seasonally adjusted 284,000, a low last achieved in February 2006. And after accounting for U.S. population growth, the number of people applying for unemployment aid has reached its lowest point since 1999.
The four-week average of applications, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, has dropped to 302,000 from 348,500 when the year began.
"In the weeks that follow," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, "claims look likely to hold at or below the 300,000 mark."
The sharp decline has paralleled healthy monthly employment reports. Employers added a net 288,000 jobs in June, capping the first five-month stretch of gains above 200,000 since 1999 at the height of the dot-com boom.
The consensus forecast of economists is that the government will announce next week that employers added 225,000 jobs in July, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet.
Not every company is avoiding layoffs. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it would cut 18,000 workers — the biggest layoffs in its 39-year history. But layoff announcements now mainly reflect strategic changes within individual companies, rather than broader economic conditions, Naroff said.
Other data confirm that across the economy, job cuts have reached unusually low levels. Total layoffs in May dropped below pre-recession levels, the government said in a separate report that reveals how many people were hired, fired or quit jobs.
Just 1.58 million people were laid off in May, according to the Labor Department. That was the third-lowest monthly figure since the government began tracking the data in 2001.
Still, while layoffs have fallen 7.5 percent this year, actual hiring has increased just 3 percent. That's a big reason the job market might not seem as healthy as the series of strong monthly net job gains might suggest.
Even so, more people with jobs means more people with paychecks, which tends to boost consumer spending and growth. After a sharp contraction in the economy in the first three months of the year, most economists expect growth to exceed a 3 percent annual pace in the second half of 2014.News Topics: Business, General news, Labor economy, Layoffs, Economy, Employment figures, Recessions and depressions, Personnel, Leading economic indicators
People, Places and Companies: United States, North America
BRIDGEND, Wales (AP) — Bernhard Langer made a statement of intent when he opened with a 6-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead over American Bob Tway in the British Senior Open at a sweltering Royal Porthcawl on Thursday.
Langer, who threw away a two-stroke lead on the final hole at Royal Birkdale last year and then was beaten for the title in a playoff, was out in a best-of-the-day 31.
He birdied the third, fourth, sixth and eighth holes, and went 5 under when he birdied the long 13th. He dropped a shot at the 16th but then hit back immediately with birdies at the two closing holes.
"Six under is very satisfying," Langer said. "I played smart, some good, some great. I didn't make many mistakes and that's what it comes down to at the end."News Topics: Sports, Men's golf, Golf, Men's sports
People, Places and Companies: Bernhard Langer, Bob Tway, Wales, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Europe
WASHINGTON (AP) — A possible Republican presidential contender in 2016 says he will continue blocking confirmation of a series of State Department nominees despite the Federal Aviation Administration lifting a ban on U.S. airline flights to Israel.
Sen. Ted Cruz says he won't release the holds until the Obama administration answers his questions. New U.S. ambassadors to several key allies are affected.
Cruz has accused Obama of using the flight ban to impose an economic boycott of Israel while it is fighting the militant group Hamas.
The senator said Thursday, quote, "There are still serious questions as to the decision-making that went into the ban on flights and whether it was driven by political consideration at the White House or by objective expert opinion at the agency."News Topics: General news, Government and politics, Air travel disruptions, Transportation
People, Places and Companies: Ted Cruz, Israel, United States, Middle East, North America