Nation roundup for July 23


Man is charged in three killings

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man possibly influenced by a serial killer was charged Monday with aggravated murder after three bodies wrapped in trash bags were found in suburban Cleveland.

A call to police Friday led authorities to a home and a standoff with the man, who was eventually taken into custody, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said.

Michael Madison, 35, was charged with three counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping. He didn’t enter a plea at a brief court appearance where bail was set at $6 million. He also waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

Police and volunteers scoured about 40 empty homes Sunday until their search was suspended, with no immediate plans to resume.

Authorities said they had identified only one of the victims, Angela Deskins, who was believed to be 38 years old.

The other two bodies were too badly decomposed to identify. The medical examiner also said he couldn’t determine at this time a cause of death because of the bodies’ conditions.

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said fingerprints, dental records and DNA genetic material would be used to try to identify the other two victims.

One had numerous tattoos, including on the left thumb, left forearm, left thigh and left breast.

‘Law & Order’ star, Farina, dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Dennis Farina, a onetime Chicago cop who as a popular character actor played a TV cop on “Law & Order” during his wide-ranging career, has died.

Death came Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after Farina suffered a blood clot in his lung, according to his publicist, Lori De Waal. He was 69.

For three decades, Farina was a character actor who displayed remarkable dexterity, charm and toughness, making effective use of his craggy face, husky frame, ivory smile and ample mustache. He could be as dapper as Fred Astaire and as full of threat as Clint Eastwood. His gift has been described as wry, tough-guy panache, and audiences loved him for it.

“Sometimes you can take those dramatic roles and maybe interject a little humor into them, and I think the reverse also works,” Farina said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. “One of the funny things in life to me is a guy who takes himself very seriously.”

Farina’s many films include “Saving Private Ryan,” (1998), “Out Of Sight” (1998), “Midnight Run” (1988), “Manhunter” (1986), and his breakout and perhaps most beloved film, “Get Shorty” (1995), a comedic romp where he played a Miami mob boss.

He recently completed shooting a comedy film, “Lucky Stiff.” Among his numerous TV roles was Detective Joe Fontana on “Law & Order” during the 2004-06 seasons.

Gold miners help lift the S&P 500

NEW YORK (AP) — Mining companies and banks helped the stock market overcome some disappointing quarterly performances on Monday.

Poor second-quarter results from a handful of large U.S. companies weighed on stocks. McDonald’s Corp. fell after its results missed expectations and it warned of a tough year ahead. Media company Gannett dropped after its revenue fell short of financial analysts’ expectations.

But gold and copper prices boosted mining companies, and that helped nudge the market to another all-time high.

Investors are looking ahead at a busy week of corporate earnings. More than 150 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index are reporting quarterly earnings over the next four days.

Predicted growth increases hiring

WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies are increasingly confident the economy will grow at a modest pace over the next year and are hiring more, according to a survey of business economists.

Nearly one-third of the economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics said their companies added jobs in the April-June quarter, according to a report released Monday. That’s the highest percentage in nearly two years. And 39 percent expect their firms will hire more in the next six months. That’s near the two-year high of 40 percent reached in the January-March quarter.

The hiring pickup occurred even though sales and profit growth slowed in the second quarter.

Optimism about future economic growth increased. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents forecast growth of 2.1 percent or more over the next 12 months. That’s up from two-thirds in the first- quarter survey, released in April, and the most in a year.

The quarterly survey’s results echo much of the recent data tracking the economy. Growth has been slow in the past nine months, but employers have added jobs at a healthy pace. Many economists anticipate that the steady hiring will help accelerate growth in the second half of this year.

The NABE surveyed 65 of its member economists between June 18 and July 2. The economists work for companies from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, transportation and utilities, finance, retail and other services.

Among the findings:

— Only about 35 percent of the respondents said sales at their firms increased in the second quarter. That’s sharply lower than the 55 percent who reported rising sales in the first quarter. And 15 percent said sales fell, up from 9 percent in the first quarter.

— Profit growth also slowed: Only 21 percent of respondents said profit margins increased last quarter, down from 29 percent in the first.

— Only 19 percent of economists said their firms were raising wages and salaries, down from 31 percent in April and the lowest proportion since October.

— A small but increasing minority of respondents say that government spending cuts and tax increases have hurt their businesses. Twenty-six percent of the economists said their firms were negatively impacted, up from only 16 percent in April. Still, 74 percent said the government policies had no impact on their businesses, though that’s down from 79 percent three months earlier.

Looking ahead, companies are increasingly concerned about higher interest rates. That reflects the jump in rates that took place following Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s comments in late May that the Fed could slow its bond-buying program later this year. Those purchases are intended to keep interest rates low.

The interest rate on the 10-year Treasury bond, a benchmark that influences mortgage rates and other borrowing costs, has increased nearly a full percentage point to about 2.5 percent since May.

When asked for their biggest concern over the next 12 months, 17 percent of the respondents cited rising interest rates. That is a big jump from April, when only 4 percent cited such concerns.

The biggest concern for most companies is the health of the global economy, which was cited by nearly one-third of the respondents. Europe’s financial crisis has plunged that region into a recession, and growth in China, Brazil and other large emerging markets has also slowed. That’s crimping U.S. exports.

 

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