Nation roundup for May 23


Jury deadlocks in Arias murder trial

PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors in the Jodi Arias murder trial said Wednesday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend, prompting the judge to instruct them to keep on trying.

The jury reported its impasse after only about two and a half hours of deliberations. Judge Sherry Stephens instructed jurors to try to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as they work toward a decision.

Under Arizona law, a hung jury in the death penalty phase of a trial requires a new jury to be seated to decide the punishment. If the second jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life in prison or be eligible for release after 25 years.

In the event of a hung jury in the Arias trial, the case could drag on for several more months, said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

Apple case may lead to tax action

WASHINGTON (AP) — Now that tech darling Apple Inc. has been dragged front and center into the debate over the U.S. tax code, lawmakers are hoping that the spotlight on such a high-profile company could be the catalyst for Congress to take action to close loopholes or reform the law.

At a hearing Tuesday, members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations grilled Apple CEO Tim Cook over allegations that the company’s Irish subsidiaries help it avoid billions in U.S. taxes. It was a moment of high drama, a CEO of the world’s most valuable company testifying before Congress for the first time ever. Cook did so voluntarily. And he parried the volley of questions from senators, insisting that the company’s overseas operations have nothing to do with reducing Apple’s U.S. taxes.

“We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar,” Cook said. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks.”

The subcommittee released a report Monday that held up Apple as an example of the legal tax avoidance made possible by the U.S. tax code. Apple paid $6 billion in taxes last year. But the subcommittee estimates that Apple avoided at least $3.5 billion in U.S. federal taxes in 2011 and $9 billion in 2012 by using its tax strategy, and described a complex setup involving Irish subsidiaries.

Weiner launches NYC mayoral bid

NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Weiner knows there may be a lot of New Yorkers who would never consider voting for him again, but he says he’s running for mayor because he wants to bring his ideas to the fore — and win.

“I don’t kid myself. I know that this is going to be a difficult slog, and I’m going to have to have a lot of difficult conversations with people along the way,” the former congressman, whose career imploded in a rash of raunchy tweets two years ago, said by phone Wednesday after officially launching his mayoral bid.

“I think I have something to contribute. And I think that it’s up to New Yorkers to decide whether I get a second chance or not, and I hope the answer’s yes,” the Democrat added.

31.2M drivers set to take road trips

Associated Press

It’s going to be another busy Memorial Day weekend on the nation’s highways.

From today through Monday, 31.2 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more to a beach, campground or other getaway, according to car lobbying group AAA. That’s a small increase from last year but still well short of the record 37.3 million people who drove during the holiday in 2005.

Gas will cost slightly more this year. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline has risen 7 cents in the past week to $3.66 and could increase over the weekend. Gas averaged $3.64 last Memorial Day. Still, the price isn’t expected to reach the 2011 Memorial Day average of $3.79. The total number of holiday travelers should decline almost 1 percent to 34.8 million, AAA says, because fewer will choose to fly. AAA estimates that 2.3 million travelers will take to the skies, down 8 percent from last year.

“American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security. As a result, many are choosing road travel,” Robert L. Darbelnet, CEO of AAA, said in a statement.

The airline industry’s lobbying group — Airlines for America — said it expects a typical Memorial Day weekend and sees overall summer traffic increasing by 1 percent.

The average domestic roundtrip airfare for June, July and August is $421, down $6 or 1.4 percent from last summer, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes almost half of all airline tickets sold in the U.S.

The travel forecast done by IHS Global Insight for AAA — one of the nation’s largest leisure travel agencies — is based on interviews with 306 Americans and factors in estimates about the overall health of the economy.

In 2012, AAA underestimated the number of people driving on Memorial Day by 400,000. Part of the reason is that its report is prepared more than a month prior to the holiday. Last year, gas prices fell more than 20 cents a gallon during that period. This year, there was a rebound in measures of consumers’ confidence in the economy that occurred after the AAA report was finalized, which could indicate a few more Americans will travel than AAA predicts.

Another 1.3 million travelers are estimated by AAA to take buses, trains, ferries and other forms of travel, down 12 percent from last Memorial Day.

 

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