Nation roundup for November 12


House blast kills 2 in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A massive explosion sparked a huge fire and killed two people in an Indianapolis neighborhood where about three dozen homes were damaged or destroyed, authorities said Sunday. The powerful nighttime blast shattered windows, crumpled walls and could be felt at least three miles away.

Aerial photographs of the once-tidy neighborhood of one- and two-story homes showed at least two had been reduced to blackened pits of debris. Other homes had sections gutted by fire or holes in their roofs or exterior walls. Siding dangled from the outside of other homes, and crumpled garage doors hung from houses nearby. Pieces of wood and other building materials littered the street and surrounding properties.

It wasn’t clear what caused the blast about 11 p.m. Saturday. Firefighters responding to a call about a single house fire were surprised by a much bigger blaze. The fire centered on four homes, two that were leveled and two others that only had the frames standing by the time the flames were extinguished, Deputy Chief Kenny Bacon said.

The damage extended two blocks in every direction, he said, and fire officials didn’t initially realize the extent of it in the darkness. City and fire officials said Sunday afternoon that about two dozen homes were uninhabitable and would have to be torn down. Several more had severe damage but could be fixed.

Rape suspect sees women as objects

WASHINGTON (AP) — The accused East Coast Rapist says he doesn’t know why he couldn’t stop attacking women for nearly two decades.

“They were objects,” Aaron Thomas told The Washington Post in a series of telephone interviews from his jail cell in Virginia’s Prince William County. “Whoever came down the street, an object. ... It’s awful. It’s scary. ... I don’t know why I couldn’t just stop.”

Thomas said that he doesn’t think he is crazy, but that he knows something is wrong with him.

“I did so much, I can’t remember,” he said, adding that it all blends together.

Thomas, 40, is expected to plead guilty this month for the Halloween abduction of three women in 2009 in Prince William County and a Loudoun county rape in 2001. He faces the possibility of several life terms in prison.

Thomas is the son of a Washington police officer who later committed suicide. Family members described a troubled childhood that included a two-week stay at a psychiatric facility in Georgetown after setting a girl’s hair on fire. He later spent the first three years of high school in an Upper Marlboro treatment center.

Michael Battle, Thomas’s older brother, said their father was a strict disciplinarian.

“You didn’t do anything out of sorts or it was hell to pay. When we started to fight back in our way, problems started. With Aaron, it seemed to go way down a rabbit hole. It went further.”

Thomas once beat another elementary school student with the chain from a playground swing and lit a firecracker indoors at a relative’s home on the Fourth of July, starting a fire, his brother said. Thomas’ mother, Shirley Thomas, said he began misbehaving early.

Priceline to buy Kayak for $1.8B

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) — Priceline.com Inc. plans to buy online travel-research company Kayak Software Corp. for $1.8 billion to expand its travel business.

Priceline will pay about $500 million in cash and $1.3 billion in stock and assumed options. The deal values Kayak at $40 a share, a 29 percent premium over its closing price Thursday.

Shares of Kayak — which also reported a 78 percent jump in third-quarter earnings — soared in after-hours trading while Priceline shares fell.

Kayak allows users to compare hundreds of travel sites when looking for flights, hotels and rental cars.

It then sends the consumer to other websites to complete their purchase and earns fees on the referrals, although some bookings can be made directly on Kayak’s website and mobile applications. It also sells advertising.

Kayak was created by the same executives who helped launch other travel sites including Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. The company went public in July after delaying its offering more than a year while it waited for the market to strengthen.

The strategy of waiting seemed to work — the shares jumped 28 percent on the first day of trading, and Priceline will pay 57 percent more than Kayak’s IPO price.

The deal needs the approval of Kayak’s shareholders and of regulators. It is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Priceline said that Kayak will continue to operate independently as a Priceline Group company.

‘Skyfall’ soars with record debut

LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Bond’s “Skyfall” has extended its worldwide box-office rule to North America, hauling in a franchise-record $87.8 million in its first weekend at U.S. theaters.

Adding in $2.2 million from Thursday night previews at IMAX and other large-format theaters, “Skyfall” has taken in $90 million domestically, according to studio estimates Sunday.

That lifts the worldwide total for “Skyfall” to $518.6 million since it began rolling out overseas in late October. Internationally, the 23rd Bond flick added $89 million this weekend to raise its overseas revenue to $428.6 million.

The third installment starring Daniel Craig as British super-spy Bond, “Skyfall” outdid the $67.5 million U.S. debut of 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” the franchise’s previous best opening. “Skyfall” more than doubled the $40.8 million debut of Craig’s first Bond film, 2006’s “Casino Royale.”

“Skyfall” already has passed the $407.7 million overseas total for “Quantum of Solace” and by Monday, it will top the $432.2 million international haul for “Casino Royale.”

The Craig era has reinvigorated one of Hollywood’s most-enduring franchises, whose first big-screen Bond adventure, “Dr. No,” debuted 50 years ago.

“It’s quite a testament to Bond, considering it’s the 50th anniversary. What a great anniversary present,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, which produces the Bond films along with MGM.

“Skyfall” was the weekend’s only new wide release, but Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” had a huge start in a handful of theaters. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, “Lincoln” took in $900,000 in 11 theaters for a whopping average of $81,818 a cinema. By comparison, “Skyfall” averaged $25,050 in 3,505 theaters.

“Lincoln” centers on the months leading up to the president’s assassination in April 1865, as he maneuvers to pass the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and end the Civil War. Distributor Disney will expand “Lincoln” into nationwide release of about 1,600 theaters Friday and may widen the film further over Thanksgiving week.

The film has strong Academy Awards prospects for two-time directing winner Spielberg, two-time acting recipient Day-Lewis and the rest of the cast, which includes Oscar winners Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.

“The performances are some of the greatest of recent time,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “I don’t know if you’re ever going to think about it again without seeing our actor as Lincoln. Daniel is extraordinary in the role.”

“Skyfall” took over the top spot at the weekend box office from Disney’s animated comedy “Wreck-It Ralph,” which fell to No. 2 with $33.1 million, raising its domestic total to $93.7 million.

While “Skyfall” marked a new high for Bond’s opening-weekend revenue, the film has a long way to go to match the biggest audiences 007 has ever drawn. Adjusted for inflation, Sean Connery’s 1965 Bond adventure “Thunderball” would have taken in an estimated $508 million domestically in today’s dollars, with its 1964 predecessor “Goldfinger” not far behind at $444 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

The Bond films over the last two decades have come in around the $200 million range domestically in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Still, Craig’s Bond is setting a new critical standard for the franchise. While “Quantum of Solace” had a so-so critical reception, “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale” are among the best-reviewed Bond films, with critics and fans enjoying the darker edge Craig has imprinted on 007.

“‘Skyfall’ is to the Bond franchise what ‘The Dark Knight’ was to the Batman franchise,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “By taking it to a whole other level, this is a different kind of Bond that can be taken really seriously.”

Directed by Sam Mendes, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind “American Beauty” and Craig’s director on “Road to Perdition,” ”Skyfall” continues the current franchise’s exploration into the emotional traumas that have shaped Bond’s cool, aloof manner.

The film reveals secrets out of the past of Bond’s boss, British spymaster M (Judi Dench), and pits 007 against a brilliant but unstable former agent (Javier Bardem) who’s out for revenge.

Hollywood remains on a brisk pace this fall as the busy holiday season approaches. Overall domestic revenues totaled $172 million, up 26 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Immortals” led with $32.2 million.

For the year, domestic revenues are at $9.1 billion, up 4.3 percent from 2011’s, according to Hollywood.com.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

 

Rules for posting comments