Nation roundup for September 25


40 AGs urge tight e-cigarette rules

BOSTON (AP) — Forty attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday urging the agency to meet its own deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.

The letter, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, says e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like advertising characters and by offering fruit and candy flavors, much like cigarettes were once marketed to hook new smokers.

At the same time, e-cigarettes are becoming more affordable and more widely available as the use of regular cigarettes decline as they become more expensive and less socially acceptable.

“Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes, nor are there any advertising restrictions,” DeWine wrote.

Electronic cigarettes are metal or plastic battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are being advertised during prime-time television hours at a time when many children are watching, according to the letter, which has led a surge in sales and use.

The health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied and the ingredients are not regulated, the letter said.

4 men charged in Chicago shooting

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man who was clipped in the leg by gunfire went looking for revenge, leading fellow gang members to a crowded park, where one of them unleashed more than a dozen bullets from an assault rifle in a shooting that wounded 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, authorities say.

Thursday night’s attack at a basketball court on Chicago’s southwest side did injure several gang members. But the rapid spray of bullets also struck bystanders in a shooting that has again focused national attention on gang bloodshed in the nation’s third-largest city.

Authorities announced Tuesday that four men have been charged, including the suspected primary shooter, a second man accused of firing a .22-caliber revolver, a lookout and the man prosecutors say supplied the assault rifle.

A judge denied bail for the group, who appeared lined up in court still wearing the street clothes they had on when they were arrested. Each is charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, though additional charges were expected. A defense attorney said each of the four denied the charges, and one of their mothers cried in the second row of the gallery.

6 more found safe well after floods

DENVER (AP) — The final six people who were unaccounted for after massive flooding in Colorado have been found safe and well, authorities said Tuesday, but new spills were reported in water-damaged oilfields.

Only one person remained missing and presumed dead. Eight deaths have been confirmed.

It was a remarkable outcome after a disaster that damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, washed out hundreds of miles of roads and left many small mountain towns completely cut off.

In the early days of the flooding, more than 1,200 people were listed as unaccounted for, but the list shrank quickly as people checked in after they were evacuated.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said three new spills totaling at least 7,600 gallons had been discovered as flood waters recede. Regulators are now tracking 11 notable leaks totaling at least 34,500 barrels, mostly from storage tanks that toppled or otherwise failed.

Flooding has hampered attempts to inspect storm damage. Where crews can get to the sites, they are using containment booms and vacuum trucks to capture and remove oil-contaminated water, said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the commission.

Air National Guard helicopters have airlifted more than 3,000 people and nearly 900 pets to safety.

U.S. consumer confidence down

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans’ confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September. That’s down from August’s reading of 81.8, which was slightly higher than previously estimated.

Consumers’ confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The September reading was only slightly below June’s reading of 82.1, the highest in 5 ½ years.

While confidence has bounced back from the depths of the Great Recession, it has yet to regain a reading of 90 that typically coincides with a healthy economy.

In September, confidence fell on a dimmer outlook for the next few months. Lynn Franco, who oversees the survey, said that reflected concerns about the job market and wages.

Stocks fall for a fourth straight day

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street couldn’t shrug off doubts about the economy and government gridlock on Tuesday.

Mixed economic reports and concern about a government shutdown dragged stocks lower in the final half-hour of trading. They had been positive most of the day.

The modest losses extended the losing streak for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to four days. It was the longest run of declines in a month. The Dow Jones industrial average also dropped for a fourth straight day.

Investors struggled with conflicting news about the economy on Tuesday. One report showed that home prices in July rose the most in more than seven years. Another showed that Americans’ confidence in the economy slipped in September.

Investors are searching for direction after the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision last Wednesday to keep its stimulus program intact. They had expected a reduction in the Fed’s $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. Investors are now parsing economic reports and comments from Fed officials to gauge the central bank’s next move.

Some are also nervous about political gridlock in Washington.

They were concerned that the federal government could shut down because Washington lawmakers appear to be making little progress in budget talks.

“A government shutdown starting next week is looking increasingly likely,” said Jim Russell, a regional investment director at U.S. Bank. “That will not be welcomed by the capital markets.”

But Brad Sorensen, director of market and sector research at Charles Schwab, thought that worries about a government shutdown would ultimately be short-lived.

“Investors are becoming a little bit immune to the games that Washington has started to play,” Sorensen said. “Investors with a stronger stomach should probably buy the dip.”

Stocks, for example, plummeted in the summer of 2011 as lawmakers wrangled about raising the debt ceiling. The market also sagged in October last year before the Presidential elections, on concerns that a divided government would be unable to agree on tax reform. Each time though, backed by the Fed’s economic stimulus, the market came back stronger.

After falling 2 percent in October of last year, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose for seven straight months, gaining 15 percent.

On Tuesday, the Dow closed down 66 points, 0.4 percent, to 15,334. The S&P 500 index fell four points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,697. The Nasdaq composite, however, edged up three points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,768.

Stocks edged lower in early trading before moving modestly higher in the late morning and afternoon. Those gains then fizzled out at the end of trading.

Phone company stocks were the biggest decliners among the 10 industry groups that form the S&P 500. Industrial stocks were the biggest gainers.

Before the market opened, a survey showed that home prices rose the most since February 2006. A revival in housing has been one of the bright spots for the economy.

In another key economic gauge, the Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September, down from August’s 81.8.

Consumers’ confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. Confidence has grown since the Great Recession, but it hasn’t hit a reading of 90, which typically accompanies a healthy economy.

They S&P 500 index is just 28 points below its all-time high reached last Wednesday, when investors were initially thrilled that the Fed extended its economic stimulus. Since then, the market has fallen each day as doubts emerge about the outlook for the economy, and budget negotiations.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose fell as investors bought bonds. The yield dropped from 2.70 percent late Monday to 2.66 percent, its lowest level in six weeks. The yield on the note is a benchmark for rates of consumer loans.

 

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