Nation roundup for September 27


Ex-teacher, rapist freed after month

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana high school teacher was released from prison Thursday after completing a 30-day sentence for raping a 14-year-old student, a term that is under review by the state’s high court and has critics calling for the removal of the judge who handled the case.

Stacey Rambold, 54, left the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge after serving the sentence handed down by District Judge G. Todd Baugh for the 2007 rape of Cherice Moralez.

The judge drew outrage last month over the sentence’s leniency and comments he made that appeared to pin some of the blame on Moralez.

The teen committed suicide in 2010 before Rambold went to trial.

State prosecutors are appealing the sentence, saying Rambold should have received a minimum of two years. But barring new offenses, the former teacher has served his time and will stay out of prison pending the appeal.

Rambold was picked up at the prison by a family member Thursday morning and returned to Billings, where he was seen later in the day reporting to a state probation office.

He’s been registered as a level 1 sex offender — meaning he’s considered a low risk to re-offend— and will remain on probation through 2028 unless the original sentence is overruled.

Moralez’s mother, Auliea Hanlon, said Rambold’s release shows he is “still skating” justice six years after he assaulted her daughter.

More children are protected from flu

WASHINGTON (AP) — More children than ever got vaccinated against the flu last year, and health officials urged families Thursday to do even better this time around.

Far too many young and middle-aged adults still forego the yearly protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.

And this year, Americans have an unprecedented number of vaccine options to choose from: The regular shot; the nasal spray; an egg-free shot for those allergic to eggs; a high-dose shot just for those 65 and older; and a tiny-needle shot for the squeamish.

The bigger change: A small number of the regular flu shots, and all of the FluMist nasal vaccine, will protect against four strains of influenza rather than the traditional three.

“There’s something for everyone this year,” said CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

A severe flu strain swept the country last winter, sparking a scramble for last-minute vaccinations. There’s no way to predict if this year will be as bad. But it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so health officials say early fall — before flu begins spreading widely — is the best time to start immunizations.

Obama considers help for Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — Four of President Barack Obama’s top advisers will converge on Detroit today to meet privately with state and local leaders about ways the federal government can help the bankrupt city short of a bailout.

The White House said Thursday that top economic adviser Gene Sperling will join U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in the closed meeting.

“There is not going to be a bailout,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin told The Associated Press Wednesday. “We have enough problems with the federal deficit. We need to be creative and look at existing programs. There are still some funds there.”

The gathering follows a series of meetings with the White House to plot ways to pull Detroit from a fiscal pit that this summer made it the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy protection.

Some of the earlier meetings focused on federal grants and programs that could patch holes in existing services due to Detroit’s cash crunch, but the city has had a poor record in making sure grant money is used properly and even spent at all.

Not guilty plea in listeria outbreak

DENVER (AP) — The owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from a 2011 listeria epidemic that killed 33 people.

Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen were arrested Thursday on misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. They appeared in federal court later and were released on unsecured bonds.

Prosecutors say federal agencies determined the Jensens didn’t adequately clean their cantaloupe.

Criminal charges in food-contamination cases are rare. Prosecutors say they’re pursuing this case because of the number of deaths.

It was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. The federal Centers for Disease Control say people in 28 states ate the fruit.

Encouraging job news lifts stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Upbeat news about jobs and retailers helped the Standard & Poor’s 500 index snap its longest losing streak of the year on Thursday.

U.S. unemployment claims fell close to their lowest level in six years, the government reported, and J.C. Penney and Bed Bath & Beyond delivered encouraging news.

The positive trends outweighed worries about a potential government shutdown in Washington next week. Those concerns had led the S&P 500 index to five consecutive days of declines, the index’s worst run in 2013.

That ended Thursday when the S&P 500 index rose six points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,698.67.

“There’s a little bit of a bounce here,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners. “It may be a little bit of bargain hunting.”

The broad index is less than two percent below its all-time high from Sept. 18.

U.S. economic growth rose to an annual rate of 2.5 percent from April through June, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

That was an increase from the 1.1 percent growth in the previous quarter.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 305,000 last week, the government said, the fewest since September 2007, three months before the Great Recession began.

While the economic news was encouraging, it wasn’t spectacular. Some analysts said it justified the Federal Reserve’s surprise decision last week to keep up its economic stimulus.

The U.S. central bank has been buying $85 billion of bonds a month to keep long-term interest rates low, which has encouraged borrowing and driven up stock prices.

Wall Street had expected the Fed to start easing back on its stimulus.

“It’s fair to say that the Fed got it right by delaying,” the cuts to stimulus, said Ron Florance, deputy chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. “Growth is uninteresting and subdued.”

Growth-sensitive retail stocks were among the best performers in the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 index.

The group got a lift from the troubled department store owner J.C. Penney, which said it was pleased with its turnaround efforts.

The company’s stock ended the day up 30 cents, or 3 percent, at $10.42.

Shares, however, fell more than 5 percent in after-markets trading following the company’s announcement that it planned to sell up to 96.6 million shares of common stock in a public offering. It was the latest indication the chain is looking to shore up its cash reserves.

Bed Bath & Beyond also gave the industry a boost. The stock climbed $3.32, or 4 percent, to $77.54 after the company said its quarterly profit increased 11 percent.

Other stock indexes rose. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 55 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,328. The Nasdaq climbed 26 points, or 0.7 percent, to 3,787.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note edged up to 2.64 percent from 2.63 percent late Wednesday.

Among other stocks making big moves;

— Hertz fell $4.15, or 16 percent, to $21.63 after the car rental company cut its earnings and revenue forecasts because of weaker-than-expected demand at U.S. airports.

— Caesars Entertainment slipped $1.08, or 5 percent, to $19.84 after the company said late Wednesday that it plans to sell up to 11.5 million of its shares in a public offering.

 

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