AP News


Average 30-year U.S. mortgage rate up to 4.28 pct. PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Average 30-year U.S. mortgage rate up to 4.28 pct.   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 13:58

WASHINGTON (AP) — The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage edged up this week to 4.28 percent from 4.23 percent but remains near historically low levels after declining during the five previous weeks.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for the 15-year loan was unchanged at 3.33 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. Deeming the economy to be gaining strength, the Fed proceeded last month with planned reductions of its bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low.

Recent economic data have pointed to a likely pause in the housing market's recovery. Real estate data provider CoreLogic reported last week that U.S. home prices slipped from November to December. And the year-over-year increase slowed, likely a result of weaker sales at the end of last year.

The number of Americans who have signed contracts to buy homes has plummeted to its lowest level in more than two years.

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Hey Romeo, thank these guys for bringing the roses PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 13:56

MIAMI (AP) — If Cupid were to have a home, it would be Miami International Airport.

Before millions of Americans can present their loved ones with a bouquet of Valentine's Day roses, most of the flowers are flown from Colombia and Ecuador to Miami, many in the bellies of passenger planes. There, cargo handlers and customs agents — call them Cupid's helpers — ensure that the deep red petals stay perfect until they reach their final destination.

In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, about 738 million flowers — 85 percent of imported flowers — come through the Florida airport. Los Angeles is a distant second, with 44 million. The roses, carnations, hydrangeas, sunflowers and other varieties are rushed by forklift from planes to chilled warehouses and then onto refrigerated trucks or other planes and eventually delivered to florists, gas stations and grocery stores across the country.

"We always joke that a passenger gets themselves to the next flight while a bit of cargo does not," says Jim Butler, president of cargo operations at American Airlines.

Cargo is a small, but increasingly important part of U.S. airlines' business. New jets are built with more freight space and the airlines are adding new non-stop international routes popular with shippers.

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China revives moon rover, but malfunction persists PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:30

BEIJING (AP) — China has restored communications with its space program's troubled "Jade Rabbit" moon rover, but engineers are still working to fix its mechanical problems, state media reported Thursday.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited Pei Zhaoyu, the lunar probe program's spokesman, as saying the rover had survived the frigid cold of the lunar night that started Jan. 25.

The "Jade Rabbit" rover was designed to roam the lunar surface for three months while surveying for natural resources and sending back data. But it ran into problems as it was shutting down in preparation for the lunar night, which lasts two weeks.

The problems were a rare setback for China's burgeoning space program, which in recent years has conducted space walks and placed a space station in orbit.

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Hawaii considers making it official with ukulele PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by SAM EIFLING, Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:14

HONOLULU (AP) — Its frisky four strings are the sound of Elvis's "Blue Hawaii," of Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips and lately, beyond all reason, of a popular "Bohemian Rhapsody" cover.

Above all, the humble ukulele — dubbed "the underdog of all instruments" by virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro who busted out his rendition of the aforementioned Queen classic in a recent performance — sounds like Hawaii.

Lawmakers here are considering a bill that would dub the ukulele the official state instrument, a designation that seems in some ways like a formal ceremony for a common-law marriage.

"Denying this bill would be like denying a significant part of who we are," Ani Martirosian Menon, a Honolulu resident by way of Los Angeles, told a House committee hearing Wednesday.

She credited the instrument with helping her, and anyone else who has ever come to Hawaii, to understand the islands. "It's a sincere melting pot," she said. "If you've never been here before, you're not going to know how to adjust. The ukulele is a really good entry point to connect with the local culture."

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Florida man executed in boy's rape, murder PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:12

STARKE, Fla. (AP) — The father of a 9-year-old South Florida boy raped and murdered in 1995 said he hopes the killer's execution sends a strong signal to other would-be child molesters and abductors.

"Don't kill the child. Because if you do, people will not forget, they will not forgive. We will hunt you down and we will put you to death," said Don Ryce, whose son Jimmy Ryce was kidnapped at gunpoint after getting off a school bus.

He spoke Wednesday night after Juan Carlos Chavez, 46, was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. Chavez was pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m., according to Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Chavez abducted Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on Sept. 11, 1995, in rural Miami-Dade County. Testimony showed Chavez raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, then dismembered his body and hid the parts in concrete-covered planters.

Ryce's parents turned the tragedy's pain into a push for stronger U.S. laws regarding confinement of sexual predators and improved police procedures in missing child cases. Their foundation provided hundreds of free canines to law enforcement agencies to aid in searches for children.

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