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TOP HEADLINES: Gas-price drop gives relief to consumers; Facebook adds IPO shares

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 6:21 p.m. CDT; updated 6:37 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Here are today's top stories from The Associated Press.

Drop in gas prices this month helping drivers, businesses

NEW YORK — A threat that's been hanging over the economy is starting to look a lot less menacing.

Oil and gasoline prices are sinking, giving relief to businesses and consumers who a few weeks ago seemed about to face the highest fuel prices ever.

President Barack Obama's re-election prospects could also benefit, especially if prices keep falling as some analysts expect. A majority of Americans disapproved of Obama's handling of gas prices in an AP-GfK poll early this month. But that was before the full effect of the recent drop had reached drivers.

The average U.S. retail gasoline price has dropped 21 cents a gallon to $3.73 since hitting a 2012 peak of $3.94 on April 6.

Two days ahead of  IPO, debate emerges about Facebook advertising

NEW YORK — Responding to extraordinary demand, Facebook said Wednesday that it would sell more stock in the company's initial public offering. But ahead of the IPO, a debate emerged between two of the nation's largest automakers: Does it pay to advertise on the social network?

General Motors, the nation's largest automaker, said it would abandon Facebook ads after concluding they were ineffective. At the same time, Ford reaffirmed its commitment to Facebook, saying their relationship was stronger than ever.

The direct financial impact of GM's move is minimal for Facebook, but the decision drew attention to the network's advertising system, which some observers regard as immature.

In a regulatory filing Wednesday, Facebook said it would add 84 million shares, worth up to $3.2 billion, to the IPO, which is shaping up to be the decade's hottest. The company's stock is expected to begin trading Friday on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker symbol "FB."

FBI Director Mueller: Preliminary investigation of JPMorgan under way

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday the bureau has launched a preliminary investigation of JPMorgan Chase & Co. following a $2 billion trading loss at the bank.

Mueller's comment at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was the first on-the-record confirmation of the probe.

On Tuesday, a law enforcement official said the FBI's New York office is heading an inquiry into the JPMorgan loss.

"All I can say is we've opened up a preliminary investigation," Mueller told the Senate panel.

New US plans for nuclear accidents delay some evacuations

Without fanfare, the nation's nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.

Nuclear watchdogs voiced surprise and dismay over the quietly adopted revamp — the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979. Several said they were unaware of the changes until now, though they took effect in December.

At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year's reactor crisis in Japan. A mandate that local responders always run practice exercises for a radiation release has been eliminated — a move viewed as downright bizarre by some emergency planners.

Skechers to pay $40M to settle charges over fitness claims

WASHINGTON — The government wants you to know that simply sporting a pair of Skechers' fitness shoes is not going to get you Kim Kardashian's curves or Brooke Burke's toned tush.

Skechers USA Inc. will pay $40 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that the footwear company made unfounded claims that its Shape-ups shoes would help people lose weight and strengthen their butt, leg and stomach muscles. Kardashian, Burke and other celebrities endorsed the shoes in Skechers ads.

Wednesday's settlement also involves the company's Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes and claims of deceptive advertising for those shoes as well.

Consumers who bought the shoes would be eligible for refunds, though it's not clear how much money they'll get.

As Ratko Mladic war crimes trial begins, ex-general still evokes outrage

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — He's no longer the swaggering general who held Sarajevo "in the palm of his hand" during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Yet as his long-awaited genocide trial began Wednesday, Ratko Mladic still managed to reopen old wounds with the flick of his hand.

Hobbled by strokes and wearing a business suit instead of combat fatigues, the frail, 70-year-old defendant had an angry exchange of hand gestures with the families of massacre victims in the public gallery, separated by the bulletproof glass in the courtroom.

Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of murder and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of territory they considered part of Serbia. His troops rained shells and snipers' bullets down on civilians in the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Navy assault ship collides with tanker in Pacific

SAN DIEGO — A U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship and a refueling tanker collided in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, but there were no injuries and no fuel spills, the 3rd Fleet said.

The collision between the assault ship USS Essex and the oiler USNS Yukon occurred at midmorning about 120 miles off Southern California, according to a statement.

The Essex was approaching the Yukon to get in position to be refueled when a steering malfunction occurred, and the two ships collided, said Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a fleet spokesman. Both ships reported some damage, Brown said. He gave no further details.


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