Nebraska Becomes 1st Red State in 40 Years to Abolish Death Penalty
Despite staunch opposition from Republican Governor Pete Ricketts, the Legislature made Nebraska the 18th US state (plus Washington, D.C.) to do away with the death penalty, and the first historically conservative state to do it in over 40 years. Rickets vetoed the measure on Tuesday, only to watch helplessly as legislators overrode his veto by a 30 to 19 vote. The bill repealing the death penalty has been the subject of heated debate for months; and Rickets has been the most vocal opponent with dozens of tv appearances to urge citizens to pressure their senators to vote no on the measure. The measure has also been vigorously opposed by relatives of murder victims whose convicted killers are awaiting execution and numerous law enforcement officials. Six states have outlawed capital punishment in the last eight years, but no conservative states have since North Dakota in 1973.
Houston Texans to Appear on 10th Season of Hard Knocks
The National Football League's Houston Texans announced Wednesday that they will be featured in the upcoming tenth season of HBO's acclaimed documentary series Hard knocks. The Texans are the fifth AFC team in the last six years to be featured and the first team from their division, the AFC South. A league rule provided that the league could require teams to do the show, but it is believed that Houston will participate voluntarily, despite being one of nine teams the league could elect for the honor this year. The Atlanta Falcons were featured on Hard Knocks last season, following the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 and the Miami Dolphins in 2012. The impact of the distraction caused by being filmed for the Hard Knocks series is a topic of much debate. The last five teams that did it fared well, however, improving on their previous year's record after appearing on the show.
Taco Bell Considering Offering Delivery
Taco Bell is considering launching late-night delivery service, according to Greg Creed, the CEO of Taco Bell's parent company, Yum Brands, Inc. Customers ask about delivery in Taco Bell restaurants quite often, Creed said during a discussion at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York on Wednesday. The executive noted that a test run would likely be designed to cater to kids living on or near college campuses, and would only involve deliveries on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Of course, delivering Taco Bell food presents challenges, Creed admitted because of the hot and cold temperatures of different ingredients. Another Yum Brands restaurant, KFC, is “actually well-suited for delivery," Creed noted. The only Yum brands concept that is offering delivery currently is Pizza Hut.
Tracey Morgan Reaches Settlement with Wal-Mart Over Crash that Nearly Killed Him
Comedian Tracey Morgan has reached a settlement with the world's largest retailer after a Wal-Mart truck rear-ended a limousine Morgan was traveling in on June 7th, 2014. "Wal-Mart did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families. I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably," Morgan said, in a statement released by his attorneys. Terms of the settlement were not made public. The accident occurred when Morgan and his entourage were returning from a performance in Delaware, and their limo was struck by the Wal-Mart truck after braking to avoid rear-ending another vehicle that was braking. Comedian James McNair (aka Jimmy Mack) was killed in the crash, and a total of four people were seriously injured, including Morgan. The driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, had reportedly been awake for 24 hours prior to the crash and was speeding. He has already pleaded guilty to one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.
Death Toll Rising As Flooding Continues in Texas
The death toll is expected to rise in Texas as more rain pounded the already soaked state on Wednesday afternoon. 15 have been confirmed dead so far, but that tally is expected to increase as there are still at least a dozen people missing and more flooding is expected. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes Wednesday as more torrential downpours were expected in Austin and Houston, where flooding has already caused severe damage. Police and other rescue personnel are still in search and rescue mode, but the continued rain is hampering their efforts. In Houston, some 1,400 buildings sustained damage in Memorial Day flooding, and thousands of cars were trapped in rapidly rising waters. The fourth most populous city in the nation, Houston saw a staggering 11 inches of rain on Monday alone, while parts of Austin dealt with more than six inches of rain on the holiday.
Nasdaq Closes at Highest Level Ever
US stocks bounced back Wednesday, after a selloff the precious day, with the Nasdaq setting a new all-time closing mark. Just a day after slipping 1.1 percent, the tech-heavy index rose 1.5 percent on Wednesday to close at a record-setting 5,107, just 14 points ahead of the index's previous high close. Broadcom fueled the index's overall gain when its shares surged 22.5 percent after a report that the microchip maker was in talks to be acquired by rival Avago Technologies. Apple (up 2.44 percent) and Frontier Communications Corp (+7.3%) were also strong performers on the Nasdaq. The Dow Jones industrial average also closed higher, gaining 121 points to close at 18,163. The Dow's gains were fueled by an 18 percent surge in shares of United Health Technologies and a 17 percent jump in shares of Disney.
Military Personnel Accidentally Ship Live Anthrax
An anonymous US defense official reported Wednesday that military personnel had accidentally sent a live anthrax specimen to a private lab in the northeast. The official said that 8 other samples may have been sent out, but said he believes all the samples are now secure. The samples were believed to be inactive, rather than live samples when they were shipped to private facilities for research purposes. A spokesman for the Pentagon confirmed that there was an investigation into the incident, and insisted that there is no public health risk. The Centers for Disease Control also acknowledged the mishap, and is investigating, but echoed the Pentagon stance that there is no risk to the public.
US Home Prices Rise for 35th Straight Month
US home values continued to rise in March, surging 5 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to the S&P.Case-Shiller index of home prices, issued Tuesday. Of the 20 cities tracked by the measure, San Francisco showed the biggest price gains, at 10.3 percent, followed by Denver. The Colorado capital saw prices rise 10 percent from March 2014, narrowly edging out the price growth in the number 3 city, Dallas. Prices also rose from February, edging up 0.8 percent across the 20 cities, and San Frnacisco again led the way with a 3 percent surge in home prices. Home prices have now risen for 35 consecutive months, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and each of the 20 cities tracked by the measure have posted year-over-year gains in every month since the end of 2012.
EPA Expands Reach of Clean Water Act
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized an amendment to the Clean Water Act designed to further the legislation's reach. Known as te Clean Water Rule, the new piece provides federal protection for previously unprotected streams and wetlands that feed rivers and lakes that are used for drinking water in US cities and towns. Before the rule, the EPA estimates that 60 percent of the streams and rivers across the nation were unprotected by the Clean Water Act. The agency also estimated that one in 3 Americans will have cleaner water with the change, as the sources for their drinking water were fed by unprotected rivers or wetlands. The Clean Water Rule has had ample opposition since it was first proposed about a year ago. A statement from the Obama administration said the move was necessary to clear up a number of ambiguities in the Clean Water Act. The new rule marks the first major change to the Clean Water Act since it was originally passed in 1972.
1st Quarter Overdraft Fees Top $1.1 Billion at Big 3 US Banks
JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo took in a combined $1.1 billion in overdraft fees in the first quarter, according to a report from CNN. Of course, that accounts for nearly half of the $2.5 billion brought in by the 600 US banking firms required to reveal income from overdraft charges. Overdraft fees are charged to a bank's customer when an automatic payment goes through or a check on the account clears, but also when a customer pulls money from an ATM and their account balance dips below $0. The latter can only occur if the customer opts in to allow ATM withdrawls to exceed available balance, otherwise the ATM wouldn't disperse cash if the amount exceeds the balance. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into overdraft fees, and is particularly curious about instances when customers are charged multiple overdraft fees in a day. 2015 is the first year that banks are required to disclose overdraft fee information.