Stock market plunges, enters 1st correction in 2 years
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrials plunged more than 1,000 points Thursday, deepening a weeklong sell-off and dragging the stock market into an official “correction” for the first time in two years as fearful investors sought to get out before their losses mounted.
The rout marked a stark turnabout in investors’ mood from just two weeks ago, when indexes set their latest record highs. Since then, the Dow and the Standard &Poor’s 500 have fallen 10 percent, Wall Street’s traditional definition of a correction.
“In January, we talked about fear of missing out. What we have now is what I call fear of getting caught,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments.
The market began falling in the first few minutes of trading, and the pace of the declines worsened as the day wore on. Many of the companies that rose the most over the last year have borne the brunt of the selling. Facebook and Boeing have both fallen sharply.
A hint of rising inflation and interest rates last week was all it took to set off a cascade of investor angst.
Kelly in harsh spotlight after senior aide’s resignation
WASHINGTON — Pressure mounted on White House chief of staff John Kelly Thursday as questions swirled about his defense of a senior aide he fought to keep in a highly sensitive West Wing job despite accusations of spousal abuse from two ex-wives.
White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle and arguably Kelly’s closest aide, cleaned out his desk on Thursday. But the aftershocks of his resignation reverberated amid concerns about his access to classified information.
Kelly himself faced criticism for defending Porter only to belatedly reverse course hours after the publication of photos showing one of the ex-wives with a black eye.
“It’s fair to say we all could have done better over the last few hours or last few days in dealing with this situation,” said White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who faced a barrage of questions about Kelly during a press briefing.
Though the allegations against Porter became public this week, Kelly learned last fall that something was amiss with the staff secretary’s attempts to get a security clearance, according to an administration official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Jury deliberates in Baltimore police corruption case
BALTIMORE — Jurors started deliberating Thursday in a case involving one of the worst U.S. police corruption scandals in recent memory after hearing nearly three weeks of testimony from drug dealers, a crooked bail bondsman and disgraced Baltimore detectives who detailed astonishing levels of police misconduct.
The two detectives on trial face robbery, extortion and racketeering charges that could land them up to life in prison if convicted. The trial in a federal courthouse has been dominated by testimony of four ex-detectives who worked alongside the defendants in an elite unit known as the Gun Trace Task Force.
Those former detectives pleaded guilty to corruption charges about their time on the squad, which was once praised as a group of hard-charging officers chipping away at the tide of illegal guns on city streets. They testified on behalf of the government in the hopes of shaving years off their prison sentences.
The former law enforcers testified that the unit was actually made up of uniformed thugs who broke into homes, stole cash, resold looted narcotics and lied under oath to cover their tracks. Wearing lockup jumpsuits, the ex-detectives admitted to everything from armed home invasions to staging fictitious crime scenes and routinely defrauding their department with bogus overtime claims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise described the two detectives on trial as “hunters” who “preyed upon the weak and the vulnerable” when their rogue police unit wasn’t scouring the city trying to find large-scale drug dealers to rob. He said the evidence, which included calls recorded by the FBI that captured their voices, was “overwhelming.”
Syria captures 2 members of Islamic State ‘Beatles’
WASHINGTON — The American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured two notorious British members of an Islamic State insurgent cell commonly dubbed “The Beatles” and known for beheading hostages, a U.S. military official said Thursday.
The official said that El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey were captured in early January in eastern Syria. The two men are among four members of the IS cell that captured, tortured and beheaded more than two dozen hostages including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and American aid worker Peter Kassig. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the Syrian capture.
The State Department has imposed sanctions on both men. They are believed to be linked to the British terrorist known as Jihadi John, the masked IS militant who appeared in several videos depicting the graphic beheadings of Western hostages.
Their capture was first reported by the New York Times.
According to the U.S., Elsheikh traveled to Syria in 2012 and first joined al-Qaida’s branch there, and then later joined IS. The State Department, in imposing sanctions on Kotey last year, said he likely engaged in executions and torture, including electronic shock and waterboarding, and recruited several British nationals to IS.
Medicare drugs among budget deal changes
WASHINGTON — Drug companies would bear a bigger share of Medicare’s costs under the congressional budget deal, a shift that could help limit future increases in beneficiaries’ premiums for prescription coverage.
Changes to Medicare’s popular “Part D” prescription plan headline a long list of budget-deal tweaks to the government’s premier health insurance program, which covers about 60 million seniors and disabled people. Also, the drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” would be eliminated one year earlier than currently scheduled, in 2019 instead of 2020.
“On the whole, I think this is a good bill for people with Medicare,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy group for beneficiaries. “This tilts toward getting a lot of good things done.”
But his group opposes a provision that would raise premiums paid by the wealthiest retirees for coverage of outpatient services and prescription drugs. Democrats are split over the overall measure, but the Medicare provisions appear to have support from both parties.
Toronto police: remains of 6 found in serial killer probe
TORONTO — Police in Toronto have recovered the remains of at least six people from planters on a property connected to alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur, officials said Thursday.
Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga said the remains, found on property McArthur used as storage in exchange for doing the landscaping, included some from one of the five men McArthur is already charged with killing, Andrew Kinsman.
McArthur was arrested Jan. 18 and charged with two counts of murder in connection with the disappearances of Kinsman and Selim Esen, two men last seen in the “Gay Village” district of Toronto. Not long after that, he was charged with the murders of three more men and police said they were on a wide search for other possible victims. Police expect to file more charges.
Investigators are still working to determine who the other alleged victims are from the property. They haven’t determined yet if they are the same men or other people.
“It’s getting bigger and we are getting more resources,” Idsinga said of the investigation.
Bacteria-infected mosquitoes might be good thing for Miami
SOUTH MIAMI, Fla. — Mosquitoes are a year-round downside to living in subtropical Miami, but millions of bacteria-infected mosquitoes flying in a suburban neighborhood are being hailed as an innovation that may kill off more bugs that spread Zika and other viruses.
Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division is releasing non-biting male mosquitoes infected with naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to mate with wild female mosquitoes.
The bacteria are not harmful to humans, but will prevent any offspring produced when the lab-bred mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes from surviving to adulthood. This drives down the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that thrive in suburban and urban environments and can spread Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya.
During a six-month field trial approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over half a billion of the mosquitoes bred by Kentucky-based MosquitoMate will be released in a suburban neighborhood split by long, narrow canals near the University of Miami, said South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard.
Miami-Dade County is testing MosquitoMate’s insects as a potential mosquito-control method about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Miami’s hip Wynwood neighborhood, where health officials confirmed the first local Zika infections spread by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland in July 2016.