NEW YORK (AP) — The sight is so surprising that Americans are sharing photos of it, along with all those cute Halloween costumes, sweeping vistas and special meals: The gas station sign, with a price under $3 a gallon.
"It's stunning what's happening here," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. "I'm a little bit shocked."
The national average price of gasoline has fallen 33 cents in October, landing Friday at $3.00, according to AAA, and will soon dip under $3 for the first time in four years.
When the national average crossed above $3 a gallon in December of 2010, drivers weren't sure they'd ever see $2.99 again. Global demand for oil and gasoline was rising as people in developing countries bought cars by the tens of millions and turmoil was brewing in the oil-rich Middle East.
Now demand isn't rising as fast as expected, drillers have learned to tap vast new sources of oil, particularly in the U.S., and crude continues to flow out of the Middle East.
Seasonal swings and other factors will likely send gas back over $3 sooner than drivers would like, but the U.S. is on track for the lowest annual average since 2010 — and the 2015 average is expected to be lower even still.
Trisha Pena of Hermitage, Tennessee, recently paid $2.57 a gallon to fill up her Honda CRV. Like many around the country these days, she was so surprised and delighted by the price she took a photo and posted it on social media for her friends to see. "I can't remember the last time it cost under $30 to put 10 or 11 gallons in my tank," she said in an interview. "A month ago it was in the $3.50 range and that's where it had been for a very long time."
Here are a few things to know about cheap gas:
— Crude prices came off the boil. Oil fell from $107 a barrel in June to near $81 because there's a lot of supply and weak demand. U.S. output has increased 70 percent since 2008, and supplies from Iraq and Canada have also increased. At the same time, demand is weaker than expected because of a sluggish global economy.
— In the past, a stronger economy in the U.S., the world's biggest consumer of oil and gasoline, typically meant rising fuel demand. No longer. Americans are driving more efficient vehicles and our driving habits are changing. Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute calculates that the number of miles travelled per household and gallons of fuel consumed per household peaked in 2004.
— The drop from last year's average of $3.51 per gallon will save the typical U.S. household about $50 a month.
— The drop will save the U.S. economy $187 million a day, and also boost the profits of shippers, airlines, and any company that sends employees out on sales calls or for deliveries.
— It will take an extra 1.5 years of savings on gasoline to make purchasing a Toyota Prius instead of a Toyota Corolla pay off.
— New York's average of $3.37 is the highest in the continental U.S. South Carolina and Tennessee are the lowest, with an average of $2.75.
— Politicians are either going to take the credit for lower gasoline prices or blame the other party for not helping them fall further. Don't listen. There are small things politicians can do over long time horizons, like implement fuel economy standards or ease drilling regulations, but the decline in prices is mainly due to market forces.
— Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon. The annual average for milk is on track to be more expensive than the annual average for gasoline for the first time since 2011. The gap is even bigger for some bottled water lovers. A case of a dozen 1.5 liter bottles of Evian on Amazon.com costs $38.99, which makes for a price per gallon of $8.20.
States have broad authority to quarantine people to prevent the spread of disease, and several are exercising that right to go beyond the safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control for containing the deadly Ebola virus.
The CDC says mandatory quarantines of those without symptoms are unnecessarily severe and will discourage health workers from going to West Africa to fight the epidemic. It says people at the highest risk of contracting Ebola but who have no symptoms — such as those who came into direct contact with an Ebola patient's body fluids — should avoid public transportation and public places like shopping centers and movie theaters, even if they have no symptoms. Activities like jogging, in which the person maintains a 3-foot distance from others, are allowed.
The military has imposed the toughest rules for troops returning from affected countries, requiring 21-day quarantines even for those whose jobs do not require them to be in contact with any infected people.
Here's a look at the variety of ways states are responding to the health threat:
THE TOUGHEST STATE RULES:
New York and New Jersey have imposed mandatory, blanket quarantines of 21 days for health care workers returning from the disease's hotspots and travelers who have had contact with Ebola victims.
Maine officials have called for voluntary quarantines for health care workers in contact with Ebola patients. But Gov. Paul LePage says he is ready to exercise the "full extent" of his authority to protect the public after a nurse who returned from Sierra Leone but has shown no symptoms went on a bike ride with her boyfriend and held a news conference before her Nov. 10 incubation period ends. Maine health officials have gone to court try to limit the movements of nurse Kaci Hickox.
In Georgia, travelers arriving from West Africa who have had direct contact with an infected person will be considered high risk and will be placed in quarantine at a designated facility to be monitored, while health care workers who have been treating Ebola patients but show no symptoms will be closely monitored by state health officials using video or home visits.
Travelers who have been to an affected country but have had no known exposure to the disease will have to sign an agreement stating they will do temperature and symptom checks twice a day and will report results electronically or by phone. Failure to report will result in a mandatory quarantine order if necessary.
In Illinois, the governor has ordered "high-risk" individuals stay at home for 21 days and undergo daily checkups.
SOME STATES SEEKING MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN SAFETY AND CIVIL RIGHTS
The California Department of Public Health on Wednesday ordered people returning from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients to be monitored for the disease and left it up to county officers to decide how, including a 21-day quarantine.
Connecticut has announced plans to quarantine people on a case-by-case basis.
MANY STATES MONITORING THOSE WITH NO SYMPTOMS
In several states, health officials are monitoring anyone who has returned from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for 21 days. That monitoring process varies: In Michigan that means calling people to check on them, while Florida authorities say they visit the people twice daily to take their temperature.
In Delaware, people considered to have "some risk," such as health care workers who have had direct patient contact but have no symptoms themselves, would be expected to sign agreements outlining restrictions of their activities, such as refraining from attending meetings, avoiding use of public transportation, and not engaging in activities that would put them in "arms' length" of contact with others.
Under Minnesota's monitoring program, travelers from West African countries that are Ebola hotspots provide twice-daily details on their temperature and health condition, keep contact journals and face restrictions from taking long trips on public transit. Health care workers who treated virus patients abroad are subject to home quarantines, which the state considers voluntary. Officials say they would consider legal action to order a quarantine if public safety was deemed at risk.
Texas, where the first U.S. Ebola case was diagnosed, calls for anyone with symptoms who arrived within the past three weeks from the virus hotspots to be rapidly isolated and transported to a health care facility. People considered to be high risk would be directed to stay home. Lower risk cases would be closely monitored and anyone coming in from countries with widespread Ebola cases would be checked twice daily for 21 days.
OTHER STATES DRAFTING PLANS:
State health officials in Alaska are finishing a plan that will outline the steps for when to put someone in quarantine or how to manage a patient who is off Alaska's limited road system, said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state's chief epidemiologist.
Anyone who traveled to the hardest hit West African nations within the last three weeks would be interviewed and asked about their histories, such as whether they cared directly for Ebola patients. From there, officials would determine that person's exposure risk and decide what quarantine measures are appropriate.
Kentucky officials are still hammering out an Ebola protocol but said it would likely be unnecessary given the small number of people who arrive to the state from affected countries.
Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minnesota; Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky; Nancy Benac in Washington; Becky Bohrer in Anchorage, Alaska; Robert F. Bukaty in Fort Kent, Maine; Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; Jamie Stengle in Dallas; and Judy Lin in Sacramento, California; contributed to this report.
CHICAGO (AP) — A prisoner whose confession helped free a death row inmate in a case that was instrumental to ending capital punishment in Illinois was released Thursday after he recanted, and a prosecutor said there was powerful evidence that the other man was responsible.
Alstory Simon's confession gained international attention in 1999, largely because of an investigation by a journalism professor and a team of students from Northwestern University that helped secure Anthony Porter's release just days before he was to be executed. He had spent 16 years on death row for slayings he and his supporters maintained he did not commit.
Because of constitutional protections against double jeopardy, there is no legal way to retry Porter.
Simon, wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, told reporters outside Jacksonville Correctional Center that he was angry.
"I'm not angry at the system. I'm angry at the people who did what they did to me," he said, crying as he told reporters that his mother had died while he was behind bars.
Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. But the Cook County State's Attorney's Office began re-examining his conviction last year after his attorney presented evidence that he had been threatened with the death penalty and coerced into confessing with promises that he would get an early release and share in the profits from book and movie deals. And, said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, he was tricked by a private investigator who stormed into his home and showed him a videotape of a man who said he had seen Simon pull the trigger. The man turned out to be an actor.
"In the best interest of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction," Alvarez said.
The Porter case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in 2003, and he cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.
Alvarez did not say whether she believed Simon is, in fact, innocent, but she said there were so many problems with the case — including what she called a coerced confession and the deaths of a number of key figures — that it is impossible to determine exactly what happened on the morning of Aug. 15, 1982, when two people were shot to death as they sat in a park on Chicago's South Side.
She also said there remains powerful evidence that Porter was the gunman, including several witnesses who still maintain their original statements.
"As I stand here today, I can't definitely tell you it was Porter who did this or Simon who did this," she said.
Alvarez said the "tactics and antics" of the investigator, Paul Ciolino, and former Northwestern journalism professor David Protess could have added up to criminal charges of obstruction of justice and intimidation of a witness at the time, but that it is now impossible to file charges because the statute of limitations has run out.
Protess, who retired from Northwestern in 2011 amid questions about his investigative methods, did not respond to phone calls for comment.
Ciolino, who like Protess has denied acting improperly, released a statement that emphasized that Simon confessed multiple times, including to a TV reporter and his own lawyer.
"You explain that," Ciolino said. Nonetheless, he added, no one should be in prison if the state did not meet its burden of proof.
Thursday's release was just the latest chapter in Porter's long history with the justice system.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, before he was charged in the 1982 slayings, he was charged in a 1976 shooting that left one man dead and another injured, but charges were ultimately dismissed. After his release from prison, he had a number of run-ins with the law, including an arrest in 2011 on a felony theft charge and a one-year prison sentence the next year after he pleaded guilty, according to the state's attorney's office.
Porter did not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.
LUVERNE, Ala. (AP) — A $15,000 reward is being offered for information that would solve a cold case killing in south Alabama.
Attorney General Luther Strange and Crenshaw County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer held a news conference to publicize the reward and seek new information about the shooting death of Delange Harris in May 2011. The body of the 25-year-old victim was found on Athens Church Road.
The reward includes $5,000 from the Crenshaw County Commission and $10,000 offered by the governor.
The district attorney said a cold case agent from the attorney general's office is working with the sheriff's department to try to solve the killing.
BLOOMING GROVE, Pa (AP) — They searched for him in impenetrable woods and forbidding caves, in schools and vacation homes and even in a roadside clothing donation bin, all the while hoping that ambush suspect Eric Frein wouldn't take a potshot at them from some unseen, distant perch.
For 48 tense days, hundreds of law enforcement officials fanned out across the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania in a grueling manhunt for the 31-year-old survivalist armed with high-powered weaponry and explosives.
In the end, Frein surrendered meekly around 6 p.m. Thursday to a team of U.S. marshals who stumbled across him near an abandoned airplane hangar some 30 miles from the rural barracks where he allegedly opened fire Sept. 12, killing a trooper and seriously injuring another.
Authorities placed him in the handcuffs of slain Cpl. Bryon Dickson and put him in Dickson's squad car for the ride back to the Blooming Grove barracks.
"He has been stripped of his guns, his bombs, and now his freedom," Sam Rabadi, chief of the Philadelphia office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said at a late-night news conference.
The quiet takedown of Frein, who kneeled and put his hands up when marshals approached him, ended weeks of tension and turmoil in the area, as authorities at times closed schools, canceled outdoor events and blockaded roads to pursue him. Residents grew weary of hearing helicopters whirring overhead, while small businesses suffered mounting losses and town supervisors canceled a popular Halloween parade.
"It feels good to know there's a guy like this off the streets," said Gregory Kubasek, 19, of Marshalls Creek, who drove to the barracks Thursday night to catch a glimpse of Frein.
After being processed, Frein left the barracks in handcuffs around 1:30 a.m. Friday and was taken to the Pike County Correctional Facility. His nose looked swollen and he appeared slightly bloodied above one eye.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Frein was in good health, despite what he described as a "scratch" on his nose that he said was already there when marshals arrested him.
"He looked fairly healthy, healthier than I would've expected," he said.
Frein's initial court appearance was scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the Pike County Courthouse. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
State police said they didn't know whether Frein, who was unarmed when captured, had been using the hangar as a shelter during his seven weeks on the run, and they wouldn't say what they found there.
"He did not just give up because he was tired," Noonan said. "He gave up because he was caught."
Dickson's family, as well as wounded Trooper Alex Douglass and his family, expressed "relief and gratitude" over Frein's arrest, Noonan said.
Police said they linked Frein to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged SUV three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene. Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at the barracks as well as Frein's driver's license, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.
Officials, saying Frein was armed and extremely dangerous, had urged residents to be alert and cautious. Using dogs, thermal imaging technology and other tools, law enforcement officials combed miles of forest as they hunted for Frein, whom they called an experienced survivalist at home in the woods. At times, police ordered nearby residents to stay inside or prevented them from returning home.
Trackers found items they believe Frein hid or abandoned in the woods — including soiled diapers, empty packs of Serbian cigarettes, an AK-47-style assault rifle and ammunition, and two pipe bombs that were functional and capable of causing significant damage.
They also discovered a journal, allegedly kept by Frein and found in a bag of trash at a hastily abandoned campsite that offered a chilling account of the ambush and his subsequent escape into the woods. The journal's author described Dickson as falling "still and quiet" after being shot twice.
Authorities said Frein had expressed anti-law enforcement views online and to people who knew him.
Police found a U.S. Army manual called "Sniper Training and Employment" in his bedroom at his parents' house in Candensis, and his father, a retired Army major, called his son an excellent marksman who "doesn't miss," according to a police affidavit. Authorities believe Frein had been planning a confrontation with police for years, citing information they found on a computer used by him.
A man and a woman believed to be Frein's parents, reached separately by telephone on Thursday, declined to comment.
The manhunt had disrupted some plans for trick-or-treating, but Halloween festivities in Barrett Township, in the heart of the search zone, were back on.
"We as a town think the kids have gone through enough," said Ralph Megliola, chairman of the township board of supervisors.
Helen Blackmore, who lives in nearby Cresco, was ready for some normalcy.
"It was very crazy here. The helicopters were out all the time. Nobody was sleeping. Even today they were out," she said. "We're relieved. We're very relieved. We want things to get back to normal."
Frein is charged with first-degree murder and various other offenses, including two counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction filed after police discovered the pipe bombs.
Dickson, at his funeral, was called a devoted husband and father and "impeccable" ex-Marine who took his work seriously but also enjoyed making wooden toys for his young sons and finding humor in everyday situations.
Douglass was shot in the pelvis and critically injured in the ambush, which took place during a late-night shift change. He remained hospitalized until Oct. 16, when he was discharged to a rehabilitation facility, state police said.
"If you attack troopers, and a civilized society, the Pennsylvania State Police will bring you to justice. Eric Frein is a coward," the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association said in a statement. "Cpl. Bryon K. Dickson II and Trooper Alex T. Douglass are true heroes."
Patrick Moryto, 21, of East Stroudsburg, rushed to the Blooming Grove barracks after he heard Frein had been caught, and got there in time to see him.
Frein was wearing camouflage pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt when he entered the barracks, Moryto said.
Hours later, the former fugitive left in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.