Money Matters - Simplified

United States

Airline issues cost billions, group says

Washington -- U.S. air passengers opted to skip 41 million trips in the past year due to frustrations with air travel, a travel group said Thursday.

Testifying before the House Small Business Committee, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Travel Industry Association Roger Dow said travelers were frustrated with insufficient security screening, flight delays and cancellations.

"Our air travel system is in steep decline," Dow told committee members, noting the problems affected "business across America."

Dow referred to a TIA survey undertaken with Peter Hart Research Associates and The Winston Group, a statement from the association said.

The survey pointed to millions of trips avoided by passengers in the preceding 12 months, which totaled "a $26 billion loss in consumer spending," Dow said.

Jolie, Pitt give $1M to war-affected kids

Los Angeles -- A foundation started by Hollywood film stars has donated $1 million to children impacted by the war in Iraq. said the Jolie-Pitt Foundation has pledged $500,000 for school supplies and education programs for refugee children in Iraq, as well as $500,000 for U.S. children who have either lost a parent deployed in Iraq or have a parent serving there.

The donations for U.S. children will go to a tutoring initiative at the Armed Services YMCA Operation Hero Program, the entertainment news Web site said.

Jolie, who is pregnant with her and Pitt's fifth and sixth children, is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.

Pat Hurst shares lead at Women's Open

Edina, Minn. -- Veteran Pat Hurst birdied her final hole Thursday to shoot a 6-under 67 and share the first-round lead at the U.S. Women's Open in Edina, Minn.

Hurst, 39, was tied with Ji-Young Oh for the top spot on a day of low scoring at the Interlachen Country Club.

Song-Hee Kim was alone in third at 68 while amateur Maria Jose Uribe, Louise Friberg and Ji-Yai Shin were all at 69. Paula Creamer was among those at 70.

"In any tournament, if you get off to a good start it's always good," said Hurst, who lost in a playoff to Annika Sorenstam in this tournament two years ago. "You build confidence. It's a long week, but if you can get off to a good start, it's always a bonus."

Hurst had six birdies and an eagle on the par-73 course, but suffered bogeys on both the 13th and 14th holes.

Study says Olympic drug test nabs few

New York -- Potential Olympians can probably use an illegal performance-enhancing drug to boost blood cell count with little risk, a study indicates.

The report may expose another flaw in what many regard as the world's toughest anti-doping program, The New York Times said Thursday.

The study, published Thursday in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, says a urine test intended to detect the drug, planned for use in the Tour de France next month and in the Olympics in August, is likely to miss it.

The substance, recombinant human erythropoietin, stimulates bone marrow to speed up production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, enabling endurance athletes like cyclists and distance runners to perform better.

EPO is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, an international group working with the International Olympic Committee to promote and coordinate efforts to stop doping in sports.

MLB: Oakland 5, Philadelphia 0

Oakland, Calif. -- Rich Harden and Alan Embree combined on a three-hit shutout Thursday as Oakland beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0.

Harden (5-0), the winning pitcher, yielded two singles in eight scoreless innings with a walk and 11 strikeouts and Embree gave up a triple to Pat Burrell in the top of the ninth.

Harden threw 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes.

Offensively, four Oakland players drove in one run each, including Carlos Gonzalez, who blasted a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.

He finished with two of the eighth hits for the Athletics, who won twice in the three-game inter-league series.

Another Oakland run scored on Shane Victorino's eighth inning fielding error.

Victorino had two of the Phillies' three hits.

USA rep: Noth leaving 'Criminal Intent'

New York -- A representative for the USA network has confirmed to that Chris Noth will not be back for the eighth season of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

Noth previously played Detective Mike Logan on the flagship series "Law & Order" and has been reprising that role on the spin-off "Criminal Intent" since 2005. He is also known for playing Mr. Big on the HBO comedy series "Sex and the City" and its big-screen follow-up.

While promoting the "Sex and the City" film in New York this spring, Noth said of working on "Criminal Intent," "I think we're doing some of the most powerful stories since my first year on 'Law & Order.' That said, the work itself is difficult. Because it's not based on character, it's based on pushing a story and a plot and you try to infuse a little character along the way … I'm lucky because people know my character from how I created Logan."

Baseball umpire Brian Runge suspended

New York -- Major league umpire Brian Runge was suspended Thursday for one game for his actions in Tuesday night's game between the New York Mets and Seattle.

New York's Carlos Beltran began arguing balls and strikes with Runge in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Mets interim manager Jerry Manuel came out of the dugout to protest the umpire's strike zone.

During the argument, Runge bumped Manuel and subsequently ejected both Manuel and Beltran before the incident ended.

Runge's suspension starts immediately.

In a release late Thursday afternoon, Bob Watson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations, announced that Manuel and Beltran received undisclosed fines.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.

U.S. mortgage rates up slightly last week

Washington -- Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages increased modestly in the United States in the last week, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said Thursday.

The average 30-year, fixed interest rate averaged 6.45 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending June 26, compared with 6.42 percent for the previous week, Freddie Mac said.

A year ago, 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 6.67 percent.

At 6.04 percent with an average 0.6 point, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage also gained slightly, the report said. The previous week's average for a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.02 percent.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International.

MLB: Detroit 3, St. Louis 2 (10 innings)

Detroit -- Clete Thomas got the winning run with a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday in Detroit's 3-2 win over St. Louis.

He also walked in the bottom of the sixth to score a run.

Gary Sheffield sent the game into extra innings with a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Curtis Granderson had two runs and four hits and both Magglio Ordonez and Michael Hollimon had two hits for the Tigers, who rose to 10-5 in inter-league play by winning twice in the three-game series.

Bobby Seay (1-1) was the winning pitcher.

Albert Pujols, in his return from the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf, led St. Louis with four hits, one a game-tying RBI single in the ninth.

A run scored on Ryan Rayburn's seventh inning throwing error and the Cardinals' Aaron Miles added three hits.

Ex-girlfriend accuses Bronco hit her

Denver -- Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall calls his third arrest within a year part of a "shakedown" plot by his former girlfriend, his attorney says.

Marshall said he has a letter proving she was trying to extort money from him, the Rocky Mountain News reports.

The two reportedly have a history of domestic spats.

Marshall was arrested March 6 in the Atlanta area for investigation of misdemeanor battery after his longtime partner, Rasheeda Watley, accused him of "striking her in the mouth and left eye." Marshall was released March 7 on $1,000 cash bond after a night in jail.

Harvey Steinberg, Marshall's Denver attorney, noted Wednesday that based on testimony from Watley at a hearing on the matter in May, she admitted to "striking Brandon in the eye" during their latest spat.