Wall Street Week Ahead: Attention turns to financial earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After over a month of watching Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street can get back to what it knows best: Wall Street.


The first full week of earnings season is dominated by the financial sector - big investment banks and commercial banks - just as retail investors, free from the "fiscal cliff" worries, have started to get back into the markets.


Equities have risen in the new year, rallying after the initial resolution of the fiscal cliff in Washington on January 2. The S&P 500 on Friday closed its second straight week of gains, leaving it just fractionally off a five-year closing high hit on Thursday.


An array of financial companies - including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase - will report on Wednesday. Bank of America and Citigroup will join on Thursday.


"The banks have a read on the economy, on the health of consumers, on the health of demand," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.


"What we're looking for is demand. Demand from small business owners, from consumers."


EARNINGS AND ECONOMIC EXPECTATIONS


Investors were greeted with a slightly better-than-anticipated first week of earnings, but expectations were low and just a few companies reported results.


Fourth quarter earnings and revenues for S&P 500 companies are both expected to have grown by 1.9 percent in the past quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


Few large corporations have reported, with Wells Fargo the first bank out of the gate on Friday, posting a record profit. The bank, however, made fewer mortgage loans than in the third quarter and its shares were down 0.8 percent for the day.


The KBW bank index <.bkx>, a gauge of U.S. bank stocks, is up about 30 percent from a low hit in June, rising in six of the last eight months, including January.


Investors will continue to watch earnings on Friday, as General Electric will round out the week after Intel's report on Thursday.


HOUSING, INDUSTRIAL DATA ON TAP


Next week will also feature the release of a wide range of economic data.


Tuesday will see the release of retail sales numbers and the Empire State manufacturing index, followed by CPI data on Wednesday.


Investors and analysts will also focus on the housing starts numbers and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve factory activity index on Thursday. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment numbers are due on Friday.


Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis, said he expected to see housing numbers continue to climb.


"They won't be that surprising if they're good, they'll be rather eye-catching if they're not good," he said. "The underlying drive of the markets, I think, is economic data. That's been the catalyst."


POLITICAL ANXIETY


Worries about the protracted fiscal cliff negotiations drove the markets in the weeks before the ultimate January 2 resolution, but fear of the debt ceiling fight has yet to command investors' attention to the same extent.


The agreement was likely part of the reason for a rebound in flows to stocks. U.S.-based stock mutual funds gained $7.53 billion after the cliff resolution in the week ending January 9, the most in a week since May 2001, according to Thomson Reuters' Lipper.


Markets are unlikely to move on debt ceiling news unless prominent lawmakers signal that they are taking a surprising position in the debate.


The deal in Washington to avert the cliff set up another debt battle, which will play out in coming months alongside spending debates. But this alarm has been sounded before.


"The market will turn the corner on it when the debate heats up," Prudential Financial's Krosby said.


The CBOE Volatility index <.vix> a gauge of traders' anxiety, is off more than 25 percent so far this month and it recently hit its lowest since June 2007, before the recession began.


"The market doesn't react to the same news twice. It will have to be more brutal than the fiscal cliff," Krosby said. "The market has been conditioned that, at the end, they come up with an agreement."


(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; editing by Rodrigo Campos)



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Broncos, Ravens tied at 35 heading into OT


DENVER (AP) — The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens went into overtime in their AFC divisional playoff tied at 35 after Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones over Tony Carter and Rahim Moore with 31 seconds left in regulation Saturday.


Leading 35-28 with 1:15 left, the Broncos punted to Jones, the Pro Bowl returner who was overshadowed all day by Trindon Holliday, and he made a fair catch at the 23 with 1:09 to go.


On third-and-3 from his own 30, Flacco wound up and found Jones down the right sideline for the stunning score. Carter let Jones go and Moore tried to go up to bat it down, but mistimed his jump.


The Broncos got the ball at their 20 with 30 seconds left, but Peyton Manning took a knee and this game went into overtime. Denver also went into overtime in the playoffs last year, when Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard TD on the first play to beat Pittsburgh.


Manning atoned for a fumble that led to a score by Baltimore by driving Denver 88 yards in 10 plays and hitting Thomas from 17 yards out for the go-ahead score that broke a 28-all tie midway through the fourth quarter.


And Holliday became the first player in NFL playoff history to return both a punt and a kickoff for scores.


The Broncos (13-3) were trying to avoid becoming yet another No. 1 seed to lose in the divisional round. Since 2005, eight of the 14 top-seeded teams lost their first game in the playoffs, four in each conference.


They breezed past the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore on Dec. 16 after racing to a 31-3 lead but this one was going down to the wire — and beyond — something the Broncos didn't do at all during their 11-game winning streak that they brought into the playoffs.


Holliday, the NFL's shortest — and quite possibly fastest — player, followed an amazing block by Jacob Hester to return the second-half kickoff 104 yards to put Denver ahead 28-21. That was 2 yards longer than the record set in 2010 by Atlanta's Eric Weems.


In the first half, Holliday got the scoring started when he fielded Sam Koch's punt, broke one tackle and raced down the Ravens' sideline for a 90-yard TD return, avoiding the punter as he zipped into the end zone. The previous longest TD on a punt return in a playoff game was Jermaine Lewis' 88-yarder for Baltimore in 2001.


Manning, 0-3 in playoff games below 40 degrees, wore gloves on each hand in the cold. He was sacked and coughed up the ball at his 37 late in the third quarter, Paul Kruger recovering for Baltimore.


Ray Rice carried five times for 37 yards, taking it in from a yard out with 20 seconds left in the quarter to tie it at 28.


The 13-degree temperature at kickoff made this the coldest playoff game ever played in Denver. The wind chill was 2. The only colder game played in Denver was against San Diego on Dec. 10, 1972, when the temperature was 9 degrees.


Holliday also returned a punt and a kickoff for scores in the regular season, and his big day came just an hour after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated his intention to consider this offseason the idea of abolishing kickoffs altogether for safety's sake.


Goodell said he realizes it's an exciting play but worries that players will keep getting head injuries.


The Ravens countered Holliday's speed with Torrey Smith's. The Baltimore receiver breezed past Champ Bailey for two long touchdowns in the first half, including one just before halftime that tied it at 21.


Smith had just two catches in the first half, but they covered 91 yards and both went for scores.


He sped past Bailey for a 59-yard TD in the first quarter and then beat him down the sideline for a 32-yard TD catch 36 seconds left before the break that capped a three-play, 58-yard drive that began after Matt Prater botched a 52-yard field-goal attempt that would have given Denver a double-digit lead.


Running back Knowshon Moreno's first touchdown catch of the season, a 13-yard grab in tight coverage by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, had given the Broncos a 21-14 lead. Moreno later left with a knee injury.


Manning, the league's only four-time MVP, had lost his three previous playoff games below 40 degrees, all while playing for the Indianapolis Colts, who released him last year after a series of neck operations. Manning had a stellar bounce-back season in Denver, throwing for 4,659 yards and a team-record 37 TDs.


Wearing gloves on both hands for the first time in his career — the one on the right hand as much a concession to the altered feel of his grip following the four neck surgeries as it was for the wintry weather, Manning threw a 15-yard TD toss to Brandon Stokley to tie it at 14.


Baltimore tied it at 7 when Smith got behind Bailey and hauled in Flacco's 59-yard touchdown toss.


Forty-two seconds later, cornerback Corey Graham picked off a Manning pass that deflected off receiver Eric Decker and returned it 39 yards for the score — and the Broncos trailed for the first time since Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay.


___


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


___


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton


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Abandoning Afghanistan a bad idea




U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion 8th Marines Regiment start their patrol in Helmand Province on June 27.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • White House aide suggested all U.S. troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan

  • Peter Bergen said the idea would be dangerous and send the wrong message

  • He says U.S. has abandoned Afghanistan before and saw the rise of the Taliban

  • Bergen: U.S. is seeking agreement that military will have immunity from prosecution




Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."


(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss the post-2014 American presence in Afghanistan.


The U.S. military has already given Obama options under which as few as 6,000 or as many as 20,000 soldiers would remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Those forces would work as advisers to the Afghan army and mount special operations raids against the Taliban and al Qaeda.


Read more: U.S. may remove all troops from Afghanistan after 2014



Peter Bergen

Peter Bergen



But on Tuesday, Ben Rhodes, the White House's deputy national security adviser, told reporters that the Obama administration is mulling the idea of removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission finishes at the end of 2014.


This may be a negotiating ploy by the Obama administration as it gets down to some hard bargaining with Karzai, who has long criticized many aspects of the U.S. military presence and who is likely to be reluctant to accede to a key American demand: That any U.S. soldiers who remain in Afghanistan after 2014 retain immunity from prosecution in the dysfunctional Afghan court system. It was this issue that led the U.S. to pull all its troops out of Iraq in December, 2011 after failing to negotiate an agreement with the Nuri al-Maliki government.


Read more: Defense officials to press Karzai on what he needs


Or this may represent the real views of those in the Obama administration who have long called for a much-reduced U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and it is also in keeping with the emerging Obama doctrine of attacking al Qaeda and its allies with drones but no American boots on the ground. And it certainly aligns with the view of most Americans, only around a quarter of whom now support the war in Afghanistan, according to a poll taken in September.


Security Clearance: Afghanistan options emerge



In any case, zeroing out U.S. troop levels in the post-2014 Afghanistan is a bad idea on its face -- and even raising this concept publicly is maladroit strategic messaging to Afghanistan and the region writ large.


Why so? Afghans well remember something that most Americans have forgotten.


After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, something that was accomplished at the cost of more than a million Afghan lives and billions of dollars of U.S. aid, the United States closed its embassy in Afghanistan in 1989 during the George H. W. Bush administration and then zeroed out aid to one of the poorest countries in the world under the Clinton administration. It essentially turned its back on Afghans once they had served their purpose of dealing a deathblow to the Soviets.










As a result, the United States had virtually no understanding of the subsequent vacuum in Afghanistan into which eventually stepped the Taliban, who rose to power in the mid-1990s. The Taliban granted shelter to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization from 1996 onward.


Read more: Court considers demand that U.S. release photos of bin Laden's body


After the overthrow of the Taliban, a form of this mistake was made again by the George W. Bush administration, which had an ideological disdain for nation building and was distracted by the Iraq War, so that in the first years after the fall of the Taliban, only a few thousand U.S. soldiers were stationed in Afghanistan.


The relatively small number of American boots on the ground in Afghanistan helped to create a vacuum of security in the country, which the Taliban would deftly exploit, so that by 2007, they once again posed a significant military threat in Afghanistan.


In 2009, Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan to blunt the Taliban's gathering momentum, which it has certainly accomplished.


Read more: Inside the Taliban


But when Obama announced the new troops of the Afghan surge, most media accounts of the speech seized on the fact that the president also said that some of those troops would be coming home in July 2011.


This had the unintended effect of signaling to the Taliban that the U.S. was pulling out of Afghanistan reasonably soon and fit into the longstanding narrative that many Afghans have that the U.S. will abandon them again.


Similarly, the current public discussion of zero U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014 will encourage those hardliner elements of the Taliban who have no interest in a negotiated settlement and believe they can simply wait the Americans out.


It also discourages the many millions of Afghans who see a longtime U.S. presence as the best guarantor that the Taliban won't come back in any meaningful way and also an important element in dissuading powerful neighbors such as Pakistan from interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.


Read related: Afghanistan vet finds a new way to serve


Instead of publicly discussing the zero option on troops in Afghanistan after 2014, a much smarter American messaging strategy for the country and the region would be to emphasize that the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the United States has already negotiated with Afghanistan last year guarantees that the U.S. will have some form of partnership with the Afghans until 2024.


In this messaging strategy, the point should be made that the exact size of the American troop presence after 2014 is less important than the fact that U.S. soldiers will stay in the country for many years, with Afghan consent, as a guarantor of Afghanistan's stability.


The United States continues to station thousands of troops in South Korea more than five decades after the end of the Korean War. Under this American security umbrella, South Korea has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest.


It is this kind of model that most Afghans want and the U.S. needs to provide so Afghanistan doesn't revert to the kind of chaos that beset it in the mid-1990s and from which the Taliban first emerged.


Read more: What's at stake for Afghan women?


Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter


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Aaron Swartz, Internet activist and programmer, dead at 26









Internet activist and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who helped create an early version of the Web feed system RSS and was facing federal criminal charges in a controversial fraud case, has committed suicide at age 26, authorities said on Saturday.

Police found Swartz's body in his apartment in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for the city's chief medical examiner, which ruled the death a suicide by hanging.

Swartz is widely credited with being a co-author of the specifications for the Web feed format RSS 1.0, which he worked on at age 14, according to a blog post on Saturday from his friend, science fiction author Cory Doctorow.

RSS, which stands for Rich Site Summary, is a format for delivering to users content from sites that change constantly, such as news pages and blogs.

Over the years, he became an online icon for helping to make a virtual mountain of information freely available to the public, including an estimated 19 million pages of federal court documents from the PACER case-law system.

"Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves," Swartz wrote in an online "manifesto" dated 2008.

"The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. ... sharing isn't immoral -- it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy," he wrote.

That belief - that information should be shared and available for the good of society - prompted Swartz to found the nonprofit group DemandProgress.

The group led a successful campaign to block a bill introduced in 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The bill, which was withdrawn amid public pressure, would have allowed court orders to curb access to certain websites deemed to be engaging in illegal sharing of intellectual property.

Swartz and other activists objected on the grounds it would give the government too many broad powers to censor and squelch legitimate Web communication.

But Swartz faced trouble in July 2011, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to allegedly stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to the federal indictment, Swartz - who was a fellow at Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics - used MIT's computer networks to steal more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service.

JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz after the digitized copies of the articles were returned, according to media reports at the time.

Swartz, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. He was released on bond. His trial was scheduled to start later this year.

'HARSH ARRAY OF CHARGES'

In a statement released Saturday, the family and partner of Swartz praised his "brilliance" and "profound" commitment to social justice, and struck out at what they said were decisions made at MIT and by prosecutors that contributed to his death.

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," the statement said.

"The U.S. Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims," it added.

Neither the U.S. Attorney's office nor MIT could be reached for comment.

Swartz's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in Highland Park, Illinois. On Saturday, online tributes to Swartz flooded across cyberspace.

"Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill and intelligence about people and issues," Doctorow, co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, wrote on the site.

Doctorow wrote that Swartz had "problems with depression for many years."

Swartz also played a role in building the news-sharing website Reddit, but left the company after it was acquired by Wired magazine owner Conde Nast. Recalling that time of his life, Swartz described his struggles with dark feelings.

In an online account of his life and work, Swartz said he became "miserable" after going to work at the San Francisco offices of Wired after Reddit was acquired.

"I took a long Christmas vacation," he wrote. "I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign."

Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited as the most important figure in the creation of the World Wide Web, commemorated Swartz in a Twitter post on Saturday.

"Aaron dead," he wrote. "World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara)



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Russia rejects Assad exit as precondition for Syria deal


MOSCOW/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russia voiced support on Saturday for international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi but insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for a deal to end the country's conflict.


Some 60,000 Syrians have been killed during the 21-month-old revolt and world powers are divided over how to stop the escalating bloodshed. Government aircraft bombed outer districts of Damascus on Saturday after being grounded for a week by stormy weather, opposition activists in the capital said.


A Russian Foreign Ministry statement following talks on Friday in Geneva with the United States and Brahimi reiterated calls for an end to violence in Syria, but there was no sign of a breakthrough.


Brahimi said the issue of Assad, who the United States, European powers and Gulf-led Arab states insist must step down to end the civil war, appeared to be a sticking point.


Russia's Foreign Ministry said: "As before, we firmly uphold the thesis that questions about Syria's future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without interference from outside or the imposition of prepared recipes for development."


Russia has been Assad's most powerful international backer, joining with China to block three Western- and Arab-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure him or push him from power. Assad can also rely on regional powerhouse Iran.


Russia called for "a political transition process" based on an agreement by foreign powers last June.


Brahimi, who is trying to build on that agreement, has met three times with senior Russian and U.S. diplomats since early December and met Assad in Damascus.


Russia and the United States disagreed over what the June agreement meant for Assad, with Washington saying it sent a clear signal he must go and Russia contending it did not.


Qatar on Saturday made a fresh call for an Arab force to end bloodshed in Syria if Brahimi's efforts fail, according to the Doha-based al Jazeera television.


"It is not a question of intervention in Syria in favor of one party against the other, but rather a force to preserve security," Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said in an al Jazeera broadcast.


CONFLICT INTENSIFIES


Moscow has been reluctant to endorse the "Arab Spring" popular revolts of the last two years, saying they have increased instability in the Middle East and created a risk of radical Islamists seizing power.


Although Russia sells arms to Syria and rents one of its naval bases, the economic benefit of its support for Assad is minimal. Analysts say President Vladimir Putin wants to prevent the United States from using military force or support from the U.N. Security Council to bring down governments it opposes.


However, as rebels gain ground in the war, Russia has given indications it is preparing for Assad's possible exit, while continuing to insist he must not be forced out by foreign powers.


Opposition activists say a military escalation and the hardship of winter have accelerated the death toll.


Rebel forces have acquired more powerful anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons during attacks on Assad's military bases.


Assad's forces have employed increasing amounts of military hardware including Scud-type ballistic missiles in the past two months. New York-based Human Rights Watch said they had also used incendiary cluster bombs that are banned by most nations.


STALEMATE IN CITIES


The weeklong respite from aerial strikes has been marred by snow and thunderstorms that affected millions displaced by the conflict, which has now reached every region of Syria.


On Saturday, the skies were clear and jets and helicopters fired missiles and dropped bombs on a line of towns to the east of Damascus, where rebels have pushed out Assad's ground forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


The British-based group, which is linked to the opposition, said it had no immediate information on casualties from the strikes on districts including Maleiha and farmland areas.


Rebels control large swathes of rural land around Syria but are stuck in a stalemate with Assad's forces in cities, where the army has reinforced positions.


State TV said government forces had repelled an attack by terrorists - a term it uses for the armed opposition - on Aleppo's international airport, now used as a helicopter base.


Reuters cannot independently confirm reports due to severe reporting restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities and security constraints.


On Friday, rebels seized control of one of Syria's largest helicopter bases, Taftanaz in Idlib province, their first capture of a military airfield.


Eight-six people were killed on Friday, including 30 civilians, the Syrian Observatory said.


(Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Doina Chiacu)



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Wall Street Week Ahead: Attention turns to financial earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After over a month of watching Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street can get back to what it knows best: Wall Street.


The first full week of earnings season is dominated by the financial sector - big investment banks and commercial banks - just as retail investors, free from the "fiscal cliff" worries, have started to get back into the markets.


Equities have risen in the new year, rallying after the initial resolution of the fiscal cliff in Washington on January 2. The S&P 500 on Friday closed its second straight week of gains, leaving it just fractionally off a five-year closing high hit on Thursday.


An array of financial companies - including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase - will report on Wednesday. Bank of America and Citigroup will join on Thursday.


"The banks have a read on the economy, on the health of consumers, on the health of demand," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.


"What we're looking for is demand. Demand from small business owners, from consumers."


EARNINGS AND ECONOMIC EXPECTATIONS


Investors were greeted with a slightly better-than-anticipated first week of earnings, but expectations were low and just a few companies reported results.


Fourth quarter earnings and revenues for S&P 500 companies are both expected to have grown by 1.9 percent in the past quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


Few large corporations have reported, with Wells Fargo the first bank out of the gate on Friday, posting a record profit. The bank, however, made fewer mortgage loans than in the third quarter and its shares were down 0.8 percent for the day.


The KBW bank index <.bkx>, a gauge of U.S. bank stocks, is up about 30 percent from a low hit in June, rising in six of the last eight months, including January.


Investors will continue to watch earnings on Friday, as General Electric will round out the week after Intel's report on Thursday.


HOUSING, INDUSTRIAL DATA ON TAP


Next week will also feature the release of a wide range of economic data.


Tuesday will see the release of retail sales numbers and the Empire State manufacturing index, followed by CPI data on Wednesday.


Investors and analysts will also focus on the housing starts numbers and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve factory activity index on Thursday. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment numbers are due on Friday.


Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis, said he expected to see housing numbers continue to climb.


"They won't be that surprising if they're good, they'll be rather eye-catching if they're not good," he said. "The underlying drive of the markets, I think, is economic data. That's been the catalyst."


POLITICAL ANXIETY


Worries about the protracted fiscal cliff negotiations drove the markets in the weeks before the ultimate January 2 resolution, but fear of the debt ceiling fight has yet to command investors' attention to the same extent.


The agreement was likely part of the reason for a rebound in flows to stocks. U.S.-based stock mutual funds gained $7.53 billion after the cliff resolution in the week ending January 9, the most in a week since May 2001, according to Thomson Reuters' Lipper.


Markets are unlikely to move on debt ceiling news unless prominent lawmakers signal that they are taking a surprising position in the debate.


The deal in Washington to avert the cliff set up another debt battle, which will play out in coming months alongside spending debates. But this alarm has been sounded before.


"The market will turn the corner on it when the debate heats up," Prudential Financial's Krosby said.


The CBOE Volatility index <.vix> a gauge of traders' anxiety, is off more than 25 percent so far this month and it recently hit its lowest since June 2007, before the recession began.


"The market doesn't react to the same news twice. It will have to be more brutal than the fiscal cliff," Krosby said. "The market has been conditioned that, at the end, they come up with an agreement."


(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; editing by Rodrigo Campos)



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Rookies rule at the Sony Open


HONOLULU (AP) — Two days into his PGA Tour career, Russell Henley was on his way to breaking a record.


Henley putted for birdie on every hole on his way to a second straight round of a 7-under 63, giving him a two-shot lead over fellow rookie Scott Langley among early starters Friday in the Sony Open. He was 14-under 126, which would break the 36-hole scoring record at this event by two shots.


"It's pretty surreal," Henley said.


In the first full-field event of the season, the rookies were leading the way. All they did on another windy, warm day along the shores of Oahu was trade places atop the leaderboard. Langley opened with a 62 and followed that with a 66. That typically would be enough to stay in the lead.


Langley said he tried to stay aggressive, and then he felt he had no choice. He birdied his last three holes to reach 128.


Unless anyone could catch them in the afternoon, they would play together a third straight time, in the last group going into the weekend. The college grads first were linked when they shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open.


"It's never easy to back up a really good round, I kind of got off to a little slower start," Langley said. "But it was certainly nice to finish the way I did and kind of get back in it with Russ. He played so well, and I was just trying to keep pace as much as I can. To finish that way was really good."


The previous 36-hole record at the Sony Open was 128 by five players, most recently John Cook in 2002.


Among the late starters was Scott Piercy, who opened with a 64 and already was at 10 under for the tournament as he headed to his back nine.


Dustin Johnson won't get a chance to match Ernie Els as the only players to sweep the two Hawaii events. Johnson, who won last week at Kapalua, withdrew after playing nine holes because of the flu.


Chris Kirk made a pair of tap-in eagles — a 5-iron into the wind to 3 feet on the ninth, a 7-iron with the wind to 2 feet on the 18th — for a 62 that put him at 10-under 130 along with Tim Clark, who had a 66.


Pat Perez, working on his new attitude of seeing silver linings instead of black clouds, ran off three straight birdies early in his round for a 63 and was another shot back.


Henley took over the lead for the first time with a shot into 8 feet to a front pin on No. 2, his 11th hole of the day. With birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, it looked as though he might pull away when he stretched his lead to four shots.


Langley came to life with a 7-iron and a 20-foot birdie putt on the seventh, then a sand wedge into the par-4 eighth and more work than he wanted on the par-5 ninth, when he got up-and-down for birdie from near the hospitality tent to the right of the green.


"This feels like a Monday qualifier," Langley said of the low scores, not to mention the company he has been keeping. Langley and Henley were born two weeks apart.


They became friends after Pebble Beach when they flew together to Royal Portrush for the Palmer Cup, and they helped each other on the practice range when their games were in need of repair.


The difference was their road to the PGA Tour.


Henley won a Nationwide Tour event while still at Georgia, and then he won twice on that tour last year to easily finish among the top 25 on the money list.


Langley, a former NCAA champion from Illinois, went through a bad patch last year when he finished last in the second stage of Q-school and had no status. He kicked around the smaller tours, tried a few Monday qualifiers, and then made his way through Q-school and earned his card with two shots to spare.


They're neck-and-neck going into the weekend, both hopeful they ride their momentum.


The surprise might be Clark, who was runner-up at the Sony Open two years ago until he suffered a mysterious elbow injury that cost him a year of trying to figure out what was wrong and how to get better. He is close to healthy now, and it's starting to show.


"Obviously, I've still got to take care of myself and look after it," Clark said. "But at least coming out to the golf course, I feel like I'm pretty much 100 percent."


Read More..

Saudi execution: Brutal and illegal?






STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Saudi authorities beheaded Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan woman

  • She was convicted of killing a baby of the family employing her as a housemaid

  • This was despite Nafeek's claims that the baby died in a choking accident

  • Becker says her fate "should spotlight the precarious existence of domestic workers"




Jo Becker is the Children's Rights Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch and author of 'Campaigning for Justice: Human Rights Advocacy in Practice.' Follow Jo Becker on Twitter.


(CNN) -- Rizana Nafeek was a child herself -- 17 years old, according to her birth certificate -- when a four-month-old baby died in her care in Saudi Arabia. She had migrated from Sri Lanka only weeks earlier to be a domestic worker for a Saudi family.


Although Rizana said the baby died in a choking accident, Saudi courts convicted her of murder and sentenced her to death. On Wednesday, the Saudi government carried out the sentence in a gruesome fashion, by beheading Rizana.



Jo Becker

Jo Becker



Read more: Outrage over beheading of Sri Lankan woman by Saudi Arabia


Rizana's case was rife with problems from the beginning. A recruitment agency in Sri Lanka knew she was legally too young to migrate, but she had falsified papers to say she was 23. After the baby died, Rizana gave a confession that she said was made under duress -- she later retracted it. She had no lawyer to defend her until after she was sentenced to death and no competent interpreter during her trial. Her sentence violated international law, which prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18.


Rizana's fate should arouse international outrage. But it should also spotlight the precarious existence of other domestic workers. At least 1.5 million work in Saudi Arabia alone and more than 50 million -- mainly women and girls -- are employed worldwide according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).


Read more: Indonesian maid escapes execution in Saudi Arabia






Again according to the ILO, the number of domestic workers worldwide has grown by more than 50% since the mid-1990s. Many, like Rizana, seek employment in foreign countries where they may be unfamiliar with the language and legal system and have few rights.


When Rizana traveled to Saudi Arabia, for example, she may not have known that many Saudi employers confiscate domestic workers' passports and confine them inside their home, cutting them off from the outside world and sources of help.


It is unlikely that anyone ever told her about Saudi Arabia's flawed criminal justice system or that while many domestic workers find kind employers who treat them well, others are forced to work for months or even years without pay and subjected to physical or sexual abuse.




Passport photo of Rizana Nafeek



Read more: Saudi woman beheaded for 'witchcraft and sorcery'


Conditions for migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia are among some of the worst, but domestic workers in other countries rarely enjoy the same rights as other workers. In a new report this week, the International Labour Organization says that nearly 30% of the world's domestic workers are completely excluded from national labor laws. They typically earn only 40% of the average wage of other workers. Forty-five percent aren't even entitled by law to a weekly day off.


Last year, I interviewed young girls in Morocco who worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a fraction of the minimum wage. One girl began working at age 12 and told me: "I don't mind working, but to be beaten and not to have enough food, this is the hardest part."


Many governments have finally begun to recognize the risks and exploitation domestic workers face. During 2012, dozens of countries took action to strengthen protections for domestic workers. Thailand, and Singapore approved measures to give domestic workers a weekly day off, while Venezuela and the Philippines adopted broad laws for domestic workers ensuring a minimum wage, paid holidays, and limits to their working hours. Brazil is amending its constitution to state that domestic workers have all the same rights as other workers. Bahrain codified access to mediation of labor disputes.


Read more: Convicted killer beheaded, put on display in Saudi Arabia


Perhaps most significantly, eight countries acted in 2012 to ratify -- and therefore be legally bound by -- the Domestic Workers Convention, with more poised to follow suit this year. The convention is a groundbreaking treaty adopted in 2011 to guarantee domestic workers the same protections available to other workers, including weekly days off, effective complaints procedures and protection from violence.


The Convention also has specific protections for domestic workers under the age of 18 and provisions for regulating and monitoring recruitment agencies. All governments should ratify the convention.


Many reforms are needed to prevent another tragic case like that of Rizana Nafeek. The obvious one is for Saudi Arabia to stop its use of the death penalty and end its outlier status as one of only three countries worldwide to execute people for crimes committed while a child.


Labor reforms are also critically important. They may have prevented the recruitment of a 17 year old for migration abroad in the first place. And they can protect millions of other domestic workers who labor with precariously few guarantees for their safety and rights.


Read more: Malala, others on front lines in fight for women


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jo Becker.






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3 teens shot in South Side attacks









Three teens were shot in two separate South Side attacks this afternoon, authorities said.

About 4:05 p.m., a 16-year-old boy was shot in the thigh and a 17-year-old boy suffered a graze wound to the chest in the 400 block of East 82nd Street in the Chatham neighborhood, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

The younger victim was taken to Adocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious-to-critical condition, and the older victim was taken to Jackson Park Hospital in good-to-fair condition, according to the Chicago Fire Department's media office.

Police did not have details of the attack.

Earlier this afternoon, a 17-year-old boy was shot and seriously wounded in the Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, according to police and the  Chicago Fire Department.

Someone in a passing vehicle opened fire and shot the 17-year-old boy in the arm and torso in the 2100 block of West 85th Street, according to police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala. 

About 2 p.m. paramedics responded and took the victim, who Chicago Fire Department spokesman Kevin MacGregor said appeared under age 16, to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious condition.

On the North Side earlier this afternoon, a man was shot and wounded in the Buena Park neighborhood, authorities said.

The victim was taken from the 700 block of West Gordon Terrace to Weiss Memorial Hospital in fair-to-serious condition following the shooting a little before 1 p.m., said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Will Knight.

The man was shot in the buttocks, said Police News Affairs Officer Michael Sullivan.

Initial reports were of several shots fired near Clarendon and Montrose avenues at 12:53 p.m., and a Cook County sheriff's officer calling for assistance after finding someone at the scene a few minutes later, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli.

The sheriff's officer was a civil process server, and he heard shots and found the shooting victim nearby, said sheriff's spokeswoman Sophia Ansari.

The officer stayed with the victim and another person who was with him and called for an ambulance and police, Ansari said.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Obama, Karzai accelerate end of U.S. combat role in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed on Friday to speed up the handover of combat operations in Afghanistan to Afghan forces, raising the prospect of an accelerated U.S. withdrawal from the country and underscoring Obama's determination to wind down a long, unpopular war.


Signaling a narrowing of differences, Karzai appeared to give ground in talks at the White House on U.S. demands for immunity from prosecution for any American troops who stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, a concession that could allow Obama to keep at least a small residual force there.


Both leaders also threw their support behind tentative Afghan reconciliation efforts with Taliban insurgents, endorsing the establishment of a Taliban political office in Qatar in hopes of bringing insurgents to inter-Afghan talks.


Outwardly, at least, the meeting appeared to be something of a success for both men, who need to show their vastly different publics they are making progress in their goals for Afghanistan. There were no signs of the friction that has frequently marked Obama's relations with Karzai.


Karzai's visit came amid stepped-up deliberations in Washington over the size and scope of the U.S. military role in Afghanistan once the NATO-led combat mission concludes at the end of 2014.


"By the end of next year, 2014, the transition will be complete," Obama said at a news conference with Karzai standing at his side. "Afghans will have full responsibility for their security, and this war will come to a responsible end."


The Obama administration has been considering a residual force of between 3,000 and 9,000 troops - far fewer than some U.S. commanders propose - to conduct counterterrorism operations and to train and assist Afghan forces.


A top Obama aide said this week that the administration does not rule out a complete withdrawal after 2014, a move that some experts say would be disastrous for the weak Afghan central government and its fledgling security apparatus.


Obama on Friday left open the possibility of that so-called "zero option" when he several times used the word "if" to suggest that a post-2014 U.S. presence was far from guaranteed.


Insisting that Afghan forces were "stepping up" faster than expected, Obama said Afghan troops would take over the lead in combat missions across the country this spring, rather than waiting until the summer as originally planned. NATO troops will then assume a "support role," he said.


"It will be a historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty," Obama said.


Obama said final decisions on this year's troop cuts and the post-2014 U.S. military role were still months away, but his comments suggested he favors a stepped-up withdrawal timetable.


There are some 66,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan. Washington's NATO allies have been steadily reducing their troop numbers as well despite doubts about the ability of Afghan forces to shoulder full responsibility for security.


'WAR OF NECESSITY'


Karzai voiced satisfaction over Obama's agreement to turn over control of detention centers to Afghan authorities, a source of dispute between their countries, although the White House released no details of the accord on that subject.


Obama once called Afghanistan a "war of necessity." But he is heading into a second term looking for an orderly way out of the conflict, which was sparked by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by an al Qaeda network harbored by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.


He faces the challenge of pressing ahead with his re-election pledge to continue winding down the war while preparing the Afghan government to prevent a slide into chaos and a Taliban resurgence once most NATO forces are gone.


Former Senator Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee to become defense secretary, is likely to favor a sizable troop reduction.


Karzai, meanwhile, is eager to show he is working to ensure Afghans regain full control of their territory after a foreign military presence of more than 11 years.


Asked whether the cost of the war in lives and money was worth it, Obama said: "We achieved our central goal ... or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to de-capacitate al Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can't attack us again."


He added: "Have we achieved everything that some might have imagined us achieving in the best of scenarios? Probably not. This is a human enterprise, and you fall short of the ideal."


Obama made clear that unless the Afghan government agrees to legal immunity for U.S. troops, he would withdraw them all after 2014 - as happened in Iraq at the end of 2011.


Karzai, who criticized NATO over civilian deaths, said that with Obama's agreement to transfer detention centers and the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghan villages, "I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity" in a bilateral security pact being negotiated.


Addressing students at Georgetown University later in the day, the Afghan leader predicted with certainty that the United States would keep a limited number of troops in Afghanistan after 2014, in part to battle al Qaeda and its affiliates.


"One of the reasons the United States will continue a limited presence in Afghanistan after 2014 in certain facilities in Afghanistan is because we have decided together to continue to fight against al Qaeda," Karzai said. "So there will be no respite in that."


Many of Obama's Republican opponents have criticized him for setting a withdrawal timetable and accuse him of undercutting the U.S. mission by reducing troop numbers too quickly.


Karzai and his U.S. partners have not always seen eye to eye, even though the American military has been crucial to preventing insurgent attempts to oust him.


In October, Karzai accused Washington of playing a double game by fighting the war in Afghan villages instead of going after insurgents who cross the border from neighboring Pakistan.


In Friday's news conference, Karzai did not back down from his previous comments that foreigners were responsible for some of the official corruption critics say is rampant in Afghanistan. But he acknowledged: "There is corruption in the Afghan government that we are fighting against."


Adding to tensions has been a rash of deadly "insider" attacks by Afghan soldiers and police against NATO-led troops training or working with them. U.S. forces have also been involved in a series of incidents that enraged Afghans, including burning Korans, which touched off days of rioting.


(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Mark Felsenthal, Jeff Mason, Phil Stewart, Tabassum Zakaria, David Alexander; Editing by Warren Strobel and Will Dunham)



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Wall Street climbs as China data puts S&P back at five-year high

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose on Thursday and the S&P 500 ended at a fresh five-year high as stronger-than-expected exports from China spurred optimism about global growth prospects.


Buying accelerated late in the day after the S&P 500 broke through technical resistance at 1,466.47, which was the market's closing level last Friday and the highest level since December 2007.


"Historically, January is a positive month for the market and you're seeing that play out," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.


Financial and energy stocks were the day's top gainers. The financial sector index <.gspf> rose 1.4 percent and the energy sector <.gspe> was up 1 percent.


Analysts cited economic data out of China as the day's catalyst, which showed the country's export growth rebounded sharply to a seven-month high in December, a strong finish to the year after seven straight quarters of slowdown.


"It is being interpreted positively that they've stopped the downturn (in growth)," said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia.


"If they continue to produce good growth, that's going to be supportive of our global manufacturers."


Wall Street's fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index <.vix> suggested markets were relatively calm. The VIX was down 2.3 percent at 13.49.


At Thursday's close, the S&P sits about 6 percent below its all-time closing high of 1,565.15, hit in October 2007.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 80.71 points, or 0.60 percent, to 13,471.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> rose 11.10 points, or 0.76 percent, to 1,472.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> added 15.95 points, or 0.51 percent, to 3,121.76.


Thursday's session had earlier included a dip that traders said was triggered by a trade in the options market that prompted a large amount of S&P futures to hit the market at the same time. That sent the S&P 500 index down rapidly but those losses were reversed through the afternoon.


Financials benefited from events this week that added clarity to mortgage rules and banks' potential exposure to the housing market.


The U.S. government's consumer finance watchdog announced mortgage rules on Thursday that will force banks to use new criteria to determine whether a borrower can repay a home loan.


Earlier this week, several big mortgage lenders reached a deal with regulators to end a review of foreclosures mandated by the government.


"It's a resolution. It's not hanging over their heads," said Brunner.


Bank of America gained 3.1 percent to $11.78, while Morgan Stanley was up 3.7 percent at $20.34, one day after sources said the bank plans to cut jobs.


Shares of upscale jeweler Tiffany dropped 4.5 percent to $60.40 after it said sales were flat during the holidays.


Herbalife Ltd stepped up its defense against activist investor Bill Ackman, stressing it was a legitimate company with a mission to improve nutrition and help public health. The stock ended down 1.8 percent at $39.24 after a volatile day.


After the closing bell, American Express said it would cut about 5,400 jobs, and take about $600 million in after-tax charges in the fourth quarter. The stock added 0.7 percent to $61.20 in after-hours trade.


Volume was above the 2012 average of 6.42 billion shares traded a day, with roughly 6.77 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT.


Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,916 to 1,039, while advancers also outpaced decliners on the Nasdaq by 1,439 to 1,036.


(Editing by Nick Zieminski)



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Researchers: NFL's Seau had brain disease


When he ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest, Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head.


Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said Thursday the former NFL star's abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.


The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.


"We saw changes in his behavior and things that didn't add up with him," his ex-wife, Gina, told The Associated Press. "But (CTE) was not something we considered or even were aware of. But pretty immediately (after the suicide) doctors were trying to get their hands on Junior's brain to examine it."


The NIH, based in Bethesda, Md., studied three unidentified brains, one of which was Seau's, and said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."


"It was important to us to get to the bottom of this, the truth," Gina Seau added, "and now that it has been conclusively determined from every expert that he had obviously had CTE, we just hope it is taken more seriously. You can't deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There's such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE."


In the final years of his life, Seau had wild behavioral swings, according to Gina and to 23-year-old son, Tyler, along with signs of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression.


"He emotionally detached himself and would kind of 'go away' for a little bit," Tyler Seau said. "And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse."


He hid it well in public, they said, but not when he was with family or close friends.


Seau joins a list of several dozen football players who were found to have CTE. Boston University's center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE.


The NFL faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. According to an AP review of 175 lawsuits, 3,818 players have sued. At least 26 Hall of Famer members are among the players who have done so.


The National Football League, in an email to the AP, said: "We appreciate the Seau family's cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE.


"The NFL, both directly and in partnership with the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations, is committed to supporting a wide range of independent medical and scientific research that will both address CTE and promote the long-term health and safety of athletes at all levels."


NFL teams have given a $30 million research grant to the NIH.


The players' union called the NIH report on Seau "tragic."


"The only way we can improve the safety of players, restore the confidence of our fans and secure the future of our game is to insist on the same quality of medical care, informed consent and ethical standards that we expect for ourselves and for our family members," the NFLPA said in a statement.


"This is why the players have asked for things like independent sideline concussion experts, the certification and credentialing of all professional football medical staff and a fairer workers compensation system in professional football," it said.


Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself and later was found to have had CTE. Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling are the others.


Before shooting himself, Duerson, a former Chicago Bears defensive back, left a note asking that his brain be studied for signs of trauma. His family filed a wrongful-death suit against the NFL, claiming the league didn't do enough to prevent or treat the concussions that severely damaged his brain.


Easterling played safety for the Falcons in the 1970s. After his career, he suffered from dementia, depression and insomnia, according to his wife, Mary Ann. He committed suicide last April.


Mary Ann Easterling is among the plaintiffs who have sued the NFL.


Tyler Seau played football through high school and for two years in college. He says he has no symptoms of brain trauma.


"I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it," Tyler said. "He did play so many years at that level. I was more just kind of angry I didn't do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late."


Gina Seau's son Jake, now a high school junior, played football for two seasons but has switched to lacrosse and has been recruited to play at Duke.


"Lacrosse is really his sport and what he is passionate about," she said. "He is a good football player and probably could continue. But especially now watching what his dad went through, he says, 'Why would I risk lacrosse for football?'


"I didn't have to have a discussion with him after we saw what Junior went through."


Her 12-year-old son Hunter has shown no interest in playing football.


"That's fine with me," she said.


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Wet & Cold Weekend for North Texas – Wintry Weather Possible Next Week







BRIEF WARM UP TOMORROW…


Clouds will decrease overnight and temperatures will drop into the 40s overnight.  So it will be a chilly start to our Friday, but temps will warm close to 70 degrees by the afternoon with some sunshine and breezy SW winds.






TONIGHT’S LOW TEMPERATURES


 Wet & Cold Weekend for North Texas – Wintry Weather Possible Next Week


TOMORROW’S HIGH TEMPERATURES


 Wet & Cold Weekend for North Texas – Wintry Weather Possible Next Week


COLD AND RAINY WEEKEND…


A strong cold front will get here in the morning on Saturday.  Temperatures will start in the 50s than fall into the 40s during the day.  Showers and a few isolated thunderstorms will be possible thru the day on Saturday with north winds gusting to 20 mph.


Sunday will be cloudy and cold with temperatures staying in the 30s all day.  There could be some left over rain for south eastern sections of North Texas.


FREEZING RAIN CHANCES…


On Monday, there will still be a chance for some rain.  But temperatures may be below freezing at the surface to create a freezing rain threat.  The issue we will face is a shallow layer of cold air at the surface.  Warm air will overrun this cold air and generate some light rain.  If this cold layer at the surface is below freezing we could see freezing rain.  This is not a certainty but the possibility is there for freezing rain and temperature trends will have to be monitored as we get closer to Monday.


SNOW CHANCES LATE NEXT WEEK…


Next Thursday looks like another wintry weather event will be possible.  A strong upper level disturbance will be passing over Texas.  The atmosphere would be cold enough to support snow.  The latest EUROPEAN forecast model is showing 3″ to 5″ of snow for areas along the Red River Thursday.  But the GFS model is not as aggressive with this snow, keeping the storm system well to the north.  But as I mentioned yesterday, next week will be a very cold week with threat of wintry weather.  So please stay tuned to the forecast.


Here is a look at the European model precipitation forecast for next Thursday.  The pink line is the 32 degree temperature line.


Here’s a look at the European Snowfall Forecast for next Thursday.





Weather News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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1 dead, 1 wounded in South Side attack













Police at the scene


Chicago police work at the scene of a fatal shooting at 71st an Jeffrey on Chicago's southeast side.
(Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / January 10, 2013)



























































Two men were wounded, one fatally, in a shooting in the South Shore neighborhood this evening, police said.

The shooting took place about 6:13 p.m. in the 2000  block of East 71st Street — near Jeffery Boulevard —said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala.

One man was shot and died on the scene, the other suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment, said Zala. A condition was not available.

News Affairs had no immediate information on any of the circumstances of the shooting.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com
Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking




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String of bombings kill 101, injure 200 in Pakistan


QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least 101 people were killed in bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday in one of the country's bloodiest days in recent years, officials said, with most casualties caused by sectarian attacks in Quetta.


The bombings underscored the myriad threats Pakistani security forces face from homegrown Sunni extremist groups, the Taliban insurgency in the northwest and the less well-known Baloch insurgency in the southwest.


On Thursday evening, two coordinated explosions killed at least 69 people and injured more than 100 in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, said Deputy Inspector of Police Hamid Shakil.


The first attack, in a crowded snooker hall, was a suicide bombing, local residents said. About ten minutes later, a car bomb exploded, they said. Five policemen and a cameraman were among the dead from that blast.


The attacks happened in a predominately Shia neighborhood and banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility. The extremist Sunni group targets Shias, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistani's population.


Targeted killings and bombings of Shia communities are common in Pakistan, and rights groups say hundreds of Shia were killed last year. Militant groups in Balochistan frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighboring Iran.


The killers are rarely caught and some Shia activists say militants work alongside elements of Pakistan's security forces, who see them as a potential bulwark against neighboring India.


Many Pakistanis fear their nation could become the site of a regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia, source of funding for Sunni extremist groups, and Iran, which is largely Shia.


But sectarian tensions are not the only source of violence.


The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for a blast in Quetta's market earlier in the day. It killed 11 people and injured more than 40, mostly vegetable sellers and secondhand clothes dealers, police officer Zubair Mehmood said. A child was also killed.


The group is one of several fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid, impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves, which constitutes just under half of Pakistan's territory and is home to about 8 million of the country's population of 180 million.


SWAT BOMBING


In another incident Thursday, 21 were killed and more than 60 injured in a bombing when people gathered to hear a religious leader speak in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officials at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.


"The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition and we are receiving more and more injured people," said Dr. Niaz Mohammad.


It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.


The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani army since their 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.


But Talibans retain the ability to attack in Swat and shot schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousufzai in Mingora last October.


A Taliban spokesman said they were not responsible for Thursday's bombing.


(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Pakistan; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jason Webb)



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Wall Street rises after Alcoa reports earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks rose on Wednesday, rebounding from two days of losses, as investors turned their focus to the first prominent results of the earnings season.


Stocks had retreated at the start of the week from the S&P 500's highest point in five years, hit last Friday, on worries about possible earnings weakness.


Shares of Alcoa Inc were down 0.5 percent to $9.08 after early gains, following the company's earnings release after the bell on Tuesday. The largest U.S. aluminum producer said it expects global demand for aluminum to grow in 2013.


Herbalife Ltd stock rose 4.2 percent to $39.95 in its most active day of trading in the company's history after hedge fund manager Dan Loeb took a large stake in the nutritional supplements seller. Prominent short-seller Bill Ackman had previously accused the company of being a "pyramid scheme," which Herbalife has denied.


Traders have been cautious as the current quarter shaped up like the previous one, with companies recently lowering expectations, said James Dailey, portfolio manager of Team Asset Strategy Fund in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Lower expectations leave room for companies to surprise investors even if their results are not particularly strong.


"The big question and focus is on revenue, and Alcoa had better-than-expected revenue," which calmed the market a little, Dailey said.


Overall, corporate profits were expected to beat the previous quarter's meager 0.1 percent rise. Both earnings and revenues in the fourth quarter are expected to have grown by 1.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 61.66 points, or 0.46 percent, to 13,390.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> rose 3.87 points, or 0.27 percent, to 1,461.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> gained 14.00 points, or 0.45 percent, to 3,105.81.


Facebook Inc shares rose above $30 for the first time since July 2012, trading up 5.3 percent at $30.59. Facebook, which has been tight-lipped about its plans after its botched IPO in May, invited the media to its headquarters next week.


Clearwire Corp shares jumped 7.2 percent to $3.13 after Dish Network bid $2.28 billion for the company, beating out a previous Sprint offer and setting the stage for a takeover battle for the wireless service provider that owns crucial mobile spectrum.


Apollo Group Inc slid after heavier early losses, a day after it reported lower student sign-ups for the third straight quarter and cut its operating profit outlook for 2013. Apollo's shares were last off 7.8 percent at $19.32.


Volume was below the 2012 average of 6.42 billion shares traded per day, as 6.10 billion were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE MKT and Nasdaq.


Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,014 to 963, while on the Nasdaq advancers beat decliners 1,603 to 859.


(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Nick Zieminski)



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Steroids fallout: No BB Hall for Bonds, Clemens


NEW YORK (AP) — No one was elected to the Hall of Fame this year. When voters closed the doors to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, they also shut out everybody else.


For only the second time in four decades, baseball writers failed to give any player the 75 percent required for induction to Cooperstown, sending a powerful signal that stars of the Steroids Era will be held to a different standard.


All the awards and accomplishments collected over long careers by Bonds, Clemens and Sosa could not offset suspicions those feats were boosted by performance-enhancing drugs.


Voters also denied entry Wednesday to fellow newcomers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, along with holdovers Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Lee Smith.


Among the most honored players of their generation, these standouts won't find their images among the 300 bronze plaques on the oak walls in Cooperstown, where — at least for now — the doors appear to be bolted shut on anyone tainted by PEDs.


"After what has been written and said over the last few years I'm not overly surprised," Clemens said in a statement he posted on Twitter.


Bonds, Clemens and Sosa retired after the 2007 season. They were eligible for the Hall for the first time and have up to 14 more years on the writers' ballot.


"Curt Schilling made a good point, everyone was guilty. Either you used PEDs, or you did nothing to stop their use," Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said in an email to The Associated Press after this year's vote was announced. "This generation got rich. Seems there was a price to pay."


Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits, appeared on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots, the highest total but 39 votes shy. The three newcomers with the highest profiles failed to come close to even majority support, with Clemens at 37.6 percent, Bonds at 36.2 and Sosa at 12.5.


Other top vote-getters were Morris (67.7), Jeff Bagwell (59.6), Piazza (57.8), Tim Raines (52.2), Lee Smith (47.8) and Schilling (38.8).


"I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year," Hall of Famer Al Kaline said. "I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were. ... I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating."


At ceremonies in Cooperstown on July 28, the only inductees will be three men who died more than 70 years ago: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1947.


"It is a dark day," said Jose Canseco, the former AL MVP who was among the first players to admit using steroids. "I think the players should organize some type of lawsuit against major league baseball or the writers. It's ridiculous. Most of these players really have no evidence against them. They've never tested positive or they've cleared themselves like Roger Clemens."


It was the eighth time the BBWAA failed to elect any players. There were four fewer votes than last year and five members submitted blank ballots.


"With 53 percent you can get to the White House, but you can't get to Cooperstown," BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell said. "It's the 75 percent that makes it difficult."


There have been calls for the voting to be taken away from the writers and be given to a more diverse electorate that would include players and broadcasters. The Hall says it is content with the process, which began in 1936.


"It takes time for history to sort itself out, and I'm not surprised we had a shutout today," Hall President Jeff Idelson said. "I wish we had an electee. I will say that, but I'm not surprised given how volatile this era has been in terms of assessing the qualities and the quantities of the statistics and the impact on the game these players have had."


Bonds, baseball's only seven-time Most Valuable Player, hit 762 home runs, including a record 73 in 2001. He was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs but a jury two years ago failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer.


"It is unimaginable that the best player to ever play the game would not be a unanimous first-ballot selection," said Jeff Borris of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, Bonds' longtime agent.


Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is third in career strikeouts (4,672) and ninth in wins (354). He was acquitted last year on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.


"To those who did take the time to look at the facts," Clemens said, "we very much appreciate it."


Sosa, eighth with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB's 2003 anonymous survey, The New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs.


Since 1961, the only years the writers didn't elect a candidate had been when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 vote by appearing on 67 percent of the ballots cast and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent — both got in the following years. The other BBWAA elections without a winner were in 1945, 1946, 1950, 1958 and 1960.


Morris will make his final ballot appearance next year, when fellow pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are eligible for the first time along with slugger Frank Thomas.


"Next year, I think you'll have a rather large class, and this year, for whatever reasons, you had a couple of guys come really close," Commissioner Bud Selig said at the owners' meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. "This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall of baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion."


Players' union head Michael Weiner called the vote "unfortunate, if not sad."


"To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings — and others never even implicated — is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting."


The BBWAA election rules say "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."


An Associated Press survey of 112 eligible voters conducted in late November after the ballot was announced indicated Bonds, Clemens and Sosa would fall well short of 50 percent. The big three drew even less support than that as the debate raged over who was Hall worthy.


Voters are writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point.


BBWAA president Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said she didn't vote for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa.


"The evidence for steroid use is too strong," she said.


As for Biggio, "I'm surprised he didn't get in."


Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 16.9 percent on his seventh try, down from 19.5 last year. He got 23.7 percent in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.


Rafael Palmeiro, among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, received 8.8 percent in his third try, down from 12.6 percent last year. Palmeiro received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, claiming it was due to a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.


MLB.com's Hal Bodley, the former baseball columnist for USA Today, said Biggio and others paid the price for other players using PEDs.


"They got caught in the undertow of the steroids thing," he said.


Bodley said this BBWAA vote was a "loud and clear" message on the steroids issue. He said he couldn't envision himself voting for stars linked to drugs.


"We've a forgiving society, I know that," he said. "But I have too great a passion for the sport."


NOTES: There were four write-in votes for career hits leader Pete Rose, who never appeared on the ballot because of his lifetime ban that followed an investigation of his gambling while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. ... Two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy received 18.6 percent in his 15th and final appearance. ... At the July 28 ceremonies, the Hall also will honor Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby among a dozen players who never received formal inductions because of restrictions during World War II. ... Piazza has a book due out next month that could change the view of voters before the next election.


___


AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston, Mike Fitzpatrick, John Marshall and Ben Walker contributed to this report.


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Can You Lead on the Environment if You Bypass Climate Change?






Climate change didn’t even match Andy Warhol’s famous-for-15-minutes standard this week at a gathering devoted to reviving conservative leadership on the environment. It got five minutes at the 1 hour, 40 minute mark of a two-hour program, and what was said about it amounted to “We will deal with that some other time, maybe.”


To be fair, the Conservation Leadership Council is an admirable if risk-averse effort by concerned Republicans to reclaim a mantle that has faded since Teddy Roosevelt went on a conservationist tear creating national forests, parks, and monuments, and Richard Nixon decided (to the retroactive dismay of his party) that the country needed an Environmental Protection Agency. The council has its own mission: identifying ways to solve environmental problems that don’t require embracing big government.






“Conservatives who don’t like big government often don’t like environmental proposals because they are all about big government. We’re looking for some ways of getting out of that box,” said former Interior Secretary Gale Norton. “It’s about creating proposals that can find broad support.”


By definition, that excludes climate change.


It’s not that there isn’t a national consensus on the topic, particularly since superstorm Sandy. Several recent polls suggest three-quarters of the country believes that the climate has been getting warmer and that the federal government should take at least some steps to combat global warming—even if that means more regulation of harmful emissions and higher taxes or electricity rates.


But there is no consensus within the GOP. Nowhere were the rifts more pronounced than in the party’s presidential nomination race, which produced this classic tweet from then-candidate Jon Huntsman: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”


The party’s hostility to climate science will be showcased anew this year in the Virginia governor’s race, the marquee political contest of 2013. Republicans appear set to nominate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative firebrand who tried to ruin a climate researcher at the University of Virginia.


There are some Republicans who don’t shy from global warming, notably former Sen. John Warner of Virginia. But the conservation leadership group is focusing on far less inflammatory issues and aims to make its mark in cities and state capitals. Its first compilation of case studies highlights public-private management partnerships in state parks and the Blackfoot Watershed of eastern Montana; market and incentive approaches to preserving endangered species and restoring a Florida reef; and new sources of capital for making buildings more energy-efficient. “We can be a clearinghouse of good ideas,” said Ed Schafer, the former Agriculture secretary and North Dakota governor.


This is a wonky group, given to talk of carcass pickups and total maximum daily loads. There’s no question its adherents have sensible ideas—for instance, gathering hikers, bicyclists, mountain bikers, and horseback riders in a room to work out together how to manage a wilderness area they all want to use, or paying a farmer to make his irrigation system more efficient, thereby freeing up water for the nearby city that badly needs it while (it’s hoped) bypassing conflict and litigation.


Norton and former Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett, the moderator of the session, said that policies to cope with water shortages and make buildings more energy-efficient are related to climate change. And that is as far as they will take it. “That’s not really something that our council has addressed directly. It may be something that we look at down the road,” Norton said.


What the Conservation Leadership Council is doing now is a start, but it won’t do much to improve the national GOP brand or transform the national climate debate. By coincidence, the group held its inaugural Washington event on the same day the federal government announced that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. Talk about the elephant in the room.


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