Wall Street skids as U.S. heads for "fiscal cliff"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell on Friday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a fifth straight decline, as President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders were to make a last-ditch attempt to steer the United States away from driving off the "fiscal cliff."


Obama and lawmakers will meet at the White House Friday afternoon for talks before a New Year's deadline to keep large tax hikes and spending cuts from taking effect and threatening the economy with recession.


Investors' pessimism about achieving anything more than a stop-gap deal by the deadline showed in the benchmark S&P index's 1.6 percent decline this week. The broad index was on pace for its worst weekly performance since the U.S. elections.


With time running short, members of Congress may attempt to pass a retroactive fix on tax rises and spending cuts soon after the automatic fiscal policies come into effect on January 1.


"It doesn't matter which side wins, but at this point nobody wants to play a game where there aren't rules," said Joe Costigan, director of equity research at Bryn Mawr Trust in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.


"So everybody is talking about what the prospects are for changes in the rules, but at the end of the day nothing is happening."


Highlighting Wall Street's sensitivity to developments in Washington, stocks took a dive of more than 1 percent on Thursday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned a deal was unlikely before the deadline. But later the index rebounded after the House of Representatives said it hold an unusual Sunday session to work on a fiscal solution.


With many market participants away for the holiday-shortened week, volume is expected to remain light, which could exacerbate market swings.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 90.70 points, or 0.69 percent, to 13,005.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 9.74 points, or 0.69 percent, to 1,408.36. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 16.25 points, or 0.54 percent, to 2,969.66.


Market breadth was skewed to the negative, with declining stocks outnumbering gainers on the NYSE by 2,044 to 690, while on the Nasdaq, decliners outnumbered advancers 1,466 to 707.


Positive economic data failed to alter the market's downtrend.


The National Association of Realtors said contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose in November to their highest level in 2-1/2 years, while a report from the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago showed business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded in December.


Barnes & Noble Inc rose 8.2 percent to $15.55 after the company said Pearson had agreed to make a strategic investment in its Nook Media subsidiary, but the Nook business will also not meet the bookseller's prior projection for fiscal year 2013.


MagicJack Vocaltec Ltd forecast over $39 million in GAAP revenue and over 70 cents per share in operating income for the fourth quarter and appointed Gerald Vento president and CEO, effective January 1. Shares jumped 6.9 percent to $17.40.


Aeterna Zentaris Inc U.S.-listed shares surged 18.4 percent to $2.57 after the company said it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a special protocol assessment by the FDA for phase 3 registration trial in endometrial cancer with AEZS-108 treatment.


(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)



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Stomach bug knocks Nadal from Australian Open


MADRID (AP) — Rafael Nadal says he will not play the Australian Open because of a stomach virus, further delaying his comeback after being sidelined since June.


The Spaniard also will skip the preceding Qatar Open. The Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam tournament, begins Jan. 14. The same virus kept Nadal from making his return at Abu Dhabi this week.


Nadal has been out because of tendinitis in his left knee since a second-round loss to then-100th-ranked Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon. He was forced to miss the London Olympics.


Nadal says in a statement that his knee is "much better" but the virus prevented him from practicing this past week, and "therefore I am sorry to announce that I will not play in Doha and the Australian Open."


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Starvation Didn’t Wipe Out Sabertooth Cats






Saber-toothed cats apparently did not go extinct for lack of prey, contradicting a popular explanation for why they died off, fossil evidence now suggests.


Even near their extinction, saber-toothed cats likely had enough to eat, researchers noted.






Saber-toothed cats, American lions, woolly mammoths and other giant creatures once roamed across the American landscape. However, at the end of the late Pleistocene about 12,000 years ago, these “megafauna” went extinct, a die-off called the Quaternary extinction.


“The popular theory for the megafaunal extinction is that either the changing climate at the end of the last ice age or human activity, or some combination of the two, killed off most of the large mammals,” said researcher Larisa DeSantis, a vertebrate paleontologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “In the case of the great cats, we expect that it would have been increasingly difficult for them to find prey, especially if had to compete with humans. We know that when food becomes scarce, carnivores like the great cats tend to consume more of the carcasses they kill. If they spent more time chomping on bones, it should cause detectable changes in the wear patterns on their teeth.”


Tale of the teeth


To learn more about saber-toothed diets, the researchers analyzed the fossil teeth of 15 saber-toothed cats (Smilodon fatalis) and 15 American lions (Panthera atrox) recovered from the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles. These specimens ranged from about 11,500 to 35,000 years in age.


To study the fossils, the scientists used dental microwear texture analysis, developed by anthropologist Peter Ungar at the University of Arkansas. This involves using generating three-dimensional images of a tooth’s surface. The image is then analyzed for microscopic grooves — devouring red meat produces small parallel scratches, while biting on bones lead to larger, deeper pits.


The investigation found the pattern of wear on the teeth of the saber-toothed cat most closely resembled those of present-day African lions, which sometimes crush bone when they eat. The wear pattern on American lion teeth, on the other hand, echoed that of the present-day cheetah, which deliberately avoids bones when it feeds. [Photos: A Lion's Life]


Analysis of both older fossils and more recent ones did not reveal any evidence that patterns of wear changed over time, and none had extreme microwear like living hyenas, which consume entire carcasses, bones included. This suggests that prey for these carnivores was not scarce — the animals were not gnawing their victims to the bone.


“Tooth wear patterns suggest that these cats were not desperately consuming entire carcasses, as was expected, and instead seemed to be living the ‘good life’ during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the very end,” DeSantis said.


Big predator extinction


Past research of teeth from American lions, saber-tooth cats, dire wolves and coyotes from La Brea revealed they experienced three times the number of broken teeth of contemporary predators, hinting that these species were having trouble finding prey and were thus urgently devouring or “processing” whole carcasses. This led scientists to suspect that climate change and human competition were making life tough for the big predators.


Instead, DeSantis and her colleagues argue this high rate of damage seen in teeth more likely resulted during capture of prey instead of feeding on carcasses.


“We expected extinct carnivores to show evidence for extreme bone processing, based on the high number of broken teeth determined from prior research. Finding the complete opposite pattern was shocking!” DeSantis said.


The researchers noted that saber-toothed cats were about the size of today’s African lion, while the American lion was about 25 percent larger. They fed on giants such as mammoths and four-ton giant ground sloths. The fact these ancient carnivores and their prey were bigger than contemporary predators and their victims could help explain why the extinct cats had more broken teeth than their living brethren, the investigators said. . [Gallery: Today's Threatened Mammals]


Specifically, larger teeth break more easily than smaller teeth, so larger carnivores may be likely to break more teeth when attempting to take down larger prey. The researchers noted past studies that found the canines of a predator the size of fox can support more than seven times the fox’s weight before breaking, while a carnivore the size of lion can only support about four times its weight and the curved teeth of saber-toothed cats could only support about twice the animal’s weight.


“The net result of our study is to raise questions about the reigning hypothesis that ‘tough times’ during the late Pleistocene contributed to the gradual extinction of large carnivores,” DeSantis said. “While we can not determine the exact cause of their demise, it is unlikely that the extinction of these cats was a result of gradually declining prey.”


Currently, the scientists are examining other carnivores at the La Brea tar pits, “including the extinct giant short-faced bear and the extant mountain lion that is found both during the Pleistocene at La Brea and in southern California and elsewhere today,” DeSantis told LiveScience. “Essentially, we are trying to clarify the biology and diets of these carnivores during the past to further evaluate why the short-faced bear went extinct and, potentially, why the mountain lion did not.”


DeSantis and Ungar, with their colleagues Blaine Schubert and Jessica Scott, detailed their findings online Dec. 26 in the journal PLOS ONE.


Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.


Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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2013: A year for big issues in the courts












By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst


December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)







Chief Justice John Roberts re-administers the oath of office to Barack Obama at the White House on January 21, 2009.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Jeffrey Toobin: 2013 will see pivotal decisions in several key areas of law

  • He says Supreme Court could decide fate of same-sex marriage

  • Affirmative action for public college admissions is also on Court's agenda

  • Toobin: Newtown massacre put gun control debate back in the forefront




Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin is a senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where he covers legal affairs. He is the author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court."


(CNN) -- What will we see in 2013?


One thing for sure: The year will begin with Chief Justice John Roberts and President Obama getting two chances to recite the oath correctly.



Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin



After that, here are my guesses.


1. Same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court. There are two cases, and there are a Rubik's Cube-worth of possibilities for their outcomes. On one extreme, the court could say that the federal government (in the Defense of Marriage Act) and the states can ban or allow same-sex marriage as they prefer. On the other end, the Court could rule that gay people have a constitutional right to marry in any state in the union. (Or somewhere in between.)





CNN Opinion contributors weigh in on what to expect in 2013. What do you think the year holds in store? Let us know @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion


2. The future of affirmative action. In a case pending before the Supreme Court, the Court could outlaw all affirmative action in admissions at public universities, with major implications for all racial preferences in all school or non-school settings.


3. Gun control returns to the agenda. The Congress (and probably some states) will wrestle with the question of gun control, an issue that had largely fallen off the national agenda before the massacre in Newtown. Expect many invocations (some accurate, some not) of the Second Amendment.




4. The continued decline of the death penalty. Death sentences and executions continue to decline, and this trend will continue. Fear of mistaken executions (largely caused by DNA exonerations) and the huge cost of the death penalty process will both accelerate the shift.


5. Celebrity sex scandal. There will be one. There will be outrage, shock and amusement. (Celebrity to be identified later.)


Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter


Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Toobin.











Part of complete coverage on







December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)



Jeffrey Toobin says key rulings will likely be made regarding same-sex marriage and affirmative action for public college admissions.







December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)



Frida Ghitis says that after years in which conservative views dominated the nation, there's now majority support for many progressive stances.







December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0316 GMT (1116 HKT)



John MacIntosh says gun manufacturer Freedom Group should be acquired by public-spirited billionaires and turned into a company with ethical goals.







December 27, 2012 -- Updated 0237 GMT (1037 HKT)



Bassam Gergi and Ali Breland says we should mourn for Newtown's victims, but also take steps to stop the slaughter of young people in inner cities








Get the latest opinion and analysis from CNN's columnists and contributors.







December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)



Tseming Yang says the 25 major carbon emitters should come to an agreement just among themselves about fighting climate change.







December 25, 2012 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)



David Frum says the National Rifle Association's "Death Wish" style vision of America as a land of armed civilians fending off criminals is a fantasy.







December 27, 2012 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)



Lawrence Krauss says the nation must grieve with the families of Newtown after such a tremendous loss, but religion is not the right framework







December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)



Jonathan Batiste says jazz is a complex, traditional and utterly contemporary art -- the language that we use to state our deepest, truest feelings







December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)



Dean Obeidallah says "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Promised Land" present hot button issues that fire up people from the left and right.







December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)



MADD started as a small grass-roots movement that grew and radically changed society's views on drunk driving, says Candace Lightner.







December 22, 2012 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)



David Gergen says the hope for cooperation is gone in the capital as people spar over fiscal cliff, gun control, and nominations







December 19, 2012 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)



William Bennett says having armed and trained people could help protect schools and other vulnerable places from gun violence


















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Putin signs ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children










MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Friday that bans Americans from adopting Russian children and imposes other sanctions in retaliation for a new U.S. human rights law that he says is poisoning relations.

The law, which has ignited outrage among Russian liberals and child rights' advocates, takes effect on January 1. Washington has called the law misguided and said it ties the fate of children to "unrelated political considerations."






It is likely to deepen a chill in U.S.-Russian relations and deal a blow to Putin's image abroad.

Fifty-two children whose adoptions by American parents were underway will remain in Russia, Interfax news agency cited Russia's child rights commissioner, Pavel Astakhov, as saying.

The law, whose text was issued by the Kremlin, will also outlaw some non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding and impose a visa ban and asset freeze on Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians abroad.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers initially drafted the bill to mirror the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars entry to Russians accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other alleged rights abuses.

The restrictions on adoptions and non-profit groups were added to the legislation later, going beyond a tit-for-tat move and escalating a dispute with Washington at a time when ties are also strained by issues such as the Syrian crisis.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Magnitsky Act had "seriously undermined" the "reset" -- the moniker for the effort U.S. President Barack Obama launched early in his first term to improve relations between the former Cold War foes.

Putin has backed the hawkish response with a mix of public appeals to patriotism, saying Russia should care for its own children, and belligerent denunciations of what he says is the U.S. desire to impose its will on the world.

Seeking to dampen criticism of the move, Putin also signed a decree ordering an improvement in care for orphans.

Critics of the Russian legislation say Putin has held the welfare of children trapped in an crowded and troubled orphanage system hostage to political maneuvering.

"He signed it after all! He signed one of the most shameful laws in Russia history," a blogger named Yuri Pronko wrote on the popular Russian site LiveJournal.

BLOW TO RUSSIA'S IMAGE

The acquittal on Friday of the only person being tried over Magnitsky's death will fuel accusations by Kremlin critics that the Russian authorities have no intention of seeking justice in a case that has blackened Russia's image.

A Russian court on acquitted Dmitry Kratov, a former deputy head a jail where Magnitsky was held before his death in 2009 after nearly a year in pre-trial detention, after prosecutors themselves dropped charges against him.

Lawyers for Magnitsky's family said they will appeal and called for further investigation.

Magnitsky's colleagues say he is the victim of retribution from the same police investigators he had accused of stealing $230 million from the state through fraudulent tax refunds -- the very same crimes with which he was charged.

The case against Magnitsky was closed after his death but then was reopened again in August 2011.

In an unprecedented move, Russia is trying Magnitsky posthumously for fraud, despite protests from his family and the lawyers that it is unconstitutional to try a dead man. A preliminary hearing is scheduled next month.

Magnitsky's death triggered an international outcry and Kremlin critics said it underscored the dangers faced by Russians who challenge the authorities. The Kremlin's own human rights council said Magnitsky was probably beaten to death.

The adoption ban may further tarnish Putin's international standing at a time when the former KGB officer is under scrutiny over what critics say is a crackdown on dissent since he returned to the Kremlin for a six-year third term in May.

"The law will lead to a sharp drop in the reputation of the Kremlin and of Putin personally abroad, and signal a new phase in relations between the United States and Russia," said Lilia Shevtsova, an expert on Putin with the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

"It is only the first harbinger of a chill."

(Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk and Maria Tsvetkova; Editing By Steve Gutterman, Andrew Osborn and Roger Atwood)

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Syria opposition leader rejects Moscow invitation


ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks, dealing another blow to international hopes that diplomacy can be resurrected to end a 21-month civil war.


Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's main international protector, said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognized by most Western and Arab states as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.


But in an interview on Al Jazeera television, Alkhatib said he had already ruled out such a trip and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support for Assad.


"We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow. We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda," he said.


"Now we also want an apology from (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention. Russia is intervening and meanwhile all these massacres of the Syrian people have happened, treated as if they were a picnic."


"If we don't represent the Syrian people, why do they invite us?" Alkhatib said. "And if we do represent the Syrian people why doesn't Russia respond and issue a clear condemnation of the barbarity of the regime and make a clear call for Assad to step down? This is the basic condition for any negotiations."


With the rebels advancing steadily over the second half of 2012, diplomats have been searching for months for signs that Moscow's willingness to protect Assad is faltering.


So far Russia has stuck to its position that rebels must negotiate with Assad's government, which has ruled since his father seized power in a coup 42 years ago.


"I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members to seek ways to start a political dialogue," Lavrov said on Friday.


That was immediately dismissed by the opposition: "The coalition is ready for political talks with anyone ... but it will not negotiate with the Assad regime," spokesman Walid al-Bunni told Reuters. "Everything can happen after the Assad regime and all its foundations have gone. After that we can sit down with all Syrians to set out the future."


BRAHIMI TO MOSCOW


Russia says it is behind the efforts of U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, fresh from a five-day trip to Damascus where he met Assad. Brahimi, due in Moscow for talks on Saturday, is touting a months-old peace plan for a transitional government.


That U.N. plan was long seen as a dead letter, foundering from the outset over the question of whether the transitional body would include Assad or his allies. Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, quit in frustration shortly after negotiating it.


But with rebels having seized control of large sections of the country in recent months, Russia and the United States have been working with Brahimi to resurrect the plan as the only internationally recognized diplomatic negotiating track.


Russia's Middle East envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who announced the invitation to Alkhatib, said further talks were scheduled between the "three B's" - himself, Brahimi and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns.


Speaking in Damascus on Thursday, Brahimi called for a transitional government with "all the powers of the state", a phrase interpreted by the opposition as potentially signaling tolerance of Assad remaining in some ceremonial role.


But such a plan is anathema to the surging rebels, who now believe they can drive Assad out with a military victory, despite long being outgunned by his forces.


"We do not agree at all with Brahimi's initiative. We do not agree with anything Brahimi says," Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, who heads the rebels' military council in Aleppo province, told reporters at his headquarters there.


Oqaidi said the rebels want Assad and his allies tried in Syria for crimes. Assad himself says he will stay on and fight to the death if necessary.


In the rebel-held town of Kafranbel, demonstrators held up cartoons showing Brahimi speaking to a news conference with toilet bowls in front of him, in place of microphones. Banners denounced the U.N. envoy with obscenities in English.


DIPLOMATS IMPOTENT


Diplomacy has largely been irrelevant to the conflict so far, with Western states ruling out military intervention like the NATO bombing that helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year, and Russia and China blocking U.N. action against Assad.


Meanwhile, the fighting has grown fiercer and more sectarian, with rebels mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority battling Assad's government and allied militia dominated by his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.


Still, Western diplomats have repeatedly touted signs of a change in policy from Russia, which they hope could prove decisive, much as Moscow's withdrawal of support for Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic heralded his downfall a decade ago.


Bogdanov said earlier this month that Assad's forces were losing ground and rebels might win the war, but Russia has since rowed back, with Lavrov last week reiterating Moscow's position that neither side could win through force.


Still, some Moscow-based analysts see the Kremlin coming to accept it must adapt to the possibility of rebel victory.


"As the situation changes on the battlefield, more incentives emerge for seeking a way to stop the military action and move to a phase of political regulation," said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.


Meanwhile, on the ground the bloodshed that has killed some 44,000 people continues unabated. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, 150 people were killed on Thursday, a typical toll as fighting has escalated in recent months.


Government war planes bombarded the town of Assal al-Ward in the Qalamoun district of Damascus province for the first time, killing one person and wounding dozens, the observatory said.


In Aleppo, Syria's northern commercial hub, clashes took place between rebel fighters and army forces around an air force intelligence building in the Zahra quarter, a neighborhood that has been surrounded by rebels for weeks.


(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Dominic Evans in Beirut and Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)



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Wall Street falls as senator sees "fiscal cliff" fall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks declined on Thursday after the leader of Senate Democrats warned the United States appeared headed over the "fiscal cliff" and data showed consumer confidence fell to a four-month low.


With only a few days left before devastating tax hikes and spending cuts go into effect, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said about the fiscal cliff, "It looks like where we're headed."


Reid criticized Republicans for refusing to go along with any tax increases as part of a compromise solution with Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff, which economists warn will knock the economy into recession.


President Barack Obama was flying back to Washington from a Christmas holiday to push for more talks, while the top Republican in Congress planned to speak with House lawmakers to avoid the year-end deadline. Still, gaps remained between the two sides.


The benchmark S&P 500 index is on track for its fourth straight decline and is down 2 percent as negotiations over the budget crisis stalled. A four-day decline would mark the longest losing streak for the index in three months.


The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes in December fell to 65.1 as the budget crisis took the steam out of a growing sense of optimism about the economy. The gauge fell more than expected from a downwardly revised 71.5 in November.


Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 last week and the four-week moving average fell to the lowest since March 2008.


"Unfortunately, a term all of us are sick of hearing - the fiscal cliff - appears to be dominating all aspects of the financial market and consumer confidence," said Joe Heider, principal at Rehmann Financial in Cleveland Ohio.


"What has happened here is even though the consumer confidence number had a sharp decline, most people write it off as a result of what is happening in Washington rather than economic reality that is occurring in people's everyday lives."


Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the first of a series of measures that should push back the government's debt ceiling by around two months.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 77.41 points, or 0.59 percent, to 13,037.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 9.71 points, or 0.68 percent, to 1,410.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 18.36 points, or 0.61 percent, to 2,971.80.


Marvell Technology Group fell 3.4 percent to $7.15 after it said it would seek to overturn a jury's finding of patent infringement. The stock had fallen more than 10 percent in the prior session after a federal jury found the company infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University and ordered the chipmaker to pay $1.17 billion in damages.


The PHLX semiconductor index <.sox> lost 0.7 percent.


(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)



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Peyton Manning, Peterson make Pro Bowl


NEW YORK (AP) — Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson want to cap their sensational comebacks with Super Bowl appearances. For now, they can be proud of Pro Bowl spots.


So can Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, one of two rookies chosen Wednesday for the Jan. 27 NFL all-star game.


Manning missed all of the 2011 season with neck and back problems that required several operations. He then signed with Denver as a free agent and has led the Broncos on a 10-game winning streak to take the AFC West.


"I know there's great players out there in the NFL, but there's some great players on this team this year that deserve to go," said Manning, whose 12th Pro Bowl is a record for quarterbacks. He ranks fourth in league passing this year, has thrown 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.


Four other Broncos made the AFC roster: DE Elvis Dumervil, linebacker Von Miller, CB Champ Bailey and tackle Ryan Clady. Bailey's 12th appearance is a record for defensive backs.


"My goal has always been to go out and help the team win and play at a high level," Manning added. "Anything that comes along with that, like being honored as a Pro Bowl selection, is very humbling."


Minnesota's Peterson tore up his left knee on Christmas Eve last year, underwent major surgery, then was back for the season opener. He's gone from uncertain to unstoppable, running away with the rushing title with a career-high 1,898 yards and lifting the Vikings toward an NFC wild card.


"Coming into the season after going through the rehab process, I just told myself that I wanted to lead my team to a championship and make sure that I contribute and do my part," Peterson said. "I've been doing it."


Griffin is one of three rookie QBs who had superb debut seasons, along with Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Russell Wilson of Seattle. Luck and Wilson weren't voted to the Pro Bowl by players, coaches and fans, although their teams are in the playoffs; Griffin can get to the postseason if Washington beats Dallas on Sunday.


"You can't play down those kind of things," Griffin said. "I've always said my whole football career that you don't play for awards. They just come. You don't say you're going to win the Heisman. You don't say you're going to win MVP. You go out and you prove it on the field, and if everyone feels that way then they'll give you that award."


San Francisco had the most players selected, nine, including six from its second-ranked defense. Houston was next with eight, six on offense.


Kansas City, despite its 2-13 record that is tied with Jacksonville for worst in the league, had five Pro Bowlers, including RB Jamaal Charles, who like Peterson is coming back from a torn ACL.


One other rookie, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, was chosen. Walsh has nine field goals of at least 50 yards, an NFL mark.


The AFC kicker is at the other end of the spectrum: Cleveland's Phil Dawson earned his first selection in his 14th NFL season.


"I deliberately tried not to know," Dawson said. "We wanted to watch the show with my kids. I had a really good idea what was going on, but it was a pretty priceless moment when we saw the name flash up on the screen. My kids went nuts 'cause my wife went nuts. That makes these 15 years of waiting worth it."


Another record setter will be heading to Honolulu: Detroit WR Calvin Johnson.


Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season yards receiving record and has 1,892 yards with a game left.


Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez set the record for Pro Bowls at his position by being chosen for the 13th time.


The league's top two sackmasters, DEs Aldon Smith of San Francisco and J.J. Watt of Houston, were first-time selections. Watt has 20 1-2 sacks, one ahead of Smith; the NFL record is 22 1-2.


Other newcomers, along with Griffin, Walsh and Dawson, were AFC players tackle Duane Brown and guard Wade Smith of Houston; safety LaRon Landry of the Jets; kick returner Jacoby Jones of Baltimore; and punter Dustin Colquitt of Kansas City.


For the NFC, first-timers were Giants WR Victor Cruz; Atlanta WR Julio Jones; Seattle tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger; San Francisco guard Mike Iupati, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and safety Donte Whitner; Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings and defensive tackle Henry Melton; Washington tackle Trent Williams and special teamer Lorenzo Alexander; Minnesota fullback Jerome Felton; Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy; and New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead.


Eight teams had no Pro Bowl players: Carolina, Philadelphia and St. Louis in the NFC, Tennessee, Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Diego and Oakland in the AFC.


___


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


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Britain suspends exploratory drilling of Antarctic lake






LONDON (Reuters) – An ambitious British plan to search for minute forms of life in an ancient lake beneath Antarctica‘s ice has been suspended because of technical problems, the scientist leading the project said on Thursday.


In a move that clears the way for U.S. and Russian teams to take the lead, Professor Martin Siegert said technical problems and a lack of fuel had forced the closure on Christmas Day of the 7-million-pound ($ 11 million) project, which was looking for life forms and climate change clues in the lake-bed sediment.






“This is of course, hugely frustrating for us, but we have learned a lot this year,” said Siegert of the University of Bristol, principal investigator for the mission, which was headed by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).


“By the end, the equipment was working well, and much of it has now been fully field-tested,” he said on the BAS website.


Experts from Britain’s Lake Ellsworth mission had expected to find minute forms of life in the lake three km (two miles) under Antarctica’s ice, the most remote and extreme environment known on Earth.


They had also hoped that by dating bits of seashell found in the water they would have been able to ascertain when the ice sheet last broke up and to better understand the risks of it happening again.


INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION


Scientists from the United States and Russia are hot on Britain’s heels when it comes to drilling through Antarctic ice to lakes that have been hidden for thousands of years.


The U.S. team is aiming to start drilling in Lake Whillans, one of 360 known sub-glacial lakes in Antarctica, in January or February 2013.


Russia was the first to pierce 3,769 meters (12,365 ft) of solid ice to reach Lake Vostok early in 2012. But some scientists believe their samples may have been contaminated by drilling fluids.


The British scientists decided to abandon the mission after trying for 20 hours to connect two holes in the ice that were needed for the hot-water drill to work, said a BAS spokeswoman.


Without a connection between the two holes, the hot water would seep into the porous surface layers of ice and be lost, reducing the pressure and rendering the drill ineffective.


The team tried to melt and dig more snow to compensate for the water loss, but without success.


As a result of the extra time taken to fix the problem, fuel stocks had been depleted to such a level as to make the operation unviable.


Asked how long the delay might be before the project could be resumed, Siegert told the BBC: “It will take a season or two to get all our equipment out of Antarctica and back to the UK, so at a minimum we’re looking at three to four, maybe five years I would have thought.”


However, he said he felt this year’s mission had not been a complete loss.


The BAS spokeswoman said: “It’s very possible that either the U.S. or Russia may take the lead but I think the one thing we’ve learned here is that anything can go wrong.”


“We’ve never depicted this as a race. All sub-glacial lakes would give different information,” she said.


(Editing by Andrew Osborn)


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A gunmaker ripe for an ethical takeover




Several .223 caliber rounds near a Bushmaster XM-15; the manufacturer's owner is putting its gun companies up for sale.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • The owner of America's largest gunmaker is putting firm up for sale

  • John MacIntosh says billionaires should lead effort to acquire the gun manufacturer

  • He says they should change corporate practices to discourage violence

  • MacIntosh: One leading company could push gun industry in a more ethical direction




Editor's note: John MacIntosh was a partner at Warburg Pincus, a leading global private equity firm, where he worked from 1994 to 2006 in New York, Tokyo and London. He now runs a nonprofit in New York.


(CNN) -- In the 1970s and '80s, when corporate America was plagued with inefficiency, a new class of financially motivated takeover investor emerged to prey on the fattest in the corporate herd and scare the rest into line.


Today, as pockets of corporate America are plagued with immorality, we need a new class of socially motivated takeover investor to prey on the sociopaths in the corporate herd, turn them around and perhaps scare (or shame) others into line.



John MacIntosh

John MacIntosh



The upcoming sale by Cerberus Capital of the Freedom Group, the largest gun manufacturer in the United States, is a perfect opportunity to usher in this new era of muscular, socially responsible capitalism:


First, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, David Geffen and the like should establish a nonprofit SPAC (Special-Purpose-Acquisition-Company) called BidForFreedom.org (BFF) with a mission to reduce needless deaths through gun violence in the United States and encourage the passage of sensible gun control regulations.



They should appoint George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon to the fundraising committee and recruit a loud-mouthed, poison-penned, but good-hearted activist hedge fund titan as chief investment officer (Bill Ackman? Dan Loeb?).


Opinion: Forgotten victims of gun violence


To be credible, BFF will probably need to start with at least $250 million in cash and commitments (no problem given the billionaire status of the sponsors) with additional firepower raised as needed from well-heeled individuals, foundations and through a broad-based Internet solicitation to an outraged-by-Newtown public.


Second, BFF should lobby all public pension funds that are part owners of the Freedom Group (by virtue of their investment in Cerberus) to roll their investment into BFF to reduce the need for outside funding, naming and shaming any unwilling public investors.


Newtown shooter's guns








Third, BFF should pay "whatever it takes" to acquire control of the Freedom Group in the upcoming auction by Cerberus (which has a fiduciary obligation to sell to the highest bidder) and then immediately implement a "moral turnaround" plan under which the Freedom Group:


(i) Appoints a high-profile CEO with impeccable credentials as a hunter and/or marksman who is nevertheless in favor of gun-control.


Opinion: Guns endanger more than they protect


(ii) Elects a new board of directors including representatives from the families of victims killed in Newtown (and/or other massacres perpetrated with Freedom Group weapons), military veterans and trauma surgeons with real experience of human-on-human gunfire, and law enforcement and mental health professionals.


(iii) Operates the business as if sensible gun laws were in place (this may turn out to be a wise investment in future-proofing the company): discontinuing sales of the most egregious assault weapons and modifying others as necessary so they cannot take huge-volume clips; offering to buy back all Freedom Group assault weapons in circulation; micro-stamping weapons for easy tracking; and providing price discounts for buyers willing to go through a background check and register in a database available to law enforcement.


(iv) Voluntarily waives its rights to support the NRA and other lobbying groups.


(v) Creates a fund to compensate those who, despite its best efforts, are killed or wounded by its weapons.


(vi) Agrees that if the effort to provide moral leadership in the weapons industry doesn't succeed within a year, BFF should consider corporate euthanasia, even though it entails a risk of allowing more retrograde manufacturers to fill the void in the market left by the then-deceased company.


Opinion: The case for gun rights is stronger than you think


In the face of horrors like Newtown, BFF would recognize that it's time to take a stand by acknowledging the impossibility of reaching closure after such a monstrous act while an unreconstructed Freedom Group continues to sell a huge volume of guns and ammunition rounds each year even if it is operating under new owners.


Like any Trojan Horse strategy, this is a long shot, but it must be tried. History suggests that only after the first company "turns" will an industry gradually return to the realm of the human (think of big tobacco). And without the tacit agreement, if not the outright support, of at least one important insider, policymakers seem utterly unable to pass tough regulations in the face of the predictable, but withering, assault by industry lackeys shrieking that any such regulation would be "impossible, impractical or too expensive."


In the face of a recalcitrant industry, we have to acknowledge that it is only the market for corporate control -- the real possibility that an outsider will take over one of the companies -- that puts limits on the behavior of board members and executives who, while perhaps decent enough in their family lives, display a limitless tolerance for the "banality of evil" at the office.


Opinion: Not man enough? Buy a gun


We must accept that the conventional, kid-gloves approach to socially responsible investing -- divesting shares in "bad" companies that nevertheless continue to exist -- is too weak an instrument to force change and its well-meaning practitioners too soft to enter the fray when emotionally and politically charged battles need to be fought.


And regardless of the viability of socially motivated takeovers in general, the Freedom Group looks like a great target. Cerberus is a motivated seller, the political macros look favorable, and it's a bite-sized company compared with many of the larger sociopaths in the corporate herd.


I'm even cautiously optimistic that the current impasse over gun regulation is a bad-equilibrium that few consumers actually want, and that a reconstructed Freedom Group, fighting for sensible change as a fifth column from within the industry, might well find that many people -- even a significant portion of the NRA's members -- would buy from a truly responsible (and high quality) gun maker if given the chance.


All in all, it's a pretty exciting deal, so if Mike and George are up for it, count me in.



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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John MacIntosh.






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Sen. Harry Reid: U.S. poised to go off 'fiscal cliff'




















Rana Foroohar, Time magazine's assistant managing editor for business news, talks to Rebecca Jarvis and Jeff Glor about what a drop off the "fiscal cliff" could mean to businesses and consumers.





















































WASHINGTON, Dec 27 - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday warned that the United States looks to be headed over the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts that will start next week if squabbling politicians do not reach a deal.

Reid, the top Democrat in Congress, criticized Republicans for refusing to go along with any tax increases as part of a budget remedy as he sketched out a pessimistic outlook.






"It looks like that is where we're headed," Reid said of the likelihood of the U.S. economy going over the "fiscal cliff" - with tax increases on most working Americans and automatic spending cuts kicking in next month.

Reid made his comments in a Senate floor speech at the opening of a post-Christmas session, adding that time was running out ahead of a December 31 deadline to act to avert the "fiscal cliff."

Reid urged House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, to bring his chamber back into session and to avoid the biggest impact of the "fiscal cliff" by passing a Democratic-backed bill extending low income tax rates for all Americans except those with net household incomes above $250,000 a year.

House Republicans are expected to hold a telephone conference call on the fiscal cliff on Thursday afternoon, a House Republican aide said, adding that a schedule for returning to Washington would be discussed.

Should Congress fail to act by December 31, tax rates for all Americans would snap sharply higher, back to pre-2001 levels, and two days later, $109 billion in automatic spending cuts would start to take effect. Together, the higher taxes and lower spending would suck about $600 billion out of the U.S. economy, potentially causing a new recession in 2013.

On Wednesday, it was Boehner who urged the Democratic-controlled Senate to act first to avoid the fiscal cliff, offering to at least consider anything that the Senate produced.

Reid returned the volley on Thursday, saying that the Senate had already acted, and the Democrats' solution needs the consent of both Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Reid said Boehner "has just a few days left to change his mind" on the Senate bill. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now."

(Reporting by David Lawder and Richard Cowan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Will Dunham)


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Syria envoy calls for political change to end conflict


BEIRUT (Reuters) - The international envoy seeking a solution to Syria's 21-month-old conflict said on Thursday political change was needed to end the violence which has killed 44,000 people, and called for a transitional government to rule until elections.


Speaking in Damascus at the end of a five-day trip during which he met President Bashar al-Assad, Lakhdar Brahimi did not spell out detailed proposals but said that only substantial change would meet the demands of ordinary Syrians.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added to the envoy's call for a peaceful solution when he told a senior Syrian diplomat that only a "broad inter-Syria dialogue and political process" could end the crisis.


Brahimi's push for a transitional government suggested he was trying to build on an international agreement in Geneva six months ago which said a provisional body - which might include members of Assad's government as well as the opposition - should lead the country into a new election.


But the mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have seized the military initiative since the Geneva meeting in June and the political opposition has ruled out any transitional government in which Assad, from Syria's Alawite minority, plays a role.


Rebel fighters resumed attacks on Thursday against the military base of Wadi Deif, which lies next to Syria's main north-south highway linking Aleppo with Damascus. Around the capital itself, Assad's forces have tried for weeks to dislodge rebels from suburbs which ring the east and south of the city.


"Certainly it was clear in Geneva, and it's even clearer now that the change which is needed is not cosmetic or superficial," Brahimi told a news conference in Damascus before leaving Syria.


"I believe the Syrian people need, want and aspire to genuine change and everyone knows what this means," he said.


"A government must be created ... with all the powers of the state," Brahimi added. He said it should hold power for a transitional period until elections - either for a new president or a new parliament - are held.


"This transitional process must not lead to the ... collapse of state institutions. All Syrians, and those who support them, must cooperate to preserve those institutions and strengthen them," he said.


Radwan Ziadeh of the opposition Syrian National Council dismissed Brahimi's proposal as "unrealistic and fanciful" and said a transitional government could not be built on the same "security and intelligence structure as the existing regime".


TOO SOON FOR COMPLETE PLAN


Russia's Lavrov met Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad in Moscow on Thursday and underscored "the lack of an alternative to a peaceful resolution of (Syria's) internal conflict through a broad inter-Syria dialogue and political process," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said. But it made no mention of ways to achieve those goals.


Syrian and Lebanese sources said Makdad had been sent to Moscow to discuss details of a peace plan proposed by Brahimi.


Brahimi is due in Moscow on Saturday and said he also expected to have a third joint meeting with U.S. and Russian officials soon following two rounds of talks earlier this month. But he denied the existence of a U.S.-Russian plan to end the crisis and said it was too soon to present a "complete plan".


"What is preferred is that we don't present such a plan until we feel that all sides have agreed to it. That way, implementing it is easy. If that doesn't happen, the other solution could be to go to the (United Nations) Security Council to issue a binding resolution for everyone," he said.


A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman also denied any joint initiative between Moscow and Washington.


World powers remain divided over what has become an increasingly sectarian struggle, with Sunni Muslim states such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab countries supporting the rebels while Shi'ite Iran and Hezbollah have backed Assad, whose Alawite community has its roots in Shi'ite Islam.


Syria's struggle "has taken a vicious form of sectarian confrontation," Brahimi said. "Syrian officials foremost, as well as the international community, must not let Syria slide down this very dangerous path which threatens the future of Syria."


Deep differences between Western powers opposed to Assad - led by the United States - and Russia and China which have supported his government, have left the U.N. Security Council paralyzed and largely sidelined throughout the conflict.


The political stalemate has helped transform a once-peaceful uprising into a civil war in which rebels have grown in military strength and taken control of swathes of territory in the north, leaving Assad increasingly reliant on air power to curb them.


Activists in the central province of Hama, where rebels launched an offensive last week to extend their control southwards towards the capital, reported on Thursday that rebels shot down a MiG jet near the town of Morek.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence across Syria, said air force jets launched three raids on rebel forces around Wadi Deif. The British-based group also reported fierce clashes in the area.


The violence has been accompanied by an escalation in apparently sectarian attacks between the Sunni Muslim majority and minorities such as Assad's Alawite sect, which has largely supported the president.


Activists in Hama uploaded a video of what appeared to be Assad soldiers and shabbiha militia members stabbing the body of a dead man and setting it on fire. The man looked as if he had been beaten to death.


"This is a terrorist, a brother of a whore, one of those trying to destroy the country," one of the men shouted. Two men in camouflage uniforms and army helmets stood by watching. Samer al-Hamawi, an activist from Hama, said rebels in his area found the video on the phone of a soldier they captured this week.


The video emerged a day after Islamist rebel units released footage showing the bodies of dozens of Assad's fighters along a highway near an Alawite town in Hama.


(Additional reporting by Marwan Makdesi in Damascus and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Pravin Char)



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Wall Street flat ahead of "cliff" talks restart

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were little changed on Wednesday ahead of the resumption of negotiations over the "fiscal cliff".


President Barack Obama, after vacationing in Hawaii, is due back in Washington early Thursday for a final effort to negotiate a deal with Congress to avert or at least postpone the cliff, a series of tax increases and government spending cuts set to begin next week.


"There is so little out there in terms of driving the market, it is so quiet and the horizon is just so blank, the only thing that could really bring the market any kind of movement is something as symbolic as the President's early return to Washington from his vacation in Hawaii," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey.


"No one is hitting the panic button yet and part of that lack of panic selling is the notion that the Street is getting comfortable with the likelihood of a temporary fix for the fiscal cliff - something that gets us over the date of January 1 in a way where it can be re-addressed."


A Republican plan that failed to gain traction last week triggered the recent decline in the S&P 500, highlighting market sensitivity to headlines centered around the talks.


Data showed U.S. single-family home prices rose in October, reinforcing the view the domestic real estate market is improving, as the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.7 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 15.34 points, or 0.12 percent, to 13,154.42. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> shed 0.31 points, or 0.02 percent, to 1,426.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 1.92 points, or 0.06 percent, to 3,010.68.


The benchmark S&P index is up 13.5 percent for the year, and has recouped nearly all of the losses suffered in the wake of the U.S. elections, when the fiscal cliff concerns moved to the forefront of investors' focus.


Retailers will be in focus as data on the holiday shopping season begins to come in. Holiday-related sales rose 0.7 percent from October 28 through December 24, compared with a 2 percent increase last year, according to data from MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.


"The broad brush was Christmas wasn't all that merry for retailers and you have to ask what those margins look like if the top line didn't meet their expectations," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.


The Morgan Stanley retail index <.mvr> slipped 0.8 percent.


China's Sinopec Group and ConocoPhillips will research potentially vast reserves of shale gas in southwestern China over the next two years, state news agency Xinhua reported. Conoco shares edged up 3 cents to $58.47.


An outage at one of Amazon.com Inc's web service centers hit users of Netflix Inc's streaming video service on Christmas Eve and was not fully resolved until Christmas Day, a spokesman for the movie rental company said on Tuesday.


Amazon lost 1 percent to $256 and Netflix shed 0.7 percent to $89.57.


(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)



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James leads Heat over Thunder in Finals rematch


MIAMI (AP) — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to score 54 points, more than any set of teammates had managed in a game against Miami all season.


Oklahoma City needed them to score at least three more.


That didn't happen, and an NBA Finals rematch went just as last year's title series did — to the Heat.


LeBron James had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21, and the Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Thunder 103-97 on Tuesday night, a game where Durant and Westbrook both missed potential tying 3-pointers in the final seconds.


"A great game to play," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, "and a great game to coach."


For the Heat, it was just a little greater.


Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who were 19 for 19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history behind only a 30-for-30 game in Boston on March 24, 1993. Chris Bosh added 16 points for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times dating to last June's title series.


"Felt a little bit like a different month," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Regardless of what your script is coming into the game, when you play this team, it's not going to go according to script. They're too good."


It's the first losing streak of the season for the Thunder, who had been 4-0 after losses. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each scored 15 for Oklahoma City.


The game had a little of everything — a fast start by the reigning champions, a one-handed dunk by James on an offensive rebound that will be added to his copious highlight reel, a scrum after a hard foul that led to double-technicals on Wade and Ibaka early in the fourth, an easy rally by the Thunder from an early double-digit deficit, and even workout partners in Durant and James barking back and forth in the final minutes.


Such was the intensity that James slumped over the scorer's table with 1:08 left, exhausted.


"I'm tired as hell right now," James said — and that was more than an hour after the game ended.


With good reason. On an emotional day, there was a wild finish.


Wade lost the ball on an ill-advised, behind-the-back dribble, and the turnover set up Durant for a two-handed dunk that got the Thunder within 96-95 with 44.1 seconds remaining.


Needing a stop on the next trip, the Thunder instead forgot to play defense. Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka both were confused on the ensuing Miami possession, and Bosh was left alone to take a pass from James and throw down a dunk that restored Miami's three-point edge.


"We went over and helped," Durant said. "We just needed to help on the backside. There was miscommunication but we still had a chance to go into overtime."


Two chances, actually.


Oklahoma City got within one when Durant made a jumper over James, but no closer. Ray Allen's two free throws with 15.6 seconds left made it 100-97, and Miami's last three points came from the line. Durant missed a 3-pointer that James contested, Westbrook wound up with a second chance that Wade defended, and the Thunder guard smacked a nearby table arguing that he was fouled.


"Part of the game," Westbrook said.


While the stars were stars, the Heat got help from one unexpected source. Chalmers was making everything, even unintended plays. Allen lost possession on what looked to be a pass to no one, but Chalmers picked up the bouncing ball on the right wing, whirled and made a 3-pointer — putting Miami up 86-79 with 8:14 left.


In the end, that cushion was necessary.


"I got going early," Chalmers said, "and I stuck with it."


The Heat came out flying, opening a quick 13-2 lead after making six of their first seven shots. About all that didn't go right for the Heat early on was James committing a foul, the first time he was called for a personal since Dec. 8.


It happened 4:03 into the game — 254 minutes and 7 seconds of on-court time since his last one — when James fouled Ibaka on a dunk attempt.


Chalmers had 12 points, matching his season high, in the opening quarter alone, and that was also Miami's lead after his layup for a 15-3 edge. When Durant headed to the bench after being called for his second personal, plus a technical, with 2:08 left in the first, the Heat led 27-16.


But even with Durant out, Oklahoma City scored the last eight points of the quarter, six coming from the line. The Thunder shot 17 of the game's first 18 free throws and finished with a 38-19 edge in tries from the stripe.


The Heat were held to two points in the first 5:05 of the third, and the Thunder grabbed the lead for the first time. Durant connected on a baseline jumper while falling out of bounds and getting fouled by James. The resulting free throw gave Oklahoma City a 58-56 edge.


With that, the back-and-forth began, and Miami found a way.


"Both teams really played up to the billing," Wade said. "An excellent basketball game."


NOTES: James scored at least 20 points for the 30th straight regular-season game and 46th overall. ... Wade is 7-1 on Christmas, and James has won six straight on the holiday. ... Miami's Mike Miller became the 48th active player to reach 10,000 points. ... The Thunder have used the same starting lineup for all 27 games. ... James passed Bernard King for 39th on the NBA career scoring list. ... Attendance was 20,300, the largest crowd for a Heat home game since they moved into AmericanAirlines Arena.


Read More..

Teens More Likely to Face Sexual Harassment on the Job






Teens working in some low-paying positions are more likely to be sexually harassed while on the job, new research shows.


Adolescent employees in low-opportunity jobs, such as working in retail or a restaurant, are more likely to be sexually harassed by older co-workers than adult employees, an Illinois State University study shows.






The study of 116 high school teens discovered that 54 percent of females and 37 percent of males had been harassed at least once while on the job in the last two years.


Researchers found examples of harassment involving lewd comments or behavior, comments disparaging the worker’s gender, sexist comments and jokes, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.


“We suspect that adolescents may be targeted more frequently than adults given their relatively low status and power in the workplace,” Kimberly Schneider, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of psychology, told BusinessNewsDaily.  “They may also be less comfortable reporting the harassing behavior or they may be unsure about the reporting procedures in their organizations.”


The research found that the harassment led to lower job satisfaction and, particularly with females, lower skill development. In the long run, researchers believe it will also impact their performance in school, absenteeism, tardiness and grades as well as their outlook on future work experiences.


The study shows that teens in jobs that provided skill development opportunities, including meaningful work, feedback and some autonomy, didn’t face the same workplace harassment and, in return, had greater job satisfaction and engagement levels.


Contributing to the problem is the power factor that comes into play when older colleagues supervise teen workers.


“Given the power differential that often exists in the relationship between the adolescent employee and his/her harasser, adolescents may be especially reticent to complain,” Schneider said.


For employers, the study suggests that organizations hiring adolescents look further into coping strategies, job context and harassment experiences, while teen workers should become familiar with their organization’s harassment policies, including how to report unwanted or offensive behaviors. They should also participate in training offered by their organization that specifies what workplace behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate. 


Researchers advise that teens who are victims of harassment report the situation rather than trying to cope with it internally.


“We do have evidence that both adult and adolescent employees who rely primarily on cognitive coping strategies that include frequent self-blame appear to have reduced satisfaction with various aspects of their jobs and they may also more frequently engage in potentially destructive behavior such as drug use,” Schneider said.


The researchers found that those who seek out social support often report better well-being.


The study was co-authored by Illinois State psychology professor Patricia Jarvis.


This story was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.


Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Climate change: No consensus needed




Lake Cachet II in Aysen, Chilean Patagonia, disappeared because of rising temperatures driven by climate change, experts say.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Tseming Yang: Result of Doha climate change conference less than desirable

  • Yang: It's time to abandon the myth that a consensus solution is the best approach

  • He says the 25 major carbon emitters should work out an agreement among themselves

  • Yang: Smaller, focused discussions may be better than large, U.N.-style gatherings




Editor's note: Tseming Yang, former deputy general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency, is professor of law at Santa Clara University Law School.


(CNN) -- The Doha climate change conference this year was the most significant in nearly 20 years of gatherings under the U.N. Framework Convention process aimed at staving off future global warming disaster.


Since carbon dioxide emission limits agreed to under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol were to expire at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2012, it was critical that the international community agreed to extend those obligations and to continue talks about future emission cuts.


But the outcome fell far short of what will be necessary to keep the world's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius in the foreseeable future.


Under the Doha arrangement, 17 of the 25 biggest carbon emitting countries (including China, the United States, Russia and India) did not commit to any legally binding emission limits. The countries that did agree to extend and deepen their Kyoto emission reductions, including the European Union, Australia and Eastern Europe, make up only about 15% of the world's emissions. That seems like a rather meager return on the investment of time and effort over the past years.


But there is one silver lining.



The world's top 20 carbon emitters together make up about 77% of emission and account for about 4.3 billion people, which is about 62% of the global population. The remaining 170 or so countries account for just over 20% of emissions.


As often is the case, these negotiations over climate have come to symbolize epic David and Goliath struggles pitting poor developing countries against recalcitrant government officials from rich countries. Lobbying efforts, shaming tactics, and staging public demonstrations have been the slingshots of choice. One result is that more people are paying attention to environmental issues.


Nonetheless, it is time to abandon the myth that a consensus solution is necessarily the best approach. The unfortunate reality is that little can get done right now. It's like having hundreds of cooks with hundreds of different recipes attempting to prepare one meal in the same small kitchen. After two decades of hard work, it is time to consider reducing the number of cooks.








A better alternative to a United Nations-style conference would be for the 25 major emitters to come to an agreement just among themselves about their mutual commitments to deal with climate change effectively.


In other words, get the 25 cooks to work together on the main meal. The hundreds of other cooks ought to step out of the kitchen.


Some smaller, focused discussions have already started, such as in the Major Economies Forum. Imagine what kind of deals on cutting emissions would be possible just among China, India and the United States -- the top three emitters in the world respectively. Imagine a deal involving emission sources in China, which has some of the world's most polluting coal-fired power plants, and California, which is on a course to become one of the most stringently controlled states in carbon emissions.


Of course, there are no guarantees for success. But discussions within such a smaller group would allow government leaders to confront the realities of climate change and engage in direct horse-trading without the static of thousands of other voices desiring to load their issues into the deal.


Let's face it -- we are way beyond the time for finding an ideal solution. Every year the world waits to take further concrete steps to cut emissions, the atmosphere will be loaded with millions of tons more carbon dioxide that will stay for a century. And the job of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will be more out of reach.


At the best, gatherings like the one in Doha dangle a tantalizing mirage of achieving a sustainable future. At the worst, they give cover to governments that would rather avoid the hard choices they ultimately will have to make.


After one more expensive and time-consuming round of talks, it's time to be honest with what can really be accomplished in these U.N.-style gatherings.


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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tseming Yang.






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Tornadoes, snow hit the South

A heavy snowstorm that blanketed Texas and Oklahoma is moving northeast on Wednesday. Gulf Coast states are recovering from heavy winds and twisters. (Dec. 26)










MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - A major winter storm system swept through the southern United States on Tuesday, spawning tornadoes in several states and killing two people in weather-related road accidents.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said a tornado struck Mobile, Alabama, home to about 200,000 people, at about 5 p.m. local time (2300 GMT). There were reports of damage to trees and widespread power outages, along with some structural damage, but no injuries or fatalities.






Tornadoes also touched down in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, flattening houses and causing some injuries, according to the NWS.

The wild Christmas weather was expected to continue into early Wednesday - the NWS' Storm Prediction Center forecasted the development of "a few strong tornadoes and thunderstorm wind damage over parts of the southeast" this evening and overnight.

It warned that tornadoes at night at this time of year can be particularly dangerous because they are usually fast-moving and obscured by rain and darkness. Areas mostly likely to be hit by strong storms include southern and eastern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia, the NWS warned.

Tuesday's storms also contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut down a major highway in Oklahoma City and tens of thousands of power outages.

A Texas man died after an accident involving a tree in the road, and another person died in a weather-related accident on I-44 in Oklahoma, according to local authorities.

The storm was expected to evolve into a blizzard from Arkansas to southern Illinois on Tuesday night, with snowfall of up to a foot in some areas, according to Accuweather.com.

Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski warned on the website that travel will be "extremely treacherous, if not impossible, as the snow clogs roads, such as interstates 24, 55 and 57, and the blowing snow severely lowers visibility."

The Indiana governor's office issued an advisory Tuesday evening that "non-essential employees" who live in areas where snow emergencies have been declared do not have to come to work.

The snowstorm will shift on Wednesday to the eastern Great Lakes and northeastern region, with a blizzard warning in effect for Cleveland starting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (1200 GMT), forecasters said. Cleveland could get up to a foot of snow, according to the NWS.

Southern Indiana is under a blizzard warning starting early Wednesday morning, according to NWS meteorologist Crystal Pettet. Indianapolis could see its biggest snowfall in four years, with a possibility of 10 to 12 inches of snow.

"Conditions should be pretty bad in time for rush hour," Pettet said.

CHRISTMAS SNOWFALL

In the town of McNeill in southern Mississippi, an apparent tornado destroyed 12 homes and injured eight people, though none of the injuries appear life-threatening, said Danny Manley, director of the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency.

Manley said the homes could not be rebuilt, as some had lost roofs and their top stories and one was smashed by a tree.

Another apparent tornado hit Centreville, Mississippi, in the southwestern part of the state, injuring one person, destroying a trailer and heavily damaging other homes and buildings, according to Tim Destri, a NWS meteorologist in New Orleans.

A tornado destroyed a building 13 miles southeast of Crockett, Texas, and a bank lost a section of its roof, according to Accuweather.com.

Freezing drizzle overnight led to 10 separate collisions on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City early on Tuesday, said Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The city also got a rare Christmas snowfall.

The 21-vehicle pile-up included three tractor-trailers and shut down the westbound lanes for about five hours, she said. Twelve people were taken to hospitals, and troopers were checking on the severity of their injuries.

Ahead of the storm's path, parts of eastern West Virginia are under a winter storm warning. Ice accumulations of up to half an inch are expected in higher elevations, the NWS said.

(Reporting by Kaija Wilkinson, Ian Simpson and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Sandra Maler, Todd Eastham and Paul Simao)

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