Stocks end higher for sixth straight week, tech leads

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Nasdaq composite stock index closed at a 12-year high and the S&P 500 index at a five-year high, boosted by gains in technology shares and stronger overseas trade figures.

The S&P 500 also posted a sixth straight week of gains for the first time since August.

The technology sector led the day's gains, with the S&P 500 technology index <.splrct> up 1.0 percent. Gains in professional network platform LinkedIn Corp and AOL Inc after they reported quarterly results helped the sector.

Shares of LinkedIn jumped 21.3 percent to $150.48 after the social networking site announced strong quarterly profits and gave a bullish forecast for the year.

AOL Inc shares rose 7.4 percent to $33.72 after the online company reported higher quarterly profit, boosted by a 13 percent rise in advertising sales.

Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected, a positive sign for the global economy. The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December, suggesting the U.S. economy likely grew in the fourth quarter instead of contracting slightly as originally reported by the U.S. government.

"That may have sent a ray of optimism," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Trading volume on Friday was below average for the week as a blizzard swept into the northeastern United States.

The U.S. stock market has posted strong gains since the start of the year, with the S&P 500 up 6.4 percent since December 31. The advance has slowed in recent days, with fourth-quarter earnings winding down and few incentives to continue the rally on the horizon.

"I think we're in the middle of a trading range and I'd put plus or minus 5.0 percent around it. Fundamental factors are best described as neutral," Dickson said.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> ended up 48.92 points, or 0.35 percent, at 13,992.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 8.54 points, or 0.57 percent, at 1,517.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 28.74 points, or 0.91 percent, at 3,193.87, its highest closing level since November 2000.

For the week, the Dow was down 0.1 percent, the S&P 500 was up 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq up 0.5 percent.

Shares of Dell closed at $13.63, up 0.7 percent, after briefly trading above a buyout offering price of $13.65 during the session.

Dell's largest independent shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management, said it plans to oppose the buyout of the personal computer maker, setting up a battle for founder Michael Dell.

Signs of economic strength overseas buoyed sentiment on Wall Street. Chinese exports grew more than expected in January, while imports climbed 28.8 percent, highlighting robust domestic demand. German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest economy.

Separately, U.S. economic data showed the trade deficit shrank in December to $38.5 billion, its narrowest in nearly three years, indicating the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.

Earnings have mostly come in stronger than expected since the start of the reporting period. Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies now are estimated up 5.2 percent versus a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. That contrasts with a 1.9 percent growth forecast at the start of the earnings season.

Molina Healthcare Inc surged 10.4 percent to $31.88 as the biggest boost to the index after posting fourth-quarter earnings.

The CBOE Volatility index <.vix>, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, was down 3.6 percent at 13.02. The gauge, a key measure of market expectations of short-term volatility, generally moves inversely to the S&P 500.

"I'm watching the 14 level closely" on the CBOE Volatility index, said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "The break below it at the beginning of the year signaled the sharp rally in January, and a rally back above it could be a sign to exercise some caution."

Volume was roughly 5.6 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the 2012 average daily closing volume of about 6.45 billion.

Advancers outpaced decliners on the NYSE by nearly 2 to 1 and on the Nasdaq by almost 5 to 3.

(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski, Kenneth Barry and Andrew Hay)

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Northeast storm disrupts travel for sports teams

Several professional and college sports teams were forced to rearrange their travel plans as a massive storm swept through the Northeast, dumping a few feet of snow in some areas.

The NBA's New York Knicks were stuck in Minnesota after playing the Timberwolves on Friday night, hoping to try to fly home sometime Saturday. The San Antonio Spurs were also staying overnight in Detroit after seeing their 11-game winning streak fall to the Pistons, awaiting word on when they might be able to fly to New York for their game Sunday night at Brooklyn.

"We can't get there tonight — we know that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "So we're going to stay here tonight and try to get there (Saturday). Hopefully, we will be able to get there, but at this point, we don't know."

Airlines canceled more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed.

The Brooklyn Nets planned to take a train home instead of flying from Washington D.C. after losing to the Wizards on Friday night.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said before a 100-94 victory that his team initially planned to fly home after the game, but the flight had already been postponed. New York is scheduled to play the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The NHL's Boston Bruins pushed back the start of Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning by six hours because of the blizzard. The game originally slated for 1 p.m. was rescheduled for 7 p.m., but Boston was expected to be one of the cities hit hardest by the storm.

The storm had dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New England by early Saturday and knocked out power to 650,000 customers. The National Weather Service said up to 3 feet of snow is expected in Boston, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches.

The Bruins and Lightning each already had road games scheduled for Sunday night.

The New Jersey Devils were still scheduled to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1 p.m., while the New York Islanders were slated to play at home against the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m.

Two Ivy League men's college basketball games that were scheduled for Saturday night were moved back to Sunday because of treacherous travel conditions.

Dartmouth will play at Cornell at noon on Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y., and Harvard will visit Columbia at 2 p.m. Sunday in New York. Dartmouth played at Columbia on Friday night, and Harvard played at Cornell. Two other Ivy League games were still scheduled to be played Saturday night, with Yale visiting Princeton and Brown playing at Pennsylvania.

Aqueduct also called off Saturday's card because of the storm. The track and Belmont Park were expected to remain open for wagering on out-of-town races, with racing scheduled to resume Sunday.

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Snowstorm Story: Power Loss Yaphank, N.Y.

Yahoo! News is gathering brief first-person accounts, photos and video from the severe winter weather in the northeastern United States. Here’s one resident’s story.

FIRST PERSON | YAPHANK, N.Y. – It’s Saturday on Long Island, and no business is open while city employees are busy clearing snow off the roads. Although I was surprised how quickly snow covered my car on Friday, it is unbelievable today. My car is completely covered in snow. In front of my house, there is nowhere to pass.

Worst of all, I lost power last night. The snowstorm has caused many of my neighbors to stay home. My neighbors usually wake up early in the morning. As I’m writing, it is 9:43 a.m., but I can’t see anyone outside. The temperature is going down, and it is very windy.

It is very disheartening that public transportation in Yaphank has been suspended. I was hoping to jump on the bus and find an open store for breakfast.

Weather News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Snowstorm Story: Power Loss Yaphank, N.Y.
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How Obama can end Congo conflict

Conflict in Congo

Conflict in Congo

Conflict in Congo

Conflict in Congo

Conflict in Congo


  • President Obama can help end the Congo conflict for good, says Vava Tampa

  • Obama has asked Rwanda to end all support to armed groups in the Congo

  • FDLR militia gang is a threat to stability and must leave Congo

  • Obama must push for change in Congolese government, argues Tampa

Editor's note: Vava Tampa is the founder of Save the Congo, a London-based campaign to tackle "the impunity, insecurity, institutional failure and the international trade of minerals funding the wars in Democratic Republic of the Congo." Follow Vava Tampa on twitter: @VavaTampa

(CNN) -- Now that President Obama has taken a public stand on the warlords and militia gangs tyrannizing DR Congo, there is a sense that the next chapter in the human tragedy that has been raging there over the past decade and half is about to be written -- or so we can hope.

In the DRC -- Africa's largest sub-Saharan country -- invasions, proxy wars and humanitarian crises have senselessly shut down millions of lives, displaced millions more from their homes and left countless women and young girls brutally raped with the world barely raising an eyebrow.

The latest murderous attempt by the M23 militia gang to besiege Goma, the strategic regional capital of Congo's eastern province of North Kivu, seems to have backfired.

Vava Tampa

Vava Tampa

The United Nations says Rwanda has helped to create and militarily supported M23. Although Rwandan President Paul Kagame denies backing M23, the accusation has taken off some of the international gloss he had long enjoyed in the West, and precipitated cuts and suspension of aid money that goes directly to the Kagame regime by the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the European Union.

The United States, which gives no money directly to the Rwandan government, suspended its military aid. In a baffling expression of a refinement of the U.S. position, President Obama made a rare telephone call to Kagame to emphasize "the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC." That set a firm red line on the situation in that region, the first one by President Obama since becoming president in 2008.

Watch video: Kagame on Congo

This was certainly right and good. Kagame is no fool; the diplomatic but emphatic content of that telephone call, monitored by White House's National Security staff and published thereafter for public consumption, speaks volumes. He clearly understood the implicit threat. But it was not good enough.

Left unsaid is that withholding aid money that goes directly to the Kagame regime has not changed many realities on the ground -- a painful reminder of the limits of what previous half-hearted, ambivalent international attempts to halt the crisis in that country had achieved.

However, the situation is not hopeless. President Obama can help to halt the wars engulfing the Congo. It is both economically and politically affordable.

Here is my suggestion -- a three-point road map, if you like, for President Obama, should he choose to put the weight of the United States squarely on the side of the Congolese and engage much more robustly to help end the world's bloodiest war and human tragedy.

Read more: Why the world is ignoring Congo war

1. Changes in Kinshasa

If we are to be blunt with ourselves, Congo's major problem today -- the chief reason that country remains on its knees -- is its president Joseph Kabila. Paul Kagame is just a symptom, at least in theory.

The crisis of leadership in the capital Kinshasa, the disastrous blend of lack of political legitimacy and moral authority, mixed with poor governance and vision deficiency, then compounded with dilapidated state institutions, has become the common denominator to the ills and wrongs that continues to overwhelm the Congo.

In other words, peace will never be secured in Congo, if the moribund status quo is still strutting around Kinshasa.

Obama's minimum objective in regard to ending the wars and human tragedy engulfing the Congo should be to push for changes in Kinshasa. He must make this one of the "10 Commandments" of the Obama Doctrine.

Circumstances demand it to re-energize Congo's chance of success and to enable the renaissance of a "New Africa." And given the effects of Congo's mounting death toll and the speed at which HIV/AIDS is spreading because of the use of rape as a weapon of war, the sooner the better.

2. Keep Kagame in the naughty corner

The wars and human tragedy engulfing the Congo have many fathers and many layers. Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda -- run by Africa's two dearest autocratic but staunchly pro-American regimes -- are, as they have been many times in the past, despite their denials, continuing to provide support to warlords and militia gangs terrorizing the Congolese people.

This is not an apocryphal claim, it's an open secret in Kinshasa, Kampala and Kigali as much as it is in Washington or White Hall, and as real as Charles Taylor's role in Sierra Leone or Iran's support to Hezbollah.

If President Obama is remotely serious about saving lives in Congo, then fracturing Rwanda's ability to directly or indirectly harbor warlords ... is critical.
Vava Tampa, Save the Congo

Indeed, reporters across Congo and across the region would testify to this. Kigali has been, one can safely argue, the sole shareholder in the M23 militia gang -- and its elder sisters CNDP and RCD-Goma.

It cannot wash its hands in Pontius Pilate fashion of either the ICC-wanted M23 warlord Bosco Ntaganda, also known as The Terminator, or Laurent Nkunda, who is wanted by the Congolese government for war crimes and is under house arrest in Kigali.

Read more: Prosecutor seeks new Congo war crimes warrants

If President Obama is remotely serious about saving lives in Congo, then fracturing Rwanda's ability to directly or indirectly harbor warlords, support militia gangs, militarize or ethnicize the wars in Congo for control of Congo's easily appropriable but highly valuable natural resources is critical, however politically disgruntling it may be to some in the State Department.

It would reduce the scale, scope and intensity of the killing, raping and uprooting of the Congolese, it would crush Kinshasa's ability to use external support to warlords and militia gangs as an alibi for a lack of progress and, above all, decrease the growing unease of the Congolese towards Rwanda over the crimes of FDLR and the role played by their government in Congo.


The continued existence in Congo of FDLR, a Rwandan militia gang made up largely of Hutus -- whose leadership took part in the 1994 genocide of Tutsi -- remains one of the most persistent and serious threats to stability in Congo and the region.

Addressing this crisis is of significant importance from both a political and humanitarian viewpoint.

Though there are no definitive statistics on the exact numbers of FDLR fighters, the good news is that experts tell us that the vast majority of its rank and file are in their 20s and early 30s, which means they were too young to have taken part in the genocide in 1994.

The United States, together with the U.N., the EU and African Union, should appoint a special envoy for the African Great Lakes region to midwife a conducive political arrangement in Kigali that could see them returning home -- and see their leaders and fundraisers in Europe arrested.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Vava Tampa.

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Hundreds line up early at funeral for Hadiya Pendleton

Hundreds of mourners lined up early to pay respects to Hadiya Pendleton this morning at a visitation and funeral expected to be attended by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Hadiya was a majorette for King College Prep's band and performed during President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities just days before she was slain, shot in the back while hanging out with friends at a North Kenwood neighborhood park.

Thirty minutes before the doors were set to open, hundreds stood waiting in line amidst heavy security to get into Greater Harvest Baptist Church in the Washington Park neighborhood, about two miles from where the 15-year-old girl was gunned down last month. Among the groups of high school-age students waiting in the line was the King College Prep majorettes team, who came together in their yellow and black majorette coats.

Guests who were invited by the family were given orange wristbands and were able to enter through a shorter security line. Classmates and friends of Pendleton were given green wristbands and allowed to enter through that same line.

Trinity Dishmon, 40, said her daughter Deja, 15, and Hadiya were close friends in middle school. The two girls stayed in touch and were texting about their upcoming 16th birthdays while Hadiya was in D.C. for the president's inauguration in January.

"Hadiya was a gift to everyone that knew her," Dishmon said, tearing up. "These last 12 days have been unbelievably numbing. It's not six degrees of separation anymore, it's one. It's just unreal."

Dishmon said she feared that the day was less about the teenager and more about a larger issue.

"This is Hadiya's day and should be about her -- not something sensational," Dishmon said. "But maybe by honoring her life we can help make a difference."

Police took two men into custody after they got into an altercation near the back of the long line of mourners waiting to get into the church. One man was agitated, complaining about the long wait to get in. A second man confronted him and they began shoving each other before police intervened.

Inside the church, Hadiya’s silver casket was placed in the front, surrounded by flowers, and two large hearts, one with her picture on it. Behind the casket, a TV screen showed pictures of Pendleton with her family, from birth to her teenage years.

At 9:09 a.m., friends, students and others with wristbands were allowed to file down the aisle to view the body. Her young friends were seated in the front pews, directly behind the casket. Her classmates and friends filled the middle section of the church — 11 rows in all. Members of the Crystal Elegance Majorette squad held on to each other as they filed down the aisle in pairs to view the body. 

A funeral director wearing a suit and white gloves came outside at 9:40 a.m. to announce to the hundreds still waiting in line that the church was “at capacity.” Those still in line could come in and view the body, he said, but would have to leave before the services.

The funeral procession arrived at about 9:45, including three limousines and dozens of cars.

Michelle Obama's plan to come to the funeral puts Chicago solidly in the middle of a national debate over gun violence that has polarized Congress and forced President Obama to take his gun control initiatives on the road to garner more public support.

The first lady's visit is being seen not only as a gesture of condolence to the family but as part of an effort to draw attention and support for the president's gun initiatives.

But the visit also meant scores of security, police and Secret Service agents, metal detectors and other security measures.

Other dignitaries were expected to attend the funeral, including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to Barack Obama.

The church is surrounded by an iron fence and all of the openings -- a pedestrian gate in the front, front and side doors to the church, and a driveway to the north -- are guarded by city police or men in white shirts, ties and long black coats. Chicago police vehicles -- two wagons, a handful of squads and SUVs -- guarded the outside of the church while other vehicles circle the block.

Chicago police staffing the event are wearing dress blues -- a blue overcoat with pockets that allow access to the duty belt, creased navy pants, and a hat.

King College Prep math and engineering teacher Alonzo Hoskins stood quietly in line with others. He said he taught Hadiya in his first period geometry class, where he now has an empty desk.

"She was full of life," Hoskins said.

Hoskins looked at the sea of people that preceded him in line. "I want to support the family. For me, this isn't about the dignitaries," Hoskins said.

"But I don't know if I'll even get in."

Twitter: @chicagobreaking 

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Tunisian Islamists rally in show of strength

TUNIS (Reuters) - Thousands of Islamists marched in Tunis on Saturday in a show of strength a day after the funeral of an assassinated secular politician drew the biggest crowds seen on the streets since Tunisia's uprising two years ago.

About 6,000 partisans of the ruling Ennahda movement rallied in support of their leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who was the target of angry slogans raised by mourners at Friday's mass funeral of Chokri Belaid, a rights lawyer and opposition leader.

"The people want Ennahda again," the Islamists chanted, waving Tunisian and party flags as they marched towards the Interior Ministry on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in the city centre.

The demonstration was dwarfed by the tens of thousands who had turned out in Tunis and other cities to honor Belaid and to protest against the Islamist-led government the day before, shouting slogans that included "We want a new revolution".

Belaid's killing by an unidentified gunman on Wednesday, Tunisia's first such political assassination in decades, has shaken a nation still seeking stability after the overthrow of veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

The family of the slain leader has accused Ennahda of responsibility for his killing. The party denies any hand in it.

Tunisia's political transition has been more peaceful than those in other Arab nations such as Egypt, Libya and Syria, but tensions are running high between Islamists elected to power and liberals who fear the loss of hard-won freedoms.

After Belaid's death, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali promised to form a non-partisan, technocratic cabinet to run the country until an election could take place, despite complaints from within his own Ennahda party and its two junior non-Islamist coalition partners that he had failed to consult them.

Secular groups have accused the Islamist-led government of a lax response to attacks by ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamists on cinemas, theatres, bars and individuals in recent months.

Prolonged political uncertainty and street unrest could damage an economy that relies on tourism. Unemployment and other economic grievances fuelled the revolt against Ben Ali in 2011.

France, the former colonial power, has ordered its schools in Tunis to stay closed on Friday and Saturday, warning its nationals to stay clear of potential flashpoints in the capital.

Some of the Islamist demonstrators shouted "France, out", in response to remarks by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls which were rejected by Jebali, the prime minister, on Friday.

"We must support all those who fight to maintain values and remain aware of the dangers of despotism, of Islamism that threatened those values today through obscurantism," Valls had said on Europe 1 radio on Thursday in comments on Tunisia.

"There is an Islamic fascism which is on the rise in many places."

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem described Valls's remarks as "worrying and unfriendly".

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Wall Street advances after stream of economic data

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index rose on Friday after a batch of positive economic data points, but gains were checked with the benchmark S&P index at five-year highs as investors looked for strong catalysts to push the market further upward.

Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected in January, while imports climbed 28.8 percent, highlighting robust domestic demand, while German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest economy.

Another positive sign was U.S. economic data which showed the trade deficit shrank in December to $38.5 billion, its narrowest in nearly three years, indicating the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.

But wholesale inventories unexpectedly fell 0.1 percent in December as auto dealers and agricultural suppliers drew down their stocks.

The S&P 500 <.spx> has risen for five straight weeks and is up 6.3 percent for the year. Its advance was helped by legislators in Washington averting a series of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes earlier in the year, as well as better-than-expected corporate earnings and data that pointed to modest economic improvement but no immediate change in the Federal Reserve's stimulus plans.

The index, hovering near five-year highs, has found it tougher to climb in recent days as investors await strong trading incentives to drive it further upward.

"We are going to have this churn and this consolidation, which actually isn't a bad thing - it's actually good the market isn't being so volatile and is actually consolidating because it is building a base," said Ken Polcari, Director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.

"If it builds a base, from there it is easier to make the argument that you move ahead."

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 67.62 points, or 0.48 percent, to 14,011.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> climbed 7.82 points, or 0.52 percent, to 1,517.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> rose 27.34 points, or 0.86 percent, to 3,192.47.

McDonald's Corp said January sales at established hamburger restaurants around the world fell 1.9 percent, a steeper decline than analysts expected. Still, shares edged up 0.5 percent to $94.11.

Healthcare stocks were among the best performers, with the Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index <.hmo> up 2.3 percent. Molina Healthcare Inc surged 12.1 percent to $32.36 as the biggest boost to the index after posting fourth-quarter earnings.

LinkedIn Corp jumped 19.3 percent to $148.02 after announcing blow-out quarterly profits and a bullish forecast for the year that exceeded Wall Street's already lofty expectations.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday morning, of 339 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69.9 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters.

Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies grew 5.2 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Illini buzzer-beater upsets No. 1 Hoosiers, 74-72

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — At this rate, no one will want to be No. 1.

Indiana became the fifth straight top-ranked men's college basketball team to lose, falling to unranked Illinois 74-72 on a buzzer-beater by Tyler Griffey on Thursday night.

The senior forward took an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds to play and made a wide-open layup. And, just like that, the Hoosiers — who moved into the top spot by beating then-No. 1 Michigan just a few days ago — went down.

Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team has been No. 1 for a total of seven weeks this season after opening there, doesn't know why the top spot is suddenly so hard to hang on to.

"I can't answer that. I'm not sure," Crean said. "I just know that these games are 40-minute games. We played at a high level for most of the game."

The Hoosiers (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) were in charge until the final 3 1/2 minutes when the Illini (16-8, 3-7 Big Ten) finally put together a run to take and then retake the lead.

"I know this: When we turn the ball over, we're not very good," Crean said. "And the biggest difference tonight was 28 points off turnovers to our 16."

Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls said flatly that the top rank had nothing to do with Thursday's loss, even for a team that some worried might be looking past unranked, slumping Illinois to a meeting Sunday with No. 10 Ohio State.

"We just didn't execute when we needed to," he said.

If Indiana falls from No. 1 on Monday, No. 2 Florida might not be a candidate to replace the Hoosiers after the Gators' loss this week to Arkansas. That could put No. 3 Michigan back on top if they can make it to Monday without a loss.

For the Hoosiers, nothing could have been worse than the way Thursday's game ended.

With 0.9 seconds, Griffey left defenders Cody Zeller and Christian Watford behind on an inbounds play from the baseline, took the pass from Brandon Paul and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater.

The shot sent hundreds of students onto the court, though they waited as officials checked the replay to make sure the clock hadn't beaten Griffey. Once the basket was upheld, Paul and fellow guard D.J. Richardson hugged and teared up in relief.

Illinois had endured an awful run since starting 12-0. The Illini had since lost eight of 11 and fallen to 10th in the 12-team Big Ten.

Griffey, who had struggled as bad as any Illini player, seemed surprised at how easily the winning shot came.

"I just made a simple curl cut and left two guys behind me, and Brandon got off a heck of a pass," he said. "Zeller and Watford were both right in front of me and just kind of stayed there."

Crean said the play was a lot like the other breakdowns in the Hoosiers' game that let Illinois climb back from a 12-point halftime deficit.

"We didn't communicate," he said.

Indiana's loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. The win moves the Illini up into a ninth-place tie with Iowa but, more importantly, provides a potential lifeline ahead of a meeting Sunday at No. 18 Minnesota.

"It was good to get back to having that toughness and togetherness and trust that we needed," Illinois coach John Groce said.

Illinois also added a plank to what may be one of the oddest resumes of any team in the country trying to make the NCAA tournament. Illinois has lost to Purdue, Northwestern and twice to Wisconsin. But coming into Thursday night, the Illini had already beaten three teams now in the top 15: No. 6 Gonzaga, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 14 Butler.

Before Thursday, Illinois hadn't beaten a No. 1 team since a win over Wake Forest in 2004.

Richardson had 23 points for Illinois, Paul had 21 and Griffey finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Zeller led Indiana with 14 points, while Will Sheehey had 13, Watford 12 and Hulls 11.

Indiana shot 50 percent from the field (25 of 50), 52.9 percent from 3-point range (9 of 17) and 93 percent from the free throw line (13 of 14). The Hoosiers led by an eight- to 10-point margin for most of the second half.

When 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu fouled out with just under 5 minutes to play, Indiana appeared in control. Watford made both free throws and, at 69-59, the Illini looked done.

But Richardson went on a one-man run, first burying back-to-back 3-pointers and then hitting a midrange jumper on the run to tie it at 70 with 1:17 to play.

With the clock under 30 seconds and the game tied at 72, Indiana had the ball for what would have been a last shot but Victor Oladipo coughed up the ball. Richardson picked it up and tried a breakaway layup that Oladipo just swatted out of bounds to set up the final play.

Groce credited Richardson for providing a spark.

"I thought he was absolutely terrific on both ends of the floor," Groce said. "He battled, he fought."

Griffey was benched several weeks ago after a blowout loss at Wisconsin. On a team that had lost its shooting touch, the senior forward had especially struggled. And, though one of Illinois' bigger players at 6-9, he wasn't adding much to the inside presence the Illini desperately needed.

Groce said that, even after he benched Griffey, he never gave up on him.

"I just have told him numerous times here I believe in him," the first-year Illinois coach said. "I do."

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Why I dread Chinese New Year

Kids see Chinese New Year through rose-tinted glasses.


  • Zoe Li: As an adult, Chinese New Year is an annual nightmare

  • It's a time when relatives have the right to be judgmental

  • Superstitious Chinese New Year foods often aren't that tasty

(CNN) -- For me, Chinese New Year used to be fun.

When I was a kid, I was excited during Chinese New Year when I got lai see and I could stay up late. I even had access to candy, a once-a-year treat while living under the roof of my Tiger Mom.

Riding strong on the sugar highs, I always thought to myself, this is what it must feel like to be an adult. I was flush, free and giddy.

Then at some point in my twenties, Chinese New Year became a chore. Not any garden variety chore, but a cold-sweat-inducing family obligation that I try hard to avoid.

As an adult, Chinese New Year is an annual nightmare, for the following reasons:

1. I find it sucks when you are single

Single twenty-something? Smile while you can until the interrogation begins.

Relatives feel that they have a right to judge you because you do share bits of DNA, so, really, it's almost like they're judging themselves.

Typically, the extended family gathers for Chinese New Year and spends an inordinate amount of time together, during which people get bored and focus their restlessness on judging the younger generation, particularly those who are single.

Singledom means a lack of responsibilities and responsibility-free people need to be reined in by the wisdom of elders, or they will be reckless with their directionless lives.

Here are some unavoidable conversations at Chinese New Year. By "conversations" I really mean monologues by one Wise Elder or another, fired away at a particular Single Younger in a trance-like manner:

"Why don't you have a boyfriend? If you have a boyfriend, why don't you get married?"

"Why are you not dieting at least a little bit? Second Cousin Yong Yong will have to start bringing clothes from America for you."

"What happened to your hair? Blue is not such a good color for us Chinese people."

"Are you saving up for an apartment? Why not? The most important thing in life is to have a roof over your head. You don't want to be homeless, do you? What if the economy collapses again? At least you will have an apartment."

"Why don't you get a better paid job? You are wasting your talent. You will regret your life."

2. I am employed

I loved the great Chinese tradition of gifting lai see. Getting HK$20 for no reason other than tradition really rocked my seven-year-old world.

I have an income now, so twenty bucks here and there doesn't make a huge difference, but I still retain that childhood anticipation for the red packets. It's just a bit disappointing when I open up an envelope and it isn't concealing a massive check.

And it's the guilt from feeling disappointed that makes me really hate Chinese New Year for making me hate myself.

It's just like being unable to conceal your letdown expression when unwrapping that pair of socks at Secret Santa parties.

Gifting is a heartwarming tradition. It's the thought that counts. I am not supposed to care. I am a bad person.

There's even worse.

Chinese New Year gambling is just out of hand.

Now that I have a job, I'm expected to bet real money at The Mahjong Table, a no man's land filled with hidden agendas, treacherous scheming and Janus-faced traitors.

If you beat your elder relatives at mahjong one too many times, beware their wrath. It really hurts when you get hit by a mahjong tile.

If you lose on purpose to your elders and are unable to skillfully conceal your purposefulness, you risk looking patronizing.

It will put them in a bad mood and lead to a vengeful "what are you doing with your life" interrogation later. See point number one.

If you're simply crap at the game, you lose a load of money and will probably be judged for being not very intelligent. See point number one again.

3. I like good food

Chinese New Year cake is good only when it's homemade.

When foreigners make jokes about Chinese eating weird foods, I cringe.

When Chinese New Year comes around, I'm the one making the damn jokes.

At this time of year, we do get some incredible festive dishes.

And then there are those odd ones that make you feel like the taste, texture and nutritional content of food have all become irrelevant -- we only eat for superstitions.

Lots of Chinese New Year foods are auspicious in meaning, but atrocious in taste. I propose that we at least get rid of these three that are now out of touch with our lives:

Chinese New Year cake

Called "leen go" in Cantonese ("niangao" in mainland China), the name sounds auspicious and means "to progress more and reach higher every year."

The cake is made from glutionous rice, sugar and flavored with red bean paste or jujubes. Cut into thin slices, dip into beaten eggs and pan fry until it's gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside.

The problem is, no one makes these at home anymore and the store-bought version is bland and stodgy, like eating slices of caulking.

Since glutinous rice is considered difficult to digest for the elderly, us Single Youngers who have nothing to lose are forced to finish the plateful.

Sugared lotus seeds

Back in the day -- before globalization brought us jelly beans and Sugus, before the invention of Coca-Cola, before Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans to the Old World -- eating sugar-coated lotus seeds during Chinese New Year seemed like a good idea.

Today, we have so many more delicious ways to feed our sweet tooth, so why do people still buy sugared lotus seeds?

They look like mothballs, taste one dimensional and feel like a marble of sand broken upon the tongue.

The name "leen tsi" sounds like "to birth sons each year." No one in the family likes to eat them and most of them already have kids, which means us Single Youngers have to swallow.

Gok tsai

These are deep-fried sweet dumplings. The skin is a thick, lifeless pastry made from lard, the filling is a mind-numbingly sweet blend of sugar and nuts.

Its shape and color makes it, somewhat, resemble a gold ingot. Eating these symbolize prosperity for the new year.

If I had to run a marathon, I might appreciate the fat bomb. But the only thing that I run are scripts on my browser.

That point, like the others in this post, is lost on the Wise Elders, wise as they are.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Zoe Li. A former CNN employee, Zoe is a Hong Kong resident and edits the Hong Kong section of BLOUIN ARTINFO.

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Blizzard packing more than 2 feet of snow reaches Northeast

The leading edge of a powerful storm expected to bring driving winds and more than 2 feet of snow, along with the potential for coastal flooding, reached the Northeast early this morning, canceling thousands of flights in its wake.

Blizzard warnings were in effect from New Jersey through southern Maine, with Boston expected to bear the brunt of the storm. The day began with light snow and winds that were due to pick up with much heavier snowfall by afternoon.

"The snow has taken over and it is accumulating," said FOX CT meteorologist Joe Furey in Hartford, Conn. "This is really serious. This is a storm that can cripple all of southern New England. A blizzard is not about the amounts of snow. A blizzard is about sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or higher over three hours or longer."

Officials urged residents to stay home, rather than risk getting stuck in deep drifts or whiteout conditions.

In New York City, still not fully recovered from the effects of October's devastating Hurricane Sandy, officials said they had 1,800 Sanitation Department trucks equipped with snow plows ready to be deployed.

Motorists, mindful of the severe fuel disruptions after Sandy, rushed to buy gasoline, leading to shortages in New York City. A Reuters photographer reported at least three service stations had run out of gas in the borough of Queens on Friday morning, with long lines formed at others.

Sandy knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes, taking gasoline stations out of service, and damaged port facilities, exacerbating the shortages by preventing operable stations from refueling.

"You always get long lines ahead of a storm, but as the wounds from Hurricane Sandy are still so fresh, it's not surprising that people are rushing to fill up," said Michael Watt, executive director of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association. "It's understandable. Even people like me who would normally think it was foolish to panic buy will be thinking about it."

Boston and surrounding communities said schools would be closed on Friday, and city and state officials told nonessential city workers to stay home.

Officials across the region ordered nonessential government workers to stay home, urged private employers to do the same, and told people to prepare for power outages and encouraged them to check on elderly or disabled neighbors.

In New Jersey, also hit hard by Sandy, state officials expected major coastal flooding, high winds, and possible blizzard conditions in the northeastern section of the state.

"This is a dangerous storm, and we ask motorists to be careful while driving," said Colonel Rick Fuentes, director of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. "(The) evening commute will be treacherous throughout much of New Jersey."

The National Weather Service, warning of a "major, maybe even historic, snowstorm," said Boston and much of New England could get up to three feet of snow on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Winds could gust as high as 60 miles to 70 mph. If more than 18.2 inches of snow falls in Boston, it will rank among the city's 10 largest snowfalls. Boston's record snowfall, 27.6 inches, came in 2003.

Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, were expected to see at least one foot of snow.

Airlines have canceled more than 3,000 flights for Friday, according to website, with the largest number of cancellations at airports in Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Chicago and Boston.

Another 881 flights were canceled for Saturday, according to the flight-tracking site.

Boston's Logan International Airport warned that once the storm roars in, all flights would likely be grounded for 24 hours.

United Continental Holdings Inc, JetBlue Airways Corp and Delta Air Lines Inc all reported extensive cancellations.

For some in the Boston area, the forecast brought to mind memories of the blizzard of 1978, which dropped 27.1 inches, the second largest snowfall recorded in the city's history. That storm started out gently and intensified during the day, leaving many motorists stranded during the evening commute.

Dozens of deaths were reported in the region after that storm, many from people touching downed electric lines.

Officials warned of a high risk of extensive power outages across the region due to the combination of heavy snow and high winds. Residents were also at risk of losing heat at a time when temperatures would dip to 20 degrees. Across the region, store shelves were picked clean of food and storm-related supplies such as shovels and salt as residents scrambled to prepare.

Some big employers said they were considering pleas by officials to let workers stay home, including State Street Corp, one of Boston's largest employers in the financial sector.

Reuters and the Hartford Courant

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Violence mars funeral of slain Tunisian opposition leader

TUNIS (Reuters) - Police and mourners clashed at the mass funeral on Friday of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis.

Braving chilly rain, at least 50,000 people turned out to honor Belaid in his home district of Jebel al-Jaloud in the capital, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-government slogans.

It was Tunisia's biggest funeral since the death of Habib Bourguiba, independence leader and first president, in 2000.

Violence erupted near the cemetery as police fired teargas at demonstrators who threw stones and set cars ablaze. Police also used teargas against protesters near the Interior Ministry, a frequent flashpoint for clashes in the Tunisian capital.

Tunisia, cradle of the Arab uprisings, is riven by tensions between dominant Islamists and their secular opponents, and by frustration at the lack of social and economic progress since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011.

Belaid's assassination has shocked a country which had hitherto experienced a relatively peaceful political transition.

"The people want a new revolution," shouted mourners in Tunis, who also sang the national anthem.

Crowds surged around an open army truck carrying Belaid's coffin, draped in a red and white Tunisian flag, from a cultural center in Jebel al-Jaloud towards the leafy Jallaz cemetery, as a security forces helicopter flew overhead.

"Belaid, rest in peace, we will continue the struggle," mourners chanted, holding portraits of the politician killed near his home on Wednesday by a gunman who fled on a motorcycle.

Some demonstrators denounced Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party. "Ghannouchi, assassin, criminal," they chanted. "Tunisia is free, terrorism out."

Police fired teargas to disperse anti-government protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs in the southern mining town of Gafsa, a stronghold of support for Belaid, witnesses said.

Crowds there had chanted "The people want the fall of the regime", a slogan first used against Ben Ali.


In Sidi Bouzid, the southern town where the revolt against the ousted strongman began, about 10,000 marched to mourn Belaid and shout slogans against Ennahda and the government.

Banks, factories and some shops were closed in Tunis and other cities in response to a strike called by unions in protest at Belaid's killing, but buses were running normally.

Tunis Air suspended all its flights because of the strikes, a spokesman for the national airline said. Airport sources in Cairo said EgyptAir had canceled two flights to Tunisia after staff at Tunis airport joined the general strike.

After Belaid's assassination, Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali, an Islamist, said he would dissolve the government and form a cabinet of technocrats to rule until elections could be held.

But his own Ennahda party and its secular coalition partners complained they had not been consulted, casting doubt over the status of the government and compounding political uncertainty.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing of Belaid, a lawyer and secular opposition figure.

His family have blamed Ennahda but the party has denied any hand in the shooting. Crowds have attacked several Ennahda party offices in Tunis and other cities in the past two days.

"Hope still exists in Tunisia," Fatma Saidan, a noted Tunisian actor, told Reuters at Belaid's funeral. "We will continue to struggle against extremism and political violence."

She called for national unity, saying: "We are ready to accept Islamists, but they don't accept us."


While Belaid had only a modest political following, his criticism of Ennahda policies spoke for many Tunisians who fear religious radicals are bent on snuffing out freedoms won in the first of the revolts that rippled through the Arab world.

Secular groups have accused the Islamist-led government of a lax response to attacks by ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamists on cinemas, theatres and bars in recent months.

The economic effect of political uncertainty and street unrest could be serious in a country which has yet to draft a new constitution and which relies heavily on the tourist trade.

Mohamed Ali Toumi, president of the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies, described the week's events as a catastrophe that would have a negative impact on tourism, but he told the national news agency TAP no cancellations had been reported yet.

France, which had already announced the closure of its schools in Tunis on Friday and Saturday, urged its nationals to stay clear of potential flashpoints in the capital.

The cost of insuring Tunisian government bonds against default rose to its highest level in more than four years on Thursday and ratings agency Fitch said it could further downgrade Tunisia if political instability continues or worsens.

(For an interactive look at Tunisia please click on

(Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz in Cairo and Brian Love in Paris; Editing by Jon Boyle)



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Wall Street extends losses; Nasdaq off 1 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell further on Thursday, with the Nasdaq falling 1 percent, as a sharp drop in the euro against the safe-haven dollar and yen curbed investors' appetite for risky assets.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 119.84 points, or 0.86 percent, at 13,866.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 12.31 points, or 0.81 percent, at 1,499.81. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 30.76 points, or 0.97 percent, at 3,137.72.

(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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TCU shocks Kansas, 1st losing streak in 7 years

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self's Big 12 bullies are suddenly beatable.

Even against the league newcomer that hadn't won a conference game.

The fifth-ranked Jayhawks have their first losing streak in more than seven years after trailing throughout in a 62-55 loss Wednesday night at TCU, which had never before beaten a top 5 team.

"It's not so much that we lost, it's just so much to me that we were kind of the bullies of the league, and we let people think they could whip us," Self said. "And when they did, everybody now thinks they can whip us."

Four days after an 85-80 home loss to Oklahoma State ended their nation-best 18-game overall winning streak and 33-game streak at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks went more than 7 minutes from the tip before finally scoring.

Kansas (19-3, 7-2 Big 12) had played 264 games in a row since January 2006 without consecutive losses, the longest active streak in Division I.

Against TCU (10-12, 1-8), the Jayhawks looked nothing like the team that has won or shared 12 of the league's 16 regular-season titles — and now has company at the top of the Big 12 standings with 13th-ranked Kansas State.

They trailed 22-13 at halftime on 3-of-22 shooting, the fewest points and field goals in a half since Kansas started keeping those records nearly 25 years ago.

"It was the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there," Self said. "I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and things like that in the first couple years. But for the first half, there hasn't been a team play worse than that offensively."

Instead of a bounce-back win, Kansas had six turnovers and missed its first four shots before finally scoring 7:17 into the game. Ben McLemore's bounce pass to Jamari Traylor for a layup made it 8-2, but the Jayhawks then went 8 more minutes before making another field goal.

The Jayhawks finished 29.5 percent from the field (18 of 61), their worst in 514 games — since making only 15 of 51 shots (29.4 percent) against Kentucky on Dec. 1, 1998. It was their lowest-scoring game since also scoring 55 in an NCAA tournament loss to UCLA on March 24, 2007.

They made only 3-of-22 from 3-point range, including two in the final minute.

McLemore led Kansas with 15 points, 13 after halftime. Jeff Withey had 12 points and Naadir Tharpe 11.

"We knew going in that we would have to play extremely well, offensively, defensively, extremely hard, and they were going to have to help us out," said first-year TCU coach Johnson said. "When I said help us, obviously they missed a lot of shots they probably would make."

Garlon Green scored 20 points for the Horned Frogs, including five in a row after a late 17-4 Kansas spurt.

"It means a lot. Obviously we've had some tough years," said Green, a senior forward. "We've had a tough year right now, but this is a big win. We need to carry this momentum."

TCU played the first of three games in six days. The Frogs host fellow league newcomer West Virginia on Saturday and go to Oklahoma on Monday night.

Kansas, which plays at Oklahoma on Saturday, hasn't lost three games in a row since February 2005 — a stretch with games that went to overtime and double-overtime.

Tharpe scored nine points in a 2-minute span for Kansas, with a 3-pointer and six consecutive free throws, before a basket by Withey with 6:49 left got the Jayhawks within 44-40 — the closest they got after TCU's game-opening spurt.

After Tharpe missed a 3-pointer on a break, Adrick McKinney slung a pass inside to Green for a layup. McLemore, the Big 12's top freshman scorer, missed an open 3-pointer before Green had a three-point play to stretch the TCU lead back to 49-40.

"Everybody came to play today," said Connell Crossland, who had eight points and 15 rebounds for TCU. "I just saw everybody was ready (in warmups). That's when I knew it was going to be a good game. And we pulled it off."

The record sellout crowd of 7,412 fans in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum included a large portion of loud Jayhawks fans, but they filed out quietly after this game while TCU students stormed the court to celebrate.

"All teams go through funks, but we're certainly in probably the worst funk that I've ever seen a Kansas team be in," Self said. "Just a bad, bad, bad night. Not a good team right now. ... This thing has turned on a dime and it could certainly continue to turn worse if we don't right the ship real soon."

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Bring drones out of the shadows?


  • John Brennan's confirmation hearing is a chance to ask about drone program, author says

  • Sarah Holewinski: Brennan is one of a few officials who knows full story on drones

  • She says senators need to ask about damage drone program does to civilians, U.S. reputation

  • Holewinski: CIA should hand over drone program to Defense Department

Editor's note: Sarah Holewinski is executive director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, which advocates protections for civilians affected by armed conflict. She was a member of the White House AIDS policy team in President Bill Clinton's second term.

(CNN) -- The president's pick for CIA director -- John Brennan -- is one of a handful of U.S. officials who understands America's covert drone campaign inside and out.

Nearly everyone else is in the dark about the whos, wheres and whys of the program, including most members of Congress. But Brennan is also one of the few U.S. officials who's stood in front of a public audience and tried to explain the targeting of terrorists outside recognized battlefields. And while overseeing a massive use of lethal force, Brennan is also known inside the administration as a moderating voice in the fight against terrorism.

Sarah Holewinski

Sarah Holewinski

The fact is, Brennan's personal views are as opaque as the drone campaign itself. He may assume leadership of the CIA and decide a clandestine agency should not conduct what is an obvious military operation (a stance I and many others would fully support); after all, a veteran of the CIA may believe the agency should get back to gritty intelligence gathering.

Or, maybe Brennan believes that when it comes to the fight against al Qaeda, the public and its Congress should trust the executive office to protect the American people by whatever means it sees fit.

One way or the other, this week's Senate confirmation hearings should be an opportunity to bring Brennan's views out of the shadows, along with the basic attributes and justifications of the covert drone campaign. The man, the machine and the policy are inextricably linked.

Bergen: John Brennan, America's drone warrior

U.S. officials have consistently claimed that offering too many details about the covert drone program could threaten national security. Fair enough; some classification for national security is understandable. But the secrecy surrounding covert drone use is unduly excessive and not in keeping with the transparent government President Barack Obama promised.

Since the bulk of Brennan's hearing will be behind closed doors, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has no reason to shy away from asking tough questions about the drone program. It matters that Congress is there to represent the American people. On their behalf, Congress has a duty to ensure the use of lethal force beyond our borders is being considered and carried out responsibly, with due consideration for the harm it may inflict on civilian populations.

Talk Back: Should U.S. be able to kill American terrorist suspects without trial?

Senators might ask a very basic question to Brennan, one that is seldom clearly answered by the administration: "What impact is the drone campaign against al Qaeda and its associates having?"

John Brennan, President Barack Obama's choice for CIA director, has been deeply involved in the U.S. drone program.

This is a fundamental question of accountability any U.S. official involved in setting or carrying out counterterrorism policy should be able to answer. That answer may describe a dwindling kill list, but it must also put forward facts about what impact drones are having on civilians living under them.

U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq learned that the positive or negative impacts of an operation on the local population are an important metric of mission effectiveness. Commanders worked hard to reverse anti-American sentiment caused by a seemingly callous U.S. attitude toward civilian deaths and injuries. In the case of counterterrorism operations, palpable anger toward America would be antithetical to the goal of decreasing the number of terrorists and those who support their cause.

As it stands, it's unclear whether anyone, including Brennan, knows what negative consequences are emerging on the ground because of remote drones.

Rather, claims of low civilian casualties and drone precision capabilities paint a picture of extreme effectiveness in taking out terrorists while sparing civilians. It's true that a drone is precise, meaning it will hit what it is aimed at -- a building, a bunker or a person. But there are valid concerns about whether the target hit is the right one.

Opinion: When are drone killings illegal?

Remote drones likely rely on sources that may be questionable such as video and cell phone intercepts to identify a target. Civilians may be mistakenly targeted as combatants and counted as such because there are no ground troops to conduct a battle damage assessment, interview witnesses or properly identify bodies.

Civilians may also get caught up in so-called "signature strikes" in which operators target individuals based on behavior, not on known identity. This is legally questionable but also has real ramifications for civilians living under drones.

If a civilian in Pakistan doesn't know what behavior makes him a target for U.S. drones, he cannot fully protect himself and his family. If a drone harms his family, even mistakenly, our research shows they won't receive an apology, explanation or any help from the United States. Certainly there will be no love lost for America.

Any deaths and injuries are compounded by psychological trauma, displacement and fear and suspicion among neighbors. One Pakistani told us, "We fear that the drones will strike us again. ... My aged parents are often in a state of fear. We are depressed, anxious and constantly remembering our deceased family members."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, recently noted, "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world. ... (T)he resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."

The drone program needs to come out of the shadows, with explanations about who is a civilian, who is a target, and how drone operators distinguish between the two.

The CIA should get out of the drone operation business, handing it over to the Defense Department, which has a culture of learning lessons, accountability to Congress and a new openness about civilian protection after 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Drone operators should be trained in civilian protection best practices, and any civilian harmed should receive recognition and help for their losses, in accordance with the values American policymakers have espoused about humanity even during times of war.

The Senate may confirm Brennan as head of the CIA. It should also confirm where he stands on government accountability for lethal force and the CIA's role in the remote drone program.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sarah Holewinski.

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Freezing rain advisory for morning commute, snow later

A freezing rain advisory is in effect this morning for the Chicago area, which could then get hit by some snow by tonight.

At 7 a.m., freezing rain was being reported across northeast Illinois, mainly along I-88 and north of the expressway, according to the National Weather Service.

State police were reporting no major problems on expressways and tollways, though side streets in some areas were slick with ice.

The advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. "By then it should be warm enough that there shouldn't be a threat of additional freezing rain," said Andrew Krein, a weather service meteorologist. "It will be warming up so. . .mostly rain all day.

"We're hovering around 32 degrees but warmer air is not too far away, and it won't be long before it moves in," Krein said.

There's a chance of up 1-3 inches of snow this evening and overnight, with lows in the upper 20s, the weather service said.

Chicago fanned out 199 plow trucks across the city this morning, "salting the city's main streets as needed," according to the Streets and Sanitation Department.  as a storm system moves across the area," according to the streets department.
Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday slapped down an offer of direct talks made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden this week, saying they would not solve the problem between them.

"Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problem," Khamenei said in a speech to officials and members of Iran's air force carried on his official website.

"If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to face them," he said.

"American policy in the Middle East has been destroyed and Americans now need to play a new card. That card is dragging Iran into negotiations."

Khamenei made his comments just days after Joe Biden said the United States was prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership. "That offer stands but it must be real and tangible," Biden said in a speech in Munich.

With traditional fiery rhetoric, Khamenei lambasted Biden's offer, saying that since the 1979 revolution the United States had gravely insulted Iran and continued to do so with its threat of military action.

"You take up arms against the nation of Iran and say: 'negotiate or we fire'. But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions," he added.

Relations between Iran and the United States were severed in 1979 after the overthrow of Iran's pro-western monarchy and diplomatic meetings between officials have since been very rare.


Currently U.S.-Iran contact is limited to talks between Tehran and a so-called P5+1 group of powers on Iran's disputed nuclear program which are to resume on February 26 in Kazakhstan.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said he was skeptical the negotiations in Almaty could yield a result, telling Israel Radio that the United States needed to demonstrate to Iran that "all options were still on the table".

Israel, widely recognized to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, has warned it could mount a pre-emptive strike on Iranian atomic sites. Israel sees its existence as directly threatened by the prospect of an nuclear-armed Iran, given Tehran's refusal to recognize the existence of the Jewish state.

"The final option, this is the phrasing we have used, should remain in place and be serious," said Meridor.

"The fact that the Iranians have not yet come down from the path they are on means that talks ...are liable to bring about only a stalling for time," he said.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is entirely peaceful but Western powers are concerned it is intent on developing a weapons program.

Many believe a deal on settling the nuclear issue is impossible without a U.S.-Iranian thaw. But any rapprochement would require direct talks addressing many sources of mutual mistrust that have lingered since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

Moreover, although his re-election last November may give President Barack Obama a freer hand to pursue direct negotiations, analysts say Iran's own presidential election in June may prove an additional obstacle to progress being made.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by William Maclean and Jon Boyle)

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Wall Street slips after Tuesday rally, results eyed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dipped on Wednesday as investors, awaiting fresh trading incentives, locked in profits after recent rallies took the S&P 500 to five-year highs.

Transportation stocks were among the worst performers weighed down by an 8.2 percent drop in CH Robinson Worldwide , which dropped 8.2 percent to $61.53 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings.

The Dow Jones Transportation index <.djt> shed 0.6 percent after closing at an all-time high on Tuesday. The index has surged more than 10 percent this year so far.

A 6-percent advance this year so far has lifted the benchmark S&P 500 index to its highest since December 2007, while the Dow <.dji> briefly climbed above 14,000 recently, making it a challenge for investors to continue pushing the equity market upward in the absence of strong catalysts.

"You knew a correction was coming; the question was whether they were going to tease you and get it close and then start selling it off or get (the Dow) up to 14,000 and then start to make a move to the sell side," said Gordon Charlop, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York.

"We got a quick move and it's really just not healthy for markets to go one way, so the idea that a little bit of a correction is due isn't troublesome to me at all."

Walt Disney Co was among the bright spots, up 1.4 percent to $55.07 after the company topped estimates for quarterly adjusted earnings and gave an optimistic outlook for the next few quarters.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning, of 301 companies in the S&P 500 <.spx> that have reported earnings, 68.1 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters. In terms of revenue, 65.8 percent of companies have topped forecasts.

Looking ahead, fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are now expected to grow 4.7 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> lost 35.52 points, or 0.25 percent, at 13,943.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> slipped 3.17 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,508.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> shed 4.34 points, or 0.14 percent, at 3,167.24.

The benchmark S&P index rose 1.04 percent Tuesday, its biggest percentage gain since a 2.5-percent advance on January 2, when legislators sidestepped a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes that could have hurt a fragile U.S. economic recovery.

Ralph Lauren Corp climbed 7.4 percent to $177.13 as the best performer on the S&P 500 after reporting renewed momentum in its holiday-quarter sales and profits.

Time Warner Inc jumped 4.3 percent to $52.11 after reporting higher fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates, as growth in its cable networks offset declines in its film, TV entertainment and publishing units.

Visa , the world's largest credit and debit card network, is expected to report earnings per share of $1.79 for its first quarter, up from $1.49 a year earlier. Smaller rival MasterCard recently reported better-than-expected results but said its revenue growth could slow in the first half of the year due to economic uncertainty.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Braun says he used Fla clinic owner as consultant

NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said the person who ran the Florida clinic being investigated by Major League Baseball was used only as a consultant on his drug suspension appeal last year.

"I have nothing to hide," Braun said in a statement released by his representatives on Tuesday night.

Earlier in the day, Yahoo Sports reported the 2011 NL MVP's name showed up three times in records of the Biogenesis of America LLC clinic. Yahoo said no specific performance-enhancing drugs were listed next to his name.

The Miami New Times recently released clinic documents that purportedly linked Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and other players to purchases of banned drugs from the now-closed anti-aging center.

Rodriguez and Cabrera were on the list with Braun that also included New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.

Braun said his name was in the Biogenesis records because of an issue over payment to Anthony Bosch, who ran the clinic near Miami.

"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," Braun said.

"I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch," he said. "I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."

On Tuesday, MLB officials asked the Miami New Times for the records the alternative newspaper obtained for its story.

Asked specifically about Braun's name in the documents before the five-time All-Star released his statement, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "Aware of report and are in the midst of an active investigation in South Florida."

Braun tested positive during the 2011 postseason for elevated testosterone levels. He maintained his innocence and his 50-game suspension was overturned during spring training last year when arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of Braun due to chain of custody issues involving the sample.

With that, Braun became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.

"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples," Braun said.

The T/E ratio is a comparison of the levels of testosterone to epitestosterone.

Braun led the NL in homers (41), runs (108) and slugging percentage (.595) last season while batting .319 with 112 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in MVP balloting."

Cervelli, who spent nearly all of last season in Triple-A, posted a statement on Twitter later Tuesday night.

"Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including BioGenesis Clinic, for (cont)," Cervelli posted, "(cont)legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by Major League Baseball."

An email sent to Valencia's agent was not returned.

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Water Leaking Into Stratosphere Could Harm Ozone

Some of the coldest air on the planet lies above the tropics. And through this cold zone, more water than expected sneaks into the higher reaches of the atmosphere, a new study finds.

Upon reaching the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere above the one in which we live, water vapor acts as a potent greenhouse gas and destroys the protective ozone.

“Small changes in the humidity of the stratosphere are important for climate,” said Eric Jensen, lead study author and a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Where the water goes

Because it’s difficult to measure, scientists have been unsure how much water passes from the troposphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere we breathe, into the stratosphere (which runs from about 6 to 31 miles, or 10 to 50 kilometers, above Earth’s surface), Jensen said. At the boundary between the two zones, called the tropopause, the air is minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius).

Researchers suspected water vapor rising into the tropopause would freeze and fall out in wispy cirrus clouds made entirely of ice crystals. In essence, they thought that the tropopause was a cold trap for water, keeping the vapor out of the stratosphere. [Infographic: Earth's Atmosphere Top to Bottom]

“That turned out to be a bit of an over-simplification,” Jensen told OurAmazingPlanet.

Flying high

In 2011, NASA sent a remote-controlled aircraft, a Global Hawk drone, on three flights through cirrus clouds high the tropical tropopause, which Jensen calls the “gateway into the stratosphere.”

Large-scale convection currents in the atmosphere bring air upwards in the tropics, driving water into the stratosphere, Jensen said. Thunderstorms can also punch water (and pollutants) directly through the tropopause.

The flights were part of an ongoing science experiment called ATTREX, for Airborne Tropical TRopopause Experiment, meant to help scientists better understand the upper atmosphere and its chemistry. The aircraft can fly up to 65,000 feet (19 km) in altitude and cover a large chunk of the tropics during a 30-hour round-trip from its current base in Palmdale, Calif.

Monitoring equipment mounted on the plane revealed that tropical cirrus clouds don’t remove as much water vapor as models predicted, Jensen said.

“We found this is sort of a leaky cold trap, because a lot more water is getting through,” he said.

In general, clouds form when air is super-saturated — when there is more water than the air can hold (think of saturation as a relative humidity of 100 percent). But near the tropopause, there aren’t enough ice crystals to quickly and effectively remove the vapor, the ATTREX flights discovered.

Water in the rising air has nothing to condense around, so some escapes into the stratosphere. The study found air crossing the tropopause with 1.6 to 1.7 times as much water as at saturation level.

The results were published online Jan. 22 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Future ATTREX flights will also test how compounds that destroy ozone enter the atmosphere, Jensen said. Gaining a better idea of the amount of water vapor in the stratosphere could also help refine climate models.

“Ultimately, what we expect are improvements in the models that are used to predict climate change,” Jensen said.

Reach Becky Oskin at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.

Copyright 2013 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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