Clippers beat Jazz 116-114 for 16th straight win

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers already have a December to remember.

Sunday they can close it out in perfect fashion against a familiar foe — the same Utah team they rallied to beat 116-114 Friday night to earn their 16th straight win.

If they extend their streak by beating the Jazz at home Sunday, they will join the 1995-96 Spurs and 1971-72 Lakers as the only teams in NBA history to complete a 16-0 month.

If they fight the way they did Friday, it should be easy.

"Give Utah credit, but our guys battled back tonight," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They found a way to win and that's what it's all about. We stayed together, we weathered the storm when we had to and gave ourselves a chance and we were fortunate to make enough plays."

Afterward, team leader Chris Paul could hardly be heard over the pulsating music of Jay-Z as his teammates sang along in the visitors' locker room.

Why not?

The Clippers had just pulled off a 19-point comeback in what had been a dreadful venue for them.

Paul did most of the damage, leading the Clippers (24-6) with 29 points, including the final seven, as Los Angeles pulled out the two-point victory.

The Clippers winning streak is the longest in the NBA since Boston won 19 in row from Nov. 15 to Dec. 23, 2008.

The last time the franchise won three straight in Salt Lake City was 1979-1981 when they were the San Diego Clippers.

"This one is a great win for us because we kind of needed a challenge," said Blake Griffin, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers. "(We had) to prove not only to everybody else but to ourselves that we can still win close games like this and win a game down 19 in the third quarter."

In the opposing locker room, the Jazz were lamenting another one that got away — the second loss at home to the Clippers during their record streak. They dropped the first by one on Dec. 3 after leading by 14.

On Friday, ex-Clipper Randy Foye put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer that was contested by Matt Barnes, but no foul was called. Foye finished with a season-high 28 points for Utah.

Foye did his best not to say anything about the officiating.

"I felt as though I pump-faked," Foye said. "He knew that I wanted to shoot the 3 and I felt the contact. He made me go straight up and shoot the ball straight down. It was just a tough play."

Paul was tough down the stretch, with the clinching free throws after getting fouled by Al Jefferson with 3.4 seconds left.

"When (DeAndre Jordan) came to give me the ball screen, I wasn't worried about (Gordon) Hayward, I was just worried about Al Jefferson," Paul said. "I could tell (Jefferson) was going to try and blitz me. Anytime two guys try and trap me, I'm always going to attack the slower guy. If they wouldn't have called the foul, I was right around Al anyway."

He sank both free throws this time, after missing one with 18 seconds left that allowed Jefferson to grab the rebound, draw the foul and sink two free throws at the other end to tie it at 114.

Paul made sure he got both the next time.

"Man, I couldn't wait to get to the line. I couldn't wait to get to the line," Paul said. "I was mad at myself for missing that last one. I couldn't wait to get to the line to redeem myself."

Just like the first game this season against the Jazz, Utah had the upper hand early.

The Jazz used a 36-point second quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a 58-48 halftime lead.

Their reserves did most of the damage. Alec Burks and Earl Watson pushed the pace, big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors showed their presence inside and Hayward found ways to score.

Kanter's block of Ronny Turiaf ignited the crowd.

Hayward's 3-pointer tied it at 34 with 7:04 left in the second and he scored 10 straight for the Jazz, who forced eight turnovers in the quarter and held the Clippers to 37.5 percent shooting.

Foye, who kept Utah close in the first with a 13-point quarter on 4-of-5 shooting, gave the Jazz their biggest lead of the half, 54-41, with two more free throws.

The Jazz led 74-55 with 8:08 left in the third on a pair of free throws by Paul Millsap. But the Clippers outscored Utah 29-14 the rest of the quarter to go ahead 88-84 going into the fourth.

Paul provided the offense in the third with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

"At the beginning of the third quarter, they made another run at us but then we got a little bit of a rhythm and then started guarding. We started getting some stops and getting out in the open court," Del Negro said.

The loss dropped Utah below .500 at 15-16. The Jazz have now lost six of their last eight.

Al Jefferson added 22 points for Utah. Hayward had 17 off the bench for Utah.

DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who had six players in double figures.

"It's all tough," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "On our home court. We had a lead, we gave up the lead but we continued to fight. We made some mistakes but fought our way through it and had a chance to win the ball game at the end. Unfortunately they got a lot of free throws."

NOTES: An unidentified Jazz employee was disciplined and had his access to the team Twitter account discontinued after what team officials deemed an inappropriate tweet regarding the firing of Nets coach Avery Johnson and Brooklyn's interest in Phil Jackson. The tweet said Jackson only wants "great players," an apparent reference to ex-Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had criticized Johnson's offense. ... Jazz point guard Mo Williams still has swelling in his sprained right thumb and remains out indefinitely. ... The Clippers got a scare late in the first quarter when Lamar Odom came up limping. He returned in the second and finished with 12 points. ... The Clippers failed to register a blocked shot despite coming into the game averaging 6.52.

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2013: Energy issues on front burner

From left, John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon promote what Sheril Kirshenbaum says will be a controversial film.


  • Public attitudes shifted on key energy issues in 2012

  • Sheril Kirshenbaum says controversy has grown over natural gas fracking boom

  • She says climate change, renewable energy are likely to be on agenda for 2013

  • Kirshenbaum: A turbulent year has increased public interest in energy issues

Editor's note: Sheril Kirshenbaum is an author and director of The University of Texas at Austin's Energy Poll.

(CNN) -- After a year of tumultuous weather and global change, it should not be surprising that 2012 proved to be a transformative period for public opinion on energy.

Changing attitudes on the most hotly debated topics matter a great deal because they set the course for future policy decisions. Taking a closer look at trends over the past 12 months hints at what to expect in several key areas of the U.S. energy landscape in 2013.

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Natural gas boom -- and controversy

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," has been around for more than half a century, but recently expanded rapidly because of advances in horizontal drilling deep underground.

Despite this proliferation of new wells, 59% of Americans say they are unfamiliar with the term, down from 63% in March, according to the latest findings from the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Poll.

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

Although the majority still does not seem to know much about fracking, a deluge of media attention to this controversial extraction technology has likely raised its profile significantly since last year.

However, increased awareness is not synonymous with public approval. Among those familiar with hydraulic fracturing, support decreased from 48% to 41% over six months. Similarly, a December poll by Bloomberg reported that 66% of Americans would like greater government oversight of the process, up from 56% in September.

When Matt Damon's new film "Promised Land" debuts in January, expect public recognition and heated debate over hydraulic fracturing to rise further.

Climate change gets real

When Gov. Mitt Romney quipped, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans" at the 2012 Republican National Convention, his audience burst into laughter. During the debates that followed, neither party's nominee mentioned climate change once as a policy priority.

Weeks later, Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeastern United States, flooding many parts of New York City, New Jersey and other regions along the Atlantic Coast. Both candidates immediately canceled campaign events in the wake of the storm and Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama, citing his commitment to tackling climate change. After a summer of record-breaking drought followed by this single powerful hurricane in a major metropolitan area, attitudes shifted.

In March, 65% of Americans surveyed said they thought that climate change was occurring. By September, after the summer drought, that number reached 73%, with the greatest gains among Republicans and independent voters. Earlier this month, The Associated Press-GfK poll followed up, reporting that after Sandy, 78% of Americans now say global temperatures are rising.

Because weather can influence opinions on climate change, it's possible that a wet and stormy winter -- ironically, also exacerbated by climate change -- could push attitudes in the other direction. Regardless, in 2013 expect to hear less argument about whether the Earth is warming and a more serious policy discussion by elected officials across levels of government about how we might mitigate the effects of rising seas, changing ocean acidity, agricultural uncertainty and extreme weather events.

Renewables gain ground

Renewable energy technologies have been available for decades, but 2012 may have been the tipping point for their wider adoption. There has been a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who say they are likely to buy hybrid or electric vehicles or use "smart" electric meters within the next five years. Most notably, between September 2011 and September 2012, the percentage of Americans who say they are likely to install solar panels at home increased from 21% to 28%.

These trends may reflect changing attitudes on climate, media attention to energy during the election cycle, rising gas prices or cheaper, widely advertised new alternatives. Most likely, it's a combination of all these.

What's clear is that we are now on the cusp of a renewables revolution with greater options and cost-saving technologies than ever. They are finally becoming more affordable, reliable and practical, with solar power at the helm. Still, it's important to note that as we ring in 2013, China, not the United States, has taken the lead on renewables.

The big picture

Polls tell the story of how attitudes are shifting, but short of having a crystal ball, there is no way to unequivocally predict what major world events will influence our nation's energy future. For example, another nuclear disaster or offshore oil spill could play an enormous role in shaping the next generation of energy priorities.

What can we count on in 2013?

In the past year, the percentage of Americans saying they consider themselves knowledgeable on how energy is produced, delivered and used has increased from 24% to 33%. More are likely to seek added information about reducing their own energy use and a higher percentage rate energy issues as important to them.

Amid economic uncertainty, volatile prices and global unrest, Americans are paying closer attention to the energy decisions that affect us all.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sheril Kirshenbaum.

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Stahl arrested for investigation of lewd conduct

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police say actor Nick Stahl has been arrested for investigation of lewd conduct.

The 33-year-old “Terminator 3″ star was arrested about 8 p.m. Thursday on Hollywood Boulevard. He was booked on a misdemeanor count of lewd conduct and released from custody.

The Los Angeles Times reports ( that Stahl was arrested at an adult movie shop during a routine undercover police operation.

In May, Stahl had been reported missing by his wife, but he later turned up.

Stahl was a child star who performed in the 1993 film “The Man Without a Face.” He also has appeared in the 2003-2005 HBO series “Carnivale’” and starred in “Mirrors 2″ in 2010. An email seeking comment from his publicist was not immediately returned Friday.


Information from: Los Angeles Times,

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Fewer US banks failing as industry strengthens

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. banks are ending the year with their best profits since 2006 and fewer failures than at any time since the financial crisis struck in 2008. They’re helping support an economy slowed by high unemployment, flat pay, sluggish manufacturing and anxious consumers.

As the economy heals from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, more people and businesses are taking out — and repaying — loans.

And for the first time since 2009, banks’ earnings growth is being driven by higher revenue — a healthy trend. Banks had previously managed to boost earnings by putting aside less money for possible losses.

Signs of the industry’s gains:

— Banks are earning more. In the July-September quarter, the industry’s earnings reached $ 37.6 billion, up from $ 35.3 billion a year earlier. It was the best showing since the July-September quarter of 2006, long before the financial meltdown. By contrast, at the depth of the Great Recession in the last quarter of 2008, the industry lost $ 32 billion.

— Banks are lending a bit more freely. The value of loans to consumers rose 3.2 percent in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30 compared with the previous 12 months, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. More lending fuels more consumer spending, which drives about 70 percent of economic activity. At the same time, overall lending remains well below levels considered healthy over the long run.

— Fewer banks are considered at risk of failure. In July through September, the number of banks on the FDIC‘s confidential “problem list” fell for a sixth straight quarter. These banks numbered 694 as of Sept. 30 — about 9.6 percent of all federally insured banks. At its peak in the first quarter of 2011, the number of troubled banks was 888, or 11.7 percent of all federally insured institutions.

— Bank failures have declined. In 2009, 140 failed. In 2010, more banks failed — 157 — than in any year since the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s. In 2011, regulators closed 92. This year, the number of failures has trickled to 51. That’s still more than normal. In a strong economy, an average of only four or five banks close annually. But the sharply reduced pace of closings shows sustained improvement.

— Less threat of loan losses. The money banks had to set aside for possible losses fell 15 percent in the July-September quarter from a year earlier. Loan portfolios have strengthened as more customers have repaid on time. Losses have fallen for nine straight quarters. And the proportion of loans with payments overdue by 90 days or more has dropped for 10 straight quarters.

“We are definitely on the back end of this crisis,” says Josh Siegel, chief executive of Stonecastle Partners, a firm that invests in banks.

The biggest boost for banks is the gradually strengthening economy. Employers added nearly 1.7 million jobs in the first 11 months of 2012. More people employed mean more people and businesses can repay loans. And after better-than-expected economic news last week, some analysts said the economy could end up growing faster in the October-December quarter — and next year — than previously thought.

That assumes Congress and the White House can strike a budget deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” — the steep tax increases and spending cuts that are set to kick in Jan. 1. If they don’t reach a deal, those measures would significantly weaken the economy.

Banks have also been bolstered by higher capital, their cushion against risk. Banks boosted capital 3.8 percent in the third quarter, FDIC data show. And the industry’s average ratio of capital to assets reached a record high.

On the other hand, many banks are no longer benefiting from record-low interest rates. They still pay almost nothing to depositors and on money borrowed from other banks or the government. But steadily lower rates on loans other than credit cards have reduced how much banks earn.

“This interest-rate pressure on the banks becomes very difficult to overcome,” says Fred Cannon, chief equity strategist and director of research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “It’s a big headwind for banks.”

Many banks have reported lower net interest margin — the difference between the income they receive from loans and the interest they pay depositors and other lenders. It’s a key measure of a bank’s profitability.

The industry’s average net interest margin fell to 3.43 percent in the third quarter from 3.56 percent a year earlier.

Some big banks have also cautioned that their earnings are up mainly because they’ve shed jobs, bad loans and weak businesses rather than because of an improved economy. They include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. All managed to recover from the financial crisis in part because of federal aid.

Small and midsize banks have taken longer to rebound. They held risky commercial real estate loans used to develop malls, industrial sites and apartment buildings. Many such loans weren’t repaid. But as the economy has strengthened, fewer such loans have soured, and many small and medium-size banks have recovered.

For example, at M&T Bank Corp., a regional institution based in Buffalo, N.Y., net income soared in the third quarter. M&T attributed its gain to reduced loan losses and higher mortgage revenue. The bank repaid the remaining $ 381 million of the $ 600 million in bailout aid it had received during the crisis.

Yet analysts say regional banks are still feeling squeezed from reduced borrowing by companies.

Many banks complain they’ve been hampered by new regulations, especially stricter requirements for the capital they must hold to protect against unexpected losses. Rules enacted after the crisis have compelled some banks to move more capital into reserves and reduce the amount available to lend.

Some of the biggest banks say their customers have held off on borrowing in part because of slower global growth and concern about the “fiscal cliff.”

To avoid a collapse, some weak banks have sought mergers with larger institutions. In the July-September quarter, 49 banks were absorbed in mergers, up from 45 in the April-June quarter, FDIC data show.

The torrent of failures after the crisis and the increased mergers have thinned the number of banks to 7,181 with about 2.1 million employees as of Sept. 30. That compares with 8,451 banks with 2.2 million employees in the second quarter of 2008.

“The pressure is on to consolidate the industry,” says Siegel of Stonecastle Partners. He thinks more than 1,000 banks will be absorbed within five to seven years.

Consider BancTrust Financial Group Inc., based in Mobile, Ala., with around $ 1.3 billion in assets. Burdened with bad loans tied to Florida real estate, the bank couldn’t repay $ 50 million in federal bailout aid it received during the meltdown, and it struggled to stay profitable. So it decided to put itself up for sale.

It’s now being acquired by Trustmark Corp in Mississippi, which has about $ 9.9 billion in assets. The acquisition will help Trustmark expand in Florida and Alabama.

“Some of the smaller (banks) are just throwing up the flag,” says Cornelius Hurley, a former counsel to the Federal Reserve Board who heads Boston University’s Center for Finance, Law and Policy.


To see a list of Bank failures in 2012, view this interactive:

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Luxury Real Estate: The Sport of Tycoons

Clockwise from top left: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis; Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times; Robert Caplin for The New York Times; William Zbaren for The New York Times

GOING SHOPPING? Casa Casuarina, top left, Gianni Versace’s Florida home, is for sale for $ 100 million. The 89th-floor penthouse at Trump International Hotel and Tower, bottom left, is listed for $ 32 million. Top right: duplexes in One57, at 157 West 57th Street, sold for at least $ 90 million apiece. Bottom right: the 18th-floor penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland may be had for $ 95 million.

IT was a year of record-high sales for luxury real estate. But 2012 will also enter the books for its chart-topping listings, as sellers sought to ride the wave of irrational exuberance for trophy properties.

In Manhattan, it all began in March with the record sale of a penthouse at 15 Central Park West for $ 88 million by the former chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. Weill, to the daughter of a Russian billionaire. Then the casino king Steve Wynn paid $ 70 million for a 14-room duplex at 50 Central Park South. Mystery buyers signed contracts for a pair of duplexes at One57, a Midtown tower still under construction, for at least $ 90 million apiece.

The copycats soon followed. New York, while seeming to set the tone, was not alone. High-end markets in cities across the country, including Miami and Chicago, caught the fever, producing record sales prices in 2012, and affixing record price tags to houses and apartments.

Yet for all the hype, at year’s end most of the biggest listings still remain on the market. In Manhattan, sellers of properties of $ 50 million or more have been stubborn about reducing prices, while in other parts of the country, brokers have begun to drop prices rather than lose out on the billionaire-buying wave.

Still for sale is the $ 100 million penthouse at CitySpire at 150 West 56th Street. So, too, is the $ 95 million full-floor co-op at the Sherry-Netherland hotel at 781 Fifth Avenue. The 9,800-square-foot penthouse at the Mark hotel that was on the market for most of 2012? It’s still available for $ 60 million.

“You had some records being set,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraiser, “and then that created a chain reaction of copycats who were hoping to piggyback onto that phenomenon.”

The blast of sales at One57 — where billionaires in 2012 scooped up full-floor apartments with unobstructed views of Central Park for about $ 50 million apiece (or about $ 8,000 per square foot) — seemed to embolden owners of other would-be trophy properties to expect as much or more on resale.

One that was apparently pulled off the market was a duplex penthouse at 50 Central Park South that had been listed in August for $ 95 million by Halstead Property.

For Miami, 2012 was also a year of record sales. An Italian buyer paid $ 25 million for a penthouse on South Beach, while a Russian bought a 10-bedroom house at Indian Creek Village for $ 47 million. Those sales inspired agents to go for broke on other properties. A six-bedroom penthouse in South Beach owned by the New York developer Ian Bruce Eichner has been listed for $ 39 million for several months.

The biggest Miami trophy of all is Casa Casuarina, the former mansion of the fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was shot to death in 1997 as he opened the gate of the 23,462-square-foot house. Owned now by the telecom mogul Peter Loftin, it went on the market for $ 125 million in June — and was at that time one of the two most expensive residential listings in the country, according to Forbes. The house has 10 bedrooms, 11 baths, and a 54-foot mosaic-tile pool lined with 24-karat gold, and it sits on Ocean Drive in the heart of the South Beach scene.

Jill Eber, a Coldwell Banker broker who is listing the house with her partner, Jill Hertzberg, said there had been “serious interest” from around the world. But with nobody biting at $ 125 million, “the Jills,” as they are known, lowered the asking price to $ 100 million in November. “We really wanted to open it up and have the price right for the winter season,” Ms. Eber said. “We have been seeing numbers like we have never seen before in Miami.”

While Casa Casuarina has come down toward earth somewhat, an apartment in Chicago soars above all others. An 89th-floor penthouse at Trump International Hotel and Tower, at about 1,200 feet above the ground, it is the tallest residence in North America, and perhaps in the world, said Chezi Rafaeli of Coldwell Banker, the listing broker. The $ 32 million price tag makes it the highest-priced apartment in the Midwest, brokers say.

“You feel as if you can go out of your window and walk on the clouds,” Mr. Rafaeli said of the 14,250-square-foot spread, which has seven bedrooms.

Sellers seemed eager to try to break records in 2012. Leroy Schecter, the steel magnate, decided to list two apartments on the 35th floor of the tower at 15 Central Park West as one combined unit for $ 95 million, or more than $ 15,800 a square foot. The finished product will have a little less than 6,000 square feet; it has no outdoor space. Mr. Schecter jumped in just a few days after two other Manhattan listings topped $ 90 million.

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Wall Street ends sour week with fifth straight decline

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell for a fifth straight day on Friday, dropping 1 percent and marking the S&P 500's longest losing streak in three months as the federal government edged closer to the "fiscal cliff" with no solution in sight.

President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders met at the White House to work on a solution for the draconian debt-reduction measures set to take effect beginning next week. Stocks, which have been influenced by little else than the flood of fiscal cliff headlines from Washington in recent days, extended losses going into the close with the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 each losing 1 percent, after reports that Obama would not offer a new plan to Republicans. The Dow closed below 13,000 for the first time since December 4.

"I was stunned Obama didn't have another plan, and that's absolutely why we sold off," said Mike Shea, managing partner at Direct Access Partners LLC in New York. "He's going to force the House to come to him with something different. I think that's a surprise. The entire market is disappointed in a lack of leadership in Washington."

In a sign of investor anxiety, the CBOE Volatility Index <.vix>, known as the VIX, jumped 16.69 percent to 22.72, closing at its highest level since June. Wall Street's favorite fear barometer has risen for five straight weeks, surging more than 40 percent over that time.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 158.20 points, or 1.21 percent, to 12,938.11 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 15.67 points, or 1.11 percent, to 1,402.43. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 25.59 points, or 0.86 percent, to end at 2,960.31.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.9 percent. The S&P 500 also lost 1.9 percent for the week, marking its worst weekly performance since mid-November. The Nasdaq finished the week down 2 percent. In contrast, the VIX jumped 22 percent for the week.

Pessimism continued after the market closed, with stock futures indicating even steeper losses. S&P 500 futures dropped 26.7 points, or 1.9 percent, eclipsing the decline seen in the regular session.

All 10 S&P 500 sectors fell during Friday's regular trading, with most posting declines of 1 percent, but energy and material shares were among the weakest of the day, with both groups closely tied to the pace of growth.

An S&P energy sector index <.gspe> slid 1.8 percent, with Exxon Mobil down 2 percent at $85.10, and Chevron Corp off 1.9 percent at $106.45. The S&P material sector index <.gspm> fell 1.3 percent, with U.S. Steel Corp down 2.6 percent at $23.03.

Decliners outnumbered advancers by a ratio of slightly more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, while on the Nasdaq, two stocks fell for every one that rose.

"We've been whipsawing around on low volume and rumors that come out on the cliff," said Eric Green, senior portfolio manager at Penn Capital Management in Philadelphia, who helps oversee $7 billion in assets.

With time running short, lawmakers may opt to allow the higher taxes and across-the-board federal spending cuts to go into effect and attempt to pass a retroactive fix soon after the new year. Standard & Poor's said an impasse on the cliff wouldn't affect the sovereign credit rating of the United States.

"We're not as concerned with January 1 as the market seems to be," said Richard Weiss, senior money manager at American Century Investments, in Mountain View, California. "Things will be resolved, just maybe not on a good timetable, and any deal can easily be retroactive."

Trading volume was light throughout the holiday-shortened week, with just 4.46 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT on Friday, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares. On Monday, the U.S. stock market closed early for Christmas Eve, and the market was shut on Tuesday for Christmas. Many senior traders were absent this week for the holidays.

Highlighting Wall Street's sensitivity to developments in Washington, stocks tumbled more than 1 percent on Thursday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that a deal was unlikely before the deadline. But late in the day, stocks nearly bounced back when the House said it would hold an unusual Sunday session to work on a fiscal solution.

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

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.

"Economic reports have been very favorable, and once Congress comes to a resolution, the market should resume an upward trend, based on the data," said Weiss, who helps oversee about $125 billion in assets. "All else being equal, we see any further decline as a buying opportunity."

Barnes & Noble Inc rose 4.3 percent to $14.97 after the top U.S. bookstore chain said British publisher Pearson Plc had agreed to make a strategic investment in its Nook Media subsidiary. But Barnes & Noble also said its Nook business will not meet its previous projection for fiscal year 2013.

Shares of magicJack VocalTec Ltd jumped 10.3 percent to $17.95 after the company gave a strong fourth-quarter outlook and named Gerald Vento president and chief executive, effective January 1.

The U.S.-listed shares of Canadian drugmaker Aeterna Zentaris Inc surged 13.8 percent to $2.47 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 a Phase 3 registration trial in endometrial cancer with AEZS-108 treatment.

(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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Net loss: Brooklyn fires coach Avery Johnson

NEW YORK (AP) — Coach of the month in November, out of a job by New Year's.

The Brooklyn Nets have elevated expectations this season, and a .500 record wasn't good enough. Coach Avery Johnson was fired Thursday, his team having lost 10 of 13 games after a strong start to its first season in Brooklyn.

"We don't have the same fire now than we did when we were 11-4," general manager Billy King said at a news conference in East Rutherford, N.J. "I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just can't figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening."

Assistant P.J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets on an interim basis, starting Friday night with a home game against Charlotte. King said the Nets might reach out to other candidates, but for now the job was Carlesimo's. The GM wouldn't comment on a report that the team planned to get in touch with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

King said the decision to dismiss Johnson was made by ownership after a phone discussion Thursday morning. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov had expressed faith in Johnson before the season.

"With the direction we were going we felt we had to make a change," King said.

Johnson was in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract.

"It's a really disappointing day for me and my family. It's my wife's birthday. It's not a great birthday gift," Johnson said. "I didn't see this coming. But this is ownership's decision. It's part of the business. Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice and hopefully they'll get back on track."

The Nets have fallen well behind the first-place New York Knicks, the team they so badly want to compete with in their new home. But after beating the Knicks in their first meeting Nov. 26, probably the high point of Johnson's tenure, the Nets went 5-10 and frustrations have been mounting.

"Our goal is to get to the conference finals," King said. "We started out good and then we stumbled. We have to get back to playing winning basketball. It's the entire team. It's not like golf, where Tiger Woods can blame the caddie. It takes five guys on the court and they're all struggling. We have to figure out the ways to get back to winning. I don't know what happened. I'm not sure. But unfortunately, it did happen."

The Nets were embarrassed by Boston on national TV on Christmas, then were routed by Milwaukee 108-93 on Wednesday night for their fifth loss in six games.

Star guard Deron Williams recently complained about Johnson's offense, and Nets CEO Brett Yormark took to Twitter after the loss to Celtics to voice his displeasure with the performance.

King said the change was not made because Williams was unhappy, and he added the point guard himself has to play better.

Johnson also stood by Williams.

"From Day One, I always had a really good relationship with him. I don't think it's fair for anyone to hang this on Deron," Johnson said. "We were just going through a bad streak, a bad spell. It's not time for me to be down on one player. That would be the easy way."

Brooklyn started the season 11-4, winning five in a row to end November, when Johnson was Eastern Conference coach of the month. But he couldn't do anything to stop this slump, one the Nets never anticipated after a $350 million summer spending spree they believed would take them toward the top of their conference.

Johnson has been the Nets' coach for a little more than two seasons. He went 60-116 with the Nets, who moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn to start the season. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.

"You don't always get a fair shake as a coach," Johnson said. "I'm not the owner. If I were the owner, I wouldn't have fired myself today. But life is not always necessary fair. It's a business and in this business, the coach always gets blamed."

This is the NBA's second coaching change this season following the dismissal of Mike Brown by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson arrived in New Jersey with a 194-70 record, a .735 winning percentage that was the highest in NBA history, but had little chance of success in his first two seasons while the Nets focused all their planning on the move to Brooklyn.

They looked to make a splash this summer when they re-signed Williams and fellow starters Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, traded for Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson, and added veteran depth with players such as Reggie Evans, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche.

Johnson didn't have a contract beyond this season but seemed to have the confidence of Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who before the season said he had faith in "the Avery defense system."

Some thought the Nets would finish as high as second in the East behind defending champion Miami, and the predictions seemed warranted when the Nets started quickly amid much fanfare. But all the good publicity faded in recent weeks once the losing started.

Williams, who has struggled this season, stirred the waters when he expressed his preference for the offense he ran under Jerry Sloan in Utah before a loss to the Jazz. Williams and Johnson, nicknamed "Brooklyn's Backcourt" and expected to be one of the best in the NBA, have shot poorly and rarely meshed.

The Nets were embarrassed near the end of their 93-76 loss to Boston, when fans exited early amid a chant of "Let's go Celtics!"

"Nets fans deserved better," Yormark tweeted after the game. "The entire organization needs to work harder to find a solution. We will get there."

Not under Johnson, though.

The Nets should be able to entice a big-name coach with Prokhorov's billions and the chance to play in a major market at Barclays Center, the $1 billion arena that has drawn praise in the city and from visiting teams.

Carlesimo has previous NBA head coaching experience in Portland, Golden State and Seattle/Oklahoma City. He has a career coaching record of 204-296 in the regular season and 3-9 in the playoffs.

"Right now, P.J. is our coach and I told him to coach the team like he'll be here for the next 10 years," King said.


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford and AP freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.

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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.


  • 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

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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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Global shares rise before U.S. budget talks, yen at two-year low

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares and the euro edged higher on Friday as U.S. lawmakers prepared to resume negotiations on avoiding a fiscal crisis, while the yen hit a two-year low on the prospect of drastic monetary easing in Japan.

U.S. President Barack Obama and lawmakers are set to have a last round of talks before a New Year deadline to reach a deal on averting major tax increases and spending cuts which could drag the economy and others around the world into recession.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet congressional leaders from the Republican and Democrat parties at the White House at 2000 GMT.

The MSCI all world share index was up 0.15 percent shortly after trading opened in Europe. With London’s FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris’s CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt’s DAX <.gdaxi> all just in positive territory, the regional FTSEurofirst 300 <.fteu3> was up just over 0.1 percent and moving towards last week’s 19-month high.</.fteu3></.gdaxi></.fchi></.ftse>

Members of Congress were divided on the odds of success at the budget talks, but IG strategist Stan Shamu noted some hope in the markets. “There is growing optimism that a deal can be knocked (together) before the deadline,” IG strategist Stan Shamu wrote in a note.

In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index hit a 21-month high as markets priced in a huge injection of stimulus by the Bank of Japan following the election of a new government. The expectations also pushed the yen to a new two-year low versus the dollar.

The yen has now fallen roughly 10.5 percent versus the dollar in 2012, its biggest annual drop since 2005. At the same time Japan’s benchmark Nikkei is up 22 percent for the year.

“The Japanese equity market has turned positive, providing good sentiment for global investors, with many making money and putting the money into commodity markets such as the oil market,” said Tetsu Emori, a commodity fund manager at Astmax in Tokyo.

The euro edged up past $ 1.325 as trading remained thin as Christmas holidays continued for many investors. It came as France reported its economy had grown 0.1 percent in the third quarter.

European bond markets were largely quiet. German Bund futures rose on concerns that a U.S. budget deal will, after all, remain elusive.

(editing by David Stamp)

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Jack and the Beanstalk Slot Tournament Every Friday at

DUNDALK, IRELAND–(Marketwire – Dec 28, 2012) – Hugely popular real money games site will be running regular Jack and the Beanstalk slot tournaments every Friday for the first few months of 2013. Jack and the Beanstalk slot game has proven extremely successful. As a result, the NetEnt game has garnered a substantial fan base since its release on the site in 2012.

Players who play Jack and the Beanstalk between 12 noon and 11.59pm Fridays are in with a chance to win a range of prizes from five pounds to twenty five pounds.

Players need to meet the minimum requirements for the tournament (50 spins with minimum EUR/£1 per spin) within the stated time frame to enter. The players with the highest number of qualified game rounds (spins of at least EUR/£1) on Jack and the Beanstalk during the promotional period will be deemed the winners.

Karen Hope, Casino and Games Manager at said “Jack and the Beanstalk is one of the best slot games at the moment. Our players really enjoy it and we expect the slot tournament to be a major success.”

New players can get a free no deposit welcome bonus of five pounds on selected games including Jack and the Beanstalk.

Twitter: @boylegamesblog


About Boylegames: is the online games division of Boylesports the largest independent bookmaker in Ireland. The company does not accept players from the U.S.

Marketwire News Archive – Yahoo! Finance

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Stock index futures steady; budget talks eyed

PARIS (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a steady Wall Street open, with S&P 500 futures down 0.11 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.03 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.05 percent at 4.54 a.m. ET.

European shares were flat to slightly lower in early trade on Friday as investors waited to see if a deal to avoid the U.S. "fiscal cliff" would be reached before further boosting their exposure to equities. <.eu/>

President Barack Obama and lawmakers are launching a last-chance round of budget talks days before a New Year's deadline to reach a deal or watch the economy go off a "fiscal cliff." Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Friday at 3 p.m. EST.

On the macro front, investors awaited pending home sales data for November. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 5.2 percent gain in the previous month.

Investors in U.S.-based funds favored stock exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and emerging market equity mutual funds as the year wound down, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed on Thursday.

Satellite television provider DirecTV Group said its service fees would rise by an average of 4.5 percent in February due to increasing programming costs.

A Chinese court fined Apple 1 million yuan ($160,400) for hosting third-party applications on its App Store that were selling pirated electronic books, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

U.S. stocks fell for a fourth day on Thursday, but recovered most of their losses after the House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said it would come back to work on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" this weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 18.28 points, or 0.14 percent, to 13,096.31 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> declined 1.73 points, or 0.12 percent, to end at 1,418.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 4.25 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 2,985.91.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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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: and

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The forgotten victims of gun violence

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, and other area officials call for stronger gun regulations at a news conference last week.


  • While America was mourning Newtown victims, guns were claiming lives elsewhere in U.S.

  • Authors: Media focus on mass shootings, but continuing violence also needs coverage

  • They say inner cities suffer an epidemic of gun killings, and young are particularly vulnerable

  • Authors: There is a day-by-day slaughter of children that must be stopped

Editor's note: Bassam Gergi is studying for a master's degree in comparative government at St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he is also a Dahrendorf Scholar. Ali Breland studies philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

(CNN) -- On the Sunday after the Newtown massacre, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut to comfort the grieving community. As the president offered what he could to the town, other American communities, in less visible ways, were grappling with their own menace of violence.

In Camden, New Jersey -- a city that has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012 , surpassing the previous record of 58 violent deaths set in 1995 -- 50 people turned out, some bearing white crosses, to mourn a homeless woman known affectionately as the "cat lady" who was stabbed to death (50 of the deaths so far this year resulted from gunshot wounds.)

Bassam Gergi

Bassam Gergi

In Philadelphia, on the same Sunday, city leaders came together at a roundtable to discuss their own epidemic of gun violence; the year-to-date total of homicides is 322. Last year, 324 were killed. Of those victims, 154 were 25 or younger. A councilman at the roundtable asked, "How come as a city we're not in an outrage? How come we're not approaching this from a crisis standpoint?"

Ali Breland

Ali Breland

The concerns go beyond Philadelphia. In the week following the Newtown massacre, there were at least a dozen gun homicides in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis alone. In a year of highly publicized mass shootings, inner-city neighborhoods that are plagued by gun violence have continued to be neglected and ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large metropolitan areas account for more than two-thirds of deaths by gun violence each year, with inner cities most affected. The majority of the victims are young, ranging in age from their early teens to mid-20s, and black.

To track these violent deaths, many communities and media organizations have set up agonizing online trackers -- homicide watches or interactive maps -- that show each subsequent victim as just another data point. These maps are representative of a set of issues far larger than the nameless dots suggest.

In the immediate aftermath of Newtown, as politicians and public figures across America grapple with the horrible truths of gun violence, far less visible from the national spotlight is the steady stream of inner-city victims.

Illegal firearms confiscated in a weapons bust in New York's East Harlem is on display at an October news conference.

The media is fixated, and with justification, on the string of high-profile massacres that have rocked the nation in Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Virginia Tech; and now in Newtown. Yet in many of America's neighborhoods most affected by the calamity of gun violence, there is a warranted exasperation -- residents are tired, tired of the ubiquity of guns, tired of fearing for their children's safety, tired of being forgotten.

Critiquing a narrow media focus doesn't deny the horrible, tragic nature of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; mass shootings, however, make up only a small fraction of America's shockingly high level of gun crime.

In his study "American Homicide," Randolph Roth showed that while the overall risk of being murdered is higher in America than it is in any other first-world democracy, homicide rates vary drastically among groups.

According to Roth, if current trends are maintained, one out of every 158 white males born today will be murdered, but for nonwhite males it is likely one of every 27 born today will be murdered.

The stark difference in these racial trends can be traced to the high levels of racial segregation in America's cities, which have created a spatial barrier between poor inner-city youths of color and more mainstream America -- a barrier that is often responsible for the lack of media and political attention paid to inner-city problems.

Many experts claim that actually it is the spectacular nature of mass shootings that naturally magnifies media coverage and explains the resonance of these tragedies to the broader public. Inner-city violence on its own, however, does not suffer from a lack of awful, spectacular violence and calamity. In fact, the gruesome nature of violence in inner cities has contributed to widespread social desensitization to gun violence. How then do we explain the differing public responses?

An indicator of the difference of attention levels lies in the tone of the public rhetoric in the wake of mass shootings: "This was supposed to be a safe community," and "This kind of thing wasn't supposed to happen here."

These statements imply that in America's leafy-green small towns and suburbs, gun violence is a shocking travesty; it strikes against America's perception of what is acceptable. In contrast, gun violence in the American metropolis has been normalized, and the public and media display a passive indifference toward the lives of inner-city youths.

This normalization of inner-city violence is due in part, to the isolation and segregation of America's ghettos from wider America, but it is also due to a sense that the victims of inner-city violence are responsible for their own condition.

As Robert Sampson, a professor at Harvard University, has highlighted, the gun violence in American cities is born out of neighborhood characteristics such as poverty, racial segregation and lack of economic opportunity. This shortened explanation for the high levels of inner-city violence has often been mistaken to imply that it is the direct choice of inner-city residents to remain either in poverty or in their segregated community that leads to their victimization.

In reality, the victims of inner-city gun violence are the victims of a dual tragedy. The first is that the poverty and segregation, which play a crucial role in spurring the downward cycle of crime, are the result of social arrangements predicated on longstanding oppression and prejudice.

Through a complex mix of violence, institutional arrangements and exploitation, black Americans were pressured into ghettos, which are the hotbeds of contemporary gun violence. Their inability to escape their conditions is not a choice but rather the byproduct of continued structural discrimination. Slowing the tide of inner-city deaths through gun control is therefore a modern-day civil rights issue.

If the refusal of America's national politicians to move on gun control before Newtown represents a political failure and a paucity of American will, then the disregard for the lives of inner-city youths stricken by gun violence on a daily basis is an illustration of the limits of American compassion.

The slaughter of young children en masse should be a moment of reckoning for any society, but there is a day-by-day, child-by-child slaughter occurring in America that has gone on too long and is yet to be reckoned with.

If Newtown should teach us anything, it is that all of us in America share this same short moment of life, and that we all seek to ensure safety, security and prosperity for our children.

As Vice President Joe Biden and the presidential task force meet to negotiate about what new gun laws to recommend, they must look to Sandy Hook Elementary and beyond. We need to protect the children of Newtown from the threat of future gun violence, but the children of Chicago and Camden and Detroit deserve the same long-term security.

We may not be able to ensure absolute security for America's children, but through smarter policy America can surely save more of its children from gun violence.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

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Jay Chou raps about a corrupt eunuch

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan‘s pop king Jay Chou has played roles as varied as superhero, vampire and cowboy. So his latest album about an influential but corrupt court eunuch may not sound all that odd to his fans.

In “Gong Gong with A Headache” released Thursday, Chou raps about the eunuch who has a secret passion for women but “must not touch them.” ”Gong Gong” is a name for court eunuchs in China.

In the music video, Chou dances stiffly like a zombie to the tune of hip hop, dressed in satin imperial court costume.

The singer also wrote the song. He says he was inspired by the popular drama series “The Legend of Zhen Huan” and other court dramas that have captivated audiences in China and Taiwan.

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Brent holds near $111 on US fiscal uncertainty; Japan supports

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Brent crude held near $ 111 per barrel on Thursday as jittery investors stayed on the sidelines with a deadline to avert a U.S. fiscal crisis approaching, while hopes the new Japanese government’s policies will spur demand supported prices.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers resumed talks on Wednesday over the so-called fiscal cliff – tax hikes and spending cuts slated to take effect next week that could push the economy back into recession.

“There is no easy way to resolve the U.S. fiscal cliff, but there should be a compromise at some point and that’s what the market is looking for,” said Tetsu Emori, a commodity fund manager at Astmax in Tokyo.

Front-month Brent futures slipped 16 cents to $ 110.91 per barrel at 0501 GMT, giving up some of the previous session’s 2 percent gain.

Brent may face some resistance between $ 112 and $ 113 before falling towards $ 102.7 over the next three months, according to Wang Tao, Reuters market analyst for commodities and energy technicals.

U.S. crude dropped from a nine-week high reached on Wednesday, shedding 6 cents to $ 90.92.

Oil futures rose in early Asian trade, taking a cue from Japanese stocks, which were at an 18-month high after the country’s new prime minister said beating deflation in the world’s No. 3 oil consumer and taming a strong yen were his top priorities.

“There are hopes that the aggressive fiscal policies will help Japan get out of deflation and, as it is an importer of commodities, that’s a positive for oil markets,” Emori said.

The government will pursue bold monetary policy, flexible fiscal policy and a growth strategy to encourage private investment, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday .


The White House and Republicans are still far apart, as hopes for legislation to prevent the U.S. economy from tumbling off the fiscal cliff switch to the Senate.

Democrats control a majority in that chamber but still need some support from Republicans across the aisle for a likely attempt to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Obama will try to revive budget crisis talks – which stalled last week – when he returns to Washington on Thursday after cutting short his Christmas holiday in Hawaii.

“While markets have vacillated between optimism and pessimism over the prospects for a compromise, we expect a deal only at the last minute, with lots of decisions delayed into the New Year and austerity of roughly 2 percent of GDP,” Bank of America-Merril Lynch analysts said in their weekly report.

Worries about supplies from the Middle East rose once more after security forces in the United Arab Emirates arrested a cell of UAE and Saudi Arabian citizens which they said was planning to carry out militant attacks in both countries and other states.

The region holds some of the world’s largest oil fields and as a result any unrest in the area triggers supply concerns.

Oil futures may rise in the first quarter of 2013 with the global economy showing early signs of a pick-up, and on expectations that the fiscal crisis will be resolved.

Encouraging economic data from China, aggressive action by the European Central Bank to help its economies, and quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve together brighten the outlook for oil in the near-term.

U.S. crude could rise to $ 100 per barrel and Brent may test $ 120 by the end of March, said Emori.

Also supporting prices are expectations that U.S. crude stockpiles may have decreased last week as refiners kept inventory low for year-end tax purposes.

Crude stocks may have dropped by 1.9 million barrels in the week ended Dec 21, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

Inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute will be released on Thursday, while numbers from the Energy Information Administration will be out on Friday, a day later than usual, because of the Christmas holiday.

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CD rates for Dec. 27, 2012

  • 0.28% (1-year CD yields)

  • 0.9% (5-year CD yields)

This week, long-term maturities slipped in Bankrate’s survey of rates on certificates of deposit.

The average one-year CD yield is 0.28 percent for the second week. The average five-year yield is down 1 basis point to 0.9 percent. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point.

For deposits of $ 100,000, the average one-year jumbo CD yield is unchanged at 0.31 percent. The five-year jumbo yield is down 1 basis point to 0.91 percent.

The average money market account yield is 0.11 percent for the 10th straight week.

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Stock futures signal steady open

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a steady open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.04 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.05 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.02 percent at 0941 GMT.

European shares rose early on Thursday in their first trading session following the Christmas break, with investors focusing on Washington's last-ditch efforts to avoid a damaging bout of fiscal tightening next year. <.eu/>

Efforts to prevent the U.S. economy from going over its 'fiscal cliff' resumed on Wednesday with less than a week to go before the potentially disastrous tax hikes and spending cuts kick in.

In a sign that there may be a way through the deadlock in Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner offered to at consider any bill the Democrat-controlled Senate produced. President Barack Obama will try to revive budget crisis talks when he returns to Washington on Thursday after cutting short his Christmas break.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday, dragged lower by retail stocks after a report showed consumers spent less in the holiday shopping season than last year.

The 2012 holiday season may have been the worst for retailers since the 2008 financial crisis, with sales growth far below expectations, forcing many to offer massive post-Christmas discounts in hopes of shedding excess inventory.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 24.49 points, or 0.19 percent, to 13,114.59 at Wednesday's close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> shed 6.83 points, or 0.48 percent, to 1,419.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 22.44 points, or 0.74 percent, to 2,990.16.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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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.

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