NFL's Goodell aims to share blame on player safety

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to share the blame.

"Safety," he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference, "is all of our responsibilities."

Not surprisingly, given that thousands of former players are suing the league about its handling of concussions, the topics of player health and improved safety dominated Goodell's 45-minute session Friday. And he often sounded like someone seeking to point out that players or others are at fault for some of the sport's problems — and need to help fix them.

"I'll stand up. I'll be accountable. It's part of my responsibility. I'll do everything," Goodell said. "But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it."

Injuries from hits to the head or to the knees, Goodell noted, can result from improper tackling techniques used by players and taught by coaches. The NFL Players Association needs to allow testing for human growth hormone to go forward so it can finally start next season, which Goodell hopes will happen. He said prices for Super Bowl tickets have soared in part because fans re-sell them above face value.

And asked what he most rues about the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation — a particularly sensitive issue around these parts, of course — Goodell replied: "My biggest regret is that we aren't all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get (bounties) out of the game, to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That's what I regret, that I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union."

He addressed other subjects, such as a "new generation of the Rooney Rule" after none of 15 recently open coach or general manager jobs went to a minority candidate, meaning "we didn't have the outcomes we wanted"; using next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey as a test for future cold-weather, outdoor championship games; and saying he welcomed President Barack Obama's recent comments expressing concern about football's violence because "we want to make sure that people understand what we're doing to make our game safer."


— New Orleans will not get back the second-round draft pick Goodell stripped in his bounty ruling;

— Goodell would not give a time frame for when the NFL could hold a game in Mexico;

— next season's games in London — 49ers-Jaguars and Steelers-Vikings — are sellouts.

Goodell mentioned some upcoming changes, including the plan to add independent neurologists to sidelines to help with concussion care during games — something players have asked for and the league opposed until now.

"The No. 1 issue is: Take the head out of the game," Goodell said. "I think we've seen in the last several decades that players are using their head more than they had when you go back several decades."

He said one tool the league can use to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits is suspending players who keep doing it.

"We're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders," Goodell said. "We're going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them."

The league will add "expanded physicals at the end of each season ... to review players from a physical, mental and life skills standpoint so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion," Goodell said.

With question after question about less-than-light matters, one reporter drew a chuckle from Goodell by asking how he's been treated this week in a city filled with supporters of the Saints who are angry about the way the club was punished for the bounty system the NFL said existed from 2009-11.

"My picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll," Goodell said.

But he added that he can "appreciate the passion" of the fans and, actually, "couldn't feel more welcome here."


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Hillary: Secretary of empowerment

Girls hug U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a 2010 tour of a shelter run for sex trafficking victims in Cambodia.


  • Donna Brazile: Clinton stepping down as Secretary of State. Maybe she'll run for president

  • She says as secretary she expanded foreign policy to include effect on regular people

  • She says she was first secretary of state to focus on empowering women and girls

  • Brazile: Clinton has fought for education and inclusion in politics for women and girls

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down from her job Friday, many are assuming she will run for president. And she may. In fact, five of the first eight presidents first served their predecessors as secretary of state.

It hasn't happened in more than a century, though that may change should Clinton decide to run. After all, she has been a game changer her entire life.

But before we look ahead, I think we should appreciate what she's done as secretary of state; it's a high profile, high pressure job. You have to deal with the routine as if it is critical and with crisis as if it's routine. You have to manage egos, protocols, customs and Congress. You have to be rhetorical and blunt, diplomatic and direct.

CNN Contributor Donna Brazile

CNN Contributor Donna Brazile

As secretary of state you are dealing with heads of state and with we the people. And the president of the United States has to trust you -- implicitly.

On the road with Hillary Clinton

Of all Clinton's accomplishments -- and I will mention just a few -- this may be the most underappreciated. During the election, pundits were puzzled and amazed not only at how much energy former President Bill Clinton poured into Obama's campaign, but even more at how genuine and close the friendship was.

Obama was given a lot of well-deserved credit for reaching out to the Clintons by appointing then-Sen. Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state in the first place. But trust is a two-way street and has to be earned. We should not underestimate or forget how much Clinton did and how hard she worked. She deserved that trust, as she deserved to be in the war room when Osama bin Laden was killed.

By the way, is there any other leader in the last 50 years whom we routinely refer to by a first name, and do so more out of respect than familiarity? The last person I can think of was Ike -- the elder family member who we revere with affection. Hillary is Hillary.

It's not surprising that we feel we know her. She has been part of our public life for more than 20 years. She's been a model of dignity, diplomacy, empathy and toughness. She also has done something no other secretary of state has done -- including the two women who preceded her in the Cabinet post.

Rothkopf: President Hillary Clinton? If she wants it

Hillary has transformed our understanding -- no, our definition -- of foreign affairs. Diplomacy is no longer just the skill of managing relations with other countries. The big issues -- war and peace, terror, economic stability, etc. -- remain, and she has handled them with firmness and authority, with poise and confidence, and with good will, when appropriate.

But it is not the praise of diplomats or dictators that will be her legacy. She dealt with plenipotentiaries, but her focus was on people. Foreign affairs isn't just about treaties, she taught us, it's about the suffering and aspirations of those affected by the treaties, made or unmade.

Most of all, diplomacy should refocus attention on the powerless.

Of course, Hillary wasn't the first secretary of state to advocate for human rights or use the post to raise awareness of abuses or negotiate humanitarian relief or pressure oppressors. But she was the first to focus on empowerment, particularly of women and girls.

She created the first Office of Global Women's Issues. That office fought to highlight the plight of women around the world. Rape of women has been a weapon of war for centuries. Though civilized countries condemn it, the fight against it has in a sense only really begun.

Ghitis: Hillary Clinton's global legacy on gay rights

The office has worked to hold governments accountable for the systematic oppression of girls and women and fought for their education in emerging countries. As Hillary said when the office was established: "When the Security Council passed Resolution 1325, we tried to make a very clear statement, that women are still largely shut out of the negotiations that seek to end conflicts, even though women and children are the primary victims of 21st century conflict."

Hillary also included the United States in the Trafficking in Person report. Human Trafficking, a form of modern, mainly sexual, slavery, victimizes mostly women and girls. The annual report reviews the state of global efforts to eliminate the practice. "We believe it is important to keep the spotlight on ourselves," she said. "Human trafficking is not someone else's problem. Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn't exist in our own communities."

She also created the office of Global Partnerships. And there is much more.

She has held her own in palaces and held the hands of hungry children in mud-hut villages, pursuing an agenda that empowers women, children, the poor and helpless.

We shouldn't have been surprised. Her book "It Takes a Village" focused on the impact that those outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being.

As secretary of state, she did all she could to make sure our impact as a nation would be for the better.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

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Former New York mayor Ed Koch moved to hospital intensive care

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was moved to a hospital intensive care unit on Thursday, his spokesman said, in a sign that his health could be deteriorating.

Koch spokesman George Arzt said the 88-year-old politician, who earned a reputation for being as outspoken as he is colorful, was being moved so his cardiologist could better monitor his condition. Koch has been treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on and off since January 19.

Koch was re-admitted to the hospital on Monday after complaining of shortness of breath. He was unable to attend Tuesday’s premier of “Koch,” a documentary about his turbulent three terms as mayor, at the Museum of Modern Art.

In New York‘s City Hall from 1978 to 1989, Koch – with his trademark phrase “How’m I Doing?” – was seen as the personification of New York City.

“I don’t think there was anybody who had more fun being mayor as Ed Koch,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is in the race to be the city’s next mayor, said while walking the premier’s red carpet.

Koch was credited with helping to restore confidence in the city at a time when it stood at the brink of financial ruin. Under his leadership, New York City regained its fiscal footing and underwent a construction boom.

His time in office was also marked by corruption among his political allies, racial tensions, a rise in cases of AIDS and HIV, and an increase in homelessness and the crime rate.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)

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RBS must meet Libor fines – Osborne

Any fines by US authorities on Royal Bank of Scotland over the Libor scandal should be met by bankers not taxpayers, Chancellor George Osborne has insisted.

A ruling on the involvement of RBS in the fixing of the key industry interest rate is due imminently.

It is expected to be higher than the fine of nearly £300m imposed on Barclays last year.

RBS, which is majority owned by the government, is now in final talks with US and UK authorities over Libor.

An announcement could be made within days. In effect, the fine imposed by the British financial authorities will be the UK taxpayer paying the UK taxpayer, but there has been concern over how the US fine was to be paid.

Bonus awards

Senior sources at the Treasury said the chancellor had made it clear that the financial penalty imposed by American regulators must be covered by deductions from the bonuses of bankers at RBS.

These would be either clawed back from previous years or deducted from future bonus awards.

Two leading banks, Barclays and UBS, have reached settlements with regulators over their involvement with Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate), with fines of £290m and £940m respectively.

Libor tracks the average rate at which the major international banks based in London lend money to each other.

BBC business editor Robert Peston has said the talks include “other necessary remediation, including a possible senior resignation”.

But the bank’s board does not believe chief executive Stephen Hester needs to resign.

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What a Tangled Web We Leave

When Alexandra Kaye’s husband died last year of a heart attack at age 57, she thought she was well prepared financially—until she started wading through the day-to-day details.

Ms. Kaye and her husband Jeff, British and American journalists living in Washington, had done more end-of-life planning than many couples. Among other things, they had wills in place and had talked extensively about what they would do if the other died.

Stephen Voss for The Wall Street Journal Alexandra Kaye with her sons, Nathan, left, and Jackson. When her husband died, she found herself battling banking snafus and trying to get access to online accounts.

Yet despite the preparations, Ms. Kaye, 51 years old, found herself battling a number of unexpected problems, from banking snafus to being locked out of his email account, that left her frustrated at a time when all she sought was peace.

“What surprised me most was that I thought I’d done all the right things,” she says.

While the Internet era has ushered in a boom in online financial planning, it also has caused a tangle of banking, bill-paying and other online relationships that require tending even after people die.

But there are ways to help ease the transition—from collecting passwords and updating beneficiary forms to setting up new retirement accounts. Lawyers and financial planners are even adding digital estate planning to their menu of services.

Ms. Kaye, the Washington bureau chief for the Times of London, which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp., says she wishes she had collected a list of passwords to online accounts and had known the rules for unwinding joint financial accounts before her husband died.

Her biggest stumbling block: the checking account. Her bank, HSBC, told her it couldn’t remove her husband’s name from the joint account. Instead, she would have to close it and open a new one, even though the British unit of the same bank had removed his name from a joint account held in the U.K.

An HSBC spokesman declined to comment on Ms. Kaye’s situation. In a written statement he said that, in general, “changes of this nature” require closing an existing account and opening a new one, to ensure that tax reporting is accurate and other legal considerations are addressed.

But closing the U.S. account would mean finding user names and passwords for bills that Mr. Kaye had set up to be paid automatically from the account, she says. And opening a new account would mean she would have to redirect her paycheck, which could take a few pay periods—all while juggling her husband’s estate and raising two teenage sons.

Ms. Kaye found the process so exasperating that she complained to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which simply read the bank’s policy to her again, she says. A bureau spokeswoman declined to comment. For now, Ms. Kaye says, she is waiting to close the joint bank account until she has more stamina.

Financial accounts aren’t her only problem. Ms. Kaye says she and her sons have logged hours trying to tap into Mr. Kaye’s email account, to let friends overseas know about his death, and to get into their Netflix account. They finally figured out that his password to Spotify, a digital music service, was a word spelled phonetically and backward.

To avoid potential snags like these, here are some moves to make both before a spouse’s death and afterward:

Even if spouses have updated beneficiary information on obvious assets like retirement accounts, other assets still might be in one partner’s name.

JeanAnn Fenrich, a 60-year-old widow in Fairmont, Minn., was confronted with this problem last year, after her husband was killed in a car accident. The couple had planned to move to his mother’s home in a few years and do all the retitling paperwork at that point. “The accident just interrupted the best plans that we had,” she says.

Ryan McKeown, her financial adviser in nearby Mankato, Minn., says he sees this problem frequently. The remedy for real estate is simple, he says: just file what is called a “quit claim deed” to set up “joint tenancy with right of survivorship,” meaning the property transfer could avoid probate. Usually, this can be done quickly at the county office that handles real-estate records.

Ms. Fenrich also had to deal with savings bonds in her husband’s name that he had inherited from his mother. Putting the bonds in her name—and adding the couple’s children as beneficiaries—required opening the estates of her husband and her mother-in-law to get the documents needed to send to the U.S. Treasury Department. It would have been far easier to do this ahead of time.

Also, make sure your spouse’s name is on any paper stock certificates you own, says Jeffrey Cutter, a Falmouth, Mass., certified public accountant and financial adviser who says he helped a friend’s 85-year-old father convert $ 150,000 in 15 stocks to his name from his wife’s after she died. It took three months, he says, to get a copy of the death certificate, find the stock’s custodian, dig up his marriage certificate and get everything notarized.

To avoid any surprises, it is important to make sure you understand what happens with a joint account when you want to move it into one person’s name—whether any holds are placed on deposits or withdrawals, and whether online banking could be affected.

That is a lesson that Chuck Jarvis, a 63-year-old retired telecommunications specialist in Camby, Ind., learned after his wife died of cancer last year.

“I went to the bank and told them I needed to take her name off the account. I go home and my electronic banking was gone,” he says. “I just expected everything to roll over and her name to come off and my name to stay on. I didn’t expect my electronic banking to vaporize.”

Had he known that would happen, he said he would have transferred their bill-paying information to a separate account. “But once it vanished, I had to start from ground zero.”

Since Mr. Jarvis’s wife had handled the bills, he wasn’t even sure he would be able to restore them all, and might miss some payments. Finally, an IT worker at the bank resurrected the account numbers for him.

The standard advice is to roll a spouse’s individual retirement account into your own after he or she dies—but for younger widows and widowers, that could cause a big, unnecessary tax bill.

A “spousal rollover” generally makes sense if you are at least 59½ years old, the age at which you are allowed to start tapping an IRA without paying a 10% penalty on early withdrawals (though you would still owe any income tax due).

But many widows are younger than that, and if they need to tap IRA assets rolled over into their own account to supplement their income or cover other expenses, they must pay the 10% penalty.

Instead, widows and widowers under age 59½ often are better off transferring the money into an “inherited IRA,” which remains in the deceased spouse’s name, and then transferring it to their own IRA when they hit 59½ and can make penalty-free withdrawals, says Jeffrey Levine, a certified public accountant and IRA technical consultant at Ed Slott & Co. in Rockville Centre, N.Y.

With an inherited IRA, most beneficiaries have to take a “required minimum distribution” every year—but if the deceased spouse was younger than 70½, the surviving spouse is exempt until the year the deceased spouse would have hit that age.

Under the new federal tax law, Congress made permanent the “portability” provision that lets spouses double the $ 5 million estate-tax exemption to $ 10 million (currently $ 10.5 million, adjusted for inflation).

But there is a catch. Even if the first spouse’s estate is worth less than $ 5 million, that estate still has to file a federal estate-tax return and elect portability to use the leftover exemption in the future.

The money you protect from future estate tax could make it worth spending at least a few thousand dollars now, if appraisals are involved, and going through extra hassle.

For example, if the wife dies first with a $ 1 million estate, meaning it is exempt from federal estate tax, but the husband runs a business that could someday be worth millions of dollars, his wife’s estate should file an estate-tax return electing portability so that the surviving spouse potentially could add the remaining $ 4 million exemption to his $ 5 million one.

An estate also can get hit with state-level estate taxes in at least a dozen states with thresholds lower than $ 5 million as well. But trusts can be structured to help defer those taxes, says James Cundiff, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

Tying up a partner’s life online is among the toughest chores a grieving spouse must face. Internet providers are reluctant, for privacy reasons, to let loved ones into email and social-media accounts, often leaving families to choose between violating the rules to break into an account or losing decades of email contacts, family photos and other information.

The problem is so common that the Uniform Law Commission, the group that recommends uniform state laws, is working on a recommended statute that states could adopt to deal with post-death access to digital assets.

When making lists of password-protected digital assets, it is wise to focus first on the ones with monetary value, experts say. Many people now have extensive libraries on iPods and digital readers, and even airline accounts contain frequent-flier miles that could be worth thousands of dollars, says Sally Hurme, an elder-law attorney at AARP in Washington.

Your best bet: Keeping an accessible list of your online user names, passwords and other prompts required to tap accounts you would want your family to see.

But it is difficult to keep such a list up-to-date. That is why the U.S. General Services Administration recommends people set up a “social-media will,” review the privacy policies and terms and conditions of each website and stipulate in their traditional will that the “online executor” get a copy of the death certificate.

There are less formal options as well. Annalee Leonard, president of Mainstay Financial Group in Pensacola, Fla., suggests spouses keep separate books with all Internet accounts they access, along with logins and passwords.

A number of paid services, including SecureSafe and Legacy Locker, provide “digital” estate planning—though it is important to make sure the service has good security.

Some financial planners are starting to collect their clients’ online-account information, along with inventories of other assets, in various ways, so it is worth asking any planners or investment advisers you work with if they will help. Mark Cortazzo, principal of Macro Consulting Group in Parsippany, N.J., for example, developed an online “vault” where he encourages clients to upload financial documents.

And if you find yourself trying to untangle such accounts after your spouse dies, give yourself some time, says Karen Altfest, a New York financial planner who specializes in working with widows. One of her clients, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, still has one account in his name, because it has taken so much energy to deal with all the formalities.

“You have to be prepared for setbacks as they occur,” Ms. Altfest says. “You have to say, ‘I think I have everything in place, but I’m prepared to go home one more time. It’s just an extra step.’”

Email: [email protected]

Write to Kelly Greene at [email protected]

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"Great Rotation"- A Wall Street fairy tale?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street's current jubilant narrative is that a rush into stocks by small investors has sparked a "great rotation" out of bonds and into equities that will power the bull market to new heights.

That sounds good, but there's a snag: The evidence for this is a few weeks of bullish fund flows that are hardly unusual for January.

Late-stage bull markets are typically marked by an influx of small investors coming late to the party - such as when your waiter starts giving you stock tips. For that to happen you need a good story. The "great rotation," with its monumental tone, is the perfect narrative to make you feel like you're missing out.

Even if something approaching a "great rotation" has begun, it is not necessarily bullish for markets. Those who think they are coming early to the party may actually be arriving late.

Investors pumped $20.7 billion into stocks in the first four weeks of the year, the strongest four-week run since April 2000, according to Lipper. But that pales in comparison with the $410 billion yanked from those funds since the start of 2008.

"I'm not sure you want to take a couple of weeks and extrapolate it into whatever trend you want," said Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup. "We have had instances where equity flows have picked up in the last two, three, four years when markets have picked up. They've generally not been signals of a continuation of that trend."

The S&P 500 rose 5 percent in January, its best month since October 2011 and its best January since 1997, driving speculation that retail investors were flooding back into the stock market.

Heading into another busy week of earnings, the equity market is knocking on the door of all-time highs due to positive sentiment in stocks, and that can't be ignored entirely. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> ended the week about 4 percent from an all-time high touched in October 2007.

Next week will bring results from insurers Allstate and The Hartford , as well as from Walt Disney , Coca-Cola Enterprises and Visa .

But a comparison of flows in January, a seasonal strong month for the stock market, shows that this January, while strong, is not that unusual. In January 2011 investors moved $23.9 billion into stock funds and $28.6 billion in 2006, but neither foreshadowed massive inflows the rest of that year. Furthermore, in 2006 the market gained more than 13 percent while in 2011 it was flat.

Strong inflows in January can happen for a number of reasons. There were a lot of special dividends issued in December that need reinvesting, and some of the funds raised in December tax-selling also find their way back into the market.

During the height of the tech bubble in 2000, when retail investors were really embracing stocks, a staggering $42.7 billion flowed into equities in January of that year, double the amount that flowed in this January. That didn't end well, as stocks peaked in March of that year before dropping over the next two-plus years.


Arguing against a 'great rotation' is not necessarily a bearish argument against stocks. The stock market has done well since the crisis. Despite the huge outflows, the S&P 500 has risen more than 120 percent since March 2009 on a slowly improving economy and corporate earnings.

This earnings season, a majority of S&P 500 companies are beating earnings forecast. That's also the case for revenue, which is a departure from the previous two reporting periods where less than 50 percent of companies beat revenue expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Meanwhile, those on the front lines say mom and pop investors are still wary of equities after the financial crisis.

"A lot of people I talk to are very reluctant to make an emotional commitment to the stock market and regardless of income activity in January, I think that's still the case," said David Joy, chief market strategist at Columbia Management Advisors in Boston, where he helps oversee $571 billion.

Joy, speaking from a conference in Phoenix, says most of the people asking him about the "great rotation" are fund management industry insiders who are interested in the extra business a flood of stock investors would bring.

He also pointed out that flows into bond funds were positive in the month of January, hardly an indication of a rotation.

Citi's Levkovich also argues that bond investors are unlikely to give up a 30-year rally in bonds so quickly. He said stocks only began to see consistent outflows 26 months after the tech bubble burst in March 2000. By that reading it could be another year before a serious rotation begins.

On top of that, substantial flows continue to make their way into bonds, even if it isn't low-yielding government debt. January 2013 was the second best January on record for the issuance of U.S. high-grade debt, with $111.725 billion issued during the month, according to International Finance Review.

Bill Gross, who runs the $285 billion Pimco Total Return Fund, the world's largest bond fund, commented on Twitter on Thursday that "January flows at Pimco show few signs of bond/stock rotation," adding that cash and money markets may be the source of inflows into stocks.

Indeed, the evidence suggests some of the money that went into stock funds in January came from money markets after a period in December when investors, worried about the budget uncertainty in Washington, started parking money in late 2012.

Data from iMoneyNet shows investors placed $123 billion in money market funds in the last two months of the year. In two weeks in January investors withdrew $31.45 billion of that, the most since March 2012. But later in the month money actually started flowing back.

(Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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Carville, Matalin enjoy role as Big Easy boosters

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Mary Matalin heard a baby cry during a Super Bowl news conference this week, she paused midsentence, peered in the direction of the fussing child and asked: "Is that my husband?"

Matalin, the noted Republican political pundit, isn't shy about making jokes at the expense of Democratic strategist James Carville, who went from being her professional counterpart to her partner in life when they were married — in New Orleans — two decades ago.

This week, though, and for much of the past few years, the famous political odd couple have been working in lockstep for a bipartisan cause — the resurgence of their adopted hometown.

Their passion for the Big Easy and its recovery from Hurricane Katrina was why Carville and Matalin were appointed co-chairs of New Orleans' Super Bowl host committee, positions that made them the face of the city's effort to prove it's ready to be back in the regular rotation for the NFL's biggest game.

"Their commitment to New Orleans and their rise to prominence here locally as citizens made them a natural choice," said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, which handles the city's Super Bowl bids. "It's about promoting New Orleans, and their being in love with this city, they're the perfect co-chairs."

Carville, a Louisiana native, and Matalin moved from Washington, D.C., to historic "Uptown" New Orleans in the summer of 2008, a little less than three years after Katrina had laid waste to vast swaths of the city. There was not only heavy wind damage but flooding that surged through crumbling levees and at one point submerged about 80 percent of the city.

The couple had long loved New Orleans, and felt even more of a pull to set down roots here, with their two school-age daughters, at a time when the community was in need.

"The storm just weighed heavy," Carville said. "We were thinking about it. We'd been in Washington for a long time. The more that we thought about it, the more sense that it made. We just came down here (to look for a house) in late 2007 and said we're just going to do this and never looked back."

Matalin said she and Carville also wanted to raise their daughters in a place where people were willing to struggle to preserve a vibrant and unique culture.

"It's authentically creative, organically eccentric, bounded by beauty of all kinds," she said. "People pull for each other, people pull together. ... Seven years ago we were 15 feet under water. ... This is unparalleled what the people here did and that's what you want your kids to grow up with: Hope and a sense of place, resolve and perseverance."

Carville has been an avid sports fan all his life, and Matalin jokes that he now schedules his life around Saints and LSU football.

An LSU graduate, Carville has been a regular sight in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, often wearing a purple and gold rugby-style shirt.

In New Orleans, he and Matalin have lent their names not just to the Super Bowl host committee, but to efforts to prevent the NBA's Hornets from leaving when the ownership situation was in flux.

"I was scared to death they would leave the city," said Carville of the Hornets, who were purchased by the NBA in December of 2010 when club founder George Shinn wanted to sell and struggled to find a local buyer. "We were starting to do better (as a community). It would have been a terrible story to lose an NBA franchise at that time."

Saints owner Tom Benson has since bought the NBA club and signed a long-term lease at New Orleans Arena, ending speculation about a possible move.

Carville and Matalin also have taken part in a range of environmental, educational, economic and cultural projects in the area. Matalin is on the board of the Water Institute of the Gulf, which aims to preserve fragile coastal wetlands that have been eroding, leaving south Louisiana ecosystems and communities increasingly vulnerable to destruction. They have supported the Institute of Politics at Loyola University and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Carville teaches a current events class at Tulane University and he looks forward to getting involved in the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 2015 and New Orleans' tercentennial celebrations in 2018, when the city also hopes to host its next Super Bowl, if the NFL sees fit.

Leading a Super Bowl host committee, the couple said, has similarities to running a major national political campaign, but takes even more work.

"This has been going on for three years and it's huge," Matalin said. "It's bigger, it's harder, it's more complex — even though it's cheaper."

The host committee spent about $13 million in private and public funds to put on this Super Bowl, and the payoff could be enormous in terms of providing a momentum boost to the metro area's growth, Carville said.

"For us — New Orleans — I think this is going to be much more than a football game Sunday," Carville said of the championship matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. "We'll know how we feel about it on Monday. It's a big event, it helps a lot of people, but I think we have a chance if it goes the way we hope it does, it'll go beyond economic impact. It'll go beyond who won the game. I think there's something significant that's coming to a point here in the city."

So there's a bit of anxiety involved, to go along with the long hours. But Carville and Matalin say they've loved having a role in what they see as New Orleans' renaissance.

"I always say I'm so humbled by everyone's gratitude," Matalin said. "We get up every day and say, 'Thank you, God. Thank you, God.' It's a blessing for us to be able to be here, to live here."

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Reality check needed on immigration?


  • Howard Kurtz: The mainstream media are rooting for immigration policy changes

  • Kurtz: Is enthusiasm causing the media to overestimate the prospects for reform?

  • He says the Republican House has been a graveyard for numerous Obama reforms

  • Kurtz: Illegal immigration still arouses visceral opposition among some Americans

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- The mainstream media -- you know who you are -- are rooting for immigration reform.

They like the idea of doing something to accommodate the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, who, despite conservative rhetoric to the contrary, were never going to be banished.

They swoon over the kind of bipartisanship that brings together John McCain and Marco Rubio on the one hand and Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer on the other.

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz

They believe the Republican Party needs to moderate its harsh rhetoric about immigrants -- if only to salvage its political future -- and are welcoming the GOP's new realism.

But is that enthusiasm causing media organizations to overestimate the prospects for reform?

Watch: Steve Kroft Plays Defense Over Hillary/Obama Lovefest on '60 Minutes'

Any bill still must pass the Republican House, which has been a graveyard for numerous Obama reforms. The Senate has always been a place where top lawmakers reach across the aisle more easily than in the polarized House, as was evident during the fiscal cliff debacle. And there are conservative groups determined to derail any path toward citizenship, which they view as amnesty.

It's not that journalists are acting as cheerleaders for the emerging plan. But when the media have qualms about an issue, they couch it as being "controversial" and "risky" (say, George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security).

Opinion: Immigrant - Can we trust Obama?

By contrast, look at the way the president's immigration speech in Las Vegas was covered:

The New York Times: "Seizing on a groundswell of support for rewriting the nation's immigration laws ..."

The Washington Post: "Obama added to momentum on Capitol Hill in favor of an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws ..."

We saw the same supportive approach when the Pentagon lifted a ban on women serving in front-line combat positions, which, despite some conservative opposition, was greeted with favorable features that largely depicted the move as long overdue.

Watch: Should N.Y. Times Have Censored Company Name Over the S-Word?

As with many perpetual Beltway disputes, the contours of a common-sense compromise on immigration have been clear for some time. The right wants tougher border enforcement and employer verification procedures. The left wants undocumented immigrants taken out of the "shadows," as Obama put it, and given a chance to become openly productive members of society.

The key are the tradeoffs. How long would a path to citizenship take? Are fines and back taxes required? How do we ensure that those who broke the law don't get an unfair advantage over legal applicants?

I don't argue with the standard political analysis that the moment may be ripe for immigration reform.

Watch: Media Seize on Emotional Moment of Gabby Giffords' Testimony

Mitt Romney, who talked about wanting immigrants to "self-deport," got clobbered among Hispanic voters. The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator, says he has "evolved" on the issue, and he's not alone.

The conservative media may be a bellwether here. After Obama's Tuesday speech, Hannity's leadoff guest was Karl Rove, the former Bush lieutenant who favors the Senate compromise. And when Rubio, the Florida senator and son of Cuban immigrants, called in to Rush Limbaugh's show, the host -- while criticizing Obama -- told him, "What you are doing is admirable and noteworthy. You are recognizing reality."

Watch: BlackBerry 10: Is It a Hit or All Thumbs?

But illegal immigration remains a divisive subject that still arouses visceral opposition among some Americans. Capitol Hill is a place where partisan maneuvering can push the government to the brink of default. And as George W. Bush learned in his second term, hammering out a compromise on such a volatile issue is maddeningly elusive.

Perhaps the election changed the landscape and both parties will find a way to compromise. In the meantime, it might be wise to take the upbeat media coverage with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

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Appeals judges: Anti-paparazzi law appears legal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An appeals panel says California’s anti-paparazzi statute appears to be constitutional based on a brief filed by prosecutors.

A preliminary statement by three judges in Los Angeles requires a judge who dismissed charges aimed at a paparazzo who authorities say was driving recklessly to review his order. The judge may stick to his ruling, which would trigger a full appeal, or he could schedule further arguments on the case against freelance photographer Paul Raef.

Raef was the first person charged under the new law after a high-speed chase involving Justin Bieber last year.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Rubinson dismissed two charges in November, ruling the law is too broad and is unconstitutional.

Raef’s attorney David S. Kestenbaum says he is asking Rubinson to stand by his ruling and allow a full appeal.

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S.Africa’s PMI at 49.1 in January

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa‘s seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers‘ Index (PMI) was at 49.1, below the key 50 mark that distinguishes contraction from expansion for the fifth straight month in January.

The employment component of the index fell to its lowest since the middle of 2011, signaling bleak prospects for job creation in manufacturing, a sector that contributes about 15 percent of GDP to Africa’s biggest economy.

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Kraft Foods sues restaurant chain over Cracker Barrel product sales

(Reuters) – Kraft Foods (KRFT.O) has filed a lawsuit against casual dining chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc (CBRL) over its decision to begin selling certain Cracker Barrel branded products outside of its restaurants and stores, court documents show.

The food manufacturer wants a marketing license agreement between Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBOCS) and the John Morrell Food Group to be declared void because it violates its rights to the Cracker Barrel brand.

The November deal with John Morrell Food, a unit of Smithfield Foods (SFD), would see select Cracker Barrel branded products sold in new retail channels besides CBOCS’s restaurants, which Kraft said would encroach upon its market.

Kraft said in the court papers on Thursday that since 1954, the only Cracker Barrel brand products offered at grocery and similar stores have come exclusively from Kraft or have been licensed by Kraft and not from the restaurant chain.

Also, Kraft said CBOCS has never made “significant sales” of refrigerated foods such as meat products under the Cracker Barrel mark in any channel of trade, other than as items on their restaurant menus.

“The parties’ market separation that has existed for decades will be eliminated,” Kraft said in its suit asking the court to quash CBOCS’s license agreement with John Morrell Food.

CBOCS could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters.

The case is: Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC vs Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc, Case No. 13-cv-00780, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)

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Stock index futures rise, focus on jobs data

LONDON (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Friday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq 100 rising 0.4 to 0.5 percent.

U.S. job growth likely picked up modestly in January and the unemployment rate held steady, supporting views a sluggish economic recovery was on track despite a surprise contraction in the final three months of 2012.

Non-farm payrolls, due at 08.30 a.m. EST, are expected to have increased by 160,000 last month after rising 155,000 in December, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The jobless rate is expected to have held steady at 7.8 percent for a third straight month.

Exxon and Chevron, the two largest U.S. oil companies, are expected to post stronger quarterly results. Other major companies announcing results include Mattel and Merck & Co. .

Dell Inc is nearing an agreement to sell itself to a buyout consortium led by founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, possibly announcing a deal as soon as Monday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Information services company Markit releases U.S. final Markit Manufacturing PMI for January at 1358 GMT. The index read 56.1 in preliminary (flash) January release.

MetLife Inc said it has agreed with Spain's BBVA to buy AFP Provida S.A., the largest private pension fund administrator in Chile, for about $2 billion in cash to expand its presence in emerging markets.

Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers release final January consumer sentiment index at 145 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 71.5 compared with 71.3 in the preliminary January report.

Google has presented detailed proposals to allay concerns about its business practices, the EU antitrust regulator said on Friday, in a move which brings the company a step closer to resolving a two-year investigation.

The Institute for Supply Management releases its January manufacturing index at 1500 GMT. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 50.6, versus 50.2 in December.

The Commerce Department releases December construction spending data at 1500 GMT. Economists forecast a rise of 0.6 percent, compared with a 0.3 percent drop in November.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co is seeking a buyer for some of its brands in Mexico and Brazil with any sale possibly bringing in as much as $750 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Kraft Foods has filed a lawsuit against casual dining chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc over its decision to begin selling certain Cracker Barrel branded products outside of its restaurants and stores, court documents show.

Economic Cycle Research Institute releases its weekly index of economic activity for January 25 at 1530 GMT. In the prior week, the index read 130.6.

Asia's manufacturers face a challenging business climate in the coming months, a clutch of surveys suggested on Friday, with China's vast factory sector managing only a shallow rebound at the start of 2013 as feeble foreign demand dragged on sales.

The euro rose broadly and stocks extended gains on Friday after better-than-expected euro zone manufacturing data fuelled optimism that the worst of the region's debt crisis had passed.

U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday on caution ahead of Friday's all-important jobs report, but the S&P 500 still posted its best monthly gain since October 2011.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 49.84 points, or 0.36 percent, at 13,860.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 3.85 points, or 0.26 percent, at 1,498.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 0.18 points, or 0.01 percent, at 3,142.13.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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2 NFL seasons since agreement, still no HGH tests

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Count Baltimore Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones among those NFL players who want the league and the union to finally agree on a way to do blood testing for human growth hormone.

"I hope guys wouldn't be cheating. That's why you do all this extra work and extra training. Unfortunately, there are probably a few guys, a handful maybe, that are on it. It's unfortunate. It takes away from the sport," Jones said.

"It would be fair to do blood testing," Jones added. "Hopefully they figure it out."

When Jones and the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday, two complete seasons will have come and gone without a single HGH test being administered, even though the league and the NFL Players Association paved the way for it in the 10-year collective bargaining agreement they signed in August 2011.

Since then, the sides have haggled over various elements, primarily the union's insistence that it needs more information about the validity of a test that is used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. HGH is a banned performance-enhancing drug that is hard to detect and has been linked to health problems such as diabetes, cardiac dysfunction and arthritis.

"If there are guys using (HGH), there definitely needs to be action taken against it, and it needs to be out of (the sport)," Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "I'm pretty sure it'll happen eventually."

At least two members of Congress want to make it happen sooner, rather than later.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith this week to chastise the union for standing in the way of HGH testing and to warn that they might ask players to testify on Capitol Hill.

Smith is scheduled to hold his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference Thursday.

"We have cooperated and been helpful to the committee on all of their requests," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "If this is something they feel strongly about, we will be happy to help them facilitate it."

Several players from the Super Bowl teams said they would be willing to talk to Congress about the issue, if asked.

"I have nothing to hide. I can't speak for anyone else in football, but I would have no problem going," said Kenny Wiggins, a 6-foot-6, 314-pound offensive lineman on San Francisco's practice squad.

But Wiggins added: "There's a lot more problems in the U.S. they should be worried about than HGH in the NFL."

That sentiment was echoed by former New York Giants offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara, who now works for the NFL Network.

"Do I think there is an HGH problem in the NFL? I don't think there is. Are there guys who are using it? I'm sure there are. But is it something Congress needs to worry about? No. We have enough educated people on both sides that can fully handle this. And if they can't, then they should be fired," said O'Hara, an NFLPA representative as a player. "I include the union in that, and I include the NFL. There is no reason we would need someone to help us facilitate this process."

Issa and Cummings apparently disagree.

In December, their committee held a hearing at which medical experts testified that the current HGH test is reliable and that the union's request for a new study is unnecessary. Neither the league nor union was invited to participate in that hearing; at the time, Issa and Cummings said they expected additional hearings.

"We are disappointed with the NFLPA's remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue," they wrote in their recent letter to Smith. "We intend to take a more active role to determine whether the position you have taken — that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable — is consistent with the beliefs of rank and file NFL players."

Atallah questioned that premise.

"To us, there is no distinction between players and the union. ... The reason we had HGH in our CBA is precisely because our players wanted us to start testing for it," Atallah said. "We are not being recalcitrant for recalcitrance sake. We are merely following the direction of our player leadership."

Wiggins and other players said no one can know for sure how much HGH use there is in the league until there is testing — but that it's important for the union's concerns about the test to be answered.

"The union decides what is best for the players," said Ravens nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who said he would be willing to go to Capitol Hill.

"I feel like some guys are on HGH," said 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis, who would rather not speak to Congress. "I personally don't care if there is testing. It's something they have to live with, knowing they cheated, and if they get (outplayed) while they're on it, it's a hit on their pride."


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BlackBerry must remember strengths


  • BlackBerry sales have slumped in the U.S. but is still strong in emerging markets

  • New models launched should remember why they are popular in developing world

  • In places like Brazil and South Africa, the 10 is the update to their current phone

  • in Sub-Saharan Africa there is expected to be 175 million new customers in the next 3 years

Watch Jim Clancy on CNN International's "The Brief" at 4p.m. ET GMT Friday.

(CNN) -- BlackBerry's loss of market share in the U.S. is the stuff of legends. Last fall, it was estimated only about 2% of American phone users were still carrying their BlackBerry mobile with its iconic keypad.

But consider this: sub-Saharan Africa is expected to add 175 million new mobile users in just the coming 3 years. That's according to the GSMA, which represents the world's mobile operators.

"Mobile has already revolutionized African society and yet demand still continues to grow by almost 50 percent a year," said Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, GSMA.

That could be good news indeed for BlackBerry. Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, estimates it holds a 70% market share in countries like South Africa.

The company's new phones, announced this week, are not the ones some of its best customers in emerging markets would like to buy. They're too expensive. But Research in Motion -- which also this week changed its company name to BlackBerry -- is pledging some of its six new models will address that.

While millions in China, Europe and the U.S. have adopted Android or iOS smartphones with a vengeance, millions more users in emerging markets are enthused about what's in store for the new BlackBerry 10. It's the update for what many of them are already using.

They live in countries like Brazil, Malaysia, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. They have embraced the BlackBerry for a combination of factors that all point to the different way mobile devices are used.

Unlike their counterparts in Europe and America, the mobile in their pocket is more likely to be their primary link to the internet.

BlackBerry Messenger is the connection that allows these users unlimited conversations without paying charges for SMS data. While young, brand-conscious Chinese may be willing to part with several months' salary to buy the latest iPhone, African users are looking for more practical (and cheaper) connections.

What separates developed countries from their developing counterparts at street level can be summed up in a single word: infrastructure.

Isobel Coleman, senior fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations, says mobile technology has proved it can bridge the gap where infrastructure is lacking.

"It's a culture, it's an economy, it's innovation, education, healthcare, it's all of these things," says Coleman.

You can take that to the bank. For many Africans, their cell phone account is the first bank account they've ever owned.

In emerging markets, mobile phone banking is growing because of the lack of infrastructure. Fewer bank branches often mean long distances to travel and long lines once you've arrived.

Africans are expected to transfer more than $200 billion per year or 18% of the continent's GDP by 2015.

Oh, and that keyboard. No matter where you are in the world, there will always be a demand for a keyboard that clicks. The company appears to understand that as BlackBerry 10 models come with both soft keypads and the traditional BlackBerry buttons.

I asked some of my Twitter followers to weigh in on the BlackBerry 10 roll out. While some said Android or Apple's iOS were in their future plans, many others expressed continued enthusiasm for the BlackBerry.

Soji, a pianist and teacher in Nigeria tweeted back "I'm falling in love with this BB. Cheaper to own."

From Kuala Lumpur, Amir wrote "I need a physical keyboard to type while also having a touch-screen for photos etc. Security factor also important."

Hans-Eric from South Africa reinforced the sentiments of many mobile users in emerging markets: "The cost of data is simply too high without it (BlackBerry.)"

The voices from emerging markets couldn't have been clearer. What they expect from BlackBerry 10 is a stronger, longer lasting battery, durability and continued low cost connectivity.

CFR's Coleman agrees that BlackBerry (and anyone else) trying to win and hold this mobile device sector has to understand how these devices are being used and give the customers what they want.

"Cheap. Rugged. Not too many bells and whistles. Practical."

There is little doubt smartphones are changing the way people use the internet, how they bank, shop and interact socially.

But it's worth keeping in perspective that in a world where there are now an estimated 1 billion smartphones, there are 5 billion feature phone users. That's a lot of upside growth potential for BlackBerry and all the other players out there.

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‘How I Met Your Mother’ gets final season – and reveals the mother

NEW YORK ( – “How I Met Your Mother” will be back for a ninth and final season that will reveal – finally – who the mother is.

CBS and 20th Century Fox Television announced Wednesday that the series would be back for one final go-round with series regulars Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan, as well as series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas.

For eight years, viewers have wondered about the identity of the titular mother – and she will finally be revealed in the final season.

“Through eight years, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has mastered the art of leading-edge comedy, emotional water-cooler moments and pop culture catch phrases,” said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. “We are excited for Carter, Craig, Pam Fryman and this amazing cast to tell the final chapter and reveal television’s most mysterious mother to some of TV’s most passionate fans.”

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If the Xbox Came to China, Would the Chinese Notice?

Twenty-four-year-old Zhu, a banker in southwestern China, took time Tuesday out of his busy schedule working for one of China’s leading banks and playing five to six hours of video games a week, to share his gaming ambitions. He loves the multiplayer online game World of Tanks—which has 45 million registered users worldwide—plays mostly alongside close friends, primarily uses his own laptop, and usually commands digital armored vehicles on weekends.

However, he wasn’t all that excited about rumors that the Chinese government might lift a ban on legal imports of video game consoles—a tidbit first attributed to an unnamed source in the state-run and sometimes unintentionally hilarious China Daily on Monday, and subsequently picked up by Reuters and other Western outlets. It’s not clear there’s anything to the chatter, as a second culture official denied the report to Reuters. Still, the news item did give an apparent next-day boost to the Tokyo-listed stock prices of Nintendo and Sony (SNE), which make the popular Wii and PlayStation game consoles (a rare instance of state-run Chinese media helping Japanese companies).

If the rumor were true, would it have much impact—is China home to millions of Xbox-deprived youth? Zhu says the ban hasn’t proven a huge impediment to him: It’s “not difficult to get a PlayStation Portable or Xbox in China. … I believe most of them are smuggled.”

His friend in Chengdu and fellow gamer, Deng, who is 24, works for a family business, plays six to seven hours per week, and favors the online game World of Warcraft (it has about 9 million global subscribers). He in fact already owns a Sony PlayStation—there’s “no problem purchasing it in China.” However, Deng adds, “I don’t really use it very often.” The reason is telling: “Unlike online games, PlayStations have no friends’ connections”—in other words, most of his friends don’t own them, and so they can’t play together simultaneously.

Gaming culture in China has evolved as something distinctly social. Maybe it’s seen as antisocial to outsiders—but among gamers, it’s clear that you play with friends, both side by side and remotely. (Zhu and Deng are often joined online by a hometown friend who now lives in Australia.) The current equipment they have—a computer with an Internet connection—works just fine, say Zhu and Deng. At present, they wouldn’t want to sacrifice connectivity for additional features.

The sale of actual video game consoles has been illegal in mainland China since 2000. The official reason is to shield youth from bad influences. Several industry analysts, however, suspect the real reason may in part be protectionist, as the leading makers of game consoles are Japanese and American companies: Nintendo (NTDOY), Sony, and Microsoft (MSFT).

The ban certainly hasn’t done much to stop the explosion of gaming culture in China, which has evolved to focus on multiplayer online gaming. The total revenue for online computer games has ballooned, according to data from Niko Partners, a California-based consultancy focused on the Asian video game market, from about $ 10 million in 2001 to $ 9.4 billion in 2012. Lisa Cosmas Hanson, the company’s founder and managing partner, estimates there are now 30 million to 40 million people in China who spend more then 22 hours a week playing video games—she classifies them as “hard-core gamers.” (Those who play more than 30 hours a week are labeled “super hard-core gamers.”) Roughly 70 percent of hard-core gamers are men. Many others, male and female, play games more casually, for instance, on mobile phones.

“The games that work better on computers become the most popular in China,” says Charlie Custer, editor of the Tech in Asia online news site. Consoles “don’t do the kinds of online games that Chinese gamers like the most: massively multiplayer online role-playing game, with thousands of people all playing the same game online at the same time.” These games generate revenue either through subscription models or, Custer explains, “based on in-game transactions—for example, the sale of special weapons or costume items.”

Even if it were legal to stock Xboxes in Chinese hypermarkets—and even if Chinese gaming tastes evolved to create a demand—Michael Pachter of the financial-services and investment firm Wedbush Securities says, “You still can’t make money with the current business model … because of piracy.” Typically, “game consoles are sold at low prices, or a loss, and the money is made on software sales.” But that requires a level of anti-piracy enforcement not present in China today. “I don’t know that Sony or Nintendo are ever going to make a large profit on games in China.”

Hanson says she speaks regularly with officials from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which jointly oversee regulations pertinent to gaming in China, including the console import ban. Although rumors from time to time emerge that a change might be coming, she says, “Right now, I see no reason to suspect the ban will be lifted.”

Zhu and Deng aren’t holding their breath either. Besides, they have digital armies to command—alongside World of Tank’s 45 million other online users.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor. — Top News

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German jitters hit European shares, euro

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares fell for a second straight day and the euro halted its recent rally, as weak German retail sales and poor earnings at its biggest bank added to investors' nerves after a shock fourth quarter contraction in the U.S. economy.

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. GDP slipped back 0.1 percent, though the country's central bank, the Federal Reserve, indicated the pullback was likely to be brief as it repeated its pledge to continue providing support.

European shares, which have surged 3.7 percent this month, took their biggest daily hit of the year on Wednesday, and a plunge in German retail sales, stagnant French consumer spending and a huge quarterly loss at Deutsche Bank dashed hopes of a quick rebound.

The mood blackened through the morning, leaving London's FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi> down 0.3 to 0.6 percent by 5:15 a.m. ET. The MSCI world share index <.miwd00000pus> was down 0.1 percent despite shares in Asia posting modest gains. <.l><.eu><.n/>

"Perhaps the German retail sales have contributed a little bit, but we knew that Q4 was weak, so I would it attribute it more to earnings news," said Chris Scicluna, an economist at Daiwa Capital Markets.

"The Deutsche Bank loss does look to be on the sizable side. There has clearly been some mismatch between financial markets and the real economy so that does lend itself to a bit of a pullback."

In the currency market, the German jitters also put the euro under pressure and halted its recent 4 percent rally.

It had started to show signs of stabilization by mid-morning but remained well short of Wednesday's 14-month high of $1.3588 at $1.3560. The Federal Reserve's promise of continued support was widely expected to mitigate the fall, however, by keeping downward pressure on the dollar.

Evidence of that pull was seen as the dollar slipped 0.2 percent against the yen to 90.88 yen, having hit its strongest level since 2010 on Wednesday. Market focus now turns to Friday's monthly U.S. employment report.


The nervy market atmosphere also pushed up Spanish and Italian government bond yields as some investors switched from higher-yielding debt into German Bunds.

Spanish 10-year yields rose 10 basis points on the day to 5.31 percent, while equivalent Italian debt rose 10 bps to 4.38 percent.

German Bund futures were half a point higher, spurred on by the Fed's determination to maintain its policy of stimulus for the U.S. economy.

The downbeat European mood also began to creep into commodities markets, though investors seemed broadly happy to stick with the bigger picture view that the global economy is gradually regaining strength.

Risky assets such as equities, commodities, and high-yield debt have risen sharply in the past six months as growth in emerging economies like China has picked up and fears of a collapse of the euro have been calmed by the European Central Bank.

Spot gold drifted down to $1,675 an ounce, having hit a one-week high on Wednesday, while oil prices inched down 23 cents to just under $115 per barrel, still well above their starting price this year of $110 a barrel.

And there was no sign of weakness in growth-attuned copper as it marched to its highest level since October.

"We are still quite confident about a Chinese copper demand recovery in the first half, and we have seen evidence of pent-up demand, so the downside risk is limited," said Henry Liu, head of commodity research at Mirae Asset Securities in Hong Kong.

"But exceeding $8,500 this year might be a challenge, because domestic inventories are quite high," he added.

(Additional reporting by Richard Hubbard and Melanie Burton in Singapore; Editing by Will Waterman)

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A-Rod implicated in PED use again as MLB probes

NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez is in the middle of Major League Baseball's latest doping investigation after an alternative weekly newspaper reported baseball's highest-paid star was among the big leaguers listed in the records of a Florida clinic the paper said sold performance-enhancing drugs.

The Miami New Times said Tuesday that the three-time AL MVP bought human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing substances during 2009-12 from Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Cables, Fla., near Rodriguez's offseason home.

The new public relations firm for the New York Yankees third baseman issued a statement denying the allegations.

New Times said it obtained records detailing purchases by Rodriguez, 2012 All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera, 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and 2011 AL championship series MVP Nelson Cruz of Texas.

Cabrera left San Francisco after the season to sign with Toronto, while Oakland re-signed Colon.

Other baseball players the newspaper said appeared in the records include Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young Award voting, and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Biogenesis, which the New Times said was run by Anthony Bosch, was located in a beige, nondescript office park. The former clinic is no longer listed as a business in its directory,

"There was a flier put out by the building management a couple weeks ago. It was put on all the doors and windows of all the offices," said Brad Nickel, who works in a cruise planning company on the floor above where the clinic was located. "It just said this guy's not really a doctor, he doesn't belong here, he's no longer allowed here, call the police or the building management if you see him."

The New Times posted copies of what it said were Bosch's handwritten records, obtained through a former Biogenesis employee it did not identify.

Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said in a statement the New Times report "is filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact."

"Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him," she said.

Rodriguez appears 16 times in the documents New Times received, the paper said, either as "Alex Rodriguez," ''Alex Rod" or the nickname "Cacique," a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief.

Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs from 2001-03. Cabrera, Colon and Grandal were suspended for 50 games each last year by MLB following tests for elevated testosterone. Responding to the testosterone use, MLB and the players' union said Jan. 10 they were authorizing the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory outside Montreal to store each major leaguer's baseline testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in order to detect abnormalities.

"We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances," MLB said in a statement. "Only law enforcement officials have the capacity to reach those outside the game who are involved in the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. ... We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information."

A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Monday that MLB did not have any documentation regarding the allegations. If MLB does obtain evidence, the players could be subject to discipline. First offenses result in a 50-game suspension and second infractions in 100-game penalties. A third violation results in a lifetime ban.

Rodriguez is sidelined for at least the first half of the season after hip surgery Jan. 16. A 50-game suspension would cost him $7.65 million of his $28 million salary.

"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true," Rodriguez said in a statement issued by a publicist. "He was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate."

Jay Reisinger, a lawyer who has represented Rodriguez in recent years, said the three-time AL MVP had retained Roy Black, an attorney from Rodriguez's hometown of Miami. Black's clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith.

Bosch did not return a phone message seeking comment.

MLB hopes to gain the cooperation of Bosch and others connected with the clinic, another baseball official said, also on condition of anonymity because no public statements on the matter were authorized. In order to successfully discipline players based on the records, witnesses would be needed to authenticate them, the official said.

Players could be asked to appear before MLB for interviews, but the official said MLB would be reluctant to request interviews before it has more evidence.

Rodriguez spent years denying he used PEDs before Sports Illustrated reported in February 2009 that he tested positive for two steroids in MLB's anonymous survey while with the Texas Rangers in 2003. Two days later, he admitted in an ESPN interview that he used PEDs over a three-year period. He has denied using PEDs after 2003.

If the new allegations were true, the Yankees would face high hurdles to get out of the final five years and $114 million of Rodriguez's record $275 million, 10-year contract. Because management and the players' union have a joint drug agreement, an arbitrator could determine that any action taken by the team amounted to multiple punishments for the same offense.

But if Rodriguez were to end his career because of the injury, about 85 percent of the money owed by the Yankees would be covered by insurance, one of the baseball officials said.

Gonzalez, 21-8 for the Washington Nationals last season, posted on his Twitter feed: "I've never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will, I've never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. anything said to the contrary is a lie."

Colon was not issuing a statement, agent Adam Katz said through spokeswoman Lisa Cohen.

"We are aware of certain allegations and inferences," Cruz's law firm, Farrell & Reisinger, said in a statement. "To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied."

Cruz and Gonzalez had not previously been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz hit 24 home runs last year for the Rangers.

The New Times report said it obtained notes by Bosch listing the players' names and the substances they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed to the publication that the clinic distributed the substances, the paper said. The employees said that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes but that they never saw the sports stars in the office.

The paper said the records list that Rodriguez paid for HGH; testosterone cream; IGF-1, a substance banned by baseball that stimulates insulin production; and GHRP, which releases growth hormones.


Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Coral Cables, Fla., and Curt Anderson in Miami, and AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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