Wall Street Week Ahead: A lump of coal for "Fiscal Cliff-mas"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street traders are going to have to pack their tablets and work computers in their holiday luggage after all.

A traditionally quiet week could become hellish for traders as politicians in Washington are likely to fall short of an agreement to deal with $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts due to kick in early next year. Many economists forecast that this "fiscal cliff" will push the economy into recession.

Thursday's debacle in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner failed to secure passage of his own bill that was meant to pressure President Obama and Senate Democrats, only added to worry that the protracted budget talks will stretch into 2013.

Still, the market remains resilient. Friday's decline on Wall Street, triggered by Boehner's fiasco, was not enough to prevent the S&P 500 from posting its best week in four.

"The markets have been sort of taking this in stride," said Sandy Lincoln, chief market strategist at BMO Asset Management U.S. in Chicago, which has about $38 billion in assets under management.

"The markets still basically believe that something will be done," he said.

If something happens next week, it will come in a short time frame. Markets will be open for a half-day on Christmas Eve, when Congress will not be in session, and will close on Tuesday for Christmas. Wall Street will resume regular stock trading on Wednesday, but volume is expected to be light throughout the rest of the week with scores of market participants away on a holiday break.

For the week, the three major U.S. stock indexes posted gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> up 0.4 percent, the S&P 500 <.spx> up 1.2 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> up 1.7 percent.

Stocks also have booked solid gains for the year so far, with just five trading sessions left in 2012: The Dow has advanced 8 percent, while the S&P 500 has climbed 13.7 percent and the Nasdaq has jumped 16 percent.


Equity volumes are expected to fall sharply next week. Last year, daily volume on each of the last five trading days dropped on average by about 49 percent, compared with the rest of 2011 - to just over 4 billion shares a day exchanging hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT in the final five sessions of the year from a 2011 daily average of 7.9 billion.

If the trend repeats, low volumes could generate a spike in volatility as traders keep track of any advance in the cliff talks in Washington.

"I'm guessing it's going to be a low volume week. There's not a whole lot other than the fiscal cliff that is going to continue to take the headlines," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, in Cincinnati.

"A lot of people already have a foot out the door, and with the possibility of some market-moving news, you get the possibility of increased volatility."

Economic data would have to be way off the mark to move markets next week. But if the recent trend of better-than-expected economic data holds, stocks will have strong fundamental support that could prevent selling from getting overextended even as the fiscal cliff negotiations grind along.

Small and mid-cap stocks have outperformed their larger peers in the last couple of months, indicating a shift in investor sentiment toward the U.S. economy. The S&P MidCap 400 Index <.mid> overcame a technical level by confirming its close above 1,000 for a second week.

"We view the outperformance of the mid-caps and the break of that level as a strong sign for the overall market," Schaeffer's Bell said.

"Whenever you have flight to risk, it shows investors are beginning to have more of a risk appetite."

Evidence of that shift could be a spike in shares in the defense sector, expected to take a hit as defense spending is a key component of the budget talks.

The PHLX defense sector index <.dfx> hit a historic high on Thursday, and far outperformed the market on Friday with a dip of just 0.26 percent, while the three major U.S. stock indexes finished the day down about 1 percent.

Following a half-day on Wall Street on Monday ahead of the Christmas holiday, Wednesday will bring the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. It is expected to show a ninth-straight month of gains.

U.S. jobless claims on Thursday are seen roughly in line with the previous week's level, with the forecast at 360,000 new filings for unemployment insurance, compared with the previous week's 361,000.

(Wall St Week Ahead runs every Friday. Questions or comments on this column can be emailed to: rodrigo.campos(at)thomsonreuters.com)

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)

Read More..

Falcons top Lions 31-18 for home-field advantage

DETROIT (AP) — Matt Ryan got what he wanted, helping the Atlanta Falcons win a game they needed to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Calvin Johnson had to settle for having a record-breaking night in yet another Detroit loss.

Ryan matched a career high with four touchdown passes, two to Roddy White, and Atlanta led from start to finish in a 31-18 victory over the Lions on Saturday night.

Johnson broke Jerry Rice's NFL single-season yards receiving mark of 1,848. Johnson also became the only player with 100 yards receiving in eight straight games and the first with 10 receptions in four games in a row in league history. He had 11 receptions for 225 yards, giving him 1,892 this season.

The Falcons (13-2) pulled away with Ryan's fourth TD pass to wide-open tight end Michael Palmer in the fourth quarter and Matt Bryant's 20-yard field goal with 3:05 left that gave them a 15-point lead.

Ryan was 25 of 32 for 279 yards without a turnover.

Detroit (4-11) dropped its seventh straight game.

Read More..

Three Spaceflyers Arrive at International Space Station

This story was updated Dec. 21 at 9:10 a.m. EST.

The three newest residents of the International Space Station arrived at the high-flying laboratory Friday morning (Dec. 21) aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

At 9:09 a.m. EST (1409 GMT) the capsule delivered Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield — who will become the station’s first Canadian commander — as well as Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn. The spaceflyers’ journey started Wednesday (Dec. 19) when they launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome at 7:12 a.m. EST (1212 GMT).

After docking, the astronauts will perform leak checks on the seal between their Soyuz TMA-07M capsule and the space station‘s docking port on the Rassvet module. These checks should take about two hours, clearing the way for the hatches between the two vehicles to be opened at around 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT).

You can watch the docking and hatch opening of the Soyuz live here via SPACE.com’s NASA TV feed. The broadcast began at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT), and will be followed by live hatch opening coverage at 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT). [Expedition 34 Launch in Pictures]

Complete crew

Three crewmembers are already living onboard the space station awaiting the new arrivals: commander Kevin Ford of NASA, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, both flight engineers for the station’s Expedition 34 mission. Now that the new trio has joined them, the Expedition 34 team is complete, bringing the orbiting laboratory back up to its usual six-person crew complement.

Romanenko, who has flown to the space station once before, said that a six-person team is key for the kind of work they want to do in the lab.

“I think we need to continue as we’ve been doing, six people per increment,” Romanenko, a veteran of one previous trip to space, said in a preflight interview with NASA. “I think this will again maximize the number of experiments that we do on station. Also, this will facilitate the process of adapting to space. It will help us develop skills that we’ll be able to use when flying people to other planets.”

While working and living in orbit, the spaceflyers will be responsible for monitoring the 110 experiments onboard, as well as keeping their bodies in shape, and performing maintenance to keep the station running smoothly.

First Canadian commander

In March 2013, Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin will head back to Earth, leaving Marshburn, Romanenko and Hadfield alone on the space station to begin the Expedition 35 mission. At this point, Hadfield will take over for Ford as mission commander, making him the first Canadian astronaut to hold that position on the orbiting complex.

“It’s a big deal for me, but also it’s a big deal for my country, for my space agency and for where I’m from, and I’m happy that people are interested in it,” Hadfield said in a preflight NASA interview.

This flight marks Hadfield’s third trip to space, and second visit to the International Space Station.

“I’m really looking forward to not just visiting space but moving to Earth orbit and having all of the internal changes, the understanding and the revelation that comes with that,” Hadfield said during a preflight interview with NASA. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Before joining the astronaut corps in 2004, Marshburn worked as a flight surgeon for NASA. He flew to the space station once before, in 2009, on the STS-127 space shuttle mission.

“I’ve experienced 11 days docked at the space station, 16 days in space on my last flight, so getting back to life in zero gravity, that is never boring, everything from putting on your clothes to brushing your teeth to working to transfer of hardware, all of its fun in zero-g,” Marshburn told NASA before the launch. “I can’t wait to do that again.”

Follow Miriam Kramer on Twitter @mirikramer or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Space and Astronomy News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Three Spaceflyers Arrive at International Space Station

based on 99998 ratings.
5 user reviews.
Author: Fluser SeoLink
Thanks for visiting the blog, If any criticism and suggestions please leave a comment

Read More..

Will media stay on gun story?


  • Howard Kurtz: Conventional wisdom is that media will lose interest in guns

  • He says that's been the pattern of media behavior after Columbine, other shootings

  • This time seems like it might be different, he says

  • Kurtz: Reporters profoundly shaken by story, should stay on it

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 conventional wisdom is that Newtown has just a few more days to run as a major media story.

The reporters are pulling out of the grief-stricken Connecticut town, which means no more live shots every hour. The White House press corps responded to President Obama's announcement Wednesday of a task force on gun control with the first three reporters asking about the impending fiscal cliff. And after every previous mass shooting, from Columbine to Aurora, the media's attention has soon drifted away.

But I believe this time will be different.

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz

I believe the horror of 20 young children being gunned down has pricked the conscience of those in the news business, along with the rest of America.

I could be wrong, of course. The press is notorious for suffering from ADD.

But every conversation I've had with journalists has quickly drifted to this subject and just as quickly turned intense. Most have talked about how their thoughts have centered on their children, and grandchildren, and the unspeakable fear of anything happening to them. All have spoken about how hard it is to watch the coverage, and many have recalled crying as they watch interviews with the victims' families, or even when Obama teared up while addressing the nation.

Watch: Blaming Jon Stewart for the Newtown Shootings?

I've watched Fox's Megyn Kelly choke back tears on the air after watching an interview from Newtown. I've heard CNN's Don Lemon admit that he is on the verge of crying all the time. I've seen MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, say that day in Connecticut "changed everything" and prompted him to rethink his longstanding opposition to gun control, which earned him top ratings from the NRA.

Maybe Newtown will be the 9/11 of school safety.

Watch: Media Fantasy: Touting Ben Affleck (Uh Huh) for the Senate

The media paid scant attention to gun control in the past, in part because of a conviction that the NRA would block any reform on Capitol Hill. At the same time, they took their cue from the fact that officeholders in both parties were avoiding the issue at all costs—Republicans because they mainly support the status quo, Democrats because they mostly deem it political poison.

But since when is it our job solely to take dictation from pols? When it comes to subjects like climate change and same-sex marriage, the press has been out ahead of the political establishment. Given the carnage in Newtown as the latest example, journalists should demand whether we can do better. The fact that Obama now promises to submit gun legislation to Congress will help the narrative, but it shouldn't be a mandatory requirement for coverage.

Watch: From Joe Scarborough to Rush Limbaugh, the conservative media meltdown

This is not a plea for a press-driven crusade for gun control. In fact, it's imperative that journalists be seen as honest brokers who are fair to all sides. MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, in an interview with Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who opposes gun restrictions, said: "So we need to just be complacent in the fact that we can send our children to school to be assassinated." That is demonization, just as some conservative pundits are unfairly accusing liberal commentators who push for gun control of "politicizing" a tragedy or of pushing God out of the public schools.

The question of school safety extends beyond guns to mental illness and societal influences. With even some NRA supporters asking why law-abiding hunters need automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines, it's time for a nuanced debate that goes beyond the usual finger-pointing. Bob Costas got hammered for using an NFL murder-suicide to raise the gun issue during a halftime commentary, but he was right to broach the subject.

Here is where the media have not just an opportunity but a responsibility. The news business has no problem giving saturation coverage to such salacious stories as David Petraeus' dalliance with Paula Broadwell. Isn't keeping our children safe from lunatics far more important by an order of magnitude?

I think the press is up to the challenge. Based on what I've heard in the voices of people in the profession, they will not soon forget what happened in Newtown. And they shouldn't let the rest of us forget either.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

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

Read More..

Some states move to ease gun rules

WASHINGTON — As Congress gears up for a fight over possible new gun restrictions, lawmakers in some states have pushed in the opposite direction — to ease gun rules — since the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 first-graders and six women at a school in Newtown, Conn.

None exactly matched the proposal Friday by Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Assn., to train and deploy armed volunteers to help guard schools around the country.

Legislation has been proposed, however, to allow teachers or other school workers to carry firearms in schools in at least seven states: Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

"I want a last line of defense," said Jason Villalba, a Republican and newly elected Texas state representative who plans to introduce the Protection of Texas Children Act to allow schools to designate staff members as armed "marshals" provided they undergo special training.

Some lawmakers have gone further, proposing that any teacher with a permit to carry a concealed weapon be allowed to bring it into school.

"It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended — to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," said Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough, a Republican who plans to sponsor legislation to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in schools after they undergo training.

Several states have pushed for stiffer regulations. In California, lawmakers have proposed strengthening already tough state gun laws, including requiring a permit and background checks for anyone who wants to buy bullets.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed gun owners with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms into schools and other public places. Snyder objected that it didn't let institutions opt out and prohibit weapons on their grounds.

The different legislative responses underscore the difficulty of reaching a political consensus on guns, an issue that often divides lawmakers by geography as much as party affiliation.

Support for gun control measures is much higher in Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West than in Republican bastions in the Midwest and South, according to polls. But sometimes the divisions are much closer.

Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, a Democrat, complains about "too many guns" and plans to seek gun control legislation.

In neighboring Virginia, Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican, said the idea of arming school personnel was worth a discussion.

"If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the school," McDonnell told WTOP radio in Washington.

The idea of arming teachers or administrators has drawn plenty of criticism.

"I've not heard from a single teacher or administrator who said that they want to go to school armed with a gun," said Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Assn.

"Why in the world would you even think of doing this?" added Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Assn. He said Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown "did everything right. … But you can't stop somebody with an automatic assault rifle from shooting out a window and coming through."

Betty Olson, a Republican state representative in South Dakota who proposes allowing teachers with concealed weapon permits to bring their firearms into schools, said she had gotten a favorable response.

"We've got a few anti-gun liberals who think that that's crazy, allowing anybody with a gun into the school," she said. "Never mind those lunatics."

South Carolina state Rep. Phillip D. Lowe, a Republican who proposes to allow concealed weapon permit holders who undergo rigorous training to bring guns into school, agreed.

"There's always some people who are opposed to anything with the letters G-U-N," he said.


Boehner's 'fiscal cliff' plan fails

Obama nominates Sen. John Kerry as secretary of State

Obama criticized over Chuck Hagel candidacy for Defense secretary 


Read More..

Egypt's constitution approved in vote, say rival camps

CAIRO (Reuters) - A constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly was approved by a majority of Egyptians in a referendum, rival camps said on Sunday, after a vote the opposition said drove a wedge through the Arab world's most populous nation.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power in a June election, said 64 percent of voters backed the charter after two rounds of voting that ended with a final ballot on Saturday. It cited an unofficial tally.

An opposition official also told Reuters their unofficial count showed the result was a "yes" vote.

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals. If the outcome is confirmed, a parliamentary election will follow in about two months.

Mursi's Islamist backers say the constitution is vital for the transition to democracy, nearly two years after the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in an uprising. It will provide stability needed to help a fragile economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Mursi of pushing through a text that favors Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women. They say it is a recipe for further unrest.

"According to our calculations, the final result of the second round is 71 percent voting 'yes' and the overall result (of the two rounds) is 63.8 percent," a Brotherhood official, who was in an operations room monitoring the vote, told Reuters.

His figures were confirmed by a statement issued shortly afterwards by the group and broadcast on its television channel.

The Brotherhood and its party, as well as members of the opposition, had representatives monitoring polling stations and the vote count across the country.

The opposition said voting in both rounds was marred by abuses and had called for a re-run after the first stage. However, an official said the overall vote favored the charter.

"They (Islamists) are ruling the country, running the vote and influencing the people, so what else could we expect," the senior official from the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, told Reuters.


The vote was split over two days as many judges had refused to supervise the ballot.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stockbroker, heading to a polling station in Giza, in greater Cairo, in the last round.

At another polling station, some voters said they were more interested in ending Egypt's long period of political instability than in the Islamist aspects of the charter.

"We have to extend our hands to Mursi to help fix the country," said Hisham Kamal, an accountant.

The build-up to the vote witnessed deadly protests, sparked by Mursi's decision to award himself extra powers in a decree on November 22 and then to fast-track the constitution to a vote.

Hours before polls closed, Vice President Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation. He said he wanted to quit last month but stayed on to help Mursi tackle the crisis that blew up when the Islamist leader assumed wide powers.

Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier he had not been informed of Mursi's power grab. The timing of his resignation appeared linked to the lack of a vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.

The new basic law sets a limit of two four-year presidential terms. It says the principles of Islamist sharia law remain the main source of legislation but adds an article to explain this. It also says Islamic authorities will be consulted on sharia - a source of concern to Christians and others.


Rights groups reported what they said were illegalities in voting procedures. They said some polling stations opened late, that Islamists illegally campaigned at some polling places and complained of irregularities in voter registration.

But the committee overseeing the two-stage vote said its investigations showed no major irregularities in voting on December 15, which covered about half of Egypt's 51 million voters. About 25 million were eligible to vote in the second round.

The Brotherhood said turnout was about a third of voters.

The opposition says the constitution will stir up more trouble on the streets since it has not received sufficiently broad backing for a document that should be agreed by consensus, and raised questions about the fairness of the vote.

In the first round, the district covering most of Cairo voted "no," which opponents said showed the depth of division.

"I see more unrest," said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a member of the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition formed after Mursi expanded his powers on November 22 and then pushed the constitution to a vote.

He cited "serious violations" on the first day of voting, and said anger against Mursi was growing. "People are not going to accept the way they are dealing with the situation."

At least eight people were killed in protests outside the presidential palace in Cairo this month. Islamists and rivals clashed in Alexandria, the second-biggest city, on the eves of both voting days.

Late on Saturday, Mursi announced the names of 90 new members he had appointed to the upper house of parliament, state media reported, and a presidential official said the list was mainly liberals and other non-Islamists.

A spokesman for the National Salvation Front, which groups opponents who include liberals, socialists and other parties and politicians, said the Front's members had refused to take part.

Legislative powers, now held by Mursi because the lower house of parliament was dissolved earlier this year, will pass to the upper house under the new constitution.

Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote this year, with one third appointed by the president. Mursi, elected in June, had not named them until now. Mursi's Islamist party and its allies dominate the assembly.

(Writing by Edmund Blair and Giles Elgood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Todd Eastham)

Read More..

Douglas wins AP female athlete of the year honors

When Gabby Douglas allowed herself to dream of being the Olympic champion, she imagined having a nice little dinner with family and friends to celebrate. Maybe she'd make an appearance here and there.

"I didn't think it was going to be crazy," Douglas said, laughing. "I love it. But I realized my perspective was going to have to change."

Just a bit.

The teenager has become a worldwide star since winning the Olympic all-around title in London, the first African-American gymnast to claim gymnastics' biggest prize. And now she has earned another honor. Douglas was selected The Associated Press' female athlete of the year, edging out swimmer Missy Franklin in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors that was announced Friday.

"I didn't realize how much of an impact I made," said Douglas, who turns 17 on Dec. 31. "My mom and everyone said, 'You really won't know the full impact until you're 30 or 40 years old.' But it's starting to sink in."

In a year filled with standout performances by female athletes, those of the pint-sized gymnast shined brightest. Douglas received 48 of 157 votes, seven more than Franklin, who won four gold medals and a bronze in London. Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open two years after her career was nearly derailed by a series of health problems, was third (24).

Britney Griner, who led Baylor to a 40-0 record and the NCAA title, and skier Lindsey Vonn each got 18 votes. Sprinter Allyson Felix, who won three gold medals in London, and Carli Lloyd, who scored both U.S. goals in the Americans' 2-1 victory over Japan in the gold-medal game, also received votes.

"One of the few years the women's (Athlete of the Year) choices are more compelling than the men's," said Julie Jag, sports editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Douglas is the fourth gymnast to win one of the AP's annual awards, which began in 1931, and first since Mary Lou Retton in 1984. She also finished 15th in voting for the AP sports story of the year.

Douglas wasn't even in the conversation for the Olympic title at the beginning of the year. That all changed in March when she upstaged reigning world champion and teammate Jordyn Wieber at the American Cup in New York, showing off a new vault, an ungraded uneven bars routine and a dazzling personality that would be a hit on Broadway and Madison Avenue.

She finished a close second to Wieber at the U.S. championships, then beat her two weeks later at the Olympic trials. With each competition, her confidence grew. So did that smile.

By the time the Americans got to London, Douglas had emerged as the most consistent gymnast on what was arguably the best team the U.S. has ever had.

She posted the team's highest score on all but one event in qualifying. She was the only gymnast to compete in all four events during team finals, when the Americans beat the Russians in a rout for their second Olympic title, and first since 1996. Two nights later, Douglas claimed the grandest prize of all, joining Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin as what Bela Karolyi likes to call the "Queen of Gymnastics."

But while plenty of other athletes won gold medals in London, none captivated the public quite like Gabby.

Fans ask for hugs in addition to photographs and autographs, and people have left restaurants and cars upon spotting her. She made Barbara Walters' list of "10 Most Fascinating People," and Forbes recently named her one of its "30 Under 30." She has deals with Nike, Kellogg Co. and AT&T, and agent Sheryl Shade said Douglas has drawn interest from companies that don't traditionally partner with Olympians or athletes.

"She touched so many people of all generations, all diversities," Shade said. "It's her smile, it's her youth, it's her excitement for life. ... She transcends sport."

Douglas' story is both heartwarming and inspiring, its message applicable those young or old, male or female, active or couch potato. She was just 14 when she convinced her mother to let her leave their Virginia Beach, Va., home and move to West Des Moines, Iowa, to train with Liang Chow, Shawn Johnson's coach. Though her host parents, Travis and Missy Parton, treated Douglas as if she was their fifth daughter, Douglas was so homesick she considered quitting gymnastics.

She's also been open about her family's financial struggles, hoping she can be a role model for lower income children.

"I want people to think, 'Gabby can do it, I can do it,'" Douglas said. "Set that bar. If you're going through struggles or injuries, don't let it stop you from what you want to accomplish."

The grace she showed under pressure — both on and off the floor — added to her appeal. When some fans criticized the way she wore her hair during the Olympics, Douglas simply laughed it off.

"They can say whatever they want. We all have a voice," she said. "I'm not going to focus on it. I'm not really going to focus on the negative."

Besides, she's having far too much fun.

Her autobiography, "Grace, Gold and Glory," is No. 4 on the New York Times' young adult list. She, Wieber and Fierce Five teammates Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney recently wrapped up a 40-city gymnastics tour. She met President Barack Obama last month with the rest of the Fierce Five, and left the White House with a souvenir.

"We got a sugar cookie that they were making for the holidays," Douglas said. "I took a picture of it."

Though her busy schedule hasn't left time to train, Douglas insists she still intends to compete through the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

No female Olympic champion has gone on to compete at the next Summer Games since Nadia Comaneci. But Douglas is still a relative newcomer to the elite scene — she'd done all of four international events before the Olympics — and Chow has said she hasn't come close to reaching her full potential. She keeps up with Chow through email and text messages, and plans to return to Iowa after her schedule clears up in the spring.

Of course, plenty of other athletes have said similar things and never made it back to the gym. But Douglas is determined, and she gets giddy just talking about getting a new floor routine.

"I think there's even higher bars to set," she said.

Because while being an Olympic champion may have changed her life, it hasn't changed her.

"I may be meeting cool celebrities and I'm getting amazing opportunities," she said. "But I'm still the same Gabby."


AP Projects Editor Brooke Lansdale contributed to this report.

Read More..

Kerry to face climate test at State Dept but not Keystone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator John Kerry‘s commitment to tackling global warming will face several tests if he takes over as secretary of state but stopping an issue that has become a top environmental focus – the Keystone XL pipeline – will likely not be among them.

President Barack Obama nominated Kerry on Friday for Hillary Clinton‘s job and the senator is expected to win swift Senate confirmation.

Kerry has been a dedicated, long-time campaigner for action on climate change. In 1992 he attended the first Rio Summit on climate, which formed the framework of U.N. climate talks. In 2010, he and Senator Joe Lieberman authored a sweeping climate bill that ultimately failed.

Kerry’s wife, Theresa Heinz, champions environmental causes as chair of The Heinz Family Philanthropies, and Kerry has lectured on national security risks posed by climate upheaval – from the impacts of rising seas on military bases to severe heat on soldiers.

The approval of the TransCanada Corp’s Keystone pipeline could be one of the first items the State Department will officially tackle if Kerry becomes secretary of state but he is unlikely to influence the decision.

Analysts say President Barack Obama already appears to have made up his mind on Keystone.

“We think that Obama has set the course on Keystone and it is still poised for approval sometime next year,” said Divya Reddy, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

Unlike some senators, Kerry has not been outspoken against the pipeline, which will carry at least 700,000 barrels per day as it links Alberta’s oil sands to refineries and ports in Texas. Environmentalists have battled the line because oil sands petroleum is more carbon intensive than average crudes refined in the United States.

The State Department is poised any day to release an environmental assessment of the project.

“Kerry could have more of an impact advancing the climate agenda in international talks, but it’s hard to see how he can elevate the issue in a way that makes rejection of Keystone more likely,” Reddy said.

Eileen Claussen, former assistant secretary of state for global environment issues and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Kerry is well versed on climate issues and would soon confront tough questions.

Breaking gridlock with China on greenhouse gas emissions and working with the European Union to resolve disagreement over handling gases generated by airlines are just two, said Claussen, now president of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

In the case of China, Kerry’s experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could help him step beyond the U.N. climate talks framework and work bilaterally with the nation, which is the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gases, she said.

The effort to reduce airline industry emissions, a U.N. initiative, also would come under Kerry’s purview since the talks are partly led in Washington by the State Department.

Washington has long objected to EU plans to force all airlines to pay for the carbon emissions for flights into and out of Europe.

The EU announced earlier this month that it would suspend the law to allow the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization to devise a global framework to curb emissions.

Kerry could help drive an agreement in those long-stalled talks, said Samuel Grausz, director of policy and research at advisory firm Climate Advisers.

But Kerry is unlikely to work miracles, Grauz said.

Claussen holds out hope Kerry will break ground with China, where demand for carbon-heavy coal is rising.

“If he strikes out and really deals with the Chinese, that’s probably the most important climate issue there is.”

(Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Bill Trott)

Weather News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Kerry to face climate test at State Dept but not Keystone

based on 99998 ratings.
5 user reviews.
Author: Fluser SeoLink
Thanks for visiting the blog, If any criticism and suggestions please leave a comment

Read More..

Madness in the air in Washington

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre calls on Congress to pass a law putting armed police officers in every school in America.


  • David Gergen: After election, there were hopes partisan tension would fade

  • He says this week we've seen a complete breakdown on the fiscal cliff

  • The NRA doubled down on its anti-gun-control rhetoric despite Newtown, he says

  • Gergen: We're seeing the character assassination of a hero, Chuck Hagel

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- What in the world is gripping Washington? Everywhere one turns -- from finances to guns to nominations -- there is madness in the air.

With time rapidly running out, efforts have collapsed to reach a major agreement on federal spending and taxes before year's end, and both Congress and President are leaving town for the holidays. At best, they will return next week and construct a small bridge over the "fiscal cliff"; at worst, they won't. But who knows?

David Gergen

David Gergen

And that's a big part of the problem -- no one can be confident that our national leaders are still capable of governing responsibly. And in the process, they are putting both our economy and our international reputation at risk.

Fresh poison

President Barack Obama had rightly hoped that the elections would clear the air; they haven't. If anything, the recent squabbling over the federal budget has injected fresh poison into relationships and dimmed prospects for other bipartisan agreements in the next few years, starting with hopes for a "grand bargain"in 2013.

John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the House GOP leaders

The President insists he remains an optimist, but if he and Republicans can't agree on how to bring the nation's finances under control -- something fundamental to the welfare of the country -- why should we have faith they will succeed on other important issues like energy, education, immigration and gun safety?

As the blame game heats up, Republicans are sure to pay the biggest price with the public. It was bad enough that they lost the message fight, letting themselves be painted as protectors of the wealthy. But it was inexcusable when they revolted against House Speaker John Boehner in his search for a way forward: that only reinforced a narrative that the Grand Old Party has fallen hostage to its right wing -- a narrative that already exacted a huge price in the fall elections.

Most voters -- I am among them -- believe the country needs a center-right party but will not support an extremist party.

President Obama is certainly not blameless in these financial talks. Early on, he overplayed his hand, alienating rank-and-file Republicans. Like Boehner, he has been more accommodating recently, offering concessions on taxes and entitlement spending that narrowed the negotiating gap between the parties, even as his leftward allies fretted.

Still, Boehner has a point in arguing that what Obama now has on the table comes nowhere close to what the he was advocating in the election season: a ratio of 2.5 dollars in spending cuts to 1.0 dollars in tax increases.

The buck stops on the President's desk, so that ordinarily one would expect him to take the lead in these final days before January 1. For reasons that are still unclear, he instead chose in his press statement late Friday to toss responsibility for negotiations next week into the laps of Congressional leaders.

Perhaps he has reached a quiet understanding with Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the two of them can work out a stripped-down agreement. Let's hope so. But as we enter the holidays, it appears to be a mess. And time is quickly running out.

The NRA in denial

As if Friday weren't gloomy enough, the National Rifle Association weighed in with its long-awaited response to the horrors of Newtown, Connecticut. There had been hints that the NRA would offer a more conciliatory stance. Just the opposite: they doubled down.

Incredibly, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, called for putting armed police officers in every school. Isn't that what parents of every six-year old have been longing for: to have their child studying and playing under the watchful eye of an armed guard? Has LaPierre visited an elementary school classroom in recent years? If so, he would know his idea would be repulsive in most schools.

Just as strikingly, the NRA response refused to acknowledge and address the beliefs of a majority of Americans in recent polls that the U.S. needs tougher laws in favor of gun safety. Americans aren't saying no one should have guns or that the 2nd Amendment should be gutted but they are demanding a national conversation to see what can be sensibly done. It is hard to have a conversation when one side won't talk.

Character assassination

Meanwhile, in a less noticed but important saga in Washington, we are once again watching the character assassination of a public servant of honor and distinction.

Chuck Hagel served America with valor as a sergeant in the Vietnam war, earning two Purple Hearts. He was a popular Republican senator from Nebraska who paid close attention to international affairs and is now co-chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, serving with another former Senator, David Boren.

Ever since Hagel's name arose as a top candidate to become the next Secretary of Defense, he has been pilloried for statements and stands he has taken in the past. Is it legitimate to question his positions on Israel, Iran, and on gays? Absolutely. But what is grossly unfair is to misstate them, saying that he is against sanctions on Iran when in fact he has argued in favor of international sanctions, not unilateral sanctions (which don't work). As someone who strongly favors Israel, I am also deeply troubled by the way he has been misrepresented as virtually anti-Semitic.

Nor is this a fair fight. Hagel is in no-man's land because his name is prominently mentioned but he hasn't been formally nominated, so the White House isn't rushing to the barricades to support him.

The signals from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were that the Secretary of Defense nominee would be announced in a package with the Secretary of State. The President has now gone ahead with John Kerry but the absence of a Defense nominee has now left Hagel dangling in the breeze, a piƱata.

The White House should now move early next week -- by announcement or by leak -- to settle this by making a decision. Whether or not the President nominates Hagel, he should put a stop to the defamation by recognizing Hagel as a patriot with an independent mind and a long record of honor. If selected as Secretary, Hagel would be a very fine member of the national security team.

One had hoped that the shootings at Sandy Hook would draw us together. Sadly, they haven't. Now, perhaps the blessings of the holidays and a brief moment to take a breath will lift our sights. Surely, this madness should not continue into the New Year.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Gergen.

Read More..

Obama tries to rescue fiscal talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday tried to rescue stalled talks on a fiscal crisis after a Republican plan imploded in Congress, but there was little headway as lawmakers and President Barack Obama abandoned Washington for Christmas.

In remarks before flying to Hawaii for a break, Obama suggested reaching a short-term deal on taxes and extending unemployment insurance to avoid the worst effects of the "fiscal cliff" on ordinary Americans at the start of the New Year.

"We've only got 10 days to do it. So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that. Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want," said Obama.

Obama said he wanted to sign legislation extending Bush-era tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans in the coming days.

The Democrat appeared to be offering bickering lawmakers a way to fix the most pressing challenge - tax cuts that expire soon - while leaving thorny topics such as automatic spending cuts or extending the debt ceiling for later.

Obama called on lawmakers to use the holiday break to cool off frayed nerves, "drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols," and come back next week ready to make a deal.

Negotiations were thrown into disarray on Thursday whenHouse of Representatives Speaker John Boehner failed to convince his fellow Republicans to accept tax cuts for even the wealthiest of Americans as part of a possible agreement with Obama.

"How we get there, God only knows," Boehner told reporters on Friday when asked about a possible comprehensive fiscal cliff solution.

If there is no agreement, taxes would go up on all Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic government spending cuts would kick in next month - actions that could plunge the U.S. economy back into recession.

Obama spoke to Boehner on Friday and held a face-to-face White House meeting with the top Democrat in Congress,Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Before his defeat in Congress, Boehner had extracted a compromise from Obama to raise taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year, instead of the president's preference of those with income of $250,000 a year.

But with talks stalled on the level of spending cuts to which Obama would agree, Boehner attempted a backup plan to raise taxes only on those making more than $1 million a year - amounting to just 0.18 percent of Americans.


Boehner's reverse in the House was worse than first thought. A key Republican lawmaker said Boehner scrapped the vote when he realized that between 40 and 50 of the 241 Republicans in the House would not back him.

Obama and his fellowDemocrats in Congress are insisting that the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes in order to help reduce federal budget deficits and avoid deep spending cuts. Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate.

Stocks dropped sharply early Friday on fears that the United States could go fall back into recession if politicians do not prevent it.

But major indexes lost less than 1 percent, suggesting investors still held out hope that an agreement will be brokered in Washington.

"I think if you get into mid-January and (the talks) keep going like this, you get worried, but I don't think we're going to get there," said Mark Lehmann, president of JMP Securities, in San Francisco.

Boehner, joined by his No. 2,Eric Cantor, at a Capitol Hill news conference, said the ultimate fault rests with Obama for refusing to agree to more spending reductions that would bring down America's $1 trillion annual deficit and rising $16 trillion debt.

"What the president has proposed so far simply won't do anything to solve our spending problem. He wants more spending and more tax hikes that will hurt our economy," Boehner said.

Democrats responded with incredulity.

House members, heading to their home states for the holidays, were instructed to be available on 48 hours notice if necessary.

"They went from 'Plan B' to 'plan see-you-later,'" Obama adviser David Axelrod said on MSNBC on Friday morning.

The crumbling of Boehner's plan highlights his struggle to lead some House Republicans who flatly reject any deal that would increase taxes on anyone.

Republican RepresentativeTim Huelskamp criticized Boehner's handling of the negotiations, saying the speaker had "caved" to Obama opening the door to tax hikes. Huelskamp, a dissident first-term congressman from Kansas, said he was not willing to compromise on taxes even if they are coupled with cuts to government spending sought by conservatives.

Fiscal conservatives "are so frustrated that the leader in the House right now, the speaker, has been talking about tax increases. That's all he's been talking about," Huelskamp said on MSNBC on Friday morning.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Richard Cowan, Rachelle Younglai, Thomas Ferraro and Matt Spetalnick; Writing bySteve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

Read More..

Venezuela's VP Maduro a "poor copy" of Chavez: opposition

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition mocked President Hugo Chavez's chosen successor Nicolas Maduro on Friday as a "poor copy" of his boss who should be promoting national unity rather than insulting opponents during a delicate time for the South American nation.

In power since 1999, Chavez named vice president and foreign minister Maduro as his preferred replacement should he be incapacitated by the cancer he is battling in Cuba.

Since the December 11 operation, Maduro, 50, a former bus driver and union leader who shares Chavez's socialist politics, has been fronting day-to-day government in Venezuela while the president has been neither seen nor heard from in public.

Though lacking Chavez's booming charisma, Maduro has borrowed elements of his style - speaking regularly and lengthily on live TV, inaugurating public works, rallying supporters and attacking "bourgeois" opponents at every turn.

He even used one of Chavez's old catch phrases to gloat that Sunday's regional vote, where Chavez allies won 20 of 23 governorships, smashed the opposition into "cosmic dust."

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition reacted angrily.

"Vice President Nicolas Maduro has begun his temporary rule badly," it said in a withering statement, accusing him of ignoring Venezuela's pressing social, economic and political problems while falling back on antagonistic speeches.

"Mr. Maduro, the country expects better from you than a bad imitation of your boss. ... In his rhetoric, Maduro hides the leadership crisis in government given President Chavez's absence. He hides his weakness with shouts and threats."

"Don't waste the opportunity to create a wide national consensus," the statement said.

After an extraordinary year - in which Chavez proclaimed himself cured from the cancer that has dogged him since mid-2011, won a presidential election, then disappeared for new surgery - Venezuelans are heading into an uncertain 2013.

Government officials say Chavez, 58, is lucid and recovering in a hospital, but have acknowledged he is still suffering a respiratory infection after his operation and needs total rest.

Speculation is rife that his condition is life-threatening, and there is uncertainty over whether Chavez will be able to return to start his new term on January 10.


The stakes are huge in Venezuela's political drama.

Beyond its borders, Venezuela helps sustain an alliance of left-wing Latin American governments from Cuba to Bolivia via oil subsidies and other economic aid.

Should Chavez be forced to vacate power, a new election would be held within 30 days, with the probable scenario a straight competition between Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in the October vote.

There are rumors of in-fighting within "Chavismo" - the wide movement of military men and hard-left ideologues that has ruled for the last 14 years. Yet in public, the senior figures have repeatedly vowed unity and loyalty to Chavez.

Apart from Maduro, the two most powerful men are Congress head Diosdado Cabello and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez.

"You know, there is a campaign from abroad and by the national right wing to try and divide us," Maduro said in one of a string of speeches on Friday at ceremonies to celebrate the pro-Chavez governors' election wins.

"Every day, they say we're fighting, that Diosdado is Joseph Stalin and I am Leon Trotsky. Ridiculous, ridiculous and more ridiculous! ... We've never been more united."

Cabello, a former military comrade of Chavez viewed by Venezuelans as the hard man in government with possible presidential ambitions of his own, stirred controversy this week by suggesting that the January 10 inauguration date could be delayed to accommodate Chavez's recovery.

Confusion over that and any tensions within the ruling Socialist Party threaten to create a difficult transition to any post-Chavez government in the OPEC nation with the world's largest crude oil reserves.

Former soldier Chavez has vastly expanded presidential powers and built a near-cult following among millions of poor Venezuelans, who love his feisty language and pouring of funds into welfare projects in the nation's slums.

Smarting from defeats in the presidential and state polls in quick succession, the opposition coalition is trying to keep Venezuelans' attention on a raft of unresolved problems, from a soaring black market in currency to rampant crime.

"The economy is in dust. Citizens' security is in dust. Public services are in dust. The only thing that isn't is corruption in government," the coalition statement said.

(Additional reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; editing by Todd Eastham)

Read More..

US current account deficit fell in third quarter

The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the July-September quarter to the smallest level since late 2010, but the improvement may not last.

The deficit fell to $107.5 billion in the third quarter, down 9 percent from the second quarter imbalance of $118.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the lowest trade gap since the final three months of 2010.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade. It tracks the sale of merchandise and services between nations as well as investment flows. Economists watch the current account as a sign of how much the United States needs to borrow from foreigners.

Many economists predict the deficit will widen in coming quarters, in part because a global slowdown is dampening demand for American exports.

A debt crisis has pushed much of Europe into recession. The region accounts for about one-fifth of U.S. export sales. And other major export markets, including China, India and Brazil, have experienced slower growth.

The current account deficit hit an all-time high of $800.6 billion in 2006. It then shrank after a deep recession reduced U.S. demand for foreign goods by a greater amount than U.S. export sales diminished. The trade gap began widening again after the recession ended in June 2009.

The improvement in the current account in the third quarter reflected a decline in the deficit on goods and a small increase in the surplus on services, led by a gain in foreign earnings made by U.S. companies providing financial services, insurance and professional services. The surplus on investment earnings narrowed to $50.8 billion, down from $52.1 billion in the second quarter.

The narrowing of the deficit in the third quarter left it at a level equivalent to 2.7 percent of the total economy, down from 3 percent in the second quarter. The third quarter deficit represented the smallest percentage of the economy since the spring of 2009.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said that most of the improvement reflected a decline in America's foreign oil bill. He predicted that the deficit will remain close to 3 percent of the total economy or slightly below through all of next year.

The deficit in the monthly trade report, which just tracks merchandise and services, increased in October as U.S. exports fell by a larger margin than imports, a development that was seen as a sign that slower global growth was beginning to weigh on the U.S. economy.

The overall economy grew at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the July-September quarter, but many economists believe growth has slowed to less than 2 percent in the current quarter. They believe that consumers and businesses have grown more cautious about spending and making investments because of the uncertainty over what Congress will do about the "fiscal cliff."

That is the term used for the increases in taxes and spending cuts that will occur automatically in January unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach a budget deal to avert them. Economists have warned that the adverse impact on the economy will be great enough to push the country back into a recession.

Read More..