No. 4 Louisville holds off Kentucky, 80-77

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Russ Smith ranked Louisville's 80-77 victory over Kentucky on Saturday as one of the five favorites of his career.

Makes sense, considering he played a key role in ending the No. 4 Cardinals' four-game losing streak against the rival Wildcats.

Smith scored 21 points, including five of Louisville's final 13, along with seven rebounds to help the Cardinals hold off Kentucky in an up-and-down game.

The effort comes nearly a year after he came off the bench to score 30 in the Cardinals' 69-62 loss to the Wildcats in Lexington, one of two defeats last season to their in-state rivals that included last season's national semifinal. Kentucky went on to win its eighth national championship.

"This one probably ranks as one of the top five biggest wins of my life," said the junior guard, whose list includes last season's NCAA regional final, the round of 16 and Louisville's two wins that clinched the Big East Conference championship last March.

"We know where we messed up and we know the mistakes we made, but at the end of the day it's a win. It's not a conference win but it's a great non-conference win. It's a great win for the city. We're actually more happy for our fans than for ourselves. ... I guess revenge is the word, but it feels good beating the team that knocked you out of the Final Four."

Especially since that team, Kentucky, resides about 80 miles east and had recently owned the Battle of the Bluegrass. Louisville now has bragging rights, and Smith had help in getting them for the Cardinals.

Sophomore forward Chane Behanan had 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals, including a steal of Archie Goodwin's pass that led to his dunk with 18 seconds remaining that sealed the victory for Louisville (12-1) before a KFC Yum! Center crowd of 22,810.

"I feel like I could have done better," said Behanan, who had been banned from talking to the media this fall by coach Rick Pitino. "I took a lot of plays off throughout the game. I feel as though I could have gotten a lot more rebounds than I did. In a game like that you just give it your all to win it.

"It was my third time playing them. It just feels good to win, not for me but the city too."

Before fouling out Peyton Siva added 19 points for the Cardinals, who had to withstand several charges from Kentucky.

The Wildcats trailed 51-34 but outscored the Cardinals 28-14 to get within 65-62 before Smith's two baskets keyed an 8-5 run that gave Louisville some breathing room.

The Cardinals won despite four fouls by Smith and center Gorgui Dieng, who returned from a seven-game absence with a broken left wrist. The junior had six points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

"A great win for us because we had to battle a lot of bad foul trouble," Pitino said. "We survived with good plays from Chane and Russ. The offense and defense in the first half was spectacular then we lost our defensive presence in the second half because we were worried about foul trouble."

Goodwin scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half for Kentucky (8-4) and Ryan Harrow added 17 points.

Poor foul shooting hurt the Wildcats' comeback. They shot just 11 of 23 (48 percent) from the line, matching their percentage from the field.

Kentucky trailed 77-74 following a rare four-point play as Goodwin was fouled by Siva as he made a 3-pointer.

Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't call timeout after that, and Goodwin's turnover followed.

"Believe me, I was standing there thinking timeout and didn't call it," Calipari said. "That was the end of the game. I told them this one was on me and hopefully I'll do a better job.

"Stuff like that happens and I take responsibility. They (Louisville) deserved to win. But I didn't give our guys the chance they deserved with the way they played down the stretch."

Louisville also shot 48 percent from the field, but made 17 of 25 from the free throw line to win its seventh straight.

As might be expected from bitter in-state rivals, the early minutes were physical and intense with six ties and five lead changes. There were lineup changes for both teams.

Kentucky started 7-foot freshman Willie Cauley-Stein alongside 6-10 Nerlens Noel for the first time in an effort to establish a post presence against the Cardinals.

The Wildcats' move might have been a pre-emptive one with Louisville expected to start the 6-11 Dieng.

The Cardinals instead started 6-10 Zach Price but Dieng entered the game just 1:43 in and quickly made his presence felt with three rebounds, a block and a dunk that helped give Louisville a 12-10 lead.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the junior soon picked up his second foul and was replaced by Montrezl Harrell, who had seven points and four rebounds.

Louisville started 6 of 16 from the field and trailed 18-12, but went on a 13-2 run led by Behanan, who scored six points. He scored 11 points to help give the Cardinals a 36-28 lead at the half.

Kentucky came back behind three 3-pointers each by Kyle Wiltjer (14 points) and Goodwin, who finished 8 of 15 from the field. But Louisville survived because of a defense that forced 15 turnovers leading to 19 points and the end of a frustrating losing streak for the Cardinals and their fans.

"It finally gets the monkey off your back," Siva said. "You can stop thinking about it now and go out and play you don't have to get heckled by fans everywhere you go. For our fans this is like a national championship game. This feels good for them."

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Stories for 2013: Syria to 'post-Gangnam'

Among the few virtual certainties of 2013 is the ongoing anguish of Syria and the decline of its president, Bashar al-Assad.


  • Look for more unrest amid power transitions in the Middle East

  • Disputes and economic worries will keep China, Japan, North Korea in the news

  • Europe's economy will stay on a rough road, but the outlook for it is brighter

  • Events are likely to draw attention to cyber warfare and climate change

(CNN) -- Forecasting the major international stories for the year ahead is a time-honored pastime, but the world has a habit of springing surprises. In late 1988, no one was predicting Tiananmen Square or the fall of the Berlin Wall. On the eve of 2001, the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan were unimaginable. So with that substantial disclaimer, let's peer into the misty looking glass for 2013.

More turmoil for Syria and its neighbors

If anything can be guaranteed, it is that Syria's gradual and brutal disintegration will continue, sending aftershocks far beyond its borders. Most analysts do not believe that President Bashar al-Assad can hang on for another year. The more capable units of the Syrian armed forces are overstretched; large tracts of north and eastern Syria are beyond the regime's control; the economy is in dire straits; and the war is getting closer to the heart of the capital with every passing week. Russian support for al-Assad, once insistent, is now lukewarm.

Amid the battle, a refugee crisis of epic proportions threatens to become a catastrophe as winter sets in. The United Nations refugee agency says more than 4 million Syrians are in desperate need, most of them in squalid camps on Syria's borders, where tents are no match for the cold and torrential rain. Inside Syria, diseases like tuberculosis are spreading, according to aid agencies, and there is a danger that hunger will become malnutrition in places like Aleppo.

The question is whether the conflict will culminate Tripoli-style, with Damascus overrun by rebel units; or whether a political solution can be found that involves al-Assad's departure and a broadly based transitional government taking his place. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has not been explicit about al-Assad's exit as part of the transition, but during his most recent visit to Damascus, he hinted that it has to be.

2012: The year in pictures


























"Syria and the Syrian people need, want and look forward to real change. And the meaning of this is clear to all," he said.

The international community still seems as far as ever from meaningful military intervention, even as limited as a no fly-zone. Nor is there any sign of concerted diplomacy to push all sides in Syria toward the sort of deal that ended the war in Bosnia. In those days, the United States and Russia were able to find common ground. In Syria, they have yet to do so, and regional actors such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran also have irons in the fire.

Failing an unlikely breakthrough that would bring the regime and its opponents to a Syrian version of the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war, the greatest risk is that a desperate regime may turn to its chemical weapons, troublesome friends (Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Kurdish PKK in Turkey) and seek to export unrest to Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.

The Syrian regime has already hinted that it can retaliate against Turkey's support for the rebels -- not by lobbing Scud missiles into Turkey, but by playing the "Kurdish" card. That might involve direct support for the PKK or space for its Syrian ally, the Democratic Union Party. By some estimates, Syrians make up one-third of the PKK's fighting strength.

To the Turkish government, the idea that Syria's Kurds might carve out an autonomous zone and get cozy with Iraq's Kurds is a nightmare in the making. Nearly 800 people have been killed in Turkey since the PKK stepped up its attacks in mid-2011, but with three different sets of elections in Turkey in 2013, a historic bargain between Ankara and the Kurds that make up 18% of Turkey's population looks far from likely.

Many commentators expect Lebanon to become more volatile in 2013 because it duplicates so many of the dynamics at work in Syria. The assassination in October of Lebanese intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan -- as he investigated a pro-Syrian politician accused of obtaining explosives from the Syrian regime -- was an ominous portent.

Victory for the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels in Syria would tilt the fragile sectarian balance next door, threatening confrontation between Lebanon's Sunnis and Hezbollah. The emergence of militant Salafist groups like al-Nusra in Syria is already playing into the hands of militants in Lebanon.

Iraq, too, is not immune from Syria's turmoil. Sunni tribes in Anbar and Ramadi provinces would be heartened should Assad be replaced by their brethren across the border. It would give them leverage in an ever more tense relationship with the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. The poor health of one of the few conciliators in Iraqi politics, President Jalal Talabani, and renewed disputes between Iraq's Kurds and the government over boundaries in the oil-rich north, augur for a troublesome 2013 in Iraq.

More worries about Iran's nuclear program

Syria's predicament will probably feature throughout 2013, as will the behavior of its only friend in the region: Iran. Intelligence sources say Iran continues to supply the Assad regime with money, weapons and expertise; and military officers who defected from the Syrian army say Iranian technicians work in Syria's chemical weapons program. Al-Assad's continued viability is important for Iran, as his only Arab ally. They also share sponsorship of Hezbollah in Lebanon, which, with its vast supply of rockets and even some ballistic missiles, might be a valuable proxy in the event of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear program.

Speaking of which, there are likely to be several more episodes in the behind-closed-doors drama of negotiations on Iran's nuclear sites. Russia is trying to arrange the next round for January. But in public, at least, Iran maintains it has every right to continue enriching uranium for civilian purposes, such as helping in the treatment of more than 1 million Iranians with cancer.

Iran "will not suspend 20% uranium enrichment because of the demands of others," Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said this month.

International experts say the amount of 20% enriched uranium (estimated by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November at 297 pounds) is more than needed for civilian purposes, and the installation of hundreds more centrifuges could cut the time needed to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. The question is whether Iran will agree to intrusive inspections that would reassure the international community -- and Israel specifically -- that it can't and won't develop a nuclear weapon.

This raises another question: Will it take bilateral U.S.-Iranian talks -- and the prospect of an end to the crippling sanctions regime -- to find a breakthrough? And will Iran's own presidential election in June change the equation?

For now, Israel appears to be prepared to give negotiation (and sanctions) time to bring Iran to the table. For now.

Egypt to deal with new power, economic troubles

Given the turmoil swirling through the Middle East, Israel could probably do without trying to bomb Iran's nuclear program into submission. Besides Syria and Lebanon, it is already grappling with a very different Egypt, where a once-jailed Islamist leader is now president and Salafist/jihadi groups, especially in undergoverned areas like Sinai, have a lease on life unimaginable in the Mubarak era.

The U.S. has an awkward relationship with President Mohamed Morsy, needing his help in mediating with Hamas in Gaza but concerned that his accumulation of power is fast weakening democracy and by his bouts of anti-Western rhetoric. (He has demanded the release from a U.S. jail of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of involvement in the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.)

The approval of the constitution removes one uncertainty, even if the opposition National Salvation Front says it cements Islamist power. But as much as the result, the turnout -- about one-third of eligible voters -- indicates that Egyptians are tired of turmoil, and more concerned about a deepening economic crisis.

Morsy imposed and then scrapped new taxes, and the long-expected $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund is still not agreed on. Egypt's foreign reserves were down to $15 billion by the end of the year, enough to cover less than three months of imports. Tourism revenues are one-third of what they were before street protests erupted early in 2011. Egypt's crisis in 2013 may be more about its economy than its politics.

Libya threatens to spawn more unrest in North Africa

Libya's revolution, if not as seismic as anything Syria may produce, is still reverberating far and wide. As Moammar Gadhafi's rule crumbled, his regime's weapons found their way into an arms bazaar, turning up in Mali and Sinai, even being intercepted off the Lebanese coast.

The Libyan government, such as it is, seems no closer to stamping its authority on the country, with Islamist brigades holding sway in the east, tribal unrest in the Sahara and militias engaged in turf wars. The danger is that Libya, a vast country where civic institutions were stifled for four decades, will become the incubator for a new generation of jihadists, able to spread their influence throughout the Sahel. They will have plenty of room and very little in the way of opposition from security forces.

The emergence of the Islamist group Ansar Dine in Mali is just one example. In this traditionally moderate Muslim country, Ansar's fighters and Tuareg rebels have ejected government forces from an area of northern Mali the size of Spain and begun implementing Sharia law, amputations and floggings included. Foreign fighters have begun arriving to join the latest front in global jihad; and terrorism analysts are seeing signs that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria are beginning to work together.

There are plans for an international force to help Mali's depleted military take back the north, but one European envoy said it was unlikely to materialize before (wait for it) ... September 2013. Some terrorism analysts see North Africa as becoming the next destination of choice for international jihad, as brigades and camps sprout across a vast area of desert.

A bumpy troop transition for Afghanistan

The U.S. and its allies want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming another haven for terror groups. As the troop drawdown gathers pace, 2013 will be a critical year in standing up Afghan security forces (the numbers are there, their competence unproven), improving civil institutions and working toward a post-Karzai succession.

In November, the International Crisis Group said the outlook was far from assuring.

"Demonstrating at least will to ensure clean elections (in Afghanistan in 2014) could forge a degree of national consensus and boost popular confidence, but steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse. Time is running out," the group said.

Critics have also voiced concerns that the publicly announced date of 2014 for withdrawing combat forces only lets the Taliban know how long they must hold out before taking on the Kabul government.

U.S. officials insist the word is "transitioning" rather than "withdrawal," but the shape and role of any military presence in 2014 and beyond are yet to be settled. Let's just say the United States continues to build up and integrate its special operations forces.

The other part of the puzzle is whether the 'good' Taliban can be coaxed into negotiations, and whether Pakistan, which has considerable influence over the Taliban leadership, will play honest broker.

Private meetings in Paris before Christmas that involved Taliban envoys and Afghan officials ended with positive vibes, with the Taliban suggesting they were open to working with other political groups and would not resist girls' education. There was also renewed discussion about opening a Taliban office in Qatar, but we've been here before. The Taliban are riven by internal dissent and may be talking the talk while allowing facts on the ground to work to their advantage.

Where will North Korea turn its focus?

On the subject of nuclear states that the U.S.-wishes-were-not, the succession in North Korea has provided no sign that the regime is ready to restrain its ambitious program to test nuclear devices and the means to deliver them.

Back in May 2012, Peter Brookes of the American Foreign Policy Council said that "North Korea is a wild card -- and a dangerous one at that." He predicted that the inexperienced Kim Jong Un would want to appear "large and in charge," for internal and external consumption. In December, Pyongyang launched a long-range ballistic missile -- one that South Korean scientists later said had the range to reach the U.S. West Coast. Unlike the failure of the previous missile launch in 2009, it managed to put a satellite into orbit.

The last two such launches have been followed by nuclear weapons tests -- in 2006 and 2009. Recent satellite images of the weapons test site analyzed by the group 38 North show continued activity there.

So the decision becomes a political one. Does Kim continue to appear "large and in charge" by ordering another test? Or have the extensive reshuffles and demotions of the past year already consolidated his position, allowing him to focus on the country's dire economic situation?

China-Japan island dispute to simmer

It's been a while since East Asia has thrown up multiple security challenges, but suddenly North Korea's missile and nuclear programs are not the only concern in the region. There's growing rancor between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, which may be aggravated by the return to power in Japan of Shinzo Abe as prime minister.

Abe has long been concerned that Japan is vulnerable to China's growing power and its willingness to project that power. Throughout 2012, Japan and China were locked in a war of words over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, with fishing and Coast Guard boats deployed to support claims of sovereignty.

In the days before Japanese went to the polls, Beijing also sent a surveillance plane over the area, marking the first time since 1958, according to Japanese officials, that Bejing had intruded into "Japanese airspace." Japan scrambled F-15 jets in response.

The islands are uninhabited, but the seas around them may be rich in oil and gas. There is also a Falklands factor at play here. Not giving in to the other side is a matter of national pride. There's plenty of history between China and Japan -- not much of it good.

As China has built up its ability to project military power, Japan's navy has also expanded. Even a low-level incident could lead to an escalation. And as the islands are currently administered by Japan, the U.S. would have an obligation to help the Japanese defend them.

Few analysts expect conflict to erupt, and both sides have plenty to lose. For Japan, China is a critical market, but Japanese investment there has fallen sharply in the past year. Just one in a raft of problems for Abe. His prescription for dragging Japan out of its fourth recession since 2000 is a vast stimulus program to fund construction and other public works and a looser monetary policy.

The trouble is that Japan's debt is already about 240% of its GDP, a much higher ratio than even Greece. And Japan's banks hold a huge amount of that debt. Add a shrinking and aging population, and at some point the markets might decide that the yield on Japan's 10-year sovereign bond ought to be higher than the current 0.77%.

Economic uncertainty in U.S., growth in China

So the world's third-largest economy may not help much in reviving global growth, which in 2012 was an anemic 2.2%, according to United Nations data. The parts of Europe not mired in recession hover close to it, and growth in India and Brazil has weakened. Which leaves the U.S. and China.

At the time of writing, the White House and congressional leadership are still peering over the fiscal cliff. Should they lose their footing, the Congressional Budget Office expects the arbitrary spending cuts and tax increases to be triggered will push the economy into recession and send unemployment above 9%.

A stopgap measure, rather than a long-term foundation for reducing the federal deficit, looks politically more likely. But to companies looking for predictable economic policy, it may not be enough to unlock billions in investment. Why spend heavily if there's a recession around the corner, or if another fight looms over raising the federal debt ceiling?

In September, Moody's said it would downgrade the U.S. sovereign rating from its "AAA" rating without "specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term." In other words, it wants action beyond kicking the proverbial can.

Should the cliff be dodged, most forecasts see the U.S. economy expanding by about 2% in 2013. That's not enough to make up for stagnation elsewhere, so a great deal depends on China avoiding the proverbial hard landing.

Until now, Chinese growth has been powered by exports and infrastructure spending, but there are signs that China's maturing middle class is also becoming an economic force to be reckoned with. Consultants PwC expect retail sales in China to increase by 10.5% next year -- with China overtaking the U.S. as the world's largest retail market by 2016.

Europe's economic outlook a little better

No one expects Europe to become an economic powerhouse in 2013, but at least the horizon looks a little less dark than it did a year ago. The "PIGS' " (Portugal, Ireland/Italy, Greece, Spain) borrowing costs have eased; there is at least rhetorical progress toward a new economic and fiscal union; and the European Central Bank has talked tough on defending the Eurozone.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, fended off the dragons with the declaration in July that "Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough."

Draghi has promised the bank has unlimited liquidity to buy sovereign debt, as long as governments (most likely Spain) submit to reforms designed to balance their budgets. But in 2013, the markets will want more than brave talk, including real progress toward banking and fiscal union that will leave behind what Draghi likes to call Europe's "fairy world" of unsustainable debt and collapsing banks. Nothing can be done without the say-so of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, renowned for a step-by-step approach that's likely to be even more cautious in a year when she faces re-election.

Elections in Italy in February may be more important -- pitching technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti against the maverick he replaced, 76-year old Silvio Berlusconi. After the collapse of Berlusconi's coalition 13 months ago, Monti reined in spending, raised the retirement age and raised taxes to bring Italy back from the brink of insolvency. Now he will lead a coalition of centrist parties into the election. But polls suggest that Italians are tired of Monti's austerity program, and Berlusconi plans a populist campaign against the man he calls "Germano-centric."

The other tripwire in Europe may be Greece. More cuts in spending -- required to qualify for an EU/IMF bailout -- are likely to deepen an already savage recession, threatening more social unrest and the future of a fragile coalition. A 'Grexit' from the eurozone is still possible, and that's according to the Greek finance minister, Yannis Stournaras.

Expect to see more evidence of climate change

Hurricane Sandy, which struck the U.S. East Coast in November, was the latest indicator of changing and more severe weather patterns. Even if not repeated in 2013, extreme weather is beginning to have an effect -- on where people live, on politicians and on the insurance industry.

After Sandy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that after "the last few years, I don't think anyone can sit back anymore and say, 'Well, I'm shocked at that weather pattern.' " The storm of the century has become the storm of every decade or so, said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences at Princeton.

"Climate change will probably increase storm intensity and size simultaneously, resulting in a significant intensification of storm surges," he and colleagues wrote in Nature.

In the U.S., government exposure to storm-related losses in coastal states has risen more than 15-fold since 1990, to $885 billion in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The Munich RE insurance group says North America has seen higher losses from extreme weather than any other part of the world in recent decades.

"A main loss driver is the concentration of people and assets on the coast combined with high and possibly growing vulnerabilities," it says.

Risk Management Solutions, which models catastrophic risks, recently updated its scenarios, anticipating an increase of 40% in insurance losses on the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Southeast over the next five years, and 25% to 30% for the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. Those calculations were done before Sandy.

Inland, eyes will be trained on the heavens for signs of rain -- after the worst drought in 50 years across the Midwest. Climatologists say that extended periods of drought -- from the U.S. Midwest to Ukraine -- may be "the new normal." Jennifer Francis at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University has shown that a warmer Arctic tends to slow the jet stream, causing it to meander and, in turn, prolong weather patterns. It's called Arctic amplification, and it is probably aggravating drought in the Northwest United States and leading to warmer summers in the Northern Hemisphere, where 2012 was the hottest year on record.

It is a double-edged sword: Warmer temperatures may make it possible to begin cultivating in places like Siberia, but drier weather in traditional breadbaskets would be very disruptive. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that stocks of key cereals have tightened, contributing to volatile world markets. Poor weather in Argentina, the world's second-largest exporter of corn, may compound the problem.

More cyber warfare

What will be the 2013 equivalents of Flame, Gauss and Shamoon? They were some of the most damaging computer viruses of 2012. The size and versatility of Flame was unlike nothing seen before, according to anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab.

Gauss stole online banking information in the Middle East. Then came Shamoon, a virus that wiped the hard drives of about 30,000 computers at the Saudi oil company Aramco, making them useless. The Saudi government declared it an attack on the country's economy; debate continues on whether it was state-sponsored.

Kaspersky predicts that in 2013, we will see "new examples of cyber-warfare operations, increasing targeted attacks on businesses and new, sophisticated mobile threats."

Computer security firm McAfee also expects more malware to be developed to attack mobile devices and apps in 2013.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is more concerned about highly sophisticated attacks on infrastructure that "could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11."

"We know that foreign cyber actors are probing America's critical infrastructure networks. They are targeting the computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants and those that guide transportation throughout this country," he said in October.

Intellectual property can be stolen, bought or demanded as a quid pro quo for market access. The U.S. intelligence community believes China or Chinese interests are employing all three methods in an effort to close the technology gap.

In the waning days of 2012, the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States said "there is likely a coordinated strategy among one or more foreign governments or companies to acquire U.S. companies involved in research, development, or production of critical technologies."

It did not name the country in its unclassified report but separately noted a growing number of attempts by Chinese entities to buy U.S. companies.

Who will be soccer's next 'perfect machine'?

There's room for two less serious challenges in 2013. One is whether any football team, in Spain or beyond, can beat Barcelona and its inspirational goal machine Lionel Messi, who demolished a record that had stood since 1972 for the number of goals scored in a calendar year. (Before Glasgow Celtic fans start complaining, let's acknowledge their famous win against the Spanish champions in November.)

Despite the ill health of club coach Tito Vilanova, "Barca" sits imperiously at the top of La Liga in Spain and is the favorite to win the world's most prestigious club trophy, the European Champions League, in 2013. AC Milan is its next opponent in a match-up that pits two of Europe's most storied clubs against each other. But as Milan sporting director Umberto Gandini acknowledges, "We face a perfect machine."

Will Gangnam give it up to something sillier?

Finally, can something -- anything -- displace Gangnam Style as the most watched video in YouTube's short history? As of 2:16 p.m. ET on December 26, it had garnered 1,054,969,395 views and an even more alarming 6,351,871 "likes."

Perhaps in 2013 the YouTube audience will be entranced by squirrels playing table tennis, an octopus that spins plates or Cistercian nuns dancing the Macarena. Or maybe Gangnam will get to 2 billion with a duet with Justin Bieber.

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Bulls hold off Wizards 87-77

After losing back-to-back games in rare lopsided fashion, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called on his players to ramp up the intensity.

Inserting Richard Hamilton into the starting lineup and returning Luol Deng to the court were supposed to be two ways of doing that.

While Thibodeau may not deem the Bulls cured of the low energy he said had plagued the team previously and would not be thrilled with having to shake off the league's worst team with an 87-77 victory over the Wizards on Saturday night at the United Center, having the two dependable starters back was a boost.

Deng came back from a right ankle injury but sat for much of the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points. Hamilton returned from a left torn plantar fascia in his left foot that caused him to miss 12 games, scoring nine points in 15 minutes.

Despite his returning to the bench with Hamilton's return, it was Marco Belinelli who helped the Bulls with a team-high 17 points in 33 minutes.

Playing against the worst team in the NBA would seem to be a pretty simple way to ignite an energy surge but the Bulls struggled to build a significant lead until the final five minutes when they pulled ahead by holding the Wizards scoreless in the final 4 minutes, 47 seconds.

The Wizards are now just 1-13 away from Washington and were coming off their first victory in nine games before playing the Bulls.

The Bulls, one of the league leaders in scoring defense, held the Wizards, the league's lowest scoring team, to 36.5 percent shooting. The Wizards were without leading scorer Jordan Crawford, who sat out with a left ankle injury after averaging 21.8 points per game in the last six outings.

But the Bulls shot only 39.1 percent from the field.

The Bulls knew what they were missing while Hamilton was out.

"His catch and shoot ability," Thibodeau said. "His ability to make plays, run the floor, get out in transition. Overall, his veteran experience."

Thibodeau said the Bulls would continue to monitor Hamilton's minutes.

"It's not going to change from where we started," he said of Hamilton's playing time. "He's at the stage of his career where I think you have to be careful. So we'll do that."

Thibodeau had bemoaned the Bulls' second quarter struggles.

They had scored just 19 points in the second quarter in their loss to the Rockets on Christmas and only 16 points in the second quarter in their loss to the Hawks a week ago.

It's a trend Thibodeau was eager to see end. After trailing by eight points in the first quarter, the Bulls outscored the Wizards 23-13 in the second quarter for a 45-39 halftime lead.

The other quarters were a bigger problem this time.

Twitter @sryantribune

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Body of India rape victim arrives home in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The body of a woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India arrived back in New Delhi early on Sunday.

The unidentified 23-year-old medical student died from her injuries on Saturday, prompting promises of action from a government that has struggled to respond to public outrage.

She had suffered brain injuries and massive internal damage in the attack on December 16, and died in hospital in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment.

She and a male friend had been returning home from the cinema, media reports say, when six men on a bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The friend survived.

Six suspects were charged with murder after her death.

A Reuters correspondent saw family members who had been with her in Singapore take her body back to their Delhi home in an ambulance with a police escort.

Ruling party leader Sonia Gandhi was seen arriving at the airport when the plane landed and Prime Minister Mannmohan Singh's convoy was also there, the witness said.

The body was later taken to a crematorium and cremated, news channels reported. Media were kept away but a Reuters witness saw the woman's family, New Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, and the junior home minister, R P N Singh, coming out of the crematorium.

The outcry over the attack caught the government off-guard. It took a week for Singh to make a statement, infuriating many protesters.


Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India.

Analysts say the death of the woman dubbed "Amanat", an Urdu word meaning "treasure", by some Indian media could change that, although it is too early to say whether the protesters calling for government action to better safeguard women can sustain their momentum through to national elections due in 2014.

Protesters have staged peaceful demonstrations in the capital New Delhi and in cities across India in the last few days to keep the pressure on Singh's government to get tougher on crime against women. Last weekend, protesters fought pitched battles with police.

Authorities, worried about the reaction to the news of her death on Saturday, deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in central New Delhi.

Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists, who say that successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women.

Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in India rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.

For a link to the poll, click

(Additional reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Writing by Louise Ireland; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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NHL makes new offer; lockout enters critical stage

NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL's latest offer to the players' association was enough for the sides to make plans to meet this weekend.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the league presented its proposal Thursday. The sides haven't met in person since a second round of talks with a federal mediator broke down Dec. 13.

The NHL and the players' association are expected to talk via conference call on Saturday, and have tentative plans to meet Sunday in New York.

The league's comprehensive new offer, that is several hundred pages in length, was still being reviewed by the union Friday night. The players' association's executive board and negotiating committee went over the proposal during an internal conference call.

"We delivered to the union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA," Daly said in a statement Friday. "We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."

The league would like to have a deal in place by Jan. 11, begin training camps the following day and start the regular season by Jan. 19.

The lockout has reached its 104th day, and the NHL said it doesn't want a season of less than 48 games. That means a deal would need to be reached mid-January.

A person familiar with key points of the offer told The Associated Press that the league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five — seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-14 season that wouldn't count toward a team's salary cap but would be included in the overall players' share of income.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the new offer were not being discussed publicly.

The NHL maintained the deferred payment amount of $300 million it offered in its previous proposal, an increase from an earlier offer of $211 million. The initial $300 million offer was pulled off the table after negotiations broke off earlier this month.

The latest proposal is for 10 years, running through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years.

A conference call with the players' association's negotiating committee and its executive board was scheduled for Friday afternoon and was expected to last several hours.

The lockout has reached a critical stage, threatening to shut down a season for the second time in eight years. All games through Jan. 14, plus the Winter Classic and the All-Star game already have been called off. The next round of cuts could claim the entire schedule.

The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.

It is still possible this dispute could eventually be settled in the courts if the sides can't reach a deal on their own.

The NHL filed a class-action suit this month in U.S. District Court in New York in an effort to show its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, contending bad-faith bargaining by the union.

Those moves were made because the players' association took steps toward potentially filing a "disclaimer of interest," which would dissolve the union and make it a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.

Union members voted overwhelmingly to give their board the power to file the disclaimer by Jan. 2. If that deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing.

Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6. One week later, the sides convened again with federal mediators in New Jersey, but still couldn't make progress.

The sides have been unable to reach agreement on the length of the new deal, the length of individual player contracts, and the variance in salary from year to year. The NHL is looking for an even split of revenues with players.

The NHL pulled all previous offers off the table after the union didn't agree to terms on its last proposal without negotiation.

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Look Up! 13 Must-See Stargazing Events in 2013

As 2012 comes to a close, some might wonder what is looming sky-wise for 2013.What celestial events might we look forward to seeing? 

I’ve selected what I consider the top 13″skylights” (get it?) for the coming year, and have listed them in chronological order. Not all these night sky events will be visible from any one locality (you may have to travel to catch all the eclipses), but you can observe many of them from the comfort of your backyard, weather permitting.

The next year also promises two potentially bright comets: PANSTARRS and ISON. As any astronomer can tell you, comets are notoriously capricious; we can only guess at how bright they will get and how long their respective tails will be. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In general, 2013 promises an action-packed 12 months for stargazers. Hopefully, your local weather will cooperate on most, if not all of these dates. The following list below includes some of the most promising night sky events of the upcoming year! [100 Best Space Photos of 2012]

Jan. 21: Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction

For North Americans, this is a real head-turner, one easily visible even from brightly lit cities. A waxing gibbous moon, 78-percent illuminated, will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. (For reference, your closed fist held out at arm’s length covers 10 degrees of the sky.)

These two bright luminaries will make their closest approach high in the evening sky for all to see. What’s even more interesting is that this will be the closest moon-Jupiter conjunction until the year 2026! [Amazing Photos: Jupiter and the Moon]

Feb. 2 to 23: Best Evening View of Mercury

Mercury, the “elusive” innermost planet, will travel far enough from the glare of the sun to be readily visible in the western sky, soon after sunset. On the evening of Feb. 8, Mercury will skim within less than 0.4 degrees of the much-fainter planet, Mars. 

Mercury will arrive at its greatest elongation from the sun on Feb.16. It will be quite bright (-1.2 to -0.6 magnitude) before this date and will fade rapidly to +1.2 magnitude thereafter.(Astronomers measure the brightness of sky objects using magnitude, a reverse scale in which lower numbers correspond to brighter objects. Negative magnitudes denote exceptional brightness.)

March 10 to 24: Comet PANSTARRS at Its Best! 

Comet PANSTARRS, discovered in June 2011 using the Pan-STARRS 1 Telescope at Haleakala, Hawaii, is expected to put on its best show during this two-week period. During this time, the comet will also be near its closest approaches to the sun (28 million miles, or 45 million kilometers) and Earth (102 million miles, or 164 million km).

While Comet PANSTARRS was a very dim and distant object at the time of its discovery, it has brightened steadily since then. It still appears on target to reach at least first magnitude and should be visible low in the west-northwest sky shortly after sunset. On the evening of March 12, the comet will be situated 4 degrees to the right of an exceedingly thin crescent moon.

April 25: Partial Lunar Eclipse

This will be a very minor partial lunar eclipse, with the moon’s uppermost limb merely grazing the Earth’s dark, umbral shadow. At mid-eclipse, less than 2 percent of the moon’s diameter will be inside the dark shadow. The Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Australia and most of Asia) will have the best view.

This lunar eclipse will not be visible from North America.

May 9: Annular Eclipse of the Sun

During annular solar eclipse (also known as a “Ring of Fire” eclipse), the long, umbral shadow cone of the moon is too short to reach the Earth. In angular size, the moon’s disk appears about 4.5 percent smaller than the disk of the sun. So, the effect is like placing a penny atop a nickel: a ring of sunlight remains visible surrounding the moon. 

The shadow path from where the ring can be seen runs for thousands of miles, but will get no wider than 107 miles (172 km) at the point of greatest eclipse. Much of the path falls over the Pacific Ocean, but at or soon after local sunrise, it will slice across a part of northern Australia (where it will be the morning of May 10) and the extreme eastern tip of Papua New Guinea, along with some of the nearby Solomon Islands. 

At the point of greatest eclipse, the ring phase will last 6 minutes, 4 seconds. Hawaiians will see a partial eclipse when, at 3:48 p.m. Hawaii time, the moon will obscure about 32 percent of the sun’s disk.

May 24 to 30: Dance of the Planets

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will provide a fascinating show low in the west-northwest twilight sky soon after sunset. They will seemingly shuffle around each other, changing their positions noticeably from one evening to the next. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter,will be separated by just over 1 degree on May 28, with Venus passing to the northwest (upper right) of Jupiter and shining more than six times brighter than Jupiter.

June 23: Biggest Full Moon of 2013

On June 23, the moon turns full at 7:32 a.m. EDT(1132 GMT),and just 32 minutes earlier it will arrive at its closest point to the Earth in 2013 at a distance of 221,824 miles (356,991 km), making it a so-called supermoon.Expect a large range in ocean tides (exceptionally low to exceptionally high) for the next few days. 

Aug. 12: The Perseid Meteor Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower is considered among the best of the annual displays thanks to its high rates of up to 90-meteors-per-hour for a single observer, as well as its reliability. The shower is beloved by summer campers and often discovered by city dwellers who might be spending time in the country under dark, starry skies. 

This past summer, the moon was a fat waning crescent and presented a minor nuisance during the meteor shower. But in 2013, the moon will be a couple of days before first quarter and will set during the evening hours, leaving the rest of the night dark for prospective observers.

Oct. 18: Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon

The moon slides through the northern part of the Earth’s penumbral shadow during this lunar eclipse event.

At mid-eclipse, 76 percent of the moon’s diameter will be immersed in the penumbra, probably deep enough to cause a faint, yet discernible darkening of the moon’s lower limb. The region of visibility includes much of Asia, Europe and Africa. The central and eastern portion of North America will get a view of the slightly darkened Hunters’ Moon during the early evening hours.

Nov. 3: Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun

This is a rather unusual solar eclipse in that, along its track, which runs for 8,450 miles (13,600 km) across the Earth’s surface, the eclipse quickly morphs from annular to total; it is therefore known to astronomers as a “hybrid eclipse.”

Truth be told, along most of the track, the eclipse appears as a total, with a very thin annulus (or ring) of sunlight visible near the very beginning of the track. The track of the central line of this eclipse begins in the Atlantic about 545 miles (875 km)southwest of Bermuda. So, along North America’s Atlantic Coast, interested viewers (using proper viewing devices, such as pinhole projection or #14 welders glass) will only see the dark disk of the moon exiting the sun’s face at sunrise.

The eclipse track will pass south of the Cape Verde Islands, then curve southeastward parallel to the African coastline. The greatest eclipse, with 100 seconds of totality and the path width reaching a maximum of just 36 miles (58 km), occurs approximately 250 miles (402 km) off the coast of Liberia. The shadow track will then sweep across central Africa, passing over sections of Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya, before ending at sunset at the Ethiopia-Somalia border.  

Mid-November Through December: Comet ISON

On Sep. 21, 2012, two amateur astronomers (Vitali Nevski of Belarus and Artyom Novichonok of Russia)used a telescope owned by the International Scientific Optical Network to discover a new comet that was christened using the acronym of the instrument used to find it: Comet ISON.

Orbital calculations indicate that comet ISON will travel closest to the sun, less than 750,000 miles (1.2 million km) above the sun’s surface, making it a true “sungrazer,” on Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving Day in the United States).

The comet could eventually be bright enough to be visible in broad daylight around the time of its nearest approach to the sun. It will then travel toward Earth, passing within 40 million miles (64 million km) of our planet a month later.

Since comet ISON will become very well placed for viewing in the morning and evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere during the following weeks, it could become one of the most watched comets of all time. 

December (all month): Dazzling Venus

Venus, the brightest of all the planets, puts on a holiday show all month long, and what a spectacular one it is! Venus is the showiest it will be for all of 2013 and 2014 either in the evening or morning sky. It adorns the southwestern evening sky as much as three hours after sundown at the beginning of the month, and 1.5 hours after sundown by New Year’s Eve. A lovely, crescent moon passes well above and to the right of the planeton Dec. 5, and the next night Venus will reach the pinnacle of its brilliance; Venus won’t be as bright an “evening star” again until 2021. 

Dec. 13 to 14: Geminid Meteor Shower

If there is one meteor display guaranteed to put on a very entertaining show, it is the Geminid meteor shower. Most meteor experts now place it at the top of the list, as it surpasses in brilliance and reliability even August’s Perseids. 

Unfortunately, in 2013, the moon will be several days before full phase and will light up the sky for much of the night, hiding many of the fainter meteors. But around 4:30 a.m. (your local time), the moon will have finally set, leaving the sky completely dark for about an hour. That will be your chance to make as many as two meteor sightings per minute, or 120 per hour!

So stargazers mark your calendars: 2013 promises to be a great year for skywatching, and if you take an impressive photo of the night sky, let us know!

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing night-sky photo and would like to share it with for a possible story or gallery, please send images and comments (including your name and the photo’s location) to managing editor Tariq Malik at: [email protected]

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York. Follow on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We’re also on Facebook & Google+

Copyright 2012, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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2013: Energy issues on front burner

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


  • Public attitudes shifted on key energy issues in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Natural gas boom -- and controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate change gets real

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

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

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

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

Renewables gain ground

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

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

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

The big picture

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

What can we count on in 2013?

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

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

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

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

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Chicago marks 500 homicides

Chicago police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting in the 1000 block of North Lavergne on Chicago's West Side. (Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

On the surface, Nathaniel Jackson fit the profile of the vast majority of Chicago's homicide victims in 2012 — he had a lengthy arrest record and alleged gang ties.

But when Jackson was shot and killed Thursday night, just months after getting out of prison, he also earned the unfortunate distinction of being the 500th homicide victim in Chicago this year, a grim milestone the city reached for the first time in four years.

While Chicago had almost twice as many slayings 20 years ago as it did this year, the number 500 is a largely symbolic threshold, a reminder of the year's escalated violence and a numerical bar the city had not reached since 513 were killed in 2008.

By mid-November the city already had tallied the most homicides in four years. As of Friday, Chicago had an estimated 17 percent increase in homicides over 2011, and an 11 percent increase in shootings, according to police.

The city's rising homicide tally has been a thorny issue for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for much of the year.

"It was a milestone on those days when we had zero murders and zero shootings. Those are milestones. This is a negative one, something that we never wanted," McCarthy told the Tribune Thursday afternoon, hours before Jackson, 40, was killed. "But in perspective, there's no such thing as an acceptable murder number. Even if we cut it down to 300 next year, it's still … unacceptable."

The department went back and forth Friday over whether Jackson was the 500th homicide victim so far this year, at first confirming it and then denying it, saying a homicide last week had been reclassified as a death investigation, therefore making Jackson the 499th homicide. But by late afternoon, the department once again confirmed there had been 500 homicides.

"The city has seen its 500th homicide for 2012, a tragic number that is reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods," McCarthy said in a statement. "Every homicide in Chicago is unacceptable to me and the hardworking men and women of the Chicago Police Department, who, this year, achieved a record drop in overall crime throughout our city."

Chicago's homicide rate also remains a major issue for Emanuel heading into the new year. Beyond the very real human cost, there's a perception problem for the city.

The homicide rate in Chicago far exceeds the rates in New York City and Los Angeles. While the homicide rate in LA has remained relatively flat and New York's has gone down — homicides there have fallen by more than 20 percent this year — Emanuel, known for carefully trying to craft the narrative of his tenure as mayor, has seen Chicago's violence attract national attention.

The mayor was on vacation Friday with his family but issued a statement to the Tribune:

"Chicago has reached an unfortunate and tragic milestone, which not only marks a needless loss of life but serves as a reminder of the damage that illegal guns and conflicts between gangs cause in our neighborhoods," Emanuel said, adding that his efforts to lengthen the public school day and provide before- and after-school programs for youths were part of the eventual solution.

Emanuel last week also noted that overall crime in Chicago was down about 8.5 percent for the year.

This previous winter was particularly violent. In the first three months of 2012, when the city experienced unseasonable warmth, homicides ran about 60 percent ahead of the 2011 rate. As the year went on, the increase in killings leveled out but still remained higher than in previous years.

In his statement Friday, McCarthy lauded the overall drop in crime in the city and said department efforts resulted in less violence in the latter part of 2012.

"CPD has put the right people in the right places to accomplish our long-term goal of reducing crime and ensuring that our streets and our neighborhoods belong to the residents of this city," McCarthy said in his statement. "Since the gang violence reduction strategy was adopted, we have seen drastic reductions in shootings and homicides that spiked early in the year."

Some within the department feel the disbanding of two specialized units that swooped into "hot spots" to reduce violent crime had a negative impact on this year's rate. After McCarthy was installed last year as the city's top cop, he eliminated those strike forces to move those officers to beat patrols, in the hope they would have more meaningful and positive interactions with the community. The department now uses cops who work all over the city to fulfill the same function as the strike forces, but these "area teams" comprise fewer officers.

McCarthy has blamed the proliferation of guns on Chicago's streets and the splintering of large street gangs into small factions as reasons for the homicide spike.

In October, the Tribune reported that 1 in 4 homicide victims this year were affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, the city's largest street gang, and one also riddled with internal conflict.

Jackson, who authorities described as being affiliated with the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, falls into a category shared by more than 80 percent of Chicago's 2012 homicide victims: those with criminal histories.

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India gang rape victim dies in Singapore hospital

SINGAPORE/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian woman whose gang rape in New Delhi triggered violent protests died of her injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital, bringing a security lockdown in Delhi and recognition from India's prime minister that social change is needed.

The Indian capital braced for a new wave of protests, closing metro stations and banning vehicles from the city centre district where young activists had converged to demand improved women's rights. The news came in the early hours of the morning in India and there were no signs of protests as morning broke.

The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.

"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Dec 29, 2012 (2045 GMT Friday). Her family and officials from the High Commission (embassy) of India were by her side," Mount Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Loh said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement he was deeply saddened by the death and described the emotions associated with her case as "perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change.

"It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."

Delhi's Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, expressed revulsion.

"It is a shameful moment for me not just as a chief minister but also as a citizen of this country," she said.

The woman, who has not been identified, and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus on the evening of December 16 when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. The reports say a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived the attack.

Singh's government has been battling criticism that it was tone-deaf to the outcry that followed the attack and was heavy handed in its response to the protests in the Indian capital.

Most rapes and other sex crimes in India go unreported and offenders are rarely punished, women's rights activists say. But the brutality of the December 16 assault sparked public outrage and calls for better policing and harsher punishment for rapists.


T.C.A. Raghavan, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore, told reporters hours after the woman's death that a chartered aircraft would fly her body back to India on Saturday, along with members of her family. The woman's body had earlier been loaded into a van at the hospital and driven away.

In New Delhi, the Joint Commissioner of Traffic Police, Satyendra Garg, told NDTV news channel that residents and commuters were advised to avoid the city centre.

The case has received blanket coverage on cable television news channels. Some Indian media have called the woman "Amanat", an Urdu word meaning "treasure".

Talking to reporters earlier on Saturday, Raghavan declined to comment on Indian media reports accusing the government of sending her to Singapore to minimize the possible backlash in the event of her death.

Some Indian medical experts had questioned the decision to airlift the woman to Singapore, calling it a risky maneuver given the seriousness of her injuries. They had said she was already receiving the best possible care in India.

But Dr B.D. Athani, medical superintendent of the New Delhi hospital where she had initially been treated, told Indian television the intention was to give the victim the best chance of surviving in what he described as "an extreme case".

"Her condition was very critical from day one. We had managed what best we could do at our end ... she had to be shifted to a centre with much better facilities."

On Friday, the Singapore hospital had said the woman's condition had taken a turn for the worse. It said she had suffered "significant brain injury". She had already undergone three abdominal operations before arriving in Singapore.

The suspects in the rape - five men aged between 20 and 40, and a juvenile - were arrested within hours of the attack and are in custody. Media reports say they are likely to be formally charged with murder next week.

Commentators and sociologists say the rape tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social and economic issues.

Many protesters have complained that Singh's government has done little to curb the abuse of women in the country of 1.2 billion. A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin and Devidutta Tripathy in New Delhi; Saeed Azhar, Edgar Su and Sanjeev Miglani in Singapore; Editing by Michael Roddy, Ron Popeski and Mark Bendeich)

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Net loss: Brooklyn fires coach Avery Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnson also stood by Williams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not under Johnson, though.

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

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

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


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

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Consumer sentiment weakens as fiscal crisis looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence fell more than expected in December, hitting a four-month low as a looming fiscal crisis sapped what had been a growing sense of optimism about the economy.

The report heightened concerns that a failure by Washington to avert planned tax hikes and spending cuts could lead households to close their wallets, threatening an economic recovery that has been steady albeit lackluster.

Other data on Thursday highlighted the positive momentum building in the economy, with the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits falling to a nearly 4-1/2 year low and new home sales hitting their highest level since April 2010.

But gauges of business sentiment have weakened recently on worries Washington will go forward with plans to slash the federal deficit by about $600 billion in 2013.

Now consumers also appear apprehensive, a sign worries about the so-called "fiscal cliff" could bite into household spending.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 65.1 from 71.5 in November.

A sub-index measuring how consumers feel about their present situation rose to its highest level in more than four years, but a gauge of sentiment about the future plunged to its lowest point in more than a year.

"Consumers are increasingly preoccupied with the potential damage the fiscal cliff will cause to the economy and to their wallets if a deal is not reached soon," economists at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut, wrote in a research note.

Separately, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 350,000, the Labor Department said.

"This recent improvement in the claims data is potentially a favorable signal for the labor market," said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

After spiking in the wake of a mammoth storm that ravaged the East Coast in late October, new claims have dropped to their lowest levels since the early days of the 2007-09 recession. The four-week moving average fell 11,250 last week to 356,750, the lowest since March 2008.

The claims data has no direct relation to the government's monthly employment report, but it suggests the surge in layoffs since the recession has at least run its course.

Still, many economists think hiring may remain sluggish even as the pace of layoffs ease.

Companies in recent months have been adding to their payrolls at a lackluster pace, and analysts expect the employment report due on January 4 will show 143,000 jobs were created in December, down from 146,000 in November.

"A significant improvement in labor market conditions ahead of any resolution to the fiscal cliff is unlikely," said Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays in New York.

U.S. stocks opened flat but turned lower as the Senate Democratic leader derided Republicans for the lack of progress in budget talks and warned that a fall off the "cliff" appeared inevitable. Investors sought safety by buying U.S. Treasury debt and the dollar, which rose against the euro.

Following a truncated holiday break in Hawaii, U.S. President Barack Obama returned to Washington to restart talks to avoid the brunt of the fiscal cliff's impact, which would likely put the U.S. economy back into recession if not lessened.


The signs of progress in the claims data also included a caveat, at least for the latest week.

Obama declared Monday a holiday for federal workers and many state offices followed suit and were unable to provide complete data for last week's jobless claims. Data for 19 states was estimated, although 14 of those states submitted their own estimates, which tend to be fairly accurate.

The holiday season can make it more difficult to adjust the claims data for normal seasonal fluctuations, another reason to be cautious about the report for last week.

Separately, the Commerce Department said new U.S. single-family home sales rose in November to a 377,000-unit annual rate, while the median sales price jumped 14.9 percent from the same month in 2011, the latest signs the U.S. housing recovery is gaining some steam.

In a fourth report, the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank said its index of factory activity in the U.S. Midwest increased in November to 93.7 from a revised 92.2 in October.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Additional reporting by Richard Leong and Ryan Vlastelica in New York; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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