Sunday, 8 January 2012

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Breaking News


US reaches out to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:26 AM PST

WASHINGTON: A once reluctant United States is reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood in a nod to Egypt's new political reality, but concerns linger about the group's attitude toward minorities, women and the peace treaty with Israel.

In the wake of president Hosni Mubarak's ouster last February, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political arm, has claimed the lead in the final stage of parliamentary elections after leading throughout.

Liberal and secular opposition parties have fared poorly.

"It's clear that they (the Brotherhood) are now the only game in town," and US officials must talk to them, said Marina Ottaway, who heads the Middle East program in Washington for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Even before the elections began, the United States knew it had to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, the best organized political movement in an Egypt which is no longer dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said before the polls that the United States had pursued "limited contacts" with the Brotherhood as Washington was "re-engaging in" a six-year-old policy in light of Egypt's political changes.

Ottaway said president George W Bush's administration stopped talking about its Freedom Agenda of democracy promotion after candidates backed by the Brotherhood gained 20 percent of parliamentary seats in the 2005 election.

The administration, she said, "essentially bought Mubarak's line" that the Brotherhood and its links to Islamist militants were a threat to Egypt's and the region's stability, even though it had renounced violence decades ago.

The most populous Arab country, Egypt has been the lynchpin of US policy in the Middle East since 1979 when it became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

"The US essentially backed Mubarak in its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood," Ottaway said. US officials also turned down invitations by her think-tank to attend post-2005 meetings with Arab Islamist groups, including Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

"For the US now to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood is a big step, it's a step that's long overdue, but it's a step that the United States has resisted," she added. "It's a huge change and they're doing it out of necessity."

Analyst Nathan Brown said the Brotherhood has also "given just enough in terms of reassuring signals to slightly raise the comfort level with them in the US" and justify contacts.

Brown, a George Washington University professor, said the Brotherhood also recognizes the reality that the United States remains an important diplomatic player it has to work with.

But Brown noted "there's no question at all that the Muslim Brotherhood is just a socially and politically very conservative organization" that raises concerns about the place of women and Egypt's Christian minority.

And there remains "a big foreign policy concern" about the Brotherhood's attitude to the peace treaty with Israel.

"On that score, the Brotherhood has kind of given reassuring signals but at this point they're fairly general," he said, adding: "The Brotherhood, as an organization, is close to Hamas (in Gaza) and hostile to Israel."

Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor, said the Brotherhood does not want to "rock the boat on foreign policy" or make certain drastic domestic changes as it seeks repairs for Egypt's badly damaged economy.

For one, he said, it will want Egypt to continue receiving US and other foreign aid. It is also unlikely, at least in the short term, to ban alcohol or bikinis as it tries to revive tourism, an economic mainstay, he said.

But he said the Brotherhood will be far more responsive to public opinion than Mubarak ever was.

If Israel launches a war in the Gaza Strip like the one in December 2008, he said, an Egypt under the Brotherhood's sway could take a "far more aggressive" stance toward Israel, even if it does not seek an end to the peace treaty.

In discussing contacts with the Brotherhood, Clinton's spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week that Washington had "some good reassurances from different interlocutors" on respect for human rights and Egypt's international obligations, an allusion to the peace treaty.

But she added: "We will continue to seek those kinds of reassurances going forward."

All set for APML public gathering in Khi

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:24 AM PST

(apsenews.com)KARACHI: Arrangements have been completed for All Pakistan Muslim League (APLM) public meeting at Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi today (Sunday).

Party chief Pervez Musharraf would address participants through video conference.

Two stages have been made with containers for media personnel and party leaders.

Strict security measures have been adopted for the gathering. Heavy contingent of police has been deployed for security.

Musharraf denies he knew Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:21 AM PST

JERUSALEM: Pakistan's former President General Pervez Musharraf has denied having knowledge about the al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden living in his country during his tenure.

In his first ever interview to an Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Musharraf insisted on his innocence and said he was 100 per cent sure about himself that he did not know he (Osama bin Laden) was there.

"I am very sure about my answer. Especially so because when they say bin Laden was there for five years, that means two years under my watch. Well, one cannot be sure of others, but one can be sure of oneself. And I am 100 percent sure of myself that I did not know he was there," Musharraf said when asked about Bin laden's presence.

"I say the question is, was there complicity or negligence? And I strongly believe it was negligence. Of course, that's not great either, it's terrible negligence and shameful. But, while both are bad - complicity would be worse," said the former President, who became a key ally of western in fight against terror post 9/11.

"I don't have any doubt of that. I know there was no complicity for those two years. And perhaps there was complicity during the latter three years, but I don't believe that either. It's not possible. It was negligence," he argued.

Musharraf, explaining the negligence, said that since Osama was not using telephone communications, it is human intelligence that comes to ISI, but no one knew him around that area.

"None of the neighbours knew him," he stressed. The former Pakistani leader also expresses anger at what he sees as a tendency in the West to portray bin Laden's hideout as easy to spot, thus hinting that the Pakistanis were either completely incompetent or, more likely, cooperating with the terrorist.

"They say in the West that he was living in a garrison town, and that the house was huge, with exceptionally high walls which stood out. But I disagree with all of this. This was no Fort Bragg [a massive US army base in North Carolina].

"He was staying in an open, tourist resort kind of place. Anyone going to the north could stop there. There are hotels, and schools and stores - so the story is exaggerated," Musharraf pointed out.

"And the house? It was bigger than average, but not much. And walls? They don't necessarily have walls in the US around houses, but in Pakistan the first thing a man does when he gets a house is build a wall around it. That may be abnormal in the West, but it's perfectly normal in Pakistan and does not arouse any suspicion at all," he argued in defence.

Chinese media slams US 'look east' policy

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:16 AM PST

SHANGHAI: China's state-run news media warned Washington on Friday not to "recklessly practice militarism" or engage in "war mongering," a day after the Obama administration outlined a new military strategy with an increased focus on China.

The sharply worded commentary , published by the official Xinhua News Agency, also urged the United States to play a constructive role in the region.

The official media also warned that the revamped national defence strategy and identifying China as a security threat may challenge mutual trust and cause potential military tensions between the two countries.

The new defence strategic document titled 'Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defence' calls for the US military to strengthen its presence in Asia-Pacific and identifies China as a security threat in long term. The military review says US economic and security interests are "inextricably" connected with the area and the US military accordingly will "of necessity rebalance toward the Asia- Pacific region" , including strengthening Asian allies and investing in the strategic partnership with India, state-run China Daily reported. China's state media also accused US of being a "troublemaker" .

President Obama introduced a new defence strategy on Thursday, aimed at creating a leaner, more dynamic American fighting force with an enlarged presence in Asia and the Pacific. The US had signaled its intention to bolster its military presence in Asia last month, and analysts say that has heightened concerns here that Washington is trying to counter China's rise. Relations between the US and China have often been strained over military issues.

The Xinhua commentary, published under the byline Yu Zhixiao, does not represent China's official position. But because Xinhua is the official propaganda arm of the Communist Party, its editorials often mirror Beijing's positions . The commentary echoed earlier statements by military officials.

I’ve always had a crush on Bebo: Imran Khan

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:12 AM PST

Unlike his contemporaries Imran Khan doesn't have the image of a skirt-chaser. But of course, even he has some well-guarded secrets of his `boyhood' days.

This young actor, who has been very successful in the rom-com space with I Hate Luv Storys (2010) and Mere Brother ki Dulhan (2011) hitting the bulls eye at the box office, is getting ready for yet another rom-com co-produced by Dharma Production and UTV Motion Pictures.
Ek Main aur Ekk Tu, which is prescribed as the perfect date film, has Imran romancing Kareena Kapoor for the first time. It has been directed by debutant Shakun Batra, who is very close to Imran and who actually indulged him by casting him opposite the girl of his dreams.

Imran, who turns a shade of red even when you mention Kareena casually, says, "Kareena is perhaps the most beautiful actress that I have worked with. And I've worked with some real beauties.''

Long before he even dreamt of being an actor, Imran had a huge crush on Bebo. Says he, "I found her beautiful right from her first film Refugee. I couldn't articulate my feelings then, but perhaps I nursed a silent crush. When we started working together, we got along really well. We had a rollicking time shooting for EMAET. I observed her closely while we were working and even took her pictures without her knowledge. She sometimes looked so beautiful and ethereal that clicking her was a natural response."

The EMAET promos have created a buzz amongst youngsters and the trade. Two of the songs - the title track and Aunty ji are also potential chart busters. As Imran says, "With Bebo by my side, everything is working out just fine.'' Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu releases on February 10, 2012.

Exclusive Interview of President Zardari on Capital Talk - Part 3of3 - 07 Jan 2012

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 01:04 AM PST

7 Most Amazing One-Take Video Clips

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:23 PM PST

whatever the reason, one-take video clips sure take the Interweb by storm. Here is Neatorama's list of the 7 Most Amazing One-Take Video Clips

Miley Cyrus swears at fanTeen Disney sensation Miley Cyrus

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:18 PM PST

Miley Cyrus swears at fanTeen Disney sensation Miley Cyrus caught swearing at a fan on holiday in Costa Rica on Wednesday (December 21). Lisa Giles-Keddie reports.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Entertainment

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:15 PM PST

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

"Melancholia", Dunst, Pitt win film critics awards

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:08 PM PST

(apsenews.com) - The apocalyptic psychological drama "Melancholia" was named the year's best film on Saturday by the National Society of Film Critics, which chose its star Kirsten Dunst as best actress and Brad Pitt as best actor for the baseball drama "Moneyball" as well as "The Tree of Life."

Lars von Trier lost out on the best director award for his work on "Melancholia" to Terrence Malick for "The Tree of Life," a mystical period piece which also won the best cinematography prize.

But the big win by "Melancholia" bolstered the offbeat film's chances for the upcoming Academy Awards, which will announce nominees later this month.

Set against the backdrop of a country wedding, the dark film explores the strained relationship of two sisters, one a bride played by Dunst, while a strange planet threatens to collide with Earth, wiping out all traces of human existence.

Pitt, already a strong contender for the Oscars, was honored for his roles as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball" as well as a strict father in "The Tree of Life."

Critics' awards are important in helping build momentum heading toward the Academy Awards, or Oscars, which are the world's top film awards given out on the final Sunday in February by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The NSFC includes 58 members from major newspapers in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago and other cities as well as from Time, Newsweek and The New Yorker and newspapers The Village Voice and the Boston Phoenix.

The group's awards for best supporting performances went to Albert Brooks, who played a small-time hood in the drama "Drive," and Jessica Chastain, who was honored for performances in "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" and "The Help."

Both Brooks and Chastain have been honored by other critics groups in early awards this season.

Several highly touted films, most notably "The Artist," considered a front-runner for the Oscars, "The Descendants" and Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" were shut out, although Scorsese was a close second in voting for best director.

The award for best foreign language film was won by the Iranian film "A Separation," about a couple struggling with the decision about whether or not to leave their home country. The film also won the prize for best screenplay.

The film critics named Werner Herzog's documentary "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams," a 3D movie about a cave in southern France, as the year's best nonfiction film.

Ken Jacobs won the experimental film award for "Seeking the Monkey King."

The critics also announced "film heritage" awards to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for its recent Vincente Minnelli retrospective; to Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of George Melies' "A Trip to the Moon"; to the Museum of Modern Art for its Weimar Cinema retrospective; to Flicker Alley for the box set "Landmarks of Early Soviet Film; and to Criterion Collection for its two-disc DVD package "The Complete Jean Vigo."

Khan's promoter says WBA to order Peterson rematch

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:06 PM PST

LONDON: Amir Khan's promoter said on Saturday the WBA had informed him it will order a rematch with American Lamont Peterson following the British boxer's controversial defeat on a split decision in their world title fight in Washington last month.

Khan, who lost his WBA super-lightweight and IBF light-welterweight crowns, had questioned the appearance of a mystery man at ringside with the 25-year-old's camp accusing him of "interfering" with the scorecards belonging to the judges.

"We have been informed today by the WBA that they will order a rematch," Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer told Sky Sports News. He also said the unidentified man was an IBF official named Mustafa Ameen.

The WBA was not immediately available to comment but its vice-president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza said on Friday there should be a rematch.

"You have to guarantee fairness, you have to guarantee that no one who isn't directly involved can sit at the table," said Mendoza.

Khan posted a number of messages on Twitter on Thursday and highlighted footage from the fight in which a man in a black hat can be seen next to WBA supervisor Michael Welsh.

The man then appears to reach across in front of Welsh. The British boxer's camp allege that it was at this point that the man interfered with the scorecards.

REMATCH ORDERED

"The mystery man in the black wool hat has a name - his name is Mustafa Ameen," Schaefer told Sky Sports News.

"The IBF have confirmed to us his name and confirmed that he is involved in an official capacity with the IBF.

"However, as stated earlier, he was not in Washington in an official IBF capacity. We have been informed today (Saturday) by the WBA that they will order an immediate rematch.


"We received verbal confirmation today and we will get a written confirmation by next Tuesday.

"That means that neither fighter can take an interim fight, that the next fight for Peterson would be a rematch."

"We sure hope that the IBF will follow because that's the least they can do. The ruling of the WBA to order an immediate rematch should put additional pressures on the IBF."

Schaefer is also optimistic that the result of the fight will be changed to "no contest", which would allow Khan to retain his belts, but added: "It's difficult to guess the no-contest ruling. I certainly hope this could happen".

Khan's camp had already lodged an appeal against the result with a decision expected later this month. The IBF has declined to comment until after the Jan. 18 appeal hearing.

21 civilians killed in Syria violence: activists

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 03:01 PM PST

NICOSIA: Twenty-one civilians were killed in violence in Syria on Saturday, with the security forces shooting dead 17 people and four killed by a rocket that targeted a pro-regime demonstration, a rights group said.

Eleven civilians were killed in the flashpoint central city of Homs, four of whom were at the demonstration, and another 10 were killed in the restive province of Idlib in the northwest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

In Homs "the security forces opened fire on protesters, killing seven of them, said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads of the Britain-based Observatory.

Separately, "unknown elements fired an RPG rocket on Saturday evening at a pro-regime district where residents had gathered with candles to remember the victims of the bombing in Damascus, killing four and wounding numerous others," he added.

"In the Maaret Dabse locality of Idlib province, 10 civilians were killed when government forces fired on them indiscriminately," Abdel Rahman said.

Saturday's violence took place as thousands of regime supporters attended the funerals of 26 people killed in a suicide bombing in the Syrian capital the day before, which the government branded a "terrorist attack" and promised to avenge with "an iron fist."

Another 63 people were wounded in Friday's attack, which the opposition blamed on the regime itself, as it did after similar attacks in Damascus on December 23, in which 44 people died.

Parties, politics and potential collapse

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 02:56 PM PST

(apsenews.com)THE African National Congress (ANC), the continent's oldest liberation movement, kicks off the new year with celebrations on January 8th to mark the centenary of its foundation in Bloemfontein, now also known by its African name of Mangaung. Some 100,000 members of South Africa's ruling party are expected to attend along with 46 foreign heads of state and other dignitaries. Not a room is to be had within a 100km radius of the Free State capital.

Self-congratulatory celebrations are due to continue throughout the year leading up to the ANC's national conference, held once every five years, to elect new leaders. The last time such a conference was held, in Polokwane in 2007, then-president Thabo Mbeki was unceremoniously ousted by Jacob Zuma (pictured, left) as the party's leader before being "recalled" as the country's president in September 2008, six months before his mandate was due to expire. It is now Mr Zuma's turn to fight for his own political survival. Political infighting and manoeuvring between rival factions will continue all year.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe 87-year-old President Robert Mugabe (pictured, right), newly re-endorsed as his Zanu-PF party's presidential candidate, continues to press for fresh elections this year despite the continuing lawlessness, violence and widespread intimidation of political opponents, human-rights activists and journalists. But a new constitution, still in the process of being drafted, has to be approved before any new poll can be held, first in a referendum and then by parliament. So elections are unlikely to be held before early 2013, by which time Mr Mugabe's deteriorating health may prevent him from standing again.

In oil-rich Angola President José Edouardo Dos Santos has called for presidential elections in the third quarter of this year—the first since he came to power 33 years ago. But voters are sceptical. Under the country's new constitution, elections do not have to be held until 2013. The 69-year-old Mr Dos Santos, Africa's longest-serving head of state following the demise of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi in October, has not yet said whether he himself will stand. Over the past six months, youths have been taking to the streets to protest against his authoritarian rule and demand he step down. But so far these have been small and failed to spread following a severe police repression.

The impoverished Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, where André Rajoelina has been in power since a military coup three years ago, is also due to hold elections this year. Under the terms of an electoral "roadmap", mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 15-member regional club, and signed by all but one of the main parties last September, all exiled leaders are supposed to be allowed to return "unconditionally" to the island. But Marc Ravalomanana, the former president ousted by Mr Rajoelina and now living in exile in South Africa, is being threatened with arrest as soon as he resets foot on Madagascan soil. He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment two years ago for his part in the massacre of unarmed protesters in 2009. Mr Rajoelina has said he wants elections to be held by May. Only then can Madagascar hope to see the resumption of the Western foreign aid it so desperately needs. But SADC may insist on Mr Ravalomanana's safe return first.

In Zambia, the copper-rich country's controversial new president, Michel Sata, is likely to come under increased scrutiny following the completion of his first 90 days in office. During his campaign, he pledged to carry out all his main election promises during that period. Although he has started dealing with rampant corruption in the public sector and has passed several pro-poor measures, including cutting taxes for low earners, he has unsettled investors by doubling mineral royalties, sacking the governor of the central bank, and blocking a previously agreed sale of a state-owned bank. But the one-time fierce critic of Chinese employers is now going out of his way to woo Zambia's biggest foreign investors—with some success.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Malawi  teeters on the edge of economic and political collapse. Last year's mass protests against President Bingu wa Mutharika's repressive rule may have fizzled out, but the economic situation continues to deteriorate as drought threatens crops, medicines and fuel run out for want of foreign currency, and Western donors, angry over the absence of any meaningful reform, refuse to pay their normal hundreds of millions of dollars in budgetary aid. For the moment, Mr Mutharika remains defiant, but the pressures are building up.

Little Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarchy, is also in deep trouble. The government has run out of cash, and no one seems willing to lend it any without radical economic and democratic reforms, which King Mswati III refuses even to contemplate. In August South Africa, in which the pint-sized kingdom is embedded, offered it a 2.4 billion rand loan, but with strict conditions attached, which the king appears to have rejected. The government may run out of money to pay its civil servants, leading to the spread of last year's mass protests.

Botswana, for long the region's golden boy on account of its sound governance, political stability and healthy economy, also saw some unwonted unrest last year. Public-sector workers staged their first-ever nationwide strike in protest over the government's pay-restraint policies. But the government refused to budge and the two-month dispute, backed by the main opposition parties, eventually fizzled out, allowing President Ian Khama (pictured, centre) to emerge with his hand strengthened. His main challenge now is to wean the economy off its dependency on its once rich but now fast depleting diamond resources—a task he has already begun.

Deemed the poorest country on the planet 20 years ago, Mozambique continues to steam ahead, with economic growth averaging around 8% over the past 15 years—one of the fastest rates in the world. Despite continuing poor infrastructure and rampant corruption, foreign investment is pouring in, thanks to the country's sound macro-economic policies, political stability and rich mineral resources. In Mozambique's north-west, the first shipments have begun to leave what is believed to be the world's biggest unexploited coal fields, and now a massive gas field has been discovered offshore that is being hailed as one of the most significant finds of natural gas in the world in the past decade. With growth of over 7% predicted this year, the future looks bright. But for the moment the vast majority of Mozambicans continue to struggle to survive.

Colts will draft Andrew Luck with top pick

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 02:52 PM PST

The Colts will draft Andrew Luck with the top pick in the NFL Draft, according to ESPN.




CAPTION
By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
According to Chris Mortensen, the team will not trade down or look elsewhere with the No. 1 selection in April.

According to the report, team owner Jim Irsay wants a "quarterback for the next 12 to 15 years." Meanwhile, the team must stock its front office, decide what to do with coach Jim Caldwell, whose team went 2-14 this season, and with Peyton Manning, who hopes to return from multiple neck surgeries in 2012.

Five severed heads found in northern Mexican city

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 02:45 PM PST

(apsenews.com) - Mexican police in the northern city of Torreon found the severed heads of five people killed in a suspected outbreak of drug gang violence.

Officials were still searching for the bodies. The heads were found in black bags in various parts of the city late on Friday, a spokesman for the ministry of public security in the state of Coahuila said on Saturday.

Threatening messages were left with the severed heads - a common feature of killings by drug cartels in Mexico - that suggested the slayings were the result of feuding between local gangs, the spokesman said.

More than 46,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-led crackdown on the cartels after taking office five years ago.

The bodies of two other people in Torreon, an industrial city of around 650,000, were also found, the spokesman said.

Racked by gang violence, Torreon is on the border of Durango, a state long dominated by the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man.

Lately Guzman's turf has been under attack by the rival Zetas drug gang that is stronger in the northeast.

The government has put increasing pressure on Guzman's cartel in recent weeks with a series of raids, seizures and multiple arrests.

Wall Street Week Ahead: Focus shifts back to U.S. earnings

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 02:17 PM PST

(apsenews.com) - Stocks have strayed from their recent link to euro moves, and the start of U.S. corporate earnings next week could help shift investor focus back to U.S. fundamentals from Europe.

Stocks have traded in line with the euro over the autumn, with both experiencing sharp swings on headlines from the euro zone.

That trend may be changing, and it comes just as investors get their first glimpse at fourth-quarter U.S. earnings.

Aluminum company Alcoa (AA.N) is expected to report Monday after the closing bell, unofficially starting the reporting period for U.S. corporations. JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) is due to report on Friday, but the bulk of Standard & Poor's 500 .SPX earnings will come in the weeks ahead.

"I think this month we're probably going to break away and see the pattern of U.S. market trade on U.S. fundamentals rather than in reaction to the euro movement," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist, D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

"I think we're in a time-out period for that (dollar) carry trade, and it will stay a time out for a while."

The correlation between S&P 500 E-mini futures and the euro, which moved in near lockstep in the fall, has receded. A 22-day moving average of the correlation shows almost no relation between the movements of the two assets.

While the corporate results will be searched for evidence of the European crisis' impact on overseas sales, they should also bring back more of a focus on what's happening in the United States, where the economy has been northward bound.

Friday's U.S. jobs reports was the latest data to suggest the recovery is gathering momentum, with non-farm payrolls rising in December and the jobless rate dropping to a near three-year low of 8.5 percent.

S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are expected to have risen 7.8 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. But that number is down from a July 1 forecast for growth of 17.6 percent in the quarter.

"We're going to need good, strong positive news on earnings to lift all three of the market averages out of their trading ranges," Dickson said. "They're bumping into some overhead resistance, and it's going to take fundamental news to do it."

The S&P 500 ended virtually unchanged for 2011, even though most strategists had expected gains for the year.

The index has been unable to pierce through 1,285, the closing high set in late October.

Stocks ended with gains for the first trading week of the year, as the mostly upbeat U.S. economic data offset lingering worries about the euro zone. The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 1.2 percent for the week, the Standard & Poor's 500 .SPX was up 1.6 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC was up 2.7 percent.

Next week's economic calendar includes data on U.S. retail sales and consumer sentiment.

Even with a focus on earnings, investors will be watching Italian and Spanish government bond sales next week.

Both are seen as the year's first big funding tests for struggling euro zone countries. Italy is to pay out 100 billion euros in bond coupons and redemptions in the first four months of 2012.

"Ultimately, the market is still progressing towards a test of the (European Central Bank's) reluctance to be a lender of last resort. I don't know that the test will get that far, but I think it will," said David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial in Boston, where he helps oversee $571 billion in assets under management.

On the earnings front, while all 10 S&P 500 sectors have seen profit estimates cut since July, materials and financials have been the hardest hit. Based on a July forecast, the financial sector was expected to show year-over-year growth of 36.6 percent in the fourth quarter, but the latest forecast is for growth of just 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investment Management in Bethesda, Maryland, which manages about $13 billion, said she has been overweight U.S. equities since the autumn and is considering shifting money into some smaller and midcap names.

"Additional positive momentum in the U.S. can offset additional negative momentum in Europe in terms of earnings impact on U.S. companies," she said.

"Net net it might spell somewhat better relative performance for U.S. small and midcaps versus the large caps," she said. "Large caps may give up some of their leadership this year as the U.S. economy continues to gain momentum and small caps start to benefit from that acceleration."

Bill O'Brien Formally Introduced at Penn State

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 02:05 PM PST

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – After a two-month search to replace legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, Bill O'Brien was formally introduced on Saturday.

The 42-year-old issued a statement, then took questions from the media before posing for pictures. He reiterated his intention to remain offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots for the duration of their playoff run. New England has a bye this weekend.

O'Brien replaces Hall of Famer Joe Paterno, fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Not only is O'Brien replacing Division I's winningest coach, but he must also guide a program shrouded in uncertainty. Besides the criminal investigation into Sandusky, the NCAA has launched its own inquiry.

JoPa_Still_my_hero

Jan. 2: A Penn State fan displays a sign supporting former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno during the TicketCity Bowl NCAA football game against Houston at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

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O'Brien said he will compile his staff over the next two or three days, and get the assistants on the recruiting trail immediately while he works with New England. He will retain assistant coach Larry Johnson from Paterno's offense.

"I'm going to surround myself with good people," O'Brien said, "and I'm excited to do that."

O'Brien joined New England in 2007 following 14 seasons on the college level, including stops at Duke, Maryland and Georgia Tech. He played football at Brown -- Paterno's alma mater.

The Patriots are third in the NFL overall in scoring (32.1 points per game), and second in total offense (428 yards) and passing (317.8 yards).

Penn State finished a 9-4 campaign with a 30-14 loss in the TicketCity Bowl to Houston on Jan. 2. The Nittany Lions relied on defense much of the year after the offense struggled with a two-quarterback system.

In a statement, President Rodney Erickson commended O'Brien as someone who would "maintain the school's commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. We have that leader in Coach O'Brien."

O'Brien has no previous ties to Penn State and a proud program tarnished by a scandal that also led to the departure of President Graham Spanier.

O'Brien and Paterno do share at least one connection though -- both coaches attended Brown University.

"I'm the leader of this family now," O'Brien said. "I can't wait to get going on this, get everyone headed in the right direction."

This was O'Brien's first year coordinating the Patriots' legendary offense, but he has also coached star quarterback Tom Brady since 2009 and spent 2008 coaching receivers.

O'Brien recently was in the spotlight when he and Brady got into a heated argument, shown on national television, after Brady threw an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 34-27 win over the Washington Redskins on Dec. 11.

He was asked about the incident and his relationship with Brady. He spoke of the Pro Bowl quarterback in glowing terms, before addressing the scene on the sideline.

"Football is an emotional game," he said.

New England closed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, and scored 513 points, the most in the AFC. Brady threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, with just 12 interceptions.

Brady has described O'Brien as a great coach and friend. Receiver Julian Edelman on Friday in Foxborough, Mass., described O'Brien as charismatic and emotional.

Kurt Angle's Olympic Dreams

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 10:00 AM PST

Raskin says Fed will fine mortgage servicers

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 09:55 AM PST

(apsenews.com) - Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin on Saturday said the Fed must impose monetary penalties on banks who entered into an April agreement with regulators over how to fix problems in their mortgage servicing businesses.


"The Federal Reserve and other federal regulators must impose penalties for deficiencies that resulted in unsafe and unsound practices or violations of federal law," Raskin said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Association of American Law Schools. "The Federal Reserve believes monetary sanctions in these cases are appropriate and plans to announce monetary penalties."


Raskin did not say when the penalties will be announced.


Mortgage servicers, many of which are large banks, collect home loan payments and manage issues like foreclosures.


The servicing issue burst into public view last year when government agencies began investigating bank mortgage practices, including the use of "robo-signers" to sign hundreds of unread foreclosure documents a day.


In April, 14 mortgage servicers, including Bank of America (BAC.N) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), entered into a settlement with the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the now defunct Office of Thrift Supervision on steps that have to be taken to correct and improve their servicing practices, such as providing borrowers with a single point of contact for questions.


As part of the agreement, these mortgage servicers have hired consultants to review foreclosures that took place in 2009 and 2010 to see if any were improper.


Regulators have said these reviews will help determine the size of any penalties the servicers will have to pay.

FOX411 Country: Taylor Swift Heading to the Big Screen?

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 09:53 AM PST




It may be a big year on the big screen for country superstar Taylor Swift. According to Broadwayworld.com, she's been offered the role of Eponine in the upcoming film adaptation of Les Miserables.

No word yet on whether she's accepted the role, but if she does, according to the site she'll join a star-studded cast that includes Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert, and possibly Amanda Seyfried in the role of Cosette.

The year started off stellar for another leading lady of country music, Miranda Lambert. Her fourth album, "Four The Record" has gone Gold and faster than any of her three previous albums, all of which are Platinum. Lambert also recently released a second single from the album "Over You," a personal song written by her and husband Blake Shelton, and she's gearing up to start her "On Fire" tour January 12th taking Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann on the road with her.

Also with touring news, Brad Paisley has changed the name of his upcoming run after holding rehearsals and getting inspired by his new set-up. The tour will now be called "Virtual Reality World Tour 2012." Plus Lady Antebellum received big news before hitting the road for their "Own the Night 2012 World Tour," as they earned the title of biggest selling group of 2011 with more than 2.1 million album sales according to Nielsen Soundscan. It's the second year in a row they've achieved that status.

With in-studio news, Tim Mcgraw's latest studio album "Emotional Traffic" which had been at the center of a legal battle with Curb Records has been given a release date of January 24th. The album features the No. 1 hit single "Felt Good on My Lips" and also a Ne-Yo collaboration.

And for this week's featured song of the week Trace Adkins is in the spotlight, as he goes from ringing in the new year on Fox News Channel to being named "Artist of the Month" by "This Is NRA Country"… and we mark the news with his outdoorsy and family inspired video "Just Fishin'.

Romney Surrogate: Electability Should Trump 'Beliefs and Principles'

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 09:47 AM PST

A New Hampshire surrogate for Mitt Romney said at a local political event that it's evident he will be the Republican presidential nominee and suggested that "beliefs and principles" should not be the deciding factor for voters.


State Sen. Gary Lambert said the most important thing is to nominate somebody who can defeat President Obama.


"I don't get it. This is not about picking a favorite, it's not about picking someone you like," Lambert said. "It's not about picking someone even with your own beliefs and principles. This is about picking a person who can beat Barack Obama, period."


Lambert spoke as part of a panel of candidate surrogates Thursday before the Nashua Republican City Committee.


He said it's in Republicans' interest to close ranks behind Romney, considering his fundraising and polling edge, and conserve resources for the general election battle in November. Lambert treated the idea of a Romney victory as a foregone conclusion, urging voters to dispense with the formality of a drawn-out primary contest.


"I'd like to get right to the point. ... Look, we know how this movie is going to end. Mitt Romney's gonna be the nominee," Lambert said. "Forgive me and with all due respect to all my friends out there -- so that's gonna happen."


He continued: "The way I look at it, the sooner we get it over, the better. We can save the money because in the end, guess who we're after? We're after Barack Obama."


Romney's opponents have questioned the former Massachusetts governor's beliefs and principles as they try to convince voters to avoid the temptation of just picking the candidate they think can win in November.


Rick Santorum recently urged voters not to "nominate another moderate who has taken multiple positions on every major issue of our time."


Newt Gingrich repeatedly has hammered Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate" who would not be an ideal nominee.


Romney won the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday by a razor-thin margin, with Santorum finishing a few votes behind him.


Since that contest, Romney's numbers in national and state polls have risen. He leads in New Hampshire by double digits in most polls.

Iran's Planning More War Games Near Strait of Hormuz

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 09:44 AM PST

Around the World: Dam Bursts in Brazil

Posted: 07 Jan 2012 09:39 AM PST

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