Wall Street Week Ahead: Earnings, money flows to push stocks higher

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With earnings momentum on the rise, the S&P 500 seems to have few hurdles ahead as it continues to power higher, its all-time high a not-so-distant goal.

The U.S. equity benchmark closed the week at a fresh five-year high on strong housing and labor market data and a string of earnings that beat lowered expectations.

Sector indexes in transportation <.djt>, banks <.bkx> and housing <.hgx> this week hit historic or multiyear highs as well.

Michael Yoshikami, chief executive at Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California, said the key earnings to watch for next week will come from cyclical companies. United Technologies reports on Wednesday while Honeywell is due to report Friday.

"Those kind of numbers will tell you the trajectory the economy is taking," Yoshikami said.

Major technology companies also report next week, but the bar for the sector has been lowered even further.

Chipmakers like Advanced Micro Devices , which is due Tuesday, are expected to underperform as PC sales shrink. AMD shares fell more than 10 percent Friday after disappointing results from its larger competitor, Intel . Still, a chipmaker sector index <.sox> posted its highest weekly close since last April.

Following a recent underperformance, an upside surprise from Apple on Wednesday could trigger a return to the stock from many investors who had abandoned ship.

Other major companies reporting next week include Google , IBM , Johnson & Johnson and DuPont on Tuesday, Microsoft and 3M on Thursday and Procter & Gamble on Friday.


Perhaps the strongest support for equities will come from the flow of cash from fixed income funds to stocks.

The recent piling into stock funds -- $11.3 billion in the past two weeks, the most since 2000 -- indicates a riskier approach to investing from retail investors looking for yield.

"From a yield perspective, a lot of stocks still yield a great deal of money and so it is very easy to see why money is pouring into the stock market," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

"You are just not going to see people put a lot of money to work in a 10-year Treasury that yields 1.8 percent."

Housing stocks <.hgx>, already at a 5-1/2 year high, could get a further bump next week as investors eye data expected to support the market's perception that housing is the sluggish U.S. economy's bright spot.

Home resales are expected to have risen 0.6 percent in December, data is expected to show on Tuesday. Pending home sales contracts, which lead actual sales by a month or two, hit a 2-1/2 year high in November.

The new home sales report on Friday is expected to show a 2.1 percent increase.

The federal debt ceiling negotiations, a nagging worry for investors, seemed to be stuck on the back burner after House Republicans signaled they might support a short-term extension.

Equity markets, which tumbled in 2011 after the last round of talks pushed the United States close to a default, seem not to care much this time around.

The CBOE volatility index <.vix>, a gauge of market anxiety, closed Friday at its lowest since April 2007.

"I think the market is getting somewhat desensitized from political drama given, this seems to be happening over and over," said Destination Wealth Management's Yoshikami.

"It's something to keep in mind, but I don't think it's what you want to base your investing decisions on."

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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Fiery Orioles manager Earl Weaver dead at 82

BALTIMORE (AP) — Loved in Baltimore long after he ended his Hall of Fame career, Earl Weaver remained an Oriole to the end.

The notoriously peppery Hall of Fame manager died at age 82 on a Caribbean cruise associated with the Orioles, his marketing agent said Saturday.

The Duke of Earl, as he was affectionately known in Baltimore, took the Orioles to the World Series four times over 17 seasons but won only one title, in 1970. His .583 winning percentage ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century.

Dick Gordon said Weaver's wife told him that Weaver went back to his cabin after dinner and began choking between 10:30 and 11 Friday night. Gordon said a cause of death has not been determined.

"It's a sad day. Earl was a terrific manager," Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "The simplicity and clarity of his leadership and his passion for baseball was unmatched. He's a treasure for the Orioles. He leaves a terrific legacy of winning baseball with the Orioles and we're so grateful for his contribution. He has a legacy that will live on,"

Weaver will forever remain a part of Camden Yards. A statue of him was dedicated last summer in the stadium's flag court, along with the rest of the team's Hall of Fame members.

"Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said. "This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family."

Weaver was a salty-tongued manager who preferred to wait for a three-run homer rather than manufacture a run with a stolen base or a bunt. While some baseball purists argued that strategy, no one could dispute the results.

"Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianne, their family and all Orioles fans."

Weaver had a reputation as a winner, but umpires knew him as a hothead. Weaver would often turn his hat backward and yell directly into an umpire's face to argue a call or a rule, and after the inevitable ejection he would more often than not kick dirt on home plate or on the umpire's shoes.

"He was an intense competitor and smart as a whip when it comes to figuring out ways to beat you," said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver in the minor leagues and with the Orioles from 1965 to 1972.

He was ejected 91 times, including once in both games of a doubleheader.

Asked once if his reputation might have harmed his chances to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, Weaver admitted, "It probably hurt me."

Not for long. He entered the hall in 1996.

"When you discuss our game's motivational masters, Earl is a part of that conversation," Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. "He was a proven leader in the dugout and loved being a Hall of Famer. Though small in stature, he was a giant as a manager."

His ejections were overshadowed by his five 100-win seasons, six AL East titles and four pennants. Weaver was inducted 10 years after he managed his final game with Baltimore at the end of an ill-advised comeback.

In 1985, the Orioles' owner at the time, Edward B. Williams, coaxed Weaver away from golf to take over a struggling squad. Weaver donned his uniform No. 4, which had already been retired by the team, and tried to breathe some life into the listless Orioles.

Baltimore went 53-52 over the last half of the 1985 season, but finished seventh in 1986 with a 73-89 record. It was Weaver's only losing season as a major-league manager, and he retired for good after that.

"If I hadn't come back," Weaver said after his final game, "I would be home thinking what it would have been like to manage again. I found out it's work."

Weaver finished with a 1,480-1,060 record. He won Manager of the Year three times.

"I had a successful career, not necessarily a Hall of Fame career, but a successful one," he said.

Weaver came to the Orioles as a first base coach in 1968, took over as manager on July 11 and went on to become the winningest manager in the history of the franchise.

"Earl was such a big part of Orioles baseball and personally he was a very important part of my life and career and a great friend to our family," Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken said. "His passion for the game and the fire with which he managed will always be remembered by baseball fans everywhere and certainly by all of us who had the great opportunity to play for him. Earl will be missed but he can't and won't be forgotten."

He knew almost everything about the game. He was also a great judge of human character, and that's one of the main reasons why he was loved by a vast majority of his players even though he often rode them mercilessly from spring training into October.

"His bark was worse than his bite, but you had to know him and kind of grow up with him, and then you loved him like a father," Johnson said. "He was a used-car salesman in the minor leagues during the offseason, so he learned a lot of ways to sell you on just about anything."

Pat Dobson, who pitched two seasons under Weaver, said, "Certainly, the years I played for him were the two most enjoyable years I've had."

During games Weaver smoked cigarettes in the tunnel leading to the dugout and he never kicked the habit. He suffered a mild heart attack in August 1998, and the Orioles' manager at the time, Ray Miller, wondered aloud how his mentor was holding up.

"I wouldn't want to talk to him if he hasn't had a cigarette in 10 days," Miller joked. "They've probably got him tied to a chair."

Weaver was a brilliant manager, but he never made it to the majors as a player. He finally quit after spending 13 years as a second baseman in the St. Louis organization.

"He talked about how he could drive in 100 runs a year, score 100 runs and never make an error," Johnson said. "He said he never got to the big leagues because the Cardinals had too many good players in front of him."

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Amazing NASA Sun Photos Outshine Ultra HDTVs

A NASA spacecraft that constantly stares at the sun for signs of solar storms snaps images and videos so detailed that even the latest ultra-high-definition televisions can’t keep up.

The spacecraft, called the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is responsible for some of the most amazing photos of solar flares and other sun weather events. Its instruments record images at a whopping resolution of 4,096 by 4,096 pixels, more than four times the resolution an average HD television.

SDO sun images are even recorded in higher definition than the newly released “Ultra-HD TV” machines unveiled at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Showcase earlier this month. While Ultra-HD TVs have about four times the resolution of an average HD TV, the SDO photos are still twice as large as an Ultra-HD screen, NASA officials said in a statement.

“Such detailed pictures show features on the sun that are as small as 200 miles across, helping researchers observe such things as what causes giant eruptions on the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CME) that can travel toward Earth and interfere with our satellites,” they explained.

While features 200 miles (322 kilometers) across sound large, the sun itself is 864,938 miles (1.3 million km) in diameter.

NASA’s SDO mission launched in February 2010 to record unprecedented views of the sun, solar flares and other space weather events. As of December 2012, the spacecraft had captured more than 100 million images of the sun, about the equivalent of eight hours of TV programming a day for four months, mission managers said.

The SDO spacecraft is one of several space observatories keeping a constant watch on the sun. NASA’s twin Stereo spacecraft and the NASA/ESA SOHO spacecraft also provide daily views of the Earth’s closest star.

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

Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Why Africa backs French in Mali

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  • French intervention in Mali could be turning point in relationship with Africa, writes Lansana Gberie

  • France's meddling to bolster puppet regimes in the past has outraged Africans, he argues

  • He says few in Africa would label the French action in Mali as 'neo-colonial mission creep'

  • Lansana: 'Africa's weakness has been exposed by the might of a foreign power'

Editor's note: Dr. Lansana Gberie is a specialist on African peace and security issues. He is the author of "A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone." He is from Sierra Leone and lives in New York.

(CNN) -- Operation Serval, France's swift military intervention to roll back advances made by Jihadist elements who had hijacked a separatist movement in northern Mali, could be a turning point in the ex-colonialist's relationship with Africa.

It is not, after all, every day that you hear a senior official of the African Union (AU) refer to a former European colonial power in Africa as "a brotherly nation," as Ambroise Niyonsaba, the African Union's special representative in Ivory Coast, described France on 14 January, while hailing the European nation's military strikes in Mali.

France's persistent meddling to bolster puppet regimes or unseat inconvenient ones was often the cause of much outrage among African leaders and intellectuals. But by robustly taking on the Islamist forces that for many months now have imposed a regime of terror in northern Mali, France is doing exactly what African governments would like to have done.

Lansana Gberie

Lansana Gberie

This is because the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Ansar Dine and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are a far greater threat to many African states than they ever would be to France or Europe.

See also: What's behind Mali instability?

Moreover, the main underlying issues that led to this situation -- the separatist rebellion by Mali's Tuareg, under the banner of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), who seized the northern half of the country and declared it independent of Mali shortly after a most ill-timed military coup on 22 March 2012 -- is anathema to the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Successful separatism by an ethnic minority, it is believed, would only encourage the emergence of more separatist movements in a continent where many of the countries were cobbled together from disparate groups by Europeans not so long ago.

But the foreign Islamists who had been allies to the Tuaregs at the start of their rebellion had effectively sidelined the MNLA by July last year, and have since been exercising tomcatting powers over the peasants in the area, to whom the puritanical brand of Islam being promoted by the Islamists is alien.

ECOWAS, which is dominated by Nigeria -- formerly France's chief hegemonic foe in West Africa -- in August last year submitted a note verbale with a "strategic concept" to the U.N. Security Council, detailing plans for an intervention force to defeat the Islamists in Mali and reunify the country.

ECOWAS wanted the U.N. to bankroll the operation, which would include the deployment a 3,245-strong force -- to which Nigeria (694), Togo (581), Niger (541) and Senegal (350) would be the biggest contributors -- at a cost of $410 million a year. The note stated that the objective of the Islamists in northern Mali was to "create a safe haven" in that country from which to coordinate "continental terrorist networks, including AQIM, MUJAO, Boko Haram [in Nigeria] and Al-Shabaab [in Somalia]."

Despite compelling evidence of the threat the Islamists pose to international peace and security, the U.N. has not been able to agree on funding what essentially would be a military offensive. U.N. Security Council resolution 2085, passed on 20 December last year, only agreed to a voluntary contribution and the setting up of a trust fund, and requested the secretary-general "develop and refine options within 30 days" in this regard. The deadline should be 20 January.

See also: Six reasons events in Mali matter

It is partly because of this U.N. inaction that few in Africa would label the French action in Mali as another neo-colonial mission creep.

If the Islamists had been allowed to capture the very strategic town of Sevaré, as they seemed intent on doing, they would have captured the only airstrip in Mali (apart from the airport in Bamako) capable of handling heavy cargo planes, and they would have been poised to attack the more populated south of the country.

Africa's weakness has, once again, been exposed by the might of a foreign power.
Lansana Gberie

Those Africans who would be critical of the French are probably stunned to embarrassment: Africa's weakness has, once again, been exposed by the might of a foreign power.

Watch video: French troops welcomed in Mali

Africans, however, can perhaps take consolation in the fact that the current situation in Mali was partially created by the NATO action in Libya in 2010, which France spearheaded. A large number of the well-armed Islamists and Tuareg separatists had fought in the forces of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and then left to join the MNLA in northern Mali after Gadhafi fell.

They brought with them advanced weapons, including shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles from Libya; and two new Jihadist terrorist groups active in northern Mali right now, Ansar Dine and MUJAO, were formed out of these forces.

Many African states had an ambivalent attitude towards Gadhafi, but few rejoiced when he was ousted and killed in the most squalid condition.

A number of African countries, Nigeria included, have started to deploy troops in Mali alongside the French, and ECOWAS has stated the objective as the complete liberation of the north from the Islamists.

The Islamists are clearly not a pushover; though they number between 2,000 and 3,000 they are battle-hardened and fanatically driven, and will likely hold on for some time to come.

The question now is: what happens after, as is almost certain, France begins to wind down its forces, leaving the African troops in Mali?

Nigeria, which almost single-handedly funded previous ECOWAS interventions (in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s, costing billions of dollars and hundreds of Nigerian troops), has been reluctant to fund such expensive missions since it became democratic.

See also: Nigerians waiting for 'African Spring'

Its civilian regimes have to be more accountable to their citizens than the military regimes of the 1990s, and Nigeria has pressing domestic challenges. Foreign military intervention is no longer popular in the country, though the links between the northern Mali Islamists and the destructive Boko Haram could be used as a strategic justification for intervention in Mali.

The funding issue, however, will become more and more urgent in the coming weeks and months, and the U.N. must find a sustainable solution beyond a call for voluntary contributions by member states.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lansana Gberie.

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2 shot to death in separate attacks on South, Northwest sides

About 9:15 p.m., a man was shot to death inside a Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, 5500 W. North Ave. (January 19, 2013)

Two young men were shot to death during another night of gun violence in Chicago Friday: One inside a well-lit restaurant along a West Side thoroughfare, the other in a dark gangway on a South Side block populated by vacant brick buildings.

The Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen at 5500 W. North Ave. where Marshall Fields-Hall died is fortified: a chain link fence with barbed and razor wire encircles part of the roof near cooling units and thick glass separates the dining area from the cash registers. Food and money exchange hands through small openings at the counter.

Fields-Hall's killer was on foot when he fired four shots into the restaurant from the outside about 9:15 p.m., police said, close enough to the glass window that detectives had to step over shell casings and red tape when they opened the door to get inside. The holes in the glass, spiderwebbed by the impact, were all within a couple inches of each other, and there were bits of glass on a small ledge inside.

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  • 7400 South Racine Avenue, Chicago, IL 60636, USA

  • 8400 South Constance Avenue, Chicago, IL 60617, USA

  • 5500 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639, USA

  • 5400 South Laflin Street, Chicago, IL 60609, USA

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Reggie Stiff was working in the back of the restaurant preparing an order when the shooting began. The pops didn't sound like gunfire, he said, but more like "a hammer hitting a table real hard."

He came out from the back and the workers up front were "just looking dazed," he said.

Fields-Hall, 21, who lived nearby on the 1500 block of North Luna Avenue, was unresponsive on the scene when police found him but was taken to John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, police said. He was pronounced dead there at 9:55 p.m.

Across the street, separated by three police cars and crime scene tape stretched by strong wind, Fannie White stood with her two great grandchildren, who were playing on a small concrete stoop in front of a boarded-up sandwich shop, running in circles around a brick pillar on the corner of a patio.

"I adopted him as my grandson," Fannie White said. "It's really hard."

White said she wasn't sure how she was going to explain the death to the children, who knew Fields-Hall.

Trese Butler stood next to White and the children, trying to understand what happened after someone had called her to say her friend was shot and that people were talking about it on Facebook.

"He just made 21. We're all trying to piece this together," said Butler, who walked to the scene from her home about a block away. "To me, he's still a baby."

After a couple minutes, the four left together, westbound on North Avenue. The four-lane road with parking on both sides is dotted with liquor stores, sandwich shops and blue-light police department cameras.

"This is the first Friday ever ain't nobody outside," Butler said before she left, adding that the block was usually bustling. "It's very rare. Very rare."

Across town, about the same time Fields-Hall was being taken to the hospital, police found 19-year-old Jovantay Alexander lying dead on his back between two brick buildings in the Back of the Yards neighborhood with a gunshot wound to the head.

Police had responded to a shots fired call and found Alexander where he had been shot. Police said nobody in the neighborhood, along the 5400 block of South Laflin Street, knew the man, who authorities said lived in the 1800 block of East 72nd Street in the South Shore neighborhood. It doesn't appear that he affiliated with a gang.

A handful of detectives stood over Alexander with large flashlights, examining the rest of his body for wounds and other evidence. A single officer blocked northbound traffic on the one-way street, north of an alley that runs parallel to Garfield Boulevard.

Fields-Hall was the 28th person killed in Chicago this year. Alexander was the 29th. They were among at least eleven people shot Friday afternoon into Saturday morning across the city.

In the other shootings:

• A 35-year-old man told police he "heard shots and felt pain" when someone shot him just before 4 a.m. Saturday morning in the 1600 block of North Sawyer Avenue, police said. The man, who police said was a gang member, was taken from the Logan Square crime scene to Stroger hospital in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the arm, police said.

The victim had been paroled in 2011 after having served about 18 years in prison on first degree murder charges filed in 1993, when he was 16, according to state records. Police said he is a gang member who was shot at by the passenger in a white vehicle that approached him from the south as he tried to get into his car.

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Algerian army stages "final assault" on gas plant

ALGIERS/IN AMENAS, Algeria (Reuters) - The Algerian army carried out a dramatic final assault to end a siege by Islamic militants at a desert gas plant on Saturday, killing 11 al Qaeda-linked gunmen after they took the lives of seven more foreign hostages, the state news agency said.

The state oil and gas company, Sonatrach, said the militants who attacked the plant on Wednesday and took a large number of hostages had booby-trapped the complex with explosives, which the army was removing.

"It is over now, the assault is over, and the military are inside the plant clearing it of mines," a source familiar with the operation told Reuters.

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the hostage situation had been "brought to an end" by the Algerian army assault on the militants.

The exact death toll among the gunmen and the foreign and Algerian workers at the plant near the town of In Amenas remained unclear, although a tally of reports from various sources indicated that several dozen people had been killed.

The Islamists' attack on the gas plant has tested Algeria's relations with the outside world, exposed the vulnerability of multinational oil operations in the Sahara and pushed Islamic radicalism in northern Africa to centre stage.

Some Western governments expressed frustration at not being informed of the Algerian authorities' plans to storm the complex. Algeria's response to the raid will have been conditioned by the legacy of a civil war against Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives.


As the army closed in, 16 foreign hostages were freed, a source close to the crisis said. They included two Americans and one Portuguese. Britain said fewer than 10 of its nationals at the plant were unaccounted for and it was urgently seeking to establish the status of all Britions caught up in the crisis.

The base was home to foreign workers from Britain's BP, Norway's Statoil, Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp and others.

BP's chief executive Bob Dudley said on Saturday four of its 18 workers at the site were missing. The remaining 14 were safe.

The crisis at the gas plant marked a serious escalation of unrest in northwestern Africa, where French forces have been in Mali since last week fighting an Islamist takeover of Timbuktu and other towns.

The captors said their attack on the Algerian gas plant was a response to the French offensive in Mali. However, some U.S. and European officials say the elaborate raid probably required too much planning to have been organized from scratch in the week since France launched its strikes.

Scores of Westerners and hundreds of Algerian workers were inside the heavily fortified gas compound when it was seized before dawn on Wednesday by Islamist fighters who said they wanted a halt to the French intervention in neighboring Mali.

Hundreds escaped on Thursday when the army launched a rescue operation, but many hostages were killed.

Before the final assault, different sources had put the number of hostages killed at between 12 and 30, with many foreigners still unaccounted for, among them Norwegians, Japanese, Britons and Americans.

The figure of 30 came from an Algerian security source, who said eight Algerians and at least seven foreigners were among the victims, including two Japanese, two Britons and a French national. One British citizen was killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday one American, Frederick Buttaccio, had died but gave no further details.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said nobody was going to attack the United States and get away with it.

"We have made a commitment that we're going to go after al Qaeda wherever they are and wherever they try to hide," he said during a visit to London. "We have done that obviously in Afghanistan, Pakistan, we've done it in Somalia, in Yemen and we will do it in North Africa as well."


Earlier on Saturday, Algerian special forces found 15 unidentified burned bodies at the plant, a source told Reuters.

The field commander of the group that attacked the plant is a fighter from Niger called Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, according to Mauritanian news agencies. His boss, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Algeria's civil war of the 1990s, appears not to have joined the raid.

Britain, Japan and other countries have expressed irritation that the army assault was ordered without consultation and officials grumbled at the lack of information.

But French President Francois Hollande said the Algerian military's response seemed to have been the best option given that negotiation was not possible.

"When you have people taken hostage in such large number by terrorists with such cold determination and ready to kill those hostages - as they did - Algeria has an approach which to me, as I see it, is the most appropriate because there could be no negotiation," Hollande said.

The apparent ease with which the fighters swooped in from the dunes to take control of an important energy facility, which produces some 10 percent of the natural gas on which Algeria depends for its export income, has raised questions over the value of outwardly tough Algerian security measures.

Algerian officials said the attackers may have had inside help from among the hundreds of Algerians employed at the site.

Security in the half-dozen countries around the Sahara desert has long been a preoccupation of the West. Smugglers and militants have earned millions in ransom from kidnappings.

The most powerful Islamist groups operating in the Sahara were severely weakened by Algeria's secularist military in the civil war in the 1990s. But in the past two years the regional wing of al Qaeda gained fighters and arms as a result of the civil war in Libya, when arsenals were looted from Muammar Gaddafi's army.

France says the hostage incident proves its decision to fight Islamists in neighboring Mali was necessary. Al Qaeda-linked fighters, many with roots in Algeria and Libya, took control of northern Mali last year.

(Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, Estelle Shirbon and David Alexander in London, Brian Love in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Rosalind Russell)

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Wall Street slips after disappointing Intel results

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks edged lower on Friday from a five-year high for the S&P 500 as a weak outlook from tech heavyweight Intel offset a better-than-expected quarterly profit at Morgan Stanley.

But the S&P 500 was still on track to end higher for a third consecutive week.

Shares of Intel Corp slumped nearly 7 percent to $21.11 a day after it forecast quarterly revenue below analysts' estimates and announced plans for increased capital spending amid slow demand for personal computers.

"Intel earnings weren't that bad, although their revenue was weak. It sparks fears about not only the company but about the whole PC sector, and that's pressuring the market today," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

The Intel results were offset somewhat by Morgan Stanley , which reported a fourth-quarter profit after a year-earlier loss, helped by higher revenue at the bank's institutional securities business. Its stock jumped 7.4 percent to $22.29.

Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings rose an estimated 2.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. Expectations for the quarter have dropped considerably since October, when a 9.9 percent gain was estimated.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 15.17 points, or 0.11 percent, at 13,580.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 3.51 points, or 0.24 percent, at 1,477.43. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 13.98 points, or 0.45 percent, at 3,122.03.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose to its highest since late 2007, and that could prompt investors to lock in recent gains, analysts said.

Despite the day's decline, market sentiment was still positive on speculation that chances were better of avoiding a debt ceiling fight in Washington. House Republicans signaled on Thursday they might support a short-term extension of U.S. borrowing authority next month.

"The debt ceiling issue is sort of out of the news. The market has definitely become complacent. And we all know that the issue will be dealt with, we just need to find out when. If December is any guide, they are going to leave it up to the last minute so the market is definitely more complacent than it should be for now," Ghriskey said.

Reflecting the complacency, the CBOE Volatility index <.vix>, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, fell 4.1 percent at just above 13. The VIX usually moves inversely to the S&P 500 as it is used as a hedge tool against further market decline.

Economic data from China provided some support to the market, though the focus remained on U.S. corporate earnings. The country's economy grew at a modestly faster-than-expected 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the latest sign the world's second-biggest economy was pulling out of a post-global financial crisis slowdown which saw it grow in 2012 at its weakest pace since 1999.

General Electric reported a better-than-expected rise in earnings, spurred by robust demand in China and oil-producing countries. Shares were up 2.9 percent to $21.92.

Despite the gains by Morgan Stanley, financial stocks sagged as Capital One Financial reported disappointing profit. Capital One slumped 7.7 percent to $56.87, while the KBW bank index <.bkx> slipped 0.9 percent.

Research In Motion climbed 6.6 percent to $15.91 after Jefferies Group boosted the BlackBerry maker's rating and price target.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum, Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)

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Hamilton: Armstrong must tell everything he knows

Tyler Hamilton recognized what he saw during Lance Armstrong's televised confession to doping.

"He's broken. He's broken," Hamilton said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. "I've never seen him even remotely like that. It doesn't please me to see that."

Hamilton rode for Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team during his first three Tour de France titles. Hamilton's public confessions to doping — first in a candid-but-halting "60 Minutes" interview in 2011, then later in a tell-all book that came out last summer — provided key evidence in the case against Armstrong.

On Thursday, Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey aired, and the cyclist admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to fuel all seven of his Tour de France victories.

Hamilton, who said he felt a huge sense of relief after telling the truth, applauded Armstrong's decision to come clean, calling it a "big first step," but only a beginning.

"It's what he does moving forward," Hamilton said in a phone interview. "He's saying some of the right things now but the proof is in the pudding. If he just goes and hides away, people are not going to be happy. But if he does the right thing, speaks to Travis Tygart and WADA and tells everything he knows, that's going to make a big difference."

Both Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman have said Armstrong will need to offer more than a televised confession to make amends and possibly have his lifetime sports ban reduced.

While admitting to doping in his interview, Armstrong contradicted a key point of Hamilton's: That Armstrong told him he tested positive during the 2001 Tour de Suisse and conspired with International Cycling Union officials to cover it up — in exchange for a donation.

"That story wasn't true. There was no positive test, no paying off of the labs. There was no secret meeting with the lab director," Armstrong told Winfrey.

Asked about that, Hamilton told the AP: "I stand by what I said. It's all out there. I don't know if it's a legal thing, or why he said that. It doesn't really bother me that much."

Hamilton was also among numerous riders who described the immense pressure Armstrong put on them to take part in the doping. Armstrong told Winfrey nobody was forced to dope.

"Nobody took a syringe and forced it into my arm. I made that decision on my own," Hamilton said. "But you did feel the pressure. When it was all set up for my first blood-doping experience in 2000, when I flew to Spain on Lance's private jet, I don't know what would've happened to me if I'd said, 'I'll stick with EPO but no blood doping.' I assume they would've been angry about it. For me, it was a no-brainer."

Armstrong said he had reached out to some of the people he felt he owed apologies. Hamilton has not heard from him, however, and didn't sound like he was waiting by the phone.

Hamilton called the entire episode a "huge life lesson" and said Armstrong can help the sport if he's willing to do more, especially if it involves providing information about doctors, managers and other higher-ups in cycling.

"There are still a lot of bad apples in this sport," Hamilton said. "Lance Armstrong did not act alone. There are plenty of people out there who still think they got away with it. I don't think he wants to rat anybody out. But he didn't do this by himself and he didn't learn this by himself."

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Job Interview Secret: Your Timing Could Mean Everything

Want to ace your next interview? Then you might want to schedule your interview on a day when no one else is being interviewed. Applicant scores may have more to do with who else was interviewed that day than with the applicants themselves, a new study finds.

This phenomenon is known as “narrow bracketing,” according to Uri Simonsohn of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School. This means that interviewers tend to compare applicants to other people they have interviewed throughout the day, instead of assessing them within the wider framework of the entire applicant pool.

The effects of this constriction in judgment can be serious for those looking for work in today’s competitive job market .

Interviews held earlier in the day had a negative impact on interviews held later in the day, Simonsohn and Gino found after analyzing 10 years of data from more than 9,000 MBA interview s. If the interviewers had already given several high scores to applicants early on, they were likely to give later applicants lower scores.

The study showed that as the average score for applicants interviewed early in the day increased by .75 percent, the score for the next applicant dropped by about .075 percent. And while this drop may seem small, the effect it has is significant. An applicant would have to score about 30 points higher on the GMAT, or have about 23 more months experience, to make up for this difference. And the impact that previous scores have on the judgment of interviewers only increases as they progress through the day.

Researchers believe that interviewers are hesitant to give too many high scores or too many low scores in a single day, and this creates a bias against applicants who are interviewed on a day in which there are particularly strong candidates.

Simonsohn and Gino said that they were able to document this “narrow bracketing” effect even among highly experienced interviewers.

This story was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow BusinessNewsDaily @bndarticles. We’re also on Facebook & Google+. 

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Science News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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U.S. 'needs tougher child labor rules'

Cristina Traina says in his second term, Obama must address weaknesses in child farm labor standards


  • Cristina Traina: Obama should strengthen child farm labor standards

  • She says Labor Dept. rules allow kids to work long hours for little pay on commercial farms

  • She says Obama administration scrapped Labor Dept. chief's proposal for tightening rules

  • She says Labor Dept. must fix lax standards for kid labor on farmers; OSHA must enforce them

Editor's note: Cristina L.H. Traina is a Public Voices Op Ed fellow and professor at Northwestern University, where she is a scholar of social ethics.

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama should use the breathing space provided by the fiscal-cliff compromise to address some of the issues that he shelved during his last term. One of the most urgent is child farm labor. Perhaps the least protected, underpaid work force in American labor, children are often the go-to workers for farms looking to cut costs.

It's easy to see why. The Department of Labor permits farms to pay employees under 20 as little as $4.25 per hour. (By comparison, the federal minimum wage is $7.25.) And unlike their counterparts in retail and service, child farm laborers can legally work unlimited hours at any hour of day or night.

The numbers are hard to estimate, but between direct hiring, hiring through labor contractors, and off-the-books work beside parents or for cash, perhaps 400,000 children, some as young as 6, weed and harvest for commercial farms. A Human Rights Watch 2010 study shows that children laboring for hire on farms routinely work more than 10 hours per day.

As if this were not bad enough, few labor safety regulations apply. Children 14 and older can work long hours at all but the most dangerous farm jobs without their parents' consent, if they do not miss school. Children 12 and older can too, as long as their parents agree. Unlike teen retail and service workers, agricultural laborers 16 and older are permitted to operate hazardous machinery and to work even during school hours.

In addition, Human Rights Watch reports that child farm laborers are exposed to dangerous pesticides; have inadequate access to water and bathrooms; fall ill from heat stroke; suffer sexual harassment; experience repetitive-motion injuries; rarely receive protective equipment like gloves and boots; and usually earn less than the minimum wage. Sometimes they earn nothing.

Little is being done to guarantee their safety. In 2011 Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis proposed more stringent agricultural labor rules for children under 16, but Obama scrapped them just eight months later.

Adoption of the new rules would be no guarantee of enforcement, however. According to the 2010 Human Rights Watch report, the Department of Labor employees were spread so thin that, despite widespread reports of infractions they found only 36 child labor violations and two child hazardous order violations in agriculture nationwide.

This lack of oversight has dire, sometimes fatal, consequences. Last July, for instance, 15-year-old Curvin Kropf, an employee at a small family farm near Deer Grove, Illinois, died when he fell off the piece of heavy farm equipment he was operating, and it crushed him. According to the Bureau County Republican, he was the fifth child in fewer than two years to die at work on Sauk Valley farms.

If this year follows trends, Curvin will be only one of at least 100 children below the age of 18 killed on American farms, not to mention the 23,000 who will be injured badly enough to require hospital admission. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries. It is the most dangerous for children, accounting for about half of child worker deaths annually.

The United States has a long tradition of training children in the craft of farming on family farms. At least 500,000 children help to work their families' farms today.

Farm parents, their children, and the American Farm Bureau objected strenuously to the proposed new rules. Although children working on their parents' farms would specifically have been exempted from them, it was partly in response to worries about government interference in families and loss of opportunities for children to learn agricultural skills that the Obama administration shelved them.

Whatever you think of family farms, however, many child agricultural workers don't work for their parents or acquaintances. Despite exposure to all the hazards, these children never learn the craft of farming, nor do most of them have the legal right to the minimum wage. And until the economy stabilizes, the savings farms realize by hiring children makes it likely that even more of them will be subject to the dangers of farm work.

We have a responsibility for their safety. As one of the first acts of his new term, Obama should reopen the child agricultural labor proposal he shelved in spring of 2012. Surely, farm labor standards for children can be strengthened without killing off 4-H or Future Farmers of America.

Second, the Department of Labor must institute age, wage, hour and safety regulations that meet the standards set by retail and service industry rules. Children in agriculture should not be exposed to more risks, longer hours, and lower wages at younger ages than children in other jobs.

Finally, the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration must allocate the funds necessary for meaningful enforcement of child labor violations. Unenforced rules won't protect the nearly million other children who work on farms.

Agriculture is a great American tradition. Let's make sure it's not one our children have to die for.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cristina Traina.

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Autopsy today for lottery winner poisoned by cyanide

The body of poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan is in the hands of the Cook County medical examiner in hopes to learn more about how he died.

Officials will conduct an autopsy this morning on the body of a West Rogers Park man who was exhumed from Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago's North Side after dying of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery.

A hearse was being opened in front of a green tent set up at the grave site just north of Peterson Avenue and Urooj Khan's body was loaded into it. An evidence technician snapped a photo of it before the hearse's rear doors were closed up and the vehicle began driving away across the grass on the cemetery, escorted by a Chicago police evidence technician squad car and several other marked and unmarked police vehicles. They exited west onto Peterson Avenue.

The whole exhumation process lasted about two hours.

Khan's body was not frozen, officials said, and his autopsy will be today. A medical examiner's office spokeswoman, Mary Paleologos, said Khan's body will be buried again on Monday.

Dr. Marta Helenowski, the forensic pathologist who originally handled Khan's case, will be performing the autopsy this morning at the medical examiner's office, 2121 W. Harrison St., Paleologos said in a telephone interview.

The pathologist is going to be taking samples of Khan's lungs, liver and spleen for further testing. She will also be looking at the contents of Khan's stomach and intestines and taking bone, nail and hair samples, all for further examination, according Paleologos.

"Depending on the condition of the body and the quality of the samples, (the medical examiner's office) will hopefully be able to determine how the cyanide entered his body," Paleologos said.

Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina will hold a 2:30 p.m. news conference about the autopsy. He will likely only be able to discuss whether Khan's body is in good condition and if the samples taken from it are good quality.

It'll be two or three weeks before the medical examiner's office knows how the cyanide got into Khan's system. The office will also have to wait for independent lab test results.

Helenowski and a few medical examiner's office personnel were on hand for the exhumation. An imam also was present to say prayers at the grave site as the exhumation went on.

Several helicopters hovered over Rosehill Cemetery this morning and a backhoe and three or four pickup trucks were stationed at the grave site in the middle of the cemetery's northern section, where a beam of light could be seen shining over Khan's headstone. The backhoe soon began its work digging into the ground at the grave site. In addition to the backhoe, one or two workers were seen helping dig up the body with shovels.

A large tent was set up at the site where some two dozen police officers were gathered. Among the officers are two Chicago police evidence technicians, Paleologos said. One was taking still photos of the exhumation, while the other was shooting video.

An unmarked police car and two blue barricades blocked off the Peterson Avenue gate to Rosehill, the only entrance and exit in the northern section of the cemetery.

Four TV trucks sat parked along the fence about 100 yards west of the grave site along Oakley Avenue, the designated staging area for the media. A group of about a dozen photographers, a videographer and TV reporters stood along the Peterson Avenue fence, next to where traffic moved along the busy thoroughfare like any normal morning rush hour.

A few passersby gazed at the police activity at the grave site from Oakley Avenue. One, curious about large presence inside the cemetery, was surprised to learned from a Tribune reporter that it was Khan's body being dug up. Another thought someone was having a funeral.

The exhumation of Khan's remains – scheduled to begin at about 7 a.m. – will come about six months after he was buried at Rosehill. In court papers last week, Cina said it was important to exhume the remains "as expeditiously as possible" since Khan's body was not embalmed.

In court papers, Cina said it was necessary to perform a full autopsy to "further confirm the results of the blood analysis as well as to rule out any other natural causes that might have contributed to or caused Mr. Khan's death."

The exhumation comes after the Tribune broke the story on Jan. 7 about Khan's mysterious death, sparking international media interest in the case.

The medical examiner's office initially ruled Khan's July 20 death was from hardening of the arteries when there were no signs of trauma on the body and a preliminary blood test didn't raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative suggested to authorities that Khan's death "may have been the result of poisoning," prosecutors said in a court filing seeking the exhumation.

The medical examiner's office contacted Chicago police Sept. 11 after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive toxicological tests showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical and the medical examiner's office declared his death a homicide.

Khan's widow, Shabana Ansari, who has hired a criminal-defense lawyer, told the Tribune last week that she had been questioned for more than four hours by detectives and had fully cooperated.  She said the detectives had asked her about ingredients she used to prepare his last meal of lamb curry, shared by Ansari, her father-in-law Fareedun Ansari and Khan's daughter from a previous marriage, Jasmeen, 17.

While a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. He died before he could collect the winnings – a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.

According to court records obtained by the Tribune, Khan's brother has squabbled with Shabana Ansari over the lottery winnings in probate court. The brother, ImTiaz Khan, raised concern that since Khan left no will, Jasmeen Khan would not get "her fair share" of her father's estate.

Khan and Ansari did not have children together. Since her father's death, Jasmeen Khan has been living with Khan's siblings.

An attorney for Ansari in the probate case said the money was all accounted for and the estate was in the process of being divided up by the court. Under state law, the estate typically would be split evenly between the spouse and Khan's only child, he said.

In addition, almost two years ago, the Internal Revenue Service placed liens on Khan's residence on West Pratt Boulevard in an effort to collect more than $120,000 in back taxes from his father-in-law,  Fareedun Ansari, who still lives at the home with his daughter.

Fareedun and Shabana Ansari have denied involvement in Khan's death.


Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Foreigners still caught in Sahara hostage crisis

ALGIERS (Reuters) - More than 20 foreigners were still being held hostage or missing inside a gas plant on Friday after Algerian forces stormed the desert complex to free hundreds of captives taken by Islamist militants, who threatened to attack other energy installations.

Thirty hostages, including at least seven Westerners, were killed during Thursday's assault, along with at least 18 of their captors, said an Algerian security source.

The attack, which plunged capitals around the world into crisis mode, is a serious escalation of unrest in northwestern Africa, where French forces have been in Mali since last week fighting an Islamist takeover of Timbuktu and other towns.

"We are still dealing with a fluid and dangerous situation where a part of the terrorist threat has been eliminated in one part of the site, but there still remains a threat in another part," British Prime Minister David Cameron told his parliament.

A local Algerian source said 100 of 132 foreign hostages had been freed from the facility. The fate of the other 32 was unclear as the situation was changing rapidly.

Earlier he said 60 were still missing with some believed still held hostage, but it was unclear how many, and how many might be in hiding elsewhere in the sprawling compound.

Two Japanese, two Britons and a French national were among the seven foreigners confirmed dead in the army's storming, the Algerian security source told Reuters. One British citizen was killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.

Those still unaccounted for on Friday included 10 from Japan and eight Norwegians, according to their employers, and a number of Britons which Cameron put at "significantly" less than 30.

France said it had no information on two Frenchmen who may have been at the site and Washington has said a number of Americans were among the hostages, without giving details. The local source said a U.S. aircraft landed nearby on Friday.

Some countries have been reluctant to give details of the numbers of their missing nationals to avoid disclosing information that may be useful to their captors.

As Western leaders clamored for news, several expressed anger they had not been consulted by the Algerian government about its decision to storm the facility.

The sprawling facility housed hundreds of workers. Algeria's state news agency said the army had rescued 650 hostages in total, 573 of whom were Algerians.

"(The army) is still trying to achieve a ‘peaceful outcome' before neutralizing the terrorist group that is holed up in the (facility) and freeing a group of hostages that is still being held," it said, quoting a security source.


Algerian commanders said they moved in on Thursday about 30 hours after the siege began because the gunmen had demanded to be allowed to take their captives abroad.

An Irish engineer who survived said he saw four jeeps full of hostages blown up by Algerian troops.

A French hostage employed by a French catering company said Algerian military forces had found some British hostages hiding and were combing the sprawling In Amenas site for others when he was escorted away by the military.

"I hid in my room for nearly 40 hours, under the bed. I put boards up pretty much all round," Alexandre Berceaux told Europe 1 raid. "I didn't know how long I was going to stay there ... I was afraid. I could see myself already ending up in a pine box."

"When Algerian solders ... came for me, I didn't even know it was over. They were with some of my colleagues, otherwise I'd never have opened the door."

Western governments are trying to determine the degree to which the hostage taking was part of an international conspiracy and was linked, as the captors claimed, to the week-old French military intervention in neighboring Mali.

The Algerian security source said only two of 11 militants whose bodies were found on Thursday were Algerian, including the squad's leader. The others comprised three Egyptians, two Tunisians, two Libyans, a Malian and a Frenchman, he said.

Algeria state news agency APS said the group had planned to take the hostages to Mali.

The plant was heavily fortified, with security, controlled access and an army camp with hundreds of armed personnel between the accommodation and processing plant, Andy Coward Honeywell, who worked there in 2009, told the BBC.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said those responsible would be hunted down: "Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere," he said in London. "Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide."


The crisis posed a serious dilemma for former colonial power Paris and its allies as French troops attacked the hostage-takers' al Qaeda allies in Mali, another former colony.

The desert fighters have proved to be better trained and equipped than France had anticipated, diplomats told Reuters at the United Nations, which said 400,000 people could flee Mali to neighboring countries in the coming months.

In Algeria, the kidnappers warned locals to stay away from foreign companies' oil and gas installations, threatening more attacks, Mauritania's news agency ANI said, citing a spokesman for the group.

Algerian workers form the backbone of an oil and gas industry that has attracted international firms in recent years partly because of military-style security. The kidnapping, storming and further threat cast a deep shadow over its future.

Hundreds of workers from international oil companies were evacuated from Algeria on Thursday and many more will follow, BP, which jointly ran the gas plant with Norway's Statoil and the Algerian state oil firm, said on Friday.

The overall commander of the kidnappers, Algerian officials said, was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of Afghanistan in the 1980s and Algeria's bloody civil war of the 1990s and one of a host of Saharan Islamists, flush with arms and fighters from the 2011 civil war in Libya. He appears not to have been present.

Algerian security specialist Anis Rahmani, author of several books on terrorism and editor of Ennahar daily, told Reuters about 70 militants were involved from two groups, Belmokhtar's "Those who sign in blood", who travelled from Libya, and the lesser known "Movement of the Islamic Youth in the South".

"They were carrying heavy weapons including rifles used by the Libyan army during (Muammar) Gadaffi's rule," he said. "They also had rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns."

Algeria's government is implacably at odds with Islamist guerrillas who remain at large in the south, years after the civil war through the 1990s in which some 200,000 people died.

Britain's Cameron, who warned people to prepare for bad news and who cancelled a major policy speech on Friday to deal with the situation, said he would have liked Algeria to have consulted before the raid. Japan made similar complaints.

U.S. officials had no clear information on the fate of Americans, though a U.S. military drone had flown over the area. Washington, like its European allies, has endorsed France's move to protect the Malian capital by mounting air strikes last week and now sending 1,400 ground troops to attack Islamist rebels.

The apparent ease with which the fighters swooped in from the dunes to take control of an important energy facility, which produces some 10 percent of the natural gas on which Algeria depends for its export income, has raised questions over the value of outwardly tough security measures.

(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, Eamonn Mallie in Belfast, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Mohammed Abbas in London and Padraic Halpin and Conor Humprhies in Dublin; Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Economy, eBay profit lift Wall Street to five-year high

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 hitting a five-year intraday high, on improved housing and jobs data as well as better-than-expected results from online marketplace eBay .

The data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, while groundbreaking for homes rose to the fastest pace in four years last month.

Strength in the housing and labor markets is key to sustained growth and higher corporate profits. Job market improvement helps boost consumer spending while a recovery in housing means more purchases of appliances, furniture and other household goods as well as a source of employment.

"The unemployment claims were nice, the housing starts were nice, so that is positive for us. There are some good positive vibes out there," said Harry Clark, chief executive of Clark Capital Management Group in Philadelphia.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 69.83 points, or 0.52 percent, to 13,581.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> added 7.31 points, or 0.50 percent, to 1,479.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> rose 17.74 points, or 0.57 percent, to 3,135.29.

PulteGroup Inc shares gained 2.4 percent to $19.81 and Toll Brothers Inc advanced 1.9 percent to $35.56. The PHLX housing sector index <.hgx> climbed 1.5 percent.

EBay's shares rose 3 percent to $54.51 a day after it reported holiday quarter results that just beat Wall Street expectations. It gave a 2013 forecast that was within analysts' estimates.

The S&P is on track for its third consecutive advance, which pushed the index above an intraday peak set in September to its highest since December 2007.

But gains were tempered by weakness in the financial sector, with Bank of America down 3.4 percent to $11.38 and Citigroup off 2.8 percent to $41.29 after they posted their results.

Bank of America's fourth-quarter profit fell as it took more charges to clean up mortgage-related problems. Citigroup posted $2.32 billion of charges for layoffs and lawsuits, while its new chief executive cautioned the bank needed more time to deal with its problems.

The S&P financial sector index <.spsy> slipped 0.06 percent as the only one of the 10 major S&P sectors to decline.

S&P 500 corporate earnings for the fourth quarter are expected to rise 2.3 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed. Expectations for the quarter have fallen considerably since October when a 9.9 percent gain was estimated.

With investors anticipating the current earnings season to be lackluster, their focus will be on the corporate earnings outlook for the months ahead, analysts said.

Shares of Boeing extended recent declines after the United States and other countries grounded the company's new 787 Dreamliner after a second incident involving battery failure. Boeing slipped 0.8 percent to $73.77 and is down 1.7 percent for the week so far.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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Hawaii hometown backs Te'o after girlfriend hoax

LAIE, Hawaii (AP) — People in the small Hawaii hometown of Manti Te'o are offering support for the Notre Dame linebacker, after the story of his girlfriend and her death from leukemia were revealed as a hoax.

No one answered the door Wednesday evening and no one appeared to be inside the modest, single-story wood home of Te'o's parents, Brian and Ottilia Te'o, in the small coastal town of Laie on Oahu's northern shore where Manti Te'o, an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist, was born.

But members of the mostly Mormon community said they were dumbfounded, and didn't believe he would have knowingly perpetrated such a story. The town of about 6,000 people, roughly an hour's drive from Honolulu, is home to a small satellite campus of Hawaii's Brigham Young University,

Lokelani Kaiahua said Te'o's parents were her classmates, and she knew them to have strong family values they instilled in their children.

"I just don't see something like that being made up from him or having any part of that because they're not those kind of people," she said while sitting and talking with friends a few doors down from the Te'o family home. "Everybody's kind of like 'what is going on?'"

According to media accounts that surrounded Te'o this season, his purported girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia in September. But on Wednesday, the website Deadspin.com posted a lengthy story saying there was no evidence that she ever existed.

Notre Dame officials then confirmed the hoax but were insistent that Te'o was only the victim.

Te'o is a hero and role model to many children in Laie and nearby small towns like Haaula, Kaaawa and Kahuku along the two-lane highway snaking through Oahu's northeastern coast.

Students at Haaula often wear Notre Dame jerseys with his number "5'' on them, and Te'o has returned to the area to talk to students about the importance of staying in school, said school administrator Makala Paakaula, 38.

"He always keeps giving back to his community," Paakaula said.

Te'o should be lauded for uniting Notre Dame during his senior year when he could have left for the NFL, she said.

"It's amazing how he brought together the whole school to become one ohana, one family, where they all belonged, where they all had a purpose," Paakaula said.

Many people expressed anger toward whoever was behind the entire affair.

"If he got hoaxed, that's not his fault — shame on them," Paakaula said, "because he has a very trusting, open heart."

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Light Snow, Ice Could Hit Northern Georgia Thursday

The Atlanta area and areas north of the city are facing a few different weather threats this afternoon and through the night. The National Weather Service in Peachtree Service has issued both a winter weather advisory and a flood watch for metro Atlanta and about 20 counties across the state.

The winter weather advisory warns of the potential for light snow and black ice from the early afternoon Thursday to early evening along the I-20 and I-85 corridor and north. Accumulation is expected to be light (less than 1 inch), but the advisory cautions that the snowfall and overnight ice could impact drivers. The advisory affects Atlanta and north. Clayton and Henry counties are not included, for example.

According to the most recent advisory, “Rain will mix with and begin changing to snow in northwest Georgia by early afternoon, spreading across the rest of north Georgia through the early evening hours.”

A National Weather Service winter weather advisory for snow means that “periods of snow may cause travel difficulties. Use caution while driving.”

The flood watch was issued at 5 a.m. and continues through 7 p.m. this evening. It affects essentially the same area. According to the Weather Service, a flood watch means there is potential for flooding based on current conditions and forecasts.

It’s been since 2011 that snow of any accumulation has hit the Atlanta area, according to the Weather Service, based in Peachtree City. Last winter was extremely mild, and the whole 2012 year saw a record low in days that registered less than 32 degrees.

While it’s been a couple years since a snowstorm, the Atlanta area isn’t far removed from major storms in both the snow and flood categories. The January 2011 ice storm crippled the city for nearly a week and called into question the mayor’s light fleet of snow plows. A 2009 “100 years” flood was historic by even U.S. Geological Survey records.

Mike Benzie has been a reporter and editor for several major news organizations in the Southeast, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Greenville News, and the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Weather News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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Did Scientology ad cross line?

The Church of Scientology is also at fault for thinking the advertorial would survive The Atlantic readers' scrutiny, Ian Schafer says.


  • The Atlantic published and pulled a sponsored Scientology "story"

  • Ian Schafer: On several levels, the ad was a mistake

  • He says the content was heavy-handed and comments were being moderated

  • Schafer: Experimenting to raise revenue makes sense, but standards should be clear

Editor's note: Ian Schafer is the founder and CEO of a digital advertising agency, Deep Focus, and the alter ego of @invisibleobama. You can read his rants on his blog at ianschafer.com.

(CNN) -- "The Atlantic is America's leading destination for brave thinking and bold ideas that matter. The Atlantic engages its print, online, and live audiences with breakthrough insights into the worlds of politics, business, the arts, and culture. With exceptional talent deployed against the world's most important and intriguing topics, The Atlantic is the source of opinion, commentary, and analysis for America's most influential individuals who wish to be challenged, informed, and entertained." -- The Atlantic 2013 media kit for advertisers

On Monday, The Atlantic published -- and then pulled -- a story titled "David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year." This "story" went on to feature the growth of Scientology in 2012.

Ian Schafer

Ian Schafer

Any regular reader of The Atlantic's content would immediately do a double-take upon seeing that kind of headline, much less the heavy-handed text below it, shamelessly plugging how well Scientology's "ecclesiastical leader" Miscavige has done in "leading a renaissance for the religion."

This "story" is one of several "advertorials" (a portmanteau of "advertising" and "editorials") that The Atlantic has published online, clearly designated as "Sponsor Content." In other words, "stories" like these aren't real stories. They are ads with a lot of words, which advertisers have paid publications to run on their behalf for decades. You may have seen them in magazines and newspapers as "special advertising sections."

The hope is that because you are already reading the publication, hey, maybe you'll read what the advertiser has to say, too -- instead of the "traditional" ad that they may have otherwise placed on the page that you probably won't remember, or worse, will ignore.

There's nothing wrong with this tactic, ethically, when clearly labeled as "sponsored" or "advertising." But many took umbrage with The Atlantic in this particular case; so many, that The Atlantic responded by pulling the story from its site -- which was the right thing to do -- and by apologizing.

At face value, The Atlantic did the right thing for its business model, which depends upon advertising sales. It sold what they call a "native" ad to a paying advertiser, clearly labeled it as such, without the intention of misleading readers into thinking this was a piece of journalism.

But it still failed on several levels.

The Atlantic defines its readers as "America's most influential individuals who wish to be challenged, informed, and entertained." By that very definition, it is selling "advertorials" to people who are the least likely to take them seriously, especially when heavy-handed. There is a fine line between advertorial and outright advertising copywriting, and this piece crossed it. The Church of Scientology is just as much at fault for thinking this piece would survive The Atlantic readers' intellectual scrutiny. But this isn't even the real issue.

Bad advertising is all around us. And readers' intellectual scrutiny would surely have let the advertorial piece slide without complaints (though snark would be inevitable), as they have in the past, or yes, even possibly ignored it. But here's where The Atlantic crossed another line -- it seemed clear it was moderating the comments beneath the advertorial.

As The Washington Post reported, The Atlantic marketing team was carefully pruning the comments, ensuring that they were predominantly positive, even though many readers were leaving negative comments. So while The Atlantic was publishing clearly labeled advertiser-written content, it was also un-publishing content created by its readers -- the very folks it exists to serve.

It's understandable that The Atlantic would inevitably touch a third rail with any "new" ad format. But what it calls "native advertising" is actually "advertorial." It's not new at all. Touching the third rail in this case is unacceptable.

So what should The Atlantic have done in this situation before it became a situation? For starters, it should have worked more closely with the Church of Scientology to help create a piece of content that wasn't so clearly written as an ad. If the Church of Scientology was not willing to compromise its advertising to be better content, then The Atlantic should not have accepted the advertising. But this is a quality-control issue.

The real failure here was that comments should never have been enabled beneath this sponsored content unless the advertiser was prepared to let them be there, regardless of sentiment.

It's not like Scientology has avoided controversy in the past. The sheer, obvious reason for this advertorial in the first place was to dispel beliefs that Scientology wasn't a recognized religion (hence "ecclesiastical").

Whether The Atlantic felt it was acting in its advertiser's best interest, or the advertiser specifically asked for this to happen, letting it happen at all was a huge mistake, and a betrayal of an implicit contract that should exist between a publication of The Atlantic's stature and its readership.

No matter how laughably "sales-y" a piece of sponsored content might be, the censoring of readership should be the true "third rail," never to be touched.

Going forward, The Atlantic (and any other publication that chooses to run sponsored content) should adopt and clearly communicate an explicit ethics statement regarding advertorials and their corresponding comments. This statement should guide the decisions it makes when working with advertisers, and serve as a filter for the sponsored content it chooses to publish, and what it recommends advertisers submit. It should also prevent readers from being silenced if given a platform at all.

As an advertising professional, I sincerely hope this doesn't spook The Atlantic or any other publication from experimenting with ways to make money. But as a reader, I hope it leads to better ads that reward me for paying attention, rather than muzzle my voice should I choose to interact with the content.

After all, what more could a publication or advertiser ask for than for content to be so interesting that someone actually would want to comment on (or better, share) it?

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said native advertising accounts for 59% of the Atlantic's ad revenue. Digital advertising, of which native advertising is a part, accounts for 59% of The Atlantic's overall revenue, according to the company.)

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ian Schafer.

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