Friday, January 25, 2013

Published:

S&P 500 index closes above 1,500 for first time since start of Great Recession

NEW YORK (AP) -- Passing another milestone on the nation's long journey back from the Great Recession, the Standard and Poor's 500 index closed above 1,500 for the first time in more than five years Friday after a wave of good earnings reports.

It took scores of incremental gains, several stalled rallies and a few sickening falls, but the widely watched S&P, one of the broadest measures of the American stock market, finished at 1,502.96, up 8.14 points. The index had not closed above 1,500 since December 2007, the start of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

The news came on top of other hopeful signs that the economy is slowly recovering. Housing is rebounding. Companies are hiring again, albeit slowly, and their earnings, a big driver of stock prices, are at record levels.

"The bottom line is that corporate America is doing exceptionally well," said Joe Tanious, a global market strategist at JPMorgan.

The breakthrough happened on an eighth straight daily gain for stocks, itself a remarkable performance. That is the longest winning streak since November 2004.

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Egyptians deliver angry backlash against Morsi, Brotherhood on revolution anniversary

CAIRO (AP) -- Violence erupted across Egypt on Friday as tens of thousands took to the streets to deliver an angry backlash against President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, demanding regime change on the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. At least seven people were killed.

Two years to the day after protesters first rose up against the autocratic ex-president, the new phase of Egypt's upheaval was on display: the struggle between ruling Islamists and their opponents, played out against the backdrop of a worsening economy.

Rallies turned to clashes in multiple cities around Egypt, with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing stones. At least six people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in Suez, where protesters set ablaze a building that once housed the city's local government. Another person died in clashes in Ismailia, another Suez Canal city east of Cairo.

At least 480 people were injured nationwide, the Health Ministry said, including five with gunshot wounds in Suez, raising the possibility of a higher death toll.

Early on Saturday, army troops backed by armored vehicles deployed in the area outside the building housing the local government in Suez. The Third Field Army from which the troops were drawn announced that the deployed force was there to protect state institutions and that it was not taking sides.

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Appeals court says Obama violated constitution with recess appointments to labor board

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate last year to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a far-reaching decision that could severely limit a chief executive's powers to make recess appointments.

The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit marked a victory for Republicans and business groups critical of the labor board. If it stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions over the past year, including some that make it easier for unions to organize.

When Obama filled the vacancies on Jan. 4, 2012, Congress was on an extended holiday break. But GOP lawmakers gaveled in for a few minutes every three days just to prevent Obama from making recess appointments. The White House argued that the pro forma sessions -- some lasting less than a minute -- were a sham.

The court rejected that argument, but went even further, finding that under the Constitution, a recess occurs only during the breaks between formal year-long sessions of Congress, not just any informal break when lawmakers leave town. It also held that presidents can bypass the Senate only when administration vacancies occur during a recess.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration strongly disagrees with the decision and that the labor board would continue to conduct business as usual, despite calls by some Republicans for the board members to resign.

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Satellite images suggest NKorea ready for nuclear test, US institute says

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Recent satellite photos show North Korea could be almost ready to carry out its threat to conduct a nuclear test, a U.S. research institute said Friday.

The images of the Punggye-ri site, where nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009, reveal that over the past month, roads have been kept clear of snow and that North Koreans may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device would be detonated.

But it remains difficult to discern North Korea's true intentions, as a test would be conducted underground.

The analysis was provided to The Associated Press by 38 North, the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The latest image was taken Wednesday.

North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission declared its plans Thursday after the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions in response to a December long-range rocket launch. It described the plans as part of a "new phase" of combat with the United States, which retains 28,000 troops in South Korea and which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang.

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Too many gun laws around the country makes it hard to enforce tougher state and local laws

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Military-style assault weapons, gangster-style Tommy guns, World War II-era bazookas and even sawed-off shotguns -- somewhere in the U.S., there is a legal avenue to get each of those firearms and more.

This is thanks to the maze of gun statutes around the country and the lack of a minimum federal standard to raise the bar for gun control in states with weak laws.

An Associated Press analysis found that there are thousands of laws, rules and regulations at the local, county, state and federal levels. The laws and rules vary by state, and even within states, according to a 2011 compilation of state gun laws by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

These laws and regulations govern who can carry a firearm, what kind of firearm is legal, the size of ammunition magazines and more. In some places, a person can buy as many guns as desired.

This maze of laws undermines gun-control efforts in communities with tougher gun laws -- and pushes advocates of tighter controls to seek a federal standard. Gun rights proponents say enforcing all existing laws makes more sense than passing new ones.

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Brazil: Bar codes built into Rio de Janeiro's mosaic sidewalks will link visitors to info

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Rio de Janeiro is mixing technology with tradition to provide tourists information about the city by embedding bar codes into the black and white mosaic sidewalks that are a symbol of the city.

The first two-dimensional bar codes, or QR codes, as they're known, were installed Friday at Arpoador, a massive boulder that rises at the end of Ipanema beach. The image was built into the sidewalk with the same black and white stones that decorate sidewalks around town with mosaics of waves, fish and abstract images.

The launch attracted onlookers, who downloaded an application to their smartphones or tablets and photographed the icon. The app read the code and they were then taken to a web site that gave them information in Portuguese, Spanish or English, and a map of the area.

They learned, for example, that Arpoador gets big waves, making it a hot spot for surfing and giving the 500-meter beach nearby the name of "Praia do Diabo," or Devil's Beach. They could also find out that the rock is called Arpoador because fishermen once harpooned whales off the shore.

The city plans to install 30 of these QR codes at beaches, vistas, and historic sites, so Rio's approximately 2 million foreign visitors can learn about the city as they walk around.

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Serving, dying from the first, US women have filled military roles marked by battlefield needs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American women have served and died on the nation's battlefields from the first. They were nurses and cooks, spies and couriers in the Revolutionary War. Some disguised themselves as men to fight for the Union or the Confederacy. Yet the U.S. military's official acceptance of women in combat took more than two centuries.

New roles for females have been doled out fitfully, whenever commanders have gotten in binds and realized they needed women's help.

"The main driver is that it's been militarily necessary," says retired Capt. Lory Manning, a 25-year Navy veteran who leads military studies for the Women's Research & Education Institute. She points, for example, to creation of the Army Nurse Corps in response to the struggle against disease in the Spanish-American War.

Some milestones on the way to this week's lifting of the ban on women in ground combat jobs:

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Dolphin dies after wandering into polluted NY canal, unable to make it to high tide

NEW YORK (AP) -- A wayward dolphin that meandered into a polluted urban canal, riveting onlookers as it splashed around in the filthy water and shook black gunk from its snout, died Friday evening, marine experts said.

The deep-freeze weather hadn't seemed to faze the dolphin as it swam in the Gowanus Canal, which runs 1.5 miles through a narrow industrial zone near some of Brooklyn's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Marine experts had hoped high tide, beginning around 7:10 p.m., would help the dolphin leave the canal safely. But the dolphin was confirmed dead shortly before then, said the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Experts aim to conduct a necropsy to determine why the dolphin died, but it may well have been ill when it got into the canal, said Robert DiGiovanni, a senior biologist with the foundation, which specializes in cases involving whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles. Staffers were having trouble getting to the dolphin's body on a snowy night.

The New York Police Department said the marine foundation's experts had planned to help the dolphin on Saturday morning if it didn't get out of the canal during high tide. DiGiovanni said the experts had decided to hold off intervening Friday because of the stress the dolphin might have experienced in being captured.

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Sarah Palin is out as a Fox News Channel contributor

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fox News Channel is parting ways with former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, ending her three-year tenure as a contributor on the network.

While Palin's time at Fox was occasionally rocky, the network's news executive, Bill Shine, said Friday that "we have thoroughly enjoyed our association" with her.

"We wish her the best in her future endeavors," said Shine, Fox's executive vice president for programming.

A person familiar with discussions between Fox and Palin described the parting as amicable, saying that Fox and Palin had discussed renewing her contract but she decided to do other things. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Palin's lawyer in Alaska, John Tiemessen, had no immediate comment on her exit. Palin's last appearance on Fox News was Dec. 19 on Greta Van Susteren's show.

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Armstrong and USADA still sparring, meeting appears unlikely

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Lance Armstrong's lawyers say the cyclist will talk more about drug use in the sport, just likely not to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that led the effort to strip him of his Tour de France titles.

In a testy exchange of letters and statements revealing the gulf between the two sides, USADA urged Armstrong to testify under oath to help "clean up cycling."

Armstrong's attorneys responded that the cyclist would rather take his information where it could do more good -- namely to cycling's governing body and World Anti-Doping Agency officials.

USADA's response to that: "The time for excuses is over."

The letters, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, underscore the continuing feud between Armstrong and USADA CEO Travis Tygart, the man who spearheaded the investigation that uncovered a complex doping scheme on Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service teams.