Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eurozone faces tough hurdles early in 2012

Two men check a monitor displaying stock exchange index in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Dec.28, 2011. Italy saw investors more willing to part with their cash Wednesday as it raised euro10.7 billion ($14 billion) in a pair of auctions, a sign that market jitters may be easing as the country presses ahead with its austerity measures.(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Two men check a monitor displaying stock exchange index in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Dec.28, 2011. Italy saw investors more willing to part with their cash Wednesday as it raised euro10.7 billion ($14 billion) in a pair of auctions, a sign that market jitters may be easing as the country presses ahead with its austerity measures.(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

(AP) ? After a turbulent 2011, the 17 countries that use the euro will be quickly confronted in the new year with major hurdles to solving their government debt crisis, just as the eurozone economy is expected to sink back into recession.

With government finances under pressure as growth wanes, the eurozone will find it even more difficult to shore up shaky banks and reduce the high borrowing costs that threaten Italy and Spain with financial ruin.

As early as the second full week of January, bond auctions in which Italy and Spain need to borrow big chunks of cash will start showing whether the eurozone is finally getting a grip on the 2-year-old crisis that has seen Greece, Ireland and Portugal bailed out.

If the auctions go well and borrowing costs ease, the crisis will ease, lending support for the EU strategy of getting governments to embark on often-savage austerity measures to reduce deficits, along with massive support for the banking system from the European Central Bank.

High rates, on the other hand, would feed fears of a government debt default that could cripple banks, sink the economy and, in the extreme case, destroy the 17-member currency union.

Key events early in the New Year:

? Italy and Spain will seek to borrow heavily in the first quarter at affordable interest costs, starting the second week in January.

? The slowing eurozone economy may slip into or already be in recession, lowering tax revenue and increasing government budget deficits.

? Bailed-out Greece must agree with creditors on a debt writedown that will cut the value of their holdings by 50 percent in an effort to start putting the bankrupt country back on its feet.

The task is for the major players ? eurozone governments, the European Union's executive Commission and the European Central Bank ? to convince financial markets that troubled governments can pay their heavy debts and therefore deserve to borrow at affordable interest costs.

Default fears have driven up bond market interest rates and made it more and more expensive for indebted governments to borrow to pay off maturing bonds. That vicious cycle forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailout loans from the other eurozone governments and the International Monetary Fund.

A key stress point will be whether Italy can continue to raise money in the markets at affordable rates.

In the first quarter, it has to step up its borrowing to pay off euro72 billion ($94 billion) in bond redemptions and interest payments. Spain, which is expected to sell up to euro25 billion ($33 billion) in new debt, starts a heavy period of auctions on Jan. 12, and Italy begins on Jan. 13.

Overall, Italy has more than euro300 billion ($392 billion) in debt maturing in 2012.

"If Italy manages to auction this debt successfully, then the debt crisis will take a step back from the cliff edge," said analyst Jane Foley at Rabobank. "If it doesn't, it could go over the cliff edge. At the end of the day, whatever the nuances and hours of discussion that have gone on about the sovereign debt crisis, it boils down to whether a sovereign can sell its debt in the open market."

If Italy fails to borrow at affordable rates, the options are few and unattractive. The eurozone's euro500 billion ($653 billion) in bailout funds ? already partly committed to earlier bailouts ? would struggle to cover Italy's financing needs, even if additional help can be found from the IMF. A bigger solution ? commonly guaranteed eurobonds ? faces German resistance and would take time to implement.

The European Central Bank could use its power to buy large amounts of Italian and Spanish bonds with newly created money ? but has so far refused, out of concern that a central bank bailout would remove the incentive for governments to control their spending.

Instead, the bank has focused on pushing credit to banks so they can keep lending to support the economy.

Still, its limited bond purchases have provided essential support to Spain and Italy by helping hold down borrowing costs. And its latest massive infusion of euro489 billion ($639 billion) in cheap, long term loans may help troubled governments borrow, as stronger banks may use some of the money to buy higher-yielding government bonds.

Italy pays an average of about 4.2 percent on its existing stock of euro1.9 trillion in debt, but the crisis has pushed bond yields on the country's benchmark ten-year bonds to over 7 percent.

Italy's new government, led by economist Mario Monti, can probably pay rates that high for a while, analysts think. Italy paid much higher interest rates in the 1990s for several years; rates peaked at 14 percent in 1992 but fell gradually to around 4 percent by 1998 as the country shaped up its finances to join the euro at the beginning of 1999.

Italy and Spain's battle will be even harder if the debt troubles pull the whole eurozone into a recession. Economists at Ernst & Young foresee a mild recession in the first part of the year and only 0.1 percent growth for the year as a whole, with unemployment at 10 percent for several years.

That will make it harder for governments to persuade voters to accept more cutbacks in spending, pensions and government wages while raising taxes.

It's not clear how long voters in Greece, which will have its fourth straight year of recession next year, will tolerate continuous austerity. Yet the cutbacks are the price of getting the bailout loans that have kept Greece from default.

Meanwhile Greece is striving to get creditors to agree to write down some debt and avoid larger losses in case of a default that is not agreed ahead of time. A euro14.4 billion ($18.8 billion) chunk of debt comes due in March.

Guntram Wolff, deputy director of the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, said that governments may get past the early hurdles ? only to confront a souring mood among voters in the second half of the year over continuing cutbacks and sacrifices. New governments in Spain and Italy, currently enjoying political honeymoons, will be pressed to show progress. Greece, with a transitional government and elections expected in April, has seen repeated protests and strikes.

"There will be a point in the summer when people have seen a lot of action from government and no improvement in their living conditions and they will ask, do we have this euro to live with austerity and high unemployment," he said.

Wolff thinks that the determination of political elites to keep the euro together will win out: "I think it's going to survive."

Associated Press


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Bachmann vows to stay in GOP race despite setbacks (AP)

DES MOINES, Iowa ? Vowing to press ahead through the Iowa caucuses, Republican Michele Bachmann dismissed the notion Thursday that her presidential campaign was in disarray ? even as she lost another staff member.

Her comments came a day after a key supporter fled her campaign and she had to fend off other calls to leave the race for the GOP nomination. On Thursday, Wes Enos said he was leaving his job as Bachmann's political director, saying: "I am no longer serving in an official capacity with the campaign." He said he doesn't plan to work for or support another candidate and still plans to caucus for Bachmann.

Despite all that, the Minnesota congresswoman called her campaign organization "strong" and said her headquarters had received 150 calls of support after her Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, resigned and switched his allegiance to rival Ron Paul on Wednesday.

Sorenson made the switch a few hours after appearing with Bachmann. She alleges he was offered "a lot of money" to change sides, an inducement she said Sorenson had told her about during a telephone conversation on Tuesday.

"I know what I was told in that conversation," Bachmann said.

The Paul campaign and Sorenson denied that money factored into the decision or that any such offer was made.

Sorenson told CNN on Thursday that he wanted to back a candidate who is in a position to keep Mitt Romney from winning Iowa. "It's unfortunate they're resorting to these type of tactics," Sorenson said. "But the fact of the matter is she wasn't going to win Iowa."


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Should be a defensive coordinator job open at Baylor and Washington tomorrow.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

NextEra Gets JPMorgan Financing for California Wind Farms

NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE) unit raised $131 million in tax-equity financing from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) for three California wind farms.

In addition to the financing announced today, Nextera?s Golden Winds LLC expects to receive an additional $78 million from JPMorgan in early 2012, the Juno Beach, Florida-based power producer said in a statement. The projects have a total capacity of 205.9 megawatts.

Taking a stake in the wind farms entitles JPMorgan to apply a share of the projects? tax credits to its own tax bill. They will enter operation this month or next, Steve Stengel, a NextEra spokesman, said today in an e-mail.

Golden Winds owns the 78.2-megawatt Montezuma II project in Solano County, the 78.2-megawatt Vasco wind farm in Contra Costa County and the 49.5-megawatt San Georgia project in Riverside County, according to a NextEra Dec. 6 filing with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

PG&E Corp.?s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utility will buy the output from Montezuma and Vasco. San Georgia has ?several long-term power purchase agreements,? NextEra said in the filing, without naming the buyers.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SKS 7.62 x 39 Model 59/66 Zastava S-K-S Yugoslavian Montenegro Police 5966 Excellent 1975 C& R OK 76239 but no California - $339.00

Item Number: 978543957

Item condition: Used, Minor Wear.
Item number: 978543957
Item caliber: 7.62x39 (AK47/SKS)
Seller stock #: LG0772
Item location: TN
Name: Robertson Trading Post
Seller since: Jul. 2007
User level: Trusted Seller
Phone number: 731-989-7641
FFL dealer: FFL Dealer
Ask seller a question
? ? Description ? ? Shipping and payments ? ? Additional information ?
This listing is for One Rifle, the exact one in the photos. FFLs or Police Departments, however, may take any number of very similar additional rifles at the same per-gun price and with no additional shipping charges. This pristine Yugoslavian Military rifle has been warehoused in an armory in what is now the Republic of Montenegro. From its letter L serial number prefix, it was manufactured in 1975. We do not believe it was ever issued. This rifle?s quality is on a par with the Russian SKS?s. External surface has strong original bluing throughout with a nice purplish hue to it, and the buttstock is quite nice, every bit as good as the Russian SKS?s that trickled in 10 to 15 years ago. In fact, it was manufactured on Russian Milling equipment. All the serial numbers match: on the receiver, on the receiver cover, on the magazine housing, and even on the stock cartouches. Surface detractions are negligible, principally light occasional scouring to the wood surfaces. We rate this rifle as Excellent and Unissued, 90 percent vicinity by our estimate. Photos, at any rate, should suffice for prospective owners to check our finish grading. We have removed the grease from the outside surfaces, and from the bore, magazine, and gas tube. Mechanism still is well lubricated inside with grease, but that grease is the reason this rifle survived all these years in such fine condition. Bore, chamber, and mechanism are all bright, clean, and excellent. Its only alien markings are on the left side of the receiver, PWA Importer mark neatly and inconspicuously stamped. Rifled portion of the barrel is about 20 inches, with 24 inch overall length including the muzzle brake. Bayonet is blade type with chrome plating, identical to the Russians. This is a very tough made rifle; and it will certainly digest any steel case ammunition on the market nowadays. Weight empty is a well balanced 9 3/4 pounds, and their low recoil makes them one of the most pleasant handling hunting rifles on the market today. All the aftermarket accessories for SKSs will fit this one, too. While this rifle is eligible for transfer to Federally Licensed Collectors, it is not eligible for transfer to civilians in California, C&R Licensed or not; on account of the grenade launcher apparatus at the muzzle. We?re offering the very nice 1975 manufactured 59/66 SKS Rifle in the photos for only $ 339.00. Not transferable to civilians in California or any other jurisdiction where it is prohibited or restricted. The obsolete grenade launcher is the killer for CA civilians. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $20 flat fee lower 48 states; $50 Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico, UPS Ground with full insurance coverage. Offers to buy must be for the registered user with his/her own money. Don?t let your buddies use your account, that kind of thing smells like felony level straw purchase attempt. MC/Visa/Discover/USPS MO paid orders shipped same day. 7 day hold on checks. FFL ok by fax, e-mail or mail, please ask your dealer to put your name on there. We offer 7 day money back on used guns and items, but No Returns on New in Box guns or on Lay-aways or ammo. We do not pay transfer fees or return shipping. New guns have factory warranties and we are not a warranty station. We accept lay-away with 20% down, balance in 90 days - lay aways not refundable, though. Internet phone hours 8:30 ? 4:30 CST Mon - Fri CST. Local pickup available. Robertson Trading Post 117 Front Street PO Box 365 Henderson, Tennessee 38340 We Buy, Sell, or Trade. We always have, since 1952.
? ? Description ? ? Shipping and payments ? ? Additional information ?
Shipping terms: $20 lower 48; $50 AK, HI, PR, UPS Ground. 7 day money back on used items, No Returns on NIB, Lay-away, or Ammo. Lay-away OK, 20% down, 90 days to pay. We Buy, Sell, or Trade; we always have.
? ? Description ? ? Shipping and payments ? ? Additional information ?
Trades: We Buy, Sell, or Trade. Always have.?
We are small-town, family owned dealers in firearms, US Coins, Gold & Silver. We are located 90 miles East of Memphis. In business since 1952. Personnel are Andy Sullivan, Justin Hames, Mary Jones, and John Robertson. Robertson Trading Post
117 Front Street
PO Box 365
Henderson, TN 38340-0365

Phone: 731 989 7641
Fax #: upon request
Internet phone hours 8:30-4:30 Central Standard Time Monday through Friday. No showroom, but local pickup is available & welcome Tuesday through Friday. We're closed on Saturdays, Sundays and most major National and Religious Holidays.



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Switched On: The Year of Reversal

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

Back in 2005, Switched On dubbed its first full year of existence "The Year of the Switch" as IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo, Apple announced plans to leave the PowerPC platform for Macs and Microsoft moved to PowerPC processors for the XBox 360. But the dramatic reversals we saw in 2011 made even some of those decisions look tame by comparison.

Continue reading Switched On: The Year of Reversal

Switched On: The Year of Reversal originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 25 Dec 2011 17:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Texas Department of Transportation shares repair report

Texas Department of Transportation reports there are seven projects under way in Grayson and Fannin counties. This is the current status of these projects between now and Sunday, Jan. 1. TxDOT reminds drivers to be cautious in these and all construction zones, and to be watching for flagmen, traffic cones and barriers, and other warning and directional information provided.

Grayson County

U.S. Highway 75, Sherman ?U.S. 75 south of FM 1417, R.K. Hall Construction is working on a ramp reversal project on the entrance ramp. The entrance from the frontage road to U.S. 75 is closed and the southbound frontage road is one lane. This project is expected to take until the end of March to complete.

U.S. Highway 69 (Austin Avenue), Denison ? Bridge replacement on the viaduct over the railroad tracks, which is actually two separate bridges joined together as one. Northbound traffic lane is moved onto the west bridge (originally the south traffic lane) and traffic in both directions is reduced to one lane across the bridge. Demolition has begun on the east bridge. The project is expected to take until March 31, 2013, to complete. L&N Bridge has been awarded the contract.

State Highway 91, Denison ? R.K. Hall Construction is continuing its work on an overpass at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing in the north Denison area. This is affecting both north- and south-bound traffic. Work will continue through October 2012.

Fannin County

State Highway 78 at Loop 205 ? The contractor, R.K. Hall Construction, is currently removing the existing pavement. Loop 205 lanes from SH 78 to Veterans Hospital will be closed, allowing local through-traffic only. Both north- and south-bound traffic will be affected in this project involving hot-mix overlay. The projected completion date is February 2013.

State Highway 121 ? Main lane work has been completed north of U.S. 69. The final 1.5 inches of surface is yet to be placed on the section south of U.S. 69. However, due to detrimental effects of low temperatures on hot-mix placement, this project is being suspected until warmer temperatures. Roadway will be striped and all lanes open during this time. Austin Bridge & Road has this contract. The estimated date for completion is being adjusted.

FM 273 ? TxDOT has contracted with D.L. Lennon Inc. to widen existing roadways. There could be delays and lane reductions. At night, all lanes of traffic should be open. This project will continue through May 2012.

Bridges being replaced ? TxDOT has contracted with Hodges & Son Construction to replace several bridges in Fannin County. Fannin County Road 3550 at Wafer Creek should be complete by Feb. 24. Future bridge replacements are planned at FCR 3935 at Pecan Creek tributary and FCR 1015 at Murphy Creek will be closed for the next three months, open only to through traffic. CR 3434 and CR 3433 are expected to be opened to through traffic in late January. While under construction, the roads at these bridges are not available to through traffic, but will remain accessible to local traffic.


AskTxDOT : TxDOT is accepting questions by e-mail, and as many of those questions as can be answered will appear in each published report. This will continue as long as the public sends questions. They need to be received by Wednesday of each week. The e-mail address established for this service is

Last week, the question was posed about directional signs on FM 1753. The reader stated: When traveling east on 1753 (Ambrose Road) you come to a sign that reads: Richerson Road then E. Texas St. Road. This should be reversed, the reader asked. And then said the same is true if traveling west on 1753, those signs need to be reversed. TxDOT Assistant Area Engineer Noel Paramananatham said he is working with the district (Paris) office to get those corrected.


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Video: Refugees at home in choir

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

How comedian Louis C.K. made $1M and gave half away (Reuters)

NEW YORK ( ? Louis C.K. cut out TV networks by selling his latest comedy special online -- then used network airtime to promote it. The strategy helped him earn a cool million dollars in a matter of days, half of which he's giving away to his staff and charities.

It's hard to think of a more stick-it-to-The-Man approach to distributing your work. But The Man -- in this case TV networks and the conglomerates that own them -- don't seem to mind. Networks have given him prominent platforms to promote the special, "Live at the Beacon Theater," and its success has only added to the prestige of C.K.'s FX comedy, "Louie."

It hasn't hurt C.K.'s reputation, either: The New York Times said this week he's ascended to show-business sainthood.

And that was before he announced plans to give $280,000 to charities. They include the Fistula Foundation, which helps battered women; Green Chimneys, which works with children and animals; the Pablove Foundation, which help children with cancer, Charity: Water, which provides clean drinking water; and Kiva, which gives microloans. He will also pay out $250,000 in bonuses to staff.

If you pitched C.K.'s success with the special as a Christmas movie, people might say it was too corny to be believable.

The comedian did his last three specials for HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central. This time, he sold it on his website for $5, including a note asking people please not to pirate it. It went on sale December 9.

"People told me everyone's gonna steal it," he told Jimmy Fallon. "So I just wrote a note that said please don't do that ... And they didn't."

C.K. has sold the special to about 220,000 people so far. Besides the more than half a million dollars for his staff and charities, he paid about $250,000 in production costs. He'll pocket the rest.

He said he decided to give much of the money away because "I've never had a million dollars all at once ... I felt uncomfortable about having that much money."

His D.I.Y. approach wouldn't work for everyone. C.K. is one of the best comedians alive, and could draw nearly a quarter-million people to download his material. He's also the rare talent who can not only write, star in, and produce and direct his own special, but also develop a simple and convenient way to sell it.

He used TV networks to promote, seizing on a long relationship with NBC to appear on both "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." (Besides writing for "Late Night" when Conan O'Brien was its host, C.K. has also guest-starred on "Parks and Recreation.") He also appeared on ABC's nightline.


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pros see stocks up in 2012, but big risks, too (AP)

NEW YORK ? The good news is that Wall Street experts think stock prices will rise more than 10 percent next year. The bad news is that they expected big gains in 2011 and got nearly zero instead.

It's forecasting time on Wall Street, and once again the pros are trying to predict the unpredictable. History suggests their target price for stocks by the end of 2012 will prove too high or too low. They might even get the direction wrong ? predicting a gain when there's a loss.

As Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

In typical times, guessing where stocks will end up in a year is difficult. There are many assumptions about economic growth, inflation and consumer spending that go into the calculation.

Now, forecasting has become nearly impossible. Big unknowns hang over the market as rarely before. Will the euro break up? Will China slow too sharply? Will squabbling in Washington scuttle the economic recovery?

"Normally, you wonder, How will sales do? How are managements doing?" says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at Standard & Poor's, which puts out its own forecasts. "Now there are so many high-level issues that affect the market."

Silverblatt's firm says the S&P 500 index should rise to 1,400 by the end of 2012, up more than 10 percent from Friday's close of 1,265. That figure is an average of expectations from investment strategists, economists and other big thinkers. More bullish yet are stock analysts focused on individual companies. Add up their price targets for each stock in the index, and they see it rising to 1,457, up 15 percent.

There's plenty of reason to think stocks will rise fast in the coming year. U.S. companies are generating record profits. Americans are spending more than expected and factories are producing more. The job market finally appears to be healing, too.

The odds of the U.S. slipping into another recession have fallen since the summer, when the economy had slowed.

Stocks seem attractively priced, too. The S&P 500 is trading at 12 times its expected earnings per share for 2012. It typically trades at 15 times, meaning stocks appear cheaper now.

Binky Chadha, chief strategist at Deutsche Bank, says the S&P 500 could hit 1,500 by the end of 2012, a gain of more than 18 percent.

Still, there is worry amid the bullishness.

Michael Hartnett, chief global equity strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, expects the S&P to close next year at 1,350, up 6.7 percent from Friday's close. He thinks the U.S. will avoid recession and U.S. companies will generate decent profits.

What could wreck that prediction is a worse situation in Europe than he is expecting. If European leaders move too slowly to solve their government debt crisis, the region could fall into a deep recession and throw the U.S. into one, too. If Europe tanks, profits will drop sharply and push the S&P down to 1,000, he says. That would be a sharp drop of 21 percent from Friday's close.

The frightening part is that Hartnett gives this "bear" case four-in-10 odds.

Similarly, Barry Knapp, strategist at Barclays Capital, predicts the S&P will rise to 1,330 next year. But he expects Europe's struggles with its debt and Washington gridlock could lead investors to sell before they buy. He says the S&P could fall to 1,150 by the middle of the year before rising to his target.

It could drop sooner. In the first three months next year, Italy needs to sell national bonds to raise money to pay holders of $172 billion worth of old ones coming due. The risk is that investors will demand high interest rates to buy the new bonds, and that will spread fears of a possible default. After Italy was forced to pay unexpectedly high rates in a bond auction earlier this month, stocks fell hard around the world.

"The crisis could become systemic," says Athanasios Vamvakidis, head European currency strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. "That would threaten not only Europe, but the whole global recovery."

One solution is to invest in companies selling goods that people need in both good times and bad, such as drugs and food. If the economy falls into recession, profits of these companies are less likely to collapse.

In 2011, these so-called defensive companies bucked the flat market. Stocks of utility companies have risen almost 15 percent through Friday. Healthcare and consumer staples were each up 10. Standouts include insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc., which has risen 42 percent, and Kraft Foods, up almost 20 percent.

Then again, you might do better investing in the opposite kind of companies, like makers of toys and other consumer discretionary goods. Their profits tend to zoom up and down with the economy.

A report from S&P Capital IQ notes that stocks of cyclical companies such as these tend to gain the most after market drops like the one in October, when stocks fell nearly 20 percent.

In the five times that the S&P 500 has fallen between 15 percent and 25 percent since 1978, consumer discretionary stocks have risen an average 30 percent in the next six months, according to S&P. Those stocks are up 16 percent since their Oct. 3 lows.

One reason it's difficult to guess future stock prices is that figuring out where the economy is heading isn't so easy either.

In December 2007, economists expected the economy to grow an average 2.4 percent in 2008, according to a survey of three dozen of them by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. It shrank 0.3 percent instead. For 2009, they forecast the economy would shrink 0.8 percent. It shrank 3.5 percent.

Economists were more accurate the next two years, though not by much. Now they say the economy will grow 2.2 percent next year.

A few mutual fund managers say people aren't skeptical enough about forecasts. In a recent letter to their investors, the folks who run Castle Focus, a $43 million fund, say hopes of big profits may be dashed given all the economic uncertainty. The fund had 28 percent of its assets in cash in September, its latest report.

Most funds are doing the opposite and investing cash. The average stock mutual fund had just 3.5 percent of its assets in cash in October, according to a report from the Investment Company Institute. That is the nearly the lowest level since the firm started keeping records 25 years ago.

Maybe fund managers have been listening too much to bullish stock analysts. For the record, the same analysts surveyed by S&P who expect a 16 percent stock jump next year were optimistic about 2011, too. A year ago, they called for the S&P to rise 9 percent.

It still may, but the odds are long and time is running out. As of Friday, the index was up 0.6 percent for the year.


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Granddaughter arrested in Washington Twp. homicide

By Doug Page, Staff Writer Updated 3:41 PM Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WASHINGTON TWP., Montgomery County -- The 24-year-old granddaughter of a woman beaten to death in Washington Twp. was arrested Wednesday in what authorities believe was a homicidal attack fueled by a crack cocaine addiction.

Aisha Marie Sanders was taken into custody by the Ohio Highway Patrol on a back road just off Interstate 70 in Preble County, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said at a news conference at sheriff?s headquarters in downtown Dayton.

Plummer said someone passing by noticed the woman asleep in her car, and called OSP. After running the car?s license plate, troopers arrested the woman shortly before 1 p.m.

Sanders gave detectives a full, written confession in the killing of Mary Muha, the sheriff said.

?The 86-year-old victim worked all of her life, and she gets killed by her granddaughter, whose life is taken over by crack,? Plummer said.

Detectives said Sanders had been living off and on in her grandmother?s house. ?She pretty much drained all the finances,? Plummer said. ?Apparently, she told detectives that crack had taken over her life.?

The sheriff said he thought Sanders went into a rage and beat the woman because there was no money for drugs. Investigators discovered that a television and a dog had been taken from the house.

Sanders told detectives she had been partying since Sunday morning, Plummer said.

The body of Muha was discovered at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by her grandson when he went to her residence at 981 Sugarside Court to check on her, Plummer said.

?She had blunt force trauma to the head,? he said, noting that deputies had not established an exact time of death or a motive.

Plummer said Sanders had run out of gas and had run out of money. She told detectives she had let the dog loose sometime during her partying because she could no longer care for it.

Sanders is in the county jail, awaiting formal charges and an initial appearance. The county prosecutor?s office has not filed formal charges, but the case probably will be presented to that office by the end of the week.

It was the second attack in as many days on older women.

On Monday, neighbors found a 63-year-old woman semiconscious in her Jefferson Twp. home on Rossiter Drive. She had been beaten about the head and face by two armed men late Sunday or early Monday morning, sheriff?s Chief Deputy Scott Landis said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2290 or


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Solar Wind May Explain Planet Mercury's Puny Magnetic Field (

The mystery of why Mercury's magnetic field is so weak may just have been solved: It is being stifled by the solar wind, researchers think.

Mercury and Earth are the only rocky planets in the solar system to possess global magnetic fields, and for years scientists have puzzled over why Mercury's is so flimsy. Roiling molten iron cores generate magnetic fields, and given how extraordinarily iron-rich Mercury is for its size ? its metallic heart may comprise two-thirds of Mercury's mass, twice the ratio for Earth, Venus or Mars ? the innermost planet should have a magnetic field 30 times stronger than what spacecraft such as NASA's MESSENGER probe have detected so far.

To study Mercury's magnetic field, researchers created 3-D computer simulations of the planet's interior and of the solar wind, the deluge of energetic particles from the sun that constantly bombards its nearest planet.

The computer models suggested that the churning of Mercury's molten iron core ordinarily would amplify the magnetic field up to Earth-like levels, in a so-called dynamo process like the one within our planet. [The Greatest Mysteries of Mercury]

However, the onrushing solar wind likely prevents that from happening, researchers said.

The study found that the solar wind deflects charged particles in the shell around the planet known as a magnetosphere. The magnetic field of this magnetosphere reaches all the way to Mercury's core, limiting the strength of the field created by the planet's interior, researchers said.

"The magnetic coupling between the magnetosphere and the dynamo in the planetary interior yields a weakened dynamo that can explain the enigmatic weakness of the magnetic field of Mercury," said study lead author Daniel Heyner, a physicist at Technical University in Braunschweig, Germany.

Scientists plan to test the accuracy of their models using data on Mercury's magnetic field and magnetosphere collected by MESSENGER and by the European BepiColombo mission due to launch in 2014, researchers said.

"This is quite a challenge, as the magnetosphere is small and very dynamic," Heyner told

The growing number of alien planets that astronomers are discovering around distant stars may also offer insights into how planetary dynamos "are controlled by the stellar wind of stars that are in a different evolutionary phase compared to our sun," Heyner added.

Heyner and his colleagues detail their findings in the Dec. 23 issue of the journal Science.

Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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MITCoLab: Discarded street chair from N. Carolina finds a home in Haifa, Israel: (part of the international #popupchair exhibit)

Twitter / MIT CoLab: Discarded street chair fro ... Loader Discarded street chair from N. Carolina finds a home in Haifa, Israel: (part of the international exhibit)


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Atomic refrigerators ? now those are cool

The coolest things of the future might be created using what are essentially refrigerators that work on the atomic level, researchers say.

The level of control over matter that scientists are now developing to create ultra-cold objects could also be used to create entirely new states of matter and super-powerful quantum computers, researchers added.

Scientists routinely cool matter to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero, the coldest temperature theoretically possible, which corresponds to minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-273.15 Celsius). Still, they would like to chill matter to even-colder temperatures to better understand other extreme phenomena, such as superconductivity, where electrons zip without resistance through objects.

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Now physicists reveal a new way to create ultra-cold matter, with an idea similar to how fridges work. Refrigerators pump a fluid known as a refrigerant around the area they are cooling. This fluid sucks up heat. The refrigerant is then pumped someplace where it dumps this heat.

Chill atoms
First the researchers cooled atoms of rubidium with lasers. When set up properly, these beams can force atoms to glow in a way that makes them emit more energy than they absorb, thus making them colder.

When the atoms gave off light as a result of being hit with the laser, this exerted a slight pressure on them. The scientists took advantage of that pressure to control the atoms, either keeping them in place or moving them around, sometimes creating collisions.

The researchers then made the atoms even colder with evaporative cooling, in which matter gets cooled in much the same way as a cup of coffee loses its warmth ? the hottest atoms are allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the colder ones.

Finally, the researchers used webs of lasers known as "optical lattices." When two atoms are made to collide within the optical lattice, the excitations of one suppress the excitations of the other, a phenomenon called "orbital excitation blockade." The excited atoms are then removed from the system ? taking away entropy, the amount of energy available for work ? thus causing the remaining atoms to chill down.

In experiments with rubidium atoms in optical lattices, the physicists successfully demonstrated they could remove entropy from atoms via orbital excitation blockade. In principle, they can reach temperatures 10- to 100-times colder than currently achieved, to temperatures of tenths-to-hundredths-of-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero. However, they likely need lasers of longer wavelengths to do so in real life, said researcher Markus Greiner, a physicist at Harvard University.

Exotic matter
Their research could help "create exotic new states of matter, ones never seen before," Greiner told LiveScience. "Who knows what the properties of these materials might be?"

The ability to create perfect arrays of atoms could also be "a great starting point for a general-purpose quantum computer," Greiner said. Quantum computers exploit the bizarre nature of quantum physics ? such as how subatomic particles can effectively spin in two opposite directions at the same time ? to run calculations exponentially faster than normal computers for certain problems.

Research into quantum computers has mostly been on devices designed to each crunch one specific kind of problem, but optical lattices could lead to general-purpose quantum computers that, like modern personal computers, can tackle many different kinds of problems.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Thursday issue of the journal Nature.

? 2011 All rights reserved.


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hawaii parade honors Japanese-American WWII vets (AP)

HONOLULU ? Hundreds of Japanese-American veterans of World War II were honored Saturday with a parade in Honolulu ? nearly 70 years after they volunteered to fight for their country even as the government branded them "enemy aliens."

About 200 veterans rode in convertibles, troop carriers and trolleys past a cheering crowd of tourists, family and local residents. The event celebrates the Congressional Gold Medal the veterans received last month.

Thousands of Japanese-Americans served in World War II even as the government viewed them with suspicion because their ancestors were from the country that bombed Pearl Harbor. Some on the mainland enlisted from internment camps, where the federal government had imprisoned 110,000 Japanese-Americans.

Fragile health prevented many of the surviving veterans ? the youngest of whom are in their 80s ? from traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend a ceremony at which the medal was presented.

Two-thirds of the Japanese-Americans who served were from Hawaii. Many others were from California, Oregon and Washington state.

The medal recognizes the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion which together saw some of the most brutal fighting in the war as the soldiers pushed their way through Italy, France and Germany.

By the end of the war, the combined unit became the most highly decorated military unit in U.S. history for its size and length of service.

Those in the parade Saturday wore hats with the names of their units on them, and some included the saying "Go for Broke," which had been the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat team.

The medal also honors Japanese-Americans who served as translators and interpreters against Japan, often on the front lines with Marines and soldiers fighting from island to island across the Pacific.

As members of the Military Intelligence Service, they deciphered key Japanese communications, including one that tipped off the U.S. to the flight plans of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto ? the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor ? in 1943. The U.S. shot down his plane, dealing a major blow to Japan.

The parade also honored members of the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion who were stationed on Oahu during the war.

The elite medal has been given selectively since 1776, when George Washington was awarded the first. Other honorees include the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks and the Dalai Lama. The Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black fighter pilots, received the medal in 2007.


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Book Review : Book Review: Time Travel and Warp Drives by Allen Everett and Thomas Roman and How to Build a Time Machine by Brian Clegg

Review by Alexandra Witze

By Allen Everett and Thomas Roman and How to Build a Time Machine

Buy Time Travel and Warp Drives Buy How to Build a Time Machine

As any fan of Doctor Who or Marty McFly can attest, few areas of science excite quite as much public interest as time travel. Step into a police box or a DeLorean, flip a switch, and you?re off to change the world ? or perhaps save it.

Would-be time travelers now have two new relevant guides to the promise of time machines. Which you might prefer depends on just how much you want to understand the mathematics underlying a machine like the TARDIS.

Surprisingly, time travel is not that difficult in principle; nothing in the known laws of physics prohibits it. The problem is with today?s technology.

Take Ronald Mallett, the University of Connecticut physicist who has been trying to build a time machine to visit his father, who died when Mallett was 10 years old. Using a ring laser, he hopes to generate ?closed timelike curves? in which particles can return to the past. Mallett has realized that his machine could take him no further than the time when it was switched on ? making a visit with his late father impossible.

Everett and Roman are physicists who have probed the theoretical possibilities of time travel. Their expertise shines as they talk the reader through the underlying math of time travel, much like an introductory college course. These are writers who don?t shy away from introducing Lorentz transformations in the third chapter.

In contrast, Clegg?s book is more like chatting with fellow students after a professorial lecture. Its breezy summary glosses over some of the finer points of time travel, but allows an excellent entry point for readers less willing to slog through grim mathematical details.

Fascination with time travel is itself timeless; witness the recent excitement over neutrinos possibly moving faster than light. If true, this would also permit the particles to travel backward in time. If that happens, you?ll need a handy reference guide. ? Alexandra Witze

Everett and Roman: Univ. of Chicago, 268 p., 2011, $30; Clegg: St. Martin?s, 320 p., 2011, $25.99


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

China exporters face "very severe" Q1 2012: Commerce Ministry (Reuters)

BEIJING (Reuters) ? China's exporters will face "very severe" conditions in the first quarter of 2012, the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, with Europe's debt crisis dragging on and dampening demand.

"The overall trade environment next year for China will be complicated, partly due to the economic uncertainties in the European countries, and I should say that the export situation in the first quarter of next year will be very severe," Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told a news conference.

Growth in Chinese exports and imports slowed in November, fresh evidence of faltering demand abroad and at home that is pushing Beijing towards a more explicit pro-growth policy stance, according to data published on December 10.

Customs data showed exports at their most sluggish in two years -- stripping out the volatile month of February.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Nick Edwards; Editing by Ken Wills)


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Friday, December 16, 2011

Magnitude 5.6 quake hits off Japan (Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) ? A magnitude 5.6 quake struck off Japan shortly after midnight at a depth of 15 (10 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

It said it hit 219 km southeast of Hachijo-jima, in the Izu Islands, at 1512 GMT. It earlier gave the magnitude as 6. It was not immediately clear whether it had caused any damage.

Japan, situated on the "Ring of Fire" arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches which partly encircles the Pacific Basin, accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

(Writing by Alison Williams)


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Retail sales are helping economy grow consistently

Shoppers stop to look at a display while shopping at Dadeland Mall, Friday, Nov. 25 2011, in Miami. Early signs point to bigger crowds at the nation's malls and stores as retailers like Macy's and Target opened their doors at midnight. (AP Photo/ Lynne Sladky)

Shoppers stop to look at a display while shopping at Dadeland Mall, Friday, Nov. 25 2011, in Miami. Early signs point to bigger crowds at the nation's malls and stores as retailers like Macy's and Target opened their doors at midnight. (AP Photo/ Lynne Sladky)

FILE - in this Nov. 25, 2011, file photo, a shopper takes a rest with purchases at Northpark Mall in Ridgeland, Miss. Americans spent more on autos, furniture and clothing last month as retail sales rose for the sixth straight month. (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Vickie D. King, File) NO SALES

(AP) ? Economic growth is picking up in the final three months of the year, fueled by higher consumer spending, rising business stockpiles and modest increases in hiring.

The start of the holiday shopping season in November helped produce the sixth straight monthly increase in retail sales. Gift-buying Americans spent more on clothing and electronics, and sales of autos and furniture also rose.

Still, the improvement might not last. Unemployment remains high, and incomes are stagnant. That's likely to restrain growth early next year. So could any worsening of Europe's financial crisis.

Because pay raises have been slight, consumers have dipped into savings to finance much of the additional spending. That trend may not be sustainable.

"Looking ahead to early next year, we expect consumer spending to slow markedly amid sluggish income growth, shrinking household wealth, low savings and tight credit conditions," Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in a note to clients.

For now, the economic data remains encouraging. Job openings declined slightly in October, but they were still at the second-highest level in three years.

Businesses also built up their inventories in October, after holding them steady in September. That means extra factory production was likely needed to increase companies' stockpiles.

Overall, most analysts expect the economy to grow at an annual rate of at least 3 percent in the October-December quarter, up from 2 percent in the July-September period.

Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in November, the government said Tuesday. That was lower than October's gain, which was revised up to show a 0.6 percent increase. And it was the smallest increase in five months.

Even so, more spending on retail goods shows the economy is continuing to grow steadily, if slowly.

An increase in furniture and auto sales suggested that consumers made more big purchases in November. So-called "core" sales, which exclude the volatile categories of autos, gasoline and building materials, rose for an 11th straight month.

At the same time, sales fell at gasoline stations and restaurants.

"People decided to go to the store and do their shopping rather than go to the restaurant," Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse.

The dip in job openings in October followed a three-year high in September.

Each opening is sparking heavy competition. Nearly 14 million people were unemployed in October. That means there was an average of 4.25 people out of work for each available opening. That's worse than September's ratio of 4.14. In a healthy economy, an average of only about two people vie for each opening.

And business inventories rose 0.8 percent in October. When companies build up their inventories, it usually signals that they expect more sales.

The report is the government's first read on monthly consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Even though retail sales rose only slightly from October to November, they've increased more sharply over a broader period. Sales have surged 6.7 percent, for example, over the past 12 months. That's less than the 7.5 percent increase from October 2010 to October 2011. But it's still evidence of healthy spending.

Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight, forecasts that holiday sales will rise by slightly less than 5 percent this year, compared with 5.2 percent in 2010. Holiday sales fell in 2008 and 2009. Christopher defines holiday sales as retail sales in November and December, excluding autos, gas, and restaurants.

Christopher cautions, though, that about a third of this year's increase is due to rising prices. Inflation rose 3.5 percent in the 12 months that ended in October. That's up from a 1.2 percent rate for the 12 months ending in October 2010.

Higher inflation, spurred by a jump in gasoline prices, reduced consumers' buying power in the spring and early summer. That's a big reason why the economy barely grew in the first half of this year.

Higher inflation has also eroded wages. After-tax, inflation-adjusted incomes dropped 2.1 percent in the July-September quarter. That's the biggest drop since the third quarter of 2009.

Fortunately for the economy, those trends have showed signs of reversing. Gas prices have dropped. And inflation has slowed in recent months; it dipped 0.1 percent in October. After-tax, inflation-adjusted incomes rose 0.3 percent in October. It was the first gain after three months of declines.

Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, notes that the larger spending increases over the summer came after consumers had dipped into their savings to make up for smaller gains in income. He thinks consumers might be forced to pull back.

"November's modest rise could therefore be the start of a period in which households start to spend more within their means," Dales said.

Americans spent $52.4 billion over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. The record amount was spurred by deep discounts and early store openings. But economists think consumers held back on spending in the rest of November, to wait for the deals and discounts that weekend.

Online holiday sales are also growing, although they are expected to peak this week. Many shoppers tend to complete orders by mid-month to allow time for presents to be shipped.

Merchants can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, which includes November and December.

Automakers have reported strong sales for November. Chrysler, Ford, Nissan and Hyundai reported double-digit sales gains. November is usually a lackluster month for auto sales because of cold weather. But automakers offered steep discounts and many consumers can't wait any longer to replace their aging vehicles.

More demand has helped boost hiring. Employers added a net total of 120,000 jobs last month. The economy has generated 100,000 or more jobs five months in a row ? the first time that has happened since April 2006.

Consumers might also have to cut back on spending if Congress doesn't extend a Social Security tax cut or emergency federal unemployment benefits. Both expire at the end of this year. The Social Security tax this year boosted take-home pay for the average family by $1,000.

Economists also fear that Europe's debt crisis could worsen and plunge the region into a recession. That could slow demand for U.S. exports, tighten lending and make it harder for U.S. businesses to expand.

Associated Press


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