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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Te'o tells ESPN: Not involved in creating hoax

NEW YORK (AP) — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o insisted he had no role in the bizarre hoax involving his "dead" girlfriend and told ESPN on Friday night that he was duped by a person who has since apologized to him.

In an off-camera interview Friday with ESPN, Te'o said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California, contacted him two days ago and confessed to the prank. Deadspin.com first exposed the scheme on Wednesday and indicated Tuiasosopo was involved in it.

"I wasn't faking it," ESPN quoted Te'o as saying during the 2 1-2 hour interview. "I wasn't part of this. When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this."

Te'o said he first met Tuiasosopo in person after the Southern California game in November. According to the linebacker, Tuiasosopo told him he was the cousin of Lennay Kekua, the woman who Te'o believed he had fallen for through Internet chats and long phone conversations. But Kekua never existed.

"Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing," Te'o told ESPN. "According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."

The Tuiasosopo family has declined several interview requests from The Associated Press since Wednesday.

Te'o said he never met Kekua face-to-face and when he tried to speak with her via Skype and video phone calls, the picture was blocked. Still, he didn't figure out the ruse.

He also told ESPN that he lied to his father about having met Kekua. To cover that up, he apparently lied to everyone else.

After he was told Kekua had died of leukemia in early September, Te'o admitted he misled the public about the nature of the "relationship" because he was uncomfortable saying it was purely an electronic romance.

"That goes back to what I did with my dad. I knew that. I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," he said. "So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away."

Te'o's first interview since the story broke came at the end of a day that started with Notre Dame posting a podcast of athletic director Jack Swarbrick's radio show, during which he implored the Heisman Trophy runner-up to speak publicly about the episode. Already, it had turned the feel-good story line of the college football season into a dark and strange one.

Te'o took Notre Dame's advice, but this was no Lance Armstrong-with-Oprah Winfrey made for TV mea culpa.

ESPN conducted the interview with Te'o at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Te'o is preparing for the NFL draft and hopes to be among the first-round picks. The network produced only still photos of the interview, with reporter Jeremy Schaap sitting at large table with the linebacker. Schaap then provided details on "Sports Center" and a story was posted on ESPN.com.

Some wondered whether Te'o had been in on the fake girlfriend scheme in an attempt to gain positive publicity and attention. Schaap said Te'o firmly denied that. The nation's best defender also said the hoax affected his play in the BCS national championship, a 42-14 loss to Alabama in which he performed poorly.

Te'o told ESPN that he wasn't entirely sure he was the victim of a hoax until earlier this week, just two days ago, when Tuiasosopo apologized. As Notre Dame officials said earlier, he did get a call from the person posing as Kekua on Dec. 6 — but it was to tell him she had not died at all, and to carry on their courtship.

Te'o was confused. He finally confided in his parents over Christmas break in his home state of Hawaii and told Notre Dame coaches what was going on Dec. 26, according to Swarbrick.

"My relationship with Lennay wasn't a four-year relationship," Te'o said. "There were blocks and times and periods in which we would talk and then it would end," but he offered her a "shoulder to cry on" when she told him her father had died.

Te'o said he was told Kekua was in a coma following an April 28 car accident, but she awoke the following month. He never made an attempt to visit her in the hospital.

"It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school," he told ESPN.

Then came the day in September when his grandmother died and the woman known as Kekua reached out to him.

"I was angry. I didn't want to be bothered," he told ESPN. "We got in an argument. She was saying, you know, I'm trying to be here for you. I didn't want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself. Last thing she told me was 'Just know I love you.'"

Te'o was told later that day Kekua had died.

ESPN did not play audio of the interview, relying instead on descriptions of Te'o and his statements from reporter Schaap. Audio clips were posted later. According to the reporter, Te'o was calm, and had no interest in going on camera.

"He was very relieved, he told me at the end of it, to have had a chance to tell his story," Schaap said.

Te'o told ESPN the relationship with Kekua dated to his freshman year at Notre Dame, the 2009-10 season, and they met via Facebook.

Te'o also provided details of just how devilish the hoax was — how Kekua spoke to his mother about Mormonism, how he could hear a supposed ventilator when she was in her coma, even how she sought his checking account number so she could send him some money (he declined).

At the Notre Dame student union early Saturday, many people didn't even seem to notice the story about Te'o playing out on television.

In the lounge section, six people watched ESPN as the report aired on TVs on opposite sides of the room and several said they weren't satisfied with what they saw and heard.

Tony Stedge, a freshman from Seattle, said he supports Te'o, but he'd still like to hear from the star player.

"I think he should be able to do it in his own time, whenever he is comfortable," he said.

Te'o's comments to ESPN though made it sound as if he is ready to put this all behind him — and Tuiasosopo.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

He added: "I'll be OK. As long as my family's OK, I'll be fine."


Associated Press writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.

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‘Planetary Parks’ Could Protect Space Wilderness

It’s a wilderness out there in outer space. And as robotic surrogates set the stage for human footprints on Mars and other planetary bodies, just how much respect for other worlds should we have?

One suggested response would establish planetary parks for the solar system, an answer that ties together space science and exploration, ethics, law, policy, diplomacy and communications.

The parks would be organized under a single management system, with clear regulations for protection and use. But just what are the benefits of establishing a park system on target planets and moons before starting an intense program of exploration, and exploitation, of bodies in our solar system?

Planetary protection

A system of planetary parks fits with the ideas of such groups as the Committee on Space Research, advocates of the proposal note. COSPAR’s long list of agenda items includes an active discussion of planetary protection.

COSPAR’s objectives are to promote, on an international level, scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions. The organization also aims to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research.

Indeed, participants broached the planetary parks idea in June 2010 during COSPAR’s Workshop on Ethical Considerations for Planetary Protection in Space Exploration, held at Princeton University.

Why now?

“I think the concept is a useful one, and as we know more about planets like Mars, there is even more reason to think about developing planetary parks as we have the information to define where they might go,” said Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a leading proponent of the notion.

A network of parks on Mars would aim to preserve different regions on the Red Planet because of the variety of environments it contains.

Mars is home to deserts, extinct shield volcanoes, canyons and polar ice caps. By preserving representative portions of these features, a diversity of planetary parks with different features of outstanding beauty and intrinsic, natural worth could be established. The parks would also allow for maximum preservation of scientific heritage, both geologically and — perhaps — biologically. [6 Most Likely Places for Alien Life in the Solar System]

Red Planet rules

Space preservationists could apply such a system elsewhere, including the moon, and on asteroids and satellites of the giant planets. But, specifically for Martian parks, the following rules might apply:

  • No spacecraft or vehicle parts to be left within the park

  • No landing of unmanned spacecraft within the park

  • No waste to be left within the park

  • Access only on foot or via surface vehicle along predefined routes, or by landing in a rocket-powered vehicle in predefined landing areas

  • All suits, vehicles and other machines used in the park to be sterilized on their external surfaces to prevent microbial shedding

As for those dismissive of the idea, Cockell told SPACE.com that he thinks such reactions occur primarily because there isn’t anyone on Mars or anywhere else beyond Earth orbit at the moment — so why would you want to set up parks?  

Partly scientific, partly ethical

A few reasons explain why parks are a good idea, even without any people on Mars, advocates say.

“I think the reasons are two-fold. It is partly scientific and partly ethical,” Cockell said, pointing out:

  • One scientific argument is that it’s useful to keep areas of other planetary bodies free of human activity, to maintain pristine conditions that can be used to answer scientific questions. This may turn out to be essential if researchers discover life elsewhere. It’s also consistent with existing COSPAR planetary-protection policies that seek to prevent harmful contamination of other planetary bodies in order to preserve their scientific potential.

  • One ethical argument is that it says something about our species that we think about our actions elsewhere and attempt to mitigate our impact prior to establishing a permanent presence beyond the Earth. We might want to preserve some places in pristine condition for future generations. We may also want to protect unknown benefits that could potentially be gained from places in space that human activity has not altered.

Expansion of private enterprise

“I think now is the time to do this because we are entering into a new era of both government and private exploration, which promises the possibility of many new organizations developing a spacefaring capability,” Cockell said. “It would seem then that now is a good time to think about these questions afresh.”

Cockell said that the idea is not to restrict space exploration, but rather to ensure that it is done in a thoughtful and far-sighted manner.

“By establishing parks, we might better be able to define those areas that should be left free of regulations and free for commercial development,” Cockell said. “So they can be used as an impetus to help us think about places that should be left to ensure the unfettered expansion of private enterprise into space, as well as places we might want to turn into our first planetary parks.”

Potential-use conflicts

Another leading thinker in this area is Gerda Horneck, at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, Germany. While not expressing an official view of DLR, she sees the initiative as analogous to national park systems right here on Earth.

“A planetary park system could extend the reasons for practical protection policies beyond the utilitarian protection of scientific resources emphasized by planetary protection … into other utilitarian and intrinsic value arguments,” Horneck told SPACE.com.

She added that such planetary park systems could still allow for the development of non-park areas by commercial enterprises, while incorporating regional protection for other objectives: scientific interest and use, preservation of historic value or natural beauty, or preservation for future generations.

“Thus, a strategy of planetary parks for the solar system could help solve future potential-use conflicts, incorporate both utilitarian and intrinsic-value arguments and be organized under a single management system, with clear regulations for protection and use,” Horneck said.

Such an approach would also address considerations about moral and legal definitions of wilderness on other planetary bodies, Horneck added, “and would allow us to express a respect for other worlds.”

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and a past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society’s Ad Astra and Space World magazines. He has written for SPACE.com since 1999.

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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Notre Dame's Te'o: 'There is no way that I could be part of this'

James Brown, host of "The NFL Today" on CBS Sports, talks to Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell about the Manti Te'o hoax and its possible effect on his future.

Manti Te'o broke his silence late Friday and denied any involvement in the dead girlfriend hoax that has consumed the former Notre Dame All-American for days, while saying the man behind the ruse apologized two days ago via social media.

"I wasn't faking it," Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in an off-camera interview. "I wasn't part of this."

A 22-year-old named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo allegedly preyed upon Te'o in creating a bogus woman named Lennay Kekua who began an online- and telephone-only relationship with Te'o, Notre Dame's bellwether linebacker, only to die in September of leukemia and create a personal back story that propelled Te'o to national renown but ultimately crumbled this week.

Schaap reported after a two and a half hour interview with Te'o that the player wasn't completely sure Kekua did not exist until two days ago -- when Tuiasosopo reached out to Te'o via Twitter to admit he was behind the hoax and apologize for it.

Te'o told ESPN that he understood two men and one woman were involved, though he doesn't know the identities of the individuals other than Tuiasosopo. ESPN asked Te'o what he believed should happen to Tuiasosopo.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

Te'o told ESPN he was never asked for money, but Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money. Te'o did not provide it.

As for at least one glaring inconsistency -- the story of how Te'o and Kekua met -- the former Irish star admitted to a lie. The relationship, such as it was, began during Te'o's sophomore year at Notre Dame via Facebook, he told ESPN. He attempted to contact Kekua via Skype and Facetime but never saw a face on the other end, Te'o said.

And as for the story of meeting Kekua on the field at Stanford in 2009, a tale retold by his father in October, Te'o said: "I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away."

"I knew that - I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," Te'o said. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

One published detail, though, eluded Te'o's explanation. An October story in the South Bend Tribune depicted Te'o and Kekua touching hands in their initial meeting. That was not part of the fabrication Te'o passed along to his father, who was the paper's source for the anecdote.

"I'd never told anybody that I've touched her hand," Te'o told ESPN.

Te'o also was asked why he never visited Kekua in the hospital while she battled leukemia.

"It never really crossed my mind," Te'o said. "I don't know. I was in school."

He then added that the purported Kekua family told him not to come to what was obviously a non-existent funeral, per Lennay Kekua's wishes.

"They didn't want -- and I didn't want myself -- I didn't want that to be the first time that I saw her was laying in a coffin," Te'o said.

As for the Dec. 6 call in which Lennay Kekua reentered his realm, Te'o presented the following sequence as written in the ESPN.com story:

He received a phone call from the number Kekua had used. He answered and a woman's voice on the other end said there was something she needed to tell him, but it could wait until after the national title game on Jan. 8.

"I said you have to tell me now, because if you don't tell me now, I'm still going to think about it," Te'o said. "... She said, well, Manti, it's me. That's all she said. And I played stupid for a little bit. I was like, oh, I know it's you, U'ilani (Kekua's purported sister) .What do you mean? And she's like, no, Manti, it's me."

Te'o asked who "me" was.

"She said, it's Lennay," he said. "So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. How could you do this to me? I ended that conversation by saying, simply this: You know what, Lennay, my Lennay died on Sept. 12."

ESPN reported Friday that Tuiasosopo called a friend from church in early December and admitted he duped Te'o, without the Notre Dame linebacker playing a part in the deception. Deadspin.com, which broke the girlfriend hoax story Wednesday, reported that Te'o might have played a role in the fraud.

Te'o denied that he used the situation to enhance his Heisman Trophy candidacy. He finished second in the voting to Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

"When (people) hear the facts, they'll know," Te'o told ESPN. "They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."

Te'o did say the ordeal weighed on him during Notre Dame's 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS title game, in which he played arguably one of the worst games of his career.

Te'o evidently told ESPN that a group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at the Notre Dame team hotel before the game and that Te'o knew they were there because they took photos in the lobby.

"It affected me," Te'o said. "When you're stuck in big game like that... people depend on you. You need to perform."


Twitter @ChiTribHamilton

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Algerian army stages "final assault" on gas plant

ALGIERS/IN AMENAS, Algeria (Reuters) - The Algerian army on Saturday carried out a "final assault" on al Qaeda-linked gunmen holed up in a desert gas plant, killing 11 of the Islamists after they took the lives of seven foreign hostages.

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

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 gas complex with explosives.

The exact death toll among the gunmen and the foreign and Algerian workers at the plant near the town of In Amenas close to the Libyan border remained unclear.

Earlier on Saturday, Algerian special forces found 15 burned bodies at the plant. Efforts were underway to identify the bodies, the source told Reuters, and it was not clear how they had died.

Sixteen foreign hostages were freed on Saturday, a source close to the crisis said. They included two Americans, two Germans and one Portuguese.

Britain said fewer than 10 of its nationals at the plant were unaccounted for.

The attack on the plant swiftly turned into the biggest international hostage crises in decades, pushing Saharan militancy to the top of the global agenda.

Reports earlier put the number of hostages killed at between 12 to 30, with many foreigners still unaccounted for, among them Norwegians, Japanese, Britons and Americans.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday one American, Frederick Buttaccio, had died but gave no further details. The French defense minister said he understood there were no more French workers among the hostages.

Two Norwegians were released overnight, leaving six unaccounted for, while Romania said three of its nationals had been freed. A number of Japanese engineering workers were still unaccounted for.

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

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

(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, Eamonn Mallie in Belfast, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Mohammed Abbas in London, Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries in Dublin, Andrew Quinn and David Alexander in Washington, Brian Love in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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Wall Street edges lower on earnings, China data

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell modestly on Friday, a day after the S&P 500 rose to its highest level in five years, as a weak outlook from Intel was weighed against encouraging data out of China and a fourth-quarter profit at Morgan Stanley .

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 6.68 points, or 0.05 percent, at 13,589.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 2.60 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,478.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 10.63 points, or 0.34 percent, at 3,125.37.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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IOC VP: Armstrong must tell 'whole truth'

LONDON (AP) — Lance Armstrong's doping confession to Oprah Winfrey was "too little, too late" and failed to provide any new information that will help clean up the sport he tarnished through years of cheating, the vice president of the IOC said Friday.

A day after stripping Armstrong of his bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the IOC urged the disgraced former Tour de France champion to supply details to anti-doping authorities in order to "bring an end to this dark episode."

In an interview with The Associated Press, IOC vice president Thomas Bach said Armstrong's admission to Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs — after years of vehement denials —was not enough.

"If he thinks this interview would help him get credibility back, I think this is too little, too late," said Bach, a German lawyer who leads the IOC's anti-doping investigations. "It's a first step in the right direction, but no more.

"If he really loves his sport and wants to regain at least some credibility, then he should tell the whole truth and cooperate with the relevant sports bodies."

Armstrong is under pressure to come clean to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the independent commission set up the International Cycling Union.

"We have three sports bodies he can address," Bach said by telephone. "He needs to give testimony under oath. After lying for more than a dozen years, he needs to be questioned by experts and not just in a well-orchestrated interview."

In a statement from Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC said: "We now urge Armstrong to present all the evidence he has to the appropriate anti-doping authorities so that we can bring an end to this dark episode and move forward, stronger and cleaner."

In the interview with Winfrey, Armstrong acknowledged that he used EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions in order to win the Tour de France seven times.

"This is not enough," said Bach, who is a leading contender to succeed Jacques Rogge as IOC president in elections in September. "I hoped he would be more precise, that you would get an idea of who were the people behind him. He's even protected the famous Dr. Ferrari."

Bach was referring to Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who worked closely with Armstrong and has been accused of being a mastermind of the cyclist's doping program.

"In some parts of the interview he was pretty evasive, in some parts contradicting himself," Bach said.

Bach said the interview offered no information beyond the USADA report that detailed widespread doping by Armstrong and his teammates and led to the stripping of his Tour titles and a lifetime ban from Olympic sports.

"We have no new facts — not a single new fact going beyond the USADA report," Bach said.

Armstrong denied in the interview that cycling body UCI covered up positive tests or helped him avoid detection.

Bach said the interview provided no allegations that would put cycling's Olympic status in jeopardy. Senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, a former head of WADA, suggested this week that cycling could be kicked out of the Olympics if there was proof of UCI collusion with Armstrong.

"I still hope for a full inquiry, but in general, you have to consider the anti-doping system since then has changed very much for the better," Bach said. "The UCI has introduced the blood passport, there is more target testing and out-of-competition testing and better methods for detecting EPO. You cannot draw conclusions from 10 years ago."

In Lausanne, the IOC said it "unreservedly condemns" the actions of Armstrong and all drug cheats.

"This is indeed a very sad day for sport but there is a positive side if these revelations can begin to draw a line under previous practices," the statement said. "It is the IOC's firm expectation that all parties involved will draw the necessary lessons from this case and continue to take all measures to ensure a level playing field for all athletes."

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Accumulating snow starts to fall across Southeast

ATLANTA (AP) — A winter storm that dumped 4 inches of snow in parts of Mississippi was hitting Alabama on Thursday afternoon, with the system expected to spread across northern Georgia and into the Washington, D.C., area, according to the National Weather Service.

The winter blitz follows days of heavy rain across much of the Southeast.

In Huntsville, Ala., a mix of thick snowflakes and sleet fell, turning roadsides and plowed farm fields white.

Traffic slowed to a crawl on the bridge spanning the Tennessee River, with snow accumulating on guardrails. The river was swollen out of its banks after days of heavy rain across north Alabama. Some areas of the state had received as much as 6 inches of rain since Sunday.

Officials closed NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville because of the threat of slippery roads. Engineers postponed an outdoor rocket test to give workers time to get home.

In Mississippi, winter storm warnings had expired and the snow was expected to melt by early afternoon. The last time central Mississippi got at least 2 inches of snow was in February of 2010.

Winter storm warnings remained in effect for parts of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

In northern Georgia, the heaviest snow was expected to fall in the mountains, with lighter amounts possible in parts of the Atlanta area. Schools in at least five counties in the northwest part of the state dismissed early Thursday. Winter weather advisories were in effect across at least 25 counties, set to expire between midnight and 7 a.m.

Snow also was possible across much of North Carolina, with as much as 9 inches in the northwestern mountains. Snow was expected as far east as Elizabeth City.

About 1 to 3 inches of snow was expected in the Washington area and parts of central Maryland. In Washington, a winter storm watch was replaced with a less-serious winter weather advisory. Federal offices were open Thursday.

A winter weather advisory also was issued in South Carolina, with up to 3 inches of snow expected in the northern part of the state.

In Virginia, the National Weather Service expected snowfall to range from a dusting in Hampton Roads to as much as 9 inches in the Blue Ridge Mountains and other high elevations.

The moisture may be welcomed by farmers in the Southeast, notably in those states hardest hit by the nation’s worst drought in decades.

An update Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that about 59 percent of the continental U.S. remains gripped by some form of drought. More than 91 percent of Georgia is in drought, as is about a third of Mississippi.

Climatologists and hydrologists have called winter precipitation — and lots of it — crucial in breaking the grip of drought and restoring moisture to soil and pastureland.

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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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Exhumation starts for lottery winner poisoned by cyanide

Several helicopters hovered over Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago's North Side this morning as police exhumed the body of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery.

A throng of trucks and police vehicles were gathered around the grave site just north of Peterson Avenue, where a beam of light can be seen shining over Urooj Khan's headstone.

A hearse was being opened in front of a green tent set up in the area as Khan's body was being loaded into it. An evidence technician snapped a photo of it before the hearse's rear doors were closed up.

The hearse then began driving away across the grass on the cemetery.

A Chicago police evidence technician squad car led a procession of the hearse and several other marked and unmarked police vehicles out of the cemetery. They exited west onto Peterson Avenue. The whole exhumation process lasted about two hours.

A medical examiner's office spokeswoman, Mary Paleologos, said if Khan's body is frozen, his autopsy will be performed at 7 a.m. Saturday. If not, the autopsy will be today. Paleologos also said Khan's body will be buried again on Monday.

A few medical examiner's office personnel were on hand for the exhumation, including Dr. Marta Helenowski, the forensic pathologist who originally handled Khan's case.

A backhoe and three or four pickup trucks were stationed at the grave site in the middle of the northern section of Rosehill earlier this morning, and the backhoe 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, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. 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."

A pathologist will take samples of Khan's stomach contents to try to determine how the cyanide was ingested, Mary Paleologos, Cina's spokeswoman, has said. They will also look at other organs such as the lungs to make certain the cyanide wasn't inhaled, she said.

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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Sixty foreigners still caught in Sahara hostage crisis

ALGIERS (Reuters) - About 60 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.

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 60 foreigners were still in the facility and some were being held hostage, but it was unclear how many and how many might be in hiding elsewhere in the sprawling compound. It was also not known whether some might have been killed and the bodies not found.

Those still unaccounted for included 10 from Japan, eight Norwegians and a number of Britons put by Cameron at "less than 30". Washington has said a number of Americans were among the hostages, without giving details, and the local source said a U.S. aircraft landed nearby on Friday.

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

Algeria's state news agency said earlier more than half of 132 foreign hostages were freed and that the army had rescued 650 hostages, 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.

Thirty hostages, including several Westerners, were killed during Thursday's assault, the source said, along with at least 18 of their captors, who said they had taken the site as retaliation for French intervention against Islamists in neighboring Mali.

(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 Alastair Macdonald)

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Wall Street hits five-year high at open on data, eBay

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks hit a five-year high at the open on Thursday after better-than-expected results from online marketplace eBay and as data showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a five-year low.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 31.80 points, or 0.24 percent, to 13,543.03. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> gained 3.67 points, or 0.25 percent, to 1,476.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> gained 12.66 points, or 0.41 percent, to 3,130.20.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Manti Te'o girlfriend's death apparently a hoax

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Not long before Notre Dame played Michigan State last fall, word spread that Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o had lost his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other.

Te'o never missed a practice and made a season-high 12 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 20-3 victory against the Spartans. His inspired play became a stirring story line for the Fighting Irish as they made a run to the national championship game behind their humble, charismatic star.

Te'o's grandmother did indeed die. His girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed.

In a shocking announcement Wednesday night, Notre Dame said Te'o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose "death" from leukemia was faked by perpetrators of an elaborate hoax. The goal of the scam wasn't clear, though Notre Dame said it used an investigative firm to dig into the details after Te'o disclosed them three weeks ago.

The hoax was disclosed hours after Deadspin.com posted a lengthy story, saying it could find no record that Kekua ever existed. The story suggests a friend of Te'o may have carried out the hoax and that the football player may have been in on it — a stunning claim against a widely admired All-American who led the most famed program in college football back to the championship game for the first time since 1988.

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o said in a statement. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. "

However, he stopped short of saying he had ever met her in person or correcting reports that said he had, though he did on numerous occasions talk about how special the relationship was to him.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," he said. "In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."

Word of the hoax spread quickly and raised questions about whether the school somehow played a role in pushing the tale.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference that Te'o told coaches on Dec. 26 that he had received a call from Kekua's phone number while at an awards ceremony during the first week of December.

"When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine," Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick said the school hired investigators and their report indicated those behind the hoax were in contact with each other, discussing what they were doing.

The investigators "were able to discover online chatter among the perpetrators that was certainly the ultimate proof of this, the joy they were taking," Swarbrick said. "The casualness among themselves they were talking about what they accomplished."

Swarbrick said for Te'o "the pain was real."

"The grief was real. The affection was real," he said. "That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."

Swarbrick added: "Nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota."

Swarbrick said Notre Dame did not take the matter to the police, saying that the school left it up to Te'o and his family to do so. He added that Notre Dame did not plan to release the findings of its investigation.

"We had no idea of motive, and that was really significant to us. ... Was somebody trying to create an NCAA violation at the core of this? Was there somebody trying to impact the outcome of football games by manipulating the emotions of a key player? Was there an extortion request coming? When you match the lack of sort of detail we lacked until we got some help investigating it with the risk involved, it was clear to me until we knew more we had to just to continue to work to try to gather the facts," Swarbrick said.

The Deadspin report changed all that.

Friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told Deadspin they believe he created Kekua. The website said Te'o and Tuiasosopo knew each other. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Tuiasosopo by telephone were unsuccessful.

As for Kekua, Deadspin said she does not have a death certificate. Stanford, where she reportedly went to school, has no record of anybody by that name, the website said. Deadspin said a record search produced no obituary or funeral announcement. There is no record of her birth in the news.

There are a few Twitter and Instagram accounts registered to Lennay Kekua, but the website reported that photographs identified as Kekua online and in TV news reports are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua.

Te'o talked freely about their relationship after her supposed death and how much she meant to him.

In a story that appeared in The South Bend Tribune on Oct. 12, Manti's father, Brian, recounted an anecdote about how his son and Kekua met after Notre Dame had played at Stanford in 2009. Brian Te'o also told the newspaper that Kekua had visited Hawaii and met with his son. Brian Te'o told the AP in an interview in October that he and his wife had never met Manti's girlfriend but they had hoped to at the Wake Forest game in November. The father said he believed the relationship was just beginning to get serious when she died.

The Tribune released a statement saying: "At the Tribune, we are as stunned by these revelations as everyone else. Indeed, this season we reported the story of this fake girlfriend and her death as details were given to us by Te'o, members of his family and his coaches at Notre Dame."

The week before Notre Dame played Michigan State on Sept. 15, coach Brian Kelly told reporters when asked that Te'o's grandmother and a friend had died. He said Kekua had told Te'o not to miss a game if she died. The linebacker turned in one of his best performances of the season and his playing through heartache became a prominent theme during the Irish's undefeated regular season. He finished second in Heisman voting.

"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life," Te'o said in his statement.

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been."

Te'o and the Irish lost the title game to Alabama, 42-14 on Jan. 7. He has graduated and was set to begin preparing for the NFL combine and draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this week.

"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life," he said in his statement, "and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL draft."

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Tiny Solar Activity Changes Affect Earth’s Climate

Even small changes in solar activity can impact Earth’s climate in significant and surprisingly complex ways, researchers say.

The sun is a constant star when compared with many others in the galaxy. Some stars pulsate dramatically, varying wildly in size and brightness and even exploding. In comparison, the sun varies in the amount of light it emits by only 0.1 percent over the course of a relatively stable 11-year-long pattern known as the solar cycle.

Still, “the light reaching the top of the Earth’s atmosphere provides about 2,500 times as much energy as the total of all other sources combined,” solar physicist Greg Kopp at the University of Colorado told SPACE.com. As such, even 0.1 percent of the amount of light the sun emits exceeds all other energy sources the Earth’s atmosphere sees combined, such as the radioactivity naturally emitted from Earth‘s core, Kopp explained.

To learn more about how such tiny variations in solar energy might impact terrestrial climate, the National Research Council (NRC) convened dozens of experts in many fields, such as plasma physics, solar activity, atmospheric chemistry, fluid dynamics and energetic particle physics.

Sun’s role in Earth’s climate

Many of the ways the scientists proposed these fluctuations in solar activity could influence Earth were complicated in nature. For instance, solar energetic particles and cosmic rays could reduce ozone levels in the stratosphere. This in turn alters the behavior of the atmosphere below it, perhaps even pushing storms on the surface off course. [Sun's Wrath: Worst Solar Storms Ever]

“In the lower stratosphere, the presence of ozone causes a local warming because of the breakup of ozone molecules by ultraviolet light,” climate scientist Jerry North at Texas A&M University told SPACE.com.

When the ozone is removed, “the stratosphere there becomes cooler, increasing the temperature contrast between the tropics and the polar region. The contrast in temperatures in the stratosphere and the upper troposphere leads to instabilities in the atmospheric flow west to east. The instabilities make for eddies or irregular motions.”

These eddies feed the strength of jet streams, ultimately altering flows in the upper troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to Earth’s surface. “The geographical positioning of the jets aloft can alter the distribution of storms over the middle latitudes,” North said. “So the sun might have a role to play in this kind of process. I would have to say this would be a very difficult mechanism to prove in climate models. That does not mean it may not exist — just hard to prove.”

In addition, climate scientist Gerald Meehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and his colleagues suggest that solar variability is leaving a definite imprint on climate, especially in the Pacific Ocean.

When researchers look at sea surface temperature data during sunspot peak years, the tropical Pacific showed a pattern very much like that expected with La Niña, a cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean that regularly affects climate worldwide, with sunspot peak years leading to a cooling of almost 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the equatorial eastern Pacific. In addition, peaks in the sunspot cycle were linked with increased precipitation in a number of areas across the globe, as well as above-normal sea-level pressure in the mid-latitude North and South Pacific.

“The Pacific is particularly sensitive to small variations in the trade winds,” Meehl said. Solar activity may influence processes linked with trade wind strength.

Sun’s impact on history

Scientists have also often speculated whether the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year dearth of sunspots in the late 17th to early 18th century, was linked with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America experienced bitterly cold winters. This regional cooling might be linked with a drop in the sun’s extreme ultraviolet radiation. In fact, the sun could currently be on the cusp of a miniature version of the Maunder Minimum, since the current solar cycle is the weakest in more than 50 years.

“If the sun really is entering an unfamiliar phase of the solar cycle, then we must redouble our efforts to understand the sun-climate link,” said researcher Lika Guhathakurta at NASA’s Living with a Star Program, which helped fund the NRC study.

Although the sun is the main source of heat for Earth, the researchers note that solar variability may have more of a regional effect than a global one. As such, solar variability is not the cause of the global warming seen in recent times.

“While the sun is by far the dominant energy source powering our climate system, do not assume that it is causing much of recent climate changes. It’s pretty stable,” Kopp said. “Think of it as an 800-pound gorilla in climate — it has the weight to cause enormous changes, but luckily for us, it’s pretty placidly lazy. While solar changes have historically caused climate changes, the sun is mostly likely responsible for less than 15 percent of the global temperature increases we’ve seen over the last century, during which human-caused changes such as increased greenhouse gases caused the majority of warming.”

Tracking the sun

In the future, researchers suggested that to better understand how solar variability might affect the Earth, a future space observatory might include a radiometric imager. Such a device could essentially map the surface of the sun and reveal the contributions of each of its surface features to the sun’s luminosity.

The solar disk is dotted by dark sunspots and bright magnetic areas known as faculae. Sunspots tend to vanish during low points in the solar cycle, and a radiometric imager could help reveal the links between prolonged spotlessness on the sun and Earth’s climate.

Ancient signals of climate such as tree rings and ice cores might also help shed light on the link between the sun and climate. Since variations in Earth’s magnetic field and atmospheric circulation might disrupt this evidence on Earth, a better long-term record of solar radiation might lie in the rocks and sediments of the moon or Mars, researchers added.

The scientists detailed their findings Jan. 8 in a report, “The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth’s Climate,” issued by the National Research Council.

Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @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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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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Teen killed following Simeon-Morgan Park game; 2 in custody

The Simeon and Morgan Park High School basketball teams ended their game at Chicago State University with a melee between players on the court. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

A 17-year-old boy was shot and killed after a fight broke out at the end of a high school basketball game at Chicago State University.

Tyrone Lawson was shot around 9:20 p.m. outside the gymnasium near 95th Street and King Drive, according to Police News Affairs Officer Daniel O’Brien.

Shortly before the shooting, an argument had broken out in a handshake line after the game between Simeon Career Academy and Morgan Park High School, police said. The argument spilled into the parking lot and someone pulled out a gun and shot Lawson, officials said.

Each team was held in the locker rooms longer than normal after the game as tensions ran high in the gym, witnesses said.

University police issued a message to officers, asking them to watch for a Jeep. It was pulled over east of the school and two people were taken into custody, officials said. Police said they found a gun inside the Jeep.

It was unclear what the fight was about. Nothing outside ordinary bumps and physical contact appeared to have happened during the game between the two school, which are located on Vincennes Avenue about 30 blocks apart.

An aunt told WGN-TV that Lawson was an honor student at Morgan Park High School and was six weeks away from his 18th birthday.

His mother had dropped Lawson off at the game and was waiting for him to call her back, she said.

The university released a statement Thursday morning saying it was "deeply saddened by the tragic shooting death."

“(Chicago Public Schools) periodically uses the university’s athletic facility to provide a neutral setting for student sporting events. This is the first such incident to occur on the campus of Chicago State University where CPS students have played many times over the last three years," the statement said.

"Additional security is provided by the university and all external partners during high school sporting events. Arrests have been made and university officials are awaiting the outcome of a full investigation to learn details about the shooting incident.”

Lawson, of the 11600 block of South Peoria Street, was pronounced dead at 9:59 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Contributor Mike Helfgot and Tribune reporters Peter Nickeas, Rosemary Regina Sobol and Jeremy Gorner contributed to this story.

Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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