Wall Street ends sour week with fifth straight decline

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell for a fifth straight day on Friday, dropping 1 percent and marking the S&P 500's longest losing streak in three months as the federal government edged closer to the "fiscal cliff" with no solution in sight.

President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders met at the White House to work on a solution for the draconian debt-reduction measures set to take effect beginning next week. Stocks, which have been influenced by little else than the flood of fiscal cliff headlines from Washington in recent days, extended losses going into the close with the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 each losing 1 percent, after reports that Obama would not offer a new plan to Republicans. The Dow closed below 13,000 for the first time since December 4.

"I was stunned Obama didn't have another plan, and that's absolutely why we sold off," said Mike Shea, managing partner at Direct Access Partners LLC in New York. "He's going to force the House to come to him with something different. I think that's a surprise. The entire market is disappointed in a lack of leadership in Washington."

In a sign of investor anxiety, the CBOE Volatility Index <.vix>, known as the VIX, jumped 16.69 percent to 22.72, closing at its highest level since June. Wall Street's favorite fear barometer has risen for five straight weeks, surging more than 40 percent over that time.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 158.20 points, or 1.21 percent, to 12,938.11 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 15.67 points, or 1.11 percent, to 1,402.43. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 25.59 points, or 0.86 percent, to end at 2,960.31.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.9 percent. The S&P 500 also lost 1.9 percent for the week, marking its worst weekly performance since mid-November. The Nasdaq finished the week down 2 percent. In contrast, the VIX jumped 22 percent for the week.

Pessimism continued after the market closed, with stock futures indicating even steeper losses. S&P 500 futures dropped 26.7 points, or 1.9 percent, eclipsing the decline seen in the regular session.

All 10 S&P 500 sectors fell during Friday's regular trading, with most posting declines of 1 percent, but energy and material shares were among the weakest of the day, with both groups closely tied to the pace of growth.

An S&P energy sector index <.gspe> slid 1.8 percent, with Exxon Mobil down 2 percent at $85.10, and Chevron Corp off 1.9 percent at $106.45. The S&P material sector index <.gspm> fell 1.3 percent, with U.S. Steel Corp down 2.6 percent at $23.03.

Decliners outnumbered advancers by a ratio of slightly more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, while on the Nasdaq, two stocks fell for every one that rose.

"We've been whipsawing around on low volume and rumors that come out on the cliff," said Eric Green, senior portfolio manager at Penn Capital Management in Philadelphia, who helps oversee $7 billion in assets.

With time running short, lawmakers may opt to allow the higher taxes and across-the-board federal spending cuts to go into effect and attempt to pass a retroactive fix soon after the new year. Standard & Poor's said an impasse on the cliff wouldn't affect the sovereign credit rating of the United States.

"We're not as concerned with January 1 as the market seems to be," said Richard Weiss, senior money manager at American Century Investments, in Mountain View, California. "Things will be resolved, just maybe not on a good timetable, and any deal can easily be retroactive."

Trading volume was light throughout the holiday-shortened week, with just 4.46 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT on Friday, below the daily average so far this year of about 6.48 billion shares. On Monday, the U.S. stock market closed early for Christmas Eve, and the market was shut on Tuesday for Christmas. Many senior traders were absent this week for the holidays.

Highlighting Wall Street's sensitivity to developments in Washington, stocks tumbled more than 1 percent on Thursday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that a deal was unlikely before the deadline. But late in the day, stocks nearly bounced back when the House said it would hold an unusual Sunday session to work on a fiscal solution.

Positive economic data failed to alter the market's mood.

The National Association of Realtors said contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes rose in November to their highest level in 2-1/2 years, while a report from the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago showed business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded in December.

"Economic reports have been very favorable, and once Congress comes to a resolution, the market should resume an upward trend, based on the data," said Weiss, who helps oversee about $125 billion in assets. "All else being equal, we see any further decline as a buying opportunity."

Barnes & Noble Inc rose 4.3 percent to $14.97 after the top U.S. bookstore chain said British publisher Pearson Plc had agreed to make a strategic investment in its Nook Media subsidiary. But Barnes & Noble also said its Nook business will not meet its previous projection for fiscal year 2013.

Shares of magicJack VocalTec Ltd jumped 10.3 percent to $17.95 after the company gave a strong fourth-quarter outlook and named Gerald Vento president and chief executive, effective January 1.

The U.S.-listed shares of Canadian drugmaker Aeterna Zentaris Inc surged 13.8 percent to $2.47 after the company said it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a special protocol assessment by the FDA for a Phase 3 registration trial in endometrial cancer with AEZS-108 treatment.

(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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Clippers beat Jazz 116-114 for 16th straight win

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers already have a December to remember.

Sunday they can close it out in perfect fashion against a familiar foe — the same Utah team they rallied to beat 116-114 Friday night to earn their 16th straight win.

If they extend their streak by beating the Jazz at home Sunday, they will join the 1995-96 Spurs and 1971-72 Lakers as the only teams in NBA history to complete a 16-0 month.

If they fight the way they did Friday, it should be easy.

"Give Utah credit, but our guys battled back tonight," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They found a way to win and that's what it's all about. We stayed together, we weathered the storm when we had to and gave ourselves a chance and we were fortunate to make enough plays."

Afterward, team leader Chris Paul could hardly be heard over the pulsating music of Jay-Z as his teammates sang along in the visitors' locker room.

Why not?

The Clippers had just pulled off a 19-point comeback in what had been a dreadful venue for them.

Paul did most of the damage, leading the Clippers (24-6) with 29 points, including the final seven, as Los Angeles pulled out the two-point victory.

The Clippers winning streak is the longest in the NBA since Boston won 19 in row from Nov. 15 to Dec. 23, 2008.

The last time the franchise won three straight in Salt Lake City was 1979-1981 when they were the San Diego Clippers.

"This one is a great win for us because we kind of needed a challenge," said Blake Griffin, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Clippers. "(We had) to prove not only to everybody else but to ourselves that we can still win close games like this and win a game down 19 in the third quarter."

In the opposing locker room, the Jazz were lamenting another one that got away — the second loss at home to the Clippers during their record streak. They dropped the first by one on Dec. 3 after leading by 14.

On Friday, ex-Clipper Randy Foye put up a 3-pointer at the buzzer that was contested by Matt Barnes, but no foul was called. Foye finished with a season-high 28 points for Utah.

Foye did his best not to say anything about the officiating.

"I felt as though I pump-faked," Foye said. "He knew that I wanted to shoot the 3 and I felt the contact. He made me go straight up and shoot the ball straight down. It was just a tough play."

Paul was tough down the stretch, with the clinching free throws after getting fouled by Al Jefferson with 3.4 seconds left.

"When (DeAndre Jordan) came to give me the ball screen, I wasn't worried about (Gordon) Hayward, I was just worried about Al Jefferson," Paul said. "I could tell (Jefferson) was going to try and blitz me. Anytime two guys try and trap me, I'm always going to attack the slower guy. If they wouldn't have called the foul, I was right around Al anyway."

He sank both free throws this time, after missing one with 18 seconds left that allowed Jefferson to grab the rebound, draw the foul and sink two free throws at the other end to tie it at 114.

Paul made sure he got both the next time.

"Man, I couldn't wait to get to the line. I couldn't wait to get to the line," Paul said. "I was mad at myself for missing that last one. I couldn't wait to get to the line to redeem myself."

Just like the first game this season against the Jazz, Utah had the upper hand early.

The Jazz used a 36-point second quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a 58-48 halftime lead.

Their reserves did most of the damage. Alec Burks and Earl Watson pushed the pace, big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors showed their presence inside and Hayward found ways to score.

Kanter's block of Ronny Turiaf ignited the crowd.

Hayward's 3-pointer tied it at 34 with 7:04 left in the second and he scored 10 straight for the Jazz, who forced eight turnovers in the quarter and held the Clippers to 37.5 percent shooting.

Foye, who kept Utah close in the first with a 13-point quarter on 4-of-5 shooting, gave the Jazz their biggest lead of the half, 54-41, with two more free throws.

The Jazz led 74-55 with 8:08 left in the third on a pair of free throws by Paul Millsap. But the Clippers outscored Utah 29-14 the rest of the quarter to go ahead 88-84 going into the fourth.

Paul provided the offense in the third with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

"At the beginning of the third quarter, they made another run at us but then we got a little bit of a rhythm and then started guarding. We started getting some stops and getting out in the open court," Del Negro said.

The loss dropped Utah below .500 at 15-16. The Jazz have now lost six of their last eight.

Al Jefferson added 22 points for Utah. Hayward had 17 off the bench for Utah.

DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who had six players in double figures.

"It's all tough," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "On our home court. We had a lead, we gave up the lead but we continued to fight. We made some mistakes but fought our way through it and had a chance to win the ball game at the end. Unfortunately they got a lot of free throws."

NOTES: An unidentified Jazz employee was disciplined and had his access to the team Twitter account discontinued after what team officials deemed an inappropriate tweet regarding the firing of Nets coach Avery Johnson and Brooklyn's interest in Phil Jackson. The tweet said Jackson only wants "great players," an apparent reference to ex-Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who had criticized Johnson's offense. ... Jazz point guard Mo Williams still has swelling in his sprained right thumb and remains out indefinitely. ... The Clippers got a scare late in the first quarter when Lamar Odom came up limping. He returned in the second and finished with 12 points. ... The Clippers failed to register a blocked shot despite coming into the game averaging 6.52.

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Associations React to EPA Admin’s Resignation

On Thursday, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that she would be leaving her post after President Barack Obama makes his State of the Union address in January. Here are some of the reactions from energy and environmental associations across the country to the news.

* “Administrator Jackson put into action the Obama administration‘s commitment to ethanol and other biofuels,” stated Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, adding that Jackson’s work with making E15 more available at the gas pump “protected the progress that has been made in reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

* Carol M. Browner, a former EPA administrator, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and Distinguished Senior Fellow from the Center for American Progress, stated that Jackson had directed several successes at the EPA, including new standards for fuel efficiency, protections against mercury pollution and proposed standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.

* Michael Brune, the Sierra Club executive director, stated that he wanted to express gratitude to Jackson on behalf of the club’s 2.1 million members and supporters. Brune called the administrator “a steadfast advocate for clean air, clean water, a stable climate and public health — often in the face of very vocal and forceful detractors.”

* The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette reported that Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association said that Jackson’s resignation is good news for his state and that Jackson’s policies are to blame for coal’s decline in Appalachia.

* Raney stated in a report from the Bluefield (W.Va.) Daily Telegraph that he hopes Obama’s new pick to lead the EPA will have respect for coal miners in the eastern United States and that “for the past four years, our coal miners have had no respectful recognition for all they have done to provide Americans with the quality of life we now enjoy.”

* According to an Associated Press report , Scott Segal, the director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, stated that Jackson’s tenure featured some of the most expensive environmental rules in the agency’s history and that those rules were used “as blunt attempts to marginalize coal and other solid fossil fuels and to make motor fuels more costly at the expense of industrial jobs, energy security, and economic recovery.”

* Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch stated that the news of Jackson’s resignation had long been expected but that she would be missed by environmental and health advocates. According to O’Donnell, one of Jackson’s most significant successes at the EPA was that she “reversed the findings of the Bush administration and declared that climate change poses a real threat to health and the environment.”

Energy News Headlines – Yahoo! News

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2013: Energy issues on front burner

From left, John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon promote what Sheril Kirshenbaum says will be a controversial film.


  • Public attitudes shifted on key energy issues in 2012

  • Sheril Kirshenbaum says controversy has grown over natural gas fracking boom

  • She says climate change, renewable energy are likely to be on agenda for 2013

  • Kirshenbaum: A turbulent year has increased public interest in energy issues

Editor's note: Sheril Kirshenbaum is an author and director of The University of Texas at Austin's Energy Poll.

(CNN) -- After a year of tumultuous weather and global change, it should not be surprising that 2012 proved to be a transformative period for public opinion on energy.

Changing attitudes on the most hotly debated topics matter a great deal because they set the course for future policy decisions. Taking a closer look at trends over the past 12 months hints at what to expect in several key areas of the U.S. energy landscape in 2013.

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Natural gas boom -- and controversy

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," has been around for more than half a century, but recently expanded rapidly because of advances in horizontal drilling deep underground.

Despite this proliferation of new wells, 59% of Americans say they are unfamiliar with the term, down from 63% in March, according to the latest findings from the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Poll.

CNN Opinion contributors weigh in on what to expect in 2013. What do you think the year holds in store? Let us know @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion

Although the majority still does not seem to know much about fracking, a deluge of media attention to this controversial extraction technology has likely raised its profile significantly since last year.

However, increased awareness is not synonymous with public approval. Among those familiar with hydraulic fracturing, support decreased from 48% to 41% over six months. Similarly, a December poll by Bloomberg reported that 66% of Americans would like greater government oversight of the process, up from 56% in September.

When Matt Damon's new film "Promised Land" debuts in January, expect public recognition and heated debate over hydraulic fracturing to rise further.

Climate change gets real

When Gov. Mitt Romney quipped, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans" at the 2012 Republican National Convention, his audience burst into laughter. During the debates that followed, neither party's nominee mentioned climate change once as a policy priority.

Weeks later, Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeastern United States, flooding many parts of New York City, New Jersey and other regions along the Atlantic Coast. Both candidates immediately canceled campaign events in the wake of the storm and Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama, citing his commitment to tackling climate change. After a summer of record-breaking drought followed by this single powerful hurricane in a major metropolitan area, attitudes shifted.

In March, 65% of Americans surveyed said they thought that climate change was occurring. By September, after the summer drought, that number reached 73%, with the greatest gains among Republicans and independent voters. Earlier this month, The Associated Press-GfK poll followed up, reporting that after Sandy, 78% of Americans now say global temperatures are rising.

Because weather can influence opinions on climate change, it's possible that a wet and stormy winter -- ironically, also exacerbated by climate change -- could push attitudes in the other direction. Regardless, in 2013 expect to hear less argument about whether the Earth is warming and a more serious policy discussion by elected officials across levels of government about how we might mitigate the effects of rising seas, changing ocean acidity, agricultural uncertainty and extreme weather events.

Renewables gain ground

Renewable energy technologies have been available for decades, but 2012 may have been the tipping point for their wider adoption. There has been a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who say they are likely to buy hybrid or electric vehicles or use "smart" electric meters within the next five years. Most notably, between September 2011 and September 2012, the percentage of Americans who say they are likely to install solar panels at home increased from 21% to 28%.

These trends may reflect changing attitudes on climate, media attention to energy during the election cycle, rising gas prices or cheaper, widely advertised new alternatives. Most likely, it's a combination of all these.

What's clear is that we are now on the cusp of a renewables revolution with greater options and cost-saving technologies than ever. They are finally becoming more affordable, reliable and practical, with solar power at the helm. Still, it's important to note that as we ring in 2013, China, not the United States, has taken the lead on renewables.

The big picture

Polls tell the story of how attitudes are shifting, but short of having a crystal ball, there is no way to unequivocally predict what major world events will influence our nation's energy future. For example, another nuclear disaster or offshore oil spill could play an enormous role in shaping the next generation of energy priorities.

What can we count on in 2013?

In the past year, the percentage of Americans saying they consider themselves knowledgeable on how energy is produced, delivered and used has increased from 24% to 33%. More are likely to seek added information about reducing their own energy use and a higher percentage rate energy issues as important to them.

Amid economic uncertainty, volatile prices and global unrest, Americans are paying closer attention to the energy decisions that affect us all.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sheril Kirshenbaum.

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Chicago marks 500 homicides

Chicago police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting in the 1000 block of North Lavergne on Chicago's West Side. (Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune)

On the surface, Nathaniel Jackson fit the profile of the vast majority of Chicago's homicide victims in 2012 — he had a lengthy arrest record and alleged gang ties.

But when Jackson was shot and killed Thursday night, just months after getting out of prison, he also earned the unfortunate distinction of being the 500th homicide victim in Chicago this year, a grim milestone the city reached for the first time in four years.

While Chicago had almost twice as many slayings 20 years ago as it did this year, the number 500 is a largely symbolic threshold, a reminder of the year's escalated violence and a numerical bar the city had not reached since 513 were killed in 2008.

By mid-November the city already had tallied the most homicides in four years. As of Friday, Chicago had an estimated 17 percent increase in homicides over 2011, and an 11 percent increase in shootings, according to police.

The city's rising homicide tally has been a thorny issue for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for much of the year.

"It was a milestone on those days when we had zero murders and zero shootings. Those are milestones. This is a negative one, something that we never wanted," McCarthy told the Tribune Thursday afternoon, hours before Jackson, 40, was killed. "But in perspective, there's no such thing as an acceptable murder number. Even if we cut it down to 300 next year, it's still … unacceptable."

The department went back and forth Friday over whether Jackson was the 500th homicide victim so far this year, at first confirming it and then denying it, saying a homicide last week had been reclassified as a death investigation, therefore making Jackson the 499th homicide. But by late afternoon, the department once again confirmed there had been 500 homicides.

"The city has seen its 500th homicide for 2012, a tragic number that is reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods," McCarthy said in a statement. "Every homicide in Chicago is unacceptable to me and the hardworking men and women of the Chicago Police Department, who, this year, achieved a record drop in overall crime throughout our city."

Chicago's homicide rate also remains a major issue for Emanuel heading into the new year. Beyond the very real human cost, there's a perception problem for the city.

The homicide rate in Chicago far exceeds the rates in New York City and Los Angeles. While the homicide rate in LA has remained relatively flat and New York's has gone down — homicides there have fallen by more than 20 percent this year — Emanuel, known for carefully trying to craft the narrative of his tenure as mayor, has seen Chicago's violence attract national attention.

The mayor was on vacation Friday with his family but issued a statement to the Tribune:

"Chicago has reached an unfortunate and tragic milestone, which not only marks a needless loss of life but serves as a reminder of the damage that illegal guns and conflicts between gangs cause in our neighborhoods," Emanuel said, adding that his efforts to lengthen the public school day and provide before- and after-school programs for youths were part of the eventual solution.

Emanuel last week also noted that overall crime in Chicago was down about 8.5 percent for the year.

This previous winter was particularly violent. In the first three months of 2012, when the city experienced unseasonable warmth, homicides ran about 60 percent ahead of the 2011 rate. As the year went on, the increase in killings leveled out but still remained higher than in previous years.

In his statement Friday, McCarthy lauded the overall drop in crime in the city and said department efforts resulted in less violence in the latter part of 2012.

"CPD has put the right people in the right places to accomplish our long-term goal of reducing crime and ensuring that our streets and our neighborhoods belong to the residents of this city," McCarthy said in his statement. "Since the gang violence reduction strategy was adopted, we have seen drastic reductions in shootings and homicides that spiked early in the year."

Some within the department feel the disbanding of two specialized units that swooped into "hot spots" to reduce violent crime had a negative impact on this year's rate. After McCarthy was installed last year as the city's top cop, he eliminated those strike forces to move those officers to beat patrols, in the hope they would have more meaningful and positive interactions with the community. The department now uses cops who work all over the city to fulfill the same function as the strike forces, but these "area teams" comprise fewer officers.

McCarthy has blamed the proliferation of guns on Chicago's streets and the splintering of large street gangs into small factions as reasons for the homicide spike.

In October, the Tribune reported that 1 in 4 homicide victims this year were affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, the city's largest street gang, and one also riddled with internal conflict.

Jackson, who authorities described as being affiliated with the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, falls into a category shared by more than 80 percent of Chicago's 2012 homicide victims: those with criminal histories.

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Indian gang rape victim dies; New Delhi braces for protests

NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A woman whose gang rape sparked protests and a national debate about violence against women in India died of her injuries on Saturday, prompting a security lockdown in New Delhi and an acknowledgement from India's prime minister that social change is needed.

Bracing for a new wave of protests, Indian authorities deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women's rights. Hundreds of people staged peaceful protests at two locations on Saturday morning.

The 23-year-old medical student, severely beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday for specialist treatment.

The intense media coverage of the attack and the use of social media to galvanize the protests, mostly by young middle-class students, has forced political leaders to confront some uncomfortable truths about the treatment of women in the world's largest democracy.

Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists who say that successive governments have done too little to ensure the safety of women.

"The need of the hour is a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement.

"I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agenda to help us all reach the end that we all desire - making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in."

T.C.A. Raghavan, the Indian high commissioner to Singapore, told reporters hours after the woman's death in a Singapore hospital that a chartered aircraft would fly her body back to India on Saturday, along with members of her family.

The body was taken to a Hindu casket firm in Singapore for embalming. Indian diplomats selected a gold and yellow coffin to transport her home, staff at the firm told reporters.

"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Dec 29, 2012 (2045 GMT Friday). Her family and officials from the High Commission (embassy) of India were by her side," Mount Elizabeth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Loh said earlier in a statement.

Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, said the woman's death was a "shameful moment for me not just as a chief minister but also as a citizen of this country".

The woman, who has not been identified, and a male friend were returning home from the cinema by bus on the evening of December 16 when, media reports say, six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. Media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived.

The attack has put gender issues center stage in Indian politics arguably for the first time. Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide have rarely entered mainstream political discourse.

Analysts say the death of the woman dubbed "Amanat", an Urdu word meaning "treasure," by some media could change that, although it is too early to say whether the protesters calling for government action to better safeguard women can sustain their momentum through to national elections due in 2014.


The public outcry over the attack caught the government off-guard. It took a week for Singh to make a public statement on the attack, infuriating many protesters who saw it as a sign of a government insensitive to the plight of women.

The prime minister, a stiff 80-year-old technocrat who speaks in a low monotone, has struggled to channel the popular outrage in his public statements and convince critics that his eight-year-old government will now take concrete steps to improve the safety of women.

"The Congress mangers were ham-handed in their handling of the situation that arose after the brutal assault on the girl. The crowd management was poor," a lawmaker from Singh's ruling Congress party said on condition of anonymity.

Protesters fought pitched battles with police around the capital last weekend. Police used batons, water cannon and teargas to quell the protests.

Commentators and sociologists say the rape has tapped into a deep well of frustration many Indians feel over what they see as weak governance and poor leadership on social issues.

A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.

Indian media had accused the government of sending the woman to Singapore to minimize any backlash in the event of her death but Raghavan said it had been a medical decision intended to ensure she got the best treatment.

The suspects in the rape - five men, including two brothers, aged between 20 and 40, and a 15-year-old - were arrested within hours of the attack and are in custody. The suspects, all from a slum in south Delhi, will be formally charged with murder, New Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police Chhaya Sharma told Reuters.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told Times Now television the government was committed to ensuring "the severest possible punishment to all the accused at the earliest".

"It will not go in vain. We will give maximum punishment to the culprits. Not only to this, but in future also. This one incident has given a greater lesson" Shinde said.

He said earlier the government was considering hanging for rape in rare cases. Murder already carries the death penalty.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin and Diksha Madhok in New Delhi; Kevin Lim, Saeed Azhar, Edgar Su and Sanjeev Miglani in Singapore; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Robert Birsel and Ross Colvin)

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Stock index futures steady; budget talks eyed

PARIS (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a steady Wall Street open, with S&P 500 futures down 0.11 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.03 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.05 percent at 4.54 a.m. ET.

European shares were flat to slightly lower in early trade on Friday as investors waited to see if a deal to avoid the U.S. "fiscal cliff" would be reached before further boosting their exposure to equities. <.eu/>

President Barack Obama and lawmakers are launching a last-chance round of budget talks days before a New Year's deadline to reach a deal or watch the economy go off a "fiscal cliff." Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Friday at 3 p.m. EST.

On the macro front, investors awaited pending home sales data for November. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 5.2 percent gain in the previous month.

Investors in U.S.-based funds favored stock exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and emerging market equity mutual funds as the year wound down, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed on Thursday.

Satellite television provider DirecTV Group said its service fees would rise by an average of 4.5 percent in February due to increasing programming costs.

A Chinese court fined Apple 1 million yuan ($160,400) for hosting third-party applications on its App Store that were selling pirated electronic books, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

U.S. stocks fell for a fourth day on Thursday, but recovered most of their losses after the House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said it would come back to work on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" this weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 18.28 points, or 0.14 percent, to 13,096.31 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> declined 1.73 points, or 0.12 percent, to end at 1,418.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 4.25 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 2,985.91.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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Net loss: Brooklyn fires coach Avery Johnson

NEW YORK (AP) — Coach of the month in November, out of a job by New Year's.

The Brooklyn Nets have elevated expectations this season, and a .500 record wasn't good enough. Coach Avery Johnson was fired Thursday, his team having lost 10 of 13 games after a strong start to its first season in Brooklyn.

"We don't have the same fire now than we did when we were 11-4," general manager Billy King said at a news conference in East Rutherford, N.J. "I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just can't figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening."

Assistant P.J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets on an interim basis, starting Friday night with a home game against Charlotte. King said the Nets might reach out to other candidates, but for now the job was Carlesimo's. The GM wouldn't comment on a report that the team planned to get in touch with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

King said the decision to dismiss Johnson was made by ownership after a phone discussion Thursday morning. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov had expressed faith in Johnson before the season.

"With the direction we were going we felt we had to make a change," King said.

Johnson was in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract.

"It's a really disappointing day for me and my family. It's my wife's birthday. It's not a great birthday gift," Johnson said. "I didn't see this coming. But this is ownership's decision. It's part of the business. Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice and hopefully they'll get back on track."

The Nets have fallen well behind the first-place New York Knicks, the team they so badly want to compete with in their new home. But after beating the Knicks in their first meeting Nov. 26, probably the high point of Johnson's tenure, the Nets went 5-10 and frustrations have been mounting.

"Our goal is to get to the conference finals," King said. "We started out good and then we stumbled. We have to get back to playing winning basketball. It's the entire team. It's not like golf, where Tiger Woods can blame the caddie. It takes five guys on the court and they're all struggling. We have to figure out the ways to get back to winning. I don't know what happened. I'm not sure. But unfortunately, it did happen."

The Nets were embarrassed by Boston on national TV on Christmas, then were routed by Milwaukee 108-93 on Wednesday night for their fifth loss in six games.

Star guard Deron Williams recently complained about Johnson's offense, and Nets CEO Brett Yormark took to Twitter after the loss to Celtics to voice his displeasure with the performance.

King said the change was not made because Williams was unhappy, and he added the point guard himself has to play better.

Johnson also stood by Williams.

"From Day One, I always had a really good relationship with him. I don't think it's fair for anyone to hang this on Deron," Johnson said. "We were just going through a bad streak, a bad spell. It's not time for me to be down on one player. That would be the easy way."

Brooklyn started the season 11-4, winning five in a row to end November, when Johnson was Eastern Conference coach of the month. But he couldn't do anything to stop this slump, one the Nets never anticipated after a $350 million summer spending spree they believed would take them toward the top of their conference.

Johnson has been the Nets' coach for a little more than two seasons. He went 60-116 with the Nets, who moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn to start the season. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.

"You don't always get a fair shake as a coach," Johnson said. "I'm not the owner. If I were the owner, I wouldn't have fired myself today. But life is not always necessary fair. It's a business and in this business, the coach always gets blamed."

This is the NBA's second coaching change this season following the dismissal of Mike Brown by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson arrived in New Jersey with a 194-70 record, a .735 winning percentage that was the highest in NBA history, but had little chance of success in his first two seasons while the Nets focused all their planning on the move to Brooklyn.

They looked to make a splash this summer when they re-signed Williams and fellow starters Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, traded for Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson, and added veteran depth with players such as Reggie Evans, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche.

Johnson didn't have a contract beyond this season but seemed to have the confidence of Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who before the season said he had faith in "the Avery defense system."

Some thought the Nets would finish as high as second in the East behind defending champion Miami, and the predictions seemed warranted when the Nets started quickly amid much fanfare. But all the good publicity faded in recent weeks once the losing started.

Williams, who has struggled this season, stirred the waters when he expressed his preference for the offense he ran under Jerry Sloan in Utah before a loss to the Jazz. Williams and Johnson, nicknamed "Brooklyn's Backcourt" and expected to be one of the best in the NBA, have shot poorly and rarely meshed.

The Nets were embarrassed near the end of their 93-76 loss to Boston, when fans exited early amid a chant of "Let's go Celtics!"

"Nets fans deserved better," Yormark tweeted after the game. "The entire organization needs to work harder to find a solution. We will get there."

Not under Johnson, though.

The Nets should be able to entice a big-name coach with Prokhorov's billions and the chance to play in a major market at Barclays Center, the $1 billion arena that has drawn praise in the city and from visiting teams.

Carlesimo has previous NBA head coaching experience in Portland, Golden State and Seattle/Oklahoma City. He has a career coaching record of 204-296 in the regular season and 3-9 in the playoffs.

"Right now, P.J. is our coach and I told him to coach the team like he'll be here for the next 10 years," King said.


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford and AP freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.

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2013: A year for big issues in the courts

By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)

Chief Justice John Roberts re-administers the oath of office to Barack Obama at the White House on January 21, 2009.


  • Jeffrey Toobin: 2013 will see pivotal decisions in several key areas of law

  • He says Supreme Court could decide fate of same-sex marriage

  • Affirmative action for public college admissions is also on Court's agenda

  • Toobin: Newtown massacre put gun control debate back in the forefront

Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin is a senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where he covers legal affairs. He is the author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court."

(CNN) -- What will we see in 2013?

One thing for sure: The year will begin with Chief Justice John Roberts and President Obama getting two chances to recite the oath correctly.

Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin

After that, here are my guesses.

1. Same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court. There are two cases, and there are a Rubik's Cube-worth of possibilities for their outcomes. On one extreme, the court could say that the federal government (in the Defense of Marriage Act) and the states can ban or allow same-sex marriage as they prefer. On the other end, the Court could rule that gay people have a constitutional right to marry in any state in the union. (Or somewhere in between.)

CNN Opinion contributors weigh in on what to expect in 2013. What do you think the year holds in store? Let us know @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion

2. The future of affirmative action. In a case pending before the Supreme Court, the Court could outlaw all affirmative action in admissions at public universities, with major implications for all racial preferences in all school or non-school settings.

3. Gun control returns to the agenda. The Congress (and probably some states) will wrestle with the question of gun control, an issue that had largely fallen off the national agenda before the massacre in Newtown. Expect many invocations (some accurate, some not) of the Second Amendment.

4. The continued decline of the death penalty. Death sentences and executions continue to decline, and this trend will continue. Fear of mistaken executions (largely caused by DNA exonerations) and the huge cost of the death penalty process will both accelerate the shift.

5. Celebrity sex scandal. There will be one. There will be outrage, shock and amusement. (Celebrity to be identified later.)

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Toobin.

Part of complete coverage on

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)

Jeffrey Toobin says key rulings will likely be made regarding same-sex marriage and affirmative action for public college admissions.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)

Frida Ghitis says that after years in which conservative views dominated the nation, there's now majority support for many progressive stances.

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0316 GMT (1116 HKT)

John MacIntosh says gun manufacturer Freedom Group should be acquired by public-spirited billionaires and turned into a company with ethical goals.

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 0237 GMT (1037 HKT)

Bassam Gergi and Ali Breland says we should mourn for Newtown's victims, but also take steps to stop the slaughter of young people in inner cities

Get the latest opinion and analysis from CNN's columnists and contributors.

December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)

Tseming Yang says the 25 major carbon emitters should come to an agreement just among themselves about fighting climate change.

December 25, 2012 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)

David Frum says the National Rifle Association's "Death Wish" style vision of America as a land of armed civilians fending off criminals is a fantasy.

December 27, 2012 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)

Lawrence Krauss says the nation must grieve with the families of Newtown after such a tremendous loss, but religion is not the right framework

December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1044 GMT (1844 HKT)

Jonathan Batiste says jazz is a complex, traditional and utterly contemporary art -- the language that we use to state our deepest, truest feelings

December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)

Dean Obeidallah says "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Promised Land" present hot button issues that fire up people from the left and right.

December 26, 2012 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)

MADD started as a small grass-roots movement that grew and radically changed society's views on drunk driving, says Candace Lightner.

December 22, 2012 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)

David Gergen says the hope for cooperation is gone in the capital as people spar over fiscal cliff, gun control, and nominations

December 19, 2012 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)

William Bennett says having armed and trained people could help protect schools and other vulnerable places from gun violence

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Fatal shooting appears to have pushed city's homicide toll to 500

The fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man Thursday night on the West Side appears to have pushed Chicago's 2012 homicide toll to 500, the first time the city has had that many killings in four years.

The slaying came hours after the Chicago Police Department said the city was one homicide away from the 500 mark for the year.

The victim was standing outside a convenience store around 9 p.m. at Augusta Boulevard and Lavergne Avenue in the city's Austin community when he was shot in the head, police said. He was pronounced dead at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County at 12:18 a.m., a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said.

At the shooting scene, a pool of blood stained the sidewalk outside Noah Foods. Police tapped apartment windows and knocked on doors looking for witnesses. A stray dog trotted through the crime scene before taking off in a sprint up Lavergne.

A few bullet casings, which police initially believed to be from a .45 caliber handgun, were found next to where the man was shot. Before officers left the scene, three people walked out of the store and pounded the metal gate shut.

The last time Chicago had 500 or more homicides was in 2008. As of Thursday night, homicides were up 17 percent over last year, and shootings had increased by 11 percent, according to police statistics.

Largely contributing to the spike was the unusual number of homicides that occurred during the early part of the year, in which the city experienced unseasonable warmth. In the first three months of the year, homicides ran about 60 percent ahead of the 2011 rate.


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Putin signs ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Friday that bans Americans from adopting Russian children and imposes other measures in retaliation for new U.S. legislation meant to punish Russian human rights abusers.

The law, which has ignited outrage among Russian liberals and child rights' advocates, enters into force on January 1 and is likely to strain U.S.-Russia relations.

As well as banning U.S. adoptions, it will also outlaw some non-governmental organizations that receive U.S. funding and impose a visa ban and asset freeze on Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians abroad.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers initially drafted the bill to mirror the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars entry to Russians accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and of other alleged rights abuses.

The restrictions on adoptions and non-profit groups were added to the legislation later, going beyond a tit-for-tat move and escalating a dispute with Washington at a time when ties are also strained by issues such as the Syrian crisis.

(Reporting By Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing By Steve Gutterman and Andrew Osborn)

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Stock futures signal steady open

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a steady open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.04 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.05 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.02 percent at 0941 GMT.

European shares rose early on Thursday in their first trading session following the Christmas break, with investors focusing on Washington's last-ditch efforts to avoid a damaging bout of fiscal tightening next year. <.eu/>

Efforts to prevent the U.S. economy from going over its 'fiscal cliff' resumed on Wednesday with less than a week to go before the potentially disastrous tax hikes and spending cuts kick in.

In a sign that there may be a way through the deadlock in Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner offered to at consider any bill the Democrat-controlled Senate produced. President Barack Obama will try to revive budget crisis talks when he returns to Washington on Thursday after cutting short his Christmas break.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday, dragged lower by retail stocks after a report showed consumers spent less in the holiday shopping season than last year.

The 2012 holiday season may have been the worst for retailers since the 2008 financial crisis, with sales growth far below expectations, forcing many to offer massive post-Christmas discounts in hopes of shedding excess inventory.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 24.49 points, or 0.19 percent, to 13,114.59 at Wednesday's close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> shed 6.83 points, or 0.48 percent, to 1,419.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 22.44 points, or 0.74 percent, to 2,990.16.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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Peyton Manning, Peterson make Pro Bowl

NEW YORK (AP) — Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson want to cap their sensational comebacks with Super Bowl appearances. For now, they can be proud of Pro Bowl spots.

So can Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, one of two rookies chosen Wednesday for the Jan. 27 NFL all-star game.

Manning missed all of the 2011 season with neck and back problems that required several operations. He then signed with Denver as a free agent and has led the Broncos on a 10-game winning streak to take the AFC West.

"I know there's great players out there in the NFL, but there's some great players on this team this year that deserve to go," said Manning, whose 12th Pro Bowl is a record for quarterbacks. He ranks fourth in league passing this year, has thrown 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Four other Broncos made the AFC roster: DE Elvis Dumervil, linebacker Von Miller, CB Champ Bailey and tackle Ryan Clady. Bailey's 12th appearance is a record for defensive backs.

"My goal has always been to go out and help the team win and play at a high level," Manning added. "Anything that comes along with that, like being honored as a Pro Bowl selection, is very humbling."

Minnesota's Peterson tore up his left knee on Christmas Eve last year, underwent major surgery, then was back for the season opener. He's gone from uncertain to unstoppable, running away with the rushing title with a career-high 1,898 yards and lifting the Vikings toward an NFC wild card.

"Coming into the season after going through the rehab process, I just told myself that I wanted to lead my team to a championship and make sure that I contribute and do my part," Peterson said. "I've been doing it."

Griffin is one of three rookie QBs who had superb debut seasons, along with Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Russell Wilson of Seattle. Luck and Wilson weren't voted to the Pro Bowl by players, coaches and fans, although their teams are in the playoffs; Griffin can get to the postseason if Washington beats Dallas on Sunday.

"You can't play down those kind of things," Griffin said. "I've always said my whole football career that you don't play for awards. They just come. You don't say you're going to win the Heisman. You don't say you're going to win MVP. You go out and you prove it on the field, and if everyone feels that way then they'll give you that award."

San Francisco had the most players selected, nine, including six from its second-ranked defense. Houston was next with eight, six on offense.

Kansas City, despite its 2-13 record that is tied with Jacksonville for worst in the league, had five Pro Bowlers, including RB Jamaal Charles, who like Peterson is coming back from a torn ACL.

One other rookie, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, was chosen. Walsh has nine field goals of at least 50 yards, an NFL mark.

The AFC kicker is at the other end of the spectrum: Cleveland's Phil Dawson earned his first selection in his 14th NFL season.

"I deliberately tried not to know," Dawson said. "We wanted to watch the show with my kids. I had a really good idea what was going on, but it was a pretty priceless moment when we saw the name flash up on the screen. My kids went nuts 'cause my wife went nuts. That makes these 15 years of waiting worth it."

Another record setter will be heading to Honolulu: Detroit WR Calvin Johnson.

Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season yards receiving record and has 1,892 yards with a game left.

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez set the record for Pro Bowls at his position by being chosen for the 13th time.

The league's top two sackmasters, DEs Aldon Smith of San Francisco and J.J. Watt of Houston, were first-time selections. Watt has 20 1-2 sacks, one ahead of Smith; the NFL record is 22 1-2.

Other newcomers, along with Griffin, Walsh and Dawson, were AFC players tackle Duane Brown and guard Wade Smith of Houston; safety LaRon Landry of the Jets; kick returner Jacoby Jones of Baltimore; and punter Dustin Colquitt of Kansas City.

For the NFC, first-timers were Giants WR Victor Cruz; Atlanta WR Julio Jones; Seattle tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger; San Francisco guard Mike Iupati, linebacker NaVorro Bowman and safety Donte Whitner; Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings and defensive tackle Henry Melton; Washington tackle Trent Williams and special teamer Lorenzo Alexander; Minnesota fullback Jerome Felton; Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy; and New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead.

Eight teams had no Pro Bowl players: Carolina, Philadelphia and St. Louis in the NFC, Tennessee, Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Diego and Oakland in the AFC.


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Heavy Snow Blankets Southern Illinois

FIRST PERSON | WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. — In a year of severe weather, including a drought that left the local area devastated, a winter storm has so far dumped six inches of snow with more still falling here in southern Illinois.

As of 8 a.m. local time, there was still a blizzard watch for the area until noon with snow in the forecast until at least 4 p.m. Authorities are advising everyone except for emergency workers to stay off of the roads until the storm passes.

The snow began falling locally a little after 10 p.m., though the winds, gusting up to 35mph, had begun in the early evening. The heaviest snow began to fall at 2 a.m. Visibility was so poor that venturing away from the house would leave you in a swirling haze of snow with winds inhibiting your ability to find your way back.

While visibility has improved considerably, the blowing snow alone makes for hazardous driving conditions. I live on a normally busy street and there are no signs anyone has attempted to venture out thus far.

There are currently no reports of power outages or downed limbs. The best course of action at this point is to stay inside and allow nature to take its course and then allow clean-up workers to do their jobs.

Local message boards have been speculating that the local area is in for a winter with far more snow than usual. The National Weather Service has projected that the winter will be colder than normal and that the area should be out of the drought before the farmers start spring planting. This doesn’t bode well in an area that is 29 inches low on precipitation due to the drought but only averages eight inches of snow each winter!

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The forgotten victims of gun violence

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, and other area officials call for stronger gun regulations at a news conference last week.


  • While America was mourning Newtown victims, guns were claiming lives elsewhere in U.S.

  • Authors: Media focus on mass shootings, but continuing violence also needs coverage

  • They say inner cities suffer an epidemic of gun killings, and young are particularly vulnerable

  • Authors: There is a day-by-day slaughter of children that must be stopped

Editor's note: Bassam Gergi is studying for a master's degree in comparative government at St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he is also a Dahrendorf Scholar. Ali Breland studies philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

(CNN) -- On the Sunday after the Newtown massacre, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut to comfort the grieving community. As the president offered what he could to the town, other American communities, in less visible ways, were grappling with their own menace of violence.

In Camden, New Jersey -- a city that has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012 , surpassing the previous record of 58 violent deaths set in 1995 -- 50 people turned out, some bearing white crosses, to mourn a homeless woman known affectionately as the "cat lady" who was stabbed to death (50 of the deaths so far this year resulted from gunshot wounds.)

Bassam Gergi

Bassam Gergi

In Philadelphia, on the same Sunday, city leaders came together at a roundtable to discuss their own epidemic of gun violence; the year-to-date total of homicides is 322. Last year, 324 were killed. Of those victims, 154 were 25 or younger. A councilman at the roundtable asked, "How come as a city we're not in an outrage? How come we're not approaching this from a crisis standpoint?"

Ali Breland

Ali Breland

The concerns go beyond Philadelphia. In the week following the Newtown massacre, there were at least a dozen gun homicides in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis alone. In a year of highly publicized mass shootings, inner-city neighborhoods that are plagued by gun violence have continued to be neglected and ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large metropolitan areas account for more than two-thirds of deaths by gun violence each year, with inner cities most affected. The majority of the victims are young, ranging in age from their early teens to mid-20s, and black.

To track these violent deaths, many communities and media organizations have set up agonizing online trackers -- homicide watches or interactive maps -- that show each subsequent victim as just another data point. These maps are representative of a set of issues far larger than the nameless dots suggest.

In the immediate aftermath of Newtown, as politicians and public figures across America grapple with the horrible truths of gun violence, far less visible from the national spotlight is the steady stream of inner-city victims.

Illegal firearms confiscated in a weapons bust in New York's East Harlem is on display at an October news conference.

The media is fixated, and with justification, on the string of high-profile massacres that have rocked the nation in Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Virginia Tech; and now in Newtown. Yet in many of America's neighborhoods most affected by the calamity of gun violence, there is a warranted exasperation -- residents are tired, tired of the ubiquity of guns, tired of fearing for their children's safety, tired of being forgotten.

Critiquing a narrow media focus doesn't deny the horrible, tragic nature of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School; mass shootings, however, make up only a small fraction of America's shockingly high level of gun crime.

In his study "American Homicide," Randolph Roth showed that while the overall risk of being murdered is higher in America than it is in any other first-world democracy, homicide rates vary drastically among groups.

According to Roth, if current trends are maintained, one out of every 158 white males born today will be murdered, but for nonwhite males it is likely one of every 27 born today will be murdered.

The stark difference in these racial trends can be traced to the high levels of racial segregation in America's cities, which have created a spatial barrier between poor inner-city youths of color and more mainstream America -- a barrier that is often responsible for the lack of media and political attention paid to inner-city problems.

Many experts claim that actually it is the spectacular nature of mass shootings that naturally magnifies media coverage and explains the resonance of these tragedies to the broader public. Inner-city violence on its own, however, does not suffer from a lack of awful, spectacular violence and calamity. In fact, the gruesome nature of violence in inner cities has contributed to widespread social desensitization to gun violence. How then do we explain the differing public responses?

An indicator of the difference of attention levels lies in the tone of the public rhetoric in the wake of mass shootings: "This was supposed to be a safe community," and "This kind of thing wasn't supposed to happen here."

These statements imply that in America's leafy-green small towns and suburbs, gun violence is a shocking travesty; it strikes against America's perception of what is acceptable. In contrast, gun violence in the American metropolis has been normalized, and the public and media display a passive indifference toward the lives of inner-city youths.

This normalization of inner-city violence is due in part, to the isolation and segregation of America's ghettos from wider America, but it is also due to a sense that the victims of inner-city violence are responsible for their own condition.

As Robert Sampson, a professor at Harvard University, has highlighted, the gun violence in American cities is born out of neighborhood characteristics such as poverty, racial segregation and lack of economic opportunity. This shortened explanation for the high levels of inner-city violence has often been mistaken to imply that it is the direct choice of inner-city residents to remain either in poverty or in their segregated community that leads to their victimization.

In reality, the victims of inner-city gun violence are the victims of a dual tragedy. The first is that the poverty and segregation, which play a crucial role in spurring the downward cycle of crime, are the result of social arrangements predicated on longstanding oppression and prejudice.

Through a complex mix of violence, institutional arrangements and exploitation, black Americans were pressured into ghettos, which are the hotbeds of contemporary gun violence. Their inability to escape their conditions is not a choice but rather the byproduct of continued structural discrimination. Slowing the tide of inner-city deaths through gun control is therefore a modern-day civil rights issue.

If the refusal of America's national politicians to move on gun control before Newtown represents a political failure and a paucity of American will, then the disregard for the lives of inner-city youths stricken by gun violence on a daily basis is an illustration of the limits of American compassion.

The slaughter of young children en masse should be a moment of reckoning for any society, but there is a day-by-day, child-by-child slaughter occurring in America that has gone on too long and is yet to be reckoned with.

If Newtown should teach us anything, it is that all of us in America share this same short moment of life, and that we all seek to ensure safety, security and prosperity for our children.

As Vice President Joe Biden and the presidential task force meet to negotiate about what new gun laws to recommend, they must look to Sandy Hook Elementary and beyond. We need to protect the children of Newtown from the threat of future gun violence, but the children of Chicago and Camden and Detroit deserve the same long-term security.

We may not be able to ensure absolute security for America's children, but through smarter policy America can surely save more of its children from gun violence.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

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Man killed on Southwest Side

Homicide on California Avenue

Detectives investigate the scene of a shooting that left a 32-year-old man dead late Wednesday night.
(Peter Nickeas / Chicago Tribune / December 26, 2012)

A 32-year-old man died after someone shot him in the face, chest and arms in the Gage Park neighborhood late Wednesday.

He was shot in an alley east of California Avenue just south of 54th Street about 10 p.m., according to police.

Someone in a light-colored pickup shot him while he stood with a female, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said.

He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition, Alfaro said. The man's family gathered there after he was shot.

Eight detectives arrived at the scene and began their investigation early Thursday morning, their unmarked police cars crowding the narrow block of 54th Street between California and Fairfield avenues. 

A young woman wept next to red tape on the south side of the crime scene.

A spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office wasn't able to say whether they had been notified of the death.

Check back for more information.

Twitter: @peternickeas

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Syria to discuss Brahimi peace proposals with Russia

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a senior diplomat to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals to end the conflict convulsing his country made by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Syrian and Lebanese sources said.

Brahimi, who saw Assad on Monday and is planning to hold a series of meetings with Syrian officials and dissidents in Damascus this week, is trying to broker a peaceful transfer of power, but has disclosed little about how this might be done.

More than 44,000 Syrians have been killed in a revolt against four decades of Assad family rule, a conflict that began with peaceful protests but which has descended into civil war.

Past peace efforts have floundered, with world powers divided over what has become an increasingly sectarian struggle between mostly Sunni Muslim rebels and Assad's security forces, drawn primarily from his Shi'ite-rooted Alawite minority.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad flew to Moscow to discuss the details of the talks with Brahimi, said a Syrian security source, who would not say if a deal was in the works.

However, a Lebanese official close to Damascus said Makdad had been sent to seek Russian advice on a possible agreement.

He said Syrian officials were upbeat after talks with Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, who met Foreign Minister Walid Moualem on Tuesday a day after his session with Assad, but who has not outlined his ideas in public.

"There is a new mood now and something good is happening," the official said, asking not to be named. He gave no details.

Russia, which has given Assad diplomatic and military aid to help him weather the 21-month-old uprising, has said it is not protecting him, but has fiercely criticized any foreign backing for rebels and, with China, has blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria.


A Russian Foreign Ministry source said Makdad and an aide would meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East affairs, on Thursday, but did not disclose the nature of the talks.

On Saturday, Lavrov said Syria's civil war had reached a stalemate, saying international efforts to get Assad to quit would fail. Bogdanov had earlier acknowledged that Syrian rebels were gaining ground and might win.

Given the scale of the bloodshed and destruction, Assad's opponents insist the Syrian president must go.

Moaz Alkhatib, head of the internationally-recognized Syrian National Coalition opposition, has criticized any notion of a transitional government in which Assad would stay on as a figurehead president stripped of real powers.

Comments on Alkhatib's Facebook page on Monday suggested that the opposition believed this was one of Brahimi's ideas.

"The government and its president cannot stay in power, with or without their powers," Alkhatib wrote, saying his Coalition had told Brahimi it rejected any such solution.

While Brahimi was working to bridge the vast gaps between Assad and his foes, fighting raged across the country and a senior Syrian military officer defected to the rebels.

Syrian army shelling killed about 20 people, at least eight of them children, in the northern province of Raqqa, a video posted by opposition campaigners showed.

The video, published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, showed rows of blood-stained bodies laid out on blankets. The sound of crying relatives could be heard in the background.

The shelling hit the province's al-Qahtania village, but it was unclear when the attack had occurred.


Rebels relaunched their assault on the Wadi Deif military base in the northwestern province of Idlib, in a battle for a major army compound and fuel storage and distribution point.

Activist Ahmed Kaddour said rebels were firing mortars and had attacked the base with a vehicle rigged with explosives.

The British-based Observatory, which uses a network of contacts in Syria to monitor the conflict, said a rebel commander was among several people killed in Wednesday's fighting, which it said was among the heaviest for months.

The military used artillery and air strikes to try to hold back rebels assaulting Wadi Deif and the town of Morek in Hama province further south. In one air raid, several rockets fell near a field hospital in the town of Saraqeb, in Idlib province, wounding several people, the Observatory said.

As violence has intensified in recent weeks, daily death tolls have climbed. The Observatory reported at least 190 had been killed across the country on Tuesday alone.

The head of Syria's military police changed sides and declared allegiance to the anti-Assad revolt.

"I am General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, head of the military police. I have defected because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction," the officer said in a video published on YouTube.

A Syrian security source confirmed the defection, but said Shalal was near retirement and had only defected to "play hero".

Syrian Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar left Lebanon for Damascus after being treated in Beirut for wounds sustained in a rebel bomb attack this month.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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