Saturday, December 31, 2011

In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export (AP)

NEW YORK ? For the first time, the top export of the United States, the world's biggest gas guzzler, is ? wait for it ? fuel.

Measured in dollars, the nation is on pace this year to ship more gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than any other single export, according to U.S. Census data going back to 1990. It will also be the first year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels.

Just how big of a shift is this? A decade ago, fuel wasn't even among the top 25 exports. And for the last five years, America's top export was aircraft.

The trend is significant because for decades the U.S. has relied on huge imports of fuel from Europe in order to meet demand. It only reinforced the image of America as an energy hog. And up until a few years ago, whenever gasoline prices climbed, there were complaints in Congress that U.S. refiners were not growing quickly enough to satisfy domestic demand; that controversy would appear to be over.

Still, the U.S. is nowhere close to energy independence. America is still the world's largest importer of crude oil. From January to October, the country imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil worth roughly $280 billion.

Fuel exports, worth an estimated $88 billion in 2011, have surged for two reasons:

? Crude oil, the raw material from which gasoline and other refined products are made, is a lot more expensive. Oil prices averaged $95 a barrel in 2011, while gasoline averaged $3.52 a gallon ? a record. A decade ago oil averaged $26 a barrel, while gasoline averaged $1.44 a gallon.

? The volume of fuel exports is rising. The U.S. is using less fuel because of a weak economy and more efficient cars and trucks. That allows refiners to sell more fuel to rapidly growing economies in Latin America, for example. In 2011, U.S. refiners exported 117 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products, up from 40 million gallons per day a decade earlier.

There's at least one domestic downside to America's growing role as a fuel exporter. Experts say the trend helps explain why U.S. motorists are paying more for gasoline. The more fuel that's sent overseas, the less of a supply cushion there is at home.

Gasoline supplies are being exported to the highest bidder, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. "It's a world market," he says.

Refining companies won't say how much they make by selling fuel overseas. But analysts say those sales are likely generating higher profits per gallon than the fuel sold in the U.S. Otherwise, they wouldn't occur.

The value of U.S. fuel exports has grown steadily over the past decade, coinciding with rising oil prices and increased demand around the globe.

Developing countries in Latin America and Asia have been burning more gasoline and diesel as their people buy more cars and build more roads and factories. Europe also has been buying more U.S. fuel to make up for its lack of refineries.

And there's a simple reason why America's refiners have been eager to export to these markets: gasoline demand in the U.S. has been falling every year since 2007. It dropped by another 2.5 percent in 2011. With the economy struggling, motorists cut back. Also, cars and trucks have become more fuel-efficient and the government mandates the use of more corn-based ethanol fuel.

The last time the U.S. was a net exporter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president. That year, the U.S. exported 86 million barrels and imported 82 million barrels. In the first nine months of 2011, the nation exported 753 million barrels and imported 689 million barrels.


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Nigerian Christmas bomb death toll rises to 37 (Reuters)

ABUJA (Reuters) ? The death toll from a bomb attack on a church just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja on Christmas Day has risen to 37, with 57 people wounded, a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Friday.

The bombing at St. Theresa's Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja's outskirts during a packed Christmas mass was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.

"As of just now, the latest death toll from the bombing of St. Theresa's church is at 37. Wounded, we have 57," a senior NEMA official said. The initial death toll had been 27.

The official asked not to be identified because the victims were now in the hands of hospitals and morgues.

President Goodluck Jonathan's office put out a statement late on Friday pledging that "the government will fight Boko Haram, the group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end."

Jonathan held talks on Friday with Mohame Bazoum, Deputy Prime Minister of Niger. Security officials suspect the countries' porous common border is a gathering point for militants, and that Boko Haram may have made contact there with al Qaeda's north African wing.

"The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region," Jonathan said.

He had summoned his security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing Islamist militant threat and how to deal with it.

National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi told Reuters that Nigerian security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via "back channels," even though explicit talks are officially ruled out.


This year was the second in a row that Boko Haram has attacked churches at Christmas. Its strikes are becoming deadlier and more sophisticated, and suggest that it is trying to ignite sectarian strife in a country historically prone to conflicts between a largely Muslim north and Christian south.

Three explosions struck the northeastern city of Maiduguri shortly after Muslim Friday prayers, but caused no casualties, the military said. In a separate incident, gunmen shot dead three members of a cleric's family.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the northern Hausa language, has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north.

Attacks in and around the capital - including one on the U.N. headquarters in August that killed at least 24 people - suggest the group is trying to raise its profile and radiate out from its heartland in the northeast.

On Tuesday night, unidentified attackers threw a homemade bomb into an Islamic school in the southern Delta state, an apparent sectarian reprisal that wounded seven people, six of them young children.

On Wednesday night, an explosion in a local bar in the northern city of Gombe wounded one person, police said.

(Reporting by Tim Cocks)


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rick Perry Joins the Heartless Anti-Choice Fanatics (Little green footballs)

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Make a "Walking Taco" in a Bag of Fritos for an Easy, Portable Snack [Food Hacks]

Make a "Walking Taco" in a Bag of Fritos for an Easy, Portable SnackThis crazy, ingenious food hack turns a bag of corn chips into a filling Mexican meal or snack. Your bag of Fritos (or Tostito tortilla chips, perhaps) serves as a bowl for the mixture of taco fillings.

Just take a single-size serving bag, add your ingredients, and go.

The comments on the Craft blog where this recipe is found note that this is actually a traditional Mexican snack or street food known as "tostilocos" (which I think means crazy toast).

Tutorial: Walking Taco | Craft


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coach left twisting in Brees

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


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Police identify woman in fatal Glenburn crash

Police say 22-year-old Kristie Collins of Hudson was driving north at about 1 p.m. on Monday when she lost control and crossed the center line, where her car was struck by a pickup truck.


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

?Braveheart? is GOP?s doom - Thu, 22 Dec 2011 PST

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WASHINGTON ? House Republicans, on the eve of Tuesday?s vote denying tax relief to 160 million Americans, huddled in a conference room in the Capitol basement for more than two?hours.

Were they puzzling over how to explain to constituents why they were effectively ordering a tax increase on the middle class after fighting for much larger tax breaks for the wealthy? Were they justifying the killing of a bipartisan compromise that had the support of all but seven Senate Republicans and the tacit approval of House Speaker John?Boehner?

Nope. Turns out they were talking Monday night about their favorite scenes from ?Braveheart.? About 10 House Republicans went to the microphones to share their memories of the Mel Gibson film, Republican sources told my Washington Post colleagues Paul Kane and Rosalind?Helderman.

One member spoke about the apocryphal scene in which the 13th-century Scottish rebel William Wallace ordered his troops to moon the?English.

Another member recounted the scene in which Wallace commanded the rebels to hold their positions before raising their spears against the charging English?cavalry.

This inspired the assembled lawmakers to chant: ?Hold! Hold! Hold!?Hold!?

Finally, toward the end of the meeting, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah bravely rose to tell his colleagues that he hated the film. He introduced a motion that all references to ?Braveheart? be banned. His colleagues laughed and heckled. The motion was not?adopted.

But Bishop was right: ?Braveheart? is a conspicuously poor choice for the House?GOP.

For one thing, the Republicans are, if anything, in a reverse- ?Braveheart? position: In this fight, they are the nobles putting down the overtaxed peasants. For another, the Scots they are emulating were defeated and slaughtered, and Wallace was captured (possibly betrayed by his own side), then drawn and?quartered.

That the House Republicans would embrace a doomed cause and its martyred leader gets at their main problem in the majority: They?d rather make a point than govern the country. And in this case, it?s not entirely clear what point they?re trying to?make.

Is it making sure the tax cut is paid for? For the last decade, Republicans approved billions of dollars in tax cuts, mostly for the rich, without paying for?them.

Is it because they want the tax-cut extension to be for a year rather than just two months, as the Senate approved? Then why did so many Republicans originally criticize any tax-cut?extension?

In killing the Senate compromise, which passed 89 to 10, with 39 Republican votes, the House GOP resorted to a variant of the ?deem and pass? resolution they derided when Democrats proposed it during the health care fight. Reneging on their pledge to hold a vote on the Senate compromise, Braveheart Republican leaders ordered up a resolution that rejected the Senate measure without a direct?vote.

Caucus chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, demanding a conference between the House and Senate to resolve differences, instructed his colleagues to ?go back and watch the ?Schoolhouse Rock? video? to see how ?differences are settled between the House and Senate.? But this ignored the fact that Senate Democrats had already compromised with Senate Republicans; Hensarling was asking them to compromise on their?compromise.

House Democrats didn?t exactly distinguish themselves, either. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said Republicans had imposed ?martial law.? Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington brought a Christmas stocking and lump of coal to the floor. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California recalled a Woody Allen joke (?the food at this place is really terrible ? and such small portions?) that she attributed to Yogi?Berra.

But that didn?t hold a torch to the Republicans? ?Braveheart? performance. It wasn?t the first congressional invocation of the film (Dick Gephardt once showed up to a meeting in William Wallace attire when he was House Democratic leader), but until now it hasn?t been embraced quite so?earnestly.

?Look, this is a ?Braveheart? moment,? Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said on Fox News on Monday, describing the House Republicans? instructions to Boehner. ?You, Mr. Speaker, are our William Wallace. Let?s rush to the?fight.?

Apparently plenty of others felt the same way. Staffers emerged from the GOP caucus meeting at 6:45 p.m. Monday to say the meeting would break up in five minutes. But the Republicans? impromptu movie night didn?t end until 8:17 p.m., when Boehner, face as orange as Mel Gibson?s was blue, marched forth with his Bravehearts in a cloud of cigarette smoke toward their inevitable?tragedy.

Dana Milbank?s email address is?


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Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin & Hailee Steinfeld Officially Join ENDER'S GAME

After being rumored to be in talks to join Gavin Hood's adaptation of Orson Scott Card's seminal Sci-fi novel, Harrison Ford has officially signed on as Colonel Graff. He is joined by two young Oscar nominees in Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). Some more young actors have also signed on to play some of Ender's (Asa Butterfield) class mates: Aramis Knight, Moises Arias, Jimmy "Jax" Pinchak, Suraj Parthasarathy, Conor Carroll and Khylin Rhambo. Variety have the lowdown on which characters they will all play..
Ford will play Colonel Hyram Graff, who's in charge of training the young male recruits at an elite military academy. Breslin will play Valentine Wiggin, Ender's older sister, while Steinfeld will play Petra Arkanian, Ender's ally and trusted right hand.

Knight, who previously appeared in Hood's "Rendition," will play Bean, the smallest new recruit; Arias ("Hannah Montana") will play Bonzo, the commander of Salamander Army; Pinchak ("Let Me In") will play Peter Wiggin, Ender's brilliant but tortured older brother; and Parthasarathy will play Alai, the first recruit to befriend Ender.

Carroll ("Away We Go") will play Bernard, the leader of the new recruits who bullies Ender at first; and Rhambo will play Dink, a brainy member of Rat Army.

Well, that's some gang of new cast members. If you haven't read the novel it involves the recruiting of extremely gifted children (the most gifted of which is the title character Ender Wiggin) by the government to help destroy an insect-like alien race. I was not very impressed by Ford's last outing taking on aliens so hopefully this will be a return to form for a man who has played some of the most iconic characters in movie history.


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Women's basketball: Utes' Plouffe stomps New Mexico State

New Mexico State had dreams of beating Utah Wednesday. Then they went Plouffe.

Michelle Plouffe scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Utah women?s basketball team to a 74-37 win over the Aggies at the Huntsman Center. While Plouffe scored her season-high 24 points in 28 minutes, it took the 12 women who played for New Mexico State 32:37 of game time to match that total.

"I just come out every game trying to do whatever I can for the team," said Plouffe, "and if I?m not hitting outside shots I try to get offensive rebounds and hustle plays."

Against New Mexico State, she did all those things. She was 3-of-3 from 3-point range, was 8-of-11 from the field, was one off her career high in rebounds and accounted for two blocked shots.

"She just has a complete game and every single night it doesn?t matter who we?re playing against, she shows up and plays her tail off," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said.

The Utes (6-4) won their second blowout in as many games. Four days earlier they defeated Texas Southern 75-33.

Utah has one game remaining in the preseason before launching its inaugural Pac-12 campaign. Levrets said the Utes are doing now what they need to do to be ready for it.

They looked it from the beginning against the Aggies, who beat UC-Santa Barbara at home on Tuesday.

After opening the game with a 13-6 lead, the Utes went on a 20-5 tear to close the half. By then, Plouffe already had 17 points, a one-half career high. New Mexico State made just four field goals in the first half and shot 14.3 percent.

"I?m really pleased with where we are defensively," Levrets said. "I think it will give us a chance against anybody we play against on any given night, especially up here at the Huntsman Center."

Forward Taryn Wicijowski scored 12 points in 20 minutes, while Rachel Messer added 11 points.

Utah Valley 72, Weber State 65 ? At Ogden, Sammie Jensen scored 18 points as the visiting Wolverines (6-5) made 55.8 percent of their shots while holding the Wildcats (2-11) to just 33.8 percent from the field.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sony issues apology and software update for first batch of Vitas (video)

PlayStation Vita
The PlayStation Vita has just barely hit the market in Japan, and it's already off to a rocky start with consumers. Only a matter of hours after the first unit was sold, users started complaining of software bugs, unresponsive touchscreens and complete system freezes. It's actually quite normal for new consoles to have a rough first few days with their new owners, but the speed at which it went from a few folks complaining of poor performance to a firestorm of furious customers flooding Twitter was quite surprising. Strangely enough, Sony must have been aware that some of these issues still lurked inside their latest portable gaming hardware, as the company has already issued a public apology and a software update. Hopefully most of the kinks will be worked out by the time the handheld hits stateside -- we're not sure how forgiving American gamers will be when faced with the lag you can see in the video after the break.

[Thanks, Rodney]

Continue reading Sony issues apology and software update for first batch of Vitas (video)

Sony issues apology and software update for first batch of Vitas (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 19 Dec 2011 15:28:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink   |  sourceSony Japan (translated), Telegraph  | Email this | Comments


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Obama, fellow Democrats push tax cut extension (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? President Barack Obama prodded congressional Republicans on Monday to extend a payroll tax cut, and his fellow Democrats proposed to fund it with spending cuts and a "tiny surtax" on the rich.

Republicans will likely reject the Democratic move, which appears aimed at cranking up pressure on them to compromise and find a way to renew the popular tax break in advance of next year's congressional and presidential elections.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said the tax cut needs to be acted upon before they expire at the end of this month for the sake of millions of Americans and the weak U.S. economy.

"The majority of economists believe it's important to extend the payroll tax cut and ... would lower their growth estimates for our economy if it doesn't happen," Obama said.

Republicans argue that the tax cut, which went into effect last year, failed to stimulate the economy and undermined the Social Security retirement program that it funds.

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl said, "There's some very important reasons not to do this again. It doesn't produce a good result and can produce some bad results."

But Kyl noted that he backed the tax break last year because the legislation also extended income tax cuts enacted during the administration of President George W. Bush.

"If we do that again, obviously it would be something I would be supportive of," Kyl said.

Democrats have opposed an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, contending they swell the record U.S. debt and provide unneeded aid to the very rich.

Without congressional action, the payroll tax that workers pay to help fund the Social Security retirement program would revert to 6.2 percent, up from the current 4.2 percent tax.

Democrats want to temporarily reduce it to 3.1 percent, but have abandoned efforts to extend the tax break to employers.


As Obama spoke at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the floor of his chamber and announced a modified proposal to cover the cost of an extension with a "mixture of spending cuts" and a "tiny, tiny surtax" on the wealthiest Americans.

The proposed Democratic extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut would cost about $185 billion, and save the average American family about $1,500 next year, aides said.

The wealthy would also benefit from an extension of the tax cut because it's levied on the first $106,800 of an employee's salary.

Democrats propose covering the cost of the tax break extension with about $40 billion in "cost savings" agreed to by Democrats and Republicans on the now-defunct super committee on deficit reduction. Most of the rest would be paid for by a surtax of less than 2 percent on income above $1 million.

Some savings would come from tightening, at the request of Republicans, eligibility requirement to prevent millionaires from drawing unemployment benefits.

"This is a serious proposal and Republicans should take it seriously," Reid said.

Citing public support, Reid said, "Republicans in Congress dismiss it at their peril."

Republicans argue that the payroll tax cut coupled with a tax increase on millionaires was bad economic and tax policy. They argue the temporary payroll tax break did little to create jobs and that the proposed tax increase on millionaires would stifle job creation.

Republican leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives have been struggling to stake out a unified position on the payroll tax cut.

Earlier this month, Republicans were reluctant to embrace Obama's call to extend the payroll tax cut, voicing concerns about the cost and whether it would stimulate the economy.

But with fears of a political backlash in the run-up to the November 2012 presidential and congressional elections, at least some of their leaders decided to push for an extension - provided an agreement can be reached on how to pay for it.

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, declared that extension of the payroll tax cut would be a boost to the economy.

Obama took political aim at Republicans, who rose to power largely by opposing tax cuts, particularly on the rich.

"I know many Republicans have sworn an oath never to raise taxes," Obama said. "How can it be that the only time there's a catch is when it comes to raising taxes on middle class families?"

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Philip Barbara)


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How social media is changing internal communication ? Simon ...


If you?re interested in hearing some thoughts on how social media and the networked nature of communications is changing the role of internal communicators, check out this video.

It?s from Richard Dennison of BT. He makes some very interesting points, many of which are also relevant to communications more generally.


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Brooke Mueller Busted for Drug Possession (omg!)

Brooke Mueller Busted for Drug Possession

Brooke Mueller was arrested while vacationing in Aspen, Colorado for felony cocaine possession with the intention to distribute early Saturday morning.

PHOTOS: Celebrity mugshots

In a statement released by the Aspen Police Department, Charlie Sheen's ex, 34, was also busted for a misdemeanor 3rd degree assault charge.

PHOTOS: Biggest star meltdowns

The mom of 2-year-old twin sons Bob and Max was released from Pitkin County Jail Saturday morning when she posted the $11,000 bond. Mueller has a District Court date of December 19.

PHOTOS: Charlie's craziest controversies

On Christmas day in 2009, Sheen, 46, allegedly held a knife to Mueller's throat and threatened to kill her. He later pled guilty on lesser charges and spent time in rehab, not jail. Since the incident, the two had lived apart, although their divorce wasn't officially granted until this past May. A source told Us Weekly in August that the parents have been "getting counseling and therapy [with] the boys" and Mueller, who has struggled with substance addiction, is "actually responding to treatment."

Get more Us! Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Facebook, Subscribe to Us Weekly


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Monday, December 5, 2011

PFT: To save his job, Reid must fire Castillo

Jeff FisherAP

Nearly a third of all NFL head-coaching jobs could become vacant after the 2011 season.? In addition to the Jaguars, teams that could (emphasis ?could?) make a change presently include, in no particular order other than the order in which I scan through the league?s eight divisions, the Dolphins, Colts, Chiefs, Chargers, Giants, Eagles, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Rams.

So who will replace these coaches?? Beyond Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Jeff Fisher, there aren?t many (any) obvious candidates.

Let?s consider the three categories from which head coaches typically emerge:? former NFL head coaches, current NFL assistant coaches, and college head coaches.

Former NFL head coaches:? In the hopes of not omitting anyone (a sentiment that applies to all three categories), the list of former NFL coaches who could return ? and who currently are coaching ? includes Cowher (whose ?plan? to not coach in 2012 could change dramatically if the Giants job opens up), Jon Gruden, Fisher, Tony Dungy (who consistently has said he?s not coming back), Brian Billick, Jim Fassel, Dennis Green, Marty Schottenheimer, Eric Mangini, Jim Mora, Steve Mariucci, Brad Childress, Jack Del Rio, and Herm Edwards.

Of those, Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Fisher seem to constitute the ?A? list.? Billick wants back in, but he recently said he thinks Jacksonville will look to go younger and cheaper, which means he won?t be cheap.? (Or young.)? Edwards could be a surprise choice in Miami, if Carl Peterson takes over the football operations.? Mangini also has been linked to the Dolphins, although reports that he has been consulting with owner Stephen Ross are erroneous.

There?s another group of former NFL head coaches to consider ? those who aren?t yet former NFL head coaches.? Though it?s unusual for a newly-fired coach to get an NFL job right away, John Fox did it last year when jumping from Carolina to Denver.? The fact that Fox has instantly made the Broncos into a contender could make other former head coaches instantly attractive.? That list could (emphasis ?could?) include Tony Sparano, Jim Caldwell, Todd Haley, Norv Turner, Tom Coughlin, Andy Reid, Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris, and Steve Spagnuolo.

Of those, Reid would be the most likely to land somewhere else right away, if he?s fired in Philly (or if he decides it?s time to walk away).? Also, a return by Coughlin to Jacksonville could be intriguing.? Spagnuolo also could get consideration elsewhere in 2012 as a head coach, although if Reid stays in Philly it makes sense for Reid to lure the team?s former linebackers coach back to town to run the defense.

Current NFL assistant coaches:? For starters, plenty of former NFL head coaches currently are working for other NFL teams.? The list includes Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Chiefs quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Vikings linebackers coach Mike Singletary, Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice, Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

Of that group, Phillips and Haslett are the most intriguing.? Phillips has been a head coach three prior times, but his immediate transformation of a historically bad Texans defense merits consideration for a fourth opportunity, as linebacker Connor Barwin told NBC SportsTalk on Friday.? In Washington, the performance of Haslett?s stout defense has been overshadowed by a continuously struggling offense.

McDaniels already has been linked to the Chiefs, but that will be a difficult sell, given McDaniels? performance in Denver and, more recently, St. Louis.

The universe of assistant NFL coaches who have never worked as NFL head coaches yields a smaller range of relatively obvious choices.? Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the fraternal twin of Jets coach Rex Ryan, badly wants to make the next step.? Unlike Rex, who successfully kept a sock in it until he became a head coach, Rob arguably is talking a bit too much for a guy who isn?t a head coach.? (Rob also needs to visit the barber.)

Beyond Rob Ryan, there aren?t many/any hot names, which typically come from the staffs of the hottest teams.? In Green Bay, there?s a perception that Mike McCarthy is primarily responsible for the success of the franchise, which undermines the contributions of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.? On defense, assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss could get some consideration, as could outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene (who also would benefit from a trip to the salon).

The 9-2 49ers also should generate some candidates, starting (and perhaps ending) with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.? With head coach Jim Harbaugh getting nearly all of the credit for the team?s performance, Fangio is really the only name that currently stands out.

Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano may not get much buzz given that it?s his first year on the job, but that assignment has become a launching pad for head coaches.? If the Ravens play deep into the postseason, Pagano could get consideration.

Another first-year coordinator seems to be the perfect fit for the one vacancy that already exists.? In a Wednesday visit to PFT Live, Mike Dempsey of 1010XL suggested Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as the next coach of the Jaguars.? It makes sense, on every level.? Gruden fits Brian Billick?s ?young and cheap? demographic, but Gruden also brings name recognition of his older and more expensive brother.? The name carries the most weight in northern Florida, where Jon won a Super Bowl and where Jay was a mainstay in the Arena League.? Then there?s the fact that Jay Gruden has gotten the most out of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who was drafted one round behind Blaine Gabbert.

(As a reader has pointed out in the comments, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could end up being considered for one of the various vacancies.? Ditto for Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who served as the interim coach in Buffalo and who has gotten some consideration for prior vacancies.)

College head coaches:? The instant success of Jim Harbaugh after stints with Stanford and the University of San Diego (not to be confused with, as I have in the past, San Diego State University) could reverse the perception that college coaches can?t get it done in the NFL.? It shouldn?t.? Harbaugh is the exception to the rule that the most important skills possessed by college head coaches ? recruiting ? are largely wasted at the NFL level.

Iowa?s Kirk Ferentz periodically is mentioned as a candidate to coach at the NFL level, and he?ll again be linked to Kansas City if Haley is fired.? Beyond Ferentz, the list currently is short to nonexistent.

UPDATE 10:00 a.m. ET:? I deliberately omitted former Packers coach Mike Sherman from the list of former NFL head coaches who could return, since he hasn?t coached in the NFL since 2005 and he has generated little or no buzz since being fired by the Packers.? But Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports that the Jaguars contacted Sherman even before firing Jack Del Rio.? If true, it means that Brian Billick?s ?younger and cheaper? description of the Jags? job requirements perhaps should be reduced to simply ?cheaper.?


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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Senate approves sanctions on Iran Central Bank

(AP) ? The Senate has approved unanimously tough new sanctions on Iran's Central Bank amid fears that Tehran is developing a nuclear weapon.

Thursday's 100-0 vote was for an amendment to the defense bill. Lawmakers had argued that concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran outweighed reservations about driving up oil prices and hurting Americans at the gas pump.

Sens. Bob Menendez and Mark Kirk offered the amendment that would target foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran, barring them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. It would apply to foreign central banks only for transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.

Administration officials cautioned that driving up oil prices could mean more money for Iran.

Associated Press


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A glimmer of good news for Obama in jobs report (AP)

WASHINGTON ? Finally, a flicker of economic hope for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats, even if it's a faint one.

November's sharp drop in the unemployment rate shows that jobs are finally moving in the right direction and suggests the economy is on firmer footing as the country heads into a presidential election year.

The Labor Department reported the jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent the month before, a 2 1/2 year low.

That's still high unemployment by historical standards. And lots of problems still lurk ? from Europe's debt crisis to congressional gridlock to the tens of millions of Americans still out of work or otherwise feeling economic distress. Furthermore, part of the improvement came because 300,000 people stopped their job searches and were no longer counted as unemployed.

But Friday's report, combined with other recent economic data showing advances in manufacturing and consumer spending, could give Obama momentum for the re-election campaign.

The White House and congressional Democrats were quiet in showing any enthusiasm they might have felt, instead using the new figures to step up criticism of anti-tax Republicans for blocking measures they said could help create even more jobs. Those include an extension of an expiring Social Security payroll tax cut that largely benefits the middle class.

"The unemployment rate went down," Obama said. "And despite some strong headwinds this year, the American economy has now created in the private sector jobs for the past 21 months in a row. That's nearly 3 million new jobs in all, and more than half a million over the last four months."

Said House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut: "Today's unemployment numbers, while encouraging, simply underscore the urgency for Congress to address the top issue facing American families_ jobs."

Republicans were publicly unimpressed with the jobs report, insisting Obama hadn't done enough and emphasizing that the jobless rate was still higher than when he took office in January 2009, when it stood at 7.7 percent.

"Any job creation is welcome news, but the jobless rate in this country is still unacceptable. Today marks the 34th consecutive month of unemployment above 8 percent," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

That view was echoed on the campaign trail.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in a Fox News interview, acknowledged that the report was good news but said it wouldn't help Obama politically. "This is the slowest recovery we've seen since (President Herbert) Hoover," Romney said. "He's going to have a hard time putting perfume on this pig." Hoover held office from 1929 to early 1933, at the outset of the Great Depression.

Despite stimulus measures by the Obama administration, Congress and the Federal Reserve, unemployment has remained high, peaking at 10.1 percent in October 2009 and staying around 9 percent for most of 2011.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another Republican seeking Obama's job, noted that a major part of the sharp drop in the unemployment rate was "not because entrepreneurs were creating new jobs" but because some 300,000 Americans "have simply given up looking for work."

"The Obama model of class warfare, government takeovers in the economy and creating fear and uncertainty for job-creators have failed," Gingrich asserted.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., made a similar point about discouraged jobless workers and said, "My heart breaks as we approach the holidays for American families who have been abandoned by this president so that he can implement his radical agenda."

The president didn't try to take credit for the lower figures.

Asked about Obama's measured response, White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "We don't make much out of one month's numbers. We look for trends, and we know we have an enormous amount of work to do. 8.6 percent unemployment is way too high."

Still, "there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel" for gloomy Democrats, said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University. "It's good news, but it's the kind of thing you have to rejoice about quietly. You don't want to hear the champagne corks popping. There's still so many people unemployed."

But Baker said that if Obama can demonstrate a "reasonable decline over time" in the jobless rate, people might give him the benefit of the doubt. "It doesn't have to get to historical lows to convince people that you're on the right track."

No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with a jobless rate higher than 8 percent. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with a rate of 16.6 percent, and again in 1940 with a rate of 14.6 percent ? but joblessness was on the way down from a peak of around 25 percent.

The jobless rate peaked at 10.6 percent during the brutal 16-month 1981-82 recession while Ronald Reagan was president. But on Election Day 1984 it had fallen to 7.2 percent.

Obama used a joint appearance with former President Bill Clinton on Friday to renew his call to a fractured Congress to extend and expand the cut in the payroll tax that finances Social Security and Medicare. The tax cut, due to expire at the end of the year, affects more than 160 million Americans.

Republicans favor extending the tax cut, but have blocked Democratic attempts to do so by paying for it with a new tax on households with more than $1 million in annual taxable income.

With polls showing most Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy to help bring down soaring budget deficits, Obama and congressional Democrats are portraying Republicans as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class ? a political theme they're sure to carry into the election year.

The jobs report comes during a week that saw solid stock market gains, including a near-500-point Dow Jones industrials rise on Wednesday, all potential good news for Obama.

"Let's say the stock market goes up another 500 or 600 points, and unemployment goes down below 8 percent by Election Day. That could allow for a big Obama surge," said Thomas Cronin, a presidential historian at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo.

But that "if" is a big one.

The prospects of significantly bringing down the jobless rate to pre-recession levels anytime soon "remain slim," suggests University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici. "The economy must add 13.1 million jobs over the next three years_364,000 each month_to bring unemployment down to 6 percent."


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Mexican army dismantles gang's antennas, radios (AP)

MEXICO CITY ? The Mexican army says its troops have dismantled a telecommunications system set up by organized crime in four northern states.

A Defense Department statement Thursday says soldiers confiscated 167 antennas and 166 power supplies that gang members used to communicate among themselves and to monitor military movements.

The operation also netted more than 1,400 radios and 2,600 cellphones in the border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila and in the state of San Luis Potosi.

The army hasn't said which cartel was affected.

During the summer, Mexico's navy dismantled a communication system used by the Zetas cartel in the Gulf state of Veracruz. The Zetas have a strong presence in all four of the states involved in the army's operation.


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Cain says he has yet to discuss with wife face to face the accusation of extramarital affair (Star Tribune)

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