NEW YORK (AP) — The NHL made a new offer to the players' association, hoping to spark talks toward ending the long lockout and saving the hockey season.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday the league presented its proposal Thursday and was waiting for a response. The sides haven't met in person since a second round of talks with a federal mediator broke down Dec. 13.
The lockout has reached its 104th day, and the NHL said it doesn't want a season of less than 48 games. That means a deal would need to be reached mid-January.
"We delivered to the union a new, comprehensive proposal for a successor CBA," Daly said in a statement Friday. "We are not prepared to discuss the details of our proposal at this time. We are hopeful that once the union's staff and negotiating committee have had an opportunity to thoroughly review and consider our new proposal, they will share it with the players. We want to be back on the ice as soon as possible."
A person familiar with key points of the offer told The Associated Press that the league proposed raising the limit of individual free-agent contracts to six years from five — seven years if a team re-signs its own player; raising the salary variance from one year to another to 10 percent, up from 5 percent; and one compliance buyout for the 2013-14 season that wouldn't count toward a team's salary cap but would be included in the overall players' share of income.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the new offer were not being discussed publicly.
The NHL maintained the deferred payment amount of $300 million it offered in its previous proposal, an increase from an earlier offer of $211 million. The initial $300 million offer was pulled off the table after negotiations broke off earlier this month.
The latest proposal is for 10 years, running through the 2021-22 season, with both sides having the right to opt out after eight years.
A conference call with the players' association's negotiating committee and its executive board was scheduled for Friday afternoon and was expected to last several hours.
The lockout has reached a critical stage, threatening to shut down a season for the second time in eight years. All games through Jan. 14, plus the Winter Classic and the All-Star game already have been called off. The next round of cuts could claim the entire schedule.
The NHL is the only North American professional sports league to cancel a season because of a labor dispute, losing the 2004-05 campaign to a lockout. A 48-game season was played in 1995 after a lockout stretched into January.
It is still possible this dispute could eventually be settled in the courts if the sides can't reach a deal on their own.
The NHL filed a class-action suit this month in U.S. District Court in New York in an effort to show its lockout is legal. In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, contending bad-faith bargaining by the union.
Those moves were made because the players' association took steps toward potentially filing a "disclaimer of interest," which would dissolve the union and make it a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL.
Union members voted overwhelmingly to give their board the power to file the disclaimer by Jan. 2. If that deadline passes, another authorization vote could be held to approve a later filing.
Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6. One week later, the sides convened again with federal mediators in New Jersey, but still couldn't make progress.
The sides have been unable to reach agreement on the length of the new deal, the length of individual player contracts, and the variance in salary from year to year. The NHL is looking for an even split of revenues with players.
The NHL pulled all previous offers off the table after the union didn't agree to terms on its last proposal without negotiation.
One of the world’s newest orchid species is also its most delicate, with tiny white flowers smaller than a dime. Yet the flower finds its home amid boulders near the banks of rushing streams in Cuba‘s remote eastern mountains.
The orchid is one of two new species identified by botanists in Cuba, a hotbed for orchids — the largest and most diverse plant family in the world. The islands of the Caribbean have more the 25,000 species of orchids tucked into their forests and rivers.
The new species was named Tetramicra riparia, a nod to its discovery along stony streams in the mountains of Baracoa, one of the rainiest and least explored areas in Cuba, Ángel Vale, a researcher at the University of Vigo in Spain, said in a statement. The plant has an unusually broad, sturdy base: Its pedicel is almost four times as large as its column, Vale and his co-authors report.
The second new orchid, from the western tip of the island, dwarfs its neighbor in size. The flower’s showy purple and green petals are similar to a daffodil in appearance, spreading more than 2.5 inches (7 centimeters), with up to 20 blooms on one plant.
Like many orchids, the flower, dubbed Encyclia navarroi, is epiphytic, meaning it grows on other plants for support, but not for nutrients. Along the western coast, the species preferred to perch on plumeria and ficus, the researchers discovered.
Both new species are deceit pollinators, Vale said, enticing bees to spread their pollen without a reward. “Contrary to most plants, many orchids do not produce nectar or other substances to compensate insects and birds that visit them,” he said.
Vale and his colleagues are studying orchids throughout the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico) to reconstruct their evolutionary history and analyze the effect of pollinators in their development. One of the mysteries they aim to solve is whether deceit orchids have greater diversity than other nectar-producing species.
“Despite the fact that T. riparia‘s flowers have a complete central petal, just like other species that make up a subgenre endemic to Cuba; the way they grow is very similar to a more widespread group that seems to have diverged on the neighboring island of Hispaniola,” Vale said. “Our work provides molecular evidence of the greater relationship of T. riparia with these species on the neighboring island.”
The findings were detailed in the October 2012 issue of the journal Systematic Botany and the April 2012 issue of the journal Annales Botanici Fennici.
Reach Becky Oskin at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.
Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst
December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1445 GMT (2245 HKT)
- 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.
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 28, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Aaron Carroll says most of the changes in 2013 will be in preparation for 2014 when the Affordable Care Act really kicks into effect.
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)
Don't look for dramatic change in the troubled politics of the Middle East, says Aaron Miller.
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
Sheril Kirshenbaum says natural gas fracking, climate change and renewables are likely to drive discussions of energy in the new year.
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)
Former CIA director Michael Hayden says the controversy over the film is one of two Washington debates in which politics obscures the real role of intelligence agencies.
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Even for someone who has written more than 2,000 columns over the last 20 years, sometimes the words come out wrong, says Ruben Navarrette.
Get the latest opinion and analysis from CNN's columnists and contributors.
December 28, 2012 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)
Kerry Cahill and Keely Vanacker, whose father was shot dead at Fort Hood, say the nation must address problems that lead to massacres.
December 27, 2012 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon says it's vital that the withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014 doesn't endanger the progress Afghan women have made.
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 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 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
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and congressional leaders were to meet on Friday for the first time since November, with no sign of progress in resolving their differences over the U.S. federal budget and expectations low for a "fiscal cliff" deal before January 1.
Instead, members of Congress are increasingly looking at the period immediately after the December 31 deadline to come up with a retroactive fix to avoid steep tax hikes and sharp spending cuts that economists have said could plunge the country into another recession.
With taxes on all Americans set to rise when rates established under former President George W. Bush expire on December 31, lawmakers would be able to come back in January and take a more politically palatable vote to cut some of the tax rates.
U.S. stocks fell on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 0.48 percent as investors fretted about the lack of certainty.
But some in the market were resigned to Washington going beyond the New Year's Day deadline, as long as a serious agreement on deficit reduction comes out of the talks in early January.
"Regardless of whether the government resolves the issues now, any deal can easily be retroactive. We're not as concerned with January 1 as the market seems to be," said Richard Weiss, a senior money manager at American Century Investments.
The new factor in the mix was involvement by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who held conversations with Obama this week and said he expected a new proposal from the president that he would consider.
The White House spent much of Thursday stifling expectations for any new offer from Obama, beyond the limited fallback plan he outlined in vague terms on December 21, which would protect what he described as "middle-class Americans" from the tax hikes, extend unemployment insurance and lay the "groundwork for further work" on deficit reduction and tax reform.
A Senate Democratic aide said he did not believe Obama would repeat an earlier offer to Boehner to hike taxes only for households earning more than $400,000 a year. That number was part of a comprehensive deal that fell apart. Obama is likely to stick with a $250,000 threshold, as some Democrats argue they needs more revenues to compensate for what would likely be fewer spending cuts in a short-term deal.
The major sticking point on taxes is Republican opposition to hikes on anyone, particularly in the absence of heavy cuts in spending for so-called entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, the government-run health programs for senior citizens and the poor.
Democrats in Congress want to keep lower tax rates for most Americans, but raise them on those earning above $250,000 a year.
"The wealthy have got to kick in," Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said on CNN on Friday. "The tough part is in the House, where they have taken this very extreme position" of "protecting the wealthy at all costs," she said.
"It's feeling very much to me like an optical meeting than a substantive meeting," said Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, noting that it was not a sign of urgency to set a meeting for mid-afternoon with a deadline just days away.
"Any time you announce a meeting publicly in Washington, it's usually for political-theater purposes," Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Thursday on Fox News.
"When the president calls congressional leaders to the White House, it's all political theater or they've got a deal. My bet is all political theater," said Graham, adding that he did not believe an agreement could be reached before the deadline.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and David Brunnstrom)
ALEPPO PROVINCE, Syria/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's opposition leader has rejected an invitation from Russia for peace talks, dealing another blow to international hopes that diplomacy can be resurrected to end a 21-month civil war.
Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's main international protector, said on Friday it had sent an invitation for a visit to Moaz Alkhatib, whose six-week-old National Coalition opposition group has been recognized by most Western and Arab states as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.
But in an interview on Al Jazeera television, Alkhatib said he had already ruled out such a trip and wanted an apology from Moscow for its support for Assad.
"We have clearly said we will not go to Moscow. We could meet in an Arab country if there was a clear agenda," he said.
"Now we also want an apology from (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov because all this time he said that the people will decide their destiny, without foreign intervention. Russia is intervening and meanwhile all these massacres of the Syrian people have happened, treated as if they were a picnic."
"If we don't represent the Syrian people, why do they invite us?" Alkhatib said. "And if we do represent the Syrian people why doesn't Russia respond and issue a clear condemnation of the barbarity of the regime and make a clear call for Assad to step down? This is the basic condition for any negotiations."
With the rebels advancing steadily over the second half of 2012, diplomats have been searching for months for signs that Moscow's willingness to protect Assad is faltering.
So far Russia has stuck to its position that rebels must negotiate with Assad's government, which has ruled since his father seized power in a coup 42 years ago.
"I think a realistic and detailed assessment of the situation inside Syria will prompt reasonable opposition members to seek ways to start a political dialogue," Lavrov said on Friday.
That was immediately dismissed by the opposition: "The coalition is ready for political talks with anyone ... but it will not negotiate with the Assad regime," spokesman Walid al-Bunni told Reuters. "Everything can happen after the Assad regime and all its foundations have gone. After that we can sit down with all Syrians to set out the future."
BRAHIMI TO MOSCOW
Russia says it is behind the efforts of U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, fresh from a five-day trip to Damascus where he met Assad. Brahimi, due in Moscow for talks on Saturday, is touting a months-old peace plan for a transitional government.
That U.N. plan was long seen as a dead letter, foundering from the outset over the question of whether the transitional body would include Assad or his allies. Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, quit in frustration shortly after negotiating it.
But with rebels having seized control of large sections of the country in recent months, Russia and the United States have been working with Brahimi to resurrect the plan as the only internationally recognized diplomatic negotiating track.
Russia's Middle East envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who announced the invitation to Alkhatib, said further talks were scheduled between the "three B's" - himself, Brahimi and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns.
Speaking in Damascus on Thursday, Brahimi called for a transitional government with "all the powers of the state", a phrase interpreted by the opposition as potentially signaling tolerance of Assad remaining in some ceremonial role.
But such a plan is anathema to the surging rebels, who now believe they can drive Assad out with a military victory, despite long being outgunned by his forces.
"We do not agree at all with Brahimi's initiative. We do not agree with anything Brahimi says," Colonel Abdel-Jabbar Oqaidi, who heads the rebels' military council in Aleppo province, told reporters at his headquarters there.
Oqaidi said the rebels want Assad and his allies tried in Syria for crimes. Assad himself says he will stay on and fight to the death if necessary.
In the rebel-held town of Kafranbel, demonstrators held up cartoons showing Brahimi speaking to a news conference with toilet bowls in front of him, in place of microphones. Banners denounced the U.N. envoy with obscenities in English.
Diplomacy has largely been irrelevant to the conflict so far, with Western states ruling out military intervention like the NATO bombing that helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi last year, and Russia and China blocking U.N. action against Assad.
Meanwhile, the fighting has grown fiercer and more sectarian, with rebels mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority battling Assad's government and allied militia dominated by his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Still, Western diplomats have repeatedly touted signs of a change in policy from Russia, which they hope could prove decisive, much as Moscow's withdrawal of support for Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic heralded his downfall a decade ago.
Bogdanov said earlier this month that Assad's forces were losing ground and rebels might win the war, but Russia has since rowed back, with Lavrov last week reiterating Moscow's position that neither side could win through force.
Still, some Moscow-based analysts see the Kremlin coming to accept it must adapt to the possibility of rebel victory.
"As the situation changes on the battlefield, more incentives emerge for seeking a way to stop the military action and move to a phase of political regulation," said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Meanwhile, on the ground the bloodshed that has killed some 44,000 people continues unabated. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, 150 people were killed on Thursday, a typical toll as fighting has escalated in recent months.
Government war planes bombarded the town of Assal al-Ward in the Qalamoun district of Damascus province for the first time, killing one person and wounding dozens, the observatory said.
In Aleppo, Syria's northern commercial hub, clashes took place between rebel fighters and army forces around an air force intelligence building in the Zahra quarter, a neighborhood that has been surrounded by rebels for weeks.
(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Dominic Evans in Beirut and Steve Gutterman and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks finished lower for a fourth day on Thursday but recovered most of the session's losses just before the closing bell when the House of Representatives said it would come back to work this weekend with the aim of avoiding the "fiscal cliff."
Based on the latest available data, the Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 18.28 points, or 0.14 percent, to finish unofficially at 13,096.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> dipped 1.74 points, or 0.12 percent, to finish unofficially at 1,418.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> shed 4.25 points, or 0.14 percent, to close unofficially at 2,985.91.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)
NEW YORK (AP) — Avery Johnson was fired Thursday as coach of the Brooklyn Nets, who have fallen to .500 in their season of new surroundings and elevated expectations.
General manager Billy King announced the dismissal in a statement. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets at home Friday against Charlotte, according to someone with knowledge of the plans. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details were to be provided at a news conference later in the day.
"The Nets ownership would like to express thanks to Avery for his efforts and to wish him every success in the future," owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement.
After a strong start to their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets have lost 10 of 13 games to fall 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.
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.
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 2012-13 season. Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks to a spot in the NBA Finals in 2006.
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 predicted the Nets would finish as high as second in the East behind defending champion Miami, and the projections 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.
It seems like only yesterday we were planning for the Mayan apocalypse, but like so many other products, the 14th b’ak’tun (next era) has been delayed due to bugs and lack of pre-orders. Yet if you talked to some pundits back in 2011, they’d have told you that the end of days was coming out in Q4 of 2012, along with its competitor, BlackBerry 10.
No doubt, in 2013, several long-rumored products will come to market. However, next year won’t be the year for these 13 gadgets and technologies.
The Speculation: After its success selling Amazon-branded Android tablets, the company will launch a smartphone that puts its content front and center and encouraging you to shop wherever you go. Some have even suggested that the company will make it easy to scan prices when you’re in a retail store, just so you can see if Amazon sells the item cheaper. Taiwan Economic News recently reported that Foxconn will be manufacturing the handset, which will launch in Q3 or 2013 for $ 100 to $ 200.
Why It Won’t Happen in 2013: Breaking into the U.S. smartphone market with any hope of success is extremely difficult for new players. The four major carriers rule their networks with an iron fist, either forcing phone vendors to go along with their software strategies or outright rejecting products that don’t meet their immediate business goals. Just ask Google, which decided to release the Nexus 4 as an unlocked device rather than deal with AT&T and Verizon. (A subsidized version is available for T-Mobile.)
From a business perspective, playing in the smartphone space makes little sense for Amazon as the company’s goal is not to sell phones but to sell media and dry goods through its online store. The company already has its shopping app preloaded as crapware on many Android devices, and the company could leverage these placements in 2013 by finally bringing Amazon instant video to Android devices and adding a price scanning app to the mix. Why spend money building and supporting a smartphone when you can just get users of other phones to buy the all the same products from you?
More: Top 10 Smartphones
The Speculation: Microsoft will launch the next major version of Windows, codenamed “Windows Blue,” as soon as spring 2013. The new OS will get at least annual updates over the air so consumers and businesses with Blue always have the latest verison of the OS.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: If the rumors are true, a company which usually releases operating systems on a three-year cadence will suddenly start selling a new mainstream operating system less than a year after Windows 8 launched. And before Microsoft starts selilng its next OS, it will no doubt go through months of public and developer previews as it has with Windows 7 and 8.
So, for Windows Blue to launch even as late as Q4 of 2013, Microsoft would have to announce a developer preview or public beta at the beginning of the year. With all the controversy surrounding Windows 8, news of another new Windows OS would convince users who were on the fence about upgrading to delay their purchases. Talk about Osborning yourself.
Google Nexus 4 With LTE Connectivity
The Speculation: When Google released its Nexus 4 phone, users were shocked to learn that the device did not support 4G LTE, the fastest type of mobile network. To avoid dealing with carriers and building carrier-specific versions of its handset, the company decided to go with simple HSPA support, a decision Android head Andy Rubin called a “tactical issue.”. Despite Rubin’s comments, some believe that Google will eventually offer an LTE version of the Nexus 4, because it provided carrier-specific LTE versions of its prior-gen phone, the Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus 4 even has a disabled LTE radio inside of it, though this radio can only support a handful of bands that most areas of the U.S. don’t use.
Why It Won’t Happen: With the Nexus 4, Google is trying to make a point about its independence from carriers. Users who want a nearly-identical phone with LTE can already buy the LG Optimus G. However, not including LTE on phones is a poor long-term strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google‘s next handset, rumored to be the Motorola X, had LTE that worked with at least a couple of the major U.S. carriers’ networks.
Wireless Charging Pads Hit Public Places
The Speculation: If you’ve been following the news lately you might expect to see wireless charging stations appear at all your favorite haunts in 2013. This past fall, Nokia, HTC and others released phones with Qi-standard wireless charging support built-in while. At the same time, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf announced its plan to install compatible charging pads in its tables and Virgin Atlantic said it will offer the same in its airport lounges. Jay Z also announced a partnership with Duracell to bring that company’s charging mats to several New York hotspots, including his own 40/40 club. Could Starbucks, McDonald’s, 7-11 and Chucky Cheese be next? Not in 2013.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: While many new phones this fall support the Qi wireless charging standard, Samsung and Qualcomm have loaned their support to the competing Alliance for Wireless Power (AW4P) standard. There’s nothing like a standards war to make restaurant chains invest millions in upgrading their infrastructure to support half a dozen phones, none of which is an iPhone. Don’t expect to see many more public places with wireless charging until Apple picks a standard and builds support into its products.
Nokia’s Windows Tablet
The Speculation:Two years have passed since Nokia has jumped off the “burning platform” of developing its own phone OS and fully embraced Windows Phone. So what does former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop do for a follow-up? How about releasing a tablet.
After all, Elop said the following when speaking with analysts: “From an ecosystem perspective, there are benefits and synergies that exist between Windows and Windows Phone,” Elop said. “We see that opportunity. We’ll certainly consider those opportunities going forward.” According to one popular rumor, the company plans to release a Windows RT slate with a battery-powered keyboard cover early in 2013. The tablet will allegedly come with wireless 4G service from carriers such as AT&T.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: Nokia has had enough difficulty gaining market share in the smartphone space and, though things seem to be looking up for the Finnish company, its Devices and Services division lost 683 million Euros in Q3. Windows RT devices like the Microsoft Surface are by no means a proven commodity so Nokia would be jumping onto a whole new burning platform at a time when it needs to show stability and success. I think they’ll pass.
More: 10 Best Tablets of 2012
Mobile Payments Become Common
The Speculation: If you have certain Sprint phones, today you can use Google Wallet to tap and pay at a handful of stores. On AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, you will soon be able to use a competing service called ISIS to turn your phone into a credit card. With all this activity, you might expect that, in 2013, all the major stores would support mobile payments. Not so fast there, Ms. Kardashian.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: You may see a few more stores add support for one or both payment standards, but many phones, including the iPhone, don’t have the NFC chip necessary to support them. Even worse, consumers have few incentives to switch from old fashioned credit and debit cards. Forrester Research Analyst Denee Carrington recently told us that mobile payments won’t catch on until at least 2015.
An Apple TV Set
The Speculation: Rumors of an Apple large-screen TV (aka the iTV) have been floating around for years. In late 2011, these rumors gained more credibility when Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs mentioned that the late Apple founder had plans for a TV set. In 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook told NBC’s Brian Williams that TV is “an area of intense interest” for his company. Now, many believe 2013 will be the year that Apple stops dropping hints and finally drop ships a product.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: There’s nothing stopping Apple from manufacturing an ordinary HDTV with iTunes and maybe some additional smart TV functions built-in. However, the company won’t be content to ship that. It needs to partner with cable providers and TV networks, two very conservative groups, to offer a complete end-to-end service. It must also provide a better display than its competitors, perhaps an OLED screen that would push the price way up.
With the cable and display markets unlikely to change in the next 12 months, Apple will decide that it’s better off pushing its services through an improved Apple TV set-top box, rather than getting into the TV business in 2013.
More: Best Smart TVs of 2012
The Speculation: Google has been working on a self-driving car for a couple of years now but it’s not alone. Big automakers such as Ford, Cadillac and Volvo are developing their own autonomous vehicles. In the past two years, both Nevada and California have made the self-drivers street legal. Will we finally see someone selling them to the public in 2013? No.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: Google‘s self-driving car technology is probably the closet to being ready, but the company is not an automaker and isn’t likely to sell autos directly to the public. Even if one of the automakers felt it had a finished product, there are only a couple of states where drivers could use the car in its autonomous mode. With so much potential liability — just imagine the lawsuit if one of these cars caused an accident — we’ll be reading about new testing and legal certifications for years before the first model hits a dealership.
Motorola Droid 5
The Speculation: Motorola is the king of the keyboard slider, having launched the original Droid with keyboard and then releasing three different sequels. The company’s most recent entry, the Droid 4, came out last February on Verizon and launched on Sprint as the Photon 4G this past summer. If Motorola plans to continue offering keyboarded phones, it will need to release a Droid 5 some time in early 2013.
Why it Won’t Happen: The other leading phone vendors have moved away from QWERTY phones in recent years, either giving up on them altogether or releasing them as under-featured budget phones such as the Samsung Stratosphere. Motorola’s new owner Google hasn’t put keyboards on its phones and, when the company launched its flagship devices this fall, it didn’t even mention physical keyboards. Sadly, it looks like Motorola won’t come out with another high-end keyboard slider.
More: The 7 Worst Smartphone Injustices and How to Fight Them
BlackBerry PlayBook 2
The Speculation: BlackBerry’s PlayBook was first released in 2011, an eternity in tablet years. With the company’s new BlackBerry 10 OS coming in January, some speculate that RIM will update its slate. Though the old Playbook is still for sale, it has ancient specs like a 1024 x 600 screen and a dated design. If RIM wants to stay in this space, it needs to release a new model. A leaked roadmap even mentions a 10-inch Playbook code named “Blackforest.”
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: Though the company shipped a surprisingly-high 255,000 Playbooks in Q3 of 2012, the tablet has never been a considered a success by anyone’s standards. Meanwhile, RIM is losing market share in he smartphone space and needs to buckle down and focus on its core audience: smartphone users. If the company turns its fortunes around with BlackBerry 10 phones, we may see another tablet, but not in 2013.
A Facebook Phone
The Speculation: For years, we’ve been hearing that Facebook would release a phone of its very own. In 2011, HTC even released the super-lame Status, a budget phone with the Facebook logo on it and some added Facebook integration. Could Facebook be planning to enter the market with a truly revolutionary handset in 2013?
Why it Won’t Happen Back in July, Mark Zuckerberg himself said that creating a phone “wouldn’t make sense.” To be fair, companies sometimes deny working on products that later turn out to be very real. However, in this case, you should take Zuck at his word. There’s no real selling point to a Facebook phone when every phone on the market has Facebook integration. By making its own phone, Facebook might even alienate some of its partners.
Flexible Display Phones or Tablets
The Speculation: CNET recently reported that Samsung Electronics will be showing off bendable displays at CES 2013. With the rumored Galaxy S IV phone expected to launch this spring and the inevitable Galaxy Note III, some believe we’ll see the first phones to deploy this technology.
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013: If Samsung’s electronics division is first demoing the screen at CES 2013, it won’t hit commercial products for at least another year. Also, in order for the phone itself to be flexible, the entire body must bend, something that may never happen. Samsung may use the flexible displays to create phones with slightly curved screens, but that won’t happen in 2013.
Google Project Glass for Consumers
The Speculation: Google‘s Project Glass augmented reality goggles will be available as a developers kit in early 2013. If developers get their hands on the product in January or February, a full-fledged product release can’t be too far behind, right?
Why it Won’t Happen in 2013 Google co-founder Sergey Brin told Bloomberg in June that he would like to have a consumer version of Project Glass “within a year” after releasing the kit to developers. While it’s always possible that the kit will come out in January and the product will ship in December, it seems unlikely that such a unique product will make its way from prototype to final that quickly. Don’t expect to get your headset until 2014.
More: Will Google Glasses Make Us Cyborgs?
This story was provided by Laptopmag, sister site to LiveScience.
Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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- The owner of America's largest gunmaker is putting firm up for sale
- John MacIntosh says billionaires should lead effort to acquire the gun manufacturer
- He says they should change corporate practices to discourage violence
- MacIntosh: One leading company could push gun industry in a more ethical direction
Editor's note: John MacIntosh was a partner at Warburg Pincus, a leading global private equity firm, where he worked from 1994 to 2006 in New York, Tokyo and London. He now runs a nonprofit in New York.
(CNN) -- In the 1970s and '80s, when corporate America was plagued with inefficiency, a new class of financially motivated takeover investor emerged to prey on the fattest in the corporate herd and scare the rest into line.
Today, as pockets of corporate America are plagued with immorality, we need a new class of socially motivated takeover investor to prey on the sociopaths in the corporate herd, turn them around and perhaps scare (or shame) others into line.
The upcoming sale by Cerberus Capital of the Freedom Group, the largest gun manufacturer in the United States, is a perfect opportunity to usher in this new era of muscular, socially responsible capitalism:
First, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, David Geffen and the like should establish a nonprofit SPAC (Special-Purpose-Acquisition-Company) called BidForFreedom.org (BFF) with a mission to reduce needless deaths through gun violence in the United States and encourage the passage of sensible gun control regulations.
They should appoint George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon to the fundraising committee and recruit a loud-mouthed, poison-penned, but good-hearted activist hedge fund titan as chief investment officer (Bill Ackman? Dan Loeb?).
Opinion: Forgotten victims of gun violence
To be credible, BFF will probably need to start with at least $250 million in cash and commitments (no problem given the billionaire status of the sponsors) with additional firepower raised as needed from well-heeled individuals, foundations and through a broad-based Internet solicitation to an outraged-by-Newtown public.
Second, BFF should lobby all public pension funds that are part owners of the Freedom Group (by virtue of their investment in Cerberus) to roll their investment into BFF to reduce the need for outside funding, naming and shaming any unwilling public investors.
Newtown shooter's guns
Third, BFF should pay "whatever it takes" to acquire control of the Freedom Group in the upcoming auction by Cerberus (which has a fiduciary obligation to sell to the highest bidder) and then immediately implement a "moral turnaround" plan under which the Freedom Group:
(i) Appoints a high-profile CEO with impeccable credentials as a hunter and/or marksman who is nevertheless in favor of gun-control.
Opinion: Guns endanger more than they protect
(ii) Elects a new board of directors including representatives from the families of victims killed in Newtown (and/or other massacres perpetrated with Freedom Group weapons), military veterans and trauma surgeons with real experience of human-on-human gunfire, and law enforcement and mental health professionals.
(iii) Operates the business as if sensible gun laws were in place (this may turn out to be a wise investment in future-proofing the company): discontinuing sales of the most egregious assault weapons and modifying others as necessary so they cannot take huge-volume clips; offering to buy back all Freedom Group assault weapons in circulation; micro-stamping weapons for easy tracking; and providing price discounts for buyers willing to go through a background check and register in a database available to law enforcement.
(iv) Voluntarily waives its rights to support the NRA and other lobbying groups.
(v) Creates a fund to compensate those who, despite its best efforts, are killed or wounded by its weapons.
(vi) Agrees that if the effort to provide moral leadership in the weapons industry doesn't succeed within a year, BFF should consider corporate euthanasia, even though it entails a risk of allowing more retrograde manufacturers to fill the void in the market left by the then-deceased company.
Opinion: The case for gun rights is stronger than you think
In the face of horrors like Newtown, BFF would recognize that it's time to take a stand by acknowledging the impossibility of reaching closure after such a monstrous act while an unreconstructed Freedom Group continues to sell a huge volume of guns and ammunition rounds each year even if it is operating under new owners.
Like any Trojan Horse strategy, this is a long shot, but it must be tried. History suggests that only after the first company "turns" will an industry gradually return to the realm of the human (think of big tobacco). And without the tacit agreement, if not the outright support, of at least one important insider, policymakers seem utterly unable to pass tough regulations in the face of the predictable, but withering, assault by industry lackeys shrieking that any such regulation would be "impossible, impractical or too expensive."
In the face of a recalcitrant industry, we have to acknowledge that it is only the market for corporate control -- the real possibility that an outsider will take over one of the companies -- that puts limits on the behavior of board members and executives who, while perhaps decent enough in their family lives, display a limitless tolerance for the "banality of evil" at the office.
Opinion: Not man enough? Buy a gun
We must accept that the conventional, kid-gloves approach to socially responsible investing -- divesting shares in "bad" companies that nevertheless continue to exist -- is too weak an instrument to force change and its well-meaning practitioners too soft to enter the fray when emotionally and politically charged battles need to be fought.
And regardless of the viability of socially motivated takeovers in general, the Freedom Group looks like a great target. Cerberus is a motivated seller, the political macros look favorable, and it's a bite-sized company compared with many of the larger sociopaths in the corporate herd.
I'm even cautiously optimistic that the current impasse over gun regulation is a bad-equilibrium that few consumers actually want, and that a reconstructed Freedom Group, fighting for sensible change as a fifth column from within the industry, might well find that many people -- even a significant portion of the NRA's members -- would buy from a truly responsible (and high quality) gun maker if given the chance.
All in all, it's a pretty exciting deal, so if Mike and George are up for it, count me in.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John MacIntosh.
A powerful winter storm is hitting the Northeast, one day after it hammered the Midwest and plains. Snowfall could top a foot in some areas.
BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - A powerful winter storm responsible for wind, snow, tornadoes and a flurry of traffic accidents battered the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, canceling hundreds of airline flights but also reviving what had been a snowless ski season.
The storm dumped a foot of snow on parts of the United States with the heaviest snow falling across northern New York and into New England, the National Weather Service reported.
"It feels lovely to have wonderful snow for the kids to play in, and I think it's the kind of snow that's good for making forts and snowmen," said Katryna Nields, a musician in Conway, Massachusetts, who was outside her home shoveling snow.
"It's just the kind of snow you want for between Christmas and New Year's," she added.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England and coastal flood advisories from New York's Long Island to southern Maine.
Airlines canceled nearly 700 flights on Thursday after 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com, a website that tracks flights.
Some flights into and out of the three major New York City area airports - Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia - were delayed due to the weather, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.
The weather service forecast 12 to 18 inches of snow for northern New England, accompanied by freezing rain and sleet, creating hazards on the highways and at airports.
The snow also brought renewed hope for winter recreation across upstate and western New York.
About 8 to 12 inches of snow fell on Buffalo overnight. Light snow and freezing drizzle persisted throughout the morning hours, with as much as another inch or two possible in some areas.
Before Wednesday evening's snow, Buffalo was 23 inches below average for this time of year, the weather service said.
"It's just a reminder, winter is here," said Tom Paone of the National Weather Service in Buffalo.
Daniel Ivancic, of the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, said he bought a snowmobile last winter that has sat largely idle with snow totals well below average.
"I waited and waited and, no snow. This winter it seemed like the same thing was going to happen until the storm hit," Ivancic said. "I'm just going to take advantage of every minute of it."
Retailers, still in the holiday shopping season, expected sales would continue with consumers looking for winter items.
"People are out spending anyway. Weather can trigger what you purchase - not if you purchase, but what you purchase," said Evan Gold, senior vice president of client services at Planalytics, which tracks weather for businesses including retailers.
Police patrolling the New York State Thruway from Buffalo to Albany reported as many as 50 accidents, mostly involving cars that slipped off snowy roads overnight.
The massive storm system dumped record snow in north Texas and Arkansas before it swept through the U.S. South on Christmas Day and then veered north.
The system triggered tornadoes and left almost 200,000 people in Arkansas and Alabama without power on Wednesday.
Authorities said an 81-year-old man died in Georgiana, Alabama after a tree fell on his home.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday toured hard-hit sections of Mobile, where a high school and dozens of homes were damaged and historic oak trees were uprooted.
Residents were carting wheelbarrows filled with debris and tree limbs and, in the city's business district, workers removed pieces of the smashed top floor of Cantrell's photography studio, where a young Jimmy Buffett recorded in the late 1960s.
Virginia authorities responded to nearly 700 car crashes on Wednesday, most of which were due to snow and ice around the Interstate 81 corridor.
A Southwest Airlines jet skidded off the runway on Thursday at Long Island MacArthur Airport, about 50 miles east of New York City, as it taxied for takeoff, Suffolk County police said.
None of the 134 people aboard Tampa-bound flight No. 4695 was injured, police said.
"It's been undetermined at this time if weather was a factor," a police spokeswoman said.
(Additional reporting by Zach Howard in Conway, Massachusetts; Kaija Wilkinson in Mobile, Alabama; Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Dan Burns in New York and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Claudia Parsons)
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signaled on Thursday he would sign into law a bill barring Americans from adopting Russian children and sought to forestall criticism of the move by promising measures to better care for his country's orphans.
In televised comments, Putin tried to appeal to people's patriotism by suggesting that strong and responsible countries should take care of their own and lent his support to a bill that has further strained U.S.-Russia relations.
"There are probably many places in the world where living standards are higher than ours. So what, are we going to send all our children there? Maybe we should move there ourselves?" he said, with sarcasm.
Parliament gave its final approval on Wednesday to the bill, which would also introduce other measures in retaliation for new U.S. legislation which is designed to punish Russians accused of human rights violations.
For it to become law Putin needs to sign it.
"So far I see no reason not to sign it, although I have to review the final text and weigh everything," Putin said at a meeting of federal and regional officials that was shown live on the state's 24-hour news channel.
"I intend to sign not only the law ... but also a presidential decree that will modify the support mechanisms for orphaned children ... especially those who are in a difficult situation, by that I mean in poor health," Putin said.
Critics of the bill say the Russian authorities are playing political games with the lives of children, while the U.S. State Department repeated its "deep concern" over the measure.
"Since 1992 American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, and it is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
Ventrell added that the United States was troubled by provisions in the bill that would restrict the ability of Russian civil society organizations to work with U.S. partners.
Children in Russia's crowded and troubled orphanage system - particularly those with serious illnesses or disabilities - will have less of a chance of finding homes, and of even surviving, if it becomes law, child rights advocates say.
They point to people like Jessica Long, who was given up shortly after birth by her parents in Siberia but was raised by adoptive parents in the United States and became a Paralympic swimming champion.
However, the Russian authorities point to the deaths of 19 Russian-born children adopted by American parents in the past decade, and lawmakers named the bill after a boy who died of heat stroke in Virginia after his adoptive father left him locked in a car for hours.
Putin reiterated Russian complaints that U.S. courts have been too lenient on parents in such cases, saying Russia has inadequate access to Russian-born children in the United States despite a bilateral agreement that entered into force on November 1.
But Putin, who began a new six-year term in May and has searched for ways to unite the country during 13 years in power, suggested there were deeper motives for such a ban.
"For centuries, neither spiritual nor state leaders sent anyone abroad," he said, indicating he was not speaking specifically about Russia but about many societies.
"They always fight for their national identities - they gather themselves together in a fist, they fight for their language, culture," he said.
The bid to ban American adoptions plays on sensitivity in Russia about adoptions by foreigners, which skyrocketed as the social safety net unraveled with the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Families from the United States adopt more Russian children than those of any other country.
Putin had earlier described the Russian bill as an emotional but appropriate response to the Magnitsky Act, legislation signed by President Barack Obama this month as part of a law granting Russia "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR) status.
The U.S. law imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of human rights violations, including those linked to the death in a Moscow jail of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-graft lawyer, in 2009.
The Russian bill would impose similar measures against Americans accused of violating the rights of Russian abroad and outlaw some U.S.-funded non-governmental groups.
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Doina Chiacu)
BOSTON (AP) — The Red Sox have acquired All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a six-player deal.
Boston completed the trade Wednesday, also receiving infielder Brock Holt. The Red Sox gave up right-handers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands.
Over the past two seasons, the right-handed Hanrahan had 76 saves, fourth most in the National League, and a 2.24 ERA. Last season, he was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves.
Holt spent most of last season at Double-A Altoona, then hit .292 in 24 games with the Pirates, all in September.
Melancon was 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 41 relief appearances in his only season with Boston. Pimentel spent the season at Double-A Portland. Sands and DeJesus were obtained in a trade that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25.
The Red Sox also announced the signing of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, who agreed to a one-year contract early last week. That reported $9.5 million deal was contingent on the former Oakland Athletic and Arizona Diamondback passing a physical.
- Tseming Yang: Result of Doha climate change conference less than desirable
- Yang: It's time to abandon the myth that a consensus solution is the best approach
- He says the 25 major carbon emitters should work out an agreement among themselves
- Yang: Smaller, focused discussions may be better than large, U.N.-style gatherings
Editor's note: Tseming Yang, former deputy general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency, is professor of law at Santa Clara University Law School.
(CNN) -- The Doha climate change conference this year was the most significant in nearly 20 years of gatherings under the U.N. Framework Convention process aimed at staving off future global warming disaster.
Since carbon dioxide emission limits agreed to under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol were to expire at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2012, it was critical that the international community agreed to extend those obligations and to continue talks about future emission cuts.
But the outcome fell far short of what will be necessary to keep the world's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius in the foreseeable future.
Under the Doha arrangement, 17 of the 25 biggest carbon emitting countries (including China, the United States, Russia and India) did not commit to any legally binding emission limits. The countries that did agree to extend and deepen their Kyoto emission reductions, including the European Union, Australia and Eastern Europe, make up only about 15% of the world's emissions. That seems like a rather meager return on the investment of time and effort over the past years.
But there is one silver lining.
The world's top 20 carbon emitters together make up about 77% of emission and account for about 4.3 billion people, which is about 62% of the global population. The remaining 170 or so countries account for just over 20% of emissions.
As often is the case, these negotiations over climate have come to symbolize epic David and Goliath struggles pitting poor developing countries against recalcitrant government officials from rich countries. Lobbying efforts, shaming tactics, and staging public demonstrations have been the slingshots of choice. One result is that more people are paying attention to environmental issues.
Nonetheless, it is time to abandon the myth that a consensus solution is necessarily the best approach. The unfortunate reality is that little can get done right now. It's like having hundreds of cooks with hundreds of different recipes attempting to prepare one meal in the same small kitchen. After two decades of hard work, it is time to consider reducing the number of cooks.
A better alternative to a United Nations-style conference would be for the 25 major emitters to come to an agreement just among themselves about their mutual commitments to deal with climate change effectively.
In other words, get the 25 cooks to work together on the main meal. The hundreds of other cooks ought to step out of the kitchen.
Some smaller, focused discussions have already started, such as in the Major Economies Forum. Imagine what kind of deals on cutting emissions would be possible just among China, India and the United States -- the top three emitters in the world respectively. Imagine a deal involving emission sources in China, which has some of the world's most polluting coal-fired power plants, and California, which is on a course to become one of the most stringently controlled states in carbon emissions.
Of course, there are no guarantees for success. But discussions within such a smaller group would allow government leaders to confront the realities of climate change and engage in direct horse-trading without the static of thousands of other voices desiring to load their issues into the deal.
Let's face it -- we are way beyond the time for finding an ideal solution. Every year the world waits to take further concrete steps to cut emissions, the atmosphere will be loaded with millions of tons more carbon dioxide that will stay for a century. And the job of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will be more out of reach.
At the best, gatherings like the one in Doha dangle a tantalizing mirage of achieving a sustainable future. At the worst, they give cover to governments that would rather avoid the hard choices they ultimately will have to make.
After one more expensive and time-consuming round of talks, it's time to be honest with what can really be accomplished in these U.N.-style gatherings.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tseming Yang.
Frank Calabrese Jr., ex-mobster and author of the book Family Secrets, speaks to the Chicago Tribune's John Kass on March 14, 2011, at Bella Luna cafe in Chicago. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune, March 14, 2011)
Convicted mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. has died in a federal prison in North Carolina.
Calabrese died on Christmas at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex, where he had been serving a life sentence, according to a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. He was 75.
Calabrese, one of Chicago’s most feared mobsters, was convicted in 2007 during the Operation Family Secrets trial.
A federal jury held Calabrese and two other aging mobsters -- Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and James Marcello -- responsible for 10 murders after a trial that exposed the seedy inner workings of organized crime in Chicago.
Calabrese, a portly, bearded loan shark who according to witnesses doubled as a hit man, was found responsible for seven mob murders. Witnesses, including his brother Nicholas Calabrese, said he strangled victims with a rope, then cut their throats to make sure they were dead.
Marcello, described by prosecutors as a top leader of the Chicago Outfit, was held responsible for the June 1986 murder of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Chicago mob's longtime man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the movie "Casino."
The Family Secrets trial was the biggest organized crime case in Chicago in years. The defendants were convicted of operating the Chicago Outfit as a racketeering enterprise.
They allegedly squeezed "street tax," similar to protection money, out of businesses, ran sports bookmaking and video poker operations as well as engaged in loan sharking. And they allegedly killed many of those who they feared might spill mob secrets to the government -- or already were doing so.
The cases went unsolved for decades.
Calabrese’s attorney in the Family Secrets trial, Joseph “Shark” Lopez, said Calabrese had been in ill health.
“Last I spoke with him a little over a year ago, he was a sick man,” Lopez said. “He was on about 17 different medications. But always a strong-willed individual.”
After spending hundreds of hours together while Calabrese was on trial, Lopez said the two developed a relationship.
“Sure he was difficult at times because he was used to getting his way, but I only saw one side of him and that was the good side,” Lopez said. “He was a pleasure to deal with and a pleasure to talk to. We’d talk about cooking, restaurants, history, you name it.”
“He was quick-witted, smart and street-savvy,” Lopez said. “Always very upbeat; nothing could keep Frank down.”
Lopez said Calabrese was very religious, making his Christmas day death feel “odd.”
“He always talked about how much he loved spending Christmas with his family. It was his favorite holiday of the year,” he said.
Lopez said he thinks there will be mixed feelings in Chicago about Calabrese’s death.
“I’m sure there are some people really sad and some people really happy,” Lopez said. “I’m sad for his family.”
Calabrese's body was taken to the medical examiner's office, where it will be examined this afternoon, according to Kevin Gerity, autopsy manager for the office. Gerity said an autopsy or an external examination will be conducted.
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.
"ASSAD CANNOT STAY"
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)
TOKYO (Reuters) - Uncertainty over whether U.S. lawmakers will strike a deal by an end-of-year deadline to avert a severe fiscal retrenchment undermined the yen and bolstered Japanese shares on Tuesday in low volume, with many participants away on Christmas holiday.
The dollar rose to a 20-month high of 84.965 yen early on Tuesday in Asia, as Japanese markets caught up with global investors who had reacted overnight to incoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's weekend comments that raised the pressure on the Bank of Japan.
During a meeting on Tuesday with officials from Japan's major business lobby, Keidanren, Abe reiterated calls on the BOJ to conduct bold monetary easing to beat deflation by setting an inflation target of 2 percent.
The head of Abe's coalition partner said on Tuesday the coalition party and Abe had agreed to set a 2 percent inflation target and compile a large stimulus budget to help the economy return to growth and overcome deflation.
The yen has come under pressure as a result of expectations that the BOJ will be compelled to adopt more drastic monetary stimulus measures next year.
The dollar was expected to stay firm this week as investors repatriate dollars, and as the U.S. fiscal impasse is likely to continue to sap investor appetite for risky assets and raise the dollar's safe-haven appeal.
"The dollar is seen relatively well bid, with all focus on the fiscal cliff," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.
"Negotiations may be carried over the weekend, but markets still expect a deal to be struck by December 31. It is unthinkable that the U.S. will risk driving its economic growth sharply lower by not agreeing to avoid it."
U.S. lawmakers and President Barack Obama were on Christmas holiday and talks were unlikely to resume until later in the week.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner failed to gain support for a tax plan at the end of last week, raising fears that the United States may face the "fiscal cliff" of some $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to start on January 1.
Japan's Nikkei stock average <.n225> resumed trading after a three-day weekend with a 1.1 percent gain, recapturing the key 10,000 mark it ceded on Friday after Boehner's failure sparked a broad market sell-off and the Tokyo benchmark closed down 1 percent. The Nikkei was likely to be supported as long as the yen stayed weak. <.t/>
"Ongoing optimism about the weak yen is lifting hopes that exporters' earnings will be better than expected," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities.
Analysts say a near-term correction may be possible as the index is now in "overbought" territory after gaining 16.2 percent over the last six weeks, hitting a nine-month high last Friday. Its 14-day relative strength index was at 72.34, above the 70 level that signals an overbought condition.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> nudged up 0.1 percent, driven higher by surging Shanghai shares, as most Asian bourses were shut for Christmas.
The Shanghai Composite Index <.ssec> soared over 2 percent to five-month highs as investors bought property stocks on mounting optimism about the sector. Taiwan shares <.twii> jumped 1.3 percent on gains in technology and financial shares.
Asset performance in 2012: http://link.reuters.com/muc46s
2012 commodities returns: http://link.reuters.com/faz36s
U.S. HOLDS 2013 KEY
Goro Ohwada, president and CEO at Japan-based fund of hedge funds Aino Investment Corp, said investors were likely to focus on economic fundamentals and the United States for cues on investment direction in 2013.
"There is a feeling that an investment strategy based on economic fundamentals may finally work next year, with asset prices more closely reflecting fair value. The problem is, we don't know yet which asset is a better bet than others," Ohwada said, adding that oil and gold appeared to be near their highs.
Naohiro Niimura, a partner at research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory, said commodities and energy prices will likely move in tight ranges in 2013, with investors eyeing political events, including the U.S. fiscal cliff outlook, Italian parliamentary election set for February 24-25, and Germany's elections in September.
"The macroeconomic policies taken this year around the world to support growth are expected to result in a moderate recovery in 2013 to reduce an excessive downside risk to prices. This will likely keep commodities, gold and energy prices near their highs," Niimura said.
(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Daniel Magnowski)