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Daily Archive : Tuesday December 25, 2012

News

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    U.S. Marines to face random blood-alcohol tests

    Marines and sailors will be subject to random blood-alcohol tests twice a year in what is billed as the toughest anti-drinking policy in the U.S. military.

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    U of Ill. considers changes in code on cheating

    The University of Illinois is considering the first big revision in years to the student code that covers cheating. It comes in response to the growing number of ways students can share notes or even tests.

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    An immature Bald Eagle soars over wetlands in the 3, 400-acre Glacial Park, a section of the of the 11,200 acre Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. Traffic jams, subdivisions and shopping malls give way to remnants of prairies and oak savannas more endangered than rain forests in the Hackmatack refuge, an hour northwest of Chicago and southwest of Milwaukee.

    Refuge aims to protect rare prairies, oak savannas in McHenry County

    In McHenry County, traffic jams, subdivisions and shopping malls give way to open lands with remnants of tallgrass prairies and oak savannas. Wetlands, grasslands and the remarkably clean Nippersink Creek provide a home to threatened animals, plants and aquatic life, and a respite for migrating waterfowl and songbirds. This open and gently rolling land is home to the new Hackmatack National...

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    Gov. Pat Quinn spent Christmas Day with service members from the Great Lakes Naval Base.

    Quinn salutes military during Christmas lunch

    Gov. Pat Quinn says the men and women who volunteer to serve in the military deserve the nation's gratitude on Christmas Day and every day. Quinn had Christmas lunch in Berwyn on Tuesday with service members from the Great Lakes Naval Academy.

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    Roger McCreight, a hardware store employee, brings up the remaining bags of rock salt from the basement inventory to stock in the store for customers Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, in Maplewood, Mo., in anticipation of wintry weather.

    Nasty storms blamed 1 death, make travel tough

    Freezing rain and sleet made for a sloppy Christmas morning trek in parts of the nation's midsection on Tuesday, while residents along the Gulf Coast braced for thunderstorms, high winds and tornadoes. Winds toppled a tree onto a pickup truck in the Houston area, killing the driver. Icy roads already were blamed for a 21-vehicle pileup in Oklahoma. At least two tornadoes were reported in Texas

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    Blizzard warning issued for southern Illinois

    Parts of southern Illinois could see heavy winds and close to a foot of snow as a winter storm moves into the area tonight.

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    Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said Dec. 24, 2012, 124 inmates have been moved from the high-security Tamms prison since Thursda. There are 12 inmates remaining at the state's “supermax,” and 48 inmates in Tammsí minimum-security unit.

    Inmate transfers from Ill. prisons almost complete

    Illinois prison officials are moving quickly to empty correctional facilities that are slated to be closed. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said Monday that 124 inmates have been moved from the high-security Tamms prison since Thursday. The inmates, who've been called "the worst of the worst," are moving to the maximum-security Pontiac prison.

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    Chicago Skyway fare to rise to $4 next year

    It's going to cost motorists more to travel on the Chicago Skyway next year. Tolls will jump from $3.50 to $4 on the Chicago Skyway starting Jan. 1.

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    Jessica Simpson took to Twitter on Christmas Day to confirm rumors that she is pregnant again. She and fiance Eric Johnson have a daughter Maxwell who was born in May.

    Jessica Simpson confirms pregnancy rumors via Twitter

    Jessica Simpson's daughter has the news all spelled out: "Big Sis." Simpson on Tuesday tweeted a photo of her baby daughter Maxwell playing in the sand, the words "Big Sis" spelled out. The 32-year-old old singer and personality has been rumored to be expecting again.

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    This combination of Associated Press file photos shows, Jack Klugman, left, speaking at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards in New York in 2008 and Charles Durning, right, during the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. Klugman and Durning, both of whom died Monday — Klugman at 90 in Los Angeles, Durning at 89 in New York — spent storied careers building catalogues of roles that classed them indisputably as “character actors.”

    Durning, Klugman: 2 actors we loved knowing

    Jack Klugman and Charles Durning (both of whom died Monday, Klugman at 90 in Los Angeles, Durning at 89 in New York) spent storied careers building catalogues of roles that classed them indisputably as "character actors." Klugman solving crimes as a lab geek on his series "Quincy, M.E.," or Durning as a stressed-out cop ("Dog Day Afternoon") or a romantic who's smitten with Dustin Hoffman in drag...

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    Obama to fly to home early as ‘fiscal cliff’ looms

    President Barack Obama will cut short his traditional Christmas holiday in Hawaii, planning to leave for Washington on Wednesday evening as he and lawmakers consider how to prevent the economy from going over the so-called fiscal cliff.

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    Man robs Naperville gas station at gunpoint

    A masked man with a semiautomatic handgun robbed a Naperville gas station early Tuesday morning. Naperville police received a report at 3:07 a.m. that the Mobil station at 1304 Plainfield/Naperville Road has been robbed.

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    Bensenville man’s body found in Elmhurst

    Elmhurst police are investigating the death of a Bensenville man, whose body was found along the banks of the Salt Creek Monday afternoon. The body of Russell Winkler, 45, was identified by members of his family Monday evening,

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    Taxidermist Bill Moos displays one of his shotguns last week in his shop in Bryan, Texas. Moos, who owns a collection of more than 30 guns, can be spotted any given morning, prowling his roughly 40-acre ranch with his dogs and a shotgun slung over his shoulder.

    U.S. gun support runs far deeper than politics

    In the raw aftermath of the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history, countless gun enthusiasts much like the shooter's mother complicate a gun-owning narrative that critics, sometimes simplistically, put at the feet of a powerful lobby and caricatured zealots.

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    Naperville fire causes $125,000 in damage

    A fire caused $125,000 in damage to a home early Christmas morning in Naperville. There were no injuries, Naperville fire officials said. But the Will County Building Department will determine if the home will remain habitable, officials said.

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    An elderly Egyptian man shows his inked finger Saturday after casting his vote on the second round of a referendum on a disputed constitution drafted by Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in Fayoum, about 62 miles south of Cairo, Egypt. When election-time rolls around, this impoverished rural province has proved one of Egyptís most die-hard bastions of support for Islamists, handing them lopsided victories. The referendum that approved Egyptís Islamist-backed constitution was no exception, with nearly 90 percent of voters here supporting the charter. But even here, voices of discontent with the Muslim Brotherhood are emerging, something the liberal and secular opposition is hoping to build on in upcoming parliament elections.

    In Egypt Islamists’ bastion, discontent creeps up

    FAYOUM, Egypt — When election-time rolls around, this impoverished province of farmlands south of Cairo has proved one of the most die-hard bastions of support for Islamists in Egypt, producing lopsided victories for the Muslim Brotherhood and its ultraconservative allies.

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    An Egyptian woman holds a banner with Arabic that reads, “do no marginalize the role of a woman,” Tuesday during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. Women cut their hair to protest against the Islamist-oriented constitution on Tuesday.

    Egypt constitution passes, economic crunch looms

    The official approval of Egypt's disputed, Islamist-backed constitution Tuesday held out little hope of stabilizing the country after two years of turmoil and Islamist President Mohammed Morsi may now face a more immediate crisis with the economy falling deeper into distress.

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    Kader Arif, French Minister for Veteran affairs, second from left, visits Tuesday one of the tents of the French military mobile hospital at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan.

    Syrian rebels make more gains in north

    BEIRUT — Syrian rebels fully captured a northern town near the Turkish border on Tuesday after weeks of heavy fighting and attacked a regime air base in a neighboring province, activists said.

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    U.S. Navy recruits give a shoutout to Christian Liberty Academy.

    Fallen soldier’s family celebrates Christmas with recruits

    This is the third Christmas the Stack family has spent without their son, who died in Afghanistan, but this year the Arlington Heights family spent Christmas making the day brighter for a group of Navy recruits from Great Lakes Naval Station. "It was so wonderful to see their enthusiasm," said Linda Stack. "This has always been a day for family and they are part of our family now."

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    Oak Forest Hospital patients and nurses enjoy the outdoors around 1950. The Oak Forest Heritage Preserve site has served as working farm, an infirmary and, from 1910 until 1971, the burial ground for Cook County’s indigents.

    Cook County poor farm to be preserved

    The Oak Forest Heritage Preserve once served as working farm, an infirmary and, from 1910 until 1971, the burial ground for Cook County's indigents. Planners envision an interpretive museum, trails through fields of native plants and a community garden where the county poor farm once operated.

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    The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the deadly Dec. 14 shootings at a Connecticut elementary school a tipping point for the nation when it comes to gun control.

    Jackson asks inmates to help end gun violence

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson advocated anti-violence and gun control Tuesday during his traditional Christmas Day sermon at a Chicago jail, where he challenged inmates to help get weapons off the streets.

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    Cold contributed to man’s death

    Authorities say exposure to cold weather contributed to the death of a Chicago man found in Skokie.

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    Quinn says there is ‘ample time’ for pension deal

    Legislators are scheduled to return to Springfield next week. Quinn has said he wants them to approve a fix for the state's estimated $95 billion pension crisis before new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 9.

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    Teen in camouflage with rifle alarms Geneva neighborhood

    Geneva police have taken a 15-year-old into custody who at first was thought to be carrying a rifle, but it was later found to be a replica.

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    Pastor Dave Mann of the St. Charles Free Methodist Church leads a packed dining hall in a prayer of thanks.

    Lazarus House draws crowd for annual Christmas brunch

    Area residents packed the banquet hall at St. Charles Free Methodist Church on Christmas for the free community brunch hosted by Lazarus House. "This brunch is a chance for our guests to be part of this wonderful community and to not feel alone on Christmas Day," said Liz Eakins, executive director of Lazarus House.

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    Body found in burned home of killer of 2 firemen

    The ex-con who lured two firefighters to their deaths in a blaze of gunfire left a rambling typewritten note saying he wanted to burn down the neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people," police said Tuesday as they recovered burned human remains believed to be the gunman's missing sister.

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    Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn.

    Newtown celebrates Christmas and remembers victims

    Newtown celebrated Christmas amid piles of snow-covered teddy bears, long lines of stockings and heaps of flowers as volunteers manned a 24-hour candlelight vigil in memory of the 20 children and six educators gunned down at an elementary school just 11 days before the holiday.

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    Richard Ahrens of East Dundee waves to travelers from the corner of N. La Fox St. (Route 31) and Stone Street in South Elgin, just as he has done every Christmas Day for more than 20 years.

    South Elgin St. Nick has been delighting drivers for 20 years

    Dressed in a Santa suit, Richard Ahrens is spending Christmas morning standing near his white pickup truck at N. La Fox Street (Route 31) and Stone Street in South Elgin, waving to people who pass. He's done this every Christmas for more than 20 years. "To me," he says, "it's a lot of fun."

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    A Bunggal family member plays with Kabang the dog in the Philippines. A veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, has some good news about a dog from the Philippines who became an international hero after sacrificing its snout to save two young girls. Veterinarian Gina Davis says the dog named Kabang appears to have beaten the cancer it was suffering from.

    Hero dog missing snout seems to have beaten cancer

    A veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, has some good news about a dog from the Philippines who became an international hero after sacrificing her snout to save two young girls. After completing six weekly intravenous chemotherapy infusions, Kabang appears to have beaten the cancer she was suffering from.

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    Shoe recycling in Grayslake

    The Grayslake Library hosts a Shoe Recycling and Donation Program Wednesday, Jan. 2 through Friday, April 26.

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    Former President George H.W. Bush will spend Christmas in a Houston hospital after developing a fever and weakness following a monthlong, bronchitis-like cough. Bushís spokesman Jim McGrath said Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, that doctors remain ìcautiously optimisticî that he will recover, but they want to keep him in the hospital.

    Ex-President Bush to spend Christmas in hospital

    Former President George H.W. Bush will spend Christmas in a Houston hospital after developing a fever and weakness following a monthlong, bronchitis-like cough, his spokesman said Monday.

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    Judge temporarily blocks Ga. abortion law

    A state judge has suspended a Georgia law banning abortions for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant. The law bans doctors from performing abortions five months after an egg is fertilized, except when doctors decide a fetus has a defect so severe it is unlikely to live. The law also makes an exception to protect the life or health of the mother, though that does not apply to a mother's...

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    Snowboarder dies in avalanche at Tahoe-area resort

    A 49-year-old California man died Monday after being buried in an avalanche while snowboarding at a Sierra ski resort, one of several avalanche-related emergencies in the Lake Tahoe area after recent storms dumped up to 3 feet of fresh snow.

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    Local residence watch a badly wrecked Air Bagan passenger plane in Heho, Shan State, Myanmar, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The Air Bagan flight packed with Christmas tourists crash-landed on a road in central Myanmar on Tuesday, killing two people and injuring 11, officials said. Four foreigners were among the injured, state television reported. It said the fatalities included an 11-year-old passenger believed to be a Myanmar citizen and a man riding a motorcycle on the road where the plane came down.

    Plane crash-lands on Myanmar road, 3 killed

    flight packed with Christmas tourists crash-landed on a road in central Myanmar on Tuesday, killing three people and injuring 11, officials said.

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    Keys to her home are an important symbol for a woman who spent last Christmas living in a car with her six children.

    With help of charity, homeless family finds 'the road home'

    Last Christmas, this homeless mother and her oldest kids cried as the younger children opened a few presents in the car where they all were forced to live for weeks. Thanks to the help provided by Journeys, the Palatine-based charity for people in need, the family lives in a three-bedroom apartment, the mom has a full-time job that is going well and they all have a Christmas tree.

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    Minor train derailment in Chicago

    Authorities say a commuter train at a downtown Chicago station has derailed, but no passengers were on board.

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    St. Clair prosecutor might seek probe of coroner

    St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly says the county coroner might be committing a crime by serving subpoenas without a license.

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    Crews work on an adventure playground at Blackberry Farm, one of several Fox Valley Park District facilities to receive upgrades after a $44.8 million referendum approved in 2008.

    Fox Valley parks budget focuses on maintaining 4 years of additions

    Since 2008, the Fox Valley Park District has purchased 112 acres, bridged a gap on the Fox River Trail and made upgrades to Blackberry Farm, Red Oak Nature Center and Stuart Sports Complex, spending all but $5 million of the $44.8 million approved in a 2008 referendum. Now, says Executive Director Nancy McCaul, "The vast majority of our budget is going to be maintaining what we have."

Sports

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    Omer Asik, left, battles Taj Gibson for a rebound during the fourth quarter of the Rockets’ victory over the Bulls on Tuesday.

    Omer Asik lights up former team, the Bulls

    Omer Asik played the best game of his NBA career in his first trip back to the United Center to face his former team. The 7-foot center piled up 20 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks as the Houston Rockets rolled over the Bulls 120-97 on Tuesday at the United Center. The Bulls have bigger issues to worry about after being blown out in consecutive games for the first time since coach Tom Thibodeau took the job.

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    The Bulls’ Marco Belinelli watches from the bench Tuesday during the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at the United Center. Houston won 120-97.

    Rockets surge past Bulls 120-97

    Omer Asik enjoyed his trip back to Chicago. And he got help from James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Asik returned to the United Center and had a double-double with 20 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to a 120-97 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. It was his first trip to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the off-season.

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    Houston Rockets' James Harden, center, battles Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, right, and Jimmy Butler, left, for a loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

    Rockets’ McHale not about to step on Asik’s toes

    During his two seasons with the Bulls, Omer Asik was never an eager interview subject. Before facing the Bulls at the United Center on Tuesday, the Turkey native agreed to give some insight into his move to Houston.

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    Miami Heat forward LeBron James dunks as Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (0) and Heat’s Mario Chalmers watch Tuesday during the first half in Miami.

    Heat win Finals rematch over Thunder 103-97

    LeBron James and Kevin Durant exchanged words. Dwyane Wade and Serge Ibaka did a little shoving. Five technical fouls were called, and Russell Westbrook punched a table in frustration. This NBA Finals rematch met expectations. And like that series, it ended with Miami on top.

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash drives between New York Knicks guards Jason Kidd (5) and Raymond Felton (2) Tuesday during the first half in Los Angeles.

    Lakers beat Knicks 100-94 to get to .500

    The pieces of the puzzle that have been the Lakers' confounding season so far are starting to fall into place. Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, the defense stepped up, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday, extending its winning streak to five games. "We're .500," a smiling Dwight Howard said.

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    Coach Lovie Smith, left, and quarterback Jay Cutler have plenty on the line when the Bears travel to Detroit for the regular-season finale Sunday.

    Stakes couldn’t be higher for Smith, Cutler

    The Bears need a little help, but they're in a position to get into the postseason if they hold up their end of the bargain Sunday against the 4-11 Lions in Detroit. If they can't do that, it will be time for massive changes at Halas Hall, starting with the head coach.

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    Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams Tuesday during the second half at Barclays Center in New York. Boston won 93-76.

    Rondo leads Celtics past Nets 93-76

    Rajon Rondo lost his cool, and any chance at history, in the second quarter when Boston last met Brooklyn. This time, the second period featured some of the best basketball the Celtics have played this season. Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against the Nets this season, and the Celtics won 93-76 on Tuesday in another game with some heated moments between the division rivals.

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    The White Sox will miss A. J. Pierzynsk's bat in the lineup, and Mike North says they'll miss haviing him call games as well.

    Pierzynski will certainly be missed by White Sox

    Mike North is disappointed A.J. Pierzynski left the Chicago White Sox. He thinks A.J.'s heads up play will be missed on the team. Tim Tebow has surprised many by his current stance to not play in the wildcat offense for the New York Jets. It doesn't sound like the same player who came into the league. Mike chooses his rookie of the year, and it 's not RG3 or Andrew Luck.

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    Barrington’s Carrie Madden, left, and Fremd’s Brianna Lewis chase down the ball during Friday’s game.

    Images: Daily Herald prep photos of the week
    The Prep Photos of the Week gallery includes the best high school sports pictures by Daily Herald photographers. This week's gallery features photos from boys and girls basketball.

Business

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    People walk through the Fashion Island shopping center in Newport Beach, Calif. U.S. holiday retail sales this year are the weakest since 2008, after a shopping season disrupted by storms and rising uncertainty among consumers. A report out Tuesday that tracks spending, called MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, says holiday sales increased 0.7 percent. Analysts had expected sales to grow 3 to 4 percent.

    U.S. holiday retail sales growth weakest since 2008

    U.S. holiday retail sales this year grew at the weakest pace since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession. In 2012, the shopping season was disrupted by bad weather and consumers' rising uncertainty about the economy. A report that tracks spending on popular holiday goods, the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said Tuesday that sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent, compared with last year.

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    Speaker of the House John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, left, speaks to reporters about the fiscal cliff negotiations at the Capitol in Washington.

    Some urge Boehner to let Democrats pass fiscal cliff bill

    In case the public weren't frustrated enough over Congress' failure to resolve the "fiscal cliff," consider this: lawmakers probably could enact a compromise quickly and easily if Republican leaders let Democrats provide most of the votes. That would give Democrats a bigger voice in the bargain, of course, which the Republican-led House is loath to do.

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    Families across the United States will have to rely on other sources of entertainment after Netflix’s video streaming service was hit by a Christmas Eve outage.

    Netflix streaming service back online after outage

    Those hoping to spend the holiday watching streaming video from Netflix can now get back in front of their TVs, tablets and PCs after a Christmas Eve outage. A Netflix Inc. spokesman said by email Tuesday morning that the service has been fully restored.

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    President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington after the Supreme Court ruled on his health care legislation. New taxes are coming Jan. 1, 2013 to help finance Obama’s health care overhaul. Most people may not notice. But they will pay attention if Congress decides to start taxing employer-sponsored health insurance, one of the options in play if lawmakers can ever agree on a budget deal to reduce federal deficits.

    Health care tax hikes for 2013 may be just a start

    New taxes are coming Jan. 1 to help finance President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Most people may not notice. But they will pay attention if Congress decides to start taxing employer-sponsored health insurance, one option in play if lawmakers can ever agree on a budget deal to reduce federal deficits. "If you are looking to raise revenue to pay for tax reform, that is the biggest pot of money of all," said Martin Sullivan, chief economist with Tax Analysts, a nonpartisan publisher of tax information.

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    Renewable-energy projects get 1.2 billion Euros

    The European Union granted 1.2 billion euros ($1.58 billion) in subsidies to 23 renewable- energy projects under a program to promote low-carbon technology as a part of the fight against global warming.

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    Tropicana wants more people to its drink juice, so it's extending a carrot — and a bushel of other vegetables. As sugar-conscious Americans continue to shy away from fruit juices, Tropicana is using vegetables in a new drink called “Farmstand” set to hit shelves next month.

    Tropicana uses carrot to squeeze juice sales

    Tropicana wants more people to its drink juice, so it's extending a carrot — and a bushel of other vegetables. As sugar-conscious Americans continue to shy away from fruit juices, Tropicana is using vegetables in a new drink called “Farmstand” set to hit shelves next month.

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    Three Atlanta-area counties have filed a lawsuit claiming that British bank HSBC cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in extra expenses and damage to their tax bases by aggressively signing minorities to housing loans that were likely to fail.

    Ga. counties sue HSBC claiming loss of tax base

    Three Atlanta-area counties have filed a lawsuit claiming that British bank HSBC cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in extra expenses and damage to their tax bases by aggressively signing minorities to housing loans that were likely to fail.

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    An employee works at the Tawke oil fields in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. An Iraqi Kurdish official says the country’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region has suspended oil exports over a payment row with the central government in Baghdad.

    Iraq’s northern Kurdish region stops oil exports

    An Iraqi Kurdish official said on Tuesday that the country's self-ruled northern Kurdish region has suspended oil exports over a payment row with Baghdad, a development that could add to already souring relations between the Kurds and the Arab-led central government. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Kurds have unilaterally struck more than 50 deals with foreign oil companies, even though Baghdad says they have no right to do so. In 2011, the two sides reached a tentative deal by which the Kurds send the oil to Baghdad, which sells it, and pays 50 percent of the revenues to the developers to reimburse the development costs.

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    Google is turning on a “scan and match” service for Google Music users to store copies of their songs online, offering for free what Apple charges $25 a year for.

    Google launches ‘scan and match’ music service

    Google is turning on a “scan and match” service for Google Music users to store copies of their songs online, offering for free what Apple charges $25 a year for.

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    Ford Motor Co. is talking to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how it tests fuel economy performance on new vehicles following reports that the automaker’s hybrids are falling short of mileage promises.

    Ford talking to EPA about hybrid mileage testing

    Ford Motor Co. is talking to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how it tests fuel economy performance on new vehicles following reports that the automaker’s hybrids are falling short of mileage promises. “We will continue to talk on behalf of the industry with the EPA to determine if changes are necessary,” Joe Hinrichs, chief of Ford’s operations in North and South America, told reporters in Detroit.

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    McKenna Pope, 13, started petition demanding the toy company Hasbro make its Easy-Bake Oven more boy friendly. She was inspired to do so when her 4-year-old brother Gavyn Boscio put the oven on his Christmas wish list and she and their mother, Erica Boscio, found the toy only available with girls on the packaging and and in pink or purple colors. The petition garnered more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than a week.

    Unisex Easy-Bake oven on the way

    Hasbro says it will soon reveal a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven after meeting with a New Jersey girl who started a campaign calling on the toy maker to make one that appeals to all kids. McKenna Pope, 13, of Garfield, N.J., got more than 40,000 signatures on her online petition at Change.org and the support of celebrity chefs including Bobby Flay, who backed her call for Hasbro to make a gender-neutral oven and to include boys in the ads.

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    Wine sales by the biggest auction houses plunged 19 percent in 2012 as economic and political uncertainty in China cooled demand for trophy-name Bordeaux.

    Wine auctions plunge as Chinese Bordeauz demand cools

    Wine sales by the biggest auction houses plunged 19 percent in 2012 as economic and political uncertainty in China cooled demand for trophy-name Bordeaux. Sales by Acker Merrall & Condit, Christie’s International, Sotheby’s, Zachys and Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., excluding Internet business, raised $322 million with fees this year, down from the record $397 million achieved at equivalent events in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

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    Miner Keith Emerald uses a pneumatic drill to drill holes that will be packed with explosives to blast into the sold rock wall at the Sutter Gold Mining Co’s mines near in Sutter Creek, Calif.

    Molten gold signals revival in Calif. Mother Lode

    The last of the state’s great mines closed because mining gold proved unprofitable after World War II. But with the price of the metal near historic highs, hovering around $1,700 an ounce, the California Mother Lode’s first large-scale hard rock gold mining operation in a half-century is coming back to life. Miners are digging again where their forebears once unearthed riches from eight historic mines that honeycomb Sutter Gold Mining Co.’s holdings about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento.

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    Weight Watchers to release 50th anniversary cookbook

    NEW YORK — Weight Watchers is marking its 50th year by shedding its old publisher and hoping to expand its audience for an anniversary cookbook.“Weight Watchers 50th Anniversary Cookbook: 270 Delicious Recipes for Every Meal,” will come out in May. The release starts a partnership between the diet company and St. Martin’s Press. Weight Watchers had previously released its cookbooks through Wiley.According to a joint announcement Friday from Weight Watchers and St. Martin’s, the new cookbook will offer new and old recipes and “fun facts” on Weight Watchers history, Weight Watchers and St. Martin’s plan another cookbook later in 2013 and more publications in 2014.

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    Twitter lets users download archive of tweets
    Twitter Inc., the social-networking company that features 140-character status updates, is letting users download an archive of posts to make its site more alluring as competition with Facebook Inc. escalates.

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    Wooden angels are displayed as part of memorial to shooting victims in Newtown, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Aanxious parents are buying armored backpacks for children and firearms enthusiasts stocking up on semiautomatic rifles in anticipation of tighter gun control measures.

    Parents buy armored backpacks after Connecticut shootings

    The reaction to the deadly Connecticut school shooting can be seen at gun stores and self-defense retailers across the nation, with anxious parents buying armored backpacks for children and firearms enthusiasts stocking up on semiautomatic rifles in anticipation of tighter gun control measures.

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    House Speaker Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, speaks to the media about the fiscal cliff at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

    Medicare premiums could rise for many retirees

    They may not agree on much else, but there’s a change to Medicare that President Barack Obama and Republicans both support: Expand a little-known law so more retirees that the government considers well-off are required to pay higher monthly premiums. It’s on the short list in the budget talks, raising $20 billion or more over 10 years.

Life & Entertainment

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    File photo Rod Stewart, the subject of music industry derision for decades, was greeted with predictable guffaws when he released “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Festive albums are usually about as sophisticated as party hats and mistletoe kisses and this is no exception, but Rod is crying all the way to the bank.

    Killers vie with Lady Gaga, Rod for Christmas crown

    Rod Stewart, the subject of music industry derision for decades, was greeted with predictable guffaws when he released "Merry Christmas, Baby." Festive albums are usually about as sophisticated as party hats and mistletoe kisses and this is no exception, but Rod is crying all the way to the bank.

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    Marquette University professor Tim Machan teaches a class on J.R.R. Tolkien that focuses on all of his books, books that influenced Tolkien and other tidbits about the writer.

    Tolkien class at Wis. university proves popular

    A course on J.R.R. Tolkien was taught for the first time this fall as part of the Marquette University's celebration of the 75th anniversary of "The Hobbit" being published. And class wrapped up just before the film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." The class, which filled up fast with mostly seniors who had first dibs.

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    Actress Vanessa Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Condola Rashad will be joining Cicely Tyson in the play, “The Trip to Bountiful.” Opening night is set for April 23, 2013.

    Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams Broadway-bound

    Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams and Condola Rashad will be joining Cicely Tyson on "The Trip to Bountiful."

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    Actor Charles Durning accepts the life achievement award at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Durning, the two-time Oscar nominee who was dubbed the king of the character actors for his skill in playing everything from a Nazi colonel to the pope, died Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 at his home in New York City. He was 89.

    Charles Durning, king of character actors, dies

    Charles Durning grew up in poverty, lost five of his nine siblings to disease, barely lived through D-Day and was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge. His hard life and wartime trauma provided the basis for a prolific 50-year career as a consummate Oscar-nominated character actor, playing everyone from a Nazi colonel to the pope to Dustin Hoffman's would-be suitor in "Tootsie."

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    Becky Kia, who grew up in Lombard, is the violin soloist with the popular Christmas group, Mannheim Steamroller.

    Mannheim Steamroller puts Lombard native center stage for Christmas concerts

    Becky Kia doesn't listen to Christmas music at this time of year. That's because her job is to play Christmas music, night after night. Kia, a native of Lombard, is the lead violinist of Mannheim Steamroller, a popular, multiplatinum- selling Christmas group whose pumped-up orchestral music is all over the radio dial during the holidays.

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    James Bond and Daniel Craig dominated a lot of pop culture headlines in 2012.

    A year for enduring pop culture icons to shine

    Marilyn Monroe. The Rolling Stones. And Bond — James Bond. What do they have in common? Sure, one's long gone, and one's fictional. But all three marked a golden anniversary in 2012. Once again, our highly subjective pop-culture journey through the year.

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    Jennifer Hudson is getting into the Christmas spirit in her native Chicago. The actress and singer handed out toys on Monday through the foundation she co-founded in honor of her late nephew.

    Jennifer Hudson gives away toys in Chicago

    Jennifer Hudson is getting into the Christmas spirit in her native Chicago. The actress and singer handed out toys on Monday through the foundation she co-founded in honor of her late nephew.

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    TV network aimed at millennials set for summer

    Participant Media plans to launch a cable network aimed at viewers 18 to 34 years old with programming it describes as inspiring and thought-provoking. The as-yet-unnamed network is set to start next summer, the company announced. It has acquired The Documentary Channel as well as the distribution assets of The Inspiration Network, giving it an initial reach of 40 million cable subscribers.

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    A protester with the “Occupy Seattle” movement wears a Guy Fawkes mask and takes a photo with a mobile phone as he demonstrates, in downtown Seattle. Television audiences across China watched an anarchist antihero rebel against a totalitarian government and persuade the people to rule themselves.

    China’s airing of ‘V for Vendetta’ stuns viewers

    Television audiences across China watched an anarchist antihero rebel against a totalitarian government and persuade the people to rule themselves. Soon the Internet was crackling with quotes of "V for Vendetta's" famous line: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." The airing of the movie on China Central Television stunned viewers and raised hopes that China is loosening censorship.

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    A glaze made with mild Peppadew peppers and orange juice makes ham a holiday treat.

    Peppadew Glazed Ham
    Peppadew Glazed Ham

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    Peppadews spike a sweet glaze with spicy goodness for bone-in ham.

    Glazed ham makes a quick, special holiday meal

    The trick that puts this sweet-and-tangy ham glaze over the top -- and way above your basic honey glazed ham -- is spiking it with Peppadews, a small, tangy red pepper. These peppers, which look like cherry tomatoes, have a very mild heat, a pronounced sweetness and just a kick of tang. Pureed with orange juice and agave syrup, they make an awesome complement for a baked ham.

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    Want to indulge one last time before 2013's resolutions start? This flourless chocolate cake is a good place to start.

    Flourless Chocolate Cake
    Flourless Chocolate Cake

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    This Dec. 4, 2012 photo shows director and producer David Chase in New York. Chase makes his directorial debut in the film, “Not Fade Away.”

    After ‘The Sopranos,’ a bigger screen for Chase

    fter "The Sopranos" went black, David Chase's next move was never in question: He would make a movie. In all Chase's time toiling as a writer in television before "The Sopranos" — decades ranging from "The Rockford Files" to "Northern Exposure" — the big screen had beckoned. "If it was going to be a biopic, I wanted to do a biopic about nobodies — which is what it kind of is," he said.

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    Scarlett Johansson, currently starring in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway, is determined to be a more naturalistic Maggie the Cat in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” that opens Jan. 17, 2013.

    Scarlett Johansson tones down the sex as Maggie

    n a decision that will make many a man sigh unhappily, Scarlett Johansson won't be bringing sexy back to Broadway. The actress with the pouty lips and gentle curves that GQ magazine once called "Babe of the Year" is determined to be a more naturalistic Maggie the Cat in a revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." "I think her sexuality is often overplayed and over-appreciated. It's such an unimportant part of this story," Johansson says.

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    J.C. Penney adds Abercrombie’s Tonniges for Johnson makeover

    J.C. Penney Co. hired a former Abercrombie & Fitch Co. executive to help with its stores' layout and design as Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson continues to lure alumni of the teen retailer. Brandon Tonniges is a director of visual merchandising.

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    Want to indulge one last time before 2013’s resolutions start? This flourless chocolate cake is a good place to start.

    Flourless chocolate cake sets a decadent mood for NYE

    You want something rich and decadent for the holidays. Something chocolate. Something that will impress. Something that really screams celebration.But you don’t want to spend hours making it. The answer? A flourless chocolate cake. It’s like a baked truffle — simple, yet sensational enough to impress your guests. All you have to do is dress it up with whipped cream and fresh berries. Be sure to cut small slices from this; it really is amazingly rich.• Alison Ladman is a recipe developer for the AP. Follow her on Twitter @CrustAndCrumbCo.

Discuss

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    Editorial: The enduring presence of peace

    While peace on earth may have seemed in short supply this year, the good will toward each other on which that peace can be built still flourished, a Daily Herald editorial says.

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    Still here? Happy New Bak’tun

    Columnist Eugene Robinson: What is it that humans find so compelling about impending oblivion? We go out of our way to look for the most obscure and cryptic clues that The End is nigh.

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    Through a lens, lightly

    Columnist Kathleen Parker: In today's world of social media, where everyone's every little thing is on display, it is sometimes difficult to recall a time when exhibitionism wasn't ubiquitous and was, in fact, not admired. Such are the inevitable thoughts upon perusing Kitty Kelley's lovely new book about John F. Kennedy as seen through the eyes of photojournalist Stanley Tretick.

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    Prayers for those affected by shooting
    A Chicago letter to the editor: As Muslims, we believe that every life is scared and honored. The Holy Quran tells us that to kill one innocent person is to kill all of mankind. Prophet Muhammad taught us to always respect and be kind to all children.

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    Problem is the removal of God
    A Geneva letter to the editor: We’re all reeling with shock and sadness at the loss of life in Sandy Hook. Some people seem to believe that guns are the problem. Greatly limit the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution and the problem will be solved.

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    Life is fragile, violence unacceptable
    A letter to the editor: This holiday season, hug your children a little tighter, a little longer, and be thankful for the true gifts of the season. God’s peace to all of us.

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