Saturday, December 31, 2011

Britons cut mortgage debt by ?8.6bn

"Britons reduced their mortgage debt by ?8.6 billion during the third quarter of this year, but the Bank of England said there was "little sign" that households are trying to pay their debts down more quickly than in the past."

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Surprise wedding bells for Sen. Benacquisto

benacquisto.jpgFrom the News-Press: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers and and Fort Myers attorney Bruce Strayhorn have tied the knot.


The couple was married Wednesday evening in Palm Beach County, where Benacquisto has lived and where she first entered politics.


Megan Kossove, Benacquisto?s Senate aide, said the couple left for a short honeymoon trip on Thursday. Neither could be reached for comment.


The marriage is the second for Benacquisto, who is serving her first term in the Florida Senate. She has a son and a daughter from her first marriage as well as a stepson.

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In Japan, Wendy's menu goes gourmet

 December 29

High-tech parking meters on way in wake of turmoil

PORTLAND - After a five-month delay, city officials plan to sign a $150,000 contract with a company that will bring high-tech parking meters to Portland once the company's pending ownership change is finalized.


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

NBA: Knicks Claim Former Harvard PG Jeremy Lin Off Waivers

The Knicks have claimed former Harvard PG Jeremy Lin off waivers, according to a league source. Lin spent his rookie year in Oakland, but was waived by the Warriors, and new coach Mark Jackson, on Dec. 9. ?Read more after the jump.

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The Rockets picked Lin up, but waived him Sunday to clear roster space in order to sign Samuel Dalembert. Lin, 23, was undrafted out of Harvard but appeared in 29 games for the Warriors as a rookie last season, averaging 2.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest.

?We?ve always liked him as a player,? Knicks coach Mike D?Antoni said. ?Very quick. He defends pretty well. But he can really get in the lane and distribute the basketball. We haven?t seen him for a couple of years, but when we worked him out, we liked him.?

Lin has a non-guaranteed contract ? worth about $850,000. That means when either Baron Davis (back injury) or Iman Shumpert (knee sprain) get healthy, the Knicks could decide to waive Lin and open up a roster spot if they feel the yen to sign forward Kenyon Martin. The former Net is eligible to sign an NBA contract in March as the terms of his Chinese Basketball Association buyout.

D?Antoni said he believes Lin will meet up with the Knicks for Wednesday morning?s shootaround. Asked when he thinks he?d be ready to use Lin, D?Antoni replied, ?A little of it will depend upon injuries. He?s right now our third point guard, so if someone wakes up with a cold, he?s playing a lot. If not, then we?ll see.?

That will not be the situation on Wednesday when backup point guard Mike Bibby (back spams) is set to make his Knicks debut.

?He?s good. He said he felt good. Looked good,? D?Antoni said. ?But yeah, he?s ready to roll.?

Lin appeared in 20 games for the Reno Bighorns of the D-League in 2010-11, averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
NY Post?


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UK's Prince Philip remains in hospital (AP)

LONDON ? Britain's Prince Philip will spend a fourth night in hospital Monday, as he recovers from treatment for a blocked coronary artery.

Queen Elizabeth II's 90-year-old husband is making "good progress," but will remain under observation at Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridge, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said Monday.

The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with policy, said there are no details on when Philip may be released.

Philip underwent a successful coronary stent procedure at the specialist hospital, where he was taken Friday after complaining of chest pains.

"The Duke of Edinburgh continues to make good progress from the procedure. He remains in hospital under observation and in good spirits," the spokesman said.

It was the most serious health scare suffered by Philip, who is known to be active and robust. He has continued to appear at many engagements, most recently taking a 10-day tour of Australia with the queen.

He missed the Royal Family's traditional Boxing Day shooting party on Monday at the queen's private Sandringham estate in Norfolk, an event he usually leads.

Six of Philip's grandchildren, including Princes William and Harry, visited him Sunday in the hospital.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Video: Croc loses two teeth in battle with lawnmower

What do you give a cranky, half-ton crocodile named Elivs? Whatever he wants! TODAY's Carl Quintanilla reports.

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Nelson retirement opens Neb.'s Senate seat to GOP (AP)

OMAHA, Neb. ? Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson survived nearly two decades representing heavily Republican Nebraska by carving a path down the political center. But faced with navigating that road in an increasingly polarizing climate, Nelson is stepping away ? and swinging the door wide open for the GOP.

Nelson, the lone Democrat in Nebraska's five-member congressional delegation, announced Tuesday that he wouldn't seek a third term. He was facing a tough campaign against several Republicans who've spent the past several months attacking his support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and federal stimulus legislation.

"Who can blame him given the current political mood of the country?" said former state Democratic Party Chairman Steve Achelpohl.

Other Democrats lamented Nelson's decision to retire, fearing it sets up the GOP for an easy victory next year. Republicans need to net just four seats to reclaim control of the Senate, and Nebraska looks to be an easy pickup.

There are no Democrats in line to take Nelson's place in the increasingly conservative state. He joins several other Democrats to retire from the Senate, including Virginia's Jim Webb and North Dakota's Kent Conrad.

After months of speculation that he would leave office, the 70-year-old conservative Democrat told supporters in an emailed statement that he felt it was time he "step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and nation."

"Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election," he said. "Simply put: It is time to move on."

The former two-term governor thrived in Nebraska politics partly because he was willing to support Republican ideas when he believed they were in the state's best interests, Achelpohl said.

"Nebraskans are generally independent thinkers, and he was certainly an independent thinker," Achelpohl said. "He just had his finger right on the pulse of the predominant political thinking right in our state and nationally."

Democrats banking on Nelson's ability to leverage those centrist stances and capture statewide races were left scrambling, and many state activists acknowledged being taken by surprise.

While some floated the names of state Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha and Nelson's former lieutenant governor, Kim Robak, as possible contenders, many said it was too early to know who might run. Messages seeking comment were left for Lathrop and Robak.

A dream candidate for Democrats: former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey. Traveling in India on Tuesday, Kerrey told The Washington Post, "Ben's retirement is a huge loss for Nebraska. I am very sad he's leaving. That is as far as I am going (right now)."

Democrats acknowledged the party will face a steep uphill fight to hold on to Nelson's seat, but pointed to a crowded GOP primary field with no obvious front-runner. The ticket includes Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, state Sen. Deb Fischer, and investment adviser Pat Flynn.

"This virtually guarantees a Republican victory in 2012," said University of Nebraska Lincoln political scientist Mike Wagner. "There's almost no scenario in which a Democrat can win ? especially at this late stage."

National Republican party leaders also have encouraged Gov. Dave Heineman to join the race, but Heineman has said it would take a lot to persuade him.

The Senate's Democratic campaign chairman, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, said she expected that Republicans would "have their hands full with a very divisive primary in the state, which will provide an opportunity for Democrats to remain competitive."

State Sen. Heath Mello, an Omaha Democrat who worked as an aide to Nelson, said he feared Nelson's retirement would inject more partisan politics into an already heated race.

"That is not the way Nebraskans have chosen their senators in the past," Mello said. "We've always elected independent-minded people to represent Nebraska's interests, ahead of the political parties."

Nelson has recently expressed dismay about a divided Congress' inability to pass meaningful legislation, frustration that echoed in his statement Tuesday.

"I encourage those who will follow in my footsteps to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what's best for the country, not just one political party," he said.

Even as Nelson wavered about a re-election bid, he piled up campaign cash, hired a campaign manager and watched his party spend more than $1 million on ads supporting him. The preparation left him with more than $3 million campaign cash on hand last month, about twice his nearest competitor.

The Democrats' Majority PAC alone spent more than $406,000 on media buys and production costs for Nelson's expected re-election campaign in seven separate expenditures between Sept. 9 and Dec. 9.

"I'm absolutely stunned," Kathleen Fahey, a Democratic super-delegate in 2008, said of Nelson's announcement. "Ben has been such a great senator for everybody. I'm not liking this."

Nelson first was elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating Stenberg, a Republican and currently the state treasurer, to replace the retired Kerrey. Nelson positioned himself as a centrist supporting both Democratic and Republican legislation.

He was among only two Senate Democrats to support a failed GOP bid to block new federal controls on power plant pollution that blows downwind into other states earlier this year, and he took great pride in his membership in the 2005 "Gang of 14," made up of Republicans and Democrats who brokered a deal to avoid a filibuster showdown over President George W. Bush's judicial nominees.

However, Nelson's vote in favor of Obama's signature health reform legislation left the GOP confident that they could beat him next year. The health reforms are strongly opposed by many Nebraska conservatives, and after the vote Nebraska Republicans immediately kicked off a "Give Ben the Boot" campaign.

Nelson also was one of five Democratic senators targeted by a national conservative group with ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove. The group, Crossroads GPS, spent $1.6 million on ads attacking Nelson as well as Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Clair McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio ? all considered top targets by national Republicans in 2012.

"For once Senator Nelson has listened to Nebraskans," Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson said Tuesday. "The Nebraska Republican Party is more focused than ever on electing another conservative Republican to join Sen. Mike Johanns and recapturing the U.S. Senate so that we can reverse the damage done by Ben Nelson, Washington Democrats and the Obama Administration."

Nelson upset incumbent Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr in 1990 to earn his first statewide office and was re-elected governor in 1994 by a landslide. In 1996, he reneged on a campaign pledge that he wouldn't seek higher office while governor and announced his candidacy for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Sen. Jim Exon.

Omaha millionaire businessman Chuck Hagel soundly defeated Nelson in that Senate race, but the two later served as colleagues when Nelson was elected in 2000.

Bruning on Tuesday wished Nelson well and praised him as "a dedicated public servant of the state of Nebraska for over two decades," while Fischer expressed confidence the GOP would now claim the seat.

"I think we have a strong group of Republicans, and I happen to believe the seat will go to a Republican," she said.

Stenberg thanked Nelson for his service, but said Nebraskans need "a genuine, lifelong conservative."


Associated Press writer Larry Margasak in Washington and Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this report.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After Christmas sales: Your guide to snagging them, online or in person

After Christmas sales offer bargains both online and in-store. Here's a guide to finding them, as well as rules for using gift cards and making returns.?

For shoppers who still have some energy left, and some dollars, Dec. 26 is one of the premier bargain-hunting days of the year.

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The deals run literally from "A" (offers at Aeropostale include what they dub a "$5 T-shirt riot") to "Z" (Zales has clearance markdowns on lots of jewelry).

Some shoppers use the day to scour for bargains on items that stores couldn't sell before Christmas. Others are using gift cards they just received. Still others are in the process of returning or exchanging items they recently bought or were given.

Here are some tips on navigating the after-Christmas retail scene:?

The sales. Deals can be both online and in-store. Shopping websites such as? can help you expand the savings by showing coupons for specific stores and items.?

The website has an "after Christmas" sale page that breaks down deals by category.?

Focus on what you want to buy, not just on what stores want to sell. And think outside the box. Clothing is not all that's on sale. You might save some money planning a spring or summer vacation (Southwest Airlines Vacations is among the travel sites offering discounts).

Be prepared for a bit of chaos at the store. Remember that the stores and their staffs have been through a hectic couple of weeks. You may see bargains, but also some disheveled display racks. According to ShopperTrak, Dec. 26 is among the top 10 busiest shopping days of the year.

Online versus in-store. Shopping online can have a lot of advantages: No hassle of driving and parking, and a quick click will tell you if items are in stock. But note that the prices can vary: Sometimes the best price on a given item is in the store, sometimes it's on the website, and sometimes both prices are the same.

Target, for example, is touting savings of up to 65 percent online, "plus 1,000?s of last-chance deals in stores."

A bit of diligence can pay off big-time. Before purchasing a high-tech accessory from Best Buy, you might want to check at rivals like or Before springing for that Southwest Airlines vacation package, check other travel sites like,, or

Also factor in shipping costs. Some stores offer "free shipping;" others don't.

Gift cards. When you get a gift card, read its terms and conditions. Usually, you don't need to rush. But you might want to use it promptly just to make sure you don't lose the card or forget about it.

Returns. Returning items is common, but it can also be a hassle if consumers aren't prepared. Consumer Reports offers a few useful bits of advice. Keep all gift receipts until you know the item won't need to be returned. Be aware of store policies and time limits (don't assume the window is always as generous as 90 days).?

You may save money by making a "no thanks" decision before opening the box. Some products can't be returned once opened, or if packaging is damaged or missing. On other products there might be a restocking fee of 15 percent of the item's cost.

"Some companies require a government-issued ID with a receipt. That way, they can track serial returners even if the transaction is in cash," Consumer Reports says.

Remember that you can often save packing and postage fees for online returns if the company has a store nearby. You can make the return at the walk-in location.


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Monday, December 26, 2011

BC-FBN--Eliminated Eagles,1st Ld-Writethru, FBN

BC-FBN--Eliminated Eagles, 1st Ld-Writethru,610Eagles blew many chances this seasonAP Photo SLS117, PAAB103, CBS132, SLS105Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.By ROB MAADDIAP Pro Football Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) ? For all those super expectations, all the preseason hype, all the big-name additions, the Philadelphia Eagles are left to ponder all that went wrong.

Despite their late-season surge ? a three-game winning streak ? the Eagles (7-8) aren't going to the playoffs. That's the reality for this Dream Team.

So before they begin looking ahead to next season, they're thinking about the 'what ifs?' One play could be the difference in several of the losses, especially because the Eagles blew five fourth-quarter leads.

"If we would have gotten into the playoffs, I feel we would have definitely done some damage," quarterback Michael Vick said after Saturday's 20-7 win at Dallas. "It's unfortunate that we didn't and that's the game of football. If you make some mistakes early and you get behind in the count in the win/loss column, you sell yourself short in the end and you're in the position that we are in. We're just happy that we are finishing strong. We have one more game to play and we're going to give it everything we've got."

Vick and his teammates wasted an opportunity to repeat as division champions in a mediocre NFC East that will crown a champion ? either the Cowboys or New York Giants ? with no more than nine wins.

The Eagles entered Saturday at 6-8 and still had a chance to win the division, but were eliminated when the Giants beat the New York Jets, rendering their game at Dallas meaningless.

"I've watched this team grow as the weeks have went on," Vick said. "The last three or four weeks, we've come together as a team. It's a family environment, a family atmosphere and that translates to winning. That's why you see a different team. I think we are well put together and well fit. We're playing together and that's what it's all about. But it takes time to build that chemistry, build that unity, that togetherness. Doing it now, it's exciting for me and there's not a place that I'd rather be each and every day."

When the Eagles went on a spending spree and brought in Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young to join a roster that already had a talented core of star players, expectations were elevated to perhaps unrealistic levels.

Even management declared this an all-or-nothing season in which nothing less than a Super Bowl victory would be considered a success. Now the Eagles are looking back and wondering how much they really needed those offseason minicamps and a full training camp.

"We are finishing strong, and are showing the fans and everybody else what the true Eagles could have been, what we could have been doing at the beginning of the season," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It just took a while to get there. We take that into the offseason and don't look back."

It seemed the Eagles could be headed for major changes when they were 4-8. Fans wanted coach Andy Reid fired and it appeared offensive-line-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator Juan Castillo would lose his job.

But a strong finish could keep this coaching staff together for at least another season. Reid is missing the playoffs for just the fourth time in 13 years, so this is new territory for many of his players.

"This is an unfamiliar feeling, an unfamiliar sight," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "I've never really witnessed this. It's a reality check. Look in the mirror. Everybody has to check themselves. Hopefully, we can finish strong and come back in the offseason or next year, whenever we are all together, and really eliminate all the mistakes we had early on."

Associated Press


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'Rare' brain disorder may be more common than thought, say Mayo Clinic scientists

ScienceDaily (Dec. 25, 2011) ? A global team of neuroscientists, led by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida, has found the gene responsible for a brain disorder that may be much more common than once believed. In the Dec. 25 online issue of Nature Genetics, the researchers say they identified 14 different mutations in the gene CSF1R that lead to development of hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids (HDLS). This is a devastating disorder of the brain's white matter that leads to death between ages 40 and 60. People who inherit the abnormal gene always develop HDLS. Until now, a definite diagnosis of HDLS required examination of brain tissue at biopsy or autopsy.

The finding is important because the researchers suspect that HDLS is more common than once thought and a genetic diagnosis will now be possible without need for a brain biopsy or autopsy. According to the study's senior investigator, neurologist Zbigniew K. Wszolek, M.D., a significant number of people who tested positive for the abnormal gene in this study had been diagnosed with a wide range of other conditions. These individuals were related to a patient known to have HDLS, and so their genes were also examined.

"Because the symptoms of HDLS vary so widely -- everything from behavior and personality changes to seizures and movement problems -- these patients were misdiagnosed as having either schizophrenia, epilepsy, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or other disorders," says Dr. Wszolek. "Many of these patients were therefore treated with drugs that offered only toxic side effects.

"Given this finding, we may soon have a blood test that can help doctors diagnose HDLS, and I predict we will find it is much more common than anyone could have imagined," he says.

Dr. Wszolek is internationally known for his long-term efforts to bring together researchers from around the world to help find cases of inherited brain disorders and discover their genetic roots.

Dr. Wszolek's interest in HDLS began when a severely disabled young woman came to see him in 2003 and mentioned that other members of her family were affected. The diagnosis of HDLS was made by his Mayo Clinic colleague, Dennis W. Dickson, M.D., who reviewed the autopsy findings of the patient's uncle, who had previously been misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, and subsequently, Dr. Wszolek's patient and her father. All members of the family had HDLS.

Dr. Dickson had identified other cases of HDLS from Florida, New York, Oregon and Kansas in the Mayo Clinic Florida brain bank and knew of a large kindred in Virginia with similar pathology, based upon a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neuropathologists. With concerted efforts, Dr. Wszolek and collaborators at University of Virginia were able to obtain DNA samples from the Virginia kindred. Dr. Wszolek also sought other cases, particularly those that had been reported in the neuropathology literature, and he was able to obtain samples from Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, and other sites in the U.S. He and his team of investigators and collaborators have since published studies describing the clinical, pathologic and imaging characteristics of the disorder, and they have held five international meetings on HDLS.

In this study, which included 38 researchers from 12 institutions in five countries, the study's first author, Rosa Rademakers, Ph.D., led the effort to find the gene responsible for HDLS. Her laboratory studied DNA samples from 14 families in which at least one member was diagnosed with HDLS and compared these with samples from more than 2,000 disease-free participants. The gene was ultimately found using a combination of traditional genetic linkage studies and recently developed state-of-the art sequencing methods. Most family members studied -- who were found to have HDLS gene mutations -- were not diagnosed with the disease, but with something else, thus emphasizing the notion that HDLS is an underdiagnosed disorder.

The CSF1R protein is an important receptor in the brain that is primarily present in microglia, the immune cells of the brain. "We identified a different CSF1R mutation in every HDLS family that we studied," says Dr. Rademakers. "All mutations are located in the kinase domain of CSF1R, which is critical for its activity, suggesting that these mutations may lead to deficient microglia activity. How this leads to white matter pathology in HDLS patients is not yet understood, but we now have an important lead to study."

"With no other disease have we found so many affected families so quickly," says Dr. Wszolek. "That tells me this disease is not rare, but quite common." He adds, "It is fantastic that you can start an investigation with a single case and end up, with the help of many hands, in what we believe to be a world-class gene discovery."

The study was funded by a Mayo benefactor and the Mayo Foundation. Additionally, Mayo Clinic in Florida is a Morris K. Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Mayo Clinic.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Rosa Rademakers, Matt Baker, Alexandra M Nicholson, Nicola J Rutherford, NiCole Finch, Alexandra Soto-Ortolaza, Jennifer Lash, Christian Wider, Aleksandra Wojtas, Mariely DeJesus-Hernandez, Jennifer Adamson, Naomi Kouri, Christina Sundal, Elizabeth A Shuster, Jan Aasly, James MacKenzie, Sigrun Roeber, Hans A Kretzschmar, Bradley F Boeve, David S Knopman, Ronald C Petersen, Nigel J Cairns, Bernardino Ghetti, Salvatore Spina, James Garbern, Alexandros C Tselis, Ryan Uitti, Pritam Das, Jay A Van Gerpen, James F Meschia, Shawn Levy, Daniel F Broderick, Neill Graff-Radford, Owen A Ross, Bradley B Miller, Russell H Swerdlow, Dennis W Dickson, Zbigniew K Wszolek. Mutations in the colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) gene cause hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids. Nature Genetics, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ng.1027

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Sunday, December 25, 2011

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