New General Assembly to face many old issues


— A new Illinois General Assembly was inaugurated Wednesday, but lingering beyond the flowers, family and speeches was a host of unfinished business.

The old Legislature adjourned Tuesday without fixing the state's broken public pension system. Also left unresolved were the divisive issues of same-sex marriage, gun regulation and gambling expansion. It'll be a while before such problems are tackled — the part-time lawmakers are scheduled to go home for a few weeks before returning to the Capitol.

In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan remains in charge, as he has for all but two of the past 30 years. In the Senate, President John Cullerton starts his fifth year running the show. Both Chicago Democrats now wield veto-proof majorities after many voters throughout the state opted against the Republican alternative in November legislative races.

That new Democratic power brings added pressure to perform was not lost on Cullerton, who said his party's 40-19 advantage over the GOP is the largest in the nation and in state history.

"I know a lot of you are thinking, 'This is great. We've got 40 members. I don't have to take any tough votes,'" Cullerton told his Democrats in a decorated Senate chamber as family members were entertained by a rendition of the 1960s tune "Feeling Good."

"But if everybody thought like that, we wouldn't get anything done, would we?" he said.

Madigan, the longest-serving speaker in state history, told House members that key issues remain "terribly contentious, terribly divisive."

"We have to call upon our inner resolves to dedicate ourselves to the solution of these problems, working cooperatively with the other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate," said Madigan, who leads a 71-47 Democratic majority.

Still, Madigan gave a grave assessment of the poorly funded pensions, saying he would "emphasize the absolutely serious nature of the fiscal condition."

In the waning days of the legislative session that concluded Tuesday, Madigan made what he said was a good-faith effort to spur pension talks by lifting a demand that suburban and downstate teacher retirement costs be shifted from the state to local school districts. That's now back on the table for Madigan, who called it a "free lunch."

"Serious, serious problem, and if we're serious about solving the problem, that must be addressed," Madigan said.

The cost-shift provision is adamantly opposed by Republicans and some suburban Democrats who maintain that it will lead to local property tax increases.

After failing to come up with a pension solution before the clock ran out this week, Cullerton said that Senate Bill 1, legislation often symbolizing the top agenda item, would be a pension measure combining aspects of unresolved Senate-passed and House-sponsored plans.

"The finances of our pension system have to be addressed in a fair and constitutional manner. The issue has lingered for generations and threatens to doom future generations if something isn't done," Cullerton said.

"We are on the verge of our state budget being turned into a financial plan that funds pension benefits, not essential services. Our investments in higher, elementary and secondary education and human services are increasingly crowded out — some might say, squeezed — by our pension costs," Cullerton said in a nod to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, whose grass-roots pension reform movement used a cartoon mascot, Squeezy, the Pension Python.

Though Cullerton cast a vote for Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont for Senate president, as she did for him in a symbolic display of bipartisanship, Radogno said "many people in Illinois really don't have a lot of confidence in us and hopefully we can turn that around."

"We have to come to grips with some of the very real problems that we have," she said. "The underlying pillar that will allow us to begin to address them is solving the pension problem."

House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego called for "incredibly bold ideas and incredibly bold solutions."

"We're facing challenges in the state that we probably haven't seen as a General Assembly since the Great Depression," Cross said.

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Analysis: Modi's Gujarat growth model might not work across India

SURAT, India (Reuters) - Turning a single Indian state with a long tradition of entrepreneurship and a solid political majority into an investor-friendly economic powerhouse is one thing.

Replicating that experience across a diverse country of 1.2 billion would be a tougher prospect for Narendra Modi, whose leadership of booming Gujarat state has led to his being touted as a potential candidate to become India's next prime minister.

While Modi wins praise even from critics for cutting red tape and making government more responsive and predictable, many ingredients for Gujarat's run of growth were in place well before he took office in 2001.

"It is like an icing on cake sort of thing. You have a nice cake and Modi has done a lot of good icing," said Rakesh Chaudhary, director of Pratibha Group, a textile manufacturer in Palsana on the outskirts of the Gujarat city of Surat.

Industry in Gujarat is helped by a long coastline and plenty of barren land that is easy to turn over to factory use.

The power that comes from a long-standing and heavy majority for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state also gives Modi an advantage that he would not enjoy on a national stage marked by fractious coalition politics.

Despite a controversial past - Modi is accused by critics of not doing enough to stop or of even quietly encouraging religious riots in 2002 that saw as many as 2,000 killed, most of them Muslims - he has established a reputation as an economic reformer in part by building on the strengths of Gujarat and marketing them heavily.

Modi's marketing savvy, aided by the Washington lobbying and public affairs firm APCO Worldwide, will be on display at the biennial "Vibrant Gujarat Summit" that begins on Friday.

Initiated by Modi in 2003 to attract investment after the violence and an earthquake in 2001, the event is attended by thousands of corporate officials who pledge billions in investment, although in reality only a fraction has seen the light of day. Of 12.4 trillion rupees ($225 billion) in investment proposed at the 2009 event, just 8.5 percent had been spent as of November 2011, according to state government data.

"Under Modi's regime, there has been significant improvement in infrastructure growth, significant improvement in industrialization, as well as agriculture," said Jahangir Aziz, senior Asia economist at JPMorgan. "But what has been overplayed is initial conditions were actually pretty decent in Gujarat."


The stocky Modi, who favors traditional Indian attire and a clipped white beard, plays down any prime ministerial ambitions.

But his popularity in Gujarat - the BJP won 115 of the state assembly's 182 seats in a December election - has fuelled speculation that he could lead his Hindu nationalist party in 2014 against India's ruling Congress party, which has been beset by corruption scandals and overseen a sharp economic slowdown.

"His economic record in Gujarat is obviously something which matters a lot to the middle classes. That, coupled with strong leadership," said Swapan Dasgupta, an analyst with links to the BJP who expects Modi to be the party standard-bearer in 2014.

Critics say that while Modi has indeed encouraged investment and helped bring reliable electricity and law and order, double-digit growth has not been shared broadly enough. In the five years through March 2010, some states - including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka - did better at bringing down poverty levels.

"Big business people get a lot from the government and scheduled caste people (minorities) get a lot, but people like us who are in between get nothing," said Bhupendra Thakkar, 50, who earns 6,000 rupees ($109) a month selling fruit near Surat's decrepit railway station.


Modi lured Tata Motors to the state in 2008 after the company's plans to build a factory for its low-cost Nano car were thwarted by farmers in West Bengal.

Ford Motor Co and Maruti Suzuki are also building plants in the western state - high profile investments that carry the added benefit of acting as marketing tools.

In the seven years through March 2011, Gujarat's economy grew an annual 10.08 percent at constant prices, against 6.45 percent in the eight years through March 2002 (Modi took office in October 2001), which was still ahead of the all-India average of 6.16 percent. A handful of states, including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, clocked bigger gains over the same recent period.

By comparison, policy gridlock at the national level has contributed to a drop-off in corporate investment, putting India on track to record its slowest annual growth rate in a decade.

Accustomed to getting his way, Modi, 62, could struggle to negotiate the coalition politics that have become the norm at the national level and have hindered attempts at reform by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress-led administration.

"Policymaking has benefited from the fact that the BJP has had absolute majority in the state legislature - an advantage it certainly will not enjoy in the federal parliament," said Anjalika Bardalai, an analyst with the Eurasia Group in London.

Modi has also been able to leverage the business acumen of Gujaratis, a group that has long been known for trading and entrepreneurship and includes a prosperous global diaspora as well as billionaires such as Adani Group chief Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, who controls Reliance Industries, India's most valuable company.

"Modi might not be as successful as he has been here because the business mentality is unique to Gujarat," said Chandrakant Sanghavi, chairman of Sanghavi Exports International, a diamond trader and processor. "It could be prevalent in other states but the ratio may be less." ($1 = 55.0700 Indian rupees)

(Editing by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson)

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Shares buoyed by Alcoa earnings, dollar gains on yen

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares rose slightly on Wednesday, ending two days of losses after aluminum giant Alcoa opened the U.S. earnings season with an optimistic outlook for world demand.

But with a light data day in prospect for Europe, featuring mainly German and Greek industrial output figures, and with European and UK central banks due to meet on Thursday, market movements were expected to be limited.

Shares in Alcoa, the largest aluminum producer in the United States, rose 1.3 percent in after-hours trade after it reported a fourth-quarter profit in line with Wall Street expectations and revenues which beat forecasts.

"Alcoa's results are generally considered a bellwether for the global economy and the fact that the aluminum giant forecasts higher demand in 2013 appeased investors," Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG, wrote in a trading note.

The results lifted Asia stock markets and saw Europe's FTSE Eurofirst 300 index <.fteu3> gain around 0.4 percent in early trade. London's FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi> were up to 0.6 percent higher.

U.S. stock futures suggested a firmer Wall Street start with a 0.15 percent gain. <.l><.eu><.n/>

Corporate profits are expected to be higher than the third quarter's lackluster results, but analysts' estimates are down sharply from where they were in October.

"Expectations are quite low going into the earnings season as we saw a lot of downward guidance in the past few months. There is potential for an upside surprise to come through," Robert Parkes, equity strategist at HSBC Securities, said.

In European fixed income markets German Bund prices dipped slightly as investors prepared for the government's auction of 5 billion euros worth of new five year bonds following successful debt sales in Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland on Tuesday.

The dollar meanwhile was stronger against the Japanese yen on expectations of a much bolder monetary easing from the Bank of Japan at its next meeting later this month.

The U.S. currency was up 0.7 percent at 87.65 yen, having hit an intraday low near 86.83 yen in Tokyo, its lowest in nearly a week and a loss of about 1.9 percent from last Friday's peak of 88.48 yen, its highest since July 2010.

The euro held steady against the dollar at $1.3080,

Brent crude oil was also steady below $112 per barrel as the market awaited the latest trade data from China, the world's biggest energy consumer, due on Thursday.

"What we're seeing in the oil markets is the cautious sentiment playing up ahead of some key economic events this week," said Ker Chung Yang, senior investment analyst at Phillips Futures in Singapore.

However, iron ore jumped to its highest since October 2011, stretching a rally that has lifted prices by more than a third since December as China replenished stockpile's and supply in the spot market remained limited.

(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; editing by Anna Willard)

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Judgment day for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa at Hall

NEW YORK (AP) — Judgment day has arrived for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa to find out their Hall of Fame fates.

With the cloud of steroids shrouding many candidacies, baseball writers may fail for the only the second time in more than four decades to elect anyone to the Hall.

About 600 people are eligible to vote in the BBWAA election, all members of the organization for 10 consecutive years at any point. Results were to be announced at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, with the focus on first-time eligibles that include Bonds, baseball's only seven-time Most Valuable Player, and Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

Since 1965, the only years the writers didn't elect a candidate were when Yogi Berra topped the 1971 vote by appearing on 67 percent of the ballots cast and when Phil Niekro headed the 1996 ballot at 68 percent. Both were chosen the following years when they achieved the 75 percent necessary for election.

"It really would be a shame, especially since the other people going in this year are not among the living, which will make for a rather strange ceremony," said the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Three inductees were chosen last month by the 16-member panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. They will be enshrined during a ceremony at Cooperstown on July 28.

Also on the ballot for the first time are Sosa and Mike Piazza, power hitters whose statistics have been questioned because of the Steroids Era, and Craig Biggio, 20th on the career list with 3,060 hits — all for the Houston Astros. Curt Schilling, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play, is another ballot rookie.

The Hall was prepared to hold a news conference Thursday with any electees. Or to not have one.

Biggio wasn't sure whether the controversy over this year's ballot would keep all candidates out.

"All I know is that for this organization I did everything they ever asked me to do and I'm proud about it, so hopefully, the writers feel strongly, they liked what they saw, and we'll see what happens," Biggio said on Nov. 28, the day the ballot was announced.

Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall's chairman, said last year she was not troubled by voters weighing how to evaluate players in the era of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I think the museum is very comfortable with the decisions that the baseball writers make," she said. "And so it's not a bad debate by any means."

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice for giving an evasive answer in 2003 to a grand jury investigating PEDs. Clemens was acquitted of perjury charges stemming from congressional testimony during which he denied using PEDs.

Sosa, who finished with 609 home runs, was among those who tested positive in MLB's 2003 anonymous survey, The New York Times reported in 2009. He told a congressional committee in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The BBWAA election rules say "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

"Steroid or HGH use is cheating, plain and simple,"'s Wallace Matthews wrote. "And by definition, cheaters lack integrity, sportsmanship and character. Strike one, strike two, strike three."

Several holdovers from last year remain on the 37-player ballot, with top candidates including Jack Morris (67 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56 percent), Lee Smith (51 percent) and Tim Raines (49 percent).

When The Associated Press surveyed 112 eligible voters in late November, Bonds received 45 percent support among voters who expressed an opinion, Clemens 43 percent and Sosa 18 percent. The Baseball Think Factory website compiled votes by writers who made their opinions public and with 159 ballots had everyone falling short. Biggio was at 69 percent, followed by Morris (63), Bagwell (61), Raines (61), Piazza (60), Bonds (43) and Clemens (43).

Morris finished second last year when Barry Larkin was elected and is in his 14th and next-to-last year of eligibility. He could become the player with the highest-percentage of the vote who is not in the Hall, a mark currently held by Gil Hodges at 63 percent in 1983.

Several players who fell just short in the BBWAA balloting later were elected by either the Veterans Committee or Old-Timers' Committee: Nellie Fox (74.7 percent on the 1985 BBWAA ballot), Jim Bunning (74.2 percent in 1988), Orlando Cepeda (73.6 percent in 1994) and Frank Chance (72.5 percent in 1945).

Ace of three World Series winners, Morris finished with 254 victories and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s. His 3.90 ERA, however, is higher than that of any Hall of Famer. Morris will be joined on next year's ballot by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 300-game winners.

If no one is elected this year, there could be a logjam in 2014. Voters may select up to 10 players.

The only certainty is the Hall is pleased with the writers' process.

"While the BBWAA does the actual voting, it only does so at the request of the Hall of Fame," said the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin, the organization's past president. "If the Hall of Fame is troubled, certainly the Hall could make alternate arrangements."

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2012 was hottest year on record in U.S., climate agency says

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The year 2012 was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States, beating the previous record by a full degree in temperature, a government climate agency said on Tuesday.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the average temperature in 2012 in the contiguous United States was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit (12.94 degrees Celsius), 3.2 degrees above the average recorded during the 20th century and 1.0 degree above 1998, until now the hottest on record. The contiguous United States excludes Alaska and Hawaii.

The agency also confirmed what many farmers in the nation’s midsection and many residents of the western part of the country already knew: 2012 was drier than average.

The year was 15th driest year on record, it said. At the peak of the heat in July 2012, 61 percent of the country was in drought, NOAA said, including the nation’s breadbasket of the Midwest, as well as the Southwest and Mountain West, where wildfires charred 9.2 million acres.

The agency’s U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which tracks volatility in temperature and precipitation as well as the number of tropical cyclones making landfall, was twice as active as normal in 2012, the agency said. Only 1998 had more extreme weather, NOAA said.

There were 11 weather-related disasters in the continental United States during 2012, with losses topping $ 1 billion, including Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac and a series of tornadoes in the Great Plains, Texas and the Ohio Valley, it said.

Among the other findings released on Tuesday:

* Every state in the contiguous U.S. experienced above-average annual temperatures in 2012. Nineteen had a record warm year and an additional 26 had one of their 10 warmest.

* Spring started off with the warmest March on record, followed by the fourth-warmest April and the second-warmest May. The season’s temperature was 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average, making it the warmest spring on record, surpassing the previous record by 2.0 degrees, the agency said.

* The above-average temperatures during the spring continued into summer. The heat peaked in July with an average temperature of 76.9 degrees Fahrenheit (24.94 degrees Celsius), 3.6 degrees above average, making it the hottest month ever observed in the continental United States.

* An estimated 99.1 million people – nearly one-third of the nation’s population – experienced 10 or more days during the summer when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said.

* There were fewer-than-average tornadoes in 2012. Although the season got off to a busy start with large outbreaks in March and April, May and June – typically the most active months of the year – there were fewer than half the normal number of tornados. The final tornado count for 2012 was less than 1,000, NOAA said, the smallest number since 2002.

* While Hawaii and Alaska were outside the area where the hottest weather hit last year, NOAA said those two states had unusual weather of their own during the year. Alaska was cooler and slightly wetter than average during 2012, the agency said. In Hawaii, drought conditions spread during the year, with 63.3 percent of the state experiencing drought by the end of the year.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Tim Dobbyn)

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Case of Wall Street greed gone too far

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was one of the executives whose stock award was accelerated to beat higher tax rate.


  • Goldman Sachs granted $65 million in stock to execs before new tax rates began

  • Susan Antilla says the firm's CEO had endorsed higher rates, called for entitlement cuts

  • She says Goldman benefits from the implicit promise that U.S. will bail it out

  • Antilla: It was unseemly for Goldman to rush the payments to shield execs from new rates

Editor's note: Susan Antilla is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a contributor to She has written about finance for more than 30 years. She is author of "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street's Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment." Follow her on Twitter @antillaview.

(CNN) -- Nobody likes to pay taxes, so can you blame the good folks at Goldman Sachs & Co. for doing what they could to avoid the higher rates that kicked in on January 1?

While the rest of us were donning our party clothes on New Year's Eve, the legal worker bees at Goldman were pushing the send button on 10 regulatory filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

By the time the ball dropped in Times Square, regulators had been notified that $65 million in Goldman stock had been granted a month early, helping a cluster of powerful multimillionaire executives trim their tax tab.

Among the 10 who shared that $65 million, Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn and Chief Financial Officer David Viniar wound up with $8.4 million apiece in Goldman stock.

Susan Antilla

Susan Antilla

Blankfein's compensation in 2011 was $16.2 million. Cohn and Viniar that year made $15.8 million. Even Gordon Gekko would be impressed to see that bosses making that much money were able to catch a tax break for a couple hundred thousand.

The 10 executives who skirted 2013's higher rates were not the only Goldmanites who benefited from the "accelerated" vesting. Michael DuVally, a Goldman spokesman, acknowledged there was "a group larger than" the 10 but declined to say how many. DuVally would not comment on who made the decision to grant the shares early.

The shrewd Goldman move is hardly unique among rich business executives or even 99 percenters of more modest means. It was no secret that higher taxes were coming this year, and taxpayers of all shapes and sizes did what they could to ensure that "tax events" would occur in 2012.

Even environmental activist and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore tried, albeit without success, to unload his Current TV to Al Jazeera before the new year dawned.

What makes the Goldman move distasteful is that it wasn't even two months ago that CEO Blankfein was mouthing off in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he endorsed tax increases "especially for the wealthiest" -- along with a plug to cut entitlements to all you freeloaders out there.

If you're pushing the position that the rich should pay more to help fix the deficit, it doesn't quite follow to employ a tax dodge, says Dennis Kelleher, president of the Washington-based public interest group Better Markets Inc.

"Goldman's quickie year-end tax shenanigans deprived the government of what it otherwise would get," he says. "So they either cause the debt to go up, or cause others to pay more by the taxes they are avoiding."

DuVally, the Goldman spokesman, declined to comment when I asked whether it was inconsistent for Goldman to make a move for its executives to avoid taxes after Blankfein endorsed increases for the wealthy.

I've got to hand it to Goldman. The firm is a master of the "have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too" brand of politics and public relations. One minute, Goldman is cranking out press releases about its devotion to women entrepreneurs in its philanthropic "10,000 women" program. The next, it is announcing its annual list of new partners that includes a paltry 10 women but 60 men.

Goldman was a victim on the defensive when Greg Smith, a former employee, wrote a New York Times op-ed on March 14, blasting the firm for having "morally bankrupt people" who needed to be weeded out. You could almost feel sorry for poor Goldman, which shipped out a memo reminding employees that their estimable employer had been named one of the best places to work in the United Kingdom only weeks before the London-based Smith's "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs" essay.

By the time Smith published a book seven months later, the firm had turned ruthless revenge-seeker, even sharing parts of Smith's self-evaluations with the media. A "best place to work?" Really? Careful what you say in the press -- and in your HR file -- if you get your paycheck from a Goldman-style operation.

The brouhaha over Smith's op-ed and book stirred up debate of the "What did you expect of an investment bank operating in capitalistic society?" type.

Fair enough. Banks are not in the philanthropy business -- even if they spend as much time as Goldman does talking about its good deeds and famous "business principles." ("Our clients always come first" is famously No. 1 on the list.)

At Goldman and other "too big to fail" banks, though, employees walk through the doors each morning knowing that the rest of us will be forced to bail them out again should another crisis ensue. We taxpayers provide the insurance policy that they enjoy without ever sending us premiums. In October of 2008, Goldman got $10 billion in taxpayer money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which it ultimately paid back.

Blankfein, like other bank CEOs, would later make the case that Goldman wasn't "relying on" that government help.

But leaf through the tomes of some of the regulators who lived through the crisis, and you start to wonder whether our tax-dodging heroes might be out of jobs today if the public hadn't fronted a bailout.

From "Bull by the Horns," by former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair: Goldman and Morgan Stanley were "teetering on the edge" in the fall of 2008.

From "Bailout: An Inside Account of how Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street," by Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general to oversee the Troubled Assets Relief Program: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke "confided that he believed that Goldman Sachs would have been the next to go" after Morgan Stanley.

We need to change the conversation here.

Goldman and its too-big-to-fail brethren are banks that accepted welfare and are in debt to U.S. taxpayers for averting disaster. This hasn't been about hard-nosed capitalism since those first TARP wire transfers made their way into Goldman Sachs' coffers.

As for the bank's recent tax-reduction maneuver, it's another reminder that Goldman's management is either clueless about how bad it looks or doesn't care. Sometimes bad PR is a just a cost of doing business.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Susan Antilla.

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Attorney: Poisoned lottery winner's widow has 'nothing to hide'

The widow of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning weeks after winning a $1 million lottery jackpot was questioned extensively by Chicago police last month after the medical examiner's office reclassified the death as a homicide, her attorney told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Authorities investigating the death of Urooj Khan also executed a search warrant at the home he had shared with his wife, Shabana Ansari, according to Steven Kozicki, her attorney. Ansari later was interviewed by detectives for more than four hours, answering all their questions, the attorney said.

"She's got nothing to hide," Kozicki said.

The mystery surrounding Khan's death — first reported by the Tribune in a front-page story Monday — has sparked international media interest.

Cook County authorities said Tuesday that they plan to go to court in the next few days for approval to exhume Khan's remains at Rosehill Cemetery. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina said he sent a sworn statement to prosecutors laying out why the body must be exhumed.

"I feel that a complete autopsy is needed for the sake of clarity and thoroughness," Cina said.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, confirmed that papers seeking the exhumation would be filed soon in the Daley Center courthouse.

Khan, who owned a dry cleaning business on the city's North Side, died unexpectedly in July at 46, just weeks after winning a million-dollar lottery prize at a 7-Eleven store near his home. Finding no trauma to his body and no unusual substances in his blood, the medical examiner's office declared his death to be from natural causes and he was buried without an autopsy.

About a week later, a relative told authorities to take a closer look at Khan's death. By early December, comprehensive toxicology tests showed that Khan had died of a lethal amount of cyanide, leading the medical examiner's office to reclassify the death a homicide and prompting police and prosecutors to investigate.

While a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his big lottery win, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. He died before he could collect the winnings — about $425,000 after taxes and because he decided to take a lump-sum payment.

According to court records obtained by the Tribune, Khan's brother has squabbled with Ansari over the money in probate court. The brother, Imtiaz, raised concern that because Khan left no will, his 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage would not get "her fair share" of her father's estate. Khan and Ansari did not have children.

Al-Haroon Husain, an attorney for Ansari in the probate case, said the money was all accounted for and the estate was in the process of being divided up by the court. Under Illinois law, the estate typically would be split evenly between the surviving spouse and Khan's only child, he said.

Kozicki, Ansari's criminal defense attorney, said his client adored her husband and had no financial interest in seeing harm come to him.

"Now in addition to grieving her husband, she's struggling to run the business that he essentially ran while he was alive," Kozicki said. "Once people analyze it, they (would) realize she's in a much worse financial position after his death than she was before."

Reached by phone Tuesday evening at the family dry cleaners, Ansari denied reports that she had fed her husband a traditional Indian meal of ground beef curry before he died. She said he wasn't feeling well after awakening in the middle of the night. She said he sat in a chair and soon collapsed. She then called 911.

Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, speaking Tuesday at an unrelated news conference, remarked that he had never seen a case like this in 32 years in law enforcement.

"So I'll never say that I've seen everything," he told reporters.

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U.S. does not rule out removing all troops from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration does not rule out a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014, the White House said on Tuesday, just days before President Barack Obama is due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The comments by U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes were the clearest signal yet that, despite initial recommendations by the top military commander in Afghanistan to keep as many as 15,000 troops in the country, Obama could opt to remove everyone, as happened in Iraq in 2011.

Asked about consideration of a so-called zero-option once the NATO combat mission ends at the end of 2014, Rhodes said: "That would be an option that we would consider."

Rhodes made clear that a decision on post-2014 troop levels is not expected for months and will be made based on two U.S. security objectives in Afghanistan - denying a safe haven to al Qaeda and ensuring Afghan forces are trained and equipped so that they, and not foreign forces, can secure the nation.

"There are, of course, many different ways of accomplishing those objectives, some of which might involve U.S. troops, some of which might not," Rhodes said, briefing reporters to preview Karzai's visit.

In Iraq, Obama decided to pull out all U.S. forces after failing in negotiations with the Iraqi government to secure immunity for any U.S. troops who would remain behind.

The Obama administration is also insisting on immunity for any U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan, and that unsettled question will figure in this week's talks between Obama and Karzai and their aides.

"As we know from our Iraq experience, if there are no authorities granted by the sovereign state, then there's no room for a follow-on U.S. military mission," said Douglas Lute, special assistant to Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jeffrey Dressler, an Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War who favors keeping a larger presence in Afghanistan, questioned whether the White House comments might be part of a U.S. bargaining strategy with Kabul.

"I can't tell that they're doing that as a negotiating position ... or if it is a no-kidding option," Dressler said. "If you ask me, I don't see how zero troops is in the national security interest of the United States."


U.S. officials have said privately that the White House had asked for options to be developed for keeping between 3,000 and 9,000 troops in the country, a lower range than was put forward initially by General John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Allen suggested keeping between 6,000 and 15,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, a former U.S. commander of the Afghan mission who resigned in 2010, said in an interview with Reuters on Monday there was a value to having an overt U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 - even if it wasn't large.

"The art, I would say, would be having the smallest number so that you give the impression that you are always there to help, but you're never there either as an unwelcome presence or an occupier - or any of the negatives that people might draw," he said, without commenting on any specific numbers.

The United States now has about 66,000 troops in Afghanistan and Rhodes confirmed there would be steady reductions in troop levels through 2014.

Also on the agenda for the Obama-Karzai talks are tentative reconciliation efforts involving Taliban insurgents. Those efforts have shown flickers of life after nearly 10 months of limbo.

Still, hopes for Afghan peace talks have been raised before, only to be dashed. Last March, the Taliban suspended months of quiet discussions with Washington aimed at getting the insurgents and the Karzai government to the peace table.

Washington has also had a strained relationship with Karzai, who in October accused the United States of playing a double game in his country by fighting the war in Afghan villages instead of going after those in Pakistan who support insurgents.

Karzai will give a joint press conference with Obama on Friday and will visit the Pentagon on Thursday, meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the U.S. top military officer, General Martin Dempsey.

Still, it is unclear what, if any, concrete agreements might emerge from Karzai's visit to Washington.

Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at Brookings, cautioned against expecting too much from the visit, which he said is best seen as an opportunity for Washington and Kabul to "shore up this partnership that has had such a troubled status and a weak foundation."

"There are a lot of scars in this relationship. There are a lot of hurt feelings," O'Hanlon said. "It's sort of like a bad marriage and it's very easy for just the wrong word to immediately set people off in an emotional way."

(Additional reporting by David Alexander.; Editing by Eric Beech and Christopher Wilson)

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Wall Street edges off five-year high, awaits earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks lost ground on Monday, as investors drew back from recent gains that lifted the S&P 500 to a five-year high, in anticipation of sluggish growth in corporate profits.

Shares of financial companies dipped after a group of major U.S. banks agreed to pay a total of $8.5 billion to end a government inquiry into faulty mortgage foreclosures. The KBW bank index <.bkx>, a gauge of U.S. bank stocks, was down 0.3 percent.

Other sectors were hit as well, most notably energy and utilities. The S&P 500 energy sector index <.gspe> fell 0.8 percent and the utilities sector <.gspu> was off 1.1 percent.

The day's decline came a session after the S&P 500 finished at a five-year high, boosted by a budget deal and strong economic data. The S&P 500 rose 4.6 percent last week, the best weekly gain in more than a year.

"It's a little bit of taking some risk off the table ahead of profit season, you're not going to see anything all that great" on earnings, said Larry Peruzzi, senior equity trader at Cabrera Capital Markets Inc in Boston.

Earnings are expected to be only slightly better than the third-quarter's lackluster results, and analysts' current estimates are down sharply from where they were in October. Fourth-quarter earnings growth is expected to come in at 2.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Aluminum company Alcoa Inc begins the reporting season by announcing its results after Tuesday's market close. Alcoa shares fell 1.7 percent at $9.10.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 50.92 points, or 0.38 percent, to 13,384.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> fell 4.58 points, or 0.31 percent, to 1,461.89. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> lost 2.84 points, or 0.09 percent, to 3,098.81.

Ten mortgage servicers - including Bank of America , Citigroup , JPMorgan , and Wells Fargo - agreed on Monday to pay $8.5 billion to end a case-by-case review of foreclosures required by U.S. regulators.

In a separate case, Bank of America also announced roughly $11.6 billion of settlements with mortgage finance company Fannie Mae and a $1.8 billion sale of collection rights on home loans.

The bank also entered into agreements with Nationstar Mortgage Holdings and Walter Investment Management to sell about $306 billion of residential mortgage servicing rights.

Bank of America shares lost 0.2 percent at $12.09 while Nationstar Mortgage Holdings jumped 16.8 percent to $38.83.

Citigroup shares were up 0.09 percent to $42.47, and Wells Fargo shares fell 0.5 percent to $34.77.

"The financials probably have the wind behind them now with a lot of the regulations coming out ... the market has to absorb a lot of the gains, and for that reason there's a pullback from this level," said Warren West, principal at Greentree Brokerage Services in Philadelphia.

Shares of U.S. jet maker Boeing Co dropped 2 percent after a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with no passengers on board caught fire at Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday morning. shares hit their highest price ever at $269.22 after Morgan Stanley raised is rating on the stock. Shares were up 3.6 percent at $268.46.

Video-streaming service Netflix Inc shares gained 3.4 percent to $99.20 after it said it will carry previous seasons of some popular shows produced by Time Warner's Warner Bros Television.

Walt Disney Co stock fell 2.3 percent to $50.97. The company started an internal cost-cutting review several weeks ago that may include layoffs at its studio and other units, three people with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.

Volume was lower than average, as 4.78 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE MKT and Nasdaq. This is well below the 2012 average of 6.42 billion per session.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,629 to 1,363, while on the Nasdaq decliners beat advancers 1,438 to 1,066.

(Reporting By Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)

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'Bama bashes Notre Dame 42-14 in BCS title game

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Barely taking time to celebrate their latest national championship, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are ready to get back to work.

That's how they make it look so easy.

In what must be an increasingly frustrating scene for the rest of college football, another season ended with Saban and his players frolicking in the middle of a confetti-strewn field. Eddie Lacy ran all over Notre Dame, AJ McCarron turned in another dazzling performance through the air, and the Tide defense shut down the Fighting Irish until it was no longer in doubt.

The result was a 42-14 blowout in the BCS title game Monday night, not only making Alabama a back-to-back champion, but a full-fledged dynasty with three crowns in four years.

This one was especially satisfying to Saban.

"People talk about how the most difficult thing is to win your first championship," he said. "Really, the most difficult one to win is the next one, because there's always a feeling of entitlement."

Rest assured, that feeling won't last long in Tuscaloosa.

While Saban insisted he was "happy as hell" and "has never been prouder of a group of young men," it was hard to tell. He was already talking about reporting to the office Wednesday morning and getting started on next season.

"One of these days, when I'm sitting on the side of the hill watching the stream go by, I'll probably figure it out even more," Saban said. "But what about next year's team? You've got to think about that, too."

So, in short order, he'll be talking with underclassmen about entering the NFL draft, making sure everyone goes back to class on schedule, and getting started on that next depth chart.

"The Process," as he calls it, never stops.

"We're going to enjoy it for 24 hours or so," Saban said.

No. 2 Alabama quieted the top-ranked Irish on the very first drive — so much for waking up the echoes — and could've started the celebration at halftime, heading to the locker room with a commanding 28-0 lead.

The Tide (13-1) pushed it out to 35-0 midway through the third quarter on the third of McCarron's four touchdown passes, a 34-yarder to Amari Cooper with a defender nowhere in sight.

At that point, Alabama was on a 69-0 blitz in national title games, having scored the last 13 points in its 2010 triumph over Texas and blanked LSU 21-0 for last year's BCS crown.

When Everett Golson finally scored for Notre Dame (12-1) with about 4 minutes remaining in the third, it snapped a scoreless stretch of nearly two full games — 108 minutes and 7 seconds — by the Tide.

"It was just a complete game by the offense, defense and special teams," said Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, the defensive MVP with eight tackles, one of them behind the line.

Despite the dazzling numbers by McCarron — 20 of 28 for 264 yards — he was denied a second straight offensive MVP award in the title game. That went to Lacy, who finished with 140 yards rushing on 20 carries and scored two TDs. Not a bad finish for the junior, who surely helped his status in the NFL draft should he decide to turn pro.

Lacy also was MVP of the Southeastern Conference championship game, rushing for a career-best 181 yards in the thrilling victory over Georgia that gave Alabama a chance to repeat as champion.

The Tide will have some big holes to fill, no matter who decides to leave school early, with offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and cornerback Dee Milliner also pondering their draft prospects. There's not a lot of seniors on the roster, but All-America linemen Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack and safety Robert Lester are among those who definitely won't be back.

But Alabama had some huge holes to fill a year ago, too, with five players drafted in the first 35 picks.

That worked out just fine.

The Crimson Tide wrapped up its ninth Associated Press national title, breaking a tie with Notre Dame for the most by any school and gaining a measure of redemption for a bitter loss to the Irish almost four decades ago: the epic 1973 Sugar Bowl in which Ara Parseghian's team edged Bear Bryant's powerhouse 24-23.

"The process is ongoing," said Saban, tightlipped as ever and showing little emotion after the fourth BCS national title of his coaching career. "We have a 24-hour rule around here. We enjoy everything for 24 hours."

Notre Dame went from unranked in the preseason to the top spot in the rankings by the end of the regular season, winning two games in overtime and three other times by seven points or less.

But the long wait for a championship — the Irish haven't finished No. 1 since 1988 — will have to wait at least one more year.

"They just did what Alabama does," moaned Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist, trying to digest an embarrassing loss in his final college game.

Golson will be back.

He completed his first season as the starter by going 21 of 36 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But the young quarterback got no help from the running game, which was held to 32 yards — 170 below its season average.

"We've got to get physically stronger, continue close the gap there," said Brian Kelly, the Irish's third-year coach. "Just overall, we need to see what it looks like. Our guys clearly know what it looks like now — a championship football team. That's back-to-back national champions. That's what it looks like. That's what you measure yourself against there. It's pretty clear across the board what we have to do."

Kelly vowed this was only beginning, insisting the bar has been raised in South Bend no matter what the outcome.

"We made incredible strides to get to this point," he said. "Now it's pretty clear what we've got to do to get over the top."

Alabama is already there but still longing for more, not content even after the second-biggest rout of the BCS era that began in 1999. The only title game that was more of a blowout was USC's 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl, a title that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.

You could almost hear television sets around the country flipping to other channels as Alabama poured it on, a hugely anticipated matchup between two of the nation's most storied programs reduced to a laugher when the Tide scored on its first three possessions.

"We're going for it next year again," said offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, only a sophomore and already the owner of two rings. "And again. And again. And again. I love to win. That's why I came here."


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