Title games feature Ravens-Pats, 49ers-Falcons


One game is a rematch. The other might feel like one — at least to one of the teams.


For the second straight year in the AFC, the New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.


In the NFC, it will be San Francisco traveling to Atlanta, with the Falcons defense trying to stop a versatile, running quarterback for the second straight week.


"Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are mobile quarterbacks who throw the ball at extremely accurate levels," Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We can use this game as a cheat sheet to prepare for next week."


On Sunday, the Falcons barely got past Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, who overcame a 20-point deficit to take a one-point lead, but gave it up after Matt Ryan drove Atlanta into field goal range and Matt Bryant made a 49-yard kick with 8 seconds left.


Atlanta is the only team not making a repeat appearance in the NFL's final four. Last year, it was the Giants playing, and beating, the 49ers for the NFC title.


On Saturday, Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and rushed for 181 — a playoff record for a quarterback — to defeat Green Bay 45-31.


"We're one step closer to where we want to be," said Kaepernick. San Francisco hasn't been to the Super Bowl since 1995, when Steve Young led the 49ers to their fifth Lombardi Trophy.


Though the Niners must travel cross country for the game, they opened as 3-point favorites in a meeting of teams that played twice a year until 2003, when Atlanta was moved from the NFC West to the NFC South. Their only previous playoff meeting was a 20-18 win for the Falcons in the 1998 divisional playoffs. Atlanta won at Minnesota the next week to make its only Super Bowl.


San Francisco's 20-17 overtime loss last year to the Giants was part of a tense day of football that began with New England's 23-20 victory over the Ravens in the AFC title game.


In that game, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game with 11 seconds left.


This season, Justin Tucker beat out Cundiff for the kicker's job. Tucker hit a 47-yarder against Denver on Saturday to lift the Ravens to a 38-35 win in double overtime, extending Ray Lewis' career for at least one more week and putting the 17-year veteran one win away from his second Super Bowl.


"We fought hard to get back to this point and we're definitely proud of being here," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We feel like it's going to take a lot for somebody to come and kick us off that field come the AFC championship game."


Lewis and the Ravens will have to stop the NFL's most potent offense. The Patriots put up 457 yards in a 41-28 victory over Houston, which left them one win away from their sixth Super Bowl in the 2000s.


"I think the two best teams are in the final," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "Baltimore certainly deserve to be here and so do we."


The Patriots were made early 9½-point favorites against the Ravens.


These teams met in the regular season and that game was also decided by a kick — Tucker's 27-yard field goal that sneaked through the right upright for a 31-30 victory. Or did it?


While the Ravens were celebrating, Pats coach Bill Belichick ran to midfield and grabbed a replacement official's arm as he tried to exit the field. The NFL fined Belichick $50,000 for the gesture.


New England is the even-money favorite in Vegas to win the Super Bowl. San Francisco is next at 2-1, followed by Atlanta (5-1) and Baltimore (8-1).


Among the possible Super Bowl story lines:


—The Harbaugh Bowl. Jim Harbaugh coaches the 49ers and John Harbaugh coaches the Ravens.


—A rematch of San Francisco's 41-34 win at New England on Dec. 16 — one of the most entertaining games of the regular season.


___


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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NH case against 2 big oil companies gets underway






CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The state of New Hampshire is launching its case against two major oil companies in what is expected to be the longest and most complex trial in state history.


The state’s lawyers say ExxonMobil and Citgo should pay more than $ 700 million in damages to monitor and clean up groundwater contamination caused by the gas additive MTBE — methyl tertiary butyl ether — now banned in New Hampshire.






Lawyers for the oil companies say they have cleaned up their own sites and that contamination elsewhere was caused by third parties not named in the suit.


The lawsuit — filed in 2003 — is the only one brought by a state to reach trial on the issue of MTBE groundwater contamination. Most of the other MTBE cases nationwide were brought by municipalities, water districts or individual well owners, and all but one was settled or dismissed.


The jury trial begins Monday and is expected to last four months. It is being held in a federal courtroom on loan to the state so as not to monopolize one of three courtrooms at Merrimack Superior Court.


More than 50,000 exhibits have been marked and the witness list numbers 230.


It was clear from a pretrial conference Friday that jurors will be confronted with an alphabet soup of acronyms for various funds and agencies, will have to grapple with complex statistical analyses and will hear contradictory testimony by expert witnesses.


MTBE had been used in gasoline since the 1970s to increase octane and reduce smog-causing emissions. While it was credited with cutting air pollution, it was found in the late 1990s to contaminate drinking water when gasoline is spilled or leaks into surface or groundwater. New Hampshire banned its use in 2007.


Roughly 60 percent of New Hampshire’s population gets its drinking water from wells, which drives up the estimated cost to test and treat contaminated water sources.


Energy News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Is China easing up on local media?




A protester calls for greater media freedom outside the headquarters of Nanfang Media Group in Guangzhou on Jan. 9.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Young: Handling of Southern Weekly row demonstrated tolerant side of new leadership

  • Traditional, newer media can serve as tools for achieving goals in China's modernization

  • The fight against corruption in China is at the top of the list for incoming leader, Xi Jinping

  • Young: Media has also emerged as an important tool for combating other social problems




Editor's note: Doug Young teaches financial journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai and is the author of The Party Line: How the Media Dictates Public Opinion in Modern China published by John Wiley & Sons. He also writes daily on his blog, Young's China Business Blog, commenting on the latest developments in China's fast-moving corporate scene.


Shanghai, China (CNN) -- China's traditional iron-handed approach to the media has taken a surprise turn of tolerance with Beijing's soft handling of a recent dispute with local reporters, in what could well become a more open attitude toward the media under the incoming administration of presumed new President Xi Jinping.


The new openness is being driven in large part by pragmatism, as the government realizes that both traditional and newer media can serve as powerful tools for achieving many of its goals in the country's modernization.


The recent conflict between reporters at the progressive Southern Weekly and local propaganda officials over a censorship incident left many guessing how the government would respond to the first clash of its kind in China for more than 20 years. The result was a surprisingly mild approach, including mediation by a high-level government official and a vague promise for less censorship in the future.


Read: Censorship protest a test for China


The unusually tolerant tack could well reflect a new attitude by Xi and other incoming leaders set to take control of China for the next decade, all of whom have come to realize the media can serve many important functions beyond its traditional role as a propaganda machine.


At the top of Xi's list is the fight against corruption, a problem he has mentioned frequently since taking the helm of the Communist Party last year. The party has tried to tackle the problem for years using its own internal investigations, but progress was slow until recently due to protection many officials received through their own sprawling networks of internal relationships, known locally as guanxi.










Read: Corruption as China's top priority


All that began to change in the last two years with the rapid rise of social media, most notably the Twitter-like microblogs known as Weibo that are now a pervasive part of the Chinese Internet landscape and count hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese among their users. Those social media have become an important weapon for exposing corruption, allowing thousands of ordinary citizens to pool their resources and build cases against officials they suspect of using their influence for personal gain.


This increasingly sophisticated machine was on prominent display last year in a case involving Yang Dacai, a local official in northwestern Shaanxi province who infuriated the online community by smiling at the site of a horrific accident scene. Netizens quickly turned their outrage into an online investigation, and uncovered photos of him wearing several luxury watches he could hardly afford on his government salary. As a result, the government ultimately opened an investigation into the matter and Yang was sacked from his posts.


In addition to its role in battling corruption, the media has also emerged as an important tool for combating and addressing many of the other social problems that China is facing in its rapid modernization. Barely a week goes by without a report on the latest national food safety scandal or case of illegal pollution in both traditional and social media, with such reports often followed by government investigations.


Beijing leaders have also discovered that the media can also be an important vehicle for improving communication between the government and general public -- something that was a low priority in previous eras when officials only cared about pleasing their higher-up party bosses.


Following a Beijing directive in late 2011, most local government agencies and other organizations have all established microblog accounts, which they use to keep the public informed about their latest activities and seek feedback on upcoming plans. Such input has become a valuable way to temper traditional public mistrust toward the government, which historically didn't make much effort to include the public in any of its internal discussions.


Lastly, the government has also discovered that media, especially social media, can be an effective tool in gauging public opinion on everything from broader national topics like inflation down to very local issues like land redevelopment. Such feedback was difficult to get in the past due to interference by local officials, who tried to filter out or downplay anything with negative overtones and play things up to their own advantage. As a result, central government officials often received incomplete pictures of what was happening in their own country.


With all of these valuable roles to play, the media has become an increasingly important part of Beijing's strategy in executing many of its top priorities.


The government also realizes that a certain degree of openness is critical to letting the media perform many of those roles, which may explain its relatively tolerant approach in the recent Southern Weekly conflict. Such tolerance is likely to continue under Xi's administration, helping to shift more power towards a field of increasingly emboldened reporters at both traditional and new media and away from their traditional propaganda masters.


Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.


Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Doug Young.






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France bombs Islamist strongholds in north Mali


BAMAKO/PARIS (Reuters) - French fighter jets pounded Islamist rebel strongholds deep in northern Mali on Sunday as Paris poured more troops into the capital Bamako, awaiting a West African force to dislodge al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the country's north.


The attacks on Islamist positions near the ancient desert trading town of Timbuktu and Gao, the largest city in the north, marked a decisive intensification on the third day of the French mission, striking at the heart of the vast area seized by rebels in April.


France is determined to end Islamist domination of northern Mali, which many fear could act as a base for attacks on the West and for links with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.


Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France's sudden intervention on Friday had prevented the advancing rebels from seizing Bamako. He vowed that air strikes would continue.


"The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe," he told French television.


Residents and rebel leaders had reported air raids early on Sunday in the towns of Lere and Douentza in central Mali, forcing Islamists to withdraw. As the day progressed, French jets struck targets further to the north, including near the town of Kidal, the epicenter of the rebellion.


In Gao, a dusty town on the banks of the Niger river where Islamists have imposed an extreme form of sharia law, residents said French jets pounded the airport and rebel positions. A huge cloud of black smoke rose from the militants' camp in the city's north, and trucks ferried dead and wounded to hospital.


"The planes are so fast you can only hear their sound in the sky," resident Soumaila Maiga said by telephone. "We are happy, even though it is frightening. Soon we will be delivered."


Paris said four Rafale jets flew from France to strike rebel training camps, logistics depots and infrastructure around Gao with the aim of weakening the rebels and preventing them from returning southward.


"We blocked the terrorists' advance and from today what we've started to do is to destroy the terrorists' bases behind the front line," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told LCI television.


France has deployed about 550 soldiers to Mali under "Operation Serval" -- named after an African wildcat -- split between Bamako and the town of Mopti, 500 km (300 miles) north.


In Bamako, a Reuters cameraman saw more than 100 French troops disembark on Sunday from a military cargo plane at the international airport, on the outskirts of the capital.


The city's streets were calm, with the sun streaking through the dusty air as the seasonal Harmattan wind blew from the Sahara. Many cars had French flags draped from the windows to celebrate Paris's intervention.


"We thank France for coming to our aid," said resident Mariam Sidibe. "We hope it continues till the north is free."


AFRICAN TROOPS EXPECTED


More than two decades of peaceful elections had earned Mali a reputation as a bulwark of democracy, but that image unraveled in a matter of weeks after a military coup in March which left a power vacuum for the Islamist rebellion.


France convened a U.N. Security Council meeting for Monday to discuss Mali. French President Francois Hollande's intervention has won plaudits from leaders in Europe, Africa and the United States but it is not without risks.


It raised the threat level for eight French hostages held by al Qaeda allies in the Sahara and for the 30,000 French expatriates living in neighboring, mostly Muslim states.


Concerned about reprisals, France has tightened security at public buildings and on public transport. It advised its 6,000 citizens to leave Mali as spokesmen for Ansar Dine and al Qaeda's north Africa wing AQIM promised to exact revenge.


In its first casualty of the campaign, Paris said a French pilot was killed on Friday when rebels shot down his helicopter.


Hours earlier, a French intelligence officer held hostage in Somalia by al Shabaab extremists linked to al Qaeda was killed in a failed commando raid to free him.


Hollande says France's aim is simply to support a mission by West African bloc ECOWAS to retake the north, as mandated by a U.N. Security Council resolution in December.


With Paris pressing West African nations to send their troops quickly, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who holds the rotating ECOWAS chairmanship, kick-started the operation to deploy 3,300 African soldiers.


Ouattara, installed in power with French military backing in 2011, convened a summit of the 15-nation bloc for Saturday in Ivory Coast to discuss the mission.


"The troops will start arriving in Bamako today and tomorrow," said Ali Coulibaly, Ivory Coast's African Integration Minister. "They will be convoyed to the front."


The United States is providing transportation and communications support for the push against the Islamist rebels, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The U.S. support also includes intelligence sharing, the official said, without elaborating. Earlier on Sunday, another U.S. official said Washington was considering sending a small number of unarmed surveillance drones.


Britain and Canada have also promised logistical support.


Former French colonies Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso have all pledged to deploy 500 troops within days. In contrast, regional powerhouse Nigeria, due to lead the ECOWAS force, has suggested it would take time to train and equip the troops.


HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCHES


France, however, appeared to have assumed control of the operation on the ground. Its air strikes allowed Malian troops to drive the Islamists out of the strategic town of Konna, which they had briefly seized this week in their southward advance.


Calm returned to Konna after three nights of combat as the Malian army crushed any remaining rebel fighters. A senior army official said more than 100 rebels had been killed.


"Soldiers are patrolling the streets and have encircled the town," one resident, Madame Coulibaly, told Reuters by phone. "They are searching houses for arms or hidden Islamists."


Analysts expressed doubt, however, that African nations would be able to mount a swift operation to retake north Mali -- a harsh, sparsely populated terrain the size of France -- as neither the equipment nor ground troops were prepared.


"My first impression is that this is an emergency patch in a very dangerous situation," said Gregory Mann, associate professor of history at Columbia University, who specializes in francophone Africa and Mali in particular.


While France and its allies may be able to drive rebel fighters from large towns, they could struggle to prise them from mountain redoubts in the region of Kidal, 300 km (200 miles) northeast of Gao.


Human Rights Watch said at least 11 civilians, including three children, had been killed in the fighting. A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders in neighboring Mauritania said about 200 Malian refugees had fled across the border to a camp at Fassala and more were on their way.


In Bamako, civilians tried to contribute to the war effort.


"We are very proud and relieved that the army was able to drive the jihadists out of Konna. We hope it will not end there, that is why I'm helping in my own way," said civil servant Ibrahima Kalossi, 32, one of over 40 people who queued to donate blood for wounded soldiers.


(Additional reporting by Adama Diarra, Tiemoko Diallo and Rainer Schwenzfeier in Bamako, Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg, Joe Bavier in Abidjan, Catherine Bremer, Leila Aboud and John Irish in Paris and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Will Waterman and Roger Atwood)



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Wall Street Week Ahead: Attention turns to financial earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After over a month of watching Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street can get back to what it knows best: Wall Street.


The first full week of earnings season is dominated by the financial sector - big investment banks and commercial banks - just as retail investors, free from the "fiscal cliff" worries, have started to get back into the markets.


Equities have risen in the new year, rallying after the initial resolution of the fiscal cliff in Washington on January 2. The S&P 500 on Friday closed its second straight week of gains, leaving it just fractionally off a five-year closing high hit on Thursday.


An array of financial companies - including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase - will report on Wednesday. Bank of America and Citigroup will join on Thursday.


"The banks have a read on the economy, on the health of consumers, on the health of demand," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.


"What we're looking for is demand. Demand from small business owners, from consumers."


EARNINGS AND ECONOMIC EXPECTATIONS


Investors were greeted with a slightly better-than-anticipated first week of earnings, but expectations were low and just a few companies reported results.


Fourth quarter earnings and revenues for S&P 500 companies are both expected to have grown by 1.9 percent in the past quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


Few large corporations have reported, with Wells Fargo the first bank out of the gate on Friday, posting a record profit. The bank, however, made fewer mortgage loans than in the third quarter and its shares were down 0.8 percent for the day.


The KBW bank index <.bkx>, a gauge of U.S. bank stocks, is up about 30 percent from a low hit in June, rising in six of the last eight months, including January.


Investors will continue to watch earnings on Friday, as General Electric will round out the week after Intel's report on Thursday.


HOUSING, INDUSTRIAL DATA ON TAP


Next week will also feature the release of a wide range of economic data.


Tuesday will see the release of retail sales numbers and the Empire State manufacturing index, followed by CPI data on Wednesday.


Investors and analysts will also focus on the housing starts numbers and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve factory activity index on Thursday. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment numbers are due on Friday.


Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis, said he expected to see housing numbers continue to climb.


"They won't be that surprising if they're good, they'll be rather eye-catching if they're not good," he said. "The underlying drive of the markets, I think, is economic data. That's been the catalyst."


POLITICAL ANXIETY


Worries about the protracted fiscal cliff negotiations drove the markets in the weeks before the ultimate January 2 resolution, but fear of the debt ceiling fight has yet to command investors' attention to the same extent.


The agreement was likely part of the reason for a rebound in flows to stocks. U.S.-based stock mutual funds gained $7.53 billion after the cliff resolution in the week ending January 9, the most in a week since May 2001, according to Thomson Reuters' Lipper.


Markets are unlikely to move on debt ceiling news unless prominent lawmakers signal that they are taking a surprising position in the debate.


The deal in Washington to avert the cliff set up another debt battle, which will play out in coming months alongside spending debates. But this alarm has been sounded before.


"The market will turn the corner on it when the debate heats up," Prudential Financial's Krosby said.


The CBOE Volatility index <.vix> a gauge of traders' anxiety, is off more than 25 percent so far this month and it recently hit its lowest since June 2007, before the recession began.


"The market doesn't react to the same news twice. It will have to be more brutal than the fiscal cliff," Krosby said. "The market has been conditioned that, at the end, they come up with an agreement."


(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; editing by Rodrigo Campos)



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Kaepernick delivers, 49ers beat Packers 45-31


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The unproven kid thoroughly beat the former Super Bowl champion and reigning MVP.


With a strong arm that allowed him to pick the Packers apart from the pocket and speedy legs that helped him break free for big gains, Colin Kaepernick did a little bit of everything in a record-setting, sensational playoff debut — and Aaron Rodgers just couldn't keep up.


Kaepernick passed for 263 yards and ran the San Francisco 49ers right back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 win over Green Bay in an NFC divisional game Saturday night.


Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback playoff record 181 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree. Next up for the Niners: a game on Jan. 20 for a spot in the Super Bowl, against the winner of Sunday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Falcons at Atlanta.


"It feels good. We're one step closer to where we want to be," Kaepernick said. "I feel like I had a lot to prove. A lot of people doubted my ability to lead this team."


And what a playoff debut it was by the second-year pro making just his eighth NFL start. No doubting Jim Harbaugh's big midseason gamble switching quarterbacks now.


Rodgers never got in sync for the Packers (12-6), finishing 26 of 39 for 257 yards with two touchdowns.


Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to topping the rushing mark of 119 yards set by Michael Vick in 2005 against St. Louis. Crabtree caught TD passes of 12 and 20 yards in the second quarter and wound up with nine receptions and 119 yards for the Niners (12-4-1) in the NFC divisional matchup.


Kaepernick, sporting a burgundy beanie partially covering his head, was greeted at his locker after the game by former 49ers quarterback John Brodie.


San Francisco had 579 total yards with 323 on the ground, scoring its third-most points in the franchise's storied playoff history.


"Our offensive line did an amazing job today," Kaepernick said. "They shut everybody down inside. Our receivers, our tight ends, blocked great outside, and our running backs were running hard, so it made it easier on me."


Frank Gore and Anthony Dixon each added 2-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter for the No. 2 seed NFC West champions, slim favorites on their home field in a rematch of Week 1. They added to their memorable night by setting a franchise postseason record for yards rushing, 119 of those by Gore to complement Kaepernick.


Rodgers, the former Cal star passed up by San Francisco with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, never got going. Rodgers rooted for the Niners as a kid in Northern California.


This was another early exit for the Packers, who lost in the divisional playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants a year ago and were denied a chance to defend the title they won after the 2010 season.


Those Green Bay road stars of two years ago — they won three away from Lambeau Field on the way to the Super Bowl — didn't have it this time against San Francisco's stingy defense and a no-fear, second-year quarterback who would not be denied. A kid who was born in Milwaukee and grew up a big Green Bay fan until the day he was drafted in 2011 out of Nevada.


"I didn't know how fast he was," Green Bay defensive back Charles Woodson said. "Coming in I really never paid attention to it. But he is fast."


San Francisco advanced to back-to-back NFC title games for the first time since reaching three in a row following the 1992-94 seasons, with 1994 their last trip to the Super Bowl.


With the sellout crowd at Candlestick Park waving red flags reading "Quest for Six" — a sixth Super Bowl title, that is — Kaepernick did his part and then some to deliver in the first key step. Even after an early interception that gave Green Bay all the momentum in a hostile road stadium.


Kaepernick topped Vick's mark with the 56-yard keeper on an option play in the third quarter. That gave Kaepernick 163 yards on 12 carries, also setting a 49ers franchise record for the postseason.


"The execution for the 49ers on the read option was excellent, but our issues were bigger than that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We did not a very good job of keeping him the pocket. He was able to get out of the pocket for a number of big conversions."


Kaepernick joined Jay Cutler in 2011 and Otto Graham in both 1954 and '55 as the only players with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game.


David Akers kicked a 36-yard field goal moments before halftime to give San Francisco a 24-21 lead at intermission after Green Bay tried to ice the struggling veteran by calling timeout before his kick.


Mason Crosby's 31-yard field goal tied the game at 24 midway through the third quarter, then Kaepernick took over again. San Francisco's defense handled the rest.


Kaepernick had 11 carries for 107 yards rushing by halftime.


Pick six, no problem.


The strong-armed Kaepernick brushed off the interception he tossed on the fourth play of the game that Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown, then took control with his pinpoint passing to his favorite go-to guy — Crabtree — and with his quick-burst ability out of the pocket.


"He does a great job of responding," Harbaugh said. "He has done that any time there has been an interception he has thrown, a safety or a turnover, he's responded with a scoring drive. That's rare. I think that's a rare quality. So far he's shown that he's got that ability to come back."


San Francisco, fueled all year by its near miss in overtime of the NFC title game, made it two victories against Rodgers and Co. this season after a 30-22 Week 1 win at Lambeau Field.


Kaepernick bounced back from the early interception and again after a second-quarter taunting penalty in which he threw the ball down in the face of safety M.D. Jennings after being hit by Jennings and Erik Walden. Center Jonathan Goodwin grabbed Kaepernick in an effort to settle him down after his 15-yard run was negated by the 15-yard flag.


Two plays later, Kaepernick found Crabtree for his 20-yard TD as San Francisco capitalized on another Packers turnover.


Rodgers answered right back on the Packers' next chance, driving his team 80 yards on six plays and hitting James Jones on a 20-yard touchdown of his own that tied the game at 21. Green Bay got help from a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Dashon Goldson for a helmet-to-helmet hit on DuJuan Harris.


"We felt like we gift-wrapped them 14 points off turnovers in the first half and our defense was playing all right," Rodgers said. "And then we just didn't get it done in the second half. I knew we were going to have to score some points. We knew we were going to have to put up at least 38 points."


Former California receiver Jeremy Ross fumbled Andy Lee's punt early in the second and C.J. Spillman recovered as San Francisco got the ball back at the 9. Kaepernick threw a 12-yard TD pass to Crabtree three plays later.


Rodgers' streak of 183 passes without an interception spanning the previous five games ended when Tarell Brown picked off the ball on a deep third-down throw in the second quarter.


"We expected them to try to get him out on the perimeter. But we didn't expect to let him do what he did," Woodson said. "Give him a lot of credit. He played a great game. He made a lot of great plays out there today. It was hard to swallow."


Harris ran 18 yards for a score in the final minute of the first quarter as Green Bay took a 14-7 lead. Rodgers connected with James Jones on a 44-yard completion one play earlier before Harris easily ran right up the middle into the end zone for a Packers team that managed 45 total yards rushing in the season-opening loss.


Such moments were few against a 49ers defense happy to welcome back All-Pro lineman Justin Smith after he missed the final two regular-season games with a partially torn left triceps muscle.


Notes: The Green Bay defense gave up the most total yards (579), yards rushing (323) and second-most points in the playoffs in franchise history. ... San Francisco improved to 13-3 at home in divisional playoff games. ... The 49ers had 48 offensive plays in the first half to 20 by Green Bay.


___


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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EPA issues Shell violation notices






ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has issued Royal Dutch Shell PLC notices of air quality violations for emissions involving its Arctic drilling operation in 2012.


The EPA late Thursday issued the notices saying that Shell violated permits for nitrous oxides emissions coming from its drill rig and drill ship. The federal agency says Shell had multiple permit violations for each ship.






The two ships are the drill rig Kulluk, which recently grounded near Kodiak Island when it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance and broke free in a storm. The damaged drill rig has been refloated and taken to a sheltered harbor. The drill ship Noble Discoverer remains in Seward after the Coast Guard found safety problems.


Shell is trying to revise its air permit to operate in the Arctic.


Energy News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Quest: U.S. economy to dominate Davos




The United States and the sorry state of its political and budgetary process will be the center of attention at Davos, writes Quest




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Quest: Davos is a chance to see where the political and economic landmines are in 2013

  • Quest: People will be speculating about how dysfunctional the U.S. political process has become

  • Quest: Davos has been consumed by eurozone sovereign debt crises for three years




Editor's note: Watch Quest Means Business on CNN International, 1900pm GMT weekdays. Quest Means Business is presented by CNN's foremost international business correspondent Richard Quest. Follow him on Twitter.


(CNN) -- It is that time of the year, again. Come January no sooner have the Christmas trees been taken down, as the winter sales are in full vicious flood the world of business start thinking about going to the world economic forum, better known as Davos.


For the past three years Davos has been consumed by the eurozone sovereign debt crises.


As it worsened the speculation became ever more frantic.....Will Greece leave the euro? Will the eurozone even survive? Was this all just a big German trick to run Europe? More extreme, more dramatic, more nonsense.


Can China be the biggest engine of growth for the global economy. Round and round in circles we have gone on these subjects until frankly I did wonder if there was anything else to say short of it's a horrible mess!


This year there is a new bogey man. The US and in particular the sorry state of the country's political and budgetary process will, I have little doubt, be the center of attention.


Read more: More 'cliffs' to come in new Congress


Not just because Congress fluffed its big test on the fiscal cliff, but because in doing so it created many more deadlines, any one of which could be deeply unsettling to global markets... There is the $100 billion budget cutbacks postponed for two months by the recent agreement; postponed to the end of February.


At exactly the same time as the US Treasury's ability to rob Peter to pay Paul on the debt ceiling crises comes to a head.


Read more: Both Obama, GOP set for tough talks ahead


The Treasury's "debt suspension period" is an extraordinary piece of financial chicanery that if we tried it with our credit cards would get us locked up!! Then there is the expiration of the latest continuing resolution, the authority by which congress is spending money.


There is the terrifying prospect that all these budget woes will conflate into one big political fist fight as the US faces cutbacks, default or shutdown!!


I am being alarmist. Most rational people believe that the worst sting will be taken out of this tail....not before we have all been to the edge...and back. And that is what Davos will have on its mind.


People will be speculating about how dysfunctional the US political process has become and is it broken beyond repair (if they are not asking that then they should be...)




They will be pondering which is more serious for risk...the US budget and debt crises or the Eurozone sovereign debt debacle. A classic case of between the devil and the deep blue sea.




The official topic this year is Resilient Dynamism. I have absolutely no idea what this means. None whatsoever. It is another of WEF's ersatz themes dreamt up to stimulate debate in what Martin Sorrell has beautifully terms "davosian language" In short everyone interprets it as they will.




What I will enjoy, as I do every year, is the chance to hear the global players speak and the brightest and best thinkers give us their take on the global problems the atmosphere becomes febrile as the rock-stars of finance and economics give speeches, talk on panels and give insight.




Of course comes of these musings, it never does at Davos. That's not the point. This is a chance to take stock and see where the political and economic landmines are in 2013. I like to think of Davos as the equivalent of Control/Alt/Delete. It allows us to reboot.


We leave at least having an idea of where people stand on the big issues provided you can see through the panegyrics of self congratulatory back slapping that always takes place whenever you get like minded people in one place... And this year, I predict the big issue being discussed in coffee bars, salons and fondue houses will be the United States and its budgetary woes.







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Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz dies from suicide









Even as an eighth-grader in Winnetka, Aaron Swartz showed signs of the computer wizardry that would lead to his Internet activism and development of software used by websites worldwide.

But the Highland Park native who had attended North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka and as a 13-year-old had created an online public encyclopedia for a school competition got into trouble as an adult.






He faced trial in April on federal charges that he had illegally downloaded millions of journal articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the intention of posting them to a file-sharing site.

The prospect of the trial was too much for him, his family said. Swartz, 26, committed suicide inside his New York apartment, authorities said Saturday.

In a statement sent through a spokesman, his family said Swartz hanged himself the day before out of worry that he faced more than 30 years in federal prison.

“Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable — these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter,” the statement in part read.

Along with developing an early version of rich site summary, or RSS, technology, Swartz is credited with co-founding the popular Reddit website that allows users to vote for their favorite news stories of the day.

Increasingly active in efforts to make information more readily available on the Internet, he also founded Demand Progress, a lobbying group that advocates for civil liberties and government reform.

In that role, Swartz led a successful effort to stymie the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011, which sought to restrict access to websites that illegally shared copyrighted property. The bill was eventually withdrawn after widespread protests.

“He refined advocacy for the progressive and open-information movement,” said David Moon, program director for Demand Progress. “He was ultimately pretty brilliant at that.”

On Saturday, Swartz’s death spurred an outpouring of sympathy and tributes throughout social media, many of which hailed his multiple accomplishments at a young age.

Several commenters heaped scorn upon federal prosecutors in Massachusetts for indicting Swartz in 2011. He was accused of downloading millions of academic journal articles and breaking into a university closet to plug into the school’s computer network, which prompted charges of computer fraud, wire fraud and other crimes. Swartz had pleaded not guilty.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts declined to comment, citing the family’s privacy.

Moon, who met Swartz in 2010 and last saw him about a month ago, declined to speak in detail about the circumstances surrounding his death.

“The stresses he was facing was obvious, and those who know him can attest to that,” Moon said.

Tribune wire services contributed.

Saho@tribune.com
cdrhodes@tribune.com

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Russia rejects Assad exit as precondition for Syria deal


MOSCOW/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russia voiced support on Saturday for international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi but insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's exit cannot be a precondition for a deal to end the country's conflict.


Some 60,000 Syrians have been killed during the 21-month-old revolt and world powers are divided over how to stop the escalating bloodshed. Government aircraft bombed outer districts of Damascus on Saturday after being grounded for a week by stormy weather, opposition activists in the capital said.


A Russian Foreign Ministry statement following talks on Friday in Geneva with the United States and Brahimi reiterated calls for an end to violence in Syria, but there was no sign of a breakthrough.


Brahimi said the issue of Assad, who the United States, European powers and Gulf-led Arab states insist must step down to end the civil war, appeared to be a sticking point.


Russia's Foreign Ministry said: "As before, we firmly uphold the thesis that questions about Syria's future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without interference from outside or the imposition of prepared recipes for development."


Russia has been Assad's most powerful international backer, joining with China to block three Western- and Arab-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure him or push him from power. Assad can also rely on regional powerhouse Iran.


Russia called for "a political transition process" based on an agreement by foreign powers last June.


Brahimi, who is trying to build on that agreement, has met three times with senior Russian and U.S. diplomats since early December and met Assad in Damascus.


Russia and the United States disagreed over what the June agreement meant for Assad, with Washington saying it sent a clear signal he must go and Russia contending it did not.


Qatar on Saturday made a fresh call for an Arab force to end bloodshed in Syria if Brahimi's efforts fail, according to the Doha-based al Jazeera television.


"It is not a question of intervention in Syria in favor of one party against the other, but rather a force to preserve security," Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said in an al Jazeera broadcast.


CONFLICT INTENSIFIES


Moscow has been reluctant to endorse the "Arab Spring" popular revolts of the last two years, saying they have increased instability in the Middle East and created a risk of radical Islamists seizing power.


Although Russia sells arms to Syria and rents one of its naval bases, the economic benefit of its support for Assad is minimal. Analysts say President Vladimir Putin wants to prevent the United States from using military force or support from the U.N. Security Council to bring down governments it opposes.


However, as rebels gain ground in the war, Russia has given indications it is preparing for Assad's possible exit, while continuing to insist he must not be forced out by foreign powers.


Opposition activists say a military escalation and the hardship of winter have accelerated the death toll.


Rebel forces have acquired more powerful anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons during attacks on Assad's military bases.


Assad's forces have employed increasing amounts of military hardware including Scud-type ballistic missiles in the past two months. New York-based Human Rights Watch said they had also used incendiary cluster bombs that are banned by most nations.


STALEMATE IN CITIES


The weeklong respite from aerial strikes has been marred by snow and thunderstorms that affected millions displaced by the conflict, which has now reached every region of Syria.


On Saturday, the skies were clear and jets and helicopters fired missiles and dropped bombs on a line of towns to the east of Damascus, where rebels have pushed out Assad's ground forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


The British-based group, which is linked to the opposition, said it had no immediate information on casualties from the strikes on districts including Maleiha and farmland areas.


Rebels control large swathes of rural land around Syria but are stuck in a stalemate with Assad's forces in cities, where the army has reinforced positions.


State TV said government forces had repelled an attack by terrorists - a term it uses for the armed opposition - on Aleppo's international airport, now used as a helicopter base.


Reuters cannot independently confirm reports due to severe reporting restrictions imposed by the Syrian authorities and security constraints.


On Friday, rebels seized control of one of Syria's largest helicopter bases, Taftanaz in Idlib province, their first capture of a military airfield.


Eight-six people were killed on Friday, including 30 civilians, the Syrian Observatory said.


(Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Doina Chiacu)



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