Karzai's U.S. visit a time for tough talk

The last time Presidents Obama and Karzai met was in May in Kabul, when they signed a pact regarding U.S. troop withdrawal.


  • Afghan President Karzai meeting with President Obama in Washington this week

  • Felbab-Brown: Afghan politics are corrupt; army not ready for 2014 troop pullout

  • She says Taliban, insurgents, splintered army, corrupt officials are all jockeying for power

  • U.S. needs to commit to helping Afghan security, she says, and insist corruption be wiped out

Editor's note: Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. Her latest book is "Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan."

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai is meeting this week with President Obama in Washington amid increasing ambivalence in the United States about what to do about the war in Afghanistan.

Americans are tired of the war. Too much blood and treasure has been spent. The White House is grappling with troop numbers for 2013 and with the nature and scope of any U.S. mission after 2014. With the persisting corruption and poor governance of the Afghan government and Karzai's fear that the United States is preparing to abandon him, the relationship between Kabul and Washington has steadily deteriorated.

As the United States radically reduces its mission in Afghanistan, it will leave behind a stalled and perilous security situation and a likely severe economic downturn. Many Afghans expect a collapse into civil war, and few see their political system as legitimate.

Karzai and Obama face thorny issues such as the stalled negotiations with the Taliban. Recently, Kabul has persuaded Pakistan to release some Taliban prisoners to jump-start the negotiations, relegating the United States to the back seat. Much to the displeasure of the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan government also plans to release several hundred Taliban-linked prisoners, although any real momentum in the negotiations is yet to take place.

U.S. may remove all triips from Afghanistan after 2014

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Washington needs to be careful that negotiations are structured in a way that enhances Afghanistan's stability and is not merely a fig leaf for U.S. and NATO troop departure. Countering terrorism will be an important U.S. interest after 2014. The Taliban may have soured on al Qaeda, but fully breaking with the terror group is not in the Taliban's best interest. If negotiations give the insurgents de facto control of parts of the country, the Taliban will at best play it both ways: with the jihadists and with the United States.

Negotiations of a status-of-forces agreement after 2014 will also be on the table between Karzai and Obama. Immunity of U.S. soldiers from Afghan prosecution and control over detainees previously have been major sticking points, and any Afghan release of Taliban-linked prisoners will complicate that discussion.

Karzai has seemed determined to secure commitments from Washington to deliver military enablers until Afghan support forces have built up. The Afghan National Security Forces have improved but cannot function without international enablers -- in areas such as air support, medevac, intelligence and logistical assets and maintenance -- for several years to come. But Washington has signaled that it is contemplating very small troop levels after 2014, as low as 3,000. CNN reports that withdrawing all troops might even be considered.

Everyone is hedging their bets in light of the transition uncertainties and the real possibility of a major security meltdown after 2014. Afghan army commanders are leaking intelligence and weapons to insurgents; Afghan families are sending one son to join the army, one to the Taliban and one to the local warlord's militia.

With Afghan president's visit, nations' post-2014 future takes shape

Patronage networks pervade the Afghan forces, and a crucial question is whether they can avoid splintering along ethnic and patronage lines after 2014. If security forces do fall apart, the chances of Taliban control of large portions of the country and a civil war are much greater. Obama can use the summit to announce concrete measures -- such as providing enablers -- to demonstrate U.S. commitment to heading off a security meltdown. The United States and international security forces also need to strongly focus on countering the rifts within the Afghan army.

Assisting the Afghan army after 2014 is important. But even with better security, it is doubtful that Afghanistan can be stable without improvements in its government.

Afghanistan's political system is preoccupied with the 2014 elections. Corruption, serious crime, land theft and other usurpation of resources, nepotism, a lack of rule of law and exclusionary patronage networks afflict governance. Afghans crave accountability and justice and resent the current mafia-like rule. Whether the 2014 elections will usher in better leaders or trigger violent conflict is another huge question mark.

Emphasizing good governance, not sacrificing it to short-term military expediencies by embracing thuggish government officials, is as important as leaving Afghanistan in a measured and unrushed way -- one that doesn't jeopardize the fledgling institutional and security capacity that the country has managed to build up.

U.S. likely to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan after NATO forces leave

Karzai has been deaf and blind to the reality that reducing corruption, improving governance and allowing for a more pluralistic political system are essential for Afghanistan's stability. His visit provides an opportunity to deliver the message again -- and strongly.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Vanda Felbab-Brown.

Read More..

Baseball Hall of Fame to render verdict on Steroid Era

Jon Keller reports

Rank-and-file members of baseball’s Steroids Era – most notably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa – finally were facing a jury Wednesday that would decide whether they are worthy of the Hall of Fame. The 2013 induction announcement is set for 1 p.m. Chicago time.

Their inclusion on this year’s ballot overshadowed those who were thought to have the best chance of being voted into baseball’s hallowed shrine in Cooperstown: former Chicago White Sox outfielder Tim Raines, the Houston Astros’ long-time duo of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell and All-Star pitcher Jack Morris.

Also in contention was former Chicago Cubs closer Lee Smith, who was on the ballot for the 11thtime.

This Hall of Fame eligible class has received more attention than most because of the inclusion of Bonds, who won seven MVP awards; Clemens, who won seven Cy Young awards and Sosa, the former Cub who won a National League MVP award after his famous 1998 home run duel with the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire.

McGwire, the only one of those who publicly has acknowledged using performance-enhancing drugs, has failed seven times in his Hall of Fame election bid. Former Cub Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive for a drug, has failed three times.

The so-called Steroids Era has caused division within the electorate, comprised of 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association. They historically have been very stingy with their votes, especially considering it takes 75 percent to be included in the summer induction ceremonies.


Twitter @davandyck

Read More..

Venezuela court endorses Chavez inauguration delay

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's top court endorsed the postponement of Hugo Chavez's inauguration this week and ruled on Wednesday that the cancer-stricken president remained the South American OPEC nation's leader.

The 58-year-old socialist has not been seen in public nor heard from in almost a month following surgery in Cuba. The government says he is in a delicate condition and cannot attend Thursday's scheduled swearing-in for a new six-year term.

"Right now we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in," Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales told a news conference.

"As president re-elect there is no interruption of performance of duties ... The inauguration can be carried out at a later date before the Supreme Court."

Both Chavez and his heir apparent, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, would remain in the roles after January 10, she added in a judgment quashing opposition appeals for a caretaker president to be named.

Government leaders insist Chavez is fulfilling his duties as head of state, even though official medical bulletins said he suffered multiple complications after the surgery, including a severe pulmonary infection, and has had trouble breathing.

It was his fourth operation since being diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer in June 2011.

The government has called for a massive rally outside the presidential palace on Thursday, and allied presidents including Uruguay's Jose Mujica and Bolivia's Evo Morales have confirmed they will visit Venezuela that day despite Chavez's absence.

The president's resignation or death would upend politics in the oil-rich nation, where he is revered by poor supporters thankful for his social largesse.

His critics denounce him as an autocrat who has squandered billions of dollars from crude sales while dashing the independence of state institutions.

(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Marianna Parraga and Diego Ore, Writing by Daniel Wallis, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Doina Chiacu)

Read More..

Wall Street declines as earnings clarity awaited

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks declined on Tuesday as the market continued its retreat from last week's rally on the "fiscal cliff" deal in Congress as investors awaited the start of the earnings season with muted expectations.

Profits in the fourth quarter are seen above the previous quarter's lackluster results, but analysts' current estimates are down sharply from where they were in October. Quarterly earnings are expected to grow by 2.7 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The benchmark S&P index has fallen 0.5 percent in the wake of the 4.3 percent jump in the two days surrounding the conclusion of the fiscal cliff debate, and investors have found few catalysts to extend the brief rally.

"We had a brief respite courtesy of what happened on the fiscal cliff deal and the flip of the calendar with new money coming into the market," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

"But now the stark reality of uncertainty with regard to earnings, plus the negotiations on the debt ceiling, are there and that doesn't give investors a lot of reason to take bets on the long side."

In Tuesday's results, Monsanto Co shares rose 2.6 percent to $98.45 after hitting a more than four-year high at $99.99. The world's largest seed company raised its earnings outlook for fiscal 2013 and posted strong first-quarter results.

Education provider Apollo Group and Dow component Alcoa Inc , the largest U.S. aluminum producer, round out the start of earnings season after the closing bell.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> dropped 73.13 points, or 0.55 percent, to 13,311.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> lost 6.91 points, or 0.47 percent, to 1,454.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> fell 12.68 points, or 0.41 percent, to 3,086.13.

AT&T Inc , which fell 1.8 percent to $34.30, was among the biggest drags on the S&P 500 after the company said it had sold more than 10 million smartphones in the quarter, topping the same quarter in 2011 but also increasing costs for the wireless service provider.

Providers like AT&T pay hefty subsidies to handset makers so that they can offer device discounts to customers who commit to two-year contracts.

The S&P telecom services index <.gspl>, down 2.4 percent, was the worst performing of the 10 major S&P sectors.

Shares of restaurant-chain operator Yum Brands Inc fell 4.2 percent to $65.04 a day after the KFC parent warned sales in China, its largest market, shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter.

Sears Holdings shares dropped 3.8 percent to $41.31 a day after the company said Chairman Edward Lampert would take over as CEO from Louis D'Ambrosio, who is stepping down due to a family member's health issue. The U.S. retailer also reported a 1.8 percent decline in quarter-to-date sales at stores open at least a year.

GameStop shares slumped 6.2 percent to $23.22 as the worst performer on the S&P 500 after the video game retailer reported sales for the holiday season and cut its guidance.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)

Read More..

Saban quickly turns to challenges of 2013 season

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — It didn't take long for Alabama coach Nick Saban to turn his thoughts to next season.

Maybe he let the Gatorade dry from the celebratory drenching first. Maybe.

"The team next year is 0-0," Saban said Tuesday morning. "Even though I really appreciate what this team accomplished and am very, very proud of what they accomplished, we need to prepare for the challenges of the new season very quickly with the team we have coming back. "

Apparently, the coach's 24-hour celebration rule applies mostly to players. He didn't take nearly that long to refocus after a 42-14 demolition of Notre Dame that secured a second straight BCS title and the Crimson Tide's third in four seasons. Shortly after the game, he was already talking about getting back to the office by Wednesday morning.

The 2013 team will almost certainly be regarded among the preseason favorites for a three-peat, even though three Tide stars — tailback Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker — could decide to skip this senior seasons and turn pro.

Saban also emphatically tried to end speculation that he might return to the NFL, where he spent two years with the Miami Dolphins before returning to the Southeastern Conference.

It was a question that really made him bristle in the 30-plus minute news conference.

"How many times do you think I've been asked to put it to rest?" Saban said. "And I've put it to rest, and you continue to ask it. So I'm going to say it today, that — you know, I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you've done in the past. I came to the Miami Dolphins, what, eight years ago for the best owner, the best person that I've ever had the opportunity to work for. And in the two years that I was here, had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college, and it was very difficult for me."

He said that experience taught him that the college ranks "is where I belong, and I'm really happy and at peace with all that."

As for the players, All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley has already said he'll return. So has quarterback AJ McCarron, who will have a talented group of receivers led by freshman Amari Cooper.

"We certainly have to build the team around him," Saban said, adding that a late-game spat with center Barrett Jones showed the quarterback's competitive fire. "I've talked a lot about it's difficult to play quarterback when you don't have good players around you. I think we should have, God willing and everybody staying healthy, a pretty good receiver corps. We'll have to do some rebuilding in the offensive line. Regardless of what Eddie decides to do, we'll probably still have some pretty decent runners. But I think AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year."

The biggest question mark is replacing three, maybe four, starters on an offensive line that paved the way.

Saban emphasized the difficulty of repeating and said he showed the players a video of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan saying that the first title isn't the hardest — it's the ones after that.

That's because, Saban said, "you have to have the will to fight against yourself."

Now, the 'Bama coach has four titles, including one during his stop at LSU. Saban doesn't wear the championship rings but uses them for a different purpose.

"I just put them on the coffee table for the recruits to look at," he said, cracking up the room.

Saban has already lined up another highly rated recruiting class and already has the next wave of young talents waiting in the wings.

After all, he talked about the sign mentor Bill Belichick hung in the football building during their NFL days together: "Do your job."

Saban jokingly acknowledged that while he prepares for everything, the one thing he has never been able to anticipate is the Gatorade bath. He drew heat for a scowl after the first one, following the title game win over Texas when he got dinged in the head. Monday night's dousing went better.

"It's cold, it's sticky, but I appreciated not getting hit in the head with the bucket," Saban said. "That was an improvement."

Read More..

Why Ford’s New Car Apps Include China’s Twitter

LAS VEGAS — New car apps will allow Ford owners to call up their favorite music playlist or search for last-minute date suggestions by using voice alone. But the voice-activated car apps announced at CES 2013 included one “hidden dragon” surprise aimed at Chinese drivers rather than Americans.

Many Americans won’t recognize the name of Sina Weibo, China‘s version of Twitter, among the latest car app offerings from more familiar names such as USA Today and Amazon. Yet Weibo represents a social media behemoth with 424 million users — more people than the entire U.S. population — sharing 120 million news and message posts every day. Such numbers could add up to a huge opportunity for Ford car sales in China.

Ford announced the collaboration with Sina Weibo near the end of a press event here at CES 2013 on Jan. 7. The upcoming Sina Weibo app represents one of nine newly-announced apps that include the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Kaliki, Amazon Cloud Player, Aha Radio, Rhapsody, Greater Media, Glympse, and BeCouply.

The Detroit automaker has already enjoyed big sales in China, the world’s largest car market, where car ownership may reach 300 to 500 million before 2030. Ford recorded an annual sales record in China by selling more than 626,000 vehicles to Chinese buyers in 2012.

That number still falls below the 2 million Ford vehicles sold to U.S. customers in 2012. But Ford has already set aggressive goals to double production capacity and its China dealership network by 2015 — and it clearly sees car apps in smarter vehicles as a way to win over even more customers worldwide.

Ford’s car apps could end up making roads in both the U.S. and China a bit safer for drivers who can’t put down their smartphones or tablets. Toward that end, Ford has begun offering a license- and royalty-free program for app developers, but prohibits driving apps from having video-rich imagery, requiring text-reading or offering games to play.

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. You can follow TechNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @jeremyhsu. Follow TechNewsDaily on Twitter @TechNewsDaily. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Science News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Why Ford’s New Car Apps Include China’s Twitter
Url Post: http://www.news.fluser.com/why-fords-new-car-apps-include-chinas-twitter/
Link To Post : Why Ford’s New Car Apps Include China’s Twitter

based on 99998 ratings.
5 user reviews.
Author: Fluser SeoLink
Thanks for visiting the blog, If any criticism and suggestions please leave a comment

Read More..

Iran faces oil revenue problem

By John Defterios, CNN

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)

With elections in June, it remains unclear how energy policy will evolve after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's era


  • The IEA has suggested Iraq surpassed Iran in output for the first time in over 20 years

  • The Iranian people are faced with spiralling inflation and job layoffs within the state sector

  • Iranian oil revenues in the country plummeted 40 percent, while gas export revenues fell by 45%

Editor's note: John Defterios is CNN's Emerging Markets Editor and anchor of Global Exchange, CNN's prime time business show focused on the emerging and BRIC markets. You can watch it on CNN International at 1600 GMT, Sunday to Thursday.

Abu Dhabi (CNN) -- All indications are that sanctions against Iran are really starting to bite and this time it is coming from the oil ministry in Tehran, which for months has denied that oil production was suffering due to international pressure.

In an interview with the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), Gholam Reza Kateb a member of the national planning and budget committee in Parliament referenced a report from Iran's oil minister Rostam Qasemi. In that report, the minister suggested that oil revenues in the country plummeted 40 percent, while gas and gas products' export revenues fell by 45% compared to the same period last year.

Read more: Official: Iran, nuclear watchdog group deal close

This is a hot button issue in Iran, where the currency due to sanctions has dropped 80 percent from its peak in 2011. The Iranian people are faced with spiralling inflation and job layoffs within the state sector.

I spoke with a source in Iran's representative office to OPEC who declined to comment and referred all matters to the Oil Ministry. A spokesman at the state oil company Iran Petroleum would only say "in this political climate it is difficult to confirm these statements."

Read more: Iran steps up uranium enrichment, U.N. report says

Hours later, a spokesman from the Ministry told another Iranian news agency, Mehr, that the numbers quoted about revenue and production drops are not true, although he offered no specific numbers.

Until this report to the Iranian Parliament, Minister Qasemi has maintained that Iran's production was hovering around four million barrels a day, where it was two years ago.

Read more: Opinion: Time to defuse Iranian nuclear issue

Back at the OPEC Seminar in June 2012, the minister told me that sanctions would not have any influence on plans to expand production and investment, shrugging off questions that suggested otherwise. This despite analysis to the contrary from the Paris based International Energy Agency and Vienna based OPEC of which Iran is a member.

The IEA back in July suggested that Iraq surpassed Iran in production for the first time in over two decades and production in Iran dipped to 2.9 million barrels a day. OPEC in its October 2012 survey said it slipped to 2.72 million at the time Minister Qasemi said output remained at 4 million barrels.

Minister Qasemi was recently quoted at a conference in Tehran that Iran needs to invest $400 billion over the next five years to maintain production targets and to play catch up after years of under investment.

Iran is a land full of potential. According to the annual BP Statistical Review, Iran sits on nearly 10 percent of the world's proven reserves at 137 billion barrels. The South Pars field which it shares with Qatar is one of the largest natural gas fields in the world -- but Iran, due to sanctions, cannot expand development.

This is a highly charged period. With elections in mid-June, it remains unclear how energy policy will evolve after the era of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad passes. It has been eight years of his tough line against Washington, Brussels and other governments that put forth sanctions against Iran. It is not clear if a new President will usher in a new nuclear development policy to ease the pressure on Iran's energy sector and the country's people.

Part of complete coverage on

Indians are genuinely upset. The rise of India's middle class has activated a powerful civil society -- one that's demanding a better government.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)

The radio host who wants Piers Morgan deported for advocating gun control faces off with the CNN host and warns of a new revolution.

CNN reports from Syria and Turkey on the human suffering of those who have survived the civil war, but now face further hardship.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)

The rundown of recommended stories on popular Chinese social media showed nothing extraordinary this week, until users looked more closely.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1627 GMT (0027 HKT)

Former Nigerian President says more could be done to reach out to the Islamist group Boko Haram to find out what leads it to carry out acts of violence.

January 7, 2013 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)

Prince Charles on how he feels as a parent as his younger son, Prince Harry, has been deployed to Afghanistan in his role as an Army helicopter pilot.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)

The iShack aims to improve living conditions for people in slums, as it's equipped with a solar panel that can power lights and a phone charger.

To celebrate 150 years of the London Underground, send images and recollections of your most memorable Tube journeys.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)

Great achievements listed in your resume may never be seen by a human, as software vendors bring sophisticated programs to scan resumes.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)

With its 140-character gems, your Twitter feed can be inspiring and even change the way you look at the world ... if you follow the right people.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1428 GMT (2228 HKT)

There can't be many people whose image has sat side by side on a front page with Moammar Gadhafi. The FIFA president is one of them.

January 7, 2013 -- Updated 2243 GMT (0643 HKT)

British Vogue Deputy Editor Emily Sheffield talks to CNN about the Duchess of Cambridge's style and brand preferences.

January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)

After 10 years, David Bowie is making his return with a forthcoming album and a new single. Remind yourself of his career.

Read More..

Local hospitals overwhelmed by flu

The amount of flu cases is the highest it has been in a decade. (WGN - Chicago)

Seven Chicago-area hospitals have had to send ambulances elsewhere this morning as they deal with an influx of patients with flu-like symptoms. 

As of 9:45 a.m., the hospitals remained on bypass status, which means their emergency rooms are at capacity and non-critical patients are being re-routed to other hospitals, said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Chicago-area hospitals included Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Chicago Medical Center and Swedish Covenant Hospital. Rockford Memorial Hospital was the only hospital outside of Chicago on bypass.

Arnold cautioned that number is changing hourly as hospitals go on and off bypass and shuffle around patients.

At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has since gone off bypass, the decision was largely driven by flu patients who did not require medical attention, said Dr. David Zich, an internal and emergency medicine physician.

"The flu in and of itself is not a reason to come to the emergency department," he said, noting an ER visit is "not necessary" unless the flu is coupled with a shortness of breath or another serious illness, such as heart disease.

Zich said going on bypass is "unusual but not extremely rare" for the hospital. He estimated it happens about 14 times a year.

The flu season — both locally and nationally — is off to its earliest and most active start in nearly a decade, health officials have said. The season typically runs from mid-December through March and peaks during the second half of January. Hospitals started seeing larger-than-expected numbers of people with the flu in early December, and officials are not sure when this season will peak.

Dr. Julie Morita, medical director for Chicago's health department, said in an email this morning that the number of flu cases in the city is still rising.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Illinois among 29 states experiencing "high" flu activity through the last week of 2012. As of Dec. 29, the CDC categorized the illness as "widespread" in 41 states.

From Sept. 30 to the end of 2012, nearly 100 flu sufferers spent time in intensive care units of Chicago hospitals with flu-like symptoms, according to the city's Department of Public Health. Last year, only one person had been sent to the ICU with the flu in about the same time period.

The strain of influenza largely responsible for the overnight burst of hospital visits tends to be “a little more severe than others,” Arnold said.

Arnold said anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms should first contact their health care provider or local health department.

One of those people include, Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti who has come down with a case of the flu. His illness has forced him to withdraw from this week's CSO subscription concerts at Symphony Center.


Read More..

Tunisia frees man held over attack on U.S. consulate in Libya

Tunis (Reuters) - Tunisia has freed, for lack of evidence, a Tunisian man who had been suspected of involvement in an Islamist militant attack in Libya last year in which the U.S. ambassador was killed, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Ali Harzi was one of two Tunisians named in October by the Daily Beast website as having been detained in Turkey over the violence in which Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other American officials were killed.

"The judge decided to free Harzi and he is free now," lawyer Anouar Awled Ali told Reuters. "The release came in response to our request to free him for lack of evidence and after he underwent the hearing with American investigators as a witness in the case."

A Tunisian justice ministry spokesman confirmed the release of Harzi but declined to elaborate.

A month ago, Harzi refused to be interviewed by visiting U.S. FBI investigators over the September 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The Daily Beast reported that shortly after the attacks began, Harzi posted an update on an unspecified social media site about the fighting.

It said Harzi was on his way to Syria when he was detained in Turkey at the behest of U.S. authorities, and that he was affiliated with a militant group in North Africa.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Read More..

Wall Street falls on banks' settlement, doubts on earnings

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell on Monday as investors cashed in recent gains that lifted the S&P 500 to a five-year high and awaited the start of the fourth-quarter earnings season.

The day's decline was broad across all sectors, but energy and utilities were the top decliners. The S&P 500 energy sector index <.gspe> fell 1 percent and the utilities sector <.gspu> was off 1.2 percent.

Another sector in focus was the financials. Financial stocks fell after a group of major U.S. banks agreed to pay billions in settlement with U.S. regulators.

The KBW bank index <.bkx>, a gauge of U.S. bank stocks, was down 0.7 percent.

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.

"There is little doubt that concerns about the fiscal cliff created spending hesitancy in both consumers and businesses in the fourth quarter, and it is likely that will adversely impact earnings season," margins are choppy and cost cuts have run their course, said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

Aluminum company Alcoa Inc will unofficially launch the reporting season by announcing its results after Tuesday's market close. Alcoa shares were down 1 percent at $9.17.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 76.03 points, or 0.57 percent, at 13,359.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 8.40 points, or 0.57 percent, at 1,458.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 11.89 points, or 0.38 percent, at 3,089.77.

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

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.

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.

"The settlements may remove any overhang for the stock in the near term, but it only partially satisfies the issue," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management.

Bank of America shares were down 0.7 percent at $12.02 while Nationstar Mortgage Holdings jumped 12.7 percent to $37.44.

Citigroup shares were down 0.5 percent to $42.20. Wells Fargo shares fell 1.1 percent to $34.55.

Walt Disney Co 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. Disney shares fell 2.4 percent to $50.95.

Video-streaming service Netflix Inc shares gained 2.3 percent to $98.20 after it said it will carry previous seasons of some popular shows produced by Time Warner's Warner Bros Television.

Amazon.com shares hit their highest price ever at $269.22 after Morgan Stanley raised is rating on the stock. Shares were up 2.8 percent at $266.63.

Major U.S. technology companies could miss estimates for fourth-quarter earnings as budget worries likely led some corporate clients to tighten their belts last month.

(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Kenneth Barry and Nick Zieminski)

Read More..