Saturday February 2, 2013

Jobs report pushes stocks higher, with Dow closing above 14,000 mark

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Dow closed above 14,000 on Friday for the first time in more than five years.

It was just a number on a board, but it was enough to raise the hopes of some investors and cause others concern about an overheated market. And it brought reminders of a different era, back before the financial crisis rocked the world economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average, a stock market index that is traditionally considered a benchmark for how the entire market is faring, had been rising fairly steadily for about a month. On Friday, strong auto sales and optimism about U.S. job growth pushed it over the mark. The Dow is now just 155 points away from its record close.

"There’s a newfound enthusiasm for the equity market," said Jim Russell, regional investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

But market watchers were divided over what the Dow milestone -- or even what a potential new all-time high -- really means. To some, it’s an important booster to hearts and minds, making investors feel optimistic and thus more willing to bet on the market.

Suicide bombing kills Turkish guard at U.S. Embassy; Washington calls it terrorist attack

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- In the second deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic post in five months, a suicide bomber struck the American Embassy in Ankara on Friday, killing a Turkish security guard in what the White House described as a terrorist attack.

Washington immediately warned Americans to stay away from all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey and to be wary in large crowds.

Turkish officials said the bombing was linked to leftist domestic militants.

The attack drew condemnation from Turkey, the U.S., Britain and other nations and officials from both Turkey and the U.S. pledged to work together to fight terrorism.

"We strongly condemn what was a suicide attack against our embassy in Ankara, which took place at the embassy’s outer security perimeter," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

As siege in Alabama rolls into 4th day, authorities release photo of accused abductor

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) -- Authorities have released a photo of a man they say killed a school bus driver and abducted a 5-year-old boy before taking refuge in an underground bunker.

Police on Friday released a photo of Jimmy Lee Dykes. Authorities say Dykes and the kindergartner have been in the bunker since the school bus shooting Tuesday.

Authorities say they have been talking to Dykes through a pipe leading to the bunker, but they have not revealed what the conversations have been about.

There are signs the standoff could go on for some time. The shelter has electricity, food, TV, and police have delivered the boy’s medication through the 4-inch-wide pipe.

Birth-control: Obama administration offers new accommodation on mandate for faith groups

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Facing a wave of lawsuits over what government can tell religious groups to do, the Obama administration on Friday proposed a compromise for faith-based nonprofits that object to covering birth control in their employee health plans.

Some of the lawsuits appear headed for the Supreme Court, threatening another divisive legal battle over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, which requires most employers to cover birth control free of charge to female workers as a preventive service. The law exempted churches and other houses of worship, but religious charities, universities, hospitals and even some for-profit businesses have objected.

The government’s new offer, in a proposed regulation, has two parts.

Administration officials said it would more simply define the religious organizations that are exempt from the requirement altogether. For example, a mosque whose food pantry serves the whole community would not have to comply.

For other religious employers, the proposal attempts to create a buffer between them and contraception coverage. Female employees would still have free access through insurers or a third party, but the employer would not have to arrange for the coverage or pay for it. Insurers would be reimbursed for any costs by a credit against fees owed the government.

Clinton’s last day: A letter, farewell to her staff, disappointment at her critics

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton formally resigned Friday as America’s 67th secretary of state, capping a four-year tenure that saw her shatter records for the number of countries visited.

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama shortly before she was to leave the State Department for the last time in her official capacity, Clinton thanked her former foe for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination for the opportunity to serve in his administration. Clinton said it had been an honor to be part of his Cabinet.

"I am more convinced than ever in the strength and staying power of America’s global leadership and our capacity to be a force for good in the world," she said in the letter.

Her resignation will be effective on the swearing-in of her successor, John Kerry, who was to take the oath of office in a private ceremony later Friday.

Clinton pushed through a throng of American foreign service workers who clamored for handshakes and smartphone photos with her and gave an emotional goodbye speech.

Egyptian protesters march on palace as cracks emerge within opposition ranks

CAIRO (AP) -- Protesters denouncing Egypt’s Islamist president hurled stones and firebombs through the gates of his palace on Friday, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas and water cannons, as more than a week of political violence came to Mohammed Morsi’s symbolic doorstep for the first time.

The march on the palace in an upscale district of the capital was part of a wave of demonstrations in cities around the country called by opposition politicians, trying to wrest concessions from Morsi after around 60 people were killed in protests, clashes and riots.

But many of the protesters go further, saying he must be removed from office, accusing his Muslim Brotherhood of monopolizing power and failing to deal with the country’s mounting woes. Many have been further angered by Morsi’s praise of the security forces after the high death toll, which is widely blamed on excessive use of force by the police.

The day’s unrest, however, risked boosting attempts by the government and Brotherhood to taint the opposition as violent and destructive -- a tack Morsi supporters have taken for weeks.

In a statement issued amid the clashes, Morsi said "political fores involved in incitement" are responsible for the violence and spoke of an investigation. He called on all factions to condemn what he called an attempt to break into the palace and said security forces would "act decisively to protect state institutions."

Federal rules aim to make school snacks more healthful, limit junk food sales on campus

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Goodbye candy bars and sugary cookies. Hello baked chips and diet sodas.

The government for the first time is proposing broad new standards to make sure all foods sold in schools are more healthful, a change that would ban the sale of almost all candy, high-calorie sports drinks and greasy foods on campus.

Under new rules the Department of Agriculture proposed Friday, school vending machines would start selling water, lower-calorie sports drinks, diet sodas and baked chips instead. Lunchrooms that now sell fatty "a la carte" items like mozzarella sticks and nachos would have to switch to healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups and yogurt.

The rules, required under a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010, are part of the government’s effort to combat childhood obesity. While many schools already have made improvements in their lunch menus and vending machine choices, others still are selling high-fat, high-calorie foods.

Under the proposal, the Agriculture Department would set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on almost all foods sold in schools. Current standards already regulate the nutritional content of school breakfasts and lunches that are subsidized by the federal government, but most lunch rooms also have "a la carte" lines that sell other foods. And food sold through vending machines and in other ways outside the lunchroom has not been federally regulated.