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Retail sales weaken in Dec. but cap a record year

Retail sales inch up to end record year; holiday-season layoffs boost unemployment claims
Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - America's retailers enjoyed a record 2011 and their first $400 billion sales months ever. But the final month of the year was a dud.

Sales eked out a 0.1 per cent increase in December, to a seasonally adjusted $400.6 billion.

It was the second straight month that sales topped $400 billion. Revised government data showed that sales in November also surpassed that level.

Court asked to release Moroun, top aide from jail

Lawyers ask Michigan appeals court to release Moroun, Stamper from jail in bridge dispute
The Associated Press

DETROIT - Lawyers have asked the Michigan appeals court to release the owner of the Ambassador Bridge while he appeals an order that put him in jail for civil contempt.

The filing came hours after Manuel "Matty" Moroun and Dan Stamper were sent to jail Thursday as the consequence for the bridge company failing to finish work connecting the bridge to interstates.

Ringtone halts NY Philharmonic performance

Maestro halts NY Philharmonic's performance of Mahler until ringing cellphone is shut off
The Associated Press

NEW YORK, N.Y. - It's the dreaded sound at any live performance — a ringing mobile phone.

That's what happened Tuesday night at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall during the final movement of Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony by the New York Philharmonic. Maestro Alan Gilbert stopped the orchestra until the phone was silenced.

The Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/xvTkcr) reports that when an iPhone's distinctive "Marimba" ringtone initially went off, Gilbert turned his head to signal his displeasure. But the ringing from the first row persisted and minutes went by.

Russian spacecraft turned space junk to crash soon

Stranded Russian spacecraft to crash to Earth soon, risks posed by its fiery plunge unclear
Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press

MOSCOW - A Russian spacecraft designed to burnish the nation's faded space glory in a mission to one of Mars' moons has turned into one of the heaviest, most toxic pieces of space junk ever.

It will come crashing down to Earth in just a few days.

DNA shows remains not of Franco-Canadian reporter

Brother: DNA tests show remains from Ivory Coast not those of Franco-Canadian reporter
The Associated Press

PARIS - The brother of a dual national French-Canadian journalist who disappeared in Ivory Coast in 2004 says DNA tests show human remains recently unearthed there are not those of his missing brother.

The brother of Guy-Andre Kieffer says a French investigating judge told him Thursday the tests were negative "so it's not my brother. It's an unknown person."

The remains were retrieved in an area of western Ivory Coast under orders from investigating judge Patrick Ramael and flown to France, fanning speculation that they might be Kieffer's.

UK spies will face criminal inquiry over Libya

UK spies will face criminal inquiry into claims that intelligence shared with Gadhafi regime
Paisley Dodds, The Associated Press

LONDON - Britain's spy agencies will face a criminal investigation into claims that intelligence shared with Moammar Gadhafi's regime led to the torture or rendition of two Libyan men and their families, authorities announced Thursday.

Gingrich's anti-Romney snit gaining traction

Gingrich's anti-Romney campaign heats up with attack ad using Cdn angle
Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON - Newt Gingrich's revenge fantasies about Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney appeared to be bearing some fruit on Thursday following the release of a damning, 28-minute attack ad with a Canadian angle.

Gingrich supporters are spending millions in South Carolina in advance of next week's crucial primary, particularly on "When Mitt Romney Came To Town," the hotly anticipated spot that portrays Romney as a ruthless corporate raider while head of private equity firm Bain Capital in the 1980s and '90s.

Congo Catholic leaders seek election re-evaluation

Congo Catholic bishops call on election commission to re-evaluate "badly organized" elections
Saleh Mwanamilongo, The Associated Press

KINSHASA, Congo - Members of Congo's powerful Catholic clergy on Thursday called for the election commission to re-evaluate "serious errors" in national elections that gave victory to the incumbent president — or failing that, to resign.

Clark Gable grandson gets jail for pointing laser

Clark Gable's grandson gets 10 days in jail for pointing laser at LAPD helicopter
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Clark Gable's 23-year-old grandson has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for pointing a green laser at a Los Angeles police helicopter as it flew 800 feet over Hollywood.

City News Service says the judge, who gave Clark James Gable credit for one day already served in jail, also placed him on three years' probation. He was sentenced Thursday.

Gable pleaded guilty last month to felony discharge of a laser.

He flashed the laser three times at the helicopter while riding as a passenger in a car on July 28.

Judge declares Natalee Holloway legally dead

Judge signs order declaring Natalee Holloway, teen missing in Aruba, legally dead
Phillip Rawls, The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A judge signed an order Thursday declaring Natalee Holloway dead, more than six years after the American teenager vanished on the Caribbean island of Aruba.

Judge Alan King signed the order at the end of a hearing in a Birmingham courtroom that was attended by the missing woman's divorced parents, David and Beth Holloway.

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