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[December 13, 2012]


(Canadian Press Broadcast Wire (Canada) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NKOREA-ROCKET-LAUNCH UPDATE: NKorean satellite orbiting Earth PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) _ It's not known whether a satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is functioning properly.

South Korea says the satellite is orbiting Earth, but it'll take two weeks to determine whether it works.

Seoul and Washington condemned Wednesday's rocket launch as a cover for testing banned ballistic missile technology.

FISCAL CLIFF Watching for movement in 'fiscal cliff' negotations WASHINGTON (AP) _ No one seems to be budging. House Speaker John Boehner says there are still ``serious differences'' between him and President Barack Obama on how to avert the across-the-board tax increases and domestic program cuts set to go into effect next month.

And negotiating could continue up until the last minute and beyond. Boehner has told fellow GOP lawmakers not to make plans for the week after Christmas.

OBAMA-REGULATIONS NEW: Election over, administration unleashes new rules WASHINGTON (AP) _ While the ``fiscal cliff'' dominates political conversation in Washington, some Republicans and business groups see signs of a ``regulatory cliff'' that they say could be just as damaging to the economy.

In recent weeks, the administration has proposed rules to deal with runoff from logging roads, require data recorders in cars and trucks and implement the new health care law.

The rules had been sidetracked during the presidential campaign as the White House sought to quiet Republican charges that President Barack Obama was an overzealous regulator who is killing U.S. jobs.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe says Obama has spent the past year ``punting'' on a slew of regulations that will be unleashed in a second term.

Environmental groups say fears of a second-term regulatory deluge are overstated.

FORECLOSURE RATES Bank repossessions hit 9-month high in November LOS ANGELES (AP) _ New data show that U.S. home repossessions rose to a nine-month high in November, even as the number of homes starting on the path to foreclosure declined to the lowest level in six years.

Foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. says banks completed foreclosure on over 59,000 homes last month.

That's an increase of 11 per cent from October and up 5 per cent from November last year.

The number of homes entering the foreclosure process, so-called foreclosure starts, sank to about 77,500.

That's the lowest number of foreclosure starts since December 2006.

Bank repossessions are on pace to exceed 650,000 this year, down from 800,000 last year.

Florida had the highest foreclosure rate of any other state last month, and twice the national rate.

CELLPHONE STALKING NEW: Senate legislation targets cyberstalking software WASHINGTON (AP) _ For $50, a jealous husband can download software that allows him to track his wife without her ever knowing she's being followed.

It's simple, it's scary, and it may soon be against the law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected today to approve legislation that would close a legal loophole that allows so-called cyberstalking apps to run in secret on a cellphone and transmit the user's location without the person's knowledge.

The bill, sponsored by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, would update laws passed years before wireless technology revolutionized communications.

Telephone companies currently are barred from disclosing to businesses the location of people when they make a traditional phone call. But there's no such prohibition when communicating over the Internet.

CHRISTMAS TRAVEL FORECAST Christmas, New Year's travel busiest in 6 years NEW YORK (AP) _ This Christmas travel season could be the busiest in six years, with 93.3 million Americans predicted to hit the road, according to AAA. That's 1.6 per cent more than last year and just 400,000 people shy of the 2006 record.

This year, highways will be more crowded than ever, largely because airlines have cut the number of seats available and continue to raise prices. AAA says 84.4 million people will drive at least 50 miles between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1 _ a new record. That's 90.5 per cent of holiday travellers, up from 89.3 per cent six years ago.

Put another way: one in four Americans will be driving long distances for Christmas and New Year's. So expect plenty of traffic jams, crowded highway rest stops and overflowing toll plazas.

EUROPE-FINANCIAL CRISIS European ministers ink deal on bank oversight BRUSSELS (AP) _ The European Union has agreed to create a single supervisor of banks for member states.

The decision was reached by finance ministers meeting in Belgium and would be a major step toward one of the most important transfers of financial authority away from national capitals.

The agreement, reached after an all-night session, still needs final approval.

SYRIA NEW: Bomb explodes near Syrian capital BEIRUT (AP) _ Syria's state news agency says a bomb has gone off in a suburb southwest of the Syrian capital.

Today's blast comes as rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad have been edging closer to Damascus, his seat of power.

The SANA news agency did not give any casualties or provide further details about the bombing in Qatana suburb. The regime blames such bombings on ``terrorists,'' its shorthand for rebel fighters.

On Wednesday, three bombs collapsed walls of the Interior Ministry buildings in Damascus, killing at least five people.

Rebels have been making gains against government forces in the capital's suburbs though most of the city is still beyond their reach.

Anti-regime activists say more than 40,000 people have been killing since the start of the anti-Assad uprising in March 2011.

VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ Aides: Chavez in tough fight, may miss swearing-in CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Venezuelans are closely monitoring the condition of their president, Hugo Chavez, who's in stable condition following cancer surgery in Cuba.

But Venezuela's information minister says there's a chance Chavez will not make it back home for his swearing-in next month.

The 58-year-old is about to begin a new six-year term as president.

MOTHER AND FETUS KILLED NEW: Sentence looms in Milwaukee fetal-abduction case MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A Milwaukee woman convicted of trying to steal a baby by killing a pregnant woman and slicing out her full-term fetus is due to be sentenced today.

A jury convicted 34-year-old Annette Morales-Rodriguez of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, one each for the mother and baby.

She faces a mandatory life sentence, however, the judge may allow for the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Mark Williams declined to say what sentence he will request. But he says the crime was horrible and hopes Morales-Rodriguez is punished proportionately.

Morales-Rodriguez told police she killed the 23-year-old mother because she was desperate to give her boyfriend a son.

UPS PACKAGE LAB NEW: UPS design lab puts boxes to the smash test ADDISON, Ill. (AP) _ A team of experts in suburban Chicago makes it a mission to get fragile items from online retailers to customers during the holidays and all year long.

Their lab looks like a torture chamber for cardboard and bubble wrap. It's the UPS Package Design and Testing Lab in Addison where engineers test new packaging designs by dropping, shaking and smashing boxes with brutal-looking equipment.

A typical test takes four hours. Boxes get a 900-pound hug from the compression table. They crash 17 times from the drop tester. They endure the cruelty of the bridge impact tester. They shake for two hours on the vibration table, which mimics a bumpy truck ride The point is to see what type of packaging can withstand the trip, protecting the products inside.

E-HAILING CABS NEW: NY agency voting on using smartphones to hail cabs NEW YORK (AP) _ Every New Yorker knows how to hail a yellow cab.

The next step for some might be to ``e-hail'' a cab using a smartphone.

Members of the city's Taxi & Limousine Commission are to vote today on whether to allow people to nab a ride electronically. Downloaded apps would link customers with drivers.

If the vote is yes, companies offering the high-tech hailing method can compete for business.

TLC Commissioner David Yassky says the city would lay down some ground rules to accommodate people raising their arm to stop a cab the old-fashioned way. But the commissioner says that as long as the technology exists, it should be available to customers and drivers.

Till now, the city has banned yellow taxis from prearranging rides.

(The Associated Press) (c) 2012 The Canadian Press

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