Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, will announce a version of its Windows operating system that runs on ARM Holdings Plc technology for the first time, two people familiar with Microsoft’s plans said.

The new product will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Microsoft’s plans are confidential. The software would be tailored for battery-powered devices, such as tablet computers and other handhelds, the people said.

The operating system would give Microsoft another way to attack the market for tablets and phones, where it’s lost ground to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. ARM chips -- made by Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. -- are used in most smartphones, as well as Apple’s best-selling iPad.

The new software will also work on Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. processors -- the chips that power current personal-computer versions of Windows. ARM sells the rights to use its technology and chip designs.

Bill Cox, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment. Charlene Marini, a California- based spokeswoman for Cambridge, England-based ARM, said the company doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation. Intel’s Tom Beermann also declined to comment.

WiMAX might have gotten a head start when it comes to the next generation wireless broadband sweepstakes, but the technology is beginning to feel the heat from its rival, Long Term Evolution aka LTE. New data from research firm Telegeography shows that by 2015, LTE will have seven times as many users as WiMAX.

That trend has many early WiMAX backers worried, and even Clearwire isn’t immune to the idea of experimenting with a new flavor of LTE. Telegeography says that by the end of 2010 there will 11 million WiMAX subscribers around the world. But going is to get a lot tougher for WiMAX. In next two years, LTE networks would be launched by carriers in 55 countries and that should jumpstart the growth for LTE-related services. In comparison, WiMAX is going to be relegated to fixed and nomadic applications, instead of being a mainstream mobile offering, Telegeography argues.
LTE, which launched in late 2009, will take about six years to garner about three percent of the total wireless market, Telegeography posits. A lot of that has to do with the availability of phones that support LTE and other devices that can leverage the wireless broadband technology.
"While TeleGeography predicts that WiMAX subscriber growth will continue apace, by the end of 2015 LTE subscribers will outnumber WiMAX subscribers by a factor of more than seven to one. “If you forget all the past hype about WiMAX and focus just on the next five years, it actually has a bright future” said TeleGeography’s Pete Bell. ‘You can expect to see WiMAX achieving average annual growth in excess of 30 percent over that period. Within the next 24 months LTE networks will have been launched by major cellular service providers in some 55 countries, with most other countries following suit over the subsequent three years, he added.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, triggered by a deadly blast at a rig used by BP, was the top news story of 2010, followed by the divisive health care overhaul, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of editors and news directors.

The oil spill received 54 first-place votes out of 180 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. The health care bill was next, with 30 first-place votes. The U.S. election was third.

In fourth place was the U.S. economy, which had been voted the top story of 2009.

Here are 2010's top 10 stories, in order:

GULF OIL DISASTER: The April 20 explosion at a BP-leased rig killed 11 workers and unleashed a deep-sea spill that ultimately spewed at least 170 million gallons of crude into the Gulf. Consequences included devastation for fishing and tourism industries, a huge and costly cleanup effort, a management change at BP, and creation of a $20 billion fund to pay for damages.

HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL: After bitter political wrangling, President Barack Obama was able to sign into law one of his major campaign promises - a $1 trillion health care overhaul intended to expand coverage to more Americans. But Republicans used public misgivings about parts of the plan as a springboard for election gains, and the overhaul faced a welter of lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

US ELECTIONS: President Obama called it a "shellacking" - an election in which the Republicans surged to a majority in the House of Representatives, and gained more governor's offices and legislative majorities. The Democrats were able to hang on to their edge in the Senate, leaving the U.S. with at least two years of divided government.

US ECONOMY: Economists said the deepest recession since the Great Depression was over, and consumers began to spend more as the year neared a close. But the unemployment rate stayed well above 9 percent, and home prices were weighed down by foreclosures and sluggish demand.

HAITI EARTHQUAKE: Already the Western Hemisphere's most destitute nation, Haiti was shattered by an earthquake on Jan. 12 that killed at least 230,000 and left millions homeless. Crucial reconstruction projects were slow to get started; disease and political instability added to the woes.

TEA PARTY MOVEMENT: Though it lacked the trappings of traditional political organizations, the tea party movement had a profound impact on the 2010 election, influencing the stances of Republican leaders and enabling some maverick challengers to oust GOP establishment candidates in the primaries.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A Muslim group says a woman reported being attacked with pepper spray outside an Ohio mosque and that the attacker told her to leave the country.

Columbus police Sgt. Richard Weiner (WY'-nur) says officers interviewed the woman Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the FBI says it will likely open a civil rights investigation. FBI spokesman Mike Brooks says the results would be turned over to prosecutors for possible charges.

The Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, says a mosque security camera recorded the assault.

The group says someone followed the woman to the mosque Monday, harassed her and then attacked her with pepper spray. CAIR says the attacker also threatened to kill her and told her to leave the country.

As Nike Basketball always does, they lace their guys with a special colorway for Christmas Day. To tell you the truth, they may even put them in their stocking the night before. So with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant all playing, check out a teaser of the limited-edition Christmas Day colorways of their signature sneakers (which will be available at retail the following day).

By Cecilia Kang

The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to approve its first ever Internet access regulation, which ensures unimpeded access to any legal Web content for home Internet users.

The same provisions do not apply as strongly to cellphone users because the agency voted to keep wireless networks generally free of rules preventing the blocking and slowing of Web traffic.

The FCC's three Democratic members made up a majority of votes in favor of the so-called net neutrality regulation, which was introduced more than a year ago by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The rules have sparked intense debate and lobbying over whether such legislation is needed, and are likely to face a legal challenge. Genachowski has argued that Internet access rules would protect companies just starting out on the Web, as well as consumers who are increasingly relying on the Internet for news, entertainment and communications.

The agency's two Republican members voted against the rules, showing support for Internet service providers who say the regulation will impede their ability to create new business plans that expand their roles over the Internet economy.

Genachowski said the measure represents a compromise between industry and consumer interests.

"I reject both extremes in favor of a strong and sensible framework -- one that protects Internet freedom and openness and promotes robust innovation and investment," Genachowski said.

The net neutrality measure is the federal government's first move to regulate broadband access. Questions remain, however, over whether the agency has the legal right to serve as the nation's watchdog over Internet access. Last spring, a federal appeals court said the FCC overstepped its authority by sanctioning Comcast for blocking access to users of BitTorrent's peer-to-peer sharing application.

The rules are sure to face a court challenge and have prompted opposition from Republican lawmakers, who plan to tackle the regulation through Congressional action.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said she will reintroduce legislation to overthrow the rules. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) said she will move to withdraw funds appropriated to the FCC to execute the rules.

"The FCC is attempting to push excessive government regulation of the Internet through without Congressional authority, and these actions threaten the very future of the technology," said Hutchison, the ranking GOP member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

And on the other side, consumer groups aren't happy, either. Public interest groups have said they will consider filing suit against the rules that they fought to enact, asserting that the regulation doesn't go far enough to protect consumers.

"The activist Internet community is independent, innovative and fearless in this power grab," said Tyrone Brown, former FCC commissioner and president of the nonprofit Media Access Project. "The telecom giants may have bitten off more than they can chew."

Democratic members Michael J. Copps and Mignon Clyburn agreed that the rules fell short but said they were willing to back the government's first step toward overseeing Internet access.

Copps said he considered opposing the measure but instead chose between the better of two bad options: weak rules or no rules at all. He said the FCC should redefine broadband as a telecom service to ensure that the agency's rules aren't plagued by court battles. The FCC is considering such a proposal by Genachowski.

"To be clear, we do not anchor ourselves on what I believe to be the best legal framework," Copps said. "Nor have we crafted rules as strong as I would have liked. But, with today’s action, we do nonetheless appear to steer ourselves back toward a better course."

Chocolate contains the active ingredient
A chemical in cocoa could soon be turned into a medicine for persistent cough, researchers claim.

Scientists are carrying out the final stages of clinical trials of a drug that contains theobromine, an ingredient found in chocolate and cocoa.

The UK developers say the drug could be on the market within two years.

Every year in Britain an estimated 7.5m people suffer from persistent cough - a cough lasting more than two weeks.

Most current medicines used to control the symptoms are opiate-based ones like cough syrups containing codeine, a narcotic.

But in October the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said under-18s should not take codeine-based remedies, because the risks outweighed the benefits.
Active ingredient

Researchers say the new theobromine treatment should not have this problem. And being flavourless, it can be taken by those who dislike chocolate.

Theobromine is thought to work by inhibiting the inappropriate firing of the vagus nerve, which is a key feature of persistent cough.

The final stage of the drug's testing is set to begin in the next few months.

The drug, called BC1036, is being developed by the private UK company SEEK.

Manfred Scheske, CEO of Consumer Health at SEEK said: "I am very excited to announce the progression for the late-stage development of BC1036, which has the potential to dramatically impact the treatment of persistent cough and could greatly benefit the quality of life of persistent cough sufferers."

Professor Alyn Morice of the Hull Cough Clinic said there was a need for new treatments.

"Thousands of people across the UK suffer from persistent cough, and due to the drawbacks of current opioid drugs such as codeine, we are in desperate need of a non-opioid treatment with a drastically improved side effect profile for patients."
A tsunami alert has been issued after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Ocean off southern Japan, the US Geological Survey (USGS) says.

The epicentre of the earthquake was 155km (95 miles) off the Bonin Islands, some 1,000km south-east of Tokyo, the USGS said.

It struck at a depth of nearly 15km, the agency added.

Japan is often hit by earthquakes. In 1995, a magnitude-7.2 quake in the port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.

A high-level scientific panel has sharply criticized the water quality monitoring system in Alberta's oilsands, going so far as to say “there is no system.”

The Oilsands Advisory Panel, appointed by former federal environment minister Jim Prentice, made its findings public in Ottawa on Tuesday in a joint news conference with current Environment Minister John Baird, who promised to act on the panel’s recommendations.

The panel’s chair, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, was critical of a piecemeal approach to water quality monitoring, saying the system is fragmented with no links between data on water quality — including ground water — and air quality.

She also said there is no reliable longitudinal data that would give a solid understanding of the environmental impact of the oilsands.

“There is no holistic and comprehensive system. There is no system,” said Dowdeswell, president of the Council of Canadian Academies and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

“The panel was unanimous: Do we have a world class monitoring system in place? In short, no. However, we could have,” she said.

The panel underlined a critical need for a new governance structure including an inter-jurisdictional steering committee, an external scientific advisory committee and sufficient resources to follow through.

Dowdeswell did not cast blame. “It’s not that anybody has had any particular ill will,” she said. Rather, the present regime of water quality monitoring has just grown up as a very piecemeal system.
Response to criticism

She was one of six experts appointed to the panel in September and given a mandate by the federal government to review water data in the oilsands and make recommendations on the monitoring system.

The other panel members were Peter Dillon of Trent University, McGill University's Subhasis Ghoshal, Andrew Miall from the University of Toronto, Joseph Rasmussen of the University of Lethbridge and Queen's University's John Smol.

Prentice convened the panel in response to criticism about water monitoring in the Athabasca watershed in northern Alberta. In particular, a peer-reviewed study published by University of Alberta water scientist David Schindler found elevated levels of cadmium, mercury, lead and other toxic elements in the Athabasca River.

This contradicted provincial government and industry scientists who claimed the toxins were naturally occurring.

On Tuesday, Baird said his government accepts the panel’s findings and will act on them.

"For far too long, we have heard concerns about quality of water downstream from the oilsands," he said
'Ready to act'

"We've heard the panel loud and clear and are ready to act…. We accept this responsibility and will ensure our monitoring systems are properly and securely in place,” said Baird.

The minister said he has already directed senior officials to create a water quality monitoring plan within 90 days. Once that is complete, he said the government will ask for scientific input to assess the plan, after which it will be implemented. He said monitoring data will be made public at no charge.

On Monday, Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said his province is changing how it monitors water in the oilsands. He announced that a group of independent experts will gather in January and report to the province in June on how to best set up an environmental monitoring system.

He said the expert group will guide the province on how to implement recommendations from both the federal and provincial panels.

In September, Alberta announced its own panel of independent scientists to review the oilsands water quality monitoring system. It is due to finish its report in February.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- NATO said Tuesday it was investigating the deaths of five civilians who were killed when coalition forces returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand.

The dead civilians were found after the exchange of fire, a NATO announcement said. It did not say when the battle took place. NATO said the insurgents were using a civilian home to attack coalition forces.

According to NATO, the insurgents attacked its troops with assault rifles and a machine gun from the compound, and the soldiers returned fire and used mortars.

"This is a tragedy. We are aware that insurgents purposefully stage attacks against friendly forces using innocent civilians' homes," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patrick Hynes, director of the Combined Joint Operations Center.

This year has been the deadliest in the war for U.S. forces. At least 486 American troops have been killed, compared to 317 last year and 155 in 2008. NATO forces overall, including the Americans, have lost nearly 700 troops so far, making this the deadliest year for international forces in the almost 10-year-old war.

A U.N. report this month found that civilian casualties increased by 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. They quoted a preliminary figure of 6,215 conflict-related civilian casualties, made up of 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries.

More than three-quarters of those casualties were linked to insurgents, an increase of 25 percent compared to last year. Casualties attributed to NATO and pro-government forces dropped by 18 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2009, the quarterly U.N. report on Afghanistan said.

Tough fighting in Sangin and other parts of the south and west has resulted in higher casualties, both among coalition troops and civilians.

NATO forces, most of them from the United States, are waging a campaign against the Taliban in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan. Most of the fighting takes place in the Sangin district.

The international coalition has been pouring troops into Afghanistan's south, mainly in Kandahar and Helmand, where the Taliban remain particularly active.

Earlier, NATO said one of its service members was killed following a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan. The military coalition said the attack occurred Tuesday. It provided no further details.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.N. Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq says the U.N. building where the Security Council and the General Assembly were scheduled to meet have been evacuated because of a suspicious odor.

Other U.N. officials say the odor was caused by an apparent gas leak in the basement.

The temporary building on the north lawn of the complex was evacuated Tuesday, but staff and diplomats were allowed to return a few minutes later. The building is also where U.N. Security-General Ban Ki-moon has his offices.

The evacuation delayed a morning Security Council event involving 150 young people planned by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, in her capacity as this month's council president.

U.N. officials say that the General Assembly and Security Council meetings are being moved to the North Lawn building.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

U.N. Deputy Spokesman Faran Haq says the U.N. building where the Security Council and the General Assembly were scheduled to meet have been evacuated because of a suspicious odor.

Other U.N. officials say the odor was caused by an apparent gas leak in the basement.

The temporary building on the north lawn of the complex, where U.N. Security-General Ban Ki-moon has his offices, was evacuated Tuesday, but staff and diplomats were allowed to return a few minutes later.

U.N. officials say that the General Assembly and Security Council meeetings are being moved to the North Lawn building.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of spokesman's name to Farhan rather than Faran. Minor edits. APNewsNow. For global distribution.)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan on Tuesday denied reports that American forces are pushing to expand special operations raids into tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan where Islamist militants are known to find refuge.

NATO's deputy chief of communications, U.S. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, said there was no truth to a report published in The New York Times.

Citing unnamed American officials in Washington, the Times reported on its website late Monday that U.S. military commanders believe special operations forces could capture militants for interrogation, bringing in an intelligence windfall.

"There is absolutely no truth to reporting in The New York Times that U.S. forces are planning to conduct ground operations into Pakistan," Smith said.

He added that NATO and U.S. forces, along with "their Afghan partners, have developed a strong working relationship with the Pakistan military to address shared security issues. This coordination recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and Pakistan to pursue insurgents and terrorists operating in their respective border areas."

In Washington, a senior US defense official also said the story was "not true."

Pakistan has firmly rejected any suggestion of U.S. assistance and has in the past sternly protested when the U.S.-led alliance had crossed the border into Pakistani tribal areas.

On Sept. 30, Pakistan closed a key border crossing for 10 days, stranding NATO resupply trucks in an apparent protest over a NATO helicopter incursion that killed two Pakistani soldiers on the border. During the closure, almost 150 stranded trucks were destroyed by attackers.

The U.S. has mainly relied on unmanned drones to pursue al-Qaida militants based in Pakistan. A decision to deploy special operations teams would signal frustration with Pakistan's efforts to root out militants who use its territory as a base to support the Taliban and other extremists.

In response to the newspaper report, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said, "Pakistani forces are capable of handling the militant threat within our borders and no foreign forces are allowed or required to operate inside our sovereign territory. We work with our allies, especially the U.S., and appreciate their material support but we will not accept foreign troops on our soil - a position that is well known."

He noted that Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had visited Pakistan recently and had "acknowledged Pakistan's contribution. Nothing discussed during his trip indicates the likelihood of ill-advised escalation or unilateral action by NATO troops beyond their mandate in Afghanistan."

Last week, Mullen said in Kabul that he thought it was possible the Pakistani military could shut down Taliban hideouts on its soil to prevent insurgents from moving back and forth across the long, porous border with Afghanistan. He added that fixing the problem was critical to making progress in the war and that he was encouraged by what Pakistan had already done to go after insurgents on its side of the border.

Pakistan has made progress against safe havens over the past year in operations that have taken a toll on its forces, according to a five-page public summary of the White House's classified Afghanistan War review that was released last week.

Pakistani authorities have almost exclusively focused on militants who pose a threat inside Pakistan. So far they have refused a U.S. request to take on militants in North Waziristan, the place used most frequently to target U.S. forces. It is also the home base of the al-Qaida affiliated Haqqani network.

Analysts and Afghan government officials have accused Pakistan of protecting the Haqqani network as a potential ally that could be of use after the Americans and their coalition partners leave Afghanistan.

"Cross border coordination has and continues to disrupt and dismantle insurgent networks in select areas, with significant operations on both sides of the border removing large numbers of insurgent leaders and fighters," Smith said.

The nine-year-old war in Afghanistan has grown increasingly unpopular in U.S. public opinion polls as it drags on with no apparent exit strategy. Using special operations forces could increase pressure on the militants, or it could create new problems for Washington.

The newspaper said that Afghan militias backed by the CIA have in recent years carried out a number of secret missions into Pakistan. The operations had previously been described as limited to intelligence-gathering. But the report said that recent interviews had revealed that in at least one instance, the Afghans attacked and destroyed a militant weapons cache.

Officials who described the proposal for raids and the intelligence operations to the newspaper declined to be identified by name because they were discussing classified information, the report said.

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A Puerto Rico National Guard helicopter crashed in the ocean while returning from a drug raid. The body of one of the six people on board has been found and the remaining five are feared dead, officials said Tuesday.

The body was found nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) off the coast in front of the Grand Melia resort late Tuesday morning, said Nino Correa, search and rescue director of the Emergency Management Agency. The victim has not yet been identified.

Crews are searching for the remaining passengers, and Police Chief Jose Figueroa Sancha told NotiUno radio station that officials found the fuselage of the UH-72 helicopter just north of the island.

It is unclear what caused the crash. The helicopter was returning from the neighboring island of Vieques when it disappeared late Monday just north of the coastal city of Rio Grande. One pilot had 10 years of experience and the other had at least six years, and neither reported any problems during the flight, said National Guard Gen. Antonio Vicens.

"The communication disappeared," he said.

Two of the passengers are prosecutors with the local justice department and the other four are officials with the National Guard, three of them crew members, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad.

The prosecutors, Francisco Mujica de Leon and Mario Torres Marin, worked for the division of organized crimes, said Justice Secretary Guillermo Somoza, adding that he has known both of them for more than seven years. Torres is president of the Association of Prosecutors.

"It is an extremely sad, difficult and painful day," Mujica de Leon said. "They were extremely dedicated prosecutors who went the extra mile."

The others aboard the helicopter were not identified pending notification of their relatives, officials said.

The helicopter was flying at about 400 feet (123 meters) and was fairly new, having been bought in May 2009, Vicens said.

It apparently changed its route, but it is unclear why.

The officials had been in Vieques to help serve 43 arrest warrants after a seven-month investigation into drug dealers on an island popular with tourists. Several housewives were among the suspects, according to justice spokesman Fidel Rodriguez.

The group is suspected of earning more than $2 million a year, he said.

Among the officials involved in the raid were 36 members of the U.S. National Guard, which has been helping Puerto Rican police battle the island's rising crime.

The U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million people has registered its third-worst year for homicides, with more than 920 people reported killed this year. A record 995 people were killed in 1994.

Skywatchers got an early holiday present this year: A total eclipse of the moon.

Hanging high in the sky, the moon slowly turned from bright silver into a red disk early Tuesday.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow on the full moon, blocking the sun's rays that otherwise reflect off the moon's surface. Some indirect sunlight still pierces through to give the moon its eerie hue.

The 3 1/2 hour celestial spectacle was visible from North and Central America where skies were clear. Portions of Europe and Asia only caught part of the show.

The totality phase - when the moon was completely immersed in Earth's shadow - lasted 72 minutes.

Since the year's only total lunar eclipse coincided with winter solstice, the moon glowed high in the sky.

The last time this occurred was more than three centuries ago on Dec. 21, 1638. It will happen again on Dec. 21, 2094, according to U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester.

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye, unlike solar eclipses.

The next total lunar eclipse will occur in June 2011 and will not be visible from North America.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The top Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land says that he remains hopeful for Mideast peace, despite the current breakdown in negotiations.

In his annual pre-Christmas address in Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal told his followers not to give up. He noted that Palestinian firefighters helped Israel battle a massive forest fire earlier this month. He said it could mark the beginning of a "fruitful collaboration" between two sides.

Thke patriarch will lead Christmas services in the West Bank town of Bethlehem this weekend.

President Barack Obama launched direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in September, saying he hoped to broker a peace accord within a year, but the negotiations broke down just three weeks later.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" was plagued by its fourth accident since it began previews last month when an actor performing an aerial stunt fell about 30 feet, fire officials said.
Firefighters were called to the Foxwoods Theatre at about 10:45 p.m. Monday after the 31-year-old actor fell near the end of the latest preview performance. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital with minor injuries, police said.
Police did not release the actor's name, but a performer in the show identified him as Christopher Tierney. The performer spoke on condition of anonymity because the performer was not authorized to speak publicly about the accident.
A nurse at Bellevue Hospital said that a Christopher Tierney was admitted and was in stable condition, but would not provide details.
Tierney is the show's main aerialist and performs stunts for the roles of Spider-Man, and the villains Meeks and Kraven.
The cable to Tierney's harness snapped during a scene in which Spider-Man rescues his love interest, Mary Jane, the performer said. It was unclear if Tierney was properly harnessed when the cable snapped. The performer said the show's actors are responsible for hooking themselves up to harnesses used for aerial stunts.
Actress Natalie Mendoza, who plays Spider-Man's evil love interest Arachne and herself was injured during the show's first preview last month, posted a Twitter message asking people to pray for the actor.
"Please pray with me for my friend Chris, my superhero who quietly inspires me everyday with his spirit. A light in my heart went dim tonight."
Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the production, said the fall happened about seven minutes before the end of the performance, and the show was stopped.
LONDON (AP) -- British security officials say a large-scale terror attack was aimed at landmarks and public spaces, as more details of the plot emerged and police searched the homes of 12 British suspects being held for questioning.

The men were arrested Monday in the largest counterterrorism raid in nearly two years. At least five were of Bangladeshi origin.

Lord Carlile, the government's independent reviewer of terror legislation, said Tuesday the alleged plot appeared significant and involved several UK cities. Police have up to 28 days to either charge the men or release them.

Possible targets included the Houses of Parliament and shopping areas, according to a security official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

San Bernardino County Firefighters Jay Hausman, left, and Ryan Beckers, right, pull a victim from a car caught in swift water at Hughes and Avalon Road in Victorville, Calif., Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Daily Press, James Quigg)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The latest in a series of powerful storm systems is bearing down on California, pelting mountain areas with heavy rain, snow and high winds, prompting evacuations and leaving thousands without power.

Virtually the entire state has been affected by the storms that began Friday, dumping moisture from far Northern California south to San Diego. More than 12 inches of rain have fallen in parts of the Santa Monica Mountains in the south, and 13 feet of snow has accumulated at Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

Downtown Los Angeles had received 5 1/4 inches of rain since Friday morning, more than a third of the average annual precipitation.

In the Wrightwood area, about 15 people were evacuated Monday night after the Sheep Creek Wash overflowed and threatened homes, the San Bernardino County Fire Department told the Los Angeles Times. At least three homes sustained water damage.

Also in San Bernardino County, a woman was rescued from her pickup truck Monday night after being swept away in rain-swollen Lytle Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest.

The woman called for help on her cell phone as water rose inside her cab up to the dashboard, San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez told the Los Angeles Times.

After a four-hour ordeal, the woman was pulled to safety and taken to a hospital in good condition, Martinez said.

Flooding also was reported in Trabuco Canyon, southeast of Los Angeles, where rescuers used a bulldozer late Monday to rescue five men stranded by rain-swollen Trabuco Creek. The search would continue Tuesday for four other hikers missing in the nearby Holy Jim Canyon area, the Orange County Register reported.

Nearly 21,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power late Monday due to the storm, said Edison spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady. The hardest-hit area was the city of Torrance, south of Los Angeles, with more than 4,600 outages. She said crews would be working through the night to restore service.

Unaccustomed to driving and dressing for so much rain, Southern California residents tried to go about their business - creeping on the freeways, dodging puddles downtown and doing last-minute holiday shopping.

At a grocery store in La Canada Flintridge, Justin Buck trotted back and forth across the parking lot, collecting shopping carts in a clear plastic rain slicker.

"I dreaded coming to work today," the 31-year-old said. "This coat isn't keeping me dry either. The water runs off my back, down onto my legs and drips into my boots. It's not that cold actually. You just get tired of being wet all the time."

While adults grumbled, children didn't seem to mind the rain. Grade-schoolers in rubber boots splashed in the downspouts and pre-teens pretended to be too cool for rain gear.

"I love the rain because we get to stay in during gym class and watch movies. And at lunchtime, the kids run outside and come back all soaked and try to hug you," said 12-year-old Amy Becerra said as she bounced up and down and giggled.

Her mother, Nancy, who was struggling with an umbrella, disagreed. She complained that the constant rain was "depressing," kept her inside all weekend and made driving scary.

About 40 residents of the San Joaquin Valley farming community of McFarland were briefly evacuated Monday morning.

Gary Farrell, general manager of the McFarland Parks and Recreation District, said Santa Fe Railroad crews kept Poso Creek free of debris so it wouldn't overflow.

Resident Cristian Abundis, who lives on a street where water ran a foot deep, returned from an evacuation center and quickly started filling sand bags.

"We just want to be prepared," he said, dropping the bags around his doors and driveway.

Elsewhere, a small twin-engine airplane was reported missing on a 65-mile flight from Palm Springs to Chino. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says a wreckage was found near Lake Perris but investigators won't be certain that it's the missing plane until they can get to the scene on Tuesday, if weather permits.

Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain after a 250-square-mile wildfire last year denuded a large swath of the San Gabriel Mountains. More than 40 homes in the foothills just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.

Elsewhere, a 20-mile stretch of scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed after a rock and mudslide Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt. The same highway also was closed for a time in Orange County by a mudslide at Dana Point.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Labor Relations Board wants private employers to tell workers about their right to form a union.

The agency is proposing a rule that would require most businesses to prominently display a list of legal rights to engage in union activities without reprisal.

The rule is likely to please labor unions that are seeking to reverse years of decline in union membership ranks. But it's bound to draw the ire of many companies that have spent years trying to resist union organizers. It could take effect in as few as 60 days.

The move comes less than a year after President Barack Obama made three recess appointments to give the labor board its first Democratic majority in a decade.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A Philadelphia man fearing vigilantes had to call police for help after someone posted his picture on fliers falsely naming him as the suspect in a string of strangling deaths.

Philadelphia police say someone distributed fliers bearing the man's name, address and photo in the city's Kensington neighborhood, where a series of killings and sex assaults have residents on edge.

The flier found its way to Facebook, where it was posted on a group called "Catch the Kensington Strangler, before he catches someone you love."

Police say whoever distributed the fliers could face charges.

Officials planned a news conference Tuesday to discuss their investigation into the attacks.
Health insurers will have to justify rate increases at or above 10 percent starting next year under a new proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal government will not have the authority to reject the rate increases. But an HHS official says it will help states review premium hikes and then highlight any deemed unreasonable. Insurers will then be asked to submit a final justification for them.

This rule only affects policies sold in the individual and small group markets. Steep hikes in those markets have been a hot topic since early this year, when reports of Anthem Blue Cross rates rising as much as 39 percent in California helped reignite stalled health care overhaul legislation. The insurer later withdrew the increase.

TORONTO (AP) -- Toronto-Dominion Bank has agreed to buy Chrysler Financial, the automaker's old lending arm, from private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP for $6.3 billion.

Cerberus acquired the lender when it bought most of the automaker for $7.4 billion in 2007. Cerberus lost control of Chrysler when the automaker nearly ran out of cash and faced liquidation in 2008.

The automaker was saved by a U.S. government bailout. It went through bankruptcy protection last year, and the government turned control over to Italy's Fiat SpA. Cerberus kept ownership of Chrysler Financial.

Toronto-Dominion CEO Ed Clark said they were looking to accelerate their growth in the U.S. "The Chrysler Financial acquisition delivers that for us," he said on a conference call with analysts. "With this deal we are positioned to become a top five North American auto lender."

TD wants to expand its loan business, and said the deal will give it access to technology that can process more than 2 million credit applications per year. The auto lending market hasn't taken as much of a hit as other kinds of consumer loans over the last several years. And the value of used cars is picking up as the economy improves.

The deal is the latest example of Canadian banks using their muscle to snap up U.S. institutions battered by the financial crisis. Last Friday the Bank of Montreal announced it is buying Milwaukee-based bank Marshall & Ilsley Corp. for $4.1 billion in stock.

Canadian banks are investing in the U.S. from a position of strength, as they weathered the economic crisis far better than their counterparts in other countries. In a concentrated banking system dominated by five major players, Canadian banks have been looking across the border to find growth opportunities.

Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada's second largest bank, has expanded its U.S. presence in recent years with the purchase of New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp in what has been its largest acquisition. TD also bought smaller, troubled banks in the Carolinas and Florida such as South Carolina-based South Financial Group. Earlier this year, TD agreed to buy the risky assets of three insolvent Florida banks worth $3.8 billion. TD didn't have a presence in U.S. six years ago, but now has about 1,300 branches in the U.S. compared to about 1,100 in Canada.

TD Bank expects to rebrand Chrysler Financial under the TD name by spring 2011. The acquisition is expected to add about $100 million in adjusted earnings in 2012, the first full year of operations.

The deal should close in TD's fiscal 2011 second quarter, the companies predict, pending regulatory approvals and other conditions. Chrysler Financial will maintain its Toronto headquarters and its top executive, CEO Tom Gilman, after the deal closes.

A TD spokesman said the purchase is comprised of net assets of US$5.9 billion and approximately US$400 million in goodwill.