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Olbermann Leaves 'Countdown' on MSNBC

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© Virginia Sherwood/MSNBC
Keith Olbermann in November.
9:43 p.m. Updated Keith Olbermann, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, announced abruptly on the air Friday night that he is leaving Countdown with Keith Olbermann immediately.

The host, who has had a stormy relationship with the management of the network for some time, especially since he was suspended for two days last November, came to an agreement with NBC's corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.

In a closing statement on his show, Mr. Olbermann said simply that it would be the last edition of the program. He offered no explanation other than on occasion, the show had become too much for him.

Mr. Olbermann thanked his viewers for their enthusiastic support of a show that had "gradually established its position as anti-establishment."

In a statement, MSNBC said : "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of Countdown with Keith Olbermann will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

Butterfly

US: Gabrielle Giffords Heard Cheers Leaving Arizona Hospital, Smiled

She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes.

The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation.


Children sat on their parents' shoulders as the motorcade passed. Many waved. Others carried signs wishing "Gabby" well.

"It was very emotional and very special," said Dr. Randall Friese, who traveled with Giffords.

By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately.

After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center's rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann.

Giffords has "great rehabilitation potential," said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann.

"She will keep us busy, and we will keep her busy as well," he said.

The first thing is to determine the extent of Giffords' injuries and the impact on her abilities to move and communicate. She hasn't spoken yet, and it's unknown whether she will suffer permanent disabilities.

A gunman shot Giffords and 18 other people on Jan. 8 as she met with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. Six people died. The suspect in the attack, Jared Loughner, 22, is being held in federal custody.

Handcuffs

US: Ex-Chicago Cop Gets 4 1/2 Years in Torture Case

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© The Associated Press / Charles Rex Arbogast
In this May 24, 2010 file photo, former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge leaves the federal building in Chicago. On Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, a sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin for Burge, who was convicted of lying about the torture of suspects.
A decorated former Chicago police officer whose name has become synonymous with police brutality in the city was sentenced Friday to 4 1/2 years in federal prison for lying about the torture of suspects.

Dozens of suspects - almost all of them black men - have claimed for decades that Jon Burge and his officers electrically shocked, suffocated and beat them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow said the sentence reflected the seriousness of the allegations and, in making her decision, she wondered why a respected officer so admired by his department would resort to such violence.

"My best guess is ambition," Lefkow said. "Perhaps the praise, the publicity and the commendations . . . were seductive and led you down this path."

Burge was charged with lying when he testified in a civil lawsuit brought by Madison Hobley, who was sentenced to death for a 1987 fire that killed seven people, including his wife and son. Hobley was later pardoned.

Hobley claimed detectives put a plastic typewriter cover over his head to make it impossible for him to breathe. Burge denied knowing anything about the "bagging" or taking part in it. The indictment against Burge never said Hobley was tortured but accused Burge of lying about participating in or knowing about torture that took place under his watch. Burge has never faced criminal charges for abuse.

Radar

Graffiti Threatening Governor Brown Turns Up In 2 Places In Santa Ana,California

Santa Ana police were called at 7 a.m. about threatening graffiti on Greenville Street north of Alton Avenue, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

The graffiti read, "We gonna kill Gov. Brown 2 14 11," Bertagna said.

Santa Ana police were called at 7 a.m. about threatening graffiti on Greenville Street north of Alton Avenue, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

The graffiti read, "We gonna kill Gov. Brown 2 14 11," Bertagna said.

Laptop

Google announces surprise shakeup as Larry Page takes on CEO role

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© Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Google said Larry Page (above) would take over from 4 April, when Eric Schmidt will become executive chairman.
Long-time chief Eric Schmidt to become executive chairman

Web giant reports better-than-expected profits of $2.5bn


Larry Page, Google's co-founder, is taking over the reins at the search engine giant from long-time chief Eric Schmidt.

In a surprise move Schmidt delivered the news as the company announced fourth-quarter profits that were far better than analysts had expected. "Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!" he tweeted as the results were released.

Google reported a profit of $2.54bn (£1.59bn), up from $1.97bn a year earlier, far better than expected. Schmidt said it had been a "great privilege" to lead the company and he looked forward to working with his "literally best friends and partners Larry and Sergey."

The company said Page would take over from 4 April when Schmidt will become executive chairman, "focusing externally on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships".

Sheriff

US: FBI arrests 127 in its biggest ever Mafia crackdown

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© Chip East / Reuters
Roundup of suspected Cosa Nostra members in raids by 800 officers hark back to heyday of battle with the mob

The charge sheets read like a script from the heyday of Hollywood's love affair with the mob, replete with made men, consiglieres and vows of undying loyalty to the boss. In a move that made it seem time had stood still since The Godfather first astonished America in 1972, the FBI today renewed its decades-long battle against the US mafia.

In a devastating blow to the organised crime families of the north-eastern US, more than 800 FBI and police officers made the largest roundup of Cosa Nostra bosses and soldiers in US history. Some 127 mafia members and their accomplices were charged.

The arrests in New York, Newark in New Jersey and Rhode Island were both an indication of the mafia's enduring power in the US and of the determination of the FBI to regain the initiative in its struggle with the organisation.

Heart - Black

US:Proposed Bill Would Create Domestic Violence Registry

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© AP Photo
A Woman Cries
Veronica Galaviz of Richardson is nine months free of the man who tried to first kill her before then taking his own life. Prior to that horrific night, Galaviz said that she spent years being verbally and then physically abused.

But a bill that has been proposed by State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio seeks to create a domestic violence registry, similar to the current sex offender registry. "Once you've been in an abusive relationship, you have some trust issues," Galaviz said. "You always have some doubts, and this would be one way to relieve some of those doubts."

"I think it's a great tool, especially for someone who doesn't have the means to do a criminal background check on a potential suitor," Galaviz added.

If the bill (House Bill 100) is passed, any individual convicted of domestic violence at least three times would be required to register as a repeat offender. The registry would be free and open to the public, and would include names, birthdates and recent photographs of the offenders.

Jan Langbein is the executive director of Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas. "I've heard so many women over the years say, 'Gosh, I wish I could have seen this coming,'" Langbein said. "'There was no way for me to see this coming. I didn't know that his past three wives were abused by him.'"

Arrow Down

US: Home Sales Hit 13-Year Low; Slow Recovery Ahead

The number of people who bought previously owned homes last year fell to the lowest level in 13 years, and economists say it will be years before the housing market fully recovers.

High unemployment and a record number of foreclosures are deterring potential buyers who fear home prices haven't reached the bottom. Job growth is expected to pick up this year, but not enough to raise home sales to healthier levels.

"We built too many houses during the boom, and now after the crash, it will take us a long time to get back to normal," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York.

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that sales dropped 4.8 percent to 4.91 million units in 2010. That was slightly fewer than in 2008, which had been the weakest year since 1997.

The poor year for sales did end on a stronger note. Buyers snapped up homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million units in December, the best sales pace since May and the 12.8 percent rise from November was the biggest one-month surge in 11 years.

Briefcase

US: The Phantom 15 Million

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© John Moore/Getty Images
Anxious: Job seekers in Denver
America's jobs crisis began a decade ago. Long before the housing bubble burst and Wall Street melted down, something in our national job-creation machine went horribly wrong.

The years between the brief 2001 recession and the 2008 financial collapse gave us solid growth in our gross national product, soaring corporate profits, and a low unemployment rate - but job creation lagged stubbornly behind, more so than in any economic expansion since World War II.

The Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. But even if the recession had never happened, if the economy had simply treaded water, the United States would have entered 2010 with 15 million fewer jobs than economists say it should have.

Somehow, rapid advancements in technology and the opening of new international markets paid dividends for American companies but not for American workers. An economy that long thrived on its dynamism, shedding jobs in outdated and less competitive industries and adding them in innovative new fields, fell stagnant in the swirls of the most globalized decade of commerce in human history.

Even now, no one really knows why.

Eye 1

US: Bonus Payments to City Retirees Are Drawing Ire

As San Francisco struggles under ballooning pension and health care costs, the city's retirees will receive unexpected cost-of-living bonuses totaling $170 million. The city's anticipated budget deficit for the coming year is $360 million.

A political battle has raged over the city's growing retirement obligations. In November, Proposition B, which would have required city workers to contribute more toward their pensions and benefits, was soundly defeated. The measure's opponents - every major elected official and energetic public-employee unions - said fears about the pension fund were overblown.

Meanwhile, the fund's fundamentals deteriorated as it gradually accounted for its huge losses in the stock market crash. It took in $414 million in contributions in 2010 but paid out $819 million.