Retailers see sales decline on Black Friday despite more shoppers; Thanksgiving took spending
Thanksgiving shopping took a noticeable bite out of Black Friday's start to the holiday season, as the latest survey found retail sales in stores fell slightly from last year.
Saturday's report from retail technology company ShopperTrak finds consumers spent $11.2 billion at stores across the U.S. That is down 1.8 percent from last year's total.
This year's Friday results appear to have been tempered by hundreds of thousands of shoppers hitting sales Thursday evening while still full of Thanksgiving dinner. Retailers including Sears, Target and Wal-Mart got their deals rolling as early as 8 p.m. on Turkey Day.
Online shopping also may have cut into the take at brick-and-mortar stores: IBM said online sales rose 17.4 percent on Thanksgiving and 20.7 percent on Black Friday, compared with 2011.
Yet ShopperTrak said retail foot traffic increased 3.5 percent, to more than 307.67 million store visits, indicating at least some shoppers were browsing but not spending freely.
ElBaradei warns of turmoil unless Morsi rescinds decree as opposition tries to unite
CAIRO (AP) -- Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei warned Saturday of increasing turmoil that could potentially lead to the military stepping in unless the Islamist president rescinds his new, near absolute powers, as the country's long fragmented opposition sought to unite and rally new protests.
Egypt's liberal and secular forces -- long divided, weakened and uncertain amid the rise of Islamist parties to power -- are seeking to rally themselves in response to the decrees issued this week by President Mohammed Morsi. The president granted himself sweeping powers to "protect the revolution" and made himself immune to judicial oversight.
The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi's edicts, pushed back Saturday. The country's highest body of judges, the Supreme Judical Council, called his decrees an "unprecedented assault." Courts in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria announced a work suspension until the decrees are lifted.
Outside the high court building in Cairo, several hundred demonstrators rallied against Morsi, chanting, "Leave! Leave!" echoing the slogan used against former leader Hosni Mubarak in last year's uprising that ousted him. Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of young men who were shooting flares outside the court.
The edicts issued Wednesday have galvanized anger brewing against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, ever since he took office in June as Egypt's first freely elected president. Critics accuse the Brotherhood -- which has dominated elections the past year -- and other Islamists of monopolizing power and doing little to bring real reform or address Egypt's mounting economic and security woes.
Ala. sheriff: Shootout that killed deputy, wounded another began when man opened fire on them
FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) -- The shootout that left one Alabama deputy sheriff dead and another in critical condition on Saturday began when they checked on a man at his mobile home and he opened fire on them, authorities said.
Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Mack told AL.com (http://bit.ly/TcX1yChttp://bit.ly/TcX1yC ) that gunfire erupted Friday after Michael Jansen pulled a handgun on Deputy Scott Ward and his colleagues outside of Jansen's Fairhope-area home.
Ward was fatally wounded after responding about 4 p.m. with two other deputies to a family disturbance call at the residence. Deputies returned fire, killing Jansen.
Ward, 47, was transported by helicopter to University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile, where he was pronounced dead. The second deputy remained in critical condition at the same hospital Saturday afternoon. The third deputy was not hurt.
Mack did not release the names of the two surviving deputies.
How to judge possible 'fiscal cliff' deal: A checklist to see whether debt reduction is real
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama and leaders of the lame-duck Congress may be just weeks away from shaking hands on a deal to avert the dreaded "fiscal cliff." So it's natural to wonder: If they announce a bipartisan package promising to curb mushrooming federal deficits, will it be real?
Both sides have struck cooperative tones since Obama's re-election. Even so, he and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the GOP's pivotal bargainer, have spent most of the past two years in an acrid political climate in which both sides have fought stubbornly to protect their constituencies.
Obama and top lawmakers could produce an agreement that takes a serious bite out of the government's growing $16 trillion pile of debt and puts it on a true downward trajectory.
Or they might reach an accord heading off massive tax increases and spending cuts that begin to bite in January -- that's the fiscal cliff -- while appearing to be getting tough on deficits through painful savings deferred until years from now, when their successors might revoke or dilute them.
Historically, Congress and presidents have proven themselves capable of either. So before bargainers concoct a product, and assuming they can, here's a checklist of how to assess their work:
Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans represent diverse political spectrum in House freshmen class
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Tammy Duckworth sees it, her path to Congress began when she awoke in the fall of 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She was missing both of her legs and faced the prospect of losing her right arm.
Months of agonizing therapy lay ahead. As the highest-ranking double amputee in the ward, Maj. Duckworth became the go-to person for soldiers complaining of substandard care and bureaucratic ambivalence.
Soon, she was pleading their cases to federal lawmakers, including her state's two U.S. senators at the time -- Democrats Dick Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois. Obama arranged for her to testify at congressional hearings. Durbin encouraged her to run for office.
She lost her first election, but six years later gave it another try and now is one of nine veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who will serve in next year's freshman class in the of House of Representatives.
Veterans' groups say the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is welcome because it comes at a time when the overall number of veterans in Congress is on a steep and steady decline. In the mid-1970s, the vast majority of lawmakers tended to be veterans.
Men play a crucial role in the voting 'gender gap'; raising question what do these men want?
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sorry, fellas, but President Barack Obama's re-election makes it official: Women can overrule men at the ballot box.
For the first time in research dating to 1952, a presidential candidate whom men chose decisively -- Republican Mitt Romney -- lost. More women voted for the other guy.
It's surprising it didn't happen sooner because women have been voting in larger numbers than men for almost three decades, exit polls show.
But men, who make up less than half the U.S. population, always have exercised power greater than their numbers and they aren't about to stop now.
When it comes to elections, males as a group are more influential because they show less party loyalty than women, who skew Democratic.
AP Interview: No. 2 in Hamas says group will not stop Gaza weapons production, smuggling
CAIRO (AP) -- Gaza's ruling Hamas will not stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.
The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbors on a new border deal.
Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt lift all restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Palestinian territory, which has been buckling under a border blockade since the Islamists seized the territory in 2007. The restrictions have been eased somewhat in recent years, but not enough to allow Gaza's battered economy to develop.
Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. However, an Israeli security official said this week that Israel would likely link a significant easing of the blockade to Hamas's willingness to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and producing them there.
Abu Marzouk said Saturday that the group would not disarm, arguing that recent Palestinian history has shown that negotiations with Israel lead nowhere unless backed by force.
Mass. natural gas explosion damaged 42 buildings; cause of blast that hurt 18 being probed
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Preliminary investigations show more than 40 buildings were damaged in a natural gas explosion in Massachusetts that injured 18 people, building inspectors said Saturday.
A strip club was flattened and a day care center was heavily damaged in the massive blast Friday night in Springfield, one of New England's biggest cities.
Investigators were trying Saturday to figure out what caused the blast that could be heard for miles, left a large hole in the ground where the multistory brick building housing Scores Gentleman's Club once stood and scattered debris over several blocks.
Officials already had evacuated part of the entertainment district after responding to a gas leak and odor reported about an hour before the explosion. Gas workers venting a gas leak got indications that the building was about to explode and they ducked for cover behind a utility truck -- along with firefighters and police officers -- just before the blast, said Mark McDonald, president of the New England Gas Workers Association.
Most of the injured were in that group, and the truck that saved their lives was essentially demolished, he said.
Giving J.R. Ewing his due: Larry Hagman gave TV its greatest (and most lovable) villain
NEW YORK (AP) -- One reason "Dallas" became a cultural phenomenon like none other is that Larry Hagman never took its magnitude for granted.
During an interview last June, he spoke of returning to Dallas and the real-life Southfork Ranch some months earlier to resume his role of J.R. Ewing for the TNT network's revival of the series. There at Southfork, now a major tourist attraction, he came upon a wall-size family tree diagramming the entanglement of "Dallas" characters.
"I looked at it and said 'I didn't know I was related to HER!'" Hagman marveled. "And I didn't know THAT!"
In its own way, the original "Dallas" -- which aired on CBS from 1978 to 1991 -- was unfathomably bigger than anything on TV before or since, while J.R. Ewing remains unrivaled not just as a video villain but as a towering mythical figure.
All this is largely thanks to Hagman and his epic portrayal of J.R., a Texas oilman and patriarch who, in Hagman's hands, was in equal measures loathsome and lovable.
McCarron, Lacy help No. 2 Bama streamroll Auburn 49-0 in most lopsided Iron Bowl in 6 decades
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama left no doubt it's tops in the state.
Proving it's the best team in the Southeastern Conference and perhaps the nation won't be nearly so easy.
AJ McCarron passed for four touchdowns and Eddie Lacy rushed for 131 yards and two scores to lead the second-ranked Crimson Tide to a 49-0 beatdown of rival Auburn on Saturday, the most lopsided Iron Bowl in 64 years.
The Tide (10-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) clinched the Western Division title outright and a spot in the conference title game against No. 3 Georgia with the winner likely getting a BCS national championship shot.
"To me, in all those games that I've been a part of, they are about as good as any game in the country other than the national championship game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the SEC title matchup.