Crosby has 2 goals, 2 assists in NHL return after long recovery from concussion

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins would have accepted an average Sidney Crosby in his first game in nearly 11 months – a routine performance, a regular night at the office.

Instead, they got the extraordinary.

Crosby scored the game’s first goal on his first shot since Jan. 5, scored again in the third period and added two assists during the NHL’s most-awaited comeback game since Mario Lemieux’s return in 2000 as the Pittsburgh Penguins roughed up the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Choose an adjective befitting the superlative, and it worked on this special night: Dazzling, exceptional, brilliant.

No one in the hockey world knew exactly what to expect as Crosby, hockey’s biggest star, played his first game in 321 days following his prolonged layoff with a concussion that caused him considerable discomfort for months. But few probably expected him to be this good, this fast, this dominant.

This much like the Sidney Crosby of old.

Even the score was the same as when Lemieux returned from a 44-month retirement to collect a goal and two assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 27, 2000, in the last NHL comeback to generated this much interest.

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The Penguins, already one of the NHL’s top teams, now have a superstar looking just like the player who was dominating the NHL scoring race at this time a year ago, when Crosby was on pace for the league’s highest scoring total in 15 years before he was hurt.

Crosby showed not a speck of rust from his extended absence and was the fastest player on the ice from the very start of a memorable night. He helped set up a Chris Kunitz shot off the crossbar on his very first shift – shades of Lemieux getting an assist only a half-minute into his comeback – and was a motivated and driven player from the start.

And who could have scripted this any better – Crosby grabbed a Pascal Dupuis pass in stride on his third shift, accelerated to the net and, while fending off defenceman Andrew MacDonald, lifted a hard backhander under the crossbar only 5:24 into the game. Islanders rookie Anders Nilsson, making his first NHL start, never had a chance.

It never got any better after that for the Islanders, who dropped their 12th game in their last 14 overall and their 13th in a row in Pittsburgh, a city that isn’t very hospitable to them even when Crosby isn’t playing.

Now Crosby is back and, based on Monday’s game, appears to have the same form that saw him to score 32 goals and pile up an NHL-leading 66 points in 41 games before he sustained a concussion in early January.

For Crosby, the first-place Penguins and the league that has long awaited the return of its signature star, it couldn’t have gone much better than this.

He also took a few hard hits – the kind that can’t be handed out in practice – with Travis Hamonic shoving him in the end boards during the first period. Crosby quickly jumped up, not shaken a bit.

The standing-room crowd of 18,571 in Consol Energy Center was predictably loud and supportive, holding up Welcome Back Sid: signs by the thousands while chanting “Crosby, Crosby” as a huge No. 87 was displayed on the scoreboard before the opening faceoff.

There were signs everywhere – one read “Merry Sidmas” – from a crowd that came prepared to welcome back Crosby no matter how well he played, and was rewarded with a performance that bordered on the otherworldly.

During the morning skate, Penguins forward Steve Sullivan warned it might take any player coming off an extended layoff a few games to regain his timing, his top speed and his game legs, even if he managed to play a game or two on adrenalin.

Crosby looked as if he hadn’t missed a shift, much less half of one season and one quarter of another. He showed his playmaking abilities as he set up the Penguins’ second goal following a four-minute break between shifts late in the first period. His backhander from the left wing boards found defenceman Brooks Orpik at the point for a one-timer that beat Nilsson to the stick side at 16:29.

The score was only 2-0 but, given the emotion and the energy generated by the Crosby comeback, it was all but over.

It was a difficult assignment from the star from Nilsson, whose only previous NHL playing time was a 40-minute stint during a 6-0 loss to Boston on Saturday night. Crosby’s comeback didn’t make it any easier.

Neither did the Penguins’ third goal, scored by Evgeni Malkin on a power play with Crosby assisting 3:17 into the second period. Crosby drove hard to the net after coming off the bench and was turned aside by Nilsson, but got the puck back and fed it to Kris Letang at the point, who in turn sailed a hard pass to Malkin near the left post for his 10th goal.

Crosby didn’t figure in Pittsburgh’s fourth goal, scored by Sullivan off Malkin’s set-up only 2 ½ minutes later. The big lead allowed coach Dan Bylsma to start trimming Crosby’s ice time a bit, given the Penguins play three more times in the next five days.

Not that Crosby was done.

He finished off the unforgettable night with his second goal, slamming a hard backhander off defenceman Steve Staios and by Nilsson after carrying the puck from behind to net to along the right-wing boards 2:06 into the third period.

With so much attention on Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury quietly went about putting together his 21st career shutout and second of the season, stopping 29 shots as the Penguins won their sixth in a row at home and improved to 12-6-4.

Now, for Crosby, it’s one game down, two goals scored and the rest of the season to go.

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Occupy Calgary protesters cool to city deal, ask for electric hookups

CALGARY – Talks between Occupy Calgary and city officials went cold Saturday as protesters wavered on a deal that would see them vacate Olympic Plaza.

Despite facing temperatures below minus 20 degrees, the campers vowed to continue their occupation. Protester Aaron Doncaster read the city’s proposal out loud during a general assembly on Saturday.

“Personally, if I had my own choice, I would light this on fire,” Doncaster said, holding a copy of the city’s offer.

Last Thursday, city officials presented protesters with an informal proposal that would allow them to host several public forums and establish an information booth somewhere near the plaza in exchange for the group leaving the park.

But protesters balked at the offer, citing several concerns including the proposal’s informal nature. Doncaster invited Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other city officials down to the camp for further discussions.

“They won’t even come down to our (general assemblies) and recognize us,” he said. “That is an open line of communication that needs to be acknowledged.”

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Saturday marked the fifth week the group has occupied Olympic Plaza. The city previously ticketed and threatened to evict the protesters, but has since taken a more neutral stance, citing constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

The movement seems to be waning in several Canadian cities. Protesters in Vancouver have been given until Monday to pack up and camps in Regina and Victoria have already been dismantled.

 

“Calgary’s said from the get-go we’re looking for a peaceful resolution,” said Bill Bruce, director of animal and bylaw services.

Several protesters called for access to electrical services before they’d continue talks with the city. Bruce said there is no plan to offer power to the camp.

“That’s not on the table from the city’s side,” he said. “Realistically, we’ve cautioned them about the weather.”

The idea of continuing without power didn’t sit well with all the occupiers. Anthony Hall, a University of Lethbridge professor who recently joined the movement, said they have the right to use electrical devices, such as laptops.

Hall would like to see city hall engage the group in a respectful discussion on the matter.

“We’re human beings,” he said. “He (Bruce) deals with bylaws and animals, and he’s dealing with us like we’re animals. We’re humans. It’s winter in Canada.”

Protesters say they hope to make a formal counter-offer to the city by next Saturday.

“The city is missing the point in that they don’t seem to understand that the way this group operates isn’t through demands or proposals,” said protester Arran Fisher.

However, Fisher didn’t have a solution as to how the two parties could reach a deal.

“I can’t think of an appropriate response apart from just letting it happen.”

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Mayor says his 5% tax plan is doable

CALGARY – Mayor Naheed Nenshi has released a roadmap to stick with a five-per-cent tax increase for 2012 by the end of this week’s budget debates, but he likely lacks the support to get there.

He is confident the police chief can handle 45 fewer officers at community and district desks and in other support services, feels transit won’t suffer with fewer service hours, and thinks less money for parks maintenance will prompt more efficient delivery of the service.

“On the face of it and on the facts, there is no reason we can’t do it,” Nenshi said of his tax plan.

He’s going to have a tough job convincing others on council.

At least one councillor who reluctantly joined Nenshi’s push to keep property tax hikes to the rate of population and civic cost growth now wants to go higher – six per cent, perhaps – to prevent service reductions for police, transit or snow clearing.

“We’re going to have to add. I just don’t see places where we can cut,” Jim Stevenson said Sunday, the day before council begins a likely marathon stretch of hearings and debates on the 2012-2014 city fiscal plan.

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When council gave city managers pre-budget direction on taxes in June, Stevenson was one of nine members who initially backed finance committee chairman Councillor Gord Lowe’s plan for an eight-per-cent increase in 2012, and six points in the next two years.

He was then one of the three councillors who switched their stances after Nenshi pitched hikes of 5.0, 5.1 and 5.5 per cent in successive years.

Lowe plans to bring back his eight-point tax proposal, and colleagues have eyed many department budgets to shore up.

A plan to add no new transit routes outside the west LRT corridor and cut $1 million in transit service in 2013 has won few fans other than the mayor, who argues the new LRT line will offset the need for more bus service.

The police commission has many members in their corner – including Stevenson – calling to reverse the planned elimination of 45 officers this year, and hire additional police.

“I’m so happy with what (Chief) Rick Hanson has done over the years. I just don’t agree we should hamstring them,” the Ward 3 member said.

Nenshi supports the idea for new officers as the population grows but will ask council to await word on possible aid from the Redford government.

Many also oppose a $5.7-million clawback to parks maintenance over three years, and there’s apparent unanimity against a $3.5-million cut to the roads budget that would end the newly upgraded plowing strategy for side streets.

To staunch that problem, Nenshi will propose taking $7 million from the rainy day reserve to start a snowy-day fund so the city can draw from it in tough winters, and add to it in lighter winters.

Civic Camp, a group of urban activists which Nenshi helped form, will appeal today for the higher tax hike that Lowe endorses and the mayor is against.

There’s streamlining to be done, but even the city’s own pre-budget consultations showed Calgarians favour enhanced services, Civic Camp organizer Peter Rishaug said.

“They are willing to pay more for certain services, if they are reliable and improve quality of life,” he said.

There will also be public speakers coming out for operational dollars to further the cycling strategy, which got short shrift in a budget that cuts back in most areas.

“It will result in savings that exceed its costs many times. The benefits include improved health, long term transportation cost savings, more vibrant street life and increased tourism,” said Bike Calgary’s letter to Nenshi and council last week.

For support on a more modest tax hike, Nenshi can likely count on Councillors Dale Hodges and Andre Chabot, as well as Peter Demong, who wants a four-per-cent hike. But they’re aware of the long odds.

“I don’t think council will have the intestinal fortitude to get it below six per cent,” Chabot said.

On top of tax rates and service levels, council will also tackle user fees. Many members will try to alter the draft plan to hike the senior’s annual transit pass to $55 next year and $96 by 2014, from the present deeply discounted $35 (low-income seniors would still pay $15 a year).

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Penn State taps former FBI director Louis Freeh in child sex-abuse investigation

PHILADELPHIA – Former FBI director Louis Freeh, tapped to lead Penn State’s investigation into the child sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach, said his inquiry will go as far back as 1975, a much longer period than a grand jury report issued earlier this month.

Freeh was named Monday to oversee the university board of trustees’ internal investigation into the abuse allegations that ultimately led to the ouster of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier.

Freeh said his goal was to conduct a comprehensive, fair and quick review. His team of former FBI agents, federal prosecutors and others has already begun the process of reading the grand jury report and looking at records.

“We will immediately report any evidence of criminality to law enforcement authorities,” said Freeh, who has no connection to Penn State.

Penn State has faced criticism since announcing that its internal investigation would be led by two university trustees, Merck pharmaceutical company CEO Kenneth Frazier and Pennsylvania state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis.

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Faculty members on Friday called for an independent investigation of how the university handled abuse allegations, and the faculty senate endorsed a resolution asking for an independent investigation.

In announcing Freeh’s appointment, Frazier stressed the former FBI director’s independence. Freeh will be empowered to investigate employees up to and including the board of trustees itself, Frazier said.

“No one is above scrutiny,” Frazier said.

Freeh said he had been assured there would be “no favouritism.” He called that assurance “the main condition of my engagement.”

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting eight boys over a 15-year period beginning in the mid-1990s. Authorities say some assaults happened on campus and were reported to administrators but not to police.

Amid the scandal, Penn State’s trustees ousted Spanier and Paterno. The trustees said Spanier and Paterno failed to act after a graduate assistant claimed he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a campus shower in 2002.

Paterno, who has the most wins of any major college football coach, has conceded he should have done more. Spanier has said he would have reported a crime if he had suspected one had been committed.

Sandusky has said he is innocent. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but said he never molested them.

Former school administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and with perjury. They maintain their innocence.

Freeh founded an investigation firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, after leading the FBI from 1993 to 2001. He previously served six years as a special agent.

Freeh’s law firm was hired to look into the bribery case involving FIFA’s presidential election. Soccer’s governing body banned candidate Mohamed bin Hammam for life for bribing voters. The ruling body also banned 11 Caribbean soccer leaders and disciplined others in the corruption scandal.

Freeh will report to a special committee comprised of six university trustees; Dan Hagen, chair of the university’s faculty senate; Rodney Hughes, a doctoral student in higher education at Penn State; and retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Guion Bluford, a 1964 Penn State graduate.

Officials also announced that anyone who has information related to the probe can contact investigators at a telephone hotline – 855-290-3382 – and a special email, PSUhelp(at)freehgroup杭州夜网.

___

AP Sports Writer Fred Lief contributed to this report.

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Penn State taps former FBI director Louis Freeh in child sex-abuse investigation

PHILADELPHIA – Former FBI director Louis Freeh, tapped to lead Penn State’s investigation into the child sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach, said his inquiry will go as far back as 1975, a much longer period than a grand jury report issued earlier this month.

Freeh was named Monday to oversee the university board of trustees’ internal investigation into the abuse allegations that ultimately led to the ouster of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier.

Freeh said his goal was to conduct a comprehensive, fair and quick review. His team of former FBI agents, federal prosecutors and others has already begun the process of reading the grand jury report and looking at records.

“We will immediately report any evidence of criminality to law enforcement authorities,” said Freeh, who has no connection to Penn State.

Penn State has faced criticism since announcing that its internal investigation would be led by two university trustees, Merck pharmaceutical company CEO Kenneth Frazier and Pennsylvania state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis.

Story continues below

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Faculty members on Friday called for an independent investigation of how the university handled abuse allegations, and the faculty senate endorsed a resolution asking for an independent investigation.

In announcing Freeh’s appointment, Frazier stressed the former FBI director’s independence. Freeh will be empowered to investigate employees up to and including the board of trustees itself, Frazier said.

“No one is above scrutiny,” Frazier said.

Freeh said he had been assured there would be “no favouritism.” He called that assurance “the main condition of my engagement.”

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting eight boys over a 15-year period beginning in the mid-1990s. Authorities say some assaults happened on campus and were reported to administrators but not to police.

Amid the scandal, Penn State’s trustees ousted Spanier and Paterno. The trustees said Spanier and Paterno failed to act after a graduate assistant claimed he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a campus shower in 2002.

Paterno, who has the most wins of any major college football coach, has conceded he should have done more. Spanier has said he would have reported a crime if he had suspected one had been committed.

Sandusky has said he is innocent. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but said he never molested them.

Former school administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and with perjury. They maintain their innocence.

Freeh founded an investigation firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, after leading the FBI from 1993 to 2001. He previously served six years as a special agent.

Freeh’s law firm was hired to look into the bribery case involving FIFA’s presidential election. Soccer’s governing body banned candidate Mohamed bin Hammam for life for bribing voters. The ruling body also banned 11 Caribbean soccer leaders and disciplined others in the corruption scandal.

Freeh will report to a special committee comprised of six university trustees; Dan Hagen, chair of the university’s faculty senate; Rodney Hughes, a doctoral student in higher education at Penn State; and retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Guion Bluford, a 1964 Penn State graduate.

Officials also announced that anyone who has information related to the probe can contact investigators at a telephone hotline – 855-290-3382 – and a special email, PSUhelp(at)freehgroup杭州夜网.

___

AP Sports Writer Fred Lief contributed to this report.

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Congress deficit panel can’t find compromise, sides stick to party orthodoxy before elections

WASHINGTON – The congressional panel assigned to fashion big cuts in the perilously expanding U.S. deficit was going out of business Monday, having failed to bridge bitter ideological differences separating Republicans and Democrats in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections next year.

Republicans refused to cross their ideological line against increasing taxes. Democrats refused to allow cuts in popular programs that serve the elderly and poor without a compensating growth of government income, especially from the wealthiest Americans.

The close of business Monday marks deadline for constructing a plan to slash $1.2 trillion from federal red ink. The committee was to have had a polished plan ready on Wednesday, with the two-day interval to be used by the Congressional Budget Office to assess the savings projected in any deal.

The deal between President Barack Obama and Congress that set up the so-called supercommittee sought to prevent failure by dictating about $1 trillion in automatic cuts in spending for defence and a range of other government agencies should a deal not be struck.

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Americans already hold Congress in record low esteem, 9 per cent approval, and the supercommittee failure was certain to send that number even lower. But it also could hurt Obama, who has increased the total U.S. debt considerably – to more that $15 trillion – with emergency spending he said was to keep the American economy out of a depression. He pumped billions into the economy after it nearly collapsed in the final months of George W. Bush presidency.

As the committee prepared to announce it was disbanding without reaching a deal, the U.S. stock market fell sharply. Investors are worried about a further downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and subsequent jump in interest rates. One agency that rates American government debt, Standard & Poors, marked U.S. bonds down from triple A to AA+ last summer during the congressional fight over raising the U.S. borrowing limit – normally done as a matter of course. That fight spawned the supercommittee as part of a bitterly fought compromise.

As the committee ended talks on Sunday, the White House was still calling on lawmakers to finish the task they were assigned.

“Avoiding accountability and kicking the can down the road is how Washington got into this deficit problem in the first place, so Congress needs to do its job here and make the kind of tough choices to live within its means that American families make every day,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

But failure was in plain view as top Democrats and Republicans flooded Sunday political talk shows to blame the other side for failure.

Co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican, now planned on Monday to issue a statement declaring the panel’s work at an end, aides said.

“There is one sticking divide. And that’s the issue of what I call shared sacrifice,” Murray said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven’t seen Republicans willing to cross yet,” she said.

Republicans said Democrats’ demands on taxes were simply too great and weren’t accompanied by large enough proposals to curb the explosive growth of so-called entitlement programs like the popular Social Security pension system and health care for the elderly and the poor.

The automatic trigger that would now go into effect in 2013 would force about $1 trillion over nine years in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide range of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That action, called a “sequester,” would also generate $169 billion in savings from lower interest costs on the national debt.

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Panel fails in mission to slash US debt, market plunges on interest rate fears

WASHINGTON – The bitter partisanship gripping Washington has blocked a deal among members of a special congressional panel that struggled and eventually failed in its assignment to cut more than a trillion dollars from America’s crippling and expanding debt.

As the committee announced Monday that it was going out of business, the U.S. stock market had already taken a sharp decline in anticipation of the so-called supercommittee’s inability to put together legislation that would slash U.S. deficit spending by at least $1.2 trillion. The country’s overall national debt has risen above $15 trillion.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling said that despite “intense deliberations” the members of the panel were unable “to bridge the committee’s significant differences.”

The stalemate could last through next year’s presidential and congressional elections. That could lead to Republicans ousting President Barack Obama and winning control of both chambers of Congress. Or, Democrats could score victories that would force Republicans to yield some ground.

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Simply put, Republicans refused to cross their ideological line against increasing taxes. Democrats refused to allow cuts in popular programs that serve the elderly and poor without a compensating growth of government income, especially from the wealthiest Americans.

The real deadline is Wednesday but a solid draft was due Monday night to allow the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office time to assess project savings had a deal been reached. There had been hope of polished legislation that could go to both houses of Congress for an up or down vote that precluded any amendments or filibusters to alter or delay action. That was to have happened before the end of the year.

The deal between Obama and Congress that set up the Supercommittee included provisions that dictate, in case of failure, $1 trillion in automatic cuts in spending for defence and a range of other government agencies starting in 2013.

Obama said in a news conference after the supercommittee’s announcement that he would veto any attempt to undo the automatic cuts. He blamed Republicans directly for the failure of the supercommittee, attributing it their unwillingness to compromise on taxes.

“There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington,” he said. “They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 per cent of Americans at any cost.”

In reality, it is unclear if any of the automatic reductions will ever take effect, since next year’s elections have the potential to alter the political landscape before then.

Americans already hold Congress in record low esteem, 9 per cent approval, and the supercommittee failure was certain to send that number even lower. But it also could hurt Obama, who has increased the total U.S. debt considerably – to more that $15 trillion – with emergency spending he said was necessary to keep the American economy out of a depression. He pumped billions into the economy after it nearly collapsed in the final months of George W. Bush presidency.

The stock market fell sharply as investors sought safety in U.S. Treasury bonds and other more certain investments, reacting to fears of a further downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and subsequent jump in interest rates. One agency that rates American government debt, Standard & Poors, marked U.S. bonds down from triple A to AA+ last summer during the congressional fight over raising the U.S. borrowing limit – normally done as a matter of course. That fight spawned the supercommittee as part of a bitterly fought compromise.

Unwilling to concede failure, several members of the debt panel attended a last-ditch meeting at midday Monday. The gatherings proved futile and the committee’s failure was announced a few hours later.

The White House was prodding Congress to take action until the last and said there was still the possibility of action after the committee disbands.

“Congress could still act and has plenty of time to act. And we call on Congress to fulfil its responsibility,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Failure, which many analysts predicted from the outset, came into plain view as top Democrats and Republicans started publicly blaming one another over the weekend.

Republicans said Democrats’ demands on taxes were simply too great and weren’t accompanied by large enough proposals to curb the explosive growth of so-called entitlement programs like the popular Social Security pension system and health care for the elderly and the poor.

The automatic trigger that would now go into effect in 2013 would force about $1 trillion over nine years in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide range of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That action, called a “sequester,” would also generate $169 billion in savings from lower interest costs on the national debt.

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Congress deficit panel can’t find compromise, political orthodoxy ruled failed negotiations

WASHINGTON – The bipartisan leadership of a special congressional committee – assigned the task of slashing more than $1 trillion dollars from the U.S. deficit – announced Monday that the panel had failed, unable to bridge bitter ideological differences separating Republicans and Democrats in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections next year.

After the announcement, President Barack Obama said he would veto any effort to get rid of automatic spending cuts that would take effect in 2013 if Congress cannot find other ways to trim government deficits.

Those spending cuts include significant reductions to the Pentagon that Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said would be devastating to the military.

Obama said the threat said the threat of those reductions should remain in place to maintain pressure on Congress find a compromise.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling said that despite “intense deliberations” the members of the panel have been unable “to bridge the committee’s significant differences.”

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Republicans refused to cross their ideological line against increasing taxes. Democrats refused to allow cuts in popular programs that serve the elderly and poor without a compensating growth of government income, especially from the wealthiest Americans.

The close of business Monday marked deadline for constructing a plan to slash $1.2 trillion from federal red ink. The committee was to have had a polished plan ready on Wednesday, with the two-day interval to be used by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to assess the savings projected in any deal.

The deal between President Barack Obama and Congress that set up the so-called supercommittee sought to prevent failure by dictating about $1 trillion in automatic cuts in spending for defence and a range of other government agencies should a deal not be struck. Those automatic reductions will begin in 2013, after the next election.

Americans already hold Congress in record low esteem, 9 per cent approval, and the supercommittee failure was certain to send that number even lower. But it also could hurt Obama, who has increased the total U.S. debt considerably – to more that $15 trillion – with emergency spending he said was necessary to keep the American economy out of a depression. He pumped billions into the economy after it nearly collapsed in the final months of George W. Bush presidency.

The committee announced it was disbanding on a day when the stock market had already tumbled more than 2 per cent. Investors sold shares over worries about a further downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and subsequent jump in interest rates. One agency that rates American government debt, Standard & Poors, marked U.S. bonds down from triple A to AA+ last summer during the congressional fight over raising the U.S. borrowing limit – normally done as a matter of course. That fight spawned the supercommittee as part of a bitterly fought compromise.

Several panel members attended a last-ditch but futile meeting Monday. But the White House was still calling for committee to act.

“Congress could still act and has plenty of time to act. And we call on Congress to fulfil its responsibility,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

But failure was in plain view as top Democrats and Republicans began publicly blaming each other for the deadlock as early as last weekend.

“There is one sticking divide. And that’s the issue of what I call shared sacrifice,” Murray said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“The wealthiest Americans who earn over a million a year have to share too. And that line in the sand, we haven’t seen Republicans willing to cross yet,” she said.

Republicans said Democrats’ demands on taxes were simply too great and weren’t accompanied by large enough proposals to curb the explosive growth of so-called entitlement programs like the popular Social Security pension system and health care for the elderly and the poor.

The automatic trigger that would now go into effect in 2013 would force about $1 trillion over nine years in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to a wide range of domestic programs and the Pentagon budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That action, called a “sequester,” would also generate $169 billion in savings from lower interest costs on the national debt.

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RioCan and U.S.-basedTanger to buy Cookstown mall in southern Ontario

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:REI.UN) and U.S. mall owner Tanger Outlet Centers Inc. have signed a deal to establish their first location under a joint venture announced earlier this year.

RioCan and the North Carolina-based retailer have agreed to buy the Cookstown Outlet Mall in southern Ontario for about $62 million and turn it into the first Tanger shopping centre in Canada.

The pair will develop the mall, about 50 kilometres north of Toronto in the town of Innisfil, Ont., into the first full-scale Tanger Outlet Center operation in Canada.

The partners also said they have struck a deal to acquire 50 acres of land (20 hectares) in Kanata, an Ottawa community, and develop it into a Tanger Outlet Center.

“We are very pleased to be able to jump start our co-ownership with Tanger and bring our collective expertise to a very well established, well located property and make it a key destination outlet shopping centre for Toronto and the surrounding area,” said Edward Sonshine, president and CEO of RioCan.

“Our site in Ottawa, represents an exciting opportunity to expand our co-ownership platform beyond Toronto, into other key Canadian retail markets.”

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Steven Tanger, president and CEO of the North Carolina-based mall developer, said the Cookstown deal “accelerates our plans with RioCan for outlet centre development in Canada.”

“The addition of the site in the Ottawa market puts us well on the way to the establishment of a Canadian outlet shopping platform,” he added.

Tanger, based in Greensboro, N.C., owns or has stakes in 38 upscale outlet shopping malls in 25 U.S. states coast to coast.

Tanger and RioCan, Canada’s largest retail landlord, signed a deal earlier this year to develop 10 to 15 outlet shopping centres across Canada in the next five to seven years.

Under the agreement, Tanger will be in charge of leasing and marketing services, while RioCan will handle property management.

The two will each own a 50 per cent stake in the properties, which will be likely be located in suburban areas near Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, Sonshine said.

Tanger outlet centres have a wide variety of major tenants, including luxury leather goods retailer Coach, fashion retailer Polo Ralph Lauren and gourmet food store Harry and David.

Outlet malls are big business, with shoppers willing to drive hundreds of kilometres to snap up designer goods at discount prices.

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Tyson Foods 4th-quarter profit falls as costs erase gains from higher sales and meat prices

ST. LOUIS – Tyson Foods’ net income for the fourth quarter was less than half of what it was last year, the meat producer said Monday, with higher grain costs offsetting better prices and revenue, particularly in its chicken business.

While there were operating income declines of $3 million and $12 million for beef and pork, respectively, that metric tumbled $223 million for chicken, meaning that an operating income of $141 million last year in chicken turned into an operating loss of $82 million in the final quarter of the year.

President and CEO Donnie Smith pointed to the overall results for the year in which the company operated in a tough environment.

“In fiscal 2011, we produced record sales and our second best EPS in company history despite record input costs, which included $675 million in additional feed and ingredient costs in our chicken segment,” Smith said.

All segments are profitable midway through the first fiscal quarter, Smith said.

Tyson posted a net income of $97 million, or 26 cents per share for the final quarter of the year, compared with $213 million, or 57 cents per share, a year ago.

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The results fell short of the 31 cents per share that analysts had expected, according to a survey by FactSet. Revenue climbed 13 per cent to $8.4 billion, beating expectations for revenue of $8.2 billion.

The company increased prices sharply, with chicken up 5 per cent, pork up 13 per cent, and beef up 19 per cent. Still, profit margins remain under pressure because of higher costs at Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark.

That was a shift from previous years, as recently as 2008, when feed costs rose but Tyson was unable to pass along those costs to consumers because of weak demand.

Yet margins are under pressure. The company said its fourth-quarter operating income was 2 per cent, compared to 5.3 per cent the year before. For the full year, operating income fell to 4 per cent from 5.5 per cent.

Tyson Foods said its net income for the full 2011 fiscal year fell slightly from the year before, in part because of a $675 million jump in feed and ingredient costs.

Grains and beans to feed animals are the most expensive cost to raise chicken, pigs and cattle. Corn hit record highs this summer and other crop prices have shot up as well.

Tyson Foods said it earned $750 million, or $1.97 per share, compared to $780, or $2.06 during the same period last year.

Annual net income was below analyst expectations for net income of $2.01 per share.

Revenue was $32.27 billion, compared with $28.43 billion the year before.

Tyson reported adjusted net income for the year, excluding gains from tax provisions and equity sales, of $1.89 per share. That was below analyst expectations of $1.95 per share.

Tyson said it expects revenue to remain flat during its current fiscal 2012 year. The company forecast sales of roughly $32 billion.

But profits might improve during 2012. Tyson said it expects U.S. meat supplies to fall between 2 per cent and 3 per cent during the fiscal year, which will help the company raise prices further. Tyson expects to spend between $800 million and $850 million to update its facilities to make them more efficient.

Shares of Tyson Foods Inc. have traded between $15.46 and $20.12 over the past 52 weeks and closed at $19.45 Friday.

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