Friday, February 1, 2013

Missing Staten Island woman Sarai Sierra’s Istanbul male online messenger detained, then released by Turkish police

The man, whose name was revealed to be Taylan, had exchanged emails with the vacationing mother of two and had been in contact with her during her stay. He was questioned by Turkish police on Friday, but then released.

Comments (31)
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013, 7:33 PM
A CCTV video released by Turkish police on  Jan. 29 shows  a woman identified by cops as Sarai Sierra, 33, right, walking outside a shopping mall in Istanbul, Turkey.


A CCTV video released by Turkish police on Jan. 29 shows a woman identified by cops as Sarai Sierra, 33, right, walking outside a shopping mall in Istanbul, Turkey.

A Turkish man who exchanged online messages with a missing Staten Island mom was released from police custody in Istanbul Friday after being briefly detained, a Turkish news agency reported.
Authorities questioned the man as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two who went missing while vacationing alone in Istanbul.

The Staten Island resident was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was due back home.
A police official in Istanbul said the man had been in contact with Sierra during her stay in in the city.
Prosecutors released the man Friday but may call him in again to help with their investigation, according to Dogan, a private Turkish news agency.
The man’s first name is Taylan, said Dogan, citing unnamed police sources.
The news agency said authorities believe Taylan, 30, met Sierra about four months ago on the Internet.
The two are believed to have met in person twice, said Dogan, but it’s not clear where or when the encounters took place.
 Sierra, an amateur photographer, had arranged to meet someone on Galata bridge the day she went missing, Turkish news reports said.
It’s not known if she ever met anyone at the picturesque bridge near the hostel where she was staying, but video footage caught her standing there alone Jan. 21, the day she disappeared, Dogan said.
Sierra left for Istanbul on Jan. 7 to explore her photography hobby and made a side trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Munich, Germany. Her family last heard from her on Jan. 21, when she was supposed to start her journey home, but she never checked into her flight.
Sierra’s husband, Steven, and brother, David Jimenez, traveled to Istanbul to help in the search. Her children, ages 9 and 11, haven’t been told their mother is missing, the family said.
Sierra’s children are 9 and 11.
Sierra had planned to go on the trip with a friend, but went alone when the friend couldn’t make it.
With News Wire Services

Dow closes above 14,000 for first time since 2007

An encouraging U.S. jobs report propelled the Dow on Friday to close above 14,000 for the first time since 2007.
The government reported that nonfarm payrolls rose 157,000 in January, while the unemployment rate inched up by a tenth of a point, to 7.9 percent. The figures were broadly in line with Wall Street's expectations, and unlikely to change the Federal Reserve's plans to inject the economy with massive stimulus.

Read more: Economy Adds Another 157,000 Jobs; Rate Up to 7.9 Percent

Indeed, some investors see the Dow's rally as a direct function of the Fed's efforts to reinflate the economy, rather than a product of the economy's fundamentals.
"Certainly given where interest rates are...the Fed is trying to push you into equities," said Eric Stein, portfolio manager at Eaton Vance. "There's a question of how much can we get with actual growth, given the fact that you have such a poor GDP print.
"The market wants QE," Stein said, speaking about the Fed's quantitative easing program, which is funneling about $85 billion a month via bond buying.

Read more: Why Inflation Could Eat Into Stock Gains: Kyle Bass

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by more than 150 points, floating near the psychologically key barrier of 14,000 — its highest level in more than five years. The S&P 500 Index rose by about 16 points, trading near 1,514, while the the Nasdaq added 40 points to trade near 3,179.

Read more: Dow Breaks 14,000 Finally; What's Next for Market

Friday's employment data was a welcome salve for some skittish investors who had begun to doubt the staying power of the recovery — particularly in the wake of last quarter's surprising economic weakness. However, doubts about the significance of the stock market's rally continued to linger.

Read more: Why Talk of a 'Great Rotation' May Be Overblown

"It's not the big pop that one would think you'd get, and I for one think that's good," Jack Bogle, chairman and Founder of The Vanguard Group, told CNBC. He added that mutual funds piling into equities could be "a very negative sign for the market."
Pointing out that the Nasdaq is still "fully a third below its high", Bogle said that "the signs were mixed. I don't think the economic signs are going to change very much." He said he expects the economy to expand by 2-2.5 percent in 2013.
The rally was pushed higher by December construction data and better than expected U.S. manufacturing data, which confirmed generally buoyant global manufacturing data reported during overseas trading hours.
The employment report came as welcome news in a market that was jolted earlier this week by an unexpected contraction in the U.S. economy in the final months of 2012. While most corporate earnings have been stronger than expected, some market watchers have begun to worry that the recovery was losing steam.
Corporate America is in the thick of earnings season, most of which have met or exceeded expectations and helped keep a floor under major benchmarks. Still, most companies remain cautious about the outlook for 2013, as battles over taxes, spending and debt heat up in Washington with little immediate resolution in sight.
Oil and gas Exxon Mobil saw its fourth quarter profit surge by six percent, helped by stronger chemical and refining business and beating Wall Street's estimates. Exxon, which last week reclaimed the mantle of world's largest company from beaten-down tech giant Apple, saw its stock dip below $90 in modest trading.
Thus far, Apple is the S&P 500's worst performing stock, falling a steep 14.5 percent. In Friday's trading, the stock failed to mimic the gains of the broader stock market, little changed on the day near $455.
Excitement over the Dow's rally helped drag other stocks higher, such as Google, which briefly set a new all time high just as Apple remains mired near its lowest levels in a year. The search giant's shares traded above $774 in afternoon trading before scaling back.
Merck saw its profits rise in the latest quarter, but issued a cautious 2013 outlook that said revenues would likely fall in line with last year's levels. The less than ringing forecast sent its shares down by more than three percent, to below $42.
In a season where several major retailers have reaped the wages of a disappointing holiday shopping season, toy maker Mattel reported earnings that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The company reported profits of $1.12 per share, three cents below estimates, with revenues also failing to meet forecasts. The stock rose modestly, trading above $38.
Zoetis roared in its market debut on the New York Stock Exchange, in the market's largest IPO since Facebook's flotation. The former animal health unit of drug behemoth Pfizer, sold 86.1 million shares at $26 in its spinoff Thursday night. In Friday's trading, the stock jumped by 19 percent, trading just shy of $31.

First picture emerges of man believed to have taken 5-year-old hostage in Alabama

A police source confirms to NBC News that this is the suspect in an Alabama hostage-taking, Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65.

The first picture emerged Friday of the Alabama man who authorities say has held a 5-year-old boy in an underground bunker for more than three days after snatching him off a school bus.

A police source confirmed to NBC News that the photo is of Jimmy Lee Dykes, who authorities say took the boy after shooting and killing the bus driver Tuesday afternoon in the small town of Midland City.
Dykes, 65, described by authorities and neighbors as a Vietnam veteran and survivalist with deep mistrust of the government, has communicated with hostage negotiators through a long PVC pipe.
The boy has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a state representative said Thursday. Authorities have gotten medicine to the boy through the pipe, plus crayons and coloring books.
Bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was shot and killed while trying to stop the abduction. His children told NBC News that he thought of the children on the bus as his own, and took bullets for them as he might have for his son or daughter.
"Every time a child got on my dad's bus, they were no longer their parents', they were his," son Aaron Poland said in an interview that aired Friday on TODAY.
Police towed the bus away from the scene Friday after processing it for evidence.
The two men had a brief encounter a day before the siege, a neighbor said. Kelly Miller, who lives next door to Dykes, told NBC affiliate WSFA that Dykes boarded Poland’s bus Monday and spoke with him. She did not know what was said.
Then, on Tuesday morning, before the abduction, Poland gave Dykes a gift of eggs and marmalade to thank him for clearing off the driveway where the bus had to turn around, according to Miller.
Miller, whose sons Jessie and Jackson were able to leave the bus before the shooting, told the station that Dykes called her father to the property fence shortly afterward and gave him Poland’s gifts, saying: “Here. I don't want this.”
Hours later, Miller heard shots and screams.
“Within seconds of me grasping what was going on, I knew it was Jim,” she told WSFA.
Published reports have quoted neighbors as saying Dykes has spent as long as eight days at a time in the bunker.
A U.S. military official confirmed Friday that Dykes served a little more than four years in the Navy before being discharged in January 1969. He received several awards, including a medal for good conduct.
Neighbors have described him as a paranoid menace who killed at least one neighborhood pet and threatened children on his property. On the day of the school bus siege, he was due in court over allegedly shooting at a neighbor’s truck. Police have not said if they believe the planned court appearance was connected to the hostage situation.
RELATED: Son says bus driver in Alabama hostage crisis gave life for 'his children'

Harrowing photos show last seconds of life on Syria's front line

GRAPHIC WARNING: Contains images which some viewers may find disturbing.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter looks at his comrade as he gets shot by sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan 30. The Free Syrian Army fighter on the left was wounded moments later. The fighter on the right died soon after being shot.

Photographer Goran Tomasevic has been covering the conflict in Syria for Reuters, offering the world a view into the historic city of Damascus, once strictly off-limits to journalists without a government escort. While it has become tragically routine to see violent and gruesome stories from the country’s civil war, Tomasevic’s dramatic photos from today’s front lines stand out. The series captures not only the last seconds of a rebel’s life before he is shot by a sniper, but also show as the body is taken back to his friends, while under attack. We see an intimate narrative that examines the realities of war for the rebels.

Tomasevic tells the harrowing story on the Reuters Photographers Blog:

One moment, I heard two incoming shots. I was already aiming my camera on these two Syrian rebels. I heard the scream and saw one of them get shot. He was still alive as I was shooting but dying as he was carried away.
There was intensive fighting as the rebel group I was with in a Damascus neighborhood was trying to overtake a government checkpoint some 50 meters away. There was another group of rebels who were supposed to fire rocket propelled grenades from a further distance away from the checkpoint. After that, the group I was with was meant to engage the soldiers manning the checkpoint.
At the checkpoint I could clearly see sandbags and tanks. I didn’t look at the tanks anymore because I needed to take cover. I pulled back a little to look for the best position to take pictures and how to be covered in the best possible way.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters take position just before they were hit by Syrian Army sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30. The fighter on the right died soon after, while his comrade was wounded.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters carry a comrade who was shot by sniper fire during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

There were two rebels next to me and two rebels across the street. A couple of sniper shots were fired. They were clearly sniper shots, not Ak’s, as they came one by one. I could clearly see through the lens when they actually shot the rebel. The rebel next to him was also shot and injured but he should recover after being hit in the stomach.
After the rebel was killed they pulled back maybe 20-30 meters and I took pictures of the body being taken out. The hole where the rebels had to drag the body through was really small and it was difficult to drag him through. There was a lot of fire as the rebels dragged him away.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
Free Syrian Army fighters run for cover as a tank shell explodes on a wall during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

A tank fired a couple of shells onto the top of the building and rubble fell down around us.
The rebels kept on fighting for a few hours. It was heavy, with a lot of RPGs and attacks on multiple sites. They pulled back after a couple of hours of intensive fighting and fired some mortar shells.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires a rocket propelled grenade during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures in front of a burning barricade during heavy fighting in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

From what I’ve seen the fighting is up and down. The lines between the Free Syrian Army and the government army are pretty clear. Since I’ve been here it’s literally been going house by house. The other day there was a rebel next to me who was struck by shrapnel. The rebels and the government forces are close enough to be throwing hand grenades at one another. You can hear them shouting at each other.
The lines seem to be pretty much the same. One day the government takes a couple of houses and then the rebels take a couple of houses again so it is pushing back and forth.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
A wounded Free Syrian Army fighter cries after hearing that his friend died in a mission in the Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, on Jan. 30.

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Chicago cops: Tips about Hadiya Pendleton's killer pouring in

Chicago cops have been deluged with tips about who might have shot Hadiya Pendleton, the high school sophomore killed a week after she performed during President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities.

"Fortunately, the community is stepping up and giving us everything that they've got, from rumors to whatever they know," Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told NBC Chicago on Friday.
"Something's gonna pan out."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has appealed to city residents to drop the no-snitching credo of the streets and come forward with any leads about Pendleton's killer.
Police and clergy also have offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman who opened fire on a group of teens gathered in a park after school Tuesday, apparently mistaking them for rival gang members.
Pendleton, 15, was shot in the back, collapsed a block away and died at a hospital. The honor student quickly became the face of Chicago's stubborn gun problem.
The city leads the nation in gun seizures, and its murder rate has been edging up while other cities have been trending downward. More than 500 people were slain there last year, and last month was its bloodiest January in a decade.
On Friday morning, a woman was shot and killed when a van pulled alongside her van on Lake Shore Drive and a gunman fired up to 14 rounds. Police said the shooting was related to gang and drug activity.

Grand Central Terminal: New York City icon turns 100

Adrees Latif / Reuters
Morning commuters are silhouetted as they walk through the main concourse of the Grand Central Terminal, in New York on March 5, 2012.

By A. Pawlowski, NBC News contributor

Before airports started transporting – and frustrating – travelers on a massive scale, there was New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

Friday marks 100 years since the first set of keys was handed to the terminal’s station master, with the first train leaving just after midnight on the following day. Shuttling millions of commuters since, the terminal – with its vast spaces and lovely architecture – has become a destination in itself.

Through the hustle and bustle of Grand Central, a voice at its center helps guide passengers to their destinations. After 40 years with the MTA, Jake Kaloidas will retire just as the station marks its 100 years. Produced by John Makely, additional footage by Natalia Jimenez.
The city is celebrating the big birthday with a public rededication ceremony, live performances and the opening of the “Grand by Design” exhibit.

“I love, love, love Grand Central Terminal,” said Justin Ferate, a historian and longtime New York tour guide. “It’s truly one of the greatest buildings in this country if not the world.”

Ferate often instructs visitors to pick their favorite airport and then picture going there twice a day, five days a week for decades. He then asks: How many people are feeling warm, fuzzy thoughts? Not many raise their hands, but it’s different with Grand Central, which regular commuters actually like, he said.

Hal Morey / Hulton Archive via Getty Images
1930s: Beams of sunlight stream through the windows at Grand Central Terminal, in New York City.

“Grand Central is a major icon in the city,” added Anthony Robins, author of “Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark.”

“(It) just has this breadth and scale and sense of grandeur that you can’t be in that part of town and not notice it.”

NBC News asked Ferate and Robins to share some insider facts about the iconic building.

Slideshow: Grand Central Terminal turns 100

Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
With hundreds of people moving through each day, Grand Central Terminal turns 100 on Feb. 2, 2013, and remains one of the most visited icons of New York City.

Don’t call it Grand Central Station: This is actually the third Grand Central on the site. The original was Grand Central Depot, completed in 1871, and then rebuilt as Grand Central Station in 1899-1900, Robins said. Grand Central Terminal was opened in 1913 and that is the correct way to refer to the landmark.

Today, Grand Central Station is the name of the on-site post office, but not the famous building. “I always say, if you call it Grand Central Station, then everyone knows you’re a tourist,” Ferate said.

The Main Concourse is laid out in “human ratios:” Each block of stone that makes up the floor is one walking step wide and one running step long, and each is a slightly different color, Ferate said. When you’re sprinting to catch the train it’s like running across a checker board based on your anatomy, so you don’t hit anybody, he added. In fact, Grand Central is designed to accommodate the human form, so everything is waist level and elbow level to ease the travel experience.

Mario Tama / Getty Images
People walk through Grand Central Terminal as others gather in the Apple store on the day before the famed Manhattan transit hub turns 100 years old on Jan. 31, in New York City.

Try out the whispering gallery:
If two people stand in the diagonal corners of the square foyer in front the Grand Central Oyster Bar and whisper, the sound carries across the arched ceiling. The effect is similar inside the eatery, so Ferate advised against going there for “illicit love.” “You can listen into the conversation taking place in another part of the restaurant,” he warned. “If you’re messing around, chances are pretty good you’re going to get caught.”

A giant missile once stood in the Main Concourse:
A 63-foot tall, 5-ton Redstone rocket was displayed at Grand Central in 1957 as Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union mounted. But it wasn’t unusual to see such a spectacle inside the landmark. “They had exhibits of all kinds at all times in Grand Central because it’s the great big public space that everybody knew,” Robins said.

Brendan McDermid / Reuters
The 59 stars shine as part of the backwards-painted zodiac set in gold leaf constellations span the ceiling of the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal in New York, on Jan. 25.

Look for odd mementos in the ceiling: Grand Central Terminal is known for its “constellation ceiling” depicting a starry sky and signs of the zodiac. But sharp-eyed visitors may some unusual extras, such as the small hole where the stabilizing cable was dropped to secure the above-mentioned rocket, Ferate said.

The ceiling also sports a dark spot -- a small portion of grime that was intentionally left untouched after a thorough cleaning in the 1990s, he added. The stain turned out to be caused by cigarette smoke.

Go there for the shopping: “Grand Central has been made into a vast new destination for New Yorkers. So most of the people in the terminal at any given moment are probably not going to a train, they’re in to shop, to buy food, to go to a restaurant, to go to the Apple store,” Robins said.

Mario Tama / Getty Images
People are blurred in a long exposure as they walk through Grand Central Terminal on the day before the famed Manhattan transit hub turns 100 years old, on Jan. 31, in New York City.

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Clinton leaves State 'confident about the direction that we have set'

Updated 4:32 p.m. - Hillary Rodham Clinton left the State Department on Friday"confident about the direction that we have set," handing off the secretary of state's job to former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Kerry took the oath of office, administered by Supreme Court Jusice Elena Kagan, late Friday afternoon. The private ceremony was closed to reporters.
The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee takes over for Clinton, who resigned her position hours earlier after a four-year term as America's top diplomat.

In remarks at the diplomatic agency's Foggy Bottom headquarters, Clinton waxed about the familiar atmosphere at the State Department during her four years as secretary, an environment she said would extend to Kerry.
In remarks at the diplomatic agency's Foggy Bottom headquarters, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton formally resigned her post at the State Department. Watch her entire statement.
"Next week, I would expect that all of you will be as focused and dedicated for Secretary Kerry as you have been for me, and that you will continue to serve President Obama and our nation with the same level of professionalism and commitment that I have seen firsthand," she told throngs of department staff gathered for her remarks.
Clinton leaves office at the height of her popularity, and amid intrigue about what her political future might hold. She remained as coy as ever about her future intentions, making no reference toward that, and focusing her remarks instead on the diplomatic corps.
"I will be an advocate, from the outside, for the work that you continue to do here, and at [US]AID," she said.
"I am more optimistic today than when I was when I stood here four years ago. Because I have seen, day after day, the contributions our diplomats and development experts are making," she also said, later adding: "I leave this department confident about the direction that we have set."
Kerry was set to be sworn into office in a private ceremony later on Friday afternoon, and he'll inherit a number of complex foreign policy issues when he does.
Included among those vexing issues is the apparent terrorist attack against a U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey on Friday. Clinton, in her valedictory remarks, said that she had spoken to the ambassador to Turkey, and acknowledged the loss of "one of our foreign service nationals" in the attack.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Hillary Clinton's life has taken her from first lady to senator to secretary of state.

50 hours until home: Chinese couple join world's biggest migration

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Li Anhua and his wife Shi Huaju wait for a taxi as they embark on the first stage of a 50-hour journey home, in Shanghai on Jan. 27, 2013.

Like millions of migrant workers in China, Li Anhua and his wife Shi Huaju make the annual trek home for the Chinese Spring Festival, travelling for 50 hours by train and bus to see their two children after a long year of separation. Reuters photographer Carlos Barria, who accompanied the couple on the journey this year, takes up the story:

There was not much emotion left after crossing central China on a 50-hour train and bus journey. Just a soft touch on the face and a forced hug was all that Li Jiangzhon and his sister Li Jiangchun got from their parents after a long year of absence.
They are just one story among millions of Chinese migrant workers who have left their loved ones behind to look for a better future for themselves and their families.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Li Anhua smokes a cigarette in the couple's cramped room in Shanghai as he packs for his Spring Festival trip on Jan. 27, 2013.

Every year millions of migrant workers travel to their hometowns during the Spring Festival, a massive movement of people that is considered the biggest migration in the world in such a short period of time. Public transportation authorities expect to accommodate about 3.41 billion travelers nationwide during the holiday, including 225 million railway passengers, according to Xinhua news agency.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Li Anhua (2nd L) and Shi Huaju (C) wait in line at a train station gate in Shanghai on Jan. 28, 2013.

They left their home on a cold Sunday night. Ahead of them: 50 hours of hard traveling conditions and cold, followed by the reward of spending 30 days with their children. Li and Shi have been doing this trip every year for the last twelve years, following the birth of their son Li Jiangzhon. Back then, the couple decided to leave the boy with Li Anhua’s mother in a rural village in Sichuan province, around 1,200 miles to the west.
Preparation for the trip began early this year. They managed to buy their train tickets online (116 CNY each, or about $19), which saved them the headache of fighting for a place in hours-long lines, as in previous years, among a swarm of workers and bulky packages.
They got good seats: a place for each of them, which is considered very lucky. Many migrants can’t get a seat on the train and have to travel standing or curled up in any free space they can find.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Shi Huaju leans on her husband as they travel on board a train from Shanghai on Jan. 28, 2013.
Carlos Barria / Reuters
Migrant workers play cards as they travel on a train near Huaihua, in Hunan province, on Jan. 28, 2013.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Li Anhua stands next to his food cart as a student eats dinner in a suburban area of Shanghai on Nov. 26, 2012.

Li and Shi met twelve years ago, after they migrated to Shanghai and took their place among the millions of Chinese migrant workers that play a key role in today’s second largest economy. After working for a few months in a restaurant, they decided to work together as street food vendors in the suburbs of Shanghai. Every day, they push a wooden cart with two wheels to street corners where students from a local university buy their food.
Life is hard on their combined monthly income of 2000 CNY ($320) — just enough to send a little money home and for them to rent a room just three meters by three meters in an old apartment far from the city center. Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in China.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Shi Huaju reads a text message on her mobile phone as she boards a bus for the next stage of her journey, in Chongqing on Jan. 29, 2013.

After the long train ride and a three-hour bus journey, the couple picked up a taxi in Luzhou and started the final 30-minute leg of their trip. At a dark intersection on a dirt road, the taxi suddenly stopped. Li looked around but he couldn't remember the way to their house. He couldn't recognize the way with all the new construction around. He said, "This factory area was not here last year." Finally a small sign indicated the road to Dayan village.
As the taxi stopped in front of a three-story building a little girl screamed, “mammy, mammy,” and the couple got out of the car. For her and her brother, their most cherished present of this Chinese New Year had arrived.

Carlos Barria / Reuters
Li Anhua hugs his daughter Li Jiangchun as he and Shi Huaju arrive at their home town of Dayan, Sichuan province, on Jan. 29, 2013.

See more pictures of the journey in a post on Reuters' Photographers Blog and more stories by Carlos Barria on PhotoBlog.

The envelope, please .... who's
going to win the Super Bowl?

Our experts at ProFootballTalk and Comcast SportsNet make their predictions

Image: Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh.Reuters, AP, AP, Getty Images (a
Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh.
NEW ORLEANS - It's a battle of the brother coaches, a duel between an upstart second-year quarterback and another who hasn't gotten enough credit over the years and perhaps the swan song for a couple of future Hall of Famers.
So, who will win when the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens lock shoulder pads at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday in the Superdome in New Orleans?
Our experts at ProFootballTalk, Comcast SportsNet and Yahoo! give their predictions:
Michael David Smith, 49ers 28, Ravens 17There wasn’t a single point in the regular season when I would have said the Ravens were a better team than the 49ers. Baltimore had a better record than San Francisco during much of the first part of the regular the season, but the 49ers looked like a more impressive, more complete football team than the Ravens. And down the stretch in the regular season, the 49ers got even better after replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick, while the Ravens lost four of their last five to close out 2012.
So, the only way I could pick the Ravens now is if I think their three-game playoff run has shown that they’ve become a significantly better team. And while I do think the Ravens are playing their best football at the right time, I simply don’t see them as better than the 49ers on either side of the ball.
When San Francisco has the ball, the running of Frank Gore and LaMichael James is going to pose big problems for the Ravens’ defense. (And the running of Colin Kaepernick will be a nice bonus for the 49ers.) When Baltimore has the ball, the San Francisco safety combination of Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson is going to make it tough for Joe Flacco to do what he likes to do best, attack opposing secondaries deep downfield.
I do expect Baltimore to have a decided special-teams advantage in this game, but I don’t think that’s going to produce enough game-changing plays to make the difference. The 49ers are the better team, and they’ll hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
Mike Florio, Ravens 30, 49ers 27I’ve gone back and forth all week on this game.  When I convince myself that the 49ers will win, I think of the reasons why the Ravens will prevail.  And then I think of the reasons the 49ers will prevail.  And then I think of the reasons the Ravens will prevail.
And then I wish there could be ties in the Super Bowl.
I’ll agree with MDS on one point — if the 49ers win, it likely will be by seven or more points.  For the Ravens, it likely will be a close game with one score deciding the winner of the Lombardi Trophy.

The 49ers are the better team on paper.  But the Broncos and the Patriots were the better teams on paper, too.  And the Ravens just keep winning.  The offense has improved, and the 49ers pass defense has dipped in recent weeks, with a less potent rush and safeties who seem to get caught flat-footed all too often.
The Ravens defense will need to contain Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. The concern is that, if the Ravens figure out a way to solve the read-option in a way that keeps both from burning them, Kaepernick will pull the ball back out and fire a pass to Randy Moss, who will lollygag off the line of scrimmage before sprinting down the field.
Still, there’s something about the Ravens this year, between the impact of Ray Lewis and the emergence of Joe Flacco and the reality that, after this season, Baltimore could have some rebuilding to do. For the 49ers, they could be back on a much more regular basis. In the end, there’s a good chance that each Harbaugh brother will get a ring. For now, the first-born son becomes the first one to hoist the trophy.
Ray Ratto, Senior Insider: Ravens 23, 49ers 21I believe in Baltimore's ability to slow the game down to a crawl and keep the ball in Joe Flacco's hands long enough to limit the 49ers' offensive opportunities. I also believe that the Ravens' defensive players will be in closer proximity to their actual assignments on a more regular basis than their Packer or Falcon counterparts. Finally, take the 3 1/2 and the under. Your children, the ungrateful swine, will thank you for it.
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Matt Maiocco, 49ers Insider: 49ers 31, Ravens 23Colin Kaepernick is a big-play threat every time he takes a snap, whether through the air or on the ground. And this isn’t just the Kaepernick Show, as the 49ers feature a strong offensive line, one of the game’s top all-around running backs, Frank Gore, and a defense that features six players selected to the Pro Bowl.
Paul Gutierrez, Raiders Insider: 49ers 27, Ravens 23Little brother Jim gets the last laugh (or is it the first of many Super Bowl matches to come between the battlin' Harbaughs?) as the Niners are simply too young, too fresh and too hungry for those old war horses from Baltimore, who have been living on borrowed time since winning their first playoff game against Indy.
Jim Kozimor, host of Chronicle Live: 49ers 31, Ravens 17Colin Kaepernick will get hurt at the end of the first quarter. Alex Smith will triumphantly lead them to victory and at the podium, when he accepts the MVP, he will tell the 49ers to release him.
J. Michael, Ravens Insider: Ravens 24, 49ers 21They contained Robert Griffin III and the read-option, limiting him to 34 yards rushing without Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe or Terrell Suggs. And they've got two weeks to prepare for Colin Kaepernick after winning at Denver and at New England.

Ventre: Top 10 storylines  |  Wackiest wagers
Why Harbaugh chose Kaepernick  |  Alex's pain
Kacsmar: Super Bowls go down to wire now
Bill Ingalls  /  NASA via Reuters
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden looks on during a wreath-laying ceremony as part of agency's Day of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Friday. The event was in memory of  men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.
updated 2 hours 44 minutes ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Columbia's flying days came to an abrupt and tragic end on Feb. 1, 2003, when a broken wing gave way, dooming the seven astronauts aboard.

Although Columbia now lies in pieces, its mission is not over.

The recovered wreckage, painstakingly retrieved from Texas and Louisiana for months after the accident, was preserved for a unique archive and education program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I can talk about safety, but once I open those doors and folks enter into the room, it becomes a different conversation," said Michael Ciannilli, who oversees NASA's Columbia Research and Preservation Office. "When you come face to face with Columbia in the room, it becomes real. It becomes extremely real."

Ten years ago, Columbia was on its 28th mission, a rare research initiative in the midst of International Space Station construction flights.

The crew included the first astronaut from Israel, Ilan Ramon, and six Americans — commander Richard Husband, pilot William McCool, flight engineer Kalpana Chawla, payload commander Michael Anderson and flight surgeons David Brown and Laurel Clark.

After 16 days in space, the shuttle was gliding back to Florida for landing when it broke apart because of wing damage that had unknowingly occurred during launch.

Accident investigators determined that a chunk of insulating foam from the shuttle's fuel tank had fallen off 81 seconds after liftoff and hit a carbon composite wing panel that turned out to be unexpectedly fragile. The breach proved fatal.

NASA had no idea falling foam debris, a common occurrence during shuttle launches, could do so much damage.

"One of the most important things that came from Columbia is to really learn to listen to your hardware. It's talking to you," Ciannilli said.

Pieces of Columbia's heat shield, including wing panels and protective thermal tiles, are among the most requested items for study from the archive.

Upon request, NASA lends specific components to researchers and educational institutes for analysis. In addition to NASA field centers and aerospace companies, program participants include Caterpillar, the Colorado School of Mines and Ohio State University.

By understanding the dynamics of flight and how specific parts of Columbia were impacted, the hope is engineers will be able to design safer ships in the future.

The collection includes more than 84,000 individual pieces, most of which are cataloged and boxed. A handful of materials and structures — a tire, a wing panel, pieces of tile — are on display in the front part of a 7,000-square-foot room inside the Vehicle Assembly Building where the archive is housed.

"Sometimes I walk into the room, especially if I'm alone, and it comes back, some of the emotions, some of the feeling, some of the memories," Ciannilli said. "I lived the recovery operation in Texas, so you have these moments where you flash back."

"Some days are a little bit more introspective and difficult, but I really counter that with the fact that I've seen so much good come out of it. Every single tour engages in a conversation about safety," he said.

The Vehicle Assembly Building was once used to piece together space shuttles for flight, but it, like most of the Kennedy Space Center, is in the midst of a transition following the end of the shuttle program in 2011.

Only Columbia remains at the space center. Sister ships Discovery and Endeavour were relocated to museums, and Atlantis was transferred to Kennedy Space Center's privately operated visitors complex.

"We teach the story, show the effects of the accident and show the fixes that we put into place," Ciannilli said. "Columbia's mission was a mission of education and research. We try to continue that in their name."

Looking back: The Columbia shuttle tragedy


Columbia's fallen crew

The space shuttle Columbia's crew members pose for a group photo. From left, front row: commander Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, pilot William McCool. Back row: David Brown, Laurel Clark, Michael Anderson and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

Columbia was destroyed on Feb. 1, 2003, during its return to Earth, because of a hole in its wing that allowed in super-hot atmospheric gases. (NASA via AP) 


The launch

Space shutle Columbia launches on mission STS-107 on Jan. 16, 2003. STS-107 was the 28th flight of the orbiter Columbia and the 113th flight overall in NASA's shuttle program. Unlike most of the shuttle missions of the time, Columbia was not headed for the International Space Station. Rather, the mission's purpose was to conduct scores of science experiments, ranging from studies of atmospheric phenomena to the effects of weightlessness on roundworms. (NASA)


Looking down on Earth

Earth is seen from the aft flight deck of the space shuttle Columbia on Jan. 22, 2003. The shuttle's crew members could see the wide Earth below, but they couldn't see the fatal damage that investigators concluded was done to the edge of the shuttle's left wing by a piece of flying foam insulation during the launch. (NASA)


Recovered from the debris

This picture of Columbia's crew members was on a roll of unprocessed film recovered from the debris after the shuttle's disintegration. The crew members strike a "flying" pose for their traditional in-flight crew portrait in the Spacehab research module. From left (bottom row), wearing red shirts to signify their shift’s color, are Kalpana Chawla, commander Rick Husband, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon. From left (top row), wearing blue shirts, are David Brown, William McCool and Michael Anderson. (NASA) 

Prelude to disaster

The space shuttle Columbia passes over the Owens Valley Radio Observatory north of Bishop, Calif., at 5:54 a.m. PST on Feb. 1, 2003. The camera is pointed north, and the shuttle is passing from west to east, from the left to the right side of the photo. Minutes after this picture was taken, the shuttle broke apart over Texas, killing all seven astronauts. (Gene Blevins / Los Angeles Daily News via AP)

Tragedy strikes

Debris from the space shuttle Columbia streaks across the sky over Tyler, Texas, on Feb. 1, 2003. Columbia broke apart in flames 200,000 feet over Texas, killing the crew just minutes before they were to glide to a landing in Florida. (Scott Lieberman / AP)


Televised catastrophe

Daren Richards, right, tells his 7-year-old daughter Tess about the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia while they shop at a Las Vegas Costco store on Feb. 1, 2003. Coverage of the tragedy is displayed on the television sets at left. (K.M. Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP) 

Trail of debris

Smoke rises from a small brush fire started by a falling piece of debris from the space shuttle Columbia outside Athens, Texas. Thousands of pieces fell to Earth after the shuttle broke apart in the skies over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003. (Jeff Mitchell / Reuters) 

Expanding the search

Searchers pass a makeshift memorial while looking for debris from the space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 2, 2003, outside Hemphill, Texas. The memorial marks the spot where remains of an astronaut were found. (David J. Phillip / AP) 

Mourning a hometown hero

The mother of a schoolmate of Indian-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla weeps in front of a picture adorned with marigolds during a memorial held at Kalpana's high school in her hometown of Karnal, India, on Feb. 2, 2003. While Chawla moved from Karnal more than two decades earlier, she remained a hero to the people who followed her career at NASA - a career that ended with the space shuttle catastrophe. (Elizabeth Dalziel / AP) 


Roadside memorial

Keegan Green, 8, is comforted by her mother Amy Green as they view debris believed to be from the space shuttle Columbia on a rural road west of Nacogdoches, Texas, on Feb. 3, 2003. (LM Otero / AP) 


Paying tribute

President George W. Bush bows his head in prayer with family members of the astronauts from the space shuttle Columbia during a memorial service on Feb. 4, 2003, at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Relatives of astronaut William McCool are to the left of the president; family members of astronaut Rick Husband are to the right of the president. (Larry Downing / Reuters) 


The long yellow line

Volunteers and investigators assemble to search a dense section of woods for debris from the space shuttle Columbia near Hemphill, Texas, on Feb. 9, 2003. (Rick Bowmer / AP) 


Reconstructing the Columbia

In the RLV Hangar at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the floor grid is dotted with pieces of Columbia debris on March 13, 2003. The Columbia Reconstruction Project Team arranged the recovered pieces of the orbiter as part of the investigation into the accident that caused the destruction of Columbia and the loss of its crew. (NASA via Reuters) 


Remembering those lost

A wreath placed by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and other NASA senior management is seen in front of the space shuttle Columbia memorial on Jan. 31, 2008, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The wreath-laying ceremony was part of NASA's Day of Remembrance. Wreaths were laid in the memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the course of space exploration, including the astronaut crews of Columbia, Challenger and Apollo 1. (Bill Ingalls / NASA via AP) 

  1. Columbia anniversary sparks talk of Mars
    Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: President Barack Obama pays a 10th-anniversary tribute to the space shuttle Columbia's fallen astronauts — and pledges that the lessons learned would be applied to future space odysseys, including eventual trips to Mars.
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Top 10 Super Bowl storylines

From Lewis to Kaepernick to Harbaughs and beyond: The best of Super Sunday

updated 2:49 a.m. ET Feb. 1, 2013

Michael Ventre
It should be simple. Just follow the football up and down the field on Sunday, examine the scoreboard after it’s all over, and you will have consumed and digested all you need to know about Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, along with whatever other snack horrors you shoved into your mouth over four hours or so.
Alas, if it were only that simple. As longtime members of the Super Bowl intelligentsia will attest, there usually are several significant storylines of which to keep track. They are layered in like cheddar cheese in nachos. They are mixed in like cashews in chicken curry. They sometimes appear by surprise like feta inside a turkey burger.

(Hey, you know you’re thinking more about Sunday’s feast than football anyway; I’m just trying to express this in terms you can understand.)
Here is a look at the 10 or so top storylines for this edition of the Super Bowl, created specifically for those who may not have as much experience with the game as they do with the refrigerator:

THE RAY LEWIS CHRONICLES: The fancy bed with four posts and an ornate cover upon which Cleopatra was carried by her minions is known as a litter. Now imagine Ray Lewis being carried into the Superdome on a litter, and you’ll have an idea of how much this Super Bowl belongs to the Baltimore Ravens’ veteran middle linebacker, for better or worse. In fact, someday he might become the first mummified member of the Hall of Fame. During this Super Bowl, you will hear every single Ray Lewis factoid ever unearthed, from his Atlanta troubles in 2000 to his alleged jones for deer-antler spray. His name will become a drinking game. His face will be on camera more often than the football itself. If he makes a significant contribution to the outcome, commissioner Roger Goodell will kiss him on the lips, and the city of Baltimore will re-name itself “Rayland.” If he has a so-so game and/or the Ravens lose, you’ll still see him do interviews with a laurel wreath on his head. Whatever the result, Ray Lewis will be the “Gangnam Style” of this Super Bowl.

THE HANDSHAKE: Really, this entire Super Bowl is just a lead-up to the post-game Harbaugh handshake. The handshake in general between opposing coaches has become somewhat of a defining moment in a football game. Through body language and demeanor, you can tell if the handshake is a genuine expression of sportsmanship between two accomplished professionals, or an opportunity for the winner to perform a touchdown dance with his eyes while the loser transforms into raging green-eyed monster. Now add a couple of Harbaugh-specific touches to this upcoming flesh press: Jim and John grew up competitive enough to wrestle each other over the salt shaker, and Jim is notorious for once insulting Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz during the handshake with a pompous dismissiveness not seen since the days of Genghis Khan. This moment will garner so much attention that it’ll be an upset if CBS doesn’t offer to sell advertisers a 30-second spot in the middle of it.

THE KAEPERNICK PISTOL: It is neither a Civil War souvenir your grandpa kept in a glass case in his study, nor something Congress is pondering a ban on, although it does cause grave concern in many cities. The 49ers’ offense contains elements of “The Pistol,” a variation of the shotgun formation that was created by former Nevada head coach Chris Ault for Colin Kaepernick, who starred at quarterback for the Wolf Pack and is now the Niners’ signal-caller. In this Pistol arrangement, Kaepernick takes the snap from center from about four yards back, then proceeds to move forward like a shopper on Black Friday. Since Kaepernick and his Pistol took over for mild-mannered Alex Smith in the middle of a Nov. 11 game against the Rams after Smith suffered a concussion, opposing defenses have gone into DEFCON 1 (nuclear war is imminent), and Sunday will see the final outcome. Kaepernick is a lean, muscular, fast professional athlete, not a North Korean with his finger on the button. Yet there is a common thread: No one has any idea what each will do next or how to stop him.

MOSS GROWING ON MOSS: Niners veteran receiver Randy Moss has the unique distinction of being one of the best in history at his position while sleepwalking through half his career. Critics agree: He always gives 100 percent effort sometimes. This season, he was the 49ers’ fourth-best receiver with 28 catches. If he were smart, he could have flown under the radar for this Super Bowl. Then, if he made any contribution whatsoever, he would have been hailed as a wise elder statesman who still has something left in the tank. But he popped off this week and claimed he’s the greatest wide receiver of all time. Cue intense focus on egomaniac in decline. Now he’s got some pressure. Now he has Jerry Rice Nation on him. Now he has to play like the greatest wide receiver of all time, even at the age of 35. It’s possible. It’s also possible he could pursue a career after football as a motivational speaker, but I wouldn’t count on that, either.

E PLURIBUS FLACCO: Translated, it means “Out of many, Flacco.” Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco’s job is to take the many Ravens, unify them and make them his team. He’s the leader. Ray Lewis is the loquacious frontman, but in terms of determining the game’s outcome, Lewis is just a flamboyant supporting actor. The Ravens’ fortunes in this Super Bowl will depend on Flacco’s performance. So far, so good. After all, just getting this far is a monumental achievement. Of course, Tony Eason got this far. So did Chris Chandler and Neil O’Donnell. And who talks about them? Considering the assaults on his character that Flacco has absorbed over the course of his career, his name really should be spelled Flak-O. A piƱata at a reform school takes less abuse. Flacco needs to have an outstanding, mistake-free game, or else, instead of getting the new contract at $20 million per year that he reportedly seeks, the Ravens may just say, “Nevermore.”

MR. SMITH GOES TO NEW ORLEANS BUT DOESN’T PLAY: Granted, it’s conceivable Alex Smith, who got Colin-oscopied out of the starting quarterback job for San Francisco, could get into the game Sunday. Kaepernick could get hurt. In a burst of inspiration, Jim Harbaugh could decide a Two Pistol formation is twice as good as one. Smith could get some tattoos, don a No. 7 jersey, and run onto the field posing as Kaepernick while the real Kaepernick sits bound and gagged inside a beignet delivery truck. But it’s highly doubtful Smith will get in the game. Therefore, he’ll be shown on camera a lot, looking wistful. You might even see CBS fade to commercial on Smith’s face, then show a spot in which a little kid is cheered up by his mother with some cereal, then come back to Smith’s face again. But I bet that if the camera is on his face at the moment when one of the announcers mentions that he’s still making $5 million this season whether he plays or not, he cracks a smile.

BACK TROUBLE: Either San Francisco will have trouble with a Baltimore back, or vice versa. Frank Gore is the leading rusher for the 49ers. Ray Rice is his counterpart for the Ravens. If this game goes according to the script, Kaepernick will have a dazzling game in a Niners win and be the named MVP. But it might not. There’s a good chance one of these two running backs will carry himself into the record books with a monstrous display of two-legged havoc. Neither would ever be mistaken for a lady gazelle. Each is the football equivalent of a cement mixer traveling downhill with no brakes. While both can also catch the football out of the backfield, Rice is more prolific at it (61 catches this season to 28 for Gore). If either back is named MVP, that lucky guy will have to treat his offensive line to dinner. It would not only be a nice gesture to reward some unsung heroes for their tireless efforts, it would also serve as a huge boost to the New Orleans economy.

CULLIVER UNRAVELS: In the “Bad Timing Department,” add Niners cornerback Chris Culliver’s name as a new board member. Former 49ers offensive lineman Kwame Harris recently made headlines when he was charged with felony domestic violence and assault charges from an August beating of a former boyfriend. That opened the door to a discussion of whether a gay player would be welcome in the NFL. And Culliver not only walked through that door, he tagged it with anti-gay graffiti. He told a radio host: "We ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up out here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. ... Nah, can't be ... in the locker room man." Later, he opined that gays should wait 10 years after retiring from the NFL to come out. So now Culliver, who ordinarily might not be a story in this game unless he got torched by an opposing wide receiver, is alone on an island in more ways than one, especially considering the size of the gay and lesbian community in the city in which he plays. While media from around the world gathers at the Super Bowl, he might want to take this opportunity to come out as somebody who can play and keep his piehole shut.

HEED REED: The topic of concussions is a painful one. So it’s tough to root for Ravens veteran safety Ed Reed to knock opponents senseless. He’s in a quandary, and so are his fans. Pulverizing opponents is part of what makes him great. But it might also be causing him some memory loss, to which he alluded this week. Reed is more low key than Lewis, but no less important to the success of the Ravens’ defense. He’s one of those guys who shows up everywhere and makes opposing quarterbacks believe they’re hallucinating. This will be a major test for Reed when you consider the men he’ll spend the game chasing down: Kaepernick, Gore and pass-catchers like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. And when he tackles them, he’ll have to do so in a way that probably seems foreign to him. The 49ers are probably a little more comfortable knowing that Ed Reed’s hits won’t be as brutal as they once were. But they’ll still be nervous knowing that the sound of Ed Reed’s footsteps is as terrifying as ever.

ROGER GOODELL, NEW ORLEANS, CANDLELIGHT, SOFT MUSIC: New Orleans can’t stand the NFL commissioner, but it can’t give him up, either. New Orleans can’t quit Roger. It’s because Roger hurt the city when he brought the hammer down on the Saints in the Bountygate case. The city got upset. It stopped taking Roger’s calls and ignored his texts. But there was that whole Katrina thing. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was the leader of an effort to keep the Saints in New Orleans, to rebuild the Superdome, and to secure future Super Bowls after Hurricane Katrina unleashed its wrath on the city in 2005. But Goodell was his right-hand man at the time and performed much of the administrative grunt work. It’s safe to say that Goodell was as much of a friend to New Orleans as Tagliabue was after that devastating event. Relationships are complicated. Right now, New Orleans is looking at old photos of Roger on its iPad while eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and saying things like, “He’s not welcome in my bars and restaurants,” and “I hope he grows a second head.” But who really knows how New Orleans will react when it sees Roger at the game, and especially after the game, when he presents the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winning team? Here’s hoping New Orleans keeps it classy and says to Roger, “You look great.” And Roger returns the favor by saying, “You too. What are you doing later?”