Minggu, 11 Desember 2011

Total lunar eclipse is a rare treat

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Moon watchers in the western U.S., Hawaii and elsewhere across the globe were treated Saturday to a rare celestial phenomenon: a total lunar eclipse.

For 51 minutes starting at 6:06 a.m. PST, the Earth's shadow completely blocked the moon.

The moon took on a reddish glow, as some indirect sunlight continued to reach it after passing through the Earth's atmosphere. Since the atmosphere scatters blue light, only red light strikes the moon, giving it a crimson hue.

David Sayre, who runs a public relations firm in Hawaii, said it had been cloudy and rainy around his house on Oahu, but the weather cleared just in time for the eclipse.

He awoke, as he usually does, around 3 a.m. and remembered to step outside the house in time to catch the eclipse about a half hour later. No one else in the neighborhood was up.

"Sure enough it was turning that orangy-red color," Sayre, 47, said. "I said, 'Gosh I better grab a camera.'"

He added, "To be able to see it just right outside our house was really cool."

At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, some 300 people, many clutching coffee cups in the frigid morning air, sat with blankets and chairs on the observatory's great lawn.

"It's a celestial festival out here," Capm Petersen, 39, told the Los Angeles Times as he set up his camera.

Perched on a slope north of downtown near the Hollywood sign, the property offers clear views of the sky. Observatory officials alerted the crowd when the eclipse began and spontaneous applause erupted when the celestial event ended.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon goes through the long shadow cast by the Earth and is blocked from the sunlight that illuminates it.

The last total lunar eclipse was on June 15 although that was not visible from the U.S. The next one is on April 15, 2014, and will be seen in the U.S.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to letters@usatoday.com. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.

Lady Gaga’s ‘White Christmas’ is naughty, nice and includes an offer for Santa Claus

If Santa comes down Lady Gaga’s chimney this year, he might find more than a snack of milk and cookies.

The platinum-selling singer promised ol’ St. Nick a much warmer greeting during a semi-raunchy version of “White Christmas” at the annual Z100 “Jingle Ball,” where Gaga was both naughty and nice.

“Santa, I’ll be waiting for you,” Gaga cooed with both legs in the air near the end of the Bing Crosby holiday classic.

Earlier, the scantily clad singer told the Madison Square Garden crowd that she was performing an extended version of “White Christmas” for the show.

“I recently added a couple of lyrics to this song ‘cause I think it’s too short,” she said Friday night to cheers. “And just when I get into it, it stops. It’s like a bad orgasm.

“Merry Christmas, New York!”

The Grammy-nominated Gaga, wearing sunglasses and black boots, said her first concert ever was the “Jingle Ball” back when she was 11 years old.

Now 25, the singer recalled appearing at the show three years ago.

“I’ll never forget there were a whole lot of superstars and no one knew who the hell I was,” she said. “Some people thought I was going to be a one-hit wonder.”

Lenovo Could Unseat iMac as Top All-in-One PC

Apple is currently the world's number one vendor of all-in-one PCs but is likely to lose that crown next year to Lenovo, according to research.

Digitimes' figures give Apple's iMac a leading share of the all-in-one PC market for 2011, with 3.7 million units sold, ahead of Lenovo's 2.9 million and HP's 2.4 million.

Next year, though, Apple is likely to sell 3.8 million iMacs while Lenovo could shift four million all-in-one PCs, Digitimes reckons.

"Although Apple's iMac series has advantages in industrial design, the product series has shown only limited room for change in specifications. However, HP and Lenovo have delivered above-the-standard industrial design in their products, while offering better hardware specifications, price and a variety of choices. Therefore, Apple's leading position in the AIO PC market will be taken by Lenovo in 2012," Digitimes says in its report.

Overall, 13.5 million all-in-one PCs will be sold in 2011, which will rise to 15.8 million in 2012, Digitimes reckons. In 2011, all-in-one sales will account for 9.3 percent of the desktop market, whereas they will account for 10.5 percent of the overall desktop market in 2012, according to Digitimes' projections.

China is seen to be one of the key markets for all-in-one PCs and Lenovo's foothold in this market, combined with lower prices than Apple's, will be key to its growth in 2012.

"AIO PC models that feature a Wintel structure and have a lower price than iMac will continue to penetrate into advanced countries due to many brand vendors entering into the AIO PC market in 2011. Meanwhile, Lenovo's aggressive planning for AIO PC market in China will become another key driver that helps drive market growth."

HP, however, "has been affected by a lack of stability in its PC department, which may mean it will have difficulty expanding its share of the AIO PC market."

Samsung Series 7 Slate PC – First look

We’ve seen a lot of tablets hit the market over the last year or two. Most run Google Android, iOS, or other operating systems designed for mobile devices. The Samsung Series 7 Slate is something different. It’s a Windows 7 tablet that takes full advantage of the touch-based features in the operating system, and which has hardware powerful enough to provide a pretty good Windows experience.

Those extra features come at a price. Tehe Series 7 Slate sells for $1149 and up .

Samsung loaned me a demo unit of to test, and while I’ve only spent a few days with the tablet so far I wanted to share a few initial thoughts. We’ll have a full review coming soon.

It’s not just the operating system that sets the Series 7 apart from the Android tablets I’ve reviewed recently. It’s what you can do with the tablet. Since it runs a full version of Windows 7 you can run full desktop apps including Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and more. But Samsung also includes a finger-friendly app launcher and a handful of apps that run in full screen mode, much as they would on an Android, iOS, BlackBerry, or webOS tablet.

So at times, it’s actually a little tough to really tell the difference between the Series 7 and a much cheaper tablet. For instance, you can use the web browser to scroll through pages with your fingers or pinch-to-zoom. The browser feels a little faster than the one you’d get on a cheaper tablet, but the experience isn’t that different.

Where things do start to get different is when you exist the finger-friendly UI and start using a stylus to navigate the Windows 7 desktop experience. The tablet has a capacitive touchscreen display for finger input, but it also has an active digitizer that works with a digital pen.

This allows you to tap the screen with more precision, draw pictures with pressure-sensitive input, click or right-click, and generally use the Series 7 almost as easily as you could if you were using a computer with a keyboard and mouse.

Samsung also bundles a version of the Swype digital keyboard with the tablet. So if you don’t want to use the built-in Windows keyboard or handwriting recognition function you can pull up Swype and enter words by swiping your finger from letter to letter without lifting your finger from the screen.

Up until recently Swype was only available as an Android app, but I find it much easier to use than the default Windows keyboard. Unfortunately it has a way of taking over the input panel and popping up when you don’t need it, or when you’d rather use the Windows handwriting feature.

Samsung also loaned me the optional docking station and wireless keyboard which really does make the Series 7 into a sort of desktop computer. The 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display is about the same size as the screen on my laptop, and I can imagine getting some serious work done with this setup. There’s also a full-sized USB port so I could plug in a mouse as well.

At nearly 2 pounds the Series 7 is a lot heavier than most Android or iOS tablets. The widescreen display is also wide enough that the device feels a bit odd when held in portrait mode. But at 0.5 inches thick, the Series 7 Slate is pretty svelte, even by modern tablet standards. It also feels very sturdy.

The unit I’m reviewing has a 64GB solid state disk, 4GB of memory, and a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor. It runs Windows 7 Home Premium and has a Windows Experience Index f 4.6.

I’ve found that at times the back of the tablet can get a little warm to the touch and the fan can be a little noisy when it kicks in to try and cool the computer down.

But so far the Samsung Series 7 is the fastest, most responsive Windows 7 tablet I’ve spent any appreciable time with — although to be fair, I’ve mostly spent my time with low-end computers with Intel Atom processors.

Is the Samsung Series 7 Slate worth more than twice as much as those devices thanks to the faster processor, higher quality screen, active digitizer and other features? It’s hard to say.

It’s definitely easy to justify spending more money to get those features. But $1149 is a lot of money to spend on a computer when you can pick up an iPad for $499, an Amazon Kindle Fire for $200, or a netbook for under $300.

I have a hard time imagining the Series 7 Slate unseating any of those devices. But it feels like a solid niche product that’s going to appeal to customers that really need to be able to draw on a tablet or use a stylus for other reasons, as well as customers that need to run Windows software rather than mobile apps on their portable tablet-style devices.

Clegg: Cameron's EU treaty veto 'bad for Britain'

LONDON (AP) — Deep cracks are emerging in Britain's coalition government, with one of its top officials lashing out at Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday for deciding to block European Union treaty changes designed to save the euro.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the decision "bad for Britain" and said he is "bitterly disappointed" over the outcome of last week's EU summit during which Britain was the only nation to reject a tighter fiscal alliance in the bloc aimed at ending Europe's worst financial crisis in generations.

"Now there is a danger that the U.K. will be isolated and marginalized within the European Union," Clegg said, warning that Britain is "retreating further to the margins of Europe."

He said he will now do everything he can "to ensure this setback does not become a permanent divide" in Britain's coalition government.

After the EU summit in Brussels, Clegg publicly backed Cameron's decision to reject the proposed new European treaty because it didn't contain adequate safeguards for Britain and wasn't in the country's interests.

But during an interview with BBC television on Sunday Clegg said that when Cameron told him of his decision during a 4 a.m. phone call on Friday, "I said this was bad for Britain. I made it clear that it was untenable for me to welcome it."

Clegg's public criticism of Cameron's decision raised questions about the viability of the coalition government, but one analysts said it is not in danger of collapsing.

Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, accused Clegg of "trying to have his cake and eat it, too" by going on TV to disagree with Cameron but insisting that the coalition will stand.

"Cameron's got them over a barrel," Fielding said of the Lib Dems because they joined the coalition as a junior party and need time in government to establish political credibility.

Last year, Clegg's party joined with Cameron's larger Conservative Party in Britain's first governing coalition since World War II following an inconclusive national election.

The coalition has an 84-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons. One of its biggest ideological differences involves EU rules and regulations and the degree to which they affect government decisions and London's standing as Europe's top financial market.

The Conservatives have long contained many so-called "euro-skeptics," while the Lib Dems are the most pro-EU of any major British party, including the opposition Labour Party.

Clegg has been repeatedly accused of betraying his party's values by endorsing Cameron's austerity measures and decision to increase university tuition fees.

But Fielding said that "however embarrassed and humiliated" the Liberal Democrats may feel by the direction of the government, they left themselves "no alternative" but to go along with it by agreeing to form the coalition after finishing third in the last national election.

Some experts have questioned Cameron's decision to take such a hard line at the EU summit, saying he could leave the UK isolated by abandoning its long-standing strategy of acting both within and outside the bloc.

But William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary and a member of the Conservative Party, disputed Clegg's account, saying Sunday that the deputy prime minister had been on board with the government's negotiating position ahead of the EU summit.

"We are not marginalized, I can assure you of that," Hague told Sky News. "Our agreement is required in the EU to a whole range of other decisions that will be coming up over the next few months."

Cameron rejected the invitation to join 26 other EU members to approve changes to the bloc treaty in a move that isolated Cameron from the European Union and raised doubts about whether Britain realistically can remain a member of the bloc.

Conservative lawmakers already have toasted Cameron's decision in Brussels, while other Liberal Democrats have criticized it.

On Sunday, Clegg suggested Cameron is hamstrung by the Conservative euro-skeptics, saying "of course things would have been different" if he had attended the EU summit, too. "I'm not under the same constraints from my parliamentary party that clearly David Cameron is," Clegg said.

But the deputy prime minister dismissed talk of a breakup of the coalition government.

"It would be even more damaging for us as a country if the coalition government was to fall apart," he said. "That would cause economic disaster for the country at a time of great economic uncertainty."

Still, Clegg did not shy away from rebuking the stance of his Conservative coalition partners, who have called for a public referendum on Britain's relationship with Europe and had urged Cameron to not give in at the summit.

"There's nothing bulldog about Britain hovering somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, not standing tall in Europe, not being taken seriously in Washington," Clegg said.

Conservative lawmaker Mark Pritchard struck back, accusing Clegg and his party of being "totally out of step" with public euroskepticism.

"Better to be a British bulldog than a Brussels poodle," Pritchard said.

Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd

Grim economic outlook weighs down Obama approval rating

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Less than one year out from Election Day 2012, voters remain overwhelmingly pessimistic about the economy, and their concerns are taking a toll on President Obama's re-election chances. Just 41 percent of Americans think Mr. Obama has performed his job well enough to be elected to a second term, whereas 54 percent don't think so.

The president's overall approval rating remains in the mid-40's, according to a CBS News poll - lower than the approval ratings of Mr. Obama's four presidential predecessors at this point in their first terms. Mr. Obama's approval rating is dragged down by his poor marks for his handling of the economy - which, at 33 percent, is the lowest rating of his presidency in CBS News polls.

Mr. Obama receives better marks on foreign policy and for his leadership skills. But when it comes to leading the economy in the right direction, voters are unimpressed: Just 28 percent think he has made progress on improving the economy. And most Americans say the president doesn't share the public's priorities, according to the poll, conducted December 5-7.

Obama and the economy

Forty-four percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, and about as many - 46 percent - disapprove. His approval rating has remained fairly steady but below 50 percent since the spring of 2010, aside from an uptick in the spring of 2011 following the death of Osama bin Laden.

Since bin Laden's death, the president has received high marks for his handling of terrorism: In this poll, 57 percent approve. Voters are split on his handling of foreign policy overall, with 41 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving.

Views of how he has handled the economy is the obvious drag on the president's ratings: While just 33 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove. Similarly, just 35 percent approve his his handling of job creation while 58 percent disapprove. The last time Mr. Obama's approval rating on the economy was above 40 percent was in February of this year.

Views on the national economy remain very negative: Since early 2008, roughly three in four Americans (and sometimes even more) have said the economy is in bad shape. Now, 86 percent of Americans characterize the economy as at least somewhat bad, including 42 percent who say it is very bad.

Although the national unemployment rate recently dropped below 9 percent for the first time since 2009, Americans are skeptical that a recovery is on the horizon. Just 21 percent think the economy is getting better, and 39 percent think it is getting worse, up from 32 percent last month. Another 40 percent think the economy isn't changing.

When asked if Mr.Obama has made real progress fixing the economy, 68 percent say he has not, and just 28 percent say he has. And while 37 percent say the Obama administration's policies prevented the country from going into a deeper recession, just under half - 49 percent - say those policies did not do that.

In addition, more think the policies of the Obama administration have mostly favored Wall Street (42 percent) than mostly favored average Americans (38 percent).

But while they may disapprove of his handling of this issue, few Americans think the president is most to blame for the current state of the nation's economy. When asked to choose between the Bush administration, the Obama administration, Wall Street, and Congress, more Americans blame the Bush administration (22 percent) or Congress (16 percent) than Wall Street (12 percent) or Mr. Obama (12 percent), though 24 percent volunteer that a combination of all four is to blame.

Obama: Unemployment could go down to 8% by election
("60 Minutes" interview)

Mr. Obama's qualities and characteristics

Despite an approval rating in the 40s, Americans appear to have a positive impression of Mr. Obama on some personal measures. A 57 percent majority views the president as a strong leader, similar to the percentage in a September poll -- but that figure has declined significantly since he took office. Democrats (85 percent) and independents (57 percent) say Mr. Obama has strong qualities of leadership, while 67 percent of Republicans disagree.

Fifty-nine percent Americans describe the president as down-to-earth, and just a third says he is aloof. Democrats and independents see him as down-to-earth, while more than half of Republicans perceive the president as aloof.

The president is also seen as a fighter: Two thirds of Americans think Mr. Obama fights hard for his policies; just 26 percent say he doesn't. More than half of Republicans think Mr. Obama fights hard for his policies.

Bringing change and uniting Americans were central elements of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign four years ago. Today, most Americans think he has worked hard to bring about change (57 percent), but fewer (37 percent) think his presidency has united the country. There are partisan differences on these measures also.

Additionally, most Americans do not think the president's priorities for the country are in line with theirs. Fifty-four percent say Mr. Obama doesn't share their priorities, while 41 percent think he does. This is the public's most negative assessment on this question since Mr. Obama assumed office. Again, the public divides along partisan lines: 73 percent of Democrats say he shares their priorities, while 79 percent of Republicans say he does not.

Americans also remain skeptical of one of the major legislative achievements of Mr. Obama's first term as president -- the 2010 health care reform law. Fifty-one percent of Americans disapprove of the law, including a third who strongly disapprove, while just 35 percent approve either somewhat or strongly. More Americans have disapproved than approved of the law since it was passed in March 2010.

Half of all Americans think Mr. Obama should have focused his priorities elsewhere during his first term in office, though 43 percent think he did the right thing in trying to reform the health care system.

Congressional gridlock

Congress' job approval rating is far lower than the president's. Eighty-two percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, while 11 percent approve - just two percentage points above the all-time low of 9 percent recorded last month.

When it comes to the difficulties in reaching agreements and passing legislation in Congress, Americans put more of the blame on the Republicans in Congress than Mr. Obama and the Democrats. Forty-two percent blame Republicans more, while just 26 percent blame Mr. Obama and the Democrats, though 22 percent volunteer both are equally to blame.

Looking ahead to 2012

Americans continue to be unhappy with the direction the country is headed: Three in four think the country is off on the wrong track. Just one in five thinks it is headed in the right direction.

With nearly a year left before the 2012 election, 41 percent of Americans think Mr. Obama has performed his job well enough to be elected to a second term, but 54 percent don't think so. Not surprisingly, most Democrats think Mr. Obama deserves to be re-elected, while most Republicans do not. More than half of independents do not think he deserves to be re-elected.

As the president gears up for his re-election campaign, 66 percent of Americans say they do not have a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish in a second term; just a third say they do. Fewer than half of Democrats say they have a clear idea of what the president wants to accomplish if re-elected.

Mr. Obama's 44 percent approval rating is only slightly below President Bill Clinton's at this point in time in his presidency (47 percent), but it is 14 points lower than President Ronald Reagan's was in late 1983. President George W. Bush's approval rating, at 52 percent in December 2003, was also higher than Mr. Obama's.

Comparisons to modern one-term presidents are mixed. President Obama's approval rating is lower than President George H. W. Bush's in November 1991, but Mr. Bush's approval rating dropped precipitously during 1992. In contrast, Mr. Obama's current approval rating is much higher than the 30 percent Jimmy Carter received in late 1979.

After nearly three years in the White House, 52 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama's performance in office has been about what they expected, but 35 percent feel his time in office has been disappointing. Few Americans - even among Democrats -- say he has exceeded their expectations.(Cbsnews.com)

Iran to US: We won't return the 'beast' drone

A top Iranian general said Iran won't return the high-tech US surveillance drone and warned of a 'bigger' response.

Tehran, Iran

Iran will not return a US surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard said Sunday.

Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, said in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of Iran's airspace by the US drone was a "hostile act" and warned of a "bigger" response. He did not elaborate on what Tehran might do.

"No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Salami said.

Iranian television broadcast video Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles from the border with Afghanistan. US officials have acknowledged losing the drone.

Salami called its capture a victory for Iran and a defeat for the US in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

"Iran is among the few countries that possesses the most modern technology in the field of pilotless drones. The technology gap between Iran and the US is not much," he said.

Officers in the Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, had previously claimed that the country's armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.

American officials have said that US intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials had spoken anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.

But Salami refused to provide more details of Iran's claim to have captured the CIA-operated aircraft.

"A party that wins in an intelligence battle doesn't reveal its methods. We can't elaborate on the methods we employed to intercept, control, discover and bring down the pilotless plane," he said.(csmonitor.com)

Gingrich opens up big leads in South Carolina and Florida

Newt Gingrich’s surge in the polls isn’t limited to just the early presidential-nominating contest of Iowa.

According to new NBC News-Marist polls, the former House speaker has now opened up commanding leads in South Carolina and Florida -- two states that historically have played important roles in deciding the eventual Republican nominee.

Fueled by the support from conservatives and the Tea Party, Gingrich is ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by nearly 20 points in South Carolina. The winner of that state's primary has gone on to capture each GOP nomination since 1980.

And he leads Romney by double digits in Florida, whose primary ultimately ended up deciding the party’s pick in 2008.

“You can see why the Romney people are getting a little itchy,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion, referring to the Romney campaign’s recent attacks on Gingrich.

Gingrich ahead “any way you slice it”
In South Carolina, which holds its presidential contest on Jan. 21, Gingrich gets the support of 42 percent of likely primary voters, including those leaning toward a particular candidate. That’s a 35-point jump since October’s NBC-Marist poll of the Palmetto State contest.

Romney gets 23 percent (a five-point drop), and no other Republican candidate registers in double digits. Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets 9 percent, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are tied at 7 percent.

In a field reduced to three candidates in South Carolina, Gingrich gets the support of 48 percent of likely voters, Romney gets 30 percent and Paul gets 12 percent.

In a simple two-way race, Gingrich’s support increases to 57 percent and Romney’s moves to 33 percent.

“It’s a good lead [for Gingrich] any way you slice it,” Miringoff says.

In Florida, which holds its primary on Jan. 31, Gingrich is at 44 percent among likely voters -- a 38-point increase from October. He’s followed by Romney at 29 percent (a four-point decline), Paul at 8 percent and Perry at 4 percent.

In a three-way race in the Sunshine State, it’s Gingrich 51 percent, Romney 31 percent and Paul 10 percent. And in a simple head-to-head contest, it’s Gingrich 54 percent, Romney 36 percent.

Tea Party power
According to the two polls, Gingrich performs especially well among the most conservative primary voters.

Among Tea Party supporters -- who make up about half of all likely primary voters in South Carolina and Florida -- the former House speaker leads Romney by more than 30 percentage points in both states (51-20 percent in South Carolina and 57-22 percent in Florida).

Gingrich also enjoys huge leads among “conservative” and “very conservative” voters.

By comparison, Romney bests Gingrich among liberals and moderates in Florida (39 percent to 29 percent), and essentially ties him among these GOP voters in South Carolina (with Gingrich’s 29 percent to Romney 26 percent).

And Gingrich has the most intense support. In South Carolina, 50 percent of his backers strongly support him, versus 34 percent who strongly support Romney,

In Florida, 60 percent of Gingrich’s backers strongly support him, compared with 38 percent for Romney.

If there’s a silver lining in these polls for Romney, it’s that more than half of Gingrich’s supporters in both states picked the former Massachusetts governor as their second-choice pick. And only a fraction of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina and Florida view Romney as an unacceptable candidate.

This means Romney could potentially gain more support if his campaign is able to raise doubts about Gingrich, Miringoff says.

Obama’s standing improves in Florida
Turning to the general election, President Obama’s standing has improved in Florida, always a key presidential battleground state.

Forty-six percent of registered voters in the state approve of his job, which is up five points since October.

In hypothetical match-ups, the president leads Romney by seven points (48 to 41 percent) and Gingrich by 12 points (51 to 39 percent).

In South Carolina -- a reliable Republican state in presidential contests -- Obama’s approval rating stands at 44 percent, and he holds narrow leads over Romney (45 to 42 percent) and Gingrich (46 to 42 percent).

The South Carolina survey was conducted Dec. 4-6 of 2,107 total registered voters (with a margin of error of plus-minus 2.1 percentage points) and of 635 likely Republican primary voters (plus-minus 3.9 percentage points).

The Florida poll was conducted Dec. 4-7 of 2,119 total registered voters (with a margin of error of plus-minus 2.1 percentage points) and of 469 likely Republican primary voters (plus-minus 4.5 percentage points).(firstread.msnbc.msn.com)