Selasa, 13 Desember 2011

Samsung Galaxy S Line Spurs 300M Global Handset Sales

Thanks in part to sales of its popular Galaxy S and Galaxy S II Android smartphones, Samsung has broken its own record by selling 300 million handsets--and counting--in 2011.

Samsung also said sales of smartphones powered by its own bada operating system are picking up steam worldwide, thanks in part to its refreshed bada 2.0 build. The flagship Wave 3 bada phone is available in Europe and "continues to gain sales traction in all its launch markets," Samsung said.

Bada phones aren't available in the United States, where Samsung's Android models draw much attention from rivals such as Motorola Mobility and HTC. Samsung began selling the Galaxy S line in 2010 and has now sold more than 20 million of those handsets to date, excluding the typically busy December shopping month.

The phone maker began selling the much-ballyhooed successor, the 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution)-equipped Galaxy S II, in April. By September, the company sold more than 10 million S II units
, its fastest mobile device sold in the company's history.

"We are incredibly proud of this record-breaking sales milestone and have exceeded the annual target announced early this year, which is testament to the enduring appeal of Samsung phones with consumers around the world," said JK Shin, president and head of Samsung's mobile communications business.

AT&T (NYSE:T), Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile all sell Galaxy S II models, which sport anywhere from 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz dual-core processors paired with 4.3-inch to 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus displays. These devices compete with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S smartphone, which itself has helped AT&T to its single strongest smartphone sales in a quarter.

One of the ways Samsung has helped its own cause versus the iPhone 4S has been its "The Next Big Thing Is Already Here" ad and marketing campaign, which touts the 4G LTE speeds and larger screen size of the Galaxy S II handsets compared to the iPhone 4S.

Samsung also took a shot at Apple's reputation as a maker of devices for "creative" types, a meme that started with Macintosh computers for graphic artists.

Not everything is going Samsung's way. The company launched its Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone in the U.K. in November and expected to watch Verizon launch its version of the first Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphone the week of Dec. 5.

Unfortunately, Verizon and Google are locked in negotiations regarding the inclusion of the Google Wallet mobile payment application on the phone. Verizon is concerned with the app's security.

Hold-up notwithstanding, Best Buy and Verizon stores accidentally sold some Galaxy Nexus handsets to some lucky consumers.

5 Apps Banned from Apple's App Store in 2011

From tethering, a DUI checkpoint app, and a radiation detection app - here are five apps shown the door by Apple.

Apple gave the app, Drivers License, the boot this week after concerned politicians claimed it encouraged identity theft. Drivers License joins a short list of apps that Apple gave boot in 2011 because Apple either didn't get the joke, offered too much functionality, or that Apple felt was downright dangerous.

Here is a brief 2011 rewind of apps that got the boot in 2011 starting with Drivers License.

Fake Driver's Licenses

On Monday, Apple removed a two-year old app, called Drivers License that allowed you to create a fake drivers license using a photo, biographical info and a state template of your choice. The app was pulled after the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License tapped Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey to send a letter to Apple asking that the free app come down. The Senator was concerned about the ability to send the fake license to an email account, which could then be printed and laminated.

Avoiding DUI Checkpoints

Senators also stepped in in the case of apps like "Buzzed" which provide information about nearby DUI checkpoints to help tipsy drivers avoid law enforcement. A few months after first being pressed by lawmakers to remove the apps, Apple quietly took them down and updated its App Store guidelines to ban "Apps which contain DUI checkpoints that are not published by law enforcement agencies, or encourage and enable drunk driving."

Phone Story

Turns out that creating a game with the explicit purpose of criticizing Apple will get you banned from the App Store. Who would have guessed? The app called Phone Story was designed as a game that allowed players to force African miners to extract the minerals used in the manufacture of iPhones at gun point, among other things. The App only lasted a few hours in the App Store before disappearing.


Just like its Android equivalent, PDAnet, iTether allows iOS users to turn an iPhone into a portable modem and tether their 3G connection to a laptop or other device to be able to get online when there's no WiFi around. Obviously, this app and its one-time only fee are significantly more affordable than the monthly fee wireless carriers charge to turn your phone into a hotspot. Tethering also violates the carriers' terms of use. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before iTether was pulled from the App Store.


For those who worry about smartphone radiation, Tawkon is an app devised to determine how much of it you're soaking up while using your phone. It also provides tips on things like phone position that could help lower your dosage. According to Tawkon, Apple execs rejected the app, and an appeal directly to Steve Jobs elicited a terse response – "No interest," he reportedly replied. Talk about being bounced.

Fed Takes No Action, Citing Signs of Moderate Growth

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it was closing the books on 2011, maintaining its existing efforts to increase growth but adding no reinforcement amid evidence that the American economy was chugging back toward health.

The central bank will enter next year as it entered this one, in a stance of hopeful exhaustion, optimistic the economy is gaining strength, worried about setbacks and doubtful it can do much more to hasten recovery.

Equity investors, who have been the major beneficiaries of the Fed’s efforts to help growth, immediately responded with disappointment over the absence of any clear hint of new windfalls. Major market indexes recorded quick drops, reversing early gains. The benchmark Standard &Poor’s 500-stock index fell 0.87 percent on the day.

But the Fed left open the possibility that it would take additional steps next year, including an expected effort at improving public understanding of its goals and methods to increase the impact of its policies and disarm its critics.

The Fed’s policy-making committee said its optimism about the economy was tempered by the persistence of unemployment, the blighted housing market, the deceleration of global growth and the risk of a European crash.

“The committee continues to expect a moderate pace of economic growth over coming quarters and consequently anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually,” it said in a statement. “Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.”

The decision was supported by nine of 10 members of the Federal Open Market Committee. Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, once again dissented, arguing that the Fed should act immediately to help growth, fulfilling its responsibility to help the millions of Americans who cannot find jobs.

Notwithstanding the nervous twitching of stock markets, the committee’s decision to do nothing was widely anticipated. One analyst joked that the most exciting thing about the statement was the timing of its release about three minutes ahead of schedule. Another titled his note to clients, “Dull Dull Dull.”

“You could almost call it a yawner,” said Eric Stein, a fixed-income portfolio manager at Eaton Vance, a Boston investment firm. “But I think we’ll see something bigger come January. The center of the committee, despite the fact that U.S. growth is looking stronger, they’re always going to err on the side of doing more.”

The dynamics of the internal debate also will shift next year. Four of the seats on the policy-making committee are held on a rotating basis by the presidents of the Fed’s regional banks. Three of the current four have argued that the Fed already has done too much to stimulate growth, creating the largest bloc of dissenting votes on the committee since the early 1990s. Only one of their replacements is regarded as similarly likely to break ranks with the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke.

“It certainly suggests that as we go into the new construct, you will have a more accommodative committee, a bit more proactive,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at the broker-dealer Mizuho Securities USA.

Mr. Stein and other observers said they were eager to read the fuller description of this meeting that the Fed will publish on Jan. 3 because the committee had planned to discuss on Tuesday possible changes in the information that it provides to the public, including a forecast of its likely decisions about short-term interest rates.

The January meeting affords a convenient opportunity to announce such a change. Mr. Bernanke is scheduled hold a news conference after the meeting, on Jan. 25, and the Fed will release its regular forecast of other economic data.

Fed officials say such a forecast could bolster growth modestly, reducing borrowing costs for businesses and consumers, by convincing investors the central bank will keep interest rates near zero for longer than expected.

The impact would be limited because such a forecast most likely would cover three years, running through 2014, and asset prices based on investor expectations on interest rates already reflect an assumption that the Fed will keep rates near zero through the end of 2013.

Articulating its goals and methods also could help the Fed to justify any new efforts to aid growth. But such efforts, viewed as inevitable by many Fed watchers earlier this year, become less likely as the economy improves.

The statement reflected the Fed’s increased optimism, describing “some improvement” in labor markets instead of “continuing weakness.” And the Fed now appears to view the struggles of foreign economies as the greatest risk.

At the same time, officials have given no indication that they are ready to resume the discussions, suspended earlier this year, about when and how the central bank should begin to retreat from its existing efforts to stimulate growth.

The Fed said that it would continue an effort to cut borrowing costs for businesses and consumers by investing in long-term Treasury securities, using proceeds from the sale of its existing holdings of short-term Treasuries.

The December meeting convened on the third anniversary of the Fed’s decision to hold short-term interest rates near zero, a policy it has said that it plans to continue through at least the middle of 2013 and possibly longer.

As Syria death toll soars, so does US frustration with Russia

The death toll from the crackdown in Syria has topped 5,000, the top UN human rights official told the Security Council. With Russia blocking action, the US and others are voicing increasing frustration.

Citing a death toll in Syria’s government-backed violence that has now topped 5,000, the top UN human rights official is imploring the Security Council to get tough with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But with Russia dismissing any attempt at international action against the Assad regime as hypocritical and “immoral,” the likelihood of anything being done soon appears slight.

This has prompted the United States and other parties frustrated by the dim prospects of meaningful international action against Mr. Assad to draw stark contrasts between the Security Council’s muted response to the crisis and recent steps taken by other countries and institutions.

“Through condemnations issued by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council and bold steps taken by the Arab League and the government of Turkey, international bodies are starting to match their severe disapproval of Syria’s bloody crackdown with concrete steps to bring it to an end,” Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said following a Security Council session on Syria Monday. “It is past time for the UN Security Council to do the same.”

The US statement followed an urgent plea by Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, for the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation of alleged crimes against humanity.

The death toll from nine months of violence in Syria has surpassed 5,000, while thousands more Syrians have been detained or are unaccounted for, Ms. Pillay told the Security Council. As she did at a briefing for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this month, Pillay underscored in particular the high price that Syrian children are paying in the violence.

The Arab League and Turkey have imposed sanctions on Syria, but the Security Council has been unable to overcome a Russian “nyet” to any action against Syria, with which Russia maintains strong ties.

Even Monday’s merely informational Security Council session only took place because France threatened to call for a vote on Syria, potentially embarrassing Russia by forcing its veto, if the Syria briefing did not proceed, UN analysts said.

The wrangling at the UN took place as thousands of Syrians closed businesses and boycotted schools in protest against the government crackdown.

But neither internal events in Syria nor actions by regional actors like the Arab League appear to be swaying Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that international condemnation of Assad would be “immoral” when the regime is facing the violence of “armed extremist groups.”

Mr. Lavrov said last month that Syria was in a civil war, and that it was not the international community’s place to side against the government. But that has not stopped Russia from showing support for Assad, for example by recently sending warships to fly the Russian flag in Syrian ports.

The US, on the other hand, has declared that Assad is no longer legitimate and must step down. Ambassador Rice repeated that position Monday, saying, “Let there be no doubt: Assad’s days in power are numbered.” The days that pass before that occurs, she added, will determine how many more Syrian children die in the country’s violence.

“The question is how many more Syrians – such as 13-year-old Hamza Khatib, who was tortured and murdered in April – must be beaten, killed or raped,” Rice said, “before Assad leaves office?”

U.S. plans major shift to advisory role in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--The top commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday that U.S. forces would begin a major shift next year to an advisory role, in hopes of building up the Afghan army’s fighting skills and gradually extricating American and allied units from a combat role.

Gen. John Allen told reporters in Kabul that small teams of U.S. advisers would be sent to Afghanistan to live and fight with Afghan army units starting in 2012, in hopes that large U.S. combat units will be able to gradually step back from the lead role in providing security and to withdraw completely by the end of 2014.

But the U.S. could face difficulty in reducing its combat role on such a rapid timetable. Afghan units remain plagued by personnel and operational problems and large areas of the country still face stubborn insurgency. Allen acknowledged that U.S. and Afghan forces would have to step up offensive operations in eastern Afghanistan next year, which has remained an insurgent stronghold even as security has improved in the south.

White House officials support a shift toward an advisory effort because it will be a visible sign that the U.S. is disengaging from the decade-old war at a time when President Obama is running for re-election in part on his success at wrapping up wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Allen has been discussing the move in Afghanistan privately with Pentagon and White House officials for months, but his comments Tuesday were the first time he publicly described his timetable for launching the advisory effort. The move is also aimed at shoring up backing for the continuing efforts in Afghanistan among other NATO members, where support for keeping combat troops in the country through 2014 has plummeted.

Allen and his staff would help Afghan forces operate independently by assigning them U.S. personnel to provide day-to-day advice on planning operations, as well as calling in artillery, close air support and, if necessary, U.S. helicopters to evacuate wounded.

“We are going to see probably the introduction…of some advisory forces that will begin to support the [Afghan] forces from inside and that will in many respects be a preview of how we’ll see our forces postured in the years to come,” Allen said.

Allen made his comments on the day that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived in Afghanistan for talks with commanders and Afghan officials. He is on a week-long trip to multiple war zones that included a stop Tuesday morning in Djibouti to see U.S. troops at Camp Lemonier, a base for U.S. military operations in Yemen and Somalia.

Later in the week Panetta is scheduled to go to Iraq for a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. military mission there and to Libya.

The U.S. is still trying to repair relations with Pakistan after the U.S. helicopter attacks on a Pakistan border post in late November that killed two dozen Pakistani troops. Pakistan has closed border crossings through which NATO ships around 30% of its supplies, forcing the U.S. to rely more heavily on northern supply routes through Russia. Allen said he had spoken with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani by telephone Monday, but he declined to speculate on when the border crossings might be reopened.

There are currently 94,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a number scheduled to drop to 91,000 by the end of the month and to 68,000 by the end of next summer.

With the U.S. drawdown already under way, Western troops have begun handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces in some parts of the country—and some of those areas have seen upticks in attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents.

In Badghis province, in northwest Afghanistan, Afghan police Tuesday shot a would-be suicide bomber who tried to strike a NATO base in Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital. Badghis, where insurgent attacks are relatively rare, is on a list of areas designated for the next phase of security handovers. Most of the NATO troops in Badghis are Spanish, and Spain’s government has said it will begin withdrawing its forces next month.

Allen said that he planned to request that the Pentagon send adviser teams composed of mid-career officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Over time, the mix of U.S. forces on the ground would gradually shift away from infantry units trained to clear and hold areas of insurgents and toward advisers and so-called “enablers,” including helicopter units, logisticians and other support personnel that will assist Afghan soldiers.

He said the exact timing of the shift and how many advisers would be brought in initially had not been finalized. But he made clear that the advisory effort would grow substantially in coming years and gradually become the main mission for U.S. forces remaining in the country.

“The crossover point” where the U.S. mission transitions from combat to mostly advising “remains to be determined,” Allen said.

NTSB Recommends Banning Texting, Cell Phones While Driving

Distracted driving, which includes texting and talking on a cell phone, is a major cause of death on the road. Nearly two out of every 10 drivers and half of drivers ages 21 to 24 said they are texting while driving, according to a NHTSA survey. (Anne Rippy/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board today urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging.

The NTSB issued the recommendation after several investigations that found texting to be the cause of deadly accidents.

In Missouri, two people died and 38 were injured in a pileup in August 2010 after a 19-year-old driver rammed his pickup truck into the back of a tractor truck and was then hit by one school bus and then another. The teen was texting while driving, the NTSB found after an investigation, leading to today's ruling strongly recommending a ban on all mobile usage.

"According to NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

Though the NTSB doesn't have the power to enforce such a regulation, experts say the recommendation itself would have significant implications.

Is Apple vulnerable in 2012? You bet

After Steve Jobs was fired in 1985, it took Microsoft 10 years to catch up--and exceed--the technical and user interface innovations of the Mac OS that Jobs helped create. Now, Jobs is gone and Apple is once again in a position of clear market leadership with competitors gunning to match its products.

Apple's rivals aren't taking a decade, however. Far from it. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, along with partners such as Intel, Samsung, HP, and Lenovo are all heading into 2012 with impressive products aimed squarely at Apple's hits--the iPhone, the MacBook Air, and the iPad.

The iPhone alternatives
When you hold the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Galaxy Nexus, or other versions for the new generation of Android devices, it's clear why Samsung phones are now outselling the iPhone and why Apple is suing various Android handset manufacturers. These devices are a huge threat to the iPhone. The screens are bigger than the iPhone's. They weigh less and they're speedier.

The new version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, is almost at parity with the beauty and ease of use of iOS. Plus, the emergence of apps from Pandora and Spotify, both amazing music streaming services, make the iTunes library lock-in hardly a lock-in at all. In fact, more than 370,000 apps are now available for Android, including most of the ones that people want. Apple is adding great new features such as Siri, but let's not forget that Apple acquired Siri and the underlying voice recognition technology is provided by Nuance. Android already has similar apps and Microsoft's TellMe will not be far behind.

Conclusion: even before all these advances, Android was already outselling iOS. Apple's position in this war is weakening.

Up in the air
Here come the MacBook Air clones. Air-like notebooks based on Intel's next-generation Ultrabook components are going to be announced en masse at CES in January. I recently played with an Asus Zenbook, the Asus version of an Ultrabook. The Asus looked great and even had stylish metal keys that are far nicer than I had expected from the photos. It's not as if Apple has an exclusive on making computers lighter and batteries last longer. Apple was just the first to perfect it because it controls the entire system--the operating system and hardware right through to retail--and has the will and pricing power to push for what it wants among the component makers.

I use both Windows 7 and Mac OS on a daily basis and really can't tell the difference between the two anymore, mainly because I spend most of my time on Google's Chrome and Microsoft Office. Windows 7 actually has better desktop management--when I open or select a document it only brings that document to front, not every other document already opened by that particular app. Yes, the Mac OS is easy to use and stable, but stand next to the Genius Bar at a Mac store and you will see that many people have many problems, just like Windows 7.

Conclusion: most notebook computers will adopt the MacBook Air form factor, and Windows will not only maintain its tremendous market share, but possibly even retake Mac's recent gains.

King iPad is at risk
Tablets are a category that Apple completely dominates, with 80 percent market share. Android competitors have flailed, but Amazon's Android-based Kindle Fire is likely to outsell the iPad in 2012 due to its low price ($199). Amazon is focusing the Kindle as a cheap, content-consumption device rather than full-fledged tablet, and it's subsidizing the price in exchange for people subsequently purchasing movies, apps, and physical goods from Amazon.

While the Kindle Fire will nibble at the iPad from the low end, at the higher-end, $500-plus price range, full-fledged computers based on the ultrabook and Netbook form factors and Windows 8 Metro will begin to compete with the iPad, including hybrids with pivoting screens and detachable keyboards that effectively merge an ultra-lightweight notebook and tablet.

Conclusion: the iPad will dominate through 2012, but after that the iPad will be squeezed on the low end by the Kindle and on the high end by full-fledged touch-screen PCs.

Of course, Apple is not sitting idly by. It is rumored that Jobs left years of product plans behind and Apple is widely expected soon to enter the TV set business in order to further ensconce consumers in its vision of gadgetry. Apple's vast manufacturing volume enables it to get the next generation of components, such as screens and processors, before its competitors.

However, technology is accelerating faster than ever before and it doesn't take long for the competition to catch up. Apple's ultimate attribute, that of design and "taste," is almost like fashion. And as with fashion, being first doesn't mean you will rule the market; it just means that you are going to get copied. Remember, H&M sells a lot more Prada-like designs than Prada.

Four killed in gun attack in Belgium

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A gunman killed four people, including himself, in an attack in the Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday, Belgian media reported.

The man, named by Belgian press agency Belga as 32-year-old Nordine Amrani, opened fire and threw explosives on a city centre square which was hosting a Christmas market.

A judicial source told Reuters that at least three people, including the gunman, had died.

Sandusky waives hearing, delays facing accusers

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky opted against a preliminary hearing in his child molestation case, sparing his accusers from making their claims in a packed courtroom Tuesday but still vowing, in his attorney's words, to "fight to the death."

Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, said the move was tactical, and he later told reporters outside the courthouse that the credibility of the witnesses would be a key issue. He said he believed some of the young men may have trumped up their claims and that others may came forward in a bid for monetary gain.

"There will be no plea negotiations," Amendola said. "This is a fight to the death."

Sandusky has denied the allegations, which led to the departures of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and the university president. He is charged with more than 50 counts that accuse him of sexually abusing 10 boys over the span of 12 years.

CBS News senior legal analyst Andrew Cohen described Sandusky's decision to waive the hearing as strategic.

"This makes sense for Sandusky because at the preliminary hearing he was not going to be allowed to call his own witnesses," Cohen told CBS Radio News. "It was going to be broadcast essentially via Twitter and social media to the world, and that was going to impact the potential jury pool, so I'm sure he realized that if you're going to make this fight you make it once at trial, where you can call your own witnesses."

CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports that 11 witnesses were prepared to testify for the prosecution, including Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, who has been placed on administrative leave.

Sandusky told reporters as he left the courthouse that he would "stay the course, to fight for four quarters" and "wait for the opportunity to present our side."

His decision to waive the hearing, though unexpected, is not unusual in Pennsylvania.

At the hearings, prosecutors must show that they have probable cause to bring the case to trial. Prosecutors in this case were expected to meet that relatively low bar, in part because the case been through a grand jury.

Amendola said Sandusky waived the hearing to head off a repeat of the child sex-abuse allegations, which "really would have left us with the worst of all worlds." He said the decision had nothing to do with "cowardice or gamesmanship" and that the defense was not conceding guilt.

Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said the amount of publicity generated by Amendola made the move unexpected, but said the decision to waive was not unusual given the strength of the state's case.

"This development we believe provides maximum protection to most importantly the victims in this case," Costanzo said. "It avoids their having to testify for a second time. They will of course testify at a trial in the case."

Costanzo also said there had been no discussions about a plea bargain.

Sandusky's next court appearance, an arraignment, is scheduled for Jan. 11. He remains under house arrest.

Michael Boni, a lawyer for one of the accusers, said he was encouraged by the development. The accusers "do not have to relive the horrors they experience up on the witness stand" by having to testify at the hearing and at trial.

A lawyer for another victim, a boy whose mother contacted police in 1998 after her son allegedly showered with Sandusky, said waiving the hearing amounted to more abuse of the accusers, who had steeled themselves to testify.

"It would have been apparent from watching those boys and their demeanor that they were telling the truth," lawyer Howard Janet said.

Sandusky, in a dark suit, entered the county courthouse through the back door Tuesday morning with his wife, Dottie, at his side. About 50 members of the media and 10 local residents, a few of them waiting with cameras to take pictures, awaited his arrival.

Sandusky appeared thinner and pale when he entered the courtroom, CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

Witnesses have contended before the grand jury that Sandusky committed a range of sexual offenses against boys as young as 10, assaulting them in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where the 67-year-old former assistant football coach once built a national reputation as a defensive mastermind.

Sandusky has told NBC and The New York Times that his relationship to the boys who said he abused them was like that of an extended family. Sandusky characterized his experiences with the children as "precious times" and said the physical aspect of the relationships "just happened that way" and didn't involve abuse.

Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, a year after the first known abuse allegation reached police when a mother told investigators Sandusky had showered with her son during a visit to the Penn State football facilities. Accusations surfaced again in 2002, when McQueary, then a graduate assistant, reported another alleged incident of abuse to Paterno and other university officials.

The grand jury probe began only in 2009, after a teen complained that Sandusky, then a volunteer coach at his high school, had abused him.

Sandusky first groomed him with gifts and trips in 2006 and 2007, then sexually assaulted him more than 20 times in 2008 through early 2009, the teen told the grand jury.

Sandusky founded The Second Mile, an organization to help struggling children, in 1977, and built it into a major charitable organization, headquartered in State College with offices in other parts of Pennsylvania.

Two university officials have been charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse — athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg.

Curley has been placed on leave and Schultz has returned to retirement in the wake of their arrests. The scandal brought down university president Graham Spanier and longtime coach Paterno, who was fired last month.

Asian Stocks Decline on Europe Concern, Intel Sales Forecast

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks declined, with the regional gauge heading for its lowest close in two weeks, after Fitch Ratings joined Moody's Investors Service in warning that Europe faces lower credit ratings.

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan's largest lender by market value, fell 2.9 percent in Tokyo as the cost of insuring European debt rose toward a record. Advantest Corp. and other chip-related shares slid after bellwether Intel Corp. cut its sales forecast. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company and Australia's top oil producer, lost 1.9 percent after commodity prices fell.

“Asset prices, consumer sentiment and business conditions are all very dependent at the moment on a positive outcome from the euro situation,” said Angus Gluskie, who oversees about $300 million at White Funds Management in Sydney. “The euro nations are purely assuming an austerity agenda and they're failing to consider the equally important aspect, which is to stimulate and encourage economic growth,”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 1 percent to 114.44 as of 5:44 p.m. in Tokyo, heading for its lowest close since Nov. 30. Almost three shares fell for each that rose in the measure. The gauge dropped 2.2 percent last week after Standard & Poor's said it may cut credit ratings for Germany, France and 13 other euro- zone countries.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 1.2 percent, while South Korea's Kospi Index sank 1.9 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 1.4 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.7 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 1.9 percent after a report showed housing sales dropped in most major Chinese cities last week.

‘Nothing New'

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 0.3 percent today before the release of a report that may show retail sales in the U.S. climbed last month. The index slid 1.5 percent in New York yesterday after Moody's said last week's European summit didn't produce “decisive” measures to end the crisis. Fitch said the summit did little to ease pressure on Europe's sovereign ratings.

“Nothing new came out of last week's European summit,” said Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a strategist at Tokyo-based SMBC Friend Securities Co. “If EU nations get downgraded, funding costs in the region will definitely rise.”

Euro Risk Grows

Financial stocks declined on concern that bank earnings may be hurt as Europe's crisis spreads. An index of credit default swaps tied to Greece, Italy, Spain and 12 other Western European nations rose yesterday, approaching a record reached Nov. 25.

Mitsubishi UFJ slid 2.9 percent to 338 yen in Tokyo. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Japan's second-biggest lender, dropped 1.5 percent to 2,239 yen. Westpac Banking Corp., Australia's second-largest lender by market value, dropped 2.2 percent to A$20.83 in Sydney.

Asian manufacturers of semiconductors and chip-making equipment declined after Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, cut its sales forecast. The Santa Clara, California-based company said flooding in Thailand caused a shortage of hard-disk drives, forcing computer makers to cut production.

Chipmakers Fall

Advantest, which produces chip-testing equipment, dropped 2.6 percent to 800 yen in Tokyo. Tokyo Electron Ltd., Japan's biggest manufacturer of chip-making gear, fell 1.3 percent to 4,115 yen. Samsung Electronics Co., Asia's biggest supplier of computer memory chips by sales, declined 3.1 percent to 1.05 million won in Seoul.

Producers of raw materials and energy dropped after commodities fell. Crude oil for January delivery slid $1.64 to $97.77 per barrel yesterday in New York. The London Metals Index, a gauge of six industrial metals, sank 2.5 percent.

BHP dropped 1.9 percent to A$35.82 in Sydney. Glencore International Plc, the world's No. 1 commodities trader, decreased 2.1 percent to HK$47.85 in Hong Kong. Jiangxi Copper Co., China's biggest producer of the metal, fell 1.6 percent to HK$17.36.

Property developers in China declined after housing sales dropped in 27 out 35 Chinese cities tracked by Soufun Holdings Ltd. in the week ended Dec. 11. Deals in 13 cities fell more than 50 percent, according to the nation's biggest real-estate website.

Developers Drop

China Resources Land Ltd., a state-owned developer, sank 4.9 percent to HK$12.16 in Hong Kong. Hang Lung Properties Ltd., a Hong Kong-based developer that gets about 45 percent of its sales in the mainland, slipped 2.4 percent to HK$22.45.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 16 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 1.7 percent drop in the S&P 500 and a 14 percent decline for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Shares in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.8 times estimated earnings, compared with 12.5 times for the S&P 500 and 10.3 times for the Stoxx 600.

Among stocks that rose, China Gas Holdings Ltd. surged 20 percent to HK$3.37, the most on the MSCI Asian gauge. ENN Energy Holdings Ltd. and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. offered to buy a controlling stake in the gas supplier to gain control of a distribution network covering 20 Chinese provinces.

Manila Electric Co., the largest Philippine power retailer, climbed 5.5 percent to 249 pesos, the biggest advance since Oct. 11. The company said it plans to divest its stake in Rockwell Land Corp. by distributing its holdings as a property dividend that will be followed by a listing of the developer.

Syria rejects U.N. estimate of 5,000 dead

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations rejected the world body's estimate that 5,000 people have died in an uprising against the government, calling the allegation "incredible."

Ambassador Bashar Jaafari was responding to a briefing by U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who told the Security Council Monday the situation in Syria was "intolerable."

She said more than 200 people had died in the last 10 days and "the Syrian population continues to live in fear of further violent repression."

The same day that Pillay spoke, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a resident of Homs -- an opposition hotbed and frequent site of violence in recent months -- reported that a gas pipeline exploded near the city, following by gunfire and circulating military airplanes.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, played up local elections Monday as an expression of "democracy and free will." Yet the Homs resident said there was no evidence of voting in that city. Instead, this witness reported nonstop shooting and bombardments.

The Syrian government, meanwhile, has consistently blamed the violence on "armed terrorist" gang members and denied any efforts to target peaceful civilians.

CNN cannot independently confirm events because the Syrian government restricts access of international media to the country.

Pillay said Monday that "the nature and scale of abuses" indicate that Syrian forces likely committed "crimes against humanity." Citing reliable sources, she said more than 300 of the dead have been children "killed by state forces."

Several defectors from military and security forces said they got orders "to shoot unarmed protesters without warning," according to Pillay.

"Independent, credible and corroborated accounts demonstrate that these abuses have taken place as part of a widespread and systematic attack on civilians," she said.

Homs has been a regular flash point. As nightfall arrived Monday, many city residents went to bed afraid the steady waves of violence could soon give way to a historic siege.

Opposition figures said the Syrian government had warned people in Homs to stop anti-government protests, hand in weapons and surrender defecting military members by Monday night -- or face attack by government forces.

Syrian forces gave a 72-hour warning, said Lt. Col. Mohamed Hamdo of the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group of defected Syrian military personnel. Activists on the ground said the ultimatum was issued Friday for Homs.

The government has not acknowledged any deadline for Homs in state-run media, and it was not clear Tuesday morning what had happened in the city overnight.

The Syrian government denied reports of water and electricity being out in the city, according to a SANA report.

The last nine months have seen a steady stream of clashes, amid reported government push-back against activists demanding democratic elections and the end of al-Assad's regime. Al-Assad has been in power since 2000; his father ruled Syria for three decades.

World leaders and diplomats have widely condemned Syria's crackdown and called on it to halt violence against the opposition.

The Arab League announced it will hold emergency meetings this week in Cairo. In a statement on Egypt's state-run MENA news agency, an Arab League official said leaders will "discuss the Arab response to a message from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem to approve the signing of an agreement on an Arab League observing mission to Syria with conditions."