Nation roundup for December 18


Budget talks give stocks a boost

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose on Wall Street as investors were encouraged by signs of progress in budget talks in Washington. Just two weeks remain before tax increases and government spending cuts take effect if no deal is reached.

On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, stock traders paused for a minute of silence at 9:15 a.m. EST to remember the 20 children and seven adults killed Friday in a gunman’s rampage through a Connecticut elementary school.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100.38 points to 13,235.39, its biggest gain this month. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 16.78 points to 1,430.36 and the Nasdaq composite index rose 39.27 points to 3,010.60.

Marc Chaikin, CEO of the Philadelphia-based market research firm Chaikin Analytics, said investors became more hopeful for a resolution in the budget talks after House Speaker John Boehner made an offer to increase tax rates on high-income Americans.

“The fiscal cliff is obviously foremost on everyone’s mind,” Chaikin said.

Unisex Easy-Bake oven on the way

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Hasbro says it will soon reveal a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven after meeting with a New Jersey girl who started a campaign calling on the toy maker to make one that appeals to all kids.

McKenna Pope, 13, of Garfield, N.J., got more than 40,000 signatures on her online petition at Change.org and the support of celebrity chefs including Bobby Flay, who backed her call for Hasbro to make a gender-neutral oven and to include boys in the ads.

She was prompted to start the petition after shopping for an Easy-Bake as a Christmas present for her 4-year-old brother, Gavyn Boscio, and finding them only in purple and pink.

Hasbro invited McKenna and her family to its Pawtucket, R.I., headquarters to meet with its Easy-Bake team, and on Monday, they drove to Rhode Island from New Jersey. During the meeting, Hasbro executives showed off a prototype of their newest Easy-Bake: one that’s black, silver and blue.

Hasbro has been working on the new color scheme and design for about 18 months, and decided to invite McKenna to see it and offer her thoughts, said John Frascotti, Hasbro’s chief marketing officer.

Rep. Tim Scott to replace DeMint

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate on Monday, making him the South’s first black Republican senator since Reconstruction in a state whose politics is steeped in the history of slavery and the Civil War.

“It speaks to the evolution of South Carolina and our nation,” Scott, 47, said of his appointment to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, a conservative who reigned his post with four years left in his second term to head a right-leaning think tank.

Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants who became South Carolina’s first female and minority governor in 2010, acknowledged making history with her appointment, but she stressed that she picked Scott for his conservative values.

“He earned this seat for what I know he’s going to do in making South Carolina and our country proud,” she said.

Scott, 47, will be sworn in Jan. 3. Senate Republicans welcomed the appointment, which comes more than a month after Republicans’ poor performance with minorities in the election forced soul-searching in the party to broaden its appeal.

He’ll become only the fourth black Republican in Senate history and the only black Republican in Congress, after Rep. Allen West of Florida lost his re-election bid last month.

Celebrity hacker receives 10 years

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge on Monday sentenced a hacker to 10 years in prison after he broke into the personal online accounts of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and other women and posted revealing photos and other material on the Internet.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero sentenced Christopher Chaney in Los Angeles after hearing from a tearful Johansson in a videotaped statement.

The biggest spectacle in the case was the revelation that nude photos taken by Johansson of herself and meant for her then-husband Ryan Reynolds were posted online.

“I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed,” Johansson said. “I find Christopher Chaney’s actions to be perverted and reprehensible.”

Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., also targeted two women he knew, sending nude pictures of one former co-worker to her father. The judge noted the damage to the women was in some ways worse than what Chaney’s celebrity victims endured.

The women, identified in court filings only by initials, wrote in letters to Otero that their lives have been irreparably damaged by Chaney’s actions. One has anxiety and panic attacks; the other is depressed and paranoid. Both said Chaney was calculated, cruel and creepy.

“It’s hard to fathom the mindset of a person who would accomplish all of this,” Otero said. “These types of crimes are as pernicious and serious as physical stalking.”

Chaney apologized in court but denied that he had sent naked photos of women he knew to their relatives.

“I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry,” Chaney said. “I could be sentenced to never use a computer again and I wouldn’t care.”

Chaney previously pleaded guilty to counts that included wiretapping and unauthorized access to a computer.

Actress and singer Renee Olstead said in court Monday that she attempted to kill herself after Chaney leaked nude photos of her. She said she had never before considered suicide.

“I just really hope this doesn’t happen to someone else,” she said, crying. “You can lose everything because of the actions of a stranger.”

The accounts of the cybervictims served as a cautionary tale for those, even major celebrities, who snap personal, and sometimes revealing photos.

Aguilera said in a statement issued days before the sentencing that although she knows that she’s often in the limelight, Chaney took from her some of the private moments she shares with friends.

“That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy,” Aguilera said.

Prosecutors said Chaney illegally accessed the email accounts of more than 50 people in the entertainment industry between November 2010 and October 2011. Aguilera, Mila Kunis and Johansson agreed to have their identities made public with the hopes that the move would provide awareness about online intrusion.

Some of Aguilera’s photos appeared online after Chaney sent an email from the account of her stylist, Simone Harouche, to Aguilera asking the singer for scantily clad photographs, prosecutors said.

Chaney was arrested in October 2011 as part of a yearlong investigation of celebrity hacking that authorities dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi.” Chaney’s computer hard drive contained numerous private celebrity photos and a document that compiled their extensive personal data, according to a search warrant.

He continued to pursue his victims after the FBI seized his computer, a factor Otero said warranted a harsher penalty.

 

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