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Apple to turn in first negative year since 2008


Apple, one of the best-performing tech stocks in recent memory, is going to snap a six-year winning streak, barring a remarkable turnaround in the last trading session of 2015.

The shares are currently down more than 4 percent for the year. The last time the tech behemoth's stock closed lower for the year was 2008, when it shed 56.91 percent.

2015 has been a roller-coaster ride for Apple, as the company's shares hit an all-time closing high of $133 on Feb. 23, and an all-time intraday high of $134.54 on April 28. Apple was even added to the Dow Jones industrial average in February, replacing AT&T.

However, the stock has fallen more than 20 percent since hitting the April 28 mark, as possible iPhone market saturation and China growth concerns contributed to its troubles. Apple's plunged has wiped out about $57 billion of its market cap, about as much as fellow Dow component DuPont is worth.  
 Apple Stocks 2015
Source: FactSet
Apple could face another tough year in 2016, according to Dan Ives, tech analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

"I think the blooms are coming off the rose a bit for Apple. Not just in terms of the multiple, or in terms of what investors want to pay, but in terms of products," Ives told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "It's a make-or-break, white-knuckle period for Apple."

However, Erin Gibbs, equity chief investment officer of S&P Investment Advisory, said Dec. 23 that the company's products should add to its profitability next year.

"Right now we've seen a big hit because there's been some news of slowing iPhone sales," she told CNBC's "Trading Nation." "But we've known that even though iPhone sales make up about two-thirds of the revenue, a lot of the future growth is expected to come from non-iPhone products like the Apple Watch and the iPad."

Apple unveiled a slew of new products this year, including the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the Apple Watch, the streaming service Apple Music and the iPad Pro.

The stock has also gained more than 90 percent since CEO Tim Cook took over.

Clarification: Erin Gibbs spoke about Apple on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
— CNBC's Stephanie Yang and Gina Francolla and Reuters contributed to this report.

Powerful Solar Storm to Hit Earth Before New Year's Eve

Bill Cosby charged with 2004 sexual assault of former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in his Pennsylvania home; free on $1 million bail

BY ,

Here's where the laughter ends.

Bill Cosby — America’s Dad — accused of rape by dozens of women, was finally hit with a criminal charge Wednesday before getting released on $1 million bail.

Just weeks before the statute of limitations was set to expire, prosecutors charged Cosby with sexually assaulting a Temple University employee at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004.

“The evidence is strong,” said Montgomery County Prosecutor Kevin Steele, announcing a single count of aggravated indecent assault against the creepy comedian.

Steele described the defenseless victim, tossing a fresh layer of taint on Cosby’s once-wholesome image.

“Frozen, paralyzed, unable to move,” he said. “A person in that state is unable to consent.”

Prosecutors initially declined in 2005 to file charges in the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Accuser Andrea Constand, who has spoken publicly about the encounter with the perverted funnyman, then filed a civil suit against Cosby and settled out of court the following year. In a deposition in that case, Cosby said under oath that he gave Constand halved pills that he described as “three friends to make (her) relax,” according to the affidavit.

Among the last words she recalled hearing:

“Down them. Put ’em down. Put them in your mouth.”

He also acknowledged under oath that he obtained seven prescriptions in his own name for Quaaludes for the purpose of having sex with women.

Disney, Universal Theme Parks Heighten Screenings, Ban Costumes for Adults

Disney announced that metal detectors will be installed at the entrance to Disneyland and its Florida theme parks starting today, as part of enhanced security measures that will also ban adults from wearing masks or costumes and discontinue toy gun sales inside all Disney parks.

The entertainment giant announced the changes quietly Thursday, saying they were not based on "any single event," but were intended to help security personnel and to make guests feel secure.

The portable metal detectors will be positioned beyond the "bag check" area at Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks in Florida. Contract security personnel will randomly select some visitors to pass through the magnetometers as part of a secondary screening. Only some guests will be subjected to 
the extra checks.

The company also announced that it will beef up the deployment of police officers contracted to help with security around the parks. At Disneyland, that means beefing up patrols by the Anaheim Police Department. Disney did not give details about the scope of the expansion.

Disneyland will also increase patrols by explosive-sniffing dogs around the parks and related properties, such as Downtown Disney and its resort hotels, the company said.

The ban on masks and costumes will apply to all guests over 14 years old. And the company will no longer sell toy guns inside its parks, or allow guests to carry toy guns with them, regardless of age. 

Spokeswoman Suzy Brown said the company banned the toy guns "to avoid confusion or distraction for our cast members and security personnel."

The rules are an apparent response to recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris. Disney's overseas parks will also enhance security, in accordance with recommendations from its experts at those locations, the company said.

The new rules are included on the company's Disneyland Resort Park Rules page. Spokeswoman Brown said in a statement: "We continually review our comprehensive approach to security and are implementing additional security measures, as appropriate."

A Universal Studios Hollywood spokesperson said the park is testing metal detection as well, but doesn't sell toy guns.

"We have begun testing metal detection at our theme park," the spokesperson said. "We want our guests to feel safe when they come here. We've long used metal detection for special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights. This test is a natural progression for us as we study best practices for security in today's world."
© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots is dead

By Saeed Ahmed CNN 

Scott Weiland, whose extraordinary career as the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver was overshadowed by his unending battle with drug addiction, has died.

He was 48.

His manager Tom Vitorino confirmed his death, but he didn't disclose the cause.

Weiland was found dead while on tour with his latest band.

"Scott Weiland, best known as the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, passed away in his sleep while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota, with his band The Wildabouts," a statement on his Facebook page said. "At this time we ask that the privacy of Scott's family be respected."

A powerful baritone
The Stone Temple Pilots came on the scene at the height of the grunge movement, releasing its first album, "Core," in 1992. Critics were unkind, accusing them of being poseurs riding the coattails of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

But it didn't matter. "Core" and its 1994 follow-up, "Purple," sold more than 10 million copies. STP won a Grammy in 1994 for the song "Plush" and had monster hits with "Vasoline" and "Interstate Love Song."

A big part of its success was Weiland's powerful baritone that he effortlessly contorted into a raspy growl when needed. A flamboyant personality helped, which he played to the hilt during live shows.

But his drug addiction didn't.

He missed shows repeatedly. He would go into rehab and then relapse. The band had all the trappings of success -- headlining tours, appearances on "Saturday Night Live," platinum sales -- but an unstable frontman.

Forced hiatus
In 1995, Weiland was arrested in Pasadena, California, and charged with possession of heroin and cocaine. His wife posted bond and was driving him home when he leaped out of their moving car and went to his dealer's house.

Stone Temple Pilots was forced to go on hiatus after the release of its 1996 album, "Tiny Music ... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop," which sold 2 million copies and was widely praised.

The band minced no words as to why.

Weiland, it said in a statement, "has become unable to rehearse or appear for these shows due to his dependency on drugs. He is currently under a doctor's care in a medical facility."

In a 1997 Rolling Stone interview, Weiland acknowledged his addiction problems.

"It got to the point where I didn't feel like I got a good enough rush unless I had one hand on the needle and one hand dialing 911," he told the magazine.

He was apparently enjoying sobriety at the time -- the magazine said he'd been clean for six months -- but it didn't last. He later served time in jail for violating probation in a 1998 heroin conviction.

"Basically, your honor, Mr. Weiland is on the road to killing himself," said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Norm Montrose at the sentencing.

Bouncing back
Stone Temple Pilots stuttered on through two more albums, but the audience had moved on. It finally disbanded in 2003.

Sure, there were short reunions, and everybody said all the right things.

"I think of some of the tours we were on, and they were a little rambunctious," Weiland told CNN in 2011, three years after a huge reunion tour.

"What we did onstage was kind of what it was like all the time," added bassist Robert DeLeo.
But the friction was still there, and Weiland kept getting fired.

He bounced back, at least professionally.

He joined Velvet Revolver formed by former Guns N' Roses members who'd had enough of Axl Rose.

Weiland delivered hits for them, for sure. The debut album, "Contraband," sold more than 3 million copies and yielded a massive hit, "Slither," and another Grammy for Weiland.

Dogged by drugs
But the drug addiction dogged him.

"Sometimes there's certain people who've just gone too far and you can't fix it," bassist Duff McKagan said in one interview.

In between were arrests, several of them. Aside from the 1995 crack cocaine arrest, there was a DUI in 2003, another DUI in 2007.

He released several solo albums, formed several bands and wrote a memoir, "Not Dead & Not for Sale," that was published in 2011. The memoir included stories of being raped when he was 12 and his relapses, including "a single line of coke" that doomed his future with Velvet Revolver.

He recorded a Christmas album and crooned "The Christmas Song" and "Winter Wonderland."

He talked about reuniting with both Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.

Those dreams ended on a tour bus in Minnesota, where he was found dead.

Facebook now automatically makes collages of your photos, adds live streaming for all

by Owen Williams

Facebook is adding an interesting new automatic collage feature, which appears when you share photos from your phone’s camera.
When you tap the photos button, you’ll see automatically created collages based on the location and time you took them.
Collages can be re-arranged before they’re shared, or you can create your own instead. It’s a nice way to share a lot of photos to show off your trip, rather than uploading a ton randomly.

Collage 1
It’s an interesting new offering as Facebook looks to get you to share more things to your feed, rather than only talking privately on services like Messenger.
The feature is rolling out for iPhone users today and will be available on Android “early next year.”
The social network is also adding the ability to stream live video directly from your Newsfeed.
Facebook previously allowed verified users to use the feature with their fans, but now anyone can stream to their friends directly within the app.

Live 2
When you click ‘Update Status’ you’ll see a new option for streaming live video. As you go live, you’ll see your stream overlaid with real-time comments and the names of friends tuning in.
The feature appears to be largely the same as the one that was part of Facebook’s Mentions app for verified users, but with the ability for anyone to use it — provided you’re in the US for now.
On top of the addition of live streaming, Facebook is testing a new menu when you tap ‘What’s on your mind’ at the top of your feed that shows the new sharing options rather than just a box to type in.

Sharing 1
It’s clear the addition of streaming is a way for Facebook to grab back those users streaming on other platforms like Periscope and Meerkat — though it’ll be interesting to see if anyone actually uses it.


Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary leads to wild win over Lions: 10 things to know

By John Breech
One day after celebrating his 32nd birthday, Aaron Rodgers delivered himself the ultimate birthday present: A 61-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the game to beat the Lions.

The miraculous throw capped a miracle comeback that saw the Packers score two touchdowns in the game's final three-plus minutes in a shocking 27-23 win at Ford Field in Detroit.

It was the second touchdown, though, that's going to have people talking for years.

The game looked all but over with six seconds left and Green Bay sitting at its own 21-yard line. To beat the Lions, the Packers were going to have to go 79 yards on one play.

On what should've been the final play of the game, Rodgers threw a 19-yard pass to James Jones, who lateraled it to Richard Rodgers, who then lateraled it back to Aaron Rodgers. At that point, Rodgers got taken down by Lions defensive end Devin Taylor.

The problem for the Lions? Taylor's thumb got caught in Aaron Rodgers' facemask.

Since a game can't end on a defensive penalty, the facemask call gave the Packers one untimed down from their own 39-yard line, and that's when Rodgers delivered himself the ultimate birthday present.
In need of a win. No time left. Throw it long. Hope.
Posted by NFL on Friday, December 4, 2015
Rodgers took a shotgun snap from the 39, ran 16 yards backward and then scrambled around some more before launching a prayer from just across the 35-yard line that traveled 70 yards in the air.
The Lions were ready for the Hail Mary, but somehow Rodgers managed to throw it to a part of the field where there were more Packers players.

One of those Packers players in that crowd was tight end Richard Rodgers, who somehow managed to box out and outjump everyone for the ball and the win.

The ending was so wild that when Rodgers walked off the field, he referred to the victory as something he'll never forget.

"It's the most amazing game of my life," Rodgers said. "To be a part of that. To never give up."

As the ball sailed in the air, only one thing was going through Rodgers' head.

"Catch it. You got to catch it," Aaron Rodgers said.

Rodgers liked the feeling of the throw as soon as it left his hand. The Packers quarterback put everything he had into it. As you can see below, the ball traveled about 70 yards in the air.

"I felt good that it was going to be in the end zone," Rodgers said. "I got a nice run up and crow-hopped into it. I didn't see Richard until the last second, but when he caught it, I blacked out, I didn't know what happened. I know it was the greatest feeling I've had on the field in a long time."

The most shocking part of the win was how horrible the Packers were before the game's final four minutes. The first half was especially ugly, with the Packers only totaling 78 yards.

Aaron Rodgers was ugly too, only completing 10 of 16 passes for 80 yards.

"We were terrible in the first half," Rodgers said. "The second half we got it going."

Aftter the ugly first half, Rodgers rebounded to go 14 of 20 for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, including the Hail Mary. Rodgers also rushed for a huge 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that was extra big because it came on third-and-11.

Overall, Rodgers finished with 273 yards and three overall touchdowns in the win.

Some teams will celebrate a win for 24 hours and put it behind them. Not the Packers, at least not for this win. Rodgers said he plans to enjoy it for the next few days.

"We're 8-4, we're in the mix. Huge win for us," Rodgers said. "We're going to enjoy it this weekend."

The "Miracle in Motown" is what our Jim Nantz called the Packers' win and it's just catchy enough to stick.

Anyway, the Packers should enjoy it because it was a pivotal one for their playoff chances. If the Falcons or Seahawks lose this Sunday, then Green Bay will have a two-game lead over the NFC's No. 7 team with just four games left.

Virgin Galactic to Hurl Rockets to Space From Boeing 747 Jet

Source: Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson is finding a new use for an old Virgin Atlantic jumbo jetliner: to fling rockets to orbit.

Virgin Galactic, the commercial space company founded by the billionaire, plans to send small rockets inflight from the Boeing 747-400 nicknamed “Cosmic Girl” that it purchased from Branson’s airline.

Branson is among the entrepreneurs vying to shake up the $6 billion commercial launch business known for years-long waits to loft $200 million satellites. Instead of firing large boosters from conventional pads, the new rocketeers are working to loft smaller craft from planes and remote locations in Texas or the South Pacific.

“Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Thursday.

The commercial jet replaces WhiteKnightTwo, a twin-hulled carrier vehicle that will still be used to hoist a suborbital tourist craft. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo venture has been grounded since a training accident killed a pilot last year. A second spaceship is slated to debut in February, with ground and flight tests resuming “soon after,” said Michelle Mendiola, a Virgin spokeswoman.

Test Flights

Virgin expects to begin test flights of its LauncherOne rocket in 2017. It will be mounted under the 747’s left wing, adjacent to a position used by other jumbos to ferry a fifth engine, the company said. 

The spacecraft’s payload has been doubled to ferry 200-kilogram (440-pound) payloads to orbit for less than $10 million.

Newcomers like Virgin Galactic have the potential to slash prices in a field attuned to government contracts and dominated by traditional aerospace powers like United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp. venture, and Europe’s Arianespace SA, according to Marco Caceres, director of space studies for Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group.

High-profile errors have NFL officiating under further review

Two decades in officiating have taught Dean Blandino to expect and accept criticism, a staple baked into the profession. Now the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Blandino understands the implicit pact referees make, that even perfection likely will enrage half the participants. He still has not seen anything like the siege NFL officials find themselves under this season.

“I’m not really too worried about getting fined: I thought those refs” stunk, San Francisco offensive lineman Alex Boone declared after the 49ers lost this Sunday to the Cardinals. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski tweeted his agreement with a reporter who opined officials had targeted Gronkowski for pass interference calls. Screenshots and Vines of missed calls circulate on social media every Monday morning, talking points as much as highlight catches and breakaway runs. 

Recently, a former NFL head coach called Blandino to tell him, “Hang in there.”

“It’s just indicative of how much interest there is in the NFL, and ultimately that’s a good thing,” Blandino said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think a lot of it has to do with a couple mistakes in some high-profile games, and we certainly own those and we want to correct those. I think that has led to more intense scrutiny than ever before.”

The rash of crucial missteps has prompted a search for both root issues and potential solutions. At the NFL owners meetings Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell asked the league’s competition committee to examine ways officiating can be improved, including clarifying rules, training methods and how crews are assembled.

“Our officials do an extraordinary job,” Goodell said. “What we see now is that through technology we see things we could never see before, but what it does is it validates the quality of our officiating. 

We all recognize that officials are going to make mistakes. What we need to do is try to avoid those mistakes as much as possible, train them differently, improve the quality of the officiating and use technology to help them whenever a mistake does occur.”

Despite the high-profile failings, Blandino said the overall performance of officials has remained steady compared to the prior 10 or 15 years. The NFL reviews every play of every game, and through Week 11, Blandino said, officials had committed 4.5 mistakes per game over the course of roughly 160 plays.

The most frequently identified culprit is a sudden experience drain. Over the past two seasons, the NFL added 23 new officials, and 18.5 percent of officials are in either their first or second season. 

Blandino said the league needed to improve a largely static roster of officials. In 2013, only one NFL official had one or two years of experience. In 2012, there were two. It now has an officiating corps that’s in better physical condition but lacks experience.

The NFL pulls new officials from the college ranks and places them in an “advanced development program,” Blandino said. Officials participate in offseason practices, training sessions with older officials and preseason games. The league lost a valuable training asset when NFL Europe folded in 2007, and it has discussed partnering with the Canadian Football League to train officials, Blandino said.

It might not be enough. Longtime official Mike Carey, now the NFL rules expert for CBS, compared the difference between officiating in college and the NFL to the difference between officiating Pop Warner and college games.

“As soon as you come up from Division I, the rule book is far more intricate,” Carey said. “The speed of the game is almost logarithmically faster. It is that dramatically different. You’re used to seeing it on TV. Live at full speed, it is frightening how fast everybody is and how big the collisions are. It takes two or three year to get used to it, and another two or three to be good at it. It’s hard to cover that inexperience.”

“If you think a guy’s a pretty good college official, and that means he’s going to come in and be a good NFL official, it’s not a realistic expectation,” said former VP of officials Mike Pereira, now an analyst for Fox Sports. “This game is faster, and it’s more complex. There’s a reason they don’t let a guy work a Super Bowl until he’s had at least five full seasons. Does that mean officiating will start to improve as this new group gets older? Maybe. There are some good officials in this wave. And there are some guys that are struggling.”