Joe Cocker Dies at 70; Rock Singer Had Hits With Others' Songs – New York Times

Joe Cocker onstage at Woodstock in 1969.
By BEN SISARIO
December 22, 2014

Joe Cocker, the gravelly British singer who became one of pop’s most recognizable interpreters in the late 1960s and ’70s with passionate, idiosyncratic takes on songs like the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” died on Monday at his home in Crawford, Colo. He was 70.

The cause was lung cancer, his agent, Barrie Marshall, said.

Mr. Cocker had been a journeyman singer in Britain for much of the 1960s, building a reputation as a soulful barreler with full-throated versions of Ray Charles and Chuck Berry songs. But he became a sensation after his performance of “With a Little Help From My Friends” at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

His appearance there, captured in the 1970 concert film “Woodstock,” established him as one of pop’s most powerful and irrepressible vocalists. With his tie-dyed shirt and shaggy muttonchops soaked in sweat, Mr. Cocker, then 25, pleadingly teased out the song’s verses — “What would you do if I sang out of tune?/Would you stand up and walk out on me?” — and threw himself into repeated climaxes, lunging and gesticulating in ways that seemed to imitate a guitarist in a heroic solo.

On Twitter, Ringo Starr wrote on Monday, “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends.” In a statement, Paul McCartney recalled hearing Mr. Cocker’s record of the song. “It was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem,” he said, “and I was forever grateful for him for having done that.”

After Woodstock, Mr. Cocker toured widely and took his place as perhaps the rock world’s most distinctive interpreter of others’ songs — an art then going out of fashion with the rise of folk-inspired singer-songwriters and groups, like the Beatles, that wrote their own material.

His other hits included a version of the Box Tops’ hit “The Letter” and the standard “Cry Me a River,” both in 1970, and “You Are So Beautiful,” in 1975. His only No. 1 single was “Up Where We Belong,” recorded as a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” for which he won his only Grammy Award.

Almost from the start of his fame, Mr. Cocker struggled with alcohol and drug addiction.

“If I’d been stronger mentally, I could have turned away from temptation,” he said in an interview last year with The Daily Mail, the British newspaper. “But there was no rehab back in those days. Drugs were readily available, and I dived in head first. And once you get into that downward spiral, it’s hard to pull out of it. It took me years to get straight.”

His early tours — particularly “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” in 1970, which was documented in a live album and film of the same name — were rowdy affairs awash in both drugs and the artistic excesses of the era. The sprawling “Mad Dogs” entourage included not only more than 30 musicians, among them the keyboardist and songwriter Leon Russell and the drummer Jim Keltner, but also spouses, babies and pets.

At the same time, Mr. Cocker’s onstage contortions had, for better or worse, become his signature. John Belushi performed a sendup on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 that ended with him convulsing on the floor; the next year Mr. Cocker performed Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” on the show, joined by Mr. Belushi in imitation.

Asked about his mannerisms in an interview last year with The Guardian, Mr. Cocker said that they “came with my frustration at having never played guitar or piano,” and added, “It’s just a way of trying to get feeling out — I get excited and it all comes through my body.”

John Robert Cocker was born on May 20, 1944, in Sheffield, England, and began playing drums and harmonica in 1959 with a group called the Cavaliers. Influenced by Ray Charles and skiffle stars like Lonnie Donegan, he soon switched to lead vocals and rebranded himself Vance Arnold — a name inspired by both the American country singer Eddy Arnold and a character from the Elvis Presley film “Love Me Tender.”

While still a budding teenage performer, Mr. Cocker had kept his day job as a gas fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board. He was given a six-month leave when he was signed to Decca in 1964. But his version of the Beatles “I’ll Cry Instead” and a tour slot opening for Manfred Mann drew little notice, so he went back to gas fitting for a time.

Mr. Cocker’s career began to take shape around 1965 when he and the keyboardist Chris Stainton formed the Grease Band, which played Motown covers in pubs throughout northern England before relocating to London two years later. In 1968, the group’s single “Marjorine,” released under Mr. Cocker’s name, became a minor hit, and a version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” — with Jimmy Page on guitar and B.J. Wilson, from Procol Harum, on drums — went to No. 1 in England.

Woodstock made Mr. Cocker a worldwide star, but throughout the 1970s his career was dogged by problems with drugs. He sometimes forgot the words to songs onstage, and while on tour in Australia in 1972 he was arrested for possession of marijuana.

“Up Where We Belong” resuscitated Mr. Cocker’s career in 1982, leading to numerous other songs in film soundtracks, among them Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” in “9 1/2 Weeks” (1986) and “When the Night Comes,” from “An Innocent Man” (1989), which went to No. 11 on Billboard’s pop chart.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cocker was reaching millions of younger fans as the Woodstock version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” was used as the theme song to the ABC television show “The Wonder Years,” which started in 1988. He performed at Woodstock ’94, the 25th-anniversary version of the festival.

In all, Mr. Cocker released more than more than 20 studio albums, most recently “Fire It Up” in 2012.

He is survived by his wife, Pam; a brother, Victor; a stepdaughter, Zoey Schroeder; and two grandchildren.

[Video: JOE COCKER -With A Little Help From My Friends- 1969 Woodstock.. Watch on YouTube.]

JOE COCKER -With A Little Help From My Friends- 1969 Woodstock..
Video by Richie C.

At a concert in September, Billy Joel called Mr. Cocker “a great singer who is not very well right now.” He added: “I think he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m amazed that he’s not yet, but I’m throwing in my vote for Joe Cocker.”

Correction: December 22, 2014

A picture posted with an earlier version of this obituary was shown in mirror image. The bass player in a dark shirt should have been on the right.

Joe Coscarelli contributed reporting.

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North Korean Internet Goes Dark in Wake of Sony Hack – Bloomberg

North Korea’s limited access to the Internet has been cut off, according to a network-monitoring company, days after the U.S. government accused the country of hacking into Sony Corp. (6758)’s files.

North Korea, which has four official networks connecting the country to the Internet — all of which route through China — began experiencing intermittent problems yesterday and today went completely dark, according to Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research in Hanover, New Hampshire.

U.S. President Barack Obama said last week that Sony Pictures Entertainment had suffered significant damage and vowed to respond. North Korea warned yesterday that any U.S. punishment over the hacking attack on would lead to a retaliation “thousands of times greater.” North Korea has said it doesn’t know the identity of the hackers — who call themselves “Guardians of Peace” — claiming responsibility for breaking into Sony’s computer network.

“The situation now is they are totally offline,” Madory said. “I don’t know that someone is launching a cyber-attack against North Korea, but this isn’t normal for them. Usually they are up solid. It is kind of out of the ordinary. This is not like anything I’ve seen before.”

Photographer: Vincent Yu/AP Photo

Pyongyang, North Korea. Close

Pyongyang, North Korea.

Open

Photographer: Vincent Yu/AP Photo

Pyongyang, North Korea.

Sony Attack

The attack on Sony’s computers destroyed data, exposed Hollywood secrets and caused the studio to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The hackers rendered thousands of computers inoperable and forced Sony to take its entire computer network offline.

The outage probably isn’t a cut of a fiber-optic cable, which would be shown in an immediate loss of connectivity, and other possible explanations include a software meltdown on North Korea’s Web routers or denial-of-service hacking attacks, Madory said.

Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters in Washington today she can’t confirm reports of cyber-attacks on North Korea and won’t say what steps the U.S. may take in response to the Sony attack.

“We are considering a range of options in response,” Harf said at a State Department briefing. “Some will be seen. Some may not be seen.”

While North Korea has four networks connected to the Internet, the U.S. has more than 152,000 such networks, according to Dyn Research.

Flooding Servers

North Korea appears to be suffering from a relatively simple distributed denial-of-service attack that is causing temporary Internet outages, said Dan Holden, director of security research for Arbor Networks Inc., based in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Such attacks flood Internet servers with traffic to knock infrastructure offline. In North Korea’s case, the attack appears to be aimed at the country’s domain-name service system, preventing websites from being able to resolve Internet addresses, Holden said.

It’s unlikely the attack is being carried out by the U.S., as any hacker could probably spend $200 to do it, Holden said.

“If the U.S. government was going to do something, it would not be so blatant and it would be way worse,” he said. “This could just be someone in the U.S. who is ticked off because they’re unable to see the movie.”

Limited Impact

The small number of computers connecting North Korea to the Internet makes disabling them straightforward, said Jose Nazario, chief scientist at Invincea Inc., a Fairfax, Virginia-based security-software company.

“It’s actually pretty easy,” he said. “There are only a handful of hosts. It’s relatively easy to attack just those hosts or the pipes that are present there. There’s not that much bandwidth there. It’s very, very accessible to anyone who wanted to attack them.”

The impact of the outages will probably be limited, because so few people in North Korea have access to the Internet, and North Korea uses outposts in other countries to perform cyber-attacks, Nazario said.

“It may not interfere with any cyber-operations they have going on,” he said. “It’s probably more symbolic and patting yourself on the back to launch these kinds of attacks than to disrupt any of their cyber-activities.”

Preliminary Probe

China has started an investigation into a possible North Korean role in the Sony hacking following a request from the U.S. government, a person with direct knowledge of the matter has said. The foreign ministry will cooperate with other Chinese agencies including the Cyberspace Administration to conduct a preliminary investigation, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the probe hasn’t been made public.

“We have no new information regarding North Korea today,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan wrote in an e-mail today. “If in fact North Korea’s Internet has gone down, we’d refer you to that government for comment.”

North Korea’s Internet outage was earlier reported by the North Korea Tech blog.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jordan Robertson in Washington at [email protected]; Chris Strohm in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Stevenson at [email protected] Jillian Ward

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Ismaaiyl Brinsley, New York Cop Killer, Had Long Criminal History – Huffington Post

NEW YORK (AP) — The gunman who fatally ambushed two police officers in their squad car had a long criminal record, a hatred for police and the government and an apparent history of mental instability that included an attempt to hang himself a year ago, authorities said Sunday.

Moments before opening fire, Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached people on the street and asked them to follow him on Instagram, then told them, “Watch what I’m going to do,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

A portrait of the Brooklyn-born gunman emerged as big-city police departments and union leaders around the country warned officers to change up their routines and insist on extra backup a day after Brinsley carried out what he portrayed online as retaliation for the slayings of black men at the hands of white police.

Brinsley was black; the slain officers were Asian and Hispanic.

Investigators were trying to determine if Brinsley had taken part in any protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, whose names he invoked in his online threat, or simply latched on to the cause for the final act in a violent rampage.

They said he traveled frequently between the South and New York, where he fathered a child in Brooklyn, and had been in the city earlier in the week.

Brinsley, 28, had at least 19 arrests in Georgia and Ohio, spent two years in prison for gun possession and had a troubled childhood so violent that his mother was afraid of him, police said. He ranted online about police and the government and expressed “self-despair and anger at himself and where his life was,” Boyce said.

Boyce said Brinsley’s mother believed he had undiagnosed mental problems and may have been on medication at some point, but detectives were still trying to determine if he had a mental illness.

On Saturday afternoon, Brinsley approached a squad car from behind in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section and fired four shots, killing Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. He then ran into a subway station and committed suicide.

Hours earlier, Brinsley had shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home outside Baltimore, then made threatening posts online, including a vow to put “wings on pigs” and references to the Brown and Garner cases.

Baltimore-area police warned the New York department that Brinsley was in the city and bent on violence. But New York police were still getting the word out when Brinsley struck.

The slayings dramatically escalated tensions that have simmered for months over police killings of blacks.

The siege mentality was evident in several memos circulating among the rank and file at the 35,000-officer New York Police Department, the nation’s largest.

A union-generated message warned police officers that they should respond to every radio call with two cars — “no matter what the opinion of the patrol supervisor” — and not make arrests “unless absolutely necessary.” The president of the detectives union told members in a letter to work in threes when out on the street, wear bulletproof vests and keep aware of their surroundings.

“Cowards such as yesterday’s killer strike when you are distracted and vulnerable,” the letter read.

Another directive warned officers in Newark, New Jersey, not to patrol alone and to avoid people looking for confrontations. At the same time, a memo from an NYPD chief asked officers to avoid fanning rage by limiting comments “via all venues, including social media, to expressions of sorrow and condolence.”

The slayings come at a tense time. Police nationwide are being criticized for months for their tactics, following Garner’s death in a New York officer’s chokehold and Brown’s fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests erupted in recent weeks after grand juries declined to charge the officers involved.

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio attended Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for calm. Bratton later visited the families of both officers and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial at the site of the slayings.

“It’s a reflection that the community cares about the cops,” said Bratton, adding that the memorial was “very appropriate.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also visited the memorial, calling on protest organizers to “hold off on any type of protest until these officers are laid to rest in a peaceful manner.”

The family of slain Officer Rafael Ramos also appealed for peace in the days ahead.

Cousin Ronnie Gonzalez said the family has already forgiven the gunman. “He’s in the hands of God now,” he said. “We don’t believe in vengeance; we just forgive.”

At an appearance with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Garner’s mother expressed her dismay over the killings of the officers.

“I’m standing here in sorrow about losing those two police officers. That was definitely not our agenda,” Gwen Garner said.

“We are going in peace, and anyone who’s standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner’s name for violence because we are not about that,” she added. “These two police officers lost their lives senselessly and our condolence to the family and we stand with the families.”

___

Associated Press writers Verena Dobnik, Mike Balsamo and Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.

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NYC mayor meets with families of slain police officers – CNN

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio urges that protests wait until slain officers can be mourned
  • A gunman shot his ex-girlfriend in Maryland before going to New York and killing two officers
  • New York police investigate more than 15 threats against officers posted on social media
  • The families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown denounce the killings of the officers

New York (CNN)[Breaking news update, posted at 4:50 p.m. ET Monday]

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio described his meetings Monday with the family members of the two slain New York Police Department officers.

“They are in tremendous pain,” he said, “and they are worried deeply. In the Ramos family’s case, two teenagers … reminded me of my own children, who now don’t have a father.”

Online threats against police officers must be taken seriously to stop future attacks, de Blasio said, referring to social media posts by the gunman who killed the officers. “Once this individual posted on Facebook his intention, anyone who sees that has the obligation to call the police immediately and report it,” he said. “We cannot take this lightly.”

Police investigators say they’re trying to piece together where the gunman who killed two officers Saturday was in the hours before the shooting. Officials told reporters Monday there’s a roughly two-hour gap in the timeline they’ve assembled leading up to the shooting, and they asked for the public’s help to pinpoint where shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley was before the incident.

Investigators have also been combing through the gunman’s social media posts and looking through his cell phone. Many of his Instagram posts show “self despair,” said Robert Boyce, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives. There are also anti-government tirades, he said.

Among several thousand images on Brinsley’s cell phone, investigators found footage of a recent protest in New York’s Union Square Park, Boyce said. In the video, recorded around December 1, “he is a spectator watching one of the protests,” Boyce said.

[Previous story, posted at 3:19 p.m. ET Monday]

(CNN) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on people Monday to put aside debates and protests and focus on the grieving families of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were killed over the weekend.

“It was an attack on every single New Yorker and we have to see it as such,” he said.

The slain officers are “now our family and we will stand by them,” de Blasio said. “Our first obligation is to respect these families in mourning.”

Earlier, de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton visited the officers’ homes, the New York Police Department said.

New York Police Officer Wenjian Liu
New York Police Officer Wenjian Liu
New York Police Officer Rafael Ramos
New York Police Officer Rafael Ramos

Their visit came amid intense criticism from some former New York leaders, who claim that de Blasio fanned tension between the public and police in comments he’s made about protests over the Eric Garner case. Garner, a 43-year-old black man, died in July after police in Staten Island placed him in a chokehold. There was national outrage after the officer involved was not indicted.

Others have said that de Blasio should not be scapegoated — that the gunman is solely responsible for this weekend’s bloodshed.

On Saturday afternoon, in broad daylight, Liu and Ramos were sitting in their patrol car in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The two, who normally work in downtown Brooklyn, had been assigned there because of the area’s high crime rates, authorities said.

Witnesses saw 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley walk up to the car and shoot. Just hours earlier, Brinsley was in Baltimore, where he shot and seriously wounded his ex-girlfriend, police said.

He broadcast his intention to kill police on social media.

The attack

Liu and Ramos were “assassinated,” Bratton said Saturday.

Tantania Alexander, the first emergency medical technician on the scene, became emotional as she described looking into the patrol car.

“He has a family,” Alexander recalled thinking. “You don’t know if he’s going to go … you put your life on the line every day for people.”

In Baltimore, Brinsley’s ex-girlfriend, 29-year-old Shaneka Nicole Thompson, was shot in the stomach but survived.

A friend of Thompson’s alerted Baltimore County Police to troubling Instagram posts that the friend believed were Brinsley’s.

The posts, which appeared to have been posted in Brooklyn, included threats to kill police, authorities said.

“I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today,” read one post. “They Take 1 Of Ours, Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.”

Brinsley also posted messages of self-loathing and despair and made reference online to Michael Brown and Garner, black men who were killed by police.

Around 2:10 p.m., 40 minutes after speaking with the friend, Baltimore County police said they called New York police and faxed a “wanted” poster with Brinsley’s picture.

“Suspect is armed with a 9mm handgun and has posted pictures on Instagram saying that he will shoot a police officer today,” the flyer said.

While New York authorities spread the warning, it was too late, said New York Police Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. Around the same time, Brinsley ambushed and killed the two officers.

People light candles during a vigil on Sunday, December 21, for two NYPD officers who were ambushed and killed on Saturday. The two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot while sitting in their police car. Police have named Ismaaiyl Brinsley as the shooter.People light candles during a vigil on Sunday, December 21, for two NYPD officers who were ambushed and killed on Saturday. The two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot while sitting in their police car. Police have named Ismaaiyl Brinsley as the shooter.
Lucy Ramos, aunt of slain police officer Rafael Ramos, speaks at a news conference in front of Ramos' childhood home on December 21.Lucy Ramos, aunt of slain police officer Rafael Ramos, speaks at a news conference in front of Ramos’ childhood home on December 21.
A New York City police officer kneels on Sunday, December 21, in front of a small memorial for two police officers who were killed in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday. A New York City police officer kneels on Sunday, December 21, in front of a small memorial for two police officers who were killed in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, speaks about the killings of the officers during a news conference at the National Action Network headquarters in New York on December 21. Behind him are, from left, Esaw Garner, widow of Eric Garner; attorney Michael Hardy; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; and attorney Jonathan Moore.The Rev. Al Sharpton, center, speaks about the killings of the officers during a news conference at the National Action Network headquarters in New York on December 21. Behind him are, from left, Esaw Garner, widow of Eric Garner; attorney Michael Hardy; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; and attorney Jonathan Moore.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, third from right, speaks on December 21 while Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, fourth from right, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, right, listen during a news conference at an impromptu memorial near the site where the officers were shot. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, third from right, speaks on December 21 while Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, fourth from right, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, right, listen during a news conference at an impromptu memorial near the site where the officers were shot.
Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of two fallen NYPD officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center on Saturday, December 20. Mourners stand at attention as the bodies of two fallen NYPD officers are transported from Woodhull Medical Center on Saturday, December 20.
New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton speaks alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and NYPD's Chief of Department James O'Neill, right, during a news conference at Woodhull Medical Center on December 20. New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton speaks alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and NYPD’s Chief of Department James O’Neill, right, during a news conference at Woodhull Medical Center on December 20.
Investigators work the scene where two NYPD officers were shot December 20, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Investigators work the scene where two NYPD officers were shot December 20, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
The officers were shot and killed ambush-style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn, officials said.The officers were shot and killed ambush-style Saturday afternoon as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn, officials said.
The officers -- one with two years' experience, the other with seven years on the job -- were normally assigned to downtown Brooklyn but were working a The officers — one with two years’ experience, the other with seven years on the job — were normally assigned to downtown Brooklyn but were working a “critical response” detail in an area with higher crime, police said.
The shooter was found dead in a nearby subway station from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. The shooter, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, arrived in New York from Baltimore, police said.The shooter was found dead in a nearby subway station from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said. The shooter, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, arrived in New York from Baltimore, police said.
The shooting occurred near Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.The shooting occurred near Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
Police officers gather near the scene of the shooting. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the attack Police officers gather near the scene of the shooting. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the attack “an unspeakable act of barbarism.”
An officer with a police dog monitors the scene on the evening of December 20. An officer with a police dog monitors the scene on the evening of December 20.
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
Two NYPD officers fatally shot
HIDE CAPTION
Photos: Two NYPD officers fatally shotPhotos: Two NYPD officers fatally shot

Video shows NYPD shooting aftermath

Police unions blast New York mayor

At a nearby subway station, he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The outrage

In July, New York City police officers wrestled Garner to the ground, with one officer wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck. That officer was not indicted.

In August, a Ferguson, Missouri police officer shot Brown multiple times. That officer also was not indicted.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki and some police union officials blasted de Blasio. Pataki accused de Blasio of putting officers’ lives at risk by supporting recent protests over the deaths of Garner and Brown.

De Blasio on Monday did not respond to the denunciations against him, but condemned the officers’ “assassination.”

Bratton sought to tamp down the anger on Monday.

Asked by NBC’s “Today” whether de Blasio should apologize to police, Bratton said, “I don’t know that an apology is necessary.” The issue is “starting to shape up along partisan lines, which is unfortunate,” he said. “This is something that should be bringing us all together, not taking us apart.”

Bratton spoke positively of de Blasio, saying he has received an additional $400 million this year to improve training and equipment for police, including equipping every police officer with a smartphone.

Bratton compared the current tensions to what he saw in the 1970s when he first got into policing. “Who would have ever thought — deja vu all over again — that we’d be back where we were 40 years ago,” Bratton said, adding that social media now spread the word quickly.

“We’re in a change moment” in the United States, he said. The goal is to find opportunities to move forward.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on CNN on Monday that he didn’t think de Blasio is responsible for the officers’ slayings, but the mayor, along with President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, have contributed to what Giuliani described as “hate speech” and anti-cop “propaganda.”

“They are perpetuating a myth that there is systemic police brutality. There is systemic crime,” the ex-mayor said, but police brutality happens only occasionally, Giuliani argued.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asked whether it was acceptable to have any police brutality at all.

Brooklyn on edge after NYPD cops killed

NYPD commissioner: Cops were targeted

Giuliani said the greatest focus should be on high rates of black-on-black crime, and that instances of police brutality have been overstated and unfairly hyped this year in the wake of Brown’s and Garner’s deaths.

Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, appearing on CNN on Monday, said that tensions between some members of the public and the police are far more complicated than one person, one politician or one mayor. He noted that the NYPD is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse departments in the country, employing officers from more than 100 countries.

“These issues are complex,” Kelly said. “They shouldn’t just be handled with a bumper sticker. We have to work together to address them.”

Former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, also appearing on CNN, said that de Blasio has gotten resources to Bratton to help step up officers’ security in the wake of the weekend killings. Now the mayor must reach out to the police department and do what it takes to mend fences, he said.

Police are taught not to paint the public with a broad brush, said Davis. “Our leaders need to understand that our police deserve that same credit.”

Michael Brown’s family condemned Saturday’s slayings.

“We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities,” the family said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the officers’ families during this incredibly difficult time.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton — who is also a target of criticism — said the Garner family was outraged by the police officers’ killings.

“Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,” Sharpton said.

The new threats

As they grieve the deaths of two of their colleagues, New York police must also deal with a spate of new threats.

The NYPD is investigating more than 15 threats to officers posted on various social media platforms and trying to determine whether any are serious or credible, a senior New York City law enforcement officer told CNN.

The department’s intelligence division continues to monitor social media for threats made to the NYPD. Officials have not released details about any potentially credible threats.

But the troubling messages aren’t just coming from New York.

A Memphis, Tennessee, man has been questioned after allegedly posting threats against the NYPD, CNN affiliate WREG reported.

“Good job. Kill em all I’m on the way to NY now #shootthepolice 2 more going down tomorrow,” an Instagram post read.

The NYPD has already pulled all of its auxiliary officers off the streets in the wake of the killings of the two officers. Auxiliary officers are unarmed volunteer officers who help with traffic control or other minor situations.

The victims

Both Liu and Ramos dreamed of being police officers, Bratton said.

Liu, 32, was a seven-year veteran and married just two months ago, WABC reported. Ramos, 40, joined the force two years ago after spending three years as a school safety officer. Ramos was married and has a 13-year-old son.

Ramos’ teenage son, Jaden, posted a heartbreaking message on Facebook.

“Today is the worst day of my life,” the teenager wrote. “Today I had to say bye to my father. He was (there) for me everyday of my life, he was the best father I could ask for.

“It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. I will always love you and I will never forget you. RIP Dad.”

Shimon Prokupecz reported from New York; Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, Joe Sutton, Alexandra Field, Ray Sanchez and Rick Martin contributed to this report.

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Dow Jones, S&P 500 hit record close as stock market rebound continues – Fortune

Tech stocks and growing confidence in the job market helped to propel the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average to record highs Monday.

The S&P 500 gained 0.4% to finish at 2,078.54. The Dow Jones rose 155 points, or 0.9%, to end the day at 17,959.44.

The U.S. market rose broadly on Monday after posting huge gains to close out the previous week, effectively rebounding from a seven-day sell-off earlier this month.

Early in the day, the Gallup polling organization reported that confidence in the job market had hit its highest point since the recession. Meanwhile. Investors seemed to shrug off the news that existing home sales in the U.S. dropped 6.1% in November.

Facebook FB and Intel INTC both shot up by roughly 2% on Monday as tech companies helped spur the day’s rally.

Markets got a major boost last week when the Federal Reserve said it would take a patient, measured approach to its planned interest rate hike coming at some point in 2015.

The S&P 500 recent performance is a major turnaround from the market retreat earlier this month, when the index dipped below the 2,000-point mark. The index is up more than 100 points, or 5.4%, since the middle of last week, when the market saw some of its biggest gains in years.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is also riding a huge turnaround from previous weeks with more than 888 points gained — a 5.2% swing — since last Wednesday. The Dow Jones is tantalizingly close to crossing for the first time the 18,000-point mark — a symbolic milestone the index approached two weeks ago before the market began to sink.

The Nasdaq composite also recorded its fourth-straight day of gains, rising 16 points, or 0.3%, to finish Monday at 4,781.42. The tech-heavy index is also up more than 5% since the middle of last week and has gained more than 230 points over that period.

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Mayor Bill De Blasio Asks That Protests Be Put On Hold Until After Officers … – Huffington Post

BILL DE BLASIO

ADDS BOTH OFFICERS KILLED – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, pauses at the podium during a news conference at Woodhull Medical Center, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in New York. An armed man walked up to two New York Police Department officers sitting inside a patrol car and opened fire Saturday afternoon, killing both officers before running into a nearby subway station and committing suicide, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his condolences to the family of two murdered NYPD officers while asking the public to put aside protests and political demonstrations during a period of grief.

“It was an attack on our democracy, our values, and an attack on every New Yorker, and we have to see it as such,” de Blasio said at a police charity event on Monday.

De Blasio urged the public to stand by the families of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, both fatally shot execution-style on Saturday in Brooklyn by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

“We all see the world through the prism of our own families,” he said. “It’s time for people to take stock of this moment.”

The mayor did little to address burgeoning criticism from politicians and NYPD officers accusing him of not supporting police, but did ask that protests be put on hold.

“It’s a time to step back and just focus on these families,” he said. “I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time. In the coming days, as two families prepare for funerals and figure out how to piece their lives back together, that should be our only concern: How do we support them?”

nypd officers

Officer Wenjian Liu (L), Officer Rafael Ramos (R)

The statements come just hours after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told Matt Lauer that the mayor has lost the trust of some officers, who recently turned their backs on de Blasio after a visit to Woodhull Hospital, where the two officers were pronounced dead Saturday.

“I think he has lost it with some officers,” Bratton said of de Blasio. “I was at the hospital when that event occurred…. I don’t support that particular activity, I don’t think it was appropriate, particularly in that setting, but it’s reflective of the anger of some of them.”

NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch also placed blame on the mayor and protestors.

That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor,” Lynch said.

Recent demonstrations have been largely non-violent, despite de Blasio’s call to stop protests until after the funeral of the officers.

“Organizations planning events or gatherings about politics or protests, that could be for another day,” the mayor said. “Let’s see them through the funerals, then debate can begin again. But until that time, it is our obligation to respect [the families].”

The social movement #BlackLivesMatter, which has inspired multiple protests, has publicly condemned the shootings, calling the act “senseless.”

“An eye for an eye is not our vision of justice,” the group said in a statement. “We who have taken to the streets seeking justice and liberation know that we need deep transformation to correct the larger institutional problems of racial profiling, abuse, and violence.”

This isn’t the first time a politician has faced criticism over not doing enough to support police during tense periods. In 1997, officers passed out fliers asking that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani “be denied attendance of any memorial service in my honor” should they die, as his “attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory.”

Giuliani recently accused Obama and black leaders of stoking “anti-police hatred.”

As the holidays hit full stride, de Blasio asked the public to support two families who won’t be celebrating with their loved ones.

“We still have to find that goodness,” he said. “I think it’s important that regardless of people’s view points, it’s time to step back and just focus on these families.”

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Pope Francis says Vatican administration is sick with power and greed, suffers … – Sydney Morning Herald

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Pope calls gossip sickness of ‘cowards’

Pope Francis uses his annual Christmas meeting with Vatican’s top administrators to issue warning on gossip calling it “the sickness of the cowards.”

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Vatican City: The Vatican’s top administrators would have been expecting an exchange of pleasantries at their annual Christmas meeting with Pope Francis on Monday.

Instead, Francis chose the occasion to issue a stinging critique, telling the priests, bishops and cardinals who run the Curia, the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, that careerism, scheming and greed had infected them with “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.

Francis, the first non-European pope in 1300 years, has refused many of the trappings of office and made plain his determination to bring the Church’s hierarchy closer to its 1.2 billion members. To that end, he has set out to reform the Italian-dominated Curia, whose power struggles and leaks were widely held responsible for Benedict XVI’s decision last year to become the first pope in six centuries to resign.

Blistering critique of administrators ... Pope Francis delivers his message during a meeting with Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia. He suggested they needed a 'dose of humour'.

Blistering critique of administrators … Pope Francis delivers his message during a meeting with Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia. He suggested they needed a ‘dose of humour’. Photo: AP

“The Curia needs to change, to improve … a Curia that does not criticise itself, that does not bring itself up to date, that does not try to improve, is a sick body,” he said in a sombre address.

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Francis said some in the Curia acted as if they were “immortal, immune or even indispensable”, an apparent reference to retired cardinals who remain in the Vatican and continue to exert influence.

He told his audience that too many of them suffered from “rivalry and vainglory”; superiors favoured proteges and underlings fawned on bosses to further careers; others fed gossip or false information to the media.

Pope Francis delivers his message during his meeting with Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia.

Pope Francis delivers his message during his meeting with Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican Curia. Photo: AP

Francis warned against what he called a lust for power, hypocritical double lives and the lack of spiritual empathy among some men of God. He listed the 15 “ailments and temptations” that weaken their service to the Lord, inviting them to a “true self-examination” ahead of Christmas.

“Brothers, let’s guard ourselves from the terrorism of gossip,” Francis told the rows of bishops and cardinals seated in a 16th-century reception hall in the Apostolic Palace, some looking ahead attentively, others meditatively keeping their heads down.

Including himself among the sinners, Francis, stressed once more his idea of a church at the service of the poor and the peripheries, a religious institution able to move away from scandals, infighting and lavish behaviours.

“This is the ideological and religious manifesto of a radical reform of the Curia,” Carlo Marroni, a Vatican expert with the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, said. “He doesn’t describe the details of the reform that we will most likely see next year, but he indicated the principles according to which the Church has to change, at least in the pope’s intentions.”

In his Christmas speeches, Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, had often issued programmatic statements for the year to come, and talked about controversial issues like same-sex marriage. However, he had not used such a stern tone.

Last year, in his first Christmas speech to the Curia as pope, Francis warned his prelates against drifting “downwards towards mediocrity,” and urged them to be “conscientious objectors” to gossip.

In a meeting with the Vatican’s employees soon after his speech to the Curia, Francis repeated his plea for forgiveness, asking the laypeople who work for the Vatican to pardon his shortcomings and those of his collaborators, as well as some scandals that have hurt the church.

Since his election in March 2013, Francis has created various bodies to improve the Holy See’s management and has appointed nine cardinals to advise him on the reform of the Curia.

But the pope did finish on an upbeat note. Before wishing them all a Happy Christmas, Francis urged the Vatican’s administrators to be more joyful, saying how much good a “dose of humour” could do. 

Reuters, New York Times

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Rainstorm to bring wet Christmas to Eastern USA – USA TODAY

A storm developing in the Southeast and heading up the east coast is expected to hit just in time for Christmas. Be sure to have a backup plan if you’re traveling this holiday season. VPC

A mix of drenching rain, severe thunderstorms and howling winds will bring a wet Christmas to much of the East, while snow and rain hits the Northwest and Rockies.

The rain and mild air over the central and Eastern USA the next few days will dash any hopes of a white Christmas for most of the nation. Only 26% of the USA was snow-covered Monday, the lowest percentage for this date in 10 years, the National Weather Service said.

Tuesday: A few strong to severe thunderstorms are possible from the southern parts of the lower Mississippi valley through the Gulf Coast states, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Damaging wind gusts, large hail and tornadoes could hit New Orleans; Baton Rouge; Montgomery, Ala.; Mobile, Ala.; and Tallahassee, the storm center said.

As much as a half-foot of rain could swamp portions of the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather service said. Flash flooding is possible in the Tallahassee area.

“The bull’s-eye for the heavy rain and flooding potential is over Tallahassee and the Big Bend (of Florida),” said Kati Moore, a weather service meteorologist.

Wednesday (Christmas Eve): Rain, thunderstorms and wind will envelop much of the East Coast, including the Interstate 95 corridor, the Weather Channel said. Despite the rain, record high temperatures in the 50s and 60s are possible from Boston to Washington.

Major flight delays are likely Wednesday at the Northeast city hubs, along with Charlotte, Atlanta and Florida’s main airports because of high winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms and low clouds, the Weather Channel said. Wind, rain and thunderstorms could cause delays as far west as Cincinnati and Detroit.

Snow will be a travel issue across Michigan, Illinois, eastern Missouri and northwestern Indiana, AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. Though a huge amount of snow is not in the forecast, snow showers or bursts of snow could create slippery highway conditions, he said.

The strongest winds are likely in New England late Wednesday, when gusts could reach 50 mph along the coast and in the mountains, Sosnowski said. New York City could get gusts near 40 mph Wednesday night.

In the Northwest, mountain snow and valley rain will fall in far Northern California and the northern Rockies, the Weather Channel reported.

USA TODAY

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Head north

Thursday (Christmas Day): Howling winds will be the main issue for much of the Great Lakes and Northeast, though a few snow flurries are possible across the area.

In the West, the storm that hit the Northwest on Wednesday will move into the Rockies on Christmas Day. bringing snow to Salt Lake City and Denver, according to the Weather Channel.

Contributing: The Tallahassee Democrat

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North Korea experiencing widespread Internet outages – Fox News

DEVELOPING –  North Korea was experiencing widespread Internet outages on Monday, and one expert said the country’s online access was “totally down.”

It was not immediately clear if the Internet connectivity problems were an act of retribution for a major intrusion at Sony Pictures Entertainment that the FBI last week linked to North Korea.

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President Obama on Friday said the U.S. government would respond but didn’t say how.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that of the federal government responses, “some will be seen, some may not be seen.”

Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, said the Internet connectivity problems were discovered in the last 24 hours and have gotten progressively worse to the point that “North Korea’s totally down.”

“We have no new information to share regarding North Korea today,” Bernadette Meehan, White House National Security Council spokesperson, told Fox News. “We have no new information to share regarding North Korea today. If in fact North Korea’s Internet has gone down, we’d refer you to that government for comment.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Calls for No Politics as Cops' Families Bear … – ABC News

PHOTO: New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks during a press conference in New York, Dec. 22, 2014.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today urged people to set aside politics and protests to support and comfort the families of the two slain NYPD officers who are “suffering unspeakable pain.”

It’s time for those of different viewpoints to “put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside everything we will talk about in due time while two families try to piece their lives back together,” he said at a gathering of the Police Athletic League.

The remarks were the mayor’s first public comments since the police union said he had blood on his hands over the Saturday shooting deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. De Blasio avoided a direct confrontation over the incendiary rhetoric.

He said the Liu and Ramos families “experienced the worst possible moment a family could.”

He called the incident “an attack on democracy, an attack on our values, an attack on every single New Yorker.”

The mayor and police commissioner also visited the families of the fallen officers earlier today, three days after both men died in the attack in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The pair did not speak to reporters as they entered and exited the Ramos home, although the family has already made it clear they would be open to hearing from the mayor.

The Ramos family said they would welcome de Blasio at Ramos’ funeral in spite of an effort started by the largest police union last week — before the shootings — to have officers sign petitions to keep the mayor from their possible funerals.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had stopped by Liu’s home moments before de Blasio and Bratton.

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