US economy contracts for the first time in three and a half years

The U.S. economy stopped dead in its tracks in the last three months of 2012 as the halting recovery was slammed by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.

Police: 4 dead, including gunman, in Aurora, Colo., hostage situation

(Photo: NBC News)

Three people were found dead inside a home in Aurora, Colo., after a gunman took them hostage early Saturday morning, police told NBC affiliate KUSA. The gunman was also shot and killed by police after hours of failed negotiation attempts.  

Another person who had been inside the house was able to escape and alert authorities, KUSA reported.

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TIME Person of the Year: President Obama

(Photo: TIME)

In addition to President Obama, the short list for Person of the Year included Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!; Mohammed Morsi, president of Egypt; Undocumented Americans; Bill and Hillary Clinton; Malala Yousafzai, the student activist from Pakistan who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban; Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple; and the Higgs Boson and Italian physicist Fabiola Giannati.

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BREAKING: Shooting reported at Connecticut elementary school

State police responded to reports of a shooting Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., according to State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

BREAKING: Susan Rice tells NBC News that she is officially withdrawing from consideration for Secretary of State.

Exclusive interview with Rice Thursday at 10pm ET on Rock Center with Brian Williams.

(Source: nbcnews.com)

Cowboys’ Jerry Brown dies in car accident, teammate Josh Brent charged

(Photo: AP file)

Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown has died in an early morning car crash, and Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter in Brown’s death.

The police department in Irving, Texas, has confirmed that Brown died in a crash early this morning and Brent (whose legal name is Josh Price-Brent) was charged.

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Mandela hospitalized for tests ‘consistent with his age,’ South Africa says

(Photo: Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images file)

JOHANNESBURG — Former South African president Nelson Mandela was admitted to hospital on Saturday for medical tests, although the government said there was no cause for alarm.

A statement from President Jacob Zuma’s office gave no details of the condition of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader.

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Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. resigns from Congress

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., resigned from Congress on Wednesday following a prolonged treatment for mental health issues.

An aide to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC News that the speaker’s office received a letter from the Illinois congressman this afternoon.

BREAKING: US Coast Guard tells NBC News four injured in oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico

Four people were rushed to a hospital Friday after an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico some 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., the U.S. Coast Guard told NBC News.

NBC News declares Obama wins Florida; final electoral vote tally is Obama, 332, Romney, 206

President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in Florida, NBC news reported Saturday, ending a four-day count with a thin margin of the popular vote, though substantial enough to avoid an automatic recount.

As a result, Obama garners the state’s 29 electoral votes, for a national total of 332 votes to Romney’s 206.

Jobless claims drop to lowest level since 2008

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to a 4-1/2 year low last week, suggesting that hiring may be picking up after stalling since the spring.