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It wasn't long ago that all consumers went to retail stores to buy things. These days, of course, you can get just about anything online. Some companies are now taking that shopping experience to the next level, allowing customers to design almost anything individually — from a trench coat to a batch of M&M's.

The latest stories about how the nation is reacting to last Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 first-graders and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, include:

Did you know the Affordable Care Act stands up for gun rights? The "Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights" section says the health law's wellness programs can't require participants to give information about guns in the house. It also keeps the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from collecting data on gun use and stops insurance companies from denying coverage or raising premiums on members because of gun use.

There was a 5.9 percent rise in sales of previously owned homes in November from October, the National Association of Realtors says.

At their 5.04 million annual rate, sales were the highest since November 2009.

"Momentum continues to build," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says in the organization's report.

The New York Stock Exchange will be acquired by IntercontinentalExchange of Atlanta in a deal valued at about $8.2 billion, the two rivals confirmed Thursday morning.

In matching press releases, they say the sale "combines two leading exchange groups to create a premier global exchange operator diversified across markets including agricultural and energy commodities, credit derivatives, equities and equity derivatives, foreign exchange and interest rates."

The best estimate of how quickly the economy was growing in the third quarter has been revised upward again — a sign that as summer turned into fall things were better than first thought.

A winter storm that has brought blizzard conditions to parts of the Upper Midwest from Iowa into Minnesota and Wisconsin has authorities urging folks to stay off the roads and airlines warning of flight delays at Chicago's O'Hare and other airports in the region.

With the House set to vote this afternoon on Republicans' "Plan B" for avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, the questions that have been asked every day for weeks are being asked yet again, with added urgency:

Are we headed over that "cliff" of automatic spending cuts, tax increases and expiring job benefits? Or are President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, closer to a deal than they're letting on in public?

In 1984, the Portland Trail Blazers chose Sam Bowie, a 7-foot-1 center from the University of Kentucky, with the second pick in the college draft. The Chicago Bulls then took Michael Jordan.

The words "Bowie over Jordan" are part of pro basketball lore, and are still a source of pain for many fans of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. Bowie's tenure in Portland was marred by leg injuries; Jordan became a legend. ESPN recounts it all in a documentary about Bowie on Thursday night.

Friday is the last day of a 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar, sparking talk about the possible end of the world. About two years ago, a rumor began circulating on the Internet that the French village of Bugarach, population 200, would be the only place to survive this apocalypse.

But despite many news stories of people flocking to the village, less than two weeks before "doomsday," there was no one on the streets. Houses were shuttered against the cold.

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