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Plane makes precautionary landing in Phoenix

PHOENIX (iBBC News) — A possible mechanical problem has prompted the pilots of an American Airlines plane to make a precautionary landing in Phoenix.

The plane from Dallas landed safely Thursday night at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The flight was scheduled to land in Phoenix and wasn't diverted.

Kris Commerford, a supervisor with the airport's communications center, says the plane had a possible problem with its reverse thrusting system.

The plane was carrying 140 people when it landed in Phoenix.

Facebook photos lead to child abuse arrests in Arizona

PHOENIX (iBBC News) - Two Arizona parents were arrested by sheriff's deputies after apparently posting pictures on Facebook that showed their children, an infant and a toddler, bound with duct tape, authorities said on Thursday.

Coconino County deputies arrested Frankie Almuina, 20, and Kayla Almuina, 19, on suspicion of two counts of child abuse on Wednesday at their northern Arizona home after being alerted to the photos by an anonymous tip.

The children, a 2-year-old toddler and a 10-month-old infant, were seen online bound with duct tape on their wrists and ankles with their mouths taped shut, Commander Rex Gilliland told Reuters. One of the children was shown hanging upside down on an exercise machine.

The parents told investigators that the photos, posted on the mother's Facebook account, were a joke and that the children were not harmed, Gilliland said.

"It's clear in our minds that these children were placed in a very extreme situation," Gilliland said. "By the look on their faces, they were in sheer terror. I don't know how this could have been a joke."

Authorities were called to the scene after a person who likely knew the couple saw the postings and called the Arizona Child Abuse Hotline, Gilliland said. The caller knew the names of the parents and where they lived.

He said investigators seized about a dozen similar photos, some that were not posted online, from the home north of Williams, Arizona, about 175 miles north of Phoenix.

The couple were being held in a county jail as of late on Thursday. The children have been turned over to another family member, Gilliland said.

Carter scores 31 as Rutgers stuns No. 10 Florida

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (iBBC News) — Freshman Eli Carter scored a career-high 31 points and hit the go-ahead basket in the second overtime as Rutgers rallied to stun No. 10 Florida 85-83 on Thursday night.

The Scarlet Knights (8-5) came back from a seven-point deficit late in regulation and Carter hit a late 3-pointer in the first overtime to put the Scarlet Knights in position to post their biggest win since knocking off No. 9 Villanova at home last season.

Erving Walker had a chance to tie the game for the Gators (11-2) in the final seconds, but his off-balance attempt from the foul line hit off the rim.

Scarlet Knights fans stormed the court to celebrate in a game billed as the return of former Rutgers star and current Gator Mike Rosario to Piscataway.

North Korea's new leadership lashes out at South Korea

SEOUL (iBBC News) - North Korea's first official communication with the outside world following the death of leader Kim Jong-il and the transition of power to his son was a sombre warning to South Korea and its allies that it would not change policies.

The main target of the message, delivered by state news agency KCNA and attributed to the North's National Defence Commission, was South Korea's conservative government headed by President Lee Myung-bak who has pursued a hardline stance against the isolated and impoverished North.

"On this occasion, we solemnly declare with confidence that foolish politicians around the world including the puppet forces in South Korea should not expect any changes from us," said the commission which was the top governing body under Kim Jong-il.

Under Kim Jong-il, who died earlier this month aged 69, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests. In 2010 it shelled a South Korean island and - most independent observers believe - sank a South Korean naval vessel.

The North denies the sinking and says it was provoked into the artillery barrage that killed civilians.

Kim Jong-il's son, Kim Jong-un, the third member of his family to rule North Korea, has made no public statements since the death of his father whose vast funeral procession was held two days ago.

Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case

SAN FRANCISCO (iBBC News) — A federal appeals court on Thursday said a 2008 law that granted telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the National Security Agency with an email and telephone eavesdropping program is constitutional.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling. The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies' customers.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with NSA on intelligence gathering.

The case stemmed from new surveillance rules passed by Congress in 2008 that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.

"I'm very disappointed. I think the court reaches to try to put lipstick on a pig here," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who argued the case before the panel. "I think what Congress did was an abdication of its duty to protect people from illegal surveillance."

In its ruling, the court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity's role in helping the government gather intelligence.

"It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies ... and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, 'the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'" Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

Thursday did not bring all bad news for plaintiffs challenging the government's surveillance efforts.

In a separate opinion on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the court revived two other lawsuits that seek redress for telecom customers whose information may have been compromised by the warrantless surveillance program.

Two groups of telecom customers sued the NSA for violating their privacy by collecting Internet data from AT&T and other major telecom companies in the surveillance program authorized by President George W. Bush.

Government lawyers have moved to stop such cases, arguing that defending the program in court would jeopardize national security and expose state secrets.

The suits will be sent back to U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Emails seeking comment from AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice weren't immediately returned.

Struggling Perry looks to Texas Invasion in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (iBBC News) - Texas Governor Rick Perry, down in the polls and failing to find a winning campaign strategy, is relying on folks from back home to help lift his struggling presidential election bid in Iowa.

More than a dozen Texans stuffed boxes with Perry signs and T-shirts at a hotel conference room in West Des Moines, Iowa, chatting about their hometowns and sampling Texas-size muffins from a buffet table.

They were part of the first wave of what the Perry campaign hopes will be hundreds of Texans and supporters from other states who are volunteering to come to Iowa to boost Perry ahead of Tuesday's Republican caucus vote.

Perry could use the help. His campaign has flagged since he jumped into the race in August in the top tier of candidates, promoting his job creation record in Texas where he is the longest-serving governor.

But after poor debate performances, Perry lost ground. A CNN/Time Iowa poll this week showed him in fifth place with 11 percent, below Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.

The poor poll numbers come despite Perry trying to promote his social conservative credentials in a series of ads, including one in which he attacked gays in the military. He also has taken a harder line on abortion in a play to Iowa's large evangelical Christian constituency.

More pro-Perry Texans will be arriving to work phone banks, cheer at rallies and talk to voters, according to campaign representatives and volunteers. They will include several Republican state legislators, as well as the statewide officeholders.

"I felt that he needs to get some traction here," said Joe Hyde, 47, of San Angelo, Texas, who arrived in Des Moines Tuesday with his 18-year-old daughter Shelby.

A political science major on Christmas break, Shelby was inserting metal posts into Perry yard signs. Like other volunteers, she and her father spent their own money to get to Iowa.

Several Perry backers expressed concern that the debates did not show who Perry really is.

"The debates have become a reality TV show that have overshadowed executive experience," Hyde said.

SIGN OF WEAKNESS?

Dennis Goldford, a Drake University politics professor, said the Texas volunteer army looks like a sign of weakness. Perry's huge spending on Iowa television and radio ads - which the campaign confirmed at about $2.86 million for December - does not seem to be helping.

"They're well-done ads," Goldford said. "But how many times do you get a second chance to make a first impression?"

Goldford said Iowa conservatives are looking for someone who can "go slug it out toe to toe with President Obama," and that's why Perry's poor performance in the debates hurt him.

Goldford said it is hard to say how much the Texas volunteers will help.

"In terms of Iowans, you're going to respond more to somebody from your neighborhood," Goldford said. "Remember it's a local precinct caucus. You're going to respond to somebody local rather than to somebody from outside the state."

There are Texas-Iowa connections. Some volunteers have worked on previous Iowa campaigns, according to campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan, and some said they had family in Iowa. Some Iowans retire or spend winters in Texas.

Perry has in recent weeks pushed his campaign farther to the right on social issues. John Strong, 70, of West Des Moines, said Perry pushed it too much.

"He's a little too far to the right," said Strong, who supports Ron Paul. Strong said even though he himself does not like gay marriage, Perry seems "a little hateful" about it. "He went really far right, obviously far right, maybe falsely far right," Strong said. "I think people see through that."

Not every Texas Republican is on board with Perry. One Republican state lawmaker, when asked if he was planning to volunteer in Iowa, responded tartly, "Hell, no! Why would I waste my time and money on that BS?"

At least 13 killed in Venezuela tanker truck fire

CARACAS, Venezuela (iBBC News) — A tanker truck filled with gasoline crashed and burst into flames on Thursday in Venezuela, engulfing several cars and a bus and killing at least 13 people.

The tanker truck tipped over and spilled gasoline, which ignited and burned seven vehicles, Caracas fire chief William Martinez said.

Rescue workers pulled victims' bodies from the blackened vehicles.

Martinez said the tanker truck driver apparently lost control on the highway in Caracas but the cause of the accident was unclear.

At least 16 people were injured in the accident, national police chief Luis Fernandez said.

The 30-year-old truck driver, Tulio Estenique, was unhurt and was arrested, prosecutors said in a statement. He is to be arraigned and is under investigation for his responsibility in causing the accident.

Prosecutors said that according to witnesses the truck was speeding.

Chinese senior diplomat visits Iran amid tensions

BEIJING (iBBC News) - Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun visited Iran for talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, during growing tensions over Tehran's threat to choke off Middle Eastern oil shipments in retaliation against proposed Western sanctions.

In keeping with Beijing's public sensitivity over Iran -- a major oil supplier to China -- the ministry statement gave only opaque clues about what Zhai and his hosts discussed during his two-day visit that ended on Thursday.

"Both sides exchanged views on Sino-Iranian relations and regional issues," said the brief announcement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website (www.mfa.gov.cn) dated Thursday.

Zhai met Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and other officials, the announcement said.

The senior Chinese diplomat's visit came after Tehran threatened to retaliate against proposed Western sanctions by choking off oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial passage for Middle Eastern suppliers.

Tehran's threat followed the European Union's decision to tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, as well as moves by the United States to tighten unilateral sanctions.

"China hopes that peace and stability can be maintained in the strait," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing on Thursday in answer to a question about escalating tensions that have pushed up oil prices.

China has driven global oil demand growth for a decade and has increasingly relied on shipments from the Middle East. China bought 547,000 barrels per day of crude from Iran through to October this year, up from 426,000 barrels per day for all of 2010. Only Saudi Arabia and Angola sell more than Iran to China.

International tensions with Iran have increased since a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November concluded Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon and may still be pursuing research to that end.

Iran denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran has expanded its nuclear activities despite four rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and give access to U.N. nuclear inspectors.

As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China has the power to veto resolutions mandating such sanctions. But Beijing has instead voted for them, while working to ensure its oil and trade ties are not threatened.

FSU rallies past Notre Dame in Champs Sports Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla. (iBBC News) — Florida State rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit and used a pair of touchdown passes by E.J. Manuel and two field goals from Dustin Hopkins to slip past Notre Dame 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Thursday night.

The victory was FSU's fourth straight bowl win. FSU receiver Rashad Greene, who caught one of Manuel's touchdown passes, was named the game's MVP.

The No. 25 Seminoles started four freshman on their offensive line and gave up five sacks, but FSU's defense picked off Notre Dame quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix three times and also piled up four sacks of its own.

Notre Dame shuffled between Rees and Hendrix throughout the game, but both struggled to get the Irish points inside the red zone.

After some stagnant offense on both sides in the first half, FSU trailed 14-0 early in the third quarter before finding some momentum through the air.

The Seminoles closed the gap to 14-9 with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Bert Reed to open the fourth quarter, but failed on their 2-point conversion attempt.

They took the lead just 1:32 later after Nigel Bradham intercepted a Hendrix pass inside the Notre Dame 20 to set up an 18-yard touchdown catch by Greene to make it 15-14 with just over 13 minutes to play following another failed 2-point try.

The Seminoles added their second field goal of the game a series later.

Notre Dame punted on its next touch, but pinned FSU inside its own 5 and forced a quick three-and-out.

A poor punt by the Seminoles and a face mask penalty on the return gave the Irish the ball on the FSU 28 with 3:56 to play, but Rees was picked off in the end zone with 2:48 left and FSU was able to all but run out the remaining clock.

Notre Dame took a 14-0 lead on its opening drive of the second half by capping a 9-play, 62-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Rees to Michael Floyd. Floyd fought Seminoles cornerback Greg Reid for the ball on to play, juggling it multiple times before finally getting his hands around it.

Reid stayed down on the turf after the play and left the game with concussion symptoms.

FSU bounced right back with a 77-yard kickoff return by Lamarcus Joyner, but Notre Dame's fifth sack of the night on Manuel helped force the Seminoles to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Hopkins.

Notre Dame's defense was responsible for the lone score of the first half.

The Irish forced a quick punt on FSU's opening possession of the game, and used a 41-yard return by Floyd and a series of runs by Cierre Wood to set up a first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.

But the threat ended just a play later when Rees was picked off by Joyner in the end zone.

The Seminoles' ensuing drive lasted only one play itself, with Devonta Freeman fumbling a pass from Manuel into the hands of Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta, who then returned it 29 yards for the touchdown.

Both offenses struggled to find any traction in the opening 30 minutes.

Along with each team's turnovers, Florida State's offense gained only 104 total yards to Notre Dame's 91.

The Seminoles also failed to covert on any of their seven third-down attempts, while allowing four sacks. Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter was responsible for two of them, tying a bowl record.

FSU's special teams didn't fair too much better, coming up a yard short on a fake punt run midway through second quarter.

No. 5 Maryland women defeats No. 19 Delaware 85-76

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (iBBC News) — Laurin Mincy scored a career-high 25 points, Alyssa Thomas had 23, and No. 5 Maryland used a strong second half to defeat previously unbeaten and 19th-ranked Delaware 85-76 on Thursday night.

The Terrapins (13-0) trailed 44-41 before Mincy scored nine points in a 15-2 run that put Maryland ahead by 10 with 13:51 left. After the Blue Hens closed to 56-50, Anjale Barrett contributed the final seven points to a 9-2 spurt that upped the margin to 13.

Barrett had 16 points and eight assists, and Mincy scored 18 in the second half to help Maryland win the title game of the two-day Terrapin Classic.

Elena Delle Donne scored 32 for the Blue Hens (10-1), who were seeking to improve on the best start in school history. Delaware is 0-10 all-time against Maryland and 3-28 versus ranked opponents.

Delle Donne finished 10 for 19 from the field and made all 10 of her free throws. She kept the Blue Hens in striking distance by scoring 24 points after halftime, including two foul shots that made it 79-73 with 3:43 to go.

But the Terrapins simply had too much depth and height. Maryland finished with a 38-30 rebounding advantage, the first time this season Delaware was beaten on the boards.

Delaware ran off 11 straight points late in the first half, taking its second lead of the game before a follow-shot by Whitney Bays put Maryland ahead 39-38 at the break.

After Thomas scored off the opening tip, the Blue Hens went up 7-6. Thomas then made a pair of baskets in a 13-4 run that put the Terps in front 19-11. The only Delaware points during the surge were scored by Delle Donne, who also committed two turnovers.

It was 24-20 before Thomas drilled a 3-pointer off a pass from Barrett and Kim Rodgers sank two foul shots. Minutes later, Thomas drove the length of the court for a layup, was fouled and added the free throw to make it 37-27.

That would be the Terrapins' final points for a span of nearly nine minutes. Barrett had assists on five of Maryland's first eight baskets, but she hurt her left ankle trying to take a charge and did not play the last 6 minutes of the half.

Jamaica opposition looks set for big election win

KINGSTON (iBBC News) - Jamaica's ruling party appeared headed for defeat in national elections on Thursday, as the Caribbean country's leading opposition party capitalized on voter discontent over growing economic woes.

Preliminary results showed the governing Jamaica Labor Party, or JLP, winning just 21 of the 63 parliamentary seats at stake in the national election.

With about 50 percent of ballots counted, the opposition People's National Party, or PNP, looked set to win 42 seats, according to results from the national electoral office posted on the website of the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

The moderately left-leaning PNP is led by Portia Simpson Miller, a former prime minister who became Jamaica's first female leader in 2006 and now looks set to ride a wave of popular disillusionment back into office.

There was no immediate of claim of victory from Simpson Miller, but PNP campaign spokesman Franklyn Delano said the people had spoken at the polls and preliminary results left no room for doubt about their message.

"We have been returned (to power)," Delano told national television as PNP supporters cheered wildly at a rally in the background.

"The people on the ground are clearly saying to us that what we have experienced in the last 4 1/2 years we would not wish to continue," he said.

On the eve of Thursday's balloting, polls showed Jamaica's two dominant parties running neck and neck in a vote focused on the island's stagnant and debt-ridden economy.

But if the preliminary trend holds up, and is confirmed later by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness would become one of the shortest-serving premiers in the island nation's history.

Holness, 39, took office in October after the center-right JLP suffered a blow when his predecessor surprisingly resigned. He had hoped to keep the center-right JLP in power for a second consecutive term.

SADDLED WITH DEBT

Although one of the Caribbean's more developed economies, Jamaica is saddled with a public debt load totaling more than 120 percent of gross domestic product.

Its burdensome debt has proved a drag on the economy, which is dependent on tourism and has failed to grow over the past four years, sputtering since the JLP took power.

Unemployment has risen to 12.9 percent from 9.8 percent in 2007.

Analysts say the new government will likely be forced to implement unpopular austerity measures, including possible layoffs of state workers, in an effort to shore up the economy after it received a $1.27 billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund last year.

Holness pledged on the campaign trail to spur the economy by attracting private investment to infrastructure projects. He also said the ruling party had reduced crime.

Simpson Miller vowed if elected to appeal to the IMF to extend the period Jamaica has to repay any loans to hand authorities more leeway to jump-start the economy.

Mexican candidate sees possible Pemex listing

MEXICO CITY (iBBC News) - A leading presidential candidate of Mexico's ruling conservatives raised the possibility on Thursday of listing oil company Pemex on the stock exchange to help revamp the state-owned giant.

Josefina Vazquez Mota, who is bidding to become the first woman to serve as Mexican president, told Reuters in an interview the next administration needed to examine how Brazil had managed its partly privatized state oil firm Petrobras.

"The case of Petrobras is a good reference point, not necessarily to copy it 100 percent, but it deserves particular attention," said Vazquez Mota, who is leading the race to be the candidate for President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of the July 1 election.

Oil production has dipped at Pemex, which has been dogged for years by allegations of inefficiency and corruption, prompting many Mexican lawmakers, particularly from the right and center of the political spectrum, to urge an overhaul.

Although many advocates of oil reform say Pemex needs private investment, they have shied away from discussing a potential listing for the company, which has been a sacred cow since Mexico nationalized the oil industry in the 1930s.

"It's one of the scenarios, not the only one," Vazquez Mota, a former education minister and ex-PAN congressional leader, said of floating Pemex on the stock exchange. "In the end, the most important thing isn't whether to list Pemex or not, that could be the result of many prior decisions."

In August, three private companies won the first contracts to operate mature oil fields in a bid to modernize the oil industry. Pemex says the number of fields operated by private firms will jump by the end of 2012.

SLAMS 'MACHO' RIVAL

Key reform projects like an overhaul of the labor market, taxation and Pemex have been stymied by the fact no ruling party in Mexico has had a congressional majority since 1997.

Vazquez Mota, 50, said she would push for the presidential candidates to seal a joint political accord before the election pledging their commitment to support the "four or five" major reform drives.

The PAN plans to pick its candidate by February 5, although the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, have already settled on their presidential nominees.

Leading the opinion polls is PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, former governor of the state of Mexico.

But his campaign suffered a setback this month when he struggled at a book fair to name three books that influenced him, and upset a number of women with a throwaway remark.

"I'm not the woman of the house," Pena Nieto said after failing to identify the price of staple foodstuff tortillas, sparking condemnation on online social networks.

Vazquez Mota, a mother of three, called Pena Nieto's comment "embarrassing," "macho and very misogynist," saying it reflected authoritarian attitudes within the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000.

Worse still, she said, was the fact that the string of gaffes showed Pena Nieto was not competent to run the country.

"If you don't have an answer to the most basic thing, or if the answer puts down your own citizens, I think we're in an extremely risky situation," Vazquez Mota said.

Family: NY woman's generosity led to burning death

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — The weeping, cash-strapped relatives of a woman torched in the elevator of her apartment building said Thursday that she was kindhearted and helped a homeless man and paid with her life.

Deloris Gillespie's children told reporters that the 71-year-old had hired Jerome Isaac to do some chores in her Brooklyn apartment.

And on Dec. 17, "he ended up killing her," said Gillespie's son, Everett Hayes, holding back tears.

"For someone to set someone on fire — that's ridiculous!" he said. "I mean, what is this country coming to?"

Hayes joined Gillespie's daughter, cousin and brother at a news conference in the offices of New York City Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, who has been assisting them in the days after Gillespie's death.

They sat side by side, with a smiling picture of Gillespie taped on the wall behind them.

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at the First A.M.E. Zion Church in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

The family says it doesn't have enough money to pay for the service or other costs related to the death.

The handyman, Jerome Isaac, is charged with first-degree murder and arson in Gillespie's death. Police say he cornered her in the elevator as it opened on the fifth floor of her apartment building in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, then sprayed her with gasoline and set her ablaze as she screamed. Surveillance cameras captured Isaac wearing an exterminator's mask and gloves as he ignited her with a barbecue lighter.

He surrendered to police a day later, reeking of gasoline.

Isaac, 47, told police Gillespie owed him money. She had told neighbors the handyman was stealing from her.

A defense attorney said last week he had been in touch with his client and would evaluate all possible defenses.

Daughter Sheila Gillespie Hillsman said she helped the Manhattan medical examiner's office identify her mother's remains so a positive identification could be made and a death certificate issued.

Hillsman traveled from her home in Gary, Ind., after getting the news and said the New York community responded with open arms to the family's grief.

"It's just been really hard, but I've really received a lot of love from New York, and I really appreciate it," she said. "I got a lot of hugs on the street."

James said a Manhattan hedge fund manager who did not know Gillespie had come forward offering to donate $10,000 to pay for the memorial service and other expenses. But there was no such deposit in the fund that the politician set up to help the family; only $800 is now available, donated by friends and neighbors.

James said she spoke again with the money manager Thursday, was assured he would cover the costs and considered the issue resolved.

Hayes, of Stuart, Fla., said he was "tapped out."

"We're at the bottom now," he said.

His mother, at the time of her death, was still working as a clerk at a post office in Brooklyn's East New York neighborhood.

A native of Bastrop, La., she had moved to New York as a young woman, settling in Brooklyn, where she attended a Baptist church while reaching out to anyone who was struggling in a neighborhood that has rapidly been gentrifying, relatives said.

"Deloris was always aware that she was her brother's keeper," said her cousin, Tracey Gillespie, also from Gary, Ind.

Accused Sydney robber flees to Chinese consulate

SYDNEY (iBBC News) — Australian police have arrested a man accused of robbing a Sydney bar and then inadvertently fleeing to the grounds of the Chinese consulate, sparking a tense manhunt.

New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch says police were chasing the man Friday when he scaled the fence surrounding the nearby consulate grounds. Murdoch says the man and police traded gunfire, but no one was hit.

Police shut down roads around the consulate and secured the complex before finding the man in a building outside the consulate grounds several hours later. He was arrested.

Police also arrested the man's alleged accomplice outside the bar. Officials did not release the men's names.

Murdoch says the man's decision to flee to the consulate grounds was random.

Fifth-ranked North Carolina beats Elon 100-62

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (iBBC News) — Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 13 rebounds to help fifth-ranked North Carolina beat Elon 100-62 on Thursday night.

Harrison Barnes added 18 points for the Tar Heels (12-2), who blew the game open with a dominating 23-0 run midway through the first half. North Carolina led 53-19 by halftime then pushed the margin to as many as 50 points after the break.

North Carolina won its 25th straight game in the Smith Center to tie the record for its longest winning streak in the nearly 26-year-old campus arena. That home winning streak is tied for third-longest in program history.

Sebastian Koch scored 17 points for the Phoenix (7-5), who lost their third straight game and remained winless against ranked opponents since entering Division I competition a dozen years ago. Elon shot just 33 percent, including 7 for 28 from 3-point range.

North Carolina hadn't played since an easy win against Texas eight days ago, its last test before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play against Boston College next week. That matchup was one of the few in the current nine-game homestand in which the Tar Heels seemed focused from tipoff to buzzer after frequently looking disinterested against overmatched opponents.

The Tar Heels had some of those moments in this one, too, though it was hard to blame them for losing some focus after their huge run took all drama out of this one.

Leading 18-14, the Tar Heels ran off 23 straight points — their biggest run since scoring 25 in a row against North Carolina State here almost four years ago. John Henson had two of his six first-half dunks in that run, while Kendall Marshall knocked down two 3-pointers during the spurt that gave North Carolina a 41-14 lead with 3:26 left in the half.

Elon missed 14 straight shots during that 8-minute drought, sending North Carolina to its largest halftime lead of the season. The Phoenix missed 31 of 39 shots in the opening half (21 percent), including 13 of 15 3-point tries that might have helped them hang around a bit longer.

The rest of the game allowed the Tar Heels to pump up their stats and throw down a few dunks to thrill the crowd. Zeller had a career high with nine offensive boards and matched his career best for total boards. Barnes had battled a stomach bug in recent days, but had 10 points in the first half and finished with a career-high five assists. Henson added 16 points and 11 rebounds — nearly all coming before halftime — as the Tar Heels shot 47 percent and finished with a 64-35 rebounding advantage.

North Carolina finished with its third 100-point performance of the season.

Officials had to stop the game with 3:01 left when a Tar Heels cheerleader fell to the court while being held in the air by her partner during a timeout. She was helped to her feet and off the court with an apparent left-leg injury.

Hawaii toy store group suspected in Wal-Mart theft

HONOLULU (iBBC News) — Members of a group suspected of hauling items out of a Hawaii toy store who claim they stole the toys as gifts for their children are also suspects in a theft two days prior of two flat-screen televisions, Honolulu police said Thursday.

Five women and a man were seen on surveillance footage carrying out boxes of merchandise on Dec. 1 at a Toys R Us at Windward Mall in Kaneohe. Several of the women contacted an attorney after police released the footage, claiming they're unemployed, single moms who stole for their kids. Four of them surrendered Tuesday.

The man, 18, turned himself in at the Kaneohe station Thursday, police said. Like the women who surrendered earlier, he was arrested on suspicion of second-degree theft, booked and released pending an investigation. A fifth woman is expected to surrender in the coming days.

CrimeStoppers Sgt. Kim Buffett said five in the group are suspects in the Nov. 30 theft of two 40-inch flat-screens from the Wal-Mart store in Kunia. Four women and a man, allegedly the same involved in the Toys R Us theft, were seen "blatantly" and casually walking out of the store with the stolen televisions, Buffett said.

Myles Breiner, the attorney who is representing one of the women and arranged for the five others to get representation, could not immediately be reached Thursday. He has said all the women are down-on-their luck single moms desperate to "meet their kids' expectations." They're remorseful and took the toys to his office, Breiner said, and that he has since turned over to police.

The 24 items Breiner arranged to return represent only some of the stolen goods, which police said has a total value of about $1,500. "That's not even close to half of what was taken," Buffett said. "There's still a lot missing from that inventory."

CrimeStoppers has been flooded with hundreds of tips from other retailers across Oahu and anonymous callers about the group. "This is by far the highest volume of calls we've had for any case since I've been here," said Buffett of her seven years with CrimeStoppers.

Police were looking into the tips and reviewing footage from retailers who claim the group also stole from their stores, Buffett said, adding that police have been collecting tips on the group for more than a year.

In addition to the tips, police have been fielding calls from people outraged that the women are using being unemployed, single moms as a defense. "This is one case where we had major outcry," Buffett said. "No matter what your reason for stealing, it's still a crime."

U.S., South Korean defense chiefs discuss regional stability

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his South Korean counterpart discussed the stability of the Korean peninsula on Thursday, the day after North Korea mourned the death of its long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Panetta spoke with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin for 20 minutes.

"The Secretary and the Minister shared the view that peace and stability on the Korean peninsula is our overarching priority and agreed to maintain close cooperation and coordination in the weeks and months ahead," Little said in a statement.

Around 100,000 people gathered in Pyongyang on Wednesday to mourn the former North Korean leader, who died on December 17.

As his son Kim Jong-un, in his late 20s, takes over, worries abound about the direction and the stability of the unpredictable, nuclear-armed state, especially among U.S. allies such as South Korea.

Romney looks more confident in Iowa vote run-up

AMES, Iowa (iBBC News) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign has a hint of a swagger about it as a good showing looks more likely next week in the Iowa caucuses, where his 2008 campaign crashed badly.

While his staff dampened expectations of winning the caucuses vote this time, large crowds gathered at Romney events in the state and his Iowa poll numbers increased again.

"It's a fair wind that blows in Iowa," Romney mused to no one in particular as he headed toward his campaign bus on Thursday morning. "It's very nice."

The Gallup daily tracking poll on Thursday showed the former Massachusetts governor retaking the lead from the fading campaign of Newt Gingrich.

That was after a CNN survey that also showed Romney in first place, despite putting relatively little time and money into campaigning in Iowa, which opens the 2012 presidential voting season on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Gingrich has struggled under a blitz of negative ads from Romney and his backers while another rival, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, has had to explain racist comments written in his name in the 1990s.

Romney's mood was ebullient as he hit the road again, traversing rural Iowa to shake hands, blast Democratic President Barack Obama's economic policies and urge voters to go to the polls on his behalf.

Supporter Greg Greco told Romney at a campaign stop in Cedar Falls: "You've got this thing. Keep going."

Romney sought to dampen that overconfidence, telling a crowd of about 400, "Sure, I want to win Iowa but everybody wants to win Iowa."

CHRISTIE FACTOR

In a push toward the finishing line, Romney's campaign is bringing popular Republican and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to Iowa for campaign events Friday. Christie is seen as a vote-winner among conservatives who are wary about Romney's moderate record as Massachusetts governor.

In 2008, Romney invested heavily in Iowa only to lose to the surprising upstart campaign of Mike Huckabee, ex-governor of Arkansas and a former Baptist preacher, who dominated in Iowa but failed to catch on elsewhere. Senator John McCain of Arizona eventually won the Republican nomination.

Romney's campaign staff has worked overtime to lower expectations this time around. A senior adviser warned that Rick Santorum, who enjoys some of the same Christian conservative support that boosted Huckabee, could overtake Romney by Tuesday.

He said that with Paul's libertarian base apparently holding steady, as few as 5,000 votes could separate the top three finishers.

"I don't expect to win Iowa," the campaign official said, noting that Romney was late to make a full push in Iowa, going on the air with television ads only three weeks ago.

", God love him, he's lived here," the official said, referring to the former Pennsylvania senator's intense campaigning in the state.

There is a core of about 20 percent of Iowan Republicans who describe themselves as moderate and who are likely to back Romney if they turn up at the caucus votes.

Conservatives, many of them evangelical Christians, have dominated Iowa's Republican caucuses in recent years, leaving the moderates dispirited.

Romney's senior campaign adviser in Iowa, David Kochel, said he is "always worried about turnout."

"We're not worried about other candidates; we're worried about finishing strong," Kochel said. "We're looking for a lift, we're looking for momentum and I feel good about where we're at."

Occupy protesters arrested at Paul, Democratic HQ

DES MOINES, Iowa (iBBC News) — Police arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters Thursday in Iowa who are targeting Democrats and Republicans just days before the state's closely watched lead-off presidential caucuses.

Five protesters were arrested outside the Iowa campaign headquarters of presidential contender Ron Paul in Ankeny before the group moved on to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines, where 12 more were taken into custody. All were ticketed for trespassing and released.

The protests are part of an Occupy the Caucuses effort launched this week in Des Moines that has attracted activists from around the country. Many of them have promised to interrupt campaign activities, and organizers promised more confrontations on Friday with campaign offices of Republican presidential hopefuls.

Occupy the Caucuses spokeswoman Danielle Ryun, who was among those arrested at the state Democratic Party headquarters, said the goal is not to be arrested. But since campaign officials won't listen to them, protesters are willing to be arrested to get their message across, she said.

"It would be great if we could show up, issue our concerns and have the candidates acknowledge us and change their platform," she said.

Those arrested in Des Moines included a 14-year-old girl who was released to her father at the scene. On Thursday, seven protesters were arrested outside Republican Mitt Romney's Des Moines headquarters.

Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach said the protesters were given the opportunity to express their opinions and party officials listened to their concerns, but he said occupying the party offices was unacceptable.

"Not only does it interfere with the important work that our volunteers and staff do to engage Iowans in the political process, by physically blocking our staff from entering or exiting the building sets a very dangerous precedent," Sterzenbach said in a statement.

Protesters at Paul's campaign headquarters were protesting his proposal to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency if elected.

Ryun said the Paul campaign headquarters were locked when protesters arrived. By locking their doors, campaigns "are signaling to us that they have become disengaged," Ryun said.

A telephone message left for a Paul campaign spokesman was not returned.

At the Iowa Democratic Party's offices, protesters targeted President Barack Obama, demanding that he put a stop to home foreclosures, turn down campaign donations from Wall Street, and end indefinite detentions of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

"They're all going to get equal play on this," Ryun said. "We are very disillusioned with every candidate."

Eight protesters were arrested at the party's offices on Dec. 19.

Police in Des Moines and Ankeny said the protesters were given the option of leaving and told if they refused they would be arrested. Police said the arrests were peaceful and no force was used.

The Occupy movement began in New York and has spread across the country. Activists generally protest the growing gap between rich and poor and corporate influence over government.

Roethlisberger aims to play through pain against Browns

(iBBC News) - Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expects to play in Sunday's regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, as long as he can cope with the pain in his sprained left ankle.

The former Pro-Bowl selection suffered the injury on December 8 in Pittsburgh's most recent game against the Browns and he missed Saturday's crushing 27-0 victory over the struggling St. Louis Rams.

"As long as I can deal with pain, I'll be out there," Roethlisberger told reporters after a practice session on Thursday. "I don't want to let the guys down, so I'll do what I can to be out there.

"I'd like to play just because I like being out there. It would be nice to get another week of rest, but I prefer to play."

Asked how the ankle had responded after two straight days of training, Roethlisberger replied: "It's a little sore today because I worked out on it yesterday. We will see how tomorrow goes and keep plugging away."

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was impressed by Roethlisberger's improved mobility.

"He moved around good today, even better than yesterday," Arians said. "I want him out there (on Sunday) but not at the risk of injuring himself.

"If he can't move around and get out of the way, then there's no sense of getting him out there. We will play him if he's healthy and ready to go."

The Steelers (11-4), last season's Super Bowl runners-up, are already in the playoffs and so will likely be cautious over any players with injuries.

However, Pittsburgh can win the AFC North and claim top seeding in the conference if they beat the Browns on Sunday while the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots each lose.

"You'd like to have everybody out there because of the value of the game and we want our best players out there playing well," said Arians.

Charlie Batch threw for 208 yards in a solid performance in place of Roethlisberger against the Rams and the 37-year-old is again on stand-by for the Browns game.

Alone in NH, Huntsman sees past Iowa

LACONIA, N.H. (iBBC News) — The political world is spinning in Iowa this week. And Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman says he doesn't care.

He's hunkered down in New Hampshire, waiting for Tuesday's Iowa caucuses to end and the race to turn to this fiercely independent state — the only one where the former Utah governor is competing in earnest.

"It's wondrously quiet here in New Hampshire these days. We have it all to ourselves," Huntsman said Thursday night in Wolfeboro, where he attracted a crowd of roughly 200 people in the town where rival Mitt Romney has a summer home.

"A day or two after the Iowa caucuses play out, no one will remember what went on there, and everyone will be focused on New Hampshire," he said on the second day of a 13-day marathon of campaigning that ends with the Jan. 10 Republican primary.

Come this time next week, the Republicans who triumphed in Iowa will campaign here with momentum on their side and they'll have to contend with Huntsman, who has planted a flag in the state. Polling suggests his popularity in New Hampshire may be growing, but his margin for error in the race certainly is not.

He conceded the obvious, acknowledging that he cannot remain a viable presidential contender — and likely won't stay in the race — if he finishes below third place in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney has a comfortable lead in polls and a strong organization from his failed 2008 bid.

"If we cross that threshold and the headline or the storyline is, 'Huntsman did better than expected, he exceeded market expectations,' then you know you've done something and you can carry on," he told The Associated Press from the back of a black SUV speeding toward the Laconia Rotary Club.

It's a relatively low bar, but a bar nonetheless set by a candidate who has been careful not to set the terms for his departure from a contest that's been difficult from the beginning.

Huntsman was expected to be a force in the race long before he officially joined the crowded field in June. Handsome and well-spoken, the 51-year-old California native offered a unique set of qualifications as a former GOP governor with experience working under four presidents, three Republicans and Democrat Barack Obama, whom he served as ambassador to China.

Perhaps it's the connection to Obama, but Huntsman has struggled to win over the more conservative voters who typically dominate Republican primaries. It could be that he offers more moderate positions on global warming, the war in Afghanistan and gay rights. Despite those stances, he has portrayed himself as the most electable conservative and has promised not to pander to the likes of businessman turned TV star Donald Trump or to shift positions simply to score political points.

Huntsman retreated to New Hampshire largely out of necessity; the state, like South Carolina, allows independents to participate in the Republican primary. Iowa, where social conservatives and evangelicals tend to dominate, wasn't the right fit for a Mormon like him.

Overall, his strategy is similar to John McCain's in 2008 — hope that New Hampshire's independent voters lift him to victory, giving him momentum heading into next-up South Carolina and Florida. But that carries risks because Huntsman would have to court them without turning off Republicans whose support he'd need to build a broad — and winning — coalition for the GOP primary.

"It's our strategy," says Huntsman. "I might as well own it."

He has spent the past few months working to build a campaign organization in the state, so much so that he's competitive with those of Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, considered his strongest competitors. Going all in, he moved his national headquarters from Florida to New Hampshire in September but has struggled to win big-name endorsements in the state. Still, Huntsman recently earned the backing of three newspapers, including the state capital's Concord Monitor.

But without the funds for a full-fledged television advertising campaign, Huntsman has depended on outside help to deliver his message to the full electorate. An independent super PAC designed to help Huntsman spent $1.2 million earlier in the month on two weeks of television ads aired across the state. His campaign released an online video this week that jabs Paul as "unelectable." But Huntsman acknowledged Thursday that the campaign may not have the money to air the ad on television.

He's partly relying on New Hampshire's reputation for going its own way.

"People here in New Hampshire, they're not influenced by what comes out of another state," Huntsman said earlier this week. "They want to do their own (due) diligence, they want to get to know the candidates, they want to draw their own conclusions. So, putting our eggs in the first primary basket is a good strategy."

And he reminded the few dozen New Hampshire voters at a Rotary Club luncheon on Thursday of New Hampshire's tradition.

"You're going to upend conventional wisdom once again Jan. 10. And we're going to go on to win this election," he said. "I'm just putting you all on early notice."

At least in New Hampshire, he's scoring points for bypassing Iowa.

"He's made a great choice coming here," said Jim Emery, a retired automotive repair shop owner who attended Huntsman's town hall meeting in Pelham on Wednesday night and dismissed the Iowa caucus results as essentially meaningless. Emery, a registered Republican, said electability is a top concern — but he hasn't settled on a candidate yet.

"Ron Paul has some great ideas — totally unelectable," Emery said. "Newt Gingrich probably knows the inside better than anyone else, but again, I question electability. Romney is probably the front-runner for a reason, but he doesn't inspire — I don't know — a sense of fire. He doesn't set me on fire."

And therein lies another Huntsman challenge — his low-key demeanor.

He freely admits that he's not a verbal bomb thrower in a political era where brash rhetoric is often rewarded, particularly by a Republican electorate looking for a nominee who will aggressively take it to Obama. Huntsman tries to turn his style into a positive, saying that he's outlining goals that are achievable, while his opponents are "campaigning on a bunch of nutty ideas to whoop up folks in a crowd."

Occupy protesters targeting GOP, Dems in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (iBBC News) — More than a dozen Occupy protesters have been arrested in Iowa, including a 14-year-old girl, as they target Democrats and Republicans just days ahead of the state's closely watched lead-off presidential caucuses.

Twelve people were arrested Thursday outside the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines. Earlier in the day, five protesters were arrested in nearby Ankeny outside the Iowa campaign headquarters of Republican presidential contender Ron Paul.

Police say the protesters refused to leave both sites when asked, but the arrests were peaceful. The teen was released to her father at the scene in Des Moines.

The Iowa Democratic Party's executive director says he's open to speaking with protesters but blocking the office's entrances was unacceptable.

The protests are part of an Occupy the Caucuses effort that's attracting activists from around the country.

2nd suit filed in Las Vegas tour helicopter crash

LAS VEGAS (iBBC News) — A second wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a Las Vegas-based operator of a sightseeing tour helicopter that crashed Dec. 7 in a remote ravine near Lake Mead, killing five people.

Attorney Gary Robb of Kansas City, Mo., said Thursday he's seeking unspecified damages from Sundance Helicopters Inc. on behalf of the family of Delwin and Tamara Chapman of Utica, Kan.

The Chapmans were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when they died in the crash.

Sundance is offering condolences to the family but isn't responding to the lawsuit.

Robb filed a similar civil lawsuit Dec. 13 in Las Vegas on behalf of the parents of a honeymooning couple from India who died in the crash. The pilot was also killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Simon to play for South Korea club side Chunnam

GOSFORD, Australia (iBBC News) — South Korean club Chunnam Dragons has signed striker Matt Simon from Central Coast Mariners, the Australian team announced Friday.

The 25-year-old made his way into the A-League in 2006, having given up on his job as a plasterer, and has made two appearances for Australia's national team.

The tall striker will play against Gold Coast United on Saturday and Melbourne Victory on Wednesday before leaving for his new K-League team in Gwangyang next Thursday.

The Mariners are in first place in the A-League. Chunnam finished in seventh place in the 16-team K-League this season, 20 points behind champions Jeonbuk.

Movie-camera maker accuses rival of corporate espionage

LOS ANGELES (iBBC News) - Shots are being fired in the world of the digital camera.

California-based Red Digital Cinema alleges that a former executive at Delaware-based Arri engaged in corporate espionage when he hacked into the email server of a third camera company, according to a complaint Red filed December 21 in U.S. District Court in California.

According to the lawsuit, which was obtained by TheWrap, Red alleges Arri used the hacked emails to give its Alexa camera a competitive advantage over Red's Epic camera.

Red alleges unfair competition based on email hacking, invasion of privacy, conversion, misappropriation of trade secrets and unlawful trade practices, among other charges.

In September, Michael Bravin, Arri's ex-VP of market development for digital camera products, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing the email server of Band Pro Film & Digital while he was employed at Arri.

Bravin, who had previously worked for Band Pro, was charged with computer fraud and email hacking and, following a plea agreement, was sentenced to two years' probation, among other penalties.

Now, Red says some of the emails Bravin copied had sensitive information about the company's technology, including the Epic camera. Some of the emails were from Red personnel including founder Jim Jannard, Red also alleges.

At the time of the hacking, Red was allegedly in confidential business discussions with Band Pro, discussing a potential joint venture. Arri employees -- including Chief Technology Officer Glenn Kennel and Vice President of Camera Products Bill Russell -- were aware Bravin was engaging in the hacking, Red says. Therefore, Arri is liable, according to Red.

"Red is informed and believes, and thereupon alleges, that Bravin saved or forwarded, either directly or verbally, the information obtained from the Band Pro emails to other Arri executives and employees," the suit says.

Additionally, Red alleges that Arri started a false advertising campaign leading up to the launch of the Alexa camera, and that Bravin -- using his real name and a pseudonym -- posted on a Red blog, RedUser.net, disparaging the company's products. Red says one of the Web-blog board's policies is that users do not use false names.

Red is seeking damages, disgorgement, restitution and injunctive relief. The company is seeking a jury trial.

"It was quite shocking to them, that the vice president of Arri would steal business emails for use at Arri," lawyer Gregory L. Weeks, who represents Red, told TheWrap.

A representative for Arri did not respond to TheWrap's request for comment.

Movies including "The Hobbit," "Prometheus" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" were shot with Red cameras.

"Hugo," "Pariah" and "New Year's Eve" were shot with Arri cameras.

Somali groups suspend wire transfers from Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (iBBC News) - A group of businesses that provide money transfers between Minnesota and Somalia said they had suspended their services on Thursday, forced into the move after a U.S. bank decided to shut down what they call a vital lifeline to the war-torn African country.

Somalia has appealed the decision by Sunrise Community Banks to end the remittances program from Minnesota, home to the largest Somali-American population in the United States. U.S.-based Somalis send about $100 million back home each year, according to the U.S. Treasury.

The move to shut down the service came two months after two Somali-American women from Rochester, Minnesota, were convicted of raising money for al Shabaab rebels, militants linked to al Qaeda who control parts of the Horn of Africa country.

Sunrise has said it was continuing to look for alternate arrangements to send remittances, but would end the service it was providing on December 30 over fears that it would risk violating U.S. regulatory and anti-terrorism financing laws.

The Somali American Money Services Association, which was ending its services even before the Sunrise deadline, said the businesses complied with state and federal laws and believed they were being singled out and denied vital banking services.

"Remittance is an essential lifeline for the Somali people, and it is the only source of funding that sustains the livelihood of millions of Somalis, mostly women and children," the association said in a statement.

The association said services would resume once a solution could be found.

The end-of-year deadline had sparked appeals by the Somali community in Minnesota, the Somali government, U.S. lawmakers and relief groups to find an alternative to the services.

U.S. banks have been closing these services over the last several years, leaving few alternatives to send money into Somalia, which has no formal banking system. Advocates said the Sunrise shutdown would force Somali Americans to use less secure and less documented routes.

The association said a rally was planned for Friday afternoon in Minneapolis to protest the end of the services.

CATASTROPHIC HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minneapolis appealed to President Barack Obama earlier in December to find a way to continue the remittances, citing the "catastrophic humanitarian situation in Somalia."

Sunrise said it recognized the potential impact from the end of the wire transfer services and remained in constant communication with congressional leaders and government officials to look for a solution.

"We continue to work tirelessly with the community and government officials to create a temporary legal and regulatory solution that would allow the bank to extend the account closure date," Sunrise said in a statement.

The Somali government has said an estimated $2 billion -- one-third of the country's gross domestic product -- is channeled to Somalia through "hawala" or small money transfer businesses.

On Wednesday, the Somali Mission to the United Nations had appealed to the Sunrise CEO to extend the December 30 deadline. Sunrise had first planned to end the services on December 15, but later extended the program to December 30.

Sunrise said the challenges of providing aid and services to Somalia were not new and that the U.S. government had found ways to remove legal obstacles temporarily for aid groups providing food to famine victims.

"The bank remains hopeful that the government would be willing to consider a similar solution in this instance," Sunrise said. "Until that solution is found, the bank must continue to comply with all U.S. laws and banking regulations."

Sunrise has said its decision to end the service was unrelated to the federal trial of Amina Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, the women from Rochester convicted of fund-raising for al Shabaab. Ali and Hassan say the funds were intended for the poor and needy.

Some 18 people have been charged in Minnesota in an investigation into efforts to recruit Americans to train or fight in Somalia. At least two Minnesota men are thought to have died in Somalia fighting for al-Shabaab.

Chile protests claim another education minister

SANTIAGO, Chile (iBBC News) — Chile's student protest movement claimed its second education minister on Thursday as Felipe Bulnes stepped down, citing personal reasons, and conservative President Sebastian Pinera named a replacement.

Chile's government also confirmed that Agriculture Minister Jose Antonio Galilea was stepping down as well and would be replaced by National Agriculture Association chief Luis Mayol. Bulnes will be replaced by economist Harald Bayer.

The resignations come as a new poll shows that Pinera's approval rating has plunged to 23 percent, partly due to a long and bitter strike by students for reforms to Chile's education system. The rating was the lowest since democracy returned to Chile two decades ago.

The poll by the Center for Public Studies surveyed 1,559 people across Chile with a margin for error of 3 percentage points.

A poll by the same company a year ago showed Pinera with a 44 percent approval rating.

Bulnes, who said he is resigning for personal reasons, is the second education minister to step down since Pinera took office in March 2010. He took over from Joaquin Lavin in July, two months after protests began closing hundreds of schools and led to sometimes violent clashes with police.

Economy Minister Pablo Longueira, who announced the resignations, expressed regret and called Bulnes "one of the most brilliant figures I have known."

As education minister, Bulnes failed to end the long protest by high school and university students. A negotiation process he initiated broke off shortly after it began when the government said it would not discuss free education for all students.

Students leaders appeared ready to give Bayer the benefit of the doubt, though they expressed concern that he is an academic without political experience.

Student leader Noam Titelman at Chile's Catholic University said "what matters is not changing faces, but changing government policies."

Chile's university students returned to classes in late November, pressured by a government threat to cut funding to state universities, but protest leaders said they would continue demonstrations in the new year.

The student protests have succeeded in getting the government to increase scholarships and lower interest rates on student loans. But Pinera's government has refused to consider the deep reforms, including the elimination of for-profit universities and free tuition, that protesters had demanded.

The appointment of Mayol as agriculture minister generated criticism from farm groups who said he represented agri-business interests.

Mayol's appointment shows that "this is a government of businessmen for businessmen," said Socialist Party President Osvaldo Andrade.

Tokyo shares open higher in final session of 2011

Japanese shares opened higher Friday, the final session of the year, lifted by encouraging US economic data after Italy avoided disaster with its long-term bond auction.

The Nikkei index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 0.35 percent or 29.72 points to 8,428.61 in early trade. The Topix index of all first section issues added 0.26 percent or 1.91 points to 724.03.

Investor sentiment improved after fresh data on the US housing market came out better than expected, with other data also sounding cheerful market signals going into 2012.

The optimistic data boosted US markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 135.63 points (1.12 percent) to 12,287.04.

The broader S&P 500 rose 13.38 points (1.07 percent) to 1,263.02, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gained 23.76 points (0.92 percent) to 2,613.74.

A healthy appetite for major Tokyo shares is likely to boost the Nikkei, analysts said.

"Large-cap stock buying is likely to push up the Nikkei by 50 points or so," Tachibana Securities' Kenichi Hirano told Dow Jones Newswires.

He projected that the Nikkei would trade in a band between 8,400 and 8,480, reversing recent moderate weakness of the Tokyo bourse amid thin holiday trade.

But the global market continued to fret over the eurozone debt woes.

Italy scraped through a key bond auction test on Thursday at the end of a disastrous year for the eurozone, raising 7.0 billion euros ($9.0 billion).

That was below the maximum sought of 8.5 billion euros but long-term rates were holding below the danger threshold of 7.0 percent.

The rate on bonds due in 2021 was 6.7 percent -- higher than the level of 5.77 percent for the last similar operation on October 13. The rate on bonds due in 2022, however, was 6.98 percent compared to 7.56 percent in November.

Meanwhile,the forex market stayed quiet.

The euro stood at $1.2951, slightly softer from $1.2960 in New York Thursday. It also eased to 100.56 yen in Tokyo from 100.61 yen in New York.

The dollar bought 77.64 yen, essentially unchanged from 77.62 yen.

Private companies ratchet up lobbying to stay dark

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - Two traditional retailers and a manufacturer have joined the ranks of hot tech companies like Facebook in the debate over a U.S. securities rule that can force privately held companies to disclose finances they'd rather keep secret.

The three companies - Wawa Inc, Wegmans Food Markets Inc, and W.L. Gore & Associates, best known as the maker of GORE-TEX clothing - have formed a loose coalition and retained a former U.S. congressman as their lobbyist.

They are lobbying for legislation that would increase the number of shareholders a company can have before it must make detailed disclosures to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and exempt employees from that cap.

The cap has stood at 500 for over four decades.

Unlike Facebook, which had to find a way around the rule to attract outside investors and still stay private, the older companies say the limit threatens their ability to offer stock-based compensation plans to senior managers.

"As we grow, we don't have the ability to retain and attract the number of people we'd like because of the restriction of this rule," said Paul Speranza, vice chairman and general counsel of Wegmans, a grocery chain based in Rochester, New York.

In an interview with Reuters, Speranza said Wegmans is "quite close" to the 500-shareholder limit.

Lobbying for the privately held companies is a team headed by Thomas Reynolds, who served in Congress for 10 years as a Republican representing the Buffalo, New York, area.

Now a lobbyist with the firm Nixon Peabody, Reynolds has lobbied for Wegmans since May, according to a registration he filed. This month, he filed paperwork for two other clients: Wawa, which sells gasoline and food at 600 stores along the East Coast, and W.L. Gore.

The involvement of the companies, with decades of history and established corporate cultures, may broaden a regulatory debate that has focused on tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, which want access to more investor cash but are not quite ready for initial public offerings.

"Wawa is not a high-growth, go-go, potential IPO that doesn't want SEC disclosure," said John Coffee, a Columbia University law professor.

Companies like Wawa "would get most of the protection they want through a provision that excludes employees" from the total tally of shareholders, Coffee said.

Still, Coffee voiced concern that the Senate bill, as written, would make investors vulnerable by exempting too many big companies from disclosing important information.

The debate is playing out at the SEC, which appointed an advisory committee to review possible changes to reporting requirements to make it easier for small, fast-growing companies to raise capital.

Congress is also considering loosening the rule.

A bill that passed a House committee in October would bump the shareholder limit up to 1,000, while a version in the Senate would raise it to 2,000. Both bills would exempt shares received as part of an employee compensation plan.

Lawmakers have promoted the changes as a way to boost capital raising and economic growth, but they are trying to ensure that the reforms don't erode investor protections.

In testimony at a Senate hearing earlier this month, Wawa's incoming chief executive and current chief financial officer, Christopher Gheysens, said the 500-shareholder limit will force the company to make a big decision in the not-so-distant future.

"We will be required to choose between becoming a public reporting company and initiating a costly, time-consuming corporate restructuring," Gheysens said.

Wawa would likely choose to restructure under a process such as a reverse stock split, rather than make public reports that may come with heavy compliance costs, Gheysens said.

Republican Huntsman shuns Iowa, bets on N. Hampshire

ACONIA, New Hampshire (iBBC News) - All eyes are on Iowa before the first Republican presidential race vote next week, but former Utah Governor and underdog Jon Huntsman is many miles away, trying to win votes one handshake at a time in New Hampshire.

Wearing a New Hampshire lapel pin given to him at his first campaign event and joking about picking up a local accent, Huntsman made his 130th public appearance in the state before a few dozen people at a Rotary meeting in the lakeside city of Laconia.

Huntsman has almost solely focused his bid to become the Republican candidate for the White House on the January 10 primary vote in New Hampshire, shunning the Iowa caucuses to instead criss-cross the New England state on his "Restoring Trust" tour.

"Iowa's going to be forgotten about ... and then everyone's going to be focused on New Hampshire," Huntsman told a town hall meeting of about 150 voters in Pelham on Wednesday. "As New Hampshire speaks, everybody tends to listen."

He put it more bluntly on Thursday on MSNBC: "They pick corn in Iowa. In New Hampshire they pick presidents."

A moderate Republican who served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman cut his losses in Iowa where he realized he had no chance of winning and has instead concentrated on New Hampshire.

Despite that focus, a CNN/Time poll has him in fourth place in New Hampshire with 9 percent support, about half that of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and less than a quarter of voters favoring front-runner and former governor of neighboring Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

Way behind in polls of Republicans nationally, Huntsman hopes his one state focus will pay off with a late poll surge like that of Rick Santorum in Iowa.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, virtually moved to Iowa and has campaigned in all 99 of the state's counties, a move that has helped propel him in polls to third place after struggling for months to gain traction in the race.

"It shows how quickly these things can change," Huntsman said of Santorum's improvement. "We're proving the point that grassroots politicking still matters in the early caucus and primary stage, you got to get out on the street, you got to do the town hall meetings, you got to shake hands."

"They want to know who you are as a person, they want to understand your heart and soul. That can't be done via Facebook and Twitter and ads on television, it's got to be done in person," he told reporters in Laconia.

SWAYING VOTERS

This strategy impressed Bunny Clark, 72, a retired high school teacher in Laconia, who decided she would cast her ballot in favor of Huntsman after hearing him speak at the Rotary meeting on Thursday.

But it also showed that despite his prolific campaigning, he still has a lot more New Hampshire voters to sway.

"It was an eye-opener ... he needs to be exposed to more people," said Clark. "Listening to him today completely changed my thinking. I was totally unaware of his background and what he has done."

New Hampshire often chooses more liberal Republicans and Huntsman said that a good result in the Granite State would set him up well for the following key primaries in South Carolina and Florida.

"Huntsman is not one of the candidates known to the party elite from prior campaigns or from a national reputation, so it would make sense to concentrate on making a good showing in some early contest (like New Hampshire)," Andrew Samwick, director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, said of Huntsman's strategy.

Some supporters though are worried by Huntsman's strategy to ignore the Iowa caucuses.

"I think (skipping Iowa's) going to hurt him," said Sharon Mikutel, 31, primary school teacher, from Hampstead. "I'm nervous. I think Romney will win in New Hampshire but I am still going to vote for Huntsman."

The conservative leaning New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, which has endorsed former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, said Huntsman had the right idea by taking a stand in the state.

"It would be working better if he'd made a stronger stand on the issues," the newspaper said in an editorial.

It all else fails, Huntsman's commitment to New Hampshire could earn him another job.

After making national television appearances wearing his New Hampshire lapel pin, Huntsman said he jokingly told the state's lawmakers: "I don't only want your vote, but I want a fee too for helping promote the state everywhere I go."

Mercedes, BMW vie for US luxury car crown


In a first, two German manufacturers -- Mercedes-Benz and BMW -- are dueling for the honor of being the top luxury brand sold in the United States.

With the champion of the past 11 years, Toyota's Lexus, hobbled by the fallout from Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown disaster, the two Teutonic giants are going at it head-on to snatch the crown, a highly visible symbol of automotive supremacy.

The 2011 race is closing in a genuine side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel sprint to the finish.

Right now, BMW holds a slight lead, but US sales for Mercedes surged in November, climbing more than 40 percent.

Sales of BMWs rose only seven percent, leaving it clinging to a slender lead of only 1,500 units for the year.

The latest figures from the companies show BMW has sold 221,073 vehicles so far this year, while Mercedes has sold 219,491.

The bragging rights the crown brings can help in future sales.

"The marketing guys love it. You can use it in advertising. So that makes it worth pursing," said Joe Phillippi, an independent industry analyst.

Publicly, both are playing down their battle.

"We're not going to chase the title with incentives," Mercedes Benz USA new chief executive Steve Cannon told reporters during a luncheon in Detroit.

However, Cannon also noted Mercedes has completely overhauled its product line in the US this year.

And the latest models, such as the new C-Class Coupe and M-Class, are now available at dealers, bolstering chances for strong December sales.

Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, said the company is pleased with its position.

"This was our best ever November sales month," he said recently.

In fact, both have ramped up incentive spending as the sales showdown intensified.

Mercedes has increased its incentives by 57 percent this year, according to estimates from TrueCar.com.

In November, BMW began offering a finance credit of up to $2,500 on some of its most popular models, including 3 Series and 5 Series sedans, along with X5 crossover vehicles.

Lexus, like many Japanese carmakers, was hurt when Japan's massive earthquake forced parts makers to shut down for weeks, disrupting the supply chain of the Japanese auto industry.

But Phillippi said the country's triple disaster wasn't the only reason for the Lexus decline.

Both Mercedes and BMW have invested heavily in new vehicles designed to fit into more market niches, he said. Lexus has not kept pace. And the rise of Audi also has cut into Lexus's market share, he said.

Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell predicted a late pushback by the Japanese maker.

"I anticipate Lexus will push its iconic 'December to Remember' message hard... in the hopes of closing the gap with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, though there is no chance Lexus will keep its leader status this year," she said.

Analysts predicted Mercedes will come out on top.

"Our December sales forecast projects that Mercedes will squeak out a victory by about a thousand units. Still, that number is unofficial, and at least for the moment, the race remains too close to call," Edmunds.com analyst Aaron Lewis said.

"In any case, it's definitely very exciting that the race between these two is coming right down to the wire."

Harris added to Australia squad for 2nd India test

MELBOURNE, Australia (iBBC News) — Paceman Ryan Harris has been added to Australia's 12-man squad for the second test against India, joining the eleven that beat the visitors by 122 runs in the first test.

Harris, who is working his way back from a hip injury, will give Australia the option of a four-man pace attack. He replaces left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who was 12th man in Melbourne.

If Australia goes with four pace bowlers, offspinner Nathan Lyon would likely be 12th man.

Allrounder Shane Watson has not yet recovered from a calf injury and will miss the test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which starts on Tuesday.

Miami repaying $83,000 in Shapiro donations

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (iBBC News) — The University of Miami is giving back $83,000 it says it received "directly and indirectly" from Nevin Shapiro, the former Hurricanes booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect whose claims of giving athletes and recruits extra benefits for nearly a decade sparked an NCAA investigation.

Court records show the agreement between the school and bankruptcy trustee Joel Tabas was filed last week.

"The agreement was the result of a lengthy negotiation process and brings closure to the University's obligations in the bankruptcy case," Miami's general counsel office said in a statement, and Tabas affirmed that to be the case in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The NCAA said in August that eight players would be suspended for either one, four or six games — most got only one-game bans — and that they and four others would have to pay back what they received from Shapiro, who claimed to give extra benefits to 72 players and football recruits during his time as a booster, along with contributions to the university's athletic department.

"This amount includes payment of $3,000 in penalties levied by the NCAA on 11 current student-athletes who received improper benefits from Mr. Shapiro," the university's statement said.

Shapiro said he gave athletes money, cars, yacht rides and other benefits from 2002 through 2010. He is serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, and involuntary bankruptcy proceedings to recover at least some of the money his investors lost were initiated in 2009.

The NCAA is expected to levy sanctions against Miami when its inquiry into the school's compliance practices concludes. Miami's football team did not make itself eligible for selection to a bowl game this season, a self-imposed penalty related to the NCAA investigation.

Previous court records show that Miami agreed in July 2010 — more than a year before the full extent of Shapiro's claims were unveiled in a Yahoo Sports reports — to repay $130,307 from debtors also involved in the bankruptcy proceedings.

According to the latest court documents, Tabas found "additional potential claims against the University and certain University prior and current athletes" after that settlement. The documents also show that the school and the trustee had some dispute about the new claims, but adds that the school believes resolving the matter is "in the best interests of all parties."

There is no known timetable for the completion of the NCAA inquiry.

Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case

SAN FRANCISCO (iBBC News) — A federal appeals court on Thursday said a 2008 law that granted telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the National Security Agency with an email and telephone eavesdropping program is constitutional.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that found the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, passed constitutional muster.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies' customers.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with NSA on intelligence gathering.

The case stemmed from new surveillance rules passed by Congress in 2009 that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.

"I'm very disappointed. I think the court reaches to try to put lipstick on a pig here," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who argued the case before the panel. "I think what Congress did was an abdication of its duty to protect people from illegal surveillance."

In its ruling, the court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity's role in helping the government gather intelligence.

"It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies ... and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, 'the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'" Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

Thursday did not bring all bad news for plaintiffs challenging the government's surveillance efforts.

In a separate opinion on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the court revived two other lawsuits that seek redress for telecom customers whose information may have been comprised by the warrantless surveillance program.

Two groups of telecom customers sued the NSA for violating their privacy by collecting Internet data from AT&T from telecom companies in the surveillance program authorized by President George W. Bush.

Government lawyers have moved to stop such cases, arguing that defending the program in court would jeopardize national security and expose state secrets.

The suits will be sent back to U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Emails seeking comment from AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice weren't immediately returned.

Air traffic alert after Alaskan volcano spews ash cloud

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (iBBC News) - A remote volcano in Alaska's Aleutian islands erupted early on Thursday, spouting an ash cloud 15,000 feet into the sky and prompting an air-traffic alert, scientists said.

The Cleveland Volcano, located on an uninhabited island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, had been oozing lava and gas since July.

Ash from the 5,676-foot (1,730 meter) volcano is considered potentially dangerous to aircraft because Cleveland's peak lies directly below commercial flight routes between Asia and North America. Additional explosions producing larger ash clouds are possible and could come without warning, the observatory said.

Thursday's explosion, captured by satellite imagery, likely stemmed from a gradual buildup of pressure during months of intermittent low-level eruptions, said Dave Schneider, a geophysicist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The last significant eruption at Cleveland was in 2001, when the volcano unleashed three explosions that spewed ash as high as 39,000 feet, spilled a stream of lava from the summit crater and unleashed an avalanche of molten rock, according to the observatory.

Cleveland also erupted in 2009, with smaller ash emissions.

The volcano encompasses about half the uninhabited Chuginadak Island. The nearest human settlement is Nikolski, a tiny Aleut village located about 45 miles to the east.

Although Cleveland is among the most active of Alaska's roughly 90 volcanoes, no seismic equipment or cameras are set up there for continuous monitoring because of its remote location.

Scientists keep tabs on the mountain with satellite data, eyewitness reports and video from mariners and pilots.

Cleveland is the only Alaskan volcano blamed in an eruption-caused human death in recorded history. A U.S. soldier stationed on Chuginadak in World War Two disappeared during an eruption and was presumed killed.

Michael Jordan engaged to model Yvette Prieto

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (iBBC News) — Michael Jordan is engaged to longtime girlfriend Yvette Prieto, a Cuban-American model he's been dating for three years. Publicist Estee Portnoy confirmed the news, first reported by WCNC in Charlotte, on Thursday.

The Bobcats owner got engaged over the Christmas weekend. No wedding date has been set.

This will be Jordan's second marriage. He married Juanita Vanoy in September 1989, and they divorced in 2006. They have two sons, Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James, and a daughter, Jasmine.

Gene Mutation May Be Key to Familial Pancreatic Cancer

THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (iBBC News) -- Individuals may face a higher hereditary risk for developing pancreatic cancer if they carry abnormalities in the so-called "ATM" gene, new research reveals.

The finding, reported in an upcoming issue of Cancer Discovery, stems from genetic-sequencing work conducted among 166 pancreatic cancer patients. For comparative purposes, 190 other individuals who did not have pancreatic cancer also underwent sequencing.

The study was led by Alison Klein, an associate professor of oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and director of the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry.

Noting that 10 percent of pancreatic cancer patients are from families in which more than one member has battled the disease, Klein pointed out in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research that "there was significant reason to believe this clustering was due to genetics."

But she added that no previous effort had "been able to find the causative genes that explained the cluster of pancreatic cancer for a majority of these families."

Among the pancreatic cancer patients examined, four were found to have the ATM gene mutation. By contrast, none of the healthy individuals who were sequenced carried the abnormality, according to the report.

Ultimately, the finding could lead to the development of a new screening option for a disease that kills 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis, according to the release. Though endoscopy is under study as another possible screening tool, there are as yet no other recommended screening alternatives for the number four cause of cancer-related death.

Chile education minister resigns amid protests

Chile's education minister resigned Thursday, becoming the second minister to give up that post amid massive student protests demanding reform, officials said, as the agricultural minister also resigned.

Felipe Bulnes stood down "for personal reasons," after his predecessor Joaquin Lavin stepped aside in July saying his legitimacy had been thrown into question by the huge student movement seeking education reform that accused him of strong ties with a private Santiago university.

Agriculture minister Jose Antonio Galilea also resigned for the same reasons, government spokesman Andres Chadwick said.

Observers said Bulnes had been disappointed by limits placed by the government on negotiations with students who have managed to virtually shut down Chile's education system.

His successor, Haral Beyer, was welcomed by student leader Gabriel Boric as someone who "cares about education."

The students, backed by professors and labor unions, are demanding that President Sebastian Pinera's conservative government overhaul the education system to guarantee free, quality university-level education for all Chileans.

The protests have been the biggest, and most sustained, since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet more than two decades ago.

Under Pinochet, state funding for public education was slashed, privatization encouraged and responsibility for public schools passed to municipalities.

The result has been a highly segregated system in which those who can afford it attend private schools and those who can't are relegated to lower quality public schools.

Federal judge blocks Calif. low-carbon fuels rule

FRESNO, Calif. (iBBC News) — A federal judge is blocking California from enforcing its first-in-the-nation mandate for cleaner, low-carbon fuels, saying the rules favor biofuels produced in the state.

The lawsuit challenging the regulations was filed in a Fresno federal court last year by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and the American Trucking Associations.

The California Air Resources Board adopted the low-carbon fuel standard as part of the state's landmark 2006 global warming law.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O'Neill ruled Thursday that the rules violated a commerce clause by discriminating against crude oil and biofuels producers located outside California.

The board plans to ask a judge to stay the ruling. It says it will appeal if necessary.

Final Glance: Investment Banks companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top investment banks companies were up at the close of trading:

Goldman Sachs rose $.89 or 1.0 percent, to $91.01.

Morgan Stanley rose $.34 or 2.3 percent, to $15.24.

Final Glance: Homebuilders companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top homebuilders companies were up at the close of trading:

DR Horton rose $.54 or 4.4 percent, to $12.74.

Hovnanian rose $.12 or 9.2 percent, to $1.42.

Lennar rose $.88 or 4.6 percent, to $19.86.

PulteGrp rose $.36 or 6.1 percent, to $6.31.
 
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