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Mich. high court reverses Rosa Parks estate ruling

DETROIT (iBBC News) — A decision by the Michigan Supreme Court will remove two attorneys from overseeing the estate of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, a lawyer said Friday.

In a brief order, the court ordered a Wayne County judge to stick to an agreement that puts Parks' friend, Elaine Steele, and a former judge, Adam Shakoor, in charge.

Parks became a civil rights pioneer for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. She later lived in Detroit and died in 2005 at age 92.

Parks left almost all her estate to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, whose purpose is to teach young people leadership and character development.

When Parks' nieces and nephews challenged the estate, a judge appointed John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr. as fiduciaries. Steven G. Cohen, an attorney for the institute, has accused them of eating up more than $200,000 through fees.

The Supreme Court did not comment directly about the performance of Chase and Jefferson, but its order scratches many decisions by Wayne County Judge Freddie Burton Jr., who put the men in charge, Cohen said.

That includes the hiring of Guernsey's Auctioneers in New York to find a buyer for more than 8,000 items that belonged to Parks, possessions that could raise millions for the estate. But the court's decision may force Guernsey's to the sidelines.

"The institute will be reviewing Guernsey's role. It's highly doubtful we'll want Guernsey in control of the collection," Cohen said.

Alan May, a lawyer who represents Chase and Jefferson, declined to comment.

Grocery stores pull Arizona lettuce from shelves

SALT LAKE CITY (iBBC News) — Iceberg lettuce is being removed from groceries in at least seven states after salmonella was found in an Arizona field adjacent to the grower's property.

The California company, Growers Express, says none of its lettuce tested positive for salmonella. The company says it alerted retailers about the neighboring field and sought a withdrawal of the product "out of an abundance of caution."

Company CEO Jamie Strachan says it was a voluntary move. He says his company doesn't own the tainted field but he declined to say who did.

The Kroger Co. and its affiliated Smith's Food and Drug pulled the lettuce from 200 stores in at least seven states, including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn't respond Friday to requests for comment.

Quake rattles New Zealand's Christchurch: USGS

(iBBC News) - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck close to the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake was measured only about 9 miles northeast of the city. It was another in a series of quakes that have rattled the city since a major earthquake killed almost 200 people in the city 10 months ago.

Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta dies at 80

MEXICO CITY (iBBC News) — Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta has died at the age of 80.

Legorreta's best-known work is Mexico City's Camino Real hotel, which was built in 1968. He also oversaw the remodeling of Los Angeles' Pershing Square in 1993.

The hallmark of Legorreta's work was the use of color. He placed a 10-story purple bell tower in the middle of Pershing Square and covered the Camino Real's front exterior walls in pink and yellow.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department and National Arts Council said Legorreta died Friday, but did not give the cause of death.

Legorreta continued the tradition of architect Luis Barragan, who died in 1988. Like Barragan, Legorreta used bright colors, massive solid walls, courtyards and geometric cutout windows to interact with Mexico's abundant sunlight.

Calif. flood plan calls for up to $17B in repairs

FRESNO, Calif. (iBBC News) — California water officials recommended a historic investment in the state's aging flood control system Friday, saying more than half of the state's levees do not meet standards and the system needs up to $17 billion in repairs and investment.

The Department of Water Resources' release of the first statewide flood plan follows a call by Gov. Jerry Brown to refocus state efforts on preparing for the effects of a warming climate as floods from a faster-melting snowpack already place increased strain on the state's aging levees.

Officials and experts say the state's flood control system — a piece-meal collection of 14,000 levees and other infrastructure built along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers by farmers and local governments over the last 150 years — is no longer adequate.

Once a mostly agricultural region that was lightly populated, the Central Valley where the rivers meet has experienced rapid development and population growth.

"The system is based on antiquated technologies, so you have to upgrade it and keep in mind changing societal demands," said Jeffrey Mount, professor and founding director of Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis.

Central Valley's flood risk ranks among the nation's highest. About 1 million Californians now live in floodplains and levees protect an estimated $69 billion in assets, including the state's water supply, major freeways, agricultural land and the valley's remaining wetland and riparian habitat, said Mike Mierzwa, senior engineer in the Central Valley Flood Protection Office.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is a freshwater source for two-thirds of California's population and irrigates millions of acres of farmland throughout the state.

While officials have long known the flood control system was in disrepair, it's the first time they have studied it as a whole, come up with long-term solutions and a priority for investments.

More than half of 300 miles of aged urban levees do not meet modern design criteria, according to newly released analysis. And about 60 percent of 1,230 miles of non-urban levees have a high potential for failure from under-seepage, through-seepage, structural instability, and/or erosion.

In addition, about half of the 1,016 miles of channels are believed to be inadequate to handle projected flooding. And two bridges are in need of repairs.

In 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for California's levee system and ordered levee repairs to the 33 most critical spots. That same year, state voters approved nearly $5 billion in bond funds for flood protection projects statewide.

Legislators also mandated that the state develop a plan to reduce flood risks.

The plan calls for $14 billion to $17 billion in repairs and other investments — including the $5 billion in bond funds already approved. Investments would be spread over the next 20 to 25 years.

Officials said the money would come from a mixture of federal, state and local sources. Voters will need to approve another bond, Mierzwa said.

Most of the money — up to $6 billion — would be spent in urban areas, where thousands of homeowners and their property could be affected by a flood. Another $6 billion would go toward system-wide improvements.

The plan doesn't call for specific projects, but offers recommendations. Those include extensive bypass expansion and the construction of a new bypass; major improvements to intake, weir and gate structures; sediment removal projects; urban and rural levee repairs; fish passage improvements and ecosystem restoration.

The plan doesn't recommend building new reservoir storage, which is very expensive.

Focusing on other projects beyond levee repairs is a good step forward, Mount said.

"There's always the pressure to simply fix the problem, meaning just make the levies taller and stronger. That's the path of least resistance," he said.

By constructing and strengthening levees, Mount said, the state may actually induce development and growth behind the levees and hence increase flood risk. Thus the need, he said, to prioritize flood control investments to areas where risk reduction is greatest — and to choose wisely which areas to develop.

"Climate change has expanded our uncertainties," Mount said. "If trends associated with warming continue, we'll have to constantly upgrade the levees to match these conditions. So we have to consider this constant economic investment."

Environmental groups said the plan was a step in the right direction. Still, John Cain, Director of Conservation for California Flood Management at the nonprofit American Rivers, noted that one concern is the plan doesn't sufficiently tackle the effects of climate change, like sea level rise, and it isn't based on updated projections of what extreme floods could look like.

Another concern, he said, is that the state should not spend all the bond money on levees while leaving improvements such as bypass construction for a later date when funds may not be available.

But Mierzwa said the plan calls for working on levees and other improvements simultaneously. The state is already putting together a team to start feasibility work for two bypass expansions, he said.

Thus far, state officials say they have spent about half of the $5 billion in bond funds on more than 200 projects. Those include flood emergency exercises, 120 critical levee erosion site repairs, the removal of three million cubic yards of sediment from the bypasses and substantial levee improvement projects, among others.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board must adapt the plan by July 2012.

DA asks Wis. Supreme Court to reopen union lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (iBBC News) — A prosecutor asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday to reopen his lawsuit challenging Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining law, contending a justice who voted to dismiss the suit earlier this year got free legal help from the firm defending the law.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne argued in filings with the court that it should vacate its decision because Justice Michael Gableman never disclosed his arrangement with the Michael Best and Friedrich law firm. Wisconsin's ethics code prohibits state officials from accepting free gifts, and the judicial ethics code bars judges from accepting gifts from anyone likely to appear before them.

Ozanne asked the court to reinstate a circuit judge's earlier ruling declaring the law void and disqualify Gableman from participating in further proceedings if he won't recuse himself.

"Reasonable, well-informed people would reasonably question Justice Gableman's ability to be impartial under the facts presented here," he wrote. "Respectfully, any litigant in any case deserves to have his case heard by a judge who has not secretly received a valuable gift from the other side's lawyer."

Gableman's attorney, Viet Dinh, didn't immediately return a message late Friday afternoon. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week that he doesn't believe the free legal services amounted to a gift. A message left at Michael Best and Friedrich's Madison office wasn't immediately returned.

Ozanne filed hid lawsuit in March, alleging Republican lawmakers violated open meetings laws when they convened a committee to revise the collective bargaining measure without proper public notice. The meeting came during the height of massive around-the-clock protests at the state Capitol against the legislation, which eliminated most public workers' union rights.

Walker, a Republican, said the legislation was needed to help local governments absorb deep cuts in state aid, but Democrats saw it as a blatant assault on unions, one of their key constituencies.

The court's conservative four-justice majority upheld the law in June, finding legislative rules trumped the open meetings law. The decision allowed the law to take effect.

Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, issued a one-sentence response to Ozanne's action by email Friday, saying "we are confident the Supreme Court got it right the first time."

Michael Best and Friedrich helped the state Justice Department defend the law.

Gableman had hired the firm to defend him in a 2008 ethics case stemming from one of his campaign ads. The ad accused his opponent, then-incumbent Justice Louis Butler, of finding a loophole for a sex offender who went on to molest another child. The ad didn't mention that Butler failed to get the offender out of prison early and that the offender committed the new crime after he had served his sentence.

Word broke earlier this month that Gableman signed a contingency agreement with the law firm that called for him to pay attorneys' fees only if he prevailed in the case, a deal similar to promises personal injury lawyers make to clients not to collect payment unless they win.

The Supreme Court ultimately deadlocked 3-3 on whether the ad violated the ethics code. That meant Gableman didn't win or lose and didn't have to pay Michael Best and Friedrich for services some legal experts have estimated may have been worth thousands of dollars.

Dinh told the Journal Sentinel the services weren't a gift because the arrangement included the possibility of McLeod getting paid.

A court order forcing Gableman off the union case is highly unlikely. The court said in a 4-3 decision in July that justices can't force each other off cases; only a justice can decide for himself or herself whether he or she should stand down.

Ozanne wrote in his filings that if Gableman doesn't recuse himself, the rest of the court should reconsider that stance as well.

But even if Gableman steps aside, there's no guarantee the court will reopen the case. If no other justice changed his or her mind, a 3-3 deadlock would result.

Public sector unions have filed three other lawsuits challenging the collective bargaining law. Two cases are pending in federal court. The third is pending in Dane County Circuit Court.

2 homes may be lost to sinkhole in eastern Pa.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (iBBC News) — A pair of eastern Pennsylvania homes structurally damaged by a massive sinkhole may have to be demolished.

Allentown fire Chief Robert Scheirer (SHY'-uhr-er) says the 19th-century rowhouses have shifted badly. He says the conditions of several other homes are being assessed.

City officials are unclear on what caused the sinkhole to open Thursday. They don't know if it's caused by a water main break or if a preexisting sinkhole caused the leak.

The Express-Times newspaper of Easton says the hole measures about 25 feet by 25 feet and is about 20 feet deep.

Some residents whose homes were evacuated have been allowed back to retrieve belongings.

Crews worked Friday to prevent the sinkhole from getting larger. The hole also is threatening graves at a cemetery, but the Lehigh County coroner says there are no immediate plans to exhume remains.

MT court restores corporate campaign spending ban

HELENA, Mont. (iBBC News) — The Montana Supreme Court restored the state's century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees in a ruling Friday that interest groups say bucks a high profile U.S. Supreme Court decision granting political speech rights to corporations.

The decision grants a big win to Attorney General Steve Bullock, who personally represented the state in defending its ban that came under fire after the "Citizens United" decision last year from the U.S. Supreme court.

"The Citizen's United decision dealt with federal laws and elections — like those contests for president and congress," said Bullock, who is now running for governor. "But the vast majority of elections are held at the state or local level and this is the first case I am aware of that examines state laws and elections."

The corporation that brought the case, and is also fighting accusations that it illegally gathers anonymous donations to fuel political attacks, said the state Supreme Court got it wrong. The group argues that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, passed as a citizen's ballot initiative, unconstitutionally blocks political speech by corporations.

"We feel Montanans do not forfeit their freedoms of speech and association simply because they associate as a corporation," said American Tradition Partnership executive director Donald Ferguson in a statement. "We are currently reviewing our legal options."

The lawsuit was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens' United decision from last year granting political speech rights to corporations. A lower court then ruled the state ban was unconstitutional in the wake of the high court's decision.

But the Montana Supreme Court on Friday reversed the lower state court's analysis and application of the Citizen United case.

The Montana Supreme Court said Montana has a "compelling interest" to uphold its rationally tailored campaign finance laws that include a combination of restrictions and disclosure requirements.

A group seeking to undo the Citizen United decision lauded the Montana high court, with its co-founder saying it was a "huge victory for democracy."

"With this ruling, the Montana Supreme Court now sets up the first test case for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its Citizens United decision, a decision which poses a direct and serious threat to our democracy," John Bonifaz, of Free Speech For People, said in a statement.

The Montana court agreed with Bullock's argument that past political corruption, led by the famed Butte "Copper Kings" that dominated state politics long ago, gives Montana a compelling interest in regulating corporate spending. They pointed out also that corporations can form voluntary political action committees — subject to disclosure requirements — as a way to remain politically active.

The high court said it could not find the current laws unfairly impeded corporate owners from engaging in political activity. And it said "political" corporations like American Tradition Partnership "act as conduits for anonymous spending by others and represent a threat to the 'political marketplace.'"

ATP has gained notoriety tangling with state campaign finance authorities, and riling Democrats and even some Republicans with hard-hitting attack mailers. It has done so without so far filing disclosures on spending or donors, previously arguing it does not need to do so.

It has a separate state lawsuit challenging the right of the state to penalize it, and a federal lawsuit that challenges many other aspects of state campaign finance regulations and disclosure requirements

The Montana Supreme Court argued there are plenty of ways for corporations to engage in politics, without funneling anonymous money into the process.

"The evidence submitted by the state in the district court similarly demonstrates that corporations, through their political committees organized under Montana law, are and have been a substantial presence and active participants in Montana politics," the court wrote. "The many lobbyists and political committees who participate in each session of the Montana Legislature bear witness. Under the undisputed facts here, the political committee is an easily implemented and effective alternative to direct corporate spending for engaging in political speech."

Two members of the Montana Supreme Court dissented. Both justices Beth Baker and James Nelson said that a state can't impose an outright ban against political spending under the Citizens United decision — even if the U.S. Supreme Court may have got its decision on the matter wrong.

"Citizens United is the law of the land, and this court is duty-bound to follow it," Nelson wrote. "When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least."

FDA says no need to recall Enfamil formula

(iBBC News) - U.S. health officials said they found no trace of Cronobacter, the bacteria that killed two infants in recent weeks, in sealed cans of Enfamil baby formula and that there was no need to recall the Mead Johnson Nutrition Co product.

"Based on test results to date, there is no need for a recall of infant formula and parents may continue to use powdered infant formula, following the manufacturer's directions on the printed label," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a joint statement late on Friday.

The death of one baby, 10-day-old Avery Cornett in Missouri, on December 18, is what prompted Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other retailers to pull some cans of Enfamil Newborn from shelves and federal health regulators to investigate. Cornett drank Enfamil bought from a Wal-Mart store.

The death of a second baby, in Florida, was not known until an update from the FDA and the CDC late on Friday.

Two other babies, one in Illinois and one in Oklahoma, were also reported with infections in recent weeks, but they both recovered.

The agencies, which tested samples taken from several of the families' homes, said they found Cronobacter in an open container of infant formula, an open bottle of nursery water and prepared infant formula.

They said it was unclear how the contamination occurred, which suggests that it could have happened after the packages were opened. The agencies also said there was no evidence indicating that the infections were related.

Based on test results to date, there is no need for a recall of infant formula, the agencies said.

Man charged after Colorado toddler fatally shoots brother

DENVER (iBBC News) - A Kansas man accused of leaving a loaded handgun where a 3-year-old Colorado boy found it and shot his 5-year-old brother dead was charged on Friday with felony child abuse.

Authorities said Adam Dean Laham, 23, left his loaded .32-caliber semiautomatic handgun unsecured while visiting the boys' home in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado earlier this month.

The toddler shot his brother in the chest after finding the weapon in a bedroom where Laham was staying, police said.

The boys' father heard the gunshot and raced to the bedroom, where he saw the 3-year-old holding the weapon. He performed CPR on his older son until an ambulance arrived, but the boy was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The 3-year-old told police he wanted to show his brother the gun and that he accidentally "shooted" his older sibling, according to the affidavit.

Laham, who is being held on a $40,000 bond, told police that the shooting "was totally my fault" because he had not stowed the handgun, an arrest warrant affidavit said.

Prosecutors charged him with reckless child abuse resulting in death. If convicted, he faces up to 48 years in prison.

Laham told investigators he went outside to smoke a cigarette, and gave the boys permission to play video games in the bedroom where he was staying. He told police he always sleeps with a loaded gun at his bedside, and forgot to secure it because he is unaccustomed to being around children.

"He does not have children and is not used to putting it away," the affidavit said.

The December 23 shooting was the first of two fatal gun deaths in Colorado involving 5-year-old children over the Christmas holiday.

On December 26, a 5-year-old girl in south-central Colorado was mortally wounded after the .45-caliber handgun she was handling in her parent's home discharged, said Captain Don Pinover, spokesman for the Fremont County Sheriff's Office.

Police consider that shooting accidental, but prosecutors were weighing whether to file criminal charges in that case, Pinover said.

Bonham Carter and golf prodigy McIlroy lead UK honours

Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter and golf prodigy Rory McIlroy led the list of recipients of Britain's New Year's honours on Saturday.

Bonham Carter received a CBE, or Commander of the Order of the British Empire award -- one step below a knighthood -- after the most successful year of her career, capped by her performance in "The King's Speech", the hit film about the stammering king George VI.

She dedicated the honour to her father, who spent the last years of his life severely disabled after an operation to remove a brain tumour went wrong, and joked that it could lead to changes at home.

"I am wondering, does it mean I get to command? Because at the moment it's my four-year-old daughter who does the commanding in our household. Must inform her of the change in situation," she said.

McIlroy, who this year became the youngest US Open champion for 88 years at the age of 22, became an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire.

"Many people on the honours list have made huge personal sacrifices and contributed significantly to society during their lives," McIlroy said. "I feel very fortunate to be in their company."

He is joined by fellow Northern Irish golfer Darren Clarke, who was a popular winner of the British Open in 2011, five years after his wife died of breast cancer. He was awarded an OBE, the officer rank which comes between the MBE and the upper CBE.

As Britain prepares to welcome the Olympics to London in 2012, there is a strong sporting flavour to the honours list.

Nigel Mansell, who won the Formula One motor racing world crown in 1992, gets a CBE for his charity work helping children and young people.

Veteran cricket umpire Dickie Bird was given an OBE, while there was an MBE for Scottish rugby union player Chris Paterson -- who retired from the game in 2011 after winning a record 109 caps for his country.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the Russian-born 2010 Nobel Prize-winning professors of physics at the University of Manchester in northwest England, were awarded knighthoods.

From the world of showbusiness, veteran comedian Ronnie Corbett, the surviving half of "The Two Ronnies", receives a CBE for services to entertainment and charity.

Clive James, the Australian-born author, broadcaster and critic, was also awarded a CBE.

In the year that Apple founder Steve Jobs died, the company's British-born designer Jonathan Ive was knighted with a KBE (Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire) for his work in shaping the look of the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone.

Two big names behind television formats that have spread around the world -- Peter Bazalgette of Endemol, the company behind "Big Brother", and Paul Smith, of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" creator Celador -- also won honours.

Criminal convictions generally exclude people from receiving gongs.

However, Gerald Ronson, 72, the man who brought self-service petrol stations to Britain in the 1960s, was awarded a CBE for services to charity despite being convicted for his role in the Guinness affair over 20 years ago.

Ronson, the uncle of music producer Mark Ronson, was convicted in 1990 for his involvement in the share-trading scandal. He served six months of a one-year jail sentence, but bounced back to become a property tycoon.

Alex Crawford, the Sky News television reporter who achieved fame by reporting from the war-torn streets of Libya in 2011, said she was surprised to have been awarded an OBE.

"I am staggered and honoured and can't quite believe this is not a prank thought up by one of my more mischievous colleagues," she said.

Honours lists are produced twice a year, at New Year and to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II's official birthday in June.

Most recipients are not celebrities, but people who have given their time for charity work or helping their local communities. Anyone can nominate someone for an award.

New court challenge to Wisconsin union law filed

MADISON, Wisc (iBBC News) - The Wisconsin Supreme Court should void a controversial state law curbing the power of public sector unions because a judge who ruled on the law had a conflict of interest, a county attorney said on Friday.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in a court filing that Judge Michael Gableman should have recused himself from the case.

A divided Supreme Court in June allowed the union law to go into effect by a vote of 4 to 3 with Gableman in the majority. The court would have been deadlocked had Gableman recused himself.

The law set off a fierce national debate on the collective bargaining rights of labor unions and prompted a drive to remove from office nine Wisconsin state senators. Two Republicans who had supported the union curbs were recalled.

The law forced local workers such as teachers to pay more for health care and pensions, and limited the ability of their unions to negotiate wage increases.

Democrats and labor unions are leading a campaign to force a recall election next year of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who championed the union law.

The court filing on Friday said that Gableman should have recused himself because a lawyer who represented the Republican-led state government in the case had represented Gableman on a personal issue.

"Justice Gableman received legal representation from a private law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP in a personal legal matter without any obligation to pay legal fees," the court papers said.

The filing said that Gableman's personal lawyer, Eric McLeod, attended the oral argument before the state Supreme Court on the union law as a representative of the state government.

The filing asked the court to either void the law or force Gableman to recuse himself. Gableman has denied any wrongdoing.

Final Glance: PBM companies

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

CVSCaremark fell $.38 or .9 percent, to $40.78.

Express Scripts rose $.35 or .8 percent, to $44.69.

MedcoHealth rose $.47 or .8 percent, to $55.90.

Final Glance: Media companies

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

Disney fell $.21 or .6 percent, to $37.50.

NY Times fell $.06 or .8 percent, to $7.73.

News Corp. fell $.03 or .2 percent, to $18.18.

TimeWarn fell $.24 or .7 percent, to $36.14.

Viacom rose $.71 or 1.3 percent, to $53.33.

Final Glance: Medical Devices companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top medical devices companies were mixed at the close of trading:

Abbott Labs fell $.10 or .2 percent, to $56.23.

Allergan fell $.39 or .4 percent, to $87.74.

Bard fell $.28 or .3 percent, to $85.50.

Baxter fell $.31 or .6 percent, to $49.48.

Boston Scientific rose $.01 or .2 percent, to $5.34.

Hospira fell $.25 or .8 percent, to $30.37.

Johnson & Johnson fell $.30 or .5 percent, to $65.58.

Medtronic fell $.09 or .2 percent, to $38.25.

St Jude Medical fell $.18 or .5 percent, to $34.30.

Stryker rose $.12 or .2 percent, to $49.71.

Zimmer fell $.02 or percent, to $53.42.

Final Glance: Oil companies

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

Chevron fell $1.07 or 1.0 percent, to $106.40.

ConocoPhillips unchanged at $72.87.

Exxon Mobil fell $.51 or .6 percent, to $84.76.

Marathon Oil fell $.03 or .1 percent, to $29.27.

Final Glance: Pharmaceuticals companies

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

Baxter fell $.31 or .6 percent, to $49.48.

Bristol-Myers Squibb fell $.03 or .1 percent, to $35.24.

Hospira fell $.25 or .8 percent, to $30.37.

Johnson & Johnson fell $.30 or .5 percent, to $65.58.

Eli Lilly rose $.06 or .1 percent, to $41.56.

Merck fell $.03 or .1 percent, to $37.70.

Pfizer fell $.07 or .3 percent, to $21.64.

Final Glance: Railroads companies

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

CSX s rose $.04 or .2 percent, to $21.06.

Canadian National rose $1.34 or 1.7 percent, to $78.56.

Canadian Pacific rose $2.67 or 4.1 percent, to $67.67.

Kansas City Southern rose $.07 or .1 percent, to $68.01.

Norfolk Southern rose $.01 or percent, to $72.86.

Union Pacific rose $.59 or .6 percent, to $105.94.

Final Glance: Silver companies

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

Hecla Mining unchanged at $5.23.

Pan American Silver rose $.74 or 3.5 percent, to $21.81.

Silver Standard rose $.75 or 5.7 percent, to $13.82.

Silver Wheaton rose $.48 or 1.7 percent, to $28.96.

Final Glance: Staffing companies

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

Kelly Services fell $.10 or .7 percent, to $13.68.

Korn Ferry fell $.15 or .9 percent, to $17.06.

Manpower fell $.03 or .1 percent, to $35.75.

Robert Half rose $.12 or .4 percent, to $28.46.

Final Glance: Telecom companies

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

AT&T Inc. rose $.07 or .2 percent, to $30.24.

Sprint Nextel rose $.03 or 1.3 percent, to $2.34.

Verizon rose $.07 or .2 percent, to $40.12.

Final Glance: Health Care Equipment companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top health care equipment companies were mixed at the close of trading:

Becton Dickinson rose $.17 or .2 percent, to $74.72.

Covidien fell $.04 or .1 percent, to $45.01.

Patterson fell $.22 or .7 percent, to $29.52.

PerkinElmer rose $.15 or .8 percent, to $20.00.

Thermo Fisher rose $.02 or percent, to $44.97.

Varian Medical rose $.30 or .4 percent, to $67.13.

Waters fell $.09 or .1 percent, to $74.05.

Final Glance: Homebuilders companies

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

DR Horton fell $.13 or 1.0 percent, to $12.61.

Hovnanian rose $.03 or 2.1 percent, to $1.45.

Lennar fell $.21 or 1.1 percent, to $19.65.

PulteGrp unchanged at $6.31.

Final Glance: Internet companies

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

Akamai Technologies fell $.02 or .1 percent, to $32.28.

Amazon fell $.76 or .4 percent, to $173.10.

eBay fell $.03 or .1 percent, to $30.33.

Google rose $3.50 or .5 percent, to $645.90.

Yahoo unchanged at $16.13.

Final Glance: Investment Banks companies

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

Goldman Sachs fell $.58 or .6 percent, to $90.43.

Morgan Stanley fell $.11 or .7 percent, to $15.13.

Final Glance: Insurers companies

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

MBIA fell $.03 or .3 percent, to $11.59.

MGIC Investments rose $.18 or 5.1 percent, to $3.73.

XL Grp fell $.16 or .8 percent, to $19.77.

Final Glance: Health Care Equipment companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top health care equipment companies were mixed at the close of trading:

Becton Dickinson rose $.17 or .2 percent, to $74.72.

Covidien fell $.04 or .1 percent, to $45.01.

Patterson fell $.22 or .7 percent, to $29.52.

PerkinElmer rose $.15 or .8 percent, to $20.00.

Thermo Fisher rose $.02 or percent, to $44.97.

Varian Medical rose $.30 or .4 percent, to $67.13.

Waters fell $.09 or .1 percent, to $74.05.

Final Glance: Gold companies

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

Barrick Gold rose $.07 or .2 percent, to $45.25.

Gold Fields fell $.02 or .1 percent, to $15.25.

Goldcorp rose $.72 or 1.7 percent, to $44.25.

Newmont Mining fell $.35 or .6 percent, to $60.01.

Final Glance: Food companies

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

McDonalds fell $.48 or .5 percent, to $100.33.

Wendys Co. fell $.01 or .2 percent, to $5.36.

Final Glance: Finance companies

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

Bank of America rose $.10 or 1.8 percent, to $5.56.

Citigrp rs fell $.45 or 1.7 percent, to $26.31.

JPMorgan Chase fell $.17 or .5 percent, to $33.25.

Final Glance: Education companies

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

Apollo Group fell $.21 or .4 percent, to $53.87.

Career Education rose $.15 or 1.9 percent, to $7.97.

DeVry rose $.05 or .1 percent, to $38.46.

Strayer Education fell $.47 or .5 percent, to $97.19.

Final Glance: Durable Goods companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top durable goods companies were mixed at the close of trading:

Snap-On fell $.43 or .8 percent, to $50.62.

StanBlkDk fell $.73 or 1.1 percent, to $67.60.

Whirlpool rose $.13 or .3 percent, to $47.45.

Final Glance: Drugstore companies

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

CVSCaremark fell $.38 or .9 percent, to $40.78.

Rite Aid rose $.02 or 1.6 percent, to $1.26.

Walgreen fell $.37 or 1.1 percent, to $33.06.

Final Glance: Coal companies

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

Arch Coal rose $.40 or 2.8 percent, to $14.51.

Consol Energy rose $.55 or 1.5 percent, to $36.70.

Peabody Energy rose $.61 or 1.9 percent, to $33.11.

Final Glance: Commercial Banks companies

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

First Horizon fell $.02 or .2 percent, to $8.00.

Zions Bancorp fell $.20 or 1.2 percent, to $16.28.

Final Glance: Beverages companies

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

Coca-Cola fell $.19 or .3 percent, to $69.97.

Molson Coors fell $.19 or .4 percent, to $43.54.

PepsiCo fell $.19 or .3 percent, to $66.35.

Final Glance: Airlines companies

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

vjAMR fell $.17 or 32.2 percent, to $0.35.

DeltaAir unchanged at $8.09.

JetBlue fell $.06 or 1.1 percent, to $5.20.

Southwest fell $.04 or .5 percent, to $8.56.

US Airways fell $.16 or 3.1 percent, to $5.07.

UtdContl rose $.03 or .2 percent, to $18.87.

Final Glance: Autos companies

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

Ford Motor rose $.08 or .7 percent, to $10.76.

Honda Motors rose $.59 or 2.0 percent, to $30.55.

Toyota Motor rose $.87 or 1.3 percent, to $66.13.

Final Glance: Aerospace companies

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

Boeing fell $.76 or 1.0 percent, to $73.35.

Goodrich unchanged at $123.70.

Northrop Gruman fell $.41 or .7 percent, to $58.48.

Raytheon fell $.26 or .5 percent, to $48.38.

Court delays border-crossing pollution rule

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) — A federal court Friday put on hold a controversial Obama administration regulation aimed at reducing power plant pollution in 27 states that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.

More than a dozen electric power companies, municipal power plant operators and states had sought to delay the rules until the litigation plays out. A federal appeals court in Washington approved their request Friday.

Republicans in Congress have attempted to block the rule using legislation, saying it would shutter some older, coal-fired power plants and kill jobs. While those efforts succeeded in the Republican-controlled House, the Senate — with the help of six Republicans — in November rejected an attempt to stay the regulation. And the White House had threatened to veto it.

The rule, finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in July, replaces a 2005 Bush administration proposal that was rejected by a federal court.

The Bush-era rule, which is expected to cost the $1.6 billion annually to comply, will remain in effect. The new rule would have added $800 million a year to that price tag. But those investments would be far outweighed by the hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings from cleaner air, according to the EPA.

In the first two years, the EPA estimates that the regulation and some other steps would have slashed sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from 2005 levels, and nitrogen oxides will be cut by more than half.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution from power plant smokestacks can be carried long distances by the wind and weather. As they drift, the pollutants react with other substances in the atmosphere to form smog and soot, which have been linked to various illnesses, including asthma, and have prevented many states and cities from complying with health-based standards set by law.

Environmentalists on Friday said they would continue to defend the regulations, which are essential for some states to be able to meet air quality standards for soot and smog and are far more protective than the ones proposed under the Bush administration.

"The pollution reductions at stake are some of the single most important clean air protections for children, families and communities, across the eastern half of the United States," said Vickie Patton, the general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

But Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a coalition of power companies, said in a statement Friday that the ruling was the "first step to setting it right."

"The underlying rule was the subject of hasty process, poor technical support, unequal application and substantial threat to jobs, power bills and reliability," he said.

Six states— Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, and Ohio — had asked the court for the delay. All would have had to reduce pollution from their power plants under the regulation. They were joined by Ames, Iowa, local power plant operators and power generating companies, including Entergy Corp., Luminant Generation Co. and GenOn Energy.

The court is asking that oral arguments take place by April 2012.

Bolivia to sell rice seized from US businessman

LA PAZ, Bolivia (iBBC News) — Bolivian authorities plan to sell more than 13,000 metric tons (14,000 tons) of rice seized from a jailed American businessman, an official said Friday.

Jacob Ostreicher has been jailed without being charged since June in connection with a money laundering investigation.

Ostreicher, who runs a New York flooring business, has said he went to Bolivia to salvage a rice-growing investment after the local manager defrauded investors and planted some of their rice on land owned by the brother of a Brazilian drug trafficker.

Prosecutors allege the $25 million invested in the rice venture was obtained illegally. Ostreicher maintains he is innocent.

Moises Aguilera, who heads a Bolivian agency in charge of handling seized goods, said the rice is to be sold in mid-January so that it doesn't go bad.

"Each ton is valued at between $80 and $100," Aguilera said. At that price, the sale would bring in more in than $1 million.

Ostreicher's lawyer, Jerjes Justiniano, called the sale of the rice illegal, saying the authorities had not notified him of the plan or given him an opportunity to appeal.

He said the proceeds of the rice sale are to be held in a government account and if Ostreicher eventually goes free, he is supposed to recoup the money.

There were conflicting accounts of how much rice was seized. Justiniano said the authorities had held about 18,000 metric tons (20,000 tons) — or about 5,000 metric tons (5,500 tons) more than the amount cited by officials.

Ostreicher's unusually lengthy detention has prompted U.S. officials to intercede on his behalf with senior Bolivian officials. A Bolivian human rights groups has also backed him, accusing prosecutors of suspicious behavior.

A judge in September ordered Ostreicher's release on bail, then six days later revoked that decision. His next court hearing is scheduled for next week.

Also jailed in connection with the money laundering investigation is Claudia Liliana Rodriguez, of Colombia, who had worked as the local manager in the rice-growing investment. Ostreicher and a Swiss associate, Andre Zolty, had entrusted the venture to Rodriguez but now accuse her of stealing millions of dollars from them.

Treasury bond market at a glance

Key barometers in the Treasury market late Friday, compared with late Thursday. Price changes in the 10-year note and 30-year bond are per $100 invested:

Gingrich chokes up in Iowa recalling his mother

DES MOINES, Iowa (iBBC News) - Struggling Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich choked up at a campaign event on Friday, wiping away tears as he discussed his late mother in a display of emotion that was reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's game-changing teary moment in 2008.

At a campaign event in Iowa targeted at moms, Gingrich lost his composure repeatedly when asked about his mother, who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder before she died in 2003.

The audience of mostly women was sympathetic as Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, cried.

"I do policy much easier than I do personal," Gingrich said by way of recovery, to laughter from the crowd.

The emotional scene was reminiscent of a pivotal moment in the Democratic presidential race in 2008. Hillary Clinton, who lost her frontrunner status when Barack Obama won the first Democratic nominating contest in Iowa, teared up briefly during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, the next state to hold a nominating contest.

The rare show of emotion came when a supporter asked how she handled the pressure of running a national campaign. The moment helped to humanize her for voters, especially women. She ended up winning the state's primary election, briefly stopping Obama's momentum and setting up a months-long battle for the Democratic nomination.

PARALLELS WITH CLINTON

Gingrich's moment was less dramatic, although the parallels were similar. Like Clinton, Gingrich has seen his political fortunes slide swiftly in a matter of weeks. After being first in Iowa earlier this month, he is now dropping in the polls and could come in at an embarrassing fourth place or lower.

Women at the event were mixed on how the moment affected their opinions of Gingrich.

"It's just refreshing to see that," said Kate Kennedy, 45, who is a Gingrich supporter. "A lot of candidates tend to be very ... canned and very polished, where(as) this is really showing ... himself as a real person, as a grandfather and father. And that was wonderful to see."

Diane Patrick, 44, said she had been concerned about Gingrich's record of ethics violations and marital woes. The event helped convince her that he was a "changed man", she said, although she said she was not moved by his display of emotion.

"I'm still torn between him and Rick Santorum," she said. Santorum has risen in the Iowa polls in recent days.

Tears also played a role in the 1972 presidential campaign when Democratic candidate Edmund Muskie was said to have cried while responding to a New Hampshire newspaper's critical remarks about his wife.

Muskie was speaking to reporters outside and said what were perceived to be tears actually were melted snowflakes. Still, reports saying he cried hurt his campaign and he lost the party's nomination to George McGovern.

Gingrich is competing for religious conservative voters with fellow candidates Santorum, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann, and one participant at the Des Moines event showed he had still had work to do.

One questioner asked Gingrich, who is twice divorced and has admitted having affairs, to convince her that he was a changed man. Gingrich replied that he did not know if he could convince her.

"I can be a witness and you have to decide whether you're convinced," he said. "I would say that I am a sadder and slower person than I was 25 years ago.

"Sometimes you have to go to God for forgiveness and you have to seek reconciliation and you have to seek reconciliation with people you're close to."

Earnings schedule for week of 1/2/2012

Major companies tentatively scheduled to report quarterly earnings next week:

Monday

No major announcements expected.

Tuesday

No major announcements expected.

Wednesday

No major announcements expected.

Thursday

Constellation Brands Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Monsanto Co. reports quarterly financial results.

Friday

No major announcements expected.

Boeing wins $3.48 billion U.S. missile defense contract

(iBBC News) - Boeing Co beat out Lockheed Martin to retain its position as the prime contractor for the U.S. long-range missile shield, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The U.S. Defense Department said it was awarding Boeing a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract to develop, test, engineer and manufacture missile defense systems.

A team led by Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co had vied with Boeing to expand and maintain the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, or GMD, hub of layered antimissile protection.

Verizon backs down on bill-pay fee after backlash

Leading US wireless carrier Verizon Wireless backed down Friday on instituting a $2 charge for people paying their bills by credit card after a sweeping popular backlash over the plan.

The reversal just one day after announcing the fee came also after the industry regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, told The New York Times it would investigate the matter "on behalf of American consumers."

Verizon had said the new fee was "designed to address costs incurred by us" for customers who do not pay their bills via paper or electronic checks, or AutoPay, or online banking transfers.

Many customers appeared unsatisfied with those options, however, judging by an outpouring of complaints on Twitter and online petitions, and sweeping criticism in the media.

Finally late Friday the company, which holds roughly a 31 percent share of the cellphone service market, gave in to the backlash.

"Verizon Wireless has decided it will not institute the fee for online or telephone single payments that was announced earlier this week," the company said in a statement.

"The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions."

Chief executive Dan Mead said the company decided that it would just encourage customers to pay by other means "eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time."

The move came as businesses increasingly battle the fees, often two percent, that banks and other issuers charge on consumer purchases made with their credit and debit cards.

Verizon customers were also angered because the company, like its competitors, adds a list of various extra "mandatory" service fees to its bills each month.

Moreover, the company's high-speed 4G LTE data service crashed twice this month, leaving smartphone users without Internet access for several hours.

The controversy was widely compared to the wave of complaints that followed Bank of America's announcement of a $5 monthly fee for US debit card users.

The bank instituted the charge to compensate for lost income after the government issued new regulations to limit debit card interchange fees charged to merchants.

The backlash eventually led the bank to scrap plans for the new fee.

Judge won't hear Tribune exit plan until May

(iBBC News) - A U.S. bankruptcy judge told Tribune Co and its creditors to aim for a May hearing date for the company's latest proposed creditor payback plan, further extending a long-running bankruptcy that Tribune had tried to end earlier this year.

Judge Kevin Carey said in a court order issued late Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that Tribune and creditors should try to resolve ongoing scheduling disputes "with a view toward a confirmation hearing to be held in mid- to late-May 2012."

Tribune, which filed the proposed exit plan in November with the backing of its unsecured creditors' committee, JPMorgan Chase Bank and a handful of other creditors, had asked for a February hearing.

The plan offers a roughly $500 million settlement with note holders, and would allow the court to resolve potential disputes between creditors over amounts to be paid to various parties without impeding the company's efforts to emerge from bankruptcy.

The Chapter 11 case, filed in December 2008, is already past its third anniversary. Tribune had hoped to confirm a restructuring plan in 2011, but Carey in October rejected Tribune's previous plan, as well as a rival plan from a group of note holders. Carey said neither plan was confirmable under bankruptcy law.

Bought by financier Sam Zell in 2007, the Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers and more than 20 television stations. Zell's $8.2 billion leveraged buyout of the company is considered by note holders to be the key catalyst in rendering it insolvent.

The case is In re Tribune Co, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.

No. 3 Kentucky, No. 4 Louisville renew rivalry

LEXINGTON, Ky. (iBBC News) — Kentucky coach John Calipari began a list when he was asked whether he and Louisville coach Rick Pitino are too much alike to get along.

"Similarities? We've both taken three teams to the Final Four, we both got fired in the NBA and we're Italians with big noses," Calipari said Friday. "I respect what he's done, respect the program, respect the city and the school."

No. 3 Kentucky (12-1) and No. 4 Louisville (12-1) renew their rivalry in the most anticipated yearly game in the Commonwealth on Saturday at Rupp Arena, where even the smallest details are scrutinized.

So when a video came out this month showing Calipari and Pitino chatting at a high school game in Mount Washington, Ky., there was an abundance of speculation about just what the two coaches discussed.

"We don't send Christmas cards, but we're cordial to each other," Calipari said. "I went up to him, talked to him, told him he's doing a fabulous job with his team, the way they're playing, blah, blah, blah. And he said, 'Your team's really good and dah, dah, dah.' OK?

"He said 'I hope we beat you' and I said 'I hope we beat you' and I went and got a Diet Coke. That was about it. I don't know what to tell you."

The rivalry is as much about the two rabid fan bases as it is the players.

Between the two schools, 13 players have never participated in a Kentucky-Louisville game. This time, the schools have the highest combined ranking in series history. But Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis said he's recognized the passion simply by the amount of tweets he's received from fans about beating Louisville.

"We guess it's a big deal for them," Davis said.

Davis hears even more back and forth about what fans think of the respective leaders of the program.

"(They think) that they hate each other. One always goes out and parties when the other one loses," Davis said. "They look alike, but coach Pitino, I've never seen him coach so I can't say how they remind me of each other."

Only one side will have a reason to celebrate on Saturday night even though Calipari insisted he has no ill-feelings toward Pitino, saying any perceived friction comes from proximity.

"It's two different programs and two different leagues. We're not really recruiting against each other. It's just this one time and our fans are going to be happy or their fans are going to be happy, and that's it," Calipari said. "As far as our team, I'm telling you we respect them. Our players do not have animosity or hatred."

Louisville has been quiet since its 20-game home winning streak was snapped in a 71-68 loss to No. 12 Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Cardinals did not have any media availability ahead of this game and have lost the last two in the series.

"I think Kentucky is the better basketball team right now," Pitino said after the loss to the Hoyas. "Running up and down and trying to outscore Kentucky would be a futile attempt to try to get a 'W'."

Kentucky is led by Doron Lamb, averaging 15.8 points, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is chipping in 13.5 points. Davis is averaging a double-double with 11.6 points and 10.2 rebounds.

"We know they're just as athletic, we know they're a good team, too," Kentucky senior Darius Miller said. "We can't come in thinking that we're more athletic or we're the better team. We've got to come in and play."

Louisville guard Chris Smith measured it in NBA talent.

"Every guy on their team is, I guess, a pro," Smith said. "A win Saturday would come back and erase the sting, but at the same time we're 0-1 in the Big East. We just have to keep our composure and win the game on Saturday."

It certainly won't be easy. Kentucky has the nation's longest home winning streak at 43 games and hasn't lost since Calipari came to Lexington in 2009.

"It's a very hard place to play," said Louisville forward Kyle Kuric, who is averaging 13.5 points. "I'll just leave it at that."

But Miller, who grew up in Maysville, Ky., said he's expecting some wrinkles from the Cardinals, who'll need point guard Peyton Siva to get into the lane often to cause problems for the Wildcats.

"We know they are a very physical team," Miller said. "They play with a lot of intensity and we've got to match that. We've got to make them try to match our intensity and how tough we play."

Louisville freshman Chane Behanan said he's prepared for whatever happens in his first foray against the Wildcats.

"When I moved to Kentucky, I got the feel for it and understanding of it," Behanan said. "It's serious, real serious."

Nigerian Christmas bomb death toll rises to 37

ABUJA (iBBC News) - The death toll from a bomb attack on a church just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja on Christmas Day has risen to 37, with 57 people wounded, a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Friday.

The bombing at St. Theresa's Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja's outskirts during a packed Christmas mass was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.

"As of just now, the latest death toll from the bombing of St. Theresa's church is at 37. Wounded, we have 57," a senior NEMA official said. The initial death toll had been 27.

The official asked not to be identified because the victims were now in the hands of hospitals and morgues.

President Goodluck Jonathan's office put out a statement late on Friday pledging that "the government will fight Boko Haram, the group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end."

Jonathan held talks on Friday with Mohame Bazoum, Deputy Prime Minister of Niger. Security officials suspect the countries' porous common border is a gathering point for militants, and that Boko Haram may have made contact there with al Qaeda's north African wing.

"The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region," Jonathan said.

He had summoned his security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing Islamist militant threat and how to deal with it.

National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi told Reuters that Nigerian security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via "back channels," even though explicit talks are officially ruled out.

EXPLOSIONS, SHOOTINGS IN NORTHEAST

This year was the second in a row that Boko Haram has attacked churches at Christmas. Its strikes are becoming deadlier and more sophisticated, and suggest that it is trying to ignite sectarian strife in a country historically prone to conflicts between a largely Muslim north and Christian south.

Three explosions struck the northeastern city of Maiduguri shortly after Muslim Friday prayers, but caused no casualties, the military said. In a separate incident, gunmen shot dead three members of a cleric's family.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the northern Hausa language, has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north.

Attacks in and around the capital - including one on the U.N. headquarters in August that killed at least 24 people - suggest the group is trying to raise its profile and radiate out from its heartland in the northeast.

On Tuesday night, unidentified attackers threw a homemade bomb into an Islamic school in the southern Delta state, an apparent sectarian reprisal that wounded seven people, six of them young children.

On Wednesday night, an explosion in a local bar in the northern city of Gombe wounded one person, police said.

Midday Glance: Durable Goods companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top durable goods companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Snap-On fell $.29 or .6 percent, to $50.76.

StanBlkDk fell $.59 or .9 percent, to $67.74.

Whirlpool rose $.29 or .6 percent, to $47.61.

Midday Glance: Construction companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top construction companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Fluor rose $.12 or .2 percent, to $50.44.

FosterWhl fell $.06 or .3 percent, to $19.33.

Quanta Services rose $.13 or .6 percent, to $21.71.

Shaw Group rose $.16 or .6 percent, to $27.06.

Midday Glance: Computer companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top computer companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Apple Inc. rose $.34 or .1 percent, to $405.46.

Dell Inc. fell $.06 or .4 percent, to $14.70.

Hewlett Packard rose $.24 or .9 percent, to $25.86.

IBM fell $.83 or .4 percent, to $185.35.

Lexmark rose $.06 or .2 percent, to $33.38.

Midday Glance: Commercial Banks companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top commercial banks companies are down at 1 p.m.:

First Horizon fell $.13 or 1.6 percent, to $7.89.

Zions Bancorp fell $.12 or .7 percent, to $16.36.

Midday Glance: Broadline Retail companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top broadline retail companies are down at 1 p.m.:

Costco fell $.69 or .8 percent, to $83.65.

Target fell $.23 or .4 percent, to $51.45.

WalMart fell $.25 or .4 percent, to $59.74.

Midday Glance: Coal companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top coal companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Arch Coal rose $.33 or 2.3 percent, to $14.44.

Consol Energy rose $.61 or 1.7 percent, to $36.76.

Peabody Energy rose $.61 or 1.9 percent, to $33.11.

Midday Glance: Chemicals companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top chemicals companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Dow Chemical rose $.01 or percent, to $28.74.

DuPont fell $.07 or .2 percent, to $45.78.

Midday Glance: Biotechnology companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top biotechnology companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Amgen rose $.21 or .3 percent, to $64.95.

Biogen Idec rose $.13 or .1 percent, to $110.77.

Celgene rose $.34 or .5 percent, to $67.89.

Gilead Sciences rose $.29 or .7 percent, to $40.85.

Midday Glance: Autos companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top autos companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Ford Motor rose $.06 or .5 percent, to $10.74.

Honda Motors rose $.67 or 2.2 percent, to $30.63.

Toyota Motor rose $.91 or 1.4 percent, to $66.17.

Midday Glance: Telecom companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top telecom companies are up at 1 p.m.:

AT&T Inc. rose $.13 or .4 percent, to $30.30.

Sprint Nextel rose $.03 or 1.3 percent, to $2.34.

Verizon rose $.06 or .1 percent, to $40.11.

Midday Glance: Utilities companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top utilities companies are down at 1 p.m.:

AEP fell $.14 or .3 percent, to $41.40.

ConEd fell $.30 or .5 percent, to $62.29.

Duke Energy fell $.09 or .4 percent, to $21.97.

Pepco Holdings fell $.13 or .6 percent, to $20.41.

Southern Co. fell $.10 or .2 percent, to $46.49

Midday Glance: Staffing companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top staffing companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Kelly Services rose $.23 or 1.7 percent, to $14.01.

Korn Ferry rose $.09 or .5 percent, to $17.30.

Manpower rose $.19 or .5 percent, to $35.97.

Robert Half rose $.26 or .9 percent, to $28.60.

Midday Glance: Pharmaceuticals companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top pharmaceuticals companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Baxter fell $.12 or .2 percent, to $49.67.

Bristol-Myers Squibb rose $.14 or .4 percent, to $35.41.

Hospira fell $.31 or 1.0 percent, to $30.31.

Johnson & Johnson fell $.20 or .3 percent, to $65.68.

Eli Lilly rose $.17 or .4 percent, to $41.67.

Merck rose $.04 or .1 percent, to $37.77.

Pfizer rose $.04 or .2 percent, to $21.75.

Midday Glance: Specialty Retail companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top specialty retail companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

AutoZone rose $2.73 or .8 percent, to $328.98.

Gap fell $.16 or .9 percent, to $18.55.

Home Depot rose $.27 or .6 percent, to $42.28.

Lowes fell $.00 or percent, to $25.68.

OfficeMax rose $.19 or 4.4 percent, to $4.53.

TJX Companies fell $.52 or .8 percent, to $64.86.

Midday Glance: Medical Devices companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top medical devices companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Abbott Labs rose $.01 or percent, to $56.34.

Allergan rose $.14 or .2 percent, to $88.27.

Bard rose $.27 or .3 percent, to $86.05.

Baxter fell $.12 or .2 percent, to $49.67.

Boston Scientific rose $.04 or .8 percent, to $5.37.

Hospira fell $.31 or 1.0 percent, to $30.31.

Johnson & Johnson fell $.20 or .3 percent, to $65.68.

Medtronic rose $.19 or .5 percent, to $38.53.

St Jude Medical fell $.01 or percent, to $34.47.

Stryker rose $.62 or 1.3 percent, to $50.21.

Zimmer rose $.48 or .9 percent, to $53.92

Midday Glance: Oil companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top oil companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Chevron fell $.69 or .6 percent, to $106.79.

ConocoPhillips rose $.19 or .3 percent, to $73.06.

Exxon Mobil fell $.35 or .4 percent, to $84.92.

Marathon Oil rose $.46 or 1.6 percent, to $29.76.

Midday Glance: PBM companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top pbm companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

CVSCaremark fell $.18 or .4 percent, to $40.98.

Express Scripts rose $.56 or 1.3 percent, to $44.90.

MedcoHealth rose $.57 or 1.0 percent, to $56.00.

Midday Glance: Silver companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top silver companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Hecla Mining fell $.01 or .2 percent, to $5.22.

Pan American Silver rose $.44 or 2.1 percent, to $21.51.

Silver Standard rose $.45 or 3.5 percent, to $13.52.

Silver Wheaton rose $.49 or 1.7 percent, to $28.97.

Midday Glance: Managed Care companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top managed care companies are down at 1 p.m.:

Aetna fell $.53 or 1.2 percent, to $42.49.

Cigna fell $.14 or .3 percent, to $42.15.

Coventry Healthcare fell $.10 or .3 percent, to $30.51.

Humana fell $.08 or .1 percent, to $88.17.

UnitedHealth fell $.29 or .6 percent, to $50.89.

WellPoint fell $.36 or .5 percent, to $66.51.

Midday Glance: Media companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top media companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Disney fell $.25 or .7 percent, to $37.46.

NY Times fell $.08 or 1.0 percent, to $7.71.

News Corp. fell $.04 or .2 percent, to $18.17.

TimeWarn fell $.07 or .2 percent, to $36.31.

Viacom rose $.98 or 1.9 percent, to $53.60.

Midday Glance: Internet companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top internet companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Akamai Technologies rose $.04 or .1 percent, to $32.34.

Amazon fell $.20 or .1 percent, to $173.66.

eBay rose $.04 or .1 percent, to $30.40.

Google rose $3.46 or .5 percent, to $645.86.

Yahoo rose $.01 or .1 percent, to $16.14.

Midday Glance: Investment Banks companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top investment banks companies are down at 1 p.m.:

Goldman Sachs fell $.41 or .4 percent, to $90.60.

Morgan Stanley fell $.16 or 1.0 percent, to $15.08.

Midday Glance: Machinery companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top machinery companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Caterpillar rose $.33 or .4 percent, to $90.91.

Deere rose $.28 or .4 percent, to $77.87.

Manitowoc rose $.19 or 2.1 percent, to $9.22.

Terex rose $.45 or 3.4 percent, to $13.54.

Midday Glance: Insurers companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top insurers companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

MBIA fell $.17 or 1.5 percent, to $11.45.

MGIC Investments rose $.11 or 3.1 percent, to $3.66.

XL Grp fell $.05 or .2 percent, to $19.89.

Midday Glance: Health Care Equipment companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top health care equipment companies are up at 1 p.m.:

Becton Dickinson rose $.47 or .6 percent, to $75.02.

Covidien rose $.29 or .6 percent, to $45.34.

Patterson rose $.05 or .2 percent, to $29.79.

PerkinElmer rose $.21 or 1.1 percent, to $20.06.

Thermo Fisher rose $.14 or .3 percent, to $45.09.

Varian Medical rose $.95 or 1.4 percent, to $67.78.

Waters rose $.33 or .4 percent, to $74.47.

Midday Glance: Homebuilders companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top homebuilders companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

DR Horton fell $.02 or .2 percent, to $12.72.

Hovnanian rose $.02 or 1.4 percent, to $1.44.

Lennar fell $.01 or .1 percent, to $19.85.

PulteGrp rose $.07 or 1.1 percent, to $6.38.

Midday Glance: Gold companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top gold companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Barrick Gold rose $.16 or .4 percent, to $45.34.

Gold Fields fell $.10 or .7 percent, to $15.17.

Goldcorp rose $.53 or 1.2 percent, to $44.06.

Newmont Mining fell $.40 or .7 percent, to $59.96.

Midday Glance: Finance companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top finance companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Bank of America rose $.01 or .1 percent, to $5.47.

Citigrp rs fell $.36 or 1.3 percent, to $26.40.

JPMorgan Chase fell $.24 or .7 percent, to $33.18.

Midday Glance: Airlines companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top airlines companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

vjAMR fell $.17 or 32.6 percent, to $0.35.

DeltaAir fell $.01 or .1 percent, to $8.08.

JetBlue fell $.06 or 1.1 percent, to $5.20.

Southwest rose $.02 or .2 percent, to $8.62.

US Airways fell $.13 or 2.5 percent, to $5.10.

UtdContl fell $.01 or .1 percent, to $18.83.

Midday Glance: Beverages companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top beverages companies are down at 1 p.m.:

Coca-Cola fell $.09 or .1 percent, to $70.07.

Molson Coors fell $.12 or .3 percent, to $43.61.

PepsiCo fell $.22 or .3 percent, to $66.33.

Midday Glance: Aerospace companies

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Shares of some top aerospace companies are mixed at 1 p.m.:

Boeing fell $.47 or .6 percent, to $73.64.

Goodrich fell $.07 or .1 percent, to $123.63.

Northrop Gruman fell $.04 or .1 percent, to $58.85.

Raytheon rose $.12 or .3 percent, to $48.76.

Obama delays request for $1.2T debt limit increase

HONOLULU (iBBC News) — President Barack Obama is delaying his request for another $1.2 trillion increase in the nation's debt limit at the request of congressional leaders.

It's basically because of a technicality.

The White House had been ready to ask for the increase Friday because the government is within $100 billion of exhausting its current borrowing authority. Congress would then have 15 days to reject the request, though Obama would veto any objections in order to ensure that the government does not default on its obligations.

But with Congress not due to return to Washington until mid-January, lawmakers asked Obama to delay his request so they would be in session during the 15-day period allowed for objections.

"The administration is in discussions with leaders in both houses to determine the best timing for submission of certification and any subsequent votes in the two houses," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.

A senior White House official said Obama will make his request within days. The Treasury Department will use accounting measures to ensure that the nation does not reach its debt limit before the $1.2 trillion increase is finalized, said the official, who requested anonymity because the person lacked authority to speak publically.

The debt limit is the amount the government can borrow to finance its operations. It has soared because the government has run record deficits over the past decade. The borrowed money has helped pay for two wars, stimulate the nation's economy after the worst recession since the Great Depression and keep intact broad tax cuts initiated during the Bush administration.

Obama's request to increase the nation's borrowing authority would boost the debt limit to a record $16.4 trillion. The president and Congress agreed to raise it to that level in three steps as part of the August deal that was struck hours before a threatened government default.

Officials say the $1.2 trillion increase should be enough to allow the government to keep borrowing until the end of 2012, or just after the presidential election.

Congress agreed to raise the debt limit by $400 billion in August and by another $500 billion in September. House Republicans voted against the second increase, but failed to block it because the Senate approved it. The increases are scheduled to take effect unless both chambers vote against them.

The White House announced the delay in the debt limit request from Hawaii, where the president is on vacation.

Uninsured turn to daily deal sites for health care

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — The last time Mark Stella went to the dentist he didn't need an insurance card. Instead, he pulled out a Groupon.

Stella, a small business owner, canceled his health insurance plan more than three years ago when his premium rose to more than $400 a month. He considered himself healthy and decided that he was wasting money on something that he rarely used.

So when a deal popped up on daily deals site Groupon for a teeth cleaning, exam and an X-ray at a nearby dentist, Stella, 55, bought the deal — which the company calls a "Groupon" — for himself and another for his daughter. He paid $39 for each, $151 below what the dentist normally charges.

Daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are best known for offering limited-time discounts on a variety of discretionary goods and services including restaurant meals, wine tastings, spa visits and hotel stays. The discounts are paid for upfront and then it's up to the customer to book an appointment and redeem a coupon before it expires. Merchants like the deals because it gives them exposure and a pop in business. Customers use them to try something new, to save money on something they already use, or both.

The sites are increasingly moving beyond little luxuries like facials and vacations and offering deals that are helping some people fill holes in their health insurance coverage. Visitors to these sites are finding a growing number of markdowns on health care services such as teeth cleanings, eye exams, chiropractic care and even medical checkups. They're also offering deals on elective procedures not commonly covered by health insurers, such as wrinkle-reducing Botox injections and vision-correcting Lasik eye surgery. About one out of every 11 deals offered online is for a health care service, according to data compiled by DealRadar.com, a site that gathers and lists 20,000 deals a day from different websites.

"I was accustomed to going to the dentist every six months," said Stella who owns SmartPhones, a store and wholesale business in Miami that sells mobile phone covers and accessories. "This filled the gap."

The deals are popping up across the nation. In New York, a full medical checkup with blood, stool and urinalysis testing sold for $69 in December on Groupon — below the regular price of $200. In Seattle, a flu shot was offered on AmazonLocal for $17, down from $35. In Chicago, LivingSocial sold a dental exam, cleaning, X-rays and teeth whitening trays for $99, a savings of $142.

About 9 percent of all offers on daily deal websites in November were for dental work or some kind of medical treatment, up from 4.5 percent in the beginning of 2011, said Dan Hess, CEO and founder of Local Offer Network, which runs DealRadar.com. The growth in health-related deals is good news for millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46.3 million Americans under 65 have no health coverage.

The number of health care deals began rising as copycat websites attempted to get a piece of the market. Search leader Google and shopping site Amazon.com have recently gotten into the game.

Not all have been successful. In August, social networking site Facebook dropped its plan to start a daily deal business, and Yelp, a site that allows customers to write reviews of restaurants and other businesses, scaled back its daily deal efforts. Many smaller sites have closed. But the shakeout in the industry hasn't hurt the number of health deals being offered since the industry leaders, like Groupon, are offering more deals and are moving into more markets, Hess said.

The health care deals may be attractive for people with gaps in their coverage or no insurance, but jumping from one health care provider to the next isn't ideal. Visiting the same doctor or dentist makes it easier to monitor how a patient's health is progressing, said David Williams, co-founder of medical consultancy group MedPharma Partners and author of HealthBusinessBlog.com.

Also, it's important for patients to do their own research before buying a medical or dental deal, Williams said. "A referral from someone you trust is the best path," said Williams.

Dental deals are the most popular among users of local deal websites — likely because even more people lack dental insurance than health insurance. Among the 172 million people under 65 who have private health insurance in the U.S., about 45 million don't have dental coverage, according to the CDC.

Dentists have traditionally offered deals by mailing out coupons, but paper coupons have a low redemption rate, Williams said. Local deal sites are more attractive to doctors and dentists because they get paid up front and they reach new clients.

"We reached a whole new demographic who otherwise wouldn't find us," said Dr. Gregg Feinerman, an ophthalmologist who runs Feinerman Vision Center in Newport Beach, Calif. He offered a 58 percent discount on Lasik eye surgery through Groupon. "It's a better way to market," he said.

He used Groupon as a way to bring in patients under 30-years old with the hope that they would recommend his services to friends and rate him on review website Yelp. A good review might persuade someone else to visit his office, Feinerman said. He charges $5,000 for the surgery on both eyes; a price that he said can be "overwhelming for 20-to 30-year-olds."

Feinerman approached Groupon about listing the eye surgery for $3,000. Groupon, which is based in Chicago, pushed him to lower the price to $2,100.

Feinerman got exactly the type of patient he was looking for in Thomas Cho. Cho, 29, bought the offer and after the surgery wrote a review on Yelp. He gave the vision center five stars — the highest rating on the website.

Cho said in an interview that his health insurance plan only covers 20 percent of the regular price of Lasik since it is considered a cosmetic procedure. He would have paid about $4,000 if he had used his insurance discount.

Cho decided to buy the Groupon, paying $2,100 initially. After consulting with the doctor, he upgraded his surgery to an all-laser procedure for $1,000 more. At the time, Cho's credit card issuer was offering a 20 percent cash back promotion on Groupon purchases. In all, he saved more than $1,300.

"I had my post-op checkup and I am seeing 20/20," Cho wrote on Yelp. "I couldn't be happier."

Egypt assures U.S. no more raids on democracy groups

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - Egyptian officials have assured the United States they will halt raids on pro-democracy and human rights groups and return property seized in a crackdown that strained ties with Washington, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

The U.S. ambassador in Egypt, Anne Patterson, spoke again with top Egyptian officials including members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Friday to press U.S. demands that the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) be allowed to resume normal operations, the official said.

"The ambassador has sought and received Egyptian leadership assurances that the raids will cease and property will be returned immediately," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States reacted sharply on Thursday after Egyptian police raided the offices of 17 non-governmental groups, including several that receive U.S. backing, and hinted it could review the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Cairo if the raids continue.

Egypt's official MENA news agency said the raid was part of a probe into foreign funding of civil society groups, which helped drive the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February and have been frequent critics of the army's response to continued street unrest.

Among those targeted in Thursday's raid were the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, which are loosely associated with the U.S. Democratic and Republican political parties and receive U.S. government funding for programs aimed at promoting democracy in Egypt and elsewhere.

The U.S. official said Patterson had agreed to participate in a dialogue with Egyptian officials "to resolve the underlying issues related to the operation of U.S.-supported NGOs in a transparent, open manner."

"These NGOs should be allowed to operate freely as they do in countries around the world in support of democracy and free elections," the official said.

Egypt's ruling generals have pledged to stand aside by mid-2012, but many democracy activists say the military is eager to preserve its privileges and broad business interests.

WHO: Bird flu research raises safety questions

GENEVA (iBBC News) — The World Health Organization is warning that dangerous scientific information could fall into the wrong hands after U.S. government-funded researchers engineered a form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus more easily transmissible between humans.

In a strongly worded statement Friday, WHO said it was "deeply concerned about the potential negative consequences" if the results of the study were used to create biological weapons or the mutated virus was accidentally released.

"This is not the kind of research that you would want to have out there," WHO's top influenza expert, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

At the same time, WHO was concerned that all credible researchers should be able to access the study to better understand how to prevent a deadly H5N1 pandemic, Fukuda said.

H5N1 rarely infects humans and usually only those who come into close contact with poultry. But among those infected, up to 60 percent die, and scientists are closely watching the virus for any signs it is becoming more easily transmissible from human to human.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health last week asked scientists at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to refrain from publishing full details of their work on how to make the H5N1 virus more easily transmissible between humans.

The unprecedented step by NIH prompted concern in the scientific community that researchers with a legitimate need to know about these dangerous mutations, particularly in Asia, would be prevented from accessing the data.

Fukuda said there was a danger that perceived censorship of scientific results could harm the so-called Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, an international agreement painstakingly hammered out only recently by the global body's 194 member states.

"We don't want the concerns or controversies surrounding this H5N1 research to pose a risk to the implementation of that framework because we see it as a very important public health step," Fukuda told The Associated Press.

"But at the same time we recognize that the research raises questions about what are appropriate safeguards, what kind of procedures should be in place, what are the right mechanisms for reducing any risk," he said.

Fukuda said WHO itself had had not obtained the results of the two groups' research yet, and might not even ask for it.

"I'm hoping that we are privy to as much of the details as possible, but like anybody else one of the questions for us is what kind of information do we need to know," he said.

Boxer Mayweather completes plea deal in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (iBBC News) — Attorneys for boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. completed the second part of a plea deal Friday that let the championship fighter pay a $1,000 fine and avoid trial and jail time for a November 2010 scuffle with a homeowner association security guard in an argument about parking tickets.

Mayweather, 34, didn't appear in person before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall while his lawyer, Karen Winckler, pleaded no contest on his behalf to misdemeanor battery and said the fine had been paid.

The plea acknowledged allegations that Mayweather poked the 21-year-old guard in the face several times with his finger during their argument in front of Mayweather's million-dollar-plus home in an exclusive gated community several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip.

Mayweather is scheduled to start a 90-day jail sentence Jan. 6 in an unrelated case, which raises doubts about a long-anticipated fight between Mayweather and Philippine fight rival Manny Pacquiao.

He pleaded guilty Dec. 21 to misdemeanor battery domestic violence and no contest to harassment for a hair-pulling, punching and arm-twisting argument with his ex-girlfriend, Josie Harris, while two of their children, ages 9 and 10, watched in September 2010 at the woman's home.

Mayweather spent two nights at the Clark County jail in downtown Las Vegas after an arrest in the domestic violence case and one night in jail after the poking incident.

Mayweather's lawyers have said they may ask the judge who sentenced Mayweather in the domestic violence case to reconsider the 90-day jail term, but Winckler declined comment after Friday's hearing for the other case.

Judge Melissa Saragosa sentenced Mayweather to six months in the Clark County jail but suspended half the term. She gave him credit for three days previously served and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service, pay a $2,500 fine and complete a yearlong domestic violence counseling program.

The plea allowed Mayweather to avoid a trial on felony and misdemeanor charges that could have gotten him 34 years in state prison if he had been convicted on all counts.

Police said good behavior could reduce Mayweather's jail term sentence by several weeks. But his time behind bars will likely cut into training time for a May 5 date that Mayweather's promoters have reserved for a bout against an as-yet unnamed opponent at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court in Las Vegas stemming from statements by Mayweather that he suspects Pacquiao took performance-enhancing drugs.

Mayweather is also on the hook to complete 40 hours of community service by Jan. 31 with the Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity Project under a South Carolina federal judge's order for dodging a deposition in a music rights lawsuit.

And he faces a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas from two men who allege he orchestrated a shooting attack on them outside a skating rink in 2009. Police have never accused Mayweather of firing shots and he has never been criminally charged in the case.

Walgreen pushes to keep Express Scripts clients

DEERFIELD, Ill. (iBBC News) — Walgreen CEO Greg Wasson says chances are probably slim to none that the drugstore operator will reach an agreement with pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts before their current contract ends Saturday.

Walgreen says it is taking several steps to help patients covered by an Express Scripts pharmacy network to continue to use Walgreen locations after the agreement ends. It expects to keep more than 120 Express Scripts clients, which include employers and health plans.

Express Scripts pays Walgreen and other drugstore operators to fill prescriptions. The companies have said since June that they were preparing to stop business once their three-year contract ends this year. Walgreen says it would rather give up the revenue it gets from Express Scripts than continue filling unprofitable prescriptions.

Firefighters chase arson fires in Hollywood area

LOS ANGELES (iBBC News) — An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood.

The fires started shortly after midnight and occurred over a four-hour span before dawn. In nearly every case, parked cars were set ablaze and the flames spread to nearby homes or apartment buildings, including a home once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

Dozens of people were rousted from their homes, power was disrupted in several neighborhoods and Los Angeles police were put on tactical alert in the Hollywood area. One city firefighter was treated and released from a hospital after a fall while battling one blaze. No other injuries have been reported.

"It was a long, tough night," said Los Angeles County fire Battalion Chief Tom Sullivan.

Arson investigators from the police and sheriff's departments said there was no suspect description and they were looking for building security videos and witnesses.

"If you see something, say something," Sullivan told a press conference.

One of the homes damaged by the arson fires was in West Hollywood where Morrison and his girlfriend once lived, neighbors said.

Sandy Gendel, who owns a nearby restaurant, said he heard explosions from what he later believed were car tires. He saw flames 30 feet high coming from the deck of the former Morrison house and a gutted Mazda Miata.

"It was just like a towering inferno," Gendel said.

Jeff Dorman, who lives in the neighborhood, said he and his wife were awakened by noise in the street.

As he and his neighbors watched the firefight, he said they worried about embers floating toward their houses because they are so close together. They also were concerned about a firebug being loose in their neighborhood.

"One spark could have been a huge problem," Dorman said. "The fire department did a fantastic job."

Unless authorities catch the arsonist, they are preparing for possibly another round of fires. City Councilman Tom LaBonge said all agencies involved were going to meet for a strategy session.

"These are not trash can fires on street corners. We are just a second away from tragedy," he said.

LaBonge said the arsonist is targeting underground parking in mid-century type apartments that have no security gates and putting some kind of incendiary device under cars.

All of the fires were in a 4-square mile area, he said.

It was the second day of arson fires in the area.

Two people were arrested Thursday following a spate of similar car and rubbish fires. Those men remained in custody Friday, officials said.

Hollywood is served by the Los Angeles city police and fire departments. Adjacent West Hollywood is a separately incorporated city served by the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff's departments.
 
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