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Bombay Times epaper Jan 26, 2012 Free Download

Census releases data on American Indian population

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (iBBC News) — Almost half of American Indians and Alaska Natives identify with multiple races, representing a group that grew by 39 percent over a decade.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data Wednesday showing that 2.3 million people reported being Native in combination with one or more races. The growth in the multi-race category surpassed that of those who reported being Native alone.

The overall Native population in the U.S. comes in at 5.2 million, representing 1.7 percent of the country's population.

The Blackfeet Nation in Montana had the highest proportion of people who reported being part of more than one tribe or racial group at 74 percent.

Among Alaska Native groups, the Tlingit-Haida had the highest proportion of mixed-race individuals at 42 percent.

Census officials presented the figures Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Man convicted in Travolta car theft ordered to pay

LOS ANGELES (iBBC News) — Court records show a man who pleaded no contest to stealing John Travolta's vintage 1970 Mercedes-Benz has been ordered to pay the actor $50,000 in restitution.

City News Service said police in Santa Monica announced Wednesday that they arrested two men last month on suspicion of taking the car.

Records show D L Rayford Jr. one of the men arrested, pleaded no contest on Jan. 5 to grand theft auto and was ordered to pay Travolta $50,000 and serve 16 months in jail.

The other man, Michael T. Green, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of grand theft auto. He remains jailed without bail.

The convertible, which Travolta parked for about 10 minutes on a residential street in September, was also recovered.

Timberwolves, Love reach 4-year extension

MINNEAPOLIS (iBBC News) — Kevin Love is staying with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Love and the team agreed to a four-year contract extension worth between $60 million and $62 million, a deal that includes an early termination option for Love in the final year.

The All-Star power forward and the team faced an 11 p.m. Wednesday deadline to sign an extension. If not, Love would have become a restricted free agent this summer.

Love will make the maximum amount of salary for the four years, but he did not get the five-year deal for which he was hoping. The new collective bargaining agreement allows for franchises to give one player on the roster a five-year deal that would have been worth roughly $80 million for Love this time around.

Love said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and president of basketball operations David Kahn did not want to offer the five-year deal to the All-Star power forward.

"Did I want the five years? Of course," Love said on a conference call from Dallas, where the Timberwolves were scheduled to play the Mavericks on Wednesday night. "It was something I felt strongly about, but at the end of the day, a four-year deal is still great."

Oklahoma City gave Russell Westbrook a five-year deal and Chicago signed MVP Derrick Rose to a five-year deal as well.

"They're in totally different positions," Love said, pointing out that the Thunder and Bulls are both considered championship contenders while the Wolves haven't been to the playoffs since 2004.

As the clock ticked down, Love said the situation was weighing on him and he wondered if the deal would get done.

"I was willing to make a commitment for five years. They thought otherwise," he said. "I'm glad this is out of the way. It was drawn out until 8 a.m., 9 a.m. this morning."

Love ranks fifth in the league with 24.9 points per game, second with 13.9 rebounds and first with 39.4 minutes played. He has emerged as the face of the franchise and is a key building block for the team and new coach Rick Adelman.

The new collective bargaining agreement allows the Timberwolves to offer Love more money than any other team.

Love is in his fourth season in the NBA. The son of a former NBA player and nephew of a Beach Boys icon, Love was a high school star in Oregon, an All-American in his only season at UCLA and last year led the NBA in rebounding. He became the first player in more than two decades to have 30 rebounds and 30 points in the same game and became an All-Star in just his third season as a pro.

The four-year deal gives the Timberwolves some flexibility going forward and keeps that maximum offer available for point guard Ricky Rubio, No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams or another player down the road.

"It's good to have our centerpiece," Williams said. "We need a guy like him to put up 25 and 10 every night. ... I had a feeling he would stay with the fan base he's built."

Tales of greed, excess meet mild response at Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah (iBBC News) - Stories of Americans learning the effects of greed and excess or struggling in a weak economy have tried to captivate audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival but without one standout, sweeping success.

As the event crossed its midway point by Wednesday, several movies had sold to distributors yet some that came with media buzz and star appeal into the top U.S. festival for independent film have failed to win acclaim or shown commercial appeal.

The focus on dark subjects is typical of indie filmmaking, but it contrasts to the escapist fare and hopeful tales for which audiences have longed at theaters in recent years of recession and joblessness. That fact had distributors concerned.

"We have seen a lot of films that we like, but there is a question on the commerciality of most of them. There is a lot of deliberations going on with what they are worth," said Michael Barker, co-chief of Sony Pictures Classics

Barker expects brisk business in the festival's second half with the number of deals possibly equaling last year's robust market, "but in dollar amounts, no. People are more cautious."

Still, there are some films hoping to break big here by urging audiences to greater personal and corporate responsibility. "Arbitrage," starring Richard Gere, is among the few movies seen as having commercial appeal with its timely morality tale borne of the financial crisis.

In the film, which also stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth, Gere plays a billionaire hedge fund magnate whose personal life crumbles amid a plot that is similar in parts to the Bernie Madoff scandal. Gere's character lies about company assets as he races to make even more money and save his family business.

"Madoff was clearly a very sick person," Gere told reporters about the comparison to the former Wall Street executive who now sits in a jail cell. He said everyday audiences should relate to issues of "greed, control, irresponsibility -- all those things that we all have to some degree."

Many people, he said, have had "blank spots in their emotional makeup and their sense of responsibility."


Sundance kicked off last Thursday night with a true tale of excess, "The Queen of Versailles," that follows self-made billionaire couple David and Jackie Siegel as they deal with the collapse of their business and dream mansion.

The documentary is another reflection of lost dreams, and while never really learning to live like most Americans, Jackie does return to her old roots, volunteers for charity and learns to try and cut down on excessive behavior.

The Occupy Wall Street movement showed up at Sundance to protest tax dodging, as seen in the film "We're Not Broke," which explores corporations exploiting tax loopholes. "Detropia" about Detroit's lost jobs and vacant homes directly addresses America's struggles in the manufacturing heartland.

Robert Redford launched the festival last week by talking of films that reflected "dark and grim" times, and many of the movies have delivered on that promise with scenes and references to the financial crisis even if it hasn't been a central theme.

Drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild," set in impoverished Louisiana, has been among the few movies to captivate most all of its audience. Todd McCarthy, critic for The Hollywood Reporter, called it "one of the most striking films ever to debut" at Sundance with "a handcrafted look at the struggles of some of the poorest people in the United States."

Other movies referencing hardship included "Hello I Must Be Going" about an unemployed thirtysomething, and the comedy "For a Good Time Call" about two broke female phone sex workers.

Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer" features a character living in Brooklyn's projects who continually cries out over the bailout given to banks and against Obama's unfulfilled promises while the "rich get richer." Festival reviews were generally poor.

The much-hyped comedy "Bachelorette," starring Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher, shows a group of entitled, substance-abusing women who, like another film here "Smashed," learn to curb excess with a healthy dose of life and personal responsibility.

Adapted from an acclaimed off-Broadway play, "Bachelorette" has received a mixed response in early reviews and due to strong language and drug use will likely be a hard sell to audiences compared to 2011 smash hit, feel-good comedy "Bridesmaids."

Films that have earned both acclaim and buyers include uplifting "The Surrogate" starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt about a man's quest to lose his virginity while confined to an iron lung. It fetched one of the highest selling prices so far, a reported $6 million.

Others are still awaiting their debut in the latter half of the festival, including "Predisposed," starring Jesse Eisenberg and Tracy Morgan about a piano prodigy struggling with a drug addict mother, and "2 Days in New York" is Julie Delpy's comedic follow-up to "2 Days in Paris." It also stars Chris Rock.

Motorola sues Apple for patent infringement

iBBC News - Motorola Mobility, which is seeking regulatory approval to be bought by Google Inc, has filed a new lawsuit against Apple Inc accusing the iPhone maker of infringing its technology patents.

The case filed in a Florida federal court on Wednesday is the latest turn in a bigger legal battle between Apple and Motorola Mobility, which runs its phones on Google's Android software -- the biggest rival of Apple's iOS mobile phone system.

Motorola said the patents cited in the latest lawsuit are the same ones it is fighting to protect in a different Florida lawsuit. This complaint is against two of Apple's latest products, the iPhone 4S and Apple's iCloud remote storage service for music and other media, Motorola said.

In the lawsuit, Motorola said it was suing Apple for infringing six of its patents involving technologies related to wireless antennae, software, data filtering and messaging.

A spokesperson for Apple was not immediately available for comment.

The filing follows a preliminary decision issued earlier this month by the U.S. International Trade Commission that Motorola did not violate Apple patents in another case Apple brought against Motorola.

In December, Motorola won a preliminary injunction against Apple in Germany, which could bar the sale of iPhones and iPad tablets in that country. Google agreed to buy Motorola for $12.5 billion in August in an effort to gain control of the mobile phone maker's deep portfolio of patents.

The case is Motorola Mobility Inc vs Apple Inc, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida Case No.


Times of india epaper Jan 26, 2012 Free Download

Cops: Fla. man arrested for gruesome Conn. slaying

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (iBBC News) — A Florida man has been arrested for allegedly hacking to death a Connecticut man and eating the victim's eye and part of his brain, police said Wednesday.

Tyree Lincoln Smith, 35, was arrested Tuesday night on a Connecticut warrant for murder, according to police in Lynn Haven, Fla.

A property inspector discovered the body of Angel L. Gonzalez on Friday on the third floor of an abandoned home in Bridgeport, Conn., according to that city's police department. A medical examiner determined that the cause of death was blunt head trauma and ruled Gonzalez's death a homicide.

On Monday a cousin of Smith's in Connecticut contacted the Bridgeport police about Gonzalez's death. She told detectives that Smith had arrived at her house Dec. 15 and said he wanted to "get blood on his hands" before going to a park and then to the abandoned home, where he used to live, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The next day, Smith returned to the cousin's house with blood on his pants, hands and an axe, the affidavit said. Smith's cousin said he told her that he was sleeping on a porch at the abandoned home when we was awakened by a Hispanic man and invited inside. Then Smith described beating the man's face and head with the axe and collecting one of his eyes, a piece of his skull some of his brain matter, which he consumed in a nearby cemetery, the affidavit said.

The cousin told detectives she called Smith's mother, who notified police on Dec. 16 that they may want to check the abandoned home and that her son had "mental issues," the affidavit said.

Smith had left Connecticut for Florida on Friday on a Greyhound Bus, the cousin told detectives. Police and Smith's relatives reached Smith by telephone, and in a recorded call Smith admitted that he had been at the abandoned house and that he told a relative that he had killed the man, according to the affidavit.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers took Smith into custody at an apartment Tuesday night without incident, Lynn Haven police said.

It was not immediately clear whether Smith had an attorney.

America's next star? Could be anyone

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (iBBC News) — Michael Phelps. Missy Franklin. Jordyn Wieber. Ryan Lochte.

Any of those athletes could be the defining face of the U.S. Olympic team in the run-up to the London Games. So far, though, none stands alone as "The One To Watch" — at least not according to people who make a living out of watching the Olympics.

With 2012 underway and only six months left before the flame is ignited at opening ceremonies, The Associated Press sent emails to sports agents and executives, public-relations people and others with strong Olympic ties, asking them who America's so-called face of the Olympics would be as the games approach.

Unlike past Olympic cycles, when Phelps or Marion Jones or Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn were the clear-cut Americans to watch, there was no consensus this time around.

Phelps got the most votes with four, followed by Franklin with three, then Wieber (gymnastics) and Lochte (swimming) with two apiece. The rest of the 16 responses were spread among five athletes: gymnast Nastia Liukin, sprinter Allyson Felix, swimmer Dara Torres and soccer players Abby Wambach and Hope Solo.

That the question produced such a scattered list makes clear that generating buzz for the Olympics will take more this year than simply plastering a single person's face on a 50-foot billboard in Times Square.

"I think we have 10 or 20 athletes who could be that face," said Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee. "As I sit here today, I don't know who that face is going to be."

The people who received the AP questionnaire were assured their names would be kept confidential, in an attempt to get the most candid answers possible. They were asked for American athletes only, which precluded them from naming Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who owns world records in the 100 and 200 and could have come close to sweeping the survey if nationality were no factor.

"Clearly, the world will be watching Usain Bolt, for obvious reasons and deserved reasons," said Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, author of "The Complete Book of the Olympics." ''Clearly, people will be keeping their eye on Michael Phelps, as a record setter, even if he's not as dominant as he was before."

Phelps already owns more Olympic gold than anyone and needs three more medals of any color to become the most decorated athlete in history. His quest will, of course, be compelling, but it will also be mixed in with his competition against Lochte, who won five gold medals at the 2011 world championships and beat Phelps in their two head-to-head matchups.

If viewing patterns stay similar to what they were in 2008, Phelps vs. anybody in the pool will draw the best ratings. All of NBC's prime time telecasts that drew more than 30 million viewers in 2008 came on nights when swimming was featured. (Track and field didn't fare as well, though most of that coverage was shown on tape delay while most swimming coverage was live.)

"It's an intriguing story," Wallechinsky said of the Phelps-Lochte drama that could develop. "But trying to sell a U.S. versus U.S. rivalry, where the characters don't really hate each other, sometimes that's a little rough. It pains me when, sometimes, you see media pitching a rivalry between two athletes who are actually friends, just for the sake of creating a rivalry."

That's very much the way the 2008 gymnastics competition was fed to the public — Nastia Liukin vs. Shawn Johnson. They battled back and forth in the years leading up to Beijing, and their head-to-head in the Olympic all-around was high theater, barely won by Liukin.

Both are trying to make the 2012 team, but unlike 2008, this year's star isn't permanently affixed to anyone just yet.

Wieber, the 16-year-old world champion is the front-runner to become America's top all-around gymnast, and she already has an appearance on "Ellen" and a deal with Kellogg's as signs of what some people think of her potential. But the health of Rebecca Bross, who was touted as the "next big thing" before injuries derailed her, could still factor into the big picture.

Of course, the U.S. team can't depend on any single athlete to make the Olympics an overall success, though Phelps' eight golds in 2008 certainly helped matters. Americans have won the most medals at the last four Summer Olympics, but with China and Russia improving and with smaller countries, such as Brazil, Great Britain and Australia, chipping away from the other side, there's a sense that the United States is under more pressure this time.

"The medal count is going to be the medal count," said Alan Ashley, going into his first Olympics as the USOC chief of sport performance. "To us, it's all about how we support the athletes and coaches and help them put their best foot forward when they get to London. If we do our job, then the medal count will take care of itself."

Key to that medal count will be the fate of the track and field team, which won a disappointing 23 medals in Beijing, but improved to 25 at last year's world championships — an upward trend team leaders hope will continue.

Yet finding a singular star from that sport has become difficult, in large part because of the numerous drug scandals that have tainted track over the decades and more or less tagged its top sprinters with a "buyer beware" sign, regardless of their history.

Tyson Gay, arguably America's best sprinter, has no doping issues in his past, but has been hampered with injuries and missed both the Beijing Games and last year's world championships; he didn't garner a single vote in the AP survey. Neither did decathlete Bryan Clay, the defending Olympic champion — a sign of how the clout of the so-called "World's Greatest Athlete" has diminished since the days of Bruce Jenner.

On the women's side, Felix is well-spoken and looks good in magazine shoots, but has been a big factor in her sport for almost a decade now and hasn't connected viscerally with the casual sports fan that makes up a big chunk of the Olympic audience.

"I don't have an explanation for that," Wallechinsky said. "It is a bit odd. There might be some Marion Jones backlash, where they don't want to get burned again, don't want to back a sprinter then have that person test positive at the Olympics. It's one of those things where you can be completely innocent and still be under the shadow of other people's transgressions."

With billions of dollars invested in televising the Olympics, NBC will shape the way most American take in the games. The network, with everything from local affiliates to the worldwide web at its disposal, can tell numerous stories on numerous platforms.

Chief Marketing Officer John Miller — the guy who created the catchphrase "Must See TV" — said the network learned a lot when it loaded its pre-Games hype into Bode Miller before the 2006 Olympics, only to watch him turn into a bust on the mountain and a source of controversy off of it.

"We put a significant amount of eggs in that basket," Miller said. "As a result of that, instead of going with one athlete, we decided we had to spread it around a little more. Fortunately, in the Summer Games, we have compelling stories to go after. A lot of them."

In addition to track, gymnastics and swimming, NBC also focuses a lot on beach volleyball, where Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor will go for their third Olympic gold.

"We have enough bandwidth to go after four or five sports in a big way and cover a lot of angles," Miller said.

NBC, he said, has no need to go with one athlete in the lead up. The network invited about 100 athletes out to its pre-Olympic TV shoot in West Hollywood, "because you never know who's going to come out and turn into something big."

In this case, there's no real consensus on who's big before the games, either. The USOC is accepting that fact — trying to embrace the idea of promoting an Olympics with no clear-cut star instead of forcing a single storyline.

"It's different from other years because there's not one story there that's bubbled to the top yet," Ashley said. "That's one of the things I love about the Olympics, is that you never really know the answer to that question."

Israeli websites disrupted by hackers

JERUSALEM (iBBC News) — Hackers have disrupted the websites of an Israeli hospital, a leading newspaper and Israel's official cultural festival, the latest in a series of politically motivated cyber attacks against Israeli sites.

The Haaretz daily reported its site was hacked by a group calling itself Anonymous Palestine. The Tel Hashomer hospital's website was also blocked Wednesday for a few hours by a flood of messages from abroad, a hospital spokesman said.

The Israel Festival's site was plastered with a Palestinian flag icon and the message "Death to Israel and U.S.A." A hacker dubbed Watchful Eye claimed responsibility.

This month's cyber attacks began with a Saudi-identified hacker poaching Israeli credit card information. Israeli hackers staged their own attacks in retaliation.

Ala. university suspect wants report kept secret

DEDHAM, Mass. (iBBC News) — An Alabama professor accused of killing three colleagues will ask a judge on Wednesday to keep a report into the 1986 killing of her brother secret.

The highest court in Massachusetts ruled last month that a judge's inquest report into the death of Amy Bishop's brother Seth can be released publicly.

But the court also said Amy Bishop's lawyer, prosecutors and others could go to court to argue that there is "good cause" why it should remain sealed. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Norfolk Superior Court on a request by Bishop's lawyer to keep the report sealed from public view.

Bishop, a former biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was charged with opening fire on colleagues in 2010, killing three and wounding three others.

After the shootings, a Massachusetts judge conducted a closed-door inquest into the death of 18-year-old Seth Bishop. The shooting at the family's Braintree home had been ruled an accident after Amy Bishop told police she had accidentally shot her brother while trying to unload her father's shotgun.

But after the inquest, a grand jury indicted Bishop on murder charges in her brother's death.

Bishop's lawyer, Larry Tipton, has argued that releasing the inquest report and transcript could prejudice juries against her in both Massachusetts and in Alabama, where she faces a possible death sentence.

"That increment could make the difference that tips the balance toward death," Tipton argued in documents filed with the Supreme Judicial Court.

The Boston Globe challenged a judge's decision to keep the inquest records sealed, saying that release of the documents could shed some light on what led to authorities' decision not to prosecute Bishop in her brother's death decades ago.

In its decision last month, the Supreme Judicial Court sided with the Globe and outlined new rules for the release of inquest materials. The high court said the automatic impoundment of the records ends after the subject of the inquest is indicted by a grand jury or after prosecutors decide not to present the case to a grand jury.

Etihad to invest in Air Seychelles: Summary Box

ISLAND CONNECTION: Etihad Airways, the fast-growing Gulf airline, will spend $20 million to buy 40 percent of the national carrier in the island nation of Seychelles, off the eastern coast of Africa.

GROWING INTEREST: The deal with Air Seychelles is Etihad's second investment in an overseas carrier in just over a month. The Abu Dhabi-based airline agreed in December to become the largest shareholder in Germany's second largest carrier, Air Berlin.

GULF BREEZES: Etihad is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates. Etihad, Emirates and another state-backed Gulf airline, Qatar Airways, are challenging established European and Asian carriers by routing lucrative long-haul flights through the Gulf region.

Scots ponder independence vote with 16-year-olds

LONDON (iBBC News) — Scotland's leader has presented his proposal for a ballot on independence — and his ideas include letting 16- and 17-year-olds cast ballots in a vote that could see the breakup of Britain within four years.

First Minister Alex Salmond announced the Scottish government's preferred options for the vote on whether to sever ties from Britain, which it plans to hold in the fall of 2014. A "yes" vote would lead to independence taking effect with a May 2016 election for the Scottish Parliament.

Scotland and England united in 1707 to form Great Britain. Scotland gained significant autonomy after voting in 1997 to set up the Edinburgh-based Scottish Parliament, but some Scots want to go further and make the nation of 5 million people an independent country within the European Union.

Salmond told Scottish lawmakers in the Edinburgh assembly Wednesday that the ballot would ask "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"

But he said it could also include a third option, backing increased autonomy short of full independence.

And he said the voting age should be lowered from the current 18.

"If a 16-year-old in Scotland can register to join the army, get married and pay taxes, surely he or she should be able to have a say in this country's constitutional future?" Salmond said.

Scottish 16-year-olds can join the army — though they cannot be sent into combat until they are 18 — work full-time and marry without parental consent. The official Scottish drinking age outside the home is 18, but even that has some exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Salmond, who leads the separatist Scottish National Party, said independence would bring "a new, more modern relationship between the nations of these islands — a partnership of equals."

The exact wording is subject to input from Scottish voters and negotiations with the British government in London, which insists it has the final authority to authorize a binding referendum.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led government has offered the Scottish administration the power to hold a vote on independence, but wants a say in the timing and could insist that the Electoral Commission, which will run the referendum, be allowed to set the question.

Salmond's proposed wording is likely to be seen by opponents as slanted in favor of independence.

Opponents of independence want to hold the vote as soon as possible, because polls suggest only about a third of Scots favor it.

Cameron has said the ballot should pose a straight yes-no question, and not include a third option, which has been dubbed maximum devolution but Salmond disagrees.

"If there is an alternative of maximum devolution which would command wide support in Scotland, then it is only fair and democratic that option should be among the choices open to the people of Scotland," Salmond said.

Cameron stressed Wednesday that everyone in Britain, not just Scots, should have a say in any changes to Scotland's status.

"The point that everyone needs to understand is that options for further devolution, options for changes across the United Kingdom, are matters all of the United Kingdom should rightly discuss," he said.

Michael Moore, Cameron's minister responsible for Scotland, was due to hold talks with Salmond on Friday but the meeting was postponed because Moore has chicken pox.

Salmond said an independent Scotland would keep Queen Elizabeth II as head of state but would not send troops to "illegal wars like Iraq, and we won't have nuclear weapons based on Scottish soil." Scotland is currently home to Britain's fleet of nuclear-armed submarines.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, whose party opposes independence, accused Salmon of belittling Scots who wished to remain in Britain.

"Why does he assert as fact that we all wish to be independent of each other when we all know, as families and communities, we want to come together in partnership and cooperation?" she said.

Ex-CEO Scrushy gets prison sentence trimmed

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (iBBC News) — Disgraced health care executive Richard Scrushy has been re-sentenced to a reduced term of 70 months, or nearly six years, in prison.

The former HealthSouth CEO's lawyers argued for less time at a hearing Wednesday on his 2006 bribery conviction.

He was originally sentenced to almost seven years but was granted the new hearing when an appeals court dropped two charges.

Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller for 82 months. Scrushy's lawyers wanted 63 months. Either way, Scrushy would return to prison but could soon be eligible for a halfway house if his lawyers prevail.

Scrushy and former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman were convicted in what prosecutors said was a scheme involving donations to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery.

Religious Fla prep school a victim in $135M fraud

MIAMI (iBBC News) — A prominent businessman has pleaded guilty in Miami to fraud in a $135 million real estate scheme that fleeced hundreds of investors including at the Roman Catholic prep school he once attended.

Seventy-three-year-old Gaston Cantens faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to a single count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams set sentencing for April 4.

Federal prosecutors say Cantens operated his real estate company like a Ponzi scheme by paying older investors with money raised from newer ones. The company sold real estate investments in southwest Florida since 1993 but fell on hard times beginning in 2002. It was forced into bankruptcy in 2009.

Investigators say more than 150 investors lost some $47 million.

Potter star looks to life without wands or wizards

LONDON (iBBC News) - For Daniel Radcliffe, it's time to forget Harry Potter. The 22-year-old actor, inextricably linked to the boy wizard he played throughout the movie franchise, takes on his first adult role in Victorian-era horror film "The Woman in Black."

Hitting theatres in Britain on February 10 and a week earlier in the United States, the movie is a step into the unknown for an actor who grew up on the set of one of Hollywood's most successful series.

Instead of production budgets of $250 million or more, The Woman in Black cost an estimated $17 million to make. And however big Radcliffe's fan base around the world, another billion-dollar box office looks out of the question.

James Watkins, who directed The Woman In Black, called it a "reinvention" for Radcliffe.

"I think it's the start of that, absolutely," Radcliffe told Reuters in an interview ahead of Tuesday's red carpet world premiere of the new movie.

One of the attractions of playing Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer and father mourning the death of his wife, was the obvious break with what went before.

"People haven't seen me looking like this before. People haven't seen me playing a father -- all those things are going to help separate it in their mind," Radcliffe said.

"But I think ultimately the thing that will help that reinvention is the fact that the story is so good. I think people will very quickly forget that they're watching Harry Potter."


In The Woman in Black, Kipps is forced to leave his three-year-old son and travel to a remote village on the east coast of England to look into the legal affairs of the recently deceased owner of Eel Marsh House, a creepy mansion cut off from the mainland when the tide rises.

He discovers a dark family secret that helps explain the appearance of a mysterious, ghost-like woman dressed in black who beckons children to an early grave.

The film is based on a novel by Susan Hill that was adapted into a successful West End play, still running in London.

Jane Goldman, who co-wrote the scripts for "Kick-Ass" and "The Debt," was brought in to translate the page to the big screen, and horror specialist Watkins directed.

Radcliffe said he did not think too hard about trying to be different from his Harry Potter character when he worked on the set of The Woman in Black and was pleased with the results.

"I think my work in this is certainly on a par with the work I did on the last Potter which I was very, very proud of."

He will soon discover if critics agree. Throughout the Harry Potter series Radcliffe earned mixed reviews, although any negative comments did nothing to deter record audiences.

And his two main stage roles -- "Equus" in 2007 and "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" in 2011 were generally well-received, particularly Equus.

Looking ahead, Radcliffe said proving he was not a one-part wonder would take time.

"It's a long road. It's not going to be one film and suddenly you're off. It's going to be a combination."

That combination will involve both stage and screen.

"In an ideal world I would like to mix them as much as possible. In March I'm filming a movie called 'Kill Your Darlings' in which I'll be playing a 19-year-old Allen Ginsberg.

"That's the next thing on the plate and after that we'll see."

Greek unions, employers discuss labor cost cuts

ATHENS, Greece (iBBC News) — Greek workers and employers held talks on cutting private sector labor costs Wednesday, a week after Communist protesters blocked a first attempt.
The negotiations followed intense pressure from debt-crippled Greece's international creditors for new labor reforms to boost the country's lagging competitiveness. Both sides, however, agree on the need to avoid any reduction in the minimum wage.
"We are fellow passengers on a sinking ship," Dimitris Daskalopoulos, head of the SEV employers' federation said after the talks. "Once we realize that we share a common fate we will be able to move toward common ground."
Senior debt inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — known as the troika — are in Athens to discuss reforms and cutbacks. Late Tuesday, the Greek Parliament approved a series of new measures demanded by the troika, including provisions to open up certain professions to new entrants and easier payment schemes to help businesses settle mounting tax debts.
But even though the new government is a coalition made up of three parties and holds an overwhelming majority in Parliament, it failed to push through one clause of the bill. Lawmakers rejected a proposal to deregulate pharmacy opening hours, with 101 voting in favor, 65 against and 87 abstentions.
The government has warned that if the talks on labor reform prove fruitless it could impose wage cuts by law — a prospect that the country's main GSEE labor union strongly opposes. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said failure to address the issue could disrupt Greece's international cash lifeline, precipitating a bankruptcy in March and Greece's exit from the 17-nation eurozone.
Greece is in a fourth year of deep recession, with near-record unemployment.
GSEE has ruled out any cut in the euro751 ($977) minimum monthly salary — which the employers' federation is also against, calling instead for lower social security contributions, tax incentives for job creation and less red tape.
A GSEE statement said union and SEV representatives agreed wage costs were not to blame for Greece's slack competitiveness, and that there should be no changes to the holiday pay, known as the 13th and 14th salaries.
"This violent domestic deflation must not continue," GSEE leader Yiannis Panagopoulos said. "The value of salaried labor must not be further undermined."
Many companies have already forced employees to accept salary cuts to avoid broad-scale layoffs, while workers' income has been sapped by a spate of tax hikes since the European debt crisis began in 2009.
The extra two salaries per year have been slashed in the public sector as part of austerity measures imposed in return for Greece's first, euro110 billion ($143 billion) bailout it started receiving from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund in May 2010.
A second bailout, worth another euro130 billion ($169 billion), was agreed upon in October but has not yet been finalized when it was clear the first bailout was not enough. A key part of that deal is a bond swap involving an estimated euro100 billion ($130 billion) writedown in Greece's privately held debt.
But crucial talks with the country's private creditors have faltered over the past few days, and on Tuesday finance ministers of the 17 countries that use the euro adopted a tough stance on the interest rate the new bonds will carry.
The ministers called for an average rate of less than 3.5 percent for the period until 2020. That is below the more than 4 percent average demanded by the Institute of International Finance, which is leading negotiations for the private bondholders.
A person close to the key bondholders said they were meeting in Paris on Wednesday to discuss how and whether to continue the talks. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the steering committee of the IIF is meeting "to really take stock" of the situation.
If the investors decide against moving ahead with talks for a voluntary deal, the eurozone would face a stark choice between a forced default for Greece or new aid payments to the country.

Penguins' Neal replaces Ovechkin for all-star game

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal will replace Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in the NHL All-Star game on Sunday.

Ovechkin backed out of the game after he was issued a three-game suspension from the league for a hit on an opponent.

Neal leads the Penguins with 27 goals and is second on the team with 47 points. Neal leads the NHL with 210 shots and is tied for the league lead with 13 power-play goals. The Penguins have won nine consecutive games and are 17-3-2 overall when Neal scores a goal.

The All-Star fantasy draft will be held on Thursday in Ottawa. It will divide the All-Stars into two teams: Team Alfredsson, led by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson and Team Chara, featuring Boston captain Zdeno Chara.

Judges weigh HIV-infected man's fight to get job

ATLANTA (iBBC News) — A panel of federal judges appeared skeptical Wednesday of the Atlanta police department's decision to reject a job application from an HIV-infected man.

The 40-year-old man sued the city in 2010, claiming he was denied a police officer job solely because he has the virus. Atlanta attorneys argued there are other officers on the force with HIV and the police department that it has no blanket policy disqualifying candidates with the virus. Gay rights groups and police agencies are closely following the case.

One of the three judges signaled the lawsuit would likely be sent back to a lower judge to reconsider.

"I don't see how we can avoid a remand in this case," Circuit Judge R. Lanier Anderson said.

The judges will issue a ruling later.

The man sued under the pseudonym Richard Roe and has requested anonymity because he believes his medical condition could prevent him from other job opportunities. He said in an interview he was a former criminal investigator with the city of Los Angeles who discovered he had HIV in 1997, but that it didn't hinder his ability to perform his duties.

Roe moved to Atlanta to find a better job and joined the city's taxicab enforcement unit. In January 2006, he decided he wanted to join the police force. He passed a series of tests, but hit a snag when a blood test revealed he had the virus that causes AIDS.

The doctor didn't do any more tests, according to records, and recommended to the city that he have "no physical contact or involvement with individuals."

Atlanta attorneys said the city follows the recommendation of the physicians who examine candidates, and in this case, the doctor advised the department to limit Roe's interaction with the public.

"We're told that he can't do the job," said Robert Godfrey, a city attorney. "We have to assume when a doctor tells us this, he can't perform the essential duties."

Roe's attorney, Scott Schoettes of gay rights group Lambda Legal, said there was no evidence that Roe posed a threat to the health and safety of others. The city violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by not fully vetting his client, Schoettes said.

Roe's advocates said the city's position perpetuates myths about HIV that have persisted for three decades. Modern medical advances have made the disease a manageable condition that in many cases won't affect job performance even in the most demanding fields, they said.

"I really see an opportunity for the city of Atlanta to make some drastic changes and move forward," Roe said. "I think that's what this whole case is about."

New exhibit explores Jefferson's slave ownership

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) — As the Smithsonian continues developing a national black history museum, it's offering a look at Thomas Jefferson's lifelong slave ownership through an exhibit that explores the lives of six slave families at his Monticello plantation.

The exhibit at the National Museum of American History includes a look at the family of Sally Hemings, the slave who many historians believe had an intimate relationship with the third president. Some archaeological artifacts will be on public view for the first time.

Curators explore Jefferson's inherent conflict as he drafted the Declaration of Independence and called slavery an "abominable crime" but yet was a lifelong slave holder.

Construction is set to begin this year on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the first addition to the National Mall since 2004.

Media freedom investigator denounces Hungary

BRUSSELS (iBBC News) — The head of a European Union advisory panel on Wednesday denounced the "extraordinary concentration" of power in the press under the leadership of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, saying it has undermined his nation's media freedom.

The official, former Latvia Prime Minister Vaire Vike Freiberga, said Wednesday that she believes "Hungary and its leaders would be wise to reconsider the laws and regulations that they have passed so as not to stand in contravention of various fundamental principles."

The criticism on media freedoms adds to the standoff between the EU and Hungary. The bloc already has launched legal proceedings against Hungary over the independence of the judiciary and the central bank.

Orban swept into power in 2010 and has used a two-thirds majority in parliament to change the political landscape to his liking and in a way that that raised sharp criticism from the EU and the United States.

A key step in the centralization of power was a media law that allows the party to influence reports in the state media. Critical journalists have been fired and the threat of massive fines has pushed others into self-censorship. A private radio station, Klubradio, which was critical of the government, has been stripped of its frequency — and is set to go off the air shortly.

The Independent High-level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, which advises the EU, also is looking at other nations, but Freiberga said Hungary stands out with its "extraordinary concentration" of responsibilities. She said that if prohibitive fines can be imposed "there is no court recourse as there is in other countries."

"These are potential sources of pressure on the media and any source of pressure is a potential danger for narrowing the range of their freedom of expression," she said.

On Tuesday, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes met with the head of Klubradio and complained it already lost 8 local frequencies last year, further threatening media freedom.

NJ synagogue firebombings suspect: I'm not guilty

HACKENSACK, N.J. (iBBC News) — An unemployed high school graduate accused of firebombing two New Jersey synagogues in recent weeks has pleaded not guilty.

Through his attorney, Anthony Graziano entered his plea in state Superior Court in Hackensack on Wednesday morning. He's being held on $5 million bail after being charged with attempted murder, arson and bias intimidation.

Authorities say the 19-year-old Graziano was responsible for fires at synagogues in Paramus and Rutherford this month. They traced the materials in some of the bombs to a Wal-Mart store and captured surveillance images of a man buying the materials. The man was later identified as Graziano.

In the Jan. 11 firebombing at the Rutherford synagogue, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through a second-story window where a rabbi and his family live and started a fire.

NY takes action against Pa. driller over pollution

ALBANY, N.Y. (iBBC News) — Environmental regulators said Tuesday that they are seeking $187,500 in fines against a natural gas drilling company for polluting a trout stream in New York's Allegany State Park while drilling in Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said it has filed an administrative complaint against U.S. Energy Development Corp. alleging that storm water runoff from its roads and well pads in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest washed a large quantity of mud into nearby waterways. It said the mud fouled the water of Yeager Brook in New York's park.

The DEC also is requiring the suburban Buffalo-based company to install storm water and erosion controls to prevent any future water quality damage in New York.

U.S. Energy spokesman William Albert said the DEC has no jurisdiction over drill sites in Pennsylvania.

"The wells are in Pennsylvania and the company's operations are regulated there by the Department of Environmental Protection," Albert said by email. "U.S. Energy is not aware of any issues at the wells in question."

He added, "U.S. Energy intends to vigorously defend itself."

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said New York does have the authority to protect water within its borders.

"U.S. Energy must implement whatever measures are needed to meet New York's water quality standards," she said.

The wells are shallow and didn't involve the newer technology of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, a process in which water, sand and chemicals are blasted deep underground to extract natural gas from shale rock, DeSantis said.

"It was the road construction and insufficient controls during and following construction that caused the violations, not the wells," DeSantis said in an email. "Under the proposed high-volume hydraulic fracturing requirements, inspectors will be frequently visiting well sites and would notice and take action against these sort of violations (in New York)."

New York has had a de facto moratorium on that newer technology since the DEC began an environmental review in 2008. New regulations are being finalized.

The group Environmental Advocates, one of many to have expressed skepticism about the DEC's ability to adequately regulate the gas industry if the Marcellus Shale boom under way in Pennsylvania is allowed to go forward in New York, said it was "encouraged that DEC is being serious about this and enforcing the law."

"This is further proof that industrial gas drilling has many consequences for water quality," said Katherine Nadeau, the group's water and natural resources program director. "And this is an example of a repeat offender."

The DEC complaint noted three incidents of water quality violations during heavy rain in September, December and January that severely muddied the waters of Yeager Brook, a designated trout stream. High levels of suspended sediment can transport pathogens, suffocate fish and destroy habitat.

The agency said it's seeking $112,500 in fines for those three violations plus $75,000 for failing to comply with two previous consent orders for similar violations in August and November 2010. In the August 2010 violation, the DEC said, water flowed from the site during drilling of the well and carried drill cuttings — ground rock from the well hole — into Yeager Brook.

Stellar Apple results point to a good year ahead

iBBC News - Skyrocketing demand for Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad helped the world's most valuable company trounce Wall Street expectations after a rare miss last quarter, and analysts raised their price targets on the stock by up to $100.

Apple shares, which closed at $420.41 on Tuesday on the Nasdaq, jumped 8 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.

Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones -- its flagship product -- and 15.43 million iPad tablets in the holiday quarter, doubling from a year earlier.

At least 14 brokerages raised their price targets on the company's stock, with at least two expecting it to touch $650 in the next 12 months.

Citigroup, which raised its price target on the stock by $100 to $600, expects "another stellar product cycle this year with an iPad refresh in March."

The growth momentum should be driven by demand in China and low channel inventories, Citigroup analysts said.

J.P. Morgan Securities, which sees iPad as a "budding growth engine" for Apple, said the strong results suggest there is more than just one major product cycle at the company.

The new product introductions, such as the iPad 3 and iPhone 5, will only add to the growth story, analysts said.

Of the 56 analysts covering the stock, more than 90 percent have a "strong buy" or a "buy" rating, with only two analysts rating it "sell" or "strong sell". According to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, the mean price target on the stock is $516.02.

Suppliers, such as Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, Toshiba, basked in the reflection of Apple's glowing results.

RBC Capital Markets said the results are likely to be a tailwind for several other companies, including Jabil Circuit and Amphenol.


The quarter saw Apple's warchest of cash and securities swell to almost $100 billion -- more than enough to plug December's U.S. budget deficit and level with California's 2012/13 spending plan.

Analysts expect that Apple might use a portion its cash balance to pay back investors in the form of a dividend.

Apple is one of the few remaining cash-rich technology companies to resist dividend payments.

Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said on Tuesday Apple was "actively discussing" the cash balance but didn't have anything to announce.

"We do believe the company should examine a meaningful dividend closely and are intrigued by the possibilities around any sizeable acquisitions that could improve its wireless and online services," Barclays Capital wrote in a note to clients.

Barclays, which named Apple as its top pick in the IT hardware sector, also expects to hear more about the company's entry into the TV business this year.

Broad, Swann put England in charge

ABU DHABI (iBBC News) - England's Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann were the scourge of Pakistan as they picked up six wickets to reduce the hosts to 256 for seven on the first day of the second test on Wednesday.

Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq remained unbeaten on 83 at the close but England, the world's top-ranked team, made a good start to the match following their 10-wicket drubbing in the first test.

The touring side looked like they might rue a hat-trick of missed catches as ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq put on a fifth-wicket stand of 100 to reach 203 for four but Swann and Broad struck in the final session to tip the balance in England's favour.

Pakistan, who play home matches in the Gulf region due to security problems in their country, won the toss and opted to bat.

Openers Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar added 50 as Broad and James Anderson struggled to make an impression with the new ball.

Captain Andrew Strauss then turned to spin duo Swann and Monty Panesar, with England fielding a four-man attack with two slow bowlers for the first time since 2003, and the decision was soon vindicated.

In the 19th over, Swann bowled Taufeeq Umar for 16 with a straight delivery the batsmen foolishly left to clip his off stump, reducing Pakistan to 51 for one.

Panesar, recalled in place of injured seamer Chris Tremlett for his first test appearance since 2009, then dropped a stooping caught and bowled chance.

But he made immediate amends, dismissing Hafeez for 31 with his next delivery which squeezed between bat and pad to strike the leg stump as Pakistan reached 73 for two at lunch.

Broad returned to the attack for the afternoon session and the all-rounder dismissed Younus Khan and Azhar Ali in quick succession, sending their off-stumps flying with searing deliveries.

Ul-Haq and Shafiq fought back, cheered on by a small crowd in the Sheikh Zayed stadium, an oasis of green in the industrial outskirts of the UAE capital.

Both batsmen had lucky escapes. Ul-Haq survived a fierce lbw appeal on nought, umpire Bruce Oxenford deciding the captain's bat hit the ball before it struck his pads, and he again escaped on 30 when Anderson put down a catch at slip off Panesar.

Alastair Cook at short-leg also failed to snaffle an edge from Shafiq before it hit the turf as the batsmen recorded his fifth test half-century.

Swann then trapped Shafiq lbw for 58 as he attempted a sweep shot, leaving Pakistan on 203 for five.

Strauss was found wanting as Anderson let rip with the second new ball, dropping an easy catch at slip after Adnan Akmal sliced an outside edge.

Broad then claimed his third wicket, Akmal falling for nine after being trapped lbw, and Abdur Rehman went for a duck as Swann snared him with a ball that turned sharply past the left-hander to hit off-stump.

Rampaging bus driver kills 9 in Pune

NEW DELHI (iBBC News) - A government bus driver sped through the streets of Pune on Wednesday smashing his empty bus into dozens of vehicles, killing nine people and injuring 27, police said.

"He just went berserk," city police commissioner Meeran Borwanker told reporters.

"On the way, he went on ramming whatever vehicles were plying the road," she said, adding that pedestrians pushed children out of the way of the bus to protect them.

"He was in such a dangerous kind of mood," she said.

Police were interrogating driver Santosh Mane to try to determine what sparked the deadly rampage and were likely to charge him with murder, a senior police officer in Pune told Reuters by telephone.

The driver was not drunk, said the officer, who declined to be identified.

Police chased the bus during the morning rush-hour chaos, firing shots at its tyres in an attempt to stop it.

Mane drove for more than 20 km (12 miles), mostly on the wrong side of the road, before being brought to a halt, the police officer said.

A college student, Sharif Ibrahim Kutty, eventually managed to climb on board the bus after Mane lost control and overpowered him, according to the news channel NDTV.

"I saw a bus approach a woman and a young child and it just crushed her and then kept going, dragging her with it," NDTV quoted Sharif as saying on its website.

"I got on my bike and I started chasing him. The police fired three rounds, but in vain. At a particular stage near a theatre, he lost control of the bus."

Delta, U.S. Air beat Street views on higher fares

iBBC News - Delta Air Lines and US Airways Group reported much stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Wednesday as both carriers raised fares, offsetting a surge in fuel prices.

Shares of the two airlines shot up in early trading. Both are exploring a merger with AMR Corp, the bankrupt parent of American Airlines.

Delta's earnings of 45 cents per share before special items beat the analysts' average estimate of 38 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company's shares rose more than 7 percent.

US Airways, whose shares jumped more than 12 percent, reported an adjusted profit of 13 cents per share, trouncing Wall Street expectations of 2 cents.

For two years now, airlines have been recovering from a decade-long downturn that led to several airline bankruptcies and mergers. A spike in fuel costs in 2008 hastened a series of capacity cuts across the industry as well as higher fares.

The sector has improved profit margins by trimming flight schedules, raising fares and adding baggage fees. Retiring less fuel-efficient planes and cutting nonfuel costs also helped.

During the fourth quarter, revenue rose 8.5 percent at US Airways and 8 percent at Delta. Both posted double-digit fare hikes for both their mainline and regional carriers.

Delta reported net income of $425 million or 50 cents per share, for the quarter, up from $19 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

"Delta produced a revenue premium to the industry and fully covered our fuel cost increase with higher revenues," President Ed Bastian said in a statement.

Rising fuel prices in 2011 pushed US Airways' net income lower in the fourth quarter, to 11 cents per share from 17 cents a year earlier.

The company spent $3.4 billion on aircraft fuel and related taxes in 2011, up 41.4 percent from 2010.

Had fuel prices last year remained on par with 2010, US Airways said, its fuel expenses for 2011 would have been about $1.2 billion lower.

Industry executives, including US Airways Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker, have advocated further consolidation in the sector to contend with overcapacity and high fixed costs and fuel prices.

Delta and US Airways are exploring a potential deal with American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in November, people familiar with the matter have said.

"Looking forward, we are encouraged by the continued strength in demand and believe US Airways is well-positioned for success in 2012 and beyond," Parker said in a release.

Shares of Delta were up 7.4 percent at $10.07 in early trading, while US Airways jumped 12.3 percent to $7.20.

Stocks open mixed ahead of Fed policy statement

Stocks are opening mostly lower ahead of a statement from the Federal Reserve and a news conference by its chairman.

The Fed will offer details Wednesday about how long it plans to keep interest rates very low. It also will release an economic forecast. Later, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will take questions from reporters.

Traders continue to monitor negotiations between Greece and its private bondholders aimed at reducing the nation's crushing debt load.

Apple Inc. is up 6.9 percent after reporting its best quarter ever.

The Dow Jones industrial average is down 49 points, or 0.4 percent, at 12,626 shortly after the start of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is down 4, or 0.3 percent, at 1,310. The Nasdaq is up 13, or 0.5 percent, at 2,799.

Nigeria naira firms to 3-week high vs US dollar

LAGOS (iBBC News) - The Nigerian naira firmed to a 3-week high against the U.S. dollar in the interbank market on Wednesday after oil companies sold the greenback and the central bank auctioned $250 million at its biweekly forex market.

The naira closed at 160.05 to the dollar on Wednesday, the same level it traded at on January 4, after touching an intraday low of 159.80 naira.

The unit closed at 160.80 naira on Tuesday.

"The market reacted to the increase in dollar supply from three multinational oil companies and the inflows from NNPC's sales last week," one dealer said.

Traders said Royal Dutch Shell sold $100 million, Total $66 million and Addax $10 million, boosting dollar liquidity, and they said last week's $550 million sale by state-owned NNPC was still affecting the system.

At the biweekly foreign exchange auction, the central bank sold $250 million at 156.85 naira to the dollar, compared with $250 million sold at 157 naira on Monday. It didn't disclose the level of demand.

"We expect the naira to continue to strengthen because more lenders are waiting to receive dollar inflows sold by oil companies," another dealer said, adding that the unit could firm to 159 naira by Thursday.

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