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Woman gets life sentence in Md. yoga shop murder

ROCKVILLE, Md. (iBBC News) — A woman convicted of killing her co-worker at an upscale yoga clothing shop in the Washington suburbs, then spinning an elaborate lie about being attacked by two masked men, was ordered Friday to spend the rest of her life behind bars.

A judge sentenced Brittany Norwood, 29, to life in prison without parole, rejecting defense pleas that she deserved an eventual shot at rehabilitation and freedom.

A jury in November convicted Norwood of first-degree murder for bludgeoning and stabbing 30-year-old Jayna Murray, a co-worker at the Lululemon Athletica shop in Bethesda. Prosecutors said Norwood brutally attacked Murray with at least five weapons, including a knife and a hammer, during a fight March 11 after they closed the shop for the day. They said Norwood then doctored the scene to support her story that intruders had attacked and sexually assaulted them.

Murray was found the next morning in a pool of blood at the back of the store, with more than 330 distinct wounds. Norwood was found nearby, tied up, with superficial wounds on her hands and face. Her pants were slit at the crotch.

Norwood's allegations set off panic. Montgomery County police went on a manhunt and fielded hundreds of tips. The store is nestled along a corridor of high-end shops and trendy restaurants in Bethesda, an affluent suburb where violent crime is rare. Some residents and shoppers admitted to feeling anxious at night after Norwood's account of the attack became public.

But the tale unraveled within days as police identified her as their sole suspect. Workers at an adjacent Apple store told police they had heard two women arguing. Investigators found only two sets of footprints in the store. Norwood alleged she was sexually assaulted, but an examination did not back up the claim. And Norwood's DNA was found inside Murray's car. Police arrested Norwood six days after Murray's body was found.

Norwood's lawyers conceded at the outset of the trial that Norwood had killed Murray, but said she had simply "lost it" in a moment of irrationality and didn't have the required forethought to be convicted of first-degree murder. A jury rejected that argument after about an hour of deliberation, finding her guilty of first-degree murder.

The jury did not hear a motive for the killing, but investigators previously said the women fought after Murray found what she thought was stolen merchandise in Norwood's bag.

Obama lawyers argue rest of health law can survive

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - The Obama administration told the Supreme Court on Friday that nearly all of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul can survive if the court declares unconstitutional the law's centerpiece provision requiring health coverage.

Administration attorneys argued in a written brief that all but two provisions can be separated from the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty by 2014, the law's cornerstone known as the individual mandate.

They said the 26 states and the independent business group challenging the law have failed to show that Congress would have wanted the entire law to fall in the event the individual mandate was struck down.

"Many provisions of the act, focused on controlling costs, improving public health and other objectives, have no connection to insurance coverage at all," Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in the brief.

"And Congress directed that much of the act take effect several years before the minimum coverage provision's effective date, further demonstrating that Congress intended those provisions to operate independently," he added.

The Supreme Court has scheduled three days of oral arguments on the healthcare law for March 26-28, with an election-year ruling expected by the end of June.

The question of whether the rest of the law survives is one of four the court will consider, including the issue at the heart of the legal battle - whether Congress exceeded its powers in adopting the mandate.

The states and the business group have challenged the law as an unprecedented move that exceeds its constitutional powers and argued in written briefs filed last month the entire law must fall if the court strikes down the mandate.

Administration attorneys on Friday repeated their position that only two provisions could not be separated and would have to fall if the court invalidates the mandate.

Those provisions bar insurers from refusing to issue coverage to a person because of a pre-existing medical condition and from charging higher premiums based on a person's medical history.

But the government's attorneys said those challenging the law failed to show one instance when the Supreme Court in modern times has struck down a comprehensive law like the healthcare overhaul based on a finding that one provision exceeded Congress's authority.

Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business said in response to the administration's filing that the group still believed the entire law must fall if the mandate is struck down.

"To argue otherwise would be like arguing a house can stand after its foundation has crumbled," she said.

The administration last month filed a separate brief with the high court defending the mandate as a constitutional attempt by Congress to address a crisis in the national health care market.

The Supreme Court cases are National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400.

NC gov's exit shakes up vote on gay marriage ban

RALEIGH, N.C. (iBBC News) — Something unexpected happened on the way to North Carolina's vote this May on banning same-sex marriage.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue unexpectedly announced Thursday that she won't seek re-election. That means more Democrats could turn out to the polls for the May 8 primary to pick a new candidate for governor.

Before that, mostly Republicans were expected to show up to pick their candidates for governor and president. They were expected to approve the ban.

If approved, the constitutional amendment would make North Carolina the last state in the Southeast to ban gay marriage.

Now supporters of gay rights hope that an influx of Democratic voters could defeat the ban.

Opponents of gay marriage say they have the victory sewn up anyway and it won't make much of a difference.

US FDA approves Amylin's diabetes drug

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) - Amylin Pharmaceuticals won U.S. approval on Friday for its Bydureon diabetes drug, a long-awaited victory for the company's most promising product.

After two delays, the Food and Drug Administration approved once-weekly injectable Bydureon for treating adults with Type 2 diabetes, the kind linked to poor diet and lack of exercise. Bydureon is a longer-acting form of Amylin's older Byetta treatment.

Shares of Amylin and partner Alkermes, which provided some technology for the medicine, were halted ahead of the announcement of the FDA's decision.

More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, including nearly 26 million Americans. They run a high risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and limb loss.

Bydureon is seen as Amylin's most important new drug, and critical to its future earnings growth, with analysts estimating peak sales of close to $1 billion.

But after repeated delays in gaining approval in the United States, the medicine faces a daunting competitive landscape.

Novo Nordisk's Victoza, another injectable diabetes medicine, has had almost two extra years to gain traction with patients and doctors. The delays have also given time for potential rivals from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi to catch up.

The FDA had rejected Bydureon twice before, most recently in October 2010, asking for more data on potential side effects to the heart. A trial of Bydureon in July found no link between the drug and changes in heart rhythms, the company said.

However, as a condition of approval, the FDA on Friday said Amylin must conduct another long-term clinical trial by 2018 to study heart-related side effects from Bydureon.

WITHOUT LILLY

Taken once a week, Bydureon has been viewed as crucial to sustaining the franchise started by the twice-daily Byetta.

Investors are closely watching whether Amylin will be able to pull off a successful launch without the help of long-time partner Eli Lilly & Co after the two companies broke off their diabetes partnership in November. Alkermes would also get royalties from the sales of Bydureon.

Amylin said Bydureon would be available in U.S. pharmacies starting in February.

Victoza, which is injected daily, proved superior to Bydureon in controlling blood sugar levels, trial results published last March showed.

But Bydureon may get a boost because of its more convenient dosing.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said they expect peak Bydureon sales of $1.5 billion, above market forecasts of $940 million by 2016, because of its convenience compared with Victoza.

Bydureon, Byetta and Victoza belong to the new GLP-1 class of therapies that stimulate insulin production when blood sugar levels become too high. They can also prompt weight loss, a benefit because obesity is a leading cause of diabetes.

European regulators approved Bydureon as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes in April 2011.

Several hurt in collapse at Cincinnati casino site

CINCINNATI (iBBC News) — A floor collapsed into a V shape Friday at the construction site of a new casino, sending workers sliding down to the ground and injuring at least a dozen of them.

Authorities said there were no life-threatening injuries in the collapse, which came just weeks after a similar accident at a Cleveland casino with the same developer.

The collapse occurred shortly before 8 a.m. as a crew was pouring a section of concrete floor, Steve Rosenthal, of casino co-developer Rock Gaming LLC, said Friday. Rosenthal told reporters at a news conference that it was too soon to determine what caused the collapse.

Fire Chief Richard Braun, who was one of the first on the scene after the collapse, said that a beam supporting the floor "sheared away" and the floor came down while the workers were on top of it.

"They basically rode the V down," Braun said. No one was underneath the 60-foot-by-60-foot section of floor.

The injured were sent to hospitals with what appeared to be mostly bruises and bumps, and possibly some broken bones, the fire chief said. All workers were accounted for, according to Rosenthal.

Jessie Folmar, a spokeswoman for Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co., said the company was trying to learn what happened Friday.

Messer has a clean safety record with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2006, according to information from the agency's database. Its last Ohio incident was that year, when it was penalized for four serious violations and paid a penalty of $3,125. One involved a lack of adequate fall protection for workers.

OSHA inspectors, as well as investigators from the state, were looking into the accident. The developers said work won't resume until the construction team and authorities say it is safe.

The collapse occurred on what will be the casino's second floor, said Jason Mullins, business manager for a union representing ironworkers on the project, but not the workers who were hurt. The framework was more than one-third complete, Mullins said.

Mullins said some of the union's workers were at the site and saw at least part of the collapse.

"They were shaken up, but they were not injured and they worked to help those who were," he said. "No one was underneath the floor, or there could have been lives lost."

Authorities have said that at least a dozen people were injured. The company knew of at least seven people who were taken to hospitals, but others may have gone on their own, Rosenthal said.

The casino is being developed by Rock Gaming in partnership with Caesar's Entertainment. The same team is behind a casino project in downtown Cleveland where a garage partially collapsed on Dec. 16. A 60-foot-by-60-foot second-level section of the parking deck gave way while concrete was being poured. No one was injured.

There is "absolutely zero connection" between the collapse in Cincinnati and the accident in Cleveland, Rosenthal said. "These are two different construction management companies, two different contractors, two different sites, two different areas."

Rock Gaming spokeswoman Jennifer Kulczycki said the concrete work being done Friday was "a regularly scheduled pour."

"There was absolutely no acceleration of the work schedule," Rosenthal said.

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati is a $400 million development under construction in the northeast corner of the city's center and is expected to open in spring 2013, an official with the company told an Ohio House panel at a hearing this week.

The casino is supposed to attract millions of visitors and create 1,700 jobs, said Lee Dillard, vice president of finance for the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. It will feature three outward-facing restaurants, about 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games and a 31-table World Series of Poker room.

Casino development was touted during a statewide legalization campaign in 2009 for the immediate boost it would give to Ohio's economy, particularly through the temporary construction jobs needed to build the four new facilities in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo. According to a recent report from the Associated General Contractors of America, construction jobs indeed rose in Ohio this past year — from 163,400 in December 2010 to 168,600 last month.

Nationwide, OSHA statistics show there were nearly 196,000 job-related injuries in 2010 in the construction industry, almost four injuries for every 100 fulltime workers. In Ohio, there were 21 fatal injuries in the construction industry in 2010, the agency said.

Starbucks CEO paid $16 million in 2011 fiscal year

PORTLAND, Ore. (iBBC News) — Starbucks gave its CEO Howard Schultz a $16 million pay package in its 2011 fiscal year.

That's down 26 percent from the $22 million pay package in the prior year when he got a boost for bringing the company roaring back from the recession.

Starbucks paid Schultz a $1.4 million salary for 2011 plus stock and option awards worth $11.5 million. The company gave him a cash performance bonus of nearly $3 million. He also received more than $235,000 in perks such as security and use of the company plane.

The iBBC News's calculation counts salary, bonuses, perks, stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.

After 70 years, right-to-work impact still unclear

INDIANAPOLIS — The battle over the right-to-work issue may be reaching a conclusion in Indiana as the state prepares to become the first to adopt the law in more than a decade, but the argument over exactly what the measure means for a state's economy is likely to rage on, unresolved, as it has for 70 years.

Since the 1940s, 22 states have passed laws barring unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers for labor representation. Supporters, mostly Republicans, insist the measure helps create a pro-business climate that attracts employers and increases jobs. Opponents say the law only leads to lower wages and poorer quality jobs.

The evidence on the issue is abundant, but also conflicting and murky. The clearest conclusion, according to many experts, is that the economies of states respond to a mix of factors, ranging from the swings in the national economy to demographic trends, and that isolating the impact of right-to-work is nearly impossible.

Obscuring the answer is "the difficulty of distinguishing the effects of the RTW laws from state characteristics, as well as other state policies that are unrelated with these laws," said economists Ozkan Eren and Serkan Ozbeklik, who conducted a major study last year of the right-to-work laws in Oklahoma and Idaho.

For major industries, the chief factors in choosing locations tend to be access to supplies, infrastructure, key markets and a skilled work force, according to business recruitment specialists. For a state's workers, the impact of right-to-work is limited because only about 7% of private sector employees are unionized. Over the years, job growth has surged in states with, and without, right-to-work laws.

On right to work, "The reason we don't have clear views is because it's always being debated at its extremes," said Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, who assigns his students to analyze the issue each year. In the end, when it comes to jobs and the law, "We don't know causation," he said.

The Indiana Legislature is expected to complete action on its measure soon. However, the larger debate will continue, focusing on the following arguments:

Claim: Right-to-work brings more jobs to a state.

According to a study commissioned by Indiana's Chamber of Commerce, which supports the right-to-work law, employment grew 100 percent in right-to-work states between 1977 and 2008 but only 57 percent in those without the law.

Proponents point to an immediate impact in Oklahoma, which adopted the measure in 2001. In 2002, the state added 7,822 jobs, said Fred Morgan, president of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce.

"In 2002, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce reported that companies announced plans to add the highest number of new jobs since 1995," Morgan said.

However, the chamber study does not account for significant factors affecting employment in the period cited. A massive decline in American manufacturing had a severe impact on jobs in the Rust Belt, where states without right-to-work are clustered. The Sunbelt, where most states have the law, had fewer manufacturing jobs to lose and also experienced big increases in population.

In Oklahoma, the job gains after right to work also were not unusual in the region. Three neighboring states without a right-to-work law -- Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado -- experienced similar job growth, in some cases even exceeding Oklahoma's. Several major employers shut down in Oklahoma City, including Gulfstream Aerospace in 2002 and Bridgestone Firestone in 2006.

Other factors affecting businesses may play a larger role on job growth in right-to-work states, Eren and Ozbklik's study concluded. Many have "higher subsidies for new factories, low taxes on capital and weaker environmental/safety regulations," they said. In Oklahoma and Idaho, "it is not likely that RTW laws have any impact on manufacturing employment rate."

The chamber study also argues that right-to-work boosts a state's population by making it a more popular place to live and work. Between 2000 and 2009, 4.9 million Americans left non-right-to-work states for those with the law, according to the study. However, the study offered no evidence on other causes for the population shifts.

Claim: Right-to-work decreases wages.

The Economic Policy Institute, which is supported by organized labor, reports that workers in right-to-work states earn $1,500 less annually than their counterparts in states without the law, based on a 2009 analysis of census data.

On average, "right-to-work laws are associated with wages -- for everyone, not just union members -- that are 3.2 percent lower than they would be without such a law," according to an EPI study released earlier this month.

The EPI researchers, Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, said their study made adjustments for differences in the costs of living so that the higher wages in right-to-work states didn't just reflect the higher living costs on the East and West coasts.

But right-to-work supporters counter with the chamber's study showing that personal income grew 164.4 percent in right-to-work states between 1977 and 2008 while income grew 92.8 percent in non-right-to-work states.

Claim: Right-to-work is designed to weaken unions.

Unions lose some paying members when workers' dues are made voluntary, according to data gathered by Georgia State University professor Barry Hirsch and Trinity University professor David Macpherson at UnionStats.com.

So-called "free riders," or workers covered by union contracts who chose not to pay dues, increased 400 percent in the decade after Oklahoma became a right-to-work state. In 2010, 4.7 percent of the state's private sector work force was covered by union contracts, by only 3.5 percent of the work force were dues-paying members.

In Idaho the number of workers covered by unions who weren't members increased roughly 130 percent after the state approved its right-to-work law.

However, by far the largest blow to union membership and finances has been the manufacturing decline and the loss of millions of jobs. Even in states without a right-to-work law, union membership dropped 54.2 percent between 1983 and 2010, according to data from the UnionStats.com website.

And even before a right-to-work law goes into effect in Indiana, union membership there has dropped from 14.1 percent to 8.9 percent in the last decade.

Fitch cuts Italy, Spain, other euro zone ratings

NEW YORK (iBBC News) - Fitch downgraded the sovereign credit ratings of Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Slovenia and Spain on Friday, indicating there was a 1-in-2 chance of further cuts in the next two years.

In a statement, the ratings agency said the affected countries were vulnerable in the near-term to monetary and financial shocks.

"Consequently, these sovereigns do not, in Fitch's view, accrue the full benefits of the euro's reserve currency status," it said.

Fitch cut Italy's rating to A-minus from A-plus; Spain to A from AA-minus; Belgium to AA from AA-plus; Slovenia to A from AA-minus and Cyprus to BBB-minus from BBB, leaving the small island nation just one notch above junk status.

Ireland's rating of BBB-plus was affirmed.

All of the ratings were given negative outlooks.

Fitch said it had weighed up a worsening economic outlook in much of the euro zone against the European Central Bank's December move to flood the banking sector with cheap three-year money and austerity efforts by governments to curb their debts.

"Overall, today's rating actions balance the marked deterioration in the economic outlook with both the substantive policy initiatives at the national level to address macro-financial and fiscal imbalances, and the initial success of the ECB's three-year Long-Term Refinancing Operation in easing near-term sovereign and bank funding pressures," Fitch said.

Two weeks ago, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit ratings of nine euro zone countries, stripping France and Austria of their coveted triple-A status but not EU paymaster Germany, and pushing struggling Portugal into junk territory.

With nearly half a trillion euros of ECB liquidity coursing through the financial system, some of which has apparently gone into euro zone government bonds, and with hopes of a deal to write down a slab of Greece's mountainous debt, even that sweeping ratings action had little market impact.

The euro briefly pared gains against the dollar after Fitch cut the five euro zone sovereigns but soon jumped to a session high of $1.3208, according to Reuters data, its highest since December 13.

Italy is widely seen as the tipping point for the euro zone. If it slid towards default, the whole currency project would be threatened.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, a technocrat who has won plaudits for his economic reform drive, said he reacted to Fitch's downgrade of Italy with "detached serenity."

"They signal things that are not particularly new, for example, that Italy has a very high debt as a percentage of GDP and they signal that the way the euro zone is governed as a whole is not perfect and we knew that too," he said during a live interview on Italian television.

"They also say things that give a positive view of what is being done in Italy because there is much appreciation for policies of this government and this parliament," he said.

Fitch said of Italy: "A more severe rating action was forestalled by the strong commitment of the Italian government to reducing the budget deficit and to implementing structural reform as well as the significant easing of near-term financing risks as a result of the ECB's 3-year Longer-term Refinancing Operation."

Earnings schedule for week of 1/30/2012

Major companies tentatively scheduled to report quarterly earnings next week:

Monday

Wendy's Co. reports quarterly financial results.

Tuesday

Amazon.com Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Exxon Mobil Corp. reports quarterly financial results.

Mattel Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Pfizer Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

United Parcel Service Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

United States Steel Corp. reports quarterly financial results.

Japanese automaker Honda reports quarterly financial results.

Wednesday

Aetna Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Chrysler reports quarterly financial results.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Group reports quarterly financial results.

Thursday

Dow Chemical Co. reports quarterly financial results.

Kellogg Co. reports quarterly financial results.

Mastercard Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Merck & Co. Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

Viacom Inc. reports quarterly financial results.

European oil company Royal Dutch Shell PLC reports quarterly financial results.

European consumer goods company Unilever NV reports quarterly financial results.

German bank Deutsche Bank reports quarterly financial results.

Luxury goods maker LVMH reports quarterly financial results.

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. reports quarterly financial results.

Japanese automaker Mazda reports quarterly financial results.

Friday

No major announcements expected.

Calif. air regulators pass auto emissions rules to cut air pollution, spur clean car market

LOS ANGELES (iBBC News) — Calif. air regulators pass auto emissions rules to cut air pollution, spur clean car market.

Facebook to file IPO documents soon as Weds

FACEBOOK - Facebook plans to file documents as early as Wednesday for a highly anticipated IPO that will value the world's largest social network at between $75 billion and $100 billion, the Wall Street Journal cited unidentified sources as saying on Friday.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are expected to lead what would be one of the largest initial public offerings in U.S. history, the Journal cited its sources as saying.

Facebook was not immediately for comment.

The impending IPO -- expected to raise $10 billion -- is a prized trophy for investment banks, setting up a fierce competition on Wall Street, particularly between the presumed front-runners Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

BMO lowers rating on J.C. Penney

PORTLAND, Ore. (iBBC News) — BMO Capital Markets analyst Wayne Hood lowered his rating on J.C. Penney Company Inc., citing risks in the company's new strategy.

THE OPINION: J.C. Penney's management laid out an ambitious transformation plan Thursday that would end its rampant discounting and change how its stores are formatted. The department store operator also issued a 2012 earnings outlook that was well above market expectations.

In a research note Friday, Hood said the plan is "credible" but raises significant risks that come with such major overhauls. He said the stock could be weak following the jump in shares Thursday on the news. The stock is trading well above where it should, based on his analysis. Hood lowered his rating on the company's shares to "Underperform" from "Market Perform"

THE STOCK: Hood lowered his price target on the company's shares to $29 from $36.

J.C. Penney's shares rose 33 cents in afternoon trading Friday to $41.05 after a more dramatic 18.6 percent jump Thursday from an opening price of $34.32.

The shares have traded between $23.44 and $41.24 in the past 52 weeks.

AEP's 4Q profit jumps 75 percent thanks to ruling

COLUMBUS, Ohio (iBBC News) — American Electric Power Co. said Friday that its fourth-quarter earnings surged 75 percent, largely due to a court decision in Texas that went in the company's favor.

The power supplier said that its net income rose to $308 million, or 64 cents per share, in the three months ending Dec. 31. That compares with $176 million, or 37 cents per share, a year ago.

AEP said a Texas Supreme Court ruling that reversed an unfavorable state regulatory ruling was worth $558 million to the company's bottom line. The company's revenue for the quarter held steady at $3.4 billion.

Excluding special items, AEP earned $194 million in the quarter, or 40 cents a share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected adjusted earnings of 41 cents a share on revenue of $3.1 billion. Those estimates typically do not include special items.

By early afternoon Friday, AEP's stock was down $1.34, or 3.2 percent, at $39.94. The shares have traded in a range of $33.09 to $41.98 over the past year.

"We had solid financial performance for both the fourth quarter and the year," president and CEO Nicholas Akins said in a statement. "We benefited from favorable weather conditions throughout most of the year, and our industrial volumes were up 4 percent in 2011."

AEP's industrial sales have had a tough recovery from a recession which sapped demand for power from manufacturers and other major customers that closed plants and made other cutbacks.

For the full year, AEP said that its net income rose to $1.9 billion, or $4.02 per share, from $1.2 billion, or $2.53 per share, in 2010. Revenue in 2011 was $15.1 billion, up from $14.4 billion the previous year.

American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation's largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of capacity.

One million children in Sahel at risk, UNICEF warns

GENEVA (iBBC News) - More than 1 million children in the Sahel are at risk of severe malnutrition and urgent action is needed to avert starvation akin to that in Somalia, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.

The agency appealed for $67 million for 8 countries in the region where it said instability fueled by increasing activities of al-Qaeda and Boko Haram was compounding humanitarian needs. They are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.

"In the Sahel we are facing a nutrition crisis of a larger magnitude than usual with over 1 million children at risk of severe, acute malnutrition," Rima Salah, acting UNICEF deputy executive director, told a news briefing.

"The countries in the Sahel, for example, if we do not now attend to their needs, it will become like Somalia and other countries," she said. "We have to prevent it before it becomes a disaster."

She was referring to the anarchic Horn of Africa country where the U.N. says 250,000 still live in famine conditions due to drought and conflict and a total of 4 million need aid.

More than nine million people in five countries in Africa's Sahel region face food crisis next year, following low rainfall, poor harvests, high food prices and a drop in remittances from migrants, aid agency Oxfam said last month.

The funds for the Sahel, for an initial six-month phase, will provide therapeutic feeding to malnourished children and campaigns to prevent the spread of epidemics including cholera. Some families will receive cash to cover higher food prices.

It is part of UNICEF's overall appeal of $1.28 billion for 98 million women and children in 25 countries. Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya) account for nearly one-third of the total amount sought.

"There is growing instability in the Sahel region, fuelled by the Arab Spring and increasing activities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, all compounding the humanitarian needs of children and women in the region," UNICEF's report, "2012 Humanitarian Action for Children," said on Friday.

The Libyan civil war might have given militant groups in Africa's Sahel region like Boko Haram and al Qaeda access to large weapons caches, according to a U.N. report released in New York on Thursday.

The U.N. report on the impact of the Libyan civil war on countries of the Sahel region that straddle the Sahara - including Nigeria, Niger and Chad - also said some national authorities believe the Islamist sect Boko Haram, which killed more than 500 people last year and more than 250 this year in Nigeria, has increasing links to al Qaeda's North African wing.

FDA accepts Pfizer leukemia treatment for review

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drugmaker, said Friday the Food and Drug Administration will review its potential leukemia treatment bosutinib as a possible option for adults who have first tried other treatments.

The New York company said bosutinib is an oral, once-daily treatment for a form of chronic myeloid leukemia, one of four main types of leukemia that accounts for 15 percent of all cases worldwide. Pfizer based its submission on a study of more than 500 people who had been treated previously for the disease.

That includes patients previously treated with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. drug Sprycel, also known as dasatinib, and the Novartis AG treatment Tasigna, or nilotinib.

Shares of Pfizer fell 14 cents to $21.49 in afternoon trading, while broader trading indexes also were down less than 1 percent.

Pats' Gronkowski absent from practice for 2nd day

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (iBBC News) — Rob Gronkowski is absent from the New England Patriots' practice for the second straight day with an injured left ankle.

WIVB-TV in Buffalo reported that his father, Gordy Gronkowski, said he has a high ankle sprain. Rob Gronkowski attended Williamsville North High School in the Buffalo area. The station said his father expects him to be fine for the Super Bowl against the New York Giants on Feb. 5.

The Patriots have not disclosed the extent of the injury

The tight end was the only player missing at the start of Friday's practice while reporters were present.

Gronkowski, whose 17 touchdown catches set an NFL single-season record for tight ends, was injured late in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-20 AFC championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Raps' top scorer Bargnani out indefinitely with injury

(iBBC News) - The Toronto Raptors will be without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani indefinitely after the Italian centre reinjured his strained left calf, the National Basketball Association team said on Friday.

Bargnani, who is averaging a team-high 23.5 points a game, aggravated his strained calf in the first overtime of Toronto's double-overtime win against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Tests done on Thursday in Denver revealed no significant damage to the calf, the Raptors said in a statement.

Theinjury is a setback to a Raptors team that are last in the Atlantic division with a 6-13 record going into Friday's road game against the Denver Nuggets.

Shell fixes Nigerian oil line, restores output

LONDON (iBBC News) - Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian venture has finished repairs to a damaged Nigerian oil pipeline and restored output, the company said on Friday, boosting supplies from Africa's top exporter.

Shell Petroleum Development Co. (SPDC) had to shut down the 90-kilometre (56-mile) Nembe Creek Trunkline on December 24 after leaks caused by crude theft, delaying oil output of 70,000 barrels per day (bpd).

"Repair of the Nembe Creek Trunkline has been completed and production restored," Shell said in an emailed statement. Earlier on Friday, the company said it aimed to finish the work before the end of January.

Shell said an investigation by government officials, Shell and community representatives found thieves had installed valves at two points on the line in Nembe, Bayelsa State. The company recovered more than 200 barrels of spilled oil.

"What is really worrying about this leak is that it happened on a facility which was commissioned in October 2009 to replace an old line which was repeatedly targeted by crude oil thieves," said Tony Attah, a Shell official, quoted in the earlier statement.

Oil theft, known as bunkering in Nigeria, is rampant in the Niger Delta and often disrupts output. Thieves drill into pipelines that pass through winding creeks and waterways in the Niger Delta region.

The practice is thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Nigerian oil is of high quality and significant supply disruptions can boost world prices. Nigeria is set to export around 164,000 bpd of Bonny Light in February, 8.5 percent of total Nigerian shipments of 1.94 million bpd.

The Nembe pipeline sends crude produced by Shell's venture and other companies to the Bonny export terminal. As a result of the leak, Shell declared force majeure on Bonny Light crude exports in early January.

Shell said on Friday the force majeure -- a legal clause allowing a company to miss deliveries due to circumstances outside its control -- remained in place.

An oil trader said he expected the force majeure to be lifted soon given that production has been recovering.

Calif. park supervisor slaying suspect arraigned

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (iBBC News) — A California man accused of shooting his former boss, the city's parks superintendent, faces charges that could make him eligible for the death penalty.

Forty-seven-year-old Dupree Pierre Barber, of Rancho Cordova, was arraigned on Thursday in a Sacramento County courtroom on a murder count with the special circumstances of lying in wait and shooting from one vehicle into another. He did not enter a plea. A judge appointed a public defender to represent him and continued his case until Feb. 16.

The special circumstances mean Barber could face the death penalty if convicted in Monday's slaying of Cordova Recreation and Parks District Superintendent Steve Ebert.

Barber had been laid off from the park district about two weeks before the shooting.

His public defender, John Perkins, described him as very distraught.

NYPD boss won't talk about son's sex-assault case

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is refusing to answer questions about his TV host son who has been accused of rape.

Facing the press Friday after a promotion ceremony at police headquarters, Kelly told reporters that any questions about the case should be directed to the Manhattan district attorney's office. The DA is handling the case instead of the NYPD to avoid a conflict of interest.

Officials have told The Associated Press that a woman reported she went out with Greg Kelly on Oct. 8, had drinks and went back to her law office, where he assaulted her.

The officials say she told investigators she became pregnant and had an abortion.

Through a lawyer, Kelly has strenuously rebuked the allegations.

China Ex-Im Bank lends $41M for Bahamas project

NASSAU, Bahamas (iBBC News) — The Bahamian government has approved a plan to build a bridge and port on Abaco island with a $41 million loan from China's state-owned Export-Import Bank.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham says the bridge and port will attract more foreign investment to the island. He says the $33 million project will include a commercial port and marina and will ease pressure in Marsh Harbour in the south of the island. Both projects are expected to be completed by November 2013.

The House of Assembly approved the loan and development project Thursday in a unanimous vote. Terms of the loan were not disclosed. China's Export-Import Bank is also financing a $2.6 billion resort complex in Nassau.

Nigeria sect leader threatens new attacks

LAGOS, Nigeria (iBBC News) — The leader of a radical Islamist sect launching increasingly bloody attacks in Nigeria has rejected offers for a negotiated peace, instead promising to kidnap government officials' family members and bomb schools, according to an Internet audio message allegedly posted by the group.

The message by Imam Abubakar Shekau of the sect known as Boko Haram comes amid continuing unrest in north Nigeria following the group's attack in Kano that killed at least 185 people. A daylight attack on Muslim traders in the north killed 15 people, while gunmen also have kidnapped a German there.

Shekau's 40-minute message also for the first time discusses Boko Haram's goal: Complete adoption of Islam across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people split largely between a Christian south and a Muslim north. And Shekau said he remains prepared to order more violence to accomplish that.

"If (Nigerian security forces) are going to places of worship and destroying them, like mosques and Quranic schools, you have primary schools as well, you have secondary schools and universities and we will start bombing them," Shekau said. "Touch us and see. That is what we will do."

The video posted to YouTube on Wednesday shows a still image of Shekau sitting on a beige sofa, a Kalashnikov rifle at his back. Speaking at times in Arabic, English and the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, Shekau said negotiations suggested by President Goodluck Jonathan between the sect and the government will not happen.

"He's lying. He cannot do it," Shekau said. "If Jonathan does not repent as a Muslim, even if I die myself, Jonathan's going to see. He's looking at me like I'm nobody, but he'll see."

In the message, Shekau acknowledged that Boko Haram carried out the Jan. 20 attacks in Kano, Nigeria's second largest city, that killed at least 185 people. Gunmen from the sect armed with explosives and assault rifles, some wearing army and police uniforms, others suicide car bombers, attacked police stations, immigration offices and the local headquarters of Nigeria' secret police.

However, Shekau denied killing civilians in the attack, claiming the sect's gunmen tried to protect the more than 9 million people who live in the important city in Nigeria's north. Government officials have said many of those killed by the sect were Muslim civilians.

"We're killing police officers, we're killing soldiers and other government people who are fighting Allah and Christians who are killing Muslims and talking badly about our Islamic religion," Shekau said. "I am not against anyone, but if Allah asks me to kill someone, I will kill him and I will enjoy killing him like I am killing a chicken."

Shekau also said the sect's attack on Kano came after the arrests, and in some cases torture, of sect members' wives and children. Nigeria's federal police often arrest family members to force those they want into turning themselves over to authorities.

The Associated Press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the recording, though it sounded like others attributed to Shekau in the past.

Boko Haram wants to implement strict Shariah law and avenge the deaths of Muslims killed in religious and ethnic violence across Nigeria. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has now killed at least 262 people in 2012, more than half of the at least 510 people the sect killed in all of 2011, according to an Associated Press count.

The sect also began specifically targeting Christians living in the north at the start of the year, exploiting already existing tensions between the two religions in a nation where religious and ethnic rioting has killed thousands in recent years.

The attack by Boko Haram comes during continued unrest across Nigeria's north. In Kano, gunmen kidnapped a German citizen Thursday working for Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company Ltd.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told journalists Friday that the embassy and a ministry crisis unit were working hard to resolve the case.

"I can't yet report any substantial progress," Peschke said.

Meanwhile, Zamfara state spokesman Ibrahim Muhammad Birnin Magaji said Friday that gunmen killed 15 Muslim traders on their way to market. Birnin Magaji said the gunmen burned the bodies of their victims in a rural village in Katsina state on Thursday, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Kano.

He said authorities suspect an armed robbery attack, but no goods were reported missing.

As US slows, P&G turns to developing markets

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Emerging markets are playing a bigger role in Procter & Gamble Co.'s growth, in another sign that U.S. companies are courting new customers overseas as American shoppers get tapped out.

The maker of Tide laundry detergent, Crest toothpaste and Pampers diapers said Friday that its market value grew 9 percent in developing countries over the latest quarter, but just 2 percent in North America and 0.5 percent in Western Europe. That news came as P&G reported a 49 percent drop in profit for the second fiscal quarter, hobbled by higher costs for materials and a big write-down on the value of two of its business units.

Developing markets like Africa and parts of Latin America and Asia now make up almost 37 percent of P&G's sales, up from 27 percent five years ago. That growth was buoyed by recent expansions like toothpaste offerings in Nigeria and fabric softener in Indonesia. In the same period, the share of sales that P&G makes in the U.S. dropped to 37 percent from 43 percent.

"We are shifting the footprint of the company to take advantage of the growth where the growth occurs," CEO Bob McDonald said in a call with analysts.

He noted that P&G has closed technical centers in Western Europe and North America but recently broke ground on a new center in Singapore and doubled the size of another in Beijing. Of the roughly 19 plants the company had under construction in the last six months, only one was in the U.S.

That adaptability has helped P&G gain revenue no matter the economic climate in the U.S., McDonald said. For example, while some competitors have blamed slowing diaper sales on a drop in the U.S. birth rate, P&G has focused on selling baby products to fast-growing populations in Asia. P&G's baby care revenue rose 6 percent in the quarter, while overall revenue rose 4 percent.

The globally focused strategy isn't without challenges. In some cases, P&G has to convince a new crop of customers that they need a product they'd previously lived without, like disposable diapers. The products sold in places like Africa and Latin America are usually lower cost, which means they typically carry lower profit margins.

But P&G also is keenly aware of the fragility of recession-weary customers in the U.S. and Western Europe. This quarter, it took big write-downs on the value of its salon professional unit and the appliances unit, which mostly sells electric razors.

The company noted that discretionary purchases are a tougher sell in a weak economy. It also noted that Western Europe, where concerns about a debt crisis are crimping consumer confidence, accounts for about half the sales for both units.

P&G is also raising prices across the globe to make up for its own higher costs for many raw materials like alcohol and the resin used in making diapers. In the last quarter, it raised prices an average of 4 percent.

P&G knows it must proceed carefully or risk driving away customers. In the last earnings call, it said the higher prices hurt its market share in Western Europe and North America.

But Friday, executives sounded more optimistic. They said more competitors were following suit and raising their prices as well, which should stem any loss of market share. For example, Colgate-Palmolive Co. announced Thursday it had raised prices in North America after more than two years of cutting them.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Astrachan, who described the quarter as "not a terrible result," said P&G should lower prices in some categories to gain back lost market share.

McDonald said P&G closely watches whether other companies follow its price increases, and if they don't, "then we react to resume the value equation we had when we were growing share."

P&G also noted that, like other U.S. companies that do business in foreign markets, it is no longer benefiting from favorable foreign currency exchanges. When the dollar is weak, as it was for much of last year, revenue a company raises overseas translates into more dollars when converted at headquarters. But now, many foreign currencies are slipping.

As a result, P&G lowered its per-share earnings estimate for the fiscal year, to $4 to $4.10 per share from $4.15 to $4.33.

For the quarter, net income fell 49 percent, to $1.69 billion from $3.33 billion, on the higher materials costs and the write-downs of the appliance business and the salon business. But after stripping out the one-time charges like the write-downs, net income was $1.10 per share, beating the $1.07 predicted by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue grew 4 percent to $22.1 billion, helped by the higher prices. That was roughly in line with analysts' expectations.

P&G's stock fell half a percent at mid-day to $64.45.

Times of India 27 January 2012 e-paper Free Download

Sarkozy: French troops to quit Afghanistan end-2013

PARIS (iBBC News) - French troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2013, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday after talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, confirming that pullout plans would not be accelerated after the killing of French soldiers last week.

Some military training staff could stay on after that date, he said.

Home invasion killer formally sentenced to death

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (iBBC News) — A Connecticut man condemned to die for a home invasion that killed a mother and her two daughters says it is surreal to face death and insists he did not intend to kill anyone.

A judge formally sentenced Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sahr-JEV'-skee) to death Friday on a jury's earlier recommendation. Judge Jon Blue is calling the crimes "horrific beyond imagination."

Komisarjevsky is blaming his accomplice for much of the crime but speaks of regrets and the devastating consequences of his decisions.

He says he has family and supporters who don't want him to die.

He and his accomplice, Steven Hayes, were convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in the home invasion in 2007 in Cheshire.

Justice unit to probe mortgage-backed securities

WASHINGTON (iBBC News) — Federal and state law enforcement officials have launched a fraud-fighting initiative to root out wrongdoing in the market for residential mortgage-backed securities.

Attorney General Eric Holder says that bringing full enforcement resources to bear will help expose abuses and hold violators accountable.

Residential mortgage-backed securities are the huge investment packages of what turned out to be near-worthless mortgages that bankrupted many investors and contributed to the nation's financial crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a co-chair of the initiative. He says the effort will link state and federal probes of the mortgage-backed securities bubble.

The attorney general announced the effort Friday with federal and state officials. President Barack Obama disclosed it in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Summary Box: Eastman Chemical buying Solutia

iBBC News : Eastman Chemical Co., a specialty chemical company, is purchasing Solutia Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $3.38 billion.

THE REASON: The buyout will help Eastman Chemical broaden its presence in emerging markets like the Asia Pacific region and bolster its product offerings.

THE DETAILS: Solutia shareholders will receive $22 in cash and 0.12 shares of Eastman Chemical stock for each share held. Based on Thursday's closing prices, Solutia shareholders will receive cash and stock valued at $27.65 per Solutia share. The companies value the transaction, including debt, at about $4.7 billion.

Cruise crew member sues over Italy disaster

DUBLIN (iBBC News) — An Irish Republican Army veteran long accused of laundering counterfeit U.S. $100 bills on behalf of North Korea could face trial in Ireland, a Dublin judge announced Friday.

High Court Justice John Edwards said he has forwarded an evidence file to state prosecutors against Sean Garland, 76, who denies smuggling more than $250,000 worth of fake American banknotes from the North Korean embassy in Moscow in 1998.

Edwards issued his follow-up statement one month after he rejected a 6-year-old U.S. extradition warrant for Garland. The judge explained that the alleged conspiracy was concocted in part on Irish soil, therefore Garland must stand trial in Ireland, not the United States.

The judge also ordered Garland's house deeds and euro75,000 ($98,000) in bail money returned to him pending any Irish decision to charge him.

In May 2005, a U.S. federal grand jury in Washington indicted Garland for allegedly dealing in North Korean "superdollars" — so called because of their exceptional high quality — and the U.S. Justice Department issued an international arrest warrant.

American officials said Garland received two loads of fake $100 bills during two 1998 trips to Moscow, when Russian interior ministry police said they tailed him traveling in North Korean diplomatic-plated cars to the North Korean embassy. Garland admitted traveling to Moscow but has denied everything else.

Officials in the Republic of Ireland took no immediate action following the American arrest demand. Instead, Garland was arrested during a rare 2005 foray into neighboring Northern Ireland, where British authorities traditionally are much more open to permitting a U.S. extradition.

However, Garland in October 2005 persuaded a Belfast judge to grant him bail to visit his home near Dublin. Weeks later, his lawyers told that court he wouldn't return.

In 2009, Garland was arrested in Dublin on the basis of the same U.S. warrant. His extradition trial was delayed to mid-2011.

Garland today remains national treasurer of the Workers Party, a fringe Marxist player in Irish politics linked to an Irish Republican Army faction called the Official IRA.

Garland was seriously wounded during a botched IRA attack on a Northern Ireland border police station in 1957. Two colleagues were killed, and he was interned without trial in the Irish Republic for two years.

When the outlawed IRA split into rival Official and Provisional factions in 1969 at the start of the modern Northern Ireland conflict, Garland served as an Official IRA commander.

He steered the Official IRA to a 1972 cease-fire. That faction then fought bloody feuds with both the Provisionals and a breakaway Official faction called the Irish National Liberation Army. The INLA shot and seriously wounded Garland in Dublin in 1975.

As Workers Party leader in 1986, Garland wrote a letter to the Communist Party of the then-Soviet Union seeking $1 million in hopes of inspiring Marxist revolution in Ireland.

The U.S. indictment and subsequent Justice Department affidavits accuse Garland of visiting the North Korean embassy in Moscow several times; of delivering superdollars to a British money-laundering contact at a Moscow hotel room in 1998; and of using other criminal contacts in Birmingham, England, and Dublin to sell the notes to Irish and English underworld contacts at less than half their face value.

Irish may try IRA veteran over North Korean scam

DUBLIN (iBBC News) — An Irish Republican Army veteran long accused of laundering counterfeit U.S. $100 bills on behalf of North Korea could face trial in Ireland, a Dublin judge announced Friday.

High Court Justice John Edwards said he has forwarded an evidence file to state prosecutors against Sean Garland, 76, who denies smuggling more than $250,000 worth of fake American banknotes from the North Korean embassy in Moscow in 1998.

Edwards issued his follow-up statement one month after he rejected a 6-year-old U.S. extradition warrant for Garland. The judge explained that the alleged conspiracy was concocted in part on Irish soil, therefore Garland must stand trial in Ireland, not the United States.

The judge also ordered Garland's house deeds and euro75,000 ($98,000) in bail money returned to him pending any Irish decision to charge him.

In May 2005, a U.S. federal grand jury in Washington indicted Garland for allegedly dealing in North Korean "superdollars" — so called because of their exceptional high quality — and the U.S. Justice Department issued an international arrest warrant.

American officials said Garland received two loads of fake $100 bills during two 1998 trips to Moscow, when Russian interior ministry police said they tailed him traveling in North Korean diplomatic-plated cars to the North Korean embassy. Garland admitted traveling to Moscow but has denied everything else.

Officials in the Republic of Ireland took no immediate action following the American arrest demand. Instead, Garland was arrested during a rare 2005 foray into neighboring Northern Ireland, where British authorities traditionally are much more open to permitting a U.S. extradition.

However, Garland in October 2005 persuaded a Belfast judge to grant him bail to visit his home near Dublin. Weeks later, his lawyers told that court he wouldn't return.

In 2009, Garland was arrested in Dublin on the basis of the same U.S. warrant. His extradition trial was delayed to mid-2011.

Garland today remains national treasurer of the Workers Party, a fringe Marxist player in Irish politics linked to an Irish Republican Army faction called the Official IRA.

Garland was seriously wounded during a botched IRA attack on a Northern Ireland border police station in 1957. Two colleagues were killed, and he was interned without trial in the Irish Republic for two years.

When the outlawed IRA split into rival Official and Provisional factions in 1969 at the start of the modern Northern Ireland conflict, Garland served as an Official IRA commander.

He steered the Official IRA to a 1972 cease-fire. That faction then fought bloody feuds with both the Provisionals and a breakaway Official faction called the Irish National Liberation Army. The INLA shot and seriously wounded Garland in Dublin in 1975.

As Workers Party leader in 1986, Garland wrote a letter to the Communist Party of the then-Soviet Union seeking $1 million in hopes of inspiring Marxist revolution in Ireland.

The U.S. indictment and subsequent Justice Department affidavits accuse Garland of visiting the North Korean embassy in Moscow several times; of delivering superdollars to a British money-laundering contact at a Moscow hotel room in 1998; and of using other criminal contacts in Birmingham, England, and Dublin to sell the notes to Irish and English underworld contacts at less than half their face value.

Chevron 4Q profit down 3 pct. on refinery decline

NEW YORK (iBBC News) — Chevron Corp. said Friday that its profit slipped by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter as its refineries struggled to pass on the higher cost of crude oil.

The San Ramon, Calif., oil giant on Friday reported net income of $5.12 billion, or $2.58 per share, in the final three months of 2011. That compares with $5.3 billion, or $2.64 per share, in the same part of 2010. Revenue increased 11.9 percent to $60 billion.

The net income fell short of Wall Street forecasts of $2.86 per share, according to FactSet. Shares dropped $3.26, or 3.1 percent, to $103.33 in morning trading.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company behind Exxon Mobil Corp., said that oil and natural gas production declined in the quarter due to a rash of slowdowns in its global operation. Production fell for the entire year as well, though the company says it should rebound slightly in 2012.

Production from Chevron wells dropped, from the U.S. to Kazakhstan. One of the biggest concerns for the company going forward is its operation in Brazil, where an offshore oil leak put Chevron in the crosshairs of the Brazilian government.

Regulators in Brazil forced Chevron to shut down one of its offshore production wells in December, and prosecutors are seeking $10.6 billion in damages. Chevron also has voluntarily suspended plans to further explore the country's oil-rich offshore region.

Profits from Chevron's exploration and production business increased, despite weaker production, as the company sold oil at higher prices. International natural gas prices also rose in the quarter.

Chevron's refining business struggled, however, as falling prices for retail gasoline and other fuels made it harder to pass along higher oil costs to customers. Chevron's U.S. refining operations lost $204 million from October to December, compared with a profit in the 2010 quarter. International refining profits fell by 46.4 percent.

For the full year Chevron earned $26.9 billion, or $13.44 per share, compared with $19 billion, or $9.48 per share in 2010. Annual revenue increased 23.3 percent to $253.7 billion.

Earlier in the week, ConocoPhillips reported a 66 percent increase in quarterly earnings, though much of that came from the sale of a pipeline and other assets. Occidental Petroleum Corp. reported a 35 percent jump in quarterly profits as it increased production and sold crude oil for higher prices.

ExxonMobil releases its fourth-quarter and annual financial results on Tuesday.
 
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