Centro sells US shopping malls for $9.4 billion

SYDNEY (AP) -- Struggling shopping mall operator Centro Properties Group said Tuesday it has agreed to sell its 588 U.S. malls to New York-based Blackstone Group LP in a deal valued at $9.4 billion.

The acquisition is Blackstone's largest since its $20.1 billion takeover of Hilton Hotels Corp. in 2007 and shows faith that the weak U.S. retail market will improve.

Centro, which is weighed down by massive debt, also announced a plan to pay off its creditors by giving them ownership of most of its Australian shopping malls.

Envoy claims Libyans set up caretaker government

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Libya's top envoy to the U.S. claimed Saturday that opponents of Moammar Gadhafi's regime are rallying behind efforts to establish an alternative government led by a former Libyan minister. He said the international community should back the movement.

The claim by Ambassador Ali Aujali couldn't be immediately verified and it was unclear what support the "caretaker government" led by ex-Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil commanded.

But Aujali said the U.S. and other countries could accelerate Gadhafi's exit by supporting Abdel-Jalil.

"He is a very honest man, a man with dignity," Aujali said. "I hope this caretaker government will get the support of Libyans and of the international community."

Volunteers help Wis. protesters keep up the fight

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Harriet Rowan was among the first to join what has become an almost two-week-long rally at the Wisconsin Capitol, and she said with the arrival of thousands of others, confusion, misinformation and rumors quickly spread.

"I came back on Tuesday night and there was absolutely no organization," Rowan said. "People needed people to go up upstairs and testify all night to keep the building open ... people were going around just waking people up ... it was chaotic."

The University of Wisconsin senior made a spur-of-the-moment decision to coordinate protest efforts, making signs with media talking points and starting a Twitter feed detailing legislative meeting times, union rally locations and details on day-to-day life in the Capitol.

Penney's 4Q profit rises 36 percent

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cutting costs and selling more exclusive brands like Liz Claiborne drew new customers and helped J.C. Penney Co.'s fourth-quarter profit rise 36 percent, the company said Friday.

The results cap a week of similar reports from clothing and department store chains. And, like Gap Inc. and Kohl's Corp., J.C. Penney announced a new share buyback.

But Penney's shares fell $2.39, or 6.5 percent, to $34.16 Friday as investors appeared worried that price increases ricocheting through the retail industry would particularly hurt Penney's middle-income customers.

4 killed in an attack on NATO convoy in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Militants in Pakistan attacked tankers bringing fuel to NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan on Friday, killing four people in the latest strike on an important supply line to the Western-led war.

Around 15 militants armed with rockets and guns stormed a roadside terminal on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar. At least 12 tankers were set ablaze in the attack, said police officer Liaquat Ali Khan.

Thousands Protest High Food Prices in India

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in India's capital to protest surging food prices.

Demonstrators marched through the center of New Delhi Wednesday, heading towards the Indian parliament building as they chanted slogans against high food costs. Protesters included members of several trade unions, including one linked to India's ruling party.

India has been struggling with rising food inflation, which hit nearly 20 percent late last year. The country's poor have been especially affected.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said inflation poses a serious threat to the India's economic growth. He has called for an increase in food production.

Japan posts first trade deficit in 22 months

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's exports grew at their weakest pace in more than a year in January, resulting in the country's first trade deficit in 22 months.

Exports expanded by 1.4 percent to 4.971 trillion yen ($60 billion), compared with a nearly 13 percent jump in December, the finance ministry said Wednesday. Meanwhile, rising food and commodity prices pushed imports up 12.4 percent to 5.442 trillion yen ($65.7 billion), producing a deficit for the month of 471 billion yen ($5.7 billion).

Japan last posted a trade deficit in March 2009.

Report: Libyan-sponsored attacker now free in Rome

ROME (AP) -- The only terrorist who served prison time for the 1985 attack on Rome's airport that killed 16 people has been released after serving his term and is living and working legally in Rome, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Il Messaggero daily interviewed Mahmoud Ibrahim Khaled over the weekend amid new turmoil in Libya, which the United States has long blamed for sponsoring the airport attack.

Khaled, a 44-year-old Syrian, told the newspaper that the killings haunt him, that he realizes how wrong terrorism is and how wrong he was, and that he hopes Allah has forgiven him.

TV reporter says she was `terrified' when her speech became incoherent during Grammys report

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A TV reporter who lapsed into gibberish during a live shot outside the Grammys said she was terrified when it happened and knew something was wrong as soon as she opened her mouth.

KCBS-TV reporter Serene Branson's incoherence Sunday fueled Internet speculation that she suffered an on-air stroke. But doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she went to get a brain scan and blood work done, ruled it out. Doctors said she suffered a type of migraine that can mimic symptoms of a stroke.

Branson told CBS' "The Early Show" in an interview Friday that she was terrified, scared and confused, and didn't know what was going on.

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Tea Party activists join protests, favoring Wisconsin budget bill

Madison, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Tea Party activists supporting a bill that would slash collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin public employees flocked to Madison on Saturday, bringing a new dimension to a budget battle that shows few signs of compromise.

As tens of thousands of people marched in favor or against the bill, Republican Gov. Scott Walker indicated he has the votes to pass it.

"We're going to stay firm on it," he said on the fifth day of large protests and political wrangling in the capital, which saw the arrival of conservative groups.

Hardy gets St. John's another win over top-10 team

NEW YORK (AP) -- Madison Square Garden has been a second home to St. John's basketball teams over the last eight decades.

This current team has turned the building at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue into a house of horrors for highly ranked teams.

The latest of the Red Storm's five wins over teams regarded as the best in the country was a heart-stopping, come-from-behind thriller over No. 4 Pittsburgh that has the players thinking of joining the ranks of the ranked themselves.

New Facebook status options applauded by gay users

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jay Lassiter is no longer "in a relationship."

Let's clarify that: Lassiter, a media adviser for political campaigns who lives in Cherry Hill, N.J., is still with his partner of nearly eight years, Greg Lehmkuho. But since Thursday, when Facebook expanded its romantic-status options, Lassiter's profile there echoes his relationship's legal status: "Domestic partnership."

It may not be a life-altering change. After all, you can call yourself anything you want on a social network. And Facebook is merely that.

But, Lassiter notes: "I'm no different from all those other Facebook users whose identity is tied up with their Facebook pages, for better or for worse."

Auburn: Oak trees poisoned at historic site

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn University says someone deliberately poisoned trees at Toomer's Corner, where fans have long celebrated big wins and hundreds gathered after the Tigers won the football national championship on Jan. 10.

The university said in a statement Wednesday that a herbicide commonly used to kill trees was applied "in lethal amounts" to the soil around the two trees, and that they likely can't be saved.

Auburn discovered the poisoning after taking soil samples on Jan. 28, a day after a man called a syndicated radio show based in Birmingham saying he had used the herbicide on the trees.

Analysis: Barbour followed by Confederate images

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Does Haley Barbour have a Confederate problem?

It's a question hounding Mississippi's Republican governor as he gears up for a possible 2012 presidential run. Barbour refused this week to condemn a proposed state license plate to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was also an early Ku Klux Klan leader.

Barbour wouldn't say what he thinks about Forrest, a Tennessee native who's venerated by some as a brilliant military strategist and reviled by others for leading the 1864 massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn.

"Look," Barbour told The Associated Press, "if you want a lesson on Nathan Bedford Forrest, buy a book."

Borders decline means big changes for industry

NEW YORK (AP) -- Whether or not Borders survives closing some 200 stores, the "superstore" boom of the past two decades has busted, authors and publishers face a market minus millions of square feet of physical shelf space and communities once crowded with booksellers may find themselves with none.

"I think Borders' fall will cause a lot of publishers to realize they can't just count on a few giant entities to sell their products," said Simba Information senior trade analyst Michael Norris.

Borders, the second largest chain behind Barnes & Noble, Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, and will close nearly a third of its 642 stores, from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. About 6,000 of the company's 19,500 employees will lose their jobs. Borders owes millions of dollars to publishers, who must decide whether they should continue doing business with a bookseller that has been unable to pay its bills.

Obama, GOP freshmen win in jet engine budget fight

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Determined to reduce deficits, impatient House Republican freshmen made common cause with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, scoring their biggest victory to date in a vote to cancel $450 million for an alternative engine for the Pentagon's next-generation warplane.

"Right here, right now was a surefire way to reduce spending," declared Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, a second-term lawmaker whose summons to cut money from the F-35 fighter jet was answered by 47 Republican newcomers. Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders back the funding.

The incursion into the defense budget occurred as the Republican-controlled House debated legislation to cut federal spending by more than $61 billion through the end of the current fiscal year. Nearly all of the reductions are aimed at domestic programs, ranging from education aid to nutrition, environmental protection and farm programs.

German and NY Stock Exchanges Plan Merger

Two of the world's leading stock markets, Germany's Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext, plan to merge, creating the world's largest stock exchange operator, with dual headquarters in Frankfurt and New York. Officials at both companies said Tuesday the $10 billion all-stock deal should be completed by the end of the year, if regulators and shareholders agree.

The proposed new company, which would be the world's largest stock exchange, has no name yet, but officials at both Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext sounded confident that shareholders and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic would approve. They said the merger will create a $5.4 billion company, the first truly global exchange, and lead to an additional $133 million in annual revenue and costs savings of $400 million by the third year.

Oil prices fall on economy, supply concerns

Oil prices retreated Tuesday on concerns about growing supplies of crude in the U.S. and weak retail sales numbers that suggested consumers were spending less because of high energy prices.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell 49 cents to settle at $84.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude fell $1.44 to settle at $102.29 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose in January, but it was the smallest increase since June and only half what analysts expected. Some experts think consumers may be pulling back on spending as they pay more for essentials like gasoline.

Prince William chooses Harry for best man

London, England (CNN) -- Prince William's younger brother Prince Harry will be his best man when he marries Kate Middleton in London in April, Clarence House announced Monday. Middleton's sister Philippa will be her maid of honor.

William, who is second in line to the throne, is due to marry his long-time girlfriend April 29 at Westminster Abbey. Prince Harry is currently third in line of succession.

Royal protocol states that the groom should have a "supporter" rather than a Best Man and speculation was rife that Prince Harry would be named supporter, and another friend of Prince William announced as his best man.

Stroke rehab doesn't have to be high-tech to help

The largest study ever on stroke rehabilitation found that doing physical therapy at home improved walking just as well as a high-tech treadmill program.

More surprising, patients who started rehab late - six months after their strokes - still improved. It's long been thought that there was little to gain from rehab after half a year.

"We now have evidence, for the first time, that a prolonged course of therapy will have benefits," said Dr. Jeffrey Saver, director of the stroke center at the University of California, Los Angeles. "For virtually everyone, we should be doing more intensive therapy than we are."

Police: Man kills 4 in stabbing rampage across NYC

NEW YORK - A graffiti artist armed with five knives went on a bloody 28-hour rampage across New York City, fatally stabbing his stepfather, ex-girlfriend and her mother, running down a pedestrian with a stolen Lexus and knifing a subway passenger before being arrested in Times Square, police said.

Maksim Gelman, 23, was armed with a bloodied kitchen knife when he was taken into police custody at about 9 a.m. Saturday after a nightlong manhunt from Brooklyn into Manhattan, police said.

"It's so horrendous and bizarre. We have no reason to know why he did this," said police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who held up a photo of the knife that he said Gelman had used to slash the subway rider on the head and neck. The man survived.

Assange extradition hearing ends

London (CNN) -- A court hearing to determine whether Britain will extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden ended Friday.

Assange has not been charged with a crime, but Swedish prosecutors want to question him in connection with sexual misconduct allegations related to separate incidents in August. Assange denies the accusations, and his attorneys are fighting his extradition on procedural and human-rights grounds.

Judge Howard Riddle said he hopes to announce his decision on February 24.

Mubarak speech offers concessions, but no resignation

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, addressed fellow Egyptians as "a father to his sons and daughters" in a speech Thursday. Here are some of his key points.

-- Blood of the victims of recent demonstrations will not go unpunished

-- Those who committed crimes "will be punished severely"

-- Demonstrators' demands "are legitimate"

-- Mubarak reiterated he will not run in the upcoming presidential elections

Fox News Poll: Voters Give Mixed Reviews for Economy and Obama's Recovery Efforts

While most voters think President Obama hasn't made the economy his "singular focus" as he's declared for over a year, many are less anxious about the country's economic situation.

A Fox News poll released Thursday also shows that while about half of voters think the "worst is over" (48 percent), the same number -- 48 percent -- think the "worst is yet to come."

Overall, feelings on the economy have gotten more positive. The 48 percent who feel optimistic is up from a year ago when 37 percent said the worst was behind us (February 2010), and constitutes a major increase from two years ago when 29 percent thought so (January 2009).

EXCLUSIVE: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Helping Hugh Jackman Gain 40 Pounds

It's that time again, folks: Hugh Jackman is pumping iron and packing on the pounds to shape up for the next installment of "Wolverine."

But who has he enlisted for help in achieving that rock-solid physique? Why, none other than The Rock.

"I got the diet from Dwayne Johnson, he put on 25 pounds for his last film and I saw him and was like, 'wow' so I called him up and he gave me his exact diet," Jackman told FOX411's Pop Tarts at the Audi Super Bowl celebration at the Audi Forum in Dallas on Friday evening. "I need to put on about 30-40 pounds, I don't know if I can get there but I am up about 15 pounds so far. I'm trying."

Intelligence Lapse on Egypt Debated

The sudden eruption of mass anti-government protests in Egypt seemingly caught most people by surprise, including U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies. The turn of events has sparked questions about whether the United States experienced an "intelligence failure." But it is extraordinarily difficult for spy agencies to predict specific events.

Former and current intelligence officials dispute the notion raised by some politicians and outside analysts that the United States suffered some sort of an intelligence failure on Egypt.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says the intelligence community repeatedly briefed policymakers that the situation in Egypt was spiraling downward.

School scraps race-specific mentoring program

(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania high school has scrapped a mentoring program, which allowed students to be taught by instructors of their same race for a few minutes each day, following a storm of criticism over the initiative.

"The mentoring programs are more heterogeneous now," school spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder said Tuesday.

McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, instituted what it described as a pilot program meant to enrich "students' experiences through mentoring" and was derived from research "that shows grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self esteem," according to a school statement.

Planned Parenthood to retrain after anti-abortion group videos

(CNN) -- Responding to the latest undercover video by an anti-abortion group, women's reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday it will retrain more than 11,000 staff members at more than 800 centers across the United States.

Planned Parenthood has ordered "all health center staff and educators who have contact with patients and teens be retrained in understanding our policies and procedures for responding to situations that indicate that the welfare of a minor is endangered," Stuart Schear, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The retraining will be completed by April 1, Schear said.

Prince Kicks Kim Kardashian Off Stage at Concert for Not Dancing

Musician Prince brought reality TV star Kim Kardashian on stage with him Monday night at New York's Madison Square Garden -- then kicked her off for refusing to dance.

YouTube video posted late Monday night shows Prince dancing with an audience member before sending her back to her seat and summoning Kardashian from the front row.

Kardashian clapped but did not dance with the singer, and moments later Prince told her, "Get off the stage!"

Later in the show, Prince gave Kardashian another chance and she obliged him with some dance moves.

Tension, Uncertainty as Uganda Prepares for Election

In just over one week Ugandans will go to the polls to elect their president for the fourth time since the reinstitution of democracy. Facing perhaps his toughest competition yet, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will seek a fourth term and a continuation of his 25-year rule.

On February 18, Museveni will face yet another election and another challenge to his long tenure as the country's leader. Museveni has soundly defeated his challengers every five years since 1996, but his support has steadily declined. In the 1996 poll, the Ugandan leader received around 75 percent of the vote, but registered just under 60 percent in 2006.

Internet Creators Ask Hackers for Help

The military's technology research arm -- the same group that helped create the Internet in the early 70s -- is asking hackers for help keeping it secure.

Called "Cyber Fast Track," the new program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will fund independent security researchers and experimental programs, emphasizing unconventional solutions and unusual players, including hobbyists, startups, and even hackers. DARPA, the Defense Department's cybersavvy research division, hopes the program will cut through big budget projects to launch new initiatives in a more timely fashion.

The program aims to implement cybersecurity projects faster, said Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to a report at Nextgov.com. And awardees would retain commercial rights over their work.

Back to Business for Obama and Chamber of Commerce

In the months since the Obama White House began what aides describe as a "turning point" in relations with the GOP, they contend a similar turn of events has occurred with the business community.

When the president heads to the Chamber of Commerce for an economic speech Monday, he'll find a business lobby with tough questions.

"When are jobs coming back? How can we get this economy growing as it should again? How are we going to successfully compete in the world and when are going to get a handle on the growth of government and the deficits?" Chamber Director of Communications Blair Latoff asked.

1972 Murder of Blind Homemaker Heads to Trial

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Tommie Cray was 9 years old in 1947 when his father, a single parent with three sons, brought home a new companion who was raising three boys of her own. Annie Mae had a sweet Southern drawl and an easy laugh, and an emotional bond took hold right away.

"She brought everybody's spirit up, she was so lovable and friendly," reminisced Cray, now 72, as he sat on the edge of his bed in a cluttered studio apartment adorned with fading family portraits. "From day one, I loved her."

After a 38-year hiatus, twice-convicted sexual predator Willie James Kimble, 78, is headed to trial on March 3 on charges of bludgeoning to death Cray's stepmother at her home on Oct. 29, 1972 - the week before Richard Nixon was re-elected president.

Her death would be one of the nation's oldest cold-case murders to be solved by DNA.

Kimble, distantly related to the Crays, had lived in Rochester most of his life but hurriedly left town in 2009 while the slaying was being re-examined.

Mubarak Huddles With Advisers as Protests Continue

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with his economic team Saturday to discuss the financial impact of the country's political crisis, as thousands of anti-government protesters continued their vigil in Cairo's main square.

Egyptian state media reports Mr. Mubarak's talks included the prime minister, the ministers of oil and finance and the central bank governor. The trade minister Samiha Fawzi Ibrahim said Saturday that exports fell 6 percent in January because of the unrest. Some estimates say the unrest is costing the country $310 million a day.

Bellagio Heist Soured Quickly for Accused Bandit

LAS VEGAS-- The scenes that led to the Bellagio casino bandit's downfall look less like "Ocean's Eleven" and more like "America's Dumbest Criminals."

Bragging about a big gambling score with high school buddies over rounds of shots in Colorado. E-mailing pictures to a total stranger -- dated and signed "Biker Bandit" with two $25,000 Bellagio chips. Losing $105,000 gambling at the scene of the crime in Las Vegas, but cashing out nearly $209,000 and apparently hoping the casino wouldn't notice.

The deceptively simple burglary lit up the Internet -- appealing to anyone who's ever had fantasies about pulling off a major score against a casino giant. But police say Anthony Carleo's shoddy plan after stealing $1.5 million in chips unfolded like a badly played poker hand.

Train Derailment, Fire Forces Ohio Evacuations

ARCADIA, Ohio -- A freight train carrying volatile chemicals derailed about 50 miles south of Toledo Sunday morning, causing at least 15 tanker cars to catch fire and explode and forcing evacuations of nearby homes, a fire official said. No injuries have been reported.

Capt. Jim Breyman of the Arcadia Fire Department said the call came in at about 2:15 a.m., and estimates 15 to 18 tanker cars carrying ethanol derailed.

About 20 homes were evacuated in the area about two miles west of the village of Arcadia, but it was unclear exactly how many people were in those homes, he said.

The scene was intense and dramatic.

Redskins lineman Haynesworth accused of punching motorist

(CNN) -- Washington Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth is named in a misdemeanor assault warrant accusing him of punching a motorist who had complained the NFL player was tailgating, a police spokeswoman said Friday.

A Fairfax County magistrate issued the simple assault warrant Thursday night, police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said.

Haynesworth's agent, Chad Speck, said it was the other driver who instigated the incident and called the accusation "ridiculous."

Burma’s Parliament Elects Former PM as President

Burma's military-dominated parliament has elected the country's first president, choosing military loyalist Thein Sein. Although a civilian now is nominally leading the government, Burma experts say the military maintains its grip on power but there is still a chance for gradual change.

Burma's parliament on Friday elected a former general, Prime Minister Thein Sein, to serve as the country's president in the new civilian government.

He was chosen over two other military loyalists who will serve as vice presidents.

As prime minister, he was the international face of Burma's military government and considered the favorite for president.

Rural air subsidies test resolve to cut spending

WASHINGTON - A program that subsidizes air service to small airports, often in remote communities, is shaping up as an early test in the new Congress of conservatives' zeal for shrinking the federal government.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has proposed an amendment to an aviation bill pending before the Senate in order to eliminate the $200 million annual essential air service program. The program pays airlines to provide scheduled service to about 150 communities, from Muscle Shoals, Ala., to Pelican, Alaska.

In the House, the Republican Study Committee - a group of conservative lawmakers - has also proposed killing the program.

Texas Soccer Coach Dies After Parking Lot Attack

A Houston teacher and soccer coach has died after police say he was attacked in a shopping center parking lot.

Christopher Matthews, 33, was allegedly attacked around 11 p.m.on Friday in the parking lot of a shopping complex. Ronald Lee Newman was taken into custody by police following the attack, and was charged with aggravated assault and serious bodily injury.

Police say Newman found his wife with Matthews in the parking lot, approached Matthews and punched him, according to a statement released Monday by the Houston Police Department. Matthews fell to the ground following the assault, rendered unconscious.

'Jihad Jane' Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania woman who supported a global terror plot while using the online moniker "Jihad Jane" has pleaded guilty.

Colleen LaRose, 47, of Pennsburg, Pa., entered the plea during an appearance Tuesday in a Philadelphia federal court. Authorities allege the suburban Philadelphia woman aided foreign terror suspects seeking to start a holy war in Europe and South Asia. Prosecutors claim she agreed to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims.