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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Oil tops $91 a barrel; gas prices keep rising

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices rose above $91 per barrel Tuesday in the final week of trading before the new year.

Trading has been especially light during the holiday week. It's the time of year when most traders have solidified investments, typically leaving only those who work for oil producers and commercial refineries, companies that still need to lock in supply contracts, analyst Stephen Schork said.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 49 cents to settle at $91.49 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline prices have been tugged higher this month as oil surged to new two-year highs. In the Buffalo Niagara region, a gallon of regular averaged $3.24 Tuesday, up 4 cents from a week ago and up 12 cents from one month ago.

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Bribe charges are costly

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alcatel-Lucent SA has agreed to pay more than $137 million to settle charges brought against it by the federal government.

The Securities and Exchange Commission accused the Paris-based maker of telecommunications gear of paying bribes to foreign government officials to illegally win business in Latin America and Asia.

Alcatel, a top supplier to U.S. and European phone companies, agreed to pay more than $45 million to settle the SEC's charges. It will pay an additional $92 million to settle separate criminal charges announced by the Justice Department.

The SEC's complaint said Alcatel's bribes went to government officials in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia and Taiwan between December 2001 and June 2006. Alcatel bought U.S.-based Lucent Technologies at the end of 2006.

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Credit union change OK'd

State banking regulators have approved a request by Niagara DuPont Employees Credit Union to change its name and serve all of Niagara County, as the small credit union seeks to expand its potential membership in order to grow.

The Niagara Falls-based credit union, founded in 1934 to serve employees of DuPont Co.'s plant, will convert from a multi-employer-based charter to a community charter, enabling anyone who lives, worships, attends school, volunteers or works in Niagara County to join the membership-based institution.

To reflect the expanded mission, it also changed its name to Encompass Niagara Credit Union. The credit union is also moving its office from 2551 Buffalo Ave. in Niagara Falls to 2525 Military Road in Niagara Falls.

Encompass Niagara has 970 members and $11 million in assets.

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Buffett unit to expand

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., the power unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will expand wind-generation capacity by purchasing 258 turbines from Siemens AG and acquiring a project under development in Iowa.

The turbines will be located in five Iowa counties next year and have a combined capacity of 593 megawatts, enough power for 190,000 homes.

Siemens will manufacture the turbines at its factories in Fort Madison, Iowa, and Hutchinson, Kan., the Munich-based company said in a separate statement.

Berkshire Hathaway owns The Buffalo News, and Buffett is the newspaper's chairman.

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Annual van giveaway due

Nonprofit groups are invited to apply for the annual Ford Friendship Express program for a chance to receive a new Ford van. Applications are available online at www.wnyford.com under "Local Events." The deadline is March 1.

Van recipients will be announced in the spring.

The program has awarded 62 vans valued at more than $1 million over the past 15 years. Organizations within the following counties are eligible to apply: Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, McKean and Potter.

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