Oil falls below $35 on more bad economic news

HOUSTON - Benchmark oil prices fell below $35 a barrel Wednesday as another dose of bad economic news only raised concerns about the global downturn's impact on energy demand.

Economic expectations for the country were sharply downgraded by the Federal Reserve, which predicted that more people will lose jobs and the economy will contract.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell 31 cents to settle at $34.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The March contract expires on Friday, and most of the trading was for the April contract.

U. of Tennessee president resigns

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee President John Petersen is leaving the school, but keeping mum on why.

Petersen said in a statement Wednesday that he'll step aside beginning March 1. He also said he's been thinking about his future, but gave no other reason for the sudden departure.

Petersen has been president of the five-campus, 42,000-student system since 2004. He was picked during a national and unusually public search after the two previous UT presidents resigned amid scandals.

He got praise for growth in enrollment, research and economic development. But Petersen also stirred up controversy as trustees inquired about administrative overhead and for considering hiring outgoing football coach Phillip Fulmer as an aide.

Small plane gets away from pilot

BYRON, N.Y. - An upstate New York pilot was unhurt after the small airplane he was warming up taxied out of control and crashed into an apple tree.

Authorities said John Sackett Jr. had just spun the propeller to start the two-seater and was revving the engine from outside the cockpit. That's when the plane jumped a piece of wood blocking one of its wheels.

They said the 80-year-old pilot chased the plane as it motored off the small airstrip on his Rochester-area property. It went into a neighbor's yard, through a berry patch and into a post and trellis before hitting the tree Tuesday afternoon.

Officials look at oil spill in Calif.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Federal and state officials said they are investigating an oil spill at an Exxon Mobil platform in California's Santa Barbara Channel.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Stephanie Young said a caller alerted state officials about the spill at Platform Harmony on Monday.

Young said officials are looking into the source of the spill. She said initial reports indicate the spill is from lubricating oil for the platform and not oil pumped from the well.

Deputies: Body found where child went missing

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Searchers found a child's body Wednesday near the area where a 3-year-old boy disappeared more than a week ago, police said.

Chief Deputy Joe Strickland of the Ouachita County Sheriff's Office said the body was found in a 'body of water' near Dominick Arceneaux's home in southwestern Arkansas. Dominick's mother's mobile home sits along the edge of White Oak Lake.

Strickland said the body has yet to be positively identified, but deputies have called off an Amber Alert for Dominick, who disappeared Feb. 10.

4 teams of surgeons needed for chimp's victim

STAMFORD, Conn. - Doctors said a Connecticut woman mauled by a 200-pound chimpanzee is making slight progress after more than seven hours of surgery by four teams of surgeons.

Dr. Kevin Miller of Stamford Hospital said 55-year-old Charla Nash suffered extensive facial and hand injuries when she was attacked Monday. He said stabilizing her condition took more than seven hours of surgery.

Nash was attended by hand specialists, plastic surgeons and specialists in orthopedics, ophthalmology and trauma.

Miller said it's good that Nash has made some progress, but she has a long way to go.

Nash was attacked by a 14-year-old domesticated chimpanzee owned by her friend, Sandra Herold of Stamford. Police shot and killed the chimp.