Nation briefs 8/22/03

Friday, August 22, 2003

Calif. top court upholds energy rate increases

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state regulators did not break the law when they imposed an electricity rate increase of as much as 40 percent during the California power crisis.

The justices, weighing the state's failed deregulated energy market for the first time, said the California Public Utilities Commission neither violated deregulation rules nor breach-ed open meeting laws when it approved the rate hike in private to settle a lawsuit from Southern California Edison Co.

At stake was at least $3 billion in customer utility fees.

Harvard, Princeton top annual U.S. News ranks

For the fourth consecutive year, Princeton University has topped the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of "America's Best Colleges," this time sharing the top spot with Harvard University, which was second last year.

Yale University is ranked third, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fourth. Four schools -- the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania -- share the fifth spot.

The University of California-Berkeley and the University of Virginia, tied at No. 21, are the top-rated public universities. Williams College in Williams-town, Mass., is rated the country's best liberal arts college.

Cuban airmen indicted for shooting U.S. planes

MIAMI -- A Cuban general and two fighter pilots have been indicted in the shooting down of two civilian planes in 1996 over the Florida straits, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente, who was then head of the Cuban air force, and pilots Lorenzo Alberto Perez-Perez and Francisco Perez-Perez are in Cuba, and extradition is impossible since no diplomatic relations exist between Cuba and the United States.

The charges against the men include murder, conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and destruction of aircraft. If convicted, they could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Cuba's intent was "to terrorize the Cuban population" on the island and in Miami, U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez said.

The planes were shot down by two Cuban MiGs in Feb. 24, 1996, over international waters as three aircraft searched for migrant rafters fleeing Cuba.

-- From wire reports

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