Nation briefs

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Merger of Illinois Power, ComEd called off

CHICAGO -- Exelon Corp. called off its $2.2 billion acquisition of Illinois Power Co. on Saturday, a day after state lawmakers failed to approve legislation to help the deal. Exelon and Illinois Power's parent company, Dynegy Inc., had asked for legislation that would speed review of the deal and could change the way consumer rates are set. Company officials had warned that without the legislation, it was possible that hundreds of employees at Decatur-based Illinois Power could be laid off.

Pennsylvania outbreak 'successfully ended'

MONACA, Pa. -- State and federal health officials said Saturday that Pennsylvania's hepatitis A outbreak is winding down, even as the number of those infected climbed over 600. The investigation shifted to how green onions linked to the outbreak became contaminated. With 605 infections and three deaths confirmed, health officials have found no secondary cases -- meaning all those infected were sickened at the Beaver County Chi-Chi's restaurant by the scallions, not through contact with infected people. The Food and Drug Administration already has identified eight brands of Mexican-grown green onions believed to have caused the Pennsylvania outbreak.

Reports: Archbishop to discuss closing parishes

BOSTON -- Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who has been trying to lead the Boston archdiocese out of its sex abuse scandal, will meet soon with priests and discuss closing parishes, a church spokesman said. The Boston Herald, citing unidentified sources, reported that the meeting is being convened so O'Malley can unveil a process for selecting which parishes to close. A recession and the clergy sex abuse crisis have caused financial problems for the church, rendering it less able to subsidize parishes that are struggling to survive on their own fund raising.

Catholics still give to church despite scandals

A new survey suggests that rank-and-file Roman Catholics are still giving to the church, despite the abuse scandal. While several U.S. dioceses failed to meet their fund-raising goals, it appears that giving to parishes and the church overall actually rose last year, according to Catholic researchers. A lack of complete financial information from each of America's 195 dioceses makes it impossible to definitively compare year-to-year totals, researchers said. However, the data available indicates Catholics gave consistently to their parishes

Illinois to overhaul its weak ethics laws

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois, a state that both laments and seems to revel in its colorful history of government graft, is trying to clean up its image with a major overhaul of weak ethics laws. The legislation, which passed Thursday and which Gov. Rod Blagojevich has promised to sign, will set powerful inspectors to investigate allegations of corruption. Lawmakers won't be able to accept free golf and tennis outings from lobbyists. The overhaul, largely a response to a scandal that helped drive the last governor into retirement, will lift Illinois off the ethical bottom, experts said Friday.

-- From wire reports

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