Nation digest 12/12/01

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

AAA predicts less air, train and bus travel

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Twenty percent fewer people than last year will fly, take the train or ride the bus during this season's Christmas and New Year's holidays, AAA predicted Tuesday.

About 11.5 million people are expected to travel by airplane, train or bus this season, compared with 14.4 million people last season. Most of the decline is coming from the airline industry, which has seen a drop-off in business since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The current recession and the nation's unemployment situation are the major contributors," said Sandra Hughes, AAA Travel vice president.

Overall travel is expected to decline by only 6 percent.

FTC approves Nestle buying Ralston Purina

WASHINGTON -- The government cleared the way for the creation of a global pet-food empire Tuesday, approving Swiss food giant Nestle S.A.'s $10.3 billion purchase of Ralston Purina.

While the deal brings together such brands as Alpo, Purina and Friskies, the companies agreed to sell Ralston's Meow Mix and Alley Cat dry cat food brands, the Federal Trade Commission said.

Nestle holds 32 percent of the U.S. cat food market, while St. Louis-based Ralston has 26 percent. Nestle also adds Ralston's 28 percent share of the dog food market to the 10 percent it already has.

Drug has no effect on long-term drinkers

The drug most used to treat alcoholics in this country has no effect on long-term heavy drinkers, a Department of Veterans Affairs study found.

The study looked at more than 600 veterans. They were about 49 years old on average, had been getting drunk regularly since their early 20s, and when the study began were drinking about three days out of four, downing an average of 13 drinks on those days.

One group took the drug naltrexone for three months, one took it for a year, and one took look-alike pills with no medical effect.

In all three groups, the patients went an average of 4 1/2 months without drinking. After 13 weeks and after a year, they were drinking less, and on far fewer days, than they had when the study began -- but the reduction was about the same for all three groups.

Statute of limitations claim thrown out

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A judge refused to throw out murder charges against Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel on Tuesday, rejecting defense claims that a statute of limitations was in effect at the time of the 1975 slaying.

Defense lawyer Michael Sherman said he was not surprised by the decision and that an appeal was unlikely.

Skakel, 41, a nephew of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, is charged with killing Martha Moxley, a neighbor who was beaten to death with a golf club. Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time.

Airport workers charged with lying to get badges

SALT LAKE CITY -- Sixty-nine airport workers have been indicted on federal charges of using false information to get jobs at Salt Lake International Airport, prosecutors said Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Paul Warner said there was no indication of terrorist connections. He said most are accused of lying to get security badges allowing them into secure areas.

Sixty-one of those indicted are charged with using fake immigration and Social Security documents to get security badges. Six others are charged with lying about past criminal history to get the security clearance. The remaining two relied on false information to get airport jobs.

-- From wire reports

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