Nation digest 12/18/02

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Inflation kept to 0.1 percent rise in November

WASHINGTON -- Consumer prices edged up a tiny 0.1 percent in November, the smallest gain since July, as the first decline in energy prices since May helped offset another big jump in medical costs.

The small 0.1 percent November in the Labor Department's closely watched Consumer Price Index was even better than had been expected and provided further evidence that the lackluster economic recovery and a rising jobless rate were helping to keep a lid on inflation.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that U.S. industry managed a slight 0.1 percent increase in production in November compared to October. It was the first monthly gain since last July.

Ex-Tyco director pleads guilty to securities fraud

NEW YORK -- A former Tyco International director who secretly reaped millions while orchestrating a company acquisition pleaded guilty to securities fraud Tuesday in a deal that calls for restitution and a fine, but no jail time.

Frank E. Walsh, 61, admitted he failed to tell his own board of directors that the manufacturing conglomerate was paying $20 million in finder's fees in exchange for his help in brokering Tyco's 2001 acquisition of CIT Group, a financial services company. Half was paid directly to Walsh, and half was donated to a charity.

As part of a plea deal with the Manhattan district attorney, Walsh agreed to repay Tyco the entire $20 million, and pay a fine of $2.5 million.

AOL awarded nearly $7 million in spam case

NEW YORK -- America Online has won a court judgment for nearly $7 million in damages against what it termed a "spam ring" that bombarded its members with junk e-mail pitching adult Web sites.

AOL said the damages awarded by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., was the largest ever from one of its lawsuits against spammers. AOL has filed some 20 of such lawsuits over the years.

"This sends a message to both members and spammers that we take spam seriously on this service," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said Tuesday.

At least nine killed in West Coast storms

BEN LOMOND, Calif. -- A deadly El Nino storm that brought five straight days of rain and high winds to the Pacific Coast eased up Tuesday, but more bad weather was on the way.

At least nine deaths were blamed on the weather -- six died in California, two people were killed in their bed by a falling tree in Oregon and a snowboarder was killed by an avalanche at a Nevada resort.

Forecasters said another big storm was headed toward the state Thursday.

Man who shot priest will escape prison time

BALTIMORE -- A former altar boy acquitted of attempted murder for shooting a priest who allegedly molested him will not have to go to jail for weapons violations under a deal reached Tuesday with prosecutors. Instead, Dontee Stokes could spend 11 months under house arrest and three years on probation.

Circuit Judge John Prevas said Tuesday he will hold a sentencing hearing on Feb. 14 to make the agreement final.

Stokes, 26, was cleared of attempted murder Monday but was convicted of three gun charges in the wounding of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell.

He admitted shooting the priest May 13 but claimed temporary insanity.

-- From wire reports

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