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Microsoft is almost certain to face a flood of consumer lawsuits following a federal judge's ruling that the software giant violated the Sherman Act - the same law used to break up Standard Oil and AT&T. Micro-soft already faces 120 private federal and state lawsuits brought since last November, when the judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, released findings unfavorable to the company. But after Monday's verdict, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was already fighting back by vowing to appeal the ruling, which could delay its impact for years. Yet, both sides in the case also left the door open for an agreement. If none is reached, Jackson will begin considering penalties ranging from breaking up the company to forcing it to share its software code with competitors.

Microsoft pulled the Nasdaq Composite Index down 349.15 points, or 7.6 percent, on Monday, its worst point drop in history. The plunge continued into Tuesday as the Monitor went to press, with the index losing another 240 points and falling below 4000. But the Dow was posting only relatively small losses yesterday - about 70 points - after a 300.01-point gain Monday.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said he would hold hearings on the Microsoft case. He indicated he would explore the verdict's implications for consumers and the economy.

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The custody battle over Elian Gonzalez shifted gears as the State Department issued visas to his father and five other Cubans with close connections to the boy. US immigration officials talked with Elian's Miami relatives about transferring care to Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who would stay, along with the other travelers, at the Maryland home of Cuba's chief diplomat in Washington.

A key gauge of future US economic activity fell 0.3 percent in February, the biggest monthly drop in more than four years. The Conference Board reported that eight of 10 components in its index of leading economic indicators declined. The New York-based research group attributed the drop to rising interest rates and falloffs in building permits and orders for some capital goods.

With the rate of personal savings at a record low, the Treasury Department is forming a coalition with financial education groups, banks, and others to help Americans sharpen their money-management skills. The coalition, which was to be announced by Treasury Secretary Summers, will set up national conferences to discuss subjects related to personal finance.

In hopes of eliminating some 40,000 abandoned cars on Philadelphia's streets, Mayor John Street launched a major effort to tow 1,000 vehicles a day for 40 working days. The plan also includes imposing stiffer fines for abandonment and setting up a centralized police unit and a hot line to deal with the problem.

Michigan State earned the NCAA men's basketball championship with an 89-76 victory Monday over Florida. On Sunday, the women's title went to top-ranked Connecticut, which beat Tennessee 71-52.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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