The Justice Department is considering whether any criminal or civil laws apply to the Bridgestone/Firestone tires case, Attorney General Janet Reno announced. The development came a day after the head of the Japanese company apologized to a congressional committee for problems with tires linked to 88 deaths in the US, saying he would decide in a few days whether to recall more tires. In addition, Ford Motor Co. chairman Jacques Nasser promised his company would now notify US officials if it makes safety changes in overseas markets. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona planned to hold more hearings before his Senate Commerce Committee next week. (Related story, page 2; editorial, page 10.)
Universal Music Group won its copyright-infringement lawsuit against MP3.com, but analysts said court victories wouldn't be enough to stop fans from sharing music, movies, and other digital information on the Internet. Wednesday, a federal judge in New York ordered MP3.com, an online music-sharing service, to pay $25,000 for each Universal CD it copied, which could total as much as $250 million. The final figure for damages will be determined at a hearing in November. Next month Napster, also an online music-sharing service, is scheduled to go on trial in another closely watched copyright case.
Oil prices reached another high as the October shipment cost rose $1.07 to $34.90 per barrel in New York Wednesday. It was the highest level since November 1990. Experts attributed the current situation to low fuel supplies and high demand in the US, Europe, and Asia, which could lead to hefty heating bills this winter. Leaders of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are due to meet Sunday in Vienna to consider production output.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in 10 lawsuits against the tobacco industry asked a federal court in New York to consolidate their punitive-damage cases into a nationwide class-action suit. Judge Jack Weinstein previously urged lawyers for both sides to build a framework for a settlement that would end all major tobacco litigation. Under the proposal, punitive damages awarded would be used for "the greatest possible public benefit," while trials for compensatory damages for individuals could be held separately. Spokesmen for the companies said they would not settle.
Public school teachers in Buffalo went on strike even though such a walkout is forbidden by New York law. The executive committee of the Buffalo Teachers Federation called for the action after the union's leaders rejected a four-year contract proposal by the city. Meanwhile, teachers in Philadelphia, who had appeared poised to strike earlier this week, reported some progress during another round of contract talks Wednesday.
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