USA

A fourth inquiry into the collapse of energy giant Enron and the "ripple effects" its bankruptcy has had on employees, customers, and even the economy, will be launched by Congress Jan. 24. Announcing the probe Wednesday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut, chairman of the Senate's Governmental Affairs committee, questioned whether the government could have done more to protect those impacted by the Texas-based company's demise. He vowed the inquiry would be a "search for the truth, not a witch hunt."

Three environmental groups have sued the government to force compliance with a 1992 law requiring federal agencies to buy vehicles that run on alternative fuels. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in San Francisco, accuses 18 agencies of failing to follow the Energy Policy Act. Among the alleged violators are the departments of Energy, Justice, and Transportation. The plaintiffs are the Center for Biological Diversity, Bluewater Network, and the Sierra Club.

The cost of a round-trip ticket will rise as much as $10 next month as airline passengers begin paying for security improvements. The Transportation Department said the new security fee of $2.50 per flight, or $5 for passengers who change planes, will take effect Feb. 1. The fee is expected to raise around $900 million this year, which will be spent on new technology, passenger screeners, law enforcement officers, and other security measures.

New claims for unemployment insurance shot up for the second week in a row, suggesting many US workers are still suffering from an economy trying to claw its way out of recession. For the work week ending Dec. 29, the claims jumped by a seasonally adjusted 36,000 to 447,000, the highest level since the beginning of December, the Labor Department reported. A government analyst offered no specific reason for the big increases, but noted that new claims tend to be volatile during the holiday season.

Major league baseball played a major role in determining the winning bidder for the Boston Red Sox, Mass. Attorney General Thomas Reilly said, calling into question the fairness of the sale process. He is investigating why the team rejected a $750 million bid for one valued at $660 million. "Major league baseball was calling the shots here," Reilly said after a four-hour meeting in Boston with Red Sox chief executive John Harrington and team lawyers. Baseball's chief legal counsel denied the claim. The Red Sox have said the higher bid was unacceptable because financing had not been secured.

A federal judge tripled the sentence for a New York man who falsely connected an Arab-American to the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. Jack Barresi admitted he made the accusation to the FBI because his fiancee told him that the victim, her boss, was mistreating female employees. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison after prosecutors requested a longer-than-normal sentence for the violation because of heightened anti-Arab sentiment.

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