USA

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a $145 billion verdict against tobacco companies for injuring smokers. It had been the largest such award ever by an American jury. The justices approved an appellate court ruling that it had been a mistake to certify a class-action lawsuit representing an estimated 300,000 to 700,000 ill Floridians that resulted in the huge jury award for punitive damages in 2000.

Three people face federal charges after PepsiCo Inc. received a letter offer to purchase Coca-Cola trade secrets and alerted its rival."Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal," said Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco. The suspects were arrested Wednesday, when a $1.5 million transaction was to occur, and were expected to appear before a judge in Atlanta, where Coca Cola is based. Coke thanked Pepsi for its assistance.

House and Senate Republicans clashed over immigration in hearings held on both US coasts. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) testified in Philadelphia, where he stressed the importance of immigrant labor and the potential consequences if demand is ignored. Meanwhile, in San Diego, House members gathered at a Border Patrol station, where Republicans called for a 700-mile fence and "hard labor" for illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes.

An increase in the number of wildfires may be the result of global warming, researchers say. An analysis of data going back to 1970, indicates the fires increased "suddenly and dramatically" in the 1980s and the wildfire season grew longer, according to scientists in California and Arizona. The findings are available in the online edition of the journal Science.

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