USA

A 3.3 percent cost-of-living increase in Social Security payments will begin in January's monthly benefit checks for 53 million qualified recipients, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday. This is less than the current 4.1 percent increase, the largest in 15 years. The monthly benefit for the typical retired worker will go from $1,011 to $1,044, next year.

A federal judge in Houston vacated the conviction of late Enron founder Ken Lay on Tuesday, bringing to a close criminal proceedings against him and thwarting the government's bid to seek $43.5 million in what prosecutors allege were ill-gotten gains. Lay was convicted May 25 of 10 counts in two separate cases that traced the fall of the giant energy company. The judge ruled that Lay's death on July 5 prevented appeals of his conviction. The government could still pursue its claims on Lay's gains, but they would have to compete with any other litigants who might be pursuing his estate.

An estimated 700,000 people are treated annually in emergency rooms for adverse reactions to various medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, according to a report appearing Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Many people reportedly are taking the drugs improperly.

MetLife Inc. is in the process of selling a New York apartment complex to a developer for $5.4 billion in the largest American real estate deal in history, the company announced Tuesday. About 25,000 people live in the 100 buildings that make up Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, middle-class residences originally built for returning World War II veterans. The bid by the Tishman Speyer development company was higher than a tenant-backed bid of $4.5 billion for the complex along Manhattan's East River.

The Justice Department said Wednesday it has released Johann Leprich, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, to his wife and son in Clinton Township, Mich., after Romania, Hungary, and Germany refused to accept him. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they would continue to pursue deportation of Leprich, whose citizenship has been revoked and who must report each week to the agency.

Authorities in California investigating an effort to discourage immigrants from voting said whoever is responsible could be charged with a felony.

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