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Nation in brief

National do-not-call list work to begin within days

©Associated Press
February 22, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The government will begin within days building a national do-not-call list intended to help people block unwanted telemarketing calls, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris said Friday.

Money for the project was approved when President Bush signed a $397.4-billion spending bill Thursday.

Consumers can start signing up for the free service this summer, Muris said, and the registry should work by September.

As planned, people could enroll in the do-not-call registry through the Internet or a toll-free number. They would need to renew their registration every five years.

Telemarketers would have to check the list every three months to determine who does not want to be called. Those who call listed people could be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. Consumers would be able to file complaints by phone or online to an automated system.

Ex-Forest Service worker sentenced to 6 years for fire

DENVER -- A former U.S. Forest Service employee was sentenced to six years in prison Friday for setting the biggest wildfire in Colorado history last summer.

"The fact that I hurt people kills me each and every day, because I do love people," Terry Lynn Barton, 39, said in federal court. "So I'd just like to say that I am sorry."

She pleaded guilty in December to federal arson charges and last month to a state arson charge. The state charge could bring up to 12 years behind bars at sentencing March 5. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch rejected the government's request that Barton be ordered to pay $14.7-million to cover firefighting costs and restoration of the forest.

The 138,000-acre fire southwest of Denver destroyed 133 homes and one business, causing an estimated $13-million in damage.

Beef prices expected to rise

WASHINGTON -- Consumers should expect to pay higher prices for beef this year and slightly more for pork, poultry and eggs as well, an Agriculture Department economist said Friday.

Shayle Shagan said the price of beef this year likely will surpass the record high price of $3.45 per pound that consumers paid in April 2001, primarily because of the shrinking supply. Beef sold for an average of $3.26 per pound last year.

The beef supply has thinned as ranchers reduced their herds to protect themselves from losses because of the drought plaguing much of the West. They also had to pay higher prices for feed last year.

Though prices for sirloin, steak and other beef products have steadily increased over the last few years, consumers continue to buy beef, Shagan said.

Consumer commission won't ban plastic in children's toys

WASHINGTON -- The government refused Friday to ban a soft plastic in children's toys, rejecting arguments by environmental and public health groups that it can damage children's livers and kidneys.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 3-0 against a petition filed by a dozen groups in 1998 to remove soft polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastic from toys for children 5 and younger.

"Consumers may have a high level of assurance that soft plastic products pose no risk to children," commissioner Mary Sheila Gall said.

NTSB information: Wellstone's pilot wanted to cancel flight

WASHINGTON -- A pilot who died in the crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone near a Minnesota airfield last year wanted to cancel the flight because of possible icing, according to information made public Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Why Richard Conry changed his mind is unclear. Steven Thornton, a Federal Aviation Administration preflight specialist, said Conry decided to fly after learning the weather had improved. But Thornton said he feared somebody might have pressured Wellstone's pilot to fly.

The board didn't draw any conclusions, but the report suggested investigators think ice on the wings might have contributed to the crash.

Elsewhere . . .

SLA MEMBER PLEADS GUILTY: Former '70s radical James Kilgore, who spent decades on the run after his days with the Symbionese Liberation Army, pleaded guilty Friday to federal explosives and passport fraud charges.

Kilgore, 55, was charged with possession of a pipe bomb found in his Daly City apartment in 1975, and with obtaining a passport under a false name. He faces 10 years in prison for the bomb charge and five for using the birth certificate of a dead baby to get a passport in Seattle under a false name. Sentencing is June 30.

TWO KILLED AS BARGE EXPLODES: A gasoline barge being unloaded at a Staten Island oil depot in New York exploded with a thunderous blast Friday, killing two workers and sending up a fiery column of black smoke so high it could be seen more than 30 miles away.

FATHER WHO LEFT DAUGHTER IN VAN GETS PROBABTION: A father of 13 who was found guilty of letting his baby daughter die in a van on a sweltering day was given an unusual sentence: probation and one night in jail a year for the next seven years.

Kevin Kelly, 46, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, will be required to conduct an annual blood drive on the May 29 anniversary of 21-month-old Frances Kelly's death, the judge ruled Friday.

The jury had recommended a one-year prison sentence.

MAFIA HIT MAN PLEADS GUILTY: Richard Kuklinski, a Mafia hit man who confessed in an HBO interview to the 1980 shotgun slaying of a New York City detective, pleaded guilty to the murder Thursday.

Kuklinski, 67, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence for four murders, accepted a plea bargain that calls for a concurrent 30-year term.

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