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News Briefs 1

GM Auto Workers End Strike

The Washington Post

General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers agreed Thursday to end the 17-day strike against two Ohio brake plants that has idled hundreds of thousands of workers and shut down GM's North American auto operations.

Neither side would disclose details of the settlement until workers ratify it, but essentially it reiterates the terms of the existing contract, according to company and union sources.

The 3,000 workers at the two GM brake plants in Dayton are scheduled to vote on the agreement Friday, and brake production could resume immediately.

The strike began March 5 with a local union dispute over GM's plans to "outsource" 128 future jobs to a nonunion supplier without notifying the union. The strike"s effects were soon felt by the company's North American assembly plants and their suppliers. GM laid off 175,800 workers in the United States, Mexico and Canada, and thousands of others were idled by suppliers caught in a just-in-time system of manufacturing that has no room for stockpiles.

Sources on both sides said the new agreement reaffirms the union's right to be given a chance to compete for work the company wants to send to outside suppliers. In exchange, GM has received a firm promise from the union that if it cannot meet the costs of the outside supplier the company has the right to outsource the work.

As part of the agreement, a company source said, the union allowed GM to outsource the 128 jobs that began the strike. Robert Bosch, a German company with nonunion operations in South Carolina, will build antilock brake systems for the 1998 model Camaros and Firebirds.

Scientists Discover Gene That Causes Rare Form of Epilepsy


Discovery of a faulty gene that directly causes a rare form of epilepsy was announced Thursday by scientists in California and Finland, opening the way, perhaps, to understanding more common forms of the neurological disorder.

"This opens a whole new area of research, and the real hope is in the new ideas about what goes wrong to cause epilepsy," said geneticist Richard Myers at Stanford University. "It gives us hints that other forms of epilepsy may be in the same biochemical pathway."

In collaboration with researchers in two Helsinki laboratories, Myers and his colleagues found the exact gene mutation that causes progressive myoclonus epilepsy, a rare and severe form of the disease that involves repeated seizures. They reported their findings in the journal Science.

The discovery was surprising because the gene, which sits on chromosome 21, was already known. It makes a so-called protease inhibitor, a protein that keeps enzymes from chopping up other proteins. But the inhibitor, cystatin B, had not been a suspect in epilepsy before.