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News Briefs II

Northwest Cancels Weekend Flights as Strike Looms

The Washington Post

Northwest Airlines Wednesday canceled 400 weekend flights in preparation for a strike by its pilots union despite signs of progress in contract negotiations.

The airline said it was canceling 170 flights Friday and another 230 scheduled for Saturday and would not reinstate the flights even if a strike is averted. The majority of the canceled flights were domestic routes which are served by other airlines. Northwest, the nation's fourth-largest carrier, operates 1,700 daily flights, carrying approximately 170,000 passengers.

Northwest said it also has worked out arrangements with other airlines for honoring Northwest tickets wherever possible. Trans World Airlines announced it would begin using larger aircraft to serve the Minneapolis-St. Paul market this weekend to help offset the impact of a strike if it occurs.

Probe Cites Abuse' in Boys Ranch Death; License Denied

Los Angeles Times

A five-month Department of Economic Security investigation concluded Wednesday that "abuse and neglect" led to the death of a 16-year-old California youth at the Arizona Boys Ranch and prompted officials to deny an operating license to the paramilitary-style boot camp for juvenile offenders.

The state report also revealed that 17 former staff members will be placed on the Arizona Child Abuser Directory as a result of their treatment of Nicholaus Contreraz, of Sacramento. The directory is a confidential computerized list meant to help the department screen people for foster care and other children's services.

"The circumstances surrounding his death, and the repeated mistreatment of other residents, demonstrate a pattern of abuse and neglect by Arizona Boys Ranch and a lack of concern by senior management and line staff for the rights of youth placed in their care and custody," said Department of Economic Security Director Linda Blessing.

Officials said it was the first time they could recall the state denying a license to such a facility. Boys Ranch has 20 days to appeal the decision and may continue operating during that time. Officials said they doubted another application for a license would be accepted unless the ranch made significant changes.

The announcement at a packed news conference here follows months of speculation about the future of the 49-year-old institution, which has a national reputation for sometimes rehabilitating troubled youths and has enjoyed wide political support in Arizona.

But that support has been tested since the March 2 death of Contreraz, who died while being punished at the ranch's Oracle campus.

"I'm very glad that they are losing their license," said Julie Vega, the boy's mother, in a phone interview. "That's a big step. I'm very gratified. What they've been doing should have been stopped a long time ago."

Defense Is Building for Hospital in Baby-Switching Case

The Washington Post

Lawyers who will defend the University of Virginia Medical Center if a lawsuit is filed in the baby-switching case said Wednesday that a preliminary review has uncovered no evidence that the hospital did anything improper or negligent.

A private medical malpractice lawyer was retained two weeks ago by the Virginia attorney general's office to represent U-Va. The lawyer, Steuart Thomas, of Staunton, Va., has been reviewing medical records and conducting interviews at the Charlottesville hospital, the attorney general's office said.

"After officials in the office of the attorney general consulted with Thomas, it appears that all is in order with regard to the record-keeping" at U-Va., said David Botkins, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark L. Earley.

"Presently, it is by no means clear that the exchange of children was the result of any improper or negligent action on the part of U-Va. or an employee of the commonwealth," Botkins said.

Botkins would not elaborate on what Thomas found in the records or speculate on how the switch could have occurred if hospital procedures were followed. Hospital officials have said they believe the switch was probably deliberate.

FTC Blocks Firm's Sale Of Personal Data

The Washington Post

Trans Union Corp., one of the country's largest credit reporting bureaus, was ordered to stop selling personal financial data to catalogers, telemarketers and other target marketing companies, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

Administrative law judge James P. Timony, who presided over a six-week administrative trial at the agency, wrote in a decision that Trans Union "invades consumers' privacy when it sells consumers' credit histories to third-party marketers without consumers' knowledge or consent."

The FTC had alleged that Trans Union has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which prohibits credit bureaus from furnishing information to anyone except under specific circumstances.

The company is one of the three firms in the country that furnish credit reports to banks and other lenders trying to assess the creditworthiness of consumers.

"This ruling sends a clear signal that the privacy of your financial records are going to be protected by the law and that the FTC is going to enforce the law," said David Medine, associate director for credit practices.