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Week in review

Top 10 Stories / Nov. 20-24

November 26, 2000|Nancy Rivera Brooks and Nancy Cleeland and A Times staff writer and Sharon Bernstein and P.J. Huffstutter and A Times staff writer and Edmund Sanders and A Times staff writer and Karen Kaplan and A Times staff writer

1 Power Generators Blamed for State Woes: A study commissioned by Southern California Edison found evidence that power plant owners and electricity resellers have been withholding electricity from the market to drive up prices. Power plant owners said they have been operating their properties responsibly and have not been profiteering. The California Public Utilities Commission separately urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to look harder for evidence of market abuse so that FERC can order refunds of some of the record electricity charges Californians paid last summer. The PUC estimated that state electricity users were overcharged by more than $4 billion for power in recent months.

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2 Employees Block Company Move to Mexico: A few dozen immigrant production workers achieved what years of wrangling by labor leaders and anti-globalization activists have not: They stopped a factory from moving to Mexico. A federal judge sided with the newly unionized workers, handing down an astonishing preliminary injunction that prevents a small Gardena jewelry manufacturer, Quadrtech Corp., from going through with a planned relocation to Tijuana. The injunction, which was sought by the National Labor Relations Board, will remain in effect until the NLRB rules on dozens of charges filed by the union, a process that could take years. The most serious is an allegation that business owner Vladimir Reil planned his move to avoid dealing with the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents the minimum-wage workers.

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3 NHTSA Opens Probe of Goodyear Tires: A federal safety agency opened a preliminary investigation into Goodyear light-truck tires that could experience "sudden and catastrophic" failure on the road. The investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involves about 27 million Load Range E tires manufactured from 1991 to 1999, about half of which are still on the road, according to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The tires were sold under different brands and sizes for large sport-utility vehicles and vans, trailers and even some small buses. The agency's investigation comes in the wake of recent reports in The Times that the Goodyear Load Range E tires had tread-separation failures similar to those that led to the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires this summer. Moreover, Goodyear has been quietly replacing thousands of failed tires for more than four years at no charge for customers who complain, The Times reported.

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4 Clinics Close as KPC Collapses: KPC Medical Management, the largest for-profit medical group in Southern California, started closing its clinics, disrupting care for 300,000 patients. The collapse of KPC came after months of effort by state regulators and others to shore up the doctor-group management company in the first real test of the state's new regulatory system for managed care. The Anaheim-based company has been losing money since it bought the majority of failed MedPartners' Southern California clinics last year. So many medical groups have gone out of business or filed for bankruptcy protection during the last two years that it won't be easy for the doctors employed by KPC to find new groups to join--and their patients might have to permanently switch to new physicians.

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5 EMusic's Search Technology Stirs Critics: Online music retailer EMusic Inc. introduced a new technology that critics called an invasive software weapon unleashed on Napster users. The company said the software program, which searches through consumers' computers and flags digital music files that it believes are pirated, is a last-resort effort to educate the public about the seriousness of online piracy. Among other things, the EMusic program could result in Napster users being expelled from the song-swapping service and their Internet provider. Privacy experts and industry analysts were stunned at EMusic's aggressive approach, saying that its automated program underscores the inherent struggle between protecting copyrights and personal privacy in cyberspace. EMusic officials contend that, simply by joining Napster, users forfeit their right to privacy.

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