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AREA

30 travel journalists will be touring city

The Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau will play host to 30 travel journalists this weekend to encourage the writers to feature the city in their publications.

Tourism officials said publicity in the newspapers and national magazines could "infuse millions of dollars into our local economy."

The journalists, who are participating in the Georgia Department of Economic Development's Travel Media Marketplace, will go on citywide tours, preview the Augusta Museum of History's new James Brown exhibit and dine at local restaurants on First Friday.

It is the first time the visitors bureau has participated in the event, said Jennifer Bowen, its vice president of public relations.

NATION

Vioxx maker extends claimants' deadline

NEWARK, N.J. --- While asserting that the proposed $4.85 billion settlement for illness associated with Vioxx remains on track, the painkiller's manufacturer on Thursday extended until June 30 the deadline for registered participants to submit paperwork.

The original deadline for claimants to provide documents showing they took Vioxx and then had a heart attack or stroke originally was May 1. The deadline to register was Jan. 15.

"The resolution program is going forward in a satisfactory way. We expect to meet and exceed the threshold for funding of the program," said Merck & Co. spokesman Kent Jarrell.

Lawyers on the plaintiffs' steering committee said the extension raised no concerns, adding it was anticipated because the claims administrator was still verifying documents that already have been submitted.

Port workers walk off jobs to protest war

LOS ANGELES --- West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests, terminal operators said Thursday.

Thousands of dockworkers did not show up for the morning shift, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Mr. Getzug could not immediately say how much the walkout would cost employers or how many dockworkers did not show up to work.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union defended its members' right to take off work to protest the war in Iraq.

"Big foreign corporations that control global shipping aren't loyal or accountable to any country," said Bob McEllrath, the union's international president. "But longshore workers are different. We're loyal to America, and we won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war."

Pilots union asks for help with labor talks

FORT WORTH, TEXAS --- The union representing pilots at American Airlines asked federal officials Thursday to help speed talks on a new labor contract with the nation's biggest carrier.

The request came on the first day that the pilots' 2003 contract with American could be changed, but the two sides have made little progress.

The Allied Pilots Association asked the National Mediation Board to speed up the talks. The agency assigned a mediator to the case last month.

Last fall, the union asked for pay raises of more than 50 percent to return their pay to 1992 levels, which company officials rejected as unaffordable.

-- Edited from wire reports


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