101-405 Relief Coming

Caltrans will announce plans today for a $43 million project at the 101-405 interchange that promises to reduce congestion and improve safety at the nation's worst freeway juncture, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The long-awaited project will create a smooth transition for motorists entering the northbound San Diego Freeway at Greenleaf Street, the "missing link" in a series of improvements designed to reduce bottlenecks at the interchange traveled by more than 500,000 motorists daily.

Shipping Company Pleads Guilty to Ocean Dumping
A shipping company that operates in the Port of Los Angeles pleaded guilty Monday to 24 federal felony counts of concealing the deliberate illegal discharge of waste oil and a misdemeanor of illegally dumping such sludge, and agreed to pay a record $25 million fine, the Daily Breeze reported. An Evergreen International vice president made the plea in federal court in Los Angeles to the charges filed last month in five districts with major ports, including Los Angeles; Newark; Portland; Seattle and Charleston. The $25 million penalty was the largest fee ever imposed on a deliberate dumping case.

Pending Home Resale Index Rebounds 2.2 Percent
Contracts to purchase previously owned homes rebounded in February as buyers rushed to beat higher interest rates, the National Assn. of Realtors said. The index of signed purchase agreements rose 2.2 percent in the month to 123.2, approaching a record set in October after falling 2.1 percent in January, Bloomberg News reported. That compares with a 9.4 percent rise in February contracts to buy new houses, which the Commerce Department reported last month.

Insurers to Get Medicare Increase
PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., the Cypress-based manager of Medicare health plans, and other insurers will get a 4.8 percent payment increase from the program in 2006, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday. Managed-care plans that enroll some of the 41 million people in Medicare will get the increased payments. The U.S. will rely on insurers such as PacifiCare and pharmacy benefit managers to manage expanded prescription drug coverage that takes effect Jan. 1.

Court Limits Use of Liens by Hospitals
Hospitals can no longer recover additional costs from insured patients by placing liens on personal injury awards, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday. Plaintiff attorneys hailed the unanimous decision as a victory for consumers. For California hospitals, it marked a financial setback, cutting off another source of potential income, the Los Angeles Times reported. The case centered on a 44-year-old state law allowing hospitals to sue and take other measures to collect debts from uninsured patients.

Safeway Plans $100-Million Ad Campaign
Safeway Inc. is launching a $100-million national advertising campaign to try to update its image and attract wealthier shoppers, the Los Angeles Times reported. The new ads, which will begin appearing April 18 on television, radio and billboards, use the slogan "Ingredients for Life" to portray the company's 1,802 stores as convenient places to shop for high-end meat, produce and prepared family dinners. Safeway is trying to differentiate its stores from those of its rivals, analysts say.

U.S. to Probe Imports of Chinese Goods
Facing a crush of Chinese textiles and apparel since global quotas were lifted Jan. 1, the Bush administration Monday took the first step toward re-imposing limits on purchases of certain clothing from China. The move, which is expected to escalate trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, came after intense pressure on the White House from politically powerful American textile interests that have lost 17 mills and more than 7,000 jobs this year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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