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A proposal by Bethlehem Steel to stop providing health- and life-insurance benefits for 95,000 retirees and their dependents as of March 31 was submitted for approval by a bankruptcy court. Union officials denounced the plan as "morally callous," but the company called the decision "extremely difficult, but unavoidable" as it finalizes a $1.5 billion buyout by International Steel Group.

The Federal Reserve announced it will close five regional check-processing centers outright and cease processing checks at eight others in a move that will eliminate 400 jobs and affect 900 more. It reflects an increasing reliance on electronic payments, officials said. The centers slated for closure are in Charleston, W.Va.; Columbia, S.C.; Peoria, Ill.; Milwaukee; and Indianapolis.

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Regulators and Moody's credit-rating agency were probing a leading telecommunications company after it denied bidding just under $4 billion for Cable & Wireless PLC and then admitted it had proposed "discussing" such a deal. Pacific Century Cyber Works (PCCW) was being asked by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange why it had not disclosed the overture in the first place, when its market value is roughly equal to the size of the reported bid and it has debts of $4.3 billion. Three years ago, PCCW paid $28 billion for Cable & Wireless's Hong Kong operations. Cable & Wireless serves customers in 33 countries.

Air Canada scheduled employee meetings beginning today to discuss plans to cut labor costs by 20 percent and to sell off key parts of the company, especially its regional carrier, Jazz. Senior executives said they foresaw no signs of recovery in the struggling regional market and called Jazz's $59 million operating loss last year "clearly unsustainable." Any move to cut costs is expected to encounter stiff resistance from the airline's unions, reports said.

United Parcel Service plans to lay off as many as 100 of its 2,500 pilots by fall, the package-delivery giant said. The cuts are the first since Atlanta-based UPS created its own airline in 1988 and come amid negotiations with the pilots' union on a new contract.


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