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BUS BRIEFS United Airlines mechanics ratify contract

CHICAGO -- United Airlines' mechanics union ratified a five-year contract today, removing one strike threat from the carrier as another labor group negotiated down to the deadline.

A majority of the 7,000 members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association voted to accept a five-year pact entailing $96 million in annual reductions and 3.9 percent pay cuts, among other conditions.

The outcome was announced on the union's Web site. The union said the vote tally would not be released until the two sides appeared in court later Tuesday to put the contract into effect. But spokesman Terry O'Rourke said the margin was "decisive."

The agreement still left the machinists' union, representing 20,000 ramp and public-contact workers, without a contract deal as a judge's afternoon deadline neared for ruling on whether to break their contract.

Bias suit brews over hair salon prices

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Alabama woman is seeking class-action status for a lawsuit against a Dillard's Inc. hair salon for allegedly charging black women more than white women.

Debbie Deavers Sturvisant alleges that a hair salon in a Tuscaloosa, Ala., Dillard's department store charged $35 to wash and set her hair, while white women paid $20 for the same service.

Sturvisant's lawsuit could bring a whole new level of attention to the general practice across the country of charging differently for hair care based on ethnicity.

"The stereotype is that all black hair is the same. But that's erroneous, just as all hair for Caucasians is not the same," said Patrick C. Cooper, a Birmingham, Ala., lawyer who plans to represent thousands of affected customers.

Jurors appear confused in Scrushy case

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The fraud case against fired HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy may come down to complicated documents, and not just the ones that witnesses talked about during his trial.

After months of testimony about complex financial reports and notebooks filled with numbers revealing a huge earnings overstatement, jurors deliberating the case are now faced with a verdict form and legal instructions that, by all appearances, left them confounded.

To reach a verdict on all 36 counts, the jury must fill out a form that includes 247 questions on 37 typed pages. To acquit Scrushy, jurors must make at least 36 unanimous decisions; a conviction on all counts would require at least 69.

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Experts say much of the information on the forms is required by law, and both prosecutors and the defense helped U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre decide what to include.

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