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BRIEFLY

RETIREE BENEFITS EXTENDED: Thousands of Bethlehem Steel retirees who feared losing their health benefits this month have won a reprieve, the United Steelworkers Union said. The bankrupt steelmaker planned to end retirees' health care benefits March 31 in preparation for the sale of its assets to International Steel Group. Steelworkers president Leo Gerard said the union and company negotiated to maintain health coverage for six months longer under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

MARRIOTT WATERSIDE HONORED: For the second consecutive year, the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina has been named co-winner of Marriott International's Hotel of the Year award. The 3-year-old Waterside and the Renaissance Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, were the only two properties of more than 500 Marriott and Renaissance hotels in the United States to win for 2002. The award is based on operational performance such as customer service ratings, sales efforts and profitability. The hotel's customer service rating increased by 10 percent in 2002.

FORD CUTS PRODUCTION: Ford Motor Co. said it will slash production 16.6 percent in the second quarter. The Detroit automaker said it plans to produce 980,000 vehicles at North American assembly plants during that period, down nearly 200,000 vehicles from the second quarter of 2002.

BAYCOL SUITS: Bayer, the German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant, said its insurance coverage might not be adequate to cover its potential liabilities in connection with Baycol, a cholesterol-reducing drug the company withdrew in August 2001 after it was linked to more than 100 deaths. Chief executive Werner Wenning said there were 8,400 personal injury suits pending against Bayer over Baycol, and that 500 more had been settled out of court at a cost to the company of $150-million.

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