Urban News

By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Jan. 22, 2002 at 1:46 AM
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(CHICAGO) -- Fire officials in Chicago confirm that one woman died and up to eight firefighters were injured in a blaze in a high-rise apartment building in that city Monday. The Chronicle is reporting that the fire broke out on the 14th floor of a 47-story building. The building has more than 400 units.

The firemen were hurt while breaking down a door. They were caught in a "backdraft" of white-hot air and flames that swept through the door as the direction of the air pressure changed when it was suddenly opened.

Police describe the victim of the fire as being in her 50s. Three of the firemen were listed in serious condition with burns. Five others were not as badly hurt.

(HOUSTON) -- The once-thriving on-line information company Questia Media in Houston is now down to a skeleton staff after huge layoffs and nearly closing its doors totally. The company, which once employed more than 300 people with an operating budget of more than $135 million, has been laying off employees since last spring.

The Houston Chronicle says the company is trying to stave off total disaster by moving its tiny, remaining staff into much smaller quarters. Now the remaining employees are working in a sprawling office suite in an expensive high-rise building. The problem, though, is getting out of the firm's long-term contracts with landlords.

The company is barely a year old. It was advertised as an on-line research and term paper-writing service, marketed to college students. Questia Media originally charged $19.95 per month to subscribers and had hoped for a minimum of 100,000 charter members. Sources close to the company tell the publication that fewer than 5,000 signed up.

(ATLANTA) -- A new audit shows that the administration of Atlanta's last mayor, Bill Campbell, may have diverted monies intended for Hartsfield International Airport for other city functions and operations. According to a major report in the Journal and Constitution, auditors say that the current administration owes Hartsfield about a quarter of a million dollars. The money went to pay the salary of "airport" employees who actually worked for other agencies.

Additionally, nearly half a million dollars in equipment was purchased "in the name of the airport" but put to other uses.

The publication says that diversion of the airport monies is "a direct violation of federal laws." These mandates require that airport-generated revenues be used only for airport-related expenditures.

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- Officials of New England Gas in Providence, R.I., say that about 250 construction and maintenance workers were locked out of their jobs Monday as part of an ongoing union dispute. As many as 100 workers picketed during a peaceful protest. Negotiations are set to resume as the week continues.

Published reports indicate that members of a local union voted this past weekend to reject the company's latest offer. The old contract expired over the weekend. A spokesman for the company told local media that New England Gas has been prepared for the possible situation and was continuing business as usual.

One of the main sticking points of the negotiations is said to be suggested changes in work rules that would allow employees more flexibility in scheduling.

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