National Briefs: Stamps to go up 3 cents

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WASHINGTON -- Regulators on Tuesday approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first-class stamp, bringing the charge to 49 cents a letter in an effort to help the Postal Service recover from severe mail decreases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.

The higher rate will start Jan. 26 and last no more than two years, allowing the Postal Service to recoup $2.8 billion in losses. By a 2-1 vote, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the price hike permanent, though inflation may make it so.

Federal employees pay raise

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday authorizing a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees, ending a four-year freeze in salary rates.

The increase, which was in the works for months, will take effect in January. It does not apply to members of Congress but will go to 2.1 million federal workers, from rank-and-file civil servants to high-level career employees and top political appointees.

Girl to be off ventilator

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Children's Hospital Oakland can take 13-year-old Jahi McMath off a breathing machine Monday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Evelio Grillo rendered the verdict after hearing testimony from two doctors. Both testified that the teen is brain dead and alive only because of a ventilator hooked up to her since Dec. 12. Judge Grillo ordered that Jahi be kept on the breathing machine until at least 5 p.m. Monday.

$25 million fraud scheme

New York -- An Illinois man who persuaded a company to finance a nonexistent telemedicine computer tablet named after the physician on the original "Star Trek" television show admitted to a $25 million fraud scheme.

Howard Leventhal, 56, of Long Grove, Ill., pleaded guilty Monday in New York to wire fraud for falsely claiming that his company, Neovision, had a contract with the Canadian Department of Health.

Mr. Leventhal told investors his company had agreements to provide Canada with a telemedicine device named after Leonard McCoy, prosecutors said. He used the fake pacts to get Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Paragon Financial Group Inc. to give him $800,000 in exchange for the right to collect money he said the Canadian government owed him, according to prosecutors.

AmEx to pay $75.7 million

NEW YORK -- American Express Co. has agreed to pay $75.7 million to settle claims from U.S. financial regulators that it used deceptive marketing practices to sell protection services to credit-card customers.

The company must pay $59.5 million in restitution to more than 335,000 harmed customers, according to the deals announced Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Suit filed over Volcker Rule

NEW YORK -- The banks have fired their first salvo in what could soon turn into a war of litigation over the Volcker Rule.

As expected, the American Bankers Association, an industry trade group, filed a motion in federal court in Washington on Tuesday seeking to quickly suspend one part of the 2-week-old Volcker Rule. The trade group claims 275 small banks will suffer an imminent $600 million hit to capital and make them less likely to lend to consumers and businesses.

-- Compiled from news services

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