National briefs: Rhode Island, unions reach pension accord

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A tentative agreement between Rhode Island and representatives of its public employees softens some provisions in a sweeping 2011 law intended to control the spiraling cost of the state's pension system.

The state's retirement board approved the agreement Friday, seeking to end legal challenges by public employee unions to the 2011 law, as well as to pension-related laws passed in 2009 and 2010.

The pension law that Rhode Island passed two years ago is considered among the most far-reaching in the nation, largely because it not only lowered the retirement benefits of new workers but also affected the future benefits of current workers, a politically difficult move that few states attempt.

Similar legal challenges to public pension overhauls are underway in California, Illinois and several other states also struggling to overcome pension shortfalls.

Weekend snowstorm

BOSTON -- Another round of snow made its way into the Northeast Saturday as the region continued to dig out from the previous storm.

New England was getting hit hardest by the latest blast of winter weather. The National Weather Service said 10 to 14 inches of snow was expected in eastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. Connecticut could see 8 to 10 inches along its Rhode Island border.

The weekend snowstorm comes on the heels of another storm that brought snow and ice to the East Coast, caused at least 25 deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power. Parts of New York and Vermont ended up with more than 2 feet of snow.

Guilty in sitter killing

OGDEN, Utah -- It took a Utah jury just two hours to find a man guilty of killing a teenage baby sitter and dumping her body in the woods after prosecutors say he gave her a lethal dose of drugs during a night of sex that also included the man's wife.

Eric Millerberg, 38, faces up to life in prison after being convicted Friday of child abuse homicide, unlawful sexual contact with a minor, obstruction of justice and desecration of a dead body in the 2011 death of 16-year-old Alexis Rasmussen. Sentencing was set for March 18.

Mr. Millerberg's wife, Dea, 40, is awaiting her own trial in April on charges of desecration of a body. She testified against her husband.

Record grape harvest

MODESTO, Calif. -- California agriculture officials are reporting good news for wine lovers and vineyard operators alike.

Growers in the nation's premier wine region brought in a bumper crop last year, thanks to expanded acreage and overall favorable weather.

Wine grapes are one of California's top commodities, a crop worth $3.16 billion last year, according to the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

-- Compiled from news services

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