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NATION IN BRIEF: Consumers are squeezed as inflation outpaces wages

Consumers are squeezed as inflation outpaces wages

WASHINGTON -- The notion that consumers will help lead the economic rebound received a stark rebuttal Friday: The spending power of American families is being squeezed.

Workers saw their inflation-adjusted weekly wages fall 1.6 percent last year -- the sharpest drop since 1990 -- even as consumer prices rose only modestly.

Families' spending power sank as a result. Slack pay and scarce job growth are slowing consumer spending, along with tight credit and a rising savings rate. That's hindering the economy's ability to mount a strong recovery.

Many are struggling with surging costs for health care and college tuition, both of which have been galloping far above the overall inflation rate.

Pentagon finds errors by officers over fort shooter

WASHINGTON -- Several officers failed to use ''appropriate judgment and standards'' in overseeing the career of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan and their actions should be investigated immediately, according to the military's investigation into the November Fort Hood massacre.

A report released Friday says that commanders must be encouraged to look for cues that could prevent a similar attack.

''The report raises serious questions about the degree to which the entire Department of Defense is prepared for similar incidents in the future, especially multiple simultaneous incidents,'' Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

According to two officials familiar with the case, as many as eight Army officers could face discipline.

A year after the miracle, a toast on the Hudson

NEW YORK -- The spot where a crippled jet landed a year ago on the frigid Hudson River amid panic and heroism was transformed Friday into a site of celebration as survivors of US Airways Flight 1549 joined with their rescuers to toast their unlikely survival.

Cheering and hollering, they raised their glasses at 3:31 p.m., the moment of impact, on one of the ferries that plucked them from the water. They made the toast at the approximate spot where the plane went down after a half-day of gatherings to mark the splash landing.

Authorities: Fla. shooter targeted sister, niece

CROSS CITY, Fla. -- A man is accused of targeting his sister and pregnant niece in a shooting rampage that left two people dead and two wounded, then killing a Florida sheriff's deputy in a shootout, authorities said Friday.

Investigators were still working to determine what led to the shootings, Hernando County sheriff's Sgt. Donna Black said. Deputies say John Kalisz, 55, killed two women -- including his older sister -- and wounded his pregnant niece and another woman Thursday afternoon at a house near Brooksville, about an hour north of Tampa.

Several networks to air telethon for Haitian relief

NEW YORK -- MTV is joining the major broadcast networks and several cable channels for an all-star telethon for Haitian earthquake relief on Jan. 22.

A statement released by MTV Networks on Friday said ''Hope for Haiti'' will be shown at 8 p.m.

Networks showing the telethon are ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT. It will also be available internationally.

1 teen pleads guilty in Fla. woman's burning

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A Florida teen has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an alleged plot with an 11-year-old girl to kill the girl's mother by setting her bedroom on fire.

Jack Ault pleaded guilty to five charges in juvenile court Friday. The 15-year-old's mother said he will likely be sentenced Jan. 25 to a juvenile program that includes two years of detention. Ault could have faced life in prison if prosecuted as an adult.

First case with 'sexting': Child porn or play?

PHILADELPHIA -- The first criminal case involving ''sexting'' reached a U.S. appeals court on Friday -- a case that asks whether racy cell-phone photos of three girls amount to child pornography or child's play.

A county prosecutor in northeastern Pennsylvania threatened to pursue felony charges if the girls skipped his ''re-education'' course on such topics as sexual predators and ''what it means to be a girl in today's society.''