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A federal bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved Ames Department Stores Inc.'s plan to close more than 200 stores and authorized the discounter to pay $24 million to the 18,000 workers who will lose their jobs.

Judge Howard C. Buschman III said he was "very sad to be part of a case where so many people are affected," but he added, "I believe it is a fair settlement and I will approve it."

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