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AROUND THE STATE

Bidding lackluster for Steinbeck archive

NEW YORK (AP) -- An auction of a trove of author John Steinbeck's letters, manuscripts and photographs from his New York City apartment produced lackluster bidding on Wednesday, with half of the items failing to sell or fetching prices below their pre-sale estimates.

The "Grapes of Wrath" author's archive brought a total of $73,950 at Bloomsbury Auction. The auctioneer had predicted that the material would bring $200,000 to $250,000.

Among the highlights that did not sell was Steinbeck's acceptance speech for his 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature. It was one of 26 lots -- out of 50 -- that failed to find a buyer, the auctioneer said.

Steinbeck, considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, lived in the East 72nd Street apartment with his third wife, Elaine, until he died.

The Bloomsbury material dated from the early 1940s until his 1968 death and was being sold by Elaine Steinbeck's heirs, the auction house said.

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Tot drowns in pool; caretaker hospitalized

LAWRENCE (AP) -- Police on Long Island said a 3-year-old girl drowned Wednesday and the woman who was believed to be caring for her at the time has been hospitalized.

The toddler, who was not immediately identified, was in an in-ground backyard swimming pool in Lawrence when the accident occurred. Police Lt. Kevin Smith said investigators suspect the adult caretaker -- an unidentified woman in her 30s -- was in the pool with the girl and may have slipped into the deep end, dropping the child. Smith said the caretaker is on a ventilator.

The drowning is the second in as many days in Nassau County. Tuesday, Nicole Suriel, 12, a student at the Columbia Secondary School in Manhattan, was found off Long Beach, 90 minutes after she was reported missing in what appeared to be a strong ocean current, officials said.

The girl's family wants to know why students were allowed to go into the ocean when no lifeguards were on duty.

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Judge signs pay deal for 9/1 1 responders

NEW YORK (AP) -- A judge has signed an order approving a settlement that could pay more than $700 million to thousands of 9/1 1 responders exposed to toxic World Trade Center dust.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein heard sometimes emotional testimony from victims at a hearing on Wednesday before signing off on the deal. It still must be approved by 95 percent of the plaintiffs before becoming final. The exact amount paid depends on how many people take the deal.

Lawyers presented payout estimates that would pay just over $3,000 to people worried they may become ill.

Up to $1.8 million would go to the estates of those who died.

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