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Judge orders WTC renegotiation

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday rejected a legal settlement that would have given at least $575 million to people sickened by ash and dust from the World Trade Center, saying the deal shortchanged 10,000 ground zero workers whom he called heroes.

Rising from his chair, the 76-year-old jurist said he feared police officers, firefighters and other laborers who cleared rubble after the 9/11 terror attacks were being pushed into signing a deal few of them understood.

Under the terms of the settlement, workers had been given just 90 days to say yes or no to a deal that would have assigned them payments based on a point system that Hellerstein said was complicated enough to make a Talmudic scholar's head spin.

Of the proposed settlement of $575 million to $657 million, workers stood to get amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million.

Hellerstein said the deal should be richer. Too much of it would be eaten up by legal fees, he said.