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American Scene

- - Sunday, September 14, 2008

Governor to seek employee-pay freeze

HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle will ask government employees' unions to agree not to seek pay raises as the state faces a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall over the next three years.

Otherwise, it could become more likely that government workers would have to be laid off to balance the budget, said Mrs. Lingle, a Republican.

Economists have forecast that the state will run a $162 million deficit this fiscal year — a figure that would rise to $903 million by the 2011 fiscal year if nothing is done.

Because the Hawaii Constitution forbids the state from running a deficit, Mrs. Lingle and the Democrat-controlledLegislature will have to cut budgets, programs or staff.

Negotiations between the state and the unions already have begun, and Mrs. Lingle said she'll meet with the unions this week to ask them to maintain their current pay.

A spokeswoman for the Hawaii Government Employees Association said the union won't comment until it hears from the governor directly.

Heavy rain brings flooding

DETROIT — Heavy rain that is expected to continue throughout the weekend has brought flooding to parts of Michigan.

The Cass County sheriff's department in southwest Michigan said rain Friday and Saturday caused flooding that forced the closure of some roads. Some roads in the Detroit area also were flooded.

The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids issued a flood warning for counties in the southwest and south-central part of the Lower Peninsula that was scheduled to last until Monday morning.

The weather service says up to 4 inches of rain had been reported in southern Kalamazoo County. An additional 1 to 3 inches are expected today.

Jailed lawmaker will resign

LACONIA, N.H. — Jailed lawmaker Jim Ryan says he will resign his seat in the state House of Representatives and not seek re-election in November.

The Franklin Democrat has been in the Carroll County jail since last month after being arrested for failing to pay court-ordered restitution stemming from a 1992 forgery conviction.

Court records show he has a criminal record that spans two decades and several states.

Mr. Ryan said he sent a letter of resignation to House Speaker Terie Norelli.

He also said he does not plan to live in Franklin when he gets out of jail.

Parents charged in pedophile ring

PORTLAND, Ore. — An investigator calls it one of the most disturbing cases he's seen.

A Portland father of three is facing state and federal charges in connection with an international pedophile ring.

Mark Hoffman is accused of sexually abusing his children, photographing them in lascivious positions and sharing those photos online.

His wife faces state charges including mistreatment and tampering with evidence for trying to conceal the photos.

Two of the children, now ages 4 and 5, are in state foster care.

An FBI task force that targets people trafficking in child pornography began the investigation and brought in state and local authorities to assist.

Explanations differ for black bear attacks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Black bears have killed two people in Tennessee and seriously injured several others since 2000, but wildlife officials say they aren't sure if they are predatory attacks.

Once hunted nearly into obscurity, black bears are on the rebound in much of North America.

An authority on bear attacks, Stephen Herrero of the University of Calgary, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that 62 people have been killed by black bears as attacks on people have increased over the past two decades. He said most of the fatal and serious encounters have occurred in Canada.

Smoky Mountains National Park ranger and bear expert Kim Delozier says black bears see victims as food, and bears appear to target the smallest person around.

Mr. Delozier discounts the theory that a Florida family's fried-chicken meal triggered the bear attack.

In the two fatalities, the bears partly consumed their victims before being killed or driven away.

But Joe Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey, an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee, said he's not convinced that bears are more inclined to attack humans now than they have been in the past.

From wire dispatches and staff reports