- - Thursday, July 1, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Payment ordered for state workers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday ordered about 200,000 state workers to be paid the federal minimum wage this month because the state Legislature has not passed a budget.

Department of Personnel Administration Director Debbie Endsley sent the order in a letter to the state controller, who refused a similar order two years ago and may try to do the same thing this time. Most state employees will be paid the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour for the July pay period.

Workers will be paid in full retroactively once a budget is passed.

The Legislature has failed to take steps to close California’s $19 billion budget deficit, even as the new fiscal year began Thursday.

FLORIDA

NASA delays end of shuttle program

CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA’s space shuttle program will keep going until next year.

The space agency made it official Thursday after weeks of hints of launch delays. Managers agreed to postpone the next-to-last shuttle launch until Nov. 1. Discovery had been scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in September.

The very last mission now has a Feb. 26 launch date. Endeavour will close out the shuttle program by delivering a major scientific instrument to the space station.

NASA says it needs more time to prepare the cargo for those two flights.

As for the possibility of an extra shuttle mission, NASA says no decision is expected before August. NASA would like to fly Atlantis one more time before the fleet is retired.

GEORGIA

CDC: West Nile virus continues to decline

ATLANTA — Last year’s West Nile virus season was the mildest in eight years, and just one case of serious illness has been reported so far this year.

U.S. health officials on Thursday said there were 386 cases of severe West Nile illness and 33 deaths last year. That’s a far cry from the peak years of 2002 and 2003, when illnesses numbered nearly 3,000 and deaths surpassed 260.

West Nile was first reported in the United States in 1999. It’s spread by mosquitoes that often pick up the virus from birds they bite. Most cases occur in July through September.

Severe symptoms include neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.

One possible reason for fewer cases is that birds may be developing immunity to the virus.

KENTUCKY

Mayor apologizes for brawl with editor

PIKEVILLE — A Kentucky newspaper editor who says he was punched in the face by a small-town mayor has agreed to drop an assault complaint after the mayor issued a public apology.

Jerry Boggs is editor of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville. He said in a complaint that Pikeville Mayor Frank Justice II was angry about an article in the newspaper and confronted him at a sports bar Tuesday night. The article reported on a political donation by Mr. Justice’s business that helped fund an attack ad in a local campaign.

The criminal complaint reported that others at Champs Bar and Grill pulled Mr. Justice away from Mr. Boggs. Mr. Justice released a statement apologizing for “the aggravation and duress” that he caused Mr. Boggs. Mr. Boggs said Thursday he wants to put the matter behind him.

MASSACHUSETTS

Olympic swimmer Thompson attacked

BROOKLINE — Eight-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Jenny Thompson says would-be robbers punched her in the face in a failed bid to steal her scooter outside Boston.

Miss Thompson told WBZ-TV on Wednesday that she was riding in Brookline on Monday night when a vehicle stopped behind her with its headlights out. She says two people got out, punched her, pushed her down and tried to grab her ride.

Miss Thompson held onto the scooter and screamed for help, forcing the assailants to flee. The 37-year-old suffered a cut on her nose and several scrapes.

Police say three teenagers were arrested later Monday night with stolen scooters, and they are investigating whether the teens were connected to the Thompson incident.

Miss Thompson is one of the most successful American Olympians, with 12 medals overall. Her most recent medals came in the 2004 Athens Games.

MICHIGAN

Official: Remains were state’s 1st governor

DETROIT — Officials say a coffin pulled from the ground at a downtown Detroit park contains the remains of Michigan’s first governor.

Harris Funeral Homes manager David Kowalewski has confirmed that Stevens T. Mason was inside the coffin that was exhumed Thursday at Capitol Park.

The funeral home will take the coffin and its contents away for examination.

Mason’s remains later will be encased in a block of concrete beneath his refurbished statue near the center of the park.

On Tuesday, crews found the coffin buried in a corner of the small park.

Mason was known as Michigan’s boy governor and was appointed acting territorial secretary at age 19. He became acting territorial governor in 1834 at age 22 and the elected governor the following year.

OHIO

Protesters end sit-in at closing church

CLEVELAND — Carrying U.S. and Hungarian flags, parishioners have ended their sit-in at a Cleveland-area Roman Catholic church that is closing after police told them they would be trespassing if they did not leave.

The protesters staged a vigil at midnight Wednesday at the 106-year-old St. Emeric Church near downtown Cleveland, then remained through about 4 p.m. Thursday.

The historic Hungarian church is the last of 50 parishes to be closed by the local diocese. Protester John Juhasz says Bishop Richard Lennon has agreed to meet with them.

The protest ended after police had entered the church several times and spoken with parishioners by cell phone.

Police Commander Keith Sulzer says six protesters were inside the church. No one was arrested.

WASHINGTON

Toyota to recall 270,000 cars

WASHINGTON — Toyota Motor Corp. announced Thursday night it will recall 270,000 vehicles worldwide to fix faulty engines in the latest setback for the world’s No. 1 automaker.

The recalled vehicles include seven luxury Lexus sedan models as well as the popular Crown, Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said. Of the 270,000 recalled cars, some 180,000 were sold overseas and 90,000 in Japan.

The latest quality lapse comes as the world’s largest automaker scrambles to repair its reputation after the recall of 8.5 million vehicles around the globe because of problems with sticking accelerator pedals.

Toyota was slapped with a record $16.4 million fine in the United States for acting too slowly to recall vehicles with defects.

Toyota said it received about 200 complaints in Japan about faulty engines. Some drivers told Toyota that engines made a strange noise.

Toyota has said there were no reports of accidents linked to the faulty engines.

From wire dispatches and staff reports