- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

ARKANSAS

Payday-loan law ruled unconstitutional

LITTLE ROCK | A 1999 state law allowing so-called payday lenders to charge high fees for short-term loans violates the state constitution, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a 6-0 decision, the court said the fees permitted under the 1999 Check Cashers Act were really triple-digit interest rates. The state’s constitution limits interest rates on loans to 17 percent.

Through a payday loan in Arkansas, a customer writing a check for $400, for example, typically would receive $350. The lender would keep the check for about two weeks before cashing it.

The customer could buy back the check for $350 during that two-week period, but otherwise would pay the full $400 when the company cashed his check. The $50 charge on a $350 loan for 14 days equates to 371 percent, well above Arkansas’ usury limit.

CALIFORNIA

$4.4 billion in new taxes proposed

SACRAMENTO | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday proposed $4.4 billion in new taxes and a similar amount in spending cuts to deal with California’s worsening fiscal crisis, saying, “We must stop the bleeding.”

Much of the new revenue would come from a 1.5-percentage-point increase in the sales tax. The Republican governor described the increase as temporary but did not say how long it would last.

Mr. Schwarzenegger called the Legislature back into session to deal with the budget shortfall.

He said $4.5 billion in cuts will be necessary across all state programs, including education, social services, health care and prisons.

Six weeks ago, Mr. Schwarzenegger signed an overdue state budget that was intended to close a $15.2 billion deficit. The rapid pace of decline in the national and state economies since then has reopened an $11.2 billion gap that threatens to widen even further.

CONNECTICUT

Craigslist puts rules on ‘erotic services’

HARTFORD | Under the watchful eye of law enforcement in 40 states, Craigslist pledged Thursday to crack down on ads for prostitution on its Web sites.

As part of Craigslist’s agreement with attorneys general across the country, anyone who posts an “erotic services” ad will be required to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card. The Web site will provide that information to law enforcement if subpoenaed.

Craigslist also has agreed to sue 14 software and Internet companies that help people who post erotic service ads to circumvent the Web site’s defenses against inappropriate content and illegal activity.

Craigslist, which posts ads for everything from apartment rentals to jobs in dozens of cities, also will begin using new search technology in an effort to help authorities find missing children and victims of human trafficking.

MASSACHUSETTS

Tanker fuel spill closes I-95

ATTLEBORO | A stretch of Interstate 95 southbound was closed for much of the day Thursday after a tanker truck overturned, spilling thousands of gallons of jet fuel, injuring three people and forcing the evacuations of 14 homes.

State police said the truck rolled after colliding with a car at about 4:45 a.m. in Attleboro. Northbound lanes reopened a couple of hours later, but the southbound lanes were closed until about 3:30 p.m.

The truck spilled about a third of the 11,000 gallons of fuel it was carrying. The fuel flowed into storm drains, prompting authorities to evacuate the nearby homes. Residents were allowed to return home after the cleanup was completed.

A preliminary police investigation found that the driver of a 1997 Volvo lost control while attempting to pass another vehicle. The car struck a barrier on the left side of the highway, swerved back across all travel lanes and collided with the tractor-trailer.

NEBRASKA

Indiana boy marks 28th haven case

LINCOLN | An 8-year-old Indiana boy has been left at an Omaha hospital, bringing to 28 the number of children left under Nebraska’s unique safe-haven law.

Children and family services division director Todd Landry said the boy was left Thursday morning at Bergan Mercy Hospital. The department was gathering information on the case.

At least three other children from outside the state have been left at Nebraska hospitals and have since been returned to their home states.

Nebraska’s law says anyone can leave a child at a hospital without fear of prosecution for the abandonment. The law uses the word “child” and doesn’t include any age limit.

A special session has been called to deal with Nebraska’s safe-haven law and most legislators already have agreed to add the age limit of 3 days.

NEW YORK

Lincoln speech up for auction

NEW YORK | Christie’s is auctioning a handwritten copy of the 1864 speech Abraham Lincoln delivered at the White House after being re-elected in the midst of the unpopular Civil War, which both he and his opponents thought might cost him his job.

The four-page manuscript, which remained in the family’s hands until 1916, will be sold on the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth on Feb. 12, 2009, the auction house announced Thursday. It is expected to fetch more than $3 million.

Lincoln delivered the speech to a large crowd on Nov. 10, 1864, after winning a second term with 55 percent of the popular vote. He said the results “demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election in the midst of a great civil war.”

PENNSYLVANIA

Mayor offers drastic budget cuts

PHILADELPHIA | The city will close libraries and swimming pools, suspend planned tax reductions, cut more than 800 jobs and trim salaries for some administrators in order to weather “an economic storm” that could leave the city with a $1 billion shortfall, Mayor Michael Nutter said Thursday.

Mr. Nutter outlined the drastic budget cuts in a live, 10-minute televised address, a rarity that represented an attempt to convey the dire nature of the city’s financial situation.

The city is facing a deficit of $108 million this year, and the shortfall could grow to more than $1 billion by 2013, he said.

The fiscal problems stem from the same troubles overwhelming the national and global economies, he said.

TENNESSEE

Not guilty pleas in Obama plot

MEMPHIS | Two white supremacists pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges in what authorities say was a plot to kill President-elect Barack Obama and dozens of other black people.

Daniel Cowart, 20, of rural West Tennessee, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark., were indicted Wednesday on charges of threatening a presidential candidate, possessing a sawed-off shotgun, taking firearms across state lines to commit crimes and planning to rob a licensed gun dealer.

The two were arrested late last month and were being held in federal custody without bond. Their arrests were made public on Oct. 27. No trial date has been set.

Wearing black-and-white striped prison uniforms and with chains around their wrists, waists and ankles, Mr. Cowart and Mr. Schlesselman spoke only to say “not guilty” during a brief hearing before a federal magistrate in Memphis. Defense and U.S. attorneys did not comment on the case.

The charges in the seven-count indictment carry a maximum punishment of 50 years in prison and fines of $540,000.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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