- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Governor declares fiscal emergency

SACRAMENTO | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday declared a fiscal emergency to address California’s deficit and has ordered state offices to close three days a month to save cash.

The Legislature will have 45 days to send him a plan to balance the state’s budget, which ended fiscal 2009 with a $24.3 billion deficit. The shortfall is expected to grow by $7 billion because the Legislature did not enact several stopgap measures Tuesday.

If lawmakers fail to act within the 45 days, they cannot adjourn or act on other bills until they solve the crisis.

The government shutdown will lead to a third furlough day each month for 235,000 state employees, bringing their total pay cut to about 14 percent.

California began its new budget year Wednesday without a balanced spending plan, which will force the controller to issue IOUs.

FLORIDA

Officials: Python strangled child

OXFORD | A 2-year-old girl was strangled by a 12-foot Burmese python Wednesday inside a central Florida home, authorities said.

The snake was a family pet, not one of a fast-growing population of nonnative pythons that has been spreading in the wild in southern Florida.

Lt. Steve Binegar of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said the toddler was strangled by the snake in the town of Oxford. Pythons can kill by wrapping themselves around a human. Paramedics said the girl was dead when they arrived about 10 a.m.

Sheriff’s officials told the Orlando Sentinel that the snake broke out of a glass aquarium overnight, went to the girl’s bedroom and attacked her. The owner found the snake wrapped around the girl and stabbed it while others called 911. It isn’t known whether the snake was killed.

ILLINOIS

Sears Tower opens 103rd floor balcony

CHICAGO | The 110-story Sears Tower is offering a new way to push your fear of heights right over the edge - a glass ledge, actually, suspended from the skyscraper’s 103rd floor Skydeck.

“The Ledge” is the nickname given to a set of glass balconies that open to the public Thursday.

Sears Tower officials said the inspiration for the balconies came from the hundreds of forehead prints that visitors looking down left behind on Skydeck windows every week.

The glass is three layers thick, and each layer is a half-inch thick. The balconies can hold about five tons.

NEW YORK

Gannett to cut 1,400 jobs

NEW YORK | Newspaper publisher Gannett Co. plans to cut 1,400 jobs in the next few weeks, about 3 percent of the work force, as it faces a prolonged slump in advertising revenue.

Bob Dickey, head of the company’s U.S. community publishing division, informed staff of the layoffs in a letter Wednesday. He told employees that “there have been some promising signs of a recovery, but the reality is the improvements are not broad-based and the economy continues to be fragile.”

The move follows a 10 percent cut at Gannett in 2008 that left the company with about 41,500 employees.

Gannett publishes USA Today, the largest newspaper by circulation in the United States, along with dozens of other newspapers.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Sanford reverses self on releasing records

COLUMBIA | South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has backed out of a promise to release personal financial records to the media proving he did not use state money for trips to see his mistress.

A day after Mr. Sanford declared in an emotional Associated Press interview that his mistress is his soul mate, spokesman Joel Sawyer says the governor does not want to discuss personal matters in the media anymore.

Mr. Sanford is providing the records to law enforcement as part of an investigation of his travel to see the Argentine woman.

Mr. Sanford agreed this week to provide the AP with proof of his payment for trips to New York and Argentina to see her.

His staff first said the records might be made available Tuesday, but on Wednesday, the governor’s spokesman said Mr. Sanford would not release them.

TENNESSEE

Man gets 4 years over military secrets

KNOXVILLE | A federal judge sentenced a retired University of Tennessee professor to four years in prison Wednesday for passing sensitive information from a U.S. Air Force contract to two research assistants from China and Iran.

Plasma physics expert J. Reece Roth, 71, was found guilty in September on all 18 counts of conspiracy, fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

The case marked the first time that the government used the export control act to crack down on the distribution of restricted data, not hardware, to foreigners in a university setting.

Prosecutors said Roth allowed the two graduate students to see sensitive information while they researched a plasma-guidance system for unmanned aircraft.

Roth, who is appealing his conviction, faced a maximum of 160 years in prison and more than $1.5 million in fines.

TEXAS

Stanford executive makes plea deal

HOUSTON | The former chief financial officer of indicted Texas financier R. Allen Stanford’s business empire will plead guilty to charges that he helped swindle investors out of $7 billion, his attorney said Wednesday.

James M. Davis, 60, Stanford Financial Group’s ex-chief financial officer, reached a deal with prosecutors in which he will plead guilty to three counts he faces as part of the federal government’s criminal case, attorney David Finn said.

Mr. Davis is set to make his initial court appearance in Houston on July 13. Mr. Finn said Mr. Davis will not enter his guilty plea until a later court hearing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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