Nation Digest

NATION DIGEST

December 22, 2006

Bush signs off on federal pay raises

WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed an executive order yesterday to raise the pay of federal workers, members of Congress and Vice President Dick Cheney in the new year. Congress passed the pay raises earlier this year, but Bush was required to sign an executive order to enforce them. The president's annual salary of $400,000 is not affected by the legislation. The size of the pay raises was based on a formula in federal law that takes into account cost-of-living changes. Civil servants, on average, will get a 2.2 percent pay increase in January. So will uniformed members of the military.

Bush OKs 16 pardons for minor criminals

WASHINGTON --President Bush issued 16 pardons to minor criminals yesterday and commuted the sentence of an Iowa man serving time for a drug conviction. Six of the federal offenses were drug crimes, while others included bank fraud, mail fraud, the acceptance of a kickback, a false statement on a loan application and conspiracy to defraud the government over taxes. Seven of the 16 received no prison or jail time, instead getting probation or small fines. The longest sentence was nine years, for aiding cocaine distribution, followed by a six-year term for conspiracy to possess marijuana. With this batch, Bush has issued 113 pardons and commuted three sentences in his nearly six years in the White House, according to spokesman Tony Fratto.

Measles cases linked to Romania trip

ATLANTA --The biggest U.S. measles outbreak in a decade - 34 people stricken in Indiana and Illinois last year - was traced to a 17-year-old girl who had traveled to Romania without first getting vaccinated, government health officials said yesterday. The outbreak accounted for more than half of the 66 measles cases in the United States in 2005. Widespread use of the measles vaccine has dramatically reduced the incidence of the disease over the past four decades; in 2004, there were just 37 cases, the smallest number in nearly 90 years of record-keeping. The Indiana girl became infected after visiting a Romanian orphanage while on a church-mission trip, health investigators said. The others became infected after they attended a church gathering with her the day after her return.

Calif. tribes must obey disclosure laws

SAN FRANCISCO --A split California Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Indian tribes, some of the state's biggest political donors, are bound by campaign-finance disclosure rules. In a 4-3 ruling, the justices upheld a lower court decision that said tribes were subject to campaign-finance enforcement lawsuits from the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency that oversees elections. The case is significant for California's political culture. The more than 100 tribes in California, some flush with casino revenues, are major campaign donors that have reported giving at least $200 million to candidate and ballot measure campaigns during the past decade. Most already disclose donations of at least $10,000 a year, in compliance with state regulations.

Ex-mayor sentenced in his wife's murder

LAFAYETTE, Ala. --The former Lanett acting mayor was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering his wife in what prosecutors said was an argument over money. A judge sentenced Barry Waites on Wednesday and ordered him to pay $5,000 to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission. A jury found Waites guilty on Nov. 20 of murder in the Aug. 4, 1998, death of his wife, Charlotte Waites, who was found beaten and strangled in their home. Waites plans to appeal.

Fresno cracks down on drunken driving

FRESNO, Calif. --Police in Fresno are throwing up roadblocks, conducting stakeouts and using night-vision goggles, satellite tracking devices and video cameras in an extraordinary crackdown aimed at drunken drivers. The muscular tactics have made Fresno one of the toughest cities in America for those who dare to get behind the wheel after drinking.

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