USA

In a flurry of gubernatorial inaugurations across the country, Jennifer Granholm took the oath of office as Michigan's first female governor, George Pataki was sworn in for a third term in New York, and former Clinton administration Cabinet member Bill Richardson took office in New Mexico. In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, chief of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, was to assume his first elected political post Jan. 2. Nine other states will inaugurate governors over the next week.

Senator John Edwards (D) of North Carolina became the latest presidential aspirant. By confirming his candidacy, the former trial lawyer and first-term congressman joins two other Democrats already in the race, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and more are expected this month. Edwards says his campaign will focus on his desire to be "a champion for regular people." Several more Democrats are known to be contemplating their own bids.

Two aerospace companies have been accused of sharing technology with China that is potentially helpful in launching intercontinental missiles. The State Department cited Hughes Electronics Corp. and Boeing Satellite Systems for numerous violations of the Arms Control Export Act and the International Traffic in Arms regulations. The companies could be fined and have their overseas sales restricted if the violations are upheld.

Lawyers for purported victims of sexual abuse by clergy in southern California agreed to try to reach out-of-court settlements, during roughly the next 90 days, rather pursue cases against Roman Catholic dioceses in Los Angeles and Orange counties. A new law lifts a statute of limitation and grants potential plaintiffs more time to sue the church.

Surgeons at four West Virginia hospitals walked off the job to protest the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. The surgeons, frustrated that the state has not done more to address the situation, chose not to strike, but to take 30-day leaves of absence. Some patients may be transferred to Ohio or Pennsylvania, where a similar walkout was averted.

A Salvation Army official in Naples, Fla., refused a $100,000 donation from a Florida Lotto winner. Maj. Cleo Damon said he counsels families who may have become homeless from gambling.

Mississippi took a step toward shedding its image of lagging educationally by becoming the first state with Internet-connected computers in every public classroom - 32,354 to be exact.

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