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February 20, 2009



After months of wrangling, the California Assembly approved a new state budget Thursday, shortly after it won approval by a single vote in the Senate after late-night negotiations to win over a final Republican lawmaker. The budget is expected to receive the governor's signature. It includes spending cuts and tax increases designed to close a projected $42 billion deficit.

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Sen. Roland Burris (D) of Illinois, whose selection to take President Obama's former Senate seat is wrapped in controversy, has had more contacts with ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's staff than he disclosed on his most recent affidavit, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

Swiss banking giant UBS has agreed to pay $780 million in US fines, penalties, interest, and restitution for conspiring to help hide the assets of about 17,000 American clients, it was announced Wednesday. The practice kept the US government from taxing roughly $20 billion in total assets.

Gov. Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska will pay back taxes on nearly $17,000 in per diem expenses charged to the state that allowed her to live at home, a spokesman said Wednesday. The amount covered the expenses involved in living in an Anchorage suburb rather than in the governor's mansion in Juneau. The matter was first raised during her vice-presidential run.

The Republican Party tapped Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a conservative of Indian heritage and a possible 2012 White House candidate, to provide the GOP's response to President Obama's first address to Congress, Feb. 24.

A Florida jury awarded Elaine Hess, the widow of a chain smoker, $8 million in damages Wednesday in the first of 8,000 lawsuits brought by Florida smokers and their families against tobacco companies.

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