Nation briefs 12/14

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Schwarzenegger signs budget amendment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- With a fiscal recovery plan now in place, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was ready to push ahead on a variety of issues. He achieved his biggest victory since his election by getting the legislature on Friday to adopt bills that will put a $15 billion bond measure and new spending restrictions on the March ballot. The reform package appeared all but dead a week ago, but after softening his position, Schwarzenegger sold a large majority of lawmakers on a more modest plan that may help the state's financial troubles.

Officials cancel concert at costly Big Dig

BOSTON -- The Big Dig won't be feted by the Boston Pops. A concert to mark the opening of a new highway tunnel under the city was canceled Friday after critics questioned a gala celebration for a project that's billions over budget and years late. Security costs for the event were estimated at up to $150,000. The event had come under bipartisan fire in recent days. The Big Dig is burying two miles of Interstate 93 underneath downtown Boston, replacing an elevated highway. One of the largest and most costly public projects in U.S. history, its cost estimate has ballooned over the years from $2.6 billion to $14.6 billion.

Search for missing student will wind down

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Hundreds of National Guardsmen scoured a river, roadways, ditches and abandoned buildings in two states even as authorities said the massive search for missing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin is down to its final days. The search was expected to continue through today and cover about 800 square miles. But a sheriff's department spokesman said there probably won't be any more wide-scale searches after this weekend. Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., was last heard from Nov. 22. Charged with her kidnapping was Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 50, a convicted rapist released from prison earlier this year. He has said he is innocent, and is jailed on $5 million bail.

Historians: Intact D.C. would have been different

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 12, 1800, the federal government officially moved to the District of Columbia. And 203 years later, historians say the congressionally created seat of government would be a far different place if politicians had remained true to the vision of the founding fathers. Had the nation's capital remained 100 square miles -- and included what are today the city of Alexandria and Arlington County, Va. -- it might have nearly 900,000 residents and be a commercial trading center rivaling New York or Philadelphia.

Scientists: Cities change precipitation patterns

SAN FRANCISCO -- The massive amounts of heat and pollution that rise from the world's cities both delay and stimulate the fall of precipitation, cheating some areas of much-needed rain and snow while dousing others, scientists said. The findings support growing evidence that urbanization has a sharp and alarming effect on the climate, and those changes can wreak havoc with precipitation patterns that supply life's most precious resource: water. Details were presented Thursday and Friday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

-- From wire reports

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