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Things are tough all over.

   Breaking on The Buffalo News Web site today:
- Deficit grows to $3 billion as Paterson asks for ideas - Tom Precious/The Buffalo News
   ALBANY -- Fiscal officials in the Paterson administration and Legislature believe the state's deficit is at least $3 billion -- $900 million more than estimated in July.Paterson108
   In a letter today to his negotiation counterparts in the Legislature, Robert Megna, the governor's budget director, said the Paterson administration needs the help of lawmakers to close the red ink.
   The request came a couple days after Paterson ordered $500 million worth of savings in state agencies -- which is about as much as he can do on his own, officials say, without approval from the Legislature.
   Hours later, Paterson rejected -- before it was even made public -- a five-year capital program for roads and bridges work around the state, saying the state's precarious fiscal condition will imperil the projects

- State's budget faces $415 million shortfall - The Des Moines (Iowa) Register
   State officials must ax $415 million in state spending over the next nine months, the most severe midyear cut in more than 40 years.
   It will mean trims and elimination of some government services, and some state employees will face layoffs.
   A projected nose dive in tax collections prompted Iowa Gov. Chet Culver on Wednesday to vow to cut at least 8.4 percent from the current budget, if not more.

- Heineman calls special session of Legislature to cut budget - The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star
   The Legislature will meet in special session, possibly beginning Nov. 4, to deal with declining state tax receipts and revise the state budget, Gov. Dave Heineman announced Wednesday....
   General fund tax receipts through Sept. 30, the end of the first quarter of the two-year budget, are below projections for the quarter by $56.8 million, Heineman said. Gross general fund receipts for the month were $358 million, 9 percent below the forecast of $393 million.

- House approves state budget, accompanying tax bill - Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette
   HARRISBURG -- It looks like 100 may be the General Assembly's lucky number, as legislators near the end of arduous work on a long-overdue state budget.
   In a 107-93 vote tonight, the state House approved a state spending plan along with a tax code bill, which includes $1.7 billion in new revenue to fund it...
   The revenue bill raises the cigarette tax by 25 cents per pack, delays the phaseout of a tax on business assets, authorizes leasing of more state forest land for natural gas drilling, depletes the state's "rainy day" emergency fund and starts a tax amnesty program aimed at getting scofflaws to pay up.
   The new taxes, which accompany $2 billion in federal stimulus aid and $25 billion from the sales tax, income tax, corporate taxes and other state revenues, will pay for a fiscal year 2009-10 budget of nearly $27.8 billion. The fiscal year started July 1 -- 99 days ago.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Time 2 - Lucy 0

   I read The News today, oh boy.

   A 4.4 million-year-old fossil nicknamed Ardi has been proclaimed the earliest known ancestor of the human species. She displaces Lucy, a mere 3 million years old, as the furthest back we can get with remains that are recognizable as hominids in our line of evolution.
   Lucy, you may recall, was so named by her discoverers because of the song that had been blaring from their camp tape player, the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

   This about a week after we read that Lucy Vodden, childhood friend of Julian Lennon and inspiration for John Lennon's lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," had died at age 46 after a long battle with lupus. The story that the song was really an anthem in praise of LSD won't die, supported partly by some things that fellow Beatle Paul McCartney has said. But John and Julian always stuck to their story.

   Of course, both versions could be true. Coincidences, after all, abound.

   If your name is Lucy, I'd be careful. These things tend to happen in threes.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

All news is local

  Some more stories from other newspapers that might sound a little familiar to you, the loyal readers of The Buffalo News:

Here: U.S. sues county over alleged jail abuses - Matthew Spina/The Buffalo News
There: Inmate's death caused by denial of needed medication - The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press


Here: NYSEG asks more to deliver power, gas - George Pyle/The Buffalo News
There: Black Hills Power looks to increase rates by more than 25 percent - The Rapid City (S.D.) Journal

Here: State pension fund’s value drops $44 billion - Tom Precious/The Buffalo News
There: Oregon governments, schools face big increase in pension costs - The Oregonian

Here: FAA chief cites Flight 3407 crew's cockpit demeanor - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
There: Cockpit chatter cited in six crashes - USA Today   

Here: Going green to pull in conventions - George Pyle/The Buffalo News
There: With Sam's Club departure, KC has now lost its top 3 conventions - The Kansas City Star

Here: Conservancy defends work in Buffalo - Tom Buckham/The Buffalo News
There: Is Great Park a soaring vision or just hot air? - The Los Angeles Times

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Buffalo, you are not alone

Some news from elsewhere. And why it sounds familiar:

- Pavement to Parks Allison Arieff/The New York Times
   Last Friday, cities and towns throughout the world celebrated Park(ing) Day, an event created to bring awareness to the importance of using and enjoying public space.

- Why not turn vacant lots into gardens? Donn Esmonde/The Buffalo News
   Buffalo’s full-bore demolition policy has left in its wake thousands of vacant lots. Next to many of them are homeowners like [Roxanne] Chase, who would gladly turn an eyesore into a lawn for kids to play on or a garden to brighten the street.

- Jail conditions violate rights of prisoners, feds say Laura Maggi/The New Orleans Times-Picayune
   Conditions at the Orleans Parish jail "violate the constitutional rights of inmates," according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice released Tuesday that focused on inmate safety and mental health care....
   Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who runs the jail, lambasted the report, saying it doesn't reflect the current reality at the complex or take into account difficulties his agency has faced since Hurricane Katrina. "This report is a terribly dated, fundamentally flawed work done by people who obviously have little appreciation of the tasks facing a city in recovery from the greatest national disaster in this country's history," Gusman said in a statement.

- State sues county over jail conditions Matthew Spina/The Buffalo News
   The State Commission of Correction charged in a lawsuit Tuesday that the Erie County Holding Center consistently violates state standards and that jail managers have failed to correct the problems, despite their claims. ...
   "This lawsuit is a blatant political attack in an election year to cast negative aspersions on the good work done by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office,” said [Sheriff Timothy] Howard, the Republican incumbent.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Do high-tech monitoring devices need stricter regulation?

   High-tech electronic-monitoring devices and software have been a boon for parents, police and law-abiding citizens.

   Everything from GPS devices and smart phones to smaller and cheaper video cameras and audio recorders have made it easier to communicate, travel and make sure your family stays safe.

   However, criminals also are taking advantage of these technological advances, notably stalkers who increasingly are electronically monitoring their victims, police and privacy advocates say.

   Stalkers are hiding tracking devices in vehicles, video cameras in bedrooms and audio recorders in homes and offices in an attempt to more easily pursue the objects of their obsession.

   Police and victims' advocates say they don't believe advances in technology are creating more stalkers, but they do believe it's making it easier for people who have this intense desire for control to hunt their victims.

   Law-enforcement personnel say potential victims need to know this could happen to them and they must be careful about what they do online.

   Some groups say laws need to be changed to account for the changes in how stalkers operate today, while others say the government needs to limit the sale of spyware software and other surveillance technology.

   What do you think? Do you think the government should take steps to make tech-aided stalking harder? Should Web sites that advertise these products or that obtain and sell personal information on demand be subject to stricter regulation?

   -- Stephen T. Watson

Read the full story.

Can Buffalo become the center of the world for high school kids?

    There's a new look at the area's high-end private high schools, and it has a lot to do with the world being flat.

   In small but increasing numbers, international students -- mostly from Asia -- are enrolling at The Park School, Buffalo Seminary and Nichols School.

   So far, the trend seems to have widespread benefits.

   The international students, who are largely motivated by the desire to attend prestigious U.S. colleges and universities, get a leg up by becoming more familiar with the English language and American culture.

   Local private schools get a welcome source of motivated students as well as tuition payments during challenging economic times.

   And local students benefit from the diversity that classmates from other countries provide.

   So far, the growth of international students has largely happened spontaneously. But both Park School and Buffalo Seminary are making more concerted efforts to attract students from overseas, and to expand their reach to parts of the world not yet represented.

   There is a growing sense that Buffalo can become a magnet not just for international college students, but for high school students as well.

   What is the potential? Can Buffalo, despite a tattered national image, become an international center for high school students?

   -- Peter Simon

Buffalo Creek rises again

The Seneca Indian Nation is back in official business at the Buffalo Creek casino -- at least for now.

On Jan. 20, the National Indian Gaming Commission approved plans for the casino, again. It was a response to the tribes application filed three months ago for an amended gaming ordinance.

But, like so many things in Buffalo, the issue of the casino is not settled. A court case continues on whether establishment of an Indian gambling venue within the City of Buffalo is legal, and opponents of the casino say they have no interest in pulling out of their fight.

So, the Battle of Buffalo Creek goes on. When and how it will end ... well, it is sort of like watching a roulette wheel with a particularly lively ball.