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Other News: Markets Flat, Calif. Budget Deal in Peril

February 18, 2009 at 6:05 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Wall Street was flat after yesterday’s big sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 3 points to close at 7,555. The Nasdaq fell 2 points to close below 1,468.

A deal in California to break the state budget impasse may be in danger. Republicans in the State Senate ousted their leader on Tuesday because he agreed to tax increases. That makes it less likely the deal can win approval to fix a budget deficit of $42 billion. Orders went out yesterday to lay off hundreds of state employees.

The widow of a longtime smoker won a potentially landmark case in Florida. A state court jury ordered the Philip Morris tobacco company to pay $8 million in damages. It was the first of 8,000 similar cases pending in Florida. In 2006, the State Supreme Court struck down a class-action award worth $145 billion.

A federal appeals court has blocked the transfer of 17 detainees from Guantanamo Bay onto U.S. soil. All are Muslims from western China. A lower court had ruled they were not enemy combatants and should not be held at Guantanamo. The appeals court said only the executive branch, not the courts, can make that decision.

And in Iraq, gunmen assassinated a member of the largest Sunni Arab party. He was shot in his car in Baghdad. It was the latest in a string of political assassinations since Iraq held provincial elections last month. At least three other politicians have been killed and another six wounded, attacked or kidnapped.