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State budget plans seems like a gamble

There's simply no way to endorse a state budget that balances the books by counting on Arizonans to gamble more and to drive dangerously fast on the freeways.

After months of dragging its feet, the Arizona Legislature finally adopted a new budget Thursday - one that eliminates a predicted $2 billion shortfall but significantly avoids hard decisions about state priorities. Gov. Janet Napolitano heavily shaped the final outcome and quickly signed the budget into law Friday.

True budget cuts came in at $348 million, with $50 million falling on the state's three universities, according to Capitol Media Services. Another $106 million will be taken from the tax dollars used to support highway construction and maintenance to fund the state Department of Public Safety instead.

But this budget also borrows about $1 billion in a variety of ways, including postponing $660 million in monthly payments to school districts into the state's next fiscal year. This means the next Legislature will return in January facing yet another huge shortfall. Meanwhile, the "rainy day" emergency savings will be gone and many of the speciality funds will be empty as well.

Then, there's how lawmakers and Napolitano handled the issues of university building construction and a new statewide photo enforcement program.

The new budget authorizes the Arizona Board of Regents to borrow $1 billion to repair existing buildings and to add new ones. Earlier versions of this package had required the universities to pick up 20 percent of the debt payments out of their own budgets, with the Legislature funding the rest starting in 2010.

Now, the Arizona Lottery will have to cover the debt payments. To make that possible, the lottery no longer will have limits on its advertising budget and can create new games to entice more people to play.

We have supported photo enforcement as a useful law enforcement tool. But this budget undermines that value by saying violators caught by state cameras won't have points added to their driver's licenses or face higher insurance premiums. Sen. Marsha Arzberger, D-Willcox, told Capitol Media Services this was done to encourage people to just pay the fines so the state could raise as much money as possible.

Given the enormous scope of the budget problems and the political divide at the Capitol, there was no path to a final budget that would have made many people happy. But we suspect lawmakers will come to regret postponing so much of the problem into the future on the hope that the economy and tax collections will boom again sooner rather than later.

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Supermodel Ruslana Korshunova Falls To Her Death In Manhattan

Supermodel falls to her death in Manhattan

NEW YORK: A European Vogue cover model fell to her death from her Manhattan apartment building yesterday in an apparent suicide.

Ruslana Korshunova, 20, died in a fall from a building on Water Street, in Manhattan's financial district, about 2.30pm on Saturday (4.30am yesterday AEST), local media reported, citing unnamed officials and police.

Police said the fall was under investigation. Korshunova's New York agency and a spokeswoman for medical examiners did not immediately return telephone messages.

But a bystander told The New York Post: "I heard what sounded like a gunshot or a bomb or an explosion.

"I looked down the street, and I say to the cop, "Did that person just get hit by a car?"' said an electricity company worker, who identified himself only as Patrick, 32, of Brooklyn.

The two men raced over to the scene. "Her arms were crushed," Patrick told the Post. "Her head was on the left side and blood was coming out in a pool."

Police said there were no signs of a struggle in the apartment.

The window from which she fell had a balcony, which had construction netting around it that appeared to have been cut.

Originally from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, the almond-eyed, flowing-haired Korshunova appeared in advertisements and on runways for such designers as Marc Jacobs, Nina Ricci and DKNY. British Vogue hailed her as "a face to be excited about" in 2005.

Her break came when modelling booker Debbie Jones noticed her while reading an in-flight magazine article about Korshunova's home town of Almaty, according to the Vogue report.

"She looked like something out of a fairytale," Jones told the magazine. "We had to find her and we searched high and low until we did."

A friend told The Post yesterday: "She's one of the sweetest, nicest people you'll ever meet.

"I'm still in shock. The world lost a great person."

The friend said Korshunova had just returned from a modeling assignment in Paris and seemed to be "on top of the world".

"There were no signs," the paper cited him as saying. "That's what's driving me crazy. I don't see one reason why she would do that."

Korshunova, who had been sending money back to her parents in Kazakhstan, was in love with the city, he added.

"People made her feel comfortable here."

Korshunova's doorman, who did not want to be identified, remembered the catwalker as "very soft-spoken".

"She always said hi and bye," he said. "She was beautiful, beautiful."

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Gay Pride Parade NYC

Gay Pride Parade Expected To Draw More Than 1 Million

The 39th annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride parade stepped off at noon Sunday on Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. The march, which is New York City's largest, then followed the Lavender Line to its conclusion at the intersection of Christopher Street and Greenwich Street.More than 300 organizations and 500,000 marchers were expected to participate in the march, and more than 1 million were expected to watch them go by.

Led by Grand Marshals Gilbert Baker and Candis Cayne, the New York City LGBT Community Center and PFLAG NYC (Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians), the march included floats, marching bands, and representatives from more than 300 LGBT organizations and businesses from all over the Northeast.

Members of New York's gay community are using the Gay Pride parade to praise Gov. David Paterson for his executive order saying New York will recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The legally blind Paterson, one day after eye surgery, drew cheers as he joined the throng for Sunday's annual march down Fifth Avenue from Midtown to Greenwich Village.

New York City's annual Pride March began in 1970 as a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The march has since grown to become the oldest and one of the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender events.

Over the years, its purpose has broadened to include recognition of the fight against AIDS and to remember those who have been lost to the illness, violence and neglect. It has also evolved to include being a celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender lives and the community. A moment of silence was observed at 2 p.m.But the march is just the beginning. Dance 22, the Dance on the Pier, begins at 4:00 p.m. at Pier 54.

This year's deejays were Tracy Young and Joe Gauthreaux.The Dance on the Pier is Heritage of Pride's largest fundraiser of the year.

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Vince LaPira Recieves Brian Piccolo Award

Piccolo Award recipient LaPira highlights spring sports night

One year after suffering an aneurysm that put him in life-threatening coma, Vince LaPira received a standing ovation as he accepted the Brian Piccolo Award at Wethersfield High School's spring sports awards night.

"The Vince LaPira story is one where we're just happy he was around and he made it through," said Joseph Cottone, Wethersfield's athletic director.
The Piccolo Award is named after Brian Piccolo, the former Chicago Bears player who died at a young age of cancer. His story and friendship with teammate Gale Sayers is the subject of the popular movie "Brian's Song."

A senior volleyball captain, LaPira's moment on stage was the emotional highlight of ceremony, which took place June 5. The annual event caps off the spring season and the athletic year and Cottone said it's one of his favorite nights as athletic director.

"I think it's the culmination of the whole year," he said. "When you get a chance to look back on the successes that the students have had here, it gives me great pleasure to stand there and watch these kids receive awards for their hard work that started really four years ago. It's tremendous to see such leadership in high schools students; kids that can put together their academics and athletics. We are tremendously proud, as a school and as an administration, of how many of our students make the honor roll and still go out for sports."

Cottone had all the student-athletes who made general honors and high honors stand up during the ceremony. Although exact percentages were not available, an overwhelming majority got out of their seats.

But the night was also about celebrating on-field achievements and Wethersfield certainly had plenty of those to celebrate.

"From an athletic director's point of view," Cottone said, "I'm very, very proud of all the athletes and coaches this spring. Every team did very, very well. Coming away with four CCC-West champions and one state champion is just phenomenal. It's a great tribute to the students hard work and the coaches ability to really relate to the kids and to understand what's best for their teams."

The state champion was the boys track team, which won the Class MM title. They also won the CCC West, along with the volleyball team, the baseball team and the softball team.
Individually, several athletes were honored, including four-year varsity letter-winners in at least one sport. All those who achieve that feat received Wethersfield blankets with their names, the sport they lettered in, and their graduating year.

Six athletes qualified in two sports but Kelsey McDonald put herself in rare company by lettering four years in three different sports - girls soccer, girls basketball, and girls track and field.
"You never know when it's going to happen," Cottone said, "because it's so difficult in high school to earn a varsity letter your freshman year through your senior year in three different sports. It doesn't happen very often."

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