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POSTED January 12, 2012 7:22 p.m.

CALIF. ECONOMY SLIPS TO 9TH LARGEST, BEHIND BRAZIL: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — The recession has taken a measurable toll on California, which has slipped behind Brazil to become the ninth-largest economy in the world.
As recently as 2002, California's economic output would have ranked it No. 6 in the world.
The Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy issued a report this month saying California had a $1.9 trillion economy in 2010, putting it just ahead of India. California, with a population of 37.5 million, previously had the eighth largest economy, behind Italy and ahead of Brazil.
The center used estimates of gross domestic product from the U.S. Department of Commerce and compared it with the World Bank's estimates of world economies.
Based on purchasing power across countries, California continues to rank as the world's 11th largest economy.

WOMEN SENTENCED IN $1 MILLION TAE BO THEFT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two Palos Verdes Estates women were sentenced to prison for stealing more than $1 million from the founder of the Tae Bo exercise program to buy personal items such as clothes, vacations and Range Rovers, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Rhenee Sharmell Foster, 46, and Demetria Foster Gutierrez, 52, were sentenced Monday to nearly three years in prison and ordered to pay restitution. They pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud and fraudulently using an access device issued to another person.
Fitness instructor Billy Blanks and his former wife, Gayle Blanks, hired the women in 2004. Foster and Gutierrez ran a Marina del Rey company that provided bill paying, bookkeeping and other services to Blanks, who developed and marketed the Billy Blanks Tae Bo exercise program.
The women had access to the bank account for Blanks' company, BG Star Productions so they could pay personal and company bills for the couple, prosecutors said. But authorities said that from March 2007 through March 2010, the women made unauthorized withdrawals from the company bank account on more than 70 occasions.
ANOTHER GOP LAWMAKER FROM CALIFORNIA TO RETIRE: WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Jerry Lewis has become the latest Republican from California to announce his retirement from Congress after new boundaries drawn through redistricting promised to make the road to re-election more difficult.
His official statement provided little explanation for why now was the right time to retire, though he did note that his district would be further "segmented" and would stretch from his hometown of Redlands to Rancho Cucamonga in the San Bernardino Valley.
"After months of consultation with loved ones and family, my wife Arlene and I have decided to retire from public life," Lewis said Thursday in a press release.
Lewis, 77, made his mark in Congress as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, a panel that he also chaired for two years. He steered hundreds of millions of federal dollars to a congressional district that includes portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
His decision prompted a flurry of activity from other GOP candidates.

GRAY WOLF MOVING EAST IN NORTHEASTERN CALIF.: SUSANVILLE  (AP) — A lone gray wolf that has zigzagged hundreds of miles through Oregon and California has been moving east and is now in Lassen County.
California wildlife officials said Tuesday that the male wolf, the first gray seen in the state in more than 80 years, moved from eastern Shasta County to the state's northeastern Lassen County this week.
The 2-year-old wolf known as OR7 was fitted with a GPS tracking collar last spring.
State Fish and Game spokesman Mark Stopher tells the San Francisco Chronicle that OR7 traveled east through rugged, forested terrain in search of a new mate and territory to start his own pack.
TEEN SOCCER PLAYER SHOT TO DEATH OUTSIDE HIS HOME: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Relatives of Francisco Javier Rodriguez Jr. stood in the teen soccer star's bloodstained front yard and sobbed Thursday as they tried to comprehend how the teenager who was a friend to everybody on the block could have been lured out of his house and shot to death.
Rodriguez, nicknamed Ponchito by family and friends, had just returned home from a soccer game when he answered a knock at the door Wednesday evening.
"He never answers the door," said Rodriguez' cousin Janette Nuno, leading the family to believe he was expecting a visitor, perhaps someone who had texted or called him on his cell phone to say they were coming over.
When he opened the door, Rodriguez' mother briefly saw a red-haired young woman standing there, Nuno said, as her 17-year-old son stepped outside.
"He didn't even have his shoes on yet. He went out in his socks," Nuno said.
REGULATORS OK RULES FOR POWER LINE WILDFIRE SAFETY: LOS ANGELES (AP) — State regulators adopted new rules Thursday to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires in the aftermath of a series of 2007 blazes that destroyed more than 1,500 homes and killed 17 people in Southern California.
The Public Utilities Commission approved the regulations as a forecast for dry and gusty northeast winds spawned red-flag warnings of fire danger from late Thursday through Friday evening.
Among other things, the rules require utilities to increase brush clearance around electrical conductors and to recalculate the weight loads on power poles when new equipment is attached.
Companies that operate cellphone towers and other aerial communication facilities near power lines must regularly inspect them.
Investor-owned utilities will be authorized to turn off power to property owners who block clearance efforts around overhead power lines.
"This is a new tool utilities can use when a landowner refuses access to property for the utility to trim trees," Southern California Edison said in a statement.
EX-SAN MATEO COUNTY OFFICIAL HELD ON EMBEZZLEMENT: SAN MATEO . (AP) — The former finance director of a San Mateo County agency and her assistant are accused of embezzling more than $450,000.
Sixty-year-old Jo Ann Seeley was the finance director of the San Mateo mosquito control district. She and 35-year-old bookkeeper Vika Sinipata were charged Tuesday.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said  the two gave themselves extra pay and bogus time off from 2009 to 2011. They also allegedly padded their deferred compensation funds.
It's the third time Seeley has faced such charges. The county apparently didn't run a criminal background check when it hired her in 2009, so it was unaware she already was accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from two previous employers.

SANTEE TENTATIVELY ALLOWS CHICKENS AT HOME: SANTEE  (AP) — Residents of a San Diego County town may soon be allowed to keep live chickens at home, if they can pluck up the courage.
Changes in the municipal code will limit the number of chickens depending on lot size and no roosters will be allowed. Also, no commercial breeding or slaughter will be allowed and owners will have to take care of controlling noise, odor and bird waste.

 

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