Week in Review



Nation: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, President-elect Obama's pick for commerce secretary, withdrew from consideration amid a federal investigation into how one of his political donors won a lucrative state contract. He said he "acted properly in all matters, and this investigation will bear out that fact."

WORLD: Israeli tanks and ground troops moved swiftly to seize large sections of Gaza, encircling its largest city and cutting the narrow strip of land in two in what military officials called a "real war" on the militant Islamic group Hamas.

METRO: Members of North Augusta's St. John's Episcopal Church severed ties with the national congregation, rejecting a shift toward a more progressive theology that has led to the blessing of same-sex marriages and gay leaders in the church.


Nation: Roland Burris headed to Washington to claim Illinois' disputed U.S. Senate seat, even as officials at the Senate rejected the paperwork sent by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to formally pave his way.

OBITUARY: Former President Jimmy Carter's attorney general, Griffin Bell, died in Atlanta. Mr. Bell, 90, was being treated for complications caused by pancreatic cancer, and he had suffered from kidney disease for years.

ECONOMY: President-elect Obama and congressional leaders agreed on broad aspects of what's sure to be the largest short-term economic stimulus plan the nation has ever seen and promised to pass legislation quickly.

WORLD: Israel ignored mounting international calls for a cease-fire and said it won't stop its crippling assault in Gaza until "peace and tranquility" are achieved in southern Israeli towns in the line of Palestinian rocket fire. Three Israeli soldiers died in a friendly fire incident.

BASKETBALL: Ben Madgen scored a career-high 33 points to lead Augusta State to victory over Peach Belt Conference rival USC Aiken.


Schools: Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden is making a special exception for teachers and staff members wanting to take off Jan. 20 -- already a day off for pupils -- for the presidential inauguration.

COMMISSION: After several votes, the Augusta Commission elected Alvin Mason as new mayor pro tem. He will succeed Betty Beard.

WORLD: Israeli mortar shells exploded near a U.N. school in Gaza sheltering hundreds of people displaced by Israel's onslaught against Hamas, killing at least 30 Palestinians.

COLUMBIA COUNTY: Commissioners tentatively passed a new ordinance forcing developers to advertise "major changes," such as types of housing and locations of roads, to planned unit developments.

CRIME: Authorities arrested 20 people in connection with a major Richmond County drug distributor.

HEALTH: Parkinson's sufferers who had electrodes implanted in their brains improved substantially more than those who took only medicine, according to the biggest test yet of deep brain stimulation.

WORLD: Pakistan's president called for foreign allies to provide more support -- not more troops -- to help win the battle against extremist militias along its volatile border with Afghanistan.


Metro: Jeanette M. Hawes, the 23-year-old Augusta mother who stabbed her two children to death, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Ms. Hawes had told a doctor who examined her that she gave in to the voices in her head demanding she kill them.

AIKEN COUNTY: The Best Friend Express has received a $680,000 federal grant to enhance its services. The Lower Savannah Council of Governments, which operates the transit program, received one of three federal grants awarded nationwide.

JUSTICE: A convicted sex offender accused of joining two other men in raping a teenage girl pleaded guilty. Shawn Love, 39, avoided a possible life sentence without parole with his plea in Richmond County Superior Court.

Schools: Aiken County school salaries are ranked No. 1 in South Carolina for first- through third-year teachers at any degree level, according to state Education Department figures.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Budget woes have hit South Carolina's first line of hospitality, and the state's nine visitor centers, now staffed seven days a week, will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting this week.

HEALTH: In the largest study of its kind, researchers have shown that the risk of autism increases for firstborn children and children of older parents. The risk of a firstborn with an autism spectrum disorder triples after a mother turns 35 and a father reaches 40.

HEALTH: Officials with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating a salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 400 people in 42 states, but they don't know how the bacteria are spreading.

HEALTH: Mississippi's teen birth rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, according to state statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

WORLD: Israel bombed heavily around suspected smuggling tunnels near Gaza's border with Egypt after a three-hour lull to allow in humanitarian aid. Hamas responded with a rocket barrage.


ECONOMY: Freddie Mac reported that average rates on 30-year fixed mortgages dropped to 5.01 percent, down from the record of 5.1 percent set the week before. It was the 10th consecutive weekly drop, and nearly a full point below the rate of 5.87 percent at the same time last year.

ECONOMY: The number of laid-off workers who are continuing to draw unemployment checks jumped more than expected to 4.6 million at the end of December, the Labor Department reported.

ECONOMY: President-elect Obama implored Congress to "act boldly and act now" to fix the economy, even as Democrats complained openly about the proposed tax cuts and Republicans warned against excessive new spending.

AUGUSTA: A plan to transform Sibley Mill, one of Augusta's largest and most historic landmarks, into a mixed-use development along the Augusta Canal has been abandoned by a group of investors led by developer Clay Boardman, who successfully renovated nearby Enterprise Mill a decade ago. A purchase option on the property has expired, he said, and earnest money has been returned.

AUGUSTA: Motorists driving near Telfair Street and James Brown Boulevard should soon start seeing a steel structure rising as part of Augusta's new main library. "We're hoping that will start going up the first of February," said library Director Gary Swint.

CRIME: Prosecutors say investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million in Bernard Madoff's office desk that he was ready to send out to his closest family and friends at the time of his arrest last month.


fraud investigation: Richmond County sheriff's investigators have uncovered a scheme in which homeless men from Atlanta are brought to Augusta to cash forged checks. A woman picked up several men, three of whom are being sought.

ECONOMY: December's unemployment rate hit 7.2 percent. Though final figures won't be nailed down until next month, 11.1 million people were unemployed in December, with 1.9 million losing their jobs within the past four months.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR SCANDAL: The Illinois House voted to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who insisted afterward that he's done nothing wrong. The impeachment is based not only on criminal charges, but also on allegations he expanded a health care program without authority.

NATION: President-elect Obama unveiled his intelligence team, charging them with revamping the country's record on human rights. Leon Panetta will head the CIA and former Adm. Dennis Blair was picked as the national intelligence director.