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Friday, May 23, 2003

Bush picks policy aide as budget director WASHINGTON — President Bush picked Joshua Bolten to manage the federal budget and bureaucracy Thursday, assigning a quiet but influential White House policy aide to keep a lid on government spending at a time of record-setting deficits.

Bolten promised that as new budget director, he would be "a tightfisted custodian of the people's money."

If confirmed by the Senate, Bolten, 48, would succeed Mitch Daniels, who is expected to return to Indiana to run for governor.

After four years of budget surpluses under President Clinton, the government is awash in deficits. Government forecasters expect this year's shortfall to exceed $300 billion, and some private economists say it could surge well past $400 billion. The highest deficit on record was the 1992 shortfall of $290 billion, though the country's economy was far smaller then.

The new post would vault Bolten from a West Wing office where he works outside the spotlight, often seven days a week, into the very public role of director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Firing squads assembled for 2 Utah executions SALT LAKE CITY — The only state that allows condemned inmates to choose death by firing squad is assembling gunmen for back-to-back executions next month.

Serial killer Roberto Arguelles and Troy Michael Kell, a white supremacist who stabbed a fellow inmate to death, have chosen the firing squad over lethal injection and are set to die at 12:01 a.m. on June 27 and 28, respectively.

However, Kell filed an appeal last week that will probably halt his execution.

The Utah Corrections Department is recruiting law enforcement officers for two five-person firing squads, asking the police departments in the communities where the crimes were committed to nominate volunteers.

The officers' identities will not be released.

Funeral firm accused of unearthing bodies WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A funeral services company and one of its local operators were charged Thursday with felonies for allegedly unearthing older bodies to make room for more burials at two south Florida cemeteries.

Service Corporation International and Jeffrey Frucht were charged with misconduct and incompetence in operating a cemetery. Frucht is vice president for SCI's Jewish cemeteries in south Florida.

One of his former employees, superintendent Robert McKay, was charged with two counts of failing to get a family's written permission before disinterring a body. The counts involve two men whose remains were found near a wooded area.

Meanwhile, SCI agreed to a civil settlement in which it would pay up to $14 million in fines and restitution, the state attorney general's office said Thursday. SCI, based in Houston, is the world's largest funeral services company.

Can't attend funeral? Watch it on Internet SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A new company is broadcasting funerals on the Internet, giving friends and relatives who can't make the service a chance to pay their respects.

"Those who can't get to the funeral also will be able to sign the electronic guest book and e-mail condolences to the family," said Ross Johnson, promotional director for Chapelview Online, based in Rapid City.

The company captures funerals with a digital camera and broadcasts them live for seven funeral homes in South Dakota.

Its clients include funeral director Daryl Isburg, of Hot Springs, who heard about Chapelview during a conference and decided to give it a try.

Isburg said families often ask for a tape of the service to send to loved ones who couldn't be there. Relatives and friends who want to watch it online will be given a password.

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