Briefs from Tribune news services
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Tough decision for anti-abortion guv

Des Moines, Iowa • Catholic, anti-abortion Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad could soon find himself in an uncomfortable position: He may have to sign off on payments for every Medicaid-funded abortion in his state.

A bill requiring that authorization is sitting on the Republican's desk after moving through the statehouse. If Branstad signs it, Iowa is likely to be the only state that would have the unique requirement.

Iowa's Medicaid program covers a small number of abortions each year due to rape, incest, fetal deformity or to protect a mother's life. Currently handled by the state Department of Human Services, the Medicaid reimbursements cost the state less than $20,000 last fiscal year.

Branstad said he is likely to approve the legislation, which impacts reimbursements after the abortions, not authorizing the procedures ahead of time.

Four years sought for Jesse Jackson Jr.

Washington • Prosecutors are recommending four years in prison for former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., following his guilty plea this year on criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.

The government is also recommending that Jackson pay $750,000 in restitution to the campaign.

Court papers filed in the case say Jackson used campaign money to buy items that included a $43,350 gold-plated men's Rolex watch and $9,587.64 worth of children's furniture.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 3 along with his wife, Sandra. She pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that understated the income the couple received.

Satanic Night Stalker serial killer dies

Los Angeles • Richard Ramirez, the demonic serial killer known as the Night Stalker who left satanic signs at murder scenes and mutilated victims' bodies during a reign of terror in the 1980s, died early Friday in a hospital, a prison official said.

Ramirez, 53, had been taken from San Quentin's death row to a hospital where authorities said he died of liver failure. Prison officials said they could not release further details on the cause of death, citing federal patient privacy laws.

Ramirez had been housed on death row for decades and was awaiting execution, even though it has been years since anyone has been put to death in California.

At his first court appearance, Ramirez raised a hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled, "Hail, Satan."

His marathon trial, which ended in 1989, was a horror show in which jurors heard about one dead victim's eyes being gouged out and another's head being nearly severed. Courtroom observers wept when survivors of some of the attacks testified.

Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders that terrorized Southern California in 1984 and 1985 as well as charges of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, burglary and attempted murder.

He was dubbed the Night Stalker by the press while residents were warned to lock their doors and windows at night.