The Associated Press___ Stanford gets 110 years for role in $7 billion swindle HOUSTON (AP) â¿¿ Former jet-setting Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, whose financial empire once spanned the Americas, was sentenced Thursday to 110 years in prison for bilking investors out of more than $7 billion over 20 years in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history. U.S. District Judge David Hittner handed down the sentence during a court hearing in which two people spoke on behalf of Stanford's investors about how his fraud affected their lives. Prosecutors had asked that Stanford be sentenced to 230 years in prison, the maximum sentence possible after a jury convicted the one-time billionaire in March on 13 of 14 fraud-related counts. Stanford's convictions on conspiracy, wire and mail fraud charges followed a seven-week trial. ___ Europe crisis spreads as Merkel resists big steps MILAN (AP) â¿¿ A growing number of European countries are being squeezed by a financial vise just days before a Greek election that could escalate the region's political and economic turmoil. The rise of Italian and Spanish borrowing costs to alarming levels on Thursday heaped pressure on leaders to prevent Europe's debt crisis from engulfing its largest countries. No grand solution appears imminent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes solutions that many experts are pushing that would increase costs for Berlin. Merkel has found herself isolated from the leaders of Spain, Italy and France, who want the 17 countries in the euro currency union to move quickly to bind their governments' finances and debt. ___ Low prices, weak hiring raise odds of Fed action WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. job market is flagging, and consumer prices are barely rising. The picture sketched by data released Thursday has made some economists predict the Federal Reserve will announce some new step next week to boost the economy.