Cities Lose Out on Road Funds From Federal Stimulus
By MICHAEL COOPER and GRIFF PALMER
Published: July 8, 2009
Two-thirds of the country lives in large metropolitan areas, home to the nation’s worst traffic jams and some of its oldest roads and bridges. But cities and their surrounding regions are getting far less than two-thirds of federal transportation stimulus money.
According to an analysis by The New York Times of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far – the most complete look yet at how states plan to spend their stimulus money – the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money. In many cases, they have lost a tug of war with state lawmakers that urban advocates say could hurt the nation’s economic engines.
Mexico accused of torture in drug war
Army using brutality to fight trafficking, rights groups say
By Steve Fainaru and William Booth
PUERTO LAS OLLAS, Mexico – The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, acts of torture and illegal raids in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims, their families, political leaders and human rights monitors.
From the violent border cities where drugs are brought into the United States to the remote highland regions where poppies and marijuana are harvested, residents and human rights groups describe an increasingly brutal war in which the government, led by the army, is using harsh measures to battle the cartels that continue to terrorize much of the country.
In Puerto Las Ollas, a mountain village of 50 people in the southern state of Guerrero, residents recounted how soldiers seeking information last month stuck needles under the fingernails of a disabled 37-year-old farmer, jabbed a knife into the back of his 13-year-old nephew, fired on a pastor, and stole food, milk, clothing and medication.
In fundamental shift, consumers are saving rather than spending
The belt-tightening is almost certain to have a negative effect on the U.S. economy, in which about 70% of gross domestic product comes from personal consumption.
By Don Lee
July 9, 2009
Reporting from Washington — The continuing decline in consumers’ use of charge cards and other forms of credit reflects an underlying weakness in the U.S. economy that most of the government’s recovery plans fail to attack head-on. And it suggests a fundamental shift in the way Americans save and spend that is likely to act as a drag on the economy for at least several years.
Beset by rising unemployment, declining wages and persistent credit-tightening by banks, consumers are pulling back. Although some economists welcome the trend after years of open-handed spending, the belt-tightening is almost certain to have a negative effect on the U.S. economy, in which about 70% of gross domestic product comes from personal consumption.
Obama tax pledge unrealistic
Lawmakers are looking for more revenue to fund health care overhaul
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a promise he’s already broken and will likely have to break again.
Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already increased tobacco taxes – which disproportionately hit the poor – to pay for extending health coverage to 4 million children in working low-income families.
Now, lawmakers are looking for more revenues to help pay for providing medical insurance to millions more who lack it at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next decade.
Who asked for Ireland’s blasphemy law
New rules which forbid causing ‘outrage’ among religious people have baffled Ireland. We were getting along just fine without them
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 9 July 2009 09.00 BST
I’m not sure which piece of unpopular Irish news is being buried by which: the announcement of a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, or the shuffling through of a law creating penalties for blasphemy, an offence that has never properly existed in the Irish state.
While there is certainly a store of resentment in the population at being asked to vote again (that is: vote properly, you morons, as the government is barely holding back from saying) on the Lisbon treaty, there is a certain sense of bafflement at the new blasphemy legislation, smuggled in under the guise of defamation law reform. Nobody wanted this law: no one can think of a single thundering priest, austere vicar, irate rabbi or miffed mullah ever calling for tougher penalties for blasphemy.
New evidence may solve mystery of decapitated monks
French general blames botched Algerian rescue mission
By John Lichfield in Paris
Thursday, 9 July 2009
One of the most troubling and mysterious episodes in recent French history – the brutal death of six French monks in Algeria in 1996 – is to be re-investigated with the co-operation of the French state.
Rumours have swirled for years around the kidnapping and decapitation of the Cistercian monks, which was blamed by authorities in Algiers and Paris on Islamist radical terrorists. New evidence presented to an investigating judge in France by a French general suggests that the kidnapped monks may have been killed by accident by airborne Algerian soldiers who were trying to rescue them.
Their bodies were then decapitated by the Algerian soldiers to make their deaths look like an act of terrorism, according to General François Buchwalter, who was French military attaché in Algeria at the time.
Israel’s wall still deepening the divide
Five years ago the international court of justice ruled that Israel’s separation wall should be demolished. But it is still growing
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 9 July 2009 08.00 BST
Five years ago today, the international court of justice in The Hague published its advisory opinion on Israel’s separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The keenly awaited verdict, requested by the UN’s general assembly, was clear: Israel’s wall is illegal, it must be removed and adequate compensation paid.
The wall’s illegality, and Israel’s obligation to dismantle the structure and pay damages for the consequences of the wall thus far, were all agreed by the judges by a margin of 14-1. (The ICJ also accepted the use of the term “wall”, since “other expressions” are “no more accurate”.) There was also confirmation that Israel’s settlements were “a flagrant violation” of the convention, established “in breach of international law” (contrast this with the mealy-mouthed nitpicking over outposts and “freezes” by Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu). Overall, the court found that the route of the wall threatened to create “de facto annexation”, with the wall itself described as severely impeding “the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination”.
Tehran’s leaders braced for renewed violence
From Times Online
July 8, 2009
Tehran is braced for renewed violence tomorrow as the regime’s opponents attempt to stage fresh demonstrations to mark the tenth anniversary of the student uprising of 1999.
The opposition sees the anniversary as a chance to show that it has not been crushed by the regime’s use of overwhelming force, and the demonstrators are planning to thwart the security forces by gathering in eight or nine places before converging on Enghelab (Revolution) Square. Demonstrations are also planned in several other cities.
However, the authorities are going to great lengths to stop them. They have taken advantage of the dust storms that have smothered the capital this week to close universities, offices and businesses, and to encourage people to leave the city. Residents said that half the city has decamped northwards across the mountains to the Caspian Sea.
Soldiers storm city in turmoil
China’s President Hu Jintao abandons G8 summit as paramilitary take over streets
By Quentin Sommerville in Urumqi and Claire Soares
Thursday, 9 July 2009
The Chinese President Hu Jintao dramatically abandoned the G8 summit in Italy yesterday to return home and deal with the worst ethnic violence to hit his country in decades.
In Urumqi, where at least 156 people have been killed, troops poured on to the streets to stamp out the last pockets of dissent. Officials said that anyone found guilty of killings during the riots would be executed.
The far-flung western city near the border with Kazakhstan was largely calm after the Uighur riots on Sunday and the bloody reprisal attacks by Han Chinese on Monday and Tuesday.
North Korea ‘launches massive cyber attack on Seoul
From The Times
July 9, 2009
Richard Lloyd Parry
North Korea is the main suspect behind a campaign of cyber attacks that have paralysed the websites of US and South Korean government agencies, banks and businesses since American Independence Day.
News of the campaign – which would be the first such large-scale attack attempted by the dictatorship – emerged yesterday as an ill and emaciated Kim Jong Il made a rare public appearance.
US government agencies, ranging from the Treasury Department to the Secret Service, and South Korea’s presidential office, parliament and defence and foreign ministries were among those hit by the attacks, which began on July 4.
The South Korean intelligence agency told members of parliament that it believed Pyongyang or its agents abroad were behind the attacks.
Protest leader, relative shot to death in Mexico
The attack on Benjamin LeBaron, a U.S. citizen, and his brother-in-law bore the signs of an organized-crime hit. LeBaron had led a demonstration in May against kidnapping.
By Ken Ellingwood
July 9, 2009
Reporting from Mexico City — Anti-crime activists on Wednesday decried the slaying of a protest leader in northern Mexico who went public after his brother was kidnapped in May.
Benjamin LeBaron, 32, and a brother-in-law were shot to death Tuesday after they were seized by gunmen in Galeana, a farming town in the border state of Chihuahua.
The attack bore signs of an organized-crime hit. A message left with the bodies said it was retribution for the capture of 25 drug suspects in a neighboring town. The arrests by Mexican soldiers reportedly came after an anonymous tip.
LeBaron, a U.S. citizen, had led a protest in May in the state capital, also called Chihuahua, after the kidnapping of his teenage brother, Eric. The family refused to pay the $1-million ransom; the youth was eventually released.
Benjamin LeBaron had since spoken out on crime issues. Last week, he took part in a convoy of residents to the state capital to denounce kidnapping.