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Friday, February 18, 2011

New regime arrests Mubarak ministers

Egyptian authorities have arrested the former interior minister Habib el-Adly and two other former ministers who are under investigation for alleged corruption.
Authorities also arrested the steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, once a prominent member of the ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

Mr Adly, whose job gave him control over the 500,000-strong security forces, has been widely blamed for the deadly brutality used by riot police against demonstrators in massive protests that began on January 25 and forced Mr Mubarak to step down on February 11.

Fresh demonstrations were expected yesterday in Cairo in celebration of Mr Mubarak's departure and to maintain pressure on the military regime that replaced him to press forward with reform.

News of Mr Adly's arrest followed the detention on Thursday of the former housing minister Ahmed al-Maghrabi, the former tourism minister Zuheir Garana and Mr Ezz.
All four face allegations that range from money laundering to abuse of authority and squandering state wealth.

The protesters who ousted Mr Mubarak after 18 days of demonstrations often mentioned the deep corruption of the regime as a key reason behind their movement.

Security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said all four of the men would initially be held for 15 days.

All four had previously been banned from travel abroad and had their assets frozen, measures that are normally a prelude to a criminal investigation and possible trial.
They are among about a dozen former ministers and businessmen being investigated for alleged corruption or abuse of authority.

Most of them belonged to a clique of businessmen-turned-politicians who rallied around Mr Mubarak's son and one-time heir apparent, Gamal.

Gamal Mubarak, 47, rose rapidly through the ranks of the party during the past decade to become the most powerful politician in Egypt after his 82-year-old father.

Gamal and his circle of businessmen have been blamed for orchestrating economic reform that liberalised the economy but left the country's poor masses unable to reap the benefits of economic growth.

Mr Ezz, who used his wealth to promote his political career, is widely blamed for the fraud that marred parliamentary elections held in November and December. The ruling party won all but a small fraction of the chamber's 518 seats.

Mr Ezz denied the charge in a television interview.

Mr Adly served in his former post for 12 years.

The BBC reported that organisers predicted a million people would turn out for yesterday's demonstration.

''I am here now to monitor how the military is going to take things,'' said Nasser Abdel-Hamid, a 28-year-old information systems engineer. He is a member of the representative body of the Coalition of the Youth of the January 25 Revolution, the main grouping of the activist organisers.

The United States gave Egypt $US150 million in economic assistance on Thursday, saying it would help its ally move towards democracy.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

5 Headed snake in India

This is a snake found in a temple at Karnataka. Looking like a creature from mythology, multi-headed animals occur in real life as conjoined or parasitic twins.

It is not just in mythology that creatures are given to have two or more heads. This condition where an animal or human which has more than one head is termed as polycephaly caused due to developmental abnormality during gene mutation.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Obama to call for $53B for high-speed rail

 President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jump-start job creation.
An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 mph, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn't say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it's likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.

Obama's push for high-speed rail spending is part of his broad goal of creating jobs in the short-term and increasing American competitiveness for the future through new funding for infrastructure, education and innovation. During last month's State of the Union address, Obama said he wanted to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

At the same time he's calling for new spending on sectors like high-speed rail in the upcoming budget, Obama also has pledged to cut overall spending as he seeks to bring down the nation's mounting deficit. The White House has said environmental programs for the Great Lakes, and block grants for community service and community development are among the programs that will face cuts.

But it's unlikely the cuts Obama proposes in the budget will be enough to appease the GOP. Republicans now controlling the House have promised to slash domestic agencies' budgets by nearly 20 percent for the coming year.

The White House has said cuts must be cautious, arguing that drastic reductions in spending could cause the still-fragile economic recovery to stall. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday the administration wouldn't compromise when it comes to spending on the infrastructure, education and innovation programs Obama is touting.

"We cannot compromise. The rest of the world is not compromising," Biden said in Philadelphia at an event announcing the high-speed rail initiative.

Obama's call for increased spending on high-speed rail projects is nothing new. He's long seen the sector as an area of opportunity for creating jobs and improving the nation's transportation system. His administration awarded $10 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects last year, including $2.3 billion for California to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego; and $1.25 billion to Florida to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami.

Obama also laid out a plan last summer to invest $50 billion in high-speed rail, as well as highways, bridges, transit and airports, adding it to the first year of a six-year transportation bill. Congress didn't act on the proposal before adjourning last year, but Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he's confident lawmakers will take up the measure again and deliver a bill to Obama by August.

Thus far, Obama's plans to increase spending on high-speed rail have received a chilly a reception from Republicans. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., urged the administration Tuesday to focus its spending on the crowded Northeast rail corridor, and not "squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects."

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, urged the administration to involve the business community in its high-speed rail plans.

"I'm not in favor of additional monies that we don't have, to be spent on those projects, and would certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector to get it involved," Cantor said.
The White House said the six-year rail plan would include strong "Buy America" requirements that attract private sector investment in developing and operating passenger lines, and would ultimately create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.


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