Archive for the ‘trains’ Category

Biden Off Mic: “Gimme a f*&$#ing break”

March 14, 2009

At an event at Union Station today where Vice President Joe Biden was heralding the $1.3 billion in investments in rebuilding train stations and passenger rails, a microphone picked up one of the former senator’s myriad Senate colleagues addressing him, formally, as “Mr. Vice President.”

That met with Vice President Biden’s standard reply.

“Gimme a f*&$#ing break,” he said, apparently unaware that the microphone was on.

By Jake Tapper, ABC News

“Nobody messes with Joe.”  — President Obama.

“Gimme a f*&$#ing break.”

Advertisements

Shortage of trains strains China’s holiday rush, simmering unrest problem

January 21, 2009

Every year at this time, China’s rail system groans under a huge surge of holiday traffic. Travelers endure waits of hours — even days — in the winter chill to buy tickets. Once aboard trains, they overcrowd seats. Some sit in aisles. Others are forced to stand for trips of a day or longer.

Veteran travelers such as Wang Ping plan ahead for the arduous trips, knowing that the trains are so crowded that even getting to the bathroom can be a heroic feat.

“You eat very little. You drink very little,” she said. “There are too many people sitting in the aisle, so it’s very difficult to go to the toilet.”

The travails of travel around the week-long Lunar New Year festival, China‘s most important annual holiday, are more than a passing irritant to the 188 million Chinese who’ll board trains during the 40-day peak period. They’re also of concern to China’s leaders, who worry that holiday emotions could turn ugly and trigger social unrest at railway stations.

Severe snowstorms a year ago stranded tens of millions of passengers.

So it was little surprise that even President Hu Jintao weighed in with some sharp words for railway authorities before the holiday, which is also known as the Spring Festival.

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers

” The Ministry of Railways must use its brains to work out many measures to help the people,” Hu said on Jan. 15 . “They should make these measures known to the public in order to lessen social tension and ensure the Spring Festival mission is completed in a smooth manner.”

As in past years during the holiday, complaints have mounted this year of under-the-table sales by rail employees to scalpers. One angry traveler took a video on his cell phone of a railway employee refusing to sell him a ticket. The video clip, which spread rapidly around Chinese Web sites, shows the stone-faced railway employee ignoring angry travelers outside the window as he prints out tickets. Postings with the video accused the employee of intending to sell tickets on the black market.

Sensitivities are so high that the Railway Ministry called a news conference and apologized for “hurting the feelings” of passengers. It vowed to probe illegal ticket sales.

Deputy Railways Minister Wang Zhiguo said 30,000 police officers were keeping order at railway stations, and that they had detained 2,390 scalpers and confiscated 78,200 tickets.

Wang said ticket vendors are barred from carrying mobile phones to their windows to prevent them from colluding with scalpers.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20090
121/wl_mcclatchy/3150100_1

U.S. mayors skeptical of city help in stimulus plan

January 18, 2009

U.S. mayors on Saturday welcomed the $825 billion stimulus plan introduced in Congress this week, but worried that much of the assistance would stop at the state level and not reach cities.

“This stimulus package is a good start, it’s a great start. I would like to see more money directly allocated to cities and not passed through,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention.

Reuters

Mayor Abram Wilson of San Ramon, California, put it more bluntly, saying, “You’re going to give the money to the state and we’re not going to see it.”

The stimulus plan introduced by Democrats in the House of Representatives includes increased spending on public transit repairs, as well as loans for updating sewers. Cities would also get a boost in school spending. The plan adheres largely to measures requested by President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office on Tuesday.

Obama wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to jolt the country out of a deepening recession. He has stressed that an economic recovery package must include public works and assistance for states and local governments, which have had to make steep spending cuts as their revenues decline.

States face the worst economic downturn in a quarter of a century and their financial health is likely to worsen through 2009, the National Governors Association said last month. Cities, too, are grappling with dwindling property tax revenues due to the housing downturn at the same time as they find it harder to take out debt in the municipal bond market.

INFRASTRUCTURE, NOT SHORTFALLS

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said the plan would help his city’s transit system buy buses that rely on alternative energy. He said he worried funds would end up plugging holes in state budgets instead of being spent on job-creating efforts such as infrastructure projects.

“If we take these dollars … and we put it in for cities or states simply to make budget shortfalls, we’re in the same position next year as we were last year,” Leppert said.

He also said some of the stimulus measures may pass through state governments so slowly that cities will have to wait years to get assistance.

Under the stimulus proposal released on Thursday, $87 billion would go to helping states cover the costs of Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, in the hopes of freeing up money for states to spend on other programs. A further $21 billion would go to building schools and $30 billion would be dedicated to highway and bridge construction projects.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the economic recovery bill will be voted on in February. An aide to the House Ways and Means Committee told the mayors that the House was working closely with the Senate to craft similar bills so the final measure can be quickly signed into law.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090117
/us_nm/us_usa_economy_stimulus_mayors_1