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Calif., Midwest fast on rails

Mei Lan was born at Zoo Atlanta in 2006.

Associated Press (2007)

Mei Lan was born at Zoo Atlanta in 2006.

High-speed rail plans in the Midwest and California appear to be front-runners in the race for $8 billion in stimulus cash based on federal criteria released Wednesday that favor projects with established revenue sources and multistate cooperation.

California voters last November approved nearly $10 billion in state bonds that could be combined with federal money to build 800 miles of high-speed track. Eight Midwest states have cooperated closely to promote a network, with Chicago as its hub, that would join 12 metropolitan areas within 400 miles.

Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, stopped short of naming favorites, but she praised Midwestern states for their cooperation and pointed to California's bond issue.

The FRA's 68 pages of often technical rules also seek projects that would reduce regional highway and airport congestion and create jobs, especially among lower income Americans.

To grab a share of the funds, states face a July 10 deadline for pre-applications and an Aug. 24 deadline for most final application papers. Any region can present a long-range plan, but 10 corridors that cover lines in Texas, California, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Gulf Coast, the Southeast, New England, Pennsylvania and New York have been highlighted.

Rae said the stimulus cash is just the beginning of a long-term national push. "This is not about stringing rail across a region for no purpose."


cost for President Barack Obama to fly, round trip, from Washington, D.C., to Chicago for Monday's speech on health care. That does not include Secret Service protection, motorcades or helicopter transports.

Zoo: Pony up to keep pandas

The people of Atlanta who love having pandas in their back yard will need to come up with some money to keep them here, Zoo Atlanta CEO Dennis Kelly said Wednesday. The zoo plans to raise $500,000 through public donations to reach a $2.5 million price tag for keeping the pandas for five more years. Kelly said that corporate donors have ponied up the first $2 million and that the zoo hopes to get the balance from individuals.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Reporter talks robber out

A burglary suspect in Los Angeles who resisted multiple applications of tear gas, a police dog, negotiators, an improvised plunger and a professional urban search-and-rescue firefighter was finally brought in by a TV news reporter. Police say the man was taking off after trying to steal copper wire from a warehouse when he hid in a storm drain. Police hit him with tear gas in hopes of flushing him out, but gave up for fear of suffocating him. They tried to plunge him out with a big rope, plywood and canvas bags, but he cut that. Then he called his girlfriend ("He's 30 feet underground, and somehow he has cell coverage," said Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore), who called the media. KABC-TV reporter Leo Stallworth called the man and asked why he wouldn't come out. "I hate leaving my freedom," the man said from inside the 18-inch-wide pipe. "Is there any freedom in there?" Stallworth asked. That led to his surrender negotiations.

Man discusses suspicion he was kidnapped

John Robert Barnes of Kalkaska, Mich., is the man who believes he could have been the young boy kidnapped from in front of a Long Island bakery in 1955. He says he came to the conclusion by looking at photos of Stephen Damman online, and noting physical similarities between himself and photos of Damman's mother when they were similar ages. "I'm just waiting for the DNA results," Barnes told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Preliminary DNA tests between Barnes and Stephen Damman's sister indicate they could be related.

Mrs. Chen can't imagine abandoning one of her two best friends: her scruffy terrier mutt and a white fluffy Pekingese mix with buggy eyes. But that's what the government in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou wants her to do when a one-dog policy takes effect. Beginning July 1, each household can keep only one pooch. The regulation won't be grandfathered, so families with more dogs may have to pick one. "It's a cruel regulation. These dogs are like family. How can you keep one and get rid of the others?" said Chen, who did not give her full name because she feared police would seize her dogs. The regulation appears to be part of an effort to control strays in Guangzhou. It is one of the richest cities in China. Many first-time pet owners don't spay or neuter their animals, which often end up on the street when their owners grow tired of raising a cute puppy that grew up into a demanding dog. Many other Chinese cities have one-dog policies. Officials commonly launch roundups when the canine population is deemed too big or infected with diseases. In 2006, Beijing authorities caught 29,000 unregistered dogs in one month. Each year, more than 2,000 people in China die after being bitten by rabid dogs. Dog owners in Guangzhou aren't sure if the one-dog policy will be strictly enforced. Often Chinese authorities announce a tough new law, launch a crackdown, then ignore the measure. Mrs. Chen said her plan is to register one of her dogs with her parents. "In China, we have a saying," she said. "When the people at the top make a policy, the people at the bottom find a way to get around it."

Calif., Midwest fast on rails 06/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:06pm]
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