A federal program that began as a safety net for Pacific Northwest logging communities hard-hit by battles over the spotted owl in the 1990s has morphed into a sprawling entitlement — one that ships vast amounts of money to states with little or no historic connection to timber, an analysis by the Associated Press shows.
Nicknamed "county payments," the timber program was supposed to assist counties shortchanged when national forests limited logging to protect the northern spotted owl and other endangered species.
Since becoming law in 2000, the program has distributed more than $3 billion to 700 counties in 41 states with national forests and helped fund everything from schools to libraries to jails.
The federal largesse initially focused on a handful of Western states, with Oregon alone receiving nearly $2 billion.
West Bank settlers step up resistance
Israeli settlers blocked roads, scuffled with police and pelted officers with eggs on Sunday, in the most aggressive display of resistance yet to the government's ban on new housing construction in West Bank settlements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the pain his order has caused. But he said the 10-month freeze was necessary to demonstrate Israel is serious about seeking peace, and he criticized the Palestinians for rejecting the gesture.
Both candidates claim presidency
Both sides claimed victory in a presidential election that appeared too close to call Sunday night. Mircea Geoana, Romania's former foreign minister and the leader of the leftist Social Democrats, declared himself the winner after several exit polls showed him ahead with roughly 51 percent of the vote. But the centrist president, Traian Basescu, refused to concede the race, claiming media manipulation and declaring himself the true victor. Official results were expected today.
Chavez ally's brother linked to bank scandal
A top aide to President Hugo Chavez resigned Sunday after the arrest of his brother in a banking scandal that has put the South American country's socialist leader on the defensive. Chavez said he accepted the resignation of Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon after prosecutors announced the arrest of his brother, Arne Chacon, president of Banco Real, and another banker, Giuzel Mileira, after the government took over management of three banks citing violations of banking rules.
Indigenous president wins re-election
President Evo Morales easily won re-election, getting an overwhelming mandate for further revolutionary change on behalf of the South American country's long-suppressed indigenous majority. Morales' allies also won a convincing majority in both houses of congress. Unofficial counts of 98 percent of the vote by two polling firms said Bolivia's first indigenous president won with 63 percent of the ballots — 36 points ahead of his closest challenger, Manfred Reyes, a center-right former state governor and military officer, in a field of nine candidates.
Sri Lanka: A report to be released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urges a less confrontational approach to that nation, citing strategic American interests in the region.