In brief | Nation & world | 7-23-14


Chicago tries counterintuitive idea to fight crime: wiping away some arrest records

CHICAGO — Desperate to curb the gun violence wracking their city, Chicago lawmakers are leading the way toward a counterintuitive idea — fighting crime by making it easier for young people to wipe away minor arrest records.

The goal is to give tens of thousands of teens a better chance to find work or get into college, rather than letting a minor episode with police possibly doom them to a life on the gang-dominated streets of some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

A law recently passed by the state Legislature made Illinois one of the few states to automatically expunge the criminal records of juveniles who were arrested but never charged.

Mariama Bangura, 17, was arrested last year after she was accused of threatening a teacher. Though she was never charged, she worries that the incident could sink her adult ambitions.

“I want to be a nurse or massage therapist, and what if the whole thing keeps coming up?” she asked. “I want a career.”

Squatters in notorious Venezuelan vertical slum evicted, military to take control of tower

CARACAS, Venezuela — The first of thousands of squatters who transformed a half-built skyscraper into a vertical slum were moved out by armed soldiers Tuesday, marking the beginning of the end for the Tower of David’s haphazard community.

Police in riot gear and soldiers with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood on side streets as dozens of residents boarded buses for their new government-provided apartments in Cua, a town about 23 miles south of Caracas.

Ernesto Villegas, the government minister overseeing Caracas’ redevelopment, told reporters that the eviction was necessary because the 45-story building in the heart of the capital is unsafe.

He said children have fallen to their deaths from the tower, which in some places is missing walls or windows. The damp, foul-smelling concrete lobby attested to the lack of working plumbing.

Villegas said the tower, initially a symbol of failed capitalism, had gone on to represent community. The squatters’ invasion was part of a larger appropriation of vacant buildings encouraged by the late former President Hugo Chavez.

Aug. recess looming: Congress faces highway funding, veterans care and immigration issues

WASHINGTON — Pressure is on Congress to act in the next two weeks on several problems, from keeping highway projects on track and easing wait time for veterans seeking health care to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Pass a bill or don’t come back from recess,” William A. Thien, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, warned lawmakers pondering the Department of Veterans Affairs legislation. “America’s veterans are tired of waiting — on secret waiting lists at the VA and on their elected officials to do their jobs.”

With the monthlong August recess looming, progress has been decidedly mixed on several must-past items as congressional partisanship — only fiercer in an election year — and the Obama administration’s conflicting signals to Capitol Hill complicate prospects for legislation.

Lawmakers have been struggling to find about $10 billion to keep highway projects on track through next spring, produce legislation to speed up health care for veterans and address how to deal with some 57,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who have entered the U.S. along the southern border since last fall.

Things look promising for legislation to “patch” the highway trust fund after an overwhelming House vote last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Tuesday that a vote is possible this week, with the Senate widely expected to accept the House measure keeping highway and transit money flowing through May 2015.

By wire sources