In brief | Nation & World, March 25, 2014


Egypt sentences to death nearly 530 accused in police station attack

CAIRO — An Egyptian court Monday sentenced to death nearly 530 suspected backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi over a deadly attack on a police station, capping a swift, two-day mass trial in which defense attorneys were not allowed to present their case.

It was the largest single batch of death sentences in the world in recent years, Amnesty International said. The U.S. State Department said it “defies logic” that so many people could get a fair trial in just two sessions.

The verdicts by a court in the city of Minya are subject to appeal and are likely to be overturned.

But the outcome stunned human rights activists and raised fears that the rule of law is being swept away in the crackdown waged by the military-backed interim government against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood since his overthrow last summer.

The government is conducting a series of mass trials of Brotherhood supporters, some with hundreds of defendants.

Transit union president says operator dozed off before derailment that injured 32 people

CHICAGO — The president of a Chicago transit union said Monday there are indications that the operator dozed off before the train jumped the tracks and scaled an escalator at one of nation’s busiest airports, injuring 32 people.

The operator told Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly that she had worked a lot of overtime recently and was “extremely tired” at the time of the derailment, he said at a news conference.

The derailment happened just before 3 a.m. Monday at the end of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line at O’Hare International Airport. No one suffered life-threatening injuries.

Earlier, National Transportation Safety Board official Tim DePaepe said investigators had not drawn any conclusions about the cause of the accident, but were looking into whether faulty brakes, signals or human error were factors.

The operator, who was still hospitalized, will be interviewed, DePaepe said, and investigators would examine her routine over the last few days.

No easy fix on flood insurance, but experts say options exist to improve program

NEW YORK — There’s no easy fix for the National Flood Insurance Program, now drowning in a $24 billion sea of red ink.

But experts and advocates say Congress does have some options that could make the troubled program financially stable, more affordable and more effective at motivating change in communities built too close to the water.

Lawmakers this month tweaked the troubled program for the second time in two years after acknowledging that a previous overhaul in 2012 had socked too many policyholders with rate hikes they couldn’t afford. The legislation, however, only put off the day of reckoning.

At least 1.1 million policyholders are still likely to see insurance premiums rise substantially in the next few years as the government whittles down rate subsidies for people in the riskiest flood zones. The Associated Press, in a story published Monday, found hundreds of river towns, port cities and coastal communities where future rate hikes might make it tough for people to keep their homes and businesses.

Yet, if premiums stay as low as they are now, those same communities could cost taxpayers billions of dollars when they do eventually flood, thanks to decades of low premiums that have given homeowners few incentives to flood-proof their properties.

By wire sources