Cuomo: Sandy cost N.Y. City, state $42B
ALBANY, N.Y. — Superstorm Sandy ran up a $42 billion bill on New York and the state and New York City congressional leaders are preparing big requests for federal disaster aid.
The cost includes $32 billion for repairs and restoration, but also includes an additional accounting of $9 billion for mitigation of damage and for preventive measures for the next disastrous storm.
“It’s common sense; it’s intelligent,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the effort to seek preventive work for the next storm. That would include protecting the electrical power grid and cellphone network. “Why don’t you spend some money now to save money in the future? And that’s what prevention and mitigation is.”
Cuomo said that Sandy caused more costly damage than Hurricane Katrina that slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, although Katrina had a far higher death toll than Sandy.
He said New York taxpayers can’t foot the bill: “It would incapacitate the state. … Tax increases are always a last, last, last resort.”
Ehud Barak retiring from Israeli politics
JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak abruptly quit politics Monday, potentially robbing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a key ally who enabled his hardline government to present a moderate face to the world.
Barring another comeback by the mercurial former general, Barak’s departure marked an end to a distinguished and tumultuous career that spanned half a century. It began on a communal farm, led to military greatness and business success and a mixed record in politics that was highlighted by failed peacemaking efforts during a brief term as prime minister.
Despite polls showing his small centrist Independence Party gaining momentum following the eight-day Israeli offensive in Gaza that he steered, Barak said he would not run again for office in the Jan. 22 elections.
“I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been a special object of desire for me,” Barak, 70, said in a surprise announcement in Tel Aviv. “There are many ways for me to serve the country and society, not just through politics.”
Barak will remain as defense minister until a new government is sworn in after the elections.
Rebels allegedly backed by Rwanda, Uganda step up Congo patrols
GOMA, Congo — Rebels widely believed to be backed by Rwanda and Uganda stepped up their patrols Monday of this key eastern Congo city that they seized last week, even as a midnight deadline issued by a regional bloc for them to withdraw loomed.
The M23 rebels said Monday they plan to move their headquarters to this city of 1 million later this week, another sign that they do not intend to leave by midnight. Underscoring the chaotic situation, armed rebels guarded the Central Bank of Congo while United Nations peacekeepers stood watch over a gas station. Many shops closed early on Monday and few students attended reopened schools.
The Congolese military, which suffered a humiliating defeat when it lost Goma last Sunday, was regrouping in the town of Minova, 36 miles to the south, but they appeared disorganized and not in position to launch an immediate assault on Goma.
Congolese Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo confirmed that President Joseph Kabila had met in recent days with the rebels during a mediation session in neighboring Uganda. He said that the government at this point is leaning toward “the avenue of dialogue and peace,” suggesting it is unlikely the military will try to take Goma by force if the ultimatum is not respected.
“Any action to take back the city of Goma by force will without doubt result in enormous human loss,” said Matata Ponyo in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
By wire services