October 31, 2005 in Nation/World

Philadelphia transit strike strands city

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 

Philadelphia Thousands of city transit workers went on strike just after midnight, leaving nearly half a million commuters in need of alternate transportation today.

Buses, trolleys and subways operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will be idled, although commuter rails are expected to remain in service since those employees have a different union contract.

City preparations for the strike include setting up extra bicycle racks and allowing more parking. City schools, which don’t provide bus service for high school students, plan to remain open but could reconsider if there is a prolonged strike.

Negotiations had been ongoing most of the weekend but broke off around midnight. Wages, work rules and health care were the main issues in dispute. No new talks are scheduled between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents about 5,000 employees, said union spokesman Bob Bedard.

The mass transit system shutdown is vital to mobility in a city where one in three households lacks a car. On a typical weekday, 920,000 trips are taken on the lines shut down by the strike.

Iran’s reformers denounce president

Tehran, Iran Pro-democracy reformers denounced Iran’s hard-line president Sunday for calling for Israel’s annihilation, saying it harmed the country’s international standing.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Israel is a “disgraceful blot” that should be “wiped off the map,” prompting international condemnation and an Israeli demand Iran be expelled from the United Nations.

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad said his comments represented Iran’s long-standing policy toward the Jewish state enunciated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, said.

But former reformist president Mohammad Khatami criticized Ahmadinejad, saying “those words have created hundreds of political and economic problems for us in the world,” IRNA said.

It was the first time in a quarter century that there was a clear-cut rift over a major policy position drawn up by Khomeini.

Search ends for survivors of Indian train accident

Veligonda, India Naval boats searched for bodies Sunday as rescuers gave up on finding more survivors from a train that plunged into a rain-swollen river in southern India, killing at least 111 people, officials said.

The accident occurred early Saturday in the town of Veligonda in Andhra Pradesh state after flash floods washed away a portion of the track.

By Sunday afternoon, rescuers had pulled out all survivors and dead bodies trapped in seven cars that derailed along with the train’s engine, said J. P. Batra, chairman of the railway board. Rescuers on naval boats searched for bodies that were washed away from the scene, said K. Jana Reddy, the home minister of Andhra Pradesh state.

He ruled out any new survivors. At least 11 bodies were found downstream overnight.

Halloween fun ends with more than 400 arrests

Madison, Wis. A weekend of Halloween celebrations popular with college students resulted in more than 400 arrests, and police used bursts of pepper spray early Sunday to break up crowds of revelers.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz suggested canceling the annual gathering. The downtown party near the University of Wisconsin-Madison attracts college students from across the Midwest, and has turned chaotic in the past. Last year, 455 were arrested.

Police used officers on horseback early Sunday to move chanting and beverage-tossing revelers off State Street, a mile-long stretch of bars, restaurants and shops. The pepper spray was used after cups filled with beverages and ice were thrown at officers.

Most arrests were for alcohol-related offenses, including underage drinking, said Lt. Pat Malloy. He said the local detoxification center was filled to capacity, and some people had to be taken to emergency rooms.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email