As of Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Detroit gets desperate
DETROIT (AP) — A judge has given Detroit the green light to cut pensions as a way out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, a decision that puts the case in the laps of thousands of retirees who had hoped that the Michigan Constitution would protect them from getting smaller checks in their golden years.
Judge Steven Rhodes said the city is eligible to stay in bankruptcy court and scrub $18 billion in debt, with about half of that amount linked to underfunded pensions and health care obligations. But he also warned officials that they’ll need to justify any deep reductions.
The case now turns to crunching numbers and trying to strike deals, although unions are pursuing an appeal. Some retirees said they felt socked by the outcome Tuesday.
“We’ll be thrown out of our homes and starving if they seriously slash our pensions. Then they’ll tell us to go to the soup lines,” said David Sole, 65, who retired from the public works department in January after 22 years and whose wife also is a city retiree. “We don’t know what they are going to take. The judge said he would not tolerate steep cuts. What’s steep?”
Mandela struggles to live
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela is not “doing well” but is continuing to put up a courageous fight from his “deathbed,” members of his family have told the South African Broadcasting Corporation in an interview.
His daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, told SABC television news: “Tata is still with us, strong, courageous. Even, for a lack of a better word ... on his ‘deathbed’ he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.
“Every moment I get with him I’m amazed. There are times where I have to pinch myself that I come from this man who is a fighter even though you can see he is struggling, but fighting spirit is still there with him.”
Mandela spent almost three months in a Pretoria hospital after being admitted in June with a recurring lung infection. The 95-year-old liberation struggle icon was discharged in September and has been receiving home-based medical attention since then.
Since June the Presidency has consistently described his condition as “critical but stable”.
Kerry to present in Mideast
JERUSALEM (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry will present the outlines of a West Bank security plan in meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, stepping up American involvement in hopes of reviving faltering Mideast peace efforts, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The proposal will mark the first time that Kerry, who was to arrive in Israel late Wednesday, has directly intervened in the talks since they began in late July. By all accounts, the negotiations have made no progress, despite an April target date for reaching a deal.
Kerry has lots riding on the outcome of the negotiations. The sides agreed to resume talks, their first substantive dialogue in five years, under heavy pressure by Kerry, and he has repeatedly shuttled to the region and held lengthy phone conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in hopes of pushing them forward.
Negotiators have said discussions touched on all key issues in the long-festering conflict, primarily Israeli security concerns and possible border arrangements between Israel and a future Palestine. But they say the talks have amounted to little more than restating positions.