- After years of stymied efforts to address the nation's aging and congested highways and transit systems, Congress found the sweet spot for passage yesterday-a 5-year, $305 billion bill laden with enough industry favors, parochial projects, safety improvements and union demands to gain overwhelming support.
The bill was approved 359-65 in the House, and 83-16 in the Senate. The bill now goes to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The bill boosts highway and transit spending and assures states that federal help will be available for major projects. It doesn't include as much money or last quite as long as many lawmakers and the Obama administration would have liked. Nor does it resolve how to pay for transportation programs in the long term.
- The number of U.S. police officers charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings has tripled this year - a sharp increase that at least one expert says could be the result of more video evidence.
In the past, the annual average was fewer than five officers charged. In the final weeks of 2015, that number has climbed to 15, with 10 of the cases involving video.
"If you take the cases with the video away, you are left with what we would expect to see over the past 10 years - about five cases," said Philip Stinson, the Bowling Green State University criminologist who compiled the statistics from across the nation. "You have to wonder if there would have been charges if there wasn't video evidence."
The importance of video was highlighted last week with the release of footage showing a Chicago officer fatally shooting a teenager 16 times. The officer said he feared for his life from the teen, who was suspected of damaging cars using a small knife.
He also had a powerful hallucinogen in his bloodstream.
"This had all the trappings of a life-threatening situation for a law-enforcement officer-PCP-laced juvenile who had been wreaking havoc on cars with a knife," said Joseph Tacopina, a prominent New York defense attorney and former prosecutor who has represented several police officers. "Except you have the video that shows a straight-out execution."
- As British jets opened airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Germany prepared to send troops and aircraft to the region, Russia's president called on the world yesterday to brandish "one powerful fist" in the fight against terrorism.
Yet even as international efforts to defeat the extremists grew, animosity between Russia and Turkey only intensified.
Hours after Britain's Parliament authorized military action in Syria, its Tornado warplanes struck oil fields in eastern Syria that help finance ISIS. "This strikes a very real blow at the oil and the revenue on which the Daesh terrorists depend," Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Both the U.S.-led coalition and Russian warplanes have struck the extremists' oil facilities and Russia has drawn heated international attention to the issue by accusing Turkish authorities of profiting from oil trade with IS - allegations Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly denied.