Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

Volt jolt

When Chevrolet touts itself as an American Revolution, this may be what the embattled car line is talking about. GM CEO Fritz Henderson claims that its November 2010 offering, the Chevrolet Volt, could earn a 230 miles per gallon city rating under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The eye-popping figure has a lot to do both with how the EPA calculates fuel efficiency and how the gasoline-electric engine on board the Volt operates. Unlike hybrid rivals like the Toyota Prius (51 mpg) or Honda Insight (41 mpg) that use batteries to assist the gas-powered engine, the Volt will be an electric car with a gas-powered generator that kicks in after 40 miles. And while power from the grid may be only a fraction of the cost of gasoline, don't expect the Volt to come cheap. GM expects the first models to be priced near $40,000.

Russian crimes

Three men previously acquitted of involvement in the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya are facing a retrial after a Moscow court refused to halt the proceedings and open a new probe. In a letter published in Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya's former paper, her children write that the retrial is "a farce whose goal is to distract the public's attention from the main question: 'Who ordered the murder?'" They allege that the Russian government is "covering up for the real killers."

The controversy follows the abduction and murder last month of outspoken human-rights activist Natalya Estemirova, 50. Her execution-style death coincided with the release of a Human Rights Watch report she helped research that called for Russian officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to be held accountable for crimes in Chechnya.

On Aug. 10 activists Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, were abducted by five gunmen from the Save the Generation office and later found shot to death in the trunk of their car. The charity works with children affected by the violence of war-torn Chechnya.

Family-based poverty fighting

New York is buying homeless families one-way tickets out of the city. Since it costs $36,000 to house a homeless family for one year in New York, city fathers are paying transportation costs of over 550 homeless families, sending them where they want to go and where they have a relative who can take them in.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the program "saves the taxpayers of New York City an enormous amount of money."Florida mayor Richard T. Crotty wrote Bloomberg and said he didn't appreciate the influx of homeless from other states: "All this does is shift someone else's budget problems onto our already cash-strapped shoulders."

But Ed Morgan, president of the Bowery Mission, one of New York's oldest homeless shelters, said reuniting families is a worthy goal. Ethnic Dominicans and Asians, for example, have less of a homelessness problem because families take care of their own, he said. While his program works on making homeless men become self-­sufficient in New York City, one of its goals is to connect them with families: "You can be cynical and say [Bloomberg's] just solving his problem by shipping them out, but if it's family-connected that's something different. I support that. I really do."

UN and U.S. first

The U.S. delegation to the UN signed on to the first binding UN treaty to include the phrase "sexual and reproductive health." While the UN has never officially defined the phrase to include abortion, in debates the phrase has been a buzzword for "abortion," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said it may include abortion. The treaty, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, condemns discrimination against the disabled and affirms their rights to life, accessibility, and full participation in society. It also requires states to provide the disabled with equal healthcare, "including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programs." The Bush administration refused to support the treaty, saying it would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The not freed

While North Korea's state media has hailed the pardon and release of U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling as a sign of the country's "humanitarian and peace-loving policy," tens of thousands of political and religious prisoners continue to languish in the country's gulags.

According to South Korean human-rights activists, North Korean authorities executed Ri Hyon Ok, 33, for distributing Bibles in June. The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity reports that the day after Ri's public execution, her parents, husband, and three children were sent to a prison camp, a tactic the regime frequently uses to eradicate the "traitor's" bad influence. Meanwhile, the fate of another Christian woman, Seo Kum Ok, 30, is unknown after North Korean authorities arrested and tortured her on spying charges. Her husband also has been arrested and their two children have disappeared.

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