High-speed rail: Gov. Jerry Brown said last week that he would formally request that the Legislature approve the start of a controversial California high-speed rail line now estimated to cost $98.5 billion, a sum that dwarfs the state’s total budget. Voters approved the project in 2008, but the number of critics and opponents has grown along with estimates for the cost of the Los Angeles–to–San Francisco leg, which has ballooned to three times the original estimate. California is seeking $3.3 billion in federal grants and $2.7 billion in state bonds to begin the initial 140-mile segment of track through Central Valley farmland, from Chowchilla to Bakersfield. Brown insisted that the cost of the project would be manageable over time, “based on an optimistic assessment of where California is going.” Critic and blogger Ed Morrissey said that state and U.S. taxpayers would be left with “track laid between two population centers that won’t produce any significant transportation demand on their own.”
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Walker recall drive begins: The drive to force a recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker officially kicked off this week. Democrats, labor supporters, and other opponents of Walker fanned out across the state in an attempt to gather the 540,208 signatures required by Jan. 17 to trigger a recall election. Walker’s successful move to curb the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions prompted a backlash that led to months of protest at the Capitol and recall campaigns against several Republican state lawmakers. His opponents were heartened by this week’s poll results showing that 58 percent of respondents, including a growing number of Republicans, believe Walker should be recalled, compared with 47 percent in April. The governor launched his counterattack with a TV ad, in which he defends his record while the words “Recall: No” appear on the screen. “I think it’s important for people to hear my positive vision,” he said.
Cain’s Libya stumble: Herman Cain’s foundering bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency took another blow this week when he badly fumbled a response to a question about his position on President Obama’s Libya policy. During a videotaped interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board, Cain responded after 10 seconds of silence, “President Obama supported the uprising, correct?” He then disagreed with the president, reconsidered, and added, “I’ve got all this stuff twirling around in my head.” A video of the gaffe went viral, leading critics to question his lack of experience on the national stage. In the interview Cain surprised his supporters when he said he would grant public employees the right to bargain collectively, leading conservative columnist Michelle Malkin to write him off as “just not ready for prime time.”
New York City
Zuccotti Park cleared: New York police this week dismantled the Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park and arrested some 140 protesters following a surprise early morning raid. Police officers in riot gear assembled near the barricades at the perimeter to the park, and within an hour began a carefully planned military-style raid that swept the area clear of protesters and their belongings. Jolted by the surprise raid, the protesters scattered, but their leaders filed suit in court the next day to be permitted to continue the occupation. Judge Michael Stallman ruled against them, allowing them the right to gather and demonstrate but not to sleep in the park or pitch tents. The removal of the original occupation campsite in New York, as well as ones in Oakland, Calif., and Denver, has led to questions about the ability of the 99 percenters to adapt. “I think the movement has shown it transcends geography,” said Han Shan, an Occupy Wall Street activist.
Gunshots at the White House: Police this week arrested a man accused of firing a semiautomatic rifle at the White House. Two bullets struck the president’s residence on Friday evening, prompting an extensive U.S. Secret Service manhunt in the Washington, D.C., area. Oscar Ortega-Hernandez was detained by law-enforcement officers five days later in a hotel near Indiana, Pa. The alleged gunman, 21, is believed to have been in the capital for several weeks before the shooting. He is reported to have a history of mental instability and an arrest record in three states. U.S. Park Police said he had spent time with Occupy D.C. protesters but was not linked to any radical organizations. President Obama, who is currently on a tour of Australia and Asia, was not at the White House at the time of the shooting.
Immigration protest: Thirteen protesters, most of them activists from out of state, were arrested this week during dramatic demonstrations against the state’s strict new immigration law, which allows police to check immigration status during routine traffic stops. A crowd of 100 mostly Hispanic and college-age protesters chanted, “No papers, no fear,” and a group sat in the middle of a street near the Capitol in an act of civil disobedience. A group of 20 protesters marched to the office of state Sen. Scott Beason, who was a vocal proponent of the law. Beason did not meet with the protesters but told reporters, “My intention is to enforce what’s already in place in federal law.” The rally was organized by a group calling for passage of the DREAM Act, a federal law that would allow a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who attend college or enroll in the military.
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