World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Stimulus May Do Little to Develop High-Speed Rail Projects

It may be the longest train delay in history: More than 40 years after the first bullet trains began zipping through Japan, the United States still lacks true high-speed rail. And despite the record $8 billion investment in high-speed rail added at the last minute to the new economic stimulus package, that may not change any time soon.

That money will not be enough to pay for a single bullet train, transportation experts say. And by the time the $8 billion gets divided among the 11 regions across the country that the government has designated as high-speed rail corridors, they say, it is unlikely to do much beyond paying for long-delayed improvements to passenger lines and making a modest investment in California’s plan for a true bullet train.

In the short term, the money — which was inserted into the stimulus bill at the 11th hour by the White House — could put people to work improving tracks and crossings and signal systems.

That could help more trains reach speeds of 90 to 110 mph, which is much faster than they currently go. It is much slower, however, than high-speed trains in other parts of the world, such as the 180 mph of the newest Japanese bullet train. (Even the Acela trains on the East Coast are capable of 150 mph, though they average around half that.)

A 2nd Inquiry Hits UBS, Pressed For 52,000 Names

The UBS memo was blunt: The “Swiss solution” could help affluent Americans.

That message, sent to the bank’s executives in July 2004, referred to a UBS plan to help rich customers evade taxes by hiding money in offshore havens like the Bahamas.

The memo, along with dozens of e-mail messages like it, were disclosed on Thursday in a blistering court document filed by the Justice Department, which sought to compel UBS, based in Switzerland, to divulge the identities of 52,000 Americans whom the authorities suspect of using secret offshore accounts at the bank to dodge taxes.

The move came one day after UBS agreed to pay $780 million to settle claims that it defrauded the Internal Revenue Service and opened a new, unexpected front against the bank and Switzerland’s long tradition of banking secrecy.

More Charities Seeking Bankruptcy Protection

On Tuesday, the board of Glass Youth and Family Services in Los Angeles voted to file for bankruptcy protection, unable to overcome falling state reimbursements, rising costs and dwindling donations.

“We did everything we could to keep going,” said Teresa DeCrescenzo, executive director of the organization, which offers social services to gay, lesbian and transgender youth.

Charities rarely go bankrupt, although there have been scattered examples involving nonprofit hospitals and Catholic dioceses facing lawsuits stemming from the priest sexual abuse scandals. Traditionally, insolvent organizations have simply closed their doors and filed a plan of dissolution with the charity regulator in their state.

But in the last six months, nonprofit groups that include cultural institutions and social service agencies have filed to reorganize or liquidate themselves under the bankruptcy code.

While no one has compiled data on how many charities have turned to the courts for protection, experts in the field say it has become more common as nonprofits have been pressured by donors to operate more like businesses.