Medvedev sets Russian parliamentary election for December
MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday set a Dec. 4 date for a parliamentary election that will almost certainly be dominated by the ruling United Russia party and will set the stage for a presidential election early next year.
But Medvedev’s announcement was overshadowed by the continuing political intrigue between him and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, over which of them will run for president.
The three minority parties in Parliament — the Communists, the Liberal Democrats and A Just Russia — have had little impact in the 450-seat Duma, the lower house of Parliament, where United Russia holds a two-thirds majority.
In past contests the ruling party has taken nothing for granted, and it is expected to use all the levers of power to ensure that it maintains the margin that has allowed it to pass legislation at will.
“I would very much like our next Duma to reflect the political preferences of the largest possible number of citizens,” Medvedev told the leaders of registered parties gathered at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
—Seth Mydans, The New York Times
Wireless phone networks stood up well to Irene
Wireless phone networks held up well against Irene despite widespread losses of power.
Even in cases where people were without power, many were still able to communicate using email and social networks, thanks to battery-powered mobile devices.
As cleanup crews and home owners began to assess the scope of the storm’s damage Sunday, wireless phone companies were reporting that the storm’s effect on their networks was minimal and that most customers did not experience cellular disruptions, despite the high winds and ferocious rains. The wireless providers said the full extent might not be known until after Irene moved offshore.
The Federal Communications Commission, which activated the Disaster Information Reporting System, an online tool that helps the organization gather information and assess the breadth of damage to the country’s communications networks, is still gauging the extent of the disruptions. It said Sunday that no 9-1-1 center was without service and that it had received no reports of public safety communications disruptions.
Late Sunday afternoon, Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, said that a handful of radio sites and thousands of wire lines went down during the storm, leaving 132,000 landline subscribers without service. The majority of those were in North Carolina and Virginia.
—Jenna Wortham and Joshua Brustein, The New York Times
Storm’s push north leaves punishing inland flooding
CHESTER, Vt. — While most eyes warily watched the shoreline during Hurricane Irene’s grinding ride up the East Coast, it was inland — sometimes hundreds of miles inland — where the most serious damage actually occurred. And the major culprit was not wind but water.
Here in southern Vermont, normally pretty towns and villages were digging out from thick mud and piles of debris that Sunday’s floodwaters left behind. With roughly 250 roads and a number of bridges closed off, many residents remained stranded in their neighborhoods; others could not get to grocery stores, hospitals or work.
In upstate New York, houses were swept from their foundations and one woman drowned Sunday when an overflowing creek submerged the cottage where she was vacationing. Flash floods continued to be a concern into Monday afternoon. In the Catskill Mountains, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo led a helicopter tour of suffering towns, cars were submerged, crops ruined and roads washed out. In tiny, hard-hit Prattsville, what looked like a jumble of homes lay across a roadway, as if they had been tossed like Lego pieces.
“We were very lucky in the city, not quite as lucky on Long Island, but we were lucky on Long Island,” Cuomo said. “But Catskills, mid-Hudson, this is a different story and we paid a terrible price here, and many of these communities are communities that could least afford to pay this kind of price. So the state has its hands full.”
—Abby Goodnough and Danny Hakim, The New York Times
Amid Syrian raids, reports of desertions
BEIRUT — Syrian security forces raided several towns and cities across Syria on Monday, in the latest assault to crush dissent against the rule of President Bashar Assad, residents and activists said.
The operations, which included towns in western, northern and central Syria, killed at least six people and wounded dozens, they said.
Troops, backed by tanks and armored vehicles, surrounded Rastan, a town near Homs in central Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group. Activists said at least one person was killed. Activists also said five people were killed in Sarmin in the northwestern area of Idlib, when security forces opened fire at residents during search operations.
At the same time, there were reports that dozens of soldiers, possibly encouraged by the rout in Libya of Moammar Gadhafi, had deserted their positions in a village near Homs, the country’s third-largest city, and also on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, to join the five-month-old popular uprising against Assad and his Baath Party.
Activists said that since the uprising started in mid-March, most such desertions have taken place in the eastern tribal area of Deir al-Zour, bordering Iraq; in the northwestern province of Idlib; and in towns around Homs and Damascus.
The Free Officers of Syria, a group of soldiers and officers who left the army last month in protest of the crackdown and say they now represent defectors, published an online statement saying that “large” defections were reported in Harasta, another suburb of Damascus and that armed troops loyal to the government were chasing those defectors.
—Nada Bakri, The New York Times