Monday, August 26, 2002

Morning news from B.Globe

Bearing bottled water, cameras, and strollers, about 600,000 people descended yesterday into a cool, subterranean sliver of Boston's future. With the zeal of tourists, they snapped photographs of steel rods and hulking construction equipment, and with the attitude of true Bostonians, they pronounced judgment as soon as they re-emerged into the sunlight: The newly submerged Central Artery is a marvel. When it opens in December, the northbound side of the 11/2-mile-long tunnel will ferry vehicles beneath the streets of downtown Boston and empty them onto the soaring Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Offered the chance to walk the route before they drive it, people began lining up at 8:30 a.m. for the noon tour. Massachusetts Turnpike Authority officials had to open the tunnel 40 minutes early to relieve crowding on the streets above.

NAGCHU, Tibet When Chinese officials recently announced the laying of the first tracks in an ambitious railway project to link the restive and long-isolated people of Tibet to the rest of China, they vowed that connecting the world's highest plateau to ''the modern world'' would bring unprecedented economic opportunity. But away from the ears of government officials escorting a group of foreign journalists, Tibetans contended that the $2.4 billion initiative would only draw more Han Chinese residents, the country's dominant ethnic group, who have been migrating steadily to this area over the last decade, bringing with them karaoke bars, discos, and signs in Chinese script that most locals can't understand. ''The train is for them, so the Chinese can come here,'' said a former herder from this northern grassland region through which two-thirds of the roughly 700-mile-long railway will pass. ''They are robbing our land of precious minerals and will use the train to take them away faster. "

The number of Americans confined in jails and prisons grew by 1.3 percent last year to reach an unprecedented 1,330,980 inmates, while the total behind bars in Massachusetts remained virtually unchanged, according to state correction officials and figures released yesterday by the US Justice Department. But a closer look at the state numbers yielded little cause for optimism, according to state officials, even though the number of people in Massachusetts prisons and county jails actually dropped 0.1 percent in 2001. As the state's prison population fell 3.1 percent - a figure that looked like good news for a system that lost three lower-security prisons to budget cuts this year and which is currently running 29 percent over capacity - that drop was offset by a jump in the number of people being held in county jails for lesser crimes.

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