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News Briefs

Closing Of 60 Charter Schools Leaves Californians Scrambling

By Sam Dillon

The New York Times ORO GRANDE, Calif.

It had been a month since one of the nation’s largest charter school operators had collapsed, leaving 6,000 students with no school to attend this fall. The businessman who used $100 million in state financing to build an empire of 60 mostly storefront schools had simply abandoned his headquarters as bankruptcy loomed, refusing to take phone calls. That left Ken Larson, a school superintendent whose district licensed dozens of the schools, to clean up the mess.

“Hysterical parents are calling us, swearing and shouting,” Larson said in an interview Sept. 9. “People are walking off with assets all over the state. We’re absolutely sinking.”

The disintegration of the California Charter Academy, the largest chain of publicly financed but privately run charter schools to slide into insolvency, offers a sobering picture of what can follow. Thousands of parents were forced into a last-minute search for alternate schools, and some are still looking; many teachers remain jobless; and students’ academic records are at risk in abandoned school sites across California.

More Questions About Prison Abuse In Afghanistan

By Carlotta Gall and David Rohde

The New York Times KABUL, Afghanistan

Sgt. James P. Boland, a reserve military police soldier from Cincinnati, watched as a subordinate beat a bound Afghan prisoner, Mullah Habibullah, 30, the brother of a former Taliban commander, according to a military charge sheet released recently.

The report also said that Boland shackled an Afghan named Dilawar, chaining his hands above his shoulders, and denied medical care to the man, a 22-year-old taxi driver, whose family said he had never spent a night away from his mother and father before being taken to the U.S. air base at Bagram, 40 miles north of Kabul. The two detainees died there within a week of each other in December 2002.

Now, 21 months later, the Army has charged Boland with assault and other crimes and investigators are recommending that two dozen other American soldiers face criminal charges, including negligent homicide, or other punishments for abuses that occurred more than a year before the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.

Far from settling the cases, however, the charges raise new questions about who authorized the harsh interrogation methods used in Afghanistan and about the contradictory statements made by American military officials who, when questioned shortly after the men’s deaths, said they had died of natural causes.

Private Medicare Plans Cost More

By Robert Pear

The New York Times WASHINGTON

Members of Congress expressed concern on Thursday about new data indicating that Medicare pays private health plans more than it would cost to care for the same patients in the traditional Medicare program.

Lawmakers of both parties raised questions about the payments, which were increased under the new Medicare law to entice more private plans to participate in Medicare.

About 4.7 million of the 41 million Medicare beneficiaries, or 11.5 percent, are in health maintenance organizations and other private plans, now known as Medicare Advantage plans.

“The majority of seniors in traditional fee-for-service Medicare should not subsidize the minority of seniors in private plans,” said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine.