Two stories in the news today would be oddly out of place (and quite unbelievable) during just about any other period in world history, but, here in 2011, they just seem to be more evidence of what is heard more and more these days – “we live in interesting times”.
First, from Detroit, this CNN/Money story tells how the local government has taken another step toward finding a long-term solution for a decades long decline in population and a more recent development – a growing budget deficit.
Michigan approves plan to close half of Detroit schools
In an effort to close a yawning budget deficit, Michigan has approved a proposal to drastically shrink Detroit’s troubled school system over the next few years.
The plan calls for the closure of 70 schools, which would cut the number of schools in the district in half by 2014, leaving only 72 public schools in Detroit. The closures would be on top of the 59 that were shuttered last year. As a result, high school class sizes would jump to 60 students each over the next few years.
And, in Saudi Arabia, the AP reports that the royal family is about to spend billions of dollars in the hope that what is now happening in Libya never happens in their desert kingdom.
Saudi opens its wallet to stave off protests
As Saudi Arabia’s 86-year-old monarch returned home from back surgery, his government tried to get ahead of potential unrest in the oil-rich country Wednesday by announcing an unprecedented economic package that will provide Saudis interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance and sweeping debt forgiveness.
The total cost was estimated at 135 billion Saudi riyals ($36 billion), but this was not largesse. Saudi Arabia clearly wants no part of the revolts and bloodshed sweeping the already unsettled Arab world.
Once again, “you don’t know whether to laugh or cry” after reading things like this – another phrase that seems to roll easily off of the tongues of a lot of people these days.