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The Cities This Week: Edition 26




Photo: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Photo: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

 

Santiago de Compostela

At least 78 people have been killed in the passenger train derailment in north-western Spain on Wednesday. More than 140 were hurt, 36 seriously, after all eight carriages of the Madrid to Ferrol train came off the tracks near Santiago de Compostela. Media reports say the train may have been travelling at more than twice the speed limit around a curve. Officials say one of the train’s drivers has been put under formal investigation. It is one of Spain’s worst ever train crashes. PM Mariano Rajoy has declared three days of national mourning. “Today is a very difficult day. Today we have lived through a terrible, dramatic accident, which I fear will stay with us for a long time. “For someone from Santiago, like myself, believe me, this is the saddest Day of Saint James of my life.” Two investigations are being carried out – one judicial, the other by the investigative commission for rail accidents, under the Ministry of Public Works, Mr Rajoy added.

Cairo

Supporters of the overthrown Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi have pledged to maintain their weeks-old sit-in in east Cairo, despite the massacre of scores of their comrades by state officials on Saturday. At least 65 pro-Morsi protesters were shot dead during an eight-hour attack by police officers and armed men dressed in civilian clothes. An ambulance official said the death toll was 72; the Muslim Brotherhood said 66 had died and a further 61 were braindead in hospital. “No one’s going anywhere,” said Abdel-Rahman Daour, one of several spokespeople at the sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. “We either have freedom or we die. We’re not going to live in a country without freedom.” Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters have camped outside the mosque since late June when the president’s overthrow began to seem likely. Egypt’s interior minister has made it clear that he intends to clear Rabaa as soon as possible, and Saturday’s massacre in a nearby street was considered an attempt to intimidate the protesters.

Rio de Janeiro 

A string of organizational flaws during the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil that put him at risk and stranded thousands of visiting faithful has deepened concern about the country’s ability to host the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games. Even Rio de Janeiro’s mayor gave himself a failing grade in organizing World Youth Day, a biennial gathering of young Catholics that on Sunday drew some 3 million people to a seaside mass delivered by the pope on Copacabana beach. The city, said Eduardo Paes in a radio interview on Friday, “scored closer to zero than ten.” The big events in Brazil, including next year’s World Cup football tournament and the 2016 Olympic Games, are supposed to showcase a decade of economic growth in Latin America’s largest country and justify the first-world airs put on by many of its leaders. But slowing growth in the last two years and disgust with corruption, rising prices and the sad state of public services are leading many Brazilians to see little more than pretence behind the extravaganzas. Even as Brazilians gave Francis a rapturous reception, they were taken aback by the problems that emerged during his visit and the youth summit, an event which had been planned for two years. Catholic faithful who came from across the world faced long lines, crowded buses, faulty trains and disorganization.

New York City

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday unveiled an $18 million package of service improvements — the second time in two years that the authority has enhanced or restored service that had been cut in 2010 amid a budget shortfall. The changes include more frequent G train service on weekdays from 3 to 9 p.m., an extension of the M train to the Delancey Street-Essex Street station in Manhattan on weekends, and the return of the B37 bus service in southwest Brooklyn. Other improvements, like additional station cleaning and “better turnstile layouts” to improve the flow of foot traffic, are also planned. “For the second year in a row, the state has invested in significant enhancements and expansions to our state’s transit system that will improve the experience of the eight million commuters who use the M.T.A.,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

Tunis

Police began firing after the arrival of thousands of opposition protesters who had been attending the funeral of the assassinated secular politician Mohamed Brahmi, a Reuters reporter said. Protesters threw stones back at police and there were several injuries. Secular opposition parties are demanding the dissolution of the Parliament and the Islamist-led government. “The people want to topple the regime!” and “With our blood and with our souls we will sacrifice ourselves for the martyr!” people in the crowd shouted. “Ghannouchi, assassin, criminal,” others chanted, referring to Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party that Brahmi’s family says was behind the killing. Ghannouchi has denounced Thursday’s assassination as an attack on democracy. In a counter-demonstration, hundreds of Islamists flocked in front of the Parliament chanting slogans condemning what they called an attempted coup against democracy. The interior ministry issued a statement calling for calm. The death of secular opposition figure Brahmi, gunned down outside his Tunis home on Thursday, came months after another secular leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar attack that stoked violent protests.

Chinese cities

China’s leaders have banned the construction of government buildings for five years as part of a campaign that aims to show the ruling Communist Party is cracking down on corruption and not wasting public money. The general offices of the Communist Party’s central committee and the State Council – China’s cabinet – jointly issued the directive on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Across China, grand government buildings with oversized offices and fancy lighting are often among the most impressive buildings in their towns, often drawing disapproval from the public. President Xi Jinping has spearheaded a campaign to cut through pomp, formality and waste among senior officials that has alienated many ordinary citizens. Xinhua reported that the directive orders an “across-the-board halt” to construction of official buildings, and “glitzy” structures built as training centres, hotels or government motels.

San Francisco

What can you buy with $600,000? Apparently, WiFi for a whole lot of public parks in San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, city officials will use a $600,000 gift from Google to add free internet to 31 public parks for at least two years. The project must get approval from the city’s Planning Department as well as the Recreation and Parks Commission, but installation is anticipated to take place between November of this year and April 2014. Despite San Francisco being a major tech hub, the city is actually behind New York City and Paris in offering free WiFi in public parks. Government officials are most excited about the project’s potential as an “equalizer” for those who may not have internet at home.

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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