Stinky flower ready to bloom
A giant exotic plant that has not bloomed in the Northeast in more than 60 years is ready to flower at the University of Connecticut's greenhouses in Storrs. The "corpse flower" has the odor of 3-day-old road kill, and UConn botanists couldn't be more excited.
Once open, the spiked, bright red bloom even resembles rotting meat, a veritable welcome mat for the insects that pollinate it -- flies and carrion beetles.
"It looks like something has died. It smells like something has died. It has some of the same chemicals that dead bodies produce," UConn research assistant Matthew Opel said.
The plant is expected to blossom in the next five to six days. Until it blooms, it's almost odorless. Already at 4 feet high, the flower could reach more than 6 feet high and at least that wide when it opens up.
The UConn flower will be the seventh to bloom nationwide since 1999, although it's the first in New England and the second in the Northeast since 1937.
Cocaine indictments should reduce supply
They are the "modern-day 'Pirates of the Caribbean,"' law enforcement officials said, and on Wednesday more than 50 drug traffickers from seven countries were under indictment as a multinational task force announced it had broken the Caribbean's biggest cocaine connection.
Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft said two trafficking organizations targeted in the indictments supplied 10 percent of the cocaine sold on U.S. streets, or enough to provide a monthly dose to every adult and high school student in the country.
John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the indictments and arrests would soon be felt on the street. "In the next 12 months, there will be reductions in the availability of cocaine in the United States -- something we haven't seen in a decade," he said.
New York City
Mayor proposes housing for homeless
Warning that record numbers of homeless threaten to overwhelm New York's budget, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday announced an ambitious new five-year plan to house more families and provide housing with support staff for homeless adults who suffer mental illness.
His plan would build 12,000 apartments, replete with social services, for homeless adults. It proposes to pour money into rental subsidies for homeless families and to provide anti-eviction legal services in the six New York neighborhoods that produce a quarter of all the city's homeless families.
In the past four years alone, the daily census of homeless families in the shelters has spiraled upward, from 23,712 to 38,310. City spending on the homeless has doubled in the past five years, to $700 million.
Bloomberg has earmarked $12 million to seed the new programs, but his aides acknowledge the eventual cost will run into tens of millions of dollars. His proposal rests, in part, on federal housing programs that the Bush administration has proposed slashing.