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Kerry backs Obama’s Iraq withdrawal timetable

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kerry backs Obama’s Iraq withdrawal timetable

WASHINGTON — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said President Barack Obama has offered a “realistic timetable” for the drawdown of troops in Iraq.

The Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement last Friday that the timetable strikes an “appropriate balance” between protecting U.S. security interests and holding the Iraq government accountable for its own future.

The president announced during a speech at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that he planned to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by September 2010, while keeping a sizable U.S. force in Iraq under a new mission of training, civilian protection and counterterrorism.

Kerry said Obama was correct to leave a sufficient force in place for those purposes after the withdrawal of combat troops.

Mass. towns receive education grants

GREENFIELD, Mass. — Twelve Massachusetts school districts have been awarded grants of up to $25,000 to explore how regionalization might benefit their education systems.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration awarded the grants last Friday, saying potential regional partnerships between schools can increase efficiency by consolidating administrative services and putting more money toward classroom spending.

“This funding is meant to jumpstart a movement across the state to find ways for our smaller communities to work together, learn from one another and share expenses in a manner that makes sense fiscally and educationally,” said state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who announced the grants with Western Massachusetts legislators at a school in Greenfield.

Grant recipients include the towns of Ayer, Boxford, Greenfield, Hadley, Harwich, Holland, and Westfield, along with the Berkshire, Frontier, Mahar, Mohawk and Nauset school districts.

Hadley Superintendent Nicholas Young said he was pleased the district was selected and will work with education officials to determine how to spend the grant, which he plans to use for consolidation with the neighboring Hatfield public schools.

Officials said funding for the grants was included in the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2009 operating budget.

Mass. GOP wants state audit of Turnpike tolling

Republican lawmakers are demanding the state audit the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to see if it is mistakenly overcharging some FastLane users.

GOP leaders state Sen. Richard Tisei of Wakefield and state Rep. Brad Jones of North Reading have asked Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci for the audit after an internal Turnpike review found some FastLane users were overcharged because their cars were electronically mistaken for larger trucks.

Turnpike officials blamed the problem on outdated technology that can misread the number of axles on cars.

Tisei and Jones say they want DeNucci to determine how many times drivers have been overcharged, what’s the best way to issue refunds, and how best to prevent overcharging in the future.

(Associated Press)