Minneapolis to Somalia Leaders in the Somali and Muslim community denied that a Minneapolis mosque had anything to do with recent disappearances of young Somali men from the Twin Cities, blaming unnamed people within the local Somali community for stirring up rumors, reports Nelima Kerré in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. While the press statement, and leaders at the press conference, did not name individuals, a commenter on MPR’s website pointed the finger at Omar Jamal. Differences within the MN Somali community reflect political and clan differences in Somalia. Jamal is related to the recently-resigned Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, while the young men have allegedly gone to fight with Al-Shabab, the youth and military wing of the Union of Islamic Courts, which opposed the Ethiopian-backed government of Abdullahi Yusuf. A former leader of the UIC, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected president in January.
Around the world in 60 seconds Taking a quick look at BBC this morning:
Drug war battles in the farming town of Villa Ahumada and in a prison in Torreon (all in northern Mexico) killed 21 people on Monday, including at least six police officers executed in Villa Ahumada before the army arrived on the scene. Yesterday Mexican army troops arrested the police chief and 36 officers in Cancun, on suspicion that they were connected to the torture and execution last week of an ex-army general who had just taken charge of a crime-fighting squad targeting drug traffickers in Cancun.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has agreed to serve as Zimbabwe’s prime minister, eleven months after the presidential elections were stolen by discredited, corrupt, but still-President Robert Mugabe. Millions of Zimbabweans remain in desperate need of food and health care, and the country has been swept by a cholera epidemic.
The commander of Azerbaijan’s air force was assassinated yesterday, shot to death outside his home. Lt-Gen Rail Rzayev had headed the country’s air force since about the time of independence in the 1990s, and was deeply involved in large-scale military acquisitions in recent years. BBC: “In October 2008, the International Crisis Group described Azerbaijan’s armed forces as “fragmented, divided, accountable-to-no-one-but-the-president, un-transparent, corrupt and internally feuding”.
Tamils in diaspora are uniting in protest over government indifference to the suffering of civilians, as Sri Lanka troops continue a major offensive aimed at wiping out the rebel Tamil Tigers.
Face of People’s Bailout Joli Stokes could lose their Richfield home this year, victims of predatorylending practices. The People’s Bailout legislation proposed by MN DFL legislators is targeted at helping Minnesotans who, like Joli, face foreclosure, as well as others facing unemployment and welfare cuts, reports Madeleine Baran in the TC Daily Planet.
The legislation proposes a two-year suspension of the current five-year limit on welfare benefits for low-income families. Currently, families are cut off welfare benefits after five years. This plan would allow families an additional two years of financial support. Low-income housing advocates say that although the welfare grants are already low, an extension would prevent homelessness for many Minnesotan families. An unemployed adult with two children receives $532 in cash assistance and $413 in food support each month.
The legislation also includes a thirteen-week extension of unemployment benefits, a moratorium on foreclosures, initiatives to secure federal funds for job-creation programs, and recommendations against state worker layoffs.
Housing starts down January building permits hit a new low, reports Jim Buchta in the Strib:
The decline in construction spending has been accelerating over the past several months, evidence of just how much money is evaporating from the local economy. It affects everyone from the crews who dig foundations to the corner-store retailer that sells grass seed.
MN Job Watch MTS Systems Corp (Eden Prairie) will cut 150 jobs, writes Liz Fedor in the Strib. The cuts represent about six percent of the MTS work force. In New Hope, 70 workers at HD Bath and Remodeling will be out of work on April 1, writes Jackie Crosby in the Strib in a ripple effect from Home Depot’s decision to shut down smaller home improvement brands.
On the national front, General Motors announced Monday that it will cut 10,000 salaried workers. The NYT reports that the cuts come a month after buyout offers to the hourly workforce and three months after 5,100 jobs were cut. GM sales fell 11 percent in 2008. And, while Wal-Mart has generally profited during the recession, the Strib publishes an AP report that the retail giant is cutting 700-800 jobs at its Arkansas HQ.
Just what we need A huge high-voltage power line is marching toward MN, reports the Strib, at least if ITC Holdings Corp gets its way. The company wants to build a 3,000-mile, 765,000-volt, $12 billion “Green Power Express” line to take wind-generated electricity from the west to population centers like Chicago.
The bailout plan Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced a bailout that most commentators found confusing, and that investors found depressing, judging by the dive in the Dow Jones and Nasdaq, reported in the Washington Post and similar downturns in European markets, attributed to the bailout announcement by BBC. In a nutshell, the $1.5 trillion plan would “would more closely scrutinize the risks banks are facing and offer public and private capital to those that need it; create a fund, with a starting value of $500 billion, to buy up toxic real estate loans; and commit up to $1 trillion to reopen lending markets for consumer, student, small business, auto and commercial loans,” according to WaPo.
Paul Krugman quips that he was going to call the plan TANF 2 —” temporary assistance to needy financial institutions, without, you know, any of the means-testing or work requirements involved when poor people get help.” He says it’s hard to tell what the plan means at this point.
Salting 10,000 lakes A U of M study finds that hundreds of thousands of tons of road salt goes into area wetlands, ground water and lakes, reports the Strib. Well, where did you think it was going?
Schools slash spending St. Paul schools will cut 265 positions for 2009-2010, but board member John Brodrick warned that “this is not the end,” reports Doug Belden in the PiPress. The budget will be finalized in June, and school board members will meet the public at a “listening session” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hubbs Center at 1030 W. University Ave.
The Anoka-Hennepin school board decided to “lay off scores of teachers, reduce its textbook purchases, cut one day off the school calendar and scale back bus services to climb out of a $15.8 million budget hole,” reports Norman Draper in the Strib.
Recount – maybe some movement? The court told the Coleman and Franken lawyers to “streamline proceedings,” reports Chris Steller in MnIndy.