News Day: NPR fear-mongering / Walgreens stiffing seniors / Michelle Minute / MN Job Watch / Around the world / more

Somali teens and NPR fear-mongering In more of the irresponsible fear-mongering that has characterized National Public Radio’s reporting on missing Somali youth, this morning’s Morning Edition story by Dina Temple Raston repeated unsubstantiated and discredited allegations that the youth will return to the U.S. to commit acts of terrorism here — and said that at least four have returned to Minneapolis and that “Now it looks like they’ve gone underground.” The damage done by such sensationalist characterizations is not balanced by the report’s admissions that “The FBI doesn’t think they are dangerous,” and that “going underground” may mean that parents are keeping the young men home and safe. Just to add the emphasis that NPR lacks, let me repeat: “The FBI doesn’t think they are dangerous.”

The report goes on to discuss secret grand jury investigations, and doesn’t let the secrecy of grand jury proceedings deter speculation about what they might be focusing on. NOTE: In contrast to National Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio has covered the on-going story without sensationalism.

Walgreens stiffing seniors The Strib’s Whistleblower confirms that Walgreens is charging Medicare and Medicaid recipients more for prescription drugs, and refuses to give them the advertised price of $1 a week on specified generic prescriptions. This means that seniors pay more for Medicare prescriptions and the government pays more for Medicaid and some Medicare prescriptions. Target, Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart pharmacies all have similar low-cost plans for a range of generic drugs, and they all allow Medicare and Medicaid patients to take advantage of their plans. The Walgreens policy came to the Strib Whistleblower’s attention when Sanford Morris, 67, of Minneapolis rang up a $196 bill for 90 days of three generic meds for high blood pressure and diabetes last July. Morris has a Medicare Advantage plan. Like Medicare prescription payment plans, his has a “doughnut hole” that requires him to pay the full cost of medications for a period of time each year.

Michelle Minute Michelle “Armed and Dangerous” Bachmann will hold two town-hall meetings on global climate change in her district, reports the St. Cloud Times. Meanwhile, in Washington, she’s charging off at the head of another crusade — this one to stop the Obama administration from replacing the dollar as legal tender in the United States. At least MN is not the only state with embarrassing elected officials – she has found 29 Congressional co-sponsors for her latest plan to stop the sky from falling.

Around the world in 90 seconds A blast in a mosque in northwest Pakistan’s killed at least 45 people on Friday. Ten people were killed in a suicide bombing in South Waziristan on Thursday.

The UN is calling for a “pause” in fighting in Sri Lanka, as government troops continue to advance against Tamil Tigers, and thousands of civilians remain trapped in the conflict zone. The UN is appealing to Tamil Tigers to allow ciilians to leave, and also expressing concern over government shelling of civilians.

BBC has two Israelis and two Egyptians reflecting on the 30th anniversary of the peace treaty between their countries.

Tough questions on Afghanistan The Obama administration is stepping up troop strength in Afghanistan again, adding 4,000 to the already-ordered 17,000 new troops due to go to this summer, according to AP, which also notes that “the top U.S. general in Afghanistan still wants about 10,000 or 11,000 additional U.S. forces next year but does not say whether Obama intends to fulfill that request now.” The Washington Post says the new troops will bring total U.S. forces to more than 60,000, with non-U.S. NATO troops adding another 32,000.

BBC predicts that the war will intensify and continue, with greater emphasis on multinational coordination and cooperation, and an effort on the part of the Obama administration to come up with a unified Afghanistan-Pakistan policy. But, says BBC, the question remains: “What, after seven years of operations, is the United States trying to achieve, and why?”

MN Job Watch T-Paw is at it again, this time telling state workers that he expects them to take 48 days off without pay during the next two years. That’s just over one month per year. According to the Strib, “state contract negotiators recently pitched the plan to AFSCME Council 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.”

“Who can pay their bills after the loss of one month’s pay,” states a message on AFSCME’s website. “Worse yet, he’d [Pawlenty] give managers the right to arbitrarily decide who gets furloughed, when they get furloughed, and for how long. That’s an invitation for the boss to play favorites. It’s also an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of AFSCME state employees who earn $37,000 on average.”

MPR talked to legislators, including Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, who said: “It’s never a good place to start bargaining with your foot on somebody’s throat. And that’s what apparently Tim Pawlenty is doing.”

Some good news at last: Andersen Windows of Bayport is calling back 180 laid-off workers. The workers, among the 560 laid off in January, will help fill the demand for energy-efficient windows created by the economic stimulus.

The Strib will “fork over as much as $325,000 to settle a long-running sexual harassment case affecting as many as 78 female mailroom workers,” reports David Brauer in MinnPost. The settlement was approved Thursday in U.S. District Court, in a case that dates back to 2005.

As LGA cuts filter down, “Nine Lakeville city employees have lost their jobs and three others have been reduced to part-time status,” and all city employees will have to take three days off without pay this year, reports the Strib.

With transparency for some The Minnesota Management and Budget office announced a new, on-line Transparency and Accountability Project for Minnesota (TAP Minnesota), claiming it “provides a powerful new way for the public to access information about state government spending.” Just one problem: the site’s information is only accessible through Internet Explorer. That leaves out all Mac users, and everybody else not using the Microsoft browser.

Red River flood update The Red River is now forecast to crest at 43 feet in Fargo – with dikes at 41 feet. MPR’s Red River Floods of 2009 covers everything from the sandbags to floodplain geology.

That other Coleman trial Okay, to be fair, Coleman is not on trial in this one. His good buddy Nasser Kaseminy is the target in the Texas trial, and the Strib reports that a deposition by the former finance chief of Kazeminy’s Texas company gave a sworn statement last week saying that Kazeminy ordered payment of $100,000 to a Minneapolis insurance agency, Hays Companies, that employed Norm Coleman’s wife, even though “he saw no evidence of Deep Marine receiving any consulting services from Hays.” The insurance company acknowledges that it received payments from Deep Marine but says none of the money went to Laurie Coleman.

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