News Day: Norm or Nobody / Scare stories: Nuts and worms / G-What? / Hungry in MN / Listen to Grandma / more

Norm or Nobody Republican Senator John ornyn is now threatening “World War III” and years of federal appeals if The Norm isn’t given the senatorial seat that he pretty clearly has not won. The GOP is forging ahead with a dog-in-the-manger strategy that indefinitely denies Minnesota a second Senator. That’s all to the benefit of Senate Republicans trying to block Obama administration initiatives, of course. While T-Paw spokesperson Brian McClung acknowledges that the MN Supreme Court says an election certificate “could” be issued after the state court process is complete, he says “a question will arise” about issuing a certificate if state court appeals are followed by federal court appeals.

Meanwhile, Media Matters asks: “Norm Coleman’s a sore loser. Why won’t the press say so? … Is there any point along Coleman’s unprecedented litigious path at which the press will apply the same standard to a Republican that it applied to [Democrat Al Gore]?”

Scare stories: Nuts and worms Don’t eat the pistachios! And watch out for the April Fool’s Day worm! Silly as they sound, both warnings are for real, as pistachios are the latest salmonella vector and Windows computers worldwide may be targeted by a new worm set to wake up on April 1. The PiPress reports that the new computer worm is known as Conficker or Downadup. Symantec says it’s no joke: “Given the extent of the threat, this is an organized group.” Symantec thinks one to two million computers are affected, while Shavlik estimates 10 million.

Ghostnet A giant cyberspy network based in China sneaked a peek at 1,300 government and business computers in more than 100 countries over the past two years, according to Information Warfare Monitor, a group of experts from an Ottawa think tank and the University of Toronto. The Dalai Lama appeared to be the target at first, NPR reports , but the Ghostnet cyber-spy operation has a much wider scope and continues to acquire about 12 new computers each week.

G-What? G20, the world’s 20 big-shot countries, published draft communique that Baseline Scenario finds unintentionally humorous in its bland lies:

[The communique says that] “each of us commits to candid, even-handed, and independent IMF surveillance of our economies and financial sectors, of the impact of our policies on others, and of risks facing the global economy …”

Major countries have never allowed this and never will, despite a long tradition of such statements … Asserting something blandly in a communique does not make it true, but it does – amazingly – often convince much of the media to applaud politely.

The G20 meeting starts Thursday, and the BBC has a quick overview here.

Hungry in MN The latest report by Hunger Solutions Minnesota shows foodshelf use rising dramatically across the state. An earlier report from the Wilder Foundation detailed increasing housing cost burdens, and a TC Daily Planet article today details the hard choices forced on families paying more than 40% of their income for rent.

The Strib reports that more Minnesotans are slipping through the public safety net, with the number of families receiving cash assistance dropping by 20 percent in the past five years, while the number living in poverty rose by 20 percent during the same time. The number of Minnesotans on MinnesotaCare has dropped by 25 percent, as the number without any medical insurance rises. Front-line service providers report signs of “social trauma.” Bedbugs are a leading indicator according to MN Visiting Nurse Nancy Hickerson: “People get tossed out of their apartments by foreclosure and end up crowding into substandard housing with roaches, which you can kind of control, and bedbugs, which you can’t.”

A commentary in MinnPost aptly describes the “new face of hunger” for people sliding down the economic ladder:

They are often middle-aged people who have been turning their thoughts toward retirement in the next 5 to10 years. They never would have believed they were going to be in this position. They grew up without ever thinking, “I need help.” They never knew anything about food shelves. Their family, when they were growing up, did well and lived comfortably.

Pakistan: Three points Paramilitary troops attacked and captured the police academy in the Punjabi state near Lahore, and at least eighteen police and attackers died before the building was re-taken eight hours later. The academy reportedly had 850 cadets in training – no small target. Three points to ponder:

• “The style of the attack also appeared to signal a significant escalation in the efforts by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to destabilize Pakistan at its very heart, rather than at the fringes in the tribal areas, ” according to the NYT. BBC confirms that the Pakistani Taliban has claimed credit for the attack, saying it was “in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US,” which have killed about 300 people since August.

• The state of Punjab has been under central government control since President Zardari removed chief minister Shahbaz Shairf on February 26. Sharif, the brother of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, was returned to office by court order yesterday.

• The Washington Post identifies three armed Islamist groups — Lashkar-i-Taiba, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jaish-i-Muhammad — inside Pakistan, and quotes Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani American military expert in DC:

“The army is overstretched, so we have to start dealing with the causes of militancy — the vast gap between rich and poor, the lack of governance — that Pakistan has neglected for so long.”

Meanwhile, on the official war front Delegates from more than 70 countries are meeting in The Hague to talk about “reconstruction” in Afghanistan. The U.S. is there, of course, and unlikely allies include Russia (“ready to participate in the efforts directed at putting things in order”) and Iran, promising to help stop the Afghan drug trade, while insisting that “the presence of foreign forces has not improved things in the country.”

Listen to Grandma 91-year-old Irene Long wants a free fishing license. She testified before the MN Senate committee, showing them a 54-inch muskie that she caught, released, and hopes to catch again. The committee is considering a bill to give free fishing licenses to Minnesotans over the age of 90. The DNR says that 937 fishing licenses were issued to people 90 or older last year, and that the measure would cost the state about $16,000 a year.

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