News Day: Doing the recount math / Autism in Somali kids / Secret U.S. assassination squads / High school sports money / more

If you’re reading this … then the mega-worm has not killed the internet yet.

Doing the math Let’s see — if Al Franken leads by about 225 votes, and the court has ordered another 400 ballots opened and counted, where does that leave Norm Coleman? Probably beating the bushes for money to finance endless appeals. To outpoll Franken, The Norm would have to win more than 300 of the 400 ballots, which seems highly unlikely. Counting day — April 7.

Autism in Somali kids in MN The percentage of Somali pre-schoolers receiving autism services in Minneapolis was as much as seven times higher than non-Somali children from 2005-2008, according to a Minnesota Department of Health study. The MN Health Department is cautious about characterizing their findings, according to MPR:

Magnan says the finding does not prove there’s an increased incidence of autism in the Somali population.

“It could mean they’re being referred more often to the Minneapolis special education parts. It could mean that other children are not being referred as much,” said Magnan.

Idil Abdull, mother of an autistic child, says the Somali community wonders whether there are environmental or genetic explanations, especially since autism is virtually unknown in Somalia. She is one of the founders of the Somali American Autism Foundation.

Home prices plunge Twin Cities home prices fell 20% in January 2008, compared to January 2009, and that’s the biggest annual decline ever recorded, reports Jennifer Bjorhus in the Strib.

MN Job Watch – 3M After cutting 2,400 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 1,200 in 2009, with several hundred job cuts coming in MN.

Now, there’s a novel idea Steve Perry speculates in MinnPost that what’s good for General Motors could be good for the banks. With President Obama counseling that helping GM and Chrysler “may mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger,” why not try a little bankruptcy medicine on banks? “Take the pain now,” urges Perry, “toss out the discredited management regime; get the bad debt off the books; and get on with the future.” (And, speaking of bankruptcy, the Chicago Sun-Times just succumbed, done in by big operating losses.)

President Obama’s message to automakers has been variously characterized as by WaPo, as “tough love” by Politico, and as “hard line” by NPR’s Planet Money. Read it in full and judge for yourself.

Food, immigration and justice Muslim dietary restrictions. Kashrut – moving beyond food to justice. Immigration and food sustainability from a Christian perspective. Katherine Glover found it all coming together at a conference last week, where Reginald Haslett-Marroquin explained his organization’s work: “We’re not growing chickens; we’re growing ideas,” Haslett-Marroquin said. “We’re growing infrastructure.”

And the winner is – not the kids KSTP’s Matthew McNeill offers “a big congratulations to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) for finally achieving what seems to be its main goal: having a vast majority of the state high-school sports championships go to a handful of suburban and private schools.” McNeill wants changes in rules that foster cash-driven hyper-competitiveness.

It’s easy to see what’s pushed this: money. With the amount parents spend to train kids from a young age (from personal trainers to numerous camps) and with the amount of money in certain high-school athletic departments (some have the equivalent of a Division I-A college training facility), there is a demand by the athletic boosters to get results. I am not accusing anyone at the MSHSL of fixing the outcome of any games, but they have created a system that at best gives certain schools an advantage, and at worst is outright biased.

Secret U.S. assassination squads Eric Black had the story first, and the Seymour Hersh assassination squad story keeps growing and gaining verification. You may recall that Seymour Hersh, speaking at the U of M three weeks ago, “pretty much accused Vice President Dick Cheney of supervising a team of assassins.” Now two Cheney aides have basically confirmed the story:

Two high-ranking former aides to Cheney denied there was anything to it, then proceeded to confirm almost all of Hersh’s key claims. Yes, the Cheney-ites said, the U.S. does compile and maintain a list of names of people, presumably connected to terrorist activities, whom the U.S. is trying to kill, starting with Osama bin Laden. Yes, there are military units who are authorized to kill them. Really, the only issues on which they differ is whether such targeted killings should be called “assassinations,” whether Congress should have oversight over such activites, and whether there is anything wrong with it.

Democracy Now has a wide-ranging interview with Hersh today, in which he notes that the assassinations included targets in a number of countries, including Latin America.

State shutdown ahead? Steve Perry and Sarah Janecek offer two takes on talk of a MN government shutdown over at Politics in Minnesota. Bottom line for Janecek: Pawlenty will never agree to tax increases and no House Republicans will vote to override a veto this year. The DFL can override a veto in the Senate, but is three votes short of override in the House. That leaves open the possibility of limping through one special session after another until the 2010 session begins (with the same deadlock there.) Perry says DFLers hope that Pawlenty might go along with a temporary income tax surcharge, and that “most DFL members don’t want a collision–which probably bodes ill for their side when it arrives.”

Wet weather, low farm prices With planting already looking to be late because of a wet spring, MN farmers are also facing sharply lower grain prices, reports MPR.

“Last year at this time, you had sharply higher prices. I think in February-March what were we dealing with – $16 to $18-$19 wheat futures. So you’re going to put crop wherever you can,” said [grain analyst Mark Schultz with Northstar Commodity]. “Now it’s not nearly as attractive, $5.95 to six dollars a bushel for wheat.”

Corn prices have also fallen off a cliff after a brief fling at profitability.

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