News Day: St. Paul school closings, superintendent double-dipping? / House going to the dogs / On Xcel pond / War dispatches / more

St. Paul school closings Roosevelt, on the city’s West Side; Longfellow, near Merriam Park; and Sheridan, on the East Side would close under a new SPPS plan, reports the PiPress. The Sheridan building could be repurposed for other programs, but the other two buildings would be shuttered. Like Minneapolis, St. Paul plans to revise school missions and decrease busing, moving more children into community schools. The proposal is scheduled for a school board vote in June, and two public meetings will be held May 12 at Central High School and May 28 at Harding High School.

Double dipping for Carstarphen? Although Meria Carstarphen is still St. Paul Schools Superintendent – and on the payroll – she has already been paid $16,000 for 16 days of work in Austin, plus another $1,500 for travel, reports MPR. She’s getting $1,000 a day as a consulting fee for days worked in Austin, but will continue on St. Paul’s payroll until the end of this school year.

House going to the dogs DFL Rep. Frank Hornstein is pushing a bill that would require written warnings to be posted where cocoa bean mulch is sold, warning that it can be deadly for dogs. Delano Republican Tom Emmer said he did not think dogs could read the signs. Fellow Republican Dean Urdahl, whose German shorthair pointer became ill after eating cocoa bean mulch, spoke for the bill. Republican Joe Hoppe of Chaska worried about “government overreach,” apparently feeling he could take care of his own golden lab. After much debate, the bill finally passed.

On Xcel pond Although the House passed a bill with provisions for “The Pond” in St. Paul, T-Paw may still kill it.

The final $262 million bill passed 74-57 and wipes off the books more than $32 million of a state loan that helped build St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. Those funds would be redirected to pay for “The Pond,” a new $30 million to $35 million hub for both pro and amateur hockey and figure skating. … Under a deal struck with the Legislature in the late 1990s, the city was on the hook for part of the cost of building the Xcel Center.

More Vietnam-era vets falling ill The Minneapolis VA Medical Center has seen a doubling of new disability claims from Vietnam-era vets from 2004 to 2008, from 6,800 to nearly 15,000 patients a year, reports the Strib. Minnesota numbers mirror a national trend. While some may be driven by the economic recession seek free medical care for service-related ills, others are suffering delayed effects attributed to Agent Orange, ranging from cancer and nerve disorders to Type II diabetes.

“Most folks walked off the battlefield in one piece and felt ‘OK, I made it,’ ” [John] Rowan, [president of Vietnam Veterans of America] said. “What they didn’t know was there was a whole lot of stuff that would come up and bite them in the butt 40 years later.”

War dispatches Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing their homes in the SWAT valley, as the peace deal between the Taliban and the government falls apart. Renewed fighting began in Mingora on Tuesday night. According to NPR, the Pakistani government expects half a million refugees to flee from the 90% Taliban-controlled area. Meanwhile, AP reportes that special ambassador Richard Holbrooke told a congressional committee that Pakistan is not a failed state.

NYT: U.S. bombing raids during heavy fighting in western Afghanistan have killed many civilians, including women and children. Outraged villagers say the actual number is 70-100, thought the Red Cross so far has been able to verify only about 30 civilian deaths. According to the NYT, “The bombardment could be the largest case of civilian casualties since an attack on the village of Azizabad in western Afghanistan last year, in which United Nations officials said there was convincing evidence that 90 civilians were killed.”

In Iraq, at least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded in a market bombing in a Sunni area of southern Baghdad, BBC reports. The bombing continues April’s bloody pattern, when 355 Iraqis, 80 Iranian pilgrims, and 18 U.S. soldiers were killed.

National/World Headlines

BBC: In Brazil, severe floods have driven about 180,000 people from their homes in eight states in the north and north-east of Brazil and at least 15 have been killed.

BBC: Ultra-right radio commentator Michael Savage is the first American banned in Britain for fostering extremism or hate. He is known for offensive comments on immigration, Islam, rape, autism and homosexuality. Savage (real name Michael Alan Weiner) says he will sue.

Eight doctors and other advocates were arrested as they protested the Senate Finance Committee’s failure to consider single-payer health care. According to Physicians for a National Health Program:

One-by-one, eight single-payer advocates in the audience stood up during the opening comments of the hearing and asked why single-payer experts were excluded from the proceedings. They each spoke out in turn until they were removed from the committee hearing room and arrested.

NPR: “The Justice Department has nearly completed its investigation into lawyers who wrote the “torture” memos authorizing harsh interrogations.” The Justice Department is expected to refer the lawyers to bar associations for possible disciplinary action.

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