News Day: Budget battle on the Hill / Midnight scam / Medical-Industrial complex / War report / more

Budget battle on the Hill DFLers are giving a “chilly reception” to what T-Paw claims is a “compromise” budget proposal, reports the PiPress. T-Paw wants to compromise by delaying more state aid payments to schools, cutting in half the amount he wants to borrow, and agreeing not to put money into the “rainy day” fund. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud: “He’s basically given an inch, when we’ve gone a mile.”

MPR provides a good overview. As the clock ticks on toward the May 18 adjournment, the legislature sent a health and human services bill to the governor, with no assurance of its fate. Republicans complained that a public safety omnibus bill passed by the Senate did not have enough money for prisons. The DFL planned to forge ahead with a $1 billion “placeholder” — passing appropriations bills, and waiting for some resolution of the difference between Pawlenty (raise money by borrowing) and DFL (raise money through taxes) positions. And then there’s the “lights on” bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also moving forward with a backup plan that would keep government services running in case a budget deal isn’t reached. The bill would fund government services at current levels through July first of 2010. DFL Sen. Larry Pogemiller said the bill is only “precautionary” in case Pawlenty vetoes the budget bills.

Midnight scam When the phone rings at midnight, watch out! That’s the message in the Minneapolis police department description of a new scam, which starts with a middle of the night phone call warning of a credit card irregularity and asking for your credit card number.

Fong Lee case: On to trial As attorneys talked settlement, crowds outside the federal building called for justice for Fong Lee, reports the TC Daily Planet. A Minneapaolis police officer shot the 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006, and claim that he pointed a gun at police officers, but the family claims the gun in question was planted after Fong Lee was killed. The settlement conference reached no agreement, so the case is set for trial next week. Meanwhile, reports David Hanner in the PiPress, the city of Minneapolis is seeking to bar comments from its own PR officer from the trial.

Tax and invest Hundreds of Minnesotans crammed the state capitol Monday to call on lawmakers to raise revenue to fund critical public services. The demonstrators chanted “override,” referring to the governor’s veto of the omnibus tax bill on Saturday, and called for using taxes to fund education and health care and “invest in Minnesota.” See reports in the the TC Daily Planet from Workday Minnesota and Session Daily.

The Medical-Industrial complex Paul Krugman is skeptical about health care industry promises to cut the rate of growth in health care spending, but, he says, it’s still “tremendously good news.”

The point is that there’s every reason to be cynical about these players’ motives. Remember that what the rest of us call health care costs, they call income. What’s presumably going on here is that key interest groups have realized that health care reform is going to happen no matter what they do, and that aligning themselves with the Party of No will just deny them a seat at the table.

For more detail and links to the official announcements, check out the Daily Kos report.

War Report

Afghanistan Washington Post General David McKiernan, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, was relieved of his duties by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said he is looking for “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes.” BBC: Suicide bombers struck two government buildings in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan, killing six people. According to AP,”Armed insurgents took government workers hostage and ambushed an American quick-reaction force, wounding one U.S. soldier.”

Iraq BBC Suicide bombers killed six police officers in Kirkuk. NYT: In Camp Liberty, the main U.S. base in Baghdad, a U.S. soldier killed five fellow soldiers.

SomaliaBBC As fighting escalated in the capital city of Mogadishu, at least 120 were reported killed and thousands were fleeing the city.

Pakistan BBC The Pakistani government claimed that it had used helicopters to drop troops into a Taliban stronghold in the sparsely populated Peochar valley in Swat. UN reports say about 360,000 people have fled since the government launched attacks on the Taliban forces in the Swat region. A telephone report described the city of Mingora as a ghost town, with people in hiding and rapidly running out of food and water. AP: The Afghan government says the total number of internal refugees in the country is now 1.3 million.

BBC A U.S. drone killed eight people in the northern district of Waziristan near the Afghan border.

Sri Lanka BBC Rebels and hospital officials say that government forces killed at least 45 people when they shelled a hospital inside the conflict zone. While reporters are banned from the area, the UN reported a weekend bloodbath that killed more than 400 people and injured more than 1,000.

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