News Day: Closing the door to college / Five days, a billion dollars / No blood on the gun / more

I’m on the road, so this blog post is short and late — I hope tomorrow will be earlier and longer.

Closing the door to college Minnesota has had a proud tradition of higher education and of making higher education available to its residents. That may be ending, reports MinnPost:

Tuition is rising faster in Minnesota than in most other states. It has doubled since 1999 at the U of M. ..

Meanwhile, state spending for higher education has stuck flat for years in some areas and dropped by double digits in others. Now it is set to fall sharply as the governor and the Legislature wrestle through the current financial crisis.

Although job retraining is essential in times of high unemployment, and although enrollment at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) jumped by 14% in January 2009, Governor Pawlenty announced a $40 million cut in higher education funding this year, on top of the 28% drop from 2000 to 2007.

No blood on the gun As the May 18 trial date approaches, the Fong Lee family lawyers filed an affidavit asking why there was blood all over Fong Lee and on his hands, but none on the gun, reports the Star Tribune.

“Fong Lee was covered with blood, from head to toe. Both of his hands were bloody … Yet, the evidence will establish not one speck of blood was found on the gun,” lawyers Richard Hechter and Michael Padden wrote in a 20-page brief filed Monday.

Police have said the gun allegedly held by Lee contained no fingerprints or palm prints, oils, DNA, fibers or blood.

The PiPress reports that the federal judge reinstated one count of the complaint against the city of Minneapolis, saying the city may be held liable for wrongful death.

Comparing food costs What do you get when you compare food costs at nine local grocery stores? The Daily Planet sent interns out to do a price check and reports the results today.

MN Job Watch Park Nicollet is cutting 240 jobs and closing its Hopkins clinic in an attempt to stay solvent, reports MPR.

CEO David Wessner said in a statement that losses in investment income are partly to blame. He also blamed a spike in uncompensated care for the growing ranks of the unemployed, as well as cuts in government reimbursements for care.

Five days, one billion dollars That’s the dilemma facing Minnesota government. T-Paw’s answer remains the same as it was at the beginning of the session: No new taxes. Borrowing is the way out. The legislature isn’t buying and the governor isn’t budging. For the latest, check Session Daily reports (below) and Steve Perry’s analysis in PIM, or follow individual bills:

Conferees agreed on an omnibus E-12 education finance bill that would keep public school funding steady

Bill fast-tracked to keep state government going — just in case

The higher education finance conference committee reached an agreement that includes a 2 percent total cut to state higher education funding.

A proposal to cut more from the approved omnibus health and human service finance bill was considered by a conference committee.

The omnibus public safety finance bill awaits action by the governor.

Civil unions in Duluth Duluth’s city council approved a registry for civil unions, reports the MN Independent. While the move is partially symbolic, it may aid employers who agree to provide domestic partner benefits. The Duluth ordinance recognizes both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnerships. Minneapolis also offers a domestic partnership registry.

World/National News

JOLTing Labor Department figures The Daily Kos reports on the Bureau of Labor Statistics job openings figures, which lag a month behind BLS unemployment stats:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report was released Tuesday, and it lived up to its acronym. In March, the number of job openings decreased by another 256,000. That made for a total of 2.7 million job openings. In December 2007, when the recession began, there were 4.4 million openings. With 13.2 million Americans officially out of work, that means there are now 4.8 unemployed people for every available job. …

The current recession has now begun its 17th month. It’s already longer than any recession since the 1930s. If it were to end this month and the unemployment rate started dropping in line with the average timing of the two most recent recoveries, it would mean no relief for the jobless until Christmas 2011. And that would only mark the beginning of a drop in the unemployment rate.

Only 36% of unemployed workers currently receive unemployment compensation.

Global melting Bolivia’s famous Chacaltaya glacier, 5,300m (17,400 ft) up in the Andes and an estimated 18,000 years old, has gone from being the world’s highest ski run to just a few lumps of ice. Apart from its significance as a sign of global warming, the melting of Bolivian glaciers threatens water and power supplies, reports BBC

The World Bank warned earlier this year that many of the Andes’ tropical glaciers will disappear within 20 years.

This, the bank said, would both threaten the water supplies of nearly 80 million people living in the region, and jeopardise the future generation of hydropower.

War report

Sri Lanka BBC U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her UK counterpart David MIlband joined UN calls for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, where the UN estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by the conflict, in a three-sq-km strip of land.

Afghanistan BBC A suicide car bomb near a U.S. military base in the eastern city of Khost on Wednesday killed at least seven civilians, following suicide bombings of government buildings in that city on Tueday, which killed nine people.

Somalia BBC Heavy fighting between government forces and Al Shabab militants continued in Mogadishu, as both sides claimed victory after a battle in the village of Mahas, about 300km (180 miles) north-east of the capital. BBC also reported that the “worst drought in a decade” has left almost half of Somali’s population malnourished and 3.2 million in urgent need of food aid. A million Somalis are internal refugees from war.

Pakistan BBC A BBC map of “the growing strength of Taleban militants in north western Pakistan shows that only 38% of the area remains under full government control.

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