News Day: Looking for the (police) money / Red scare over? / Unemployment, full and partial / Hmong refugees camp closing / more

Where’s the money? “Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion told a legislative audit committee that he would temporarily shut down the Metro Gang Strike Force after a report showed poor financial practices,” reports reports The Uptake. The legislative auditor found that the Metro Gang Strike Force could not account for $18,126 of seized cash and at least 13 seized vehicles. According to MPR, the Metro Gang Strike Force includes 34 officers from 13 jurisdictions.

You mean they’re NOT socialists? Okay, it wasn’t a real, old-fashioned red scare, more like a modified pink scare, but some Republicans really, REALLY, wanted to “officially” call out the Democratic Party as socialist. But now, just as the slow news season approaches, TPM reports that the RNC has officially abandoned its “much-ridiculed proposal to call for the Democratic Party to change its name to the ‘Democrat Socialist Party.'” One of the sponsors of the proposal said they had succeeded by alerting Americans to the “socialist agenda” so that they could be “properly fearful.”

Unemployment, full and partial If your hours are cut, apply for unemployment benefits. That’s the advice from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, reports MPR. You might not qualify for benefits – rules are complicated. But you might qualify. And, yes, unpaid time off and furloughs are layoffs. And here’s another angle:

Her daughter’s hours were cut last November. And she hasn’t applied for unemployment. And that will cost her. The base benefit amount is calculated on income earned during the first four of the last five calendar quarters.

If she were to file now, one of those calendar quarters is part-time work, is only 20 hours a week instead of the 32 hours a week she had been working. So her base amount is much lower than had she known that and been able to file right away.

Complicated? You bet – so if you are losing hours or days of paid work, consult someone at the unemployment office about what applying now will do for your eligibility and payment level, now and in the future.

Meanwhile, national unemployment continues to climb. NPR reports that new claims are down slightly this week, but total unemployment, at 6.7 million, sets a record high for the sixteenth straight week. New claims were at 631,000 this week, up from a low of 605,000 earlier this month but still lower than late March’s record 674,000.

Hmong refugee camp closing Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is pulling out of a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, effectively closing the camp, according to BBC. The camp still houses 5,000 Hmong asylum seekers, whom the Thai government calls economic refugees. According to MSF head of mission Gilles Isard:

“More and more, the Thai army is trying to use coercive measure to force the people to return to Laos. Also they are pressuring MSF.

“For instance they have been trying to demand MSF stop providing food distribution to the people in order to punish them.”

Officer testifies in Fong Lee trial Officer Jason Anderson testified in the second day of the Fong Lee trial, maintaining that when he shot the teenager, Lee had a gun. Anderson acknowledged that he could not see a gun in the photos from surveillance cameras that captured parts of the police chase, reports the PiPress.

Warsame pleads guilty After five years in solitary confinement, Mohammed Abdullah Warsame pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to support al-Qaida. Warsame is a Canadian citizen of Somali descent who was living in Minnesota when arrested. He had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2000, and attended what are described as al-Qaida training camps before returning to Toronto in April 2001 and to his family here in 2002. Under the plea agreement, all other charges were dropped. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 5. NPR reports that Warsame’s attorney said his client pleaded guilty because that reduces the maximum prison time from 30 years to 12 1/2 years. He has also agreed to be deported to Canada after sentencing.

World/National headlines

Torture ties closer to Bush, Cheney Before the Justice Department memos, CIA officials engaging in torture were sending daily memos and getting daily approval from then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, reports NPR.

“At the very least, it’s clear that CIA headquarters was choreographing what was going on at the black site,” says Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU lawyer who sued to get the document. “But there’s still this question about the relationship between CIA headquarters and the White House and the Justice Department and the question of which senior officials were driving this process.”

Hold that interest rate New credit card regulations passed by Congress, as described by NPR, would:

• prohibit card companies from raising interest rates on existing balances unless the borrower is at least 60 days late paying a bill;
• require restoration of the original rate if the cardholder pays on time for the following six months;
• mandate that card issuers apply payments to the debts with the highest interest rates first, on cards with more than one interest rate;
• give 45 days notice before increasing rates on future purchases;
• bar fees for paying by phone, mail, or electronic transfer, “except when it requires someone’s help to expedite the payment;”
• places some restrictions on aggressive marketing of credit cards to people under 21;
• bans double cycle billing and delayed crediting of payments.

Also in the bill – a provision allowing the carrying of loaded weapons in national parks. That provision comes courtesy of the National Rifle Association, in a show of its power over Congress. Though supporters of the credit card reform wanted nothing to do with the gun law, they had to agree or send the credit card bill back to the starting gate.

Diplomats barred from Aung San Suu Kyi trial Diplomats were allowed to attend the closed trial of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for a single day, but then barred again. She is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest, after a US man swam across a lake to her home, where she has been held under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. Her latest house arrest was scheduled to end May 27, and the current trial is seen as a way to extend some kind of imprisonement of the ailing opposition leader past the 2010 elections scheduled by the military dictatorship. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 1990 elections, but was never allowed to take office.

War Report

Iraq At least 34 people were killed and 72 injured by a car bomb in Baghdad, reports BBC. The bomb went off in a poor, mostly Shia, neighborhood, adding to fears of increasing sectarian violence as the U.S. prepares to pull out. Although the final pullout date is not until August 2010, the agreement between Iraqi and U.S. governments calls for earlier stages of withdrawal from civilian areas.

Somalia Somalia’s neighbors, acting in concert in the Igad group, have called for an air and sea blockade to prevent arms from being supplied to the Al-Shabab rebels, and to prevent the entry of more foreign fighters, reports BBC.

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