News Day: Fletcher and the Force / Governor No / Single-payer health insurance, more

MGSF_logoFletcher and the Force “Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher repeatedly tried to prevent a state investigation into the financial operations of the Metro Gang Strike Force, over which his office has fiscal oversight, according to officials directly involved in the state probe that led to the sudden shutdown last week of the unit’s activities,” reports the Star Tribune. The article also says Fletcher blamed his friend Ron Ryan for mishandling cash, denied that his office had oversight responsibility, and engaged in “shouting matches” with Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion, objecting to the state audit.

In the PiPress, Rep. Michael Beard, vice chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission, called the shredding “breathtakingly boneheaded.”

Governor No No surprise here – after stomping all over the DFL legislators, Pawlenty vetoed the anti-bullying bill, which was criticized by Republicans for specifically protecting disabled kids and GLBT kids.

• Pawlenty signed the Legacy Amendment legislation, except for a line item veto of $200,000 for the Star Lake Board, reports MinnPost, which details his objections.

• Pawlenty vetoed a bill providing for statewide paint recycling.

• Also vetoed – the medical marijuana bill, the “motor voter” bill (making voter registration automatic for drivers’ license and state ID applicants who qualify),

Cutting welfare spending As Governor No heads for unallotment time, the PiPress reports that Minnesota is actually spending LESS on welfare (MFIP – Minnesota Families Investment Program) than we did a decade ago, after adjustment for inflation. Specifically:

• State spending on the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s main welfare program for families, is down 43 percent over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation.

• While 14 percent of welfare recipients have lived outside of Minnesota in the past year, twice in the past 15 years the state demographer has looked into whether people migrate to Minnesota for benefits and has found no evidence to support that oft-repeated suggestion.

• Minnesota spends a smaller percentage of its general fund on welfare programs than the national average, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Pack your passport As of June 1, Minnesotans need a passport to travel to and return from Canada. In a somewhat puzzling article, the Strib reports that, although passports are required, people without passports will not be barred from returning to the U.S. Just in time, a new “emergency” passport office opened in Minneapolis this month.

“We have been very sad.” Jurors heard from more witnesses in the Fong Lee case on Friday, including testimony from the victim’s family members. According to the Strib, more testimony is scheduled for Tuesday, with closing arguments expected on Wednesday.

Colin loves corn Colin Peterson (DFL-MN) says he will oppose the American Climate and Energy Security Act bill because it doesn’t favor corn-based ethanol. According to MPR, Peterson says the bill’s clampdown on greenhouse gases would threaten Minnesota’s ethanol industry, which employs more than 1,000 workers and buys more than $1 billion worth of corn each year, and “has the potential of basically killing off the whole ethanol industry.”

Helping troubled kids Minneapolis schools have partnered with community mental health agencies to provide in-school mental health services for kids, reports Scott Russell in the TC Daily Planet. Besides the obvious advantages of on-site services, this arrangement means that “the students’ mental health records are kept separate from their school records.”

U of M still fears LRT Right next to the Washington Avenue LRT route, reports the Strib, are “seven MRI machines worth a couple of million dollars apiece, and the U says their delicate molecular research may be unable to continue once construction begins on the Central Corridor light-rail line.”

World/National headlines

Single payer. Universal. Health care. That’s what Americans want, say Bill Moyers and Michael Winship in Salon. Instead, they get promises from the health care industry and vague talk about a public health plan “competing” with private insurance. But Bill Moyers is old, and he remembers battles past:

Way, way back in the 1970’s Americans were riled up over the rising costs of health care. As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter started talking about the government clamping down. When he got to the White House, drug makers, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors — the very people who only a decade earlier had done everything they could to strangle Medicare in the cradle — seemed uncharacteristically humble and cooperative. “You don’t have to make us cut costs,” they promised. “We’ll do it voluntarily.”

So Uncle Sam backed down, and you guessed it. Pretty soon medical costs were soaring higher than ever.

New mortgage defaults The NYT reports that the new wave of mortgage foreclosures are regular borrowers:

Those sliding into foreclosure today are more likely to be modest borrowers whose loans fit their income than the consumers of exotically lenient mortgages that formerly typified the crisis.

Economy.com expects that 60 percent of the mortgage defaults this year will be set off primarily by unemployment, up from 29 percent last year.

And that’s true in MN, too, says the NYT, noting “In Minnesota, three of every five people seeking foreclosure counseling now have a prime loan, according to the nonprofit Minnesota Home Ownership Center.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been scheduled to be freed from six years of detention without trial this Wednesday, will testify at her new trial on Tuesday. The new trial comes after a 53-year-old American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to her property under the cover of darkness to enter uninvited into her home because, he says, he had a dream telling him to do so in order to warn Suu Kyi that her life was in danger. Suu Kyi allowed him to stay for two days when he said he was too tired and ill to immediately swim back across the lake, reports NPR:

Suu Kyi told her lawyers she did not report him because she did not want him or security personnel in charge of her house to get into trouble because of her.

The 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told them the incident occurred because of a security breach — the house is tightly guarded — so the responsibility for allowing Yettaw in lies with the security forces.

Cholera epidemic reaches 100,000 In Zimbabwe, Africa’s worst cholera epidemic in 15 years is on course to top 100,000 people infected this week, reports BBC. The Red Cross counts 4,283 dead.

More than 400,000 displaced in Brazil Floods that began last month have displaced more than 400,000 in northern Brazil, reports BBC.

War Reports

Colombia The Washington Post’s recent article on Colombia’s U.S.-supported drug war “is seriously flawed due to … over-reliance on official sources,” writes Garry Leech in Colombia Journal:

While Forero is correct in pointing out that much of the coca in the region has been eradicated, that some farmers are benefitting from the PCIM and that a state-presence is being established in this long-time stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), he clearly did not visit remote communities located two hours from Vista Hermosa that have been the most severely impacted by the project. If he had, he would have discovered that a majority of the population in the region have abandoned their homes and lands due to fear of the military, death threats or the inability to survive economically due to the eradication of coca. In the village of La Cooperativa, the population plummeted from more than 400 to 70 after the military arrived in 2007. Similarly in El Tigre, only 12 residents remain out of the more than 200 who previously populated the village.

Leech, who has followed Colombia for years, bases his critique of the WaPo article on his own recent visit to the same region.

Afghanistan Three Afghan civilians and three foreign soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack in Kapisa province, north of the capital, reports BBC. Kapisa is strategically located near the Bagram air force base and the Kabul-Jalalabad highway.

Iraq It’s not just the killing. NPR reports on the corrosive and pervasive effects of corruption.

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