News Day: Buyer’s market in Twin Cities / Cow manure on the beach / Drought already? / Aung San Suu Kyi, Sonia Sotomayor, more

Rosemary WilliamsBuyer’s market Twin Cities home prices dropped 6.1% in March, reports the Strib, and that’s the largest home price drop in any urban market in the 21-year history of the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index. Even in March, the average for 20 other major metro areas was 2.2 percent.

The year-over-year decline from March 2008 for the Twin Cities was 23.3 percent, according to S&P. That was steeper than the 18.7 percent average drop for the 20 major markets, but not as significant as some metropolitan areas such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco, where prices fell by more than 30 percent from a year ago.

Home prices are being driven down by large numbers of “lender-mediated” sales – read foreclosed homes. Nationally, according to the index, home prices fell 19.1 percent from a year a go, and 32.2 percent from their peak in the second quarter of 2006.

And in Minneapolis, a community group has joined a foreclosed homeowner in fighting against her eviction, claiming that making her home vacant would create a public nuisance.

Fletcher finds cars Sheriff Bob Fletcher assigned a special investigative unit to track down missing cars that had been seized by the Metro Gang Strike Force, and found 14 of the cars, reports the PiPress. According to the state auditor, the issue is why the Gang Strike Force account for the cars.

The issue for the auditors “was the strike force should be able to keep track of the cars it seized and document where they are and how they’re being used,” Nobles said. …

“We gave anyone and everyone at the strike force an extended period of time to find the cars or show us records of what happened to them. If they show up now, that’s good, but it does raise the question as to why they couldn’t find them weeks and weeks ago.”

Bad news on the beach A massive manure spill has closed the beach at Split Rock Creek State Park in Pipestone county, reports the Strib. The Pater dairy farm spilled 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of manure on May 4, when a clogged pipe caused an overflow in a holding pond.

Drought already? Think it’s dry out there? Already seeing brown lawns in May? MPR runs the numbers:

Rainfall is two inches below average for May at Twin Cities International Airport. If you go back a year, the numbers are even more staggering. 11 of the past 13 months have produced below average precipitation. Precipitation is a whopping 10.1 inches below average since last May. That’s four months worth.

Over at MinnPost, Paul Douglas confirms the drought in the metro area, but notes that far less of MN is experiencing drought conditions than October’s 40 percent mark. Besides, June is usually the wettest month, and we could pick up enough rain to get back near normal.

The Fong Lee case heads to the jury on Wednesday, according to the Minnesota Independent.

World/National News

Aung San Suu Kyi President Obama called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi, reports BBC, which summarizes: “Ms Suu Kyi, 63, had been due for release on Wednesday after her latest six-year detention, but was re-arrested this month after a visit to her house by a US man who had not been invited.”

Mexico Mexican authorities arrested 27 people in Michoacan, including 10 mayors and a judge, charging them with complicity with drug traffickers, reports BBC.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor Predictably, Republicans and conservatives of even stranger stripes began lining up against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. A sampling:

John Yoo, of torture memo fame says that “empathy has won out over excellence” and that Judge Sotomayor is “distinguished from the other members of that list only by her race.”

Mike Huckabee said Maria Sotomayor comes from the far left. Daily Kos notes “New York. Puerto Rican. So, Maria. They’re all the same to the Huckster, I guess.”

And a lineup of Republican senators warned against deciding cases based on “feelings.” TPM catches the “Neanderthal caucus” voice, as Sen. James Imhofe warns that Senators need to weigh “her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.” Hmm. Guess your personal race and gender are only undue influences with they are, respectively, not white and not male.

The Supreme Court overturned part of the right-to-counsel (Sixth Amendment) and protection against self incrimination (Fifth Amendment) previously accorded to defendants, ruling that police may question a defendant without his lawyer present.

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the court overturned its 1986 opinion in a Michigan case, which forbade the police from interrogating a defendant once he invoked his right to counsel at an arraignment or a similar proceeding.

War Reports

Pakistan A bomb blast in the city of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, killed at least 23 and injured more than 200, reports BBC:

What is striking about this latest attack, and so worrying for the Pakistani authorities, is the timing and choice of target.

It occurred near the offices of both the local police chief and of the national intelligence agency, the ISI, and comes as the Pakistani military is engaged in a massive campaign against militants in the north-west. So the initial speculation is that this is in some way a revenge attack.

Lahore is in the eastern part of Pakistan, not in the Swat area where war between government and Taliban forces continues. A March 30 attack on a police college in Lahore killed 30, and an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team March 3 killed six police guards. Other news sources put today’s death toll at 30, and climbing.

Korea Days after a nuclear test drew international condemnation, North Korea announced that it is ending the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953. BBC reports that North Korea is blaming its decision on South Korea joining a US-led initiative to search ships for nuclear weapons, and said it will attack if its ships are stopped. South Korean news reports say that smoke from a nuclear plant shows that North Korea is restarting a program to produce weapons-grade plutonium. North Kkorea has also staged missile tests in recent weeks, including one missile fired across Japanese airspace.

Afghanistan Three U.S. troops and three Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing in northern Kapisa province, reports AP. Suicide bombings and roadside attacks are up 25 percent over last year’s levels.

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