News Day: Franken and Coleman back at it / “Fong Lee = me” / Republican road to socialism / more

Franken and Coleman: They’re back! Their lawyers will argue the case in the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday. See the PiPress for profiles of the five justices who will decide the case. Two of the court’s seven justices will sit this one out Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson were part of the recount panel, whose work and decisions are being challenged by Coleman.

“Fong Lee = me” That was the message on the sign held by a young Hmong boy, who was among hundreds of people rallying in St. Paul Saturday to protest the verdict in the Fong Lee shooting death case. The PiPress reports that Fong Lee family members and supporters belive the trial and verdict were unfair.

“I felt that justice failed us, and I feel there ain’t nothing going to happen with it,” said Jon Xiong, 28, of St. Paul. “I got little brothers and cousins and nephews, and it could’ve easily have been them. From my point of view, as a minority, it really ain’t no good. That’s all I can say. It ain’t no good.”

Violence hits young Somalis in Minneapolis Laura Yuen, continuing her fine coverage of the local Somali community offers an in-depth look at the violence that has claimed the lives of eight young Somali men since December 2007, and what some in the community are doing to stop it.

MN Job Watch St. Paul teachers’ contract talks are in trouble before they even get started, reports the PiPress. Reason: the district already announced that it is seeking a pay freeze and “more flexible labor agreements,” thus, according to union reps, starting the negotiations in the press rather than with the teachers.

• “After 30 years, a major labor arts institution is closing its doors,” reports the Minneapolis Labor Review. The worker-run Northland Poster Cooperative will close at the end of June.

• And The Uptake reports on charges of mistreatment of roofers at the Target Center.

Don’t leave home without it Going to Canada? Take your passport, or you might not get back into the United States, reports MPR. Tighter U.S. regulations go into effect today. There is an alternative to the $100+ passport – a lower-cost passport card that can be used just for land border or seaport crossings in the Western Hemisphere, but not for international air travel. More than a million of the passport cards have been issued in Minnesota since they became available in 2008. Processing time takes 4-6 weeks.

Residents near the border may also qualify for a third alternative, the NEXUS card, which is for “trusted travelers who pass a background check by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.” For now, Homeland Security officials say they will take a “commonsense” approach to allowing people to re-enter the United States if they have gone to Canada for, say, a fishing trip.

Disabled and out of luck That was Dan Gunnon’s fate until he hooked up with the Watchdog at the PiPress. Despite chronic back pain, he worked and enjoyed a middle-class standard of living for 20 years after a back injury suffered in 1981: “I tried to save a woman from being assaulted, and I got shot, and the bullet lodged in my spine.” Then, in 2002, the back pain “exploded” and he was no longer able to work. His partner fell victim to cancer, and was also out of work. He applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and:

Like 60 percent of Minnesotans who applied, Don was denied on his first application. He asked for a reconsideration — a request to have a different pair of eyes look at the application. He was denied again. The next step was to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. That’s when he discovered he was caught in a backlog of scandalous proportions: In 2007, about 746,000 claims were pending at the hearing level, 9,000 of them in Minnesota. Some cases had been on the back burner for three years.

SSDI is an insurance program, not a welfare benefit. Like Social Security retirement benefits, it’s paid for by taxes deducted from paychecks. According to the Social Security website, “In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.”

Dan Gunnon got lucky when he found the PiPress Watchdog, who used connections and savvy to find advocates and cut through some of the red tape. Gunnon ended up giving up on back benefits that were clearly owed to him in order to get his benefits started. The story is a testament to good reporting and advocacy by Debra O’Connor at the Pioneer Press, but also a horror story of inadequate staffing and continuing misery for the hundreds of thousands with cases still pending.

World/National Headlines

Doctor shot down in church Dr. George Tiller (67), vilified for performing abortions and shot and wounded by an anti-abortion gunman 16 years ago, was assassinated as he served as an usher inside his Lutheran church in Wichita, KS. A 51-year-old white man is in custody for the shooting.

BBC lists other deadly attacks by anti-abortion killers:

Oct 1998: Dr Barnett Slepian shot dead, Buffalo, New York
Jan 1998: Policeman killed in blast at clinic near Birmingham, Alabama
Dec 30 1994: Two receptionists shot dead at clinics near Boston
July 1994: Dr John Britton and a volunteer escort killed outside clinic, Pensacola, Florida

The Dailyi Kos has a personal remembrance — and a more nuanced picture — of Dr. Tiller.

Bankruptcy on Monday AP reports: “General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government’s reach into big business.” The company has already received $20 billion in taxpayer funds, and will get $30 billion more, as it cuts 21,000 employees, about 34 percent of its work force, and reduces the number of dealers by 2,600. The UAW agreed to a cost-cutting deal on Friday.

According to another AP report:

Sen. Richard Shelby said Friday the government should have allowed the marketplace to decide General Motors’ fate and that the huge federal stake in the company puts Washington on “the road to socialism.”

Six months ago? Let’s see – that would be on the watch of the Bush administration, so that would have been a Republican road to socialism?

War Reports

Pakistan Pakistani troops captured the main city in the Swat region, reports BBC, but the city’s center was destroyed in the process. Conditions in the Swat region, according to the International Red Cross: “Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.”

Meanwhile, reports the NYT, heavy fighting has broken out in South Waziristan, the probable next front. And a bomb blast in the North-West Frontier Province town of Kohat killed two people and injured eight others.

Afghanistan When U.S. troops arrived in the Jalrez valley, 30 miles west of Kabul, the Taliban left, reports the NYT. But that may be only temporary:

Insurgents regularly leave areas where Americans appear, only to resurface later. “We are hearing it’s better now,” said Hoji Mir Ahmad, a fruit merchant based in Kabul, “but God knows what things will be like when the harvest comes.”

West Bank Reuters reports: “Six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout.”

An attack on Palestinian workers by masked, rock=throwing Israeli settlers near the Palestinian city of Nablus injured several men, sending two to the hospital, reports BBC.

Iraq In May, 24 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, reports BBC, the highest number of casualties since September 2008. Combat operations are scheduled to end in September 2010.

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