News Day: GM in MN / Franken-Coleman blow-by-blow / Health care saga / more

MN GM dealers: Who’s going down? Minnesota has 149 GM dealers, reports MPR, and Tuesday they will learn which dealerships will be closed under GM bankruptcy proceedings. Thirty MN dealers had received earlier notice that GM would cut them, but now the company plans to close 40 percent of all its dealers nationwide, which could mean another 30 in Minnesota.

Franken-Coleman blow-by-blow Eric Black analyzes all of the arguments before the MN Supreme Court, but a paragraph near the top of the article sums it up:

The Supreme Court has the authority to overrule the three-judges on their interpretation of the law. But to discard any of the findings of fact reached by TheThree, they need to rule that the trial court abused its discretion. The trial court ruled that Coleman had not met his burden of proof to show that problems with the election may have resulted in the wrong candidate being declared the winner. The trial court found that the errors were relatively minor.

Black’s full article is worth reading for anyone, and mandatory reading for all of the political junkies who can’t get enough recount news. One thing he can’t tell: when the supreme Court will make its decision. While everyone is sure that the decision will be expedited, meaning it will not take the usual three to five months, no one knows how soon “expedited” will be.

Why we need universal, single-payer health care: One MN story The Pioneer Press Watchdog continues with part three of four in a wrenching look at one family’s odyssey through the patchwork of state and federal healthcare and disability programs. Broke from previous medical bills, still suffering from cancer, unable to work only part-time, Linda Powis earned $1,000 a month — that’s too much for GAMC, the program that Governor Pawlenty said he will abolish next year. So Powis had to come up with a $100 monthly premium for MinnesotaCare, the program that’s supposed to help poor Minnesotans. And then there was the fight over whether either program would cover the treatment necessary to save her eyesight. Program rules seemed so confusing that not even staff could sort them out.

But on at least two instances, Department of Human Services staffers contradicted each other on information: whether eye medication keeping Linda from losing her sight was covered by state insurance (Smigielski says staff members “worked diligently” on this issue), and whether her [disabled] partner, Don Gunnon, was covered by a free state health plan. And that was after the department knew the Pioneer Press was planning to write a story about the way it dealt with Linda’s problem.

Strike threat at Strib Over at MinnPost, David Brauer continues with analysis of the drivers’ strike authorization vote and the complex pension issues underlying the dispute. The Strib wants to get out of its labor contract with the drivers and ditch a $20 million pension liability. The drivers want their pensions. The bankruptcy court will decide on the pensions, but the drivers could go ahead and strike if the decision goes against them.

School director faces embezzlement charges Last summer, the Minneapolis school district revoked the charter of the 40-year-old Oh Day Aki/Heart of the Earth school, a school originally founded by the American Indian Movement that had become a district-sponsored charter school. Now the school’s former director Joel Pourier, has been charged with “embezzling $1.38 million from the school for American Indian children and spending it on houses, cars and nights at strip clubs”, according to the Strib. Pourier’s attorney says he will plead not guilty. According to the Strib’s account, which should serve as a warning beacon to all schools and nonprofits:

The school hired Pourier seven years ago as finance director; it later named him executive director. Its board never looked at Pourier’s resume, said Plunkett, which was largely fabricated, according to Friday’s complaint.

Congrats to St. Kate’s! After 104 years, the women’s college is now a university — St. Catherine’s University. With an undergraduate enrollment of 5,000 women, and graduate programs for both men and women, St. Kate’s decided to make the leap this year. Its graduate programs include two clinical doctorates, M.A. programs in education and nursing, as well as social work, organizational leadership, library and information science and theology. St. Kate’s also offers associate degrees in healthcare for men and women.

World/National Headlines

Sri Lanka journalist beaten Poddala Jayantha, a journalist whose campaigns for press freedom have led him to be consideredd an opponent of the government, was abducted and badly beaten by unidentified attackers, reports BBC.

Two more journalists remain jailed in North Korea, with trials scheduled for Thursday. U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee “vanished March 17 while on a trip near the Chinese-North Korean border,” reports the Strib.

FMLN president in El Salvador Mauricio Funes, a leftist former TV journalist, was sworn in as president of El Salvador, reports BBC. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a guest at the ceremony. Hours later, President Funes signed a declaration regularizing relations with Cuba, after a 50-year break. The FMLN fought in a civil war that cost 70,000 lives and ended in 1992 with a UN-mediated peace accord.

Rightwing extremism In the wake of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, and the contiuing denunciations of Tiller by anti-abortion leaders, the Daily Kos reprints that controversial paragraph on rightwing extremism from the Department of Homeland Security report:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

War Reports

Somalia Five police were killed in a roadside bombing, and government forces retook a police station that had been overrun by rebels, reports BBC. Recent fighting in Mogadishu has left 200 dead, and about 60,000 have fled the city.

An Oxfam regional coordinator calls the plight of Somali refugees the worst in the region:

Many of its hundreds of thousands of internally-displaced people, the world’s largest such concentration, have little food or shelter, he said. … [In the capitol city of Mogadishu] “There are hundreds of children all over the area with tubes on their faces and [saline] drips on their hands. Some of them are actually unconscious and suffering from all sorts of diseases, mainly acute diarrhoea and cholera.”

Afghanistan Four U.S. troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, reports NPR. That brings the U.S. death toll to 64 for 2009, nearly double the 36 killed during the first five months of 2008, which was the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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