News Day: All T-Paw, all the time / Vampire pleads guilty / Trees coming down / Recession-proof industry / more

T-Paw signing off – in 2010 As Governor Pawlenty announced that he would not run for a third term as governor in 2010, it seemed that no other news could compete. Here’s the breakdown from Eric Black, who came away from the press conference with the message that “Tim Pawlenty loves God, his wife and kids, the troops and Minnesotans”, as well as the news that House Minority Leader Marty Seifert will run for guv, the PiPress gives a straightforward report,PIM looks at Pawlenty as a Big Mac, with “Secret sauce, secret seasonings. Same thing. Extraordinary tastes for extraordinary times,” but also provides a fact check on T-Paw’s claims of success, MinnPost on possible GOP gubernatorial candidates, and the Strib.

Vampire news of the day In what has to be the lamest vampire attack ever, 45-year-old Jonathon Sharkey, “The Impaler,” pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor counts of harrassing a teenage girl via email, after she tried to end their two-week, on-line dating relationship. The AP reports says Sharkey has already served the time for his 180-day sentence, but will now be shipped to Indiana to face felony charges there.

Schubert vs. solar Minneapolis decided to use most its $3.6 million in federal reconstruction money to fix up the Schubert Theater rather than to fund a solar energy project. The lone dissenter, council member Paul Ostrow, said the Schubert project won’t generate enough jobs. The $2 million that the city council voted for the Schubert will complete a $38 million moving and rehab budget, which includes $5 million from other city funding, $12 million in state bonding, and $2.5 million in planned county funding. The Strib’s Steve Brandt sums up:

The Shubert, which got all of the money it applied for [$2 million], will create 101 construction jobs and the equivalent of 41 full-time permanent jobs, 38 of them earmarked for applicants from low-income neighborhoods.

By contrast, a competing project to build a solar panel manufacturing facility in a low-income area of Minneapolis promised 360 jobs by 2011. But it is getting only $284,047 of a requested $1.2 million. Money to protect condemned and boarded-up properties by winterizing them also got only $200,000 of a requested $400,000.

Getting away with murder Murder charges against a teen charged with killing a Somali college student were dropped after one witness left the state and others recanted their statements, possibly because of fear, reports the Strib. “This guy is basically getting away with murder,” said police spokesperson Jesse Garcia. Ahmed Nur Ali, who was volunteering at the Brian Coyle Center, was shot in the chest and killed about 5 p.m. on September 22.

Charter school finances A day after the indictment of Joel Pourier on charges of embezzling millions from the Oh Day Aki charter school, controversy swirls around charter school finances. A Minnesota 2020 report says that:

Seventeen years after the first charter school opened in Minnesota, this examination of fiscal year 2007 charter school financial audits shows that the vast majority of charter schools do not follow basic financial guidelines or, in some cases, state law.

• 83 percent were found to have at least one financial irregularity in their audit – five years earlier, that figure was 73 percent;

• 51 percent of those schools with problems identified on their 2007 financial audits had the same problems identified on their 2008 audits, according to the MDE.

Charter school defenders and the MN Department of Education promptly fired back, reports the PiPress, saying that many of the irregularities are minor, and that, anyway, public schools have problems, too.

MN Job Watch According to Minnesota Lawyer, Dorsey & Whitney laid off 38 support staff in Minneapolis (55 nationally), but still plan to welcome the class of 2009 first=year lawyers.

AP reports that Enbridge Energy announced it will start hiring 3,000 workers next month to build its Alberta Clipper line from Superior to the Alberta oil sands in Canada, and its Southern Lights pipeline from Chicago to northwestern Minnesota. ” Just one hitch: the company still doesn’t have federal and Wisconsin permits for the pipelines. I wonder whether the jobs announcement is intended to put any pressure on environmental agencies to approve the controversial projects.

Cutting St. Paul ash trees Under attack by the emerald ash borer, St. Paul trees began to fall to the chainsaws of the St. Paul Parks & Recreation department on Tuesday. More than 50 infested trees in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood will be cut down, and efforts to trap the insects are also underway. The emerald ash borers “threaten to devastate Minnesota’s estimated 900 million ash trees,” reports the Pioneer Press. Tree experts will offer information at an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the South St. Anthony Park Recreational Center, 890 Cromwell Ave.

Ammonia leak in Swift Plant In Worthington, several Swift plant employees were hospitalized after an ammonia leak on Tuesday morning shut down the JBS Swift Plant, , according to AP reports.

World/National Headlines

Obama to speak in Cairo In what his administration bills as , President Obama will speak in Cairo Thursday. Before his departure, he spoke at length with NPR interviewers, affirming traditional U.S. support for Israel, but also saying:

“We do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace,” Obama said. “And that’s going to require, from my view, a two-state solution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected Obama’s call for a freeze on settlements.

What will he say in his speech in Cairo? Not too many clues, but he did tell NPR:

There are a wide range of governments throughout the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world. And the main thing for me to do is to project what our values are, what our ideals are, what we care most deeply about. And that is democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.

Full transcript of NPR interview

Recession-proof industry Beer. According to NPR’s Planet Money:

As the companies that we once believed to be bedrocks of the American economy go into bankruptcy, there's an industry that's actually seeing continued growth in this economy: beer. Since the recession hit, Americans are drinking more of it.

And it’s not just us — beer sales are up around the world.

War Reports

Pakistan The government has driven Taliban forces out of Mingora, the capital of the Swat region, and is claiming victory and mopping up in the Swat valley after a battle against the Taliban rebels that drove more than a million people from their homes. Taliban extremism and violence in the Swat valley had cost them much public sympathy. Now the focus is shifting to Waziristan. BBC cites a continuing pattern of army vs. Taliban campaigns and warns that making war in Waziristan may be counterproductive, and that even the war in Swat may have increased the number of Taliban recruits:

The fighting often ends up leaving a largely aggravated population at the mercy of those from whom they were being rescued.

This in turn can create resentment against the government – if only a handful out of the 2.5 million people forced to leave Swat in the most recent fighting end up joining the Taliban, the militants would still receive hundreds of new recruits into their ranks.

For many people in the war-hit north-west there is increasingly only one choice, join the Taliban or leave their ancestral lands.

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