News Day: What now, Norm? / Death in Somalia: Looking for answers / Carstarphen: Go slower / Wind industry layoffs / more

What now, Norm? Politics in Minnesota has gotten several answers to that question over the past few days. First, on June 4, came a report from Roll Call that Norm was willing to bow out if the MN Supreme Court rules against him. PIM thought that sounded unlikely, and, within hours, posted:

I checked with several Coleman team members. All are stymied by where Roll Call got this information. Look for all-systems-go on appealing an adverse Minnesota Supreme Court decision and / or filing a new case in federal court.

Now, PIM reports, GOP spokespeople are “half-heartedly” saying that Norm will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and

But here’s their lone on-the-record comment from the Coleman camp, courtesy of spokesman Tom Erickson: “While that possibility may be on top of Harry Reid’s wish list, no decisions have been made.”

That’s not much of a denial, is it?

Meanwhile, Norm’s less-than-fans are pushing the Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away campaign, and PIM reports the campaign is already nearing $150,000 of its $200,000 goal.

Death in Somalia: Looking for answers As the family of 17-year-old Burhan Hassan grieves, conflicting stories about his death in Somalia circulate in the community. MPR reports that a young woman who is a friend of some of the young Minnesotans in Somalia says she talks to them frequently and has spoken to them about Hassan’s death.

She said she heard from Somali-American fighters in Mogadishu that Hassan was killed by a stray bullet that struck his head when he stepped outside. … The three fighters, all from Minnesota, told the woman they had been traveling with Hassan and had just arrived in Mogadishu when he was killed. They also believe Hassan died a martyr, the woman said.

Somalia has been embroiled in a civil war for decades, and a rebel offensive including heavy fighting in Mogadishu has been particularly intense over the past few weeks, claiming at least 200 lives.

Hassan’s uncle, Abdirizak Bihi, is convinced that someone in Minneapolis recruited his nephew and other young Somali men to fight for the al-Shabab militants in Somalia. He also believes that al-Shabab assassinated the Hassan. He says that his nephew was shot because he helped in the investigation of the recruitment and planned to return home. Bihi said his contacts in Somalia had told him that his nephew planned to return home. MPR reports that Bihi blames a local mosque “for allowing his nephew to get into a situation that ultimately robbed him of his life.”

An earlier MPR story described cyber-recruiting by Al-Shabab, including YouTube videos, chat rooms and web sites.

The official story, from the FBI, is that they don’t know much, if anything:

The FBI, which has been leading the investigation into the missing men, could not confirm Hassan’s death and said it had no information that the teenager was planning to return to the U.S.

Carstarphen: Go slower Departing school chief Meria Carstarphen recommended that St. Paul schools focus on academic reform and delay action on proposed changes to a three-region busing and school choice plan for another year, reports the PiPress. The board was scheduled to vote on the plan this month, which would mean implementing it in 2010. Instead, Carstarphen recommends waiting until April to vote, and not implementing the plan until 2011. It’s not clear from the report whether Carstarphen is also recommending a delay in closing three schools.

I wrote in the TC Daily Planet last week about the proposed Large Scale System Change (LSSC) plan that Carstarphen now wants to delay. Part of the plan would divide the city into three regions, and students would attend elementary school in their region of the city or in one of seven “citywide enrollment” schools. Right now, SPPS pays to bus 89 percent of all its students, and the plan would save money on busing. The plan would also make changes in the magnet school system and to establish clear pathways from elementary to junior high to high school for all students.

The Board of Education has scheduled a listening session, with a wide-open agenda, at Expo Elementary school, from 7-8:30 p.m. and a vote on the LSSC at its June 16 meeting. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will leave St. Paul on June 30 to become superintendent of schools in Austin, Texas.

Wind industry layoffs The wind energy industry needs free-blowing wind and free-flowing credit — and lack of credit is slowing development, reports the PiPress. In Pipestone, the world’s fifth-largest turbine manufacturer, Suzlon Energy Ltd., will lay off 70 of 324 workers by August 2, and 90 more by September 12. Last year was a big year for wind power, but this year projects have been stopped or delayed by lack of financing.

Banks and developers are waiting for the U.S. Treasury Department to finalize regulations next month that can free up valuable federal grants for renewable energy projects, but the money likely won’t start flowing until September at the earliest, said Gregory Jenner, a partner and tax specialist for Stoel Rives, a law firm that works with wind energy projects.

At the same time, a company in Fargo is laying off 100 workers at a plant that made support towers, and a planned production facility for wind turbine gearboxes in southeastern Minnesota is on hold, according to MPR. On a more postive note, Willmar has just finished building two wind turbines.

World/National Headlines

Battle in Peru Democracy Now reports that police massacred dozens of indigenous protesters and protesters killed several police, and took more hostage, in a confrontation in the Amazonian region of Peru.

On Friday morning, some 600 Peruvian riot police and helicopters attacked a peaceful indigenous blockade outside of Bagua, killing twenty-five and injuring more than 150. Eyewitness accounts indicate the police fired live ammunition and tear gas into the crowd. The images our TV viewers are watching are from an on-the-ground eyewitness to the attack. Our radio listeners can see these images on our website, democracynow.org. …

GREGOR MacLENNAN [of Amazon Watch]: People have been protesting against a government and government policy that ignores indigenous peoples, that sees the Amazon as being unproductive and sees indigenous people as essentially a waste of space. What the government wants to do is open up the Amazon’s private investment. They see the future of development there to be biofuel plantations, oil drilling, mining, forestry and large corporate investments, and indigenous people are just getting in the way.

BBC reports that Alberto Pizango, an indigenous leader, has taken refuge in the Nicaraguan Embassy.

Shell settles in Nigeria Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay $15.5m to settle a lawsuit brought in the U.S. and based on human rights abuses in Nigeria, reports BBC. The lawsuit was based on claims of Shell involvement in human rights abuses, including the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 14 other anti-Shell activists in 1995.

War Reports

Burma The Burmese army is attacking Karen rebels near the Ler Per Her camp in eastern Karen state, reports BBC. The conflict has created a new wave of refugees:

The Karen Human Rights Group, a Thai-based humanitarian group, put the number of refugees at about 3,000 – and so too did a Thai army official speaking to local media.

Somalia Al-Shabab rebels have been destroying Sufi mosques and gravesites in southern Iraq, According to BBC, “There is evidence that the anger is stirring the usually peaceful Sufis to take up arms and fight back against al-Shabab.”

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