News Day: Pawlenty: Layoffs coming / Misleading Strib headline / Peach-glazed pig cheeks / Tweeting the revolution / Karen fleeing / more

Pawlenty: Layoffs coming Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday that he will announce state spending cuts within two weeks, reports the PiPress, and the cuts will mean layoffs for some state employees. The governor also plans to use “budget shifts” to delay state payments to public schools. Pawlenty vetoed budget plans sent to him by the state legislature, leaving a $2.7 billion shortfall in the two-year state budget that takes effect July 1, and leaving him with the authority to make unilateral “unallotments” to balance the budget.

Tuition increases, misleading Strib headline MPR reports that both the U of M and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) are planning three percent tuition hikes next year, relying on federal stimulus funds to keep the increases relatively low. After the stimulus funds run out, a larger increase can be expected in 2012.

The dead tree version of the Strib headlined “Students May Get Tuition Cut.” The story attempts to justify the headline by an explanation that increased schoalrship and grant programs will benefit 61 percent of in-state students, meaning their out-of-pocket payments will be less than this year. A three percent increase is not a tuition cut, regardless of who ends up paying for it. The web version of the story carried a more accurate headline: “U of M tuition to jump 3 percent.”

Peach-glazed pig cheeks With the State Fair still more than two months away, the Pioneer Press has sounded the first Fair food alert, predicting “the year of the potato,” along with such delicacies as: “Peach-glazed pig cheeks. French-fry-encrusted hot dogs. The tornado potato. German sausages wrapped in potato.” For food off-the-stick, check out “Ole and Lena’s ‘deep-fried Norwegian banana split’ — a banana rolled in lefse, deep fried and topped with ice cream, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, whipped cream and nuts.”

Hot spot for biking The Minnesota Bike Festival this week will include several bike races, reports MPR:

That means looping races through downtown St. Paul tonight, and another through Uptown on Friday night, as well as a race straight up Chilkoot Hill in Stillwater on Sunday afternoon. The hour-long Stillwater race is one of the toughest in North America.

[According to a race organizer] “The riders have to go up this super steep hill about every three minutes,” LaPorte said. “So, the first time up its 100 riders. The next time up its 80 riders. The next time up its about 60 riders. Only about 30 percent of the professional athletes that start that race will finish the full distance.”

No stimulus yet for MN schools Minnesota schools are still waiting for more than $800 million in stimulus funds delivered to the state. The money is here, but schools can’t get it until they first spend their own money and ask for reimbursement, and then wade through complicated forms. In the meantime, the money is “sitting in a state account, waiting until everyone’s ready to use it,” reports MPR.

With the governor’s plan for budget shifts to delay delivery of state funding, MN schools face double trouble. Delays in delivery of state funding mean schools may have to borrow to pay for salaries or buses or books, and that increases their expenses, because they have to pay interest on the loans. With the stimulus money sitting in a state account, I’m wondering whether the accumulating interest is also helping to balance the state budget, or whether it will — some day — be disbursed to schools. All told, this looks less like our once-vaunted Minnesota Miracle and a lot more like balancing the budget on the backs of schools.

World/National Headlines

Tweeting the revolution A Harvard study finds that 10 percent of Twitter users generate 90 percent of all tweets, reports BBC. Twitter has 10 million users worldwide, with uses ranging from socializing among friends to news alerts and micro-reporting. According to the researchers, their findings imply that Twitter “resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.”

Police, activists and journalists all used Twitter heavily at last year’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, with tweets monitored on cell phones sending people racing from one hot spot to another. Twitter’s usefulness as a news and organizing tool is also attested by the Chinese government’s attempts to block Twitter, especially around last week’s Tiananmen Square anniversary observances. BBC reports:

Besides the Tiananmen anniversary itself, what seemed to be most important to Chinese twitterers was the blocking of sites. Advice on how to access Twitter – by using a proxy, VPN (virtual private network) or Hotspot shield – spread around quickly. …

A student from Shanghai, who also prefers to remain anonymous, says that the blocking of websites makes it very hard to do research. “Twitter is my main source of news and information. I usually read about things that the government doesn’t care about, like technology, yet I am still facing problems,” he says.

Peru cover-up charged BBC reports that human rights lawyers are charging a cover-up in Peru, saying that hundreds of people are missing after at least 50 people were killed when police violently broke up a roadblock set up by indigenous people protesting oil drilling near the town of Bagua Grande, 870 miles north of the capital Lima. Human rights agencies are not being allowed into the area to investigate.

War Reports

Pakistan A suicide attack on the Pearl Continental luxury hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed at least 15 and injured at least 60 more, reports BBC. Meanwhile, the government says its offensive in the semi-tribal areas around North Waziristan has killed at least 70 militants.

Iraq A car bomb in the southern city of Bathas killed at least 28 people. The area has been the scene of conflict between rival Shia militia in the past, reports BBC.

Burma After shelling of a Karen refugee camp inside Burma and heightened hostilities between Karen resistance fighters and the Burmese army sent 4,000 refugees fleeing into Thailand, the Thai army moved reinforcements to the border, reports BBC. The new arrivals will join 100,000 Karen already living in refugee camps in Thailand.

St. Paul is home to about 3,000 Karen, the largest Karen refugee population in the United States, most of whom arrived in 2003.

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