News Day: Unemployment up, crime down / Play it again / Iran elections / more

Crime falling with economy The common wisdom is that crime rises during economic recessions, but the common wisdom is wrong, reports Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota. Comparing crime rates and unemployment figures every April for ten years shows no correlation between crime rates and unemployment. In fact, “the crime rate of 4.3 incidents per 1,000 residents in April 2009 is the lowest April crime rate in Minneapolis this decade. After peaking at a rate of 6.0 incidents per 1,000 residents in April 2006, the crime rate has fallen in each of the subsequent three years – to a rate of 5.7 in April 2007, 5.2 in April 2008, and 4.3 in April 2009. ”

MN Job Watch Layoffs are ahead at the University of Minnesota, reports the Pioneer Press. Funding cuts will mean the elimination of 1,240 positions. Even after attrition, that will probably mean 400 layoffs. The attrition will include leaving 200+ open faculty positions unfilled.

AP reports that the Strib and the drivers’ union have reached an agreement, averting a strike. According to the report, details of the agreement will be released to workers on Wednesday and a vote taken at that time.

The New York Times reports that, for many people, furloughs mean taking home a smaller paycheck, but not taking time off. Some feel that the boss is watching, and worry that taking time off will be a factor considered in future layoffs. Others feel guilty that taking days off means piling more work on colleagues.

And some say the message from the management is unclear, leaving employees wondering: Is this real time off?

“I think it’s a joke,” said Roland Becht, who works at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in San Diego. (More than 200,000 state employees are supposed to have two furlough days each month.) “I’ve tried to schedule furlough time and was denied because we’re short-staffed.”

Play it again – RIAA? Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota defendant in the first music-swapping trial, will be in court again this week. She lost the first time around, but appealed, and won a new trial. The music industry has gotten a black eye over the 30,000 lawsuits against people using file sharing software, and has decided to stop filing new actions. AP reports:

Faced with huge legal bills, most settled for an average of about $3,500, even if they insisted they had done nothing wrong. Thomas-Rasset’s new lawyer, K.A.D. Camara, notes the settlements add up to more than $100 million; the RIAA contends its legal costs exceeded the settlement money it brought in.

The lawsuits have turned into a public relations nightmare for the recording industry, putting music companies in the position of going after their most ardent fans.

Gang Strike Force strikes out The Gang Strike Force has been suspended, and now officials are trying to put together a replacement, according to the Strib. Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion announced that a new unit, based in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, will work on gang activity during the summer.

Campion said the new unit will be based at the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul and should be fully staffed and operational in 10 days. It will consist of eight to 12 investigators from metro-area law enforcement agencies and will have “a strict governance and supervisory structure” led by Capt. Chris Omodt, who became Strike Force commander in January.

Mayor to governor? MinnPost points out that no Minneapolis or St. Paul mayor has ever made it to the governor’s office. This time around, both Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman are among the prominently-mentioned possible candidates. The article is interesting reading, but even if you aren’t interested in the historical and political analysis, you should click here to see the illustration of RT and Coleman in American Gothic style.

World/National News

Iran election furor This morning, in a surprise development, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an investigation of election fraud charges, reports the Washington Post. On Saturday, Khameini had urged the nation to unite behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed victory in Friday’s presidential election. Official vote tallies showed Ahmadinejad winning 63% of the vote against 34% for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who said there widespread and serious election violations.

Thousands of people protested in the streets over the weekend. BBC reported “the worst violence seen in Tehran for a decade, correspondents said. The BBC’s John Simpson saw secret policemen being attacked and chased away by protesters, which he says is extremely rare.” In another article, BBC reports on widespread citizen journalism via cell phone movies, Facebook, Twitter, and various electronic media.

On Sunday, the BBC reported:

It has become a challenge not just of an election result, not just to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

That means it is, in effect, a challenge to the whole basis of the Islamic Republic.

The emphasis in the New York Times was different:

Whether his 63 percent victory is truly the will of the people or the result of fraud, it demonstrated that Mr. Ahmadinejad is the shrewd and ruthless front man for a clerical, military and political elite that is more unified and emboldened than at any time since the 1979 revolution.

Not-so-silent haters Frank Rich nails it in the New York Times: “When a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network’s surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, “amped up” Americans who are “taking the extra step and getting the gun out,” maybe we should listen.”

War Reports

Iraq Iraq’s leading Sunni legislator was assassinated Friday after giving a sermon at a mosque in Baghdad, reports the Washington Post.

Harith al-Obaidi, 45, an outspoken critic of human rights abuses by security forces inside Iraqi jails, was killed a day after he announced plans to summon the ministers of interior, defense and justice to answer widespread allegations of abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons.

Burn pits and Hallliburton Army Times is reporting an under-the-radar story about six soldiers suing KBR and Halliburton and charging that “military contractors burned everything from trucks and tires to human corpses in the large war-zone pits. Plantiffs say the burning waste released toxins that harmed at least 10,000 people.” (Hat tip to Dan Gordon)

Pakistan At least seven people were killed and many more injured in a bombing in a market in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan, BBC reports. This is the same town where 25 people were killed in an attack on a funeral caravan in February.

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