Central Corridor starts Downtown St. Paul will see streets dug up, starting Monday, so that utility lines can be moved before construction of the Central Corridor light rail line begins next year, reports the Star Tribune. Street closings and restrictions will begin on 4th Street between Minnesota and Jackson streets.
Xcel Energy, which is covering its cost independently of the Central Corridor project, will be the first to rip up the streets and move its lines. The other utilities — water, sewer, District Energy and others — are likely to be moved starting in late August, after some federal approvals are given.
Police and crime news The Twin Cities remained mainly quiet over the holiday weekend, except for a fight between soccer fans after a game on Friday night and a shooting in West St. Paul, apparently by a neighbor who objected to the fireworks set off by the 14-year-old victim and his friends. (The boy who was shot was reported in critical but stable condition.) Minneapolis ended the first half of the year with only six murders, compared to 18 for the first half of 2008, reports the Strib. Police say that’s the lowest number they can recall. St. Paul had seven murders in the first half of 2009.
St. Paul police are asking for a civil injunction against members of two gangs, the Selby Siders and East Side Boys, for the July 18 Rondo Days celebration. Hearings on the city’s request are set for July 15. The city first used the injunction process against the Sureño 13 during the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in May. If granted, the injunctions would order nine named gang members not to associate with one another, flash gang signs or wear gang colors at the specified times and places.
St. Paul has also authorized 3,000 hours of police overtime for the summer.
Want the official police news? Both Minneapolis and St. Paul are now on Nixle, a system that allows people to sign up for email and cellphone alerts, community information, and traffic reports. That doesn’t mean you will hear all the latest on crime, but you will get alerts about things the police think you should know — such as a missing vulnerable adult in Minneapolis (now found and safe), or an increase in auto thefts in a St. Paul nieghborhood.
New hope for old homes Ramsey County is using stimulus funds to refurbish foreclosed homes and make them more attractive to buyers, reports the Strib. The first 25 homes targeted for fix-ups are in Maplewood and Little Canada. Maplewood had 143 foreclosures last year, the highest number of any St. Paul suburb (except for Minneapolis, the large suburb to the west.) Using a similar approach, Brooklyn Park has renovated 11 homes and expects to reach a total of 30-50 over the next year and a half.
With 5,200 foreclosures in Minnesota in the first four months of 2009, and rising homelessness, any program that will get people back in homes sounds like a good idea.
Trouble on the farm Dairy farmers may be the hardest-hit, but they are not alone, reports MPR:
The livestock industry is in one of its worst economic slumps in decades. It’s hit just about every sector: hogs, dairy, beef and poultry, and it’s causing farmers a lot of stress.
Feed costs rose dramatically in 2007, when corn prices, boosted by demand for ethanol, went through the ceiling. Though corn prices have fallen, so have prices for livestock and milk. Pork producers were hit hard by the “swine flu” scare — although eating pork has nothing to do with swine flu, many consumers didn’t know that and stopped buying pork.
Dairy farmers have seen the greatest crash. with the farmer’s price falling from about $1.71 per gallon at the end of 2007 to less than 92 cents per gallon at the beginning of 2009. MPR quotes dairy farmer Steve Hoffman as saying this is the worst time he’s seen in 24 years of farming.
Hoffman said right now it costs far more to produce milk than anyone’s willing to pay for it.
“Most producers are probably losing anywhere from $2 to $7 per hundredweight of milk produced right now,” Hoffman said.
That adds up to some huge losses. Hoffman said he’s losing about $10,000 a month right now on his milk.
Franken, Palin, Sanford Al Franken is senator, Sarah Palin announced that she will resign as governor, effective July 25; South Carolina Governor John Sanford can’t stop talking about his affair — or affairs.
140 killed in China Protests by the Muslim Uighur minority in China continue, with at least 140 people killed and 800 wounded in clashes with police, according to the Washington Post. The protests in the far western Xinjiang region were “the most severe ethnic uprising since the riots in Tibet in spring 2008.” According to the Post, “Uighur leaders have expressed concerns similar to their Tibetan counterparts: that under Chinese rule the eight million Uighurs who live in China have experienced political, cultural and religious persecution.”
Honduras coup update Two people were killed by the Honduran military Sunday as protesters supporting President Manuel Zelaya tried to meet his plane at the airport, while the military coup government refused to allow the plane to land. After several attempts to land at Tegucigalpa airport, the plane eventually landed in Managua.
President Manuel Zelaya tried to return to Honduras despite coup leaders’ threat to arrest him if he does so. Honduras’ neighbors have imposed a growing list of sanctions, including suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS vote was 33-0, with Honduras abstaining, and is the first suspension of a member state since Cuba was suspended in 1962.
Monday in Iran Though fickle public attention has turned away, Iran’s political stew continues to boil. Defying arrest threats, Mir Hossein Mousavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters. The Washington Post reports that this action was met by arres threats, and that:
Hossein Shariatmadari, a special adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Mousavi of being a “foreign agent” working for the United States and a member of a “fifth column” determined to topple Iran’s Islamic system of governance.
• Nine Iranians who work at the British embassy were arrested last week – by Sunday, eight of the nine had been freed, but that Abdolsamad Khorramshah, the embassy’s political analyst, was still in custody and was not allowed to see his lawyer. BBC reports that before the release of the eight, Ahmad Jannati, leader of the Guardian Council, said that the arrested employees had “made confessions” and “inevitably” would be put on trial. UK foreign secretary David Milband said:
It is very important that my anger, my cold anger, about the way our staff have been treated… doesn’t turn into a rhetorical volley at the Iranian regime, because that doesn’t do anything either for our people or for reform in Iran.
• A group of clerics, the Assembly of Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers, has called the election invalid, reports BBC. The group said that the Guardian Council, no longer had the right “to judge in this case.” The New York Times called the group “the most important group of religious leaders in Iran.”
“The Guardian Council is an unelected 12-member council made up of six religious leaders, appointed by the supreme leader, and six jurists,” noted BBC, which characterized the clerics’ statement as a an act of defiance against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Somalia Twelve civilians were killed in Mogadishu as government forces responded to shelling of the presidential palace, reports BBC.
Meanwhile, the prime minister says he was assured at the African Union summit that more peacekeepers will be sent.
The African Union has a 4,300-strong force in Mogadishu, but its mandate prevents peacekeepers from attacking the insurgents except for in self-defence.
Afghanistan: Military offensive As U.S. forces continued a massive anti-Taliban offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, insurgents staged a frontal attack on a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan’s Patika province. The attack killed two U.S. soldiers and threatened to overrun the base until air strikes were called in, according to the Los Angeles Times. The base in the Zerok district is in the same area where a U.S. soldier disappeared, and is believed to have been captured, July 1.
The Helmand offensive includes 4,000 U.S. troops and 700 UK troops, as well as Afghan trooops. BBC reported the deaths of three British soldiers on so far.