News Day: Minneapolis Park Board wants more / New Gang Strike Force / Cyber-attack in U.S., South Korea / more

Mpls Park Board wants more After beating back a proposed referendum that would have abolished the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the MPRB has its own proposal: a referendum to give it the power to levy taxes. The Star Tribune reports:

Some commissioners began circulating petitions last weekend for a charter referendum aimed at giving the Park Board its own taxing and budget authority. …

Park commissioners have been chafing under what they view as increasingly stringent limits imposed by City Hall over their share of property taxes collected by the city and city borrowing allotted to park facilities.

To get its proposal on the ballot, the MPRD has to gather signatures of five percent of city voters — about 10,000 signatures — by August 11. The Charter Commission has already approved a referendum on a proposal that would abolish the Board of Taxation and Estimates, concentrating taxing and budgeting power in the city council.

New Gang Strike Force unit They’re temporary, and that’s probably a good thing. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion damns with faint praise, describing the eight deputies from eight jurisdictions as “good people who are highly motivated.” In an MPR interview, he called the new unit “less than ideal.” The down side, according to the Star Tribune:

The interim officers appear to be fairly new to investigative work. At least three have no investigative experience, and three others have three years or less.

Their commission is a bit unclear. According to the Strib, Campion said their work will be “primarily assisting local agencies, going to events where gang members might be present and getting information out to other agencies about gang activity,” while Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek said it “is not an investigative task force, but rather more focused on suppression activities.”

Relief fund from foundations The St. Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundatiion announced a $2.2 million collaborative effort to assist low-income Minnesotans with housing, food, and financial counseling and assistance, reports MPR. The initial recipients of funding included the Minnesota Food Helpline (run by Hunger Solutions), Dakota County Social Services (housing assistance for 72 people with disabilities or other barriers), Emergency Foodshelf Network, Second Harvest Heartland, The Family Place, Home Ownership Center, and AccountAbility Minnesota.

Discipline over racial incident in St. Paul One employee received a three-day suspension and two others got “oral reprimands” over a racially-charged incident, reports the Pioneer Press:

Last August, firefighters discovered the stuffed monkey, dressed in what [St. Paul firefighter Will] Smith has called African garb and cinched at the waist with a fire department shield, hanging in a noose at the city’s equipment service garage on Energy Park Drive.

Those involved in the incident insisted there was no racial intent, but St. Paul fire chief wrote to them that they “should have known a noose is a universally recognized symbol of violence and you should be sensitive to the fact that many people in our department and society perceive the noose as a symbol of violence against persons of color.”

Firefighter Will Smith and St. Paul NAACP president Nathaniel Khaliq said they did not think the discipline was sufficient.

National/World Headlines

Cyber-attack on U.S., South Korea A 4th of July cyberattack targeted at least the U.S. Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department and the South Korean presidential Blue House, Defense Ministry, National Assembly, reports BBC. The attack is ongoing. Anonymous South Korean officials blamed North Korea, but U.S. officials said the source had not been identified. The Washington Post reports that the denial of service attacks are targeting 26 websites, including commercial sites operated by Nasdaq, the New York Stock Exchange and The Washington Post. In the U.S., an unidentified government official said:

[The] government and private sector Internet service providers were able to “keep this down to a dull roar.”

He said that the attacks were major in the sense that they were widespread and well-coordinated, and that though the FTC website was down most of the day Tuesday, “the reality is that most of the Web sites have been up most of the time so the countermeasures have been pretty effective.”

According to NPR, South Korean email and other sites were also affected.

War Reports

Afghanistan Even as U.S. and allied troops continue a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, BBC reports on increasing Taliban presence and control in the north. Visiting the Kunduz region, a BBC reporter finds schools for girls have been closed, and the Taliban has imposed a 10 percent religious tax. Taliban patrols are visible, and people complain that the central government has abandoned them. Anonymous central government officials say they are waiting until after the harvest to move. In the meantime:

In recent months, Kunduz has felt the consequences of the Taliban presence – a senior Afghan government official was shot dead while driving to the Tajikistan border and four US soldiers were recently killed by a roadside bomb.

The New York Times reports that only 400 Afghan soldiers are fighting with the 4,000 U.S. soldiers and the British soldiers in the southern offensive.

Sudan International attention has focused on the plight of Darfur in the western part of Sudan. Now conflicts in southern Sudan are heating up again, reports BBC. Hundreds have been killed in recent months, and an aid convoy escorted by 150 soldiers was attacked and looted, with 60 of the soldiers killed.

Clashes between rival groups in the south have taken place for generations, over resources, land or livestock.

But these well-planned attacks are no simple disputes over stolen cattle.

Women and children are now also deliberately targeted – something elders say never happened in the past.

Pakistan U.S. drone attacks in South Waziristan killed 12 militants on Tuesday and 7 people on Wednesday, reports BBC. Dozens of drone strikes since last August, have killed hundreds of militants and civilians, and have enraged many Pakistanis. Pakistan’s government has also criticized the drone attacks over the past year.

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