News Day: Franken, Klobuchar immigration votes / MN farm debate / Security? What security? / more

border fenceKlobuchar votes with conservatives on immigration Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken split over immigration votes, with Klobuchar voting with Republicans and conservative Democrats to build 700 miles of border fence and to make the federal E-verify system mandatory for federal contractors. The votes came on amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010. The original Senate bill would have reauthorized E-Verify for three years without making it mandatory, reports MinnPost.

Franken spokesperson Jess McIntosh pointed out that, “On the border fence vote, none of the relevant effective law enforcement agencies were indicating this was something they needed or wanted.”

The Christian Science Monitor last year recounted inaccuracies in the E-Verify program, with stories of citizens who lost their jobs because of the program.

Senator Klobuchar defended her votes, saying, “If people have worked in this country, if they pay their taxes and abide by the laws, basically they should be able to earn citizenship in this country. But I don’t believe we are going to be able to have the political will to get there until the government is able to show we have made a very good effort, and some changes here, to make it harder to come in illegally.”

MN farm debate Are Minnesota farmers doing well? Or are they hard hit by the recession and facing prices below the cost of production? I’ve noted several recent reports of deep trouble on the farm, most recently on July 6, and before that on a U of M survey released in May. All indicators that I’ve seen point to hard times for farmers, so I was surprised to see MinnPost’s claim that “crop farmers are doing well.”

The MinnPost paragraph on farming came at the end of a long article detailing the travails of logging, mining and manufacturing industries in Minnesota. The farming paragraph noted that crop farmers had a bumper year last year and cited USDA reports showing that crops are growing well this year. That may be true, and it’s also true that crop farmers are not suffering nearly the pain of livestock operations — but that doesn’t mean they are profitable. As Minnesota 2020 reports, the picture for crop farmers is both bleak and complicated:

And despite relatively tight national and global supplies, diminished trade prospects have grain prices falling below costs of production on many Minnesota’s farms. Corn prices have lost more than a dollar a bushel from earlier in the year with nearby futures prices at about $3.25 per bushel at the close of trading on Tuesday. Soybean prices are down more than $3 a bushel since winter, closing at around $10.50 per bushel on Tuesday.

Market signals are not much better for grain farmers than they are for livestock producers. But like so much of the data that comes with monitoring the recession, the actual impact of current agricultural market trends can be misleading.

Grain farmers use sophisticated marketing tools, such as forward contracts and futures, to lock in prices well before the harvest. We won’t know until next spring what the falling commodity prices actually mean to Minnesota’s important farm income component of the state’s economy.

MN wind farm up for approval It could become the biggest wind farm in Minnesota, with 122 turbines, each standing 400 feet tall, located on 32,500 acres near Albert Lea in Freeborn County. Wisconsin Power and Light Co., a subsidiary of Madison-based Alliant Energy, will take its proposal Wisconsin regulators this week, and then to the MN Public Utilities Commission, reports the Star Tribune. The wind farm would provide power to the Wisconsin utility, helping it meet sustainable energy mandates and would be operational by the end of 2010. A group of Freeborn County residents has asked that the PUC lengthen the distance between wind turbines and homes to 1500 feet, three times the proposed distance. The group also wants decibel testing for the turbines. According to the Strib:

Turbines are not supposed to register more than 50 decibels — about the level of a washing machine — for 54 minutes out of every hour.

Public utility commissioners haven’t decided how to handle the case yet. They could focus on the site in Freeborn County or they could open up a larger investigation that would affect the rest of the state.

National/World Headlines

Security? What security? The Government Accountability Office revealed major breaches in security yesterday, after a sting operation that investigated the Federal Protective Service. According to the Washington Post:

Government investigators said today it cost roughly $150 and took only four minutes to construct small bombs from materials they carried into high-security federal buildings that house major agencies with national security or law enforcement responsibilities.

Most security is provided by contractors, and the Federal Protective Service said that, since the agency was moved to Homeland Security in 2003, it has not had sufficient funding or personnel to supervise the contractors. The FPS has a budget of about $1 billion, 1,200 full-time employees and about 13,000 contract security guards.

According to NPR:

The report found that while prospective guards were supposed to receive 128 hours of training, including eight hours for X-rays and magnetometers — devices used to detect metal objects — in at least one region, 1,500 guards working in federal buildings had received no such training since 2004.

Honduras still in trouble As the military maintains a tight grip on the country, OAS, UN and US leaders have met with President Manuel Zelaya and are trying to negotiate with coup leaders for his return to Honduras. No luck yet, and reports from Honduras describe repressive conditions and anger from large segments of the society. Bertha Oliva, a human rights leader since the 1980s, denounced the coup in a radio interview as more of the military repression that has plagued the country. Here’s another report, from the Weekly News Update on the Americas:

Father José Andrés Tamayo, an activist Honduran priest who was the Central American recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for 2005, went into hiding shortly after the June 28 military coup that removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from power, according to phone calls he made on July 1 to New York’s Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa and the US-based Catholic News Service.

On June 29 Tamayo joined a group of several hundred protesters who were taking seven rented buses from the eastern department of Olancho, where Tamayo is based, to Tegucigalpa to join ongoing demonstrations against the coup. When soldiers shot out the buses’ tires near the town of Los Limones, the protesters decided to block the road. During the night of June 30-July 1 the soldiers attacked, beating the protesters and firing their weapons “in all directions,” according to Tamayo, who escaped into a house and hid under a bed. Some protesters were arrested and taken to a police station, where they were beaten, stripped and threatened with shotguns before being released after four hours.

Tamayo was in hiding when he made the calls. There have been several attempts against the priest’s life since 2001 because of his campaigns to protect the forests; he had been assigned bodyguards by the previous government, but they were apparently withdrawn after the coup. (Catholic News Service 7/1/09; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 7/2/09
from ED-LP; New America Media 7/2/09, translated from ED-LP)

War Reports

Iraq At least 34 people were killed and 60 injured in a double suicide bombing in northern Iraq, near Mosulreports BBC. Seven more people were killed and about 20 injured in two bomb explosions in Sadr City in Baghdad, and a roadside bomb killed a civilian in central Baghdad.

Afghanistan At least 25 people, including many children, were killed in a truck explosion in central Logar province, reports BBC.

1 Comment

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One response to “News Day: Franken, Klobuchar immigration votes / MN farm debate / Security? What security? / more

  1. Franken is absolutely right to vote against the border wall. It has already cost over $3.1 billion, and according to the Congressional Research Service it has had “no discernible impact” on the number of undocumented immigrants that enter the United States each year. The Border Patrol has repeatedly called it a “speed bump.” The Department of Homeland Security even ridiculed the amendment calling for more walls after it was passed. The border wall is just a prop for politicians who want to give voters a false sense of security, and welfare for Boeing and Kiewit, who are making billions on the construction contracts.


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