News Day: The Usual Suspects / Second chance / Credit unions in trouble / Twitter, iPhone dangers / Blue Dog deal

<a href="http://us.fotolia.com/id/5159529" title="" alt="">Soja Andrzej</a> - Fotolia.com

Soja Andrzej - Fotolia.com

The Usual Suspects The Pioneer Press has a new crime blog, dedicated to “chronicling bizarre and quirky tales from our crime and court beats.” I’m bookmarking and following it right now, so I don’t miss news that ranges from the absurd (a driver who blamed a crash on snakes in his pants, stupid criminals stories) to the straight news (Sheriff Fletcher defending himself for defending Gang Strike Force.) Okay – maybe sometimes the distinction between absurd and straight news isn’t so clear, but the blog promises to be a great read. Last night’s post – Wiliam Finney will not run against Bob Fletcher for sheriff in 2010.

Waterfall dries up Minnehaha Falls has fallen victim to the drought (precipitation is 16 inches below normal for the past 14 months), and now is only a trickle of its former self, reports the Pioneer Press. Minnehaha Falls dries up when the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District closes the Grays Bay Dam. That happened on June 2 this year, though the dam usually stays open until September. Other recent years when Minnehaha Falls was dried up: 2000, 1988 and 1964. The average precipitation by this time in the year is 17.36 inches, but the Twin Cities has received only 9.49 inches this year.

Second chance for MN refugees Three Salvadoran teens who fled their home country because of threats from the MS-13 gang may get a second chance at asylum in Minnesota, reports the TC Daily Planet:

They were recently jailed for about 17 days and faced imminent deportation. Then they scored a major victory. Not only were they released from jail, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also has joined with their attorneys to ask the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen their case. Ben Casper, one of their attorneys, called DHS’s decision very unusual. “I have never heard of it before,” he said.

Conflict of interest for U of M doc? U of M Dr. David Polly received more than a million dollars from Medtronic, and U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) thinks that may be a conflict of interest. Grassley is asking for an investigation, because “Polly went before Congress in 2006 and testified about a program that had ties to Medtronic, but Polly didn’t disclose his own ties to Medtronic,” reports MPR. U of M officials are reviewing the matter, and Polly remains on the Medtronic payroll.

Credit unions follow banks into deep water The Thumper Pond development is emblematic of new risks taken by some credit unions, reports the Star Tribune. When credit unions strayed from their traditional customers and loans to members, they courted the same trouble that banks have seen in the current economic crisis.

Losses on risky loans, from Twin Cities housing projects to out-of-state ethanol plants, are one reason why nearly half of the state’s 156 credit unions lost money in the most recent quarter, compared to 35 percent of credit unions nationwide. Seven of Minnesota’s credit unions are near or below capital levels the government deems adequate. And two were in such bad shape they had to be sold.

Want to check your credit union’s asset rating? The Strib has a list.

World/National news

Twitter danger BBC reports that a Chicago real estate company is suing a former tenant who tweeted about mold in her apartment. Horizon Group Management says her tweet was defamatory, and sued. Jeffrey Michael, whose family has run Horizon for decades, told the Chicago Sun-Times they didn’t talk to her about the tweet and didn’t ask her to take it down, saying, “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organisation.” Tenant Amanda Bonnen had 20 Twitter followers at the time that she posted the tweet, and has since closed her Twitter account.

iPhones in peril? Forbes.com reports on an iPhone hack that could “give a hacker complete power over any of the smart phone’s functions,” and then propagate itself to take over every iPhone in the world. Two cyber-security experts say that they notified Apple about the problem more than a month ago, but that it hasn’t released a patch.

If you receive a text message on your iPhone any time after Thursday afternoon containing only a single square character, Charlie Miller would suggest you turn the device off. Quickly.

The researchers have also found bugs in Windows Mobile and Google Android phones.

Beer today! BBC reports: “Cambridge police sergeant Jim Crowley and Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard scholar he arrested after responding to a report of a possible break-in at Mr Gates’s home, will sit down with Mr Obama on Thursday for a conciliatory beer.”

Is this the way to better race relations in America? If not, it is at least the way to a summer’s worth of late-night TV fodder. From across the pond, BBC thinks it is tempting to view the whole episode as the “ultimate conflation of the age of Obama and the age of Oprah,” adding that, “Aside from the choice of beverage, there is something very daytime television, something very soft focus, something very soft sofa, about this attempt to defuse the controversy.”

For a truly hysterical look at the entire flap, tune in to Colbert Nation on race and farts.

Refugees drown Some 200 people fleeing the poverty and starvation of Haiti crammed a homemade sailboat, enduring hunger and thirst for two days — and then the boat sank. NPR interviewed survivors, who said:

The boat was jam-packed with people. Men filled the deck, exposed to the hot sun, while women and men alike filled the dark, nearly airless hold below, survivors later told rescuers. Pierre said the hold was packed so tight that nobody could lie down.

118 people were rescued, after 17 hours in the water.

Pierre was among those returned to Haiti:

Pierre, who was reunited with his mother, said for all the horrors of the voyage he was still desperate to get out of Haiti, where 80 percent of the people survive on less than $2 a day.

Health care fact-of-the-day Courtesy of Paul Krugman: “Since 1970 Medicare costs per beneficiary have risen at an annual rate of 8.8% — but insurance premiums have risen at an annual rate of 9.9%. … if insurance premiums had risen “only” as much as Medicare spending, they’d be 1/3 lower than they are.”

Blue Dog deal Minnesota Budget Bites has an analysis of the deal struck by Blue Dog Democrats to allow the health care reform bill to move to the House floor. The deal allows a public option to remain, but limits tax increases and employer mandates. According to the New York Times:

The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberal lawmakers, would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and change the terms of a government insurance option.

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