News Day: Beer Summit / Gangs of St. Paul / Police gang / Harassment by pizza / Iran repression

Picture 4Beer Summit Red Stripe for Henry Louis Gates, Blue Moon for the police officer, and Bud Light for the president: beer choices at the White House were all over the news yesterday, along with Congressional admonitions to the president to drink American.

Jon Stewart parodied the silliness: “Budweiser is the king of beers – he’s a monarchist. And their spokesperson, Spud McKenzie — gay!” But no parody could match the performance of serious commentators and — yes — Congressional reps. Perhaps the best: CNN reports that Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal “strongly urges the president not to drink Budweiser, now owned by a Belgian company. Nor should the White House consider serving Miller or Coors, Neal writes, both owned by a United Kingdom conglomerate.” Instead, wrote Neal, Obama should drink Sam Adams.

Gangs of St. Paul St. Paul police keep a little list of people they think are gang members. The list isn’t public, and once you’re named as a gang member, there’s no provision for a way to appeal the decision, reports the TC Daily Planet. Police representatives said the system is “based on documented gang activity,” but community members were skeptical.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, an associate law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, said some of the requirements are subjective. “What if someone in your family is involved with a gang and you may not be, but you’re observed to associate with that family member? Or you get into a situation where you’re in a photo with a gang member?”

Some people said they or family members have been inaccurately named as gang members.

Police gang A lawsuit filed against the now-disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force makes the police operation sound less like a strike force and more like a gang, as they seized thousands of dollars, jewelry and other property from civilians and then just kept what they seized, although the victims were never charged with any crimes. The Star Tribune summarizes:

The suit says the Strike Force targeted “vulnerable aliens” by calling the Minneapolis impound lot to ask if there were any “Mexicans” there attempting to pick up vehicles.

The suit said Strike Force officers showed up at the lot, searched people, took their cash and vehicles, and sent them on their way without a receipt for the seized property. The suit also claims that on many occasions the Strike Force called officers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service to expedite the “removal” of aliens, precluding them from seeking legal redress and reacquiring their property.

Plaintiffs include five Latinos from Minneapolis and Crystal and one white couple in St. Paul. Attorney Robert Hopper described the Gang Strike Force as “run amok.” He said none of the plaintiffs were involved in drugs or gangs, and none has been charged with any crimes.

Harassment by pizza The Usual Suspects blog continues to deliver St. Paul’s cheesiest crime stories.

Moving jobs to Thailand Hutchinson Technology, which has slashed 40 percent of U.S. jobs, announced that it will establish an assembly plant in Thailand, reports MPR. Operations in Thailand are scheduled to begin in the last half of 2010, and company execs said they will have lower costs. Hutchinson Tech had previously laid off at least 1,350 employees, and closed a Sioux Falls plant.

World/National News

Health care story-of-the-day From Paul Krugman:

At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

Getting tough on bacteria After a couple of years of food scares, from salsa to chocolate chip cookie dough, Congress is finally getting tough — or at least a little tougher — on food safety. The House passed a bill “to require more frequent inspections of processing plants and give the government the authority to order the recall of tainted foods,” reports the New York Times. One small step for safety, including a grant of power to the FDA to order, rather than merely request, recalls of tainted products. Actually, the step isn’t quite completed, since the Senate won’t take up the bill until fall. The vote, unsurprisingly, was less than unanimous, with many Republicans objecting that the bill will require too much record-keeping on the part of food producers.

Iran: More protests, more repression On the 40th day after the killing of youthful protester Neda Soltan, a significant day of mourning for Shiites, Iranian officials cracked down on mourners, reports NPR. Thousands came to the cemetery to mourn, but police prevented opposition leader Mir Houssein Mousavi from joining them. Both at the cemetery and at another site:

Police used tear gas, attacked mourners with truncheons, and even smashed the windows of automobiles whose drivers were honking their horns in solidarity with the protests, according to witnesses and reports on state television.

In addition to mourning the 20 protesters whose deaths have been officially acknowledged, protesters said that they have verified a death toll of at least 92 people.

War Reports

Judge orders release of youngest Gitmo detainee A federal judge ordered the release of Mohammed Jawad, one of the youngest Guantanamo detainees. She had ruled earlier that “the administration’s case for continuing his detention after nearly seven years was “riddled with holes” and that virtually all of the government’s evidence came from confessions he made after being threatened with death,” reports the New York Times. Jawad was 14 or 15 at the time that he allegedly threw a grenade at U.S. soldiers, and has been in custody for seven years.

Iraq Dozens of people were killed in bomb blasts near three Shiite mosques in Baghdad, reports NPR. Despite at least 303 Iraqi deaths and 7 U.S. soldiers killed, July was one of the least-deadly of recent months in Iraq.

Afghanistan The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of 2009 topped 1,000, which is a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2008, reports BBC. A UN report on the deaths blamed both insurgents and government-allied bombing, with two-thirds of the deaths attributed to allied bombing.

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