News Day: Guns and budgets / Swine flu preparations / Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced

MSNBC broadcast interview with gun-toting protester

MSNBC broadcast interview with gun-toting protester

Your Second Amendment right to protest? Photos of a gun-carrying anti-Obama protester (William Kostric) outside the president’s New Hampshire town hall meeting set off a storm in the blogosphere but didn’t impress the Wall Street Journal, which found nothing alarming about people bringing guns to protests, writing that, “outside Manhattan, citizens’ exercising their Second Amendment rights are nothing unusual.”

Unlike the WSJ, headlines a cause for concern”:

The man is carrying a sign that says, “It Is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” That’s a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” It was a favorite slogan of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was wearing a T-shirt when he was arrested with a picture of Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood on the back.

Now, this guy is carrying a legal weapon, says NBC News’ Ron Allen. The local chief of police has no objections. …

But let’s be clear: anyone watching the mounting rage over, of all things, health care — perhaps one of the most boring and complex policy subjects — has to worry that these people are going to try to kill Barack Obama.

Another man carrying a gun inside the Portsmouth high school (Richard Terry Young, 62) was arrested at 9:40 a.m., hours before the town hall event, according to UPI. These incidents follow the arrests of a man with a gun outside Obama’s Chicago home in July, and a man with a gun looking for Obama at the U.S. Capitol in February, and other gun-related incidents and/or arrests at various rallies during last year’s presidential campaign and this year’s town hall rallies.

MSNBC’s Hardball program aired a seven-minute interview with William Kostric – the man with the gun, giving him ample time to explain his strange position that carrying a gun some how serves the cause of more politeness in society.

A more hard-nosed look at profiles Kostric’s internet presence:

[In MSNBC’s Hardball interview,] Kostric insisted his intentions were peaceful, and that he’s not affiliated with Birther groups.

But at least one of those statements doesn’t seem to be true. A right-wing activist named “William Kostric,” who’s left a lot of footprints around the Web, is listed as a “team member” of the Arizona chapter of We the People, the far-right group best known for joining a lawsuit challenging Obama’s right to be president based on his not being a U.S. citizen. Kostric told MSNBC he recently moved from Arizona to New Hampshire. (Kostric did not reply to Salon’s e-mail request for an interview.

Kostric’s MySpace profile also lists among his heroes Randy Weaver, the white supremacist and right-wing activist who survived the Ruby Ridge confrontation with federal agents, along with Ayn Rand’s John Galt, Thomas Jefferson, libertarian/GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and William Wallace, the Scottish resistance leader portrayed in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart.”

Last week, Democracy Now reported on the extremely high level of threats against President Obama:

A new book on the history of the Secret Service reports the rate of threats against the President has increased 400 percent since President Obama took office in January as the nation’s first African American president. According to author Ronald Kessler, Obama is the target of more than thirty potential death threats a day. Most of the threats have been kept under wraps, because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts.

One budget down, one to come As both Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors continue as undeclared but much discussed possible candidates for next year’s gubernatorial race, their 2010 budget statements take on added significance.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman presented his 2010 budget proposal on Tuesday, and reports in the Pioneer Press and MPR note that his proposal combines a decrease in city spending — from $540 million in 2009 to $538 next year — with a six percent increase in property taxes to cope with an $11.6 million reduction in state funding next year.

Among the specifics of the plan:

• The city will cut 121 positions, which will mean leaving vacant positions unfilled and laying off about 45 current employees.
• Federal ARRA funds will allow hiring of 34 additional police officers and 18 additional firefighters. (MPR notes that St. Paul received $7.5 million in federal funding for police hires, but that Minneapolis received only about half that amount.)
• Hamline Midway library, which saw an outpouring of community support when it was threatened with closure this year, will remain open.
• Front, Sylvan and Prosperity rec centers will be torn down, but their athletic fields will be improved. Baker, Griggs, Margaret, South St. Anthony and Wilder rec centers will be turned over to “community partners” for management in some form. Bonding funds will be used to replace the current Arlington Hills library and recreation center with a new Payne-Maryland combined community center and library.

Next up: Minneapolis. Mayor R.T. Rybak will deliver his budget address on Thursday. MPR notes that Minneapolis is facing a $21 million cut in state aid, and also “an increase in pension obligations for two closed employee funds, which will cost the city an additional $18 million a year.”

Swine flu preparations The flu season is coming and a double whammy of regular, seasonal flu and swine flu is expected to strain health resources across the country and in Minnesota. MPR’s report of a briefing by state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield noted that, “No one knows what will happen with H1N1 this fall. The virus could mutate and become more severe. It could fizzle out. Or it could follow the path it has charted so far.”

What is known:

• In a normal year, seasonal flu kills about 36,000 people in the United States, most of them elderly.
• Young people and children seem to be hardest-hit by swine flu.
• “The Health Department estimates that 30 percent of Minnesotans — about 1.5 million people — may become infected by H1N1 as multiple waves of the pandemic move through the state over the next year or two. Of those, the agency says anywhere from 3,600 to nearly 33,000 could die.”
• Priority for the new swine flu vaccine will go to health care workers, pregnant women, young children and people who care for infants under 6 months of age. No one will be required to be vaccinated. (That should go without saying, but in today’s political climate, it’s an issue.)

For more information and for updates on the situation, check out the Minnesota Health Department’s “H1N1 Novel Influenza (formerly known as swine flu)” page


Burma Nobel Peace Prize winner jailed again As expected, reports BBC, opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted and sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

Ms Suu Kyi was on trial for allowing a US national, John Yettaw, into her lakeside home after he swam there uninvited. Mr Yettaw was jailed for seven years, including four years of hard labour.

Critics of Burma’s military regime say the verdict is designed to prevent Ms Suu Kyi from taking part in elections scheduled for 2010.

4,000 arrests in Iran The Iranian government said that 4,000 protesters were arrested in protests over June’s elections, reports BBC. Opposition leaders say that at least 69 people were killed. The government is now trying 100 of the protesters. Allegations of torture and rape in jail continue to be made.

Activists killed in Chechnya Two human rights activists were kidnapped on Monday and killed in Chechnya, reports BBC:

The case follows July’s abduction and killing of activist Natalia Estemirova.

Ms Sadulayeva and her husband Alek Djabrailov were in their mid-20s and had just got married, reports say.

Law and Order plot? “A man accused of hiring a U.S. Army soldier and another man to kill a Mexican drug cartel lieutenant who was cooperating with U.S. authorities was himself a government informant, police said Tuesday.”

No – it’s not a TV crime drama, but a real-life report from AP. The convoluted Texas scheme resulted n a May 15 murder in El Paso, Texas.

War Reports

Iraq Two car bombs in a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad killed at least eight people and injured at least 40, reports BBC.

Afghanistan Taliban fighters attacked a government base in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, killing a district police chief and at least one other person in a prolonged gun battle, reports BBC. The attack comes just one week before the Afghanistan elections

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