NEWS DAY | Profiling professors / School flu preparations / Revisiting single payer

Photo - U of M College of Continuing Education website

Photo - U of M College of Continuing Education website

Profiling professors Two University of Minnesota profs are speaking out against profiling Somali Americans, reports Laura Yuen on MPR.

Abdi Samatar chairs the U’s geography department. He’s married to Cawo Abdi, a sociology professor. Since June, the husband and wife say they’ve been pulled aside a total of six times at airports for lengthy interviews that have lasted up to two and a half hours.

Abdi was born in Somalia and Samatar in neighboring Djibouti. Both professors are U.S. citizens, but that doesn’t help them at airports. Nor does Samatar’s past consulting work with the U.S. State Department. The extensive airport interviews included inspection of academic papers, a personal diary and even a diaper bag. Agents questioned Samatar about why he was reading academic papers on Somali piracy, and he explained, “We are scholars, and we write papers and books.” Samatar recognizes the need for security:

“But they should be on high alert on an intelligent basis, rather than on a dumb basis,” he said. “It seems to me there is a sort of ‘Dumb Operating Procedure,’ which picks up people for all kinds of nefarious reasons: You have a Muslim name, you live in Minneapolis, you are a Somali, and you travel a lot. Therefore, you become a target.”

Their experience is similar to reports from many other Somali American travelers. Nor did the profiling begin this summer – other Somali Minnesotans reported similar experiences in past years. The two professors say they are following procedures to formally seek information from the U.S. government about the continuing airport stops.

School flu preparations New hand soap dispensers, extra tissue boxes, warnings about staying home from school when sick, hand sanitizers and surgical masks — Minnesota schools are preparing this fall for the expected onslaught of H1N1 novel influenza (the flu formerly known as swine.) The Star Tribune reports that, “nationwide, the largest number of swine flu cases have hit young people ages 5 to 24, and vaccines are not yet available,” though vaccines are expected by some time in October. The Washington Post lays out some of the unanswered questions about vaccine administration:

The mass immunization program, likely to be the largest of its kind since the polio vaccine was given to about 100 million Americans in the 1960s, will play out with some differences between states and local jurisdictions. For instance, still waiting to be resolved are questions about who gets the vaccine, whether schools are used as vaccination sites, whether parents are present when children are vaccinated and whether the vaccine is administered by injection or nasal spray.

In contrast to last spring’s school closings, this time around the Centers for Disease Control advises keeping schools open and sending sick students home, where they should stay until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medication. (That goes for adults, too, who should observe the same precaution in staying home from the workplace.)

World/National News

Prosecute the CIA That’s the advice of the Justice Department, according to the New York Times, as today’s release of more CIA memos reveals further torture and abuse of prisoners. The recommendation to reopen a dozen cases and prosecute the individuals involved came from the Justice Department’s ethics office:

When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general’s findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder’s associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider.

With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow…

Single payer: A reform that makes sense The Nation reports that single payer health care — abandoned before the beginnning of the current debate — resurfaced in last Tuesday’s Morning Joe show, as Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York repeatedly asked why we are paying insurance companies. Show host Joe Scarborough summarized Weiner’s argument:

The goverment would take over only the “paying mechanism” of healthcare, not the doctors or their medical decisions themselves. His ears perked up every time Weiner mentioned that the nonprofit Medicare spends 4 percent on overhead, while private insurers spend 30 percent.

Weiner pressed the point repeatedly:

“Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?” Weiner asked Scarborough. “Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why,” he asked, bringing it all home, “are we paying for their TV commercials?”

And why aren’t we hearing this simple, cogent argument in town halls and in Congress?

War Reports

Afghanistan Challenger Abdullah Abdullah says that last Thursday’s elections were tainted by fraud, reports BBC, and a group of election observers agrees that fraud and intimidation were widespread. Abdullah Abdullah is the most prominent of the 30 candidates challenging incumbent president Hamid Karzai.

Meanwhile, U.S. military commanders said they do not have enough troops to do the job, according to a report in the New York Times.

The assessments come as the top American commander in the country, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has been working to complete a major war strategy review, and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described a worsening situation in Afghanistan despite the recent addition of 17,000 American troops ordered by the Obama administration and the extra security efforts surrounding the presidential election.

“I think it is serious and it is deteriorating,” Admiral Mullen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

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