NEWS DAY | Flu update / Trains, buses and bikes / (Not) finding work

<a href=Flu update Want a free flu shot? If you’re unemployed and uninsured, CVS pharmacies may have a free seasonal flu vaccination for you, according to the Pioneer Press. After a slow start, the Minnesota Department of Health has updated its listing of flu shot clinics. The nifty search function lets you enter your zip code and find the nearest clinics, with dates and hours listed.

Clinics have trouble keeping up with this year’s high demand for seasonal flu vaccinations. Many more people are showing up for shots, and at least one manufacturer failed to deliver on time, so supplies of the vaccine are lower. When clinics run out of the vaccine, some get restocked promptly and others will wait until some time in October.

After its initial flu clinic, U of M has run out of seasonal flu vaccine for the general population, reserving 500 shots for highest-risk populations, according to MPR. And Minnesota will hold flu clinics for state workers, according to another MPR report.
The swine/H1N1 flu vaccine is supposed to arrive some time in October, but the swine/H1N1 flu is already here. One Lakeville school has 28 percent of its students out with “flu-like” illness, according to the Star Tribune. Catholic Spirit reports that Hill-Murray in Maplewood has been hit hard by the flu, and that:

The Minnesota Department of Health reported Sept. 16 that more than 30 Minnesota schools had hit the reporting level, which is set at 5 percent of the total student population or three students in a single elementary classroom.

Trains, buses and bikes
Minnesotans drove less (by two percent) and rode more buses and trains (by five percent) in 2008, according to a report released yesterday by Environment Minnesota. The advocacy group says that saved $39 million gallons of gasoline in the state, reports MPR. Nationally, the news was even better, with transit ridership up four percent. According to the report:

In 2008, the U.S. spent more than $700 billion on oil, of which nearly $400 billion was spent on petroleum from other countries.1 If we doubled the nation’s current ridership of
public transportation, we could reduce oil usage in this country comparable to what we import each year from Saudi Arabia.

(Not) finding work in Minnesota
While Minnesota’s unemployment rate fell slightly in July and August, so did employment. Lower reported unemployment means fewer people are even trying to look for work, since unemployment figures count people who are actively looking for work. In every month this year, DEED figures show job losses:

Even though Minnesota’s 175,000 unemployed workers can testify that the jobs just are not out there, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is too good to qualify for the extended federal benefits just passed by the House of Representatives. Those benefits would be available only in states where the unemployment rate exceeds 8.5 percent. MPR notes that about 1,000 unemployed Minnesota workers are running out of benefits each week, and Minnesota Congressmember Jim Oberstar and Senator Al Franken’s offices say they will push for another bill to include Minnesotans in the latest 13-week extension of unemployment benefits.

MPR’s News Cut has individual stories of unemployed Minnesota workers — scroll down to the bottom of the current story for a map and icons to take you to past stories.

On the national scene, the U.S. Department of Labor reported initial claims down slightly, with 530,000 new applications for unemployment compensation in the week ending September 19, compared to 551,000 the previous week. That does not reflect the total number of unemployed persons, which climbed to 14.9 million in August, up by 466,000 over July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

World/National News

Obama continues Bush-style detention policy Relying on post-9/11 legislation, the Obama administration will continue indefinite detention without trial for 50 detainees, according to the New York Times:

In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.

But President Obama’s advisers are not embracing the more disputed Bush contention that the president has inherent power under the Constitution to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely regardless of Congress.

Pakistan Taliban forces killed seven Pakistani elders, reports BBC. One of the elders had been active in organizing local militias to resist Taliban encroachment in the northwestern area of the country.

“Taliban militants attacked the tribal elders who were on their way to a nearby village to mediate in a dispute between local people,” local police chief Iqbal Marwat told the AFP news agency.

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