MPCA issues gag order: What? Right, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued a gag order against a Carver County Commissioner after he showed — on camera — that their inspector’s report about a sewage system was wrong, wrong, wrong. How does the MPCA get the authority to issue a gag order? Not clear to me, or to Carver County Commissioner Tom Workman, according to the Star Tribune.
The underlying issue in this case is whether a septic system for a ballroom just purchased by Carver County is closer to the groundwater than the MPCA-mandated 36 inches.
The matter took on some urgency when it was discovered that the inspector hired by the seller, who also had installed the system, had erroneously claimed that the pipes in the distribution box were coming out of the side. Workman proved otherwise.
Carver County’s septic system is one problem. The bigger problem is the MPCA, both because of its attempt to silence a whistleblower (who also happens to be a public official charged with protecting the public interest) and because of its long-standing failure to protect the public from corporate polluters.
We’re Number 1! With the first pig in the nation to have swine flu. Remember: no human has ever caught swine flu from a pig, but pigs (probably including this one) have caught swine flu from humans. And, as the Star Tribune reports:
“We have fully engaged our trading partners to remind them … that there is no scientific basis to restrict trade in pork and pork products,” Vilsack said. “People cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products. Pork is safe to eat.”
“Pawlenty to have DFLers for breakfast” That’s the headline in Politics in Minnesota. Funny – I thought he did that a couple of months ago.
“Mixed Blood makes splash” That’s an image I could live without. It comes from MinnPost, touting the theater company’s production of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning “Ruined.” Over at TC Daily Planet, Sheila Regan looks at the multi-award-winning play’s roots in Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage” and its contemporary focus on rape as a weapon of war in the Eastern Congo.
Gang Strike Force claims After two weeks in operation, the hotline set up for claims against the Metro Gang Strike Force has received 44 calls and one letter, according to MPR. An insurance trust run by the League of Minnesota Cities is handling the hotline, and processing claims for the return of money and property wrongfully seized by the Metro Gang Strike Force. Under court order, the hotline is also telling callers about the existence of a federal class action suit, and giving them contact information for the attorney, Randy Hopper.
Hopper says he has received several calls during the past two weeks:
“The size of the class could be on the low end 200, and potentially higher, based on the numbers related to evidence, and arrests and reports filed and things of that nature,” Hopper said.
UnitedHealth profits up Next time you look at insurance premiums and rising costs for health care and insurance company opposition to health care reform, think about UnitedHealth. According to AP:
The Minnetonka, Minn., company, said it earned $1.04 billion, or 89 cents per share, compared with $920 million, or 75 cents per share, a year ago. … Revenue rose 8 percent to $21.7 billion, ahead of Wall Street’s estimate of $21.56 billion.
Profits would have been higher, but the insurance company lost 1.7 million enrollees because they became unemployed.
Cutting the news After across-the-board pay cuts of five percent and cuts of 100 positions from non-reporting positions earlier this year, the New York Times will cut 100 newsroom positions and an unspecified number of other positions. That still leaves the Times with 1100+ reporters, more than any other newspaper in the country, reports NPR, but it signals that the bleeding-out of the news industry is not yet over. The American Society of News Editors says newsrooms lost 5,900 positions last year. The New York Times reports that it cut 100 newsroom positions in 2008.
On the alt side of the news, Chi-Town Daily news shut down its citizen journalism operation in September, saying their non-profit model just couldn’t afford to keep going.
Pakistan Pakistani military officials said their offensive in South Waziristan is going well, and the Taliban in South Waziristan claimed it has inflicted heavy casualties on the military, reports NPR. Pakistani troops are in the fourth day of a “fierce fighting” for control of the key Taliban-held town of Kotkai, according to BBC, which also says the army reports that up to 100,000 civilians have fled.
In Islamabad, bomb explosions at the International Islamic University killed at least four people and wounded at least 18, according to BBC.
Afghanistan LATE UPDATE: President Hamid Karzai said this morning that a run-off election will be held November 7.
Official election results announced yesterday throw out more than a million ballots from the August 20 election, resulting in a final count that puts President Hamid Karzai’s total below 50 percent, triggering a run-off election. The Washington Post reports that Karzai “had told Secretary General Ban Ki-moon he will ‘fully respect’ the constitutional process,” but had not specifically agreed to a run-off election. The Post also said that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that a runoff “could be held within the next few weeks, saying the administration has ‘every assurance’ from U.S. and Afghan military officials ‘that it is absolutely possible to do so.'”
A former U.S. ambassador talked to NPR about the possibility of a “unity government” in Afghanistan, instead of a run-off election.