NEWS DAY | “Rampaging Toyotas” / Plugging the biggest leak / Ordinary people in Minneapolis

“Rampaging Toyotas” were the focus of a Strib story and headline on Koua Fong Lee’s bid for a new trial. Lee, jailed after conviction of criminal vehicular homicide. Witness after witness took the stand to tell of their own Toyota Camry mishaps, and loss of control when brakes failed without warning.

The appeal got underway after news broke of the widespread recall of various Toyota makes and models for problems that include sudden unintended acceleration. Lee’s car was not part of any recall, but people began contacting Schafer to say their older-model cars had the same problem.

Mankato State laid off 12 more faculty members, including four with tenure, reports the Duluth News Tribune. Earlier lay-offs took place in May, but the most recent ones were timed to meet a contractual deadline for notices before fall semester. St. Cloud State notified 26 faculty members of layoffs at the end of July. Hundreds of staff and faculty positions will be cut during the biennium, across the state university system.

Plugging the biggest leak may be today’s work, if all goes as planned, reports Reuters.

Hopes for definitively plugging the well are focused on the planned “static kill”, which will inject drilling mud, and possibly later cement, into the top of the well, the first step of a two-pronged operation to seal off the oil deposit.

A crucial test of the equipment that will deliver the “static kill” was delayed on Monday due to a hydraulic leak.

“It is anticipated that the injectivity test and possibly the static kill will take place Tuesday,” BP said in a brief statement late on Monday.

Scientists say that this is “by far” the biggest leak in history, according to a New York Times story, with an estimated five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf so far.

“We’ve never had a spill of this magnitude in the deep ocean,” said Ian R. MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University.

“These things reverberate through the ecosystem,” he said. “It is an ecological echo chamber, and I think we’ll be hearing the echoes of this, ecologically, for the rest of my life.”

Ordinary people in Minneapolis provided a focus for the British Financial Times article on what’s happening to the American middle class. (More on ordinary people tomorrow.)

The slow economic strangulation of the Freemans and millions of other middle-class Americans started long before the Great Recession, which merely exacerbated the “personal recession” that ordinary Americans had been suffering for years. Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the ­multiple is above 300.

Combine those two deep-seated trends with a third – steeply rising inequality – and you get the slow-burning ­crisis of American capitalism.

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