Tag Archives: afghanistan

Minneapolis march opposing escalation in Afghanistan

Rini Templeton - protest march

The presidential speech defending the war comes tonight, but the Afghanistan escalation is already underway, according to the New York Times. The U.S. will send 30,000 additional troops, the Brits will send 100, and the French will send none, demonstrating the depth of international support for the war. The depth of U.S. support? There are polls and polls, but a recent Miami Herald editorial is a measure of the lack of support: Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Budgets on the line / Taking food from the sick / Running around in the cold, freezing to death / Health care, Afghanistan, Philippines

Budgets on the line: Police to helpers to hospitals Police chief Tim Dolan told the Minneapolis City Council that the police department will have a budget deficit of up to $4.2 million this year, far higher than expected. The MPD annual budget is about $135 million. The Star Tribune reported that the city council reaction was strong: Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | General vs. General on the Afghan quagmire / H1N1 update / No pray, no pay / Academic ethics / more

800px-Marines_train_at_Tarnak_FarmsGeneral vs. General on the Afghan quagmire Retired General Karl Eikenberry, now the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and formerly commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, doesn’t think that sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan is a good strategy, according to a cable he sent to President Obama last week, reports the New York Times. While the Times says that puts Eikenberry and General Stanley McChrystal, current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, at odds, both men’s memos emphasize the difficult of achieving any kind of success in a country with a corrupt government that is not trusted by its people. McChrystal’s job is winning the war, but this war may be simply unwinnable. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Pawlenty prescription for poor / “Quiet” immigration action / Strib cuts 100 / War reports

stethescope_morguefilePawlenty’s prescription for the poor After decreeing an end to General Assistance Medical Care, the state program that covers the poorest of the poor, Governor Tim Pawlenty now has found a “solution.” He has ordered that the counties enroll GAMC enrollees in MinnesotaCare and pay their MinnesotaCare premiums for up to six months. After that, the former GAMC enrollees will have to pay their own premiums, estimated at about $5 per month, as well as any co-pays.

That could still be a problem. Many of those who are receiving General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) are living on $203 a month, and are homeless, in precarious housing, or low-income housing. An estimated 70 percent of those who receive GAMC deal with a mental illness or substance abuse.

Hospital officials told the Star Tribune that many GAMC enrollees incur inpatient costs higher than MinnesotaCare’s $10,000 annual cap, and that people who arrive at the emergency room in need, but not yet enrolled, will not be covered. Under GAMC, if an eligible person arrives at the hospital in need of emergency treatment, the person can be retroactively enrolled to cover the cost of treatment.

Star Tribune:

Nor are the counties thrilled about picking up the premium tab. “It’s in counties’ interest to make sure this group of people has coverage, but we’re not happy about having an additional cost passed on to us,” said Patricia Coldwell, a policy analyst for the Association of Minnesota Counties.

Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the Health and Human Services Budget Committee, said MinnesotaCare is already stretched because the economy has resulted in a surge of new enrollees. Add the General Assistance enrollees and the program is likely to run out of funding in 2011 instead of 2012, she said.

“Quiet” immigration action
Some 1,200 janitors were fired in Minnesota, based on their immigration status, reports MPR. That’s almost as many as the number arrested in the six 2006 Swift raids and about three times as many as were arrested in Postville in 2008. The main difference: these janitors were fired, not arrested and deported.

The janitors worked for San Francisco-based ABM, which cleans many downtown office towers in the Twin Cities. ABM, the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), and the janitors’ union, SEIU, all declined comment for the MPR article. The process began this summer, with ABM letters to workers saying ICE had found problems with their paperwork. They were given time to fix the problems, but time ran out in October, when the firings started. ABM had advertised for workers in September and apparently filled all of the positions before firing workers.

The Obama administration has been aggressive in removing undocumented workers. In fiscal year 2009, which ended in September, ICE deported 6,300 people from the region represented by Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska. That’s 1,000 more people than during the last year of the Bush administration. …
John Keller of the Immigrant Law Center says of the 1,200 fired janitors, about 10 might have a path to citizenship under existing laws. The rest, he says, will probably try to wait it out, hoping for the laws to change so they can work here legally.

Strib cuts 100
The Star Tribune will cut 100 jobs, including 30 in its 290-person news room, it announced yesterday. The 70 non-news-room jobs will be gone by the end of the year, while the 30 news room jobs “may take a little longer.”

The pink slips started coming Monday. Duane Lee, a project coordinator in the facilities department, said he was told his job would be eliminated Dec. 31 and that he was part of the 100 layoffs. The company gave him an employee-of-the-year award in 2004, Lee said.
Since 2006 the Star Tribune has shrunk its workforce by nearly 40 percent, or the equivalent of 779 full-time employees.

At MinnPost, David Brauer interprets talk about “somehow restructuring how work is done:”

To me, that’s code that the cuts will focus on non-bylined newsroom troops such as copy editors, designers, etc. The Strib has held reporters relatively harmless in recent cutting, and I’m betting that will continue.

War reports
White House: No decision yet on troops to Afghanistan
After reports that President Obama has decided to send 30,000 (McClatchey) or 40,000 (CBS) additional troops to Afghanistan, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a firm and unequivocal denial Monday night. National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones said:

“Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.”

President Obama embarks on a week-long trip to Asia on Thursday and no decision is expected until after the trip, according to TPM.

Pakistan A bomb outside a market in northwest Pakistan today killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 50, some critically, according to AP.

The bombing in Charsadda city was the third attack in as many days in or close to Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Militants have stepped up attacks in recent weeks in retaliation for an army offensive in a key area along the Afghan border.

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NEWS DAY | MN health care votes and Michele Bachmann’s lei / MN Job Watch / Deer hunting, baiting, eating / Afghan cops, Taliban

Picture 4MN health care votes Minnesota Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Jim Oberstar voted in favor of the health care bill, while Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson and Republican Republican Reps. John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann voted against it. Oberstar joined Peterson and the Republicans in voting to bar all abortion coverage from the bill. The abortion amendment, which passed, provides that people who receive federal insurance subsidies cannot budy insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Elections tomorrow / FBI in MN / Psychologist crosses the line / Afghan presidency / more

vote_thumbElection day tomorrow For Minneapolis voters, it will be a first experience with the new Ranked Choice Voting system, which is part of the reason for a plethora of candidates from across the political spectrum — and beyond. (That’s especially true in the mayor’s race, which includes the Edgertonite (“Laura Ingalls Wilder is God”) and “Is Awesome” candidates.) Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Twin Cities are tops in housing, safety / Police lie, Minneapolis pays / More U.S., U.N. deaths in AfPak war

Number One

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We’re number one! Forbes magazine has just named the Twin Cities the safest place to live, and Twin Cities home price increases lead the nation, with 3.2 percent in August, on top of 4.6 percent from June to July. Of course, when you look at the numbers a little more closely, you find that foreclosure rates are also higher than the rest of the nation, and that home prices are still one-third below 2006 levels, but why let the numbers get in the way of a good headline?

The Star Tribune reports that rising home prices in the Twin Cities lead the nation, though prices remain 13.7 percent below August 2008 levels. One of the factors bolstering the housing market is the federal first-time-home-buyer tax credit, which has pushed homes sales throughout the summer, but is set to expire at the end of November. The Strib reports: “The median price [for Twin Cities homes] peaked in September 2006 at $229,000 and bottomed in April at $153,000.” August’s median home price was $175,000.

Foreclosure rates are rising right along with home prices:

Data released today by Realty Trac, an online marketplace for foreclosed properties, show foreclosures rising faster locally than nationally. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area had 9,767 foreclosure filings in the third quarter, a 13.5 percent increase from the second quarter and nearly double the third-quarter total last year, Realty Trac said.

But at least Forbes loves us, gushing:

Minneapolis tops our list of America’s safest cities, and not just for its crime rate. In ranking the cities on our list, we looked at workplace fatalities, traffic-related deaths and natural disaster risk; the City of Lakes ranked in the top 10 of all four categories. It’s also one of America’s best places to live cheaply and offers easy access to some of the most scenic drives in the country.

And what about St. Paul? We’re just lumped in as part of the “Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI” metropolitan area.

Minneapolis pays again This time the city is paying $100,000 for bad policing, a settlement for police misconduct caught on a Hennepin County Safe Zone video camera, reports the Star Tribune. The lawsuit alleged false arrest and discrimination, and the video showed that police officers’ descriptions of what happened were just about 180 degrees from the truth. See the video on the Strib website. One of the officers is already under investigation for his actions as part of the Metro Gang Strike Force, but police spokesperson Jesse Garcia said he wasn’t aware of any internal investigation or discipline based on the north Minneapolis traffice stop resulting in the settlement.

Judge Robert Blaeser had earlier dismissed criminal charges filed against the couple in the case, after viewing the tape and reviewing the police reports:

“One officer says the car was silver; one says it was gold,” Blaeser said. “One says it ran a red light; one doesn’t say anything about that. One says he saw somebody throw something out the driver’s door; the other one did not. One says the passenger was jumping on the back of an officer, pulling the officer, and that he maced her; and the other one does not. I’m going to find that there’s not enough credible evidence for a stop in this case.”

Bostrom vs. Fletcher Assistant St. Paul police chief Matt Bostrom formed a Bostrom for Sheriff committee, which means he probably will run against incumbent Sheriff Bob Fletcher in next year’s election, according to the Star Tribune.

Bostrom starts his race with a lot of firepower backing him with campaign co-chairs including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.; state Sen. Mee Moua; Police Chief John Harrington and Ramsey County Commissioners Victoria Reinhardt and Tony Bennett.

Bostrom helped oversee RNC security plannning, and drew criticism from Fletcher during that time, recalls the Minnesota Independent, with Fletcher “repeatedly warning that the St. Paul department had failed to recruit enough police officers to ensure that it went off without serious problems.” Fletcher’s RNC conduct is certain to be an issue in the campaign, but it’s not the only one:

The four-term incumbent’s also been at the center of an investigation into the activities of the beleaguered — and now disbanded — Metro Gang Strike Force. Two damning reports released earlier this year alleged that the law enforcement agency routinely seized money from citizens without justification, failed to adequately keep track of its assets and displayed a general disregard for the civil rights of citizens, particularly minorities. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department was the fiscal agent for the gang strike force.

War Reports

Pakistan Nearly 100 people are already reported killed in a market bombing in Peshawar, reports NPR, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit. According to the Washington Post:

The bombing early Wednesday in a crowded market in Peshawar — about three hour’s drive from the capital — was the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year, and the latest in a wave of suicide bombings, assassinations and attacks staged in response to a major Pakistani offensive against insurgent sanctuaries near the Afghanistan border.

Afghanistan Eight more U.S. troop deaths in two attacks Tuesday brought the total U.S. troop toll to 55 for October, the highest number in any month since the war began, according to AP. All the deaths were in Kandahar province, and other troops were wounded in the fighting.

The military issued a statement saying the deaths occurred during “multiple, complex” bomb strikes. It said several troops were wounded and evacuated to a nearby medical facility, but gave no other details.

In addition to military deaths, three U.S. DEA agents were killed, along with soldiers, in a helicopter crash on Monday, and the bodies of three civilian crew members were recovered from the wreckage of a U.S. army plane that crashed in western Afghanistan two weeks ago. According to BBC, the three were also U.S. nationals.

Also on Wednesday, reports AP, the Taliban attacked both a U.N. guesthouse and a luxury hotel in the capital city of Kabul:

Gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people – including six U.N. staff – officials said. The U.S. Embassy said one of the U.N. dead was American. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, saying it was meant as an assault on the upcoming presidential election.

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NEWS DAY | Pilots blame laptop / One more hole in the safety net / Flu anxiety epidemic / Waking up hungry / more

NWA planeBlame it on the laptop Maybe the air traffic controllers trying to reach the two pilots on Northwest Flight 188 should just have emailed them. According to MPR:

First officer Richard Cole told the National Transportation Safety Board that he was explaining the scheduling procedures to the plane’s captain, Timothy Cheney, while the plane cruised past the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport at 37,000 feet. The new scheduling system was initiated following the merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines.

For an hour. As they heard and ignored radio calls from air traffic controllers. And failed to notice messages from company dispatchers.

The pilots acknowledged that while they were engaged in working on their laptops they weren’t paying attention to radio traffic, messages from their airline or their cockpit instruments, the board said.

Former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall called the pilots’ behavior “inexcusable,” and no one is arguing with that. MPR’s News Cut has the NTSB memo and LOTS of discussion. The comments and the responses from Bob Collins make for interesting reading and are a great example of what a comment section looks like when it works – intelligent, informed discussion and dialogue.

Meanwhile, systemic problems still need to be addressed. MinnPost reports that everyone agrees on the need for better rules about airline safety, including revisions of sleep standards to prevent pilot fatigue, which was implicated in several recent incidents, summarized in the Christian Science Monitor.

One more hole in safety net Two emergency aid programs will end this week, reports the Star Tribune, probably putting more people on the street. Governor Tim Pawlenty cut funding for Emergency General Assistance and the state’s Emergency Minnesota Supplemental Aid (EMSA), both last-chance lifelines for impoverished, childless adults.  Emergency funds are frequently used to get people into housing, by paying the upfront security deposit costs that would otherwise be an insurmountable barrier, even for individuals or families that can pay the monthly rent.

State officials say that the counties should use stimulus funds to meet their needs:

But that’s not an ideal solution, said Tom Pingatore, program manager with Hennepin County’s Economic Assistance department. Part of the problem, he said, is that TANF money goes to families with children, not single adults or childless couples.

Advocates point out that emergency money to keep or place people in housing actually saves money in the long-term. St. Stephens compared costs to the county for six people during the year before they were placed in housing and the year after:

The year they were homeless, the six cost the county and city about $95,000 for time spent in jail and at the workhouse, detox center, shelter and emergency room. The year they had housing, the cost came to about $16,000 — an average savings per person of $13,000.

Flu anxiety epidemic Park Nicollet opened and closed a flu shot hotline Monday, after the hotline was swamped with 120,000 calls in four hours, reports the Star Tribune:

The clinic, which had announced that it had 17,000 doses, was so unprepared for the outpouring that its entire phone system temporarily crashed under the weight of the calls.

Minnesota needs 718,000 doses for high risk patients, and expects to receive a total of 300,000 by the end of this week. As for Park Nicollet – they are asking high-risk patients to email flushot@parknicollet.com.

The Washington Post reports that federal officials blame vaccine makers for overly-optimistic delivery schedules:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in television interviews Monday that officials had been “relying on the manufacturers to give us their numbers, and as soon as we got numbers we put them out to the public. It does appear now that those numbers were overly rosy.”

World/National News

Let them eat cake Although the House passed a bill extending unemployment benefits last month by a huge 331 to 83 vote, the Senate is still haggling over Republican objections and amendments, according to Minnesota Independent — and 125,000 workers have run out of benefits while they bicker.

Waking up hungry AP reportsthat hunger is rising around the world, and that food prices are rising for the poor, even as global commodity prices and prices to farmers drop precipitously.One out of six people in the world “will wake up not sure they can even fill a cup of food,” according to Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program.

“The food crisis is not over. We have an anomaly happening where on global, big markets, the prices are down, but for 80 percent of commodities in the developing world, prices are higher today than they were a year ago, and the prices a year ago were double what they were the year before that,” she said.

Sheeran cited climate change, escalating fuel costs and falling incomes as causes for the increase in hunger, saying that 1.02 billion people are now “urgently hungry,” an increase of 200 million in the past two years.

Ex-Marine Foreign Service officer resigns in protest
Matthew Hoh, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and then as a civilian Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan, resigned in protest last month, reports the Washington Post. Hoh said he had “lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” and that his resignation was “based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.” He said that U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was strengthening the insurgency in what is essentially a civil war.

“I’m not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love,” he told the Washington Post.

“There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed,” he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys.” …

As the White House deliberates over whether to deploy more troops, Hoh said he decided to speak out publicly because “I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, ‘Listen, I don’t think this is right.’ “

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NEWS DAY | The flu or the weather? / God’s bank closed / Under the radar and off the web / more

SH-Med-syringe-082204-4The flu or the weather? Everybody’s talking about them, and nobody seems able to do much about the course that either will take. This week’s forecast: rising flu saturation throughout the state, with a continuing shortage of flu shots.

Crookston schools closed Wednesday, as 15 percent of the districts 1,270 students were out with the flu, according to Minnesota 2020. Some 210 schools across the state reported flu outbreaks October 4-10, according to the Minnesota Department of Health’s most recent figures, up 72 percent over the preceding week. The MN 2020 article has more recent reports from a dozen schools across the state.

A 54-year-old Waseca hospital administrator died Saturday night, after an H1N1 diagnosis, reports MPR. It’s not yet clear whether H1N1 was the cause of death. The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed 10 deaths due to H1N1 and others are under investigation.

The Star Tribune reports that H1N1 is keeping lawyers busy. That doesn’t sound like a logical connection, but the story is that employment lawyers are getting queries from businesses about what kind of workplace rules they can establish — Can they require vaccination? Do they have to pay people who are sick but have no sick days? And so on.

President Obama declared  a national state of emergency Saturday, in regard to the H1N1 flu. According to the Washington Post, the declaration will allow greater flexibility for hospitals to respond:

The president granted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the power to lift some federal regulations for medical providers, including allowing hospitals to set up off-site facilities to increase the number of available beds and protect patients who are not infected.

Oh, and that weather forecast? WCCO says rain possible by Wednesday, staying through Friday, with temps above freezing until Saturday.

God’s bank closed, others on watch list
Riverview Community Bank failed Friday, becoming the fifth Minnesota bank and the 106th U.S. bank to be closed this year. MPR reports that the bank’s owner had claimed divine backing:

When Riverview opened in March 2003, co-founder Chuck Ripka told the Pioneer Press that God told him to get the bank going.

“He said, ‘Chuck, if you do all the things I told you to do, I promise you I will take care of the bottom line,”‘ Ripka said in 2004.

The bank was cited by the FDIC in June for “unsafe and unsound” banking practices, according to the Minnesota Independent. Former MN secretary of state Mary Kiffmeyer was on the bank’s board of directors.

According to MPR, bank regulators from the MN Department of Commerce said in October that 71 of the state’s banks, some 22 percent of the total, are on a watch list. That’s up from 65 on the watch list in the spring. Riverview’s two branches were set to reopen on Saturday as branches of Stillwater-based Central Bank.

The City Miracles blog wrote about the bank in 2004:

One of the key indicators of the success of the Elk River prototype, and a component of the detonation process, has been Riverview Community Bank. This bank, founded in March, 2003, has accumulated $100 million in deposits in 28 months, making it one of the fasted growing start-up banks in the history of the State of Minnesota. During this period 100 people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord during banking hours. Additionally, 70 people have been healed when they received prayer at the bank. The New York Times wrote a ten-page article about this bank in their Sunday Magazine published on October 31, 2004.

Under the radar and off the web
In a print-edition-only article Sunday, the Star Tribune reported the latest on a fraudulent currency investment program promoted by Twin Cities money managers that swindled investors across the United States, Europe and Latin America. According to the Strib, “complaints have flowed into federal authorities” since at least last November. In July, nine people from Ohio filed suit in Minneapolis federal court, and since then the feds have been investigating through the SEC and a grand jury. At that time, the Star Tribune reported:

Two Ohio families and their pastor filed a federal lawsuit in Minneapolis this week accusing some “confusingly intertwined” Twin Cities investment advisers and a dozen business entities of fraud, misrepresentation and other breaches in the handling of their life savings.

The eight plaintiffs claimed Trevor Cook, 37, of Burnsville and Gerald Durand, 58, of Lakeville persuaded them to invest nearly $5 million in a currency arbitrage program that guaranteed instant liquidity and promised annual returns of 10.5 to 12 percent

According to several sources, the Department of Justice simply does not have enough experienced staff members to keep up with complex financial fraud cases. Maybe they should hire the Strib’s Dan Browning, who has reported extensively on the story, following the money trail from Minnesota to California to Panama. Browning’s reporting is a textbook example of the need for full-time, salaried investigative reporters. Few if any free-lancers or bloggers could afford to devote as much investigative and reporting time to this story that he has done, and that time is needed to produce comprehensive coverage of a real public menace.

The October 25 article says that Jerry Watkins used his “Your Money matters” radio show to recruit investors for Oxford Global Advisors, and that the firm was also promoted by Minneapolis money manager Trevor Cook, Burnsville radio talk show host Pat Kiley (“Follow the Money”), and associates at “a number of Twin Cities business entities that have Oxford, Universal Brokerage or the initials UB in their names.” The investments were also promoted on the Worldwide Christian Radio shortwave network. Watkins continued to promote the schemes and take people’s money, even while awaiting sentencing in Minneapolis on “an unrelated scheme that had bilked $20 million from investors,” which was run by Forest Lake preacher Neulan Midkiff.

Christopher Bebel, a former SEC attorney and federal prosecutor, said:

“I’d have to say that this case is especially appallling because it’s an affinity fraud in the sense that it focuses on investors who have their guard down because of the trusting environment–the Christian radio network that was utilized.”

National/International news

Zimbabwe Some 50 government soldiers were sent to search and ransack the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, headed by Prime Minister Mogan Tsvangirai. AP notes:

The raid signals the fragility of Zimbabwe’s unity government and undoubtedly will worsen the already bitter relationship between President Robert Mugabe and the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr. Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing government with Mr. Tsvangirai, a longtime opposition leader, after disputed elections. Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the coalition government on Oct. 16.

War Reports

Afghanistan Fopurteen U.S. soldiers and civilians were killed in two helicopter crashes, reports NPR. In the south, two helicopters collided. In the west, the helicopter had left an area of heavy fighting, but U.S. officials said it was not shot down. Two other U.S. troops died on Sunday, bringing the total number for October to 46 so far. August was the worst month for U.S. combat deaths, with 51.

Run-off elecdtions scheduled for November 8 have been agreed to by both President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah. But now, reports BBC, Abdullah Abdullah is demanding the removal of the head of the election commission. That commission presided over and tried to deny the massive fraud in the August 20 elections.

Iraq car bombs kill more than 150 Two car bombs in Baghdad killed at least 155 people on Sunday, and wounded at least 500 more, reports BBC. The bombs “hit the ministry of justice and a provincial government office near the heavily fortified Green Zone” during the morning rush hour, in the deadliest attack since April 2007. Analysts fear a ramping up of violence will continue as the January elections approach.

Pakistan army claims gains After a week of the offensive in South Waziristan, the Pakistan army says it has captured Kotkai. The New York Times explains:

The town, Kotkai, most of whose 5,000 residents had already fled, is the home of the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, and one of the most feared Taliban commanders, Qari Hussain.

As fighting continued in South Waziristan, NPR reported that violence still wracks the rest of the country, with Friday bombings killing 24 people, including 17 who were on their way to a wedding. The army claims a total death toll during the South Waziristan offensive of 23 soldiers and 163 militants. Because access to the area is restricted, no independent verification is possible.

According to McClatchey news service, one of Friday’s car bombs exploded outside a suspected nuclear weapons facility, the airbase at Kamra.

Al Qaida has made clear its ambitions to get hold of a nuclear bomb or knowledge of nuclear technology. Several other sites associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been hit previously.

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NEWS DAY | Gangs in the news: MPCA gag order / Gang Strike Force claims / UnitedHealth profits up

<a href=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. Continue reading

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