Tag Archives: Africa

News Day: Last legislative day today / Eating the evidence / Housing, foreclosure news / War reports / more

Governor No: More cuts to health care, education, local government aid In a grueling and emotional session on Sunday, May 17, the House failed to overturn Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto of its tax and finance omnibus bill, by an 85-49 party-line vote that saw two DFLers defecting to the Republican side. By an 87-47 vote, the House also failed to overturn the Pawlenty line-item veto that ends medical assistance for General Assistance recipients in mid-2010. The prospect: deep cuts in health and human services, education, and local government aid, dictated by the governor to the legislature or unilaterally imposed as unallotments in the year ahead. Full article here

Comic banana relief C’mon folks – you know we all need something to laugh at after the dismal news from Capitol Hill in St. Paul. So here it is — from North Carolina, via BBC:

A US teenager who was thwarted in an attempt to rob an internet cafe armed with a hidden banana ate the “weapon” before he was arrested, police say.

The shop owner and customers overcame the teen, who held the banana under his t-shirt and said it was a gun.

Ash borer week Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week started yesterday in 16 states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. Joe Soucheray says Minneosta has 937 million ash trees, or about 179 per person. For more info, photos, advice, and questions, go to the official emerald ash borer site.

Foreclosures up again in April The Calculated Risk blog reports on Realty Trac figures for April, which show an upswing in foreclosures after the end of an informal , voluntary moratorium.

[F]oreclosure filings – default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions – were reported on 342,038 U.S. properties during the month, an increase of less than 1 percent from the previous month and an increase of 32 percent from April 2008. The report also shows that one in every 374 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in April, the highest monthly foreclosure rate ever posted since RealtyTrac began issuing its report in January 2005.

In more bad news, good news, bad news, MinnPost reports that home prices fell 14% nationally and 12.9% locally in April, while the Strib reports that home sales were up by 23% — but that the growth came in “lender-mediated” (read foreclosure-related) sales, and that traditional sales fell.

The worst news is reserved for minority and immigrant homeowners, as reported by the Pew Research Center: “The boom-and-bust cycle in the U.S. housing market over the past decade and a half has generated greater gains and larger losses for minority groups than it has for whites.”

Fong Lee trial The PiPress reports that the civil suit against police officers and the city of Minneapolis over the police shooting of 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 is set to begin this morning.

World/National Headlines

Robbing pension funds TPM’s Josh Marshall notes that Bush appointee Charles Millard, who headed the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, is under investigation for “a suspicion pattern of communications with big investment houses just before Millard piled tons of [Pension Benefits Guaranty] money into their funds.”

Gay marriage: Bad for business? The latest GOP attack on gay marriage says it’s bad for business, AP reports. GOP chair Michael Steele says gay marriage will hurt business because — horrors! — more people will be eligible for health care coverage. Well, here’s an alternative — maybe we could just have single-payer, national health care coverage? OR —as the Daily Kos suggested later:

And if we want to really polish our fiscally conservative creds, we can outlaw marriage for everyone! Especially heterosexuals! Because they reproduce and add even more more dependents for the rolls of small-business health care programs!

Not the dog again! The Republican National Committee has a new TV ad out criticizing — the presidential puppy. The Daily Kos recalls that this puts Bo in good company, along with FDR’s Fala, also the subject of Republican attacks.

Record time for broken promises The health care industry promise to slow the annual health care spending growth rate? Forget that, reports the Daily Kos. Now the Hospital Association’s executive vice president, Richard J. Pollack denies that any promise was ever made. Daily Kos reprints the signed promise letter.

Congress Party in India The Washington Post reports a big win for India’s ruling Congress Party, and a second term for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “a former economist who has championed programs for the poor and pushed for rural development and economic reforms.”

War Report

Sri Lanka BBC reports that the Sri Lanka president declared victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, although some fighting continues. On Sunday, the NYT reported that the Tigers also acknowledged the war was over, coming to “a bitter end.” By Monday morning, BBC joined other media in reporting that the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was dead.

Pakistan BBC reported May 16 that a car bomb in Peshawar killed at least 11 people, and a U.S. drone killed 10 people in the North Waziristan tribal region.

Somalia BBC reports that President Barack Obama’s top official on Africa, Jonnie Carson, expressed concern over possible arms sales by Eritrea to al Shabaab militants in Somalia, and also over reports of Chechen and South Asian fighters in the al Shabaab forces. Eritrean government officials denied the charges. Meanwhile, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told BBC that he has asked his former ally and Islamist spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweysto negotiate an end to fighting in Mogadishu, but that the al Shabaab leader refused.

Chad/Sudan BBC: Chad’s government admitted air raids inside Sudan, saying they had destroyed seven groups of mercenaries.

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News Day: Waiting for the veto / “Independent” contractors / Playing to lose / more

Passed, passed, passed and waiting The legislature passed a number of bills yesterday, and the stack on T-Paw’s desk continues to grow. Will he sign or will he veto? Only the governor knows for sure. Among the bills awaiting decision:

Flat funding for P-12 schools and cuts for higher ed. Minnesota Miracle and expanded Q-Comp both lose out.

House and Senate leaders offered to plug about $2 billion of the budget gap with a school funding shift and use of budget reserves. That still leaves a billion dollar gap, which T-Paw wants to fill by borrowing and the House and Senate leadership want to fill with taxes.

The House and Senate passed a “lights-on” bill, which would keep the state running to July 2010, even if no budget agreement is reached by Monday.

The House and Senate passed the state bonding bill by wide and seemingly veto-proof margins, providing $300 million that would quickly create up to 3,000 construction jobs, provide flood relief to the Red River Valley and fund a new museum and rail projects in the St. Paul area.

Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium stands, as the Senate agreed to a compromise energy policy bill.

Freeze? What freeze? Though the governor declared a freeze on state hiring in February 2008, MPR reports that “The number of people on the state’s payroll has grown even though thousands of government employees have retired since Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued an executive order last year to implement hiring restrictions at state agencies.”

MN Job Watch One day after Park Nicollet announced that it will cut 240 jobs, the Hennepin County Medical Center said it will cut 100 jobs, and will require supervisors and administrators to take a two-day unpaid leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported an increase in initial unemployment claims last week: “In the week ending May 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 637,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 605,000.” The total number of people receiving unemployment compensation remained at a record high.

A new twist on “independent contractors” comes in response to a state law that targeted abuses in the construction industry, reports the Strib.

The laws, which took effect Jan. 1, take aim at an old problem — contractors who illegally classify their employees as independent contractors to cut labor costs in the roofing, drywalling, remodeling and other building trades.

Such workers are shortchanged on Social Security, unemployment benefits and coverage for job injuries, and many don’t report all their income to state and federal tax collectors, a 2007 legislative audit said.

Now, often with employer encouragement, such workers are registering in record numbers as LLCs — Limited Liability Companies — with filings of new LLC registrations more than double the pace of a year ago. The situation is complicated by what workers and employers agree are onerous registration procedures for independent contractors that resulted from the new law, as well as by employers’ continuing reluctance tohire workers as employees, withhold their taxes and pay workers compensation premiums.

Playing to lose The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reports that black athletes at the U of M are lagging significantly behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, and have not kept up with national improvements in black athletes’ graduation rates.

Unfortunately, at the University of Minnesota, the school’s top three revenue sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — are not doing as well in graduating their Black players. Their rates are 40 percent (football), 57 percent (women’s basketball), and 38 percent (men’s basketball), compared to Whites in football (73 percent), men’s basketball (50 percent) and women’s basketball (67 percent).

New power plant in Chisago county The Strib reports that a new, gas-fired power plant in Chisago County came one step closer to reality with tax breaks passed by the legislature. The plant still faces the PUC approval process.

The $300 million Sunrise River Energy station, an 855-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, would open by 2013 pending regulatory approvals, according to the company that would build it, LS Power, a private utility with offices in New Jersey and Missouri.

War Reports

Sri Lanka BBCA local doctor said that government forces shelled a hospital for a second day, killing 50 people, and government forces denied the report. Satellite images and UN sources seemed to confirm reports of shelling. Journalists cannot confirm or deny the reports, because the government does not allow journalists in the area.

DR Congo BBC Rwandan Hutu rebels killed more than a hundred people in the eastern DR Congo over the weekend. BBC notes: “Many of the rebels fled to DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some its leaders were accused of taking part.”

Pakistan BBC A school girl’s account of fleeing Swat:

… My sympathies are neither with the Taleban nor the army. Both have been cruel to us.

The Taleban have destroyed us and the army is murdering our people. …

National/World headlines

Burma BBC The Burmese government has taken ailing Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her home, where she has been under house arrest for 19 years, to prison. She is being charged with violating conditions of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, was arrested after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. Her lawyers say the man was not invited and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says that, “it looks as though this is a pretext to keep her detained until elections due in 2010 which the generals think will give them some legitimacy.”

Haitians drown in attempt to reach U.S. NYT At least 10 of 27 would-be immigrants died when their boat capsized off the Florida coast.

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News Day: Michelle Bachmann, Norm Coleman / Health care in jeopardy / Swine flu updates / more

Mad Michelle Minute Minnesota Independent chronicles the latest Bachmania, reporting that Bachmann offered an amendment to the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act to ban groups facing federal indictment for voter fraud from receiving federal foreclosure relief funds. She proudly explained that “I want to ensure that organizations, such as ACORN, are prohibited from receiving funds while simultaneously facing charges of voter fraud and tax violations.” Only problem with that: ACORN says “The truth is, no criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN, its leadership, or partner organizations.”

Norm Coleman files Yesterday, Norm Coleman filed his brief before the MN Supreme Court, with “few, if any” surprises, reports Eric Black in MinnPost. Read the brief, which goes on for 62 pages ad nauseam (a legal term, of course), or the Eric Black summary — or just skip the whole lthing because there’s nothing there that you haven’t already heard over the past six months.
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News Day: Ellison arrested / Fong Lee inside story / Mpls: From suspended principal to school closings / MN health cuts / more

In good company Rep. Keith Ellison was arrested Monday, along with civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, and others, as they protested at Sudan’s embassy in DC. After indictment of President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, Bashir ordered foreign aid workers to leave the country. That cuts a lifeline for embattled Darfur, where the U.N estimates that 300,000 people have been died in the war since 2003, and 2.7 million people are receiving aid after being forced out of their homes. Ellison said:

Today, I join with my Congressional colleagues and advocates from Save Darfur and ENOUGH to demand the Government of Sudan immediately take humanitarian action on the situation in Darfur. …

We implore all countries to demand that the Government of Sudan respect and protect human rights and put an end to the acts of atrocities and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

BBC has an informative Q & A that traces the roots of the conflict and describes the International Criminal Court proceedings. More background is available at Sudan: A nation divided

Fong Lee: The inside story Hmong Today has just published a major story on the Fong Lee case, including the family’s point of view as well as a detailed analysis of the evidence released to date. The story describes the police failure to interview eyewitnesses to the chase and shooting, and the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department’s failure to investigate a complaint filed with the agency. Editor Wameng Moua notes that, “Despite Chief Dolan’s many references to an article that ran in Hmong Today, our request for an interview in regards to the Fong Lee case has been denied, “’At the request of the City Attorney.’”

The TC Daily Planet reported earlier this month that the chief gave an exclusive interview to the Strib about the legal case arising from the 2006 police shooting of Fong Lee, but did not respond to requests for interviews from the PiPress, which has reported on the family’s side of the ongoing lawsuit. Subsequently, Chief Dolan also gave exclusive interviews to MPR and KSTP.

Rallying support for Cadotte Last night, supporters gathering to protest the suspension of Burroughs principal Tim Cadotte heard that several legislators were demanding action as well:

Sen. Scott Dibble, Patricia Torres Ray, and Ken Kelash — as well as Rep. Frank Hornstein, Jeff Hayden, Paul Thissen and Speaker [Margaret Anderson] Kelliher, calls the quick move to place Cadotte on leave “alarming.” The letter added that Cadotte “must be reinstated to his position as soon as possible.”

MPR also reported receiving an email from Cadotte that read:

“I am overwhelmed at the support I have received. Sometimes you forget that there was a day you helped a first grader zip up their coat, called home for a student that forgot their lunch or double over when a student tells you a joke you have heard a hundred times but somehow it is funny all over again. I have been reminded 10 fold. I want my families to know I say ‘Thank you.'”

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Public Schools continue to move forward with a reorganization plan for 2010-2011 that would include redrawing attendance lines, reducing busing, and closing four schools: Pratt Elementary, Northrop, Longfellow and Folwell. The recommendation will be presented to the school board tonight, with a month of public hearings to follow before school board action. News stories about the plans cite the need to fix a $28 million deficit in the 2009-2010 school year, but it’s not clear how changes for 2010-2011 could do that.

As the district, school board, and community contend with the painful decisions on cuts and equally painful charges and countercharges of racism, currently focused on the Burroughs dispute, School Superintendent Bill Green sent out an op/ed article calling for reconciliation.

MN Job Watch GM cuts in dealerships and staff across the country will hit Minnesota hard:

Scott Lambert is vice president of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. He estimates that that as many as 50 of Minnesota’s 138 GM dealerships could be closed. And he says some 2,000 jobs in the state could disappear under GM’s plan to close 42 percent of its 6,200 U.S. dealerships by the end of next year.

• The Minnesota Historical Society Press is cutting four of 11 positions and decreasing the number of books it will publish by 30%, due to state budget cuts.

House, Senate slash health funding Both the House and Senate passed omnibus health and human services funding bills, and both slashed funding for health and human services. Session Daily reports:

After more than eight hours of debate, the House passed 85-49 the omnibus health and human services finance bill. HF1362 does not change eligibility requirements for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, but hospitals, long-term care facilities and those using public dental assistance would all receive reductions.

Sponsored by Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), the bill includes delayed rebasing for nursing homes; a 3 percent cut to long-term care facilities; a 3 percent reduction to hospitals, including reducing reimbursement rates for those on Medical Assistance and General Assistance Medical Care; and limiting personal care attendant hours to 310 per month per individual.

Senate cuts go even deeper, though not as deep as the cuts demanded by the governor.

MinnPost headline:
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Now that’s reassuring!

Bachmann: The energizer bunny Not only does she get around to dozens of talk shows – now Michelle Bachmann, who said she wanted citizens “armed and dangerous” over Barack Obama’s proposed energy tax has been appointed to the House GOP American Energy Solutions Group. And, just in time, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commiteee has launched “Bachmann Watch,” a website for fact-checking Michelle Bachmann. MnIndy reports that she’s already using the existence of the site as a basis for a new fundraising appeal.

Less help for immigrants Centro Legal closed its doors after 28 years, leaving one less place for MN immigrants to find legal aid. The burden on the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota will increase, and it has committed to taking on many of the people whose cases are still open and who were previously represented by Centro Legal. Federal restrictions severely restrict the ability of most legal aid programs to serve immigrants. Some of Centro Legal’s funders will transfer grants to the Immigrant Law Center of MN, including a United Way grant for work on domestic violence issues.

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News Day: Subsidizing corn for a sacred cow / The professor is a man / MN Job Watch / Around the world in 90 seconds, more

Subsidizing corn for a sacred cow A 107-page report (PDF) from the state legislative auditor’s office says the state should stop subsidizing ethanol and questions the potential for increased environmental benefit from increasing production of corn-based ethanol.

The recommendation to end public subsidies for ethanol producers is based on strictly economic analysis that shows increased profitability for ethanol producers has eliminated the justification for subsidies. The state program, begun in 1987, is a producer payment program. The Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) program has also provided subsidies for recently-built ethanol and biodiesel facilities. According to the report, “the producer payment program has paid $93 million over the last five years to companies that have earned profits of $619 million” during the past five years, and “about $44 million is scheduled to be spent on the producer payment program from fiscal year 2010 through 2012.” The report recommends ending the subsidy and “redirecting the funds to programs designed to further reduce fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.” That, of course, is not going to happen because the ethanol industry has a lock on legislative support, as well as the support of the governor.
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News Day: Seriously bad unemployment figures / Not-so-serious news: Michelle and the Queen, T-Paw goes hunting, Toilets in space / more serious news

Seriously bad news National unemployment rose to 8.5 percent in March, up from 8.1 percent in February, by the most conservative measure used by the U.S. Department of Labor. Employers cut 663,000 jobs in March. A second, more comprehensive, measure of unemployment puts the number of unemployed higher, at 15.6 percent. Full article here.
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News Day: Coleman cyber-follies / Middle class pays more /Snowing the recount / Somali youth / Cops hate Sara Jane / more

Middle class pays more Even in Minnesota, says a Department of Revenue study, rich people pay less in taxes than the middle class. See Who pays Minnesota’s taxes>

Coleman cyber-follies While Norm Coleman is calling it “chilling” and “scary,” a closer look shows that the disclosure of names and credit card information of Coleman campaign donors on the internet is the fault of no one but … the Coleman campaign, which violated basic on-line security procedures. Continue reading

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News Day: 89 ballots / Unfree press in MN House / Around the world in 90 seconds / Out with the old regime / more

Is Coleman toast yet? The Daily Kos jumps the gun, declaring “Coleman is toast,” but it’s true that the latest court ruling holds no good news for the Norm. After the inner ballot envelopes were opened in a search for registration cards, only 89 of the roughly 1500 rejected absentee ballots in pile 3a proved possibly countable. In MinnPost, Jay Weiner reports that “Coleman’s universe of legally cast ballots that his side wants opened may now be as low as 1,000, if not lower.”
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News Day: Unemployment / Bad news for bus riders / Nick speaks! / Pigs flying? / Viking stadium / Outrage of the day / Wonk alert / more

Unemployment up even more than expected national unemployment figures jumped to 8.1%, even more than expected, rising half a percent in the last month, with the economy shedding 651,000 jobs. Rates for blacks (13.4 percent) and Hispanics (10.9 percent) continue higher than the average, while the jobless rate for teen-agers continues at a whopping 21.6 percent.
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News Day: More on MN deficit and recession

March 4: Back to school / MN Job Watch / TCF and TARP / TOP SECRET no longer / Sudan, Afghanistan, Mexico and more

Budget deficit: Day 2 In the aftermath of the revelation that the economic stimulus will keep the red ink from rising higher, lawmakers and the governor are back to sparring over how to make up the $4.6 billion deficit. A trio of MPR reports gives context: State Finance Commissioner Tom Hanson warned that the long-term problem will get worse, with a $5.1 billion deficit forecast for 2012-13, and that the economic stimulus is a one-time rescue that does not solve the structural problem.
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