Tag Archives: Burma

NEWS DAY | Coal loses, from Big Stone to Ashland / MN tops nation in civic participation / Two more reasons to go veggie / Visiting Burma

vote_thumbElections today! Today is the day! For information on where to find your polling place in Minnesota, click here. For information on Ranked Choice Voting in Minneapolis, click here. For articles about specific races, click here.

Coal loses, from Big Stone to Ashland The Star Tribune reports that developers of the $1.6 billion, coal-powered, Big Stone II power plant in South Dakota have abandoned the project. Continue reading

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News Day: MN economy’s “gruesome bookends” / IRV or RCV – now legal in MN / Iran elections today / more

MN economy’s “gruesome bookends” Steve Perry writes in MinnPost that Minnesota’s dwindling unemployment insurance fund and tax revenues tied increasingly to the business cycle offer two troubling “bookends” of evidence that the state’s fiscal troubles will continue far into the future. On the UI front, Minnesota has less than two months of reserves, with a year considered healthy, and is expected to join the ranks of states borrowing from the feds to pay unemployment benefits, and running up a debt that will further complicate future budgets.

On the tax side, Perry cites a complex analysis offered by state economist Tom Stinson in a PIM interview with Perry, which explains in greater depth what Perry summarizes for MinnPost as:

To make a long story short, and somewhat over-simple: Through-the-roof revenues from capital gains and bonus income during the bubble years both distorted and inflated state revenues, and led states to cut taxes and expand spending in unsustainable ways.

The PIM interview includes some Stinson recommendations about needed changes in the tax structure, including raising some taxes, changes in capital gains tax treatment, and much more. From a journalistic point of view, it’s somewhat amusing to see Perry in MinnPost referencing and simplifying Perry in PIM. I’m glad he did, as the PIM article is both important and tough reading. Its conclusion: Minnesota tax revenues will not return to pre-recession levels until 2014.

IRV is in The MN Supreme Court ruled that Instant Run-off Voting, aka Ranked Choice Voting, is legal and constitutional and Minneapolis can go ahead and use the choice already approved by voters a couple of years ago. Opponents say they will keep on suing, in other cities that adopt IRV, and probably also in challenges to results of elections using IRV. They don’t really care what the voters say, or what the Supreme Court says. Their lawsuits just increase the costs of IRV for every city that adopts it. The St. Paul City Council is expected to consider IRV now, having delayed consideration to see what the Supreme Court would say.

The FairVote Minnesota press release explains the process:

RCV is a tested, accepted and implementable system by which voters rank candidates in order of preference, ensuring majority winners in single-winner races where there are more than two candidates on the ballot. Under RCV, voters cast their vote for their favorite candidate knowing that if he or she doesn’t gather enough votes to be one of the top two finishers, their votes will count toward their second choice. Votes cast for the least popular candidate are not “wasted”, but rather redistributed to more popular candidates, based on the voters’ second choices, until one candidate emerges with a majority of votes. In multi-winner elections, like the Minneapolis Park Board RCV ensures majority rule while empowering small groups of voters with greater opportunity to elect a candidate that represents them.

Politics in Minnesota explains the expected political impacts of IRV:

Since, of course, the DFL dominates Minneapolis politics, this could let marginalized urban conservatives and independents efficiently consolidate their votes around more conservative candidates. On the other hand, it also frees those to the left of the DFL mainstream to vote for Greens and other lefties, and then safely set a second choice for a liberal DFLer.

You can’t get there from here Stretches of I-94 and I-35W in the heart of the metro area will be closed this weekend. The Strib summary: “All northbound lanes on 35W will be closed from Crosstown Hwy. 62 to 94; all of 35W’s southbound lanes will be closed from S. 60th Street to the crosstown (which will remain open). Westbound lanes of 94 will be closed between 35W and Hwy. 280; access from the Cretin-Vandalia exit in St. Paul will be blocked.”

Minneapolis Police Department layoffs No police officers get the ax, but 17 community service officers will be laid off, a consequence of less-than-expected federal stimulus funding, reports the Strib. In February, Mayor RT Rybak thought the city would get $5 million for police — the actual figure is now down to $3.73 million.

World/National Headlines

Worth-less The personal wealth of Americans dropped by $1.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2009, pushing back to 2004 levels, reports AP. The 2.6 percent decline, mostly in the value of homes and stocks, came on top of earlier losses during 2007-08. On the other hand, “Americans’ personal savings rate zoomed to 5.7 percent in April, the highest since 1995.”

Peru protests move to Lima About 20,000 marched on Congress, amid clouds of tear gas, reports BBC, protesting last week’s violence against indigenous people blocking roads in the Amazon region and protesting against oil and gas drilling.

Confrontations between police and indigenous protesters last week led to the deaths of more than 50 people.

Congress in Lima voted on Wednesday to suspend two controversial land decrees.

Aung San Suu Kyi BBC reports that the trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been continued to June 26. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past 19 years, but her house arrest was scheduled to end in May. Instead, a bizaare incident involving an American who swam a lake to enter her home uninvited led to the government charging Suu Kyi with violating the terms of her house arrest. According to BBC, “Observers believe that Burma’s military leaders will seize on the incident to keep her behind bars during what they say will be multi-party elections in 2010.”

Iran elections today Huge turnouts are reported in today’s presidential elections in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a strong challenge from the more moderate former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, after an intense campaign in which the economy was a major issue. Two other candidates are also on the ballot. BBC notes that:

Iran is ruled under a system known as Velayat-e Faqih, or “Rule by the Supreme Jurist”, who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei….

But the constitution also stipulates that the people are the source of power and the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years.

War Reports

Pakistan A senior Islamic cleric was killed in Lahore, reports BBC. The suicide bomber attacked Sarfraz Naeemi at the Jaamia Naeemia madrassa around the time of Friday prayers. Naeemi had denounced the Taliban as “un-Islamic” and also denounced suicide bombing

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News Day: What now, Norm? / Death in Somalia: Looking for answers / Carstarphen: Go slower / Wind industry layoffs / more

What now, Norm? Politics in Minnesota has gotten several answers to that question over the past few days. First, on June 4, came a report from Roll Call that Norm was willing to bow out if the MN Supreme Court rules against him. PIM thought that sounded unlikely, and, within hours, posted:
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News Day: Fletcher and the Force / Governor No / Single-payer health insurance, more

MGSF_logoFletcher and the Force “Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher repeatedly tried to prevent a state investigation into the financial operations of the Metro Gang Strike Force, over which his office has fiscal oversight, according to officials directly involved in the state probe that led to the sudden shutdown last week of the unit’s activities,” reports the Star Tribune. The article also says Fletcher blamed his friend Ron Ryan for mishandling cash, denied that his office had oversight responsibility, and engaged in “shouting matches” with Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion, objecting to the state audit.
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News Day: Looking for the (police) money / Red scare over? / Unemployment, full and partial / Hmong refugees camp closing / more

Where’s the money? “Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion told a legislative audit committee that he would temporarily shut down the Metro Gang Strike Force after a report showed poor financial practices,” reports reports The Uptake. The legislative auditor found that the Metro Gang Strike Force could not account for $18,126 of seized cash and at least 13 seized vehicles. According to MPR, the Metro Gang Strike Force includes 34 officers from 13 jurisdictions.

You mean they’re NOT socialists? Okay, it wasn’t a real, old-fashioned red scare, more like a modified pink scare, but some Republicans really, REALLY, wanted to “officially” call out the Democratic Party as socialist. But now, just as the slow news season approaches, TPM reports that the RNC has officially abandoned its “much-ridiculed proposal to call for the Democratic Party to change its name to the ‘Democrat Socialist Party.'” One of the sponsors of the proposal said they had succeeded by alerting Americans to the “socialist agenda” so that they could be “properly fearful.”

Unemployment, full and partial If your hours are cut, apply for unemployment benefits. That’s the advice from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, reports MPR. You might not qualify for benefits – rules are complicated. But you might qualify. And, yes, unpaid time off and furloughs are layoffs. And here’s another angle:

Her daughter’s hours were cut last November. And she hasn’t applied for unemployment. And that will cost her. The base benefit amount is calculated on income earned during the first four of the last five calendar quarters.

If she were to file now, one of those calendar quarters is part-time work, is only 20 hours a week instead of the 32 hours a week she had been working. So her base amount is much lower than had she known that and been able to file right away.

Complicated? You bet – so if you are losing hours or days of paid work, consult someone at the unemployment office about what applying now will do for your eligibility and payment level, now and in the future.

Meanwhile, national unemployment continues to climb. NPR reports that new claims are down slightly this week, but total unemployment, at 6.7 million, sets a record high for the sixteenth straight week. New claims were at 631,000 this week, up from a low of 605,000 earlier this month but still lower than late March’s record 674,000.

Hmong refugee camp closing Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is pulling out of a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, effectively closing the camp, according to BBC. The camp still houses 5,000 Hmong asylum seekers, whom the Thai government calls economic refugees. According to MSF head of mission Gilles Isard:

“More and more, the Thai army is trying to use coercive measure to force the people to return to Laos. Also they are pressuring MSF.

“For instance they have been trying to demand MSF stop providing food distribution to the people in order to punish them.”

Officer testifies in Fong Lee trial Officer Jason Anderson testified in the second day of the Fong Lee trial, maintaining that when he shot the teenager, Lee had a gun. Anderson acknowledged that he could not see a gun in the photos from surveillance cameras that captured parts of the police chase, reports the PiPress.

Warsame pleads guilty After five years in solitary confinement, Mohammed Abdullah Warsame pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to support al-Qaida. Warsame is a Canadian citizen of Somali descent who was living in Minnesota when arrested. He had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2000, and attended what are described as al-Qaida training camps before returning to Toronto in April 2001 and to his family here in 2002. Under the plea agreement, all other charges were dropped. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 5. NPR reports that Warsame’s attorney said his client pleaded guilty because that reduces the maximum prison time from 30 years to 12 1/2 years. He has also agreed to be deported to Canada after sentencing.

World/National headlines

Torture ties closer to Bush, Cheney Before the Justice Department memos, CIA officials engaging in torture were sending daily memos and getting daily approval from then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, reports NPR.

“At the very least, it’s clear that CIA headquarters was choreographing what was going on at the black site,” says Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU lawyer who sued to get the document. “But there’s still this question about the relationship between CIA headquarters and the White House and the Justice Department and the question of which senior officials were driving this process.”

Hold that interest rate New credit card regulations passed by Congress, as described by NPR, would:

• prohibit card companies from raising interest rates on existing balances unless the borrower is at least 60 days late paying a bill;
• require restoration of the original rate if the cardholder pays on time for the following six months;
• mandate that card issuers apply payments to the debts with the highest interest rates first, on cards with more than one interest rate;
• give 45 days notice before increasing rates on future purchases;
• bar fees for paying by phone, mail, or electronic transfer, “except when it requires someone’s help to expedite the payment;”
• places some restrictions on aggressive marketing of credit cards to people under 21;
• bans double cycle billing and delayed crediting of payments.

Also in the bill – a provision allowing the carrying of loaded weapons in national parks. That provision comes courtesy of the National Rifle Association, in a show of its power over Congress. Though supporters of the credit card reform wanted nothing to do with the gun law, they had to agree or send the credit card bill back to the starting gate.

Diplomats barred from Aung San Suu Kyi trial Diplomats were allowed to attend the closed trial of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for a single day, but then barred again. She is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest, after a US man swam across a lake to her home, where she has been held under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. Her latest house arrest was scheduled to end May 27, and the current trial is seen as a way to extend some kind of imprisonement of the ailing opposition leader past the 2010 elections scheduled by the military dictatorship. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 1990 elections, but was never allowed to take office.

War Report

Iraq At least 34 people were killed and 72 injured by a car bomb in Baghdad, reports BBC. The bomb went off in a poor, mostly Shia, neighborhood, adding to fears of increasing sectarian violence as the U.S. prepares to pull out. Although the final pullout date is not until August 2010, the agreement between Iraqi and U.S. governments calls for earlier stages of withdrawal from civilian areas.

Somalia Somalia’s neighbors, acting in concert in the Igad group, have called for an air and sea blockade to prevent arms from being supplied to the Al-Shabab rebels, and to prevent the entry of more foreign fighters, reports BBC.

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