Tag Archives: Darfur

News Day: Windy and green in Woodbury /Fong Lee verdict / Back to Mexico? / more

Forecast: Windy and green in Woodbury Woodbury’s city council is considering several green ordinances and encountering some opposition to expanding wind power, reports the PiPress. Proposed new ordinances include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling in homes, solar panels covering all roof spaces, and ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 400 square feet in residential areas and 1000 square feet in rural areas.

The controversy comes over wind turbines. The proposed ordinance would allow 60-foot wind turbines in yards of more than an acre. Opponents focus on aesthetics and noise, while proponents say there’s little noise and focus on the benefits of renewable, green energy. Last fall, the Star Tribune reported plans for a 170-foot wind turbine at the high school to produce 30-50 percent of the school’s energy needs, but developers strongly objected, threatening to scuttle plans for a new housing development. Current plans for East Ridge High School, which is located in an R-4 residential area, are unclear – the high school has not yet submitted an official application to the city.

Large wind energy systems (generating 5 megawatts or more) are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, but smaller installations are subject to local regulation. A brochure published by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security notes that:

Another Minnesota program, net metering, allows home and building owners to install wind generation under 40 kW and connect to the grid. Utilities track the amount of electricity generated and credit the owner for the electricity produced. Any excess electricity not used by the owner is bought by the utility at the average retail rate. Other incentives available from the state include low interest loans and sales tax exemptions.

The Woodbury planning commission will take comments on the proposed ordinance at a June 15 meeting, and the city council will discuss it on June 17.
Fong Lee verdict A jury found that the police officer who shot 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 did not use excessive force. The PiPress described an almost-empty courtroom for the reading of the jury verdict, which came when Fong Lee’s family was at lunch and lawyers for both sides were also absent from the courtroom. When the family was informed of the verdict, Fong Lee’s mother burst into tears. According to MPR:

Community activist Tou Ger Xiong says the verdict shows that Minneapolis police officers discriminate against people of color.

“This does nothing more than to reaffirm the fact that we should fear police and members of law enforcement. Because it is saying to us, ‘Watch out, if a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be killed, you will shot, you will be killed.'”

Fong Lee’s sister, Shoua Lee, said her parents came to the U.S. from Laos in 1988 to find freedom and safety. “And on July 22, 2006, over 20 years later, that feeling of safety was shattered.”

Lee’s family believe he was unarmed and that police planted a gun found three feet from his body. They relied on evidence showing no fingerprints, blood or DNA evidence on the gun, and confused police reports about the ownership of the gun.

Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan said the officer acted with “courage and integrity.”

Heading back to Mexico? Is the economic recession driving immigrants back to Mexico? Evidence is anecdotal, but the Strib reports that many people are talking about it:

“Workers are thinking, ‘If I don’t have a job here or if I don’t have a job in Mexico, what’s the difference? Plus no one will harass me’ ” in Mexico, said Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis. “And businesses look around and ask: ‘Am I relying on a customer base that may not be here?”’

Nationally, immigrant unemployment rates have risen from 4.6 percent in 2007 to more than 11 percent today, pushing many to consider returning to Mexico. But, as a student at Neighborhood House points out, people who return may find an even worse economic situation in Mexico.

Hard times on the farm A recent U of M survey shows that recession is hitting Minnesota farmers hard, reports the Strib:

Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.

Ford Dam flagged Although there’s no evidence to show any danger at the Ford Dam, the evidence to show that it’s safe is incomplete, reports MPR, so inspectors are coming. They will look at whether water is seeping underneath the concrete dam. The problem is more likely in the paperwork than in the dam, say officials, but they’re checking just the same.

MN Job Watch According to AP, electrical generator maker Kato Engineering will cut 20 percent of its workforce, or 94 jobs. Kato’s plant is in Mankato.

Thief River Falls-based Arctic Cat will eliminate 60 positions, or approximately 5 percent of its 1,200 employees, reports MPR, after losing $9.5 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

World/National News

Shrinking economy The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent during the first quarter, reports NPR. But economists are more optimistic about the rest of the year:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and NABE forecasters say the recession will end later this year, barring any fresh shocks to the economy. NABE forecasters predict the economy could start growing again in the third or fourth quarter.

War Reports

Pakistan BBC The half-million residents of the steeply mountainous northwestern district of Kohistan don’t want either the Taliban or the army.

“If the army comes in, the Taliban will follow, and vice versa,” says an influential tribal elder and former member of parliament, Malik Saeed Ahmad.

“In either case, it threatens our way of life.”

They also don’t care much about Sharia law — “‘in fact, people are not interested in any government law,” says Mumtaz Khan Jalkoti, a local lawyer.”

In other war news, ten people were killed in two separate bombings in the city of Peshawar.

Iran An Iranian provincial official blamed U.S. “agents of arrogance” for a mosque bombing that killed 19 people last Thursday. The bombing took place in the poor, mostly Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Sudan BBC: “Sudan says more than 60 people were killed during the fighting with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Kornoi, in Darfur.” The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

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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:

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: 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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