Tag Archives: employment

MN unemployment edges up: 7.6 percent / Policing the police in Minneapolis / TiZa hit with fines

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Minnesota’s unemployment rose to 7.6 percent in October, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reported this morning. That’s up 0.2 percent from September, but still far below the national rate of 10.2 percent for October. The state added 2,200 jobs in October, with the strongest growth coming in temp jobs, especially in the professional and business sector. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Cat fight in TC media world / Pawlenty and health care / Making prisoners pay / more

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Cat fight in TC media world David Brauer gleefully reports that the Strib publisher was taking potshots at MPR yesterday, just before today’s scheduled MPR forum on the future of news. A Strib article quoted Mike Sweeney, chair of the Star Tribune board on MPR’s expansion plans and its sponsorship of the forum: 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 | Unemployment: 10.2% in October / Finding Fort Hood news / MN college funds gone / Don’t ask, don’t tell on MN tax refunds / Pawlenty’s bad idea / Bachmann Tea Party

“]Dorothea Lange unemployment lineUnemployment: 10.2% in October U.S. unemployment numbers for October rose more than expected, from 9.8% in September to 10.2% in October. Some 35.6% of the unemployed had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.  The total number of officially unemployed, plus discouraged workers, people working part time because they cannot find full time jobs, and those “marginally attached” to the work force – 17.5% in October.

President Obama is expected to sign an extension of unemployment benefits today. Yesterday’s report of the number of new unemployment compensation claims filed showed 512,000 new claims, down slightly from the previous week.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in September, but is expected to rise in October. October figures will be released on November 19.

 

Finding Fort Hood news Yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood, which left at least 13 dead, is all over the news today. Over at the Poynter Institute, Al Tompkins has a round-up of news sources, from the U.S. Army Twitter page to the New York Times Twitter list, and a comprehensive summary of what is known about the shooter. As hate groups lined up to denounce this as a Muslim crime, joined by Fox News, the Council on American Islamic Relations condemned the shooting, saying in part, “No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence.”

 

MN college funds gone Minnesota college scholarship funds for the year ran out, and officials dipped into next year’s budgeted funds to keep their promises to this year’s students, reports the Star Tribune. The main reason is greatly increased college enrollment, as displaced workers return to school to upgrade their skills and more high school grads head to college because there are no jobs available. In one dramatic example, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projected a 1.6% enrollment increase last year, but enrollment actually grew by 8%.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has $145.5 million allotted for MN scholarship grants, but will actually spend $158.4 million. Taking the money from next year’s allotment means meeting this year’s commitment, but falling even farther behind next year. Governor Pawlenty’s spokesperson said the governor will not recommend increasing next year’s funding.

Don’t ask, don’t tell on MN tax refunds Minnesota businesses that are owed corporate income tax and sales tax refunds by the state will have to wait a little longer, reports the Star Tribune. The reason: lower-than-predicted tax revenues, due to the recession. The state’s approach: don’t ask, don’t tell:

The state is currently delaying $128 million in corporate tax refunds to 461 companies and $11.9 million in sales tax refunds to about 350 to 400 businesses until late December. However, the Revenue Department is not notifying the firms unless companies specifically request a status update on their tax refunds. (emphasis added)

T-Paw’s not-so-new, not-so-good idea Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a constitutional amendment Thursday, but critics immediately pointed out major flaws. The Minnesota Independent has a succinct read on it:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled a proposal on Tuesday to amend the state’s constitution in order to keep a lid on government spending. His plan would cap the size of the state’s general fund budget at the amount of revenue received in the previous two year cycle. But according to figures compiled by the Senate Majority Research office, Pawlenty has never submitted a budget proposal that would have met the fiscal strictures of his proposed amendment.

Not only is the amendment a bad idea in MN, and completely unlikely to pass in the legislature or in a voter referendum, but it is a bad idea that has recently been rejected in other states, according to Minnesota Budget Bites:

Tax and spending limit ballot initiatives were just rejected on Tuesday in both Maine (60 percent opposed it) and Washington (55 percent opposed it). So far, serious efforts to pass similar initiatives have failed in 20 states. …
And it’s unlikely to be popular with Minnesotans. In fact, Minnesota voters have recently demonstrated that they support tax increases when they are needed – note the recent successes just this week of school referenda.

The Minnesota Budget Bites post gives a detailed analysis of what the governor has proposed, what’s wrong with that proposal, and why it doesn’t matter all that much, because the governor “actually plays no role in amending the state’s constitution.”

Bachmann Tea Party vs MN true stories As MN’s Michele Bachmann rallied about 10,000 health care reform opponents in Washington, the AARP announced its support for the House health care bill.

Josh Marshall noted that the mainstream GOP leaders showed up and spoke at the Bachmann-orchestrated event, even though obviously uncomfortable with her tone:

Early this morning The Politico got hold of a Republican Study Committee email asking staffers to send their members to the event but also to avoid words like “rally” and “protest” in favor of “press conference” or “press event”. Clearly, there was an effort to sanitize the event and get away from Bachmann’s high-strung rhetoric about a “last stand” against health care reform. So on the one hand the House Republicans wanted to take over the event. But they also felt the need to get out in front of it, to be in front of the crowd. It was a perfect, real-time illustration of the current struggle within the GOP, with the party establishment trying to harness but also control and not be overrun by the grassroots mobilization on the right.

Among the more outrageous statements: a sign carried by protesters with an enlarged photo of dead bodies at Dachau, comparing health care reform to “National Socialist Health Care.”

For Minnesota stories of the actual impact of lack of health care coverage as the House begins debate on health care reform, see stories of GAMC recipients on the TC Daily Planet and twenty-four stories of people who suffered from lack of coverage collected by Take Action Minnesota.

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NEWS DAY | H1N1 update: cats, vaccine, peak? / Laptop pilots want to fly again / Extending unemployment comp / more

SICK CAT

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H1N1 update: Cats, vaccine, peak? “Viruses are not transmitted between species,” was the common vet school and medical school wisdom not too long ago, according to our veterinarian, but common wisdom cracked again this week with a Washington Post report that a cat now has been diagnosed with H1N1. The 13-year-old kitty caught H1N1 from her human family, and humans and feline all have recovered. The Post notes that the virus has also been found in birds and ferrets, as well as humans and pigs. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Recession over! So is your job! / Police, property and punishment / Challenging Pawlenty’s cuts / Astroturfing in DC / Agreement in Honduras

jobs on a white background with a magnifierRecession is over! So is your job! I was wrong yesterday in questioning the accuracy of conflicting journalistic verdicts on the economy. Today everyone is on the same page. The GDP is growing! The recession is over! And even though Target announced that it will cut 85 jobs from its 1100-person marketing department in Bloomington, its spokesperson told MPR, ” “This is not a reflection on the current or anticipated economy.” I bet that makes the 85 people feel a whole lot better. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | MPCA: Oops / H1N1 update / Atrazine on Halloween / Reporting on the economy

Hear No Evil , See No Evil , Speak No Evil

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MPCA: Oops The MPCA has apologized for issuing a gag order telling a Carver County Commissioner that he couldn’t talk about the problematic septic system at the Waconia Events Center. The Star Tribune reports that the apology came about a week after the gag order, and said, in part, “The letter of warning was not intended to limit your rights to vocalize concerns or comments, either publicly or privately.”

The MPCA, of course, has absolutely no legal authority to order anyone to stop talking about anything. As for “warning” someone about talking – same deal. As one comment in the Star Tribune suggests, “This should really raise a red flag. Does the MPCA need a shakeup in management to get back to it’s roots of pollution control?”

H1N1 update: Two schools closed, 266 hospitalized, 12 deaths New information released by the Minnesota Department of Health shows 266 people hospitalized last week and two more deaths, bringing the H1N1 deaths in MN to 12, according to the Pioneer Press. Some 288 schools reported flu outbreaks.

WCCO reported that St. Paul Academy and Summit High School are closed today because of flu, and students already have tomorrow off because of teacher conferences. Some 30 percent of their students are at home with the flu. Salem Lutheran in Stillwater also closed for the rest of the week because of flu.

The Star Tribune reports that 915 Minnesotans have been hospitalized with H1N1 complications since spring, including 655 since September 1, and that most of the hardest-hit patients between the ages of five and 18.

Atrazine on Halloween A Minnesota review of atrazine safety by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the state’s Department of Health, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is due out around Halloween, according to MinnPost. That’s a few weeks after the feds announced the beginning of a major review of the controversial pesticide.

In MinnPost, Will Souder explains:

Atrazine was first licensed in the United States in 1958, and for many years was the most heavily used pesticide in the world. It has also been one of the most frequently detected contaminants of water. Atrazine and its breakdown compounds have been found in lakes, streams, reservoirs, clouds, rain, snow, fog, and in water ready for human consumption from drinking-water systems in agricultural areas. …
The new EPA review follows media accounts of inadequate monitoring and regulation of community water systems and a damning report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) last August that accused the agency of ignoring atrazine contamination in drinking water and in natural watersheds across the Midwest.

The European Union banned use of atrazine in 2003. Critics point to its persistence in drinking water and to spikes in atrazine presence in drinking water that are not measured well. They also argue that, whether or not atrazine is carcinogenic, it is linked ot various other problems, has been shown to cause deformities in frogs, and is an endocrine disruptor.

Economy up, economy down, and joblessness continues The economy “grew at a 3.5 percent pace in the third quarter, the best showing in two years,” signaling an end to the reccession, according to an AP report published in the Pioneer Press today. That’s good news, says the AP, despite the fact that joblessness is growing and wages are declining. But wait – another AP report published in the Star Tribune described “signs of a weaker housing market and a gloomier outlook on the economy” causing the stock market to slide.

Somehow economists and the media accept the end of a recession is measured in terms of “economic growth,” despite the fact that unemployment is still increasing. But even stranger is the seesaw reporting that has “a gloomy outlook” in one report and “the best showing in two years” in another.

Meanwhile, this morning’s figures from the Department of Labor show 530,000 new unemployment claims last week.

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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 plane / Animal stories / Flu scams / more

Question MarkWhat happened on that plane? Nobody knows, but the black box may tell. Pilots on Northwest Flight 188 say they were involved in a heated policy argument … that apparently distracted them so much that they didn’t see city lights below them, didn’t hear radio calls from Denver and Minneapolis, and completely lost track of the passage of time, as the plane flew over Minneapolis and continued for 100 miles off course into Wisconsin on Wednesday evening. Not everyone is buying the “heated argument” explanation, with some suspecting the pilots fell asleep. Continue reading

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