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NEWS DAY | Public wants public option / Jon Stewart on H1N1 / More

© nicolasjoseschirado - Fotolia.com

© nicolasjoseschirado - Fotolia.com

Public option or private bankruptcy A clear majority of 57 percent supports a public option for health care reform, according to the latest Washgton Post-ABC News poll. That’s up from a mid-August low point of 52 percent, but down from June’s 62 percent in favor of a public option. A majority of Republicans support a limited public option: Continue reading

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News Day: Franken, Klobuchar immigration votes / MN farm debate / Security? What security? / more

border fenceKlobuchar votes with conservatives on immigration Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken split over immigration votes, with Klobuchar voting with Republicans and conservative Democrats to build 700 miles of border fence and to make the federal E-verify system mandatory for federal contractors. The votes came on amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010. The original Senate bill would have reauthorized E-Verify for three years without making it mandatory, reports MinnPost.
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News Day: Central Corridor starts / Police & crime / New hope for old homes / Trouble on the farm / more

LRTCentral Corridor starts Downtown St. Paul will see streets dug up, starting Monday, so that utility lines can be moved before construction of the Central Corridor light rail line begins next year, reports the Star Tribune. Street closings and restrictions will begin on 4th Street between Minnesota and Jackson streets.
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News Day: Senate race ends! / Fletcher vs. investigators on Strike Force / PiPress layoffs / 100 torture deaths? / more

Senator Al Franken It’s all over – the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Al Franken won the election. Then Norm Coleman conceded. Within a few hours, both Governor Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had signed the election certificate. A veritable tornado of tweets followed every minute of the events. By my count, Minnesota Independent and MinnPost each have 19 articles, and that’s where I stop counting.
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News Day: Franken, Coleman, Pawlenty and the Supremes / Unlicensed in St. Paul / Mortgage relief – finally / more

<a href="http://us.fotolia.com/id/11477219" title="" alt="">©Ramin Khojasteh</a> - Fotolia.com

©Ramin Khojasteh - Fotolia.com

Franken, Coleman, Pawlenty and the Supremes Is the seemingly never-ending Senate race heating up again? For two weeks, informed sources and rumors have predicted a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on specific days, and no ruling has come. The court usually rules on Thursdays, and this Thursday falls just short of the eight month anniversary of the election. Maybe it’s time … and maybe T-Paw’s latest statements mean he would actually sign an election certificate and give Minnesota a second senator. Or not. Here’s what he told CNN interviewer John King over the weekend:
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News Day: GM in MN / Franken-Coleman blow-by-blow / Health care saga / more

MN GM dealers: Who’s going down? Minnesota has 149 GM dealers, reports MPR, and Tuesday they will learn which dealerships will be closed under GM bankruptcy proceedings. Thirty MN dealers had received earlier notice that GM would cut them, but now the company plans to close 40 percent of all its dealers nationwide, which could mean another 30 in Minnesota.
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News Day: Franken and Coleman back at it / “Fong Lee = me” / Republican road to socialism / more

Franken and Coleman: They’re back! Their lawyers will argue the case in the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday. See the PiPress for profiles of the five justices who will decide the case. Two of the court’s seven justices will sit this one out Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson were part of the recount panel, whose work and decisions are being challenged by Coleman.

“Fong Lee = me” That was the message on the sign held by a young Hmong boy, who was among hundreds of people rallying in St. Paul Saturday to protest the verdict in the Fong Lee shooting death case. The PiPress reports that Fong Lee family members and supporters belive the trial and verdict were unfair.

“I felt that justice failed us, and I feel there ain’t nothing going to happen with it,” said Jon Xiong, 28, of St. Paul. “I got little brothers and cousins and nephews, and it could’ve easily have been them. From my point of view, as a minority, it really ain’t no good. That’s all I can say. It ain’t no good.”

Violence hits young Somalis in Minneapolis Laura Yuen, continuing her fine coverage of the local Somali community offers an in-depth look at the violence that has claimed the lives of eight young Somali men since December 2007, and what some in the community are doing to stop it.

MN Job Watch St. Paul teachers’ contract talks are in trouble before they even get started, reports the PiPress. Reason: the district already announced that it is seeking a pay freeze and “more flexible labor agreements,” thus, according to union reps, starting the negotiations in the press rather than with the teachers.

• “After 30 years, a major labor arts institution is closing its doors,” reports the Minneapolis Labor Review. The worker-run Northland Poster Cooperative will close at the end of June.

• And The Uptake reports on charges of mistreatment of roofers at the Target Center.

Don’t leave home without it Going to Canada? Take your passport, or you might not get back into the United States, reports MPR. Tighter U.S. regulations go into effect today. There is an alternative to the $100+ passport – a lower-cost passport card that can be used just for land border or seaport crossings in the Western Hemisphere, but not for international air travel. More than a million of the passport cards have been issued in Minnesota since they became available in 2008. Processing time takes 4-6 weeks.

Residents near the border may also qualify for a third alternative, the NEXUS card, which is for “trusted travelers who pass a background check by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.” For now, Homeland Security officials say they will take a “commonsense” approach to allowing people to re-enter the United States if they have gone to Canada for, say, a fishing trip.

Disabled and out of luck That was Dan Gunnon’s fate until he hooked up with the Watchdog at the PiPress. Despite chronic back pain, he worked and enjoyed a middle-class standard of living for 20 years after a back injury suffered in 1981: “I tried to save a woman from being assaulted, and I got shot, and the bullet lodged in my spine.” Then, in 2002, the back pain “exploded” and he was no longer able to work. His partner fell victim to cancer, and was also out of work. He applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and:

Like 60 percent of Minnesotans who applied, Don was denied on his first application. He asked for a reconsideration — a request to have a different pair of eyes look at the application. He was denied again. The next step was to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. That’s when he discovered he was caught in a backlog of scandalous proportions: In 2007, about 746,000 claims were pending at the hearing level, 9,000 of them in Minnesota. Some cases had been on the back burner for three years.

SSDI is an insurance program, not a welfare benefit. Like Social Security retirement benefits, it’s paid for by taxes deducted from paychecks. According to the Social Security website, “In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.”

Dan Gunnon got lucky when he found the PiPress Watchdog, who used connections and savvy to find advocates and cut through some of the red tape. Gunnon ended up giving up on back benefits that were clearly owed to him in order to get his benefits started. The story is a testament to good reporting and advocacy by Debra O’Connor at the Pioneer Press, but also a horror story of inadequate staffing and continuing misery for the hundreds of thousands with cases still pending.

World/National Headlines

Doctor shot down in church Dr. George Tiller (67), vilified for performing abortions and shot and wounded by an anti-abortion gunman 16 years ago, was assassinated as he served as an usher inside his Lutheran church in Wichita, KS. A 51-year-old white man is in custody for the shooting.

BBC lists other deadly attacks by anti-abortion killers:

Oct 1998: Dr Barnett Slepian shot dead, Buffalo, New York
Jan 1998: Policeman killed in blast at clinic near Birmingham, Alabama
Dec 30 1994: Two receptionists shot dead at clinics near Boston
July 1994: Dr John Britton and a volunteer escort killed outside clinic, Pensacola, Florida

The Dailyi Kos has a personal remembrance — and a more nuanced picture — of Dr. Tiller.

Bankruptcy on Monday AP reports: “General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government’s reach into big business.” The company has already received $20 billion in taxpayer funds, and will get $30 billion more, as it cuts 21,000 employees, about 34 percent of its work force, and reduces the number of dealers by 2,600. The UAW agreed to a cost-cutting deal on Friday.

According to another AP report:

Sen. Richard Shelby said Friday the government should have allowed the marketplace to decide General Motors’ fate and that the huge federal stake in the company puts Washington on “the road to socialism.”

Six months ago? Let’s see – that would be on the watch of the Bush administration, so that would have been a Republican road to socialism?

War Reports

Pakistan Pakistani troops captured the main city in the Swat region, reports BBC, but the city’s center was destroyed in the process. Conditions in the Swat region, according to the International Red Cross: “Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.”

Meanwhile, reports the NYT, heavy fighting has broken out in South Waziristan, the probable next front. And a bomb blast in the North-West Frontier Province town of Kohat killed two people and injured eight others.

Afghanistan When U.S. troops arrived in the Jalrez valley, 30 miles west of Kabul, the Taliban left, reports the NYT. But that may be only temporary:

Insurgents regularly leave areas where Americans appear, only to resurface later. “We are hearing it’s better now,” said Hoji Mir Ahmad, a fruit merchant based in Kabul, “but God knows what things will be like when the harvest comes.”

West Bank Reuters reports: “Six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout.”

An attack on Palestinian workers by masked, rock=throwing Israeli settlers near the Palestinian city of Nablus injured several men, sending two to the hospital, reports BBC.

Iraq In May, 24 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, reports BBC, the highest number of casualties since September 2008. Combat operations are scheduled to end in September 2010.

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News Day: Fishing season and veto season open / Franken v. Coleman / Someting rotten / Aung San Suu Kyi ill / War news / more

GOOD NEWS And that’s worth going to the top of the report – Roxana Saberi is due to be freed and flown home today, after an Iranian court suspended the eight-year sentence previously imposed on the North Dakota journalist.

Fishing season and veto season From cocoa bean mulch canine health warnings to the billion dollar tax plan, T-Paw wielded the veto pen before heading off to the fishing opener Saturday morning. As the PiPress succinctly notes:

Pawlenty and the Legislature have eight days to balance the budget by the May 18 constitutional deadline. If they fail to get done on time, he could call them back into special session. And if they don’t finish by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the nonessential parts of state government will shut down.

According to Steve Perry in PIM, DFLers are “within dreaming distance of an override majority.” But definitely not there yet.

Franken v. Coleman With Franken’s reply brief due in the MN Supreme Court today, Minnesota moves one step closer to having a second senator. In MinnPost, Eric Black continues his series of analytic reports, this time focusing on Coleman’s Equal Protection argument.

Fong Lee case A settlement conference in the Fong Lee case is set for today, and supporters promise a demonstration on the courthouse steps. A Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Lee in 2006. The family has sued the police officer and the city, amid ongoing revelations of problems with police reports about gun identification and mishandling of squad car videos.

Something rotten in Minneapolis The Strib asks: “Did a Minneapolis police officer spin lies?” Well, that’s one possible conclusion – but the story describes another possible scenario in which the FBI and ATF use dubious information from a plea-bargaining drug dealer to target black Minneapolis cops — and the Minneapolis police officer in the headline (Lt. Michael Keefe) blows the whistle on them. The single officer finally charged as a result of the massive, months-long federal/state investigation goes on trial Monday, charged with taking $200 from gang member Taylor Trump in exchange for non-public information. Read the Strib’s investigative series about the Taylor Trump/FBI/ATF/Violent Crimes Task Force investigation at Part I: The Informant, Part II: Putting cops to the test, and Part III: Police versus the police.

Another bad budget cut Cutting funding for Personal Care Attendants hurts vulnerable children and adults — and will cost more money in the long run, explains Gail Rosenblum in the Strib. She talks to members of the “invisible work force,” including one woman who “has worked as a PCA for 12 years, earning an average of $10 an hour to help Minnesotans with a range of disabilities — from spinal cord injuries to fetal alcohol syndrome — in bathing, using the toilet, getting into a wheelchair, eating without choking, experiencing fresh air.”

Green and affordable On the West Side of St. Paul, reports MPR, NeDA has built a few low-cost green homes. Most green homes are bigger, glossier enterprises, but these have no “granite countertops and no bamboo floors,” instead focusing “on energy efficiency because energy bills are one of the biggest obstacles to lasting home ownership for low-income families.”

War reports

Chad BBC: More than 250 people have been killed in fighting between rebels and government forces in eastern Chad, near the border with Darfur. Chad’s government claimed victory and blamed Sudan for arming the rebels.

Afghanistan BBC: In Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the U.S. to stop air strike in Afghanistan. Afghan officials said more than 100 civilians died in U.S. bombing in the western Farah province, while U.S. military said the number was not that high.

Somalia BBC: Radical Islamists fighting against government forces were blamed for an attack on a mosque in Mogadishu that killed 14 people. According to BBC, “At least 50 people are thought to have died in gun battles between the rival factions since Thursday, when clashes erupted in a northern area of the city.”

Pakistan Washington Post: More than 200,000 refugees are already in camps, with another 600,000 expected to arrive, as Pakistan steps up attacks on Taliban militants in the Swat valley. AP says the number of refugees is already over 360,000, on top of 500,000 earlier displaced persons. The military claims to have killed 700 Taliban fighters, but is restricting journalists’ access, so no outside reports are available.

Sri Lanka BBC: The UN is calling government actions “a bloodbath,” citing the killing of hundreds of civilians, including more than a hundred children, as government troops try to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebels. The UN “estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by the conflict in a three-km-sq strip of land.”

National/World headlines

Aung San Suu Kyi ill Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since her party won elections in 1990, is reportedly very weak, suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration. In a bizarre series of incidents, an American swam across a lake and entered her compound last week, then was arrested as he swam back across the lake last Tuesday. About 20 police entered Ms. Suu Kyi’s compound on Thursday. Her doctor, Tin Myo Win, was also arrested Thursday. The latest period of house arrest is due to end this month, but may be extended. The military junta still rulilng Burma has not allowed the National League for Democracy (NLD) to take office.

BBC: Four candidates are registered to run in Iran’s June 12 presidential election: current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Revolutionary Guards chief, Mohsen Rezai (both conservative), and the somewhat less conservative gormer PM Mir-Hossein Mousavi, backed by former President Mohammad Khatami, and former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

NYT: In Afghanistan, 44 candidates have filed to run for president. Elections are scheduled for August 20. According to NPR, “even before the campaign officially kicks off, allegations of fraud and intimidation by incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his ticket are shaping the race.”

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News Day: Court: Franken won, and not one of Coleman’s claims was legit / Cops and fairy tales / Mpls Somali news / more

Franken won, and not one of Coleman’s claims was legit In a 68-page opinion (PDF), the three-judge recount court knocked down every single one of Coleman’s claims, said Franken should be seated as Senator, and gave a resounding vote of confidence to the Minnesota election system. Continue reading

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News Day: Doing the recount math / Autism in Somali kids / Secret U.S. assassination squads / High school sports money / more

If you’re reading this … then the mega-worm has not killed the internet yet.

Doing the math Let’s see — if Al Franken leads by about 225 votes, and the court has ordered another 400 ballots opened and counted, where does that leave Norm Coleman? Probably beating the bushes for money to finance endless appeals. To outpoll Franken, The Norm would have to win more than 300 of the 400 ballots, which seems highly unlikely. Counting day — April 7.
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