Tag Archives: iraq

News Day: Chicken towns / Hot property / Lutherans come to MN / Police violence on video

Photo from video by Ashley Siebel Chicken towns St. Paul may soon have more chickens, reports the Star Tribune. A proposed new ordinance would allow St. Paul residents to keep three or fewer hens without getting permission from their neighbors, and with a reduced license fee of $25. The Strib quotes St. Paul city environmental manager Bill Gunther: “I’m a city kid, and I’m thinking they’re an agrarian animal that belongs on a farm,” he said. “But there’s a shift in thinking. Chickens are nothing more than a big bird.”

Of course, St. Paul already has some backyard chickens. So do Minneapolis, Anoka and Burnsville (but not Hastings.) Minneapolis even has a chicken rescue operation. And, unlike St. Paul, Minneapolis allows roosters in its backyard flocks.

Hot property The Star Tribune tagged Lake and Knox in Minneapolis as a “hot property:”

Details: Minneapolis property owners Nick Walton and Daniel Oberpriller have gotten approvals for a two-part development at a highly visible “gateway” into the Uptown neighborhood.

The article did not mention the strong community opposition to the development, or the protest resignation of Lara Norkus-Crampton, ECCO resident and Minneapolis Planning Commission member for the past three years, when the Planning Department and Planning Commission overruled the Uptown Small Area Plan (USAP).

More unallotments Late on Friday, Governor Tim Pawlenty released notice of another round of unallotments. The $13.6 million comes from agency operating budgets for FY 2011. Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson’s letter and accompanying documents (PDF) list all of the agencies that will be affected.

MPR reports that the biggest cuts come from a Revenue Department account, the Human Services Department, and Metro Transit aid. The cuts are widespread, ranging from the governor’s office to public health outreach and education. the Natural Resources Department also received more than a million dollars in cuts.

Lutherans come to MN You thought they were already here? Well, that’s true, but this week, Minnesota’s home-grown Lutherans will be supplemented by 1,000+ delegates to the national gathering of the 4.8 million member ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The most controversial item on the agenda is “rostering” of openly gay, non-celibate pastors. While some gay and lesbian pastors already serve congregations, the synod does not officially recognize them.

The Minnesota Independent reported on leading voices on both sides of the issue last week, and the Star Tribune reported yesterday that, although a close vote is expected, the Lutherans insist that a tradition of politeness will prevail.

Episcopalians also face issues over gay and lesbian clergy, with breakaway groups trying to recruit more congregations to their ranks, as dioceses in Minnesota and Los Angeles plan to consecrate gay or lesbian bishops.

So far, the defections represent only about 5 percent of the 2.3 million total membership. But in July, the spinoff denominations announced an aggressive plan to launch 1,000 congregations in the next five years. …

On Aug. 1 — less than a month after the end of a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops that was put in place to appease restive congregations — the Diocese of Minnesota announced that one of its three nominees for bishop is the Rev. Bonnie Perry, a Chicago priest who is in a long-term same-sex relationship. The next day, the Diocese of Los Angeles included two openly gay priests on its list of nominees for assistant bishop.

Circus tumble The young performers at Circus Juventas flew through the air with their usual aplomb, but spectators tumbled to the ground last night as half of the bleachers collapsed at the end of the performance. Half of the audience of 900 fell with the bleachers, and seven people were hospitalized. Broken wrist or ankles were the most serious injuries expected, according to the Pioneer Press. The collapse happened as the audience rose to applaud the end of the final performance of the three-week run of “YuLong: The Jade Dragon” at the Circus Juventas academy’s Big Top, in St. Paul’s Highland Park.

Violent police video Minneapolis police say that they used reasonable force in a February traffic stop, but the defendant, David Jenkins, his lawyer, and the squad car video tell another story, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The county attorney’s office dropped assault charges against Jenkins “in the interest of justice” after they reviewed the video, which can be viewed on the Star Tribune website. Jenkins was stopped for allegedly going 15 miles over the speed limit. He was also charged with refusing to submit to a blood or urine test, but a judge dismissed those charges.

After being thrown to the ground by the first police officer on the scene, Jenkins was beaten and kicked and tasered three times by police.

He required seven stitches above his eye after six officers punched and kicked him while he was face-down in a snowbank. He was treated at the hospital and then jailed for four days.

Jenkins said he was the victim of an unprovoked attack simply because he had vigorously questioned Officer Richard Walker about why he was stopped and asked to talk to his supervisor.

Police chief Tim Dolan said he would review the video on Monday.

World/National News

Public option going down? The New York Times says that the “public option” for health care reform may be abandoned by the administration in favor of nonprofit health care co-ops.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

Former Vermont governor and Democratic party chair Howard Dean disagrees, reports AP:

“You can’t really do health reform without [a public option],” he said. Dean maintained that the health insurance industry has “put enormous pressure on patients and doctors” in recent years.

He called a direct government role “the entirety of health care reform. … We shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry.”

Gaza Some 13 people were killed in clashes between Hamas government forces and an extremist religious sect, reports the Washington Post:

According to wire service and eyewitness reports of Moussa’s sermon, the cleric said the group drew its inspiration from al-Qaeda, demanded that a strict Salafi form of Islam be imposed in Gaza, and criticized Hamas for its occasional meetings with Europeans and Americans, including former president Jimmy Carter.

Hamas officials said they dealt with the sect as an illegal group possessing guns and weapons.

Suicide bombing in Russia A suicide bomber in the violence-plagued North Caucasus region attacked a police station in the city of Ingushetia, killing 20 and wounding many more, reports the New York Times:

The attack seemed to further undermine the authority of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Ingushetia’s populist president who came to power last October vowing a softer approach in dealing with rebel violence than Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of neighboring Chechnya. It was the bloodiest single attack to hit Ingushetia for some time, though violence against police and government officials in this and other North Caucasus republics occurs almost daily. Mr. Yevkurov himself announced last week that he would soon return to work after he was seriously wounded in a suicide attack on his convoy in June. Ingushetia’s construction minister, Ruslan Amirkhanov, was assassinated in his office last week.

Iran Accusations of jailhouse violence, beatings and sexual abuse continue, reports the New York Times. Reformist cleric and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi refuses to back down despite calls for his arrest by conservative clerics and politicians.

War Reports

Afghanistan Five days before national elections, reports the Washington Post, s suicide bombing in Kabul killed seven people and wounded dozens more.

Iraq A “witch hunt” against gay men in Baghdad has killed 90 since January, reports BBC, which says that “Mehdi army spokesmen and clerics have condemned what they call the ‘feminisation’ of Iraqi men and have urged the military to take action against them.”

Afghanistan drug money A new Senate report says that the Taliban is getting only about $70 million of the estimated $400 million in drug profits each year, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to the Times:

Al Qaeda’s dependence on drug money is even less, according to the report by the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which found that “there is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds go to Al Qaeda.” …

In one of its most disconcerting conclusions, the Senate report says the United States inadvertently contributed to the resurgent drug trade after the Sept. 11 attacks by backing warlords who derived income from the flow of illegal drugs. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces put such warlords on their payroll during the drive to overthrow the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

News Day: Minneapolis budget / Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up / Michelle Bachmann – on the media and in the media

tc_icon_dollarMinneapolis budget With a $21 million cut in state aid this year, the 2010 Minneapolis city budget proposed by Mayor R.T. Rybak on Thursday includes both spending cuts and tax increases, according to reports in the Star Tribune and MPR. Among the budget highlights:

• a budget trim that brings the 2010 budget in $100 million below the 2009 budget;
• cutting 200 mostly unfilled city jobs, and implementing voluntary, unpaid furloughs for city employees;
• property tax increases that average 6.6 percent;
• an $800,000 increase to the $4.3 million Great Streets program, which provides low-interest loans to small businesses;
• 20 additional police officers, thanks to federal ARRA funds;
• a $1.7 million savings in police overtime, due to lower crime rates;
• a shift in funding away from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and Target Center debt repayment, with $13 million going instead to property tax relief.

Minnesota multi-faceted MMPI dust-up First came the questions about conflict of interest and revision of the MMPI, raised in Maura Lerner’s Star Tribune article. The 70-year-old Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, “the most widely used personality test in the world, assessing the emotional stability of millions of people” has recently undergone major revision, with critics ranging from academic journals to plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that they have been damaged by MMPI results. Among the strongest critics are psychologists who did the latest revision of the MMPI some 20 years ago. According to the Strib article:

University investigators found nothing inappropriate about the MMPI changes. But they did fault the University of Minnesota Press for relying on an advisory board that consisted entirely of two scientists — psychologists Auke Tellegen and Yossef Ben-Porath — who co-wrote the new test and stand to profit from its sales.

Susan Perry in MinnPost gives a little historical context, with fascinating details about “how unscientifically by today’s standards (OK — by today’s purported standards) the original developers of the MMPI questionnaire went about choosing their ‘normal’ control group.” The so-called “Minnesota normal” group consisted of hospital staff and visitors to mental wards, whose test results were compared to those of patients in the wards.

Perry also reviews recent questions about the Hawthorne effect — “the widely accepted idea that when people are being observed (such as during a psychological experiment), the fact that they know they are being observed will change their behavior.” In addition to other problems described in The Economist, Perry points out that the original Hawthorne effect study sample consisted of only five women — two of whom were replaced by others during the course of the study.

Of course, there’s the ultimate test, set near the end of the Star Tribune article: “University officials say they’re willing to let the marketplace decide.” After all, isn’t that what science is all about?

Michelle – on the media and in the media again In a fundraising appeal to fans, Michele Bachmann warned that the media are “Palinizing” her and denounced what she characterized as “a hit piece on one of my kids!” The so-called hit piece Star Tribune column actually praised the younger Bachmann for his commitment to serve in the AmeriCorps-affiliated Teach for America program:

Coincidentally or not, TFA came to Minnesota just this year, exactly because the state’s socioeconomic inequalities have grown as the state has retrenched its programs for the poor, disenfranchised and under-educated. For the first time, we have to rely on the charity of good kids like Harrison Bachmann to step up and help out at our schools.

Quoting Bachmann’s tirade against AmeriCorps, Tevlin asks rhetorically, “Why do our children always disappoint us?”

Over at MinnPost, David Brauer points out:

This wasn’t a hit piece on your son, Congresswoman — it was a hit piece on you. And not in your capacity as a mother, but as an elected public official.

World/National News

The people behind the lies Let’s say it again: “There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.”

Why are the lies about death panels so widespread and viral? The New York Times examines the origins of this attack on health care reform, and finds that this particular lie, given broad publicity by the likes of Sarah Palin and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley,

…has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor). …

The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times.

No surprises there. It looks like the White House’s Reality Check web page has rebuttals for a lot of the craziness — somewhere to refer when you get the viral email forwarded by your brother-in-law.

Violence in Russia Clashes in the North Caucasus region of Russia and neighboring Chechnya killed 17 people yesterday. Yesterday’s death toll was particularly high, but violence permeates the region, according to the New York Times:

It was one of the most deadly nights the largely Muslim region has seen for months, though bloodshed occurs almost daily, particularly in Chechnya, Dagestan and another North Caucasus republic, Ingushetia. Earlier this week, Ingushetia’s construction minister was killed by gunmen in his office, just as the republic’s president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was planning to return to work after being seriously injured in a suicide attack on his convoy in late June.

Most of the violence centers on fighting between police and various radical Islamist or more secular separatist organizations in the region, some of which are remnants of militant groups that fought federal forces in Chechnya’s two wars.

War Reports

Iraq Suicide bombs at a cafe in northern Iraq killed at least 21 people and injured 30 others, reports BBC. the attack came in city of Sinjar, which is populated primarily by Yazidis, Kurdish-speaking followers of a pre-Islamic faith with its roots in Zoroastrianism, and which has been the target of previous attacks by Sunni extremists.

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: Town brawls and anti-Pulitzer nomination / Evicting Rosemary – or not / New anti-gang police plan

©KonstantinosKokkinis - fotolia.com

©KonstantinosKokkinis - fotolia.com

Crazy days of summer From “town brawls” (more here) to death threats to Congress members and the SEIU, the weekend headlines described a political scene loosely tethered to reality. “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity,” proclaimed the Daily Kos, linking to half a dozen stories of right-wing blather and bluster.

Josh Marshall at TPM commented: “Teabaggers say they want their country back. But Afro-Arab socialists have only had it for like 6 months. Can’t they wait their turn?”

“Idiot Nation, Idiot Press,” read another Daily Kos headline, this one denouncing Politico’s serious treatment of Sarah Palin’s outrageous and completely non-factual claim that the “Obama health plan” would set up a “death panel,” and that such a panel would have condemned her aging parents or her Downs Syndrome son. Hunter writes:

I think there should be such a thing as an anti-Pulitzer. There should be an award for the reporter or reporters that most willfully ignore the basic falsehood of a story — something like “fire is cold”, or “if you shoot yourself in the head, M&M’s will come out” or “if we reform our nation’s healthcare, the President will send a Death Panel to murder my disabled son” — and instead treat as if it was a debatable point worth reporting as fact.

For a factual analysis of claims about the health care reform proposals, turn to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, which ranks claims on a scale ranging from truthful to “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Evicting Rosemary – or not Rosemary Williams has become a symbol of the foreclosure-and-eviction crisis in the Twin Cities, and Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies arrived on Friday for what could have been the final act — eviction. The deputies turned Rosemary and her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren out of the home on the block where she has lived for 55 years, and padlocked the doors. As soon as they were gone, her supporters got back inside the house, and spent the weekend moving her possessions to a safe place and setting up an occupation inside the home, reports the TC Daily Planet.

Similar stories abound, with inner city residents who refinanced their homes with adjustable mortgages and then were unable to keep up when, after an initial grace period, monthly payments “adjusted” to double or triple the original amount. A Facebook post by a neighbor noted eight boarded-up homes on his block.

New anti-gang police plan In the wake of the dissolution of the Gang Strike Force, police chiefs in 36 out of 37 Hennepin County jurisdictions (including Minneapolis) are working on a new strategy — communication and prosecution, reports the Star Tribune. The old Strike Force was heavy on property and cash seizures, and light on prosecutions. The new, collaborative arrangment will emphasize prosecutions, according to County Attorney Mike Freeman, who has assigned a prosecutor to meet with the police chiefs.

In addition, the police departments will collaborate on “focused, proactive investigations to head off crimes,” information sharing, collaborative investigations, and, when a local chief feels it is necessary, a “surge ‘suppression’ operation in which officers would blanket a neighborhood.”

Next up: St. Paul budget In 2009, the city of St. Paul scrambled to meet a $5 million budget deficit. In 2010, St. Paul faces an $11 million plus gap due to decreased state aid. Tuesday, Mayor Chris Coleman will present his proposal, which will then go to the City Council for debate and revision, with passage of some budget by December.

According to the Star Tribune, the mayor’s budget proposal will increase police on the streets, by using ARRA federal funding, and will keep the Hamline Midway library open through 2010. The budget will cut some city positions, cut library hours, close some rec centers, and eliminate some city jobs. According to the Star Tribune:

The city employs about 3,000 people.

Under Coleman’s proposed budget, about 160 jobs would go away. The majority are vacant positions.

About 50 current employees would be laid off across the departments.

A property tax increase will also be part of the budget, though a smaller amount than in previous years.

Kids Count – down The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2009 Kids Count Data Book on July 29. The Kids Count report noted some progress, but also continuing racial disparities:

Our ability to progress as a nation depends on the degree to which we can create opportunities for all children to succeed. In fact, nationally, since 2000, gaps in the differences in child well-being along racial and ethnic lines have decreased in some areas—most notably, the high school dropout rate. However, on the whole, non-Hispanic white children continue to have greater opportunities for better outcomes compared with most other racial and ethnic groups.

Minnesota ranked second overall in ten measures of the well-being of children. But, reports the Star Tribune, “Child poverty in Minnesota rose 33 percent between 2000 and 2007, six times the national average, and several other measures of child well-being declined.”

Kara Arzamendia, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, is preparing a Minnesota state report that will include Kids Count data.

Arzamendia argues that restoring funding for some state programs could help.

“We made cuts in 2003 when we had major state budget problems and we didn’t buy them back,” she said. “What did other states do? Well, some of them are doing something right. While our numbers remain pretty good, Minnesota’s changes generally were not as good as the national average.”

Somali travel agency raid, arrest In unrelated cases, a Somali travel agency was raided by FBI agents and its owner was arrested, MPR reports. The raid was staged in connection with an ongoing investigation into travel to Somalia by young Somali-Minnesotans.

The owner of the agency, Ali Mohamed, was arrested for fraud in connection with an unrelated case on charges of “scamming customers out of more than $33,000 in airline tickets that he allegedly never arranged for them.”

World/National News

Waiting in line for health care – today In a report that every Congress members should read, NPR tells the story of tens of thousands of people in miles-long lines waiting to see a doctor. Right here in the United States. Right now under our wonderful private health care system.

5:34 a.m.

That was when the weekend’s free mass clinic was supposed to open. But the line of cars trying to get in was a mile long. In the pre-dawn darkness, headlights snaked down the road as far as we could see. Doctors and dentists were also stuck in that traffic jam, so the clinic couldn’t open on time.

People seeking treatment had been arriving for two days. Many camped in a grassy parking lot while they waited. Some had long drives to get there; there were license plates from at least 16 states.

Read the whole story. And then send it to your Congress member.

Honduras The OAS continues trying to find a compromise that will reinstate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a coup on June 28. However, the acting government, put in place by the coup, has refused to allow a high-ranking OAS delegation including OAS secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza and several foreign ministers to enter the country, according to BBC.

War Reports

Iraq BBC reports that Sunni insurgents continue to target Shiites. The latest:

Two truck bombings in northern Iraq and attacks targeting day laborers in western Baghdad killed at least 51 people and wounded scores early Monday, Iraqi authorities said. …

The truck bombings killed at least 35 people in Khazna, a small Shiite village 12 miles north of Mosul. Residents said at least 80 houses were destroyed in the blasts.

Last week’s bombings included blasts in Shiite areas of Mosul and Baghdad, which killed more than 50 people.

1 Comment

Filed under news

News Day: July unemployment numbers / Swine flu ahead / Operation Red Zone / Scam alert

jobs on a white background with a magnifierJuly unemployment numbers Surprisingly, unemployment fell slightly in July, with the U.S. Department of Labor reporting the figure as “9.4 percent, little changed for the second consecutive month.” Economists had forecast an increase. The U-6 unemployment figure, which includes all workers who are marginally attached to the labor market and those who are employed part-time for economic reasons, remained at 16.8 percent. The total number of non-farm jobs declined by 247,000.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: Minnesota’s recession / New schools / Tweets from Keith / Obama and immigration

From <a href="http://www.positivelyminnesota.com/lmi/Home.htm" target="_blank">DEED's "Positively Minnesota" website.</a>Minnesota’s recession Although Minnesota is doing slightly better than the nation as a whole, the recession/depression hits us as unevenly as it hits the country. Along the western border, unemployment is lower — 4.5 percent in Moorhead and Clay County marking the lowest point. Except for Anoka County, the seven-county metro area manages to stay barely below 9 percent unemployment. The dark spots on the map are located mostly in Greater Minnesota, with four counties and a handful of cities showing unemployment at more than 12 percent. On the Range, unemployment reaches 17 percent in Virginia and 18.7 percent in Hibbing. (For county and city details, go to DEED’s “Positively Minnesota” website.)
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: Little clinic, big insurance / Bridge collapse, contracts / TiZA: When success isn’t enough / more

Little clinic, big insurance show need for health care reform Ruben Rosario reports in the Pioneer Press about a little clinic run by a nurse-practitioner that offers affordable health care basics to uninsured and underinsured families. Associated Press reports that Humana insurance raked in second-quarter profits that are 34 percent higher than last year “on higher premiums from the company’s Medicare and commercial insurance programs.” (Last week, Minnetonka-based insurer UnitedHealth reported a 155 percent increase in second-quarter profits.)

At the Anoka North Metro Pediatrics clinic, the check-ups and immunizations required for two kids to attend school cost $40, on a sliding-fee scale that takes income into account. “Private clinics wanted to charge a minimum $150 a head,” Rosario reports. “No upfront money, no exams.”

More than 70 percent of the families the clinic serves have no health insurance. About 20 percent have partial insurance through a state-subsidized plan. Roughly 10 percent have insurance but are grappling with high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Roughly 60 percent are minorities.

The clinic scrapes by, with private and corporate donations and a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. Nurse practitioner Connie Blackwell, who doesn’t draw a full salary and left a good-paying job to found the clnic, worries about funding cuts and the needs of the families she serves. Their stories, eloquently told by Rosario, should be read by every lawmaker and by everyone who has not yet managed to call/write/email their congressional reps about health care reform.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports, “insurers worried that an overhaul could hurt their bottom line are funneling a wave of cash to members of Congress.” Insurers have funneled more than $40 million in direct contributions to members of Congress over the past decade, and spent more than half a billion in lobbying.

Bridge collapse – yesterday’s news for MnDOT? Although the state is suing URS and Progressive Contractors Inc., and “holds the companies responsible” for the 35W bridge collapse two years ago, the MN Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has also given the two companies more than $55 million of “contracts for projects across the state in those two years, including work to predesign other bridges,” reports the Star Tribune.

While PCI company officials said this shows the state does not really believe that is to blame for the 35W collapse, the Star Tribune points to a “complicated relationship” that includes contracts given to URS for its work on the I-35W bridge after URS hired MnDOT’s longtime bridge engineer, Don Flemming, and MnDOT’s refusal — a year before the bridge collapse — to follow a URS recommendation to “reinforce the aging bridge with $2 million in steel plating.”

TiZA – When success isn’t enough Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) has consistently posted high student test scores, especially remarkable for a school where more than 85 percent of the children live in poverty and a high percentage speak English as a second language. TiZA has also been the target of high-profile attacks by Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, which also triggered an ACLU lawsuit accusing the school of illegally promoting Islam. The campaign against TiZA has resulted in especially close and prolonged scrutiny by the MN Department of Education.

The state department is withholding millions of dollars in state and federal aid to TiZA, alleging that the school had 14 unlicensed teachers, reports the Star Tribune. The school received $4.7 million in state aid (based on per-pupil funding for charter school students) last year, and the MN Department of Education is withholding $1.3 million of state aid this year, based on the teacher licensure charges. TiZA executive director Asad Zaman says that amount “is enough to cripple just about any charter school in the entire state.”

According to a Ramsey County judge, the state also withheld the information that TiZA needs to defend itself on the teacher licensure charges. After TiZA went to court last month, the judge’s order finally resulted in the release of 10,000 pages of documents last week.

The documents disclosed a previously-secret investigation, this one by a private contractor hired by the Department of Education to look at TiZA’s high test scores. The test score investigation, by a private contractor paid by the state, turned up no wrong-doing.

“The silver lining of this cloud is that it is absolutely clear that our test results are valid,” said Asad Zaman, executive director of the K-8 school, which has campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine.

The Education Department has visited the school more than a dozen times since January 2008, Zaman said, reviewing the school’s special education services, after-school programming and more.

The MN Department of Education is still holding up federal aid for TiZA, including “$375,000 to help other schools replicate TiZA’s learning program,” and $500,000 for renovations to the school’s physical plant.

Minnesota connections to Americans arrested in Iran, Israel Israel arrested two Americans who arrived by plane Saturday, planning to visit Palestinian activists in Ramallah, reports the TC Daily Planet. According to press releases by the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, a third woman was deported immediately and the two who were arrested were put on a plane and deported on Sunday.

Iran announced the arrest of three American hikers near the Iraq border Friday, reports the New York Times. Kurdish officials said the hikers apparently lost their way. According to the Star Tribune, one of the hikers is a Minnesota native, a freelance journalist who now lives in San Francisco.

World/National News

Iran The government put more than 100 dissidents on trial, reports the New York Times. Two of the figures recanted their past beliefs on the stand, saying they had changed since being arrested, and said they had not been tortured. People close to the two men, including the wife of one, said that the phrasing of their testimony was not characteristic and that they did not believe the denial of torture.

In addition, “a Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who is running the trials, released a statement warning that anyone criticizing the trial as illegitimate, as many opposition figures have done, would also be prosecuted.” Even as former President Mohammad Khatami denounced the trials, hardline political leaders warned of more arrests and hinted that defeated opposition presidential Mir Hossein Moussavi could be targeted.

Nigeria The death toll mounted to 700 after a week of battles between government forces and an extremist religious sect called Boko Haram, reports the New York Times.

The Nigerian authorities disregarded dozens of warnings about a violent Islamist sect until it attacked police stations and government buildings last week in a blood bath that killed more than 700 people, Muslim clerics and an army official said.

War Reports

Uganda The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is on the move again, reports BBC. They recently attacked people in the south Sudanese town of Ezo and killed civilians in several towns in the Central African Republic. The LRA is a Ugandan group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Afghanistan The Taliban killed nine U.S. and NATO soldiers over the weekend, reports the New York Times. The NYT cited two factors contributing to higher death tolls – more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and more sophistication by rebels in use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Iraq A car bomb in a crowded market in Haditha killed at least six people, reports the BBC.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

News Day: Beer Summit / Gangs of St. Paul / Police gang / Harassment by pizza / Iran repression

Picture 4Beer Summit Red Stripe for Henry Louis Gates, Blue Moon for the police officer, and Bud Light for the president: beer choices at the White House were all over the news yesterday, along with Congressional admonitions to the president to drink American.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: MN guilty pleas on Somalia terrorism / Minneapolis to Najaf / Above average / Health care: Costs, rescissions, reform

Minnesota guilty pleas to terrorism in Somalia Salah Osman Ahmed, age 26, and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, have pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis to terrorism charges, based on their travel to Somalia in 2007 to fight with Al-Shabaab. Ahmed went to Somalia in December 2007, where he learned to use a machine gun and helped to build a training camp, according to the Star Tribune. He faces a sentence of five to 15 years. Other charges, dropped in the plea agreement, would have carried a life sentence.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: Eviction stopped / Six imams win court ruling / Fong Lee cop in court again / McCollum and Medicare / Krugman’s four pillars of health care reform

Picture 3Last-minute reprieve Rosemary Williams, who has been fighting foreclosure and eviction to stay in her south Minneapolis home, got a reprieve on Friday, the day she received a final eviction notice. MPR reports:

Minneapolis city council member Elizabeth Glidden announced that she helped secure negotiations between GMAC Mortgage and the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, a local non-profit developer. Under the proposed agreement, the non-profit would sell the house to another local non-profit, which would then lease it back to Williams.

Fong Lee case cop and another gun story Minneapolis police officer Jason Anderson, accused of planting a gun in the Fong Lee shooting case, was also accused of planting a gun in March 2008 on Quenton Tyrone Williams. Williams, who was convicted of drug dealing, is appealing his conviction, and claims Anderson planted a gun on him. Anderson testified at trial that he did not plant the gun and that he was a member of the now-disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force at the time of the arrest.

In the Fong Lee case, the Pioneer Press reports:

[Fong Lee’s] parents and siblings sued Andersen and the city for wrongful death. The case languished in relative obscurity until March, when lawyers for the family filed a motion with an explosive claim: They said witnesses and a surveillance video showed the teen was unarmed. They said evidence suggested the gun found a few feet from the dead man’s body was planted by police after the shooting.

The case went to trial in May, and a jury ruled Andersen did not use excessive force. (The lawyers filed an appeal last week.) On the witness stand, Andersen vehemently denied planting the gun, saying he had never touched it.

At this time, Anderson is suspended with pay, because of a domestic assault case, and is scheduled to appear in court on Muly 27 in that case.

Andersen, 32, has been on paid leave since Big Lake police arrested him. His six-week leave following the domestic assault arrest is in stark contrast to the two days he spent on leave following his 2006 fatal shooting of Fong Lee, 19, in a Minneapolis schoolyard.

Six imams can sue The lawsuit by six imams who were ejected from a U.S. Airways flight in 2006 will go to trial, according to a ruling handed down Friday by U.S. District Judge Ann Olson Montgomery. The judge’s ruling, which denied motions to dismiss made by an FBI agent and the Metropolitan Airport Commission, reads in part:

When a law enforcement officer exercises the power of the Sovereign over its citizens, she or he has a responsibility to operate within the bounds of the Constitution and cannot raise the specter of 9/11 as an absolute exception to that responsibility…no reasonable officer could have believed they could arrest Plaintiffs without probable cause.

Medicare fix agreement Congress member Betty McCollum announced an agreement on Medicare reform that would help higher-efficiency, lower-reimbursement states, including Minnesota. According to Minnesota Independent:

The Medicare pact also includes $4 billion in funding for both 2012 and 2013 to soften the blow as states adjust to the new reimbursement system. In addition, the agreement calls for another study looking at ways to reward efficient health-care delivery through Medicare, to be completed by 2011.

Minneapolis loyalty test The new neighborhood program is looking for a Deputy Director for Neighborhood and Community
Relations. Among the qualifications for the $80,000+ job, according to the job listing:

(5) The person occupying the position needs to be accountable to, loyal to, and compatible with the mayor, the city council, and the department head.

World/National News

Krugman on health care Paul Krugman, in his usual incisive style, summarizes the basics of health care perform in a New York Times column that takes on the Blue Dogs and their bad faith efforts to stop that reform. Krugman’s summary:

Reform, if it happens, will rest on four main pillars: regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition.

By regulation I mean the nationwide imposition of rules that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your medical history, or dropping your coverage when you get sick. This would stop insurers from gaming the system by covering only healthy people.

On the other side, individuals would also be prevented from gaming the system: Americans would be required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, rather than signing up only when they need care. And all but the smallest businesses would be required either to provide their employees with insurance, or to pay fees that help cover the cost of subsidies — subsidies that would make insurance affordable for lower-income American families.

Finally, there would be a public option: a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers, which would help hold down costs.

That’s the current health care reform debate in a nutshell. As Krugman also points out, elminating any one of the four “pillars” would kill health care reform.

Now, the plan is not the single-payer, universal-coverage public health care that many of us (including me) think would be the best solution, but it is a huge improvement over the current private health insurance disaster. And, as some NPR commentator pointed out months ago, real reform may take several steps over many years.

As the August recess approaches, drug and insurance companies are mobilizing their money and troops to pressure Congress members to kill reform. As in many other debates, the right wing will mobilize millions of emails and letters and phone calls, to go along with the billions of dollars that are already in play against health care reform. The key question for reform may be whether its supporters can respond with equal numbers and passion.

Iran protests continue The opposition sent a letter of protest about repression of dissent to religious authorities the day after the funeral of a young man whose father is a former Revolutionary Guard and current opposition figure. The letter said the current repression is “reminiscent of the oppressive rule of the shah.”

Mr. Ruholamini said he had tried for days to find his son, who was arrested in Tehran on July 9. Finally he was directed to the morgue, where he found his son’s body, brutally beaten, his mouth “smashed,” according to an account by a retired senior Revolutionary Guards commander that was posted on various Iranian Web sites and blogs. The report said that Iranian newspapers refused to publish the account.

In the meantime, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has yielded to religious pressure and canceled the appointment his first vice-president, who was thought to be too friendly to Israel. He then appointed the man, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as a top adviser. BBC reports that Ahmadinejad also dismissed his intelligence minister and that the culture minister quit, citing the “weakness” of the government.

Zelaya on the border The Honduran military agreed to the July 22 San José Accord, which would allow President Manuel Zelaya to return. Zelaya has appeared on the border twice this weekend, but remains in Nicaragua, according to BBC.

In the meantime, however, thousands of troops had been deployed to tighten security along the border to prevent Mr. Zelaya from returning. And thousands of his supporters defied government curfews and military roadblocks, by abandoning their cars and hiking for hours to reach the remote border post to see him.

War Reports

Iraq As people gathered for the funeral of a police officer killed the night before, a suicide bomber detonated his vest, killing five people, including two police officers, in the Anbar province town of Khladiyah, reports the New York Times. Gunmen also killed five people and wounded 12 in an attack on a money exchange in Baghdad.

BBC reports that a car bomb attack on a Sunni party headquarters in Falluja killed at least four people and wounded at least 23.

Afghanistan Six Taliban fighters with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests attacked a police station in Khost and a nearby bank, but all were killed before they could detonate their suicide vests, according to the New York Times. A seventh attacker was killed after detonating a car full of explosives, and an eighth may have escaped. About 14 people were wounded.

In other news from Afghanistan, the government announced that it has reached an election truce with the Taliban in the north-western province of Badghis , according to BBC. The government says the Taliban there have agreed not to attack polling places during next month’s presidential election.

Leave a comment

Filed under news

News Day: Who’s running now? / Metro growing / WalMart in the news / SPPS school closings / Latest from Harvard

ballot box graphicWho’s running now? With filing for municipal offices now closed, you can find the complete list of candidates for Minneapolis municipal offices on the city website. Among the candidates:
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under news