I remember meeting Bertha Oliva in Tegucigalpa in the late 1980s, the wall outside her small office tagged with graffiti death threats, gunshots in the night bringing an unnatural stillness to the city center, silencing even the dogs and roosters. Decades of human rights defense later, Bertha Oliva told Congress last week that death squads are back in Honduras. Death squads, like the one that kidnapped her husband back in the 1980s. Death squads, like the ones that threatened her and the Committee for the Relatives of the Disappeared throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Latin America
[UPDATED 3/4/3016] Berta Caceres was assassinated today, murdered in her sleep, in her home in Honduras at about 1 a.m. Berta was coordinator and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPIHN) and the 2015 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Her death is not the first: in 2015, Global Witness reported that “at least two people are being killed for taking a stand against environmental destruction” every single week: Continue reading
NEWS DAY | Recession over! So is your job! / Police, property and punishment / Challenging Pawlenty’s cuts / Astroturfing in DC / Agreement in Honduras
Recession 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
Running out of unemployment benefits With the average time between losing one job and finding the next rising, about a thousand Minnesotans are falling off the cliff every week — running out of unemployment benefits. Continue reading
News Day: Town brawls and anti-Pulitzer nomination / Evicting Rosemary – or not / New anti-gang police plan
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
Last-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.
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.
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.
News Day: Health care reform / MN pushes Medicare reform / Beautifying garbage / Honduras crisis continues / more
Health care reform President Obama used the “bully pulpit” of last night’s press conference ( transcript here) to push harder on health care reform. He denounced insurance companies, saying “”Right now, at the time when everybody’s getting hammered, they’re making record profits and premiums are going up,” and said that much of the cost of the health care reform package will be paid by saving “over one hundred billion dollars in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare.”
News Day: Gang Strike Force head leaves /Feeding the beast /Baby ducks, attack hawks, naked biking /MN budget blues / more
Omodt escapes from Gang Strike Force Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has called a news conference for this morning to explain why Hennepin County Captain Chris Omodt is leaving his post at the head of the Gang Strike Force. Omodt, who was brought in to clean up a bad situation, could just be giving it up as an impossible job. The latest revelations and accusations from the Strib:
Klobuchar 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.
News Day: Central Corridor starts / Police & crime / New hope for old homes / Trouble on the farm / more
Central 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.