Tag Archives: Muslim

Hoax check: Mapping the lies about refugees

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Telling lies about immigrants, and especially about Muslim refugees, fosters racism, xenophobia and persecution. With social media, lies spread rapidly and their sources quickly become diffused and anonymized, avoiding all responsibility. A new German website offers a counter to the nasty-rumor problem, but a lasting solution requires each of us to respond, exercising personal integrity and responsibility on social media. Continue reading

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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.

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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.

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News Day: Green leaving MPS / Ellison fires back / No new bushes – and get those eagles out of here / more

William_Green-webGreen leaving MPS Schools superintendent William Green announced that he will leave the Minneapolis Public School system at the end of his four-year term in 2010, continuing what many see as a trend to one-term superintendents in major metroplitan school districts. According to the Star Tribune, “Green will have spent 4 1/2 years with the district when he leaves — 50 percent longer than the national average for urban districts.”
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News Day: All T-Paw, all the time / Vampire pleads guilty / Trees coming down / Recession-proof industry / more

T-Paw signing off – in 2010 As Governor Pawlenty announced that he would not run for a third term as governor in 2010, it seemed that no other news could compete. Here’s the breakdown from Eric Black, who came away from the press conference with the message that “Tim Pawlenty loves God, his wife and kids, the troops and Minnesotans”, as well as the news that House Minority Leader Marty Seifert will run for guv, the PiPress gives a straightforward report,PIM looks at Pawlenty as a Big Mac, with “Secret sauce, secret seasonings. Same thing. Extraordinary tastes for extraordinary times,” but also provides a fact check on T-Paw’s claims of success, MinnPost on possible GOP gubernatorial candidates, and the Strib.
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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: Gunned down by Mpls cop / Eight workers for every opening / Coleman concedes, sort of / more

Evidence: Fong Lee unarmed when shot by Mpls police “Contrary to what Minneapolis police have claimed, Fong Lee didn’t have a gun in his right hand when a patrolman chased him and then shot him eight times,” according to a nationally recognized video forensics expert who reviewed surveillance camera photos, reports David Haners in the PiPress. Testimony unfolding in the civil suit against the city and police officer over the teen’s death paints a picture quite different from that drawn by Mpls police after the incident. Continue reading

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News Day: Coleman campaign circus / “Don’t do anything embarrassing” / Water bill / Recount and more

Where do you get your news? The mainstream media is now jumping on board with two stories that the independent media reported first and best — the Coleman campaign caught with its donors’ credit card info hanging out on the internet and the MN House of Reps’ outrageous attempts to decide what press gets freedom of the press. If you’re reading this, you’re already reading independent media. Tell a friend!

Coleman campaign lawbreaking or “hacking”? As the mainstream media belatedly begins to cover the Coleman donor database story, ably reported by the Minnesota Independent in January and now, some are ignoring plain facts: the Coleman site was not hacked; the Coleman campaign carelessly put donors’ credit card numbers and security codes out on the internet for anyone to scoop up; the Coleman campaign violated its own promise to donors not to store their credit card numbers; the Coleman campaign probably violated MN law by not notifying donors of the security lapse back in January.
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News Day: Following the (Governor’s) money / Liberian plea / EFCA job creation / Legislature looks at hijabs, foreclosures / more

Following the money for T-Paw staff The Governor’s staff is paid by money from other state agencies, reports Mark Brunswick in the Strib. The office takes money to pay for $30,000 of senior policy adviser Josh Gackle’s $72,000 annual salary from the Ag Department, PCA, DNR and at least four other agencies. The accounting practice shifts money from other state agencies to pay for parts of at least five other T-Paw aides, reducing his office budget.

[Governor Pawlenty] has said he will reduce his office budget by $360,000 a year, or 5.1 percent, and he points out that his office is planning for 38 full-time equivalent positions for the next two budget years while previous administrations had 55 positions at their peak.

The arrangements that pay for Gackle and the other staffers will continue to help make this apparent frugality possible. So-called interagency agreements reduced the governor’s office budget by more than $700,000 last year, about 19 percent.

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News Day: Housing rescue / Tough rental market / Klobuchar=Blue Dog? / Headscarves and drivers’ licenses / Education, OSHA, Tibet, more

Housing rescue The Obama administration housing plan has two main thrusts, reports AP: refinancing mortgages for up to five million and modifying loan payments for up to four million. Both plans are limited to people who live in their mortgaged homes. The refinancing plan is available to borrowers who owe no more than five percent more than their home’s current value, and whose loans are held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The loan modification program would pay lenders to put borrowers into loans with interest rates as low as 2 percent for two years, then rising to 5 percent.
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