Tag Archives: Obama

News Day: Unemployment / Bad news for bus riders / Nick speaks! / Pigs flying? / Viking stadium / Outrage of the day / Wonk alert / more

Unemployment up even more than expected national unemployment figures jumped to 8.1%, even more than expected, rising half a percent in the last month, with the economy shedding 651,000 jobs. Rates for blacks (13.4 percent) and Hispanics (10.9 percent) continue higher than the average, while the jobless rate for teen-agers continues at a whopping 21.6 percent.
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The budget: Obama’s ten-year plan

The White House released a 10-year, 134-page budget plan yesterday, projecting a record $1.75 trillion deficit by September 30, and pledging to cut that in half by the end of his term. According to NPR:

The deficit would remain near $1 trillion over the next two years before dropping to $581 billion in 2012 and $533 billion in 2013, the year that Obama has pledged to cut in half the deficit he inherited.

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News Day 2/25/09: Carstarphen still coy / Govt funds for MSM / Mueller and the mosque / MN Job Watch, recount, more

Carstarphen still coy St. Paul schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen still isn’t talking about whether she is a candidate for the Austin, TX superintendent’s position, reports Doug Belden in the PiPress, and she’s also not answering questions about whether she has applications in anywhere else.

Meanwhile, a consultant report on SPPS physical plant got mixed characterization, with Doug Belden in the PiPress quoting the report as finding that the district’s 79 buildings are in “average” shape, while Emily Johns in the Strib gave SPPS “an ‘A’ for upkeep.” Find the Powerpoint presentation from the consultants to the board of education on the SPPS website.

Obama nails it In a rousing 52-minute speech, President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail again, declaring energy, health care and education the top priorities for America. Full text here. Minneapolis got a mention: “There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.”

MN funds for private biobusiness park The MN Department of Employment and Economic Development granted another $1.2 million to complete infrastructure projects for the Elk Run Biobusiness park north of Rochester, bringing total state money for the project to $1.8 million. Sea Stachura reports on MPR that investors have been meeting with state officials and an announcement on the project is expected soon.

Them that has MN has seen a big crop of lively on-line media growing up in the past few years, including the Twin Cities Daily Planet, which I edit, so I won’t brag about it here; The Uptake, with dramatic RNC footage and gavel-to-gavel coverage of the recount; the Minnesota Independent, offering intensive political coverage and much more; and MinnPost, which looks a lot like an online version of the Strib that Joel Kramer once edited, which is to say among the best of the mainstream media back in the day. All of these on-line and non-profit media organizations (and others) are scrambling for funding.

So now comes the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership program, with a $238,000 grant of government funds to the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Duluth News Tribune to retrain newspaper staffs for “a mix of learning new computer programs to help sell advertising and tell news stories, and fundamentally rethinking how to deliver news and advertising.”

Rob Karwath, executive editor of the News Tribune, said he envisions money going toward rethinking how to sell new products that deliver news and advertising to readers, and setting up methods to increasingly receive feedback from customers.

Guess the Duluth News Tribune needs more reporting, as David Braure reports all of the Strib’s coverage of MN will now take place from its Minneapolis office. The Strib is pulling Larry Oakes out of Duluth and back to Minneapolis.

MN Jobs Watch AP reports that Cliffs Natural Resources plans cutbacks and temporary shutdowns at its taconite plants, possibly laying off 83 HibTac workers for more than six months. MPR says that Northshore Mining’s 557 workers will be laid off during April as that plant closes for a month.

MN-based Medtronic is cutting its global workforce, reports the Strib. About 8,000 of Medtronics 38,000 employees work in MN. Last year Medtronic cut 1100 jobs worldwide, with about 350 of those in MN. Execs took a five percent pay cut.

41 percent drop in profits – could be worse I had to read on when the Strib said targets 41 percent drop in earnings during the 4th quarter was really not so bad. Part of my confusion is that the headline said profits dropped and the first paragraph said earnings dropped — two distinctly different measures. Halfway through the article, some hard numbers appeared. Target revenue (earnings) was down $19.56 billion, 1.6 percent below 2008’s fourth quarter. Its net income (profits) “fell about 22 percent to $2.85 billion, or $2.86 a share,” while annual sales (earnings) grew 2.3 percent.

The reason that Target’s bad news is not so bad is that all retailers — except low-end leaders WalMart, Costco and Dollar Store — are seeing gigantic drops in earnings, reflected in fourth-quarter reports released yesterday. In other business news, Home Depot reported a 4th-quarter loss of $54 million, which is bad but better than previously expected,

And now … Pawlenty gets to decide on the Senate race? If the three-judge panel awards victory to Al Franken, will he get to go to Washington at last? Maybe not, warns Tom Scheck on MPR. The governor and the secretary of state sign an election certificate when there is a “final determination” of the contest, but Norm Coleman will almost certainly appeal any adverse decision, and T-Paw could say that nothing is final until all appeals are exhausted. Exhausted is the way that most Minnesotans feel about the whole process, but Pawlenty has previously said that he thinks Coleman has a good chance of winning an appeal, so he’s not likely to sign until the MN Supreme Court rules on an appeal. And then, there’s the possibility of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court …

Mueller and the mosque FBI director John Mueller said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that a Minnesota Somali man carried out a suicide bombing in Somalia after Shirwa Ahmed “was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota.” Mueller gave no details on how the alleged suicide bomber was “radicalized,” but his remarks ramped up hostility to Somalis and Muslims in Minnesota once again, reports Laura Yuen on MPR.

Jessica Zikri, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations. Zikri said many Somalis are living in fear as federal authorities continue their investigation into the missing.

“They’ve already been receiving phone calls and were stopped by the FBI,” Zikri said. “And then hearing these allegations vaguely connected to Minnesota just add fuel to the fire.”

That fire continues in Minnesota streets, with hostility expressed toward both Somalis and Muslims. To combat misunderstanding and prejudice, As-Saddique Islamic Center will welcome neighborhood residents and organizations for a community dinner intended to increase understanding about the local Somali Muslim community and mosque tonight. Organizers have invited FBI director Robert Mueller to attend.

Mardi Gras marchers protest police Mardi Gras marchers went from the State Capitol to St. Paul City Hall to file notice-of-claim forms based on events during the RNC, reports John Brewer in the PiPress. Meanwhile, over in the Ramsey County court, prosecution and defense attorneys accused each other of trying the case in the press, and prosecutors complained that too much secret police information was becoming public.

Writing with less The Loft Literary Center cut two full time employees, and everyone else is taking pay cuts,

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Obama speech hits another home run

“What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.” With that declaration, President Barack Obama delivered another ringing call to action, devoting nearly all of his February 24 address to a joint session of Congress to what the country needs to do to rebuild and recover. The 52-minute speech was interrupted 50 times by applause.

The full text of the 52-minute speech includes international policy, tax cuts and promises to cut the deficit. En Español

Declaring that the country’s agenda “begins with jobs,” Obama thanked Congress for passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he said will save or create 3.5 million jobs, more than 90 percent in the private sector, and will give tax cuts to 95 percent of working households. He insisted on the importance of re-starting lending and promised more stringent oversight of bailouts to banks.

Turning from plans for recovery to a vision for the future, Obama said the nation has three priorities:

Energy: “[T]o truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.” that means transformation of the auto industry, as well as doubling the nation’s supply of renewable energy, and increasing energy efficiency.

Health Care: “[T]he cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”

Education: Obama called the mismatch between fast-growing occupation sectors that require education and “the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation,” a “prescription for economic decline, because we know that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” He called for both increased funding and reform, gave a ringing endorsement to the charter school movement, and warned that “dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American.”

President Obama held up a banker, a student, and a town as examples of hope:

• “Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. ”

• “Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community.”

• Ty’Sheoma Bethea, a student from a South Carolina school “where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.” She sent a letter to Congress asking for help, writing: “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters.”

Echoing her words, Obama said that Americans are not quitters, that “even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.”

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News Day 2/18/09: Criminal charges for FBI snitch / 46 St. Paul teachers reassigned / Principals dis NCLB / more …

FBI RNC snitch charged in attack Andrew Darst, who spied on the RNC Welcoming Committee for the FBI, faces felony charges of first- and second-degree burglary and a misdemeanor assault charge, reports Randy Furst in the Strib. Court documents say that Minnetrista police responding to a call to a home at 2:18 a.m. on January 11 found the door ripped off its hinges, and that Darst “appeared to be full of rage and anger” and said he “wasn’t comfortable with the people his wife was with” in the home.

The FBI, of course, won’t confirm that Darst is an informant, but he was listed as a potential prosecution witness in a previous RNC trial, and RNC 8 lawyer Bruce Nestor confirms that he is listed as such in FBI documents. Although mug shots are usually public, a Hennepin County clerk said that Darst’s mug shot would not be released, on instructions from the FBI.

NCLB forces reassignment of 46 St. Paul teachers As part of forced restructuring at Humboldt Junior High and Arlington High School, 46 teachers were ordered to different assignments last week, with letters from the district saying that “this assignment change is not related to any issue of misconduct, nor should it be construed as a failure on your part.” Emily Johns writes in the Strib that dozens of teachers rallied outside district HQ on Tuesday, protesting lack of input into the restructuring process as a whole. District plans include the already-in-place transformation of Arlington into a sciene, technology and math magnet school, funded by a $6 million federal grant, and future plans to combine Humboldt junior and senior high schools into a single small 7-12 school and to extend the school day at both schools.

The restructuring is mandated by NCLB, but most MN principals think that NCLB itself is destructive, according to a report released yesterday by Minnesota 2020.

There are about 1,800 principals in Minnesota. Each oversees a school that has been affected by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. While NCLB was created in Washington D.C., it has permeated education down into each classroom. NCLB has forced principals to make draconian choices to meet NCLB requirements, choices made more difficult in Minnesota’s atmosphere of declining funding and diminished results.

Some 97% of the 740 principals responding to the survey said that “NCLB’s main goal – 100 percent proficiency in tests by 2014 – is unattainable.” In addition, principals said that NCLB has forced them to spend more time and resources on “teaching to the test” and to divert resources away from arts and other subjects. They feel that NCLB has affected community perception of schools, and that its requirements for special education students and ELL students are particularly unrealistic.

The NCLB test, MCA-II, is an ineffective measure of student development. Only 15.5 percent of principals say the MCA-II is an effective assessment of student achievement. More than 96 percent said that an assessment that measures student growth over many years is more useful than the MCA-II.

“The job of an educator is difficult enough without having to work with a program that has dubious results,” concludes MN 2020.

T-Paw backtracks on carbon Are MN legislators actually surprised by the Pawlenty administration’s abandonment of green principles? Ron Way in MinnPost reports that they are, as T-Paw administration officials waffle on carbon emissions, green jobs, and clean car legislation.

David Thornton, assistant commissioner for air quality at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) told legislators no further action is needed to reduce carbon emissions and that millions of tons of carbon emissions from coal-fired Big Stone II and Excelsior Energy could actually reduce greenhouse gases. His assertions fly in the face of not only common sense but also other reports by previously Pawlenty-approved expert Bill Grant of the Walton League and the MN Climate Change Advisory Group. Thornton said the new plants would replace older, more polluting ones — but Thornton said the utilities told MCCAG that the opposite was true.

Fur, feathers and fins report What is it with all of the animal news? From the horrific chimp attack in Connecticut to discovery of 26,000-year-old saber-toothed cat bones in southeastern MN, animals are in the news this week. In the Twin Cities, the Animal Humane Society euthanized more than 120 cats found in a St. Anthony mobile home, deciding they were too sick to survive, though Animal Ark takes issue with that assertion. In Alaska, a BBC team used underwater cameras to film grizzly bears catching salmon, and reports that “Most bears will do anything to avoid getting their ears wet.” In Scotland, reports BBC, a lamb head-butted a golden eagle.

In MN, the MPCA found mercury levels in fish increasing since the mid-1990s, reversing a previous, and healthier, downward trend, reports Dennis Lien in the PiPress. The pollution probably comes from outside MN, as mercury travels thousands of miles after being produced by coal-fired power plants.

MN Job Watch As Minnesotans get laid off at a rate of about a thousand a day, many are being pushed to sign documents waiving their right to sue their employers, reports Martin Moylan at MPR. The waivers are required in exchange for some kind of severance benefits, and prevent future lawsuits about anything from work-related disability to discrimination. Attorney Stephen Cooper warns:

“An employee often thinks, ‘Oh this is something that serves both our interests. This is just a mutual way to both agree we’re both protected. That is very seldom the case. Usually the only person being protected in those documents is the employer.”

Saving drowning homeowners President Barack Obama will announce a housing bailout plan today in Phoenix. Two groups of homeowners are in trouble, reports the New York Times: about three million who are already behind in monthly payments and also about ten million whose houses are “underwater” — worth less than they owe on their mortgages. The Obama plan will target the first group, with $50 billion from the already-allotted financial bailout money going to reduce their monthly payments. The NYT analysis is that the Obama plan bets on underwater homeowners staying with their homes and mortgages rather than walking away, at the risk of wrecking their credit ratings.

Recovery.gov – your turn! The new White House website, recovery.gov, ” features cool graphs, interactive maps, projected timelines of when the money will start pumping into the economy, and a place to share your stories and offer comments,” according to the Daily Kos. And if you feel the need for a little more information before telling the government what to do, check out Baseline Scenario’s Financial Crisis for Beginners.

Afghanistan: Civilian deaths up, more troops On the heels of a U.N. report of a 39% increase in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year, President Obama cited “a deteriorating situation” and authorized deployment of up to 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, reports the BBC. The troops will add to 19,000 U.S. troops under U.S. command and another 14,000 serving under NATO command. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan asked for 30,000 additional troops.

The U.N found militants to blame for 55% of 2,118 civilian deaths in 2008, and documented Taliban assassination and intimidation campaigns against anyone associating with the government and against schools. The New York Times reported that, while most of the 39% of civilian deaths attributable to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces come from air strikes, there are other significant problems:

The newly released United Nations report singled out Special Forces and other military units operating outside the normal chains of command, which, the survey said, frequently could not be held accountable for their actions.

Special Forces groups like Navy Seals and paramilitary units operated by the C.I.A. often conduct raids in Afghanistan, and often at night. Such groups typically operate outside the normal chains of command, which means that their presence and movements are not always known by regular field commanders.

Give us national healthcare! A New York Times-CBS poll shows that 59% of the country wants the government–not insurance companies–to provide health insurance, and 49% say the insurance should cover all medical problems.

The poll sampled attitudes on a wide variety of topics, and the report compares responses now to attitudes 30 years ago. Among the other findings:

Today, most Americans (60%) say they get most of their news from television, with newspapers a distant second (14%), followed closely by the internet (13%), and radio (7%). Thirty years ago, a Los Angeles Times Poll found Americans were equally as likely to get most of their news from newspapers (42%) as television (41%). The internet was not available as a choice in the 1979 poll.

Wal-Mart up, Wal-Mart down “Stronger Dollar Knocks Wal-Mart” said the BBC, but “Wal-Mart Profit Tops Expectations” headlined the New York Times. The different spins reported the same numbers: Wal-Mart reported an 8% drop in quarterly profits as the higher value of the U.S. dollar affected overseas earnings, but sales were still up and there still was a profit, as Wal-Mart continues to do better in the recession than almost anyone else.

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News Day – January 23

Cut the trees and plow under the wetlands? And this time, writes Dennis Lien in the PiPress, it’s MN House DFLers who are ready to trash the environment in order to avoid changes to the flawed “Green Acres” program. Here’s a (relatively) simple explanation.

Part One: Property taxes are levied based on land value. Farmland costs less and is taxed at a lower rate than higher-priced commercial, industrial and residential property. Near urban areas, developers and speculators are willing to pay more for farmland, driving up its value and tax burden. Farmers can’t afford to pay the higher prices, and so are driven to sell, increasing urban sprawl.

Part Two: Forty years ago, the “Green Acres” law said that farmers could pay taxes based on farmland value, rather than development value, so long as they were farming the land. Most non-industrial farms, like the one I grew up on, contain a mix of land, including woods and wetlands as well as corn and soybean fields. And then, Lien writes:

Declaring that only productive farmland qualifies for the tax break, lawmakers stripped wetlands, woods and other areas from the program. Afterward, some farmers faced with large tax increases began doing things such as bulldozing their trees to make sure they could remain part of the program.

Session Daily reports that on 1/22, House Republicans tried to suspend the rules and rush through a repeal of last year’s changes without going through hearings. DFLers refused, saying they have several bills in committee, and will hold hearings, beginning next week.

Go, Robyne! In media news, Fox9 news anchor Robyne Robinson launches “Community Commitment,” a 30-minute quarterly public affairs program, on Saturday. The show will debut at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on KMSP and re-run at 11:30 a.m. Sunday WFTC, according to the PiPress. Strangely, there’s no mention of the show on the Fox Twin Cities website, and even a search doesn’t turn up a mention of the show. It is listed in the 8:30 a.m. time slot, but without any description. Not quite the way to promote your star, folks!

And in DC The economic stimulus package stumbles through Congress, and probably won’t reach President Obama’s desk until mid-February, as Republicans and Democrats debate the amount of money to put in it and how much of that money should go to tax cuts rather than jobs programs or other direct government spending. In MinnPost, Steve Berg says MNDOT “is busy figuring out how best to spend the gusher of cash soon expected from the Obama administration’s recovery plan.”

The International Herald Tribune reports that President Obama took action Wednesday on the Iraq front, quoting a presidential statement that said, in part, “I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq.”

BusinessGreen.com reported on the environmental front, “In a traditional game of political whack-a-mole, the Obama White House has moved quickly to freeze all pending regulations proposed by the former president’s administration, including president Bush’s attempts to roll back large swathes of environmental legislation.” The Bush administration finalized 157 “midnight regulations” in its final quarter, and either lengthy and onerous reverse rule-making procedures or Congressional action will be necessary to roll back any of these regs, which include controversial environmental deregulation as well as restrictions on women’s rights to medical care.

In other early moves, the NYT details President Obama’s moves to open up information flows from the White House, freeze staff salaries, and strengthen ethics rules.

What’s going on in DR Congo? There may not be much MN connection with the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I want to understand what is happening there, so I read and write about it. This blog noted a few days ago that the Lord’s Resistance Army has massacred hundreds of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The LRA is active in the northeast region of Congo, but that is only one front in Congo’s wars. Today’s major developments come in the southeast, where Rwandan and Congolese troops fight Hutu and Tutsi rebels.

BBC explains that the Congolese Tutsi rebel CNDP (National Congress for the Defence of the People), which declared a ceasefire last week, has long insisted that the Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), are targeting Congolese Tutsis. However, the CNDP itself stands accused by the United Nations of massacres and abuses under the leadership of “megalomaniacal” General Laurent Nkunda. The conflict and the militias spilled over from neighboring Rwanda after the 1994 genocide in which Rwandan Hutus slaughtered more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis. The Rwandan government has been accused of supporting Nkunda’s forces.

Last week the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) last week declared a ceasefire in its long-standing war with Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Some CNDP members rejected Nkunda’s leadership and left his command.

Today, the NYT reports, Rwandan and Congo troops worked together to capture Nkunda. Rwandan troops were sent into Congo to pursue Nkunda, though he, like Rwanda’s government, is Tutsi. The NYT explains:

“Rwanda and Congo have cut a deal,” said John Prendergast, a founder of the Washington-based Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide. He said Congo had allowed Rwanda to send in troops to vanquish the Hutu militants, something Rwanda has been eager to do for some time.

“In exchange, the Congolese expected Rwanda to neutralize Nkunda and his overly ambitious agenda,” Mr. Prendergast said. “Now the hard part begins.”

Now, says BBC, the “next step is for the joint Congolese-Rwandan force to tackle the FDLR Hutu rebels,” some of whom were involved in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Signs of hope NWAF’s Horizons project is sowing hope in small towns such as Evansville, Hoffman and New York Mills, reports Echo Press in Alexandria:

Always on the lookout for ways to help her town, Muriel Krusemark, Hoffman’s economic development authority coordinator, said she and several other local residents decided to apply for Horizons after hearing about the positive impact it had on nearby New York Mills, a past program participant. …

New businesses are opening up in town, she said, and the city recently finished a Main Street Galleria with space for 23 local retailers. …

Krusemark said Hoffman residents also have plans for a community garden, a computer and communication center and a mentorship program for local youth, as well as other projects.

“If we accomplish half the things we have on our list, it will be a way better community to live in,” she said. “With the people we have on these committees, I can’t believe we won’t accomplish at least half these things.”

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News Day January 7

(Not) teaching English already? Education Week magazine finds that Minnesota lacks enough ESL teachers, the Strib reports, with a ratio of 49 students to each ESL teacher, compared to a national 19 to 1 average. That’s critical, since Minnesota’s ESL student population doubled, growing from 30,000 in 1995 to 61,000 in 2005, according to Education Commissioner Alice Seagren. In suburban Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest district, ESL enrollment has gone from 118 students 15 years ago to 3,200 today. In contrast to today’s push for all immigrants to learn English yesterday, the Hispanic Fanatic notes a recent University of Wisconsin study showing that a century ago “many immigrants felt no need to learn English at all, much less quickly, and that some of them, in the words of the researchers, ‘appeared to live and thrive for decades while speaking exclusively German.'”

Kudos to MinnPost for adding a DC correspondent, Cynthia Dizikes. That makes two for MN, with the other spot occupied by the Strib’s Kevin Diaz. Minnesota may have only one senator at the moment, but we have eight congressional reps, and now two whole reporters to cover the crowd.

Maybe we should move to NoDak. MPR reports that North Dakota has a $1.2 billion budget surplus and Governor John Hoeven is planning both tax cuts and increased state spending. (He also wants to keep a budget reserve of at least $600 million, noting that the state is not immune to the national economic recession.)

Okay to discriminate. The Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed that a lesbian couple raising two daughters can be denied family membership in a Rochester health club, reports the Strib. No gay marriage, no equal rights: 2009 repeats 2008 repeats 2007 …

“It’s a nightmare, dude.” Both the Strib and the PiPress devote major column inches to the Minnesota Fatal Attraction story of a former “female friend” who trashed her ex’s apartment, pouring paint over walls and into computer and toilet and even impaling his daughter’s teddy bear on a steak knife. The case should be easy to make — she posted photos on her MySpace account.

Their ex-prime minister trumps our president-elect. TPM has the Blair House answer we have been waiting for: King George Bush II said president-elect Obama and his family can’t stay in the official guest house while awaiting the inauguration (and getting daughters in school and naming cabinet members and handling the rest of the transition business) because, in the waning moments of the reign of George II, he is “hosting former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and will be giving him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Fun fact about Howard: He is a staunch Iraq War supporter who said in early 2007 that if he were in al-Qaeda he would be praying as much as possible for an Obama victory and for the Democrats in general.”

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