Tag Archives: Somali

NEWS DAY | Profiling professors / School flu preparations / Revisiting single payer

Photo - U of M College of Continuing Education website

Photo - U of M College of Continuing Education website

Profiling professors Two University of Minnesota profs are speaking out against profiling Somali Americans, reports Laura Yuen on MPR.

Abdi Samatar chairs the U’s geography department. He’s married to Cawo Abdi, a sociology professor. Since June, the husband and wife say they’ve been pulled aside a total of six times at airports for lengthy interviews that have lasted up to two and a half hours.

Abdi was born in Somalia and Samatar in neighboring Djibouti. Both professors are U.S. citizens, but that doesn’t help them at airports. Nor does Samatar’s past consulting work with the U.S. State Department. The extensive airport interviews included inspection of academic papers, a personal diary and even a diaper bag. Agents questioned Samatar about why he was reading academic papers on Somali piracy, and he explained, “We are scholars, and we write papers and books.” Samatar recognizes the need for security:

“But they should be on high alert on an intelligent basis, rather than on a dumb basis,” he said. “It seems to me there is a sort of ‘Dumb Operating Procedure,’ which picks up people for all kinds of nefarious reasons: You have a Muslim name, you live in Minneapolis, you are a Somali, and you travel a lot. Therefore, you become a target.”

Their experience is similar to reports from many other Somali American travelers. Nor did the profiling begin this summer – other Somali Minnesotans reported similar experiences in past years. The two professors say they are following procedures to formally seek information from the U.S. government about the continuing airport stops.

School flu preparations New hand soap dispensers, extra tissue boxes, warnings about staying home from school when sick, hand sanitizers and surgical masks — Minnesota schools are preparing this fall for the expected onslaught of H1N1 novel influenza (the flu formerly known as swine.) The Star Tribune reports that, “nationwide, the largest number of swine flu cases have hit young people ages 5 to 24, and vaccines are not yet available,” though vaccines are expected by some time in October. The Washington Post lays out some of the unanswered questions about vaccine administration:

The mass immunization program, likely to be the largest of its kind since the polio vaccine was given to about 100 million Americans in the 1960s, will play out with some differences between states and local jurisdictions. For instance, still waiting to be resolved are questions about who gets the vaccine, whether schools are used as vaccination sites, whether parents are present when children are vaccinated and whether the vaccine is administered by injection or nasal spray.

In contrast to last spring’s school closings, this time around the Centers for Disease Control advises keeping schools open and sending sick students home, where they should stay until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medication. (That goes for adults, too, who should observe the same precaution in staying home from the workplace.)

World/National News

Prosecute the CIA That’s the advice of the Justice Department, according to the New York Times, as today’s release of more CIA memos reveals further torture and abuse of prisoners. The recommendation to reopen a dozen cases and prosecute the individuals involved came from the Justice Department’s ethics office:

When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general’s findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder’s associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider.

With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow…

Single payer: A reform that makes sense The Nation reports that single payer health care — abandoned before the beginnning of the current debate — resurfaced in last Tuesday’s Morning Joe show, as Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York repeatedly asked why we are paying insurance companies. Show host Joe Scarborough summarized Weiner’s argument:

The goverment would take over only the “paying mechanism” of healthcare, not the doctors or their medical decisions themselves. His ears perked up every time Weiner mentioned that the nonprofit Medicare spends 4 percent on overhead, while private insurers spend 30 percent.

Weiner pressed the point repeatedly:

“Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?” Weiner asked Scarborough. “Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why,” he asked, bringing it all home, “are we paying for their TV commercials?”

And why aren’t we hearing this simple, cogent argument in town halls and in Congress?

War Reports

Afghanistan Challenger Abdullah Abdullah says that last Thursday’s elections were tainted by fraud, reports BBC, and a group of election observers agrees that fraud and intimidation were widespread. Abdullah Abdullah is the most prominent of the 30 candidates challenging incumbent president Hamid Karzai.

Meanwhile, U.S. military commanders said they do not have enough troops to do the job, according to a report in the New York Times.

The assessments come as the top American commander in the country, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has been working to complete a major war strategy review, and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described a worsening situation in Afghanistan despite the recent addition of 17,000 American troops ordered by the Obama administration and the extra security efforts surrounding the presidential election.

“I think it is serious and it is deteriorating,” Admiral Mullen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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:
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News Day: Burnsville honkers / Broadband bust / MN science / War Reports

I spent a lot of time taking a longer look at health care, on the day before President Obama is expected to spend major press conference time on the issue. Take a look – and call your Senators and Congressmembers.

Burnsville cops don’t like peace protest Burnsville police have been watching a weekly anti-war vigil closely – and ticketing passing drivers who honk in support of the protesters, reports Jon Tevlin in the Strib. They have continued despite dismissal of the first anti-honking case and the existence of federal cases saying that honking is protected political speech. Police claim the protest causes traffic problems:
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News Day: Gang Strike Force ended / Somali Minnesotan homecoming? / Lighter than news / Obama NAACP speech

© BJ - Fotolia.com

© BJ - Fotolia.com

The gang that couldn’t police straight Latest word on the Metro Gang Strike Force – it’s over. State Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion has officially abolished the Metro Gang Strike Force. The 12-year operation, backed by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher from beginning to end, sounded more like a gang than a police operation in the description of its officers by 11-year Metro Gang Strike Force chief (and Fletcher protegee) Ron Ryan, quoted in the Pioneer Press:
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News Day: Central Corridor starts / Police & crime / New hope for old homes / Trouble on the farm / more

LRTCentral Corridor starts Downtown St. Paul will see streets dug up, starting Monday, so that utility lines can be moved before construction of the Central Corridor light rail line begins next year, reports the Star Tribune. Street closings and restrictions will begin on 4th Street between Minnesota and Jackson streets.
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News Day: MN unemployment up to 8.2 percent / Foreclosures dip / Preventing the NEXT economic meltdown – or not / more

Illustration of a graph where the figures go through the roofMN unemployment up to 8.2 percent Minnesota’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent in May, up from 8.0 percent in April but still below the national rate of 9.4%, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. DEED’s press release this morning led with the announcement that MN employers had cut only 1,600 jobs in May, the smallest number since October. Total job losses in May were more than 10,000, but that number was offset by some job gains, including 7,100 in the leisure and hospitality industries and 900 in construction.
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News Day: The Ax-Man cometh / SPPS stumbling out of the starting gate / Charter schools / Somali teens / Iran protests

The Ax-Man cometh Gov. Tim Pawlenty will announce unallotment targets – or something like that – at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the PiPress. This isn’t the actual unallotment, but rather an announcement of his plan. In theory, he’s still open to hearing other voices, but given T-Paw’s record on listening to people who disagree with him on budget issues, that’s not likely to move him off target. The likely targets? Local government, health care, higher ed, and fancy footwork with funding shifts for K-12 education.
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