Tag Archives: Somalia

No change, no hope, says Texas judge — but he doesn’t have the final word on immigration

© dule964 - Fotolia.com gavel

© dule964 – Fotolia.com gavel

On February 17, Texas federal district court judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction to stop immigration changes. That’s an order saying the government may not proceed with expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA). The order is one of the very early steps in the lawsuit against the federal government by 26 states. These states want to overturn President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Continue reading

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Robyne Robinson in MN, Drilling permits in DC, Wars and secret wars

Photo from Fox9 website

Robyne Robinson moved from news anchor to news maker yesterday, with the disclosure that she has been asked by the Matt Entenza campaign to be his lieutenant governor candidate. The campaign stayed mum, while Robinson apparently confirmed the rumors – and MinnPost’s David Brauer critiqued the journalistic ethics and conflict of interest involved in Fox9’s reporting:

I realize this is the very definition of conflict of interest, but so many things were wrong here. As I’ve written, Robinson should be sidelined as long as she’s a political newsmaker in play. If not, Fox9 political reporter Jeff Goldberg should’ve grilled Robinson (and Entenza) for a report — her statements (that she’s been offered the gig) are being dodged by the campaign, which only says it has a list of folks whose identities won’t be revealed yet.

Robinson previously announced that she is leaving Fox9 News, with her last day set for Wednesday.

The bigger question, however, is what difference there is between the three DFL primary contenders – DFL-convention-endorsed former MN House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, and former MN Representative Matt Entenza. Most of the news focuses on the horse race – who’s ahead in the polls, who’s naming a running mate, how will that running mate pull votes or strengthen the ticket. Relatively little focuses on substantive differences (if any) between the candidates.

Those differences may not be large – all three support opting in to Medicaid for MN’s poorest patients, as does Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner. That’s in stark contrast to GOP Tom Emmer’s parrot-like denunciationof “ObamaCare! ObamaCare! ObamaCare!”

More drilling permits and environmental waivers were handed out by the federal government during the month since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, even as oil rolls through the fragile marshes and onto Gulf shores, with plenty of BP promises, but no end in sight. According to the New York Times, “federal regulators have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits, most of which were for types of work like that on the Deepwater Horizon.” Department of Interior officials are bobbing and weaving around the moratorium supposedly declared by the administration, saying it applies only to new drilling, not to existing projects. The NYT notes that some of the permits and environmental waivers are for projects that go even deeper, and are therefore even riskier, than Deepwater Horizon.

Then there’s the conflict between Environment Secretary Ken Salazar’s tough talk on BP (“If we find they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately.” and Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen’s admission that the feds just don’t have what it takes to take over – “[BP has] the eyes and ears that are down there. They are necessarily the modality by which this is going to get solved.”

Or not.

In news from Somalia, BBC reports that a German military security firm is contracting to provide security to a Somali warlord who declared himself president in 2003, but has not been in Somali in five years.  Asgaard German Security Group says it will provide security services when Abdinur Ahmed Darma becomes president, but some German politicos say the contract is private foreign policy that violates U.N. sanctions on arming rebels.

Meanwhile, the U.N.-backed president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is attending peace negotiations in Germany.

BBC’s Mark Doyle in Istanbul says it is far from clear if the president, described in the West as a moderate, will prevail.

He has Western support now, because Washington hopes he will keep al-Qaeda at bay in East Africa, but Western support is a poisoned chalice in nationalist Somalia, he says.

More secret war may be in the cards, under Obama administration policy that looks more and more like Bush administration policy. The New York Times reports that a secret directive signed by General David Petraeus in September authorized sending U.S. Special Ops troops to countries throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said.

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News Day: Closing the door to college / Five days, a billion dollars / No blood on the gun / more

I’m on the road, so this blog post is short and late — I hope tomorrow will be earlier and longer.

Closing the door to college Minnesota has had a proud tradition of higher education and of making higher education available to its residents. That may be ending, reports MinnPost:

Tuition is rising faster in Minnesota than in most other states. It has doubled since 1999 at the U of M. ..

Meanwhile, state spending for higher education has stuck flat for years in some areas and dropped by double digits in others. Now it is set to fall sharply as the governor and the Legislature wrestle through the current financial crisis.

Although job retraining is essential in times of high unemployment, and although enrollment at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) jumped by 14% in January 2009, Governor Pawlenty announced a $40 million cut in higher education funding this year, on top of the 28% drop from 2000 to 2007.
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News Day: Budget battle on the Hill / Midnight scam / Medical-Industrial complex / War report / more

Budget battle on the Hill DFLers are giving a “chilly reception” to what T-Paw claims is a “compromise” budget proposal, reports the PiPress. T-Paw wants to compromise by delaying more state aid payments to schools, cutting in half the amount he wants to borrow, and agreeing not to put money into the “rainy day” fund. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud: “He’s basically given an inch, when we’ve gone a mile.”

MPR provides a good overview. As the clock ticks on toward the May 18 adjournment, the legislature sent a health and human services bill to the governor, with no assurance of its fate. Republicans complained that a public safety omnibus bill passed by the Senate did not have enough money for prisons. The DFL planned to forge ahead with a $1 billion “placeholder” — passing appropriations bills, and waiting for some resolution of the difference between Pawlenty (raise money by borrowing) and DFL (raise money through taxes) positions. And then there’s the “lights on” bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also moving forward with a backup plan that would keep government services running in case a budget deal isn’t reached. The bill would fund government services at current levels through July first of 2010. DFL Sen. Larry Pogemiller said the bill is only “precautionary” in case Pawlenty vetoes the budget bills.

Midnight scam When the phone rings at midnight, watch out! That’s the message in the Minneapolis police department description of a new scam, which starts with a middle of the night phone call warning of a credit card irregularity and asking for your credit card number.

Fong Lee case: On to trial As attorneys talked settlement, crowds outside the federal building called for justice for Fong Lee, reports the TC Daily Planet. A Minneapaolis police officer shot the 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006, and claim that he pointed a gun at police officers, but the family claims the gun in question was planted after Fong Lee was killed. The settlement conference reached no agreement, so the case is set for trial next week. Meanwhile, reports David Hanner in the PiPress, the city of Minneapolis is seeking to bar comments from its own PR officer from the trial.

Tax and invest Hundreds of Minnesotans crammed the state capitol Monday to call on lawmakers to raise revenue to fund critical public services. The demonstrators chanted “override,” referring to the governor’s veto of the omnibus tax bill on Saturday, and called for using taxes to fund education and health care and “invest in Minnesota.” See reports in the the TC Daily Planet from Workday Minnesota and Session Daily.

The Medical-Industrial complex Paul Krugman is skeptical about health care industry promises to cut the rate of growth in health care spending, but, he says, it’s still “tremendously good news.”

The point is that there’s every reason to be cynical about these players’ motives. Remember that what the rest of us call health care costs, they call income. What’s presumably going on here is that key interest groups have realized that health care reform is going to happen no matter what they do, and that aligning themselves with the Party of No will just deny them a seat at the table.

For more detail and links to the official announcements, check out the Daily Kos report.

War Report

Afghanistan Washington Post General David McKiernan, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, was relieved of his duties by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said he is looking for “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes.” BBC: Suicide bombers struck two government buildings in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan, killing six people. According to AP,”Armed insurgents took government workers hostage and ambushed an American quick-reaction force, wounding one U.S. soldier.”

Iraq BBC Suicide bombers killed six police officers in Kirkuk. NYT: In Camp Liberty, the main U.S. base in Baghdad, a U.S. soldier killed five fellow soldiers.

SomaliaBBC As fighting escalated in the capital city of Mogadishu, at least 120 were reported killed and thousands were fleeing the city.

Pakistan BBC The Pakistani government claimed that it had used helicopters to drop troops into a Taliban stronghold in the sparsely populated Peochar valley in Swat. UN reports say about 360,000 people have fled since the government launched attacks on the Taliban forces in the Swat region. A telephone report described the city of Mingora as a ghost town, with people in hiding and rapidly running out of food and water. AP: The Afghan government says the total number of internal refugees in the country is now 1.3 million.

BBC A U.S. drone killed eight people in the northern district of Waziristan near the Afghan border.

Sri Lanka BBC Rebels and hospital officials say that government forces killed at least 45 people when they shelled a hospital inside the conflict zone. While reporters are banned from the area, the UN reported a weekend bloodbath that killed more than 400 people and injured more than 1,000.

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News Day 2/11/09: MN to Somali / Salting the lakes / Schools slash spending / more …

Minneapolis to Somalia Leaders in the Somali and Muslim community denied that a Minneapolis mosque had anything to do with recent disappearances of young Somali men from the Twin Cities, blaming unnamed people within the local Somali community for stirring up rumors, reports Nelima Kerré in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. While the press statement, and leaders at the press conference, did not name individuals, a commenter on MPR’s website pointed the finger at Omar Jamal. Differences within the MN Somali community reflect political and clan differences in Somalia. Jamal is related to the recently-resigned Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, while the young men have allegedly gone to fight with Al-Shabab, the youth and military wing of the Union of Islamic Courts, which opposed the Ethiopian-backed government of Abdullahi Yusuf. A former leader of the UIC, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected president in January.

Around the world in 60 seconds Taking a quick look at BBC this morning:
Drug war battles in the farming town of Villa Ahumada and in a prison in Torreon (all in northern Mexico) killed 21 people on Monday, including at least six police officers executed in Villa Ahumada before the army arrived on the scene. Yesterday Mexican army troops arrested the police chief and 36 officers in Cancun, on suspicion that they were connected to the torture and execution last week of an ex-army general who had just taken charge of a crime-fighting squad targeting drug traffickers in Cancun.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has agreed to serve as Zimbabwe’s prime minister, eleven months after the presidential elections were stolen by discredited, corrupt, but still-President Robert Mugabe. Millions of Zimbabweans remain in desperate need of food and health care, and the country has been swept by a cholera epidemic.
The commander of Azerbaijan’s air force was assassinated yesterday, shot to death outside his home. Lt-Gen Rail Rzayev had headed the country’s air force since about the time of independence in the 1990s, and was deeply involved in large-scale military acquisitions in recent years. BBC: “In October 2008, the International Crisis Group described Azerbaijan’s armed forces as “fragmented, divided, accountable-to-no-one-but-the-president, un-transparent, corrupt and internally feuding”.
Tamils in diaspora are uniting in protest over government indifference to the suffering of civilians, as Sri Lanka troops continue a major offensive aimed at wiping out the rebel Tamil Tigers.

Face of People’s Bailout Joli Stokes could lose their Richfield home this year, victims of predatorylending practices. The People’s Bailout legislation proposed by MN DFL legislators is targeted at helping Minnesotans who, like Joli, face foreclosure, as well as others facing unemployment and welfare cuts, reports Madeleine Baran in the TC Daily Planet.

The legislation proposes a two-year suspension of the current five-year limit on welfare benefits for low-income families. Currently, families are cut off welfare benefits after five years. This plan would allow families an additional two years of financial support. Low-income housing advocates say that although the welfare grants are already low, an extension would prevent homelessness for many Minnesotan families. An unemployed adult with two children receives $532 in cash assistance and $413 in food support each month.

The legislation also includes a thirteen-week extension of unemployment benefits, a moratorium on foreclosures, initiatives to secure federal funds for job-creation programs, and recommendations against state worker layoffs.

Housing starts down January building permits hit a new low, reports Jim Buchta in the Strib:

The decline in construction spending has been accelerating over the past several months, evidence of just how much money is evaporating from the local economy. It affects everyone from the crews who dig foundations to the corner-store retailer that sells grass seed.

MN Job Watch MTS Systems Corp (Eden Prairie) will cut 150 jobs, writes Liz Fedor in the Strib. The cuts represent about six percent of the MTS work force. In New Hope, 70 workers at HD Bath and Remodeling will be out of work on April 1, writes Jackie Crosby in the Strib in a ripple effect from Home Depot’s decision to shut down smaller home improvement brands.

On the national front, General Motors announced Monday that it will cut 10,000 salaried workers. The NYT reports that the cuts come a month after buyout offers to the hourly workforce and three months after 5,100 jobs were cut. GM sales fell 11 percent in 2008. And, while Wal-Mart has generally profited during the recession, the Strib publishes an AP report that the retail giant is cutting 700-800 jobs at its Arkansas HQ.

Just what we need A huge high-voltage power line is marching toward MN, reports the Strib, at least if ITC Holdings Corp gets its way. The company wants to build a 3,000-mile, 765,000-volt, $12 billion “Green Power Express” line to take wind-generated electricity from the west to population centers like Chicago.

The bailout plan Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced a bailout that most commentators found confusing, and that investors found depressing, judging by the dive in the Dow Jones and Nasdaq, reported in the Washington Post and similar downturns in European markets, attributed to the bailout announcement by BBC. In a nutshell, the $1.5 trillion plan would “would more closely scrutinize the risks banks are facing and offer public and private capital to those that need it; create a fund, with a starting value of $500 billion, to buy up toxic real estate loans; and commit up to $1 trillion to reopen lending markets for consumer, student, small business, auto and commercial loans,” according to WaPo.

Paul Krugman quips that he was going to call the plan TANF 2 —” temporary assistance to needy financial institutions, without, you know, any of the means-testing or work requirements involved when poor people get help.” He says it’s hard to tell what the plan means at this point.

Salting 10,000 lakes A U of M study finds that hundreds of thousands of tons of road salt goes into area wetlands, ground water and lakes, reports the Strib. Well, where did you think it was going?

Schools slash spending St. Paul schools will cut 265 positions for 2009-2010, but board member John Brodrick warned that “this is not the end,” reports Doug Belden in the PiPress. The budget will be finalized in June, and school board members will meet the public at a “listening session” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hubbs Center at 1030 W. University Ave.

The Anoka-Hennepin school board decided to “lay off scores of teachers, reduce its textbook purchases, cut one day off the school calendar and scale back bus services to climb out of a $15.8 million budget hole,” reports Norman Draper in the Strib.

Recount – maybe some movement? The court told the Coleman and Franken lawyers to “streamline proceedings,” reports Chris Steller in MnIndy.

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