Tag Archives: war

Munich, Kabul, Manbij: the calculus of carnage


Photo by L.C. Notaasen, published under Creative Commons license

Yesterday, an eighteen-year-old with a Glock pistol shot and killed nine people in a mall in Germany. Yesterday, a suicide bomber targeted a protest in Kabul and killed at least 80 people. The ISIS bomber targeted Shia Muslims, members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority. Last Tuesday, an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria killed families who were fleeing ISIS. The exact number of dead is disputed – 56? 85? 160? 212? The families, who included many young children, were fleeing ISIS when the coalition bombers mistakenly targeted them. Guess which of these three stories got the bigger headlines? Continue reading

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Escalating the war

30,000 more troops and promises: Obama’s promise to begin a withdrawal in eighteen months, Karzai’s promise to stop the corruption. So, if Afghanistan is desert and mountains, does that mean it can’t be the Big Muddy?

Here are the links and a few quotes: Continue reading

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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: What now, Norm? / Death in Somalia: Looking for answers / Carstarphen: Go slower / Wind industry layoffs / more

What now, Norm? Politics in Minnesota has gotten several answers to that question over the past few days. First, on June 4, came a report from Roll Call that Norm was willing to bow out if the MN Supreme Court rules against him. PIM thought that sounded unlikely, and, within hours, posted:
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News Day: Going up – domestic violence, tick populations / Going down: Auto dealers, Gang Strike Force / “Stagecoach from hell” / Tweet trouble / more

Domestic violence increase “off the charts” Looking at domestic violence, St. Paul police see an “an uptick off the charts,” and Dakota County’s Community Action Council reported a 37 percent increase in women seeking services for domestic abuse from 2007 to 2008, reports the PiPress. The increase in domestic violence is attributed, at least in part, to the economic recession.
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News Day: GM in MN / Franken-Coleman blow-by-blow / Health care saga / more

MN GM dealers: Who’s going down? Minnesota has 149 GM dealers, reports MPR, and Tuesday they will learn which dealerships will be closed under GM bankruptcy proceedings. Thirty MN dealers had received earlier notice that GM would cut them, but now the company plans to close 40 percent of all its dealers nationwide, which could mean another 30 in Minnesota.
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News Day: Franken and Coleman back at it / “Fong Lee = me” / Republican road to socialism / more

Franken and Coleman: They’re back! Their lawyers will argue the case in the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday. See the PiPress for profiles of the five justices who will decide the case. Two of the court’s seven justices will sit this one out Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson were part of the recount panel, whose work and decisions are being challenged by Coleman.

“Fong Lee = me” That was the message on the sign held by a young Hmong boy, who was among hundreds of people rallying in St. Paul Saturday to protest the verdict in the Fong Lee shooting death case. The PiPress reports that Fong Lee family members and supporters belive the trial and verdict were unfair.

“I felt that justice failed us, and I feel there ain’t nothing going to happen with it,” said Jon Xiong, 28, of St. Paul. “I got little brothers and cousins and nephews, and it could’ve easily have been them. From my point of view, as a minority, it really ain’t no good. That’s all I can say. It ain’t no good.”

Violence hits young Somalis in Minneapolis Laura Yuen, continuing her fine coverage of the local Somali community offers an in-depth look at the violence that has claimed the lives of eight young Somali men since December 2007, and what some in the community are doing to stop it.

MN Job Watch St. Paul teachers’ contract talks are in trouble before they even get started, reports the PiPress. Reason: the district already announced that it is seeking a pay freeze and “more flexible labor agreements,” thus, according to union reps, starting the negotiations in the press rather than with the teachers.

• “After 30 years, a major labor arts institution is closing its doors,” reports the Minneapolis Labor Review. The worker-run Northland Poster Cooperative will close at the end of June.

• And The Uptake reports on charges of mistreatment of roofers at the Target Center.

Don’t leave home without it Going to Canada? Take your passport, or you might not get back into the United States, reports MPR. Tighter U.S. regulations go into effect today. There is an alternative to the $100+ passport – a lower-cost passport card that can be used just for land border or seaport crossings in the Western Hemisphere, but not for international air travel. More than a million of the passport cards have been issued in Minnesota since they became available in 2008. Processing time takes 4-6 weeks.

Residents near the border may also qualify for a third alternative, the NEXUS card, which is for “trusted travelers who pass a background check by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.” For now, Homeland Security officials say they will take a “commonsense” approach to allowing people to re-enter the United States if they have gone to Canada for, say, a fishing trip.

Disabled and out of luck That was Dan Gunnon’s fate until he hooked up with the Watchdog at the PiPress. Despite chronic back pain, he worked and enjoyed a middle-class standard of living for 20 years after a back injury suffered in 1981: “I tried to save a woman from being assaulted, and I got shot, and the bullet lodged in my spine.” Then, in 2002, the back pain “exploded” and he was no longer able to work. His partner fell victim to cancer, and was also out of work. He applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and:

Like 60 percent of Minnesotans who applied, Don was denied on his first application. He asked for a reconsideration — a request to have a different pair of eyes look at the application. He was denied again. The next step was to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. That’s when he discovered he was caught in a backlog of scandalous proportions: In 2007, about 746,000 claims were pending at the hearing level, 9,000 of them in Minnesota. Some cases had been on the back burner for three years.

SSDI is an insurance program, not a welfare benefit. Like Social Security retirement benefits, it’s paid for by taxes deducted from paychecks. According to the Social Security website, “In general, we pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.”

Dan Gunnon got lucky when he found the PiPress Watchdog, who used connections and savvy to find advocates and cut through some of the red tape. Gunnon ended up giving up on back benefits that were clearly owed to him in order to get his benefits started. The story is a testament to good reporting and advocacy by Debra O’Connor at the Pioneer Press, but also a horror story of inadequate staffing and continuing misery for the hundreds of thousands with cases still pending.

World/National Headlines

Doctor shot down in church Dr. George Tiller (67), vilified for performing abortions and shot and wounded by an anti-abortion gunman 16 years ago, was assassinated as he served as an usher inside his Lutheran church in Wichita, KS. A 51-year-old white man is in custody for the shooting.

BBC lists other deadly attacks by anti-abortion killers:

Oct 1998: Dr Barnett Slepian shot dead, Buffalo, New York
Jan 1998: Policeman killed in blast at clinic near Birmingham, Alabama
Dec 30 1994: Two receptionists shot dead at clinics near Boston
July 1994: Dr John Britton and a volunteer escort killed outside clinic, Pensacola, Florida

The Dailyi Kos has a personal remembrance — and a more nuanced picture — of Dr. Tiller.

Bankruptcy on Monday AP reports: “General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government’s reach into big business.” The company has already received $20 billion in taxpayer funds, and will get $30 billion more, as it cuts 21,000 employees, about 34 percent of its work force, and reduces the number of dealers by 2,600. The UAW agreed to a cost-cutting deal on Friday.

According to another AP report:

Sen. Richard Shelby said Friday the government should have allowed the marketplace to decide General Motors’ fate and that the huge federal stake in the company puts Washington on “the road to socialism.”

Six months ago? Let’s see – that would be on the watch of the Bush administration, so that would have been a Republican road to socialism?

War Reports

Pakistan Pakistani troops captured the main city in the Swat region, reports BBC, but the city’s center was destroyed in the process. Conditions in the Swat region, according to the International Red Cross: “Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical facilities had stopped operating and food was scarce, it said.”

Meanwhile, reports the NYT, heavy fighting has broken out in South Waziristan, the probable next front. And a bomb blast in the North-West Frontier Province town of Kohat killed two people and injured eight others.

Afghanistan When U.S. troops arrived in the Jalrez valley, 30 miles west of Kabul, the Taliban left, reports the NYT. But that may be only temporary:

Insurgents regularly leave areas where Americans appear, only to resurface later. “We are hearing it’s better now,” said Hoji Mir Ahmad, a fruit merchant based in Kabul, “but God knows what things will be like when the harvest comes.”

West Bank Reuters reports: “Six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout.”

An attack on Palestinian workers by masked, rock=throwing Israeli settlers near the Palestinian city of Nablus injured several men, sending two to the hospital, reports BBC.

Iraq In May, 24 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, reports BBC, the highest number of casualties since September 2008. Combat operations are scheduled to end in September 2010.

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News Day: Windy and green in Woodbury /Fong Lee verdict / Back to Mexico? / more

Forecast: Windy and green in Woodbury Woodbury’s city council is considering several green ordinances and encountering some opposition to expanding wind power, reports the PiPress. Proposed new ordinances include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling in homes, solar panels covering all roof spaces, and ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 400 square feet in residential areas and 1000 square feet in rural areas.

The controversy comes over wind turbines. The proposed ordinance would allow 60-foot wind turbines in yards of more than an acre. Opponents focus on aesthetics and noise, while proponents say there’s little noise and focus on the benefits of renewable, green energy. Last fall, the Star Tribune reported plans for a 170-foot wind turbine at the high school to produce 30-50 percent of the school’s energy needs, but developers strongly objected, threatening to scuttle plans for a new housing development. Current plans for East Ridge High School, which is located in an R-4 residential area, are unclear – the high school has not yet submitted an official application to the city.

Large wind energy systems (generating 5 megawatts or more) are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, but smaller installations are subject to local regulation. A brochure published by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security notes that:

Another Minnesota program, net metering, allows home and building owners to install wind generation under 40 kW and connect to the grid. Utilities track the amount of electricity generated and credit the owner for the electricity produced. Any excess electricity not used by the owner is bought by the utility at the average retail rate. Other incentives available from the state include low interest loans and sales tax exemptions.

The Woodbury planning commission will take comments on the proposed ordinance at a June 15 meeting, and the city council will discuss it on June 17.
Fong Lee verdict A jury found that the police officer who shot 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 did not use excessive force. The PiPress described an almost-empty courtroom for the reading of the jury verdict, which came when Fong Lee’s family was at lunch and lawyers for both sides were also absent from the courtroom. When the family was informed of the verdict, Fong Lee’s mother burst into tears. According to MPR:

Community activist Tou Ger Xiong says the verdict shows that Minneapolis police officers discriminate against people of color.

“This does nothing more than to reaffirm the fact that we should fear police and members of law enforcement. Because it is saying to us, ‘Watch out, if a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be killed, you will shot, you will be killed.'”

Fong Lee’s sister, Shoua Lee, said her parents came to the U.S. from Laos in 1988 to find freedom and safety. “And on July 22, 2006, over 20 years later, that feeling of safety was shattered.”

Lee’s family believe he was unarmed and that police planted a gun found three feet from his body. They relied on evidence showing no fingerprints, blood or DNA evidence on the gun, and confused police reports about the ownership of the gun.

Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan said the officer acted with “courage and integrity.”

Heading back to Mexico? Is the economic recession driving immigrants back to Mexico? Evidence is anecdotal, but the Strib reports that many people are talking about it:

“Workers are thinking, ‘If I don’t have a job here or if I don’t have a job in Mexico, what’s the difference? Plus no one will harass me’ ” in Mexico, said Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis. “And businesses look around and ask: ‘Am I relying on a customer base that may not be here?”’

Nationally, immigrant unemployment rates have risen from 4.6 percent in 2007 to more than 11 percent today, pushing many to consider returning to Mexico. But, as a student at Neighborhood House points out, people who return may find an even worse economic situation in Mexico.

Hard times on the farm A recent U of M survey shows that recession is hitting Minnesota farmers hard, reports the Strib:

Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.

Ford Dam flagged Although there’s no evidence to show any danger at the Ford Dam, the evidence to show that it’s safe is incomplete, reports MPR, so inspectors are coming. They will look at whether water is seeping underneath the concrete dam. The problem is more likely in the paperwork than in the dam, say officials, but they’re checking just the same.

MN Job Watch According to AP, electrical generator maker Kato Engineering will cut 20 percent of its workforce, or 94 jobs. Kato’s plant is in Mankato.

Thief River Falls-based Arctic Cat will eliminate 60 positions, or approximately 5 percent of its 1,200 employees, reports MPR, after losing $9.5 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.

World/National News

Shrinking economy The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent during the first quarter, reports NPR. But economists are more optimistic about the rest of the year:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and NABE forecasters say the recession will end later this year, barring any fresh shocks to the economy. NABE forecasters predict the economy could start growing again in the third or fourth quarter.

War Reports

Pakistan BBC The half-million residents of the steeply mountainous northwestern district of Kohistan don’t want either the Taliban or the army.

“If the army comes in, the Taliban will follow, and vice versa,” says an influential tribal elder and former member of parliament, Malik Saeed Ahmad.

“In either case, it threatens our way of life.”

They also don’t care much about Sharia law — “‘in fact, people are not interested in any government law,” says Mumtaz Khan Jalkoti, a local lawyer.”

In other war news, ten people were killed in two separate bombings in the city of Peshawar.

Iran An Iranian provincial official blamed U.S. “agents of arrogance” for a mosque bombing that killed 19 people last Thursday. The bombing took place in the poor, mostly Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchestan province.

Sudan BBC: “Sudan says more than 60 people were killed during the fighting with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Kornoi, in Darfur.” The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

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News Day: CORRECTION / Unemployment up again / Here come the Feds / more

CORRECTION I summarized an article from AP and the Pioneer Press regarding a 14-state federal prosecution for “modern-day slavery” of immigrant workers. The article, and my summary, erroneously said that a Mankato roofer was implicated in the case. Here is the correction from the Pioneer Press:

A headline in Thursday’s Pioneer Press should not have said that a Mankato roofer was implicated in a labor scheme involving immigrant workers. In fact, Kato Roofing was a client of a labor-leasing company that has been indicted in relation with the scheme. But Kato Roofing has not been implicated or associated in any way with the federal investigation and Kato Roofing officials emphasize that they have done nothing wrong. The Pioneer Press apologizes for the error.

I also apologize for the error. And I thank Kato Roofing for furnishing a link to the PDF file of the federal indictment.

According to AP and the Pioneer press, the 45-count indictment includes 12 individuals and three companies, charging labor racketeering, forced labor trafficking and immigration violations. According to the indictment, the defendants secured fraudulent labor leasing contracts with clients in the hotel/resort, casino, and construction industries in the 14 states.

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News Day: Memorial Day

477px-Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_DayOn Memorial Day, reports from several war zones around the world … and some responses to war.

Afghanistan After a four-day attack targeting the town of Marja in Helmand province, U.S. and Afghan forces claim to have killed 60 Taliban and seized 92 tons of drugs, according to BBC.

From Reuters, the voices of Afghan poets speak on the war:

We have heard these anecdotes
That control will be again in the hands of the killer
Some will be chanting the slogans of death
And some will be chanting the slogans of life
The white and sacred pages of the history
Remind one of some people
In white clothes, they are the snakes in the sleeves
They capture Kabul and they capture Baghdad.

Pakistan According to BBC, Pakistan government troops and Taliban are fighting in the streets of Mingora, the largest city in the Swat region. On Friday, a car bomb killed at least six people and injured 70 in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Nigeria BBC In response to a 10-day army assault that has forced thousands of people from their homes, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said it had attacked pipes for a Chevron facility. MEND says it wants a larger share of resources for people in the Niger Delta region. Chevron says it has shut down part of its output because of the attacks. The conflict between MEND and the army began in 2006.

Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. writes in The Observer that “Now, at last, it’s time for Shell to atone for my father’s death.”

This week, a US court will hear a case that I and nine other plaintiffs filed against Royal Dutch Shell for its part in human rights violations committed against some Ogoni families and individuals in Nigeria in 1995. … Ken Saro-Wiwa’s real “crime” was his audacity to sensitise local and global public opinion to the ecological and human rights abuses perpetrated by Shell and a ruthless military dictatorship against the Ogoni people.

Somalia BBC Al-Shabab leader Sheik Husein Ali Fidow said a Somali teenager carried out a suicide bombing on Sunday, killing six soldiers and a civilian in the capital of Mogadishu

Colombia Colombia’s ELN rebels asked the larger FARC rebel gorup for a truce. “Both the Farc and the ELN have been fighting the Colombian government since the 1960s,” according to BBC.

Sudan Two Sudan army bases in or near Darfur have been seized over the past week, reports BBC, possibly by rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), one of the competing rebel groups in Darfur.

Iraq Steve Carlson writes of “the awful sound of silence” about the impact of the Iraq war on Iraqi people:

But what are the people of Iraq facing? What must it be like to be a survivor of the Iraqi War? …

• The website Iraq Body Count has cross documented the violent deaths of between 90,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the 2003 American led invasion and occupation. Most experts agree that this number is, in all probability, significantly below the actual death toll.

• A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins estimated that as of July, 2006, the death toll had exceeded 600,000 people.

• A September 2007 study by the prestigious British polling firm Opinion Research Business, put the death toll at 1.2 million Iraqis.

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