Tag Archives: war

News Day 2/23/09: Oscar-free zone / Stormin’ Norm / Bonding basics and blunders / World news and more

T-Paw playing fast and loose with bonding rules In theory, MN can’t borrow to pay for current spending. The tobacco bond borrowing is an end run around that prohibition, based on a fiction that the state is just borrowing against future tobacco settlement revenues. In fact, explains Steve Perry in MinnPost, other states have already found that tobacco bonds don’t sell well, and MN is marketing the bonds as general obligation bonds. The Department of Revenue says that $987 million in bonds now will cost $1.6 billion in payback.

Your chance this week! The St. Cloud Times reported on the first town hall forum on the state’s budget woes, with more than 250 people mostly agreeing on one part of a solution: “Raise taxes. Cutting the budget and services is not the best way to solve the problem.” Hearings started Thursday in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud, and continue across the state this week, including metro-area meetings.

Last-minute RNC lawsuits As the deadline for filing civil claims related to the RNC expires this week, expect more lawsuits. In an RNC-related suit last week, Betsy Raasch-Gilman charged that Sheriff Bob Fletcher failed to provide “all private and public data” on her. The State Department of Administration had already issued an advisory opinion that Big Bob failed to comply with state law, reports Randy Furst in the Strib.

And on Friday, St. Paul city attorney John Choi announced that no charges will be filed against 323 people arrested on the final day of the convention, but that 20 arrests are still being investigated.

Sinking Strib ship A bankruptcy filing says that Strib gross earnings plummeted by almost one-third in two years, down to $203 million in 2009 from the $303 million earned in 2007. The Strib survival plan, reports Braublog includes a demand that pressmen take a 23-50% pay cut, chopping $6-12 an hour from wage rates.

Secret meetings on health care reform According to the NYT:

Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

Unfortunately for single-payer advocates, the NYT predicts this will mean “a requirement that every American carry insurance.” And Republicans, predictably, are not participating in the talks, though business is on board.

Around the world in 90 seconds In Mexico, the Juarez police chief quit, reports BBC. The border city, torn by drug war violence, saw a police officer and a prison guard killed just before Roberto Orduna quit. Gangs had issued a notice that they would kill a cop every day unless Orduna quit, and he said this was the only way he could safeguard police lives. Orduna took over in May after his predecessor fled to Texas following death threats.

In Afghanistan, , a tribal militia of “men and boys, armed with old riffle and true grit” in southeastern Paktia province is protecting people against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The government and the U.S. plan a “Public Protection Force” to provide “community defence initiatives,” but insist it is different from the militias. In Pakistan, reveals the NYT, U.S. Green Berets are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops in a now-no-longer-secret task force.

Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebel planes bombed the capital, reports the NYT. Though this is the first air attack on the capital, the last six weeks “have seen a surge in civilian casualties, with up to 2,000 killed and 5,000 wounded as the government attempts to rout the rebels.”

In Somali, Islamist insurgent suicide bombers killed 11 African Union peacekeepers at an AU military base in Mogadishu, reports the BBC. The al-Shabab group said its members carried out the attack, as part of its continuing armed struggle against peacekeepers.

Corn vs. clean cars You might think that corn growers and ethanol producers would like legislation requiring lower emissions. Not so, reports Ron Way in MinnPost. The Corn Growers Association opposes clean car legislation, claiming that 18 flex-fuel and biodiesel cars and trucks are banned in California because of the clean car law. But wait — Rep. Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview, called CA car dealers and discovered that “the vehicles that the Corn Growers said are not available were in fact available and being sold.” When confronted by this information in the committee meeting, the Corn Growers lobbyist … had nothing to say.

Stormin’ Norm Since he continues to lose every battle in court, Norm Coleman now wants to recount ALL absentee ballots — that’s right, all 290,000 votes cast, not just those that were rejected, reports Jason Hoppin in the PiPress But wait — the PiPress editorial page goes even further, calling for the election to be thrown out entirely, and a new election held. That’s just what we need to do — hold a clean election, and throw out the results. Politico reports that the Republican National Committee has sent Norm a quarter of a million to pay legal fees in the recount battles.

Save northern MN land, string powerlines across south? As the DNR proposes using the dedicated sales tax funds to protect 187,000 acres of forest and wetlands in north-central MN through the Upper Mississippi Forest Project, private developers propose stringing hundreds of miles of intrusive high-power transmission lines across the rest of the state. More on this tomorrow.

Let’s make people miserable and lose money, too! A successful Anoka county program for meth-addicted moms is targeted by state budget-cutters, reports Brady Gervais in the PiPress. Not only would this particularly short-sighted and mean-spirited budget cut eliminate a successful program that helps addicted mothers kick the habit, find jobs and learn parenting skills — it would also lose money in the long run. Gervais writes that, “By reducing the need for social assistance and child protection services, the program is estimated to save between $8,400 and $16,800 per participant, according to a recent study by Wilder Research.”

Million Dollar Mile Oops, make that $9.2 million — for a one mile bike path in downtown Minneapolis. The Strib’s Pam Louwagie blows the whistle.

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The on-going tragedy in Gaza commands the attention of the world. Both the genesis of the current war and the possible path to an eventual resolution defy simple definition. This article is not an attempt to point to a solution, but only a description of differing positions and some pointers to resources for further information and analysis from a variety of points of view.

One step toward resolution must be understanding what the various parties believe to be true about their situation. Four sources, among many, offer differing points of view from the region, in English:

Al Jazeera, an international on-line media source with a particular focus on events and issues in the Middle East.

Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli mainstream daily newspaper

HaAretz, a left-wing Israeli daily newspaper

The Daily Star, a daily newspaper from Lebanon

Near-universal calls for an end to Israeli air strikes focus on the civilian death toll and the continuing immiseration of the population of Gaza. Democracy Now reports:

Four Israeli citizens, including two Arab Israelis, have been killed by rockets from the Gaza Strip since Israel began its offensive on Saturday. Nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,600 injured. Latest reports indicate Israeli bombs have hit the network of tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that many have described as a “lifeline for the Palestinian people,” because it’s been a major channel for smuggling in basic supplies from Egypt. Israel maintains the tunnels are used to smuggle weapons in.

Gaza is a small strip of land, thirty miles long and ten miles wide at its widest point. Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2006. Israel responded with economic sanctions and blockades, and military conflicts escalated throughout the year, culminating in an Israeli ground invasion in northern Gaza in November 2006. A ceasefire followed the Israeli withdrawal, but did not last. According to the Guardian:

After Hamas seized full control of Gaza in late June 2007, following a near civil war with its rival Fatah, Israel stepped up its air raids. On a single day in June, 12 Palestinians were killed in what an Israeli minister called “preventive measures” against rocket attacks from Gaza.

At the same time, Israel tightened its economic blockade, reducing the flow of goods into Gaza to a bare minimum, stopping all exports and placing severe limits on those Palestinians it allowed to leave Gaza through Israel. By September it had declared Gaza a “hostile territory” as militant rocket attacks and Israeli military raids continued.

A new round of US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began at a summit in Annapolis, in the US, in November 2007 – but the conflict in Gaza continued.

A ceasefire was reached in June 2008, but broke down in November.

Israel condemns Hamas, which has been shooting more and more powerful missiles deeper inside Israel as the months go by.

Moshe Arens writes in Ha’aretz that there are seven ways to stop the rockets, but only one way that is effective:

Why has it been so difficult for our leaders – civilian and military – to understand this? The prospect of ground forces entering the Gaza Strip is not particularly attractive, especially after we have been told that “we have left the Gaza Strip forever.” But nobody has yet found a way of defeating an enemy without invading their territory. Call it occupation or whatever else you like, but that is how wars have always been won, and if we are going to defeat Hamas and stop the rockets from raining on Israeli civilians that is what we will have to do.

Seth Freedman, writing in the Guardian, defends Israel’s attack:

As Israeli spokesmen have reiterated time and again in the media, there is not a country in the world which would allow such assaults to take place on a daily basis without taking action to defend their citizens. Hamas knew this, and that their barrage of rockets would inevitably bring retaliation on the people of Gaza. Despite the ever-louder sabre-rattling by Israeli politicians during the last week, Hamas continued to use heavily-populated civilian centres as launching pads for their daily attacks on Israel.

On the other side, most of the world condemns the current Israeli war on Gaza, which has killed hundreds, wounded hundreds more, and wreaked death and havoc on the civilian population.

Gideon Levy, writing in HaAretz, eloquently describes the consequences of the bombing:

In four days they killed 375 people. They did not, and could not, distinguish between a Hamas official and his children, between a traffic cop and a Qassam launch operator, between a weapons cache and a health clinic, between the first and second floors of a densely populated apartment building with dozens of children inside. According to reports, about half of the people killed were innocent civilians. …

Do the pilots think about them, the children of refugees whose parents and grandparents have already been driven from their lives? Do they think about the thousands of people they have left permanently disabled in a place without a single hospital worthy of the name and no rehabilitation centers at all? Do they think about the burning hatred they are planting not only in Gaza but in other corners of the world amid the horrific images on television?

David Grossman, also writing in HaAretz, says that, no matter what the provocation of the past, now Israel should simply stop:

After its severe strike on Gaza, Israel would do well to stop, turn to Hamas’ leaders and say: Until Saturday Israel held its fire in the face of thousands of Qassams from the Gaza Strip. Now you know how harsh its response can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction we will now hold our fire unilaterally and completely for the next 48 hours. Even if you fire at Israel, we will not respond with renewed fighting. We will grit our teeth, as we did all through the recent period, and we will not be dragged into replying with force.

Moreover, we invite interested countries, neighbors near and far, to mediate between us and you to bring back the cease-fire. …

That is what Israel should do now. Is it possible, or are we too imprisoned in the familiar ceremony of war?

On the last day of 2008, however, neither Israel nor Hamas showed any interest in a cease-fire. Instead, Israel appeared poised for a ground invasion.

Facts on the ground–number of air strikes in Gaza, number of rockets landing in Israel, number of people killed, mosques, schools and jails destroyed–these are not in dispute. The disputes come in assigning meaning and blame, and in the intractable problem of finding a way to peace. Ezra Klein, writing in The American Prospect, describes the depth of the differences:

One important disconnect in Israel/Palestine debate is that Israel’s supporters tend to focus on what the Palestinians want while Palestine’s supporters tend to focus on what the Israelis do. Israel’s defenders, for instance, make a lot of Hamas’s willingness to kill large numbers of civilians. Palestine’s defenders make a lot of the fact that Israel actually kills large numbers of Palestinian civilians.

The Israelis see themselves as threatened innocents, not oppressors. They point to the public statements of Hamas, and they are right. The Palestinians see themselves as an occupied people, not aggressors. They point to their death toll and the settlements, and they are right.

The disaster in Gaza goes beyond the immediate devastation of the current war. In an editorial, Lebanon’s Daily Star points to the longer-term problem:

The international community’s reaction to the crisis in Gaza betrays an ugly truth about the world’s attitude toward the decades-long plight of a dispossessed people: No one cares about the Palestinians unless they are being murdered in their hundreds, and their unjustifiable suffering will in all likelihood be forgotten again whenever the guns fall silent. …

[The] Gaza Strip, where nearly half the population is under the age of 14, has been strangled by various forms of Israeli blockade for nearly three years. During this time, countless reports have emerged detailing horrors such as malnourished children, hospitals lacking electricity and basic medical supplies, and human beings being forced to rummage through garbage bins like animals in search of food. Where was the international outrage then? And where will the scores of flag-waving demonstrators be when the current slaughter comes to an end? …

Nothing of substance will change until the Palestinians have a state to call their own. And neither spontaneous demonstrations nor barrages of rockets will help the Palestinians to reach this objective. What is required is an intelligent, sustained and proactive effort aimed at reaching a peace deal that will result in Palestinian statehood.

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