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December 14, 2008

Winter Storm Complicates Driving Conditions

As a winter storm moves through the state, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is reporting difficult driving conditions, reported the Pioneer Press.

While a few spinouts have been reported Lt. Mark Peterson, a spokesman with the State Patrol, said the lack of any serious accidents have been "a pleasant surprise." Sunday conditions are particularly important as college students drive home for the holidays, reported the Star Tribune.

In the western and some northwestern parts of the state, major roads have been closed including Interstate 94 between Moorhead and Alexandria and Highway 10 between Moorhead and Detroit Lakes.

Temperatures in the metro area are expected to drop as the storm passes through.

With bad weather expected into Monday, authorities are advising people to stay inside and avoid traveling.

Blagojevich Only The Latest Chapter In Corrupt Illinois Politics

Illinoisans are used to politicians like Rod Blagojevich who was indicted on Tuesday for attempting to sell Barack Obama's vacant senate seat, among other political "prizes" at his disposal, according to The New York Times.

The Illinois governor is the current face of a political machine based on a "pay to play" political philosophy in which everything is for sale, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Because of the state's particularly lax rules regarding campaign donation limits--there are none--many politicians are enticed to sell their political favor to the highest bidder. Because some donors contribute considerably more than others, it is in most politician's best interest in Illinois to appease them with jobs, state contracts or, in Blagojevich's case, senate seats.

"When you look at the countless scandals that have plagued Illinois politics over the last several years, while they have differed in facts and scope, the one common denominator has been a drive to obtain an abundance of campaign contributions," said state Rep. John Fritchey (D- Chicago).

Indian Planes 'Accidentally' Entered Pakistani Airspace

According to Pakistani officials, Indian warplanes entered Pakistani airforce near the alleged location of the group responsible for the Mumbai attacks last week, reported The New York Times.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sherry Rehman said Pakistan's airforce were on the alert, but did not believe the airspace infraction would lead to a conflict, reported BBC News.

Relations between the two countries, which have always been strained, are particularly shaky after the attack in Mumbai which led to the deaths of 170 people. Pakistan's intelligence agency has openly aided Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the November attacks.

Pakistan reported that they had already contacted Indian officials about the airspace crossover and were assured the incident was accidental.

India denied any wrongdoing in the incident, saying they did not fly into Pakistani airspace.

December 7, 2008

Gov. Pawlenty To Travel To Israel

Gov. Tim Pawlenty will travel to Israel on Thursday on a mission to promote Minnesota businesses in the region, reported The Pioneer Press.

Following in Arne Carlson's footsteps, who 15 years earlier made this same trip as governor to promote trade with the region, Pawlenty will lead a team of business leaders, reported The Star Tribune.

Israel is Minnesota's 22nd largest export market, shipping over $121 million of goods--largely computer products and machinery--to the country.

Pawlenty will make stops in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and will speak at an economic conference.

Pawlenty is no stranger to trade missions. He has made stops this year in Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Poland and India.

Channeling Eisenhower, Obama Proposes Major Public Works Projects

Inheriting a major economic crisis, President-elect Barack Obama unveiled plans Saturday for the largest public works construction program since Dwight D. Eisenhower's interstate highway system over 50 years ago, reported The New York Times.

To bolster a weak and shrinking job market, Obama's public works plan will include new jobs to make buildings more energy efficient, repair aging highways, implement electronic medical record systems in hospitals, and install new computers in schools, reported The Washington Post.

Adopting a "New Deal" attitude, Obama said more government intervention is necessary in order to reverse the economic downturn, create more jobs for middle- and low-income workers, and modernize the United States.

Conservatives, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), strongly oppose throwing the government's weight around, however, saying strong government presence in the economy is the wrong direction.

"Anyone who has talked to the American people knows that while they are hurting, they don't believe that more Washington spending is the answer," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.

While conservatives support lowering taxes to promote consumer spending, Obama's plan reveals he is not afraid to spend money to fix the economy.

“I think he understands if you’re trying to reverse the economy and turn it around," Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat and chairman of the National Governors Association, said in an interview Saturday, "this is not the time to do it on the cheap. This is not the time to do it in small doses.?

Teenager's Death Sparks Riots In Greece

Hundreds of students, angry over the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy, rioted Saturday and into Sunday, reported The New York Times.

"It's not the first time. They always kill people - immigrants, innocent people - and without any excuse," a protester said. "They murdered him in cold blood."

The riots began just hours after police shot 15-year-old Andreas Grigoropoulos in the Exarchia district in Athens, an area rife with conflicts between police and far-left youth.

In the worst riots Greece has seen in 15 years, hundreds of rioters smashed store fronts, damaged parked cars, and even set a car showroom on fire. As riot police fired tear gas at the group, the youth returned fire with petrol bombs, reported BBC News.

The rioters retreated to the Polytechnic campus for the night where police are not allowed entrance.

At least 34 people have been injured as riots resumed in Athens and in neighboring cities on Sunday.

Greece's minister of the interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, condemned the shooting and offered Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis his resignation who promptly rejected it. Pavlopoulos also called for peace in the cities.

"It is everyone's right to demonstrate and to advocate for their rights," Pavlopoulos said. "But I stress, not by destroying the property of others, not turning against people who are not to blame for anything."