March 2011 Archives

Target sues gay rights group

by Maddy Hughes
SAN DIEGO--Target has filed a lawsuit against a pro-gay marriage group for campaigning outside of stores in San Diego, Minnesota Public Radio and the Huffington Post both reported.

Their decision to sue the group comes after two events concerning their relationship with the gay/ lesbian community that have both created bad publicity and tension between their company and this client base. While the company claims that the lawsuit has nothing to do with the cause they were campaigning for but rather the distraction it was causing to customers, it does not look good added on to the previous issues with their public image.

The first instance that got them into trouble was their $150,000 donation to a business group that supported a Minnesota candidate who opposed gay marriage. After issuing a public apology basically saying that everyone had misinterpreted their donation, they also had a tentative partnership with Lady Gaga to promote her new album which was short-lived and fell through after their business meeting, which reportedly resulted in a conflict concerning their policy.

During the court hearing Friday in San Diego, Judge Jeffrey Barton asked why Target attorney David McDowell had not provided proof of the customers being upset over the activists, but McDowell replied that he could get it, but should not need it since the case is about keeping people off their private property.

Brian W. Pease, attorney of the gay rights group Canvass For a Cause, said that the area in which they were petitioning was considered by courts to be an area appropriate for groups to exercise free speech.

Target maintained that they have asked plenty of organizations to respect the privacy of the area surrounding their store, and their action against Canvass For a Cause did not involve any sort of political agenda. Arguments went back and forth, and Judge Barton announced that he would make a decision by the end of next week.

Bill to cut light-rail funding moves through House

by Maddy Hughes
A bill proposed by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville to cut funds for the rail project moved up in the Minnesota House Monday night.

The bill would cut $69 million from a transit fund to light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit, and would instead use the money to make up for a potential $51 million cut in general transit funds.

The cut would lead to an increase in bus fare. On Monday it passed through the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee and still waits to pass the Ways and Means Committee.

Proponents of the bill were mostly GOP legislators, reflecting a history of division on the topic of transit funding between them and DFLers, who are known to generally support public transit.

The GOP argument for the bill says that it would amount to an overall increase in funding for transit operations, however the opponents say that their estimate of car sales tax revenue is too high.

The bill includes a plan to first pay off debt for projects like the Central Corridor light rail. To fill in the gap needed to pay for the light rail project, the Met would have to borrow money. The transferred money comes from a quarter-cent sales tax on five counties for rail and bus rapid transit.

Women in Egypt beaten by army officers

by Maddy Hughes
Women's Views on News and the New York Times both recently reported about the assaults on 19 women by the military in Egypt.

Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his position as president, the military has reportedly stepped in as the force to maintain order in the country, even above the police force. From the start, protesters for the most part regarded the army as an ally in their political revolution. But the military seems to dislike the chaos so much that some members have taken to torturing protesters.

On March 9 the army evacuated more than 190 people centered in Tahrir Square, also known as the central location of the revolution, "Liberation Square." Nineteen of these were women taken to an Egyptian museum, tied to a fence surrounding it and beaten or electrocuted.

One of these women, Salwa al-Housini Gouda, told the story from that day. She was taken along with the 18 other women afterward to a military prison, where they were all tested for virginity on a bed in a hallway.

The army denied the account to be true but some of the other women as well as human rights groups confirmed that it had happened. Ragia Omran, a Cairo human rights lawyer, said that their actions were technically sexual assaults, but the military is considered above the law, keeping them safe from punishment.

This event is an example of the hardships involved with a revolution--chaos is not enough to ensure the progress of a nation.

Triangle Shirtwaist fire inspires Mn educational series

by Maddy Hughes
In light of the national focus on laborers' rights, a series of events called "Then and Now: Immigrants, Workers, and the Search for Justice" has been scheduled in St. Paul to educate and call attention to the history of workers' unions.

This year is the centennial anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, an event that represents the mistreatment of public workers. Twin Cities Daily Planet and MinnPost explain that the incident was unfair to workers because factory managers had locked the doors that workers tried to escape through.

The workers, most of which were Jewish and Italian immigrant women, had gathered two years before the fire in a strike to preserve union rights and lost, being forced to keep their jobs in the dangerous Triangle factory.

The first event of the series, which has brought together over 30 organizations to participate, was a film screening about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire at Macalester College on March 6, followed by a panel discussion.

The series includes documentary film screenings, photo exhibits, and more education sessions going all the way through late May. The list and details of events is right here.

Macalester history professor Dr. Peter Rachleff is one of the event's coordinators working with Jewish Community Action, a group that is sponsoring the series.

Earthquake in Japan causes shift in earth's axis

by Maddy Hughes
The earthquake that brought on a tsunami in Japan Friday left significant changes beyond just the damage it did to Japan, NASA discovered and made public for many news sources to report. USA Today and Yahoo News both told of the record-breaking earthquake's effects on the planet.

It turns out that in its wake, the 8.9-magnitude earthquake moved the location of Japan 13 feet closer to the U.S., according to geophysicist Ross Stein at the United States Geological Survey. It also shifted the balance of the planet, making the earth spin slightly faster, and therefore shortening the day by 1.6 microseconds.

As the pacific tectonic plate slid beneath the North American plate, the eastern coast of Japan sunk and was consumed by the tsumani, which sent waves traveling at 500 mph.

Richard Gross from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that these changes are no cause for concern, as shifts in the earth's axis are not unusual and happen because of changes in other forces like atmospheric winds and ocean currents.

But this natural disaster has definitely been a cause for deep concern in Japan, where it has killed nearly 10,000, and in Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai, all of which were affected by the tsunami.

by Maddy Hughes
Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have publicly announced their support of the protesting opposition to Libya's leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, The New York Times and BBC News reported.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told reporters on Thursday that Obama is receiving "the broadest possible decision space" for a plan of action, and stressed the point that a decision has not yet been reached. One option Obama said the U.S. would consider is to enforce a "no-flight zone" over Libya, which would mean wiping out their air forces.

The decision to be made is compromised by the part of the U.S. in two other wars, and the unwillingness of European allies to join the U.S. in placing a no-flight-zone to prevent opposition of the rebels from shooting them.

Obama maintained that the best-case scenario would be for the rebels in Libya to overcome the situation on their own such as was done by similar rebels in Egypt. However, the opposition in Libya is less relenting than it was in Egypt, with Qaddafi's supporters still trying to gain hold of rebel-controlled cities.

Hillary Clinton was more open to the possibility of imposing a no-flight-zone. She appeared at Capitol Hill Tuesday advising Congress not to cut funding for help to crises abroad, one day after the U.S. started to organize warship and aircraft near Libya.

Although unclear what U.S. action would be most helpful to the situation, Gates announced that 400 Marines were deployed to assist refugees from Libya. Meanwhile, Obama and his administration are applying pressure on Col. Qaddafi to step down from power and leave the country.

Wisconsin lawmaker tackled by police

by Maddy Hughes
MADISON, Wis.-- TIME and The Washington Post, along with many other publications, reported police tackling a representative from Wisconsin trying to get into the Capitol Thursday, after it had been closed to the public.

Because of all the protests in Wisconsin in the past couple weeks, Democratic representative Nick Milroy attributed their action to an error in judgment. He was dressed in street clothes as he tried to enter the Capitol to get clothes from his office after 6 p.m., and the understandably exhausted police officers mistook him for a protester.

A judge had ordered that the building be shut down earlier that day, in response, after weeks, to the thousands of protesters camping out overnight inside the Capitol and resuming their riots there during the day.

The video of the incident, taken by WISN-TV, shows Milroy close to the doors when the police order him to stay away. He tries to show his ID but doesn't have enough time before they tackle him.

Milroy calmed viewers by saying there was "no harm, no foul in this incident" and that the weeks of chaos have taken their toll on everyone, including himself. Milroy was one of the four Assembly members who, earlier in the week, moved their desks to the front lawn after public access to the Capitol was restricted.

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