November 2009 Archives

HCMC launches ad campaign in hopes of restoring funds

by Greta Kaul

            The elimination of the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program will leave the Hennepin County Medical Center with a $42 million loss this year, according to MinnPost.

            The HCMC has commissioned a marketing campaign designed to shock Minnesotans into supporting the restoration of the GAMC by exposing potential effects of the cuts.

            On a slim budget of $30,000, the "Will You Lose" campaign by Blair Fellman uses a Cold War-style atomic fallout map, and slogans like "DO IT YOURSELF DENTAL" to promote the partial or full restoration of the GAMC, according to MinnPost.

            The shift from the GAMC to the MinnesotaCare program this March will force the HCMC to cut 150 to 200 jobs.  They also plan to stop treating uninsured non-emergency patients who live outside of Hennepin County, according to the Star Tribune.

             HCMC officials told county commissioners Tuesday that legislative relief is the only way to make up for the loss of the GAMC.  Board Chairman Mike Opat is not optimistic about its restoration, leaving commissioners puzzling over how to fix a $25 million gap in funding, according to the Star Tribune.

            The HCMC is hopeful that the "Will You Lose" campaign will convince Minnesotans of the need to restore the GAMC on a grassroots level, according to MinnPost.

Analysis: Diversity

            USA Today did a story about a trend in rising Asian-American employment at a time when unemployment has been going up for every other racial group.
             I talked to Steven, an economics student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who wants his last name to remain anonymous.  I asked him to read the article.  His impression was that the article didn't make any attempts to go beyond the stereotype.  It stereotyped Asians as better able to cope with the recession because they are "more educated" and retain cultural norms from their home countries that shun unemployment.  By centering the story around Asian stereotypes, and using quotes and anecdotes that support them, it is doing nothing but perpetuating the stereotype, Steven said.  He said he would have liked to have seen another side to the story.

Kelliher gets second union endorsement

by Greta Kaul

            Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher was endorsed by a second union in her bid for the 2010 governor's race endorsement from the DFL Thursday.

            The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 endorsed Kelliher after screening 10 candidates.  Kelliher was given the endorsement because she created jobs by overturning a Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto of a transportation package last year, according to the Pioneer Press.

            Last week, Kelliher was endorsed by the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), according to MinnPost.

            Other unions have endorsed DFL candidates Mark Dayton, Tom Bakk, Paul Thissen, R.T. Rybak and Tom Rukavina, MinnPost said.

Minneapolis man indicted on conspiracy charges

by Greta Kaul

            A Minneapolis man became the sixth Somalian with local ties to be charged in a federal terrorism investigation.

             The investigation aims to find the recruiter of Somalian men to return to their homeland and fight with the terrorist organization Al-Sharaab Thursday, according to the Star Tribune.

            Omer Abdi Mohamed, 24, was indicted on charges of conspiring to provide support to terrorists in the U.S. Distric Court Thursday. 

            He was charged with conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons in a foreign land on allegations that he "knowingly committed and caused" six men to travel from Minneapolis to Somalia, according to MPR.

            A judge said Mohamed could be released from jail but will be electronically monitored, must surrender his passport, and remain in Minnesota, according to MPR.  His lawyer argued that, as a new father, he is not at risk to flee, according to the Star Tribune.

            Mohamed is a permanent resident of Minnesota who has been laid off from his job as an employment counselor for the state, MPR said.

Stimulus job reports may be innacurate

by Greta Kaul

            The federal stimulus watchdog said he would not vouch for the White House's claim that the stimulus saved or created 640,000 jobs Thursday.

            Earl Devaney, whose agency produced the data, said under questioning that accounting for job creation with reports filed by recipients of stimulus money was error-prone, according to the Associated Press.

            He added the administration should have been more skeptical of the numbers when it announced that the stimulus was on track with its goal of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010, according to the AP.

            Devaney told officials that missing reports and inaccuracies in reporting could drive job numbers above or below the projected 640,000, the New York Times said. 

            Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., an author of the stimulus bill, called the data mistakes "ludicrous," according to the NY Times.

            A report by the Government Accountability Office found many jobs reported by agencies that had not reported spending any of their stimulus money, and many agencies that received large sums of money reporting no job creation, according to the NY Times.

            Devaney said that the downside to the transparency of the federal stimulus was embarrassment, according to the AP.

2009: a good year for Leonid meteor-watching

by Greta Kaul

            MSNBC reports that the Leonid meteor shower will peak between 1:00 a.m. and dawn Tuesday, Nov. 17.  This is expected to be an exceptional year for the Leonids, which are one of the most impressive meteor showers annually, the Baltimore Sun said.

            In Asia, as many as 200 to 300 meteors may be viewed hourly during the peak time, compared to 20 to 30 in the Americas, still an impressive display, according to MSNBC.  Viewers in urban and suburban areas will see less because of local lighting, however, moonlight interference should not be a problem this year because the moon is in its new phase.

            The Leonid meteor showers are caused as Comet Swift-Tuttle passes through the inner solar system, leaving debris, MSNBC said.

            If clouds prevent meteor viewing on Tuesday morning, Wednesday should provide viewers with a second chance, as the Leonids are active for a few days before and after their peak, the Baltimore Sun said.

U.S. and Russia wait on Iranian energy action

by Greta Kaul

            President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said they wouldn't wait much longer for Tehran to accept an Iranian energy proposal at an APEC summit in Singapore Sunday, the Los Angeles Times said.

            The proposal, brokered by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, called for Iran to send 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium abroad to be converted to fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor, Reuters said.

            Iran agreed to the proposal last month, but has since created obstacles.  If Iran does not act by year's end, it will face harsher economic sanctions, according to the LA Times.

            Some Western countries, including the U.S., allege that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.  The proposal to outsource uranium would not leave Iran with enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb, the LA Times said.

            Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is waiting to determine the sincerity of the Western countries in talks before it responds to Sunday's comments, Reuters said.

Analysis: Numbers in a story about Medicare cuts

by Greta Kaul

            In a Washinton Post story about cutting Medicare, the reporter writes about a $1.05 trillion reform package and $500 billion in cuts.  These numbers are so large that they're difficult to comprehend, but the reporter had few options.  The numbers given are things people need to know, even if they don't understand the impact that they cause by virtue of the sheer mass of them.
            The reporter makes an increase in national health care spending more understandable by giving the number in the form of a percent: an increase of 1 percent over a decade.  This is easier to understand than a dollar amount would have been in the context for the reader.  The reporter uses different time frames, "$200 billion by 2019," and "Medicare spending per beneficiary would have to grow at roughly half the rate it has over the past two decades...", which makes it hard for the reader to put together, perhaps, as a timeline in their head.
            Most of the numbers come from a government evaluation report, and are cited as such.  Some come from speculation by either the Republicans or Democrats, but are also cited as such.


Germany celebrates the fall of the Wall

by Greta Kaul

            Berlin celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall Monday.  Despite bad weather and heavy rain, thousands attended the celebration, NPR said.

            The anniversary is important because it marks a generation of young Germans who have lived without the twelve-foot wall that separated East and West Germany for nearly 100 miles, NPR said.  It stood for 28 years.

            One thousand plastic foam dominoes were toppled on the remnants of the wall to symbolize the fall of the Iron Curtain and communism in Eastern Europe, The New York Times said.

            At least 130 people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall from East Germany to West Germany before it fell in 1989, NPR said.  In the days following the fall, 3 million East Germans visited West Berlin, the NY Times said.

            German chancellor Helmut Kohl said that after the shame of the Nazi rule in Germany, the reunification 11 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall gave Germans something to be proud of, according to the NY Times.

Different health care plan for Minnesota's poor

by Greta Kaul

            The Pawlenty administration announced that health care for thousands of poor and chronically ill Minnesotans would be shifted to a program for the working poor, the Pioneer Press said.

            The General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), which provides care to many chronically and mentally ill Minnesotans, will terminate March 1, the Star Tribune said.  MinnesotaCare, a subsidized health insurance plan, will cover about 28,000 of the 36,000 recipients dropped from the GAMC.

            The GAMC provided $381 million in benefits to those who made under $7,800 annually, the Pioneer Press said.

            County and hospital officials called the shift a temporary fix, according to the Star Tribune.   Hospitals said that the new program could devastate their balance sheets, the Pioneer Press said.

            State residents cannot apply for MinnesotaCare after they have been treated as they could under the GAMC plan, the Star Tribune said.

Revised settlement on Google Books

by Greta Kaul

            A revised settlement proposed Friday would allow Google to digitize out-of-print books from English-speaking countries only, restrict the money made on them, and mandate a registry to seek copyright holders who do not come forward, CNET news said.

            Google insists that it still be allowed to scan "orphan books," whose authors are unknown or cannot be located, BusinessWeek said.  An independent trustee would collect orphan book revenues for up to ten years, at which point the money would be put to locating the authors of other orphan books. 

            Under the revision, readers will be able to preview and buy books on Google Books, CNET news said.  Institutions will be able to buy subscriptions, and libraries will have free access at some computers.

            Google Books' mission since 2003 has been to make books more accessible by digitizing them and making them searchable.  Since, Google has faced lawsuits and opposition from authors internationally, CNET news said.

            The U.S. District Court is expected to hear arguments for and against the revisal from groups like the Open Book Alliance within the week, BusinessWeek said.

Star Tribune to cut more jobs

by Greta Kaul

            The Star Tribune announced that it would cut 100 more jobs in a memo on Monday, the Associated Press said.

            The cuts come after the Star Tribune emerged from bankruptcy protection, according to the AP.  Thirty percent of the job cuts will take place in the newsroom and editorial staff, the AP said.

            Buyouts and layoffs will take place over the next two months, the Triangle Business Journal said.

            The Star Tribune's daily circulation has fallen 5.53 percent.  In an effort to further cut costs, the Star Tribune has dropped its Saturday newsstand edition in favor of an earlier Sunday edition, the Triangle Business Journal said.

Cao is sole Republican to vote for health care bill

by Greta Kaul

            Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La., was the only House Republican to vote in favor of the Democratic health care overhaul Saturday, according to CNN.

            Cao made his decision after a personal call from President Barack Obama around noon on Saturday, CNN said.

            The final vote on the health care bill came down to 220 to 215 in favor, Newsweek said.

            Despite Republican criticism, Cao said he made "the right decision based on my conscience"--he supported the bill only after the addition of an amendment that banned coverage of most abortions under the public option, according to CNN. 

            Cao represents one of the most impoverished regions of southern Louisiana, which includes areas that surround New Orleans, an area still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, Newsweek said.

Analysis: Obituary of Claude Lévi-Strauss

by Greta Kaul

            I looked at the obituary of Claude Lévi-Strauss in the New York Times.  Disregarding a few minor punctuation differences, the lead follows the New York Times obituary formula.  The sources that the writer used were Lévi-Strauss's son, who talked about more personal aspects, anthropology experts, who talked about the importance of Lévi-Strauss's work, and the work of the man himself, which gave the reader an idea of what he did with his life.

            The obituary differs from a resume of Lévi-Strauss because it only talked about important things, for example, if he worked as a bag boy when he was fourteen, the article didn't mention it.  It also backed up the credentials of the deceased with quotes from other people and his own works.  The effect is to tell the reader why he mattered.

U.S. to be blamed for climate negotiation delay

by Greta Kaul

            The U.S. is likely to be blamed for a six-to-12 month delay in climate change deal negotiations to take place at the U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen in Dec., Reuters said.

            The deal is also expected to suffer because the countries with the most greenhouse gas emissions are refusing to commit to any legally binding reductions, the Times said.

            The U.S. is being criticized for failure to meet a Dec. deadline on a carbon emission reduction target, Reuters said.

            The best to be hoped for at Copenhagen, according to British officials, are non-binding political agreements on emission cuts and establishing payments to help reduce poor countries' emissions, the Times said.

            American negotiators said the U.S. should be judged, rather,  on Obama's commitment to $80 billion in clean energy funds, Reuters said.

Bachmann leads health care bill protest

by Greta Kaul

            Thousands of conservatives joined Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann Friday to protest the Democrat health care overhaul legislation, the Associated Press said.

            Twelve protesters were arrested at the U.S. capital on charges ranging from unlawful entry to disorderly conduct, the Star Tribune said.

            Other Republican house leaders greeted the protesters, but Bachmann, who promoted the event in several television interviews, led it, the Star Tribune said.

            The crowd chanted "Kill the bill," as Bachmann took the microphone, the AP said.

            Democrats hope to pass the bill Saturday, according to the AP.  It is endorsed by the American Medical Association and AARP, the AP said.

Obama meets with American Indian tribes

by Greta Kaul

            President Barack Obama met with 400 tribal leaders Thursday at the first White House-sponsored American Indian conference in 15 years, NEWSOK said.

            The goal of the conference was to improve the often-troubled relationship between American Indians and the federal government, the New York Times said.  Obama said he would work with tribes to solve problems that have faced American Indians for decades, such as education and tribal law enforcement, NEWSOK said.

            Tribal leaders said they are glad that the Obama administration has done a better job of establishing communications between Indian tribes and the federal government than past administrations, the New York Times said.

            Obama said that Washington should not dictate a policy agenda for Indian tribes, according to NEWSOK.

            Joseph Trujillo of the Pueblo Cohiti Tribe said it would be more effective for administration officials to visit the tribes and see their needs firsthand, the New York Times said.


Coleman elected for second term

by Greta Kaul

            St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman won his second term reelection bid Tuesday, the Star Tribune said.

            Coleman, who was DFL-endorsed, led GOP-endorsed businesswoman Eva Ng by more than a 2-to-1 ratio with 90 percent of St. Paul's precincts reporting, the Star Tribune said.

            Few believed the race would be close, according to the Pioneer Press.  The question was not whether Coleman would win, but rather how his winning would affect his potential bid for governor in 2010, the Pioneer Press said.

            In his campaign, Coleman emphasized the progress made on the Central Corridor light-rail line, fixing unbalances in the city budget, and creating after-school programs for kids, the Star Tribune said.

Michelle Obama launches mentoring program

by Greta Kaul

            Michelle Obama launched a mentoring program to give local high school girls a chance to connect to the White House, the Associated Press said.

            To kick off the program, thirteen girls met with mentors at the White House to kick off the program Monday, the AP said.  The program has been a goal of Michelle Obama's since becoming first lady.

            The program, now in early stages, intends to match 20 high school girls with 20 mentors, the AP said.  The mentors will be senior women from the White House staff, the Washington Post said.

            The students were chosen by their high school principals as girls who could benefit from the program, the AP said.  They will meet with their mentors once a month through August at the White House.

            Michelle Obama has often talked about the importance of role models in her life, the Washington Post said.  She told the girls that she expects that they, too, become mentors in the lives of children, the AP said.

            The White House intends to start a similar program for boys, according to the Washington Post.

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