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October 26, 2008

White Bear Lake mayor levied with 13 tax leins

White Bear Lake Mayor Paul Auger admitted to media on Thursday to significant tax delinquencies, according to the Pioneer Press.

Ramsey County records show that at one time Auger owed more than $230,000 in taxes to the IRS. Auger stated that although he isn't sure what the current total is, he assured that the amount was far less than the $230,000 figure.

State and Federal tax agencies have levied 13 liens against Auger's assets in an effort to rectify Auger's balance of debt, including Auger automotive.

"Apparently, I do a good job as mayor, because I've been re-elected, and I'm a fine mechanic, but I'm a lousy accountant," Auger said Thursday.

The White Bear Press reported that the issue, though likely resolved by the end of the year, was the result of Auger failing to pay the $35,000 capital gains tax from the sale of his grandparent's home.

Auger, who has been White Bear Lake's mayor since 1996, said that although he made some poor decisions, it will not affect his ability to lead as mayor.

Although, “It’s definitely added a few gray hairs,? he said.



Arkansas newscaster dies after brutal attack

Little Rock television newscaster, Anne Pressley, 26, succumbed to her injuries on Saturday, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Pressley, who was hospitalized the past five days, was attacked in her home and brutally beaten during a suspected robbery earlier in the week.

Pressley, who was a morning anchor for KATV channel 7, was pronounced dead a little after 7:00pm on Saturday, as Pressley's family looked on.

“We are profoundly saddened to tell you that our dear Annehas lost her struggle for life,? Pressly’s parents, Guy and Patti Cannady, said in a statement through a St. Vincent Medical Center spokesman.

Although, the Pressley family did share some optimism, according to the New York Times:

“It was our hope, as was yours, that Anne would overcome the injuries inflicted upon her in the brutal attack at her home. We were with her in her last moments, and although our hearts are broken, we are at the same time comforted by our faith knowing that Anne is now with our heavenly father.?

Pressley was found by her mother after wake-up calls to Pressley were not answered on Tuesday morning.

Local police stated that Pressley suffered trauma to her head, neck, and face, according to the New York Times.

Pressley's credit card was used at a local service station just after the attack.



October 22, 2008

India launches unmanned lunar module

India made history on Wednesday, launching a lunar module into space, marking the nations first expedition into space, according to CNN.

The unmanned lunar module, Chandrayaan-1, was launched from the Sriharikota space center in southern India at 6:20am Wednesday morning.

CNN reports that the orbiter will conduct lunar-mapping of the moon with an emphasis on the polar regions of the moon's surface.

The spacecraft itself will not land on the moon, but will dispatch a small probe onto the moon's surface, according to the New York Times.

India's historic space mission comes about a year after China's first successful lunar mission.

Although a China-India space race has been largely downplayed, Indian officials have commented on Indian aspirations relative to their neighbor, "China has gone earlier, but today we are trying to catch them, catch that gap, bridge the gap,? Bhaskar Narayan, a director at the Indian space agency, was quoted by Reuters as having said.

Many critics have steeped forward to comment on the undertaking, citing the hefty price tag of $80 million as a misuse of national resources.

Bharat Karnad, a strategic affairs analyst, has characterized the mission as a "prestige project" which misconstrues real Indian priorities.



October 19, 2008

Michelle Bachmann faces backlash over "Obama" comments

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann is facing a public backash over her comments on Barack Obama, according to Kare11.

Bachmann appeared on the MSNBC program "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. Bachmann, who is running for reelection in Minnesota's 6th district, was asked if she felt that Obama held "ant-american views." Bachmann said: "Absolutely. I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views."

Her statements appear to be a sharp contrast from statements made a day earlier at a debate in St. Cloud.

"If the presidency would somehow go to Barack Obama, I would welcome him to the 6th District as well," Bachmann said after the debate. "As a matter of fact, I would put my hand on his shoulder and give him a kiss if he wanted to" -- a reference to when Bachmann gained notoriety for grabbing President Bush's shoulder after his 2007 State of the Union address and holding on until he kissed her."

Aside from criticisms on Bachmann's comments as distasteful, Democratic challenger El Tinklenberg has received almost half million dollars online since Bachmann's comments first aired, according to the Pioneer Press.

Bachmann based her comments on Obama's relationships with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

Tinklenber spokesman, John Wodele, stated that Bachmann's statements went too far.

"There was a spark already. But she poured fuel on that spark, and it just exploded," Wodele said. "It struck people as inappropriate."



Las Vegas boy found safe

Cole Puffinburger, the six-year-old Las Vegas boy who was abducted Wednesday, was found late Saturday night in a NE Las Vegas suburb.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas boy was found and taken to a local hospital as a precaution, and later returned to his father.

FBI investigators arrested Puffinburger's grandfather, Clemons Fred Tinnemeyer, 51. Officials said Tinnemeyer stole millions of dollars from a Mexican drug-trafficking syndicate. The kidnapping of Puffinburger is believed to be in retaliation for the robbery by Tinnemeyer, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The Grandfather's link with Mexican drug dealers has resulted in police officials interviewing the young Puffinburger boy to obtain any information on the individuals involved in the kidnapping, according to the Washington Post.

"We're speaking with the boy today. I know he's being interviewed by law enforcement, and we'll probably get a better idea of where he's been," FBI spokesman David Staretz said Sunday.



Taliban fighters attack, kill civilians

Taliban fighters attacked a two-bus convoy on Thursday, kidnapping and killing around 30 civilians, according to CNN.

Government officials identified the casualties as civilians, while a Taliban spokesman claimed the victims were Afghan soldiers.

The Afghan Defense Ministry Spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said ''Our soldiers travel by military convoy, not in civilian buses. And we have military air transportation,'' Disputing the Taliban's claims, according to the New York Times.

The kidnapping occurred in a notoriously dangerous part of southern Afghanistan in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar province.

The exact number of civilians captured is highly disputed, according to the New York Times. Anywhere between 27 to 40 civilians may have been killed. While a spokesman for Kandahar's provincial governor said figures would be impossible to verify with absolute certainty.

According to CNN, Taliban officals often exaggerate or distort figures but have also often been very accurate when compared to government reports.



October 13, 2008

Man foubd dead in St. Francis

A 45-year-old man was found dead under a bridge near the Rum River on Thursday, according to the Pioneer Press.

The body was located at 2:30pm under a Rum River bridge off of Bridge street in St. Francis.

According to the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, the man was lying under a bridge near a bicycle, but it is unclear whether the bicycle belonged to the man, according to the Pioneer Press.

Initial reports by the Pioneer Press stated that the cause of death was unclear.

However, the Star Tribune has since reported that the man's death was likely accidental, as Anoka county officials have stated that alcohol was likely involved.

No other vehicles or individuals are believed to be involved in the death.



Conneticut court approves same-sex marriage by 4-3 vote

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Friday, ruling that lesser measures, such as civil unions, go against efforts for full equality, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"We therefore agree with the plaintiffs that 'maintaining a second-class citizen status for same-sex couples by excluding them from the institution of civil marriage' " violates constitutional guarantees of equality, the state court said.

The court voted 4 to 3 to approve gay marriage, which ends the legal efforts of eight same-sex marriage couples who sued the state four years ago after being denied marriage licenses.

Connecticut become just the third state to allow same-sex marriages, with California and Massachusetts.

However, California citizens will have the opportunity to rescind their states' same-sex policy in a ballot measure vote set for next month, according to USAToday. The gay marriage ban, if it fails in California, would be the first instance in U.S. history that a state approved same-sex marriages by popular vote.

One of the couples involved in the Connecticut lawsuits spoke about their feelings on the ruling.

"I can't believe it. We're thrilled; we're absolutely overjoyed. We're finally going to be able, after 33 years, to get married," said plaintiff Janet Peck of Colchester. "We've always dreamed of being married," she said. "Even though we were lesbians and didn't know if that would ever come true, we always dreamed of it," according to USAToday.



North Korea removed from U.S. list of 'terror' states

U.S. officials have removed North Korea from the list of international states which support terrorism, according to CNN.

The retraction from the U.S. is part of an ongoing effort to secure and legitimize a nuclear deactivation accord, which North Korea and the U.S. had previously agreed upon.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack explained the move on Saturday, ""Based upon the cooperation agreement North Korea has recently provided ... the secretary of state this morning rescinded the designation of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that was effective as of her signature," McCormack said.

Relations between the U.S. and North Korea were strained prior, due to North Korea's efforts to reactivate nuclear arm sites and to not succumb to the full measure of the U.S.'s nuclear verification proposal.

"Every element of verification that we sought is included in this package," McCormack said at a news conference.

According to the Washington Times, the efforts by the Bush administration to secure the foreign policy agreement are being seen as a final push to secure an international victory.

Both presidential candidates have been somewhat critical of the removal of North Korea from the terrorism support states.

Senator John McCain, according to the Washington Times, stated his concern that North Korea is not serious about denuclearizing.

Senator Obama called the plan " a modest step forward" in the nuclear weapon removal of North Korea.



October 1, 2008

Marathon runners barred from using MP3 devices

An effort that reflects the USA Track and Field marathon regulations, this Sunday's Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon will bar contestants from using electronic devices, according to the Pioneer Press.

USA Track and Field is the governing body of competitive marathon running, which adopted the electronic rule in 2006.

Other marathons permit the use of electronics, but to be sanctioned by USA Track and Field, runners must desist from using banned devices, according to the Pioneer Press.

The USA Track and Field defines the banned devices in the language of the rules, which states infractions as "the visible possession or use by athletes of video or audio cassette recorders or players,TVs, CD or DVD players, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, or any similar devices in the competition area."

The ban is included in the USA Track and Field rulebook, according to the Pioneer Press, cited under the rulebook's section on unfair advantages, as studies have shown that audio devices can assist in cardiovascular activity.

Although, marathon officials maintain that the issue isn't advantage, it's safety. "It's really more of a safety issue," said USA Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer. "It's not assistance with a capital A," according to the Pioneer Press.

Last year's marathon saw over 100 runners disqualified after breaking the rule, according to KARE 11. Although the rule is nothing new to seasoned Twin Cities runners. The Twin Cities Marathon has banned electronic devices since 2000.

This Sunday's marathon is expected to draw 11,000 runners to the Twin Cities, according to Kare 11.



Bloomberg challenges term-limit rule, looks for re-election

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to the Washington Post, is likely to announce, as early as Thursday, plans to revise term-limit law, which would allow the mayor to seek a third term in office.

Bloomberg, who is set to leave office at the end of next year, is expected to cite the looming financial crisis and increasing economic instability as adequate conditions for term-limit law revision, according to the Washington Post.

In the past, Bloomberg has supported term-limits, but has seemed to waver as of late, according to the Washington Post. Bloomberg still carries a high-approval rating and infamous term-limit supporter Ronald Lauder recently characterized Bloomberg's experience, potentially honed for a third term, as "invaluable."

However, Bloomberg, who faced New York's economic issues after 9/11, is up against an equally sizeable challenge, according to the New York Times.

“I would say it’s a bigger economic challenge for him than Sept. 11,? said John Tepper Marlin, chief economist for the New York City comptroller’s office from 1992 to 2006.

“It’s not just New York City — it’s a whole system in trouble. Yet it’s our residents and our workers who will be affected.?

The decision of whether to allow for a revision to term-limit law is likely to be left to the New York City Council, according to the Washington Post.

Although voters supported a term-limit referendum, the city council can overturn the law by a majority vote. A vote that council members said they would likely support if Bloomberg declared his intentions to run for re-election.

According to the Washington Post, the city council's control is being seen as a departure from normative democracy by undermining voters.

"It's just plain wrong to overturn the will of the voters by legislation," said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "We're supposed to be a government of laws, not of men. It's supposed to be what's good for New York, not what's good for Michael Bloomberg."



U.S. and North Korea disuss nucelar arms

U.S. representative Christopher Hill arrived in North Korea Wednesday for talks aimed at solidifying a disarmament proposal previously agreed upon, according to CNN.

North Korea extended an invitation to the U.S. to participate in multi-capital talks between North and South Korea, as well as Japan and China, according to CNN.

"The North Koreans invited Chris Hill to come, so we hope that there is some effort to address the verification protocol, because that's what we need," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters Monday.

The main contention between the U.S. and North Korea are the terms regarding Korea's agreement to disable nuclear facilities at their Yongbyon site, according to CNN. North Korea has since taken measures to potentially reactivate their nuclear facilities, deaparting from the February 2007 agreement.

The North Korean government has requested a removal from the U.S.'s list of countries that support terrorism, while U.S. officials have stated that no such exemption can be made until Korea submits to verification measures which will ensure North Korean compliance, according to CNN.

CNN reports that North Korea feels the demands by the U..S are too intrusive.

According to the New York Times, Hill is delivering the verification measures proposal to Korean officials. Essentially requiring North Korea to allow visits to undeclared sites and provide soil samples at nuclear facilities.

A large reason for optimism is that these new measures specify that North Korea report to China and not the U.S., according to the New York Times. China is the lead nation in the multi-national disarmament talks.

According to the New York Times, with increasing suspicion that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's health is failing, it remains unclear who controls Korea's nuclear future.