May 4, 2008

Sudanese man released from Guantanamo after six years

A cameraman for the al Jazeera television station was released from Guantanamo Bay after being detained for six years, the BBC reported.

Sami al-Hajj returned home to Sudan after being imprisoned by the United States in Guantanamo and in Afghanistan.

He arrived in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, early Friday. Weak from a 16-month hunger strike, he was carried off the plane by U.S. military personnel.

Hajj was arrested by Pakistani troops near the Afghanistan border in 2001. He was later handed over to the United States.

He was accused of being involved in militant groups, and the U.S. military alleged he had helped fund fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia in the 1990s.

He was never charged.

The United States created the camp in Guantanamo in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects, the BBC said.

More than 275 detainees remain there. The United States hopes to try at least 80 of them in court.

Minimum wage could reach $7.90 if Gov. gives okay

A bill to raise the minimum wage to as much as $7.90 by July 2009 passed the House today, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty said changes will have to made for him to approve it, the Pioneer Press said.

The legislation passed 82-45 in the House, after the Senate approved a similar bill a year ago. Three years earlier, Minnesota’s minimum wage was raised to $6.15 an hour for large employers.

This bill, if approved by the governor, would increase wages for large and small businesses.

Man dies in St. Paul after police Taser

A suicidal, 21-year-old man died in St. Paul on Sunday after police used a Taser to control him as he attacked two officers, the Pioneer Press reported.

His identity and cause of death have not been released.

The man’s relative reportedly called police to Wheelock Ridge Villa, saying he was threatening to commit suicide with drugs.

Two officers and paramedics entered the apartment where the man was located, partially clothed. When paramedics tried to examine him he attacked the officers.

Officers sprayed him with pepper spray to subdue him, but the man did not respond and kept struggling with them. Then an officer trained to use a Taser shocked him, but the man still continued fighting.

Finally officers were able to handcuff him, at which time the man became unresponsive. He was pronounced dead in an ambulance.

Obama narrowly wins Guam

Sen. Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the Guam Democratic Party Caucus by seven votes on Saturday, reported the BBC.

Record amounts of voters showed up to polls, Reuters said. Obama had 2,264 votes, beating Sen. Hilary Clinton who had 2,257 votes. In the last Democratic primary on the Pacific Island, only 1,500 total people participated.

Guam has 8 Democratic delegates with half a vote each, whom Obama and Clinton split.

Neither candidate visited the island, a place more than 20 hours from Washington by plane, but both campaigned by calling into radio stations.

The people of Guam, a territory of the United States since 1898, cannot vote in the presidential election, but the eight delegates and five “superdelegates? will participate in the Democratic Convention.

May 2, 2008

Zimbabwe electoral body announces run-off will be held

The opposition leader in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, beat President Robert Mugabe, but failed to take the majority so the leaders will compete in a run-off vote on a date to be announced, said Zimbabwe’s electoral body on Friday.

According to Lovemore Sekeramayi, the chief elections officer, Tsvangirai won 47.9 percent and Mugabe received 43.2 percent—neither taking over 50 percent to gain the majority.

Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has accused Mugabe of cheating, “scandalous daylight robbery? and violent intimidation, Reuters said.

Tsvangirai has suggested he would only participate in a run-off vote if it was monitored by United Nations-led foreign observers. The original election was observed by Zimbabwe’s neighbors.

April 17, 2008

Somali pirates detained on hostage allegations

Six Somali pirates were detained Friday for allegedly taking 30 hostages from a French yacht, the BBC reported.

French Commandos detained the pirates in a helicopter raid shortly after they released the hostages.

The hostages, 22 French citizens, 6 Fillipinos, a Ukranian and a Cameroonian, were taken a week earlier, the BBC said.

The pirates can be held for up to four days and may be held for trial in France.

According to the BBC, the waters off of Somalia are known to be the most dangerous in the world. Pirates there seized more than 25 ships last year.

French troops stationed in Djibouti patrol that part of the Indian Ocean.

Somalia has not have an effective central government for 17 years.

April 14, 2008

France fights pro-anorexia messages

The France National Assembly passed a bill that could bring criminal action against media promoting extreme thinness, the BBC reported.

The bill, which is now waiting on Upper House support, targets Web sites and publications that encourage girls and young women.

This would include fashion house, magazines and advertisers, the BBC said.

Those found to be encouraging severe thinness could face three years in prison and be fined up to 45,000 euros.

The French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said girls are being taught how to inflict harm upon themselves through certain media, like pro-anorexia Web sites.

“These messages are death messages. Our county must be able to prosecute those who are hiding behind those Web sites,? she said.

Dalai Lama visits Rochester

The Dalai Lama will speak in Rochester, Minn. today.

According to WCCO television, the spiritual leader is here for a medical exam. He came to the city last year for medial care at the Mayo Clinic. Minnesota Public Radio said it is not clear if he is receiving medical treatment this visit.

In a private conference for Mayo employees, the Dalai Lama will give a talk titled “Compassion in Medicine.? WCCO said it would be on meditation.

Pro-Chinese demonstrators said they would protest outside the clinic. According to MPR, they will be calling for an end to the violence by Pro-Tibetan demonstrators.

Pro-Tibetan demonstrators have been interrupting Olympic torch ceremonies and sometimes violently. Tibet is under Chinese control and many Tibetans want independence, MPR said.

Northwest, Delta announce merger

Executives from Northwest Airlines and Delta Air lines announced Monday that the two companies will merge, reported the Pioneer Press.

This $3.1 billon deal means the creation of the largest airlines in the world. It would carry Delta’s name, Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson would take the top seat, and the headquarters would be in Atlanta—Delta’s hometown.

Northwest and Delta have been trying to work out a deal since the beginning of the year, but they were unable to find away to combine each company’s pilot seniorities. Despite Monday’s announcement, obstacles still remain.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat, said the merger jeopardizes jobs in the upper Midwest.

But the Delta CEO Richard Anderson suggested job cuts were not ahead.

“Today, we’re announcing a transaction that is about addition, not subtraction,? he said, as reported by the Pioneer Press.

Delta said it would not close any hubs it will keep major operations and an employee base in Minnesota, the Associated Press reported.

Rep. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the committee would “marshall all the forces necessary? to check for anti-trust issues.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she would focus on the jobs in Minnesota and “the long-standing commitment the state has to Northwest.?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also promised to enforce the agreements Northwest made to keep its headquarters in Minnesota, reported the Associated Press.

April 13, 2008

Peaceful Olympic torch relay in Tanzania

The Olympic torch passed peacefully through Tanzania—a sharp contrast to the relay runs in others countries, which have been riddled by protesters angry over Tibet and China’s human rights record, the BBC said.

A cabinet member, a UN under-secretary and 80 athletes ran the torch through the capital Dar es Salaam. Nearly 1,000 people marched with the team showing support for the Olympics, the BBC said.

The only disruption, according to the BBC, was the withdrawal of Kenyan Nobel peace prize winner Wangar Maathai. He said the Olympic flame had become a symbol of disunity.

Tanzania is the only African nation the torch will visit. Next it will travel to Oman in the Middle East.

Gov. Pawlenty visits troops in Kosovo

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in Kosovo this weekend visiting the 400 Minnesota National Guard troops stationed there, the Star Tribune said.

He wanted to thank the soldiers for their work, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

He held a town hall meeting to hear their questions and concerns. Some of those included disability benefits and tuition reimbursement, MPR said.

The Minnesota troops in the Balkan nation are from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, headquartered in Mankato.

This was Gov. Pawlenty’s second visit to the nation since it declared its independence from Serbia in February.

Eighth Minnesota superdelegate to back Obama

A Minnesota superdelegates announced Sunday she supports Barack Obama for president, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Democratic National Committee member Nancy Larson of Dassel—one of the state’s last uncommitted Democratic superdelegates—said she supports Obama because she believes he has the best chance of winning the general election.

According to MPR, it was a difficult choice. She feels both Obama and Hilary Clinton are “wonderful candidates.?

She decided on Obama because of his grassroots campaigning and the amount of people who support him.

Larson is among eight Minnesota superdelegates supporting Obama. Three are supporting Clinton.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is the only superdelegate yet to back a candidate.

Kenyan leaders reach power-sharing truce

The Kenyan president and his political rival agreed on a power-sharing arrangement for the cabinet Sunday, reported the Washington Post.

President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga agreed to share the 40-member cabinet by implementing a deal they reached in February. Odinga will be prime minister and manage the cabinet.

There has been fear that while the leader negotiated the country would slide back into violence. Since the December presidential election around 1,000 people have been killed and a million have been displaced.

Last week, demonstrations began in western Kisumu and Kibera—two of Odinga’s “strongholds,? the Washington Post said.

American Airlines grounds more flights

Travel continues to be disrupted as American Airlines cancels more flights to check its MD-80 aircraft for wiring problems, the BBC reported.

American grounded 595 flights on Fridays. They have grounded 3,000 since Monday.

Alaska Airlines, Midwest Airlines and Delat Air Lines canceled flights on Thursday for MD-80 checks. US Airlines has also been ordered to check their MD-80 aircraft.

The American cancellations came after the Federal Aviation Administration inspected the MD-80 two weeks ago and said the wiring failed to meet standards.

April 6, 2008

Malt-O-Meal recalls two cereals

The Minneapolis-based company Malt-O-Meal is voluntarily recalling certain packages of unsweetened Puffed Rice and unsweetened Puff Wheat Cereals because they may be contaminated with salmonella, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The recalled packages include those with “Best If Used By? dates from April 8 to March 18, 2009. They have been distributed under private labels including Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality.

According to the company, there have been no reported illnesses.

The salmonella threat was discovered during an internal routine food safety testing in a product made on March 24.