15 killed in Bangkok protests

Fifteen people were killed in Bangkok Saturday during a protest. The protest contained clashes between anti-government protesters and Thai police and military forces, according to emergency officials.

The Erawan Emergency Center said of the fifteen killed, 11 were civilians and four were military. At least 486 people were injured, the center said.

CNN reported that the protesters, known as the "Red Shirts," displayed bodies of two people, who they said were killed by live rounds fired by the troops.

"The government is so bad," said Samran Wangngam, who said he was the father of one of the protesters killed. "Why are they so cruel? How can they do this to my son?"

A spokesmen for the Royal Thai Army, Col. Sansern Kawekamnerd, said in a news conference that the security forces fired real bullets only into the air to scare away protesters. Kawekamnerd said the demonstrators fired real bullets at the security forces and that many security officers were injured.

The protesters were rallying for weeks to demand new elections. They are seeking to oust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who they say was not democratically elected.

Bloomington hotel, water park sold

A private equity firm has purchased the Radisson Hotel and Water Park of America in Bloomington for an undisclosed sum.

The Star Tribune reported that Wheelock Street Capital, a real estate private equity firm in Greenwich, Conn., said Friday that an affiliate bought the 403-room hotel and amusement park, but it didn't disclose the terms of the sale.

"We are delighted to be acquiring this high-quality asset next to the most visited mall in the country," the company said in its announcement Friday.

Head of the Wirth Cos. in Minneapolis, Jeffrey Wirth, said he's governed by a confidentiality agreement and can't discuss the purchase. Wirth Cos. developed the complex with its huge green tubes curling around the exterior.

Patrick Cambell, a partner of Wheelock, said in an interview that they plan on doing business as the as same as usual and they wouldn't be expecting any lay-offs. Campbell also said that minor improvements will be made to the facility.

Campbell said the property was "priced well," but wouldn't discuss the cost or even confirm who sold it.

Campbell said his company is focused on hospitality properties at the moment "where we think the best and highest opportunities are,'' as reported by the Star Tribune.

Bon Jovi visits Minneapolis shelter between shows

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi surprised a downtown Minneapolis shelter with a visit Thursday.

The Star tribune reported that Bon Jovi made a visit to People Serving People on 614 S. 3rd St. away from the cameras and spoke to reporters afterward referring to Larissa Thelmon, 28, a personal care assistant laid off just before Christmas.

Bon Jovi, who was between Xcel Center concerts on Wednesday and Thursday night, was on a fact-finding mission for the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which has worked to tackle homelessness by building affordable housing, establishing community kitchens and cleaning up vacant lots in blighted neighborhoods the Star Tribune reported.

The singer also recently visited a shelter for alcoholics in Seattle and toured Skid Row in Los Angeles. He spotted People Serving People on a previous tour in the Twin Cities and knew he wanted to go back.

The Star Tribune also reported that Mimi Box, executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, who accompanied the rock star during Thursday's visit, said the foundation uses such stops to find out what has worked in some cities and can, in turn, be promoted elsewhere when awarding its grants.

Jim Minor, president of People Serving People, said Bon Jovi asked "a lot of good questions ... and knew what he was talking about." Asked whether the shelter might someday benefit from a grant, Minor added: "They haven't said a word. And we haven't said a word."

Ruling makes Iowa gay marriage destination

The state Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage which has created Iowa as a wedding destination.

As reported by the Star Tribune, that April 3, 2009, decision, followed about three weeks later by the issuing of marriage licenses, led to 1,783 same-sex weddings by year's end. Of those, 1,044 of the couples came from outside the state.

The ruling drew a couple from St. Paul, Minn., to board a bus with eight other gay couples last August and made a 250-mile drive to marry in a church in Des Moines.

"I felt relieved," said Olly Staneslow as reported to the Star Tribune. "We know it's not legal (in Minnesota) yet, but we've done everything we absolutely could."

Staneslow and Judith Weir were among 100 Minnesota same-sex couples who wed last year in Iowa, ranking the state second among those sending gay couples there to marry. Illinois topped the list at 172 the Star Tribune reported.

The Iowa Supreme Court's decision came in a case pushed by the gay-rights group Lambda Legal. The justices upheld an August 2007 decision that found a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman violates constitutional equal-protection rights.

Census provides temporary employment

The Census provides temporary jobs that currently boost the job market for unemployed U.S. citizens.

As reported by the Associated Press, census workers make up one third of the jobs added to the market in March.

"Over the next two months, another 600,000 to 700,000 census jobs will be added, putting $10 to $25 an hour into the pockets of some desperate job seekers," the Associated Press reported.

Although these jobs only last through mid-July, they are still beneficial in providing income to families.

"It comes at a good time because you're transitioning from an economy that's slowly recovering to sustainable growth," said John Canally, an economist at Boston-based LPL Financial. "This is a good patchwork until then."

Overall, the census paychecks won't be a prominent staple to the economy.

"The government has set aside $7.8 billion to conduct the census. That pales compared with last year's stimulus package of $862 billion,'' the Associated Press reported.

Still, the jobs add some financial relief to people who are in dire need of any source of income.

"Census to the rescue," said 24-year-old Cierra Edwards of Toledo, Ohio. "I was so far behind. Rent started stacking up, bills, diapers."

Gophers get NCAA bid

Big wins over Michigan State and Purdue got Minnesota into the NCAA men's basketball tournament with disregards to today's loss to Ohio State.

The Star Tribune reported that this is the first time in 15 years that the Gophers have made the NCAA tournament two straight seasons. They lost in the first round last year to Texas.

The Gopher's will play No. 6 Xavier on Friday in Milwaukee in the West region.

Minnesota and Xavier played three times in the 1950s, with Minnesota winning all of those games. Xavier is the champion of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Xavier reached the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year and the ninth time in 10 years as reported by the Star Tribune.

Gopher's coach Tubby Smith reported to the Associated Press:

"I thought we'd do it in one year," Smith said. "I was disappointed we didn't do it last year. I thought last year's team, we let some games slip away that we should have won."

Several families at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) want to intervene with a lawsuit involving the Inver Grove Heights school and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

As reported by the Pioneer Press the students, who attend Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, say their democratic and legal rights will be violated if the school cannot offer religious accommodations, such as pork-alternative food, prayer time, a dress code and no school on Islamic holidays.

The ACLU argued that the TiZA school is crossing the lines between public education and religion by allowing accommodations for the religious practices of the Muslim students.

The Star Tribune reported that In court documents, parents said they send their children to the school for a quality education, not religion, but still want their families' religious needs to be met. The school is a "safe, non-sectarian, cultural learning environment for immigrant families" and should not be closed, they said.

Court documents for the motion stated: "Basically, TiZA is being sued for the Muslim-ness of its students. The MnACLU would not have a problem with TiZA if there weren't Muslim students at TiZA because then there would not be these accommodations."

Several said they were unhappy because, in response to a state investigation, the school has reduced the time set aside on Fridays for Muslim students to pray, from 30 minutes to 10 minutes as reported by the Star Tribune.

"The ACLU lawsuit threatens more reductions," said Javed Mohammad, who has two sons at TiZA, in a court document.


Japanese coast guard arrests Sea Shepherd activist

An activist from New Zealand was arrested Friday by the Japanese coast guard after he boarded a Japanese whaling ship last month.

Peter Bethune, member of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, boarded the whaling ship without permission intending to make a citizen arrest of the Japanese crew.

As reported by The New York Times and BBC news, a crew of Japanese photographers and reporters waited at the dock in Toyko for Bethune's arrival.

BBC news reported that after the Shonan Maru 2 docked, Japanese coastguard officials went on board and arrested him.

Hirotaka Akamatsu, the Japanese fisheries minister, told New York Times reporters that Mr. Bethune's actions were "outrageously illegal behavior."

"We want to deal with it strictly," he said.

Mr. Bethune's arrest was top news in Japan, where Sea Shepherd's efforts to obstruct whaling ships receive wide publicity, none of it positive. While few Japanese eat whale, public opinion is generally sympathetic to the government's claims that whaling is part of Japanese culture.

ABC News reported that Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin vessel, says the group has had no contact with Mr Bethune but they expect his arrest will lend greater support to their cause.

"I think that this whole thing is going to make Peter Bethune an international hero, certainly a national hero in New Zealand," he said.

"And I think with Peter Bethune they've got themselves a hot potato that they're probably going to want to let go of pretty soon."

Woman brutally beaten in bathroom of NYC bar

A woman was brutally beaten in the bathroom stall of a New York City bar early Thursday morning after rejecting a man's advances.

The New York Times reported that the man burst through a stall door and began savagely attacking the woman, beating her as he tried to remove her pants. She fought back, and was able to avoid being sexually assaulted-- but not before the man broke her nose and one of her eye sockets, leaving her unconscious and sprawled in a pool of blood.

The victim was found by her friend who assumed that she had just fallen, and had the bartender to go across the street to a firehouse to get help.

Later when the victim regained consciousness, she told staff at New York Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medical Center that she had been attacked as reported by NBC New York.

Demetrios Haas, 69, owner of a neighbor bar saw an assembly of news media. He reported to the New York Times, "I'm surprised this happened here", Haas said. "I've been here for 22 years. This neighborhood made a very big improvement from what is used to be like, but lately there's been a decline. A week ago a kid got slashed after school right her on Eighth Avenue, and now this. It's not good for the tourists, and my business is already down with this economy."

The Star Tribune reported that a police security camera near the bar's entrance captured images of the man afterward walking down the sidewalk and looking at his hand -- an indication it might have been injured during the attack. The department released the footage on Thursday in hopes of identifying him.