December 7, 2008

Riots Continue in Greek Cities

The International Herald Tribune and The BBC both reported Sunday on riots that broke out in Athens and other Greek cities after police killed a young boy.

The International Herald Tribune reports that a policeman shot 15-year-old Andreas Grigoropoulos in the chest during a confrontation between a group of Greek teenagers and police Saturday night.

Grigoropoulos died en-route to a medical facility.

The Tribune reports that confrontations between Athens police and far-leftist teenage protesters are common in the Exarchia neighborhood of central Athens.

As news of the shooting spread, hundreds of youth began rioting in Athens and in other Greek cities including Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki and on the island of Crete.

Young people set fire to shops cars and businesses while throwing fire bombs and stones at police, who retaliated with tear gas. At least six people were arrested in Athens for looting goods from the debris of destroyed storefronts.

The BBC reports that young people protesting the shooting were also carrying a banner calling the police "murderers."

The BBC also reports that two officers have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

In a statement, the police said their car had been attacked by about 30 youths. One officer fired a stun grenade and another shot and fatally wounded the boy.

A similar shooting incident in 1985 led to a lengthy battle between the young people of Greece and police. The violence in this instance lasted for years.

Minnesota Faces $5.2 Billion Deficit

The Pioneer Press and The Star Tribune both reported Friday on the $5.2 billion deficit that the state of Minnesota will face over the next 2 1/2 years.

The PiPress article begins by outlining the three biggest questions people seem to have about the situation:

How did we get here?
How is the government going to help us out of this?
What does it mean for the people of Minnesota?

They posit that the main cause is the national recession and the fact that it has been worse than everyone initially thought.

They explain the conundrum in very basic terms: This recession means that taxpayers will be making less, spending less and paying less in taxes.

The state is projecting that tax revenues will fall $3.3 billion during the next two years.

To fix the problem, state government will likely have to result to a combination of raising taxes, cutting spending and restructuring state government.

Pawlenty immediately ruled out a tax increase.

The budget deficit will likely affect the people of MN in various ways:

They could affect K-12 class sizes, college tuition increases, park and library hours and other local government services. They could result in property tax and fee increases. Low-income families might have to pay more for state-subsidized health insurance. State and local government workers could lose their jobs.

The Star Trib states that many lawmakers said they feel this budget crisis is unprecedented and many government officials will be forced to consider options they have never looked at before.

"We can't tax our way out of this problem," said Senate Taxes Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "You cannot raise taxes by that much. You can't cut the state budget by that much, either. I would argue that everything -- every spending program, every tax -- has to be on the table. This will require a major reprioritization of programs."

Caroline Kennedy could fill Hillary Clinton's Senate Seat

The New York Times and CNN both reported Friday on the likelihood of whether Caroline Kennedy would fill Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacant NY senate seat.

The Times reports that Caroline Kennedy's cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., said he believe she is considering the idea.

"A lot of people the last couple of weeks have urged her to do it," Kennedy said.

New York Governor, David A. Paterson, will be the one to choose who is best suited to fill Clinton's seat come January.

Paterson confirmed that Caroline Kennedy has been in contact with him about the position.

“The conversation was informational,? Paterson said. “She did not express an interest in the Senate, but we talked about the Senate, so I got that she was just trying to get some information to determine whether or not she would like to have an interest in it. And that was it.?

The Times also points out that the seat was once filled by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, and her appointment to the job would continue a long legacy of the Kennedy family in politics.

They also cite that many feminist groups have contacted Paterson, asking him to put a female into Clinton's seat.

Women they support include Rep. Caroline B. Maloney, who represents Queens and part of Manhattan, and Kirsten E. Gillibrand from upstate NY.

CNN points out that Kennedy typically shies away from the limelight, and her interest in the seat still remains unclear.

They also site her endorsement of Barack Obama during this campaign, and the idea that his election may have reenergized her interest in politics and a desire to be part of this new American political team.

November 30, 2008

Swiss Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization, but Approve Heroin Prescriptions

Bloomberg News and the BBC both reported Sunday that Swiss voters rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana, but approved a measure that would provide prescription heroin to addicts on a permanent basis.

Bloomberg reported that 64% of voters opposed loosening laws on marijuana, but 68% of voters approved the plan to offer heroin prescriptions.

The BBC reports that the heroin plan, which allows addicts to inject the drug under medical supervision at a clinic, began in Zurich 14 years ago before spreading across the country.

Supporters say it works, by getting long-term addicts out of Switzerland's once notorious "needle parks" and reducing drug-related crime.

The BBC also reports that Swiss law enforcement typically turn a blind eye to cannabis use.

Recent studies suggesting that long-term use of the drug could be more harmful than previously thought may be the reason voters turned down the measure.

The “Hemp Initiative? would have freed the Swiss to use and grow cannabis for their own use.

Iowa Couple Cited for Having Sex in Metrodome Bathroom During Gopher Game

The Pioneer Press and the Des Moines Register reported Wednesday that an Iowa couple was caught having sex in the handicapped stall of a Metrodome restroom while a crowd of intoxicated fans cheered them on.

The Pioneer Press reported that a 38-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man from Carroll and Linden, Iowa, respectively were cited for indecent conduct, which around 8:30 p.m., late in the Hawkeyes' 55-0 defeat of the Gophers.

University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness said similar citations at the Metrodome or on campus usually involve public urination. The last time police cited anyone for a sex act at a Gopher game was six years ago.

The Des Moines Register reports that the woman, later identified as Lois Feldman of Carroll, Iowa, said that the press from the scandal has "ruined her life."

Feldman said she had so much to drink before kickoff that she doesn’t remember walking into the restroom, the man she had sex with in a stall, or when the police opened the door.

“I don’t know who this man is,? she said Sunday. “I just found out his name in the paper last night.?

Shortly after the incident, Feldman was fired from her job as an administrator at an assisted living center. She has also been the victim of prank calls and internet jokes in the week since the incident.

Holiday Sales Up From Last Year...So Far

CNN and The Wall Street Journal both posted articles Saturday covering this holiday season's retail shopping revenue.

The Journal writes that, while shoppers still turned out in droves for this year's Black Friday bargains, the mood is tempered by cautious buying and many families cutting back.

Stores are doing what they can to lure shoppers into their stores, offering many more deals than they have in years before. Macy's New York store offered 200 door-buster specials this year, compared to 25 offered last year.

Many other drastic discounts could be found at national chains. Walmart offered $128 Blu-Ray movie-disc player, which sold for $400 a few months previous.

Retailers fear that shoppers may have already concluded their holiday shopping this weekend, instead of just beginning it. Many people commented on their attempts to cut back this year.

Pamela Usen, a hospital nurse whose work hours were cut recently, said she told her children they would only be allowed two gifts this year.

CNNMoney reported that this weekend's holiday shopping is still up slightly from last year despite many people's fears that this year would be the lowest seen in decades.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, said shoppers spent $41 billion in the 4-day Thanksgiving weekend. The average shopper spent $372.57, up 7.2% from the $347.55 spent last year.

NRF president Tracy Mullin said the sales are not expected to continue at such a high rate, but it does signal that shoppers are possibly not cutting back as much as previously thought.

The NRF predicts that shopping this holiday season will rise 2.2%.

ShopperTrak RCT, a retail industry research firm, said that Black Friday sales rose 3% this year, to about $10.6 billion nationwide.

"Under these circumstances, to start off the season in this fashion is truly amazing and is a testament to the resiliency of the American consumer, and undeniably proves a willingness to spend," the firm's co-founder, Bill Martin, said in a statement.

November 23, 2008

Palin Pardons Turkey as Man Slaughters Birds Behind Her

The Canadian Press and The BBC both reported Friday on an incident where former VP candidate Sarah Palin spoke of pardoning a turkey before next weeks Thanksgiving holiday while a man slaughters several birds behind her.

The BBC article included the following quotes:

"This was neat," she told reporters, referring to her "pardon" of a turkey.
"I was happy to get to be invited to participate in this. For one, you need a little bit of levity in this job... It's nice to get out and... participate in something that isn't so heavy-handed politics that it invites criticism."

They also point out that turkey pardoning is a common yearly custom that the president and other elected officials take part in.

They also make light of the fact that most turkeys aren't lucky enough to be pardoned, explaining to readers that the turkey is the main course in American Thanksgiving dinner.

The Canadian Press reports that interview took place near Triple D Farm & Hatchery outside Wasilla.

Palin didn't comment on the slaughter taking place near her, but did say that she was happy her son's Stryker brigade is relatively safe in Iraq .

Palin said she was lucky to have the chance to pardon one of Alaska's turkeys.

The turkey was pardoned near a bloody tub where Triple D employees worked to fill orders in time for Thanksgiving.

Zimbabwe's President Mugabe Denies Carter and Annan access to the country

The New York Times and the BBC both covered the Zimbabwean Government's refusal to allow Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, visas to enter the country.

Mugabe's foreign minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, denied that the three had been refused visas, saying only that they had been asked to postpone their visit until a later date.

A BBC African correspondent said the move was clearly a blatant rejection of the leaders by Mugabe.

Carter, Annan and Machel all said the visit's sole intent was a humanitarian mission to help the people of Zimbabwe, and not to interfere in any political negotiations.

The BBC article also includes a brief recap of recent political talks between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The NY Times article says that Mugabe's refusal of Visas was a measure of his disdain for the international opinion of his governing policies.

“It seems obvious to me that leaders of the government are immune to reaching out for help for their own people,? Carter said at a news conference in Johannesburg.

Carter also said he was very surprised by the government's action saying he has never before been denied a visa.

Denny Hecker Closes 6 Lots

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both reported on the closures of 6 Denny Hecker Car Lots Friday.

The Pioneer Press reports that the shutdowns mean 400 of Hecker's employees will now be out of a job.

The dealerships that closed are the Blaine Bargain Lot, Forest Lake Chrysler Jeep Dodge Mitsubishi, Monticello Dodge Ford and Mercury Suzuki Kia, Rosedale Hyundai, Shakopee Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Stillwater Ford Lincoln Mercury.

Hecker also sold 3 lots to private investors. Those lots were the Inver Grove Heights Hyundai, Inver Grove Heights Volkswagen and Peninsula Dodge in California.

Hecker still owns two Toyota dealerships, three Hyundai dealerships, one Cadillac Pontiac GMC dealership and one Chevrolet dealership.

The Star Tribune article states that some of the vehicles at Hecker's lots have been put to a different use: blocking off the entrances to the area.

The article also points out that state employment figures released last week showed that dealerships had eliminated 2,000 jobs in October alone.

November 16, 2008

Fridley High School Student Dies in Accidental Shooting Friday

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press reported the death of Emmanuel Bartuoh, a Fridley High senior who was accidently shot by a friend Friday night.

The Pioneer Press reported that Bartuoh was a good student and a football star at Fridley High, and was being sought after by a few different division II and III teams for football scholarships.

Samuel Keleih Dennis, a 20-year-old graduate of Fridley High has been accused of shooting Bartuoh Friday night. Dennis reportedly went to Bartuoh's home Friday night, while the rest of their friends were watching the state football semifinal games at the Metrodome.

Dennis brought with him a semi-automatic weapon, which he did not know how to operate it. Authorities said he was showing Bartuoh the weapon, which he believed was not loaded, when he accidently pulled the slide back, ejecting a round, and then proceeded to pull the trigger, shooting Bartuoh.

Dennis called 911, and attempted to help Bartuoh, but the rescue was unsuccessful. Dennis turned himself in when police arrived and confessed to shooting Bartuoh accidently.

The Star Trib story describes the scene of the shooting and aftermath with more detail, and makes an emotional appeal, quoting Bartuoh's sister: "It doesn't make sense. Oh, God, could this really be happening?" said his older sister, Marthaline Bartuoh, 22. "I can't say it was his time to go, because it's not. It was not his time to go."

They reported that police "found a sobbing and blood-soaked Samuel Keleih Dennis, 20, who said he had tried in vain to revive his longtime friend."

The Anoke County attorney's office said it will wait until Monday to decide whether they will file charges for second degree manslaughter.

Iraqi Cabinet Supports Withdrawal Date for US Troops

The Times of London and the BBC both reported Sunday that the Iraqi Cabinet has approved a deal that would require US troops to be off the streets of Iraqi towns by the end of next year, and out of the country by 2011.

US officials also support the agreement, which still must pass through the Iraqi parliament before becoming official.

The BBC lays out the points of the deal:

The deal would place US forces in Iraq under the authority of the Iraqi government.

US forces would be required to leave the streets of Iraqi towns by mid-2009.

Control of US military bases in Iraq would be turned over to Iraqi control during the course of 2009.

The deal also removes the right of US forces to raid Iraqi homes without an official order from an Iraqi judge, and approval of the Iraqi government.

The Times quotes Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying, "We think it is a good agreement for Iraq and the United States.?

Many groups remain opposed to the measures, however.

Al-Mahdi Army, Iraq's largest Shia militia, wants US troops out immediately, and has threatened renewed attacks on US forces.

Iraq's influential Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, opposes any agreement with the US. He has called for mass protests and demonstrations in opposition to the deal.

The BBC also reports there are mixed opinions among Iraqi citizens. Some believe that making any agreements with the US government shames the country. Others trust that the Iraqi cabinet knows what is best for the people, and support the pact.

Obama's First Interview since Election

The New York Times and CNN both featured stories on their homepages covering President elect Barack Obama's first interview since the victory.

CNN reports that Obama spoke of how he will focus on stimulating the economy when he takes office. He stated in the interview that the most important thing to work on is avoiding a deepening recession.

Obama cited that he feels it is important to provide financial assistance to the struggling auto industry, saying that their possible collapse would be a disaster in today's economic crisis.

CNN also listed the other priorities Obama intends to take on, once in office. He plans to step up the search for Osama Bin Laden, saying that he is not only a major symbol of Al Qaeda, but is leading an organization, which is planning attacks against the US.

Obama also spoke of his plans to shut down Guantanamo Bay, saying that he wishes to restore America's "moral stature."

The NY Time's story focuses more on the personal topics covered in Obama's recent 60 Minutes interview.

Michelle Obama, who was also present in the interview, spoke of her first realization that her husband would be the president, "But I remember, we were watching the returns and, on one of the stations, Barack's picture came up and it said, 'President-Elect Barack Obama. ' And I looked at him and I said, 'You are the 44th President of the United States of America. Wow. What a country we live in.'"

Both said, however, that the reality that Obama will actually become president in January has not really set in yet.

November 9, 2008

Possible Obama Cabinet Choices

The Washington Post and CNN have continuing reports on possible picks for President Elect Barack Obama's cabinet.

The post reports that three key Bush appointees are going to remain at their posts.

They suggest that Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen will remain in their posts for at least the first year or two of Obama's term.

They comment on the delicate balance Obama must strike between his promise to break from Bush's policies and also creating a bipartisan team to foster a smooth transition.

They state that Bernanke is the key feature in the transition as he is a leading expert on the Great Depression, and is expected to lead the nation out of the current economic downturn.

The CNN article focuses on Obama's potential reappointing of Robert Gates.

Initially Gates appeared to be unwilling to continue in his post under a new administration saying, "The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me."

Now he appears to be more willing to consider the option, telling a CNN reporter, ""I've learned never to say never."

Those closest to Gates believe if the job is offered and he takes it, he will end up staying less than a year.

Tsvangirai rejects sharing Zimbabwe ministry

The BBC and ="">Al Jazeera both reported Sunday on Morgan Tsvangirai's rejection of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's suggestion of a sharing of ministry power.

Al Jazeera reports that Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to form a unity government two months ago, but the deal failed to take hold over disputes on forming a cabinet and control of key ministries.

One of the major issues in the compromise over the sharing of ministry power has been over the control of the home affairs ministry.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an emergency summit Sunday to address pressing issues of the power struggle in Zimbabwe. Leaders at the summit supported shared power between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

Tsvangirai rejected the idea. In a press conference he stated that the SADC lacked the "courage and decency to look Robert Mugabe in the eyes" and tell him his position was wrong.

Al Jazeera also provides a summary description of the election process in Zimbabwe and the issues that lead to the current power struggles.

They describe how Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential election, but did not garner enough votes to prevent a runoff. Mugabe was reelected after Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round due to violence against his supporters.

The BBC reported the following quote from Tsvangirai in a press conference stating his rejection of the compromise:

"This issue of co-sharing does not work. We have said so ourselves, we have rejected it, and that's the position," said Tsvangirai.

The BBC also reports that Mugabe has accepted the deal but that Tsvangirai will now hope the matter is taken from SADC and passed on to other bodies like the UN.

The summit also backed an immediate ceasefire in the DR Congo, where rebel fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people.

Coleman-Franken Recount Drags On

Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune have detailed ongoing coverage of the recount in the race between Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

The Star Trib reports that Coleman's initial lead of 725 votes on Tuesday night shrank to 477 and then to 438 by Thursday morning.

Coleman declared victory of Franken on Tuesday night, but the margin of less than .5 percent means that state law requires a recount.

Coleman has called for Franken to forego the recount and concede the race, but Franken insists that the recount is necessary.

"Let me be clear: Our goal is to ensure that every vote is properly counted," he said.

The Pioneer press reports that the final recount results will be available in six weeks--maybe.

On Friday, they showed Coleman's lead to be only 238 votes, almost 500 less than the initial count.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says he is unsure how long the entire official process will take.

Coleman's office remains suspicious of the drastic changes in the margin of votes between teh two candidates.

Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, said the changing totals are "troubling to us that instead of the normal slight changes in vote totals one would expect during this process, we are now seeing huge chunks of votes appearing and disappearing — statistically dubious and improbable shifts that are overwhelmingly accruing to the benefit of Al Franken."