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October 26, 2008

6 MN Politicians' Homes Vandalized

The Pioneer Press reported that the homes of six Minnesota politicians were vandalized overnight Wednesday.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Norm Coleman, Reps. John Kline, Michele Bachmann, Jim Ramstad and Keith Ellison were all reported to have had messages spray-painted on their homes.

All the messages instructed the targeted politicians to resign. Some messages read "scum" or "Psalm 2."

Psalm 2 includes a warning: "Serve and honor the Lord; be glad and tremble," according to the Contemporary English version. "Show respect to his son because if you don't, the Lord might become furious and suddenly destroy you. But he blesses and protects everyone who runs to him."

The spray-painted message on Rep. Michelle Bachmann's driveway read, "Still a target."

Local police said patrols would be stepped up around the victimized congressional members' homes.

U.S. Capitol Police are working with local police departments on the cases, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

The Star Tribune also reported on Wednesday's vandalism.

"We're looking at this as an actual threat," Peter Panos, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police said. "We're taking it quite seriously. Vandalism threats are pretty rare in this city."

None of the other four Minnesota Congresspeople have had their homes vandalized, but police said they may still be a target.

Congo Rebels Seize Army Camp

The BBC reported today that rebels fighting government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo have captured an army camp in the east of the country.

The rebels have also taken control of Virunga National park, which is home to most of the world's mountain gorillas. Over 50 of the park's rangers have been forced to flee into the forest.

200,000 people have fled their homes since fighting resumed in the area in late August.

UN peacekeeping forces say an unknown number of rebels, government soldiers and civilians have been killed.

Eastern DRC is facing a humanitarian crisis, as many of those forced to flee are facing malnourishment.

Reuters South Africa quoted Park Ranger Bareke Sekibibi as saying, "When the rebels started approaching the park station we thought we were all going to be killed."

They also add that the rangers were forced to walk through the forest to Kibumba, 12 miles south of Rumangabo, where trucks would then take them to the provincial capital Goma, de Merode said.

Powder Mailed to banks in Hoax

Letters containing suspicious powder were mailed to more than 50 financial institutions last week, CNN reported.

"Steal tens of thousands of people's money and not expect repercussions. It's payback time. What you just breathed in will kill you within 10 days. Thank [word redacted] and the FDIC for your demise," said one letter.

The powder contained in the letters was harmless, according to the FBI.

The letters were received in 11 states and the District of Colombia. They were all sent from Amarillo, Texas.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of $100,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible.

Most of the letters have been sent to branches of JP Morgan Chase.

The Washington Post reported that the letters had been sent to banks in Arizona, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, VIrginia, Texas, and Georgia.

One letter addressed to the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase in New York, threatened a series of attacks "ending in an Oklahoma City-like bombing."

October 19, 2008

Powell Endorses Obama

Former Secretary of State for George W. Bush announced Sunday on Meet the Press that he will be voting for Sen. Barack Obama, CNN Reported.

Powell cited that he is concerned about the direction of the Republican party, saying that it has "moved more to the right than I would like to see it."

Powell also stated that he thinks the McCain campaign's attempts to link Obama to 1960s radical William Ayers are "inappropriate."

Obama responded to Powell's endorsement at a rally in North Carolina Sunday by saying, "I have been honored to have the benefit of his wisdom and counsel from time to time over the last few years, but today, I am beyond honored and deeply humbled to have the support of General Colin Powell."

Powell has met with both candidates during their campaigns and says he believes both are qualified to be president.

"It isn't easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," Powell said.

Powell said he has no plans to campaign for Obama.

The lede on a Fox News story reporting Powell's endorsement frames the story in a different way.

"Colin Powell, the man who delivered to the United Nations the U.S. case for war against Iraq, announced Sunday that he is going to vote for Barack Obama for president," begins the Fox News report.

McCain responded to Powell's endorsement on Fox News Sunday.

"Well, I have always admired and respected General Powell. We are longtime friends. This doesn't come as a surprise. But I am also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state ... and I am proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired army generals and admirals," McCain said.

Fox News also cited Powell's mention of the U.S. reputation abroad being affected by the election.

"It troubled me. We have two wars. We have economic problems, we have health problems. ... Those are the problems the American people want to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who's a Muslim and not a Muslim. Those kind of images going out on Al Jazeera are killing us around the world," Powell said.

47 Convicted in Moroccan Suicide Bombing

The NY Times posted a brief report that 47 people have been convicted in connection to a 2007 Internet cafe bombing in Casablanca.

Through the investigation police discovered a plot involving dozens of suspects planning to attack Casablanca’s port and police stations, as well as tourist sites around Morocco.

The BBC posted a much more in depth story about the convictions.

The BBC's James Copnall reported that there are currently nearly 1,000 Islamic radicals in Moroccan jails, and that human rights groups have accused authorities of making arrests on false or flimsy evidence.

The harshest sentence received was 30-years, and 44 others people were sentenced to between two and 15 years. One person received a suspended sentence, and four others were acquitted.

The leader of the plot detonated explosives to avoid being arrested after the cafe owner caught him viewing jihadist websites and attempted to stop him.

The blast occurred in a slum area of the city that was home to 13 suicide bombers who carried out a series of suicide bombings in 2003 which left 33 people dead.

October 18, 2008

Bachmann's comments boost fundraising for opponent

In a 13-minute interview on MSNBC Friday, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said she was concerned Barack Obama may have anti-American views, The Star Tribune reported.

9,000 people across the country have donated more than $450,000 to Democratic challenger El Tinklenberg's campaign in the 24 hours since Bachmann's interview.

Bachmann said she is "very concerned that [Obama] may have anti-American views." This comment comes after accusations by the McCain campaign that Obama has ties to 1960s radical William Ayers.

The Pioneer Press points out that the Tinklenberg campaign raised about $313,000 in donations in a period of about five weeks beginning Aug. 21.

"Remember it was Michelle Obama who said she's only recently proud of her country. These are really anti-American views," Bachmann said. "That's not the way most Americans feel about their country."

Bachmann's campaign spokesman is encouraging people to watch the whole interview and not judge the quotes out of context. She claims Bachmann never called Obama anti-American, she would just like people to further examine his past relationships.

A spokesman also said that Tinklenberg's campaign had received about 600 e-mails since Bachmann's interview aired.

October 12, 2008

McCain Visits Lakeville

Republican presidential candidate John McCain traveled to Lakeville Friday to hold a town hall meeting at Lakeville South High School, The Star Tribune reported.

Tempers flared during the rally as McCain was forced to spend much of his time calming supporters' growing anger toward Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

McCain ended up in the uncomfortable position of defending his rival after Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee called Obama "an Arab."

"No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues," McCain responded.

After the rally, Quinnell continued her statements:

"You can't trust Barack Hussein Obama because he is a Muslim and a terrorist," she said.

With a national event happening in a local setting, it is interesting to examine how national vs. local media outlets cover the same story.

"Minnesota Nice: McCain Calls for Calm" reads the headline of an ABC News Online story covering the Lakeville rally.

The ABC News story details how supporters at the rally encouraged McCain to be more aggressive in the upcoming final debate.

"The people here in Minnesota want to see a real fight this next time you debate," a man said. "We want a strong president to lead us for the next four years."

The story also noted Obama's response to McCain's efforts to tone down the rally.

"I want to acknowledge that Sen. McCain tried to tone down the rhetoric in his town hall meeting yesterday," Obama told a crowd in Philadelphia, "and I appreciated his reminder that we can disagree while still being respectful of each other."

Asked if he was disappointed McCain's tone at town hall, Kevin Grubey, of Oak Park, Minn., said no, but added, "You know it's Minnesota Nice, and McCain would fit right here, but the gloves have to come off, and he's got to do more to let people know about that."

Former Finnish President Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

The BBC reported that Ahtisaari, 71, was selected from a pool of 197 candidates.

Ahtisaari will be receiving the award in recognition for his efforts in non-violent conflict resolution.

The award includes a gold medal, a diploma and 10 million Swedish Kroner ($1.4 million).

The BBC also included a short list of other people rumored to be up for the award. Zimbabwean politician Morgan Tsvangirai and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt were said to be at the top of the list.

Ahtisaari said he felt his greatest accomplishment was resolving conflicts in Namibia. He oversaw the move to independence from South Africa in the late 1970s and also assisted in supervising free elections.

An Al Jazeera English story focused more on Ahtisaari's work in Indonesia, providing a summary of his work in forming the Aceh Monitoring Mission.

"But definitely I was hoping, because this is the highest recognition that a person in my profession can have," Ahtisaari said after the announcement.

"I think it's very rewarding to be in the same category as some people I have admired like Mandela."

October 11, 2008

US Removes N Korea From Terror List

The U.S. removed North Korea from a terrorism blacklist Saturday after they gave into nuclear inspection demands. The Washington Post reported.

The Post reported that the move was intended to salvage a faltering disarmament accord before Bush leaves office.

Many conservatives have criticized North Korea's removal from the list, saying that it sends the wrong message to other adversaries of the U.S., such as Iran and Syria.

Under the agreement, North Korea will allow experts to take samples and conduct tests at all of North Korea's declared nuclear sites. Mutual consent is necessary for inspections to be performed at undeclared sites.

The Post pointed out the skepticism of various leaders regarding this plan.

"Verifying North Korea's nuclear proliferation will be a serious challenge. This is most is the most secret and opaque regime in the entire world," said Patricia McNerney, assistant secretary for international security and nonprofileration.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he will not support the move unless North Korea consents to intrusive inspections of all of its sites, and expressed concerns that Japan was not appropriately consulted in this decision.

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama supported the move saying it was "an appropriate response" as long as it is made clear to North Korea that there will be consequences if they do not cooperate.

Fox News posted basically the same AP story online Saturday, but changed the byline, added a few of their own comments and removed some others.

Most notably, they omitted any information regarding Barack Obama's opinions on the move, still leaving in John McCain's reaction, and also including quotes from a statement he made Friday.

"I expect the administration to explain exactly how this new verification agreement advances American interests and those of our allies before I will be able to support any decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism," McCain said in a statement late Friday.

The Fox News story also included a quote by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

"With today's action, the administration has given up a critical instrument of leverage," Ros-Lehtinen said. "By rewarding North Korea before the regime has carried out its commitments, we are encouraging this regime to continue its illicit nuclear program and violate its pledge to no longer provide nuclear assistance to extremist regimes."

October 5, 2008

Zimbabwe Unity Talks Fail

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have failed to come to an agreement on a unity cabinet, the BBC reports.

After disputed election results in June, the two agreed to a power-sharing deal nearly three weeks ago. Under this deal, Mugabe would remain president, while Tsvangirai would become the new prime minister.

According to Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, the talks regarding cabinet placements have stalled based on disagreements over who should control finance and home affairs portfolios.

However Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, said that the disagreements center over the entire cabinet.

Zimbabwe's economy has experienced the world's highest inflation rate, 11,200,000%. In addition, the UN estimates that two million people are in need of food aid.

The Times of South Africa reports that Mugabe has been reluctant to give up control of ministries such as home affairs, local government, defence, agriculture, economic affairs, youth affairs and women affairs.

The Times' sources reported that Mugabe had initially agreed to give up control of the financial sectors to Tsvangirai in order to campaign for the lifting of sanctions against his government.

Great Lakes Compact is Made Official

President Bush signed the Great Lakes Compact into law Friday, further protecting the world's largest source of freshwater, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Efforts to increase regulations protecting the Great Lakes have been in the works for nearly a decade now, after a Canadian business owner attempted to have shipments of Great Lakes water shipped to Asia.

Governors of the eight Great Lakes states met in Milwaukee in 2005 to come up with a new set of rules regulating the distribution of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin. After the governors agreed on a plan, it still needed to be approved by eight state Legislatures and Congress.

This process took nearly two years, but the U.S. House of Representatives cleared the bill with a 390-25 vote last month.

Supporters of the compact have been voicing their concerns that arid regions in the wester United States would target this water source, CNN reports.

Some environmentalists believe the pact may not be strong enough, pointing out an allowance in the law that is designed to accommodate bottled water companies.

CNN also points out a United Nations report that suggests two-thirds of the world may lack ready access to fresh water by 2025.

Petters Arrested

Tom Petters, founder and former CEO of the Minnetonka based Petters Group Worldwide was arrested Friday on federal fraud charges, The Pioneer Press reports.

Petters, 51, was charged Thursday with mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The criminal complaint goes on to allege that Petters was attempting to defraud investors of more than $1 billion.

Petters is being held without bail after officials cited secretly recorded conversations in which Petters spoke of fleeing the country by the time of the presidential debates.

Petters Group has 3,200 employees and includes companies such as Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid and Fingerhut, none of which have been implicated in the investigation.

Petters resigned as CEO Monday, saying he did not want to interfere with company operations.

The Star Tribune cites two others who were arrested in connection with the fraud charges. Michael Catain, 52, of Shorewood, Minn., and Larry Reynolds, 65, of Las Vegas, Nev. were charged Friday. The two were business associates of Petters who are believed to be directly involved in the scheme.