REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | Do online petitions make a difference?

There are notable successes: after 300,000 people signed a change.org petition opposing Bank of America’s enactment of a monthly fee on its debit cards, the bank dropped them. Although thepetitionsite.com petition asking that charges be dropped against a woman named Julie Bass for growing vegetables in her front yard garnered a relatively modest 31,000 signatures, it was enough to persuade Oak Park, Michigan authorities to drop the case.According to CNN, more than one million people have signed NAACP and MoveOn.org petitions in the wake of George Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict in the Trayvon Martin killing. Both petitions ask that the U.S. Department of Justice file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.Overall, how successful are online petitions? Are there petitions that are legally binding? I’m working on a story about online petitions to be published within the next few weeks. Continue Reading

“Little Oromia” celebrates all week long in Minneapolis

Every year on the Fourth of July, Minneapolis’ Riverside Park turns into party central for the Twin Cities Oromo community. They’ve gathered there for about 18 years, said Hassen Hussein, executive director of the Oromo Community of Minnesota. The St. Paul-based nonprofit provides social services to ease the transition of Oromo refugees from the Horn of Africa, and also works to educate the Twin Cities about the Oromo culture.Because you can’t reserve space at Riverside Park, Hussein and a group of volunteers start setting up tents, grills, and sports equipment at 4 a.m. The party goes on till 10 p.m. “How many people come depends on the weather,” said Hussein. He estimates that there are more than 30,000 Oromo in the Twin Cities, which some say makes it the largest Oromo population outside of Africa, earning the nickname “Little Oromia.” Continue Reading

A family like any other

Now that same sex couples can legally marry in Minnesota, how will their families look different than those headed by straight people? Not very, if the Melchert-Zimmerman family is any indication.

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