CORRECTION / Unemployment up again / Here come the Feds / more


CORRECTION I summarized an article from AP and the Pioneer Press regarding a 14-state federal prosecution for “modern-day slavery” of immigrant workers. The article, and my summary, erroneously said that a Mankato roofer was implicated in the case. Here is the correction from the Pioneer Press:

A headline in Thursday’s Pioneer Press should not have said that a Mankato roofer was implicated in a labor scheme involving immigrant workers. In fact, Kato Roofing was a client of a labor-leasing company that has been indicted in relation with the scheme. But Kato Roofing has not been implicated or associated in any way with the federal investigation and Kato Roofing officials emphasize that they have done nothing wrong. The Pioneer Press apologizes for the error.

I also apologize for the error. And I thank Kato Roofing for furnishing a link to the PDF file of the federal indictment.

According to AP and the Pioneer Press, the 45-count indictment includes 12 individuals and three companies, charging labor racketeering, forced labor trafficking and immigration violations. According to the indictment, the defendants secured fraudulent labor leasing contracts with clients in the hotel/resort, casino, and construction industries in the 14 states.

Unemployment up again From the Department of Labor: In the week ending May 23, new unemployment claims totaled 623,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 636,000. On the other hand – total unemployment continues to set new records, with the official unemployment rate now at 8.9% — and that does not include “discouraged workers” who have given up the job search or people who are working part-time because they cannot get full-time work. Roll those numbers in, and the total rises to 15.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here come the Feds The FBI will investigate the Metro Gang Strike Force, focusing not only on the document-shredding but also on the troubling failure to properly account for seized cash and property. The PiPress reports that the FBI is coming at the request of State Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion. Minneapolis and Metro Transit police are pulling out of the multi-jurisdictional operation, removing nine of the 34 officers detailed to the Strike Force. Other jurisdictions are also considering their options, and the Strike Force remains suspended during the current investigation. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher continues to defend past operations of the Strike Force, but other top police brass are not so sure. According to MPR:

… other commanders say gang and drug task forces, squads that track down violent offenders and other specialized units, may be soaking up too many scarce resources.

“What I want to see is a complete re-examination of all our task forces. All the law enforcement resources in the metro area,” said [Brooklyn Park Police Chief Michael] Davis. “Let’s look at what we’re trying to accomplish. Let’s look at the tools we have to accomplish that. Do they got to take a new form? Do they need to be reincarnated in a way that makes sense back in our home agencies? I want to make sure that there’s not redundancy.”

Paying for addiction Rubén Rosario examines the latest report on substance abuse, which shows that “about 27.3 million of us — more than 9 percent of the U.S. population — are smoking, ingesting, popping, drinking and mainlining to the point of addiction and abuse.” Is Minnesota healthier or above average? Nope – one in eight Minnesotans with a driving license has been arrested for drunk driving. Substance abuse costs all of us, big-time. Rosario cites a just-release report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which shows a cost of nearly half a trillion dollars a year as a consequence of substance abuse, mostly concentrated in health and criminal justice expenditures. And the amount spent on prevention and treatment of addiction? Less than two percent of the total cost.

Watch Dog — for the dogs The PiPress consumer watchdog column has a timely and very scary warning about flea and tick prevention, spotlighting the case of a local dog owner whose dog almost died — from the product used to prevent ticks. The EPA said it received 44,000 reports of bad reactions to flea and tick meds last year, up from 28,000 in 2007. Bottom line advice: talk to a vet, and use only vet-recommended meds. The article names names — Frontline is the best, and Sergeant’s Silver is the product that caused the trouble for Peter Bohnel’s dogs. The article says Frontline is sold only through veterinary offices, but a quick check of showed it listed for sale there, and I think I’ve seen it in pet stores as well.

Medical marijuana in 2010? Local and national groups supporting the medical use of marijuana may try another approach, reports the PiPress. They are considering putting the measure on the ballot, as a constitutional amendment. Since most Minnesotans support legalizing medical use of marijuana, and since the House and Senate both passed the bill this session, only to have it vetoed by the governor, they think they have a chance of success. The project would cost a lot, as backers of the just-passed Legacy Amendment can attest. But the the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group pushing the legislation, might come up with much of the money.

War Report

Nigeria BBC Ken Niweigha, a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), was shot to death while in police custody. Police claim he was killed in a shootout, after he took them to retrieve a weapons cache. For 13 days, a military Joint Task Force (JTF) has been hunting through the swamps of the Delta for militants who kidnapped 15 sailors, 18 soldiers and hijacked a petrol tanker belonging to the national oil company.

Iraq Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity issued arrest warrants for more than 1,000 people on corruption charges. The warrants reportedly include 50 senior officials.

Somalia BBC Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys formally became leader of the Somali Islamist rebel group Hisbul-Islam, which, together with al-Shabab, is waging war against the Somali government. He succeeded Omar Abubakar. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys “fled to Eritrea in 2007 after Ethiopian troops ousted his movement, the Union of Islamic Courts, which he had led with [the current president] Mr Ahmed. He split from the more moderate Mr Ahmed after the latter agreed to UN-led peace talks that brought the latter to power as president in January and saw Ethiopian troops pull out.”