December 14, 2008

Winter Storm Complicates Driving Conditions

As a winter storm moves through the state, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is reporting difficult driving conditions, reported the Pioneer Press.

While a few spinouts have been reported Lt. Mark Peterson, a spokesman with the State Patrol, said the lack of any serious accidents have been "a pleasant surprise." Sunday conditions are particularly important as college students drive home for the holidays, reported the Star Tribune.

In the western and some northwestern parts of the state, major roads have been closed including Interstate 94 between Moorhead and Alexandria and Highway 10 between Moorhead and Detroit Lakes.

Temperatures in the metro area are expected to drop as the storm passes through.

With bad weather expected into Monday, authorities are advising people to stay inside and avoid traveling.

December 7, 2008

Gov. Pawlenty To Travel To Israel

Gov. Tim Pawlenty will travel to Israel on Thursday on a mission to promote Minnesota businesses in the region, reported The Pioneer Press.

Following in Arne Carlson's footsteps, who 15 years earlier made this same trip as governor to promote trade with the region, Pawlenty will lead a team of business leaders, reported The Star Tribune.

Israel is Minnesota's 22nd largest export market, shipping over $121 million of goods--largely computer products and machinery--to the country.

Pawlenty will make stops in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and will speak at an economic conference.

Pawlenty is no stranger to trade missions. He has made stops this year in Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Poland and India.

November 30, 2008

Sauk Rapids Man Rescued From River

A 62-year old man from Sauk Rapids was pulled from the Mississippi River after falling through thin ice while ice skating, reported the Pioneer Press.

James Christensen was in the water for over an hour, according to the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Rescuers pulled Chirstensen out of the river just north of St. Cloud.

A resident near the river reported hearing cries of help and called authorities to investigate.

Rescuers used a rope to pull Christensen in after he floated over 100 feet from shore.

Christensen is at St. Cloud Hospital and is listed in good condition, reported the Star Tribune.

November 23, 2008

Amid Recount, Rejected Absentee Ballots Could Be Key

With 65 percent of the votes recounted and a margin of less than 200 votes separating Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, thousands of rejected absentee ballots could decide the election, reported The Star Tribune.

Regardless of the recount's outcome, the losing candidate will likely challenge the thousands of rejected absentee ballots, which could span the ever-shrinking vote margin betwen the two candidates. The Pioneer Press reported that Al Franken had already started that challenge.

The Al Franken for Senate campaign won a decision in a Ramsey Court on Sunday to obtain the names of those rejected ballots. The judge, Dale Lindman, said the county's refusal to make the information public was in violation of the Data Practices Act.

The Franken campaign will use that information to help identify voters and determine their intended vote.

"They did everything right, and yet their votes were not counted," said David Lillehaug, an attorney for the Franken campaign. "It's clear to us that mistakes have been made."

Some feel, however, that the information would be used to determine exactly who those absentee voters cast their ballot for.

"The fact is, they're going to get the names and addresses, and they're going to pound on people's doors and ask, 'How did you vote?' " said Fritz Knaak, an attorney with the Norm Coleman campaign.

November 16, 2008

Rallies in Minneapolis, Across Nation Protest Gay Marriage Bans

In Minneapolis, a group of 700 people protested newly passed gay marriage bans in California, Florida and Arizona, reported The Star Tribune.

In addition to the rally at the Hennepin County Government Center, protesters gathered outside the Capitol in St. Paul and in Duluth on Saturday, and larger cities across the nation drew even larger crowds.

"From Golden Gate Park to Loring Park, we will step together until this battle is won," Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff told the crowd at the government center. "We will not forget the tens of thousands of gay couples who had their loves erased in California."

Protesters in New York proclaimed the gay rights battle, “the greatest civil rights battle of our generation,? while protesters in Washington state endured nasty weather, which included a tornado watch, marching to the beat “Gay, straight, black, white; marriage is a civil right,? reported the New York Times.

"It's really sad that this is even an issue at all," said Kendra Atkins, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student from Eau Claire, Wisc, who attended the Minneapolis rally. "Love is something we all experience in our own way and it's very unfortunate that certain people think there should be a right way and a wrong way to love."

November 9, 2008

Ramsey County Denies Coleman Request to Stop Absentee Ballot Count

A Ramsey County judge denied requests from Norm Coleman's lawyers to discredit 32 unopened absentee ballots that the Coleman campaign said were in a city election official's car, reported The Pioneer Press.

In one of the tightest, and nastiest, Senate races in the country, and with a vote margin of 221 votes, 32 absentee ballots could have a huge impact on the election.

According to Election Director Cindy Reichert, the ballots could not be delivered to their designated polling place because it had closed for the day. Instead they remained sealed and were not to be opened until other election duties were complete, reported The Star Tribune.

The Franken campaign called Coleman's abrupt legal action a "Saturday morning sneak attack," and derided him for trying to stall a state-mandated recount.

Both campaigns will wait until Nov. 18 for state officials to certify the results. After that, a hand recount of all ballots will begin, meaning the election may not be decided until mid-December.

November 2, 2008

Pioneer Press Receives "Anthrax" Package

The Pioneer Press received a package labeled "anthrax Saturday, but initial police tests said the accompanying white powder is sugar, reported The Star Tribune.

Inside the envelope is a CD with a photo Colin Powell titled "Anthrax Shock and Awe Terror." Taped to the CD is a sugar packet labeled "Anthrax" and "Biohazard," reported The Pioneer Press.

The incident was the latest in a series of such mailings to newspapers around the country.

The FBI arrested a California man, Marc M. Keyser, 66, of Sacramento, last week on suspicion of sending over 100 falsely labeled "anthrax" packages to various media outlets across the nation.

St. Paul police spokesman Pete Crum said no one was injured or arrested in connection with Friday's hoax anthrax letter.

October 26, 2008

I-35W Crash Victim's Name Released

The name of the driver who died after crashing through construction barricades into a closed I-35W lane was released Sunday, reported the Star Tribune.

Jose Joel Guerra, 33 from north Minneapolis , was also known as Jorge Sandoval, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office.

Guerra crashed his 1991 Buick Regal around 5:30 a.m. near 35W and the 46th Street bridge, reported the Pioneer Press.

The driver was heading south on the Stevens Avenue frontage road when he crashed into construction barriers and into a closed lane on 35W

Guerra died on impact.

October 19, 2008

Bachmann's Obama Criticism Aids Opponent

Minnesotan Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann's comments Friday on MSNBC's Hardball that Barack Obama held "anti-American" views have spurred campaign donations for her Democratic opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg, reported The Star Tribune.

After Bachmann's interview, Tinklenberg's campaign reported 9,000 donations from around the country totaling about $450,000. In contrast, Tinklenberg raised about $300,000 in the five weeks since Aug. 21st, reported The Pioneer Press.

Bachmann repeatedly said she was "concerned" about Obama's ties to his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, and BIll Ayers, former member of the radical anti-war group the Weather Underground in the 1960s and '70s, characterizing them as anti-American leftists.

Additionally, Bachmann said she would welcome a full media investigation into all U.S. Congress members, saying she hopes the media can expose others with anti-American tendencies and beliefs.

October 12, 2008

Longtime State Senator Allan Spear Dies

Allan Spear, one of the first openly gay legislators, died Sunday at the age of 71, reported the Pioneer Press.

Spear died of complications following heart surgery on Thursday.

A member of the state senate from 1972 to his retirement in 2000, Spear was a member of Minnesota's DFL party. He championed human rights and fought to amend Minnesota's Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. The legislation finally, which he started supporting in the '70s was finally passed in 1993.

Spear announced he was gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star newspaper in 1974, becoming one of two openly gay legislators in the country, reported The Star Tribune.

Spear was a former history professor at the University of Minnesota and, as part of Minnesota's sesquicentennial celebration, was named one of the 150 people who shaped Minnesota.

Spear is survived by his partner, Junjiro Tsuji, and his brother, Richard Spear.

October 5, 2008

Gore Appears At DFL Fundraiser

Former Vice President Al Gore spoke at a DFL fund raising event on Saturday on behalf of Al Franken at Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus, reported The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The event, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's second annual fundraiser, featured speakers from the party's major office holders, including Amy Klobuchar, reported The Star Tribune.

Gore largely worked to tie Al Franken's opponent, Norm Coleman, to the Bush administration's failed policies in hopes of boosting Franken's flagging poll numbers.

Franken, too, distanced himself from Coleman and stated his goal to end the war in Iraq. On the domestic front, Franken said he wanted to work to reform the health care system and help out the average Minnesotan.

"I know the middle class is the engine of prosperity, and I know that we all do better when we all do better," said Franken, channeling the late Paul Wellstone.

Franken went on to the tell memorable story of how Wellstone used to run along the sidelines during his son, David's, cross country meets, shouting that David could "take" his opponent. Franken used the story as a metaphor for his own campaign against Coleman.

"I'm going to take this guy," Franken said. "I need you running alongside me. I need you running alongside me for the next 31 days. I need you every step of the way. Together — together we will take this guy, and we will take back this country."

September 28, 2008

SUV Kills St. Paul Bicyclist

A Minneapolis man driving an SUV hit a St. Paul woman riding her bike near Summit and Snelling Avenues in St. Paul on Saturday, reported The Star Tribune.
Virginia Heuerbowar, 51, was hit riding her bike east on Summit Avenue said Pete Panos, a spokesman for St. Paul police.
The unidentified driver, 39, was also heading east on a service road and appears to have hit Heuerbowar when his road merged with hers.
Heuerbowar was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul where, despite wearing a helmet, she died of severe head injuries seven hours after the crash, reported The St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The driver was not issued a ticket while investigators continue determining exactly how the accident occurred.
The driver maintained he stopped before entering the Summit Avenue intersection.

September 21, 2008

Motorcycle Accident May Have Been Murder; Victim's Boyfriend Arrested

Police arrested a 33-year-old man after his girlfriend, 28, died in a motorcycle accident they believe he may have staged, reported The St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Police found Natasha Waalen of Anoka, lying in the street along the 16800 block of Tulip Street Northwest in Andover near her motorcycle.
"There are multiple factors that are not consistent with a motor vehicle accident," said a statement from the Anoka County sheriff's office. The statement mentioned the nature of Waalen' s wounds but did not elaborate on the cause of her death.
The suspect, Ryan Boland, lived with Waalen and their 4-year-old daughter and had known the victim for 10 years.
Waalen's dad, Jeff, said he cannot make sense of both his daughter's death and Boland's arrest, reported The Star Tribune.
"They're barking up the wrong tree" he said, referring to Boland's arrest. Jeff Waalen said he thinks police should investigate the man who threatened to kill his daughter over a potential lawsuit instead.

September 15, 2008

3 Stabbed in Late Night Attack

Three people were stabbed early Saturday morning on Lake St. in Minneapolis, reports The Star Tribune.
A 40-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man were stabbed in the chest and a 24-year-old woman was stabbed in the arm outside the Taco Bell on Third Avenue South and Lake Street.
The Pioneer Press reports all three remain hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center in unknown condition as Minneapolis police investigate the triple stabbing.
Police Sgt. William Palmer said witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene. Police say they have no other suspects
Palmer says they have not identified a possible motive but have ruled out robbery.