December 9, 2007

Facebook takes back Beacon

A month after implementing a new ad system, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to users and given them the option to opt out of the system, which is known as Beacon.

Beacon tracks a Facebook user’s actions around the web, broadcasting information such as product purchases or signing up for services to the user’s friends. According to the New York Times, Zuckerberg apologized through a blog post after “weeks of criticism from members, privacy groups and advertisers.?

The beginning of the post follows:

“About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users.?

One week after changing Beacon to an opt-in system (instead of an if-you-ignore-this-notice-you’re-part-of-the-program system), Zuckerberg offered an option to completely turn off Beacon.

The number of users that were disappointed with the newest Facebook feature was clear by a petition about Beacon; the Times reported that “more than 50,000 Facebook users signed a petition about Beacon that was initiated by the political group Civic Action.?

The privacy issues do not apply solely to users, either: findings from Stefan Berteau, a senior research engineer at Computer Associates' Threat Research Group showed that Beacon also tracks users in its third-party partner sites, according to the Washington Post. Bertau also discovered that Beacon tracks users even when they’re not logged in to Facebook or have opted out of the feature—that user’s actions can be tied back specifically to him or her.

House approves energy bill

Despite a veto threat from the White House, the House passed an energy bill that increases the fuel-efficiency standards for the automobile standards and the use of renewable energy.

According to the New York Times, “The bill's supporters claim it will reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil, jump-start development of clean energy technologies and drastically reduce the nation's production of greenhouse gases.? When the bill reaches the Senate, however, the bill could be rewritten due to opposition to provisions concerning new taxes on the oil industry and requiring “electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from alternative sources." The White House has said it will veto the bill if it includes those provisions.

The House voted 235 to 181, with 14 Republicans for it and seven Democrats against it.

According to the bill, by the year 2020 vehicles must average 35 miles per gallon and “15 percent of the electricity generated by the nation's utilities would have to come from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, as well as biomass,? according to the Washington Post.

The New York Times reports that this is “the first significant increase in mileage standards since 1975,? and the Washington Post writes that the new standard for mileage is “a 40 percent increase over the current requirement.?

The bill also gives tax incentives for ethanol motor fuel use. Appliance and light bulb standards would also be affected by the measure; if passed, the bill would phase out Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb.

December 1, 2007

Plans for a new Nordstrom in Ridgedale Mall

Nordstrom announced Friday that it plans to open a store in Minnetonka’s Ridgedale Center. The store will have two levels and will be sized approximately 172,000 square feet, according to the Pioneer Press. In 1992, Nordstrom put in its first Twin Cities store at the Mall of America, along with its outlet, Nordstrom Rack.

The company has planned to tear down one of the Macy’s stores at Ridgedale for its new store, but Macy’s hadn’t agreed to that. Nordstrom retracted its statement later on Friday, “calling the comment ‘premature,’ and said only that it planned to open a store at Ridgedale -- location to be determined,? according to the Star Tribune.

The new Nordstrom store is expected to boost traffic at Ridgedale, but many department stores usually try to keep Nordstrom out because it’s extra competition. As department stores have consolidated, Nordstrom could now make plans to move in.

Frank Guzzetta, chairman of the Macy’s division that oversees Macy’s Midwest operations said no plans of moving the current Ridgedale Macy’s stores have been approved and that he would rather Nordstrom open its new store in downtown Minneapolis to “strengthen the locale,? according to the Star Tribune.

Nordstrom’s target customers are people whose income is $100,000 or more, as reported by the Pioneer Press.

November 28, 2007

Jobs created through green initiatives

The mayors of the Twin Cities say that the increase in attention to go green could create more jobs. A study, endorsed by the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and released by the Renewable Energy Project on Monday, says that Minnesota can create “more than 18,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs in the wind, solar and other alternative-energy businesses over the next decade,? according to the Star Tribune.

The Renewable Energy Project is working with the Blue Green Alliance to document the jobs that can be created if the energy bill calling for 15 percent of U.S. Electricity to come from alternative sources by 2020 passes. Minnesota has already passed a law calling for 25 percent of its electricity to be generated by alternative sources by 2025.

According to the Star Tribune, both St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said they have begun plans to both “expand and add companies in the conservation and alternative-energy industries.

The Blue Green Alliance is a partnership between the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers and focuses on three key issues (global warming and clean energy; fair trade; and reducing toxics) while concentrating efforts in Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, according tho their website (

Minnesota Public Radio has reported that the Mayors' Green Manufacturing Initiative are expected to be released in January, showing the “job potential in renewable energy, transportation, and building products.?

November 18, 2007

Recycling effort halted

Electronic recyclers got more than they could handle during the three-day effort at the Mall of America. People could drop off old TVs and computers to be recycled for free, and, according to the Pioneer Press, over 5,000 cars brought “1 million pounds of old electronics? on the first day.

When the collection ended on Friday, dated electronics had filled 86 trucks, reported the Star Tribune. Twenty cars were already in line to recycle one hour before the collection began on that second-day; that afternoon, other cars would be turned away.

A 2006 law prohibits Minnesotans from throwing the cathode ray tubes from both TVs and computers in with the trash, and earlier this year another law “requires electronics manufacturers to collect and recycle 60 percent by weight of what they sold the previous year,? said Garth Hickle, product stewardship team leader for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

With the new federal communications law of February 2009, there will be no more analog signals for TVs. This means that consumers will have to invest in cable or satellite TV, a digital converter or a brand new TV.

Old TVs can be recycled at collection spots throughout the state, but there can be a charge. Hennepin County has free drop-off centers in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington, while Minneapolis has free curbside pick-ups, according to Hickle.

Metro Transit goes green

Last Thursday, Metro Transit introduced its new line of green buses with a procession down Nicollet Mall. The 17 green-wrapped buses that were shown off are the some of the first of the 150 hybrid-electric buses that Metro Transit will buy over the next four years as part of its “Go Green? campaign. According to the Star Tribune, these hybrids cost $557,000 each, 80 percent of which is paid for by the federal government. Local sources fund the other 20 percent. Standard city buses cost $356,500.

The hybrids that Metro Transit has already been using get an average of 4.71 miles per the gallon, compared to a typical bus’s 3.86 miles per gallon. Metro Transit expects to save 338,000 gallons per year once the 172 total hybrid buses are running in five years.

The Star Tribune reports that “Metro Transit is expecting a 22 percent or greater improvement in fuel economy, which translates to 1,965 gallons of fuel per bus saved annually, along with less soot and other pollutants.? The hybrid buses reduce emissions by 90 percent.

Metro Transit first introduced three hybrid buses in 2002. From this Tuesday until the end of the year, hybrid buses will travel various routes, offering free rides. On Mondays, routes 17 and 18, which include stops in the Nicollet Mall area, will also be free.

November 10, 2007

Facebook plans targeted advertisements

Facebook announced Tuesday that it plans to use target advertising based on user actions. Companies will now be able to build profile pages similar to those of typical users, though company pages won’t be able to access individuals’ profiles like friends do even if “users formally declare themselves ‘fans’ of a company,? according to the Star Tribune. Businesses will be able to tailor their ads to activities of users: if a friend buys a book, a business can use the friend’s photo to get others to take similar action. Profile information may also be used for targeted ads, allowing businesses to “fine-tune their audiences.?

A special coding Facebook calls “Beacon? can be embedded to allow outside sites to create alerts for other Facebook friends—if someone lists something on eBay, then a message can be sent to their friends to allow them to look at the listing.

This is another step in lowering the guard on user privacy, though Facebook won’t provide advertisers with identifying information. Criticism arose with the implementation of the news feed feature months ago, which allowed updates on friends’ actions. Some users used Facebook’s own groups feature to show how displeased they were with the “stalkerish? new add-on. Because of the response, Facebook allowed users to turn off that feature. The targeted ads plan allows users can control what they share, but they can’t choose to opt out of ads.

The other top social networking site, MySpace, currently lets businesses make their own profile pages and announced that “it would expand its targeting program to include more categories and more advertisers? on Monday.

November 9, 2007

Possible delays for MnDOT projects

State Transportation Commissioner and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau announced Thursday that there may be delays in other state projects because of the funds drained by work on the new Interstate 35W bridge.

At a legislative hearing on Thursday, two Minnesota Department of Transportation financial specialists said that there is enough money “to pay for its schedule road construction program through February,? according to the Pioneer Press. Because of this, lawmakers did not request extra money for the department.

The federal government has given Minnesota $178.5 million and is promising an additional $195 million for a new bridge, according to the Star Tribune. But the Pioneer Press reports that “MnDOT needs legislative permission to spend $135 million more than its current budget to pay for both the bridge and its previously scheduled road projects.?

According to House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, the legislative panel will meet again in December, when they could make further adjustments to MnDOT’s spending level.

Keillher also expressed concerns about Molnau, telling Pioneer Press’s Bill Salisbury: “It is disingenuous and misleading to tell lawmakers one thing and members of the media another.? Minnesota Public Radio also reports that the Senate’s lead transportation expert “said he will effectively move to fire Molnau when lawmakers return in February.?

November 4, 2007

Continued support for Minnesota steel plant

The Indian company that plans to build a steel plant in northeastern Minnesota has agreed to comply with U.S. and international laws, said Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday.

Essar America’s Chief Executive Madhu Vuppuluri sent Pawlenty a letter assuring the governor that “ no investment or firm commitment will be made in Iran, unless and until permitted to do so under the applicable U.S. or international laws,? according to the Pioneer Press. The letter also said that Essar “considers its investments in the state of Minnesota of strategic importance both to Essar and to the state and people of Minnesota.?

Pawlenty now will offer state assistance for the plant after considering withdrawing support after suspicions of Essar dealings with Iran, including a negotiation “to build an $8 billion to $10 billion oil refinery in Iran,? according to the Pioneer Press. Such dealings would violate the Iran Country Sanctions Act, which “imposes sanctions on foreign companies that invest more than $20 million a year in Iran’s energy sector,? according to the Star Tribune.

Pawlenty sent Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice a letter on Monday to ask the U.S. State Department if Essar Global could potentially violate the act.

The proposed steel plant will cost $1.6 billion, be built in Itasca County and produce 2.5 million tons of steel per year, reports Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press. It would also provide 700 jobs to a region of Minnesota that has lost over 10,000 mining jobs since 1979. Itasca County is asking the Minnesota Legislature for over $60 million for roads, railroads, and various utility lines for the plant.

November 3, 2007

Pawlenty and Steger partner for the environment

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Arctic explorer Will Steger are joining together against global climate change in Minnesota. They announced their partnership on Monday “after participating in a panel discussion on the impact of climate change on Lake superior’s economy, natural systems and tourism,? according to the Pioneer Press.

Pawlenty also said Monday that he hopes to join Steger on his trip to the Canadian Arctic this spring to observe the ice sheets Steger has noticed shrinking. Pawlenty hasn’t made any promises to join the expedition because of potential conflicts with the upcoming legislative session.

The “Making a Great Lake Superior? conference included discussion of “pollution, invasive species and shoreline development,? according to the Star Tribune. Those topics all have good news and comment from Prof. Deborah Swackhamer of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment said that there has been a decline in concentrations of “legacy contaminates? like DDT and PCBs.

Climate change has affected the lake, however, as ice cover on the lake is decreased and the “average summer water temperature is increasing 2 degrees a decade,? said Prof. Jay Austin of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. According to the Star Tribune, Austin said that effects of these changes could mean more evaporation on the lake “and a drop in average water level.?

The Pioneer Press reports that both Pawlenty and Steger have plans to tour Lake Superior and also look at climate change’s effects on Minnesota’s northern forests.

October 28, 2007

New Dakota County 911 call center

Dakota County has a new system for 911 calls—one without handheld receivers. In their places, the new center has equipped headsets and flat-panel touch screens that show the caller’s location that can be forwarded to emergency response vehicles like fire engines, ambulances, or squad cars. There will be 23 workstations with six computer screens each.

The computer technology cost $6.3 million, and construction of the 25,000 square foot center was an additional $7.8 million. The Dakota Communications Center, located in Empire Township, south of Rosemount will open on Dec. 9, according to the Pioneer Press.

Other 911 centers in Dakota County, five total, “will transfer over their operations and shut their doors by the end of the year,? according to the Pioneer Press. Within the first three years, they expect to save $2.4 million in operating expenses, says the center’s executive director, Kent Therkelsen.

Studies for a new dispatching system began in 1997 and the 9/11 attacks brought grants as incentives for connecting to other agency dispatch systems, Therkelsen told the Star Tribune. Currently, Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Carver counties use that new regional system to communicate with one another.

The new system, says Therkelsen, will allow contact with volunteer firefighters across the county and give care instruction to callers with medical needs before paramedics arrive.

The center will handle over 400,000 calls a year, and uses the same 800 megahertz regional system Hennepin County used during the I-35W bridge collapse.

Anoka County-Blaine Airport expansion

Last Tuesday, Anoka County Commissioners and their private partners reached a decision on the airport’s expansion plans.

The new plan is for quick construction that are “targeted toward corporate jets – the same types of planes that could be diverted form St. Paul’s Holman Field during the 2008 GOP Convention,? according to the Pioneer Press. The Anoka airport hopes to be complete an expansion of a hangar-and-office complex by the convention date.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission needs to approve the plan, with the earliest vote date on Nov. 19. Following that, the Federal Aviation Administration will have to approve the designs, which could take several months, Joel LeVahn, attorney and on of the partners to the Anoka County airport expansion, told the Pioneer Press.

LeVahn says that if everything can’t be finalized by December, there could be a problem.

LeVahn told the Star Tribune that the airport “isn’t well-respected in the private community? and that he is hoping that will change with the improvements. Blaine’s airport is one of several reliever airports that could be used if the Secret Services close the downtown St. Paul reliever airport around the time of the Republican Convention. Compared to some of the other airports, Blaine’s is much closer to the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

October 19, 2007

Woodbury's new complex

Woodbury is planning on building a new sports complex onto its existing Beilenberg Sports Center. The Woodbury SportsPlex would cost $40 million and have seven-rinks, which “would rival the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine as one of the largest skating complexes in the world? according to the Pioneer Press.

Woodbury’s mayor, Bill Hargis, says that it’s only a concept at the moment and Mesaba Capital Partners hasn’t actually made a presentation to the city’s planning commission, according to the Star Tribune. The SportsPlex could be completed by June 2009 and “would be built on 15 acres of municipal land.?

Fifteen-thousand square feet of the SportsPlex would be open for specialty shops, sporting goods stores, and even a restaurant. Another 100,000 square feet would be set aside for a field house, containing an indoor soccer field, which could be used for a variety of sports including baseball and football.

Though many times municipal hockey rinks are financed by taxpayer money, this one would not and Mesaba could even take over the operation of the facility, which could save the city money (Star Tribune).

And with the Minnesota Wild looking for a new place to go because of the business of the Xcel Energy Center, Woodbury is an option that Doug Risebrough, Wild president, is thinking about using for practice.

October 15, 2007

Cottage Grove drive-in may close

Cottage Grove’s drive-in, Cottage View, one of Twin Cities’ last remaining drive-ins, according to Minneapolis/St. Paul Journal, now faces competition from PariPassu Cos., a Minneapolis-based company.

The developer proposes a lifestyle center that includes non other than a Wal-Mart. In addition, it may also have an outdoor amphitheater and a few department stores, other restaurants and stores, and even “green spaces and fountains.?

Though there hasn’t been a formal hearing by the city quite yet, many residents think that the development will go through, according to the Star Tribune. Community members argued with one another on the local newspapers web site, writing whether or not they thought the development – and a new Wal-Mart—in place of the unique drive-in was good for the city or not.

According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Journal, Howard Blin, Cottage Grove's director of community development, “expects the approval process to start next month and run through the end of the year.?

Wal-Mart’s Minnesota representative, Julie Idelkope, however, says that it’s too soon to know whether or not Wal-Mart will build on that area, though there have been conversations with the developer. According to the Star Tribune, Wal-Mart has 36 supercenters and 24 service centers in Minnesota.

There is some skepticism about the location and timing for such a center. Because of its location near the river with limited crossings, Cottage Grove doesn’t have a strong retail market, said John Johannson, senior vice president of retail leasing at Welsh Cos.

Gerry Herringer, the owner of the Cottage View Drive-In, built the theater in 1966, but has been looking to sell the land for a few years now. The theater is one of only two Twin Cities’ drive-ins. There are only six in the state.

October 14, 2007

Name for new library in Forest Lake

Washington County commissioners are planning to name a new library based on help from the public. The $6.3 million Forest Lake county library is set to open on Oct. 29.
They will choose from 10 names, but since there are no guiding principles for naming anything, the whole process presents some problems.

Patricia Conley, director of the county library system, suggested that the library be named for a “historic event, historic person or geographic factor that ties it to the county,? according to the Pioneer Press.

According to the Star Tribune, the board members are leaning toward naming the library after the Hardwood Creek Trail.

Other choices for the names include:

  • Garen Crossroads: since the library is built “near what was once the town of Garen? (Pioneer Press)

  • Headwaters Library: because of the library’s closeness to Headwater Parkway

  • Shawn Silvera Memorial Library or Officer Shawn Silvera Memorial Library: to honor the Lino Lakes police officer

  • Forest Lake Public Library: to reflect the community name

  • Washington Lakes Library: because of the numerous lakes in the area

  • James J. Gessell Memorial Library: for the 1970s Forest Lake mayor

  • Forest Lake Regional Library: since built in Forest Lake, but meant to serve the surrounding communities

  • North Washington County Library: because of the library’s location

  • Thomas E. Doherty Library: Doherty owned and operated the Forest Lake airport and once owned the land the library’s built on

October 10, 2007

Mother charged with drowning of baby

A Lakeville woman has been charged with manslaughter, following the drowning of her 11-month-old daughter while she shopped online for shoes.

Katherine Renae Bodem, 38, left Cecilia in the tub with her 2-year-old brother for a few minutes while she surfed the web, reported the Pioneer Press. When she didn’t hear them playing, Bodem went to see what was going on and “found the boy trying to pull Cecilia out of the tub.? Though Bodem claimed that she was only on the computer for a few minutes when this happened, Bodem’s 10-year-old daughter said that it was about 20 minutes; after receiving a search warrant, a forensic inspection was done, showing that the 911 call was placed 19 minutes after Bodem had begun looking for shoes.

Bodem has three surviving children, writes the Pioneer Press, and her mother, Betty Koberoski, suspected that Bodem suffered from depression and even called Dakota County Juvenile and Protective Services last year with concern for her daughter’s children. Bodem filed a restraining order against Koberoski in November.

According to the Star Tribune: “Bodem was charged in Dakota County District Court with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, one for negligence and the other for causing the death of a child through neglect or endangerment.?

The Pioneer Press reports that if Bodem is convicted, she “would face four years in prison under state sentencing guidelines.? She will appear in court on Nov. 5.

October 4, 2007

State sues Sprint because of contract complaints

On Thursday, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against Sprint Nextel Corp., accusing the company of extending customer contracts without consent.

Though other wireless companies extend contracts for changes to plans like adding minutes, Swanson has selected Sprint because of the numerous complaints from Minnesota residents, many of whom have been threatened with $200 cancellation fees.

According to the Pioneer Press, a customer can great a good deal on a new cell phone if they sign up for a contract for a certain period of time; the company’s contract will specify that any changes made to the original contract will extend it. Swanson’s case has examples from both businesses and individuals who have been unhappy with Sprint’s service.

An MSN Money survey rated Sprint Nextel the worst of 400 companies, based on opinions of 5,000 consumers across the nation.

Swanson cited violation of “consumer state protection laws that require adequate disclosure and knowing consent to alter contract terms,? wrote the Star Tribune.

Legislation for fair cell phone services was introduced in 2007 with the Minnesota Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Though it went through necessary House committees, Senate committees won’t hear it until the 2008 session. The new bill would require companies not only to tell the customer that the contract was extended with a change, but also require accurate coverage maps and “allow customers to restrict access to third-party services such as text messaging.?

Woman found guilty in file sharing case

The fight against music piracy continues, but now the recording industry is getting a little further ahead. Today, a Brainerd woman was found liable for illegal music sharing. According to the Star Tribune, Jammie Thomas, 30, was ordered to pay a group of recording companies $222,000. The Pioneer Press wrote that the total came from “the sum of $9,250 for each of 24 songs for which the companies sought damages.?

The companies (Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. And Warner Bros. Records Inc.) “accused Thomas of downloading the songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account,? according to the Star Tribune. Thomas denies charges, claiming not to even have a Kazaa account. Thomas’s case is the first such lawsuit to go to trial, according to the Pioneer Press.

In his closing, Thomas’s lawyer, Brian Toder, said that the companies didn’t prove that “Jammie Thomas, a human being, got on her keyboard and sent out these things,? according to the Star Tribune.

Record companies have filed over 26,000 lawsuits since 2003, wrote the Pioneer Press.

Copyright law infringement ranges from $750 to $30,000 each. Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, believes that cases against illegal downloads need to be in the media so that the public knows the RIAA is trying to protect their rights.

Both Thomas and Toder declined to comment.

September 30, 2007

Teens charged in shooting of 12-year-old girl

Two teens were charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault on Thursday, following a shooting in north Minneapolis on Saturday.

Tywin Marcell Bender, 17, and Semaj Magee, 16, jumped out of a black SUV with guns, as a party ended, according to the Star Tribune. Witnesses said that Magee fired first; Bender followed and fired about 20 rounds. They then fled in the vehicle, leaving 12-year-old Vernice Hall with a bullet wound to the head.

According to court papers, Bender is part of the Stick Up Boys gang. Members of a rival gang, Murder Squad, had attended the party.

The county attorney’s office is seeking to try the two as adults because of the charges and use of guns.

Hall was still in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

September 29, 2007

No new trial in murder of 11-year-old boy

On Friday, a judge ruled that new evidence in a trial of a murder of 17 years ago was insufficient to allow a new trial, reported the Pioneer Press.

A hearing earlier this month presented new evidence, including inmates’ testimony. A key testimony in the case was from an inmate who claimed that Paul Rice, Fort’s cousin, had confessed to shooting Potts. Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam wrote that if Rice had been the legitimate killer, he would have confessed the correct method of how he committed the murder, according to the Pioneer Press.

Advanced testing on blood drops collected at Eugene Fort’s home was found to be Marcus Potts’, an 11-year-old who was stabbed at least 44 times. Originally, though traces of blood could be found in footprints in the snow that led to Fort’s apartment, there wasn’t enough for DNA technology to analyze.

Fort was convicted in May based on the blood tests and faulty alibis. Wrote the Star Tribune: “The conviction on two counts of first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.? Fort’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8.

Police believe that Fort had entered the Potts’ home in an attempt to burglarize it in when he found the boy, whom police say surprised Fort. Potts’ mother found the boy’s body when she returned from work.

Despite Quam’s decision, Fort can still appeal to the state Supreme Court, wrote the Pioneer Press.

September 23, 2007

No found murder weapon in fatal stabbing

One month after the fatal stabbing of a local teen, Hastings police have been unable to find the murder weapon.

The weapon was a knife, used by murder suspect Allan Beckles, to stab 16-year-old Trent Griebling multiple times near Tilden Elementary School.

Police have searched Beckles’ home, and the school grounds, the West Third Street area, as well as the dry basin off of Minnesota 55, where Beckles had phoned a relative to pick him up.

Two smaller knives were found in Beckles’ home, but Hastings Police Chief Michael McMenomy says that these don’t seem to be the murder weapon.

Beckles has a history of juvenile citations and has allegedly used knives to threaten not only his mother, but other Hastings teens in the past.

The fight that lead to Griebling’s death took place after three individuals arrived at the residence of a 16-year-old girl, whose boyfriend, Allan Beckles, also 16, was visiting her.

Beckles climbed out of a window upstairs and jumped to the ground, when the three, including Griebling, chased him. Griebling and Beckles fought across the street at the elementary school, and police were called at 12:48 a.m., finding Griebling wounded—stabbed once in the back and twice in the chest.

Griebling was dead on arrival at Hastings’ Regina Memorial Hospital.

According to Beckles’ attorney, Lawrence Nichols, his client also received wounds, having been “cut at least twice by Griebling." Nichols is calling this a self-defense case as Beckles is only 5 feet 2 and less than 100 pounds while Griebling was 6 feet 4 and 160 pounds.

Nichols also believes that one of Griebling’s friends “may have found the weapon and placed it in a trash bin; he reportedly was spotted in the area the next day,? according to the Pioneer Press.

The incident is not believed to be gang-related.

September 18, 2007

Collision on the light rail

A minivan, whose 77-year old driver was attempting a U-turn, was hit by the Metro Transit’s light rail on Sunday.

Both the light-rail train and the minivan were headed north on 54th St., said Bob Gibbons, spokesperson for Metro Transit. The van attempted a U-Turn in front of the train after it pulled ahead, according to the Pioneer Press. Though the driver attempted to stop, the front of the train hit the vehicle, and the minivan then spun around to hit the side of the train.

Though the damage to the train was only “cosmetic,? according to Gibbons, service between Fort Snelling and 46th Street stopped for almost an hour.

The minivan could not be driven, but the driver was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center and didn’t have any significant injuries.

No one on the train was injured, according to the Pioneer Press.

Gibbons doesn’t think that this area of the light rail is problematic, according to the Star Tribune. Nor does he recommend turning on the train tracks.

September 16, 2007

Bicyclist found dead

A bicyclist, Mark Loesch, was found dead Thursday morning at 3732 Elliot Ave. S., which was less than two miles from his home, according to the Pioneer Press. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said that the cause of death was blunt force impacts to his head.

The Star Tribune reports that, “His death was ruled a homicide.? He had left late Wednesday night for a bike ride, but hadn’t returned.

Loesch was 41 and an avid bicyclist. The father of four, he had been married for 16 years.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday afternoon at Lakewood Cemetery.

Police were still investigating the case on Saturday.

September 13, 2007

A fatal beating

A 15-month old girl was beaten to death by her father who was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison this morning.

Beauford Jackson III, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of his daughter, Destiny. Jackson punched his daughter repeatedly when she awoke crying on February 14, according to the Pioneer Press.

Destiny had suffered under her father’s care before, and had been placed into foster care in December. Two months later, she was given back to her parents.

Maeve Clifford, Destiny’s mother, had been at the grocery store, but when she returned home, she found her daughter having trouble breathing. Paramedics went to the apartment, and Destiny’s parents told them that Destiny had fallen out of bed, a claim they’d made months before when Destiny was found to have a skull fracture.

Jackson was charged with unintentional second-degree murder the following day, according to the Star Tribune.

Destiny’s grandmother, Mikael Clifford, described the child as an optimist.

Before the sentencing, Ramsey County District Judge William H. Leary left Jackson with these words: “Mr. Jackson, you've had a very troubled life, a life for which you are primarily responsible. I hope destiny is with you every moment of your life.?