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May 4, 2008

Minimum wage could reach $7.90 if Gov. gives okay

A bill to raise the minimum wage to as much as $7.90 by July 2009 passed the House today, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty said changes will have to made for him to approve it, the Pioneer Press said.

The legislation passed 82-45 in the House, after the Senate approved a similar bill a year ago. Three years earlier, Minnesota’s minimum wage was raised to $6.15 an hour for large employers.

This bill, if approved by the governor, would increase wages for large and small businesses.

Man dies in St. Paul after police Taser

A suicidal, 21-year-old man died in St. Paul on Sunday after police used a Taser to control him as he attacked two officers, the Pioneer Press reported.

His identity and cause of death have not been released.

The man’s relative reportedly called police to Wheelock Ridge Villa, saying he was threatening to commit suicide with drugs.

Two officers and paramedics entered the apartment where the man was located, partially clothed. When paramedics tried to examine him he attacked the officers.

Officers sprayed him with pepper spray to subdue him, but the man did not respond and kept struggling with them. Then an officer trained to use a Taser shocked him, but the man still continued fighting.

Finally officers were able to handcuff him, at which time the man became unresponsive. He was pronounced dead in an ambulance.

April 14, 2008

Dalai Lama visits Rochester

The Dalai Lama will speak in Rochester, Minn. today.

According to WCCO television, the spiritual leader is here for a medical exam. He came to the city last year for medial care at the Mayo Clinic. Minnesota Public Radio said it is not clear if he is receiving medical treatment this visit.

In a private conference for Mayo employees, the Dalai Lama will give a talk titled “Compassion in Medicine.? WCCO said it would be on meditation.

Pro-Chinese demonstrators said they would protest outside the clinic. According to MPR, they will be calling for an end to the violence by Pro-Tibetan demonstrators.

Pro-Tibetan demonstrators have been interrupting Olympic torch ceremonies and sometimes violently. Tibet is under Chinese control and many Tibetans want independence, MPR said.

Northwest, Delta announce merger

Executives from Northwest Airlines and Delta Air lines announced Monday that the two companies will merge, reported the Pioneer Press.

This $3.1 billon deal means the creation of the largest airlines in the world. It would carry Delta’s name, Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson would take the top seat, and the headquarters would be in Atlanta—Delta’s hometown.

Northwest and Delta have been trying to work out a deal since the beginning of the year, but they were unable to find away to combine each company’s pilot seniorities. Despite Monday’s announcement, obstacles still remain.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat, said the merger jeopardizes jobs in the upper Midwest.

But the Delta CEO Richard Anderson suggested job cuts were not ahead.

“Today, we’re announcing a transaction that is about addition, not subtraction,? he said, as reported by the Pioneer Press.

Delta said it would not close any hubs it will keep major operations and an employee base in Minnesota, the Associated Press reported.

Rep. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the committee would “marshall all the forces necessary? to check for anti-trust issues.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she would focus on the jobs in Minnesota and “the long-standing commitment the state has to Northwest.?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also promised to enforce the agreements Northwest made to keep its headquarters in Minnesota, reported the Associated Press.

April 13, 2008

Gov. Pawlenty visits troops in Kosovo

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in Kosovo this weekend visiting the 400 Minnesota National Guard troops stationed there, the Star Tribune said.

He wanted to thank the soldiers for their work, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

He held a town hall meeting to hear their questions and concerns. Some of those included disability benefits and tuition reimbursement, MPR said.

The Minnesota troops in the Balkan nation are from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, headquartered in Mankato.

This was Gov. Pawlenty’s second visit to the nation since it declared its independence from Serbia in February.

Eighth Minnesota superdelegate to back Obama

A Minnesota superdelegates announced Sunday she supports Barack Obama for president, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Democratic National Committee member Nancy Larson of Dassel—one of the state’s last uncommitted Democratic superdelegates—said she supports Obama because she believes he has the best chance of winning the general election.

According to MPR, it was a difficult choice. She feels both Obama and Hilary Clinton are “wonderful candidates.?

She decided on Obama because of his grassroots campaigning and the amount of people who support him.

Larson is among eight Minnesota superdelegates supporting Obama. Three are supporting Clinton.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is the only superdelegate yet to back a candidate.

April 6, 2008

Malt-O-Meal recalls two cereals

The Minneapolis-based company Malt-O-Meal is voluntarily recalling certain packages of unsweetened Puffed Rice and unsweetened Puff Wheat Cereals because they may be contaminated with salmonella, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The recalled packages include those with “Best If Used By? dates from April 8 to March 18, 2009. They have been distributed under private labels including Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality.

According to the company, there have been no reported illnesses.

The salmonella threat was discovered during an internal routine food safety testing in a product made on March 24.

Sidewalk poetry planned for St. Paul this summer

As of this summer, approximately 100 sidewalk squares in St. Paul will feature poetry written by local residents, the Twin Cities Daily Planet said.

Everyday Sidewalk Poems, a new City of St. Paul Public Works project, will select the best short poems submitted by St. Paul citizens. Up to twenty poems will be chosen, and they will be spread across the ten miles of sidewalk that is routinely replaced each year.

Besides their concrete impression, winners will be awarded a $150 price and publication in a book and on the Sidewalk Poems Web site.

Public works employees are beginning now to look for places where sidewalk will need replacing.

One of the main central planners, St. Paul Artist-in-Residence Marcus Young, said the plan is not to just put poems in typical, central locations like Grand Avenue or downtown St. Paul.

“The idea is that this will be decentralize art,? he said to the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

March 30, 2008

Minnesota teen birth rate jumps from 2005

The total teen birth rate in Minnesota increased 7 percent from 2005. The rate among teens 17 and under jumped 10 percent, reported the Pioneer Press. The statistics coincides with increases in teen sexual activity, sexually transmitted diseases and teen abortions in Minnesota.

While the results are clear, the causes are not. The increases seem to suggest Minnesota is “losing the safe-sex battle,? but divisions between abstinence-only proponents and safe-sex education supporters run deep. Furthermore, a tight state budget means Minnesota has little funding to offer programs like STD education to combat the statistics.

Social and cultural changes could be responsible for the statistics as well, the Pioneer Press said. Teen births are more common in immigrant families, of which Minnesota has a high population.

A declining economy could be another cause. A stressful economic situation can spike the divorce rate or at least cause problems within families—both possible reasons parents may have less time to commit to their children. The economic situation could also give teens a less hopefully outlook on the future.

Ann Hoxie, the director of student wellness for St. Paul Public Schools said President Bush tying federal grants to abstinence programs might have resulted in an incomplete high school education program, said the Pioneer Press.

Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council said, on the other hand, that the problem is the assumption all teens have sex and that abstinence education can be beneficial.

Murals to cover Nicollet Avenue by August

The Kingfield and Lyndale Neighborhood Associations are planning the Walldogs on Nicollet project, six to ten public murals on Nicollet Avenue buildings by local and national artists, said the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

The project should be completed over a three-day span at the end of July. The murals will stretch 16 blocks from Lake Street to 46th Street, primarily involving local artists.

Mark Hinds, executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, said this kind of public work is imperative to the vibrancy of Minneapolis neighborhoods.

“It’s a different kind of public art—the use of volunteers, the style of it. We think the quality is top-notch,? he said to the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Interested property owners contribute a few hundred dollars to participate, which helps pay for the lead artist. The neighborhood associations are also looking for volunteers to help paint and plan.

“Walldogs? is a historical nickname for painters who went from town-to-town creating signs and murals, the Twin Cities Planet said. Now the name is affiliated with “pubic mural enthusiasts? who travel the country creating public art.

The Walldogs project completed a mural last fall with artist Carole Bersin at the Fischer Grocery on 34th Street and Nicollet, however a fire destroyed the art and the building on Feb. 21.

March 15, 2008

I-35 bridge construction company could sue

The construction company who was working on the I-35 bridge when it collapsed has taken measures to preserve its right to sue Minnesota for not keeping its workers safe, Minnesota Public Radio said.

Progressive Contractors was resurfacing the bridge when it fell last summer. They have filed the correct paperwork, but have not decided if they will go ahead with a lawsuit.

According to MPR, the papers were filed as a precaution. They are waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to release its report on the cause of the bridge collapse before they make a decision on a lawsuit.

If the company were to sue, they would likely argue the state breached its contract because the working environment on the bridge was unsafe.

One of the victims of the bridge collapse was a construction worker, Greg Jolstad, said ABC News.

Two children die of flu in Minnesota

Two children have died in Minnesota of causes related to pediatric influenza. A 5-year-old girl died in the Twin Cities this week shortly after getting a flu shot, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

She received her flu shot on March 4, but she was already sick. The child who died earlier was a 12-year-old who had not had the flu shot, said MPR.

March 9, 2008

Fridley girl found, amber alert ends

A missing Fridley girl, 4, was found alive and safe on Saturday, ending an Amber Alert, the Pioneer Press said.

Police found Anastasia Jones Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ended the Amber Alert at 1:20 p.m. and the girl was put in protective custody, the Pioneer Press said.

Her 19-year-old mother, Miracle Angel Flowers, and her mother’s boyfriend are in police custody, the Pioneer Press reported.

The child was taken Friday after Flowers, her non-custodial parent, took her from the Hennepin County Medical Center at 4:20 p.m. in a 1996 Sebring convertible. Police think Marion Keith Jackson, 37, may have driven the car, the Pioneer Press said. The car was found, abandoned Friday night.

Republican representatives lose endorsement

The three Minnesota Republican representatives who voted to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto of the transportation bill missed the party endorsement, reported Minnesota Public Radio.

Representatives Ron Erhardt, Neil Peterson and Jim Abeler lost their party endorsements at district conventions Saturday.

According to MPR, many delegates were upset that they supported a transportation bill that would raise the gas tax and the metrowide sales tax for transit. They helped override Republican Gov. Pawlenty’s veto of the bill.

MPR said Peterson and Erhardt have stood by their votes. Peterson said he would still run in the primary, but Erhardt said he was unsure if he would run in the primary as planned or run as an Independent. At Abler’s district convention he did not get the Republican endorsement, but the party did not endorse another candidate either.

Representatives Kathy Tingelstand, Rod Hamilton, and Bud Heidgerken were the other three Republicans who overrode Gov. Pawlenty’s veto. The Pioneer Press said party activists voted to postpone a decision on Tingelstand’s endorsement, and the endorsement conventions for Hamilton and Heidgerken have not been scheduled.

March 2, 2008

Bill proposes that pesticide activity must be public

A bill introduced to the Minnesota House would force farmers and businesses to make their pesticide records public, Minnesota Public Radio said.

The Department of Agriculture tracks the states’ pesticide sales, but it does not keep record of what pesticides are used where or how. Through a public database, the bill would require people to provide notice when they use pesticides, reported MPR.

Rep. Ken Tschumper, DFL-La Crescent and author of the bill, said those using pesticides need to be required to notify their neighbors. Although they are putting the chemicals on their own land, it still affects others. Wind, for example, can be a factor in transporting the pesticides miles away.

Although pesticides spread by wind, or “spray drift,? is illegal, enforcement relies on complaints only. The effects of spray drift can be very damaging, and the database would help the public protect itself, MPR said.

March 1, 2008

Officer’s use of deadly force against Mankato man was necessary

According to Minnesota Public Radio, the police officer who shot and killed a Mankato man last December will not face criminal charges.

In December of 2007, Richard Thomas Vosburgh, 26, broke into an apartment. A woman was home, and Vosburgh threatened to rape her. When police arrived, Vosburgh came at them with glass. He cut their faces and hands with glass before the officer fired, MPR reported.

Blue Earth County and Mankato Public Safety agreed that the officer acted appropriately, said the Mankato Free Press.

February 20, 2008

Study Confirms Twin Cities Political Polarization

Only 8 percent of residents in the Twin Cities are Republicans, but that number jumps to 39 percent in the suburbs, according to a poll by Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute.

LIkewise, seventy-seven percent of Minneapolis and St. Paul residents are Democrats, but that number drops immediately outside city limit

According to Humphrey Institute political scientist Larry Jacobs, these numbers confirm the area’s partisan divisions.

“It is one of the most striking polarizations in our political world today,? he said to Minnesota Public Radio. “We are literally living apart.?

Demographics could explain the separation. According to MPR, the cities are one third non-white and minorities typically vote Democrat. The suburbs, on the other hand, are 99 percent white.

In addition, average household income is much higher in the suburbs and wealthier individuals tend to vote Republican, MPR said.

Jacobs also said that there is something about the suburbs that tend to attract conservatives, and something about the cities that attract liberals.

Rockford Mayor Mike Beyer agreed with this logic. He felt it was obvious why conservatives would prefer the open space of his suburb to the crowded city.

“You’re not part of an apartment complex, which is a communal area. Communal to me is social, and social goes to socialism,? he said, according to MPR.

Jacobs notes, however, that the division is changing. Suburbs are beginning to split tickets, which will make them key in this year’s election.

February 19, 2008

Airline Merge To Effect Minnesota

Delta and Northwest airlines may merge as early as Wednesday, if they are granted regulatory approval, the Duluth News Tribune said.

The two airlines, both of which emerged from bankruptcy last year, are also waiting on union consolidation and pilot agreements, according to The New York Times and the Duluth News Tribune.

With Northwest based in Minnesota and employing 11,500 Minnesotans, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been concerned how the merger will affect the state in terms of job cuts and hub or route changes, The New York Times and the Duluth News Tribune said.

“Any merger we might contemplate would be a transaction through the power of addition, not subtraction,? Klobuchar said in letter released by her office, The New York Times reported.

Other legislators have already said they would not support the merger. Opposition includes Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructures Committee. He said combining the airlines would mean fewer jobs and higher fares, the Duluth News Tribune said.

The merged airline, however, would probably make the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport a major hub, second to Atlanta, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

February 17, 2008

Minnesota Universities Differ On Self-Plagiarism Stance

At the University of Minnesota-Duluth, students are forbidden from submitting the same work for more than one class without permission. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, however, has not taken a stance on the issue.

The Duluth university revised their student conduct code to include this “self-plagiarism? after a Twin Cities scandal in 1998, the Pioneer Press reported. It was revealed that a tutor had written many papers for the men’s basketball team. Those players then turned the same papers in to multiple classes.

The Twin Cities university has hesitated to amend the student conduct code. According to the Pioneer Press, experts say a ban on reusing work stifles creativity.

In disciplines like software engineering, it is common to reuse “computer code and open-source development," the Pioneer Press said.

Since some areas depend on reusing work, it is difficult to develop a uniform policy.

“Plagiarism is the theft of words and ideas. You can’t steal from yourself. But their is something unsavory here,? Daniel Wueste, director of the Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. said, according to the Pioneer Press.

St. Paul Police Want More Tasers

The St. Paul Police Department wants to add 230 additional Tasers to the police force, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The addition, which would cost St. Paul $210,000, would give every patrol officer in the city a stun gun. Police spokesman Tom Walsh backed the request by saying Tasers are a better alternative to the use of deadly force.

Some, however, think the police want the Tasers for the Republican National Convention in September. The event is expected to attract thousands of protesters.

Walsh denied the critics’ claims.

A 2006 study conducted by scientists at the trauma center in Chicago’s Cook County hospital called the safety of Tasers into question. During the study, scientists stunned 11 pigs two times each with Taser guns. When the jolts stopped, every pig had heart rhythm problems, CBC news reported.

Those involved in the study called for more research to determine the effect of Tasers on people.

February 10, 2008

Central Corridor Light-Rail Deadline Nears

Ramsey County and the University of Minnesota are nearing an agreement on the route for the Central Corridor light-rail route that will connect Minneapolis and St. Paul. A decision must be made by Feb. 27 when the Metropolitan Council will vote on the definite light-rail line, reported the Pioneer press.

Compromises must be made, however, to reach an agreement. The original plan was estimated to cost nearly $1.2 billion. Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said that number must be scaled back to “secure federal matching dollars,? reported Minnesota Public Radio.

To lower the cost, Ramsey County seems likely to agree to shorten the line. Instead of the line reaching the backside of Union Depot, the train will end along the front side at Fourth Street. This change could shave tens of millions of dollars off the total cost of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2014, the Pioneer Press said.

The University is also considering compromises for the line, which will cut through the East Bank of campus. They are contemplating shortening the line, shrinking the tunnel, or moving the line so it does not cut through the center of campus as originally desired.

The last option would create a “transit mall? along Washington Avenue. That would also require a ban on all non-emergency and non-transit vehicles on Washington Avenue between Oak Street and the Mississippi River. Currently, 29,000 vehicles travel Washington Avenue everyday. An alternate route for the heavy traffic has yet to be determined.

While the University is open to some concessions, President Bob Bruinicks told MPR the school is “adamantly opposed? to any street-level railroad tracks running through campus for safety and traffic concerns.

Prison Escape Attempt Thwarted

Officials at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, Minn. found the beginnings of a tunnel Wednesday in the basement of one of the facility’s buildings, reported Minnesota Public Radio.

The tunnel, which was discovered during a routine security check, was being dug in an area that is used for inventory and storage and is without surveillance cameras. The tunnel was 50 to 60 feet from the facility’s perimeter wall and “large enough for someone to actually enter,? reported the Star Tribune.

Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian said the tunnel was “well-hidden and sophisticated,? but she applauded the prison staff for stopping the escape attempt. She also wanted to assure the public that all inmates were accounted for and the community was in no danger.

The high-security facility, home to 1,400 inmates, has had various escape attempts since it opened in 1914, but an inmate has not successfully escaped since 1982. In that case, two inmates hid in cardboard boxes that were loaded onto a mail truck.

This was, however, the first time someone attempted to tunnel out of the prison, said the Stillwater Gazette.

February 3, 2008

University Students Want More Environmental Action

According to a Minnesota Daily survey, the environment is an important issue to large numbers of students. While the University of Minnesota has taken steps to be more environmentally responsible, many students do not feel the school has done enough.

In accordance with the signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in January, students have seen some environmental-conscience changes. Steps include using online resources instead of printing and recyclable napkins at the dining services.

Ben Kaldunski, Applied Environmental Solutions vice president, suggested converting University vehicles to hybrid or electric plug-in vehicles in the Minnesota Daily.

Metro Transit, the mass transportation system in the Twin Cities, has already converted some of its busses. As of November 2007, it has 19 hybrid electric buses and plans to add 150 over the next four years. The busses have 90 percent fewer emissions than the old busses.

Presidential Candidates Visit Minneapolis

Presidential candidates hit the Minneapolis area in anticipation of Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, 20,000 people packed inside the Minneapolis Target Center Saturday to listen to Sen. Barack Obama's hour-long speech. A line wrapped around the Target Center by 11:30 a.m., even the event did not open until 1:30 p.m. As president, Barack promised to reduce global warming, weaken lobbyists in Washington, and lower both health care and college costs.

Sen. Hillary Clinton held a town hall forum at Augsburg College in Minneapolis on Sunday. As with Barack’s visit, supporters arrived hours before the event was scheduled to begin.

Barack or Clinton stands to gain 72 delegates on Tuesday. Precinct caucuses will determine the winner of the delegates.

Tuesday in Minnesota means something different for the Republican Party because the caucus results are not binding. Nevertheless, Republican candidate Mick Romney came to Edina, Minn. on Saturday. He emphasized how he differs from Sen. John McCain in taxes, immigration and campaign finance reform. According to Minnesota Public Radio, McCain leads the Republican race nationally and in Minnesota.

Rep. Ron Paul has planned a campaign rally Monday at the University of Minnesota.