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Sex Offender Task Force Recommends Changes to Program

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Minnesota's sex offender program may see changes soon, with a task force recommending alternatives to the current high-cost, high-security system, the Pioneer Press reported.

The task force, headed by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, was create to address the question of how to protect the public from sex offenders without violating the constitutional rights of those offenders.

Currently, the more than 600 offenders in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program are being treated in prison-like buildings in St. Peter and Moose Lake at an annual cost of about $120,000 each. Most have served prison sentences and were sent to these treatment facilities by court commitment.

The MSOP was created in 1994 to treat the most dangerous sex offenders. The program has discharged only two offenders since its creation, according to the Star Tribune.

In its recommendations, which are not binding, the task force said the Legislature must fund less-restrictive residential facilities and clear regulatory and legal obstacles that would prevent access to these alternatives.

The task force will continue its work next year.

Starved Minnesota Boy to Stay in Foster Care

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The 8-year-old Minnesota boy allegedly staved by his adopted parents will remain in foster care until further notice, the Star Tribune reported.

Nicollet County District Judge Todd Westphal ruled on November 29 that the boy's three siblings would remain with their parents, Russell and Mona Hauer.

The Hauers are charged with neglect and malicious punishment of a child. The couple allegedly put an alarm on the 8-year-old's door so he could not steal food.

An attorney for the Hauers has said the couple will fight for custody of all four children.

The alleged child abuse was detected when the Hauers brought the boy to Mayo Clinic in October after they thought they saw blood on his shirt, according to the International Business Times.

During examination, doctors found the boy's bones protruding, his brain atrophied and a slow heartbeat.

The boy was also vomiting blood. He weighed only 35 pounds when he was taken to the hospital.

The three other children also claimed to have been abused.

Crystal Sugar Workers Reject Contract

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American Crystal Sugar union workers rejected the company's original contract for the fourth time Saturday, Valley News Live reported.

Accepting the contract, which was originally offered in July 2011, required only a simple majority. It was rejected in its closest vote so far, with a 55 percent majority.

Union employees have been locked out for 17 months while attempting to secure a new contract, the Huffington Post reported.

The union originally boasted 1300 members, but that number has since dropped by about 500.

Workers were forced off the job by management a year and a half ago after refusing to agree to the proposed contract.

Many union members have seen their unemployment insurance run out, putting an increased strain on the lockout.

Union president John Riskey said the following in a statement: "By now it should be clear that Dave Berg & Crystal Sugar's management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout that has been disastrous to farmer shareholders, put the federal sugar program in jeopardy, and hurt countless families in the Red River Valley."

Metro Transit Reaches 3 Billionth Passenger

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Metro Transit reached its three billionth customer recently, and has honored that customer in a ceremony at the Uptown Transit Center in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported.

Nadine Babu, a light rail and bus rider, received a card that will give her free bus rides for a year. Babu has been riding Metro Transit buses for over 15 year.

Metro Transit invited customers to submit entries in an essay contest judged by a team of transit agency employees.

"I ride the bus for so many reasons - it's safe, reliable, inexpensive, convenient, and you can text, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and ride without any consequences...You have a customer for life in me!" Babu writer in her essay.

Customers boarded buses and trains 81 million times last year, according to KMSP Fox.

An average of 260,000 people board Metro Transit buses and trains ever day.

80 Pounds of Marijuana Seized in Minneapolis Raid

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More than 90 pounds of synthetic marijuana and $232,000 in cash were seized during a raid of a south Minneapolis tobacco shop and a clerk's home, according to the Star Tribune.

Mokrane Rahim, 30, of New Brighton, was charged with fourth-degree sale of a controlled substance to a police officer on Monday and could face additional charges.

Minneapolis police had been conducting an undercover narcotics investigation into the store, located near the intersection of 46th and Nicollet Avenue South in relation to marijuana sales, KMSP Fox reported.

Authorities raided the shop and Rahim's home while Rahim was working.

Rahim was released Tuesday after posting $5,000 bail.

As of Wednesday, the shop at 4612 Nicollet Av. S. was still open for business.

Governor Objects to Vikings Stadium Seat Licenses

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is opposing the Minnesota Vikings owners' proposed "seat licenses" for fans, the Pioneer Press reported.

Dayton wrote a strongly worded letter to the team owners objecting to the proposal to pass on a portion of the stadium's $975 million cost to fans. The plan would charge seat-licensing fees in exchange for premier seating choices.

"I strongly oppose shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans," he said in his letter. "This private contribution is your responsibility, not theirs. I said this new stadium would be a 'People's Stadium,' not a 'Rich People's Stadium.' I meant it then, and I mean it now."

The team owners responded, saying that seat licensing had been included in the final agreement passed by the Legislature, according to the Star Tribune.

Team owners and local officials are already dealing with a tight deadline, and in addition, some Twin Cities lawmakers skeptical of the stadium plan taking over legislative leadership positions in January.

Former University of Minnesota Social Worker Sanctioned

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A former University of Minnesota social worker has been sanctioned by the state of Minnesota in the 2004 suicide of a drug study participant, WDAY News reported Tuesday.

Dan Markinson, a schizophrenia patient involved in the study, died in May 2004, during a clinical trial of antipsychotic drugs, according to the Star Tribune. His death led to a lawsuit, a federal probe and big changes in the school's ethics standards for clinical trials.

Jean Kenney, the former social worker, reached an agreement Friday with the Minnesota Board of Social Work that requires her to complete 18 hours of training and write a report on whether it alters her view of her conduct in the drug trial.

Kenney made errors in Markingson's care during the study. Kenney said she was simply "acting under ... supervision and in accordance to the protocols that had been approved."

The agreement asserts that Kenney wrote incorrect drug dosages and made clinical observations about Markingson that were beyond her "scope of practice as a social worker."

The university was cleared by the FDA in regards to the case.

Minnesota Orchestra Cancels All Remaining 2012 Concerts

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The Minnesota Orchestra Thursday canceled concerts through the end of the year, including holiday and pop concerts that produce large revenues and draw large audiences, the Star Tribune reported.

The announcement marks a deepening of the conflict between musicians and the board of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Orchestra management has stated it wants to cut $5 million from labor expenses, approximately 33 percent of current costs, by cutting salaries and benefits, among other changes.

Negotiations broke off Sept. 30 and management locked out its musicians the next day.

Both sides have made public stands. The board says it will not meet until the union makes a formal counter proposal, while the union contends that it has already made three proposals.

There are no signs that the Minnesota Orchestra is close to ending the dispute.

Lockouts have gained momentum in Minnesota this year. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is also in the midst of a labor-management dispute, while the Minnesota Wild is currently unable to play due to the National Hockey League lockout, MinnPost reported.

In addition, American Crystal Sugar in the Red River Valley is in its 15th month of lockout.

Minnesota has historically been considered a labor state, but last year, only 15.1 percent of workers in the state belonged to labor unions.

St. Paul Settles in Police Brutality Case

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The St. Paul City Council is expected to approve a $400,000 settlement Wednesday afternoon in a case of police brutality, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

On Oct. 28, 2010, St. Paul police went to the Snelling Avenue house of Daniela Hobbs and her son Larelle Steward with a search warrant for cocaine.

Steward complied with police orders but told police his mother couldn't move as quickly because of illness.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, police repeatedly kicked Steward and shot a "flash-bang" grenade at Hobbs. Steward suffered a broken nose and cuts to his face.

The police did not find any cocaine.

In the settlement, the city denied any wrongdoing, while Hobbs and Steward agreed not to discuss the settlement or case with the media, the Star Tribune reported.

The settlement is tied for the largest brutality settlement ever paid by St. Paul.

Two Motorists Shot along I-35E

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Two motorists were shot on Interstate 35-E over the weekend in separate incidents, the Star Tribune reported.

On Saturday, a an was shot in the neck and chin about 2:30 a.m. in St. Paul, and a woman was shot in the shoulder about 2:25 a.m. Sunday in Eagan. Limited information is known about the suspects and neither shooter has been arrested.

In Saturday's case, the victim and his brothers attempted to get into a bar in Roseville but couldn't because the bar was full. Afterward, the men were driving south on the interstate between Maryland Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue when five shots were fired from a green Ford Explorer. The driver, 26, suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Sunday's shooting in Eagan resulted in injuries for a 26-year-old Rosemount woman and was an apparent case of road rage, the Pioneer Press reported.

A Volkswagen Jetta carrying the woman and seven others entered I-35E at the Cliff Road ramp and was immediately tailgated by a dark-colored SUV. The Jetta driver "gave the finger," according to police, after which the SUV pulled next to the Jetta on the passenger side and fired at least two shots.

The driver of the Volkswagen Jetta was arrested on charges of DUI. Many of the witnesses in the Jetta were intoxicated, which police say has hampered the investigation.

Police are asking for the public's help. Anyone with information is asked to call 651-675-5700.

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