December 7, 2008

Freight train cars derail near Fargo

Cars on a freight train traveling from Minneapolis to Minot, N.D. derailed Sunday about 45 miles northwest of Faro, the Star Tribune reported.

One empty tanker car was burning Sunday evening, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman said.

The train left the tracks between Fargo and Minot. The 37 cars and two locomotives that derailed were carrying general freight such as sand and 50-foot-long pipes.

A resident who lives about 100 yards from the derailment was asked to temporarily relocate.

Spokesman Gus Melonas said that speed was not a factor of the derailment, and that the cause was being investigated.

Family of trampled Wal-Mart employee file lawsuit

The family of a Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death on Black Friday filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Wednesday, The Pioneer Press reported.

The lawsuit clams that the store advertisements for discounts ""created an atmosphere of competition and anxiety" that led to "crowd craze."

The lawsuit also claims that the store failed to provide adequate security for the large crown of 2,000 and that Wal-Mart "engaged in specific marketing and advertising techniques to specifically attract a large crowd and create an environment of frenzy and mayhem and was otherwise careless, reckless and negligent."

The employee, Jdimytai Damour, 34, died of asphyxiation after being crushed early Friday morning by the crowd.

He was 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. Authorities suspect that Damour was placed at the entrance of the store to help with crowd control because of his large size.

Police are reviewing store video to identify possible suspects in Damour's death, but authorities said that criminal charges are unlikely.

November 23, 2008

One dead and one injured in Southcenter Mall shooting

In a shooting inside the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, Wash., one person died and another was injured, Tukwila police spokesman Mike Murphy said, KIRO-TVl reported.

The mall was locked down Saturday night after the incident, which may be gang-related, took place. SWAT team members went inside the mall, searching for six hours for the gunman, Murphy said.

"Thousands" of shoppers were at the mall, Murphy said, when multiple shots were fired just before 3:45 p.m. inside the building

Eyewitness Chris Plummer said there was a fight between a group of 18- to 20-year-olds and one of them pulled out a gun and started shooting. Plummer said he was standing next to the shooter and six to seven shots were fired.

Two victims were transported to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition, said hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg-Hanson.

One man died in the shooting, and the other is in critical condition. No other people were injured, Murphy said.

The shooter, who police have described as a black male, has not been caught. Murphy said that there is a possibility the assailant "may have escaped" with the crowd, but he said police anticipated identifying the shooter "soon" and then making an arrest.

The shooter has not been caught. Murphy said he may have escaped with the crowd, but said police anticipated identifying the shooter soon and arresting him.

Thai protesters surround Parliament

Thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded Thailand's Parliament in Bangkok Monday as their final act to oust the government, the Associated Press reported.

The protesters, who call themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy, blocked the gates to the Parliament, trying to prevent lawmakers from entering. They also tried to cut electrical wires to create a blackout before the session began.

They initially had the protest to block Parliament from debating a bill to rewrite the constitution. The issue was dropped and lawmakers instead met to debate legislation related to a regional summit.

Protesters accuse former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of corruption and abuse of power, and claim the constitution bill would help him make a comeback.

Thaksin is in exile, a fugitive because he was convicted last month of violating a conflict of interest law.

"I'm very scared. But it is time that we win this," said a protester, Wimon Sricarak. "We have been attacked, our friends have died, and all because they want to protect Thaksin."

Man shot while hunting

A 48-year-old man from Appleton was shot and died Sunday while hunting near a town named Bovina, the Star Tribune reported.

Authorities are not yet releasing the man's name, Laurel Steffes, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said.

The incident happened at about 10:40 a.m., the Outagamie County Sheriff's office said in a news release

In a separate incident on Sunday, Fred Grunewald, 24, from Caroline was shot in the shoulder when a deer ran between him and another person. He was expected to survive the incident, which happened in Grant in Shawano County.

Saturday, the opening day of the firearms deer season, was incident-free, Steffes said.

I-94 traffic jams have people demanding more lanes

Traffic jams on I-94 between Rogers and Monticello ignite demand for more lanes, and a coalition says the backups hurt businesses, the Star Tribune reported.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, learned firsthand what people have been saying for years: I-94 traffic jams are a major problem.

"We don't have anything [else] slowing us down -- just the traffic," said Kathleen Poate, president of the I-94 West Chamber of Commerce. "On any given [day] the freeway is just bumper-to-bumper."

To improve the Interstate by adding more lanes, Poate and the chamber are looking to get hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid.

The group created an I-94 West Corridor Coalition to push for the funding to widen the highway between Rogers and Monticello.

The coalition wants an extra lane in both directions from Hwy. 101 near Rogers to Monticello.

The estimate of turning the 14-mile stretch into a six lanes on both sides, and doing bridge repairs along the way, would cost about $200 million.

Also proposed is adding lanes in both directions from Hwy. 101 southeasy to I-494, which would cost an estimated $254 million.

U student charged with misdemeanor after being fired from KSTP

A University of Minnesota student was accused of chasing and threatening a producer and breaking a window after being fired from an intern position at KSTP, the Star Tribune reported.

Jennifer Nicole Anato-Mensah, 21, chased after and screamed obscenities at an executive producer at KSTP-TV after she was fired as an intern at Channel 5. She also broke a window in a conference room door while she was chasing the woman she believed had scorned her, charges say.

Anato-Mensah of Blaine has been charged with misdemeanor criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct in Ramsey County District Court. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 30.

St. Paul police were called to the station on a report of an out-of-control employee.

Executive producer Danielle Prenevost said Anato-Mensah had started yelling threats at her when Prenevost told the intern she was fired.

Anato-Mensah told Prenevost, "You don't know where I'm from, I'll mess you up...," the complaint said.

Prenevost tried to walk away, but Anato-Mensah followed her. A male employee stepped between them, and "Prenevost went into a nearby conference room while the male tried to get Anato-Mensah to calm down and clean out her desk," the Star Tribune reported.

Anato-Mensah ran and kicked at the glass conference room door, breaking it. She was restrained to keep her from entering the conference room, the complaint said.

November 16, 2008

Obama election spurs race crimes around country

The number of race crimes around the country has increased since the election of Barack Obama, the Associated Press reported.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama highlight the racism that remains in America, the Associated Press states.

All across the country, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, including vandalism, threats, and at least one physical attack. The insults and crimes come from all ages.

"Hundreds" of incidents have occurred since the election, which is more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

In one incident, in Snellville, Ga., a boy on the school bus told Denene Millner's 9-year-old daughter the day after election: "I hope Obama gets assassinated." That night, someone ruined the Obama signs on her sister-in-law's front lawn and left two pizza boxes filled with himan feces outside the front door, Millner said.

"I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it," said Millner, who is black. "But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, is upset with the election of Obama.

"I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change," Griffin said.

California wildfires destroy homes and cause evacuations

Chaotic strong winds blew wildfires all over Southern California on Saturday, burning 500 mobile homes and forcing thousands of homeowners to flee, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The worst fire, the Sayre Fire, burned through Sylmar, on the edge of the Angeles National Forest near the San Gabriel Mountains, causing the evacuation of 10,000 people and shutting down major freeways.

By the end of the day, Freeway Fire in Orange and Riverside counties destroyed more homes as it burned out of control.

On Sunday, residents of Southern California were urged to leave their homes, despite calming winds that gave time for an aerial attack on the strong wildfires, the Associated Press reported.

Overall, fires burned in Los Angeles County, to the east in Riverside and Orange counties, and northwest in Santa Barbara County. More than 800 homes were destroyed by fires that have burned more than 34 square miles since Thursday.

"This has been a very tough few days for the people of Southern California," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said after touring damage.

The governor declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles.

No deaths have been reported, and by Sunday afternoon, no bodies had been found.

2nd Haiti collapsed, injuring 8

A school partially collapsed in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince Wednesday, injuring at least eight students and causing panic less than five days after a larger school collapse killed more than 90 people, the Associate Press reported through Yahoo! News.

Portions of the concrete ceiling fell from, the second-story floor collapsed, and a wall partially fell while class was in session at Grace Divine school. There were no deaths.

Seven students and an adult were treated for minor injuries, said U.N. peacekeeping mission spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe.

As word of the collapse spread, crowds of anxious parents and onlookers descended along with ambulances and crews from the deadly Friday collapse of the College La Promesse in nearby Petionville, including members of a U.S. search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

Parents and others arrived at the collapse shortly after, along with ambulances and crews from the Friday collapse of the College La Promesse in Petionville, which included members of a U.S. search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

U.N. peacekeepers arrived to keep the crowd of thousands under control, stopping them from entering the narrow concrete passageway leading to the school.

Recent heavy rains may have weakened the concrete structure, city building inspector Edouard Ernseau said.

Minneapolis rally protests gay marriage bans

To protest gay marriage bans passed in California and other states, more than 700 people gathered in downtown Minneapolis Saturday, the Star Tribune reported.

The people gathered on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center to express their opposition to the constitutional amendments in California, Florida and Arizona prohibiting gay marriage.

"It's really sad that this is even an issue at all," Atkins, 21, a University of Minnesota student from Eau Claire, Wis., said before the 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."

Protests have also been held at the Capitol in St. Paul, Duluth and in cities across the country.

"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."

Although some of the demonstrations in California have been angry, representatives of Join the Impact, which organized Saturday's demonstrations, asked supporters to be respectful.

Coleman vs. Franken recount to begin

On Wednesday, hundreds of volunteer troops will begin manually counting ballots to determine the official winner of the senatorial race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic candidate Al Franken, the Star Tribune reported.

Coleman lead stands at a mere 206 votes, making the upcoming legally required recount that much more important.

The integrity of Minnesota's election process is under national scrutiny.

Democrats could secure 60 U.S. Senate seats if the unresolved races in Alaska and Georgia also go the party's way. Minnesota also has a reputation for clean elections, which volunteer observers said they want to maintain.

Washington, D.C. election lawyer Marc Elias, who represented Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry four years ago when the results from Ohio were disputed, has come in to Minnesota to help Franken. Republicans have also been putting together their own legal teams.

November 9, 2008

Old landfill slows plans for new highway

Hennepin County road workers uncovered an old landfill, delaying reconstruction of Goose Lake Road along Elm Creek Regional Park, the Star Tribune reported.

The landfill , found under the Goose Lake Road bed north of 109th Av. N., contains waste from households and farms, some of which might be toxic, and could date back to the early 1900s, project supervisor Don Hannan said.

The discovery could add an additional $700,000 in cleanup costs to the already $2 million budget of the reconstruction.

Already $25,000 has been spent on drilling test holes and hauling six truckloads of waste to an Iowa landfill, Hannan said.

More test holes will be drilled this week to determine the size of the dump.

The mile-long road project is almost complete. It has been closed since May, but is to reopen this month with an 800-foot detour around the dump. It will close again for several months when work resumes this spring, Hannan said.

Uncounted ballots unlikely to reverse gay-marriage ban

With 2.7 million ballots still uncounted in Calif., Proposition 8, the statewide ban on gay marriage, is unlikely to be reversed with its lead of more than half a million votes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Those 2.7 million ballots remained to be counted as of late Friday, according to the California secretary of state's office.

The estimate is from the state's 58 county registrars.

The complete list is available on the secretary of state's Web site.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 1.7 million ballots remained outstanding. Since then, several counties have increased their estimates.

Te uncounted ballots are unlikely to reverse the ban because, as of Saturday morning, the secretary of state reported "5,661,583 votes in favor and 5,154,457 opposed, for a margin of just more than half a million votes."

In order to reverse that result, opponents would have to win more than 59% of the uncounted ballots. So far they have won only 47.6% of the vote, so it is unlikely the remaining uncounted ballots will be very different from those counted.

Owner of collapsed Haiti school arrested; 88 dead

The owner of a school in Petionville, Haiti was arrested Saturday after it collapsed during school hours Friday, killing at least 88 people, the Associated Press reported.

"Fortin Augustin, the preacher who owns and built College La Promesse in suburban Port-au-Prince, was arrested late Saturday and charged with involuntary manslaughter, said police spokesman Garry Desrosier."

Augustin was held at a police station overnight as a U.S. rescue crew searched for survivors of the three-story building.

Four children were rescued Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.N. police spokesman Andre Leclerc said the extent of the injuries to the two girls, ages 3 and 5, and two boys, a 7-year-old and a teenager, was unknown.

The death toll rose to 84 on Saturday, with 150 others injured and many more still missing, Nadia Lochard, civil protection coordinator for the western region that includes Petionville, said.

Using digital cameras on long poles to look under the rubble, U.S. rescuers found six or seven bodies, but think that two of them were already included in the death toll, said Evan Lewis, a member of the team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

The school generally held about 500 students, and had been holding a party the day of the collapse, exempting students from wearing uniforms and complicating efforts to identify their bodies, Lochard said.

Hundreds of Haitians watched Saturday night as rescuers searched through the debris, many waiting for news on their missing students.