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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.

November 23, 2008

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

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.

Senatorial vote recount causes tension

100 votes that emerged Thursday from a small town in the Iron Range went to Al Franken, causing the difference in votes between himself and Sen. Norm Coleman to decrease to 221, the Star Tribune reported.

The difference in votes was 775 in Coleman's favor Wednesday morning, but since changing several times since then as county officials have checked results, it now stands at 221.

An election night worksheet from St. Louis County showed Franken with 406 votes from Precinct 1 in Mountain Iron. The revised number was 506 on Thursday night.

Coleman's campaign found this change suspicious.

"They found 100 votes, and it's statistically impossible that all 100 votes went to the two Democrats, even in St. Louis County," said Cullen Sheehan, Coleman's campaign manager.

November 2, 2008

4 injured in Minneapolis shootings

Two shootings that wounded four people in Minneapolis Sunday are unrelated, police said, according to the Star Tribune.

Two men and a women, all 19, were hurt when they were shot about 1:35 a.m. near 1012 21st. St. E., said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer. The victims were treated at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Sgt. Palmer said the motive is unclear, but it was not a random shooting.

The other shooting, in which one woman, 20, was injured, happened at about 1:25 a.m. at 27th Avenue S.E. and Delaware Street, near the University of Minnesota, according to a police report.

Officers were called to help with control the crowd when unknown suspects fired multiple shots, injuring the woman, the report said. Further details were not available Sunday afternoon, the Star Tribune said.

October 27, 2008

Bodies of 3 women found

The bodies of three related women were found inside their Mounds View home Monday, and a man was arrested several hours later in Minneapolis in connection with the case, the Star Tribune reported.

A relative called the police around 12:30 p.m. after being unable to reach the women. Two of the bodies were found shortly after the police were called, and the third was found at about 8 p.m. Each body was discovered in a different room.

The crime scene took place at 5108 Sunnyside Road, and Mounds View Police Chief Mike Sommer described the scene inside as violent.

Monday evening, police were called to the 3000 block of 3rd St. N. on a report that a man was threatening to kill himself because he had committed a crime in another city, Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said.

The man barricaded himself in a corner with a knife in hand, threatening to kill himself and hurt the officers. After a Taser was used on him, the suspect began to stab himself. Police again used the Taser and took the knife away.

The man was taken to North Memorial Medical Center for treatment of the self-inflicted stab wounds, Garcia said.

The names of the three victims and the suspect were not released, but property records show that three women, ages 75, 35, and 40, and a 26-year-old man, all related, lived at the house, the Star Tribune reported.

“It is believed that the suspect was an acquaintance of the victims,? Sommer said. “But the details of the relationships are unclear.?

Sommer would not say how the women died, whether any weapons were found at the scene or how long they had been dead.

UPDATE: The names of the suspect and three women were released. Johnny Lee Ellis, 38, is suspected of killing his girlfriend Angela Vigen, 40, her special needs sister Jennifer Vigen, 35, and their mother Jolyn Vigen, 75, the Star Tribune reported.

October 26, 2008

Proposed ethanol plant causes controversy

Plans to build the state's next ethanol plant have caused controversy in the small town of Eyota, where the plant would be built, the Star Tribune reported.

The 75-million gallon ethanol plant would be on the border of the southeastern Minnesota city of 1,900.

Opponents argue that the plant will increase traffic, worsen air and water quality and consume ground water of three rivers.

Proponents, however, say that it will create new jobs, benefit farmers and the area's economy and pose minimal environmental risks.

The issue will be discussed at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency citizens' board meeting Tuesday.

Eyota, Olmsted County, and the local watershed district will ask the agency to require a full environmental impact study for the plant, which the citizens' board has only required for an ethanol plant once before.

October 25, 2008

Lesbian minister ordained

Jodi Barry, am openly lesbian minister, was ordained Saturday at the Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported.

The ordination will test a new policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to avoid disciplining those who ordain openly gay people.

Although not the first lesbian to be ordained into a Lutheran ministry, supporters hope Barry's ordination will be a step toward greater acceptance of gay and lesbian pastors by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Star Tribune reported.

Barry,41, has been a youth minister intern at Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis for a year, but the ceremony was conducted by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), a national network committed to full acceptance of gay and lesbian pastors in the Lutheran church.

ELCA's "refrain and restraint" policy instated in August 2007 is instructs leaders not to criticize individual congregations when they choose a gay or lesbian minister, despite the ELCA's position against gay clergy.

This ordination will be one of the first to test that policy.

The ordination is not recognized by the national church body and openly gay ministers are nto included on the church's national roster of pastors.

"Change comes slowly," Barry said before the afternoon service at this church on the University of Minnesota's East Bank. "It took a long time for Martin Luther. Our goal has always been not to start a new church, not to leave the ELCA. A lot of people are working for full inclusion. Of course I want that. It's frustrating, it's painful."

Barry said she left the Lutheran church for several years and tried other congregations, but returned to the ECLA in 2001, the Star Tribune reported.

"They weren't a good fit," she said. "The Lutheran church is my home. As a person of faith I have to hope for change, and to fight from within for it."

Driver dies in 35W crash

A driver died Saturday morning after crashing into construction barricades and then onto a closed ramp of Interstate 35W in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported.

The crash occurred at 5:30 a.m.

The driver of a 1991 Buick Regal was heading south on the Stevens Avenue frontage road when the car went through barriers, the State Patrol said.

The Star Tribune report said the driver could not be identified as male or female, but according to the Pioneer Press, the Hennepin County medical examiner's office identified the driver as male.

UPDATE: The name of the driver was released Sunday by the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. His name was Jose Joel Guerra, also known as Jorge Sandoval, a 33-year-old resident of north Minneapolis.

October 19, 2008

Man accused of leaving 2 children home alone

A man in Minneapolis was charged Friday with child neglect for leaving two children home alone with an open oven, the Star Tribune reported.

Lawrence Edward Griffin, 36, approached a police car Thursday at about 1:15 a.m. and told officers that he had left a 14-month-old child at home, and that he had been gone for about 15 minutes.

Officers then drove him home, where they found the infant sleeping in a crib and a 4-year-old in a bunk bed.

According to police, Griffin had been away for about 45 minutes, and had been drinking.

October 12, 2008

State senator Allan Spear dies

Allan H. Spear, a former state Senate president, died Saturday at age 71, the Star Tribune reported.

Spear, who became one of the first openly gay legislators in the country, died of complications following heart surgery on Thursday, Don Jorovsky, a longtime friend who used to work for Spear, said.

Spear was a member of the Minnesota DFL Party and resident of Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported. Elected in 1972, he was Senate president from 1993 to 2000 and was the first non-attorney to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. Spear retired in 2000.

Spear became one of only two openly gay legislators in the country after he announced that he was gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star newspaper in 1974.

Spear started working to amend Minnesota's Human Rights Act in the 1970s to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The legislation passed in 1993.

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

Plans for a memorial service are pending, the Star Tribune reported.

Student shot at party in Minneapolis

A senior from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis was shot and killed at his cousin's birthday party Saturday evening, KARE 11 News reported.

Jesse Mickelson, 18, died after being shot near the alley behind his home on 29th Avenue South, police said.

About twenty kids were outside, and Mickelson was playing football with some of them in the alley, Tina Rosebear, Mickelson's sister, said. Relatives said a car then pulled into the alley.

When Mickelson went to get the ball on a neighbor's driveway, a person in the passenger seat of the car opened fire, relatives said.

Mickelson died at the scene.

The suspect vehicle was described by police as a mid-90s model white Dodge Intrepid.

Police say it's too early to say whether the murder is gang-related, KARE 11 News reported.

October 5, 2008

U.S. Senate candidates have 1st debate

In their first debate Sunday, U.S. Senate candidates Dean Barkley, Norm Coleman and Al Franken discussed the nation's financial crisis and more, the Star Tribune reported.

The debate, which took place before 850 people in a university gymnasium, was 90 minutes.

They repeated the ideas that have been shown in the recent television advertisements, with Republican Sen. Norm Coleman questioning Democrat Al Franken's temperament, and Franken linking Coleman to policies of an unpopular president, WCCO reported.

Coleman defended the $700 billion bailout plan, while Franken opposed it.

"This whole thing reminded me of the rush to war in Iraq," Franken said. "It was give us $700 billion right now and Secretary Paulson will take care of it."

Other topics debated included war policy, deficit spending, and energy.

The debate was the first of five over the next month.

The next debate is Saturday at Breck High School in Golden Valley.

Fernando Cabada wins Twin Cities Marathon

Fernando Cabada, 26, won the men's national marathon championship in St. Paul Sunday, the Pioneer Press reported.

The course, 26.2 miles long, runs from downtown Minneapolis to the state Capitol.

His finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 32 seconds, one minute and six seconds faster than the second place finisher, the Star Tribune reported.

Cabada, who grew up in Fresno, Calif., and lives in Boulder, Colo., won $25,000 for his first-place finish.

Cabada was raised by a single mother on welfare. Money has been tight for them, he said.

At the end of the marathon, Cabada started tearing up.

"I thought about my mom, my brother."

Olga Glok of Russia won the women's division with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 38 seconds.

September 21, 2008

Fourplex explosion caused by copper-piping thieves

A vacant Minneapolis fourplex exploded around 10:30 a.m. Sunday due to copper-piping theft that led to a natural gas leak, The Star Tribune and Kare 11 News reported.

The building, 2407 Golden Valley Road, had been abandoned and boarded up for about a year. There were no injuries.

According to Becca Virden, a spokesperson for CenterPoint Energy, a company supervisor determined the cause of the explosion with Minneapolis Fire Department investigators.

Charmaine Brown, who lives in the duplex next door, smelled the gas but said she did not call 911 because she didn’t think it was an emergency.

Rene Hatchett, the other resident of the duplex, was cooking when the building exploded, shattering her windows.

After being thrown back several feet, Brown and her children evacuated the duplex.

The two families were relocated by the American Red Cross.

Crash kills a man, leaves 4 others injured

A car went through a red light and struck another vehicle in Minneapolis Sunday afternoon, killing one man and leaving four others injured, The Star Tribune reported.

The crash occurred at about 1:30 p.m. A car going north on Park Avenue S. ran the light and struck a car going east on E. 31st Street, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said.

The passenger in the front seat of the car on E. 31st Street died. The victims were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where three people are in critical condition, and one is in stable condition.

“It's unclear if seat belts were used or how fast the vehicles were traveling,? The Star Tribune reported.

September 14, 2008

New Interstate 35W bridge to open

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other politicians gathered on the nearly completed Interstate 35W bridge Sunday morning to announce when it would reopen, the Star Tribune reported.

The bridge could be accessible as early as Tuesday.

What officials can't determine yet, however, is how traffic flow on the bridge will compare to the past. The new bridge could see more cars, fewer cars or the same amount, David Levinson, a University of Minnesota engineer who has been studying metro travel patterns after the collapse, said. "That, I think, will be an interesting thing to watch."

140,000 cars passed the old bridge every day, but after the collapse, there was only a 90,000 increase on other bridges that cross the river.

The opening of the new bridge will reduce congestion in other areas, particularly during morning and afternoon commutes.