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December 3, 2007

Man missing in oil refinery explosion is found dead

The search for Nicholas Gunter, 29, of Hastings, who went missing when a 10,000-barrel tank at Marathon Petroleum Co. caught fire, ended when he was found dead in the tank Sunday afternoon.

Gunter was most likely checking gauges on top of the tank of the St. Paul Park site when it burst into flames at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, spokesman Robert Calmus said.

The search for Gunter who had been working at the refinery since 2006 included 70 people, dogs and helicopters.

"We're going to work with local officials and people like OSHA and our own internal investigators to do everything we can to establish the cause," Calmus said.

The refinery is capable of processing 70,0000 barrels of crude oil from the U.S. and Canada a day, according to Marathon's website.

5 Mpls. police officers sue dept. for racial discrimination

Five black officers, each with an average of 20 years working for the force, have filed suit against the Minneapolis Police Department for racial allegations and complaints that the department has failed to diversify its force.

Lt. Medaria Arradondo, Lt. Donald Harris, Lt. Lee Edwards, Sgt. Charles Adams and Sgt. Dennis Hamilton are the plaintiffs in a 42-page suit that cites a series of racial comments made by individual officers and that the force is a hostile working environment.

The complaint filed states that the Minneapolis Police Department "has systematically and continuously discriminated in favor of white persons and against persons of color, including African American police officers."

Recently Lt. Robert Kroll referred to black Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison as a "terrorist" according to the suit.

Spike Moss. member of the Minneapolis Police Community Relations Council, called Minneapolis the most racist city in America.

The fact that recently three of the highest ranking black officers were demoted by Chief Tim Dolan is also mentioned in the complaint.

Sgt. Charlie Adams was reassigned for "insubordination" referring to a disagreement with supervisor Lt. Amelia Huffman in a recent homicide case, and Adams' white partner, Richard Zimmerman, who also disagreed with Huffman was not reassigned.

November 26, 2007

Deadly flight in Faribault

Four people were killed in an unscheduled flight that crashed near the Faribault Municipal Airport Sunday afternoon, according to wcco.com.

The pilot of the Cirrus SR 22 that crashed did not register a flight plan, the FAA said. The plane was registered to Mayo Aviation out of Aberdeen, S.D.

The small single-engine plane went down shortly before 3 p.m.

"There's very little left," Faribault Police Chief Dan Collins said from the scene, according to StarTribune.com.

The Cirrus SR 22 is built by Cirrus Design Corp. of Duluth, and it is the same plane that New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was in when he and his instructor flew into a New York high-rise on Oct. 11, 2006.

The Cirrus SR 22 has been involved in 17 accidents resulting in 35 deaths since 2002, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

States fight Silver Bay Mining Co. attempt to change pollution standard

Northshore Mining Co.’s attempt to change the air-borne fibers standard for its taconite plant in Silver Bay, Minn. has met strong opposition in federal court from environmental groups and state attorneys general from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A court-ordered pollution standard regarding asbestos-like fibers set in 1974 required Northshore to keep fibers in the air near Silver Bay at or below the levels of the air in St. Paul.

Although the taconite fibers produced from the company’s plant on the shore of lake Superior have not specifically been found to be damaging to human health, some say that the fibers can cause health problems including the lung ailment mesothelioma.

Recent reports from the Minnesota Department of Health show high levels of mesothelioma in the region near Northshore’s plant in Silver Bay, said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Mesothelioma has been found to be caused only by asbestos, and although the amphibole mineral fragments from east Iron Range taconite has a similar shape to asbestos, it is not the same.

Still some researchers, activists and state officials believe the resemblance is close enough for public health concern.

The company is trying to get the standard changed because they believe it is outdated.

The company’s attorneys noted in court that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency changed its stance on the Silver Bay and St. Paul comparison referring to it as “an undefined, constantly shifting, retroactive ambient air standard devoid of any scientific basis.?

November 18, 2007

Unexpected turnout causes electronics recycling event to close early

The Great Minnesota E-cycling event at the Mall of America was scheduled to last all weekend, but organizers canceled the remainder of the recycling effort after collecting more unwanted electronics on the first day than they expected to collect for the entire event.
Materials Processing Corporation of Eagan, organizers for the electronics collection, received 1.5 million pounds of old electronics including computers, monitors, television sets and printers.
The electronics recycling effort is a result of a law that requires that manufacturers recycle three-quarters of a pound of electronics for every pound they sell. Anoka county commissioner, Jim Kordiak, who helped architect the law was pleased with the event's turnout.
"I'm grossly excited that we have more evidence that the public recognizes the need to dispose of electronics safely, but I'm sorry there aren't more locations for people," said Kordiak.
There has been problems, however, with electronics collected by recyclers just being dumped in third-world countries.
David Kutoff, chief executive of Materials Processing Corporation that organized the event affirmed that his company makes sure that such third world dumping does not take happen with the items they collect.
"We are certified to the standards that apply to electronics recycling and we audit everyone that we do business with to be sure that material is being recycled properly," Kutoff said.

Fire season ends but threat of 'the big one' remains

The 2007 forest fire season has passed for northern Minnesota but the conditions for a massive forest fire created by the July 4, 1999 windstorm remain, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
The drought that Minnesota experienced early in the year contributed to the Ham Lake Fire that burned nearly 76,000 acres in May. Although there were some media reports that referred to the Ham Lake Fire as 'the big one' that officials had been speaking about ever since the 1999 windstorm dubbed "the blowdown", the fire in May actually burned very little of the the vulnerable blowdown area.
"The Ham Lake fire wasn't the big blowdown fire we've been talking about for so many years. That's still out there, still a possibility," said Mark Falk, Cook County sheriff.
Of the nearly half-million acres of trees blown-down form the 1999 storm, about only 23 percent have been burned or cut to reduce fire danger.
It would be an impossible task to clean up the entire area affected by the blowdown but the plan is to intentionally burn and cut a strategic patchwork into the forest that would slow the spread of a wildfire buying time to get people out of danger.
The forest fire season ended with record-breaking in rainfall in September and October that helped diminish some of the threat of large wildfires created by the drought Minnesota has experienced the over the past two years.

November 11, 2007

Police arrest suspect in St. Paul rape case

St. Paul police arrested a 19-year-old man Saturday night suspected of invading the home of a teen and raping her in St. Paul's East Side Wednesday night.
George Allen Walker will probably appear in court for the first time Tuesday. He is charged with sexual conduct in the first degree and for a probation violation warrant. Walker has a lengthy criminal record including felony burglary and drug possession.
Police announced the arrest because of the publics high concern related to the incident according to Sgt. Tom Walsh, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department. Walker knocked on the door of the victim at 4:50 p.m. and when the 17-year-old answered the door he assaulted her.
The victim;s home is on the 600 block of Jessamine Avenue.

Pioneer Press
Star Tribune

Wireless Minneapolis on track for 2007 completion

After a slow start and poor initial service, the Minneapolis partnership initiative with US Internet to provide citywide wireless internet is making steady progress and early subscribers to the service are pleased.
When the wireless network first became available in the downtown and eastern parts of Minneapolis customers complained of poor reception or occasional outages.
New Orleans and Philadelphia have similar citywide wireless networks.
The network here dubbed Wireless Minneapolis, however, has been progressing much better than similar plans in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco. Those cities projects have stalled because of technical problems, rising costs and problems with network provider Earthlink.
Wireless Minneapolis is six weeks behind schedule due in part to unexpected interference with the man business wireless networks downtown, but the project was also delayed when the city used the network exclusively during the emergency response effort of the I-35W bridge collapse, according to the City of Minneapolis website.

November 4, 2007

Peterson breaks records; Jackson receives concussion

The Minnesota Vikings defeated the San Diego Chargers Sunday with the help of rookie Adrian Peterson rushing for a record-breaking 296 yards. Along with the single-game rushing record, Peterson is also on track to break the rookie rushing record Eric Dickerson set in 1983 with 1,808 yards.

With Sunday's performance Peterson becomes the first rookie to rush for 200 plus yards twice in one season. Peterson rushed 253 yards in the second half alone. He averaged a shocking 9.9 yards per carry on his 30 attempts.

Tavaris Jackson carried the ball for a first down late in the second quarter but while he was tackled he took a leg to the head. Jackson remained on the field with his hand held in the air awkwardly. A few minutes passed before Jackson was able to sit up and talk to team trainers.

He apparently received a concussion and was kept out of the game for the remainder of the day.

The Vikings beat the Chargers 35-17 improving their record to 3-5.

Man killed in North Minneapolis shooting

Andrew E. Nakao, 21, of Minneapolis was found dead by police responding to shots fired Friday afternoon.

Another man arrived at North Memorial Medical Center shortly after police found Nakao on the 3700 block of Girard Avenue North with a gunshot wound but it was not life-threatening. This man was connected with Nakao's death but police would not disclose details.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the shootings occurred after an argument between two groups escalated and it was not clear if there was an exchange of gunfire or ifshots came from just one group.

This was thethird homicide in only three days in Minneapolis. There was a double homicide on Oct. 31st in North Minneapolis involving an armed robbery.

October 22, 2007

Wild retain undefeated record over the weekend

Although Coach Jacques Lemaire felt that his team was lagging after two subpar practices, he was content after a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues Saturday.
"We played as a team, you could see that. Because we were intense, all the time. We never gave them a chance to breathe with the puck," Lemaire said.

The Wild performed equally well on Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche coming home with the win. The Wild's sixth overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft, Mikko Koivu made the game-winning goal late in the third period.
"It's always tough for the goalie when it comes so quick, and that's what happened there. I don't know if he even knew that I got the puck," Koivu said the game-winner with 3:04 left in the game.
The Wild won 3-2 improving their record to 7-0-1, the best start in franchise history.

October 21, 2007

U receives record-setting donation from Minnesota tribe

A $10 million donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for the new Gopher football stadium is the largest single gift in the history of Gopher athletics.

The tribe will receive naming and aesthetic planning rights of the main gate/plaza area of the TCF Bank Stadium. The plaza's name will probably incorporate the Dakota tribe name and celebrate all Minnesota Indian history tribal Chairman Stanley Crooks said.

The Mdewakanton tribe has been very active with its philanthropic activities in recent years donating almost $100 million. The tribe has become very wealthy due largely to the success of Mystic Lake Casino and surrounding businesses, but Crooks assured that there was no commercial interests behind the donation. Mystic Lake Casino's name will not be present anywhere in the main gate/plaza area.

Crooks said the tribe was interested in the opportunity to design the new plaza as a way to set up a permanent presence close to St. Anthony Falls which is very important in Dakota Indian history.

The Shakopee tribe will also donate an additional $2.5 million that will be matched by the University for a scholarship endowment. The scholarships will be available to any low-income applicant but give preference to Native American students.
"I'm always supportive of Native American people getting an education," Crooks said.

October 15, 2007

Native Americans hold protest for Washington Redskins moniker

Native Americans from Wisconsin tribes gathered at Lambeau field Sunday protesting the nickname and logo of the Washington Redskins. Redskins is a particularly offensive term versus something like the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians.
"It was always used as a disparaging term. It represented genocide of whole tribes. It represents the worst of the worst," said Clif Morton, a New London resident who organized a conference this weekend to take on race-based stereotypes.
The issue of Native American mascots is being talked about more right now because of a state hearing on the matter set for this week.

In January 2007 the University of Minnesota decided to start following a policy that limits home games with nonconference teams that have American Indian mascots. The University of North Dakota "Fighting Sioux" will no longer be hosted for athletic competitions at the U of M with the exception of men and women's hockey. The University's convictions were not strong enough to limit the games of the intense hockey rivalry.

Downtown Suburbia

A Star Tribune article looked into the lack of a downtown area in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.

Personally Growing up in Bloomington the concept of a downtown was more of a joke than anything. We always had capitalism at its best with the Mall of America and the intersection of 98th Street and Lyndale Avenue which has a strip mall on all four corners. A clock tower was erected at this intersection in 1998 that in a way officially marked this area as our downtown. But in reality the commercial stretch on Lyndale is mostly fast food joints and auto parts places.

Suburbs don't have downtowns, do they? The Trib article made me realize that my suburb of some 85,000 really was drawing the short stick. Edina has the 50th and France area. St. Louis Park has Excelsior and Grand. South Minneapolis has Linden Hills. I always felt that suburbs "south of the river" (how we referred to burbs over the Minnesota) had significantly better city development plans. It seems that Bloomington prefers to spend their tax money continually beefing up the police department with, for example, the new Dodge Charger that recently wrote me a ticket.

Bloomington officials said they have plans to redevelop 150 acres in attempt at creating an area with a distinct downtown feeling encompassing the present Southtown shopping area near I-494 and I-35W according to the Trib story. But I could not find any information about these plans on the city's website.

October 7, 2007

Twin Cities Muggy Marathon

This year's Twin Cities Marathon was the hottest in the event's history even though the race-time temperature was only 72 degrees. But that was at 8 a.m. The relative humidity was 87 percent when the race started.

Mykola Antonenko from Ukraine was the winner with a time of two hours, 13 minutes and 54 seconds. Finishing more than six minutes before the second place runner, Antonenko pulled ahead at about the seventh mile and ran the rest of the race solo.

There was more of a presence from international runners this year since many of the U.S. best runners competed in the 10K race and not the marathon.

October 5, 2007

Duluth holds first trial on music downloading

Six major record companies are taking a Minnesota woman to court for illegally distributing nearly 2,000 music files online. according to Minnesota Public Radio. Record companies have been targeting individuals with downloading services for the past few years, but this is the first case to make it to court.
The defendant is Jammie Thomas, a 30-year-old mother from Brainerd, Minn. The Duluth News Tribunereported that the jurors were inquiring on the minimum sentence that could be imposed for copyright infringment found not willful. The judge told them that the fine is $750-$30,000 for each instance of infringement that is not willful.
“She is somebody who buys her CDs,? said Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder from Minneapolis.
Thomas testified that she had never even heard of the KaZaA downloading service she is accused of using to pirate music prior to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff in the case is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) represented Virgin Records, Capitol Re-cords, Sony BMG, Arista Records, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records and UMG Recordings. On the RIAA website's FAQ page the organization estimates losing $300 million in sales annually to illegal music downloading.

October 1, 2007

Juvennile crime on the rise in Minneapolis

A DHL delivery man was shot when confronted by two teens after dropping off a package in North Minneapolis at 2 p.m. Thursday according to StarTribune.com. One of the three shots fired hit DHL driver, Dwayne Greer, shattering his pelvis, and the bullet remains lodged near his spine. Surgery to remove the bullet risks paralyzing Greer.

USATODAY.com reported a spike in juvenile crime in many U.S. cities including MInneapolis. According to the website "Minneapolis police estimate that this year, juveniles will account for 63% of all suspects in violent and property offenses there, up from 45% in 2002."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says cuts in state funding have taken money away from police and city programs for youths according to USATODAY.com. "It should be no surprise that the streets are more violent," says Rybak who also remarked that since 2003 Minneapolis has lost $35 million a year for city programs.

StarTribune.com
'Is this for real?' driver thought; then he was shot
http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1455952.html

USATODAY.com
Police tie jump in crime to juveniles

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-07-12-juveniles-cover_x.htm

Smoked out

Minnesota joins 17 other states with a statewide smoking ban effective at midnight Monday according to StarTribune.com. The ban prohibits smoking in almost any indoor public place.
A similar smoking ban has already been in place for Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and Hennepin and Ramsey County.

According to TwinCities.com the ban allows cities to enact even more strict guidelines for smoking.

StarTribune.com said that business owners nervous about losing customers after the ban are rushing to improve their outdoor facilities where patrons will still be able to light up.

Border cities like Superior, Wisc. a bridge away from Duluth are gearing up for an increase in business from customers unwilling to bring their habit outdoors says StarTribune.com.

A similar statewide ban was adopted in Ohio this year, but many restuarants blatantly ignored the law resulting in more than 13,000 complaints in the first four months of the ban's life according to StarTribune.com

StarTribune.com
Day One: No huffs, fumes or butts
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1455207.html

TwinCities.com
Statewide smoking ban now in force

http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_7047624

September 24, 2007

Holy Footwear for the Homeless

Sharing and Caring Hands, a homeless organization in downtown Minneapolis, recently received two boxes of handmade Italian shoes designated to be distributed to the poor from the pope says StarTribune.com.

The Pope became aware of the facility after Rev. Joseph Johnson, rector of the St. Paul Cathedral, gave some friends from the Vatican a tour of the mission. Rev. Johnson said an Italian shoemaker gave the shoes to Pope Benedict requesting that they be given to the poor says StarTribune.com.

StarTribune.com
Minneapolis charity gets gift of shoes from the Vatican
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1442229.html

Fatal car crash claims lives of two Minnetonka teens

Two students from Minnetonka Senior High were killed Friday night when their car rolled over on County road 40 outside of Belle Plaine leaving another student in critical condition with spinal injuries according to StarTribune.com. Authorities said that apparently Minnetonka high students, Kylie Grayden and Kelly Phillips were driving with Grayden's cousin, Mitch Grengs of Woodbury high school to a friend's bonfire when their car drove off the road and rolled over around 8:10 p.m., according to StarTribune.com.

Hundreds of friends, family members, and fellow students of the victims gathered at center field of the Minnetonka high school football stadium Sunday night to mourn the loss of the Grayden and Phillips said StarTribune.com.

According to wcco.com Grayden and Grengs were both riding in the front seats wearing seatbelts, but Phillips who was not using her seatbelt was ejected from the vehicle.

Mitch Grengs who is still hospitalized is scheduled to have surgery on Monday. He has so far made minimal improvements including wiggling his toes and making small arm movements according to StarTribune.com.

StarTribune.com
Grief brings Minnetonka school together
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1439580.html

wcco.com
2nd Teen Dies In Carver Co. Rollover

http://wcco.com/traffic/local_story_266100531.html