May 6, 2007

Activists say Police Presence was Provacotive

Activists groups are saying that the presence of the Los Angeles Police Department's Metropolitan Division at an immigration rally provoked violence.

The Metro Division was created to deal with riots, terrorism and other dangerous situations, and activists say the presence of the force was unnecessary at the rally.

The May Day immigration rally at MacArthur Park ended in the Metro Division's Platoon B firing rubber bullets into crowds of demonstrators. The rally was a peaceful and lawful demonstration, but police moved in after a group of agitators began throwing bottles and rocks.

Four investigations are in progress at the police department said LA Police Chief William Bratton. So far the investigations have determined that 148 rubber bullets were fired by the officers, not the originally reported 240, and between 30 and 40 demonstrators provoked police, not the 50 to 100 that police originally reported. Demonstrators and journalists were also beaten by police batons.

As a result of the violence, three protesters have filed federal lawsuits against the police department, claiming their constitutional rights were violated. Patti Ballaz, a camerawoman for a local television news station, has also filed a civil suit due to injuries she sustained during the altercation. Ballaz suffered a fractured wrist and ankle injuries.

Of the 600 officers in the Metro Division, 100 were involved. Bratton said that those officers have been removed from the streets while investigations continue.

Coon Rapids Kidnapping Suspect Arrested

Police have taken a suspect into custody after an alleged kidnapping and sexual assault in Coon Rapids.

A 12-year-old girl was waiting to go to school on Friday when a man pulled up to her bus stop and asked her for directions. When she came close to the truck he pulled her inside and drove away. After several blocks the girl was able to escape when the truck stopped.

Thanks to eye-witnesses and other people living in the neighborhood of the alleged crime, Coon Rapids police were able to pick up on a suspect quickly and put his home under surveillance.

Christopher John Mitchell, 46, was arrested early Saturday on probable cause of kidnapping, second-degree assault and first-degree criminal sexual assault. Mitchell is expected to be charged Monday or Tuesday. He has no extensive criminal record and he is not a registered sex offender.

The sixth-grade girl is expected to return to school on Monday said her stepfather.

Check out the coverage of the story in the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.
(**NOTE: I thought it was interesting that the Star Tribune did not print the accused's name, but they did explain that it is not something they do until after a suspect is charged. I thought this was probably explicitly stated because the Pioneer Press did print the name of the suspect.)

David Suzuki, Canada's Al Gore

For the last three decades David Suzuki has raised awareness for environmental issues in Canada. He has done so much to bring global warming to the top of the country's list of concerns that he is referred to as the Canadian Al Gore.

In 2004 Suzuki was named one of the "Greatest Canadians" for being a champion for the environment. He was 5th on the list, and the highest living member of the list.

Suzuki has a genetics degree from the University of British Columbia, where he first worked on a college television program talking about the preservation. He continued to work in television and hosted a weekly CBC show, "The Nature of Things," in 1979.

Aside from raising awareness through television, Suzuki has set up dozens of other environmental programs in both Canada and the U.S. 1990 he and his wife started the David Suzuki Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is now pulling in $6 million per year.

Check out the Star Tribune's recent story about Suzuki.

Street Sense Wins Derby

Street Sense, ridden by jockey Calvin Borel, made a come-from-behind victory on Saturday at the Kentucky Derby.

He also won the Breeder's Cup Juvenille race six months ago, making him the first horse to ever win those two races in the same year. That race was also run at Churchhill Downs.

The win makes Street Sense the highest-priced winning favorite in Derby history.

The derby has not had a 2-year-old champion since 1979 when Spectacular Bid won.

Trainer Carl Nafzger watched his horse start in 19th place, out of 20, and rally to overtake the entire pack and win the race.

Tank Obstacle Course in Waseca?

A Waseca family's petition to build an obstacle course for tanks and shooting ranges in their backyard has their neighbors up in arms.

The Borglum family would like to build an obstacle course where people could pay to drive and ride tanks, three outdoor shooting ranges, one indoor range and a retail store on their 26 acre property just outside of Waseca. They figure the money from the business would make up for the $150,000 spent on the tanks.

The Planning Commission will review the Borglum's plans and then submit a recommendation to the County Board for a final vote.

Many neighbors are concerned about the affects the obstacle course would have on their community. The main concern is safety. The outdoor shooting ranges would have a large hill as a backdrop, but the homes and church on that hill are extremely concerned about stray bullets especially with children around. Others are also worried about the noise and pollution the tanks would cause.

April 29, 2007

Democrats in California

Senators and Democratic presidential nominee hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke to activists this weekend at the state convention in California.

While both candidates got warm welcomes from more than 2,000 party members, Obama's speech won-over the crowd. Obama used his early opposition to the war in Iraq to set himself apart from this competitors, including Clinton, who voted to support the war in 2002.

California, along with New York, have moved their primary elections up to February 2008, which could make the two states bigger decision-makers in the race for the nomination. California has always been a huge fund-raising state for White House hopefuls, but now their primaries will take place before the nomination is decided.

Check out ABC News and AP coverage of this story.

Protest in Turkey

More than 100,000 gathered to protest in Istambul Sunday. The demonstration consisted of secular Turks protesting the pro-Islamic government.

This was the second large demonstration in two weeks against the government. Some 300,000 secular Turks staged a protest in Anakara, Turkey to protect Turkey's secular state.

These protests are further evidence of the deepening rift between secular Turks and Islamic supporters.

Check out AP coverage of this story in the Star Tribune and at ABC News.

Kansas City Shopping Mall Violence Leaves 4 Dead

A Gunman opened fire today in a parking lot and shopping mall in south Kansas City, resulting in four deaths, including the shooter. Police shot down the gunman outside the Target in Ward Parkway Center.

The shooter shot at police from a dead woman's car and then proceeded to open fire inside the shopping center.

Police investigated the home of an elderly woman, who had not been seen for days by her neighbors. Police found the woman dead and her car missing.

A police officer recognized the missing car and pulled the driver over later in the day. The driver shot the police officer in the arm, who returned fire. The shooter then pulled into the shopping center's parking lot and killed two people in cars parked next to him, injuring two others. He then entered the mall where he fired more shots and injured at least two more people before being shot and killed by police.

Check out AP coverage of this story in the Pioneer Press (which has a recently updated version) and the Star Tribune (who carried an earlier version).

Teen's Funeral Service Cancelled due to Violence

Funeral services for 17-year-old victim of a Metro Transit shooting were canceled because of violence between friends of the victim and the alleged shooter.

Police broke up altercations between friends of the deceased, Earl Freedman, and Jerome Cross who was charged Wednesday with second degree murder.

Families of both the victim and the accused say they have been threatened as a result of the shooting.

Freedman's family canceled a church service at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church after the fight broke out. The funeral visitation service was then moved a funeral home on University Ave. They plan on holding other services and a burial for Freedman in Chicago.

The Ramsey County Attorney's office plans on seeking to try Cross, 17, as an adult. Cross remains jailed at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

Read more about this story at the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

Rare Illness in Afton

Afton teenager is one of several residents to be infected with a rare illness in recent years. Tristan Pennella, 15, was diagnosed with blastomycosis, a fungal disease.

Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus that thrives in sandy, acidic soil with decomposing organic debris, such as rotting leaves. Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially areas near riverbeds, are good breeding grounds for the fungus.

It may take months for symptoms to appear after a person first comes in contact with the fungus and breathes it in. Flu-like symptoms make blastomycosis hard to diagnose and include fever, cough, fatigue and muscle aches.

About 30 cases per year have been reported in Minnesota for the past several years. Wisconsin has seen a significant jump in reported cases in the past year, increasing from 100 to 170. Dogs are the most infected by this disease.

April 22, 2007

Teen Killed on Metro Transit Bus

A 16-year-old boy was shot and killed on a Metro Transit bus early Sunday.

The incident happened shortly after midnight on Metro Transit route 74 heading towards downtown St. Paul. After an altercation apparently between two groups of teens, the shooter leaned inside the bus and shot the victim in the chest said police.

The victim was identified by family on Sunday as Earl Freeman of St. Paul.

The shooting is the third violent attack to occur on a Metro Transit bus that resulted in serious injury or death since early March.

Police are looking for a suspect they described as being a male between 16 and 18 years old.

Check out the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press coverage of this story.

Iranian Dam Could Damage Ancient Ruins

On Thursday an inauguration ceremony for a controversial dam in Iran went ahead to the dismay of archaeologists and historians.

The utilization of the dam was delayed for months by appeals from the United Nations' Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization. The organization wanted time to excavate ancient Persian ruins that are going to be submerged by the reservoir created by the dam. Among the sites that could be damaged or even destroyed are what is believed to be the Royal Passage of the Achaemenids, the Persian dynasty that ruled in the sixth century B.C. and an Achaemenid village and cemetery dating back 7000 years.

Humidity from the reservoir could also damage the ancient city of Persepolis which is a historical site visited by millions of people every year.

The dam was built to provide irrigation to farms in the area.

Check out coverage of this story in USA Today, the Star Tribune, and Sci-Tech Today, all of which used AP coverage.

NYC Mayor makes Environmentally-friendly Proposal

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a pay-to-drive plan that would charge motorists to drive in lower parts of Manhattan.

The plan would charge cars $8 and trucks $21 per day to drive in Manhattan below 86th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This would not be done with toll booths, but rather with cameras at intersections capturing the license plates of cars driving in the area and sending the owners statements.

The goals of the program are not only to reduce pollution caused by vehicle traffic in New York, but also to cut down on traffic congestion in Manhattan. The proposed revenue would be put towards alternative transit solutions for the area. Authors of the plan said in its first year alone the program could generate $400 million.

This is only one of 127 environmental improvement policies proposed by Bloomberg as part of his goal to improve the city's long-term sustainability. Others include his goal to plant 1 million trees in the city by 2017, water conservation initiatives, and energy-related plans such as tax rebates for solar panels. Not only does Bloomberg have other programs in mind to help the city become more environmentally friendly, he follows his own advice, most days he takes the Subway to work instead of driving.

Also check out the All Headline News online coverage as well as ABC's local coverage for NYC.

Russell in the NFL Draft

Former Gopher Gary Russell is hoping that despite not playing this season, he will be picked up in the upcoming NFL draft.

Russell held a personal pro day on April 2 to get attention from NFL scouts and closet some of the doubts about his playing that could cause professional teams to pass him by. There was a sparse crowd at the field that day, but Russell filmed the workout session and sent the tape to teams.

After flunking out of the university in January 2006, Russell missed what would have been his junior season, and perhaps a successful season, with the Gophers. In 2005 Russell had 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,135 yards (which averaged out to 6.1 yards per carry). Russell's failing grades did not allow him to play, or stay at the university so he returned to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

Some sports analysts believe Russell could go undrafted and be picked up by a team as a free agent. The Cincinnati Bengals worked him out on March 31, but there were no guarantees of him playing with them reported the Star Tribune.

Seminole Tribe Buys Hard Rock

The Seminole tribe announced Thursday its plans to buy a large portion of the Hard Rock casino, hotel and restaurant chain.

The Florida tribe bought Hard Rock from the London-based Rank Group PLC in a $965 million deal. Included in the deal were two casinos, 124 restaurants, four hotels, two Hard Rock Live! concert venues, and what is said to be the world's largest collection of rock n' roll memorabilia, which includes 70,000 pieces.

The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas was not included in the deal, as well as the Hard Rock Casino in London. Rank Group plans to change the London business to the Rank Gaming brand.

The Seminole tribe includes 3,300 members on and off Florida reservations. All the members of the tribe receive payments from the success of their casinos.

Check out the Star Tribune's coverage