News Day: All flood, all the time / Justice system stumbling / Post office bomb threats echo past / more

All flood, all the time As the level of the Red River slowly recedes, MPR continues to be an excellent source for flood-related news, if little else at the moment. Fifteen of the last 20 stories posted on-line (as of 7:30 a.m. today) focused on the Fargo/Red River Flood story, and one of the remaining five was the forecast of a storm that “could dump 12 inches of snow” in the region. Luckily for Fargo, most of that snow is going to fall farther south. For the Twin Cities, WCCO confirms that there’s nastiness heading our way, too, but probably not until tonight, and probably 2-6 inches of snow with freezing rain and sleet.

Bomb threats echo past Sixteen post offices in southern MN have received bomb threats since early February, and the USPS is offering up to $100,000 to catch the person sending the letters, AP reports. The Faribault Daily News also got a bomb threat, after reporting on the postal threats. Post offices include Faribault, Northfield, Owatonna, Dundas, Kenyon and Morristown. For some, the threats bring back memories of the still-unsolved Kimball, MN post office bombing on May 13, 1976, which killed an assistant postmaster.

MN Job Watch MinnPost picks up a Duluth News Tribune report of a reprieve for 157 of the 303 workers previously facing layoffs at the Minorca mine. The mine is still scheduled for a temporary shutdown May 10, but workers are needed for maintenance.

The Minnesota Orchestra will lay off four administrators and reduce hours and end much part-time staffing, as it cuts $2.3 million from its $31 million annual budget over the next two years, reports the PiPress.

As IBM lays off an estimate 4,000+ workers nationwide (following a 4,600-person lay-off in January), IBM workers in MN are waiting to see what happens. IBM is the second-largest employer in Rochester, and company officials are saying “no comment,” according to the Strib.

Minnesota on Mexico Sharon Schmickle at MinnPost, a frequent visitor to Mexico, provides a thoughtful overview of recent U.S. speculation that Mexico could become a “failed state” due to the drug war. She notes that, “Mexico has long been the most stable of the Latin American countries with a solid middle class, nearly universal education and a literacy rate above 90 percent.” The challenge comes from “all-out regional war over control of some $10 billion a year in profits from drug sales in the United States,” with 6,290 killings blamed on the drug cartels in 2008 alone. The U.S. is worried about violence spilling over the border, but at the same time, the U.S. provides both a market for drugs and most of the weapons smuggled to the drug cartel. “An estimated 2,000 weapons a day are smuggled into Mexico from the United States,” notes Schmickle.

RNC guilty plea Glenn David Dyer, 26, of Brooklyn, NY pleaded guilty to smashing the Macy’s display window with a hammer on September 1, reports the PiPress. This is one of the few RNC felony charges, and Judge Paulette Flynn warned Dyer to expect to serve some time after his sentencing on May 28.

MN justice system stumbling Courts across the state continue to feel the squeeze from insufficient funding to handle the cases that pour in. The Strib finds “judges, prosecutors and police who are increasingly worried that too few public defenders are available to handle a growing court docket.” T-Paw wants to cut public defender funds by five percent this year, on top of a 12 percent cut last year that led to 53 lay-offs statewide. Not just a bleeding heart liberal problem – prosecutors across the state are sounding the alarm:

“They do not have enough staff to handle their cases,” [Dakota County Attorney Jim] Backstrom said, “and that directly impacts all of us who work in the criminal justice system, including the prosecutors. Our cases are delayed. We have staff in courtrooms waiting for public defenders to arrive, which also inconveniences the court and witnesses.”

Without adequate funding, state court officials say, they’ll be forced to delay or no longer process more than 20 types of cases, from truancy to delinquency cases to restraining orders. And they fear cases could be thrown out because they’ll take too long to get to court.

Cuts to the court system budget come at a time when Dakota County sees crime increasing, including what court administrator Carol Renn sees as some people “committing crimes out of desperation to feed their families and to pay bills” after losing jobs.

Start the rehabs The Mpls city council approved $6.5 million for nine nonprofit developers to ” buy 175 foreclosed or abandoned houses or apartments and rehab their 236 units for sale or rent,” reports Steve Brandt in the Strib. The money comes from federal stimulus funds, and the housing will go to lower-income renters or homeowners:

All units must be sold or rented to people earning no more than 120 percent of the area’s median income for their family size. That’s just over $97,000 for a family of four. But 130 of the units will be targeted to people earning half or less of area median income. That’s a ceiling of $40,450 for a family of four. Just over a third of the units are expected to be rental units, but all single-family housing will be sold to owner-occupants.

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