News Day: Fong Lee update / Mpls school surprise / Housing renewal by bulldozer / more

Judge: Yes, no and maybe on Fong Lee case A federal judge dropped some counts of the Fong Lee family lawsuit, allowed others to continue, and a federal magistrate directed attorneys to apply first in state court for grand jury records, before making the request in federal court. The PiPress reports that Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that “while the allegations leveled against the Minneapolis Police Department in the 2006 shooting death of Fong Lee were serious, there was no evidence the death was the result of department policies or customs.” The judge made a partial summary judgment in favor of the City of Minneapolis and also a summary judgment in favor of police officer Mark Anderson on the claim that his actions caused “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” The city is not off the hook — it still has to defend Anderson and is liable for his actions, and for any cover-up.

Under a legal precedent established in a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case, the plaintiffs had to show that the city’s official policies and procedures — as well as unofficial customs — were unconstitutional and caused the death of Fong Lee….

Magnuson wrote that the evidence produced by both sides didn’t support the contention that the city was liable under the precedent. He said the plaintiffs had to show “not only that the city acted deliberately and improperly through an official policy or custom, but also that the city’s policy or custom caused Andersen to shoot Lee.”

The case is set for trial on May 18, and a settlement conference is scheduled for May 11.

Whoa – or at least slow down That’s the message from the Minneapolis school board, which acted to postpone a vote on the Changing School Options recommendations presented by the district on April 28. A press release from Superintendent Bill Green noted that “Board members indicated the recommendation in its current form would not gain the majority vote required to pass on May 26.”

Urban renewal by bulldozer The Strib reports on city action to bulldoze hundreds of vacant homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Both cities have gotten supplemental funds to enable more demolitions this year, as they deal with huge numbers of vacant properties.

Officials in both cities say their top priority is getting vacant properties fixed up and reoccupied. About 880 vacant buildings were repaired and reoccupied last year in St. Paul. Minneapolis used its regulatory power to get 140 houses fixed up. (Nearly 840 vacant and boarded houses are registered in Minneapolis. The number in St. Paul has hovered around 1,900 for several months.)

It’s hard to get a handle on the real numbers of vacant homes, especially in Minneapolis, where complex regulations mean that a smaller percentage of vacant homes are officially registered.

Indian activists vs. pipeline MPR reports that, despite the Leech Lake Tribal Council agreement to allow an Enbridge Energy pipeline to cross the reservation, in exchange for a $10 million payment, other tribal members are fighting the plan. Environmental groups also oppose the pipeline, because it would carry oil from tar sands in Canada.

New juvenile psych hospital The legislature approved Prairie St. John’s plans for a new 20-bed juvenile psychiatric hospital in the west metro, after the corporation failed to win approval last year for a 144-bed hospital in Woodbury. MPR reports that the for-profit organization operates a psychiatric hospital in Fargo and now provides outpatient psychiatric services in Woodbury and Edina.

And in the legislature, PIM reports that the big conference committee reports won’t be done by tonight’s self-imposed deadline. Two reasons cited by legislators: ambiguity about stimulus funds and difficulties with the governor’s office and Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson. Except for the conference committee on taxes, writes Steve Perry, where the conflict is in “continuing disagreement between chairs Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) and Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) over tax breaks, loans and other kinds of special treatment for business granted in the name of spurring job creation or keeping local development projects afloat.”

New unemployment claims down, total UCB up The weekly Department of Labor figures showed seasonally adjusted new unemployment claims down to 601,000 for the week ending May 2, a decrease of 34,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 635,000. The total seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending April 25 was 6,351,000, an increase of 56,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 6,295,000.

“Stop the raids! That was the slogan for protesters at the Bloomington ICE office yesterday, as they called on the Obama administration to stop immigration raids and deportations. After blocking off entrances to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Bloomington, about 30 activists who participated in acts of civil disobedience were arrested, reports the Daily Planet.

World/National Headlines
BBC: With the confirmed civilian death toll from U.S. bombing this week now around 100, Afghans took to the streets in “violent” protest, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “deeply, deeply” regretted the deaths.

BBC: As Pakistan bombs Taliban targets in the Swat valley, civilians continue to flee the fighting. At least 24 civilians have died in this week’s fighting, and militants reportedly are setting up roadblocks to prevent them from leaving.

Shaukat Saleem, a lawyer who spoke to the BBC from Mingora, said that about 200,000 had now left the town, with a further 500,000 civilians remaining.

He accused both the army and the Taleban of shooting civilians who tried to flee the fighting.

BBC: At least 14 (perhaps as many as 18) Zimbabwean opposition activists have been released on bail a day after they were jailed again.

NYT: The Justice Department says the FBI’s terrorism watch list includes more than 24,000 names that should not be there, based on inaccurate information – and fails to include people with real ties to terrorism.

The list has long been a target of public criticism, particularly after well-publicized errors in which politicians including Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representative John Lewis showed up on it. People with names similar to actual terrorists have complained that it can take months to be removed from the list, and civil liberties advocates charge that antiwar protesters, Muslim activists and others have been listed for political reasons.

NPR: Enough with banks as victims: NPR’s Planet Money points to the Center for Public Integrity’s Meltdown report, which identifies the biggest culprits in the suprime mortgage mess. CPI head Bill Buzenberg, formerly of NPR:

The truth is these mega-banks invested trillions, made billions, and took risks with their eyes wide open. Now, because they are deemed “too big to fail,” they need trillions in government bailouts and guarantees to solve problems they helped create. But let’s look at it another way: perhaps these mega-banks are simply “too politically connected to fail.”

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