NEWS DAY | War at home / MNDOT lowers hiring goals / Somali president visits / Seifert wins straw poll / War reports

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The war at home claims another life Pamela Taschuk, a 48-year-old juvenile probation officer and social worker, died Thursday, another casualty of the war at home. According to AP, Allen Taschuk dropped their 16-year-old son off at a gas station and then went to find and klll Pamela. Then he killed himself.

Pamela Taschuk was afraid of her husband, and had gotten a no contact order to keep him away after she filed for divorce last month.

AP: Since 1995, police were called to the Taschuk home 48 times – 22 domestic-related. Allen Taschuk was arrested three times, the most recent Aug. 26.

Pamela Taschuk told police that she feared for her life. The no contact order did not protect her.

Less than a month ago, North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden responded to a call for help from another woman with a violent partner. Like Pamela Taschuk, she had obtained a no contact order, in which the court told her partner to stay away from her.

MPR: Stacey Terry, his wife, had filed three orders for protection against him over the past nine years.

Like Allen Taschuk, Devon Dockery violated the no contact order. When Officer Crittenden answered the call for help on September 7, Dockery shot and killed him.

In 1994, the Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). According to MS Magazine, VAWA “changed the way the judicial system handles cases of intimate partner violence and increased the availability of public resources for victims.”

Pamela Taschuk is one of more than 200 women killed in domestic violence in Minnesota since 2000. The tools we use to address domestic violence may have improved with VAWA and subsequent state legislation, but those tools are not good enough.

The Star Tribune reports that St. Paul is about to launch a new initiative, called the Blueprint to assess when higher bail should be set for defendants in domestic violence cases.

“In the really lethal cases, our arrest or prosecution of them is not a deterrent to stopping their stalking or battery. It does deter them when they’re locked up,” [Comdr Steven Frazer, head of the Family and Sexual Violence Unit at the St. Paul Police Department], said. “We’re not making an argument on whether he’s coming back to court next week. We’re making an argument on whether he’s a threat to the people he’s been in contact with that warrants some other level of review.” …
According to most recent statistics, Frazer said, 54 percent of women killed in domestic situations had told police they believed they were going to be killed.

The Blueprint might have made a difference for Pam Taschuk. Her husband was released on $5,000 bail a month before he killed her.

The Blueprint might have made a difference for Officer Richard Crittenden. Dockery had been arrested more than once on charges related to domestic violence. He was arrested on August 26 on charges of violating the order of protection.

Here’s another suggestion — use technology to enforce the no contact orders. Both parties can wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and if they come in close proximity to one another, an alarm would sound in the police station. (Hat tip to Ron Salzberger for this suggestion.)  For some people, the knowledge that the police would be alerted might be a deterrent.

Of course, higher bail and stricter monitoring won’t solve all the problems. Rebecca McLane, program manager for the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, told the Star Tribune that a shift in society’s attitudes is needed.

Part of that, she said, would involve prioritizing. “If we could have anything in the world that we wanted, it would be more shelters, more advocates, more cops on the streets, and more close monitoring of these dangerous offenders,” said McLane, who added that the metro’s dozen battered-women’s shelters are nearly always full.

MNDOT moves the goalpost After years of failing to meet its own goal for contracting with women and minority-owned firms, the MN Department of Transportation has finally figured it out: rather than increasing hiring/contracting efforts, they will cut the goal. MPR reports:

For nearly the entire decade, companies awarded MNDOT contracts have fallen short, sometimes far short, of meeting hiring goals for women and minority subcontractors. …

A MnDOT consultant several years ago concluded contractors can attain the 15 percent goal since there are nearly 400 certified women and minority-owned construction companies. …

[Bernie Arseneau, director of the agency’s policy, safety and strategic initiatives division] said MnDOT’s goal for next year is 9 percent.

Hiring minority and women construction workers is the other half of the MNDOT challenge, and, reports MPR, “Every year for the past several years, the number of women and minority construction workers has stayed the same or declined.”

After months of protests led by the HIRE MN coalition, MNDOT has also found a way to address that problem, by hiring a consultant and agreeing to talk about the problem. For the first time, MNDOT also agreed to meet with HIRE MN representatives.

Sounds a lot like the MNDOT position back in March, as reported by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder:

“For the first time, we are bringing all of the stakeholders together:
contractors, unions, minority groups, advocates, community groups, big contractors, DBEs, women, businesses, Mn/DOT, federal highway [officials]…so that we can grow the DBEs in such a way that serves the community needs, the contractors’ needs, and ultimately the needs of the citizens of Minnesota.

“We are fully and wholly committed to this transformational change,” said Arseneau.

Except that now the goalpost is lower.

Somali president visits The president of Somalia, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, visited the Twin Cities this weekend, meeting with community members, parents of Minnesota Somali youth who have gone to fight with militias, Minnesota politicians, and the Books for Africa project. On Sunday, he spoke to an overflow crowd at Northrup Auditorium. Minnesota is home to an estimated 70,000 Somalis, the largest population in the United States.

The Star Tribune reported that the president gave Somali families “assurances from Somalia’s leader that he would publicly denounce Al-Shabab.” Since Al-Shabab is the leading group fighting to overthrow his government, that seems like a safe bet. The Strib also reported that the president promised to find out who was recruiting the young men and to work for their return home.

Seifert wins GOP straw poll State Representative Marty Seifert came in first, with 37 percent of the vote, trailed by state Rep. Tom Emmer with 23 percent and former state auditor Pat Anderson (14 percent) and state Sen. David Hann (12 percent.)

About 1,200 delegates to the MN Republican convention voted in a straw poll Saturday, reports the Pioneer Press, which also cautioned that, “off-year straw polls are unreliable crystal balls” for predicting the eventual nominee.

Seifert, however, had a more optimistic assessment of the straw poll’s implications. “Republicans want to bet on a winner,” Seifert said. “They don’t want to bet on the horse heading to the glue factory.

The Pioneer Press reported that other candidates had less reason for optimism:

State Rep. Paul Kohls finished fifth with 5 percent of the vote. Trailing far behind were former state Rep. Bill Haas, Sen. Mike Jungbauer, businessman Phil Herwig and frequent candidate Leslie Davis.

Delegates also voted separately for their second choice for governor, and Hann (18 percent) came out first in that poll, followed by Emmer and Anderson.

War Reports

Afghanistan Eight U.S. troops were killed in a Taliban attack in the Nuristan province near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, reports NPR. Five or six Afghan fighters were also killed in the attack, and the Taliban fighters captured 15 Afghan police, including the chief and deputy chief.

Nearly 300 militant fighters flooded the lower, Afghan outpost then swept around it to reach the American station on higher ground from both directions, said Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, the provincial police chief. The U.S. military statement said the Americans and Afghans repelled the attack by tribal fighters and “inflicted heavy enemy casualties.”

Jamaludin Badar, governor of Nuristan province, complained about lack of security and lack of coordination between Afghan and allied forces. The U.S. forces plan to withdraw from the region.

Pakistan Five people in a U.N. food agency office were killed by a suicide bomber in an upscale area of Islamabad on Monday, according to NPR. The New York Times report on the bombing said about 80 people work in offices “equipped with video surveillance cameras, motion detectors and explosives detection devices.” The U.N. immediately ordered a temporary closure of all offices in Pakistan.

The bombing came a day after Hakimullah Mehsud, the new Taliban leader, appeared at a press conference. BBC reports:

Hakimullah Mehsud said his group would avenge the killing of former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud by striking back at Pakistan and the US.

He said he would retaliate against recent efforts on the part of the US and Pakistani security forces to target senior Taliban figures.

Because of security fears, the press conference was attended only by five journalists who are members of Mehsud’s clan.
Iraq The government arrestred about 150 suspected Sunni militants in the Mosul area, according to BBC. The militants allegedly have ties to either al-Qaeda or the now-outlawed Baath political party formerly headed by Saddam Hussein.

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