NEWS DAY | Twin Cities are tops in housing, safety / Police lie, Minneapolis pays / More U.S., U.N. deaths in AfPak war

Number One

Jaroslav Machacek -

We’re number one! Forbes magazine has just named the Twin Cities the safest place to live, and Twin Cities home price increases lead the nation, with 3.2 percent in August, on top of 4.6 percent from June to July. Of course, when you look at the numbers a little more closely, you find that foreclosure rates are also higher than the rest of the nation, and that home prices are still one-third below 2006 levels, but why let the numbers get in the way of a good headline?

The Star Tribune reports that rising home prices in the Twin Cities lead the nation, though prices remain 13.7 percent below August 2008 levels. One of the factors bolstering the housing market is the federal first-time-home-buyer tax credit, which has pushed homes sales throughout the summer, but is set to expire at the end of November. The Strib reports: “The median price [for Twin Cities homes] peaked in September 2006 at $229,000 and bottomed in April at $153,000.” August’s median home price was $175,000.

Foreclosure rates are rising right along with home prices:

Data released today by Realty Trac, an online marketplace for foreclosed properties, show foreclosures rising faster locally than nationally. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area had 9,767 foreclosure filings in the third quarter, a 13.5 percent increase from the second quarter and nearly double the third-quarter total last year, Realty Trac said.

But at least Forbes loves us, gushing:

Minneapolis tops our list of America’s safest cities, and not just for its crime rate. In ranking the cities on our list, we looked at workplace fatalities, traffic-related deaths and natural disaster risk; the City of Lakes ranked in the top 10 of all four categories. It’s also one of America’s best places to live cheaply and offers easy access to some of the most scenic drives in the country.

And what about St. Paul? We’re just lumped in as part of the “Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI” metropolitan area.

Minneapolis pays again This time the city is paying $100,000 for bad policing, a settlement for police misconduct caught on a Hennepin County Safe Zone video camera, reports the Star Tribune. The lawsuit alleged false arrest and discrimination, and the video showed that police officers’ descriptions of what happened were just about 180 degrees from the truth. See the video on the Strib website. One of the officers is already under investigation for his actions as part of the Metro Gang Strike Force, but police spokesperson Jesse Garcia said he wasn’t aware of any internal investigation or discipline based on the north Minneapolis traffice stop resulting in the settlement.

Judge Robert Blaeser had earlier dismissed criminal charges filed against the couple in the case, after viewing the tape and reviewing the police reports:

“One officer says the car was silver; one says it was gold,” Blaeser said. “One says it ran a red light; one doesn’t say anything about that. One says he saw somebody throw something out the driver’s door; the other one did not. One says the passenger was jumping on the back of an officer, pulling the officer, and that he maced her; and the other one does not. I’m going to find that there’s not enough credible evidence for a stop in this case.”

Bostrom vs. Fletcher Assistant St. Paul police chief Matt Bostrom formed a Bostrom for Sheriff committee, which means he probably will run against incumbent Sheriff Bob Fletcher in next year’s election, according to the Star Tribune.

Bostrom starts his race with a lot of firepower backing him with campaign co-chairs including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.; state Sen. Mee Moua; Police Chief John Harrington and Ramsey County Commissioners Victoria Reinhardt and Tony Bennett.

Bostrom helped oversee RNC security plannning, and drew criticism from Fletcher during that time, recalls the Minnesota Independent, with Fletcher “repeatedly warning that the St. Paul department had failed to recruit enough police officers to ensure that it went off without serious problems.” Fletcher’s RNC conduct is certain to be an issue in the campaign, but it’s not the only one:

The four-term incumbent’s also been at the center of an investigation into the activities of the beleaguered — and now disbanded — Metro Gang Strike Force. Two damning reports released earlier this year alleged that the law enforcement agency routinely seized money from citizens without justification, failed to adequately keep track of its assets and displayed a general disregard for the civil rights of citizens, particularly minorities. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department was the fiscal agent for the gang strike force.

War Reports

Pakistan Nearly 100 people are already reported killed in a market bombing in Peshawar, reports NPR, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Islamabad for a three-day visit. According to the Washington Post:

The bombing early Wednesday in a crowded market in Peshawar — about three hour’s drive from the capital — was the deadliest attack in Pakistan this year, and the latest in a wave of suicide bombings, assassinations and attacks staged in response to a major Pakistani offensive against insurgent sanctuaries near the Afghanistan border.

Afghanistan Eight more U.S. troop deaths in two attacks Tuesday brought the total U.S. troop toll to 55 for October, the highest number in any month since the war began, according to AP. All the deaths were in Kandahar province, and other troops were wounded in the fighting.

The military issued a statement saying the deaths occurred during “multiple, complex” bomb strikes. It said several troops were wounded and evacuated to a nearby medical facility, but gave no other details.

In addition to military deaths, three U.S. DEA agents were killed, along with soldiers, in a helicopter crash on Monday, and the bodies of three civilian crew members were recovered from the wreckage of a U.S. army plane that crashed in western Afghanistan two weeks ago. According to BBC, the three were also U.S. nationals.

Also on Wednesday, reports AP, the Taliban attacked both a U.N. guesthouse and a luxury hotel in the capital city of Kabul:

Gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide vests stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people – including six U.N. staff – officials said. The U.S. Embassy said one of the U.N. dead was American. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, saying it was meant as an assault on the upcoming presidential election.

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