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Hearing set for Monday on Minneapolis police ballot question

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge has scheduled hearing for Monday on an effort to keep a charter amendment on the future of policing off the ballot in Minneapolis.
Attorneys for former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels and others filed the motion late Wednesday, saying the council failed when it approved new ballot language Tuesday to solve the problems that led Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson to order the measure stricken from the ballot earlier in the day.
They said it remains unclear precisely what the amendment will do and how the changes could be implemented within 30 days of the election.
The court calendar posted Friday shows that Anderson has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Monday.
City attorneys urged the court to reject the motion, calling it a “political effort” to prevent voters from deciding. They said the new language is almost identical to what Samuels’ attorneys requested.
It wasn’t immediately clear if it was still possible to change the ballots. A county statement after the council’s vote Tuesday said any additional changes “may jeopardize the ballot production schedule and the timely opening of absentee voting.”
County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms warned in a sworn court filing last week that 5 p.m. Tuesday was the printer’s deadline for changing the ballots. Early in-person voting begins next Friday, and the county and city are required by law to distribute absentee ballots by next Friday to people who’ve requested them. She warned that delays would risk disenfranchising overseas voters, including members of the military.

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Threat closes St. Louis Park synagogue as Sabbath begins

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) — A threat of physical violence has caused a synagogue in a Minneapolis suburb to cancel preschool and shift Sabbath services online Friday.
Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park was informed that the Anti-Defamation League regional office in Chicago received the threat on its website that specifically targeted a Beth El Synagogue and that St. Louis Park was also referenced.
All Beth El facilities in the region were notified and officials said there were indications that the threat may have come from the Twin Cities area. No other details of the threat were provided.
Beth El managing director Matt Walzer says the decision to close the synagogue as the Jewish Sabbath begins Friday and in the midst of High Holy Days was made “out of an abundance of caution,” the Star Tribune reported.
Walzer said synagogue representatives have been in close contact with local and federal law enforcement. They are actively investigating in collaboration with the ADL in Chicago and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, he said.

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Duluth man, 64, dies after being hit, pinned under bus

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A 64-year-old Duluth man died Friday after he was hit, then pinned underneath a bus outside Miller Hill Mall.
The incident happened before 10 a.m. Friday outside Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Police say they arrived to find David John Weston pinned under the bus and firefighters used airbags to lift the bus off of him.
Police and the State Patrol are investigating.
Duluth police are reminding people to drive slowly, put down distractions and watch for pedestrians.

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2 girls injured in Meeker County school bus crash

EDEN VALLEY, Minn. (AP) — Two girls suffered minor injuries when their school bus was rear-ended by another vehicle in Meeker County on Friday.
The Sheriff’s Office says there were 15 children on the bus at the time of the Friday morning crash in Manannah Township. All of the children are students in the Eden Valley-Watkins School District and the two girls who suffered minor injuries were 6 and 8 years old.
The Sheriff’s Office says the bus was stopped at a bus stop at the time of the crash and its lights were activated.
The driver of the vehicle that hit the school bus also suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations rise to 696 in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have risen to 696 in Minnesota, and hospital intensive care beds are at more than 95% capacity, according to state data.
Hospital leaders said the increase in COVID-19 cases is combining with seasonal trauma injuries and other urgent needs, stretching critical care resources.
Dr. Paul Mueller, vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System, Southwest Wisconsin, said hospitals are, by and large, full.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported 18 COVID-19 deaths on Friday and 2,050 new coronavirus infections, raising the state’s pandemic totals to 7,892 deaths and 666,496 cases overall.
The Star Tribune reported it’s common for intensive care units to be above 90% capacity, especially during winter flu season, but these units have been steadily filling up since early August as cases of COVID-19 have been increasing due to the delta variant of the coronavirus.
The state’s MNTrac monitoring system reported that 1,151 of 1,206 available intensive care beds were being used by patients with COVID-19 or other unrelated medical concerns — a usage rate of 95.4%.
State health officials have been more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 72% of eligible Minnesotans ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The rate increases to more than 92% among more vulnerable senior citizens, but drops below 60% among eligible teenagers.

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Minnesota schools see slight bump in weekly virus cases

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota schools are seeing increases in weekly coronavirus cases as students return to classrooms across the state.
More than 100 facilities from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade reported infections last week, according to a weekly COVID-19 report released by the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday.
The figure is up from previous weeks but remains a fraction of the number of infections reported in schools during a surge in virus cases statewide late last year.
Growth in hospitalizations has slowed in the past week as more than 660 patients are hospitalized with complications due to COVID-19, including 178 in intensive care. Nearly 95% of intensive care beds statewide remain in use, however, which state officials say is due in part to more accidents during the summer months.
Just over 72% of Minnesotans 16 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 68% have been fully inoculated as of Tuesday, according to a state dashboard.
Gov. Tim Walz stopped in Northfield on Thursday to meet with students returning to school as part of a statewide tour of schools this week encouraging all Minnesotans 12 and older to get vaccinated.

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Minnesota Senate GOP picks Jeremy Miller of Winona as leader

By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Senate Republicans have chosen Sen. Jeremy Miller, of Winona, to be the chamber’s new majority leader to replace Paul Gazelka, who stepped down from his leadership post to run for governor.
The Republicans plus two independents elected Miller as their caucus leader at a meeting Wednesday night. Officially naming him majority leader will require a resolution the next time the Senate meets, which will likely be during a special session in the next few weeks if leaders can agree on a $250 million bonus package for frontline workers in the pandemic.
Miller was first elected to the Senate in 2010. He had been president of the chamber since 2019, a job that included presiding over floor sessions and trying to stay above the partisan fray. He told reporters Thursday that he’s “more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy” and made a pitch for bipartisan cooperation. He said he already has a very good relationship with Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park.
“I have the opportunity to unite our caucus and at the same time work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both the House and the Senate, to get good things done for the people of the state of Minnesota,” Miller said.
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has said that he won’t call a special session unless Senate Republicans agree not to fire his health commissioner, Jan Malcolm. Sen. Jim Abeler, of Anoka, last month said he was considering seeking her ouster over her handling of the pandemic. Miller was noncommittal about what position his caucus might take on her future.
Miller, a husband and father of three, is also chief financial officer for his family’s scrap metal company. He’s succeeding Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, who had been majority leader since the 2017 session and launched his gubernatorial campaign on Wednesday.
Senate Democrats plan to meet Monday to elect their own new leader. Sen. Susan Kent, of Woodbury, announced last week that she was stepping down as minority leader and won’t seek reelection next year for family reasons.

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Minnesota’s Klobuchar says she had breast cancer; doing well

By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Thursday that she has been treated for breast cancer that was found in February and the treatment “went well.”
Klobuchar, 61, tweeted that the cancer was detected during a routine mammogram, and eventually she had a lumpectomy to remove it. She said she completed radiation therapy in May amid a busy hearing schedule, including one treatment two days after her father died. A checkup in August found she was doing well. She told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she’s “feeling much better” now.
For Democrats, Klobuchar’s health update was a fresh reminder of their fragile hold on the Senate, which they control by a single vote. Klobuchar’s announcement made no explicit statement on her future, but said the cancer “gave me renewed purpose to my work.”
Klobuchar said her cancer was stage 1A, meaning it had not spread beyond the breast. She said she felt fortunate to have caught it early because she had delayed her mammogram because of the pandemic.
“Now they tell me that my chances of getting cancer again are the same as any other person, which is great,” Klobuchar said on ABC. “But I learned a lot through this year … about the importance of getting those exams and also the gratitude for all others that surrounded me and my family, my husband.”
She also issued a plea for Americans not to delay their health screenings and noted that thousands of women have undetected breast cancer. She said her advice was to “get those screenings, go in, get a mammogram, get whatever health checkup that you should normally be getting.”
Klobuchar is early in her third term. She was first elected in 2006 and easily won reelection twice against little-known opponents. She’s the daughter of well-known Minneapolis newsman Jim Klobuchar, who died in May, and Rose, a schoolteacher who died in 2010. Her grandfather was an iron miner in northern Minnesota.
Klobuchar long cultivated an image as a straight-shooting, pragmatist willing to work across the aisle with Republicans, making her one of the Senate’s most productive members at passing legislation.
The senator ran for president but dropped out before the 2020 Democratic convention as moderates lined up behind Joe Biden. She memorably announced her campaign during a snowstorm in 2019, at a park along the Mississippi River with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.
Klobuchar, a lawyer and the former chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s largest county, currently chairs the powerful Senate Rules Committee, which is examining the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
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Associated Press writers Doug Glass in Minneapolis and Tom Strong in Washington contributed to this story.

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12-year-old fatally shot during dispute in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A 12-year-old boy has been fatally shot during a neighborhood dispute in Minneapolis, according to police.
The child was shot during an argument between two people, according to authorities. Police spokesman Garrett Parten said the victim’s involvement in the dispute is unclear.
The suspect, described by witnesses as a boy in his mid-teens, fled before police arrived on scene. The victim was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center where he died, the Star Tribune reported.
His grandmother, Darlisa Williams, identified the victim as London Michael Bean, a sixth-grader at Sojourner Truth Academy in Minneapolis.
The boy’s death is the city’s 64th homicide of 2021 and the third fatal shooting of a child in the past few months.

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Lawsuit: GOP donor offered money to hush girl he trafficked

By AMY FORLITI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A prominent Minnesota GOP donor who is charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking is now being sued by an underage girl who says he used her for sex acts, then offered her money to keep her from talking about it.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleges that Anton Lazzaro’s attorneys offered $1,000 in hush money to the girl and her parents to keep them quiet and asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The girl’s father refused and instead went to law enforcement, said their attorney, Jeff Anderson.
The lawsuit, which also lists the girl’s parents as plaintiffs, alleges Lazzaro used his “power, wealth, influence, connections, and resources to recruit children … so that he could prey on them. When it became clear that Lazzaro had committed serious crimes, he attempted to coerce his victims and their families into keeping silent.”
The girl and her parents are not named in the lawsuit.
Lazzaro, 30, was charged in August with five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor, one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and three counts of obstruction. His attorney has said he is being falsely accused and did not commit the crimes.
St. Thomas University student Gisela Castro Medina, 19, the former chairwoman of the school’s Republican Party chapter, also faces criminal charges for allegedly recruiting girls for Lazzaro.
According to the lawsuit, Medina targeted young women or girls on social media and introduced them to Lazzaro to be used for sex in exchange for money and gifts. The lawsuit says the girl was 14 when she befriended Medina in 2018. In May of 2020, when the girl was 16, Medina recruited her to meet Lazzaro and began grooming her, explaining that he was a powerful, prominent and wealthy businessman and political figure.
From May to July 2020, Lazzaro arranged for cars to bring the girl to his home on several occasions, and he committed “multiple commercial sex acts” against her, the lawsuit says.
After months of repeated sex trafficking of the girl, Lazzaro attempted to coerce her into silence, the lawsuit says. According to the lawsuit, after the girl posted something about Lazzaro and Medina on social media, Lazzaro’s attorneys reached out to the girl’s father in July 2020 and offered the family hush money and a non-disclosure agreement. The attorney allegedly suggested that the girl was aggressively seeking to defame the Lazzaro and Medina, the lawsuit says.
A redacted copy of the proposed non-disclosure agreement, provided by Anderson, says there was a “breach of peace” due to a number of issues, including a prior interaction with the girl and Lazzaro, damage to property and disparaging social media posts.
The document says Lazzaro and the girl had “a consensual interaction in the recent past.” The proposed agreement offers $1,000 — a figure that the document says the girl demanded over texts — but stipulates the money would not be paid until a future date to allow time for the girl to stop posting disparaging comments about Lazzaro and Medina. It also demanded that they “not disclose the nature of the prior interaction with Mr. Lazarro to the public.”
The proposed agreement also says Medina would not seek a property damage claim against the girl, for damage to a vehicle.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, saying that as a result of the sexual abuse, the girl has suffered and will continue to suffer pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, sexual confusion and other issues.
Lazzaro has connections to prominent Republicans in Minnesota, and pictures on his Facebook and Twitter accounts show him with prominent party leaders nationwide, including former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Lazzaro is also close friends with the former leader of the Minnesota Republican Party, Jennifer Carnahan. News of the charges against Lazzaro increased calls for her to resign from her post, which she did after initially resisting. She has said she had no knowledge of the allegations against Lazzaro.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Anderson showed a picture of Lazzaro sitting on top of a jet and another picture of a shirtless man, who he said was Lazzaro, with stacks of cash.
When authorities searched Lazzaro’s residence at a Minneapolis hotel and condominium complex in December, they found more than $370,000 in U.S. currency, as well as currency from several other countries, according to court documents. They also found several bars that authorities believed to be gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium and copper. When he was indicted on the sex trafficking charges last month, he was ordered to turn over the U.S. currency, a Ferrari convertible, and multiple cellphones, computers, thumb drives and SD cards.