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Minnesota Headlines

COVID-19 cases rising faster on reservations in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Native Americans have contracted COVID-19 at two to three times the rate of white Minnesotans over the past month, according to state health officials.
There are large pockets of unvaccinated people in the 18 to 49 age range in Minnesota’s tribal communities and across the country, according to Mary Owen, director of the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at the University of Minnesota medical school.
“We have some folks who are not getting vaccinated, whether it’s because they’re resisting it or because they’re not able to get access. Not quite sure. It’s probably a combination of those. But that’s impacting us again, significantly,” said Owen, who is also president of the Association of American Indian Physicians.
Owen says that’s especially concerning because Native Americans have high rates of health disparities that put them at higher risk for serious COVID-19 illness, such as diabetes, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
“We have some very frail people in our communities that cannot afford to get infected. We have to protect them,” Owen said. “So please, do what’s right for our communities, not just for us as individuals.”
The Leech Lake reservation has recorded its highest numbers of positive COVID-19 cases over the past month since the pandemic began.
The White Earth reservation had hardly any COVID-19 cases on the reservation throughout most of the summer, but cases started to rise in August, and peaked in late September.

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Minnesota Headlines

Ex-Wisconsin teacher gets 12 years for secret videotapes

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former Wisconsin high school teacher accused of secretly videotaping undressed students during field trips was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison after reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
David Kruchten, 39, of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to produce child pornography.
Prosecutors alleged Kruchten used his position as a business teacher at Madison East High School to secretly videotape students during field trips in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
According to court documents, he accompanied East High’s business club students on overnight trips to Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva as well as Minneapolis in 2019. Students discovered hidden cameras planted in air fresheners in their hotel rooms during the Minneapolis trip. Investigators discovered similar air freshener cans in photos taken by students during the Wisconsin trips, prosecutors said.
Kruchten was charged last year with multiple counts of attempting to produce child pornography and resigned from his teaching job.
In an eight-page handwritten letter filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court, Kruchten wrote that he started spying on family “to deal with stress and fulfill a need for adrenaline” and to find out what they said about him when he wasn’t around, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
That led to planting hidden cameras to capture pets, family, friends, babysitters and even his parents and grandparents, before he began spying on his students, Kruchten wrote in the letter to U.S. District Judge James Peterson.
“That was not my goal when I went into teaching and it was not my goal when I started on this course of behavior,” Kruchten wrote. “My goal was not a collection of child pornography. My interest in these voyeuristic videos was not to capture students engaged in sex acts, my interest was the same (as) it was with my grandparents, and my pets and my wife — to see what people do when I’m not there.”
However, he wrote, it would be a lie to say there was “zero sexual component.”
Peterson also sentenced Kruchten to 20 years of supervised release to follow his time in prison.

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Minnesota Headlines

Minneapolis cop charged in chase that killed innocent driver

By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with manslaughter and vehicular homicide for a crash in July that killed an innocent motorist while the officer was pursuing a stolen vehicle, a prosecutor announced Friday.
Officer Brian Cummings was driving nearly 80 mph (129 kph) in Minneapolis with his siren and lights activated when his squad car slammed into another vehicle, killing 40-year-old Leneal Frazier, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. The crash ended a chase that lasted more than 20 blocks, including through residential neighborhoods where the posted speed limit is 25 mph.
“Police are supposed to protect and serve citizens, and to act in a manner consistent with their sworn oath to do so. Officer Cummings’ actions deviated from his oath and his negligence caused the death of Leneal Frazier,” Freeman said.
During Cummings’ chase, Frazier’s Jeep entered an intersection on a green light. According to investigators, the driver of the stolen vehicle narrowly missed Frazier’s Jeep before the squad car struck it on the driver’s side. An accident reconstruction report said the fatal collision “can be attributed to the Defendant for failure to operate his vehicle with due regard for the safety of other motorists.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said after Frazier’s death that the city would review its pursuit policy, and that review was still ongoing Friday. A police spokesman said this summer that the policy was properly followed in the chase, but the complaint clearly suggested that prosecutors don’t think it was by quoting directly from the policy:
“Officers shall not initiate a pursuit or shall terminate a pursuit in progress if the pursuit poses an unreasonable risk to the officers, the public or passengers of the vehicle being pursued who may be unwilling participants.”
Cummings’ attorney, Tom Plunkett, said Cummings was pursuing a suspect in a “violent carjacking” and that the occupants had been “on a crime spree, a practice that has unfortunately become too common in Minneapolis.”
The city’s police union didn’t immediately respond to a message.
Frazier was the uncle of Darnella Frazier, whose cellphone video of Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was viewed worldwide and helped launch a global protest movement against racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of murder and sentenced this year in Floyd’s 2020 death.
The Frazier family, which had called for Cummings to be prosecuted in Frazier’s death, welcomed the charges as a first step toward justice, according to their lawyers, Ben Crump and Jeff Storms.
“The Frazier family and our legal team are grateful for the charges brought against Brian Cummings for the reckless killing of Leneal Frazier,” they said in a statement. “We commend the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for having the courage to hold law enforcement accountable in this instance. No innocent civilian should ever lose their life because of unwarranted high-speed chases in residential neighborhoods.”
Both charges against Cummings carry a presumptive prison sentence of four years under state sentencing guidelines. Jail records show he was released on his own recognizance without bail required and has a hearing set for Nov. 9.
The department’s policy manual allows pursuits for “serious and violent crimes.” including robbery, and “flagrantly reckless driving that is life-threatening to the public.” The complaint said the stolen vehicle was suspected in thefts from businesses that involved “some limited use of force” but none involving weapons or resulted in injuries. Chases for simple auto theft are not allowed.
Freeman made a fresh plea Friday for law enforcement across the state to change their pursuit policies, saying they don’t do enough to protect human life. He said responses to previous criticism had been “weak and ineffective.” He said Minnesota agencies reported 40 fatal injuries resulting from pursuits from 2013-2020.
“This must stop,” Freeman wrote. “Pursuits must be reserved for only the most serious crimes and cases.”
The charges against Cummings came a day after former Minneapolis police Officer Mohamed Noor was resentenced on a manslaughter charge in the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was shot minutes after she had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. They also came ahead of a Nov. 2 vote in which Minneapolis residents will decide whether to replace the city’s police department with a new public safety unit.
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Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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Minnesota Headlines

Aromatherapy spray linked to US deaths faces recall

By MIKE STOBBE AP Medical Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials may have solved the mystery of how four people in different states came down with a serious tropical disease even though none had traveled internationally: an aromatherapy spray imported from India.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that investigators found the same type of bacteria that causes the disease, melioidosis, in a spray bottle found in one of the patients’ homes.
The four people were from Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas. Two of them, one a child in Georgia, died.
The agency said it was testing to confirm the bacteria in the bottle is the same strain as that seen in the four patients. It previously said lab analyses showed all four infections were closely related.
The spray found in the Georgia patient’s home was made in India. The genetic profile of the bacteria in the bottle is similar to that of strains usually found in South Asia, the agency said.
The contaminated product is labeled “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones,” the CDC said. It was sold for $4 in 55 Walmart stores and on Walmart’s website starting in February and until Thursday.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall Friday for 3,900 bottles of the spray in six scents. Officials are investigating whether other scents and brands may pose a risk.
Walmart issued a statement Friday, saying the company took immediate action when federal agencies told the retailer of their findings.
Melioidosis is a rare in the United States, with about 12 cases reported annually. People can get it through direct contact with contaminated soil and water. The CDC said the infection is treatable if caught early and treated correctly.
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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Minnesota Sports

Canada beats US 3-1 in pre-Olympic women’s hockey game

By JOHN WAWROW AP Hockey Writer
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Emily Clark scored twice, including the go-ahead goal 5:05 into the third period, and Canada beat the United States 3-1 in Game 1 of a nine-game pre-Olympic Rivalry Series between the national women’s hockey teams Friday night.
It was the first meeting between the cross-border rivals and world’s top hockey powers since Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory in the gold medal game of the women’s world championships in Calgary, Alberta, on Aug. 31. The Canadians have won three straight meetings to mark their best streak since a five-game run before a 3-2 shootout loss in the gold-medal game at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
Clark sealed the outcome with an empty-net goal, and Sarah Fillier also scored for Canada, which ended the Americans’ run of winning five consecutive world titles in August. Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 28 shots, including 14 in the second period when the U.S. outshot Canada 15-3. Her best stop came 20 seconds after Clark scored, when she held her ground to turn aside Hayley Scamurra’s backhander from in tight off a Canada turnover in its own end.
Scamurra scored and Alex Cavallini stopped 16 shots.
The teams will meet again in Hartford, Connecticut, on Monday night.
Clark’s go-ahead goal came shortly after Canada’s power-play unit failed to register a shot on net with Megan Bozek off for cross-checking. Ella Shelton set up the play by gaining the American blue line and turning around in the right circle to feed Clark, who’s shot beat Cavallini through a screen and inside the near post.
The teams traded power-play goals through the first 40 minutes, with Canada opening the scoring on Fillier’s 13:39 into the first period, and 29 seconds after Abby Roque was penalized for tripping.
Off the faceoff in the U.S. zone, Canada worked the puck back to Erin Ambrose, who’s shot from the blue line was tipped in front by teammate Rebecca Johnston. Cavallini made the stop, but was unable to control the rebound, which dribbled to her left, where an untouched Fillier swept it into the open side.
Scamurra tied it 11:21 into the second period, when Maschmeyer stopped Caroline Harvey’s point shot. Scamurra spun away from Renata Fast in front and roofed the rebound inside the crossbar.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down women’s hockey for 18 months, the outing was Team USA’s first against an international opponent on U.S. soil in 622 days, dating to a 4-3 overtime win over Canada in a rivalry series game played at Anaheim, California, on Feb. 8, 2020.
The first period wasn’t over before the bad blood between the two teams became apparent with U.S. forward Hilary Knight exchanging shoves with Canada’a Melodie Daoust following a scramble in front of the Canadian net with three seconds remaining.
NOTES: U.S. G Maddie Rooney, who missed the world championship after suffering a lower body injury, is being eased back into action and not expected to play until the team travels to play a three-game series against Russia in Northern Ireland starting on Nov. 9. … Canada D Blayre Turnbull, who broke her fibula during the gold-medal celerations in August, has resumed skating but there is no timetable for her return. … U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield played in her 150th international game, including the Under-18 and -22 levels.
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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Iowa Headlines

Early morning shooting leaves man dead in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A person was shot to death Friday morning in northeast Des Moines, police said.
Officers responded to multiple reports of gunfire at 5:41 a.m. and found a person who had been shot. Although officers attempted lifesaving efforts, the person died at the scene.
It was the city’s ninth homicide of the year.

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Iowa Headlines

Iowa’s September unemployment rate drops slightly to 4%

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s unemployment rate for September dropped slightly to 4%, a state agency reported Friday.
Iowa Workforce Development said the rate declined from 4.1% in August as the total number of unemployed Iowans dropped by nearly 2,000 to 66,100 people.
Iowa’s rate left it tied with two other states for the nation’s 17th lowest unemployment rate. Nebraska had the lowest rate of 2%.
The nation’s unemployment rate for September was 4.8%.

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Iowa Headlines

Police seek 28-year-old man in killing of western Iowa woman

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A Council Bluffs woman was fatally shot in her home early Friday, and police were searching for a 28-year-old man in the killing.
Police said officers were called to a home just before 3:30 a.m. Friday and found McKayla Glover, 24, of Council Bluffs, with a gunshot wound. She was rushed to a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she died.
Police did not offer details on what led up to the shooting.
Police said they’ve identified a 28-year-old man as a person of interest in the shooting and were trying to find him. No arrests in the killing had been made by midday Friday.

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Iowa Headlines

Iowa court limits release of allegations against doctors

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa doctors accused of doing something dangerous or inappropriate could keep the allegations private until a regulatory board makes a final determination and issues a report under a state Supreme Court decision issued Friday.
In its unanimous decision, the court said the Iowa Board of Medicine should not have publicly disclosed information about a doctor under investigation, as was standard for the agency. Its ruling likely will lead to changes in how dozens of other boards handle complaints.
“Read in its entirety, we do not believe the statute is ambiguous. Investigative information cannot be released to the public prior to a final decision in a disciplinary proceeding,” Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.
Iowa Freedom of Information Council Executive Director Randy Evans called the decision disappointing and said he hopes the Legislature revises the statute.
“Those facts and circumstances need full and timely disclosure to patients and consumers so they can make an informed selection of a treating physician,” he said.
The court ruled in the case of Dr. Domenico Calcaterra, a cardiothoracic surgeon who formerly practiced in Iowa City but now practices in another state.
The Iowa Board of Medicine in 2013 considered allegations of disruptive behavior and unethical or unprofessional misconduct. The board sent out a press release with information about the allegations, which Calcaterra has long denied.
Ultimately, it settled the complaint in 2014, with Calcaterra agreeing to accept a citation, a warning and a $5,000 civil penalty without admitting wrongdoing. The board detailed the settlement in another press release, which was posted on its website and repeated the allegations.
Calcaterra’s attorney, Trent Nelson, said Calcaterra has suffered because of the accusations and noted that “there has never been a concern about our client’s competence or patient care.”
Calcaterra sought to get the information removed in 2018, but the board declined, saying its administrative rules have long provided that statements of charges are public records. In April 2020, a state court judge reversed the board, concluding Iowa law clearly prohibits the disclosure of investigative information prior to a regulatory board’s final written decision.
The law in question applies to more than 30 other licensing boards, including those regulating nurses and pharmacists, dentists, foot doctors, psychologists, eye doctors, veterinarians and plumbers. The high court’s ruling reverses decades-old policies for the disclosure of information about such professionals under investigation. The court said it doesn’t need to abide by long-standing rules if they conflict with a law.
Mansfield wrote that the court doesn’t discount the need for transparency in government and acknowledges the public may find value in having information about a professional when a complaint is filed with a licensing board.
He said confidentiality allows people involved in an investigation to speak freely.
“In addition, a professional’s livelihood can be damaged by putting unproved allegations in public view on an official government website,” Mansfield wrote. “It is the Legislature’s role to balance these considerations, not ours.”
Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office who represented the Iowa Board of Medicine, said state lawyers are “evaluating the ruling and will be working with the licensing boards to determine next steps.”
Nelson, Calcaterra’s attorney, said the decision restores protections that have been ignored by licensing boards for decades.
“This ends the practice by licensing boards of publishing unvetted and often inaccurate allegations before the licensee has even had the opportunity to defend themselves or see the evidence against them,” Nelson said.

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employment news

Ableism in the workplace: how employers can combat discrimination

In the more than three decades since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed, signs of progress are there. In many public spaces, at least, consideration is given to how they can be made available to people with varying levels of physical ability. But even with nominal strides in accessibility and inclusion for those who are differently-abled, there are still major gaps and areas for significant improvement.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment has always been high for disabled Americans and has risen since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. This means there’s much work for individual organizations to do, in order to help ensure that talented, qualified workers aren’t being frustrated and forced out of the workplace for lack of accommodation.

If your organization is looking to be more proactive in combating discrimination against disabled employees, there are steps you can take to become more disability-friendly.

Ableism is an insidious form discrimination

When we think of discrimination in the workplace, we often think first of racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination, and then target diversity and inclusion initiatives to those major areas. However, people who have disabilities have also faced decades of systemic bias and discrimination. And as with other kinds of bias, ableism (prejudice against people living with mental or physical disabilities) can be both conscious or unconscious.

In fact, the prejudice can be as blatant as not offering any kind of accessible facilities, but it can also be a total lack of thought when it comes to disabled employees. Ignoring the realities of disability, minimizing them, is an unconscious way of saying, “You can be like everyone else if we just ignore the differences.” This can stigmatize employees living with disabilities and prevent them from participating fully in the workplace.

Be open to feedback and insight from employees

As with any other kind of inclusivity progress, the first step is talking to one of your greatest resources—your team. Feedback on how things are working for employees is crucial. You don’t need to put employees who identify as disabled on the spot but can instead reach out to all employees in your organization. Anonymous surveys can help you get more honest feedback from people, but they can also capture the opinions of people who might not have visible disabilities or people who might be hesitant to come forward otherwise.

Be mindful of the language you use

One of the most subtle aspects of ableism is the language we use, often without thinking twice. Words like “blind,” “deaf,” “lame,” “crazy,” or “deaf” might seem mild in conversation. For someone living with a disability, they can be alienating—especially given that most of these words are used negatively. Being more mindful of the language used in all workplace settings is a baseline change to make. Understanding that these words carry power for disabled people is an important first step to mindfulness. The next step is noticing when these words are used negatively to describe someone or something that is not affected by that disability. And if they are used, consider more appropriate words to use instead.

Don’t make assumptions for force disabled employees into “otherness”

People with disabilities may need different accommodations, but that doesn’t mean they want special treatment, or to be singled out for their disability. It’s important to acknowledge people with disabilities, so as not to minimize their existence or their needs, but at the same time, don’t assume that everyone living with a disability wants to be called out as “brave” or treated with kid gloves for simply living their lives.

It’s also important not to assume you know or understand anyone’s disability just from looking at them or based on what you’ve heard from others. Some disabilities are less visible than others. It’s impossible to know what someone’s going through on the outside, even if (as HR) you may feel like you have more insight than others into a person’s work life.

Review accessibility in all aspects of the business

Many organizations do the bare minimum of what’s required by the ADA: wheelchair-accessible restrooms or braille versions of signs, etc. That doesn’t mean that you have comprehensive accessibility for people with disabilities. It’s time to think about how every aspect of your workplace comes across to people with a variety of needs. Are common areas, conference rooms, and desks user-friendly to someone with mobility issues? Are written signs truly accessible to a deaf person whose first language might be American Sign Language? Are there accessibility features for blind or deaf users built into tech tools, like meeting software and communication apps?

Be flexible on individual accommodations

Flexible work arrangements have taken on new importance ever since Covid made most companies rethink, basically overnight, about what work looks like outside of the office. Having remote work options can be helpful to those with disabilities, but it’s important to remain flexible, even as many offices mandate returns to the office and a more traditional workday. Consider making flexible work hours and at-home accommodations more readily available to those who request them.

Focus on welcoming and hiring employees with disabilities

Going back to the alarmingly high unemployment rates among people with disabilities, many people feel excluded from the traditional hiring process. Many companies aren’t willing to offer accommodations, or they’re not clear on what they can do to support workers with disabilities. And in many cases, it’s purely ableism rearing its head—the idea that employees without disabilities are the prized default, and other applicants are second tier.

Your commitment to supporting the disabled community can and should be clear in your employer brand, and in your public-facing recruiting and job postings. You can also start looking for alternative recruitment sources, such as disability-focused job posting sites. There are also organizations like the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), which offer resources to employers looking to hire disabled employees and support inclusivity.

Educate your team on accessibility and inclusivity

Any diversity or inclusivity program is only as good as its ongoing training. HR-led initiatives can get things rolling, but what creates lasting change is making sure everyone is aware, mindful, and supportive of differences. The goal here is normalizing conversations around disability, and making it clear that accommodations aren’t special treatment, but rather a necessary equalizer to make sure everyone has a safe, productive work environment.

Everyone in your company—regardless of disability status, culture, religion, race, or gender—should feel included and valued. By embracing disability concerns as a priority, you show that employees with disabilities are full members of the team. Acknowledging ableism is an important first step, but true inclusivity goes far beyond recognizing differences. The support you build now will help ensure that employees with and without disabilities can thrive and have productive careers with your organization.

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