Worry not, the lawmakers will find a way to piss it away. Perhaps to the local dyke hockey coach that doesn’t understand contracts.

Minnesota surplus larger than previously reported, climbs to $1.9 billion

By Don Davis, Forum News Service Today at 10:07 a.m.

 ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s real budget debate began today when state finance officials announced a $1.9 billion surplus, an increase of $832 million from a report less than three months ago.

The surplus will allow lawmakers and the governor to spend more money, use it to cut taxes or increase the state’s reserves – or a combination of them. State legislators and interest groups already have announced desires to increase spending on a variety of programs.

Revenues are expected to be $616 million higher than expected in December and spending is predicted to be $115 million less. Other changes add $107 million more to the surplus, Minnesota Management and Budget reported this morning.

Details of the budget report are due out later today.

Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party credited lawmakers and the governor of his party for the good news.

“DFL leaders have made it a priority to improve the economy, create jobs and invest in education,” Martin said. “We’ve seen great progress, evident in today’s budget surplus, but we know more work needs to be done.”

One of the first Republican reactions came from Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington, who said the surplus means both parties will look at the surplus to fund transportation.

“Jump in surplus kills attempts at raising gas sales taxes,” he tweeted. “Both sides will move toward dedication general fund revenue for transportation.”

Gov. Mark Dayton released his first budget proposal on Jan. 27 based on an early December budget prediction showing a $1 billion surplus. Now he will tweak that $42 billion, two-year plan about how to spend state tax revenues to reflect today’s refined numbers.

Also, today’s announcement gives legislative leaders information they need to write their own budget plans, which will come out in the next few weeks.

Legislators have until May 18 to write a two-year budget and send to Dayton for his signature.

Today’s report was based on national economic forecasts and altered to fit anything different in the Minnesota economy.

Minnesota’s economy has shown good signs in recent months, including a lower unemployment rate than the national average. It is doing better than rival Wisconsin, which faces a budget deficit this year.

When state officials announced their budget forecast in December, they said that the $1 billion surplus would be eaten up if inflation were factored in. However, Dayton said that he would expect things like higher salaries to be handled by his commissioners within existing budgets, not in higher budget requests.

 

Feel good story of the week.

Florida boy who battles a disease with no cure gets his dream job

By NBC News

Updated Feb 25, 2015 at 7:55 PM CST
Cape Coral, FL. (NNCNOW.com) –
Florida’s Cape Coral Police Department has sworn in its youngest canine officer: 8-year-old Zachary Boucher who has snagged his dream job.Boucher wanted to be a police officer since he was old enough to talk.He battles a disease with no cure and the Cape Coral Police Department decided to make Tuesday a day he’ll probably never forget.

“I feel cool,” said Boucher.

The child suffers from an autoimmune disorder with no cure – Hypogammaglobulinemia.

He has had several surgeries and goes in for monthly infusions – but on Tuesday he’s focused on his training.

“It’s great to see him have something that’s going to motivate him and keep him going,” said his mother Marie Boucher.

Why not cut his head off or burn him alive? That’s what he believes in, right?

Minnesotan charged with trying to join ISIS pleads guilty

IssuesLaura Yuen ·

(credit: Hennepin County)

 

An 18-year-old Inver Grove Heights man pleaded guilty Thursday to trying to join the terrorist group ISIS in Syria.

Abdullahi Yusuf is the first defendant to plead guilty in the federal government’s investigation into Minnesotans who have enlisted or tried to enlist with the terror group.

A former student at Inver Hills Community College and a U.S. citizen, Yusuf pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

He faces up to 15 years in prison but could receive a reduced sentence in exchange for his plea.

In federal court Thursday in Minneapolis, he admitted to Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis that he played a “minor role” in the conspiracy.

Yusuf said in the spring of 2014 he began attending meetings in Minnesota to discuss plans to join forces fighting the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

In May, Yusuf tried to board a plane to Istanbul from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He admitted today he planned to meet up with another Twin Cities man, Abdi Nur, in Turkey and then join ISIS.

The FBI detained Yusuf at the airport and questioned him. Nur, however, caught his flight and is believed to be currently fighting for ISIS.

Six months after Yusuf was intercepted at the airport, federal prosecutors charged Yusuf and sought his detention.

But instead of locking him up until his trial, Judge Davis released Yusuf to a halfway house, where he could receive counseling. Yusuf moved to the forefront of an experiment of whether American terror suspects could be rehabilitated.

Observers see Yusuf as a test case for plans to rehabilitate radicalized individuals who pose a low risk of harming the community.

Davis said Thursday that Yusuf could remain in the halfway house until his sentencing. A date has not yet been set.

Just the beginning, I’m sure.

Obama to ban bullets by executive action, threatens top-selling AR-15 rifle

BY PAUL BEDARD | FEBRUARY 26, 2015 | 1:47 PM

 Photo - A warning on the Cabela's website.

It’s starting.

As promised, President Obama is using executive actions to impose gun control on the nation, targeting the top-selling rifle in the country, the AR-15 style semi-automatic, with a ban on one of the most-used AR bullets by sportsmen and target shooters.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this month revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track, immediately driving up the price of the bullets and prompting retailers, including the huge outdoors company Cabela’s, to urge sportsmen to urge Congress to stop the president.

The National Rifle Association, which is working with Goodlatte to gather co-signers, told Secrets that 30 House members have already co-signed the letter and Goodlatte and the NRA are hoping to get a total of 100 fast.

“The Obama administration was unable to ban America’s most popular sporting rifle through the legislative process, so now it’s trying to ban commonly owned and used ammunition through regulation,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, the group’s policy and lobby shop. “The NRA and our tens of millions of supporters across the country will fight to stop President Obama’s latest attack on our Second Amendment freedoms.”

At issue is so-called “armor-piercing” ammunition, an exemption for those bullets mostly used for sport by AR-15 owners, and the recent popularity of pistol-style ARs that use the ammo.

The inexpensive 5.56 M885 ammo, commonly called green tips, have been exempt for years, as have higher-caliber ammunition that also easily pierces the type of soft armor worn by police, because it’s mostly used by target shooters, not criminals. The agency proposes to reclassify it as armor-piercing and not exempt.

But now BATFE says that since the bullets can be used in semi-automatic handguns they pose a threat to police and must be banned from production, sale and use. But, as Goodlatte noted, the agency offered no proof. Federal agencies will still be allowed to buy the ammo.

“This round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” said Goodlatte’s letter.

Even some police don’t buy the administration’s claim. “Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” Brent Ball, owner of 417 Guns in Springfield, Mo., and a 17-year veteran police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “As a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”

Many see the bullet ban as an assault on the AR-15 and Obama’s back-door bid to end production and sale.

“We are concerned,” said Justin Anderson with Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C., one of the nation’s top sellers of AR-15 style rifles. “Frankly, we’re always concerned when the government uses back-door methods to impose quasi-gun control.”

Groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation suggest that under BATFE’s new rule, other calibers like popular deer hunting .308 bullets could be banned because they also are used in AR-15s, some of which can be turned into pistol-style guns. “This will have a detrimental effect on hunting nationwide,” said the group.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.

And for those that want to close the Moose Lake diddler program, think about taking this creepy little dude into your home.

Former Duluth firefighter faces additional charge of criminal sexual conduct

By Tom Olsen on Feb 25, 2015 at 6:22 p.m.

 Prosecutors have added a new, more serious charge in the case against a former Duluth firefighter accused of sexually assaulting an infant and distributing child pornography.
Caleb Stuart Lofald, 33, is now facing a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct — a count that carries a maximum of 30 years in prison. That’s in additional to the four lesser charges he already was facing.

The charges allege that Lofald sexually assaulted a 4-month-old child at his Hermantown home and distributed photographs of the assault from a computer at a Duluth fire hall. He’s also accused of surreptitiously recording a 6-year-old boy and an adult female in various stages of undress at his home.

Lofald’s employment with the city ended on Feb. 2 without severance pay, Daniel Fanning, the city’s communications and policy director, confirmed to the News Tribune.

He had previously been on paid administrative leave after a search warrant was executed at his home and at the Duluth Fire Department’s Fire Station 7 on Nov. 20.

A forensic search of computers seized at both locations allegedly turned up 11 images depicting the assault of the infant, as well as video recordings of the boy and adult woman.

Lofald was charged last month in State District Court with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, possession of child pornography and interfering with the privacy of a minor and the woman.

Authorities stressed at the time that the investigation was still ongoing and that additional charges — possibly federal — could result. The case was being investigated by the Lake Superior Forensic Technology and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The case drew strong community reaction, including from Duluth Mayor Don Ness who called the allegations” beyond heinous.”

Lofald was due in court Wednesday, but his appearance was postponed because his attorney has not yet received all of the case evidence. No future date was immediately scheduled.

Lofald remains in the St. Louis County Jail, with bail set at $100,000 with conditions or $250,000 without.

 

We all knew it was coming, after all, how important is it to give descriptions when looking for criminals? News outlets have been doing this for a long, long time.

EDUCATION

University of Minnesota / Wikimedia Commons University of Minnesota / Wikimedia Commons

Citing Stigma, The University Of Minnesota Removes Race Descriptions In Crime Alerts

3:51 PM 02/25/2015
 
Photo of Chuck Ross

CHUCK ROSS
Reporter
  • CHUCK ROSS
  • Chuck Ross is a reporter at The Daily Caller.
 Facing backlash for allegedly stigmatizing minorities — particularly black men — the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities announced on Tuesday that it will no longer include racial descriptors in crime alerts issued to students and faculty.

“This change supports our public safety goals while recognizing the harm that the use of race in crime alerts causes for some members of our community,” the university, which has nearly 50,000 students and is located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, said in a statement.

“Moving forward, the University will use descriptions only when there is sufficient detail that would reasonably help identify specific individual suspects or groups of suspects [e.g., some combination of gender, race, clothing, height, body type, build, accent, tattoos, hair color, facial hair],” the university stated.

The change came about after an 18-month long “campuswide conversation” in which members of the school’s community “raised concerns about the use of racial descriptors as part of Crime Alerts.”

Under the new policy, the university’s chief of police and leaders with University Services will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to describe suspects by race.

With the shift, the university joins the University of Maryland as the only Big 10 schools — out of 14 in the conference — to issue crime alerts without racial descriptors.

The school’s new policy is also out of whack with others in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Using race descriptors in the reports is “common” in the metro area, the statement reads.

“The goal is to comply with federal law and provide timely, useful, actionable information that community members can use to keep themselves safe, while reflecting the University’s commitment to ensuring a welcoming and respectful campus,” the statement continued.

While the school acknowledges that many students prefer to have all descriptive information about criminal suspects made available, it feels that the cost of reinforcing stereotypes is too great to continue with the policy. “For some, knowing they have all the information available about a crime, including the complete suspect description, makes them feel better informed and increases how safe they feel. But others – particularly Black men – have shared that suspect descriptions that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men, create a hostile campus climate, and negatively affect their sense of safety.”

According to the College Board, the school’s student body is 70 percent white, nine percent Asian, four percent black, and three percent Hispanic. Nine percent of students are listed as non-resident aliens. Another three percent are two or more races.

Tags: University of Minnesota

I’m not so sure I’d call it justice, but at least its over.

RIGHT HOOKS

Justice for Chris Kyle

Feb. 25, 2015
 

On Feb. 2, 2013, famed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a Patriot from Texas and author of the book “American Sniper” on which the movie of the same name is based, and his colleague Chad Littlefield were murdered in Texas. On Tuesday, a little over two years after the tragic slaying, a verdict was rendered. “It took an Erath County, Texas, jury less than two hours to convict Eddie Ray Routh of capital murder,” Fox News reported. “State District Judge Jason Cashon sentenced Routh to life in prison without the possibility of parole.” Routh pleaded not-guilty by reason of insanity, which proved unsuccessful. According to Fox, “[P]rosecutors said … that whatever episodes Routh suffers are self-induced through alcohol and marijuana abuse.” District Attorney Jane Starnes argued, “That is not insanity. That is just cold, calculated capital murder.” In the end, the jury agreed, and Routh will now spend the rest of his life behind bars. There’s no bringing back Chris Kyle, but there’s at least some consolation knowing his murder won’t go unpunished.

 

 

Your tax dollars hard at work. Hey, its only 31 million dollars.

Congress quizzes administration on first-class airline tickets

BY PAIGE WINFIELD CUNNINGHAM | FEBRUARY 25, 2015 | 11:53 AM

A top lawmaker quizzed Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Wednesday about her agency’s steep spending on first-class airline tickets.

The Washington Examiner reported in January that HHS executives spent tens of millions of dollars on first class flights instead of flying coach, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Officials spent $31 million on 7,000 first class and business class flights between 2009 and 2013, including 253 one-way tickets costing more than $15,000.

“Those are very large numbers,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. “Could you tell us what the travel policies are? That’s a lot of money for flying.”

Burwell said her agency has put in “more stringent reviews and requirements” in the last few years but said she doesn’t know whether those changes have resulted in lowering spending.

  • “I think it merits looking at — if we are seeing a decline from the more stringent requirements we’ve put in place,” Burwell said.

She was testifying about the President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

The records obtained by the Examiner show that for the vast majority of the flights — 5,100 — the government executives upgraded because they claimed they had a medical disability that necessitated it.

Then-Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took 14 first- or business-class trips totaling $56,000, including flights to and within India and from Paris to Vietnam. Spending on upgraded trips totaled $14 million spent by the Food and Drug Administration, $11 million by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $3.5 million by the National Institutes of Health.

Think he’ll be on paid administrative leave?

Senior State Dept. official arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor

 James Rosen

Image result for daniel rosen state department

EXCLUSIVE: A senior State Department official in charge of federal counterterrorism programs was arrested Tuesday afternoon for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor, Fox News has learned.

Fairfax County Police officials say Daniel Rosen was arrested by a county detective about noon at his Washington, D.C. home after he allegedly sought to arrange sex with a minor. The detective, a female officer working in the county’s Child Exploitation Unit, had been posing as the minor in online exchanges with Rosen, police said.

Rosen, who is the director of counterterrorism programs and policy at the State Department, was arrested and transported to the D.C. jail and charged with one count of Use of a Communications Device to Solicit a Juvenile.

It was not immediately known if he was still incarcerated or had posted bail.

County police said typically, employers are notified of an arrest like this, and the State Department was indeed notified in this case.

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said late Tuesday, “We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued.

“For issues related to Department personnel and for privacy reasons, we are not able to confirm the identity of the individual or specific charges.

“His security clearance will be suspended and he will be put on administrative leave while this proceeds to its end through any judicial process. We are following standard procedure in this case.”

A source with Diplomatic Security, the law enforcement agency housed within the Department of State, told Fox News that law enforcement officers were “hitting [Rosen's] phones,” meaning that a search warrant had been issued so police could examine the devices for additional evidence.

Born in May 1970, Rosen is a resident of the District of Columbia. His LinkedIn page states that he has occupied his present position at the State Department since August 2008.

In a speech in Feb. 2012 at a seminar hosted by The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies’ International Center for Terrorism Studies, Rosen, while discussing terrorism, talked about the lure of young people into extremism. “It’s not about public diplomacy, it’s not about improving the U.S. image,” he said. “It’s about reaching out to a pretty well-defined and pretty narrow audience, and that’s people that could be persuaded into crossing the boundaries between sympathy and action.”

Fox News’ Ryan O’Malley and Doug McKelway contributed to this report

 

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.”

But, wait….I thought pay raises and the red plan were going to fix everything!

Duluth East senior Julia Baron and junior Nico Haidos study the conservation of energy by hitting two steel balls rapidly together with a piece of paper between. The paper becomes warmer as the kinetic energy of the balls is converted to thermal energy. Duluth school administrators are examining recent data showing a drop in the district’s graduation rate. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Duluth schools see ‘frustrating’ drop in graduation rates

By Jana Hollingsworth Today at 9:26 a.m.

The Duluth school district’s graduation rate took a step backward in 2014, dropping nearly 4 percentage points. 

Statewide graduation rates were released by the Minnesota Department of Education on Tuesday, showing Duluth’s rate fell from 78.7 percent to 74.8 percent. The new rate moves further from the state average, which grew from 

 
78.9 percent to 81.2 percent this year. Duluth also saw rate drops for several groups, including black and white students, those who receive special education and those who fall under low-income status. Native American students — a small part of the enrollment — jumped to a nearly 50 percent graduation rate from 32 percent.

But a one-year decline isn’t enough to make definitive statements about progress, said Tawnyea Lake, director of performance, assessment and evaluation for the district.

Looking at graduation rates for a longer time period gives more information on performance than one year will, she said, noting an up-and-down trend since 2010. Some of the smaller student groups will often see drastic changes in one direction or another. A couple of students can really make a difference, Lake said, with subgroups.

“Our scores haven’t stabilized,” she said. “We’ll continue to look at the data and look at those actual kids to see what their stories are … talk with principals.”

Even so, the decline is “frustrating,” said Assistant Superintendent Ed Crawford.

That frustration is a driver, though, he said, to look deeper into data and find what’s contributing to the results; to see what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to student interventions.

“Do we want to see those results go up? Absolutely,” Crawford said, and the work toward that will continue.

The state has set a goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Since 2012, graduation rates are broken down by groups, such as those for black students and those who receive special education services. That helps to frame the work districts and schools need to do and where it needs to be focused, said Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of the state education department.

“You always want to see scores going up,” she said, noting that’s been happening at a steady rate for the state. “If you see big swings one way and then the other you may want to look at your strategies and what’s working.”

She noted there are several things that can affect graduation rates, and some practices in place meant to improve student performance take time, which is why the 2020 goal was made.

To make those improvements and deal with a learning gap that’s widened for some groups, the district has begun several things. Last summer it started to update its curriculum to state standards at the direction of the state education department. More than half of it was out of date. It has added time for teachers to work together on strategies and using data, and set up new ways to help students who are behind. There are new instructional and technology coaches, along with a required teacher evaluation system, and work to decrease the amount of student suspensions.

“You combine all of those things, most of which started in the last seven months and to see impact in terms of graduation rate; that’s going to be years down the road,” said Mike Cary, the district’s curriculum director. “The district has taken action to move forward with increasing graduation rates, but some of these things take time before seeing results.”

Two dozen Denfeld teachers recently expressed concern to district administration and the School Board over what they say is a practice of passing students from grade to grade or on to more difficult courses before mastery. They advocate for holding students back until that’s done.

The district has said that interventions are best practice. Cassellius agrees.

“Research is clear that retaining a student one time during their K-12 experience results in about a 50 percent less likelihood of graduating from high school,” she said, and retaining them twice means they probably won’t graduate. “That research kind of stands on its own.”

If Duluth were passing kids on, there would probably be a higher graduation rate, she said.

Superintendent Bill Gronseth has noted students are required to pass classes before graduation. That often means through credit recovery programs.

Since 2007, students have dealt with more difficult math standards, and since 2013 the same for English language arts. It’s important that standards don’t continue to change, so teachers can see and compare progress over time, Cassellius said.

Since 2011, there has been a statewide increase in graduation rates.

To learn more Find every public school’s graduation rate at the Minnesota Report Card, rc.education.state.mn.us.