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Minnesota part of uncovered major bank fraud ring


The Strib’s Dan Browning and Chris Serres report on a startling story of a nationwide fraud ring composed mainly of West Africans and Eastern Europeans that worked out of and scammed banks: “The head of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force has said that that the case appears to be among the biggest of its type in the country. Task force commander Patrick Henry said l... that the ring was rooted in West Africa and Eastern Europe, and that it accounted for as much as 40 percent of the fraudulent check activity in the Twin Cities. The indictment says the ring stole identity information to create phony bank and credit accounts. It recruited people to assume the stolen identities and withdraw funds from financial institutions and businesses. It corrupted employees at financial institutions to obtain account information and defeat antifraud measures. And the ring used fraudulently obtained bank and credit information to obtain cash and merchandise, the indictment says.”

If anything, the temperature got hotter in Madison Wednesday as the state’s GOP senators decided to unilaterally strip collective bargaining out of public employee contracts. Scott Bauer of the AP reports: “The Wisconsin Senate succeeded in voting Wednesday to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, after Republicans outmaneuvered the chamber's missing Democrats and approved an explosive proposal that has rocked the state and unions nationwide. ‘You are cowards!’ spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to several thousand, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests. ‘The whole world is watching!’ they shouted as they pressed up against the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate chamber.”

The FoxNation story by Lee Bergquist, titled, “Rabid leftists storm Wisconsin capitol after vote,” says: “Demonstrators crowded the Capitol in a wild scene after senators passed a budget-repair bill in a hastily called meeting Wednesday night that outraged protesters and Democratic legislators. ... Protesters demanded to be let inside, and in one scene at the southeastern entrance of the Capitol, scores of protesters pressed against the door as two-dozen police pushed them back. One protester got partly inside the door and was dragged in by the State Patrol. Outside, protesters chanted ‘Let us in,’ banged drums and blew horns in protest and threw snowballs at windows of the Capitol. Inside, they yelled ‘You lied to Wisconsin’, and ‘Kill the Bill.' "

The Wall Street Journal and others are reporting that the 14 AWOL Democratic Senators will return to Madison on Thursday. The story by Kris Maher and Amy Merrick says: “Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they'll taint the state's Republican governor and legislators.

McKenzie Martin files on “Marijuana Day” for the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” blog. She writes: “ It was marijuana day in the House agriculture committee Wednesday compliments of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who brought hemp seed chocolate truffles to make her proposals go down easy. She pitched her bills — one to allow Minnesota farmers to grow medical marijuana for export and another to pave the way for potential hemp farmers — using that irresistible word: Jobs. ‘Both bills, really, are jobs bills,’ said the Minneapolis DFLer. ‘Jobs and employment and economic development.’ But she also promised committee members listening to the presentation of her pot-friendly bills would give them the most fun they would have all session.” And you know, there’s probably more jobs activity there than in a dozen anti-abortion bills.

Kevin Ristau of the JOBS Now Coalition writes a commentary for the Strib on employment realities: “Here's another way to think about it: We have two and a half times more job seekers than we had 10 years ago, but only one-fourth as many job openings. Job seekers now outnumber job openings in Minnesota 6-to-1. Of the large number of openings that vanished over the last decade, only 16 percent were lost during the Great Recession and its aftermath. Most of the decline took place earlier, during the 2001 recession and the two years that followed. From 2004 through 2007 — the best four years of the decade for Minnesota's economy — we gained back only 150 of the almost 90,000 openings that disappeared in the first three years of the decade.”

“Suspicion of assault,” you say? Matt McKinney of the Strib reports on a seriously angry New Brighton guy: “A New Brighton man intentionally drove his vehicle into another vehicle, knocking it off the road in a south Minneapolis neighborhood, before getting out and attacking it with a hatchet, police said. The man, 36, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a dangerous weapon by officers responding to the incident at 7:22 p.m. Monday near the intersection of E. 46th Street and Clinton Avenue S.”

You’ve heard of good cholesterol, so why not good salmonella? Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress reports: “Researchers at the University of Minnesota have given about a dozen cancer patients an experimental treatment that couples a genetically modified version of salmonella with a gene that can send a signal to the immune system. The idea is that salmonella will travel to the gut and start fighting cancer tumors as the gene prompts an immune-system response that furthers the attack. The treatment hasn't been proved safe or effective in humans and is being administered in a small clinical trial. But doctors at the U aren't alone in giving salmonella a try as an anti-cancer treatment. About 10 years ago, a private bio-tech company tried — but failed — to create cancer-fighting treatments out of salmonella technology licensed from Yale University.”

It’s no secret Gov. Dayton has plenty of friends in Minnesota’s mayors. Don Davis of Forum Communications reports on Wednesday’s love-fest between the two: “Long-time mayors said they do not remember a mayor-governor meeting over state aid to local governments like occurred in the Capitol Wednesday. While Dayton and mayors agree on the importance of state payments, mayors said it is important to reinforce the Democrat governor’s feelings and provide him with arguments as he and Republicans enter budget negotiations later this spring. Republicans say cities and other local governments must take their own cuts as the state fills a $5 billion deficit.”

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Comments (1)

Kevin Ristau's article illuminates what's profoundly wrong with the GOP cut-taxes-to-create-jobs myth. It. Does. Not. Work.

And Pawlenty's much vaunted JobZ program was an epic fail. (His administration's neglect of repairs to the 35W bridge, on the other hand, was a successful job creator; construction workers, healthcare providers and lawyers did well in the aftermath, eh?)

As we continue to concentrate wealth among a very select few at the top, we are creating a economy that is ever more frail because our low-income neighbors cannot sustain a basic needs budget. When a business pays less than a living wage, they are saying to that worker, "You are not worthy of living." It is immoral.