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A face — and fallout — on voter-fraud issue

Identity-theft victims win judgment, vindication; feds warn of ‘nightmare bacteria’; start thinking ‘the new Dallas’; telecommuting debate doesn’t let up; and more.

Finally! A face on that rampant voter fraud problem … . Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press writes, “Margaret Schneider will tell you life hasn’t been easy lately. She uses a walker to get around her small St. Peter apartment, can’t stand for long periods of time and readily admits she’s a victim of senior moments. Schneider, 86, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia is one of her symptoms. She’s also easily stressed, which became apparent while she discussed with The Free Press the letter she received recently from the Nicollet County Attorney’s Office. It told her she’s been charged with a felony for voting twice during the 2012 primary election. Schneider doesn’t deny the allegation. She realizes now, after talking with St. Peter police detective Travis Sandland, that she did vote twice. She voted once with an absentee ballot on July 13 and again at her polling place  Aug. 14.” Margaret has made a mockery of our democratic freedoms!

While not completely surprising, the group that pushed last year’s voter ID amendment sees nefarious goings on in the case against Ms. Schneider. Says, Dan McGrath, “It just so happens that right now at the Capitol, the County Attorneys Association is trying to shed that particular responsibility and make the investigation and prosecution of voter fraud cases optional, which raised red flags for Minnesota Majority. In Minnesota’s election laws, in order for this to be a crime, the voter would have to have intent to vote more than once … . Is there probable cause that she deliberately, knowingly voted twice? If not, there’s no crime. Prosecutors are trying to pretend that they have no choice but to prosecute in cases like this, but in reality, they have been making those decisions and choosing not to prosecute when intent can’t be established for years under the current law. Minnesota Majority produced evidence of 1,099 ineligible people voting in the 2008 election that was provided to the various county attorneys for investigation. 200 were charged and convicted for ‘ineligible knowingly votes’. The other 899 were not charged, primarily because the county attorneys could not prove intent to commit voter fraud. It may be that the county attorney is prosecuting Margaret Schneider in order to garner sympathy for her while inaccurately claiming the law that the County Attorneys Association happens to be lobbying to change compels her. It smacks of cold political calculation’.” Unlike … the voter ID amendment?  

Interesting/infuriating story by Abby Simons of the Strib on mortgage fraud identity thievery. “ … the judgment against Realtor-turned-convict Larry Maxwell and his associates is vindication for the husband and wife whose solid financial history made them targets. It also may be the first award of its kind in the state for victims of identity theft related to the mortgage fraud rings that sprouted parallel to the real estate boom of the mid-2000s. The FBI identified the Twin Cities in 2008 as a hotbed of mortgage fraud, triggering dozens of multimillion-dollar investigations.” Bring back the gibbets.

The GleanHere’s The Post-Bulletin’s reaction story to IBM moving production out of Rochester. Says Jeff Kiger, “In recent years, IBM has kept its number of employees a closely held secret. The last official worker count was 4,200 in 2008. The Rochester plant has seen many layoffs since then, which has led some to speculate that the current number has fallen to 3,000 or 2,500. With the manufacture of the Power Systems, PureSystems and PureFlex Systems being shifted to IBM Guadalajara in Mexico by mid-2014, will Big Blue have enough of a reason in the future to keep this site active? … Gary Smith, president of the Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., doesn’t see any overall trend that concerns him. ‘What we do know is that, from time to time, IBM makes these resource actions (layoffs). Nothing has changed. They are constantly deploying and reassigning assets,’ he said. ‘What’s left here is high-value stuff, especially the development lab.’ “

Where’s the last place you want to go if you’re sick?  Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress writes, “Federal officials are sounding the alarm over “nightmare bacteria” that have become increasingly resistant to antibiotic medicines, and public health officials say the problem seems to be worsening in Minnesota, too. The bacteria are not common. But health officials have seen an increase in the number of hospitals and long-term acute care facilities that treated at least one patient infected with bacteria called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. In Minnesota, the number of patients infected with CRE grew from 44 in 2011 to 90 last year, said Kristin Shaw, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.”

Continuing the discussion about telecommuting, David Peterson of the Strib says, “The Twin Cities has experienced the fifth-biggest rise among metro areas nationwide in the number of workers based at least partly at home, according to U.S. Census Bureau commuting surveys. Between 2000 and 2010, the number rose by almost 22,000 people, to about 82,500, according to estimates. And Minnesota is the only state with two big job centers, Mankato and St. Cloud, among the top 10 metro areas nationally in the share of people working from home.” He quotes Adeel Lari  of the U of M: “Middle managers we worked with were always reluctant. ‘How will we know they are working?’ I always asked, ‘How do you know they are working when they come to the office?’ They are talking Vikings and Twins, they are talking the weather. …” Another plus for tele-commuting … the coffee is way better at home.

If it’s March we have to start talking Red River Valley flooding. Bill McAuliffe of the Strib is saying, “Monday’s snow added nearly an inch of water to the landscape along the Red River Valley, although varying snow depths have added some uncertainty to the outlooks. Snow along the north-flowing Red is deeper downstream from flood-prone Fargo, N.D., than upstream. The Weather Service noted that above-normal snowfall is expected in the coming weeks, and frozen soils beneath the snow will prevent some meltwater from soaking into the ground.”

Forget “the new Omaha,” and think “the new Dallas.” Over at MPR, Kerri Miller and weather guy Paul Huttner had their regular climate chat. “Buds, birds and animals tell a disturbing story: Spring is arriving earlier. If current trends continue, spring might come as much as five weeks earlier by the year 2100.

Miller: I noticed that the lead scientist on that study we talked about is mentioning the homogenization of the ecosystem. No longer, potentially, parts of the country that look strikingly different from one another, more of a sameness across the ecosystem.

Huttner: The North is warming more quickly than the South. The trees, the plants, the birds and animals that inhabit the South will range North. There’s less variation from North to South as there’s less variation in temperature from North to South.”

Also at MPR, Marianne Combs checks out a local artist with a yen for provocation.  “Shá Cage is not afraid of taking on controversial topics. You don’t have to look further than the title of her latest piece for evidence of that. It’s called N.I.G.G.E.R. (and yes, the line through the word is part of the title). … Cage says most of the information she found was heavily male focused. She became interested in exploring the term through the lens of a young black female who grew up with the word being used around her. ‘I don’t attempt to answer any questions but provoke new ones. I’m interested in the dialogue. That’s where we learn more about each others story — outside of popular assumptions. Most of the characters in the piece are women so I’m interested in simply hearing their voices, their concerns, opinions, and outlooks. These are the ones that are often missing from the conversation.’ “