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Report: Sheriff’s office tapping cell phones

Campaign launched for anti-bullying bill; gym coach put on leave for tattooing minor; critics say abbey hasn’t listed all abusers; icy streets prompt St. Paul plowing changes; and more.

Who needs the NSA when you’ve got … the sheriff’s office? At KARE-TV, Blake McCoy reports: “The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension have both purchased cellular exploitation devices that go by the names of KingFish or StingRay. The devices mimic a cell phone tower and allow the agencies to extract data from nearby cell phones. ‘This entire phenomenon is shrouded in secrecy,’ said Chris Soghoian with the ACLU. ‘The vast majority of people whose information is being collected are innocent of any crime. They’re never told their information was requested and they’re never told their information ended up in a government database.’ KARE 11’s findings were part of a nationwide investigation conducted by USA Today which found at least 25 local agencies across the country are using these devices. Few are willing to talk about them or what happens to innocent people’s data that is collected. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and BCA denied our requests for interviews.”

In terms of verbiage, it is a bit shorter than your average budget bill … Kim McGuire of the Strib says: “Even though the start of the 2014 legislative session is still two months away, the push to strengthen Minnesota’s anti-bullying law kicked into high gear Monday, as proponents urged legislators to act. … Supporters of the bill say Minnesota’s current 37-word statute on bullying is too weak. Opponents say that the proposed measure is overly expansive and that it could unfairly brand some students as bullies.”

Whenever you ask, “What was he thinking …?” the answer usually is “Not much.” Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “A Twin Cities gymnastics coach has been put on leave after a Cottage Grove father accused him of tattooing his 15-year-old daughter without her parents’ knowledge. Along with being put on leave as the girls gymnastics coach at Park of Cottage Grove, Terry Hardy, 37, of Hastings, has been fired as coordinator of gymnastics for the South Washington County School District’s community education program. He is not a teacher in the district. … Rasmussen, who is not a gymnast, showed KMSP-TV, Channel 9, her tattoos and told the station that Hardy tattooed a cross on the back of her neck, the word ‘strength’ on her wrist and her favorite song lyrics across one shoulder. She also told the station that Hardy pierced her tongue, but she removed the stud.” So it was kind of a religious thing …?

Speaking of KMSP, Tom Lyden reports: “St. John’s Abbey claims an effort at transparency led them to disclose a list of 18 monks suspected of sexually abusing children, but critics say they are still holding back and there may be as many as 50. In many ways, the church sex abuse crisis in Minnesota really began at St. John’s Abbey, where many of the accused monks have been allowed to live a monastic life. Few secrets were revealed via the voluntary disclosure. Many of the names of monks suspected of abusing children were already known, but knowing there are more than a dozen is still jarring. … It would be easy for the St. John’s list to get lost with the others that have come out, but victim’s advocates have always been interested in the names because of two very high-profile missing persons cases. St. John’s college student Josh Guimond vanished from campus 11 years ago while leaving a campus party, and he hasn’t been seen since. Then, there’s Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted 24 years ago from nearby St. Joseph, where the local Catholic priest was Father Tom Gillespe, a Benedictine monk who, by then, had already molested a 10-year-old boy.” I was wondering how long it would take for someone to get around to that …

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Remember what happened to Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic? Kevin Duchschere of the Strib says: “St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, responding to a chorus of complaints about slick and bumpy city streets following last week’s storm, is doubling the city’s use of salt and sand, speeding up the purchase of new trucks and shaking up management of its street maintenance division. ‘It is clear after a thorough review that the city did not live up to … expectations,’ the mayor said about St. Paul’s response to the snowstorm and polar blast. The city had pretreated its streets with a brine solution, but that was washed away by rain before the snow arrived and temperatures plunged. The city then failed to re-treat the streets, spokesman Joe Campbell said.” Joe Kimball has MinnPost coverage here.

The GleanFor the PiPress, Kia Farhang and Tad Vezner report: “Residents noted similar problems after the first snowfall last year — and complained that Minneapolis appeared to weather this year’s storm better. … assistant city engineer Kevin Nelson was removed from his role as head of St. Paul’s street maintenance program. City engineer John Maczko will take over on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is found. Nelson will remain in the streets and sanitation department as an assistant city engineer, though his new role has yet to be determined, [Public Works Director Rich] Lallier said.”

Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Times writes: “A 19-year-old woman and Cathedral High School graduate was in critical condition Monday after being found unconscious and suffering from hypothermia on the porch of a Duluth home Saturday morning, having spent all night outside in subzero temperatures. Alyssa Jo Lommel, a sophomore student at University of Minnesota-Duluth, was at [Regions Hospital] in St. Paul on Monday, according to a news release from the Duluth Police Department. Her condition was described in the release as ‘stable critical.’ Police say a passerby found Lommel unconscious on the porch of her neighbor’s house at about 9:36 a.m. Saturday. Their investigation found she had been dropped off at about midnight at her residence at 810 Woodland Ave. in Duluth. The temperature in Duluth that night dipped to 17 degrees below zero, police say. … Lommel’s parents, Jay and Teri Lommel of St. Cloud, told the Times that Alyssa sustained significant damage to her hands and feet and that losing one or more of them remains a possibility.”

Marcella Bombardieri of the Boston Globe reports: “Boston University has landed star New York Times media columnist David Carr to fill a new endowed chair dedicated to exploring creative business models to support journalism in the digital era. Carr, who starts in January, will keep writing for the Times but will spend two days a week at BU, where he will teach one class each semester in the College of Communication and participate in public events. The new post appears to be among the first professorships dedicated to evaluating how media organizations can sustain themselves financially as readers and advertisers migrate to the Web.” Carr, of course, is the pride of Irish Hopkins.

If you can subsidize the NFL, you can subsidize the Global Market … Brandt Williams of MPR tells us: “The market draws over one million visitors a year, according to a newly released report from the city. The market hosts cultural celebrations like Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year and other large group gatherings. However, city officials say due to lagging sales, the market has failed to meet revenue targets every year since it opened in 2006. They also say the market won’t be able to make any payments on its loan debt for the next 10 years due to lack of cash flow. In the report, officials say despite the losses the market is an important asset for the city and they recommend the city write off more than $1.5 million in loan debt and accrued interest. The city stepped in to help the market in 2005 with a $2 million bridge loan. City officials say it may also be possible to defer the loan repayment instead of forgiving the debt. That would allow the city to be reimbursed if the market became profitable some day.”