A six-year-old Minnesota girl was found dead on Thursday after she fell asleep outside in temperatures that dropped to 30 degrees below zero.
The unidentified girl was found on the steps of her apartment building’s front entrance at 6:23 a.m.
When her mother and neighbor found her, they immediately called 911.
Investigators arrived at the scene, and noting the girl’s exposure to the weather she was pronounced dead. While police do not believe foul play was involved, they are trying to connect a timeline from the time the child went missing to when she was discovered.
Temperatures in the area recently reached 27 below zero with wind chills dropping to minus-40 degrees.
Bemidji is just south of International Falls, the Canadian border known as the “icebox of the nation” because of its regularly freezing temperatures.
A Pakistani exchange student, who has been in a coma in a Duluth, Minn. hospital, will not be deported, reports the Associated Press.
According to Pioneer Press, Shahzaib Bajwa has been hospitalized since a November car accident. He had been a student at University of Wisconsin-Superior and in the country on a student visa. That visa expires on Feb. 28.
Until Wednesday, Bajwa’s family was concerned that difficulty getting his visa renewed, coupled with his mounting hospital bills, would lead officials to have him deported back to Pakistan.
Bajwa’s bills amount to $350,000 so far and continue to grow every day. Bajwa’s brother, Shahraiz Bajwa, told NBC News that the hospital will not help convert the patient’s student visa to a medical one because they don’t believe the family can pay the bills.
“There is one doctor at this hospital who has put a lot of effort in sending my brother back, and he must be very heartbroken that we are still here. He is doing it because my brother is costing them money,” Shahraiz Bajwa said. “When we asked the hospital to convert his student visa into a medical visa, first they said they would help us. Then they took that offer from the table.”
“We are working collaboratively with Mr. Bajwa’s family and caregivers along with the U.S. and Pakistani governments to reach the best possible outcome for the patient and for his family,” hospital spokeswoman Maureen Talarico said in the same news story, adding she could not directly address Bajwa’s claims because of patient privacy laws.
The issue has shed new light on growing concerns of “medical repatriations.” Such maneuvers allow for de-facto deportations when a hospital is concerned an immigrant cannot pay medical bills. According to NBC, a 2012 study released by two advocacy groups tracked 800 such cases. In one case, a patient was removed through a hospital’s garbage-disposal doors. In another, a patient was flown to a foreign airport and abandoned on the tarmac.
Such a grim fate does not await Shahzaib Bajwa, it seems. His brother has said the family has been contacted by Pakistan’s consul general in Chicago. The office there told him that the expiring visa will no longer be problem. The consul general also informed the family that the exchange program’s insurance company will pay to move Bajwa to a long-term care facility and pay for his care for a short time. The family will have to pay expenses after that.
An online fundraising campaign the family launched last week has raised about $131,000.
A secular group sent a letter to the Robbinsdale school district in Minnesota demanding it stop taking students to a church to pack meals for needy families in Haiti.
The American Humanist Association says a parent complained last year after the School of Engineering and Arts took students to Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, where they participated in a world hunger effort run by Feed My Starving Children.
The group says the field trip is unconstitutional. The same parent allegedly complained to school administrators about the trip as well.
“School administrators refused a previous request from the family to stop the practice after their complaint was made last year,” AHA said in a statement.
Legal representation for AHA, in a letter to school officials dated Feb. 3, said the field trip is “such an obvious violation that a parental complaint should not be necessary.”
“Very importantly, we fully understand that at least one purpose of this field trip was to have the children participate in charity work intended to assist poverty-stricken people,” the letter said. “Such good intentions, however, can be pursued in innumerable other ways that do not involve immersing the unsuspecting children into a theologically-charged environment.”
District spokeswoman Latisha Gray said school officials didn’t feel the field trip violated the law.
"There was absolutely no proselytizing," Gray told the Star Tribune.
“For public school administrators to send students to a religious environment to work on a religious mission with a religious organization is unconstitutional,” Monica Miller, an attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a statement. “This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.”
The school district has two weeks to reply to the AHA letter.
Let’s throw a hypothetical question out there. Say you lost all of your better moral judgment for a moment and decided to rob a bank. How much money would you ask for? If you’re going to take as huge a risk as robbing a bank, you’d better steal enough to make it worth it, right?
Apparently that’s not always the case.
Minnesota man Scott Olson is in jail today after he was reportedly caught robbing a bank of a mere $100. According to the teller at the Wells Fargo bank, Olson strolled up to the counter and asked if he could exchange a $1 bill for a $1 gold coin. The teller obliged.
After fetching Olson his gold coin, Olson slipped the teller a note. The note demanded a $100 bill. The teller couldn’t tell if Olson was serious. Olson then said “Just give me what’s on the note, don’t tell anybody and give me 5 minutes.”
The teller handed over the bill. After Olson left the branch, the bank employee reported him to police.
An hour later, Olson was spotted by police. After confirming that he indeed was the man who’d robbed the bank, they traced where he’d been that day. Upon doing so, they discovered he’d spent his $100 heist money on a pack of cigarettes. He was arrested and is now awaiting charges.
I hope that nicotine buzz was worth it, Mr. Olson.
Ronald Bailey allegedly burned down his own home in Minnetonka, Minn. and then blamed President Obama and the CIA.
Bailey reportedly asked firefighters, who responded to the fire on Dec. 1, when they would be finished so that he could “start the rest of my house on fire.”
However, Bailey's home was destroyed by the time firefighters put out the blaze, notes Patch.com.
“You should know, you did this, the CIA implanted a computer in my brain and body,” Bailey also told the firefighters, according to court papers. “What do I have to do, how big of a bomb do I have to build before the police respect me?”
Police, who took Bailey to a mental facility, claim that he had a loaded pistol in his pocket.
According to City Pages, Bailey told police officers that he was the “first half-man/half-robot created by the government.”
He claimed that the US government had bugged his house, and blamed President Obama and the CIA for starting the fire.
Bailey was charged with one count of first degree arson and one count of a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
He was previously charged in 2006 for fleeing from a police officer, but was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. However, that verdict banned him from owning a gun.
Bailey's prior arrests dating back to 2004 reportedly included: DWI, drugs, firearms and harassment.
Winona, Minnesota homeowners and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to fight a town ordinance that they argue strips homeowners in the area of equal property rights.
The ordinance being challenged restricts the amount of rental licenses granted to 30% of houses on any given block in the town. While the city of Winona argues that the ordinance prevents blocks from being entirely inhabited by often college-aged renters, homeowners say the policy illegally limits what individuals are allowed to do with their properties.
“To me it’s getting beyond what elected officials are supposed to do — starting to dictate who can rent, who can’t rent, who can do this, who can do that,” said Winona homeowner Ted Dzierzbicki. “They’re not the kind of laws that benefit and protect people. It’s more to do with somebody having a bug about something and trying to get a law towards it.”
The 30% block rental cap was instituted in 2006. It was the first law of its kind at the time. Three other towns have passed similar ordinances since. Before the rule was instituted, the Dzierbicki’s rented their house out for roughly $1,000 a month. This helped cover their $800 monthly mortgage payment that they now have to pay themselves.
Everybody has to look at these types of laws and realize at some point in time it’s going to affect them,” Dzierbicki said. “Some of these people that live close to the university that were behind this concept of trying to protect their neighborhood, when they pass on, what are their kids going to do with their house? How are they going to get rid of their house?”
The League of Minnesota Cities supports the rule. A lower court upheld the ordinance and said it was a “good faith attempt to address real problems.” The Minnesota Court of Appeals says they will issue a ruling on the case within 90 days.
The Institute for Justice has released a video on YouTube (below) which tells the story of a woman named Jane who started a home-based baking business in Minnesota. A law passed in the state in 2004 exempts homemade goods from the food-licensing procedure, but also places strict restrictions on both where the items can be sold and how much money one can make selling them items. Jane Astramecki, the woman whose story the video describes, and the Institute for Justice are suing the state saying that the restrictive policy serves only to protect established bakeries and retard her entrepreneurial growth.
The annual limit Jane can make from her home-business is $5000, which is less than $100 per week. According to a report from KARE news, Jane believes that if her food is okay to sell at farmer’s markets, it should be okay to sell in stores, saying “I think that if they are willing to buy it knowing—because I definitely let them know it’s homemade—it should be their choice not the state’s choice.”
Yet, for many it makes perfect sense—from a safety standpoint—to prevent uninspected products produced in a home onto store shelves. However, the law also limits Jane’s ability to privately cater events. According to the video, she has received orders from customers she’s served at Farmer’s Markets for larger quantities of certain products. Unfortunately, because of the law, she has to turn them down as well.
Minnesota also aggressively enforces the law as well. According to a report from Watchdog.org, state organizations have “ordered a home bakery in Winona to shut down after pictures of cupcakes were featured in a local business magazine. On another occasion, a home bakery was ordered closed after a nearby upscale bakery filed a complaint with the state Department of Health.” A spokesperson for the Institute for Justice claimed that the law serves only to protect established businesses (such as bakeries) from competition.
A Minnesota man who works in the United Arab Emirates has been held in a maximum-security prison for months because he made a YouTube video spoofing Dubai youth.
Shezanne Cassim, 29, of Woodbury, Minn., posted a 19-minute video to YouTube in 2012 called “Satwa Combat School” in which he jokes about Dubai teens who call themselves “gangstas” and have comedic methods of fighting with sandals and other household items.
Cassim, who has worked in Abu Dhabi since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006, was arrested in April. Dubai authorities revoked his passport on April 7. He was moved to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi in June.
Dubai authorities say the fictional combat training spoof endangered national security.
“It’s tragic. It’s something that can happen to anybody, especially young people who post all the time on YouTube,” said Susan Bunrs, a lawyer hired by his family in Minnesota. “To be incarcerated over something that’s clearly a joke, clearly meant in jest, clearly meant in good humor — and held for seven months — is a violation of human rights.”
The country instated strict cyber-crime laws in 2012 that carry tough penalties for questioning authority.
A verdict in his case has been postponed five times, most recently because a judge was waiting for an Arabic translation of the comedic video.
“And in all this time, they have refused to grant bail, with no explanation given,” said his brother Shervon Cassim.
Cassim’s next court date is Dec. 16.
Churchgoers in Minnesota may not have realized that their tithings would be used to help protect sex offenders, but the Minneapolis StarTribune reports that the Catholic church “spent heavily” to stop legal changes that would lengthen the time during which victims could file suits for childhood sex abuse.
According to the StarTribune, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was the primary lobbyist opposing the Child Victims Act, spending more than $800,000 over a period of seven years.
The bill, which removed the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, ultimately passed; despite the church’s lobbying attempts, the state Senate granted unanimous approval. It was enacted in May, and at least 18 suits have arisen since then.
Bill proponent Joel Juers, who claims he was a victim of sexual abuse while attending Shattuck-St. Mary's boarding school more than 30 years ago, spoke with Minnesota Public Radio News after the Senate voted.
"From the beginning, there was one 'yes' vote, and zero 'nays,' and then two and then 15, and then 20, and then 30, and still zero 'nays,'" he said. "It was like the entire Senate was standing next to me saying, 'We understand your plight. We understand your story, and we stand behind you."
State Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who authored the bill, explained his rationale, saying, "We need the courthouse to be open to them when they are able to come forward. Those legally responsible -- perpetrators and those that protect them -- can escape justice just because of the passage of time."
Latz also addressed the church’s lobbying efforts: “They want the public to believe they are very caring about something, but behind the scenes they are very actively opposing the kind of steps or remedies or legislation that would hold them accountable for their conduct.”
The Chicago County, Minn. Republican Party posted a Facebook meme today intending to compare choosing whether or not to keep an unborn child with choosing whether or not to buy a slave.
The meme depicted an old, black-and-white sketch drawing of a slave auction, and the caption read “Pro - Choice. Against slavery? Don’t buy one.” This, obviously, was an attempt to demonstrate that slavery was something horrible that was justly banned, and that abortion is also something horrible that should be banned.
Of course, this convoluted rationale only makes sense if you think deeply about the image and its caption, and even then it might still be considered distasteful. On the surface, it just seems racist. Unsurprisingly, not many outside of the Chisago County Republican Party found the joke to be too humorous.
The political party quickly deleted the post after it quickly gained significant backlash. The Party, of course, was eager to dispel responsibility, claiming the Facebook page has a “large number of administrators” and that it was investigating the incident to discover the author of the post, the Huffington Post reports. How and why the image made its way on to the site remains unclear.
“The Chisago County Republican Party is very sorry that something so clearly improper (either intended or in poor taste) ever made it to our page. Postings like this are not representative of our party. We are a party that believes in Freedom for all Americans regardless of race or religion. It is after all where the Republican Party came from in its origins, the anti-slavery movement,” the party’s executive committee wrote in a follow-up post on Facebook.