- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014
Obama pledges hand in Minnesota flooding response

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - President Barack Obama pledged the federal government’s help Thursday in recovery after massive flooding hit many parts of Minnesota this month, telling a town hall audience near the roaring Minnehaha Falls that they’ll have a strong partner when they know how severe the damage is.

Obama said he was briefed by Gov. Mark Dayton on high waters that have swamped farm fields, washed out roads and flooded towns and homes in the past week.

“I told the governor that we will be there as we get some clarity about the damage and what needs to be done,” Obama said.

The Dayton administration is currently preparing a federal disaster request that could eventually free up federal aid.

Some Minnesota communities still face flooding threats. The Mississippi River was due to crest several feet above flood stage later Thursday and more rains were in the forecast. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who was on Air Force One with Obama after spending time this week in Washington, said his city has already spent millions in emergency preparedness and response.

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Charges expected in death of Minnesota student

HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) - Prosecutors in Dakota County plan to charge two people in the death of a University of Minnesota student who went missing last fall.

The body of AnaRae Schunk was found in a ditch south of Minneapolis, days after she was last seen at a Burnsville bar on Sept. 22 with her ex-boyfriend and another woman.

On that same night, Schunk’s ex-boyfriend allegedly killed a man outside the bar. He’s already been charged in that fatal shooting, but had not been charged in Schunk’s death.

Prosecutors say they plan to charge him and the woman with second-degree intentional murder on Friday.

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Obama letter writer hopes it starts ‘conversation’

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota woman whose letter to President Barack Obama led to one-on-one time with him says she hopes the message about middle-class struggles isn’t lost on Washington decision-makers.

Rebekah Erler, of St. Anthony, shared lunch Thursday with Obama during his two-day trip to Minnesota and had a chance to tell him about economic difficulties facing average Americans. Erler told reporters that she “got a chance to start a conversation” about problems families encounter daily.

Obama’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and reshape student loan programs have stalled in Congress, and he is aiming to refocus public attention on those issues.

Erler says the experience was “an incredible opportunity to share what’s important to me and my friends and my family and what we go through every day.”

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Judge dismisses case over license look-ups

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of current and former Minnesota residents who allege that dozens of public employees violated their privacy by illegally looking up their driver’s license data for political reasons.

The 18 plaintiffs, including some local elected officials, claimed they were targeted because they had been critical of Wabasha County government. They alleged officials in 26 counties, 36 cities, state agencies and other entities violated their privacy by looking up their driver’s license data 600 times from April 2003 until the lawsuit was filed last September.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery said Thursday that all of the look-ups before Sept. 12, 2009, were too old and fell outside the statute of limitations.

For the remaining 235 look-ups, she said, the plaintiffs failed to show a connection between an instance of a driver’s license look-up and a specific reason that would make it illegal.

“We alleged that the accessing of the records was related to the political activity, including criticizing and suing the (Wabasha County) Sheriff’s Department,” said Erick Kaardal, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “We were as specific as we could be without having the opportunity to interview the officers who did the pinging. … We think there’s an appealable issue there.”

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