- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Star Tribune, July 6

The FBI details amateur hour at Clinton’s State Department

“Extremely careless.” That’s a label no candidate for public office wants to carry into the homestretch of a campaign - especially a candidate already struggling to build trust with voters.

Hillary Clinton will have to live with the astounding mistakes in judgment she made while serving as secretary of state; even before Tuesday, her poll numbers reflected the unease of Americans trying to reconcile her often-substantial record of public service with the amateurish incompetence of her handling of sensitive e-mail as the nation’s top diplomat.

But apparently Clinton will not have to deal with criminal charges for her use of personal e-mail servers. Despite a scathing report to the nation on Tuesday after his agency’s yearlong investigation, FBI Director James Comey made it clear that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton, because there is no evidence that she intentionally sent or received classified information.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, herself a recent target of criticism after an apparently impromptu meeting with former President Bill Clinton, said Friday that she would accept the recommendations of the FBI and career prosecutors in the case. So unless Lynch reverses course, the darkest cloud hanging over the Hillary Clinton campaign - the possibility of an indictment - has cleared up.

But the fact that Clinton likely will not face charges does not mean she did nothing wrong. As Comey described, she recklessly disregarded national interest in her handling of sensitive information. The FBI director said that despite Clinton’s assertions that she did not send or receive any information marked as classified at the time it was sent, about two dozen e-mails in question were considered “top secret” - the government’s top level of classification.

In addition, “from the group of 30,000 e-mails returned (by Clinton) to the State Department, 100 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received,” Comey said Tuesday. Those findings are an indictment of Clinton’s honesty, because she initially said she never sent or received classified e-mail using personal servers.

It’s also damning that the FBI found “several thousand” work-related e-mails in addition to the 30,000 that Clinton returned to the State Department in 2014. Her lawyers had maintained that the 30,000 e-mails made up all of her work-related messages as secretary of state. Chillingly, the FBI also found that Clinton sent and received work e-mails while in the “territory of sophisticated adversaries” outside of the U.S., making it possible - although no specific evidence of hacking was found - that “hostile actors” gained access to her e-mail account.

In one of the least-surprising conclusions, Comey said the FBI found the State Department’s security “lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.” And in a more specific rebuke of Clinton’s handling of sensitive government information, he said the FBI found “evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”

Expect Donald Trump to draw on Comey’s findings repeatedly between now and November. The likely Republican nominee took to Twitter on Tuesday to voice his displeasure over the FBI’s recommendation, saying: “The system is rigged .”

Americans have no reason to question Comey’s independence or credibility, however. The Obama appointee served in the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration and, at the time of his appointment, Politico reported that he was a registered Republican who had contributed to both the McCain and Romney campaigns.

Clinton’s credibility is fair game, though, and that’s nothing new. Even before Comey’s condemnation, 69 percent of respondents to an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in June said they were concerned that Clinton has a record or a reputation as untrustworthy. That same month, 62 percent of respondents in a CBS News poll said she was not honest, while 33 percent said she was. (Trump fared just as poorly, at 63 percent and 32 percent, respectively.)

Between now and Election Day, voters will have to decide whether Clinton’s attributes and policy prescriptions outweigh her record of cutting corners and ignoring the rules - a pattern that became even more problematic with the release of the FBI’s findings.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 30

Paying attention to our water supply

Minnesotans have 10,000 good reasons to care about their water resources.

And they do, demonstrating it by voting themselves a tax increase in 2008 largely on the strength of an appeal for the value of our lakes, rivers and streams.

Beyond that, “there’s an alignment of planets right now” when it comes to attention to water issues, the Freshwater Society’s Steve Woods told us. He cites among recent headline-makers the Flint, Mich., contamination crisis; a Des Moines water system lawsuit over upstream pollution; and droughts in our Western states and around the globe in India.

As potential lessons from other places get notice, so should a report on the state’s groundwater picture issued this spring by Woods’ organization, which is dedicated to promoting the conservation, protection and restoration of freshwater resources.

“A growing number of communities continue to over-pump drinking water from declining aquifers while dreaming of further population increases and economic expansion,” Woods writes in the first in a series of three reports this year and next. “The realities and the dreams don’t match; available supplies won’t support future demands unless the community actively manages the situation.”

The report warns that drought-stricken Southern and Western states “are illuminating for us the essential value of water resources, and the compelling need to achieve sustainable usage before we face severe drought or a large-scale water crisis.”

Curtailing water waste, it says, is an achievable - and simple - step toward sustainability. The report cites the Atlanta metro area - which reduced consumption by 10 percent, despite a 20 percent increase in population - with a combination of policy, planning and educational efforts.

The report, targeted to local officials, spotlights a couple of useful case studies from east metro communities:

Shoreview residents use less than 70 gallons per person per day - one of the lowest rates in the metro area, according to the report. But city officials remain vigilant, launching a voluntary water-efficiency program in which participants receive free wireless meters that allow frequent reading. “The goal is to reduce water use and promote conservation efforts through increased awareness of when and where water is used.”

The report notes that the city also encourages more efficient water use by enforcing a seasonal odd-even sprinkling ban and educating customers about lawn and garden watering efficiency.

White Bear Lake, which was cited along with Victoria, in Carver County, among areas that “show long-term declines in local groundwater levels” and have taken steps to increase groundwater awareness and improve conservation practices. They offer rebates to residents for the purchase of water-efficient products, including appliances and plumbing fixtures.

For now, Woods told us, While Bear Lake has come back multiple feet in water level. “There still are feet to go, but it’s going in the right direction.”

The report also reminds us that Minnesota has not had a “crushing” drought since 1987-1988 or an extended one since 1921-1942. “Our fading memories combined with our image as a water-rich state (have) led to a false sense of security,” it says.

Mindful of below-the-surface waters and consequent depletion of the aquifers on which we depend, they’re “our reserve,” Woods explains, and “they recharge so slowly.”

There are plenty of examples from California and the Great Plains states where groundwater has subsided hundreds of feet, and it’s not coming back, he said.

We’ve wondered on these pages about the advantages of pulling more water from such surface- or above-ground sources as lakes and rivers - the Mississippi River, in particular - as St. Paul does.

We’re short sighted in not making greater use of our river resource, Woods said, noting that such agencies as the Metropolitan Council and the state’s Department of Natural Resources are saying we need to be relying on the Mississippi more than we do now.

As our state’s water flows, it’s also among the keys to our economic future. Listing core business strengths, Greater MSP, the regional economic development partnership, cites food, water - including Paul-based Ecolab - and health care giants.

When it comes to water, what we take for granted today could be in short supply tomorrow. Much is at stake.


The Post-Bulletin of Rochester, July 5

Jurors need support for crucial service

Minnesotans reporting for jury duty this month will be among the first in the state to see their daily reimbursement double.

The legislature’s recent supplemental budget bill included $1.5 million to allow the daily per diem to increase from $10 to $20. The increase comes six years after the daily per diem for district courts was slashed from $30 in 2008, following years of state budget deficits.

The bump puts Minnesota in the center of the nation’s juror per diem rankings, where Illinois pays as low as $4 a day and some states pay as much as $50 a day to jurors sworn in for trials.

Minnesota does offer additional reimbursements not seen in many other states, including up to $50 a day for child care and mileage, which has also doubled to a rate of 54 cents a mile.

Of course, jury duty isn’t about the pay. As Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea noted, “jury service is one of our most important civic duties as Americans.” It’s how we ensure our fellow residents get fair trials, and it’s how we help keep our communities safe.

Too often we groan when we hear someone has been called to serve, and too often we joke about how we would attempt to shirk our duty. Yet, it’s something we should embrace; it’s a chance to make sure our judicial system functions at its best.

At the same time, no one should be overly burdened by the service.

With names randomly chosen from among Minnesota drivers, registered voters and those holding state identification cards, the pool of potential jurors in the state is vast. Last year, more than 44,000 Minnesota residents reported for jury duty, and we know they all didn’t have employers who reimbursed them for their time away from work. They likely lost earnings in the process.

While many employers - including the Post-Bulletin - agree to pay employees while serving such a crucial duties, others either cannot afford to or refuse to compensate workers, meaning $20 a day could be all they earn while on jury duty.

We applaud the employers who see the benefits of supporting our jurors, and we encourage those who do not already do so to consider the merits. By ensuring we have a health jury pool of people who aren’t distracted by the financial hardship of serving, we are ensuring the system remains strong. Supporting jurors helps make sure decisions aren’t hurried, and jurors who don’t have to worry about their paychecks can concentrate on their service.

As Gildea said in a statement after the per diem increase was announced: “While we know that the small amount jurors receive for their service doesn’t reflect the importance of their work, we hope that this higher compensation will make it a little easier for citizens to participate in their justice system.”

Making it easier to participate strengthens the system, and helps ensure we all are best served by jurors’ service.

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