MPR News Update

Obama puts guns and Minneapolis in the national spotlight

by Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio

Feb 5, 2013

Today on the MPR News Update: President Obama brings his gun control message to Minneapolis. State lawmakers introduce measures aimed at improving the state's mental health system. And the St. Paul Police Department investigates one of its own after a photo on Twitter shows him dressed like a Muslim woman.

OBAMA SPOTLIGHTS MINNEAPOLIS: President Barack Obama made Minneapolis his first stop on a tour to promote what he calls "common sense" gun control measures, which include renewing the 1994 assault weapons ban, limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and passing universal background checks, and he held Minneapolis up as an example of what cities can do to reduce youth violence without passing new gun laws.

SEE IT NOW: We have a gallery of images from the president's visit to Minneapolis here.

ARMED AND TEACHING: The South Dakota state legislature has taken a first step toward arming teachers in the state's schools. The state House there has passed a law that would authorize a so-called school sentinel program, one that would allow law enforcement and school boards to arm school staff or volunteers. Republican state Rep. Scott Craig, of Rapid City, is an author of the bill. He said he thought teachers could be trained to use deadly force in appropriate situations.

MENTAL HEALTH FUNDS: With the debate about violence prevention underway across the nation, Minnesota state lawmakers have introduced nearly a dozen bills aimed at strengthening the public mental health system for children. Budget cuts have hit children's mental health programs hard in recent years, and advocates are out to reverse that trend.

MILITARY MENTAL HEALTH: Army Secretary John McHugh visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Monday to announce the results of a yearlong review of the Army's mental health system. McHugh has asked to Army officials to finish a plan for a new resilience structure in the next couple weeks. He hopes to improve processing times in the disability evaluation system and has the goal of lowering the incidence of suicide, sexual assault and substance abuse among soldiers.

ST. PAUL POLICE AND THE HIJAB: The St. Paul Police Department launched an internal investigation Monday in response to an online photo said to show an officer from the department wearing a culturally insensitive costume. The man in the photo is dressed as a Muslim woman. He wears lipstick, eye shadow and a red hijab or headscarf, with a mobile phone tucked into one side of it.

RIVERS IN THE SKY: An interesting article in Scientific American recently reported about how atmospheric rivers are driving more intense rainstorms and they predict that our changing climate will bring more flooding because of it. Paul Huttner talks about the article and other research in this week's Climate Cast on the Daily Circuit.

MOORHEAD FIGHTS POLLUTION RULE: For the first time, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency wants to consider the effects of the discharge from Moorhead's wastewater treatment plant on Lake Winnipeg, north of the U.S.-Canada border. In a dispute about a 103-year-old treaty, pollution that crosses borders and regulations that don't, people in Moorhead are at odds with state officials over a proposed regulation designed to cut phosphorus emissions of the city's sewage plant.

TEACHING TEACHERS: State education officials are training teachers to better help students understand how to behave in school and encouraging principals to come up with alternatives to suspension. It's all part of a Minnesota Department of Education initiative called Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, or PBIS.

A LONG WAY FROM BUCK HILL: Lindsey Vonn crashed during the super-G Tuesday at the alpine skiing world championships in Austria and was taken to a hospital by helicopter after apparently hurting her right knee. News Cut has some harrowing video of the crash and her being airlifted off the mountain here.

FILIBUSTER HAGEL? Republican Sen. John McCain, a sharp critic of Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary, said Monday he will not support a filibuster of President Barack Obama's pick, even though he declined to say whether he intends to vote for confirmation.

SCOUTING GAY BAN: The Boy Scouts of America's national executive board began three days of closed meetings Monday that are expected to include a discussion of its policy excluding gay members and leaders, and Scouts on both sides of the debate are publicly weighing in.

SECRET DRONE STRIKES: A confidential Justice Department memo says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans. The document, first reported Monday night by NBC News, provides a legal rationale behind the Obama administration's use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects.

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