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National

    An attorney for a Democratic state senator resigning over sexual harassment allegations raised questions Wednesday about two key accusers and suggested they may have wanted to sabotage the senator's campaign for higher office.Sen. Dan Schoen, of St. Paul Park, didn't appear at a news conference two weeks after he was first accused of misconduct ranging from groping to unwanted advances.His attorney, Paul Rogosheske, said Schoen stands by his denials of any wrongdoing aside from sending a photo of male genitalia to a female Senate staffer, which he said was accidentally sent to the wrong person. Rogosheske said two women who have alleged sexual harassment, Lindsey Port and state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, have been 'misrepresenting' their encounters with Schoen.Port was a Democratic legislative candidate in 2015 when, she said, Schoen repeatedly complimented her bottom and later groped her buttocks at a campaign event. Maye Quade, also a Democrat, said Schoen made unwanted sexual advances to her by text.Rogosheske said several witnesses at the same event as Port and Schoen in 2015 said they didn't witness any groping, including at the specific time Port said it occurred. Rogosheske said the supposed witnesses were unwilling to come forward and declined to identify them.He also said Maye Quade misinterpreted a text from Schoen that was intended for someone else. He disputed her account that Schoen was making unwanted advances, handing out more than a dozen pages of screenshots from Schoen's phone that do not include repeated invitations to Maye Quade to have a drink with him that she initially recounted.The texts centered around weeks of unrest in north Minneapolis in November 2015 after a black man was shot and killed by police after what onlookers described as a scuffle. The alleged screenshots show Maye Quade initially reached out for advice, and the pair exchanged messages as protesters surrounded a local police precinct in the days after Jamar Clark's death.A third claim against Schoen — by a female Senate staffer who said he sent her a photo of male genitalia — was simply a mistake by Schoen with a picture intended for someone else, Rogosheske said. He had previously told Minnesota Public Radio News that Schoen had never sent explicit photos to any woman.Asked if his client ever harassed anyone, Rogosheske responded: 'Never meant to sexually harass anybody.'I sincerely wish that I had known at the time that I was making friends uncomfortable,' Schoen wrote in his resignation letter. His resignation is effective Dec. 15.Rogosheske also noted that Port's business partner is running for state auditor and suggested the accusations may have been intended to derail a competing bid by Schoen. Port was traveling Wednesday and didn't respond to messages.Maye Quade referred a request for comment to her statement Tuesday night on Schoen's resignation, highlighting one portion that said: 'Unless systematic and widespread changes are enacted, these behaviors and subsequent attempts to cover up instances of harassment will continue.'Hours after Schoen said he would quit on Tuesday, GOP state Rep. Tony Cornish also announced he would resign following several accusations of improper conduct. Cornish apologized for his actions, including a specific apology to a lobbyist who accused him of repeated unwanted attention and trying to force a kiss.Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he hoped the resignations would help clean up a problem of sexual harassment in the Capitol.'These are very important first steps,' Dayton said.Since the allegations surfaced earlier in November, Dayton launched a review of the executive branch's training and reporting procedures for sexual harassment.Schoen still works as a police officer for the Cottage Grove Police Department, which assigned him to administrative duties when allegations against him surfaced earlier this month. Schoen remains on administrative duties and no complaints of misconduct have been reported to the department, city administrator Charlene Stevens said Wednesday, and Rogosheske says he sees no reason for his resignation to affect his employment.Both men will be replaced in special elections. Dayton said he hoped to schedule those in time to fill the seats before the Legislature returns Feb. 20.
  • A 24-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska, woman has been missing for several days following a date with someone she met online, and now police are calling the circumstance surrounding her disappearance “concerning.” >> Read more trending news >> Related: Police make gruesome discovery after teacher bails her boyfriend out of jail and disappears  Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Jeff Bliemeister spoke to local media Tuesday and urged residents to continue looking for Sydney Loofe as the department conducts interviews and pieces together the events that led to her her disappearance, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Police confirmed that Loofe was last seen in Wilber, 40 miles southwest of Lincoln, on Wed. Nov. 15.. according to the Star. Suspicion grew when she missed work the following day at a Lincoln grocery store where she is a cashier after apparently going out on a date the night before, her parents said. Loofe sent a Snapchat message saying she was “ready for my date” just hours before she disappeared. Her family said she sent the Snapchat message about going on a date with a woman she met online, and that she was definitely “planning on coming home that night.” She also left her cat and car at her home in Lincoln, her family said. >> Related: Killer details brutal murder, final minutes of NY jogger in police video Loffe’s family is circulating a flyer that suggest they fear she was abducted. The flyer indicated that her phone pinged off a cellphone tower in the Wilber area, but that it has since been turned off. Her parents, Susie and George Loofe, find it suspicious that her phone is off, and that her cat and car were left at home. Lincoln police have declined to say if they have spoken to the person Loofe was going out with that night or where in Wilber she might have been. “Really what our focus is on at this point is trying to find Sydney,” the police chief Bliemeister said. “And to go out and to detail every investigative aspect really, I think, is going to detract from the overall message of, ‘We’re trying to find her as quickly as possible.'” Police are asking anyone with information on Loofe’s whereabouts to call 402-441-6000. >> Related: Teen who disappeared with her teacher says it was wrong, but she doesn’t regret it Loofe is 5-foot-7 and weighs 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white Columbia jacket and a cream-colored shirt. She has a yin-yang tattoo on one of her forearms, the word “Believe” with a cross on the inside of her left wrist, and the phrase “Everything will be wonderful someday” on her right bicep.
  • A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a new Texas law seeking to ban a commonly used abortion method, the latest in a string of court defeats to the Legislature's attempts to make getting an abortion as difficult as possible in America's second most-populous state.Austin-based U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel extended indefinitely a temporary ban he'd previously issued before the law was set to take effect Sept. 1. That overturns — at least for now — a law that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June banning a second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Texas is set to appeal, but federal courts in at least four other states already had blocked similar laws.Yeakel's ruling followed a trial early this fall where the judge heard arguments from Texas, which defended the law, and from abortion rights groups who argue it unconstitutionally burdens women seeking abortions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an immediate notice of appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.'A five-day trial in district court allowed us to build a record like no other in exposing the truth about the barbaric practice of dismemberment abortions. We are eager to present that extensive record before the 5th Circuit. No just society should tolerate the tearing of living human beings to pieces,' Paxton said in a statement.Federal judges have already ruled against past Texas efforts to change the disposal of fetal remains and deny Medicaid funding to abortion provider Planned Parenthood over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted most of a sweeping, anti-abortion law approved in Texas in 2013 which helped force the closure of more than half of the state's abortion clinics.Texas for years approved tight abortion restrictions arguing that they would safeguard the lives of pregnant women. After the Supreme Court defeat, the Legislature this session began backing proposals aimed at protecting fetuses, but always with top Republicans' stated goal of reducing the number of abortions performed in their state to as close to zero as possible.The Texas law Yeakel suspended uses the non-medical term 'dismemberment abortion' to describe a procedure in which forceps and other instruments are used to remove the fetus from the womb. Paxton's office had argued that 'prohibiting this inhumane procedure does not impose any significant health risks or burdens on women' while citing alternative procedures that abortion providers say are less safe and reliable.However, in a 27-page opinion, Yeakel wrote that the Supreme Court had already weight in on second-trimester abortions twice. In both cases, justices held that 'the law imposed an undue burden on a woman seeking a pre-fetal-viability abortion,' he wrote.The power to decide to have an abortion 'is her right,' Yeakel wrote, adding that the right over the interest of the fetus before it becomes viable 'is self-evident.'Here the state's interest must give way to the woman's right,' Yeakel wrote.Federal courts previously blocked dilation and evacuation bans in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Texas currently has around 20 abortion clinics, down from 41 in 2012.
  • Police arrested a student at a Christian college in Arkansas, alleging he told officers he had been building small bombs and that he posted a note in a dormitory common room saying 'the maniacal side' of his brain was a 'fun little guy' who wanted to inflict mass casualties on society.Timothy Constantin, a 20-year-old John Brown University student from Gainesville, Florida, was arrested Tuesday and was being held pending a bond hearing Thursday morning, said the local prosecutor's office, which didn't know if he had an attorney.In an affidavit, detective Ron Coble said Constantin had built small bombs with PVC pipe and black powder collected from fireworks and ammunition. The student had written that one side of his brain 'genuinely hates and actively wants to murder ever (sic) single human I come across as well as those I've never seen in my life.'Police began investigating after other students said Constantin was suicidal. One student told Coble that Constantin wanted to kill himself to prevent himself from committing a terrorist attack over the upcoming winter break.Officers said they found guns and ammunition in Constantin's dorm room, including an AK-47 rifle and a Keltech 9mm carbine gun. Constantin told police in interviews that the firearms were for protection and that if he were to do a mass killing, he would use explosives. Police found no explosives in his room. Coble's affidavit said Constantin told another officer he had previously made explosives.The university released a statement saying it was increasing the number of armed guards on campus and reviewing training procedures after the arrest.'While the student indicated thoughts of harm to himself and potentially to others, to the best of our knowledge there was not a specific plan to carry out any type of campus attack nor was there a specific person targeted,' the statement said. 'If Campus Safety or the Siloam Springs Police determined there was immediate risk to the campus, we would have alerted campus through our crisis alert system.'An arrest warrant directed officers to hold Constantin on a complaint of engaging in criminal acts involving explosives, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • How many burpees does it take to burn off a dollop of gravy? How far must you run to negate a slice of holiday pie? >> Read more trending news The Daily Burn tallied the caloric cost of a Thanksgiving feast, and the results might make you second-guess that decision not to sign up for the local turkey trot. >> Related: One ‘hot’ Thanksgiving: Turkeys get Flaming Hot Cheetos makeover According to the Daily Burn’s helpful infographic, the turkey trot will take care of one slice of pie. That’s it. You’ll have to walk for 35 minutes to equalize a single 6-ounce glass of red wine, dance for 14 minutes to negate a half-cup of green bean casserole or play flag football for 20 minutes for that hot buttered roll. And you’ll have to run the stairs for 10 minutes to make up for that half-cup of stuffing. >> Related: Thanksgiving 2017: How to fry a turkey without burning down the house Most Americans gobble up between 2,400 and 4,500 calories in a single sitting on Thanksgiving Day, according to this article in The New York Times. That includes turkey, stuffing, a buttered roll, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, some green bean casserole, and slices of pecan and pumpkin pie. That’s more than an entire day’s calories, especially if you add a glass or two of wine to the mix. We’re all for overindulgent feasting on such a special occasion, but it does help to balance out all the calories with some exercise.
  • Uber has managed to hold the title of world's largest ride-hailing service despite its seemingly endless string of scandals.Its latest misbehavior involving a data breach cover-up revealed this week could be the impetus for people to ride elsewhere — or keep looking the other way.Hackers were able to steal data for 57 million riders and drivers, and Uber concealed it for a year after paying $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.Riders and business experts say that while Uber's problems such as workplace sexual harassment, drivers with criminal records and other past infractions are serious, stolen data hits people directly and could make them mad enough to delete the app. Then again, riders have fled from the service before, but enough have stayed because of the Uber's convenience so the latest scandal-of-the-week may not make much of a difference. The brand is so well-known for quickly responding to ride requests that it's often used as a verb for such trips, no matter which service is summoned.Michael Pachter, a technology analyst based in Los Angeles, said he uses Uber five to 10 times a month.'I don't blame the drivers for the company transgressions, and view Uber as the glue that facilitates drivers willing to drive me around,' he said.But for Vermont resident Jay Furr, the breach was the 'final straw.' He had stuck with Uber despite recent problems because of the service. But now he'll use Lyft, Uber's main competitor, when he goes to the airport for frequent business trips.'Why reward crooked behavior?' he asked. 'The only way they will learn is if they lose business.'For much of the past year, Uber has been mired in well-publicized problems. A female former engineer blogged that her boss had propositioned her for sex, exposing widespread sexual harassment. A federal judge urged prosecutors to investigate allegations that Uber stole technology from Waymo, Google's autonomous vehicle unit. The Justice Department is investigating whether Uber used a bogus app to deceive inspectors in several cities, and in London, authorities decided not to renew Uber's operating license in part for failing to report crimes.Earlier this week the state of Colorado fined Uber $8.9 million for allowing employees with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company. Then came the stolen data, which has touched off more government inquiries.The scandals have damaged Uber's brand reputation over time, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York-based customer research firm. The company's polling has found that in 2015 Lyft passed Uber as the most trusted of ride-hailing brands, and trust in Uber has been eroding ever since. Consumers will give technology companies the benefit of the doubt for a long time. But with Uber, 'That well of forgiveness isn't bottomless,' Passikoff said.Passikoff doesn't measure the impact on ridership and Uber won't discuss it. But Lyft says its share of the U.S. market has risen 3 percentage points since August to 33 percent. It's up from 12 percent two years ago as Lyft has expanded with more drivers in major U.S. cities.In the data breach, Uber has said that for riders, hackers got only names, email addresses and telephone numbers. They did not get personal information such as trip details or credit card and Social Security numbers. For about 600,000 drivers in the U.S., hackers got driver's license numbers, and the company has offered them free credit monitoring services.While Uber drivers lost personal data and face uncertainty over identity theft, it appears they'll stick with Uber. Many drive for Lyft as well.Nate Tepp, who drives Uber in Seattle, said he doesn't plan to leave, nor does he think other drivers will.'All they are doing is cutting out 60 to 65 percent of their income,' Tepp said of drivers who might consider leaving. That estimate is based on his own split between Uber and Lyft fares.Tepp also thinks the last three to four months at Uber have been different and things have 'started to go in drivers' favor.' This includes adding an option for riders to tip.He is also somewhat forgiving about the hacking — and the subsequent cover-up. After all, companies are hacked often, he said.'Does it make me happy? No. Does it (make me angry) to the point that I am going to stop making money through that company? No,' he said.New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi could do little but admit the problem and promise ethical behavior in the future. 'We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers,' he wrote in a blog post.Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown University's business school who studies brand values, said Uber is testing the boundaries of how many scandals people will endure. While data breaches are personal to people, she still thinks Uber will get through this scandal as well.'We have a short memory as consumers,' she said. 'We tend to be if not forgiving, forgetful.'____Ortutay reported from New York.
  • Ferguson, Missouri, has paid nearly a half-million dollars to the monitor team overseeing its police and court reforms, but city leaders question what they've gotten for their money, especially after the departure of the original lead monitor.Washington attorney Clark Kent Ervin resigned in September after serving a little over a year as lead monitor overseeing the consent agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014. Boston attorney Natashia Tidwell, who has been with the Ferguson monitor team since its start, now leads it.Concerns over the cost of monitoring were detailed in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.The money spent on monitoring is costly in Ferguson, paid for entirely with city funds. The community of 20,000 is much smaller, with far less money, than most cities subject to Justice Department consent agreements. Money is so tight that Ferguson voters twice in 2016 approved tax increases to keep the budget balanced.Mayor James Knowles III said Ervin failed to follow through on some projects, including opening an office in Ferguson and surveying residents. City Attorney Apollo Carey said his departure slowed a court audit and other reforms.'It begs the question: What are residents getting out of (monitoring)?' Knowles said. 'They're supposed to be getting transparency. They're supposed to be getting regular updates and engagement from the monitor. They haven't gotten any of it.'City Manager De'Carlon Seewood said 'there were a lot of concerns on both sides,' which led to Ervin stepping down. 'The thought was it was best to depart,' Seewood said.Ervin did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.Ferguson fell under Justice Department scrutiny after Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson during an Aug. 9, 2014, confrontation on a neighborhood street. A St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department declined to charge Wilson, who resigned in November 2014.But the shooting of the black, unarmed 18-year-old by the white officer drew attention to allegations about mistreatment of African-Americans by Ferguson's police and court system. A Justice Department investigation led to a civil rights lawsuit that was settled in 2016 with the consent agreement.The agreement calls for reforms such as hiring more black officers, requiring diversity training for police, and court reforms that include easing financial burdens for minor offenses such as traffic violations. The process is expected to take up to three years with oversight by a team of independent monitors.Nine teams applied to perform the monitor duties. In July 2016, the Justice Department and Ferguson leaders chose the team led by Ervin, a former inspector general for the State Department and Homeland Security.The agreement called for paying the eight-member monitor team up to $350,000 a year, with the total amount to be capped out at $1.25 million over five years. Ferguson paid $350,000 for the first 12-month period, and has paid another $145,000 since July of this year, its records show.Of the initial $350,000, $291,192 was paid to Ervin's law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, according to Ferguson records. It isn't clear if Ervin received all of that money or if some was shared with other monitors or assistants, Seewood said. The agreement called for Ervin to be paid $685 per hour and work up to 30 hours a month on the monitoring, which would amount to $246,600 over a full year.Since July of this year, an additional $108,000 has been paid out to a data collection firm, along with $21,000 to Tidwell and $15,000 split between two other monitor team members, Knowles said.At a community meeting last December, Ervin pledged to conduct a survey of residents and to open an office in Ferguson. The survey never happened, and no office ever opened.Knowles said the survey 'should have been done in the first year and it wasn't done. You can't have a baseline survey of the community to see how it feels about progress if you don't know what the baseline is.'The proposal to open an office, Seewood said, was aimed at adding transparency to the reform process.'I offered to give him an office at City Hall,' Seewood said of Ervin. 'For some reason he was never able to make that commitment that he should be here.'Carey, the city attorney, said during a town hall meeting last week that Ervin's resignation has slowed reform efforts. He cited a court audit performed in August that remains incomplete.Justice Department attorney Jude Volek said at the meeting that progress is being made despite Ervin's resignation, aided by the fact that Tidwell has been involved in the process since day one.'You can see her commitment,' Volek said.Tidwell, who is a former police officer and federal prosecutor, declined comment through a spokeswoman.Seewood also has high hopes for the team's new leadership.'She's awesome,' he said of Tidwell. 'I'm very optimistic.
  • A major oil-by-rail terminal proposed on the Columbia River in Washington state poses a potential risk of oil spills, train accidents and longer emergency response times due to road traffic, an environmental study has found.Many of the risks could be decreased with certain mitigation measures, but the study released Tuesday outlined four areas where it said the impacts are significant and cannot be avoided.The study said what while 'the likelihood of occurrence of the potential for oil spills may be low, the consequences of the events could be severe.'The state's Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has been evaluating the project since 2013 and released its environmental review a week before it is scheduled to vote to support or oppose the project in a recommendation that will go to Gov. Jay Inslee. Inslee, a Democrat, will decide whether to approve the facility or reject it.The proposed $210 million terminal for the small city of Vancouver would receive about 360,000 barrels of crude oil by trains a day. Oil would temporarily be stored on site for Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos., and then loaded onto tankers and ships bound for West Coast refineries.The study identified the four risks that could not be avoided as train accidents, the emergency response delays, negative impacts of the project on low-income communities and the possibility that an earthquake would damage the facility's dock and cause an oil spill.Measures could be taken to reduce the potential risk of oil spills by other causes, fires and harm to juvenile salmon, the study said.Critics say the project is a risk to the environment and people while developers promote the terminal as an opportunity to bring crude oil from North Dakota and other areas to a western U.S. port and bring jobs and money to the region.'Our initial assessment provides confidence that EFSEC's thorough evaluation of the facts will demonstrate our ability to build and operate the project safely and in an environmentally responsible way,' Vancouver Energy spokesman Jeff Hymas said in emailed statement late Tuesday.He labeled most of the impacts outlined in the report as 'related to low-probability events not directly associated with our facility that have the potential to occur today, such as a major earthquake or impacts related to the transportation of products that move across the country on a daily basis.'Opponents said the report provided justification for the council to issue a recommendation against the project.The review 'clearly shows that the Tesoro-Savage oil train terminal is bad for Washington,' said Rebecca Ponzio, director for the Stand Up to Oil Campaign.The facility would produce more than 300,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, with half of that from trains moving along the entire route in Washington state.
  • Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says 'it's great to be alive' this Thanksgiving.Ridge issued a statement Wednesday from the hospital in Austin, Texas, where he's recovering from a heart attack.He says he's thankful for the 'outpouring of love and concern' after his health emergency.He says he's filled with gratitude, even though his doctors won't let him touch turkey and mashed potatoes.He had been attending a Republican Governors Association conference last week when he called for medical help at his hotel.The Republican served two terms as Pennsylvania governor from 1995 to 2001. He was the first homeland security secretary, serving under President George W. Bush until 2005.A statement on Monday said Ridge was in intensive care. It wasn't clear if he remains there.
  • New research suggests medical cannabis may play a key role in ending the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation. >> Read more trending news The findings from Aclara Research, a cannabis patient and consumer insights group, come soon after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in the U.S. as an estimated 175 Americans die from opioids each day. The study, which will be released in full in early 2018, was conducted in partnership with pharmacists active in the cannabis industry and included online surveys of more than 400 patients using prescription opioids nationwide. » RELATED: Trump declares US opioid emergency but pledges no new money Researchers also examined 500 pharmacists’ perceptions of medical cannabis and its role in the industry. According to the Aclara study, the preliminary findings showed that 67 percent of the patients stopped using opioid medications after using medical cannabis. » RELATED: Walgreens to begin selling OTC Narcan to combat opioid epidemic And another 29 percent reported a decrease in the number of opioid medications used after starting medical cannabis. Thirty percent of the patients said they stopped using any and all prescription drugs after using medical marijuana. » RELATED: US gun death rate up for second straight year, drug deaths rising faster than ever Of the 500 pharmacists surveyed, 87 percent said medical cannabis should be legalized, and 69 percent said pharmacists should dispense medical cannabis and counsel patients on medical cannabis use. Another recent study, published in the Public Library of Science last week, found opioid users were more likely to stop usage if they had access to medical marijuana. » RELATED: What is fentanyl? 10 things to know about the potentially deadly drug That study involved 66 patients using opioids to treat chronic pain. Over a 21-month period, patients who used medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opioids, and patients who didn’t use cannabis on average increased their opioid use by 10 percent over that time period, according to the research.  Research from 2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found states that had legalized medical marijuana saw lower rates of fatal opioid overdoses. Aclara researchers said they will continue to collect data and examine the results in conjunction with additional pharmacy partners. The study’s final results will be released in January 2018. Read more about the study at aclararesearch.com.