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Ravens OLB Steven Means suffers season-ending Achilles tendon injury; ILB Josh Ross placed on injured reserve | NOTES

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Ravens Olb Steven Means Suffers Season-Ending Achilles Tendon Injury; Ilb Josh Ross Placed On Injured Reserve | Notes
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Ravens outside linebacker Steven Means tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins and will miss the rest of the season, coach John Harbaugh announced Monday.

Means, 32, was carted off the field early in the second quarter after a carry by Miami running back Raheem Mostert. It was his only play of the game.

“Great guy,” Harbaugh said of Means, who had two tackles in Week 1. “We appreciate him very much.”

Means is the second Ravens outside linebacker to suffer an Achilles injury over the past two months. Vince Biegel, an offseason addition who’d impressed in training camp and likely would’ve made the 53-man roster, was lost for the year during an early-August practice.

Means’ injury leaves the Ravens with just two healthy outside linebackers on their 53-man roster: Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston. Practice squad outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell was released Monday, leaving rookie Jeremiah Moon as the only other player at the position available for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. Inside linebacker Malik Harrison has also lined up along the edge.

Along with Means, the Ravens placed inside linebacker Josh Ross on injured reserve Monday, meaning he’ll miss at least the team’s next four games. Ross, an undrafted rookie from Michigan, suffered a foot injury Sunday and can return in Week 7.

Ross hasn’t played a defensive snap for the Ravens but has been among the team’s leaders in special teams snaps, playing 18 in both Week 1 and Week 2.

Extra points

  • Harbaugh said cornerback Marcus Peters was on “a bit of a pitch count” in Sunday’s 42-38 loss to Miami. In his first game since tearing his ACL last preseason, Peters played 44 defensive snaps (62% total). “He was good,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a play or two he’s going to want back, for sure. He’s kind of feeling the speed of the game a little bit, I think. He’s going to look at that and go, ‘OK, I’ve got to keep taking the next step forward.’ But he’s a veteran player. He’s one of the most talented corners in the league. He certainly has been. And so just keep working him back into that form, and I’m excited that he’s back out there playing.”
  • Harbaugh said there’s a “good chance” that the Ravens’ secondary has better health Sunday in New England. Brandon Stephens missed Sunday’s loss with a quadriceps injury, and fellow cornerback Marlon Humphrey was limited by a groin injury. Rookie Damarion “Pepe” Williams also left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, but Harbaugh indicated that Means’ injury was the only significant setback from Week 2.
  • Running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) remains “week-to-week,” Harbaugh said. Dobbins, who missed all of last season with a significant knee injury, was a full participant in practice last week but was inactive for the second straight week. “When he’s ready, he’ll be out there,” Harbaugh said.
  • Tight end Nick Boyle, who missed practice time in Week 1 with an ankle injury, is “close to 100% right now,” Harbaugh said. Boyle was inactive for the second straight game Sunday. “There’s a good chance he’ll be out there this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to see. We’ve got some guys who are doing well. Josh Oliver’s been playing pretty darn good. So it just has to do with the right formula right now.”

Week 3

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 45

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Movie review: ‘Blonde’ a tour de force take on Marilyn Monroe’s fabulous, tragic life

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Movie Review: ‘Blonde’ A Tour De Force Take On Marilyn Monroe’s Fabulous, Tragic Life
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Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” is a “Phantom of the Opera” whose phantom hides her psychological scars behind the mask of a Hollywood screen goddess. Based on the 2000 novel by Joyce Carol Oates, the beautifully shot, almost three-hour film, which switches back and forth from color to black and white, presents Marilyn Monroe as both a damaged flesh-and-blood human being and a semi-divine, hyper-sexualized product of the 1950s studio system. This creation was fodder for gossip columns, abused and victimized by powerful men and designed to lure audiences, especially men, into movie theaters.

As the blonde of the title, Cuban actor Ana de Armas is genuinely heartbreaking. Her Monroe is, yes, beautiful and sexy, but also delightful, vulnerable, profoundly talented, far more intelligent and knowledgeable than she was ever given credit for and tragic. It is an exciting, star-making performance.

Also brilliant is Medford’s Julianne Nicholson as Gladys, the mother of little fatherless Norma Jeane Baker (a fine Lily Fisher). Following Oates’ Freudian lead, Dominik creates a father myth for Monroe when mentally unstable Gladys gives her daughter a dramatic photo of a dark-haired man, telling her that he is her father, but that she cannot utter his name. The film’s Marilyn calls her male partners, “Daddy,” for the rest of her life. After getting a start in modeling, Marilyn breaks into acting and is assaulted at her first major studio audition. Much of “Blonde” is prefigured in a scene in which Norma Jeane’s mother drives her as a child into the smoke and flame-filled hills of Hollywood. Welcome to the inferno, honey. Marilyn learns to place herself in a “circle of light” from an acting coach. She will need that skill to shield herself from most of the men she meets.

Marilyn gets a break playing the troubled Nell in “Don’t Bother to Knock” (1952). She also gets involved in a scandalous threesome with the sons of Charlie Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson. De Armas is topless in a lot of “Blonde.” We see simulated sex acts. But that NC-17 rating is as over-the-top as some of the dialogue (Dominik adapted the novel). Dominik chooses to distort the image to make it look like the threesome bodies are merging. “Niagara” (1953) makes Monroe a sensation, if not a human waterfall. Daryl F. Zanuck buys “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” for her. But Jane Russell makes 20 times more. Also, Monroe will be forced to have an abortion to keep the production moving along.

Giant, voluptuous images of Monroe appear over theater marquees. She’s bigger than life, a modern-day sex goddess. We see de Armas recreate the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” routine. She is very good. But Monroe was iconic. The film’s Marilyn begins to use pills and booze to self-medicate. She marries Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) in part to get out of Hollywood and study acting in New York City. But he is viciously jealous and beats her. Monroe did not invent the “male gaze.” But she turned it into her superpower. She marries celebrated playwright Arthur Miller (Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody) and almost clasps the happiness that has perversely eluded her. In the end, she becomes the cruelly treated plaything of an unnamed JFK. “Am I meat to be delivered?” she wonders. Her life is a wilderness of broken mirrors, ringing phones, talking fetuses, booze, drugs and voice-overs by a probably imaginary, letter-writing father. She needs a doctor on set to complete “Some Like It Hot” (1959). “Blonde” is a spooky, troubling evocation of Hollywood’s most obsessed-over star. If you liked “Mank,” “Blonde” will once again send you to movie heaven … and hell.


Grade: A-

MPAA rating: NC-17 (for some sexual content)

Running time: 2:46

How to watch: Now in theaters and streaming on Netflix Sept. 28

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ASK IRA: Are Heat keeping trade options open to potentially seize a moment?

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Ask Ira: Are Heat Keeping Trade Options Open To Potentially Seize A Moment?
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Q: Hey Ira, I am intrigued by the process of signing/waiting to sign Tyler Herro. Since Tyler was not a starter (but did play significant minutes) last season, it would seem logical for the Heat to argue that Tyler could sign a larger contract next offseason, or take less now on the laurels of a non-starter this past year. I would think that Tyler needs to decide if he wants to be paid prior to the season starting (for less) or bet on himself for further success this season to enhance the contract offer next summer. – David, Venice.

A: While I appreciate the logic, all the financials and analytics are secondary to this: The Heat effectively cannot trade Tyler Herro this season should an agreement be reached on an extension prior to the extension deadline at the start of the regular season. So even more than Tyler’s value in the moment is whether he could stand as a trade component by February’s NBA trading deadline (or before). And the Heat won’t know where they stand with Tyler as a rotation component until they first see where they stand with players such as Victor Oladipo, Max Strus and even Gabe Vincent.

Q: I see some upside in fringe players such as Marcus Garrett, Darius Days, et al., that could have Max Strus-like impact. That’s why I agree with Pat Riley’s philosophy of nothing being given, but rather earned. Right now saying the team’s rotation will be the same as the roster in April entering the playoffs is premature. – Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.

A: Exactly. A year ago at this time who thought that Caleb Martin would become a primary rotation component, or Max Strus? The Heat have a way of making it work. That is why I already mentioned keeping an eye on Haywood Haysmith. Now, it might not be Marcus Garrett or Darius Days. But the Heat are known for presenting opportunity. Will there be someone this time around to seize it?

Q: Ira, the 5 at 35 segments have really taken me back through the years. What are your professional Top 5 Heat moments in the last 35? – J.J.

A: Honestly, just being able to be here for all of it, including starting season No. 35 on Monday at media day at FTX Arena.


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How has Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spent the past 4 years? Advocating, just like before

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How Has Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Spent The Past 4 Years? Advocating, Just Like Before
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On paper, the Minnesota lieutenant governor is basically a backup.

Aside from chairing a few boards and commissions as required by law, the lieutenant governor’s only duty under the state Constitution is to take over if the governor can’t do the job.

But that’s changed over the years, and Peggy Flanagan, who was elected with Gov. Tim Walz in 2018, can’t be described as a mere backup.

Instead, according to Flanagan and those who’ve worked with her, the 43-year-old former state lawmaker is more of an insider advocate — critics say activist — for issues she’s spent most of her career supporting: public aid to poor parents and children, especially racial and ethnic minorities.

Now, she’s seeking a second term along with Walz, who will face the Republican ticket of former state Sen. Scott Jensen and his pick for lieutenant governor, former NFL star Matt Birk, in November’s general election.

Flanagan is married to former Minnesota Public Radio host Tom Weber, who now is assistant director of marketing at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and has a 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

Here are some things to know about Flanagan and how she’s spent her first term.


  • “There it is! My old locker,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan after spotting it as she walked through St. Louis Park High School on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan returned to her alma mater to speak at a voter registration rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Left, Is Greeted By Principal Lanisha Paddock At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan, left, is greeted by principal LaNisha Paddock. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Signs The Visitor Log At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan signs the visitor log at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Waves To Students In The Auditorium At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan waves to students in the auditorium. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Talks To Students At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan talks to students at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Greets Isaac Israel, 17, Center, And Sebastian Tangelson, Organizers Of A Voter Registration Rally At St. Louis Park High School, In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan greets Isaac Israel, 17, center, and Sebastian Tangelson, organizers of a voter registration rally at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Left, Poses With Student Marley Curtis, 15, Center, And Larry Kraft, A Candidate For Minnesota House District 46A, In The Auditorium At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan poses with student Marley Curtis, 15, center, and Larry Kraft, a candidate for Minnesota House District 46A, in the auditorium at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Walks Down Familiar Hallways At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan walks down familiar hallways at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)



Flanagan grew up in St. Louis Park, raised primarily by her mother. And, as she frequently points out in speeches and interviews, they were poor. She says it was only because of taxpayer-funded programs, including federal Section 8 housing vouchers, welfare payments and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — then called food stamps — that her mother was able to live in the suburb.

As a welfare recipient and member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Flanagan says she understands the experience of feeling marginalized. “There’s a lot of people around the Capitol who talk about ‘those people.’ I am one of ‘those people,’ ” she said in a recent interview with the Pioneer Press.

With some influence from her father, American Indian rights activist Marvin Manypenny, Flanagan set out to change what she saw as a system of public aid that needed improving.

“I was really intentional in building a career that allowed me to advocate,” she said, referring to a course steeped in left-wing activism.


Flanagan served on the Minneapolis school board from 2005 to 2009 and worked at Wellstone Action — now called Re:Power — training progressives to organize. That’s where she first met Walz, who at the time was less experienced in politics and considered Flanagan a mentor.

In 2013, she was hired as executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, which often lobbies the Legislature to fund programs that help poor kids. In 2015, she was elected to the Minnesota House, where she was a founding member of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus.

When Flanagan speaks about her American Indian identity, she’s direct.

“It’s hard to be a Native woman in a system that was not created by us or for us, and in many ways was created to eliminate us,” she said.

That sort of language, as well as her focus on racial justice and equity, have led some Republicans to keep Flanagan at arm’s length. More than a legislator or lieutenant governor, they see her as an activist who views everything through the lens of race.

Several Republicans who have worked with Flanagan on issues declined to speak on the record for this story, citing the charged atmosphere of the election season.

As for Jensen and Birk, their central campaign messages of improving public safety and the economy often target Flanagan and Walz as a unit for their response to the riots following George Floyd’s murder, spikes in violent crime and for what many Republicans viewed as a heavy-handed response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As for her identity as an American Indian, Flanagan — the first tribal member elected to statewide office in Minnesota and at one point the highest serving elected Indigenous person in America — has leaned into it from day one.


The Governor Speaks From Behind A Lectern.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, left, speak with reporters on May 2 at the Capitol following a news conference. (Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service)

Inside the ornate Governor’s Reception Room of the Minnesota Capitol, three flags hang: the American flag, the Minnesota state flag and — since Walz and Flanagan assumed office — the flag of the White Earth Nation.

“We’re in this office, and I’m a citizen of White Earth and I’m a citizen of Minnesota, so why not have both flags?” she said.

The move never was publicly questioned, but it’s made some conservatives and Capitol observers uneasy; after all, tribal policy and state policy sometimes are in opposition. Flanagan brushes off the concern.

“Of course, there’s tension when we’re interpreting tribal and state and federal law, but the quality of the relationships has been improving,” she said.

Indeed, formal relations between the state and the tribes arguably is at a high point. An early executive order by Walz bolstered the state’s recognition of tribal sovereignty by, among other things, requiring state agencies to consult with tribal officials on policy and procedures. Earlier this year, that stand was approved by the bipartisan Legislature and now is codified in state law.


Aside from the at times all-encompassing task of navigating the pandemic alongside Walz, Flanagan has grown into the role of behind-the-scenes policy advocate for her cherished causes.

The self-described “policy nerd” has been integral in working with the governor’s Cabinet formulating his budget proposals. She keeps a “hot sheet” to track bills relating to those issues, and she’s the primary liaison with the wider community of government and nonprofit providers — many of whom she’s known for years.

That level of access and understanding has been eye-opening, some say.

“The difference is that when Lt. Gov. Flanagan gets into that role, I don’t have to explain or educate people on that policy,” said Jessica Webster, a veteran lobbyist and staff attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, which advocates for programs for the poor. “She feels it. She knows it. And she’s experienced it. In the three administrations I’ve worked with — those include Republicans and Democrats — this is the first time that someone with an election certificate in that office really understands these programs.”


Webster credits Flanagan for an early victory for advocates of anti-poverty spending: a $100 increase in monthly payments from the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s welfare program for low-income families with children.

“That was huge,” Webster said. “I personally had been running an uphill battle on that for 17 years.”

The increase, approved in 2019, was the first in 33 years. “It hadn’t seen an increase since I was in eighth grade,” said Flanagan, who benefited from the program in her childhood. “It’s always been on my radar. I lobbied for it at Children’s Defense, I worked on it in the Legislature, and frankly, it matters who’s in the room where it happens.”

Despite her unapologetic posture as a progressive, Flanagan underscores that the MFIP increase and subsequent legislation that indexed future increases to inflation were approved by a politically divided House and Senate.

“Relationships matter, and I build those relationships,” she said.

Flanagan said she’s also helped secure state investments in affordable housing and the creation of a state office dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The latter was created with what amounts to lightning speed for the Capitol: In 2019, a task force was formed to study the problem — homicide rates for Native women are seven times higher than for white women — and earlier this year, the state office was up and running.

While Flanagan is quick to note that the plan had numerous supporters — from tribal advocates to fellow American Indian lawmakers and white Republicans — she has no doubt her presence as the No. 2 in the executive branch was critical when it came to approving funding in the public safety bill.

“For the first time ever in the history of Minnesota,” she said, “there was an Indigenous woman at the negotiating table.”

Coming soon: A report on Republican lieutenant governor candidate Matt Birk.

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Sheriff sounds alarm as Ramsey County jail population climbs

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A Jail Official Handles A Temporary Bed.
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Inside the Ramsey County jail, there are nights that people sleep on mattresses on plastic cots because there aren’t enough beds.

After clearing out many people from the jail during the coronavirus pandemic, the facility in St. Paul is back to being full, but now there are new concerns.

The Ramsey County sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, told county board members that a variety of factors are at work, including:

  • A state court backlog due to the pandemic.
  • More people being held on murder or attempted murder charges.
  • More people waiting for court-ordered evaluations for mental illness.

“The care and the safety of the inmates in our jail is at risk if the population continues to grow,” Sheriff Bob Fletcher told county commissioners recently.

The sheriff’s office requested an additional $2 million for housing and feeding inmates next year. The jail’s budget is $21.7 million this year.

County commissioners have been meeting with staff from the courts, public health, corrections and other departments about how to reduce the number of people in the jail when they’re not being held for violent offenses, said Trista MatasCastillo, chair of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

“At the same time, we are looking deeper at the harder-to-solve situations about mental health,” she said. “There are a ton of budget implications and not easy solutions.”


The Ramsey County Adult Detention Center is a pre-trial facility intended to hold people for a short time. The average stay is six days, but some, such as murder suspects, can be held for a year or more, said Lt. Mike Johnson, the jail’s assistant superintendent. There were 36 people being held on charges of murder or attempted murder as of last week.

The average stay is 72 days for people waiting for a mental health competency evaluation, Johnson said.

“The fact is they don’t belong in a jail,” Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said during a county board budget committee meeting. “They belong in mental health facilities or getting services.”

Though the jail has mental health counselors, it’s not intended to be a place for intensive treatment.

If a judge, prosecutor or defense attorney feels that someone charged with a crime doesn’t understand their court proceedings because of mental illness or a cognitive issue, such as a traumatic brain injury, they can ask for a competency evaluation.

The number of competency evaluations ordered in Ramsey County District Court increased by 84 percent from 2020 to 2021, and the numbers this year are on track to surpass last year, according to court information.

Court rules call for competency evaluations to be completed in 60 days, but evaluators can’t keep up with the caseload, said Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro. Judges can order that people are released from jail, with conditions attached, if they aren’t a flight risk or a threat to the public; otherwise, bail is set.

At least 30 people in the Ramsey County jail as of last week were waiting for competency evaluations, Johnson said.


Johnson shows a “boat” bed used when there’s a lack of space in cells. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Looking at the average daily population of the Ramsey County jail in June of various years, it was 319 in 2013; 379 in 2019; 172 during the pandemic in 2020; and 424 this June, according to the sheriff’s office. The high was 473 over the summer, Johnson said.

Any time the population rises above 440, it “causes logistical problems for us,” Fletcher told the county board. The jail’s average daily population has been above that number since April.

When the jail surpasses 440, some inmates have to sleep on a mattress on a Stack-A-Bunk — jail staff call them “boats” because they look like small canoes. There were three people who slept on the temporary beds Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Though the jail has 492 beds, traditional cells have bunkbeds and the jail can’t use all of them because they need to separate people by gender or risk — people with the most serious mental health or behavioral issues are held in cells without another inmate, Johnson said. They’ve also been quarantining people when they arrive at the jail to make sure they don’t have COVID-19.


Thousands of cases through Minnesota’s court system were put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. Ramsey County had a backlog of about 1,500 gross misdemeanor and felony cases, but they’ve been able to reduce it by about 20 percent, Castro said.

“That backlog has a significant impact on people who are involved in the justice system — whether it’s the accused person, the victim’s family members, community members. Their lives are on hold,” Castro said. “We need and want these matters brought to conclusion.”

The judicial system in Ramsey County is coordinating with prosecutors and defense attorneys to have back-to-back hearings for less serious cases that have been lingering in the court system. Castro said the latest involved about 60 cases of people being held in the jail for non-violent offenses; however, it amounted to about 30 people because some had more than one case, Johnson said.

The next set of cases Castro said they’re aiming to get moved through the court system are gross misdemeanor charges from suburban Ramsey County. There are more than 200 cases that were filed at least six months ago, Castro said.

These aren’t situations of “catch and release,” Castro said, but letting people have their day in court without further delays. If the cases aren’t resolved through guilty pleas or dismissals, judges aim to get trials scheduled quickly.

If the courts can continue moving cases through the system, the jail can return to a population that’s in the “safe range again,” Reinhardt said recently.


County commissioners who heard from Fletcher about the jail at a budget meeting this month said they’re concerned about the situation, but told the sheriff that his budget request was too late for a meaningful discussion.

Reinhardt, who chairs the budget committee, noted a letter about the budget from Chief Deputy Dave Metusalem arrived late in the afternoon the day before Fletcher’s presentation and the PowerPoint presentation arrived the morning of the presentation.

“To get something this late … it’s not respectful of our process nor of this county board,” Reinhardt said. “… We will make full analysis of everything.”

Fletcher said the information is part of ongoing discussions they’ve been having about the jail and they’re not just beginning to deal with it. Commissioners listened to the sheriff’s presentation and said they will get back to his office about the budget requests.

The sheriff’s office requested $1.5 million to house inmates at other locations and that a reduction of $471,000 for 2023 food service be restored.

Because Ramsey County works in a two-year budget cycle, county commissioners aren’t proposing a change to the 4.54 percent property tax levy increase for 2023 they approved last December. The budget discussions they’ve been having are for a supplemental budget of $785 million for next year, which they’ll vote on in December.


The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners will vote Tuesday to approve the proposed maximum tax levy to finance the 2023 budget.

Residents, businesses and other stakeholders can submit budget feedback to commissioners through an online feedback form that’s available at They can also contact their commissioner directly.

A public hearing about the budget was held this month and a second one will be Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

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Skywatch: The big bird flies high

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Double-Star Albireo
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Among the constellations seen from Earth throughout the year, there are heroes, hunters, musical instruments, royalty, and all kinds of critters, including eight birds. The biggest and brightest bird constellation seen from Minnesota/Western Wisconsin is Cygnus the Swan, flying high overhead these autumn evenings. The bright star at the tail of the high-flying swan is Deneb, nearly overhead in the early evening this time of year. Deneb is also one of the stars of the Summer Triangle. The other stars are Vega and Altair, the brightest in their respective constellations, Lyra and Aquila. Just look for the three brightest stars you can see straight overhead and that’s it.

Deneb is the dimmest star of the Summer Triangle, but it is by no means a small star. Quite the contrary; it’s an incredibly huge star at least 1,500 light-years away, and some astronomers argue that it may be even more distant. Just one light-year equals almost 6 trillion miles. Light years are also a measure of time. Even if Deneb is just 1,500 light-years away, the light we see from it tonight left that star around 500 A.D.!  It’s not likely, but if Deneb were to experience a very violent supernova explosion tonight, our descendants wouldn’t see the blast until the year 3500.

According to the latest data, Deneb has a diameter of at least 175 million miles. Our own sun comes nowhere near that, at only 864,000 miles.  Deneb is also estimated to kick out at least 60,000 times more light and other radiation than our sun.

Cygnus the Swan contains within it a pattern of stars called the Northern Cross. Deneb marks the head of the cross, and at the foot of the cross is the not-so-impressive star Albireo, at least to the naked eye. It’s actually much easier to first see the Northern Cross before taking on the entire swan. If you’re facing south, the cross will be overhead, leaning to the left. By the way, Albireo, as benign as it appears to the naked eye, is a great telescope target. Even a small telescope reveals that Albireo is not just one star but a beautiful pair of stars, one gold and the other blue. It’s one of the best double stars in the sky.

Double-star Albireo (Mike Lynch)

To expand on the Northern Cross and find the rest of Cygnus is easy; extend both ends of the crosspiece. There are faint stars off both sides that convert the crosspiece into the swan’s wingspan. Deneb marks the tail of the swan and Albireo serves as the swan’s head.

I love the Greek and Roman mythology story of how Cygnus wound up as a constellation. It’s a sad one, although it has a somewhat happy ending.  Apollo was one of the most important gods of Mount Olympus. He was the god of the sun, with the critical job of faithfully guiding the sun chariot across the sky every single day. The chariot was pulled gallantly by a fleet of flying white horses. The sun rode inside the giant glass chariot. Apollo loved his job and was rewarded handsomely by Zeus, the king of the gods.

Diagram Of Cygnus The Swan Constellation
(Mike Lynch)

One of the sun god’s kids was Phaethon, who at 10 years old idolized his dad and hoped to someday take over the reins of the sun chariot. Phaethon repeatedly begged his dad to take the sun chariot for a ride, but Apollo refused. He was just too young. Phaethon, though, was convinced he could handle it. One morning temptation set in, and disaster quickly followed.

It was about an hour before Apollo was to take the reins of his sun chariot. Phaethon was up early that morning and broke into the hangar where the sun chariot spent the night. This was his chance!  He climbed in, backed it out of the hangar, and bellowed out a big giddy-up! Before he knew it, Phaethon was airborne with the sun chariot and flying quite well until he started to hotdog it, zigzagging and pulling celestial wheelies. He soon lost control and was on his way to a horrible crash.

From Mount Olympus, Zeus saw what was happening and took immediate action. He thought some scoundrel had stolen the chariot, not knowing his grandson was in the driver’s seat. He shouted down to Apollo, finally waking him, and then shot a lightning bolt at Phaethon, spearing him out of the driver’s seat and on the way to a fatal plunge. With the sun chariot totally out of control and within minutes of crashing, Apollo quickly borrowed his sister Diana’s moon chariot to catch up with his sun chariot and soon had it under control.

Phaethon plunged into the river Po and drowned. Other gods took great pity on the young lad. Instantly, they raised his body out of the river and magically transformed it into a beautiful celestial swan winging its way in our night sky.

Celestial Happening this week: The very bright planet Jupiter is on the rise in the eastern evening sky, rising at sunset. You can’t miss it! Jupiter’s by far the bright starlight object in the evening sky. This week Jupiter’s is the closest it’s been to Earth since 1951! Even with a good pair of binocular you may see up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons that appear as little “stars” either side of Jupiter. You may even see some of Jupiter’s cloud bands. I’ll have much more about Jupiter in the coming weeks in Skywatch


  • Monday, Sept. 26, (weather backup date Sept. 28) 7:30-8:30 p.m., at Patriot Park in Marshall, Minn. For more information, call Marshall Public Library at 507-537-7003 or visit
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Hutchinson Middle School, Hutchinson, Minn. Call Community Education at 320- 587-2975 or visit
  • Thursday, Sept. 29, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sandburg Learning Center in Golden Valley, Minn. For more information or reservations, call 763-504-4170 or visit
  • Friday, Sept. 30, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sauk City, Wis., through Sauk Prairie Schools. For location and reservations call, 608-643-8346 or visit
  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30-9:30 p.m., at Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Coleraine, Minn. Reservations required Call 218-245-6232 or visit

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at [email protected]

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‘Idol’ made Kelly Clarkson a star 20 years ago. Now she’s got one on the Walk of Fame

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‘Idol’ Made Kelly Clarkson A Star 20 Years Ago. Now She’s Got One On The Walk Of Fame
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LOS ANGELES — For Kelly Clarkson, her Walk of Fame ceremony was a homecoming.

Twenty years ago this month, Clarkson wowed Hollywood as the inaugural winner of “American Idol” in 2002. On Monday, she returned to the famed Los Angeles boulevard to celebrate not only herself but also the team that launched her stardom.

“I think [it’s] important to have not just ‘yes’ people around you but people that actually love you and care about you and give their honest advice. I’ve always welcomed that, and I think that is why I’m here today,” Clarkson, 40, said upon receiving the Walk of Fame’s 2,733rd star.

“Not just because of myself, but because of having constantly teams of people that love you and support you and really want to make your dreams come true while making their dreams come true.”

Clarkson, in a black velvet gown, delivered her acceptance speech amid cheering outbursts from excited fans who watched from the Ovation Hollywood mall — including through the window of a nearby Walgreens and the upper-level balconies next to Dave & Buster’s.

Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lupita Sanchez Cornejo declared “Kelly Clarkson Day” in Hollywood as key figures in the singer’s career came to celebrate.

Longtime collaborator and producer Jason Halbert was on hand, as were original “American Idol” judges Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, who crowned Clarkson the first “Idol” champion two decades ago. (Abdul said she rescheduled her flight to catch the “Stronger” singer’s ceremony.)

The ceremony, held at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. in front of Ovation Hollywood, also featured speeches from Halbert, Cowell and Abdul.

Halbert remembered meeting Clarkson after she won the “American Idol” crown.

“Her voice was a gift she was born with, and I believe it’s unmatched by anyone alive,” Halbert said. “But it’s her authenticity and her heart that has captured the soul of America and the world these past 20 years.

“She’s used her voice to give a vocabulary to us who have suffered heartache, pain and suffering. She’s given us anthems to celebrate love and songs to mark the milestones in our lives.”

Similarly, Cowell remembered thinking that Clarkson was going to win the singing competition, then airing on Fox, after hearing her perform Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” He also recalled how Clarkson asked that they didn’t speak to each other until the end of the competition. She clarified that she wanted to be “respectful” of the competitive environment.

“I remember that moment when your name was called, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Thanks to you, we may have another season,’” he quipped to Clarkson. “I can honestly say, ‘Thanks to you, I’m here today.’”

“The Kelly you see in front of the camera is the Kelly you see behind the camera,” Cowell added. “She is one of the nicest, most loyal, most talented people I’ve had the great, great fortune to have [met].”

Abdul also sang Clarkson’s praises.

“Your talent, your tenacity, your grace, your dignity made Season 1 all worth it of me having to sit next to a British guy to the left of me, and a wonderful man to the right of me,” she joked about her fellow judges.

The “Straight Up” singer told Clarkson that she’s “living proof” of the impact of “American Idol,” a show that “changed the world.”

“Thank you for changing the trajectory of my life and making me believe — like a kid believes in Santa Claus — that young, talented people can make it, and that they can make it big time,” Abdul said.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Clarkson has scored a number of hits, including “A Moment Like This,” “Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” while racking up three Grammy Awards out of 15 nominations.

Beyond music, Clarkson has served as a judge and mentor on ABC’s “Duets” and NBC’s “The Voice.” And in 2019, she launched her own daytime talk show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” which has received numerous Daytime Emmy awards.

After the speeches came Clarkson’s photo shoot with her newly minted Hollywood star — and some unexpected singing from her fans. While the singer posed with her children and various teams, a portion of the crowd broke out into her “Since U Been Gone” and “A Moment Like This” to catch her attention.

Joey Prather was one of the attendees who lent his voice to the impromptu chorus. Visiting from Hawaii, Prather wasn’t expecting to attend the ceremony. He said he was walking around the area when he stumbled upon the crowd and saw Clarkson, Cowell and others. The Walk of Fame celebrity sightings weren’t a stroke of luck for Prather. Instead, he said, “Things happen for a reason.”

“You get all the community to come together … it’s something special,” he said. “It’s something I can look back on later on.”

Unlike Prather, James Bany planned to attend Clarkson’s ceremony when he learned of the event through the Walk of Fame’s Instagram account. Bany, who made the trek from Riverside, came dressed for the occasion.

He wore a T-shirt from Clarkson’s 2019 The Meaning of Life tour, which he said was the most recent concert he’s experienced since the pandemic began.

Bany, who discovered Clarkson through “American Idol,” said her music has gotten him through several break-ups, and he thinks her legacy is “just getting started.”

“She’s in it for the long haul,” he said. “She’s incredible.”

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