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Appeals court revives part of civil rights lawsuit surrounding Suburban snowbound during DAPL protest

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Appeals court revives part of civil rights lawsuit surrounding Suburban snowbound during DAPL protest


BISMARCK — An Arizona couple who lost a federal lawsuit over a vehicle that was rented during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in south-central North Dakota have had part of their case revived.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently sent part of Michael and Jessica Wood’s case back to U.S. District Court in Bismarck, reopening the door for the couple to pursue monetary damages from a Bismarck rental franchisee and two of its employees. Trial has been scheduled for Nov. 18.

Michael Wood Jr., of Glendale, Arizona, a former U.S. Marine and Baltimore police officer, rented a Suburban from Hertz in 2016 when he came to Bismarck as part of an effort to bring hundreds of military veterans to a DAPL protest camp. The goal was to support opposition by tribes and environmentalists to the oil pipeline being routed near the Standing Rock Reservation and under its Missouri River drinking water supply.

The vehicle became snowbound in a blizzard and wasn’t returned to the rental company. The dispute that followed between Wood and Hertz resulted in Wood being charged in January 2017 with felony theft. Wood and his wife, Jessica, were detained at the U.S. border in California when returning from a Mexico vacation in August 2019, though they were not arrested.

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Prosecutors in March 2020 dropped the theft charge, but Wood and his wife sued in March 2021, alleging Hertz Corp. officials falsely accused him of stealing the Suburban in retaliation for his social media criticism of the company’s service or his support of the pipeline protest. The defendants disputed the retaliation allegation.

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U.S. District Judge Dan Traynor later in 2021 dismissed the City of Bismarck and two police officers as defendants in the civil rights lawsuit, along with two Hertz employees in Oklahoma. The Woods voluntarily dropped Hertz as a defendant after the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. That left Bismarck franchisee Overland West Inc. and two of its employees — Alexandria Huber and John Kaelberer — as the only remaining defendants in the suit that sought unspecified monetary damages.

Traynor about a year ago ruled against the Woods on all of their claims — malicious prosecution, negligence, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, and negligent training and supervision. The Woods appealed.

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A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit recently upheld Traynor’s ruling that Overland did not breach its rental contract with the Woods. But the panel ruled that the Woods had presented enough evidence to possibly convince a jury of their claims of malicious prosecution, negligence, and negligent training and supervision.

The judges concluded “the Woods presented sufficient evidence that Kaelberer lacked probable cause to believe that Wood had stolen the vehicle when he contacted police,” and that “further, a jury could infer malice based on Kaelberer’s testimony that he filed the police report to collect a debt, and testimony that Overland employees were aware of Wood’s negative tweet and considered it harassing and threatening.”

The judges also said there was enough evidence that a jury might conclude Overland employees’ efforts to reach out to Wood before contacting police were insufficient, and that Overland failed to properly train its employees regarding the filing of stolen vehicle reports.

The Woods’ attorney, Roberto Alejandro, said, “We agree with the 8th Circuit’s decision and now turn our attention to preparing for trial.”

Defendants attorney Joel Flom did not respond to a Bismarck Tribune request for comment before being withdrawn from the case. The defendants’ new attorney, Bradley Beehler, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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North Dakota

North Dakota Superintendent Helping Schools Develop AI Guidelines

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North Dakota Superintendent Helping Schools Develop AI Guidelines


North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced new state guidance on artificial intelligence (AI) designed to assist local schools in developing their own AI policies and to help teachers and administrators work more efficiently.

A group of educators from North Dakota schools, the NDDPI, the Department of Career and Technical Education, and state information technology agencies created this guidance, which is available on the Department of Public Instruction’s website.

Baesler emphasized that implementing AI, like any instructional tool, requires careful planning and alignment with educational priorities, goals, and values.

She stressed that humans should always control AI usage and review its output for errors, following a Human-Technology-Human process. “We must emphasize keeping the main thing the main thing, and that is to prepare our young learners for their next challenges and goals,” Baesler said.

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Steve Snow and Kelsie Seiler from the NDDPI Office of School Approval and Opportunity highlighted that the guidance was drawn from various state education agencies and technology websites, such as Code.org and TeachAI.org, with the process taking about eight months.

“We had a team that looked at guidance from other states, and we pulled pieces from different places and actually built guidance tailored for North Dakota students,” Snow said.

Seiler explained that AI excels at data analysis, predictive analytics, and automating repetitive tasks but lacks emotional intelligence, interdisciplinary research, and problem-solving abilities.

Snow added that AI can help teachers design lesson plans aligned with North Dakota’s academic content standards quickly and adjust them for students who need more support. AI can also simplify the development of personalized learning plans for students.

“You have so many resources (teachers) can use that are going to make your life so much easier,” Snow said. “I want the teachers, administration, and staff to get comfortable with using (AI), so they’re a little more comfortable when they talk to kids about it.”

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Seiler noted that the NDDPI guidance is not a “how-to” manual for using AI but offers general suggestions on developing local policies to leverage AI effectively.

“Our guidance is meant to provide some tools to the school administration and say, ‘Here are some things to think about when you implement your own AI guidance,’” Snow said.

“For instance, do you have the infrastructure to support (AI)? Do you have a professional development plan so your teachers can understand it? Do you have governance in place that says what AI can and can’t be used for?”

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These foods are easy to find on store shelves wherever you buy your groceries in Montana. However in other states they’re banned from the shelves!

Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart

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Big List Of The Best French Fries In Montana

Gallery Credit: mwolfe

 





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The most deadly time to drive is between Memorial Day and Labor Day

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The most deadly time to drive is between Memorial Day and Labor Day


NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — The hundred-day span between Memorial Day and Labor Day is marked as the most deadly period on the road here in North Dakota.

According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s 2022 crash summary report, fatal crashes are twice as likely during this time.

That’s why North Dakota leaders are urging drivers to not fall into a “false sense of security” during the bright and cheery days of summer.

According to Travel and Leisure, North Dakota has been marked as the state with the most reckless drivers.

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There’s a range of reasons for this from drunk driving to speeding. But another reason is that when the snow clears, North Dakota drivers are eager to get out more and drive faster than they would in the snow, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Division director.

And because North Dakota has some of the lowest citation fees in the nation, ranging from $5 to $100, the Highway Patrol’s safety and education officer says that drivers aren’t given enough deterrents to drive safely.

However, with growing concerns about safety, there could be talk of increasing citation amounts in coming legislative sessions.



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NDGF taking proactive measures to prevent aquatic nuisance species from spreading

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NDGF taking proactive measures to prevent aquatic nuisance species from spreading


BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – Aquatic nuisance species are nonnative plants, animals and pathogens that can threaten our aquatic resources. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is taking proactive measures to stop the spread of ANS into our waterbodies by conducting watercraft inspections at popular boat ramps statewide.

“We got watercraft inspectors that are working throughout this summer around the state of North Dakota to check boats, to educate boat owners to do the right things at ramps, make sure boats are all clean, drain, dry before recreating here,” said Ben Holen, NDGF Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator.

What can anglers or watercraft recreationists expect when they come to an ANS inspection?

“A watercraft inspector will ask a few questions, only takes a couple minutes, and then they look at the hull of the boat. They’re looking at the engine area, looking at the anchor and also looking at all drain compartments, making sure all water is out of that watercraft. Everything is drained. Everything is cleaned, drained, dry before you get on that water body,” said Holen.

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These watercraft inspections are voluntary and most people are cooperative and thankful the Game and Fish Department is spearheading efforts to stop the spread of ANS.

“We see a lot of our fishermen are really educated about aquatic nuisance species. They’re pulling their plugs every time, removing vegetation, doing the right things. Occasionally there are slip-ups, but that’s why our inspectors are out here making sure that those boats are good to go,” said Holen.

It’s not only fishing boats that are inspected, it’s all watercraft.

“So whether you’re a jet skier, a kayak, a canoer, a wakeboarder, you all play a part in curbing the spread of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota,” said Holen.

The purpose of these inspections is to educate the public so they can help curb the spread of ANS.

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“We can’t be at every ramp, every single circumstance, so hopefully some of these recreationists can take the tools that they learn from watercraft inspectors and apply them on their own when they’re out there recreating on their own and do a self-inspection,” said Holen.

The Game and Fish Department is committed to safeguarding our natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

“So we really, really like to keep it that way and keep these resources pristine for a long time,” said Holen.

For more information on Aquatic Nuisance Species, visit gf.nd.gov

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