Santas of color, once met with controversy, now in high demand

Titan, 6 months, and Sadiq, 2, sit on Santa Larry’s lap during a recent visit. Courtesy of Tisa Mitchell

Santa Larry made headlines in 2016 when he made his debut, because he was the first-ever African-American Santa at the Mall of America. While black and Hispanic Santas are common in other parts of the country, they're not in Minnesota.

Ex-cons get a deeper look from employers in tight Minnesota job market

Power of People members including Elizer Darris gather at the end a weekly group meeting in north Minneapolis the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Darris started attending PoP meetings while in prison, making friends and mentors, many of whom he still sees at weekly meetings. Evan Frost | MPR News

With Minnesota's near-record jobless rate and more openings than people looking for work, there's new opportunity for people who've historically had the hardest time landing jobs — people with criminal records.

Bostrom stuns St. Paul City Council with surprise retirement

After more than 20 years on the St. Paul City Council, Bostrom said that "it's time to move on."

What you need to know about another wild week in the Russia investigation

The president's former personal lawyer is going to prison. A Russian woman is set to plead guilty to acting as a foreign agent. A former Trump national security adviser will soon learn his fate too.

Listen up: MPR News staffers' favorite podcasts of 2018

A customer inspects the new Apple iPhone 8 at an Apple Store on September 22, 2017 in San Francisco, California. The new Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as well as the updated Apple Watch and Apple TV, went on sale today. Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The day is only so long, but new podcasts are coming all the time. Never fear -- MPR News is here with our picks for the year's top podcasts.

Federal jury convicts 5 on charges they operated huge sex trafficking ring

U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Erica MacDonald announces the convictions of five people in a sex trafficking case on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Thirty-one others pleaded guilty to working in the organization that brought hundreds of Thai women to U.S. cities including Minneapolis. Matt Sepic | MPR News

Prosecutors say the national ring victimized hundreds of women from Thailand.

Arctic report card documents 'cascading effects' of rising ocean temperatures

The U.S. government says rising ocean temperatures and melting ice have resulted in the "most unprecedented transition in history" in the Arctic, leading to extreme weather events across the globe.

Fentanyl surpasses heroin as drug most often involved in deadly overdoses

When fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, infiltrated the drug supply in the U.S. it had an immediate, dramatic effect on the overdose rate.

Departed Strib film critic disputes plagiarism charge

Colin Covert who recently resigned as Star Tribune film critic after the newspaper found he had committed what it called an ethical breach by using “distinct phrasing” from other writers. Covert says he believes what he did was not plagiarism, but says he respects the paper’s decision. He says journalism faces a problem because there is no standard definition of plagiarism, and he hopes the Star Tribune will run an annual session on current understandings of what is and is not acceptable. Euan Kerr | MPR News

Colin Covert says his borrowing of phrases from other writers constitutes "fair use."

Art Hounds: Fine pottery at The Phipps

Janel Jacobson and Will Swanson’s pottery is on display at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson through January 13. Courtesy of Steven Arthur Johnson

Plus, Art Hounds recommend a bilingual performance of Handel's "Messiah" and a dance concert set to the soundtrack of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Almost 15,000 migrant children now held at nearly full shelters

With government shelters across the country nearing capacity, officials are considering a range of options from releasing the children more quickly to building more tent cities.

Superior residents ask feds to end use of toxic chemical at refinery

The Husky Energy refinery burns as seen from the air Thursday afternoon over Superior, Wis, on April 26, 2018. Bob King | Duluth News Tribune Bob King | Duluth News Tribune

After an explosion and massive fire at the Husky Energy refinery in Superior, Wis., in April, residents of Superior and Duluth are calling for the end of the use of a hazardous chemical used at the plant called hydrogen fluoride.

Evelyn Berezin, computer scientist behind groundbreaking word processor, dies at 93

In addition to revolutionizing how the world writes, Berezin also developed the first computer system for making airline reservations.

Election officials rethink 2020 presidential primary

A proposal that Secretary of State Steve Simon will put before lawmakers would shield party preference for the 2020 presidential primary. He's also seeking to institute an election exclusively by mail.

Tribune, Tronc and beyond: A slur, a secret payout, and a looming sale

Michael Ferro's actions contributed to a series of crises at Tribune Publishing, where he was its chairman and largest investor. David Paul Morris | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tribune Publishing secretly started to pay more than $2.5 million to a fired news executive to settle a lawsuit. It sought to keep a slur by controlling owner Michael Ferro from becoming public.

Minnesota undermines White House at UN climate talks

Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. Alik Keplicz | AP

J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Minnesota-based Fresh Energy, tells MPR News about the state's presence at international climate change talks in Poland.

Ex-judges to ICE: End immigration arrests at courthouses

Dozens of retired state and federal judges called Wednesday on U.S. immigration officials to stop making arrests at courthouses of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Mayors and governors rebut Trump administration position at climate summit

Federal officials at the U.N. climate meeting are ignoring climate science and touting coal and fossil fuels. But local and state authorities pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own.

America's growing cop shortage

Officer Christian Bruckhart works for the New Haven Police Department. Like many law enforcement agencies across the country, the department doesn't have enough officers. New Haven is 100 officers short. ***NOT FOR USE AS FILE ART; ONLY FOR USE WITH NPR STORY*** Ryan Caron King | Connecticut Public Radio

A hot job market and skepticism about law enforcement are making it harder for police departments across the country to replace officers who are retiring.

Trump wants to roll back federal water protections. What will that mean for Minnesota?

Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area includes about 23,000 acres, two-thirds of which is wetlands, Wedneday, Sept. 3, 2014 near Forest Lake. It's a popular area for bird watching. Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

The rule likely won't have significant impact in Minnesota, where state regulations of wetlands and other water bodies have been in place for decades. Here's a breakdown of the proposal and what it might mean for the state.

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