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Sen. Bernie Sanders appears in north Minneapolis at forum

David Joles/Star Tribune

Sen. Bernie Sanders at Friday's forum at Patrick Henry High School.

Hundreds of people are crowding into the gym at Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis, some wearing T-shirts for Bernie Sanders and others still undecided about whether to support the Democratic presidential candidate set to take the stage soon.

Sanders will speak at a community forum here before heading to the annual Humphrey-Mondale fundraising dinner in St. Paul, where Hillary Clinton will also make an appearance.

Activists in the Black Lives Matter movement have already made stirring calls at the North Side event, which comes as Sanders tries to make greater inroads with black voters.

“If you’re ready to have a conversation about Black Lives Matter, make some noise!” an activist called from the front of the room.

King Demetrius Pendleton said he and many of the people here are still undecided between Clinton and Sanders. A volunteer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, which put together the event, he said he wants to hear more about Sanders’ views on criminal justice, education, poverty and issues affecting the African-American community.

A lot of people say that what Sanders is proposing is not possible, Pendleton said, “but anything is possible.” Barack Obama running for president was also not seen as possible at one time, he added. “Anything is possible -- we have to stay open-minded.”

David Joles/Star Tribune

A row of public school teachers from around the Twin Cities came to cheer on Sanders, saying they were thinking not just of their own prospects but those of their low-income students.

“The things we like about Minnesota, we feel that Bernie would be able to do those things nationwide,” said Lindsey McNown, which teaches at North Community High School.

Like Sanders, she supports universal Pre-K.

“Every student should have a shot, but how many of these kids won’t get a chance to do that because of the system?” said her partner, Rich Bettini, also a teacher. “There’s so much promise that’s lost – how can we accept that?”

Tommy Leavitt came to the forum with his mind already made up: He was supporting Sanders.

“He’ll have to speak in an unscripted manner to the public and not control the narrative -- which is what I feel the Clinton campaign tries to do,” said Leavitt, who recently graduated from law school at St. Thomas. “And that shows him representing the views of the people.”

Around 4:45 p.m., an organizer got the audience cheering again.

“We are about 15 minutes away,” he yelled, “from a Democratic candidate for president of the United States making his way to north Minneapolis!”

More than a dozen members of the community drill team have marched in, banging drums and rallying the crowd.

After long fight, Senate finally OKs ambassadors to Sweden, Norway

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate confirmed ambassadors to Norway and Sweden early Friday -- bringing to a close a drawn out political fight on the Senate floor between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz.

Minnesotan Sam Heins, a lawyer and human rights advocate, is now the ambassador of Norway. The country has gone 869 days without an ambassador. For the Sweden post, the Senate confirmed Azita Raji, an Iranian born Wall Street executive living in California. 

Cruz had placed a "hold" on the two nominations -- a Senate procedure used to block actions -- because he opposed President Obama's nuclear deal. On Friday, Cruz spokesman Phil Novack said he lifted his hold because, after seven months, "he feels like he has successfully drawn attention to the issues that he believes are catastrophic in the Iranian nuclear deal."

That, and Cruz wanted to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy after a dissident. The Senate granted that wish Friday, naming the open area "Liu Xiaobo Plaza."

For the past seven months, Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken have called out Cruz's hold as an unfair poltiical maneuver that was hurting critical Scandinavian allies.

"I went to the floor every day for six days in a row to ask for consent or give a speech about it," Klobuchar said. "I am really pleased ... We once again have a Minnesotan in the embassy in Norway. History has been repeated."

"For far too long, the United States has been without ambassadors to Norway and Sweden," Franken said, in a statement. "Our nation shares a strong bond with both countries and nowhere is that more evident than in Minnesota, which has the largest Scandinavian population in the country."

Outside of Norway, Minnesota is home to the largest Norwegian population in the world. 

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