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MinnPost’s news technology director moving to a new job at the Investigative News Network

4 hours 21 min ago
Kaeti Hinck

Kaeti Hinck, MinnPost’s director of news technology, has accepted a new position, director of design for the Investigative News Network. 

Kaeti joined MinnPost four years ago, and was promoted to be director of news technology in 2011. 

Kaeti led the team that redesigned MinnPost’s website and moved us to an open-source content management platform — and judging by response at the time and results of our recent reader survey, it was a big success. She also developed MinnPost’s news data team, which has produced many exciting, innovative projects for our readers.

We’re sorry to see her go, but happy that she’s staying in the family, since MinnPost is a proud member of her new employer, INN. 

INN’s announcement of Kaeti’s new role is here. And you can read what Kaeti wrote on her personal blog, recounting her years at MinnPost and looking ahead to the next phase of her career.

Vikings reinstate Adrian Peterson for Sunday's game

5 hours 7 min ago

He’ll play. ESPN reports, “The Minnesota Vikings announced Monday that running back Adrian Peterson will return to practices and meetings this week and is expected to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. … [Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement], “We believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.”

Peterson himself also released a statement. Matt Vensel and Master Tesfatsion of the Strib write, “Peterson issued a statement, saying in part: “I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day."

Also in the Strib, Patrick Reusse says, “Adrian Peterson is a knothead. He has proven that with idiotic comments through the years, such as comparing NFL players to ‘slaves,’ and suggesting he has no trouble with gay people as long as he doesn’t wind up in a locker-room shower at the same time. … Peterson lost me a year ago, when he accepted condolences from NFL players and the public after the death of a son as if he had spent countless hours tickling that 2-year-old under the chin. Within a couple of days, we found out Peterson had never met the child … never made the short drive from Mankato to Sioux Falls last summer, after finding out he was the dad. My reaction was, ‘It’s official. Our hero Adrian is a fraud.’”

In Slate, Amanda Hess continues the reaction to Peterson’s beating of his four year-old son … . “In cases of domestic abuse, violence and love don’t just exist under the same roof; they work in tandem. If [Darnell] Dockett and [Mark] Ingram Jr. had come away with alternate conclusions about the motivations and fallout of their parents’ discipline — ‘It was all hate though’; ‘I hate both my parents’ —they would not be defending Peterson today. Appealing to love allows abusers to maintain control over their victims far after they leave the home and serves to perpetuate the violence across generations. Few abusers are wholly evil people who openly hate their kids and seek to raise them exactly the wrong way.”

Still in a football mode. The AP says, “The former Minnesota State, Mankato football player who made a remarkable recovery after he was gravely injured in a bar fight last May has suffered a seizure. Isaac Kolstad was taken to the emergency room on Friday night where doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy. His wife, Molly Kolstad, wrote on his CaringBridge website that he wasn't injured during the episode and will take medication to control the seizures long term.”

In other scandals: Emily Gurnon of the PiPress writes, “More than half the tenured faculty members of the University of St. Thomas theology department have sent an open letter to Archbishop John Nienstedt insisting the ‘pastoral state of the archdiocese is not sustainable’ without significant changes. ‘The people of God rightly expect bishops to be good stewards of the Lord's household,’ said the letter, sent to Nienstedt on Friday and distributed publicly Monday morning. ‘Recent events have shown how badly the pastoral leadership of the archdiocese has failed to meet those expectations.’ … The letter does not call for Nienstedt's resignation; Assistant Professor of Theology Massimo Faggioli said Monday that the group is not taking a position on that matter.”  Best to wait for more evidence.

For The Hill, Peter Sullivan looks at the latest Minnesota Poll on the Franken-McFadden race and says, “The poll finds that Franken leads 49 percent to 36 percent among likely voters. The race was always somewhat of a stretch for Republicans in blue-leaning Minnesota, but this poll indicates Franken's lead is widening. Previous recent polls tended to give Franken a lead in the high single digits. … Fifty-five percent said Franken has ‘focused on issues that are most important to Minnesotans,’ while 37 percent said he had not.”

A real 1 percenter problem: owning too many pro sports teams. Joe Yerdon of SB Nation says, “If you thought the party to buy the New York Islanders was already crowded, according to the New York Post there's one more person looking to crash. The Post reports Phil Falcone, a hedge fund investor and co-owner of the Minnesota Wild, is looking to dump his share in the Wild and wants to invest in the Islanders. Falcone's interest may stem from his friendship with soon-to-be Islanders owner Jon Ledecky.”

Meanwhile, Michelle MacDonald’s trial has begun. Marino Eccher of the PiPress says, “MacDonald goes to trial Monday on drunken driving charges from a 2013 Rosemount traffic stop. MacDonald, 52, also faces charges for refusing a blood-alcohol test and obstructing the legal process. She maintains her innocence and her attorney has said he will call a witness who will exonerate her.” Who’s he going to call? The Lord Almighty?

Oops. I missed this one this morning. Tom Scheck at MPR reports, “A national comedian announced this weekend that he’s going to work to defeat Minnesota Republican Congressman John Kline in the November election. Bill Maher made the announcement on his HBO program Friday night after running the so-called ‘Flip a District’ contest. He said his viewers picked [Second District Cong. John] Kline over 16 other Republicans because Kline backs for-profit colleges that Maher said result in high student debt. ‘The living embodiment of legislation for hire,’ Maher said as he announced Kline as the winner. ‘The Men’s Wearhouse of empty suits. From Minnesota’s 2nd District, come on down, John Kline!’”

Minnesota joins multistate voter registration group

6 hours 10 min ago

Minnesota has joined a multistate consortium that will help provide more accurate voter registration officials at the polls.

As a new member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), officials say Minnesota will now compare Minnesota’s voter rolls to Minnesota’s driver’s license database, the Social Security Administration’s death information and other states’ voter rolls.

Also in the consortium are the District of Columbia, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Officials say the new data will help update records for voters who moved in-state, and clean up clerical errors on voter registration records.

The Minnesota Secretary of State's office will provide the new, updated information to counties, so voter registration officials can identify and eliminate duplicate, deceased and out-of-state voter records.

Under the new system, Minnesota also will mail postcards "to voting-age Minnesotans with driver’s licenses or state IDs, who, according to the computer match, do not appear to be registered to vote." Look for those in the mail this week (although MinnPost readers surely are registered already, right?).

But, state officials say some registered voters may also get the postcards, if their driver’s license or state ID records do not match up exactly to an existing voter registration record. If you get a card, and believe you already are registered, you you can check the registration online at mnvotes.org. If the registration look-up tool confirms that you are registered at your current address, no further action is necessary. If the look-up does not confirm the registration, you can register online at mnvotes.org and correct any errors.

Chris Kluwe blasts the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice assault, says: 'The tape never lies'

8 hours 32 min ago

Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who's had his own problems with the NFL after he was cut from the team (and has since settled his claims of homophobic behavior in the organization), takes a shot in Time magazine at Commissioner Roger Goodell's handling of the Ray Rice domestic assault case.

(Kluwe wrote the piece before Adrian Peterson was indicted in Texas on charges that he "caused reckless or negligent injury to a child" when he whipped his 4-year-old son with a switch. But on Twitter Friday, Kluwe applauded the Vikings' decision to keep Peterson out of Sunday's game:

"I will say this: I've had my issues with the Vikings. However, they deactivated AP this weekend. Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald are playing.")

In the Time piece, Kluwe expresses incredulity at Goodell's claim that he hadn't seen the full elevator tape of Rice hitting his then-fiance, now wife, before issuing a two-game suspension. After the video publicly surfaced, Rice was cut from the team.

Kluwe said that the NFL lives and dies by the tapes — albeit, it's usually game tapes. But, he writes, Goodell:

"... now wants us to believe, in this particular instance, after months of reporting by trusted League sources that the NFL factored what was on that elevator tape into its decision to suspend Ray Rice a mere two games, that he did not, actually, see the tape, and is just as flabbergasted as the rest of us that this horrific act of violence took place. Oh lawdy, bring the fainting couch.

"Based on everything I know from nine years of experience in the league, this is a lie."

And Kluwe says:

We should be furious. This charade of accountability has been perpetrated for too long, let too many players skate by with no real consequences for their violence against others.

Balls & Strikes: Johnson’s tongue-tied about Tea Party support

9 hours 15 min ago
politics.mn

Jeff Johnson, the Republican endorsed candidate for governor, has spent the last week trying to explain his involvement with Tea Party groups.

Both the candidate and his campaign staff have been unable to articulate a consistent message about Johnson’s documented attendance at Tea Party meetings and him soliciting the support and endorsement from people attending meetings.

This issue was caused by an unforced error by Johnson and his campaign and it shows how unprepared they are for a general election campaign against Dayton and his allies.

Below is a chronology of Johnson’s inconsistent and confusing public statements on his involvement with Tea Party groups in Minnesota:

Johnson asks for support and endorsement from Tea Party members at a meeting:

  • “I just ask that you give me a close look, because I think that I may be your guy, and I would be truly honored to earn your support and endorsement in this race.” Source: Jeff Johnson, South Metro Tea Party, April 22, 2014.

Johnson says he considers himself a Tea Party member:

  • “There is this perception that the media has created that Tea Parties are kind of wacko, and we are not. And I say ‘we’, and I proudly say ‘we’.” Source: Jeff Johnson, South Metro Tea Party, April 22, 2014.

Johnson later denies he is a member of the Tea Party:

  • “No, but I have been to Tea Party meetings and I welcome Tea Party support.” Source: Jeff Johnson, KSTP “At Issue”, August 17, 2014.

Johnson then doesn’t deny he is a member of the Tea Party, but says he is not an “extremist”:

Johnson changes his position and now denies being a Tea Party member or asking for their support or endorsement:

  • “I don’t know that… well I’m not a member, but I don’t know that you have membership, nor do they endorse by the way, I’ve been told that, nor have I asked for their endorsement.” Source: Jeff Johnson, September 9, 2014

Johnson changes his position again and now claims he sought support from Tea Party groups:

  • “I have said over and over again that I have sought the support of every faction of the Republican Party including the tea party.” Source: Jeff Johnson, MPR, “Dayton blasts Johnson at union event”, September 13, 2014

WCCO did a Reality Check on Johnson’s connection to the Tea Party and based on Johnson’s own words, they called him a “Tea Party Republican.” Click play to watch WCCO’s fact-check on Johnson’s Tea Party involvement.


Johnson and his campaign have created this mess and distraction, which ultimately prevented Johnson from successfully messaging on other issues. It was a strategy by Johnson and his campaign to attended meetings and openly court the support and endorsement of Tea Party members, but they had no plan for the political fallout.

The Tea Party is not the only group Johnson associated with as he was seeking the Republican endorsement for governor that has generated negative headlines. Last September, Johnson received bad press for sponsoring an event featuring 9/11 and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Ben Swann.

The picture above was taken at the event with Swann on Sepetmber 13, 2013 and provided to politics.mn earlier today. Johnson’s campaign logo appears with other sponsors of the event, which included the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance and the Canary Party. The Canary Party is a fringe anti-vaccination group, which features former Saturday Night Live actor Rob Schneider as one of their prominent supporters.

In response to media inquiries about his sponsorship and attendance at this event, Johnson issued a convoluted statement implying there is no group too extreme for him to meet with as candidate. Specifically, Johnson said:

Bottom Line: Anyone who’s afraid to attend an event because there might be someone present whose views could be considered extreme or offensive is too timid to be governor. You can’t lead when you’re afraid of your own shadow.

Johnson ended his statement by clarifying that he is “not a truther.” Johnson’s campaign received widespread criticism for their sloppy reaction to the controversy and it seems they did not learn any practical lessons from that experience, as the response to Johnson’s Tea Party affiliation has been just as confusing and messy by Johnson and his campaign.

It is clear Johnson’s campaign never thoughtfully planned on how to present and message Johnson as a viable general election candidate after he sought support from groups that Johnson himself said have been labeled as “kind of wacko.” If Johnson’s team knew Tea Party groups have been labeled as “kind of wacko”, why did they not do more to prepare for the scrutiny and criticism?

This post was written by Michael Brodkorb and originally published on politics.mn – an inside view of Minnesota politics. Follow politics.mn on Twitter: @politicsdotmn.

If you blog and would like your work considered for Minnesota Blog Cabin, please submit our registration form.

A glaring omission: Pollsters' choice of questions shapes the political conversation

9 hours 51 min ago
CC/Flickr/Tim EllisPolls assume what the public cares about.

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll published on Sept. 9 is as interesting for what it ignores as for what it reveals.

Question No. 13 asks registered voters which of the following will be “the single most important issue in your vote for Congress”: the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, immigration, or something else? Eleven percent said “something else.”

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart

The omissions of climate change, wealth disparity, and Citizens United (campaign finance reform) are curious and glaring. The poll assumes what the public cares about. By ignoring these matters that reach beyond partisan divides the poll demonstrates one of two things: Either  the Washington Post-ABC New Poll is out of touch with those who live on Main Street or their bread is buttered by Wall Street and the 1 percent.

Polling and news institutions not only measure public opinion; they shape public discussion by the choices they make about which questions to ask.

Role of the press

The American public is often smarter than given credit for. But its intelligence and its opinions on public policy issues are informed and shaped by the information we receive from the “Fourth Estate” which — in theory, if not always in practice — is independent from the three government branches of the U.S. Constitution. The “free press” is the people’s watchdog, monitoring the actions and decisions of the three constitutional estates and their complex bureaucracies and institutions. We look to the free press to do for its readers what the individual cannot do: investigate the way things are — who’s making the deals and why, who's stacking the deck, and who’s dealing from the bottom of the deck.

OAS_AD("Middle");

As the ownership of newspapers, radio stations and TV cable and satellite dish companies has shrunk to the size of the 1 percent who live on Wall Street, the press, like the three constitutional estates, is not so free. While Republicans and Democrats argue about whether climate change is real and while Congress fails to act, it falls to the Fourth Estate to exercise whatever freedom it may still have to raise the flag of the single most important issue facing not only the planet itself. The same is true with the moral issue of the wealth disparity and the Supreme Court’s decision that turns the American electoral system over to the highest bidder.

The detail of those who answered "something else" shows the 14 percent of "white non-evangelical Protestants" in response to Question 13. Among this subset — the “traditional” Protestant churches (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Congregationalist United Church of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist) — much attention has been paid from pulpits and from church position statements to the alarming growth in wealth disparity and the environmental degradation that has led us to the brink of “climate departure” when there will be no way back.

Climate change: a darkening global cloud

Nothing on the list of “single most important” issues is as long-lasting as climate change. It is the darkening global cloud under which all other issues exist. Framing the public discussion as a choice between the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, or immigration continues the myopic gridlock that keeps our eyes too low to the ground.

It makes little difference whether one proclaims or denies that the changes in weather patterns are evidence of global climate change that call for action now to reduce carbon and methane emissions. We all know that something is happening here on the North American continent and around the “pale blue dot” (Carl Sagan) that is changing the planet as we have known it.

Enter Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) who answered "something else!" on "Meet the Press."

Congratulations to “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd for widening the discussion.

The Rev. Gordon C. Stewart  is the pastor of the Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, where he serves as moderator of First Tuesday Dialogues: examining critical public issues locally and globally. He blogs at Views from the Edge

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you're interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

The Replacements at Midway: A night to remember

9 hours 58 min ago

The fact is, I’d had “Can’t Hardly Wait” ringing in my head and heart all week, and I know I wasn’t alone, so it was pretty perfect that, at the remade Replacements reunion show at Midway Stadium Saturday night, I ended up under the left field scoreboard in a mosh pit with a smattering of friends, family and strangers, and getting elbowed in solidarity with a chain-smoking whiskey-sipping dude who sang along to Paul Westerberg’s cry for a soul mate in the wilderness with a knowing bloody howl and who, like seemingly everybody else in the whole damn place, knew all the words, every syllable, every scar.

At one point he was thrusting his cigarette at the stage in time to the big beat; the next, just before the chorus, I looked down and found him on all fours barfing in the dark, and, with the bright stars of St. Paul shining down on his back, finally passing out and I know I speak for everyone in our little corner of the world who got splashed by his chunks, thanks to the large man who picked up Mr. Whirly and carried him off to safety.

Anyway, “Can’t Hardly Wait” might be the ultimate expression of “this urge that is the Replacements,” as one fan described it to me Saturday night, for sure an anthem of great joy and desire and anticipation, and by the time the remade ’Mats hit the stage around 9 p.m. at Midway, the excitement and mass hypnosis of rock and roll hoochie-coo was in full effect to the point where, when the band offered up touchstones by the Jackson Five, Jimmy Reed, and Jimi Hendrix – not to mention their ode to Big Star founder “Alex Chilton” – the entire baseball stadium was catapulted back to the free and freaky ’70s, when smiley faces, AM pop radio, disco, glam, and punk rock and partying with the Minnesota Kicks at Met Stadium was all the rage.  

Or maybe that was just me.

At the very least, Saturday night was nothing short of a cultural moment, and a blow struck for rock & roll as one of mankind’s most enduring cries of freedom and fun. Speaking of which, before heading into the show, I came upon this scene by the railroad tracks abutting the Midway parking lot, which most of the late afternoon and early evening turned into something of a low-burn Burning ’Mats tailgating orgy, albeit with long port-a-potty lines. “If I don’t get a ticket to the show,” said a buddy, “I’m gonna sit by the railroad tracks and drink some cheap wine with [the ghost of] Bobby Stinson.” Consider these dudes in on the salute, seeking relief not long before the Replacements took the stage:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Maybe the best testament to the lasting effects of Saturday night’s concert came Sunday, when fans all over the metro area could be spotted sporting freshly purchased ’Mats swag. On a pole in the Midway parking lot Saturday night before the show, someone had hoisted a black and red lumberjack shirt – flying the flannel – and that was the drill all day Sunday, as T-shirt-clad denizens of Replacements nation gave one another a nod, a quick review, and posed the question that was on everyone’s mind, and likely will be for a long time to come:

Were you there?

MinnPost photo by Jim WalshFlying the flannel at Midway.

If you were, you felt it – the tremor of all those feelings conjured by all those songs in all those souls for the first time en masse.  If I heard it once I heard it a hundred times Saturday and Sunday, the one about how lives were changed by the show, performance, by one song or another, or just the whole of this singular and singularly moving 80-minute concert. Which is to say for many it was a heady – if not exactly intimate – experience to bear witness to this great band coming back to life, beyond the recordings and Youtube videos that have kept their legacy and catalog alive all these years.

Incredibly enough, Replacements Saturday kicked off with the news that a thoroughbred racehorse named after the band’s founding drummer, Chris Mars  (who has not taken part in the recent reunion shows), won the fifth race at Canterbury Park that afternoon.

A few hours later, the accomplished painter and filmmaker’s former bandmates, after 23 years in mothballs, won a race against time and hit homerun after homerun in a doomed minor league baseball stadium on a gorgeous autumn night. As my mother likes to say, will wonders never cease?

MinnPost photo by Jim WalshThe Daily Racing Form program from Sept. 13, 2014. Chris Mars, the horse, a 3-1 favorite, won the 5th race at Canterbury Park Saturday and paid $8.40 to win.

At the end of a week that brought to the Twin Cities jubilant concerts by first wave punks Paul Weller and the Buzzcocks, the remade Replacements took the stage looking like a forever-plaid hybrid of the New York Dolls and Bay City Rollers, and ripped through a muscular set of rock & roll that had 14,000 people digging up the dirt infield and outfield for souvenirs.

That’s my review, but the fact is that in this case, words fail. Other than to say it’s no exaggeration to say that Saturday’s triumph of so many spirits is a testament to all sorts of mysteries and mysterious forces, and proves, perhaps more so than ever, that the cauldron of live music and memory can make for a profound, illuminating, inspiring and combustible energy exchange.

Photo by David TannerTony Glover joined the Replacements on stage to play harmonica on Jimmy Reed's "Going to New York."

The fuse for this explosion was lit 23 years ago, the last time anything called the Replacements performed live locally, and that alone fueled the fun, the time machine, the mass catharsis. Highlights abounded, including the brotherly love obviously on display between Tommy and Paul, a couple of pals grateful to have refound each other; Tony “Little Sun” Glover joining the band on harmonica and the songs – “Favorite Thing,” “I’ll Be You,” “Takin’ a Ride,” “Androgynous,” “I Will Dare,” etc. — being played with such a massive engine and over a PA befitting Olympus.

Chill after chill came with various songs, most memorably “Bastards of Young,” “Unsatisfied,” “If Only You Were Lonely,” “Valentine,” “Kiss Me on the Bus,” and the singalongs for “Androgynous” and “Swingin’ Party.” My knees went weak when the opening chords to “Left of the Dial” rang out across the big sky and Westerberg sang to a throng made up of thousands of people who came of age on independent music, media and art, “Read about your band in some local page, didn’t mention my name,” like he was still ticked off about it.

The wistful lyric disappeared into the drums, guitars and night, and so eventually, too, did the Replacements – but not the memories of what they’ve given us all these years, especially of that Saturday night in September, when the swingin’ party down the line never felt more powerful or relevant. Long may we hang.

MinnPost photo by Jim WalshReplacements leave the stage, fans leave Midway Stadium for the last time.

Why Congress’ role in making war is now irrelevant

10 hours 6 sec ago

Yale Law Professor (and major constitutional scholar) Bruce Ackerman took to the New York Times op-ed page last week to describe as “a devastating setback for our constitutional order” President Obama’s assertion that — although he would welcome a congressional vote authorizing his new military strategy against ISIS — he does not need such a vote to proceed with the bombing.

I feel Prof. Ackerman’s pain. I wish that there was something that could reasonably be called “our constitutional order” on the issue of war powers. But I fear not. While Ackerman sees Obama’s latest plan for an undeclared war as a major blow, I believe the constitutional order regarding war powers has long since been effectively eviscerated.  

The U.S. Constitution says relatively little on the subject, but it does rather famously (Article I, Section 8) assign to Congress “the power to…declare war.” It also empowers the president (Article II, Section 2) to act as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

You might note, if you were feeling feisty, that the Constitution did not appoint the president as commander in chief of the Air Force, even though, in the current matter, the main work of degrading ISIS, at least in the early stages, will be conducted by air power.

Of course, the Framers of the Constitution had never heard of an Air Force, nor a bomber, and it would be silly to seek guidance from them on the use of air power. But it may be almost equally fruitless to seek their guidance on the general matter of a global superpower and its leader’s desire to degrade and ultimately destroy a non-state actor that, for various reasons, we cannot agree on the name of (ISIS or ISIL?).

Wisdom of the Framers

For the most part, the wisdom of the Framers, contained in the two scraps mentioned above, has been translated thus: War is a big deal. It would be dangerous to allow one man, even the president, to get the country into a war just on his say-so. So it should be up to Congress to decide on the fundamental question of when to go to war, which they would express by passing (or not) a declaration of war.

But you can’t run a war by committee, so once the war had begun, the chief executive, operating as commander in chief, would make the day-to-day decisions. The traditional understanding has also included the assumption that the president can use his commander-in-chief powers to deal with emergencies that arise until Congress can get around to debating a declaration of war.

If you are inclined to be quite literal, that understanding goes beyond anything made clear in the constitutional language. Saying that Congress has the power to declare war is not a clear statement that the president is not supposed to do anything without such a declaration. As for the idea that the president has powers to wage a short-term emergency war, there’s not a syllable in the Constitution that says anything like that. The omission of any such language is especially noteworthy because it did assign to the state – yes, to the states! – the power to engage in a war without prior congressional action (Article I, Section 10) if they are “actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

Nonetheless, the basic, original plan seems wise, looked at from the perspective of 1787. And it worked fairly well (with plenty of exceptions) for much of U.S. history. Five times Congress declared war (War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Spanish-American War, and the two World Wars). Presidents did mess around on the edges, using military force many times without a declaration, but most of them were relatively minor, until you get past World War II.

The world changed

The Cold War, the emergence of full U.S. superpower status, and the nature of modern warfare made hash (in my view) of the original understanding. The Framers envisioned an America that would have a small standing military and most of its military power would consist of state militias that could be nationalized when needed.

They imagined a USA that would be at peace most of the time (now the United States is basically never really at peace), a world in which Congress could debate peace or war decisions during some long run-up to hostilities while enemy navies needed weeks or months to cross an ocean. They imagined a much less powerful presidency.

They imagined a world in which wars would be between nations and armies. One of the most amazing developments of recent years is that those kinds of wars — between nations and armies, fought across borders, seeking territory — have almost completely vanished from the earth. During the Cold War, at least we had the Soviet Union. The United States is now engaged in a perpetual war against non-state actors.

Obama, who is a lawyer and has taught constitutional law classes, is taking the fairly absurd legal position that his campaign to degrade ISIL is already sanctioned under the resolution Congress passed after the 9/11 attacks authorizing military action against Al Qaida and others who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” in the 9/11 attack.

Obama’s legal position is that this covers ISIS, which the administration declares is an Al Qaida “affiliate.” As Ackerman points out, ISIS broke off from Al Qaida and the two groups now regard each other as rivals and enemies.

As I mentioned above, Obama says he would welcome a congressional vote of support. Ackerman thinks he definitely needs such a vote and points out that President George W. Bush got advance authorization for the use of force against both Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s true, but Bush never said that he lacked the authority to begin those operations without such a vote. And his father, the first President Bush, took the same position heading into his war to reverse the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait.

Obama has the same position. He would welcome congressional approval, but he doesn’t need it. And, judging by the noises out of Washington, he may get such a resolution, which will perhaps help Prof. Ackerman believe that the constitutional order is still standing.

Minneapolis Park Board could prove to be another obstacle for Southwest LRT

10 hours 12 min ago

It’s known by a name that only a bureaucrat could love: Section 4(f).

Yet it could be the centerpiece of a legal challenge to the approved alignment of Southwest Light Rail Transit.

Known as Section 4 (f) for its original placement in federal transportation laws, the rule requires that transportation projects using federal money not take or adversely affect parks or historic sites. Under the  regulations, only if a route is the only “feasible or prudent” pathway for the project can the federal government approve it. And that would come only after steps are taken to reduce and mitigate the ill effects on parks and historic sites.

It is yet another potential headache for planners and policy makers trying to complete the Green Line light rail extension to Eden Prairie by 2019.

Park and Rec Board says concerns have been 'neglected'

Wednesday, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will vote on a resolution to hire a law firm to review its “rights and responsibilities under State and Federal law to uphold its mission to protect and preserve parkland for current and future generations.”

The $22,000 contract with Stinson Leonard Street asks the firm to look into a legal response to the route, especially where it impacts parks. While the park board was not given a formal role by state legislation creating the process to choose a route for the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, federal law does.

The board’s main worry is that the SWLRT route will damage the trail that runs through the Kenilworth Corridor, and the water channel beneath the path that connects Cedar Lake and the Lake of the Isles. “The board has real concerns,” said parks Superintendent Jayne Miller. “We have, in a proactive and non-confrontational way, worked with Hennepin and the Met Council. But the board is concerned that those concerns have not been addressed and in many ways have been neglected.”

Sue Haigh, chair of the Met Council, said two weeks ago that the council “continues to work with interested parties as we move to final engineering and design. We’ll listen to the park board on their concerns.” 

And Haigh said the council will respond to any issues raised by the supplemental EIS. “The whole purpose is to identify environmental impacts that can be mitigated,” Haigh said. “The impact on the environment is incredibly important to us as an organization.”

Met Council says impact on parkland will be 'minor'

The Metropolitan Council’s 2012 environmental review of the $1.64 billion, 16-mile expansion acknowledges that the alignment chosen could have multiple Section 4(f) implications. It also says that the impacts would be minor and could be mitigated.

The park board isn’t so sure. The selected route is along an existing rail right of way that includes a section of the Kenilworth Corridor. Now used for bike and pedestrian paths, the trail would ultimately share the space with light rail and — in this key section — freight trains.

Disrupting the trail itself does not trigger Section 4 (f), the 2012 EIS states. But the spot where the trail and tracks cross over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles is different. It is not only clearly parkland but it is historic as part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway, which has been nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places — all of which potentially trigger both the park protection and historic site protections of Section 4(f). Its nomination the National Register also brings in protections under federal historic preservation laws.

The EIS states that the existing timber bridges over the channel are considered “non-contributing” elements of the Grand Rounds; removing them would not raise historic protection issues. (The EIS did say the replacement bridges could be considered adverse impacts on the channel if they weren’t designed to meet federal preservation standards.)

Park board opposes shallow tunnel option

The Park Board doesn’t believe new bridges over the Kenilworth Channel are the answer, no matter how well they are designed. They believe the increased rail traffic that will pass over such bridges are disruptive to the use of the channel by canoeists and kayakers. In a resolution passed on May 21, the board refers to the planned bridges as “massive at-grade infrastructure on critical parkland.”

Parks superintendent Miller said the proposed bridges include large approaches on both sides and will be more than double the width of the current bridge. “It’s not just the trains but the visual impact,” she said. “The park experience will change in a dramatic way.” 

The board resolution from May stated that there are, in fact, “feasible and prudent” alternatives to routing light rail trains through the Kenilworth Corridor, and that the only way to use the route without causing harm to the channel is to tunnel beneath it. Yet a so-called deep LRT tunnel would add between $170 million and $180 million to the project costs.  

In the resolution, the board “states its determination that the project as currently proposed to bridge LRT over the Kenilworth Channel is likely not the most feasible and prudent alternative and therefore the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board will not grant project consent under Section 4(f) … until greater analysis occurs and project plans are modified.”

MinnPost photo by Peter CallaghanNegative impacts of increased train traffic and large new bridges over the Kenilworth Channel has the Minneapolis park board considering legal challenges to the alignment.

While there have been conversations between parks and the Met Council staff and between parks and the city of Minneapolis, the basic alignment remains the same. The only change regarding the corridor is the elimination of one of two shallow tunnels that were to carry light rail trains north and south of the channel. The north tunnel was removed from the plan and trains will now go underground in an especially narrow section south of the channel where the right of way is not wide enough to accommodate freight rail, light rail and the bike-pedestrian path.

The May 21 resolution was only the latest in a series of statements made by the park board — first in December 2012 and again last summer — that opposed the shallow tunnels and bridge plan. Last February, the park board called on the Met Council to conduct detailed engineering on the feasibility and cost of a deep tunnel.

This week’s proposed resolution offers a reminder to the Met Council of the park board’s longstanding concern over the impacts to the trail and the channel.

“Since 2012, the MPRB has consistently and regularly communicated, through public Board actions, its concerns and position regarding the Southwest Light Rail Transit options,” the proposed resolution states.

MPRB discussing response to alignment approval

What will the park board do? That has been one of the major unanswered questions as the Met Council moves toward getting final funding for the project. The proposed resolution strongly suggests that the board will challenge the alignment and lack of a deep tunnel beneath the channel. The board could refuse to consent to the route.

The agreement with the law firm hired by the park board says the $22,000 will cover legal research and opinions regarding the board’s rights under Section 4 (f) and other environmental laws, but it does not cover negotiations with other parties or actual litigation. Should the board decide to pursue litigation, “the scope of work, budget and fees and expenses will be re-negotiated to reflect the increased scope of work.”

Anita Tabb, the park commissioner whose district contains the Kenilworth Corridor, said the board and staff are talking about how the board will respond to the approval of the alignment by Hennepin County and the five cities it will pass through. The board is also waiting to hear back formally from the Met Council but remains committed to protecting the parks and lakes. “The reason people tend to love Minneapolis is because of the parks and natural spaces,” Tabb said. “It’s what draws people to the city.”

Section 4(f) dates to 1966 and came in response to a Texas plan to route a highway through the Brackenridge-Olmos Basin Parklands. Later, in upholding the law, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that the section “is a plain and explicit bar to the use of federal funds for construction of highways through parks — only the most unusual circumstances are exempted.”

If the impacts are minor — “de minimis” in the rules — the federal government can approve a project.  According to the EIS, a “de minimis” impact on parks and recreation areas  “is one that will not adversely affect the features, attributes, or activities qualifying the property for protection under Section 4(f).”

The EIS states that the effects in the Cedar Lake and Lake of Isles vicinity can be reduced through mitigation efforts and “it is likely that these impacts would be found to be de minimis if these impacts cannot be avoided entirely.” 

Farm-Faith Project gives Hmong immigrants gardening space at churches

10 hours 28 min ago

Khoua Vang carefully tiptoed Saturday in a vegetable-covered garden outside Hope Lutheran Church in St. Paul and went down on her knees to reap dozens of Japanese sweet potatoes.

She then stood in a shaded corner near the garden, peeled a big potato and ate it with delight. “It tasted really delicious,” Vang later said. “It was sweet and juicy.”

Vang, 60, planted that potato and various other vegetables with three Hmong immigrant women at the Hope Lutheran garden.

The church participates in Farm-Faith Project, which provides immigrant communities in St. Paul with farming opportunities, economic skills and gardening spaces at churches — thanks to the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches and the Hmong American Partnership.

On Saturday, Vang spoke of her gardening experience at Hope Lutheran as part of the Gardening Matters’ Community Day tour.

Vang started farming with her parents in Laos when she was just 5 years old. For the Vang family, farming was a source of income, which the family depended on for survival.

“We used farming for food and for feeding our livestock,” Vang said. “Sometimes we got a lot of vegetables; we sold them to people.”

In 1980, Vang escaped conflict in her homeland and moved to the United States, making St. Paul her new home.  

“When we came here, the food we bought from grocery stores had a lot of chemicals,” Vang said. “So we felt that this kind of food made us sick. That’s why we prefer to garden so we can get organic foods to eat.”

The project aims to help immigrant communities in the neighborhood get connected to healthy foods, said Faith-Farm Project Connector Lyda Robb.

“We need more healthy food everywhere,” she added. “And particularly in the east side of St. Paul, where there is a food desert. More opportunities to put healthy food everywhere is really important, and we’re excited about this project.”

Benefits of the project

The Farm-Faith Project connects church congregations with immigrant families in the city to build strong community bonds, Robb said.

MinnPost photo by Ibrahim HirsiLyda Robb: “More opportunities to put healthy food everywhere is really important, and we’re excited about this project.”

“Hope [Lutheran] has a lot of farming programs,” she added. “And the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches was looking for more ways to engage with the community. So it seems like a natural connection and place where people build community.”

Congregation members — who may not have the opportunity for interaction with diverse cultures in their neighborhood — expressed their excitement about the project, Robb said.

“They’re looking for ways to engage with the community,” Robb said of the congregation members, “especially on the east side of St. Paul, where more immigrants and refugees live.”

In addition to building relationships between St. Paul church congregations and immigrant communities, Robb added, the project creates opportunities for immigrants by enhancing their farming skills, creating new jobs and providing job skills for entry into small community businesses.

“It’s really hard to just stay at home all day,” Vang said. “So I really enjoy gardening when I come here. And I enjoy that I can grow some vegetables to eat whenever I want.”

Providing food through gardening

As Maytong Chang, a St. Paul-based family advocate, came of age in the United States, she watched her parents garden all their lives.

Growing up, Chang couldn’t understand why her parents were busy gardening. In fact, she disliked seeing them garden, she recalled.

MinnPost photo by Ibrahim HirsiHope Lutheran Church is among three churches participating in the Farm-Faith Project.

“When I was younger, I couldn’t understand what that meant,” Chang said of her parents’ farming activities. “But to them, it meant that they could provide food for us. When we came [to the United States], we were on welfare, we were poor.”

Her parents turned to gardening to provide their children with fresh vegetables every summer. And when winter neared: “They would freeze the vegetables, and we were able to get organic vegetables all winter without having to spend much money,” she added.

Today, Chang works closely with the Farm-Faith Project farmers and listens to them as they talk about how gardening is important to them and to their families.

“I’m starting to understand that it’s because they’ve gardened all their lives and it’s something that they were taught to do when they were younger to provide for their families,” she said. “And so they enjoy doing that.”

Our Redeemer Lutheran and Mounds Park United Methodist  churches also participate in the Farm-Faith Project.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter at @IHirsi.

Swingin’ party: Replacements fans gather for a once-in-a-lifetime show

10 hours 32 min ago

Music blasted from vehicle upon vehicle, grills were fired up, beer was ingested, cigars were smoked. Replacements fans came from far and wide to Midway Stadium Saturday night, and quickly figured out the art of tailgating. Talking about the passion, in words and photos:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Katie Seavy, Cleveland, Ohio, and Dylan Gonzalez, Bedlam Park, New Jersey, took in the pre-show party Friday night at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis. “It’s my second time seeing them, my first time was in Toronto at Riotfest,” said Seavy. “I had to see them after 22 years of not being able to. The lyrics touch me in a certain way, like ‘Bastards of Young’ is like, ‘Yeah, we’re the underappreciated generation,’ and it makes me feel a little bit better about my station in life, I suppose.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Caryn Rose, Brooklyn, New York, was first in line at Midway Saturday afternoon. “I got here at 11:45 this morning, gates open at 6. I had to be here. They were just like us. They were just normal guys and they somehow pulled it together and it was either magic or it was garbage or sometimes it was a little of both, so there was a lot of faith in going to see them, faith in sticking with them, and it sort of rewarded itself. And the songs have never gotten old for me.”

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Rhett Arens, Stillwater, Kii Arens, Los Angeles, and Tom Sonick, North St. Paul. “I got to do a video for Glen Campbell for a song Paul Westerberg wrote, called ‘Ghost on a Canvas,’ ” said Kii Arens, who designed the official gig poster of Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg cartoonized as the Minnesota Twins shown on Sonick’s shirt. “I decided to continue where the ‘Bastards of Young’ video left off to reveal that Paul was actually just listening to Glen Campbell records, and in the process of working with him I think I kind of gained his trust a little bit and got in contact with Darren [Hill], who manages Paul and the Replacements, and he had a great idea to riff off – and rip off – the Twins logo. I just thought that was hilarious. I had to add the Twin/Tone logo on there, because I used to work at Twin/Tone in about ’94. I saw them at Coachella and I just think it’s amazing that their music doesn’t sound dated at all. By the time these five hundred cars leave this parking lot tonight, it’s gonna be the biggest singalong you’ve ever heard in your life.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Kris Head, South Hampton, England. “This is my third visit to Minneapolis in under two years. I love the music, I love the history of the music [scene] in the Twin Cities. Please try and find me another city that has created as many influential bands that haven’t gotten credit as this place has. The Replacements music speaks to me more than any other band; the first time I heard ‘Unsatisfied,’ I thought, ‘This is a person who’s saying something that I completely understand.’ I had to get here for this show and this weekend.” 

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ann Kellogg and Chris Begg, Owatonna. “I’m a Replacements fan due to my wife’s family,” said Begg. “She grew up with the Replacements, and today we were the 15th car waiting along Energy Park Drive to get into the parking lot, so we’ve got pole position here.” Said Kellogg, “In my family, we listened to the Replacements all the time – from getting ready for high school dances to blasting it on the way over here.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Autry and Peter Jesperson, Los Angeles. “I think it’s about time these songs are being heard by a larger group of people than perhaps heard them in the past,” said Peter, the Replacements former manager and producer, now an executive with New West Records. “I think it’s the songs that have carried it this far, and it’s the songs that will carry it a lot further.” Said Autry, 12, “They’re awesome, I saw them in Denver. [I expect] nothing but the best. I’m sort of overwhelmed right now.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Richard Doss, Minneapolis. “This is the show of all shows. We’re here to see the greatest band in the world prove once again that they’re the greatest live American rock & roll band in the world. We’re here to celebrate (famed Memphis producer) Jim Dickinson and the ‘Pleased to Meet Me’ legacy and the greatness that comes with it.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Arin Sheahan and Glinda Askegaard, West St. Paul, were playing “Replacements four square” in the parking lot and attending their second Replacements concert. “I grew up with them,” said Askegaard. “I’m from Fargo, and followed them when I was in Fargo through the ’80s and ’90s. I love ’em and I’m so glad to be living down here and being able to see them today. I like them because they were rebels, and I love that.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Rick Olsen, Hastings. “We’ve just opened up the martini kit to make Manhattans, because the last time I saw the Replacements was in Manhattan in 1986 at the Beacon Theater. I wish my kids could understand the teen angst that I had from the Replacements, because now they’re 12 and 14. I’ve bought them shirts tonight; I hope they get it, but I’m losing hope because they’re still listening to a lot of Disturbed and country [music], but I hope they someday understand the Replacements can get them through their teen years.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Don and Doug Bratland, Northfield. “By the end of the night it felt like history was being rewritten, and they really were as huge a band as we always wanted them to be for all these years, and it seemed like everyone everywhere finally knew it,” said Don after the show.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Eric Lindbom, Los Angeles. “Come on, they did everything!” enthused Lindbom, who covered the Replacements in the early ’80s for the Twin Cities Reader. “I thought the show was tremendous. It was blowing my mind. I just thought it was great, I thought it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen ‘em do. This was like a legacy-cementing show.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Trey Coudret, Northfield, waiting for the parking lot to clear after the show. “I’m 13. I love the Replacements, and when my dad got tickets I asked him if I could go and he said yes. I thought tonight’s show was very good and I had a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures. I liked the part when they put on the [St. Paul Saints] jerseys and I liked [‘Androgynous’] and ‘Unsatisfied’ a lot. It was pretty crazy, and I liked that they kept coming back out to play more songs.” 

Embarrassment of being overweight causes people to gain — not lose — weight, study finds

12 hours 34 min ago

Discriminating against overweight or obese people does not help them lose weight. In fact, the embarrassment, humiliation and stress they feel from such discrimination is likely to cause them to gain weight, according to a British study published online last week in the journal Obesity.

Previous research has shown that people who are stigmatized for being overweight are more likely to engage in behaviors that promote obesity, including problematic eating, avoidance of physical activity and a refusal to restrict their food intake. But, until this new study, there was little evidence on whether such stigmatization was associated with actual changes in body weight.

Study details and key findings

For the study, researchers at the University College London analyzed four years of data collected from 2,944 British adults aged 50 and older who were participating in the ongoing English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Among the questionnaires filled out by these participants was one that asked about day-to-day discrimination related to their weight, such as how often they felt they had received poorer service than other people in restaurants, stores and hospitals, or been treated as “not clever” by others, or been threatened or harassed. Participants could choose from a range of answers, beginning with "never" and ending with "almost every day."

The analysis found that 5 percent of the 2,944 participants reported weight-related discrimination — about the same as has been reported in other studies. The people who said they had experienced such discrimination tended to be younger and to have lower incomes than those who said they had not. The more they weighed, the greater the likelihood of discrimination. Only 1 percent of those with a “normal weight” body mass index (BMI) said they had encountered weight-related discrimination compared to 36 percent of those with a BMI that put them in the “morbidly obese” category. Interestingly, men and women reported similar levels of discrimination.

The researchers then compared the participants’ perceptions of weight-related discrimination with changes in their weight. They found a statistically significant association between the two. The people who reported weight-related discrimination gained an average of 2 pounds over the four years of the study, while those who did not lost an average of 1.5 pounds, even after adjusting for differences in weight at the start of the study.

The people who reported weight-related discrimination were also more likely to see their waistline increase slightly over the four years, while those who reported no discrimination saw theirs shrink slightly. (The average difference between the two groups was small, though — slightly less than half an inch.)

In addition, the study found that people who were overweight but not obese at the start of the study but who reported weight-related discrimination were at greater risk of becoming obese after four years than their overweight peers who reported no discrimination.

“Weight discrimination has been justified on the grounds that it encourages obese individuals to lose weight, but our results provide no support for this notion and rather suggest that discrimination exacerbates weight gain and promotes the onset of obesity,” the UCL researchers conclude. “Removing prejudice and blame from weight loss advice might be a better route to promoting weight control.”

‘Stop blaming and shaming’

The researchers cite several possible reasons for why weight discrimination may lead to weight gain. Some have to do with the psychological stress that accompanies such discrimination, which has been shown to trigger particular chemical changes in the brain that increase the desire to eat — particularly high-calorie foods.  People who experience weight-related stigmatization also tend to perceive themselves at being less competent at physical activity, and thus are more likely to avoid it.

Like all studies, this one has its limitations. Most notably, it is an observational study, which means it can show only a correlation between two things (weight-related discrimination and weight gain), not a cause-and-effect connection. Also, the weight-related discrimination in this study was perceived. There is no way of knowing whether it actually occurred.

In addition, although the original sample size for this study was large (almost 3,000 participants), the number of people who said they had experienced weight-related discrimination was small (150). That makes the findings less reliable.

But senior author Jane Wardle, director of UCL’s Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre, says the findings point to a need for all of us to change our attitudes about people who are obese.

“Our study clearly shows that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution,” she said in a statement released with the study. “Weight bias has been documented not only among the general public but also among health professional; and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight. Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment.”

You can read the study in full through Obesity’s website.

'All options on table' when it comes to Adrian Peterson's future as a Viking

14 hours 8 min ago
New York Daily NewsMonday's cover of the New York Daily News featuringa Vikings fan holding a switch.

If you watched what we’ll refer to as “the game” between New England and the Vikings yesterday, you may have noticed whose picture was not on the side of the team’s new billion dollar play palace in the artist’s rendering CBS showed their viewing audience.

In Adrian Peterson news: ESPN has a story up saying, “Minnesota Vikings executive vice president and general manager Rick Spielman said Sunday that ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to how the team will handle the allegations against running back Adrian Peterson.”

Chris Wessling at NFL.com reports, “NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports, via a Vikings source, that the length of Peterson's absence could be longer than this week based on what new information the organization uncovers about the running back's charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child. … Spielman told NFL Media's Andrea Kremer on Saturday that the team's approach is ‘literally one hour at a time.’ The Vikings don't know yet if more pictures or videos will be forthcoming. One other member of the organization confirmed to Kremer that the ‘current climate’ created by Ray Rice's indefinite suspension for striking his then-fiancee in an elevator certainly factored into the decision to deactivate Peterson for Sunday's game. Asked by Kremer if the discipline might include a team suspension or even Peterson's release, Spielman said all of the facts need to be in line before those decisions are made.”

At USA Today, Chris Chase writes, “Charles Barkley defended Adrian Peterson and expressed hope that Ray Rice gets another chance to play in the NFL during a Sunday interview with Jim Rome on the CBS pregame show The NFL Today. After expressing optimism that the ‘tragic mistake’ made by Ray Rice will help raise awareness of domestic violence, the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer was asked about the indictment of Peterson. Barkley said he understands the anger toward the Minnesota Vikings running back but said every black parent in the south is going to be in jail under the circumstances that led to Peterson’s indictment on child abuse charges.”

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In the New York Daily News, Tina Moore says, “Adrian Peterson could get up to two years in prison if prosecutors successfully argue that the bloody beating of his 4-year-old son went above and beyond normal discipline. And barring a plea deal, the star running back’s trial would likely begin early next year.”

Elsewhere in the same paper, veteran sportswriter Mike Lupica says, “By now you know some of the details of Peterson’s own life apart from football, a father who ended up in prison for selling crack cocaine, a brother killed by a drunken driver, another half-brother shot and killed. All of it may inform the man the child became, but does not excuse the kind of behavior, against his own child, for which he now stands accused, even as his lawyer tells us all what a loving father Peterson is.”

Ex-Viking great Cris Carter had his say on ESPN Sunday. Roxanna Scott at USA Today says, “Carter related the story to his mother, who raised seven children by herself. ‘My mom did the best that she could do … But there are thousands of things that I have learned since then that my mom was wrong. This is the 21st century; my mom was wrong… And I promise my kids I won’t teach that mess to them. You can’t beat a kid to make them do what you want them to do.’ As Ray Lewis, Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka listened intently in the studio, Carter got increasingly emotional and his voice became passionate. ‘The only thing I’m proud about is the team that I played for they did the right thing,’ he said of the Vikings.”

At The Sporting News, Troy Machir quotes New York Post writer Bart Hubbuch saying that the Vikings were scheduling a conference call last night and the possibility of trading Peterson was on the table. “The idea of a team trading away one of the best players in the NFL due to the player's first off-the-field incident seems like a gross overreaction, but social indiscretions are viewed is a much different prism than marijuana use. That being said, he has yet to be convicted on any charges, and that will play a big part in the team's decision.”

In other news: Fortune magazine’s Allan Sloan took another rip at Medtronic-style tax inversion. “A high-bracket Minnesota resident who has owned shares of Minneapolis-based Medtronic for 20 years would have to pay about $20 a share in federal and state tax if the company inverts at current prices. But such taxes don’t affect mutual fund and hedge fund managers, who are judged on pretax performance and who pass on tax obligations to their investors. ‘It’s one thing for investors to have to pay tax if a fund manager is selling a stock at a profit, but it’s a whole other thing to have to pay on a stock the fund is keeping,’ says Daniel P. Wiener, editor of a newsletter for Vanguard investors. The same, of course, is true for people who own stock directly. Once again, Wall Street gets its way, while responsible Main Street folks get screwed.” Why it's almost like the hedgies wrote those tax laws. 

The latest Minnesota Poll has Mark Dayton with a 12-point lead over Jeff Johnson in the race for governor. The Strib’s Patrick Condon says, “Dayton leads Johnson 45 percent to 33 percent, with 20 percent undecided. The poll found that Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner from Plymouth and former state legislator, is still a mystery to many: At least a third of likely voters did not recognize his name, while another 40 percent had no opinion of him.”

Here’s The Current’s Andrea Swensson on The Replacements Midway Stadium show Saturday night. “In a performance that spanned nearly every song they’ve pulled out for their reunion gigs so far and a few that haven’t (including ‘Take Me Down the Hospital’, Jimmy Reed’s ‘I’m Going to New York’ and a spine-tingling solo rendition of ‘Skyway’), the Replacements seemed hell bent on erasing any ill will that might have arisen from such a delayed hometown show and finally gave the audience exactly what they wanted.”   

Gluten-free beer, women-only ridesharing, wellness apps: 10 new startups that could change your life

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:17pm

Driven by the seemingly boundless energy of local creatives, community leaders and entrepreneurs, Minneapolis-St. Paul’s burgeoning startup culture shows no signs of slowing down. Last year’s Twin Cities Startup Week attracted more than 125 entrepreneurs. More are expected for this year’s events. Steve Case, a former COE of AOL, is bringing his Rise of the Rest pitchfest to the Varsity Theater on Oct. 7. The University of Minnesota recently announced an ambitious funding program for startups, Discovery Capital, which will encourage its star researchers to commercialize their ideas.

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Several forces are conspiring to make the Twin Cities a hotbed of startup activity. The most dominant factor may be the U of M, one of the nation’s top generators of new business concepts. Another is a deep reserve of research talent and medical innovation, established by such local companies as 3M, Medtronic and Cargill. Support for local entrepreneurs is also growing. The Treehousehealthcare business incubator supports novel technology firms; the Minnesota Cup offers mentoring and financial incentives for a diversity of new companies; and our rapidly developing co-working infrastructure — led by CoCo, Joule and others — is easing the way for “solopreneurs” and lean startups to get off the ground in a hurry.

Here are 10 particularly compelling startups that could change your life and career for the better. All of them are headquartered in the Twin Cities, have innovated a unique thesis or solution to a pressing problem, and have the potential to change their industry’s competitive landscape. You’re hearing about them here first. But they’ll soon be making waves far from Minneapolis-St. Paul — if they’re not already.

Health and wellness

1. Zipnosis

Offers: Cloud-based diagnosis and treatment for routine medical issues
Location: Downtown Minneapolis
 
The costs of health insurance and basic medical care have been in the news a lot these past few years. What if a local startup had a partial answer to the country’s health care crisis? Zipnosis might. Merging the convenience of WebMD with the competence of your primary care provider, the company’s smart-phone app offers “24/7 online diagnosis and treatment service for common medical conditions,” according to its website, at $25 a pop.
 
To use it, just sign up and download the app. Each consultation consists of three easy steps:

  • A five-minute initial interview in which you answer basic questions about your condition. Like computerized testing software, the app uses each answer to generate follow-up questions that zero in on what’s wrong. After the interview is complete, you pay.
  • A response and diagnosis from a local clinician. Zipnosis’ clinicians are active between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. If you complete your interview during that window, you’ll receive a response within an hour. If you interview overnight, your response will come early the next morning.
  • A recommendation for treatment. Based on your diagnosis, your clinician may give you detailed instructions or prescribe medication. If you do get a prescription, you’ll be directed to your preferred pharmacy, which you can indicate in the app’s preferences section.

Zipnosis can help you identify a respiratory infection, re-up on birth control or allergy medication, get a prescription-strength smoking cessation aid and perform other straightforward types of medical care. But for complex, serious or acute conditions, Zipnosis isn’t a substitute for a visit to the hospital or urgent care clinic. And its clinicians don’t prescribe narcotics, so don’t even try.

2. PerkHealth
Offers: An engaging wellness app that encourages healthy (and fun) living
Location: Downtown Minneapolis
 
Like Zipnosis, PerkHealth makes an app that could dramatically change how we get our health care. Founded by Zach McGill and Doug DeBold, PerkHealth markets its app to small- and medium-size companies that want to motivate their employees to make healthier decisions. The app has three main components, which may be tweaked as more firms and users adopt it:

  • Small cash incentives that motivate employees to get on the treadmill, bike or Stairmaster, along with a goal-setting tool that breaks each task down.
  • A social component that lets users compare their exercise habits — along with their successes and failures — with friends and coworkers.
  • A virtual “coach” that assesses your personality and provides tailored guidance and encouragement.

“[PerkHealth] grew out of a desire to build something meaningful,” says McGill. “Small to midsize employers [less than 3,000 employees] have a lot fewer options in the marketplace, and our virtual solution has the ability to engage a much larger portion of their population with a cost structure that works for them.” 
 
If the app’s use results in healthier habits for significant numbers of a company’s employees, the thinking goes, the firm reaps significant financial benefits: lower insurance costs, reduced absenteeism and better productivity at work.
 
PerkHealth recently closed on several hundred thousand dollars in financing and is in the process of compiling “preliminary data showing the positive effect we're having on people's healthy habits,” says McGill. If you don’t want to wait for proof that it works, just ask your boss to give PerkHealth a test drive.

Medical technology  

3. Zepto Life Technology
Offers: Equipment and software that can detect cancer and other illnesses well before currently existing diagnostic tests
Location: U of M/Dinkytown Minneapolis
 
Zepto Life Technology’s cutting-edge biomedical technology could give medical professionals, researchers and technicians a powerful new weapon in the fight against cancer and external infections. According to Drs. Jiaoming Qiu and Jian-Ping Wang, Zepto “is working on innovative biomedical solutions to make a better health care system for the US and also the world.”
 
Jiaoming and Jian-Ping, a McKnight Professor at the University of Minnesota, aren’t shy about where they hope their efforts will lead. “Our technology will make a big difference in the clinical diagnosis industry,” says Jiaoming.
 
How? Zepto is currently working on a suite of diagnostic tools called concentration analysis devices and assays (tests) that utilize a technology called giant magnetoresistance (GMR). GMR allows detection equipment to map the contents of laboratory samples in the absence of visible light. Far more sensitive than currently available alternatives, which use light instead of magnetism, GMR tests can detect minute quantities of viruses, bacteria, cancer cells and other potential pathogens in a laboratory or “point-of-care setting” (such as a hospital).
 
The sample size required for each test is extremely small, potentially reducing the need to draw large amounts of blood or fluid from already fragile patients. And unlike many labor-intensive diagnostic tests, Zepto’s solutions are heavily automated: In some cases, the company says, “users may only need to spend as [little] as five minutes with the device.”
 
Although Zepto’s first clients will probably be research laboratories, its technology’s most exciting application has little to do with lab work. Using modified GMR devices or assays, the company may one day market at-home tests directly to laypeople, doing for cancer and virus detection what genetic-testing companies have done for ancestry studies.

4. Meso-Flow
Offers: Big improvements to the cell preservation process
Location: U of M/Dinkytown Minneapolis

Like Zepto Life Technologies, Meso-Flow is the product of the University of Minnesota’s world-class life sciences ecosystem. Founded by Dr. Allison Hubel, director of the U of M’s Biopreservation Core Resource, the early-stage company is working on a solution to a straightforward but vexing charge: maximizing the viability of artificially preserved cells in clinical and laboratory settings.

Sound like science fiction? It’s already common practice. To facilitate procedures like blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants, tissues and body fluids are regularly frozen to prolong their usefulness.

The first problem: Human cells are mostly water and frozen water expands. In the absence of preservative chemicals, samples wouldn’t survive the freezing and thawing process. The second problem: These preservative chemicals are toxic—“we call it antifreeze, though it’s more complicated than that,” says Meso-Flow CEO Kai Kroll—so they need to be removed before the preserved cells can be used.

Current removal techniques are sloppy in several important ways. First, they come with an uncomfortably high failure rate: many cells are lost during the process. They’re also very time-consuming, requiring hands-on work by trained lab techs. And they don’t always perform as advertised. According to Hubel, bone marrow recipients are especially vulnerable, as many transfusions contain improperly treated cells that still contain toxic, pain-inducing chemicals.

Meso-Flow’s solution is a hands-off system: It runs thawing cells through a washing system that removes detectable amounts of toxic chemicals. According to Hubel and Kroll, up to 20 percent more cells survive the process, making a huge difference for prospective recipients. Within a year, they hope to be taking orders from laboratories (assuming they get regulatory approval from the FDA, which they’re confident of), with other types of clients to follow.

Longer-term, Hubel and Kroll see a huge opportunity in blood banking. The FDA is weighing whether to reduce the maximum refrigeration time for stored blood from six weeks to three, a move that could create a huge blood shortage in the absence of better long-term preservation techniques. (Kroll says that frozen blood is viable for up to 10 years.) If it’s ready in time, Meso-Flow’s solution could alleviate said shortage—and tap a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lifestyle and consumer products

5. Efficient Windows Collaborative
Offers: A one-stop portal for homeowners seeking sustainable home retrofits
Location: U of M/Dinkytown Minneapolis

The Efficient Windows Collaborative (EWC) can't help you with your medical issues, but its information-rich online platform can definitely help you retrofit, renovate or build a sustainable home. An offshoot of the U of M's Center for Sustainable Building Research, the EWC bills itself as a "nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that partners with window, roof, skylight, and component manufacturers, research organizations, federal, state and local government agencies, and others interested in expanding the market for high-efficiency fenestration products."

Though it got off the ground with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Windows and Glazing Research Program, EWC is now a fully independent, member-funded nonprofit organization. Members include window manufacturers, distributors/suppliers and organizations with a vested interest in sustainable building, like trade associations and utility companies.
 
EWC’s primary “product” is a comprehensive website that educates consumers about windows. For instance, its Understanding Windows section lists the benefits of efficient windows (lower HVAC costs, reduced condensation and so on), offers tips on choosing the right window design and explains exhaustively how to measure window performance. It also discusses new construction windows and replacement windows in detail, pointing laypeople and contractors alike to the right products.

6. RideSqirl
Offers: A ridesharing (and, eventually, courier) service for female-identified customers
Location: Uptown Minneapolis

From the lab to the streets! You’ve heard of Uber and Lyft, but what about RideSqirl?

The brainchild of Karissa Stotts, Jen Arzayus and Anna Bottila (who recently left her active role at the company, but remains an enthusiastic supporter), RideSqirl is the nation’s only ridesharing app exclusively for female and female-identified riders. Development is ongoing, and the team hasn’t yet announced when the app will be live. But once activated, RideSqirl will add a third homegrown ridesharing option, particularly for female riders.

RideSqirl aims to make point-to-point transportation safer and more empowering for Twin Cities’ women. Stotts and company also want to inject an alternative perspective into an industry that’s “inherently exclusive in that males currently dominate the cab-driving profession,” says Stotts.

In the early 2000s, for instance, Arzayus drove a cab in Philadelphia, where she was just one of two female drivers in the entire city. She was also the youngest, “which made for a challenging work environment,” she says.

Among existing options, Uber in particular has received negative press for perceived safety risks. “Rideshare apps are somewhat safer [than taxis] because the app tracks exactly which drivers and riders are connecting,” says Stotts. But there’s still “no way to identify a perpetrator until something happens and it gets reported.

While “the majority of men are respectful of women,” Stotts continues, “we have...heard too many stories of women being sexually assaulted by an unknown man driving them in a cab or their personal vehicle.” All three RideSqirl founders have personally experienced sexual harassment as cab or rideshare passengers. And while they still use these services, RideSqirl's founders tell drivers to drop them off at a public place close to their homes, rather than reveal where they live. By limiting ridership and drivership to female-identified individuals, RideSqirl takes this worry out of the equation.

The app itself will be similar to Uber and Lyft, with drivers using their own cars and the app automatically charging drivers’ stored payment cards. But aside from the female-only aspect, there will be a few key differences.

RideSqirl displays each ride’s final price — not an estimate — before it begins. Riders can also choose between the three closest drivers, whereas Uber and Lyft automatically pair them with the absolute closest. And all RideSqirl drivers — Sqirls — must undergo domestic violence and rape crisis training, as the founders will offer free or discounted rides to women in crisis.

Longer-term, RideSqirl plans to leapfrog its competitors and set up a local courier service for women who need staples and supplies but don’t have the means or inclination to leave their homes. Clients would prepay for anything their Sqirl delivered and for the Sqirl’s time. Stotts also talks hopefully about a “national and international focus” that involves women well beyond the Twin Cities.

“Driving is a very male-dominated profession globally,” she says, “so our secondary vision is to help women enter and excel in the driving marketplace.”

7. Bard’s Tale Beer
Offers: High-quality, gluten-free beer locally and nationally
Location: Calhoun-Isles/Uptown Minneapolis

Bard’s Tale Beer doesn’t offer a cutting-edge medical treatment or revolutionary technical process. But it deserves a place on this list because, really, who doesn’t like beer? And why should gluten-sensitive beer lovers be left out of the fun?

Bard’s has a new take on the centuries-old process of brewing beer, as it makes “the original malted sorghum beer,” a gluten-free elixir that looks and tastes like barley-based beer. While headquartered here, with its signature beer available at liquor stores around the Twin Cities, Bard’s is also an under-the-radar global phenomenon: Bard’s Tale can be found in 44 states, several Canadian provinces and parts of Latin America. If the company can find a willing distributor, says CEO Brian Kovalcuk, the U.K. and continental Europe may be next.

Kovalcuk is a good choice to lead an ambitious brewing concern. As the former CEO of Pabst Brewing Company, he took the firm from near-bankruptcy to hipster-chic. In 2006, an industry contact introduced him to Bard’s two founders, Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz, whom he immediately took a liking to.

At the time, the gluten-free concept was still novel. The group quickly realized that “we can’t just be a local company,” says Kovalchuk. Canada was an enticing expansion target, he says, because “they’re much more advanced when it comes to gluten issues.”

Though it’s nearly a decade old, Bard’s Tale retains the ethos of a startup: an irreverent branding campaign, accessible employees and one killer product (a moderately hopped lager). A gluten-free ale might be in the works, but “that would have to meet our strict standards,” says Kovalchuk. 

Since Bard’s Tale hit the scene, gluten-free beer has come a long way. In Burning Brothers, the Twin Cities has another homegrown brewery devoted to the cause. But there’s nothing like being first—especially when you bear a huge responsibility for starting a global movement that continues to accelerate.

Business solutions

8. InformeDesign
Offers: An accessible, non-technical repository of cutting-edge research in architecture, design and related fields
Location: U of M St. Paul and Minneapolis

Like the Efficient Windows Collaborative, InformeDesign isn’t your typical tech startup. But it does offer a novel approach to the often inaccessible world of peer-reviewed research. Launched by Drs. Denise Guerin and Caren Martin, who both worked in the U of M’s Department of Design, Housing and Apparel, the initiative was originally funded by a multi-year grant from the American Society of Interior Designers.

The goal was, and still is, to create a repository of knowledge for anyone — professionals, academics, contractors and DIYers — interested in architecture, interior design, urban planning and related fields. It’s tied together by a commitment to the principles of Evidence-Based Design  (EBD), which applies rigorous, scientific criteria to a discipline that’s often unfairly pegged as subjective.

The heart of the project is a growing collection of research summaries. These are 800 to 1,000 word “translations” of academic papers — “gobbledygook,” Martin says politely — that laypeople and non-academic design practitioners can easily understand. The summaries need to be written by trained professionals, Martin included, to ensure they’re faithful to the principles of EBD. According to Martin, the database’s user population is about 70 percent practitioners and 30 percent college students, mostly kids at smaller institutions that don’t have access to design journals.

InformeDesign is structured as an LLC and remains self-funded, though a transition to nonprofit status may be in its future. To ensure its survival, Martin and Guerin are seeking “cornerstone partners,” institutions willing to invest significant sums of money in exchange for access and other benefits. They’re also exploring advertising and other means of monetizing the site. And for $20 a pop, students and practitioners can use the “PIY” — Publish It Yourself — feature to post CVs, dissertations and other material.

No matter how InformeDesign earns its keep, it’s taking a novel approach to academic literature. Martin struggles to think of a comparable resource in another discipline, but InformeDesign is paving the way.

9. 400 Doors
Offers: A cloud-based app with fresh real estate listings
Location: Downtown Minneapolis

400 Doors could solve a problem you never knew you had. The company’s app streamlines the early stages of the real estate sales process by connecting real estate agents with fresh listings that haven’t yet gone public in MLS (the Master Listing Service, a comprehensive repository of on-the-market properties).

“We’re bringing offline networking online” and making it more efficient, says co-founder Robert Nelson. Buyer representatives who post a “Buyer Need” with the app can see hot properties before non-users, alerting them to suitable properties before they’re snapped up. Selling agents can use it “like sending out a ‘Save the Date’ or a party invite,” according to 400 Doors’ website, drumming up buyer interest as soon as their client is ready to list.

But unlike “pocket listings,” a common practice in which new listings are kept out of MLS for the benefit of a particular real estate agent or firm, 400 Doors’ advance listings are available to everyone. “Postings on 400 Doors are searchable by all members (agents) on the site regardless of their brokerage,” the company’s website says. “Following all MLS and local Realtor Association guidelines is a requirement of 400 Doors membership.” This is an important ethical backstop in a competitive industry.

Why is 400 Doors useful for non-real estate professionals? According to Nelson, the app reduces the average time a home sits on the market by connecting serious buyers with willing sellers before the free-for-all begins. In turn, sellers may get a better asking price, buyers may get a speedier move-in and agents can be assured of a smooth sales process.

10. Apruve
Offers: A better way to reimburse employees for work-related expenses
Location: Southwest Minneapolis

Hands up if you like filling out expense reports! Thought so. If you don’t have a corporate credit card, keeping track of work-related expenses can be tedious and time-consuming. As Apruve founder Michael Noble puts it, “Why should buying stuff for your job be any different than buying for yourself?”

An intuitive app, Apruve eliminates the need to keep track of receipts and fill out redundant forms for online purchases. Instead, users just click a special “Apruve” button at checkout, fill out a brief explanation of why the purchase is necessary, and send the request along to the person responsible for approving purchases at your company. Once they sign off, the vendor receives compensation and delivers the goods — a process that can take minutes if everyone is on their game.

According to Noble, Apruve is sorely needed. Expense fraud is rampant, with as much as 14 percent of all corporate purchasing activity occurring “outside of company protocols” or in a “straight up fraudulent” manner, he says. He's seen the repercussions: When he worked at Limewire, a file-sharing startup, one of his colleagues got the ax for expense fraud.

At the moment, Apruve is concentrating on marketing to two types of companies: online merchants that handle large volumes of relatively small business-to-business orders, and software/service companies that market highly technical products and services to engineers and IT professionals.

In 2013, online B2B sales were nearly $540 billion. But there’s plenty of room for growth. And according to Noble, “The next one to two years will be about making Apruve a real option for users at checkout.”

This article is reprinted in partnership with The Line, an online chronicle of Twin Cities creativity in entrepreneurship, culture, retail, placemaking, the arts, and other elements of the new creative economy. Brian Martucci is The Lines Innovation and Jobs Editor.

Bill Pohlad’s biopic of Brian Wilson lands $3M deal

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:16pm

Since Bill Pohlad returned to the director’s chair after more than two decades to helm a Brian Wilson biopic, the Minnesota-based filmmaker is seeing results that are likely the envy of even the most tenured in the field.

After Pohlad’s Love & Mercy received a standing ovation and nearly universal praise from critics at its Sunday Toronto International Film Festival debut, Deadline.com reported that Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions emerged from a group of several bidders to acquire U.S. and Canada rights to the film for $3 million.

Pohlad’s chops as a producer — 12 Years A Slave, Into The Wild, Brokeback Mountain — have him established in the film industry, but Love & Mercy is the first movie he directed since 1990’s Old Explorers. That film floated well under the radar and, according to the New York Times, lost money for Pohlad’s friends and family.

Love & Mercy follows the rise of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson — who also co-produced the film — and his subsequent battles with mental illness. Paul Dano portrays Wilson in his early years and John Cusack plays him later in life as his struggles set in.

“There has been a lot of interest in the film ... because Pohlad is such an engaged and tastemaking filmmaker,” Deadline.com wrote Wednesday. 

The Los Angeles Times called it a “refreshing surprise” in a well-trod genre. Of tackling a music biopic, Pohlad told the LA Times: “I think every creative person, maybe every person, needs that element of ego or they wouldn’t do something like this. They need that kind of drive,” he said. “I think Brian has what a lot of us have. He just has it in really intense form.”

Pohlad is the son of the late Minnesota Twins owner and business magnate Carl Pohlad. He’s among the multiple bright spots to which Minnesota can lay claim as it works to become more of a player in the film industry. To that end, Pohlad is part of a consortium working to advance a school of cinema production. Meanwhile, the Pohlad Family Foundation funded a 2013 U of M study of the effects such a school can have on nearby metro areas.

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.

MN Blog Cabin Roundup, 9/12

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:15pm
The case for quarter mile bus stop spacing

from streets.mn by Alex Cecchini

You know the feeling. You hop on local route XYZ, hoping for a somewhat speedy journey to work, home, or play. Maybe today the bus will hit the jackpot. Then the familiar sound comes once every block, a soothing voice speaks the words “Stop Requested.” Sometimes it happens the instant the bus is pulling away from its previous stop. Your inner Hulk flares up. But then! A glimmer of hope – a new block without anyone grasping for the yellow cord! But, somehow the Universe knows. Someone boards at the next stop anyway.

Knoblach liked ancient endorsements enough to put on lit, groups making them not so much

from Bluestem Prairie by Sally Jo Sorensen

Jim Knoblach liked endorsements from prior elections so much that he put them on this cycle's campaign lit. But the organizations that made the endorsements?

Not so much.

At least, that's the sense we get in reading an exchange  of letters to the editors in the St. Cloud Times.

Transpo convo: George at the bus stop

from streets.mn by Monica Millsap Rasmussen

“I love MTC!” George stands at a bus stop on University Avenue on a blustery, 50 degree day, finishing his cigarette.  He had been shopping at Wal-Mart.

George exudes a love for life.

Great expectations

from My Minnesota by John Harrington

I remember, years ago, reading about how lichen help break down rocks into soil particles. Made sense, created a set of expectations. I did not expect to see lichen on trees, despite the fact that immediately outside my window are a number of trees with lichens on the branches and trunk. I "see" them — without registering what I'm "seeing" — about every day when I walk the dogs, but they weren't — aren't — as notable as these lichen-covered conifers in boreal woods northeast of here.

Stormtrooper for hire

from Stubble by Tom Johnson

Stubble: Do you have any good stories from past jobs? (Any kids who have gotten scared or starting hitting you with lightsabers, for example?)

David: I was standing in coffee shop (everyone needs caffeine) – and a 6 year old kid came around the corner… Kid almost passed out. I thought he was going to pee right there!! He goes running back to his Grandma (who totally doesn’t believe the kid) screaming, “THERE IS REAL STORMTROOPER BUYING COFFEE RIGHT NOW!!! I’LL SAVE YOU GRANDMA!!” Yes, the kid totally got his photo taken (and it’s posted over his bed)!

I think the shock factor is my favorite part.

If you blog and would like your work considered for Minnesota Blog Cabin, please submit our registration form.

Carleen Rhodes to step down as head of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 2:06pm
Carleen Rhodes

Carleen Rhodes, the long-time president of the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners network, said today that she'll step down from the post in May.

She said she's not retiring, but embarking on the "next chapter of meaningful engagement for me, which will include new directions for work, service and learning."

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners is the network of charitable foundations that includes the Saint Paul Foundation, the Minnesota Community Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation, Mardag Foundation and others.

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The organization said that during her tenure, the assets at the network increased from $800 million to $1.2 billion, grants were made totaling more than $700 million, and contributions to the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation exceeded $700 million.

The organization will conduct a national search for her successor.

Mark Wilson, Partners board chair, said:

"The many accomplishments under her leadership include the creation of the Arts Partnership that built stronger working relationships between the Ordway and its resident arts organizations, the formation with other funders of the Central Corridors Funders Collaborative to assure everyone on the corridor would benefit from the investment in light rail, efforts to prevent and end homelessness including Heading Home Minnesota and the revisioning for the Dorothy Day Center, making racial equity a key focus for the foundations, the creation of GiveMN as a new tool for donors to give and thousands of Minnesota nonprofits to raise money on-line and engagement of more than 84,000 Minnesotans in four Minnesota Idea Challenges, including the recent Saint Paul Million Dollar Challenge."

Rhodes had been president of the Minnesota Children's Museum before being named president of the Saint Paul Foundation in 2003, when she succeeded Paul Verret, who'd been its president for 28 years.

The Saint Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation aligned in 2007, and Rhodes became president and CEO of both; the organization adopted the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners name in 2011.

Vikings have double the league average of player arrests since 2000

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 1:27pm

They are our heroes. The New York Times Upshot column analyzes the arrest records of players on NFL teams over the last 14 years and I’ll give one guess who leads the league — and at double the league average. Writes Neil Irwin, “The Minnesota Vikings have had the most players arrested since 2000. The number of arrests by team range from a low of 11 (tie between the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams) versus a high of 44 (the Vikings), with the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos close behind. To look at it a different way, across the league from 2000 through 2013, 2.53 percent of players were arrested per year, but for the Vikings, that number is 5 percent. For the three teams tied for fewest arrests, it is 1.3 percent.” Skol, Vikings!

The Pioneer Press’s hedge-fund controlled parent company is now talking about a sale of some or all parts. From Digital First Media: “CEO John Paton said the company has retained UBS Securities to review a full range of alternatives — including selling the entire company, selling regional clusters or doing nothing. … In addition to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Digital First's largest properties include the San Jose Mercury News, the Denver Post, the Los Angeles Daily News, the New Haven Register, and the Salt Lake Tribune. … The company is controlled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.” Does this mean they see no way to build equity through more lay-offs?

A nasty virus seems to be affecting kids in Minnesota and overwhelming hospitals. Stribber Jeremy Olson says, “Whether any Minnesota children have been infected with enterovirus D68 won’t be known until lab tests confirm the virus, but officials at two pediatric hospitals in Minneapolis said their emergency rooms and inpatient units are full of children suffering labored breathing and wheezing — symptoms associated with the strain.”

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Who knew: lower prices were good for the college business? At MPR, Alex Friedrich writes, “Two years after Concordia University announced a massive tuition cut, the school has enjoyed its second consecutive enrollment jump — suggesting that its bold experiment in college finance is paying off. Officials at the St. Paul school say it is coming out ahead financially and better positioning itself as a viable alternative to public universities, which are traditionally seen as less expensive.” I’m certain the for-profit industry will follow suit.

Classy. James Shiffer of the Strib reports on a possible Social Security fraud. “For the second time in recent months, one of these [third-party payee] organizations — called representative payees — has lost its contract with the Social Security Administration. Richfield-based Greenleaf Payment Services handled the benefits of 290 vulnerable recipients when it was terminated in July, and it's now the subject of an investigation by Social Security's Office of Inspector General, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday.”

Slate’s Andy Kiersz cooks up a listicle of the most affluent towns in every state. And no, you knee-jerkers, it isn’t Edina.

And where is the line between “likely” and “highly likely”? Dave Chanen at the Strib says, “A 24-year-old rapist indefinitely committed to Minnesota’s controversial sex offender program since 2012 on Thursday became one of its few inmates to be released. After a review ordered by the state Supreme Court in April, retired Sibley County District Judge Thomas McCarthy ruled that Cedrick Ince is likely to sexually reoffend. But, McCarthy said, there wasn’t clear and convincing evidence that Ince met the legal criteria for commitment as a person ‘highly likely’ to reoffend.”

Tomorrow night’s Replacements show at Midway Stadium is getting plenty of attention. Our Jim Walsh turns up both here and in a Strib piece, and Chris Riemenschneider adds, “One of the best things about the new-era Replacements gigs — or at least the three I’ve seen — has been the sight of the Replacements playing in the thick of today’s rock ’n’ roll frontline with bigger, younger crowds; seeing fans who weren’t alive when ‘Tim’ came out sing along loudly to ‘Bastards of Young’ and ‘Left of the Dial,’ seeing the band fit in easily on festival lineups with Arcade Fire, Spoon, Jack White, Best Coast, the Hold Steady and other bands that picked up where they left off…”

The White House is making a new effort to counter Muslim radicalization around the country, including here in Minnesota. Says Allison Sherry in the Strib, “Obama administration officials are engaged in reaching out to Muslim communities across the United States — including Minnesota — to try and get them to speak up if they see radicalization taking place. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Phil Gordon, White House coordinator for the Middle East, said officials ‘were very attuned’ to ISIL's propoganda machine — on social and print media — that has tempted some young American muslims to join the movement in the Middle East.”

Forget about the Lafayette Bridge over the weekend. MPR’s Tim Nelson reports, “The Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge east of downtown [St. Paul] will shut down so crews can install anti-icing equipment on the northbound side of the bridge, move barricades to widen lanes and other work. The northbound side of the bridge will close from 5:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. between Concord Street and East 7th Street. The southbound lanes of the bridge between East 7th Street and Concord Street will close from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.”

Archaeology Week in Minnesota kicks off Saturday

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:58am

Minnesota's Office of State Archaeology, based at the Fort Snelling History Center, is holding an Archaeology Week, starting Saturday, at sites around the state (pdf).

Among the many events:

  • Saturday and Sunday: Minnesota Archaeology Fair at Fort Snelling Visitor Center with poster and artifact displays, demonstrations and activities illustrating and explaining the archaeology of Minnesota. Also artifact identification,  and demonstrations of pottery-making and flint knapping.
  • Saturday: at the Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site in Cottonwood County, help construct a 2,000- year- old style house based on an ancient dwelling found at the Mountain Lake Site.
  • Saturday and Sept. 20: Split Rock Lighthouse parking lot, walk through a mock shipwreck and look for archaeological clues to detect what wreck it is. Then talk with a real underwater diver to learn what it is like to really dive for ships.
  • Sept. 20: at Whitewater State Park in Winona County, kids can discover how early Native people lived by examining artifacts from four different time periods, dating as far back as the end of the ice age.

Archaeology Week has been held annually in Minnesota since 1995. The goal is to promote interest in archaeology and an appreciation of the state’s diverse cultural heritage.

Beyond the boob tube: An exchange among Brookings scholars about Obama's speech

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:52am

After President Obama’s we-will-degrade-and-destroy-ISIS speech, the scholars at Brookings who have some expertise on the Mideast started a group email chain of their reactions and made an edited version of it public. My purpose here is just to pass along this link and commend it to your attention.

The comments in it are mostly smart and substantive. Having spent the aftermath of the speech channel-surfing for reaction and hearing mostly bloviation, I very much appreciated the quality of the Brookings exchange. Of course, there’s a reason that a TV set is nicknamed an “idiot box.”

There’s no one in the Brookings group with whom I particularly agreed. And many of them start out with the credibility problem of having favored the original disastrous blunder, the invasion of Iraq. And I would like to have heard from at least one dove. But these are smart, serious people whose experience combines knowledge of the Mideast, of military matters, of inner-White House politics, of speechwriting. I felt smarter after reading it.

They seemed mostly to agree that the talk of ISIS as a threat to the U.S. homeland is mostly hype, but most of them seemed to think it was necessary hype.

Martin Indyk makes a good point in the Brookings thread that the Achilles heel of ISIS is that they actually hold territory, and quite a bit of it. He emphasized that this gave them a problem of having to decide whether to use their resources to perpetuate their military campaign or to feed and govern the people in their territory. The  other piece of that argument that occurs to me, which Indyk didn’t emphasize, is that if the Obama-led coalition wants to go after ISIS, they know where it lives, unlike, for example, Al Qaida.