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Lung Association 'flunks' Minnesota

Nice going, Minnesota! The American Lung Association has downgraded us to an “F.” At MPR, Tom Weber says: “Minnesota received two failing grades in the American Lung Association's ‘State of Tobacco Control,’ an annual report that tracks policies related to tobacco and tobacco prevention at the state and federal level. States are given grades in four categories: funding for tobacco prevention programs, public smoking restrictions, taxes on tobacco products and whether insurance is required to cover cessation treatments. Last year, Minnesota received a failing grade on funding and a D on cessation coverage, while it scored an A for having a statewide smoking ban law and a C for its tax on cigarettes. This year, Minnesota's cessation coverage grade dropped to an F.” And the effect on funding by shoveling tobacco money over to protect our job creators from usurious taxation?

In TIME today, Minnesota native Doug Aamoth savors Google’s Zamboni doodle (up today). “As a young kid growing up in Minnesota, the Zamboni man is always something of a legend at the neighborhood ice rinks. Then you graduate college and some of your buddies are still working (or go back to working) at the ice rink driving the Zamboni, often while under the influence of mood altering substances of varying legality. They all tell the same story: Driving the Zamboni is awesome the first hundred times, then it just becomes work. What I’m saying is, don’t meet your heroes, kids. Hopefully that’s all just an isolated experience, and it should do nothing to taint the legacy of Frank Zamboni, Jr., the inventor of the whimsical machine that bears his name. He’s the honoree of today’s playable Google Doodle, wherein you don what I can only assume is the insulated rink jacket shared by all the rink attendants and is never to be worn home. The jacket perpetually smells like the inside of the warming house, which perpetually smells like sweat, puck rubber and stick tape. You then climb aboard the Zamboni and, using your keyboard’s arrow keys, heroically resurface the sections of the ice made stubbly by the hockey stops and pirouettes of countless tiny skaters.”

Speaking of … The McClatchy Services report:There is do-able snowpack in a few parts of the state. Golden Eagle Lodge off the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota reported ‘fair to good’ snow conditions Monday, with a base of 6 to 8 inches in the woods. Zippel Bay State Park on Lake of the Woods was reporting good cross country ski conditions and fair snowmobile conditions. And a few areas in far northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula have received enough lake-effect snow to keep trails groomed. However, many trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin were listed in poor condition -- with ice or bare ground making travel tricky — or were closed altogether. Significant snowfall isn't in the forecast. Three weak systems, known as Alberta clippers, were predicted to come through various parts of Minnesota within the next several days, but the most snow any part of the state would see is perhaps 2 inches in the far north.”

This morning’s example of why we need better gun control … . David Unze of the St. Cloud Times writes: “A Sauk Centre man accused of threatening an acquaintance Friday with a gun has been ordered held in lieu of $300,000 bail. Brent Lee Rutten, 39, is charged in Stearns County District Court with second-degree assault and making terroristic threats. … A court complaint says Rutten went to the man’s residence Friday and became agitated because he thought police were after him for a separate incident. The man tried to calm Rutten, but Rutten became more agitated when the victim sent a text message that he thought was being sent to law enforcement. Rutten is accused of telling the victim that Rutten was going to ‘go down in a gun fight’ with police and that the victim was ‘going down with me,’ according to the complaint. Rutten then convinced the victim to get into his pickup truck, and Rutten locked the doors. That’s when he showed a handgun to the victim and started to drive out of the victim’s driveway. The victim grabbed a clip that was next to the gun and jumped from the moving truck.” Of course if the victim were carrying his Bushmaster …

The GleanAnd there’s more where this guy is coming from … Says Mike Creger of the Forum papers: “On a day when President Obama was preparing a slate of proposals to stem gun violence in America, Minnesota's Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole said he would consider any new federal regulation on guns to be illegal and would ‘refuse to carry it out.’ ‘We will not enforce that,’ Cole told the News Tribune of any potential federal regulation that could lead to confiscation of firearms. … Cole’s position first appeared Tuesday in an open letter he sent to residents of the east-central Minnesota county, disseminated through the media. The sheriff said he made the statement in response to questions from his constituents who are scared about potential new gun laws. Cole said it took him a month to craft the response.” De-weaponizing that guy might be a good first step.

Whether DFL leadership likes it or not … Baird Helgeson of the Strib says: “Minnesota's divisive fight over same-sex marriage is moving to a Capitol showdown. Supporters of legalization are preparing to roll out House and Senate proposals as early as next month. Legislative leaders who shied away from the issue earlier now are not ruling out a vote on the measure this spring. The push will kick off with a Summit Avenue fundraiser on Wednesday night.”

On the matter of our electrical grid, Marisa Helms of Finance & Commerce writes: “[Hurricane Sandy] left more than 8 million people without power for several days, and tens of thousands of residents were left in the dark weeks. It’s the kind of catastrophe that leaves some in Minnesota’s energy industry wondering if the state’s system has what it takes to weather a Midwest-style superstorm. While a hurricane isn’t likely to hit Minnesota, the state is susceptible to tornadoes, blizzards, and ice storms. ‘The system is vulnerable, it’s exposed to the elements, and it doesn’t take much to knock it out,’ says Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a policy and advocacy organization. ‘Disruptive events like thunderstorms or high winds can create so much vulnerability.’ Noble points out that the state could conceivably face another blow down like the one that swept through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in July 1999. … ‘What if a derecho hit Minneapolis or the Mall of America?’ asks Noble. ‘We should make sure our system is as resilient as it can be. With the changing climate, a lot of events are coming that are anomalies, not like anything else we’ve seen. It’s the shape of things to come.’ ”

If they can just keep the anti-science kids distracted with the candy store … Josephine Marcotty and Bill McAuliffe of the Strib write: “Science made a comeback at the State Capitol on Tuesday. Five of Minnesota's most prominent researchers on agriculture, land use, weather and climate change gave a room packed with legislators a quick but sweeping summary of the global environmental problems facing the state. They touched on floods, drought, massive thunderstorms, a changing forest, invasive bugs and rising demand for groundwater. The point, Reps. Jean Wagenius and Alice Hausman said, is that the DFL-controlled House intends to base new laws and policy decisions — especially those related to climate change — on research rather than dogma. ‘It's science vs. ideology,’ said Hausman, a DFLer from St. Paul and chairwoman of the House Capital Investment Committee, describing a debate that is going on nationally as well. ‘There are still some that question the science,’ ” True enough, but why do we have to pay any attention to them?

Minneapolis’ homeless situation is kind of embarrassing. Says Randy Furst in the Strib: “Despite numerous public and private programs that spend millions of dollars confronting homelessness, some of which have had marked success, new figures show the number of people with nowhere to live continues to grow. Harbor Lights reported another record-breaking year, with an average of nearly 500 people jammed into the building on any given night. The number of homeless families in Hennepin County rose to 1,453 last year, the highest number in more than a decade but down from a high of 1,817 in 2000. The problem is metrowide. Gerry Lauer, director of the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, says the center gets between 175 and 200 homeless people a day at its overnight shelter. Another 20 to 40 people are housed in a nearby building that handles overflow. ‘The numbers we have been seeing have been steadily increasing,’ Lauer said. ‘In the summer we turn them away and they camp outside our facilities.’ ”

Lipstick from birch bark?  The AP says: “A University of Minnesota startup is finding new commercial uses for birch bark. The venture is called The Actives Factory and it's based in Two Harbors. The university says it will extract and synthesize naturally occurring chemicals from birch bark to manufacture cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and eventually drugs and industrial products. The university says three birch bark compounds, in particular, have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, treat fungal and bacterial infections, stimulate the immune system, and more.” Heck, I’m putting that stuff on my Lucky Charms …

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Comments (14)

On the matter of our electrical grid

Isn't it about time to start a discussion about burying power lines, which are very vulnerable to tornadoes, blizzards, and ice storms?

Lessening vulnerability

I'd love to see that discussion get started, but everything I've read on the topic suggests that the costs are – if not absolutely prohibitive – staggering. When lines go down due to storm or other damage, it might be worthwhile to have a plan in place to replace downed aerial lines with underground ones, but that would require a substantial capital reserve, not to mention a LOT of planning ahead of time. I'm not sure either of those obstacles are likely to be overcome any time soon.

Why do we have to pay any attention to them?

Because through nothing more than the ability to make noise, the doubters have managed to hijack the debate. The public, in turn, lets general apathy and a lack of knowledge of anything scientific guide their opinions.

Global warming? It's not happening--Dave Dahl says so, and he's a weatherman! On TV! Evolution? [Fast spewing of pseudo-scientific jargon and a few memorized talking points], and the Flintstones! Vaccines don't cause autism? Jenny McCarthy says they do, and she was on Oprah!

The trend will continue, I'm afraid. Right-wing ideologues are gearing up to fight the teaching of dangerous ideas like set theory and algebra. Soon more of them will join the fight against relativity.

Note to Sheriff Cole...

I crafted my own response..."I consider any state regulation on speeding or drinking while driving while passing through Pine County to be illegal and I would refuse to abide by it". And hey! it only took me 30 seconds to craft my response, not 30 days.

Birch bark lipstick

I can't speak to the healing or preventative powers of Birch bark, but in case the startup's mentors at the U are unaware, recent articles in the 'Strib have scientists (including, if memory serves me correctly, some from the U itself) saying that, in a generation, Minnesota might not have any Birch trees due to climate change. I assumed they (and the startup people) were talking about the White Birch. Hard to keep a small business going when the raw material disappears…

Planning for a Likely Future

I'm glad to see that our Democratic legislators, rather than trying to pass constitutional amendments to control the non-existent voter fraud boogie men and women, and the bedroom behavior of their friends and neighbors (while failing to propose a single bill or policy change that would actually have improved the state's economic circumstances, long term),...

are seeking the best scientific advice they can find in order to plan for the future of our state in the face of likely changes brought about by a changing climate.

There are many ramifications to an average temperature rise of 4-5 degrees (perhaps as soon as 37 years from now), a rise which sounds like no big deal until you start to learn how radical those changes are likely to be. Just ask the folks in SW Minnesota whose wells dried up by the end of this last summer how much fun those effects are. We're quite likely to see more of the same and in wider areas.

It's not just that things are going to change, but that those changes will be huge. Without help many plant species will disappear as their habitat vanishes. Whole forests are likely to die (as they already are out West and in East Texas), leading to massive increases in fire danger.

Some areas which have previously been very fertile farm land will no longer be so, or will require that different crops will have to be grown (or far more drought and flood-tolerant versions of current crops).

Our entire lake-based recreation industry may be at risk as falling lake levels lead to serious changes in the health of those lakes and reduce the possibility of recreation on them (just ask the folk on White Bear Lake).

It's vitally important that we get out ahead of such changes and make contingency plans in order to protect and preserve the natural world, where possible, and to ease the transitions that these changes will likely make necessary in the lives of thousands of our state's citizens.

It will be tremendously helpful if, as a set of problems starts to develop and deepen, those seeking to address those problems have already carefully considered how to do so, made plans, and are prepared to carry out those plans.

We may even need to plan for how to deal with an influx of refugees from states which have not planned for the future and/or have the misfortune to be part of a new and expanding Western, Southwestern, South Central desert of uninhabitable wasteland.

In the end we can save a great deal of money by preparing in advance for the changes likely to come and make life much easier for those whose lives and livelihoods are adversely affected if not completely ripped apart.

From the pictures I saw from China

We need a dome so that all of our (costly) efforts aren't ruined by every other country on the planet.

Sheriff Robin Cole of Pine County

Whoa, I thought law enforcement officers were sworn to obey and uphold the law(s) . . . not create their own lexicon of which laws they choose to uphold and enforce. Since this appears to be an interesting insight into the mind set of Sheriff Cole and I hope the Pine County Attorney and Board is paying attention. This guy either needs to get with the program and his sworn oath or turn in his papers so he can promote his personal agenda and viewpoints in a proper manner.

Our Lung Association ranking will go up

Once the ACA takes over and pays for the cessation programs. Our tobacco taxes should go up as soon as the Legislature starts voting which will better our rating too. We can take a small part of the money that we take from the rich and designate it to cessation programs that cost a lot but don't necessarily have any effect.

Why on earth do we need to raise funds for a gay-marriage bill?

Won't our legislators pass it on their own now that we have an overwhelming majority? What would the money be used for?

There have been a number of

There have been a number of articles in Minnpost and elsewhere about the majority's reluctance to take on the marriage issue this session. Money raised for Minnesotans United is presumably going to fund their lobbying efforts at the legislature, building on the organizational momentum of the amendment fight.

So it's the money deal...

Legislators, reluctant to take on the issue will do so once money is used to "persuade" them. It seems to be coming into focus now.

It's more a function of the

It's more a function of the DFL trying to keep their majority after the next election. Legislators in vulnerable seats don't want to take on a hot issue like same-sex marriage. Despite your completely unfounded implication that there's something shady going on, Minnesotans United isn't unlike any number of organizations that employ people to work on a given issue at the capitol.

Of course, none of this would be news had you bothered to read the referenced article.

Wait a minute...

...didn't we get a huge settlement from the tobacco industry to fight smoking and such? What happened to that money? Oh Yeah, we hired Timmy Pawlenty to "manage" it.