Daily Glean: Numbed by pig brains, screwed on workers’ comp

Outrage alert: MPR’s Sea Stachura says at least four Austin pork plant workers can’t get worker’s comp a year after being exposed to nerve-rotting aerosolized pig brains. The Mayo Clinic established the link to arm and leg numbness, but Quality Pork Processors hired Johns Hopkins to assist the insurance review; a Mayo guy says the Hopkins vetter hasn’t seen his research. A boycott doesn’t sound good enough for this business. The company says it is re-examining at least one claim.

K-12 education will be spared when Gov. Pawlenty un-allots $271 million Friday, the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury reports. Despite that, schools are doing pre-emptive cutting, MPR’s Tom Weber notes. Local governments will take a hit, but a Pawlenty spokesperson calls those cuts “rather modest.” Given cities are at the end of budget years, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Higher ed and health care will also be nailed, one DFLer predicts. This affects only the current biennium; a $5 billion 2010-11 deficit still looms.

Budget troubles are no time to skimp on LBGT rights; gay marriage supporters will “go on the offensive” this session, the Strib’s Randy Furst reports. A legalization bill will be introduced, but even backers don’t expect passage; it’s the kickoff “on a multiyear effort” centered on actual gay couples in each community, and fundamental justice. This will be a fun litmus test for DFL gubernatorial candidates. Opponents can expect to raise scads of money off the deal.

Vulture parade: Lawyers in the Tom Petters mega-fraud want $1.2 million in fees for October, the PiPress’ John Welbes writes. Petters’ lawyer wants $248,000; Lindquist & Vennum seeks $607,000 to help run Petters’ businesses. The court-appointed receiver, Doug Kelley, has asked for a relatively modest $39,000. The Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus notes fees of $165 to $750 an hour aren’t considered excessive, and are covered by a $10 million insurance policy. October should be the costliest month.

The PiPress’ Nicole Garrison-Sprenger finds another local Madoff victim: Gary Holmes of real estate developer CSM Corp. He thought he was being “pranked” when he read about the $50 billion fraud, but “lost a lot of money” he never expects to see again. That 9 percent annual return doesn’t look great now.

No one knows how the state Supreme Court will rule on Norm Coleman’s bid to block certain absentee ballots from the recount, but the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin writes that a GOP’s lawyer’s analogy to Florida was unkindly received in oral arguments. One judge wondered why improperly rejected absentees should be kept from the canvass. Others wondered why do anything now when it will all end up in court anyway. The PiPress editorial page says count the damn things now.

Timing for an absentee ruling: Minnesota Independent’s Paul Demko notes a decision may take awhile, but the PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger indicates it could come soon. (MinnPost coverage here.) By the way, Coleman’s “lead” expanded because the Canvassing Board tossed most of Franken’s challenges, but it will begin dropping now that Norm’s far larger 1,000-ballot challenge pool is being reviewed.

Duplicate ballots are next on the recount agenda; according to the Strib, Coleman forces say 150 absentee votes were double counted. (Judges transcribe certain absentee votes onto machine-readable ballots). The Canvassing Board upbraided Coleman’s lawyer, who raised the objection late after agreeing to counting procedures weeks ago. Go to court, the board will probably say today. Franken calls the dupes issue “invented,” KARE’s Scott Goldberg notes. The Democrat threatens to add 339 challenges if the board decides to review the alleged dupes.

Related: Interesting Strib op-ed by a Mower County judge who says Minneapolis’ lost 133 votes should not be counted. Joe Quinn is an ex-DFL legislator whom both parties picked to handle a state Senate recount. The Canvassing Board’s decision to use the machine tape prevents any ballot re-examination. “Recounts should minimize the risk of political mischief, not provide it a safe harbor,” he writes.

The Strib’s “Boy We Suck” series (OK, OK, it’s called “Cast into Doubt”) looks at electoral reform in the recount’s wake. Changes include early voting, which reduces Election Day lines and provides more time for registration problems to be fixed. One official predicts problematic absentee votes would turn into easier early votes. Other efforts, like putting polling places in malls and other popular spots; instant runoff voting, and email voting might be considered. I’d also add centralized absentee counting to the mix. (MinnPost coverage of election reform here.)

Norm Coleman will attempt to use campaign funds for his DonorGate defense, the Strib’s Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe report. However, wife Laurie’s legal bills will not be paid from campaign funds. (But she’ll probably need donors, right?) Norm needs a Federal Elections Commission ruling to determine if the case stems from official actions. He is not being sued, but pal Nasser Kazeminy is accused of padding Laurie’s paycheck through an insurer intermediary.

Fascinating read on a St. Paul religious commune refusing to pay child support to a departed member. The Strib’s James Walsh notes the kids are now grown, as has the $235,000 judgment against Christ’s Household of Faith. Basically, the state and U.S. Supreme courts have rejected the religious freedom argument, but they’re trying again in federal court. CHOFers receive no salary, only a stipend, but somehow that means a departing wife and children can get stiffed.

The Federal Reserve predicts 7 percent unemployment for Minnesota in 2009, which is probably optimistic, the Strib’ Mike Meyers reports. That’s because horrible late-year data weren’t included. We’ve averaged 6.2 percent joblessness in this very unpleasant 2008. Minnesota’s unemployment rate will be second-highest in the Upper Midwest (to Michigan’s chronically impoverished Upper Peninsula). Pawlenty can launch a presidential bid from this?

Oh, jeez: Two black firefighters found a stuffed monkey hanging by a noose in a department garage, KSTP reports. Two idiots will be disciplined. One of the department’s 29 black firefighters says, “The sentiment around the fire department was: ‘What’s the big deal? It’s just a noose,’ and that really infuriated us.”

The FDA approved Cargill’s Truvia sweetener for use in foods, the Strib notes; Coke, Sprite and Odwalla juices plan to use the “natural” zero-calorie refined product. Back in May, City Pages’ Jeff Shaw compiled caveats about the stuff.

Neat Fox9 story on an Eagan electronics recycler that’s selling working flat-screen TVs and computers cheap. Get there early!

In what has to be read as a “I’m not just a combative liberal” column, the Strib’s Nick Coleman reflects on the real people he wrote about in 2008. Columnists do this occasionally, but this one reads like an elegiac all-but-goodbye; Coleman will lose his column soon, tossed overboard chained to conservative diehard Katherine Kersten. As I’ve often noted, Coleman chewed the legs of Rudy Perpich every bit as much as Tim Pawlenty, but folks forget that now.

Nort spews: As expected, the Wolves were obliterated by LeBron James as the Cavs triumphed 93-70. And Marian Gaborik’s re-debut made little difference for the no-so-Wild, who lost to Calgary 3-2 in overtime.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Chuck Grothaus on 12/18/2008 - 11:16 am.

    I heard this horrible story on MPR this morning. Just where is the US FDA or Ag watchdogs on this “process?” Completely and utterly disgusting. No ham on the table this Christmas Eve at my home. And this pork producer should get a literal taste of his own medicine.

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