Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Daily Glean: Brains … nun’s brains …

The famous Alzheimer’s “Nun’s Study” returns to Minnesota, with 600 brains in tow. Also: Antibiotics in ethanol?

The U plans a sequel to its famously longitudinal “Nun Study,” the Strib’s Maura Lerner writes. The original Alzheimer’s study has followed 600 nuns from a Mankato order since 1986; there’s an awesome anecdote about researchers bringing hundreds of preserved brains back from Kentucky, where the original research had moved. (MPR’s Lorna Benson offers a tour of the brain room.) Half of the subjects had developed dementia, by the way. Nuns remain eager to volunteer, one sister says.

Flood update: Disaster so far averted. MPR’s Tom Robertson has a neat feature on a sandbagging machine that produces 450,000 bags a day. MPR’s Bob Collins continues his excellent, water’s-edge coverage here.

After what Metro Transit claims was its first incident of drunken bus driving, the Strib’s David Chanen says the agency will change its policies. The alleged souse, Alonzo Martin, had two moving violations in one year — one over the hiring limit — but neither were for drunkenness. Ten percent of drivers are randomly tested for booze each year. Meanwhile, the PiPress Emily Gurnon punches today’s hot button: Can you be convicted of drunk driving if you’re just passed out?

Geez, really? They’re using antibiotics to make ethanol? MPR’s Mark Steil brings the sad news that overusing bacteria-killers now extends to piles of corn. Apparently the breeding bugs, when fermented, produce lactic acid, not ethanol, so huge piles of maize are being doused. That won’t breed resistence! What? It already has? Trying to rein in a possible future plague may reduce available plant fuel.

Strib editorialists back state Sen. Scott Dibble’s bill to expand anti-bullying legislation to “sexual orientation, national origin, physical characteristics and even perceived gender identity.” It would align current bullying laws with the state’s Human Rights Act. The common-sense provision is opposed by those who think training and reporting requirements will make more people gay. Forum’s Don Davis notes the bill would mean schools must take anti-gay bullying seriously; Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey recounts heartbreaking Senate testimony. A committee passed the plan, Fox9 reports.

As St. Cloud’s unemployment rate hits 9.8 percent, Politics in Minnesota’s Steve Perry says DFL Majority Leader Tony Sertich is sponsoring a bill to track more than just the top-line unemployment rate. The feds measure additional groups like “discouraged workers” that may paint a better — and bleaker — picture of the real joblessness situation.

Today in grandstanding: Our local mini-Bachmann, State Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, wrongly asserts Sara Jane Olson voted illegally and the Ramsey County attorney didn’t investigate. However, Olson legally changed her name and the attorney’s office announced no harm in 2002, the PiPress’ Mara Gottfried writes. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Rep. Frank Hornstein proposed a bill banning state purchases from alleged labor-practices villain Jenny-O Turkey; that one won’t even get a hearing, Forum’s Carolyn Lange notes. He acknowledges futility but says he “wants to get the conversation going.”

A rep from exurban Minnesota proposes cutting integration aid (which his area might really need) but neither the Dems nor the guv will do that, KTCA’s Mary Lahammer reports. The PiPress’ Megan Boldt notes deseg aid is ripe for ripping, but DFL legislation would direct the funds at districts with higher minority populations. That would cut out districts in GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo’s neck of the woods.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
sits down with the Strib editorial board. He brags about a 36 percent jump in federal support for state ed, backs charter and public schools, but says bad ones should be shut down. He also supports alternative paths for teacher accreditation, raising the mandatory school age to 18, and reducing and nationalizing standardized testing.

TIZA, the Arabic-language charter school some say is an impermissible Muslim public school, has asked that an ACLU suit be thrown out of court, the Strib’s Sarah Lemagie reports. The state education department is trying to slip the legal noose on jurisdictional grounds. The PiPress editorial page supports charter-school reform, and vaguely seems to endorse restrictions on sectarian sponsors. The page opposes a two-year cap on the number of charter schools.

The latest on your Craigslist killer: His mom has never seen him cry, but Michael Anderson put a lot of exclamation points in emails luring victim Katherine Ann Olson. He might’ve used the free classifieds because family members met spouses online, the Strib’s Abby Simons writes. The PiPress’ John Brewer says the defense tried to portray Anderson as a “dolt,” and offers a vivid recounting of confession video and everyone else’s courtroom emotion. A judge told Olson’s dad not to hold up photos of his daughter in court.

Huh? The Ramsey County attorney’s office is routinely withholding victims’ names in cases that don’t involve juveniles or sex crimes, the PiPress’ Emily Gurnon writes. A county judge dismissed four complaints because of the public non-disclosure policy that also stifles defense attorneys; Susan Gaertner’s office has five days to appeal. One law professor says disclosure is up to the court, not the prosecutor.

Election-contest minute: A non-embarrassing former secretary of state, Joan Growe, pens a PiPress op-ed reminding folks that a U.S. Senate revote is not a legal option. The DFLer also says Norm Coleman has been afforded due process.

A Minneapolis woman has started a website where Bernie Madoff victims can commiserate, the New York Daily News reports. Teri Ross was not swindled, but knew 25 people who were. You can’t view or participate on the site unless you provide paperwork showing you were victimized by the $65 billion scam.

I didn’t know Minnesota had a Business Website of Shame, but the Business Journal’s Chris Newmarker says the state has recovered $279,000 from 18 businesses by posting their names online. Still, the number of companies who aren’t paying their sales taxes is growing.

Pissy: The Minneapolis Park Board, keeper of public spaces, won’t let a group of citizens meet in its buildings, the Strib’s Steve Brandt notes. Why not? The group is pushing for a charter change turning the board functions over to the city. The board’s action is a perfect illustration of why these tinpot dictators need to go away.

For God’s sake, let us buy booze on Sundays. But Fox9’s Maury Glover doesn’t indicate if the perennial bill has a chance this year. Supporters pitch the idea this would produce $10 million more in taxes. Dubious economics, perhaps, but it’s about us drinkers, not booze workers’ day off. There’s a House committee vote Thursday.

From the Strib’s Mary Lynn Smith: Don’t leave marijuana-laced brownies on the receptionist’s desk unless you want to spend 90 days in the pokey.

Nort spews: The Gopher women bucketeers were walloped by Texas A&M 73-42 in the NCAA tournament. The Wild were beaten 2-1 by the New York Rangers despite a goal by Marian Gaborik; Minnesota is two points out of the playoffs. And after reporting on the depressing effects of youth sports’ hyper-competitiveness, the PiPress’ Bob Shaw takes a look at folks actually having fun playing less organized games.