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Minnesota has a new poet laureate

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Amtrak threat brings prison; IP opposes marriage amendment; stimulus money aids fiber optics project; electronic medical records; and a first — Girl Scout cookies at Fair.
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We have a new poet laureate. Tim Pugmire’s MPR story says: “[Gov. Mark] Dayton appointed Joyce Sutphen as Minnesota’s primary supporter and promoter of poetry. Sutphen is a published and award-winning poet who teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. During a State Capitol news conference, Sutphen said one of her goals is to organize events that bring together poets from around the state.” I’ll have to send her my latest, “The All Cuts Love Song of Amy T. Koch.”

Alcohol was involved. A Minneapolis man has been handed a 15-month jail term for a fake threat against an Amtrak train last February. The AP story says: “A Minnesota man has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for a false threat that led to the evacuation of an Amtrak train in northern Montana in February. Hussein Abdi Hassan of Minneapolis was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon on a federal charge of false information and hoaxes. Prosecutors say the 24-year-old Hassan was removed from an Amtrak train in Browning on Feb. 14 for being intoxicated and disruptive. He later told a deputy there was something dangerous in his bag and dangerous people on the train. … Hassan also was ordered to pay $310,089 in restitution.”

The Independence Party is taking another step away from the GOP with the announcement that it will not support next year’s gay marriage referendum. Says Jake Grovum at Politics in Minnesota: “The Minnesota Independence Party has joined the broad coalition of groups aligning to campaign against the state’s constitutional amendment on gay marriage set to be on the ballot in 2012. IP Chair Mark Jenkins announced the partnership in a statement Tuesday morning. ‘Our platform declares that “We oppose having the government impose state-sponsored morality or values on people of good conscience with differing views,” ‘ he said. ‘This is a perfect example.’ “

Remembering, of course, that all that stimulus money was wastedChris Newmarker at Finance and Commerce files a piece on a 428-mile fiber optic project. “The project, which started in late July, is scheduled for completion in 2013, with $16.8 million of the project’s $24 million cost coming from economic stimulus funds approved by Congress in 2009. MP Nexlevel of Maple Lake is the general contractor for the project, which is using more than 150 construction workers. … Workers this year will concentrate on burying line from Duluth and Superior, Wis., to the Twin Cities, going through cities including Hinckley, Pine City and Wyoming. Next year, Enventis will bury line from Brainerd to Moorhead and Fargo, N.D., going through communities including Wadena and Detroit Lakes.”

Someone messed with computers down the hall from U of M President Eric Kaler’s office. Says the Strib’s Jenna Ross: “Someone deleted virtual profiles off the computers, then renamed them with profanity, according to a police report filed Monday morning after office workers returned. No files were deleted or damaged. The computer of new U President Eric Kaler was not disturbed. The computers were on the same floor as Kaler’s office and belonged to his office staff, but his suite, which has separate doors, was not entered. ‘It doesn’t appear at this point that it was targeted for that reason,’ said Deputy Chief Chuck Miner. ‘It could just be somebody who was attempting to get their own access to the Internet via these computers or there could be more harm intended.’ ”

It’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but the Strib blasts away in an editorial about legislators taking pay essentially for shutting the state down: “Many other legislators said they’d done nothing wrong because they’d donated some or all of the money to charities, a claim an editorial writer wasn’t always able to verify. Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, declined to say who he’d given the money to, but added: ‘I can spend the money better than the state.’ But making a donation to charity doesn’t excuse the about-face on pay. Those laid off during the shutdown no doubt have pet causes, too. Yet they weren’t given an option to take the money and give it away — and get a tax write-off in the process. This is arrogance on the part of legislators, not altruism. It’s also bizarre that some of the most vocal advocates of public employee wage freezes and cuts in government services for the needy, such as Republican Rep. Steve Drazkowski, were on the I-want-my-money list. So much for shared sacrifice.” On the upside, in the doldrums of August, “The Draz” got his name back in the papers.

Heart, be still! Target has a new website! Thomas Lee of the Strib reports: “The new features streamlined checkout, bigger photos and graphics, and tools for social media like Facebook and Twitter. ‘Establishing a new platform for allows Target to reinvent our guests’ online environment and create a more user-friendly, reliable experience,’ Steve Eastman, president, said in a prepared statement.” But what about free shipping on those Justin Bieber T-shirts?

A Duluth nonprofit is taking over the eye-glazing task of coordinating electronic medical records. The Strib’s Jackie Crosby writes: “Known as the Minnesota Health Information Exchange, the [former] project was mainly used in emergency rooms. It involved Allina Hospitals, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Medica, UCare and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. On July 1, the exchange’s operations were merged with a separate exchange being built by Duluth-based Community Health Information Collaborative, or CHIC, according to an announcement Tuesday. Cheryl Stephens, CHIC president and CEO, said there was a lot of duplication of effort between the two groups and not enough money to go around. CHIC focused more on rural areas, while the program involving the state, the insurance plans and providers centered on the Twin Cities metro area.”

The Girl Scouts are getting a shot at Minnesota’s biggest target audience. John Brewer of the PiPress reports: “The Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys will be at the Great Minnesota Get-Together Sept. 3 and 4, loaded with Thin Mints, Samoas and Trefoils. The two-day cookie sale will mark the first time the coveted treats will be available at the Fair. Boxes will sell for $4 — 50 cents more than usual, to offset ‘fees imposed by the Minnesota State Fair for license to sell concessions,’ according to a Girl Scout press release.” Terrific! Deep fry three boxes and bring ‘em by the Beer Garden.