Indian kids 14 times more likely to be placed in foster care


In the footsteps of the riveting NPR report on American Indian children in foster homes in South Dakota, Sasha Aslainian of MPR files a piece on the situation here in Minnesota: “In Minnesota, American Indian children are 14 times more likely to be placed in out-of-home care than white children — the widest such gap in the nation. Officials place 66 percent of the children with relatives or with American Indian foster families. Even as the total number of Minnesota children in foster care dropped 44 percent in the last decade, the number of American Indian children placed in foster care dropped by only 16 percent.”

One or two is one thing. Two hundred is something else. The Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus reports on Lund Boat’s troubles with hiring policies: “Lund Boat contended that women were less likely to be hired for entry-level positions at the plant because they lacked the preferred manufacturing experience. However, the Labor Department says an investigation by its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that men who lacked manufacturing or related experience were chosen at a higher rate than women who had manufacturing experience. ‘That’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s against the law,’ Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith said in a statement. Lund parent Brunswick Corp. declined to comment.”

No doubt you’ve driven through a few of these towns and wondered, “How do they survive?” A piece in the Thief River Times talks about a new book about Minnesota’s smallest towns: “[Author Jill A.] Johnson learned a lot about the featured cities and their past and current inhabitants. She hopes her book helps people recognize and honor those cities’ contributions to the history of the state of Minnesota. The Park Rapids resident recently wrote ‘Little Minnesota: 100 Towns Around 100.’ … Local cities featured in the book include Donaldson, Goodridge, Gully, Halma, Holt, Strandquist, Strathcona, Trail and Viking. ‘It took me about four years to do the book, and, of course, I got a little bit sidelined. I was astonished to learn how many men died in wars from these towns,’ Johnson said. Johnson noted the cities lost 330 men in wars. Strandquist alone had six casualties in World War II.”

Former Sen. Dave Durenberger at MPR comments on how and why President Obama should get out ahead of the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act: “Obama needs to start soon to defend the law as good national policy as well as a constitutional exercise of the power of Congress. The president taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. In the Senate, he learned more in his first three years than most Senators about the dysfunctional character of the U.S. health care system. He knows as much about the cost drivers in health care as he does about the need to expand access to care through a reformed health insurance system. Even if the Supreme Court votes 6-3, as I believe it will, to overturn the lower court, Obamacare is still an issue in the campaign — because its fiscal costs are much more apparent than its fiscal restraint. If the court finds the law or the insurance mandate or the expanded federal authority under Medicaid unconstitutional, then the Republican candidates will have to make the difficult case that they care enough to craft a plan that will actually work.” What? An actual plan? Why that’s just crazy talk.

Here it is, the torrent of voter fraud. The Duluth News Tribune reports: “A Duluth man charged this summer with ineligible voting has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for a crime that usually results in probation. Antonio Vassel ‘Detroit’ Brown, 48, was one of six people charged in St. Louis County with ‘voting while ineligible’ in the November 2008 general election because they were convicted felons. Under Minnesota law, a person is ineligible to vote if their civil rights have not been restored after being convicted of a felony or of treason. Citizens also are ineligible to vote if they’ve been found legally incompetent or the court has revoked their right to vote. The crime is a felony, but it’s considered to be at the bottom of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines 1-to-11 severity scale: murder is an 11 and voting violations are a one. … Brown has been convicted of multiple felonies in multiple states and had to be brought to the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Lino Lakes where he is incarcerated.”

Ruben Rosario at the PiPress puts a face on the seemingly willy-nilly rise of property taxes: “[Carrie] Daklin is an unemployed writer-researcher and single mother of three from Merriam Park, a solidly middle-class St. Paul neighborhood. She lives with her two teenage sons in a 100-year-old home that hasn’t had improvements in years. After she recovered from the sticker shock of a 2012 statement that increased her taxes by 27 percent, she did more than get upset. She turned investigator and letter writer. She checked out the market value of 166 homes in her immediate area — roughly bounded by Fairview, Cleveland, Marshall and Grand avenues.
Here’s what she found:
• Fifteen of the homes had increased in value, ranging from $29,000 to $200,000.
• Fifty-eight homes, including 22 on tony Summit Avenue and 15 on Ashland Avenue, dropped in value.
• Ninety-three remained the same.
Her research confirmed what the Ramsey County tax assessor’s report disclosed months ago: Of 156,761 taxable properties, only 5,689 would see an increase in taxes. But here’s the downside. Regardless of whether their home values went up or down, those property owners are no doubt disproportionately soaking up a larger tax burden as a result of state cuts to local government aid, the elimination  by the state Legislature this year of the Homestead Credit program and the expected 6.5 percent tax levy hike, which St. Paul is expected to approve next month. And the bulk of those property owners live in middle-class areas like Merriam Park. Daklin also found what appears to her and others to be a lack of rhyme or reason as to which tax bills got jacked up and which ones didn’t. For example, one next-door neighbor — a retiree on a fixed income — saw her taxes go up significantly, while another neighbor with a bigger home was not affected.”

There may be no second acts in American life. But how about a fourth? Steve Brandt of the Strib writes about a woman on a comeback mission: “Bonnie Bleskachek, who lost her job as Minneapolis fire chief in 2006 after a sex scandal and multiple lawsuits, once again wants to climb the department’s career ladder. Mayor R.T. Rybak’s administration told the city when it demoted Bleskachek to captain that she would never seek promotion, would stay out of fire stations and would not supervise anyone. But the city’s December 2006 news release announcing Bleskachek’s settlement left out a provision — she could apply for the job of fire investigator, a post for which she scored at the top of a recent qualifying exam. … Bleskachek was hand-picked by Rybak to become chief in January 2005 but lasted only 14 months in the job. An independent investigator later found she had intimate relationships with three firefighters under her command, and the investigation substantiated at least 19 allegations of inappropriate conduct, retaliation against adversaries and other instances of abuse of authority. Among the findings were that she was naked in a hot tub with other department employees on three occasions and was seen making out with another employee in a fire station workout room. The city paid to settle six lawsuits brought by five firefighters who alleged misdeeds by Bleskachek.”

Today in Bachmannia: Uppity kids. Our Gal had an interaction — video-recorded — with a 16-year-old in Iowa. Russell Goldman of ABC News writes: “In a  video posted to YouTube and making its way through the blogosphere,  Jane Schmidt, who identifies herself as the head of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at her high school in Waverly, Iowa, asked the candidate on Wednesday: ‘What would you do to help protect GSAs in high schools and support the LGBT community?’ LGBT is shorthand for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Bachmann told Schmidt it was the government’s role to treat all people equally, and not give preference to any group based on sexuality. ‘As Americans we all have the same civil rights,’ she said. ‘That’s really what government’s [role] is, to protect our civil rights. There shouldn’t be any special rights or special set of criteria based on people preferences. We all have the same civil rights.’ ‘Then why can’t same sex couples get married,’ asked Schmidt. ‘They can get married, [if] they abide by the same laws as everyone else. They can marry a man, if they’re a woman, and can marry a woman if they’re man,’ Bachmann said.” The same rights, you see. Only different.

There’s one of these studies every month it seems. But here’s the latest. John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes: “Regularly playing a violent video game for a week led to brain changes seen in MRI scans that researchers say may desensitize young men to violence, according to a study presented this week. The research is the latest development in the ongoing debate about whether violent video games produce lasting negative neurological effects. Some evidence suggests that frequent playing of violent video games can affect behavior by making people less sensitive to the abhorrent aspects of violence, said Jeffrey Binder, a neurologist with Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin who was not involved in the study. Such games may even reinforce violent behavior, he said. ‘But the biological effects on the brain still are unknown,’ he said. ‘This study is a first step.’ … Those who played the video game for a week showed much less activation in areas of the brain involved in controlling emotion and aggressive behavior. Those in the control did not show the brain changes. After a week of not playing the game, the brain changes began to return to baseline levels in the young men. MRI scans detect changes in blood flow. A reduced amount of blood flow to a certain area of the brain equates with less activation of brain cells. That lack of brain activation to violent words suggests a desensitization to violence, said study co-author Vincent Mathews, a neuroradiologist with the Northwest Radiology Network in Indianapolis.” They should run a test like this during a Michele Bachmann stump speech.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/02/2011 - 10:32 pm.

    Sorry, but the MRI studies on brain activity are far LESS exact in their indications than those who would like to use them to back up their pet theories would have us believe.

    In reality, our brains are constantly re-wiring themselves to meet, as best as possible, the changing demands our lives place upon them. We gain new skills precisely because our brains have rewired themselves to meet a new demand we were making of them.

    True, the MRI studies of active brains tell us that SOMETHING is going on in there,…

    BUT they tell us as much about what that SOMETHING means as measuring the level of voltage at a particular point of the digital pathways on a computer’s system board tells us about what program that computer is running or what that program is actually doing.

    Currently, interpreting the significance of what we see on MRI scans is about as accurate as gazing into a crystal ball to discover the future or predicting the weather next week by looking at the sky today.

    Consequently, conclusions such as the ones quoted in this article about the effects of playing video games are NOT supported by the evidence upon which those who draw them are using.

    Perhaps the day will come when we will be able to understand and interpret the activities of our brains more accurately than we can today, but that day is NOT here, yet.

    What will be necessary for that day to arrive will be for us to come to understand that the brain has it’s own physical and computational programming built in, and how that programming works.

    Only then will we be able to understand how it is that our programming, primitive as some of it is, often “learns” completely inappropriate “lessons” from the experiences we have now,…

    because it’s trying to deal with the realities of our current lives using a system designed to help our ancient, pre-verbal, naked ape ancestors survive in a very hostile, natural world, by forcing them to instinctively avoid behaviors, situations and circumstances the results of which had caused them to suffer life-threatening pain,…

    while trotting out those same locked-out behaviors if a life-threatening circumstance or situation could not be avoided, since those behaviors seemed responsible for the earlier survival.

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