On Tuesday we heard talk of clawbacks from charities who had received big chunks of Tom Petters’ fraudulent lucre. Today … it’s a Moorhead waitress/mom of five who doesn’t get to keep a $12,000 tip. Mike Nowatzki of the Forum papers reports: “For the struggling waitress with five children, the $12,000 left at the table in a to-go box must have seemed too good to be true. Moorhead police decided it was just that. Now, the waitress is suing in Clay County District Court, claiming the cash was given to her and police shouldn’t have seized it as drug money. ‘The thing that’s sad about it is here’s somebody who truly needs this gift … and now the government is getting in the way of it,’ said the woman’s attorney, Craig Richie of Fargo. Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said he couldn’t discuss the matter. … The waitress was working at the Moorhead Fryn’ Pan when she noticed that a woman had left a to-go box from another restaurant on the table. The waitress picked it up, followed the woman to her car and tried to give her the box, but the woman replied, ‘No, I am good; you keep it’. The waitress thought that was strange, but she agreed and went back inside the restaurant, the lawsuit states. The box felt too heavy to contain only leftovers, so she looked inside and found cash rolled up in rubber bands. ‘Even though I desperately needed the money as my husband and I have 5 children, I feel I did the right thing by calling Moorhead Police,’ she states in the lawsuit.”
Moments ago, the Minnesota Senate passed 35 to 29 the Voter ID constitutional amendment, so zealously sought by the GOP majority. The earlier AP story says: “The Minnesota Senate has begun debating the voter ID constitutional amendment and is expected to give it a final push to November’s statewide ballot. The Senate began action on the amendment in its floor session shortly before noon Wednesday. The House passed it shortly after midnight, in a 72-57 vote that fell straight on straight party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.” … As per usual.
The risk of unintended consequences seems quite high … Cynthia Dizikes, a former MinnPost staffer now with the Chicago Tribune, files a report on a “poison pill” technique for whacking Asian carp in Minnesota rivers: “[D]esigner drugs and engineered poisons, often called ‘bio-bullets,’ have become increasingly popular among scientists trying to create sniper-shot solutions to unyielding problems, from malignant pests in rivers and fields to tumors in human bodies. … Akin to chemotherapy, attempts chemically to control Asian carp today would require dumping thousands of gallons of pesticide into waterways, possibly harming other aquatic life. By contrast, an Asian carp bio-bullet would theoretically deliver toxins specifically to silver and bighead carp in a digestible micro-size particle, about the width of a human hair. Built to mimic food, the pill would then break apart in the carp’s intestine, releasing its lethal load and killing the fish. If it works, [biologist Jon] Amberg and his colleagues foresee an arsenal of similarly elegant weapons designed to control the many invasive species that have wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin. Preliminary work already has begun on zebra mussels as well as on fish eggs, which they think may be susceptible to electricity and nano-size silver that would be about a thousand times smaller than the Asian carp micro-particle.” What could possibly go wrong?
Speaking of clawbacks … David Phelps of the Strib writes: “Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Tuesday legislation that would give extended immunity to charitable and religious organizations that unwittingly take donations and contributions that are the result of ill-gotten gains. The legislation, overwhelmingly endorsed in House and Senate votes, became controversial in the days leading up to Dayton’s signature when it was discovered the bill would seriously affect the potential for recovery of losses for victims of the Tom Petters Ponzi scheme, the biggest fraud in state history. The law shields Minnesota nonprofits that are being asked to return millions in tainted donations, in many cases years after the donations were made and the money spent. Doug Kelley, the bankruptcy trustee in the Petters case, whose job is to recover as much money as he can from those who benefited from the Petters scheme, has estimated Petters and associates, including alleged co-conspirator Frank Vennes Jr., made as much as $425 million in donations.”
It’s never too late for yet another clause/wrench in the Vikings stadium works. Mike Kaszuba of the Strib says: “Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, has a new proposal that would not use money from Hennepin County as backup funding for the state’s $398 million share of the nearly $1 billion stadium. A proposal released Sunday by House Republicans said excess sales tax money being collected by Hennepin County for the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field should be a backup funding source for a Vikings stadium. Lenczewski , the lead DFLer on the House Taxes Committee, instead has another idea for backup financing for the stadium — Use property taxes collected in Cook County and the cities of Fairmont, Blue Earth, Winnebago, Lake Crystal, Rochester, Moorhead, North Mankato, Worthington, Brooklyn Park, Preston, Lanesboro, La Crescent, Maplewood, Glenwood, Sauk Centre, Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul Park. For those keeping score, many of the communities are represented by Republicans.” Heh, heh, heh.
Kaszuba colleague Rachel Stassen-Berger reports on the governor’s latest veto promise” “Gov. Mark Dayton still has some time to make up his mind about Republicans’ proposal to start repaying schools using the state’s reserve funds but on Wednesday left little doubt about his intent. ‘I’ve indicated all along that it’s financially irresponsible,’ Dayton said. He said he supported pay back of the schools by closing what Democrats call a loophole that allows companies with foreign operations to avoid paying some taxes. Republicans have rejected that proposal. ‘I see this as another one of the election ploys that has a lot more to do with November 2012 to them than it does with anything else,’ he said. The Republican idea would shift the burden to the state, which could mean Minnesota would have to borrow money at a higher interest rate than schools now pay.” Of course, all that borrowing has created a lot of work in the banking industry’s loan departments.
MPR pulls in an AP story by Ricardo Alonzo-Zalvidar in which 375,000 doctors are polled on reducing the number of tests deemed “basic” in modern (expensive) medical practice: “Nine medical societies representing nearly 375,000 physicians are challenging the widely held perception that more health care is better, releasing lists Wednesday of tests and treatments their members should no longer automatically order. The 45 items listed include most repeat colonoscopies within 10 years of a first such test, early imaging for most back pain, brain scans for patients who fainted but didn’t have seizures, and antibiotics for mild- to moderate-sinus distress. Also on the list: heart imaging stress tests for patients without coronary symptoms. And a particularly sobering recommendation calls for cancer doctors to stop treating tumors in end-stage patients who have not responded to multiple therapies and are ineligible for experimental treatments. Dr. Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine, said the goal is to reduce wasteful spending without harming patients. She suggested some may benefit by avoiding known risks associated with medical tests, such as exposure to radiation.” I know one crowd that is sniffing for “death panels” in news like this.
Madeleine Baran of MPR adds to Stribber Paul McEnroe’s coverage of the, uh, mercurial (and former) head of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. She writes: “David Proffitt was a man with a problem. He had just resigned from a prominent position as head of Acadia Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Maine, after months of constant negative media attention and staff allegations that he threatened employees, yelled at meetings and created a hostile workplace. His 26-year career appeared to be unraveling. His detractors posted hundreds of comments on a local news website saying they doubted anyone would hire him. But Proffitt was not the type of person who easily admits defeat. Publicly, he told the press he wanted to take a break and spend more time with his family. But just two weeks later, on April 14, 2011, he sent an email to a state agency more than 1,000 miles away to inquire about a job opening at a facility for the mentally ill and dangerous. The agency had just asked the program’s long-time administrator to resign. It needed someone who could correct years of problems with staff morale and patient care. The facility in question was the Minnesota Security Hospital in rural St. Peter, Minn., about 70 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. This was Proffitt’s chance to redeem himself — if Minnesota did not look too deeply into his past.”
The well-reviewed new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” by Jonah Lehrer, includes a visit to 3M’s St. Paul campus. In The Economist, they write, “Drawing from a wide array of scientific and sociological research — and everything from the poetry of W.H. Auden to the films of Pixar — he makes a convincing case that innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged. Just outside St Paul, Minnesota, sits the sprawling corporate headquarters of 3M. The company sells more than 55,000 products, from streetlights to computer touch-screens, and is ranked as the third-most innovative in the world. But when Mr. Lehrer visits, he finds employees engaged in all sorts of frivolous activities, such as playing pinball and wandering about the campus. These workers are actually pushed to take regular breaks, as time away from a problem can help spark a moment of insight. This is because interrupting work with a relaxing activity lets the mind turn inward, where it can subconsciously puzzle over subtle meanings and connections (the brain is incredibly busy when daydreaming). ‘That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,’ says Joydeep Bhattacharya, a psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London. But this is just one reason for 3M’s creative output (and 3M is just one example of many in this book). The company also encourages its employees to take risks, not only by spending masses on research (nearly 8% of gross revenue), but also by expecting workers to spend around 15% of their time pursuing speculative ideas.” But did my book club go along with my suggestion to read Mr. Lehrer’s book? Noooo.