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Eight area hospitals settle, avoid strike

Feds wrap up Infuse investigation; apple crop losses less than first thought; state issues implant alert; dining companions rated; Delta’s frequent-flier glitch; and more.

Matt Sepic of MPR reports on eight local hospitals avoiding a strike: “Support staff at eight Twin Cities hospitals may have avoided a strike.  Service Employees International Union said Wednesday it had reached a tentative contract agreement with negotiators for eight Twin Cities hospitals.  In a released statement, the SEIU said its negotiators did not get everything they wanted, but they successfully fought cuts the union said would have driven the lowest-paid workers into poverty.  The union represents 3,500 cafeteria workers, nursing assistants and other support staff. Their previous contract expired in February.”
Also at MPR, Martin Moylan reports on the feds closing down their investigation of Medtronic and its pay-outs for its Infuse bone graft: “The Justice department had been looking into whether Medtronic illegally encouraged doctors to use the product to treat conditions for which it was not originally approved.  Infuse has been the subject of a class action lawsuit, scathing medical reviews, warnings about dangerous side effects, and a Congressional inquiry. Medtronic settled the lawsuit earlier this year for $85 million. Morningstar medical device analyst Debbie Wang said the federal decision to drop the investigation is a big deal. It is probably a huge relief to Medtronic management because it is never good to have this kind of investigation hanging over your head, Wang said. ‘Even worse, if they actually do find there was inappropriate marketing going on, that will lead to fines.’ ”

Despite some doomsaying about a 90 percent crop loss, Minnesota’s apples weren’t hurt as bad by that April freeze as some feared. Steve Karnowski at the AP writes: “The frost bit hard on the nights of April 9 and 10 while many apple trees were blooming unusually early. That will affect the size of the crop, but researchers and growers said Wednesday it looks like the losses won’t be as bad as they could have been. They’ll find out for sure in August and September when growers start picking their Zestars, SweeTangos, Honeycrisps, Haralsons and other popular regional varieties. ‘There’s no question that the crop has been impacted statewide. The question is whether there’s a 15 percent reduction or an 80 percent reduction. The people I’m talking to are saying this isn’t as bad as we thought,’ University of Minnesota apple breeder David Bedford said.”

How some people are still driving around … Paul Walsh and Curt Brown of the Strib write: “When they arrived at the horrific scene of the Hummer-Corolla crash on a hilly central Minnesota county road three summers ago, they at first believed what the two intoxicated men in the ditch told them about who was driving the Hummer. But using DNA samples of blood and tissue scraped from an airbag, plus bartender testimony and cooperation from the real passenger, who said he was coerced into giving his initial roadside confession, Stearns County prosecutors were able to get the maximum 10-year sentence Wednesday. For [Eugene] Rivetts, 44, it was the second deadly crash he caused in Minnesota and the third time he tried to say someone else was driving.”

Interesting Strib commentary on Amy Senser’s thought processes the night of her fatal accident. Ellen Hoerle writes: “In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman uses years of psychological and behavioral research to develop two conceptual constructs of the mind: System 1, intuitive and emotional (Fast), and System 2, deliberative and logical (Slow). … It is possible that she was being as honest as she could be given the limitations of her conscious brain to remember something it was most likely never conscious of. Without reading Kahneman’s book, very few of us are aware of how quickly System 1 does its work to come with up with an explanation outside our conscious awareness, in our ‘continuous attempt to make sense of the world.’ The jury seemed to interpret her inability to remember the night’s events as a sign she might be lying about at least some aspects of the case.” On the other hand, sometimes the simplest explanations are the most accurate …

There’s an alert out … to hospitals installing implantsChristopher Snowbeck of the PiPress says: “Issued by the Minnesota Department of Health on Friday, May 11, the safety alert includes three pages of recommendations for preventing incorrect implants. A previous report from the health department suggested a growing number of patients were experiencing errors that involved everything from lenses and knee-replacement devices to breast implants. One recommendation is that surgeons limit the number of implant options they have in the procedure room.” It would be tough explaining a breast where a knee was supposed to go.

I’ve been out with every one of these types. Kathie Jenkins at the PiPress describes her least favorite dining companions. A couple of samples:
Picky Eater:  Not only has food issues but also is completely self-absorbed. She doesn’t eat meat, cheese, bread or anything with eyes and needs to know the provenance of every ingredient. She’ll reject a dish based on texture or just because it sounds ‘icky.’ Listening to her pepper the server with questions sets me on edge. ‘Is the soup made with vegetable stock?’ ‘Can I have soy cheese instead of goat cheese?’ ‘Can I have more salsa and avocado on my tostada instead of the sour cream and chicken?’ And she’s still never satisfied. What a surprise.

The Lush:  We weren’t at the table more than a minute when this one started snapping her fingers for a double brandy. And then another. Soon, she was raising her voice and discussing my reviews in front of the server. When her food arrived, she barely touched it, preferring an after-dinner brandy instead. Needless to say, I never invited her to eat with me again.”

It’ll be a fundraising weekend for opponents the so-called gay marriage amendment. The PiPress’s “Political Animal” blog says: “Opponents of the state’s proposed marriage amendment are gathering Sunday in dozens of house parties around the state to mark the one-year anniversary of the question being placed on the ballot. … Sunday’s gatherings are a chance to reflect on what’s been done the past year and to mobilize for the next six months, said Kate Brickman, spokeswoman for Minnesotans United for all Families, the umbrella organization fighting against the amendment. It’s also expected to be a major fund-raiser.”

Beloved hometown airline Delta had a little glitch in its system recently, and … gosh, it overcharged some folks. The AP story by Josh Freed and Scott Mayerowitz says: “Delta Air Lines may have charged some frequent fliers higher fares than other customers for almost three weeks because of a computer glitch. Delta acknowledged on Wednesday that frequent fliers who logged into its website to search for fares saw different prices than people who searched anonymously. Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec said frequent fliers sometimes saw higher fares, sometimes lower. He said the problem has been fixed and apologized to travelers. He didn’t know how many people had been affected. The two business travelers who first noticed the problem said fares they saw were consistently higher when they logged in via their frequent flier accounts. A few weeks ago, security company executives Patrick Smith and Steve Lisle were side-by-side with their laptops open on the same conference table at their company’s Minneapolis office, trying to book tickets on the same flight to St. Louis. Smith was logged in as a frequent flier. Lisle wasn’t. In three out of five of their tests, fares for the frequent flier were consistently higher, including a $124 price difference for a trip to Los Angeles, the two told WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, which first reported their experience on Tuesday night.” What’s shocking is that there was a lower price.