Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Eighty ex-priests buck church stand on gay marriage amendment

Fewer jobs but lower jobless rate; Hecker moves again; state’s rural “brain gain”; robotics experts visiting; Craigslist ad prompts state’s mercury buy; a really upset ex-wife; and more.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is getting no help from 80 ex-priests. Sasha Aslainian at MPR reports: “A group of 80 former Catholic priests on Thursday announced their opposition to the constitutional marriage amendment. The November ballot measure would define marriage as between one man and one woman, and is strongly supported by the Catholic Church. John Estrem, a former rector at the Cathedral of St. Paul who went on to head Catholic Charities, said the Church he knows is about love and inclusion. ‘As a Catholic and former priest, I encourage all to vote no on this amendment,’ Estrem said. ‘Enshrining discrimination does not promote marriage. It simply diminishes us all.’ ”

Fewer jobs … and lower unemployment? Dee DePass of the Strib reports: “Minnesota employers eliminated a net 3,100 jobs in April, mostly in the retail, construction, hospitality and government sectors, state officials announced Thursday. Only three out of 11 sectors reported job gains for the month. April’s jobs loss, which followed zero job growth in March and large gains in the preceding three months, was not enough to prevent the state’s unemployment rate from dropping 0.2 percent to 5.6 percent in April. Minnesota’s unemployment rate remains well below the 8.1 percent national rate. Still, state officials attributed the drop in Minnesota unemployment to a falling labor force participation rate caused by more baby boomers retiring and by more discouraged workers ending job searches.”

DePass also has the story of Denny Hecker’s latest move: “Minnesota failed auto dealer Denny Hecker has been moved from a federal prison in Indiana to a Federal Transfer Center (FTC) in Oklahoma City, the federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Thursday. The bureau describes the Oklahoma prison as ‘an administrative facility housing male and female holdover offenders.’ ”

Being more “eat to live” than “live to eat,” I tend to gloss over foodie writing. But this one by the Strib’s Rick Nelson caught my eye: “Picture this: a beef rib as long as your forearm, cured in salt and sugar and smoked for eight hours before it hits the kitchen’s wood-burning grill, where it’s glazed with Tabasco and molasses. The final charred, sticky-and-sweet product boasts more than a pound of ridiculously succulent, falling-off-the-bone meat (it’s portioned for two but I had a difficult time sharing), and like so much of chef Jack Riebel’s adventurous, confident cooking, it isn’t afraid to radiate some serious spice-induced heat. After competing with me to see who could finish it first, my friend, his law-school vocabulary reduced to that of a caveman’s, could manage only two words: ‘Want. Again.’ Same here.” The place he’s talking about is The Butcher and the Boar, which is obviously not one of those petite brie-and-arugula joints.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, rural Minnesota is experiencing a “brain gain.” At least so says Justine Wettschreck of The Worthington Globe: “A University of Minnesota Extension study released Wednesday … shows rural Minnesota is continuing to attract residents in the 30 to 49 age group, according to a study of the U.S. Census data. The study, authored by rural sociologist Ben Winchester, counters headlines claiming a “brain drain” and the supposed demise of rural America when 18- to 25-year-olds leave for bigger cities. The rural immigration of 30- to 49-year olds who bring educational achievements and establish earning power actually creates a ‘brain gain,’ Winchester stated. The notion builds on research he first published in 2009, examining 1990 and 2000 Census data. … In the new report, ‘Continuing the Trend: The Brain Gain of the Newcomers,, Winchester updates Minnesota’s population shifts as captured by the 2010 Census and provides an examination of the trend at the national level. One new finding reveals that Greater Minnesota’s micropolitan counties, or those with core urban populations of 10,000 to 49,999, are taking on metropolitan profiles — with middle-aged Minnesotans leaving for less densely-populated areas. The pattern is most prevalent in the southwest part of the state, around cities such as Willmar (Kandiyohi County), Marshall (Lyon County) and Mankato (Blue Earth County), according to Winchester.”

The GleanHaving just recovered from reading about robotic buttocks in Japan, I see Richard Chin’s PiPress story on a robotics convention in St. Paul: “[A]bout 1,600 scientists, engineers and researchers from around the world converged on RiverCentre for the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. The event is one of the biggest meetings of thinkers and tinkerers in robotics from academia, industry and organizations ranging from NASA to the military. The four-day conference, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, had roboticists intently exchanging ideas and attending presentations on new robot use in the skies, in space, underwater, on farms, on battlefields, in operating rooms and even inside our bodies.”

For sale: 64 pounds of … mercury. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A tip from an alert online shopper who noticed an unusual posting on the Craigslist classified ad website allowed authorities to recover 64 pounds of dangerous elemental mercury from a Floodwood resident. The ad, offering the ‘instrument grade’ mercury in plastic bottles for $650, was posted by a seller who said he found it when cleaning out his late grandfather’s garage. The alert shopper contacted the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, which in turn notified the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, triggering an effort last month to get the mercury out of circulation. PCA officials decided the best action was to immediately purchase the mercury from the seller rather than begin a lengthy and complicated compliance investigation. WLSSD officials then made the buy (at a reduced price) using a state grant and brought the mercury back to the WLSSD Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Duluth for proper disposal. It’s believed to be the largest such mercury discovery in Minnesota since state regulations have been in place. The seller said his grandfather apparently had planned to use the mercury for mining gold.” The seller is lucky. We’ve started wars over less hazardous stuff than that.

Also up in the Twin Ports … one seriously PO’d ex-wife. Candace Renalls of the News Tribune writes: “A public display of anger over love gone wrong — or a celebration over a marriage ended — caused traffic delays on North 21st Street in Superior on Wednesday. Large signs reading “X-HUSBAND SALE” and “FREE” by a pile of discarded belongings in the front yard of 202 N. 21st St. caused passersby to slow down and check out what was there. But it was the once-green GMC Yukon SUV with flat tires and “cheater” and obscenities spray-painted all over it that slowed traffic to a halt and got the cameras clicking. … According to court records, a woman who lived at that address filed for divorce against her husband in Douglas County Circuit Court last July. … A neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the incident began Tuesday after the divorce became final. She said the vehicle was spray-painted by several people and the items put in the front yard between 4 and 8 p.m. That’s when people started stopping for a closer look. ‘It looked like they had a painting party,’ the neighbor said. ‘She cleaned out her husband’s stuff.’ It was a getting-rid-of-the-husband type of thing, she said.”

At MPR’s The Current, Chris Roberts asks if today is Minnesota’s Golden Age for music? “In April, when the Walker Art Center and The Current announced this year’s Rock the Garden line-up, it was another startling reminder of the depth of talent in Minnesota music. Unlike in years past, when the Rock the Garden roster featured one local group opening for national acts, this year three of the bands — Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles, and Howler — are based here, while The Hold Steady has strong local ties. And then the very next week, says First Avenue booker Sonia Grover, ‘Two nights in a row, like you have Minnesota bands on national TV, like Trampled by Turtles on Letterman one night. And Poliça on Jimmy Fallon  the next.’ Several Minnesota groups have graced the sets of late night TV shows before, but never at this level of saturation. And it’s not just one kind of music, which points out another strength in the scene: its diversity. There’s the hip-hop collective Doomtree, Poliça with its electronic R&B, Howler and its precocious garage rock, the accelerated earthy bluegrass of Duluth’s Trampled by Turtles. The list goes on and on.”