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Commentary: ‘Device tax’ will cost money, jobs … and lives

Eagle mystery solved; Verizon’s data plan irks “power users”; “Confederate flag” council member back in spotlight; Crystal Sugar contract vote; and more.

Not only will the so-called “device tax” — on exotic medical devices made by several prominent Twin Cities companies cost crippling amounts of money and jobs, but according to one CEO, it’ll … cost lives, too. Says Dale Wallstrom in a Strib commentary: “The medical device industry is one of the few of our country’s great industries left with a positive trade balance ($3 billion in 2010). Anchored in Minnesota, it is an innovative industry with opportunities for growth; more than 80 percent of U.S. device companies have fewer than 50 employees; 98 percent have fewer than 500. … The impact of the industry in Minnesota was more than $34 billion in 2009. It directly employs more than 35,000 people, and indirectly employs approximately 160,000 Minnesotans …. Yet despite the public health value and economic impact of the industry, its ability to innovate and operate is under attack. Our federal government has targeted the industry through the Affordable Care Act by including a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices. Estimates predict that this tax will raise about $29 billion over the next 10 years. One-quarter of this tax will come directly from Minnesota companies, extracting $5 billion to $8 billion from our state’s economy.” A 2.3 percent tax is an attack?

Tom Meersman of the Strib has a cool story: “Fourteen years ago, straight-line winds blasted through the Chaska area, downing trees and power lines and damaging roofs. On the Gedney Pickle factory’s property, a huge eagle nest with two eaglets crashed 60 feet to the ground. One of the six-week-old eaglets died but volunteers quickly created a makeshift nest out of a massive fan screen, hauled it up the tree and returned the surviving eaglet to the man made nest. Until last month, the rescue team didn’t know what ultimately became of the eaglet. But that mystery has been solved, thanks to a curious wildlife photographer in St. Peter, Minn.”

Here’s a story for the Lifetime Channel. Abby Simons of the Strib reports: “In a lawsuit filed last week in Hennepin County District Court, Jeffery Wolfsberg, 46, claims that William and Roberta Wheeler of Minnetonka conspired to ruin his business and reputation, which caused the recovering addict to relapse, and also destroyed his marriage. The lawsuit accuses the Wheelers of defamation, invasion of privacy, emotional distress and interference with a business contract. It seeks at least $50,000 in damages. Wolfsberg ran seminars and spoke to teenagers nationwide for 16 years about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Blake [school] severed ties with him when they learned of his relationship with their student; other schools around the country did the same. … Wolfsberg and the student met at a Minneapolis hotel room last September, prompting Blake officials to send a letter to students and parents describing the incident. The school added that Wolfsberg had violated the school’s standards and his own ethical code, even if nothing sexual happened. In his suit, Wolfsberg maintains that his relationship with the student was not inappropriate and that he was a voice of support when she was troubled.” Not to presume anything, but isn’t this what public parks and coffee shops are for?

What, no rhino horn powder? Asha Anchan of the Strib writes: “The item sold on eBay as a “Chinese plastic carved lady statue and wood base,” but federal investigators say what a Roseville resident really sold was illegal ivory. Minghao Hou is now the subject of a inquiry into the trafficking of ivory, decades after it became illegal. Hou has not yet been charged, but his home has been searched, turning up 26 elephant ivory carvings.”

At the PiPress, Julio Ojeda-Zapata checks out Verizon’s new “Share Everything” pricing plan: “Joey White of Burnsville calls himself a “power user” of wireless data via his carrier, Verizon. He has paid $30 a month to get unlimited data on his Android smartphone for a while. So recent, drastic changes to how Verizon sells its wireless services — including data, voice and texts — have angered White. The reason: Verizon has made it far more difficult, if not impossible, for him to retain his beloved bottomless bucket of bandwidth. White isn’t the only one crying foul. Verizon has received plenty of criticism in the two days since its announcement — unfair criticism, the carrier insists. This controversy revolves around Share Everything, which is a radical rethinking of the classic cellular contract. Under such a plan, Verizon has made it easier to buy voice minutes and texts, both unlimited. … The catch: No unlimited-data option is available. In fact, this has not been an option for a while, but those who subscribed to these plans in the past, as White did, have been able to continue using them. Yet Verizon, like other carriers, is keen to do away with such offerings and replace them with a tiered selection of data-capped options for everyone.”

Remember the West St. Paul council member who got in trouble for flying a Confederate flag? He’s back in the kettle. Nick Ferraro of the PiPress says: “[Ed] Hansen is facing accusations that he has taken his free speech too far. The city received two complaints this month regarding Hansen’s behavior outside his home. One incident, described by West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver as a “verbal dispute,” will be investigated to see if a crime was committed. On Monday, June 11, a real-estate agent visiting a foreclosed property next to Hansen’s filed the complaint with West St. Paul police over the dispute she had with Hansen, a first-term council member elected in 2010. … The other complaint involves the developer who currently is building one house next to Hansen’s through an agreement with the city’s Economic Development Authority. Hansen has been opposed to the project from the get-go. About two weeks ago, developer Jay Brunn called City Council Member Ed Iago to complain about how Hansen put three Confederate flags outside his house and two in his windows. In February, Hansen defended his right to fly a Confederate flag off the back porch of his home.” By now isn’t “first term … elected in 2010” a well-understood code?

Financial disclosure forms are always full of interesting details. The AP reports: “Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen are apparently wealthier than their three Democratic counterparts, according to the lawmakers’ recently released financial-disclosure reports. … two Republicans, U.S. Reps. James Sensenbrenner and Sean Duffy, were granted extensions and haven’t filed their latest forms yet. But of the six reports that have been filed, one trend is apparent — the Republicans have more money. The three other Republican congressmen — U.S. Reps. Thomas Petri, Paul Ryan and Reid Ribble — each reported assets worth at least $1.7 million. No Democrat reported more than $1.6 million in assets, and one, Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore, indicated she had no reportable assets. … Petri topped Wisconsin’s list with assets worth between $10.8 million and $46 million. After subtracting liabilities, the Fond du Lac Republican had a net worth between about $5 million and $45 million.”

Those locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers up in the Red River Valley will take another vote on a contract. Jon Collins of MPR writes: “[T]he contract is essentially the same as the one union members rejected on Nov. 1, which the union said undermined job security. American Crystal Sugar rejected a counter-proposal from the union last week. Union leadership is not taking a stance on the vote, which requires a majority for approval. Representatives for the company have said they are preparing to hire new workers for the upcoming sugar-processing season.”

The PiPress surveyed most of the Twin Cities’ big corporations on their official position vis a vis the so-called gay marriage amendment. A couple of samples:
“Best Buy: ‘Right now Best Buy is solely focused on turning around our business and charting our future. Part of that effort includes creating an employee experience that celebrates diversity and inclusion, and we remain strongly committed to LGBT workplace equality.’
Cargill: ‘As an organization committed to a diverse workforce, Cargill works hard to attract, develop and retain top talent. While we are not taking a public position on the Minnesota same sex marriage Constitutional amendment at this time, it is important to underscore that Cargill nurtures an open and respectful workplace.’
Target: ‘We are proud of Target’s strong record on inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business, and have a long history of supporting the LGBT community through giving, volunteerism and event sponsorship. We will continue to build on this record by strengthening our support for policies and programs that encourage diversity in the workplace. We recognize that there is a broad range of strongly held views on the MN Marriage amendment. While Target has not taken a role in the public debate on this issue, consistent with our longstanding support of civic engagement, we strongly encourage our team members to exercise their right to vote in November.’
… No response received: United HealthGroup, Hormel Foods, Land O’Lakes … Mosaic, Nash Finch, C.H. Robinson, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.”