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Duluth hit by worst flooding in 40 years

Video and photo galleries show the damage; Hebrew National says its meat is kosher; ruling says U didn’t violate mortuary student’s speech rights; and more.

Whoa! Duluth! the heaviest rains in … 40 years … have created a bona fide disaster zone in the Twin Ports. At the News Tribune, Andrew Krueger and John Myers report, “Flash-flood warnings in the Duluth and North Shore areas have been extended until 10:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Duluth said. Another inch or more of rain is possible today. Flooding already has caused massive damage in Duluth and surrounding areas, with roads crumbling, homes and businesses flooded, and zoo animals drowned.

“Mayor Don Ness declared a state of emergency in the city of Duluth, citing ‘significant damage, debris and popped manholes.’ … officials at the Lake Superior Zoo are assessing damage and counting their losses after animals drowned and some escaped in the flooding. Duluth fire and police crews helped zoo staff track down animals. All animals are now accounted for.

“At one point, the zoo’s polar bear, Berlin, was able to escape its exhibit. The female bear was darted by the zoo’s veterinarian and is safe in quarantine, said zoo spokeswoman Keely Johnson. None of the zoo’s dangerous animals got outside the perimeter fence, she said. The Polar Shores exhibit, which housed the seals and Berlin, has been completely flooded out, Johnson said. At one point the seal swam out of its exhibit and was found on Grand Avenue. Johnson said many of the zoo’s animals have drowned, including all but one of the zoo’s barnyard animals. She said the zoo’s donkey, goats and sheep have died. She said it’s possible others have drowned, as flooding on the grounds have consumed some of the exhibits, such as the raven and vulture cages.”

Here’s video from KBJR.  And a photo gallery. And another, from MPR.

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Paul Douglas says, “Worst Flash Flooding Since 1972 For Duluth? A train echo effect has resulted in extreme rainfall amounts up north; anywhere from 4-8+” so far from near Brainerd and Aitkin to Duluth; another 1-2″ rain may fall today.
* 8.38″ rain reported in downtown Duluth; a summer’s worth of rain falling overnight.
* Sinkholes have opened up all across the Northland.
* Portions of Highway 61 and I-35 have been closed due to flooding.
* No travel recommended from near Duluth to the Brainerd Lakes area – many roads and bridges reportedly washed out.”

If Hebrew National isn’t kosher, what is? An AP story says, “The maker of Hebrew National is standing by the kosher status of its hot dogs and other meats. ConAgra Foods Inc. says a lawsuit that claims its products aren’t really kosher is without merit. The suit claims that ConAgra, based in Omaha, Neb., charges premium prices for Hebrew National meats, which it says aren’t really 100 percent kosher. For example, the suit says that employees at a third-party kosher certifier for ConAgra complained of witnessing non-kosher procedures at meat plants. The lawsuit alleges that the third-party certifier, AER Services Inc., did nothing to correct the problems and instead fired the employees or threatened to have them transferred. The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed by Minneapolis-based law firm Blackwell Burke on behalf of 11 consumers. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota says that the fraudulent mislabeling of food as kosher has been a problem for years. It says ConAgra is aware of the value consumers put in seals and standards, such as the ‘Triangle K’ on Hebrew National meats to represent that they are kosher.”

The GleanNeed info on the four month closing of Stillwater’s Lift Bridge? Mary Divine of the PiPress writes, “The Stillwater Lift Bridge will be closed to traffic from September through December as the bridge undergoes a $3.4 million makeover.
Crews will repair the historic bridge’s steel, concrete, electrical and mechanical components. In addition, workers will repair the bridge’s floor beams, paint portions of the bridge and replace the gutter, curb and guardrail, said Todd Clarkowski, area engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.”

That case of the U of M mortuary science student who posted her thoughts about cadavers, an ex-boyfriend and stabbing fantasies on Facebook? The state Supreme Court says the U had a right to discipline her. Richard Chin at the PiPress says, “The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, June 20, that the University of Minnesota did not violate a mortuary student’s free speech rights by punishing her for making references on Facebook to the school cadaver she was working on, which included ‘satirical commentary and violent fantasy.’ The high court said the sanctions imposed by the university on Amanda Tatro were OK in this instance because they were justified by ‘narrowly tailored’ rules related to established professional conduct standards. Tatro of Minneapolis wrote the statements in November and early December 2009. ‘Who knew embalming lab was so cathartic!’ she said. ‘I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though.’ She later said a former boyfriend was that ‘certain someone’ whom she proposed attacking with the sharp tool used to prepare bodies for embalming.”

Dan Browning — the Strib’s fraud guy — files a report on the gal from Land O’ Lakes … . “Federal prosecutors in St. Paul charged a Land O’Lakes Inc. accounting clerk Tuesday with skimming more than $1 million from her employer. Carol Jacobsen, 58, of Brooklyn Park, allegedly used her position as an accounts-payable supervisor to set up a phony vendor account in the name of a daughter, identified in court papers by the initials J.C. Public records show a person by the name of Jennifer Caza at the same address as Jacobsen. Between 2008 and this past May 15, government charges say, Jacobsen fraudulently authorized $1.1 million in payments to the phony vendor account. The checks were mailed to Jacobsen’s home, and she allegedly forged her daughter’s signature and used the money for personal expenses.”

Yeah, you have to give it back. Despite their protestations, a judge has ruled that a prominent local law firm can’t keep its Tom Petters lucre. David Phelps at the Strib says, “U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gregory Kishel approved three financial settlements Wednesday that will provide the bankruptcy estate of convicted felon Tom Petters with nearly $34 million. The settlements, agreed upon in recent weeks, represent ‘clawback’ proceedings by the bankruptcy trustee to recover ‘false profits’ and other fraudulent transfers made during Petters’ decade-long, $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme. The payments include $19 million from General Electric Capital Corp., which was a onetime lender to Petters and his business, Petters Company Inc. ; $13.5 million from the Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron for legal work it performed on behalf of Petters, and $1.25 million from the John T. Petters Foundation for tainted contributions it unwittingly accepted from Petters and associates.”

Some statistics to keep in mind the next time your neighbor, or neighbor’s favorite candidate, starts ranting about immigrants pouring over the border. Says Allie Shah in her Strib story, “For the first time, more new immigrants to the United States are coming from Asian countries than from anywhere else in the world. The number of Asian arrivals surpassed even the number of Hispanic new immigrants in the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

“The percentage of Asian immigrants also appears to be on the rise in Minnesota, where about 30 percent of immigrants who arrived here since 2000 were Asians, compared with 29 percent who were Hispanic. Pew researchers say the national crossover happened in 2009 and was driven by two trends: the slowdown of immigration from Mexico and U.S. demand for high-skilled workers in specialized fields. ‘The biggest factor is essentially net migration [from] Mexico is down to zero’, said D’Vera Cohn, senior writer of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the study. ‘Asian immigration has continued unabated. That’s what led to this crossover.’ ”

Do you think? Brian Bakst of the AP suggests senators are becoming concerned about the fast-ballooning cost — to taxpayers of the GOP’s Michael Brodkorb problem. “With taxpayers already out nearly $85,000, Minnesota senators voiced concern Wednesday about fast-growing legal bills connected to a sex scandal that toppled the GOP’s majority leader and a powerful aide. By a divided voice vote with Democrats in opposition, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved payment of the first bills from a private firm hired to defend it against threatened lawsuits. The Senate could face multiple lawsuits from fired Republican communications adviser Michael Brodkorb, who was let go amid allegations of an extramarital affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Sen. David Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, said a six-figure liability is creeping in sight without a clear indication an end is near. … Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he’s not interested in settling the case to hold down costs because he doesn’t think Brodkorb’s claims have merit. But he said Republicans shoulder a burden here because the scandal brewed on their side. Current Senate Majority Leader David Senjem quickly shut down the discussion, suggesting the Democrats were going too far in discussion legal strategy. He said after the hearing that a private defense fund hasn’t been discussed by fellow GOP leaders nor does he anticipate one will be formed.” It “hasn’t been discussed”? Please.