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Blue Cross CEO out after only six months

Buffets Inc. emerges from second bankruptcy; cops rally for Sgt. Clifford; Franken’s ex-“SNL” partner, Tom Davis, dies; whooping cough cases double; and more.

I think we can safely speculate that there is more to this story. At the Strib, Jackie Crosby writes: “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota said Thursday that it was pushing out its president and CEO after just six months on the job, effective immediately. The board of trustees became aware of concerns related to whether Kenneth Burdick had given ‘adequate disclosure of some anticipated business activities,’ according to a statement, and launched an internal investigation. The investigation determined that there had been ‘no financial impropriety or unlawful actions.’ But the Eagan-based health plan said the lack of disclosure was ‘not in alignment with Blue Cross policies and management expectations.’ Spokesman David Feider said he could not elaborate on the nature of the business activities.”

At the PiPress, John Welbes says: “[T]he nonprofit health insurer’s board had concerns about a lack of disclosure and about a culture clash with Burdick’s previous for-profit business experience at UnitedHealth. … In an interview, Vance Opperman, Blue Cross’ board chairman, emphasized the fast-paced change that’s sweeping the health care business. After meeting for almost five hours on Wednesday, the board came to the conclusion that Burdick wasn’t going to be able to provide the type of leadership needed ‘in this rapidly changing environment,’ Opperman said. … The ‘anticipated business activity’ was a situation involving a prior member of Blue Cross’ board, Opperman said in the interview.”

A semi-fine-dining report … . The PiPress says: “The parent company of Old Country Buffet and other buffet restaurat chains around the country has emerged from a second trip through bankruptcy with fewer restaurants and a much lower debt, it said Thursday, July 19. Eagan-based Buffets Inc. said it eliminated $255 million in outstanding pre-petition debt, and closed 140 underperforming restaurants. The reorganized company’s stock is now wholly owned by its pre-petition lenders, it said. The 140 closures is far more than earlier anticipated. When it filed for bankruptcy in January, the company expected to close 81 underperforming restaurants.” As long as I can get all the hot fudge sundaes I can eat.

His buddies have his back. Sgt. David Clifford of the alleged sucker punch in an Andover restaurant had 50 other cops in the court room Thursday. David Chanen’s Strib story says: “Clifford, 47, was making his first court appearance since the charge was upgraded Tuesday from third-degree to first-degree assault in the confrontation that left Brian Vander Lee of Ramsey severely injured. About half the crowd, many of them police officers, couldn’t fit into the small Anoka County courtroom. At the short hearing, the prosecution submitted motions to Judge Lawrence Johnson seeking access to Clifford’s personnel file and a gag order to prevent all parties from discussing the case in public. … Mike Vander Lee, who was with his brother Brian at Tanner’s Station but had gone to the restroom moments before the incident, did not attend Thursday’s hearing. He said he was pleased to hear about the possibility of a gag order. ‘My brother has never been in a fight in his life,’ he said. ‘I would love to know what Clifford said to him that got Brian to stand up.’

Al Franken’s old comedy partner, Tom Davis, has died. Jon Bream of the Strib says: “The Coneheads. They were a Tom Davis creation. So were such other “Saturday Night Live” characters as the lounge singer for Bill Murray and the medieval barber for Steve Martin. Davis, the Twin Cities-bred comedian and writer, didn’t quite help Al Franken become U.S. senator from Minnesota, but he did help make his longtime comedy partner semi-famous before he got into politics. The Emmy-winning Davis died Thursday in Hudson, N.Y., of throat and neck cancer, his wife, Mimi Raleigh, said. He was 59.” Tom was not “from France.”

Whooping cough? The AP says: “The U.S. appears headed for its worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades, with the number of cases rising at an epidemic rate that experts say may reflect a problem with the effectiveness of the vaccine. Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far — more than twice the number seen at this point last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. At this pace, the number for the entire year will be the highest since 1959, when 40,000 illnesses were reported. Nine children have died, and health officials called on adults — especially pregnant women and those who spend time around children — to get a booster shot as soon as possible. ‘My biggest concern is for the babies. They’re the ones who get hit the hardest,’ said Mary Selecky, chief of the health department in Washington, one of the states with the biggest outbreaks. Washington and Wisconsin have reported more than 3,000 cases each, and high numbers have been seen in a number of other states, including New York, Minnesota and Arizona.”

The AP story on the 6:1 fundraising advantage opponents of the GOP’s marriage amendment have over supporters includes this: “Minnesota for Marriage collected about $620,000 in the same period to bring its total to nearly $1.5 million. But its chairman, John Helmberger, [says] he’s not worried. ‘Various studies elsewhere have shown that for all the millions spent in marriage amendment campaigns, there aren’t a lot of minds that are changed,’ Helmberger said. ‘It’s mainly one of voter turnout.’ Helmberger said his campaign’s 68,000 volunteers will get their voters to the polls. The campaign has just a handful of paid staff. By contrast, Minnesotans United for all Families has about 75 paid staffers and eight offices statewide. …  University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs said not many Minnesotans remain persuadable. ‘But there could well be 20 percent or so of folks who are going to turn out and vote who haven’t yet made up minds, who haven’t focused on the issue or they don’t feel intensely about it,’ Jacobs said.”

Also, some more health insurance numbers via John Lundy of the Duluth News Tribune: “The state’s residents spent $7,090 per person on health care in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Health. That’s compared to $7,910 nationally. Health-care spending in Minnesota also accounts for a smaller share of the overall economy than in the nation as a whole, according to the report, which was highlighted in a health department news release on Wednesday. It’s 16.8 percent nationally, and 13.9 percent in Minnesota. … Without reform, Minnesotans’ spending on health care could more than double in 10 years to $76.7 million and consume about 18 percent of the state’s economy, [Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the state’s health commissioner,]  said.”

Patrick Condon of the AP has a mini-profile of a for-real gun for hire: “Four years ago, Frank Schubert was a well-paid political consultant for what he jokingly calls “the forces of evil” — tobacco, timber and pharmaceutical companies — when he agreed to lead the 2008 campaign to repeal gay marriage in California. What started as a professional challenge has now become a personal crusade. And Schubert, a specialist in political messaging, has become the central figure in a major effort to stop gay marriage from becoming legal across the country. Part Karl Rove and part Pat Robertson, Schubert is managing four statewide campaigns where the issue is on the ballot in the fall — in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.” Doing God’s work …