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Minnesota inmates have got mail (for good or bad)

Corn crop leads nation; West Nile Case No. 1 reported; timber ruling reversed: Alzheimer’s help; Amy Senser faces sentencing; and more.

Great news for Minnesota inmates. They, too, can now receive solicitations from Nigeria and weird pleas from friends stranded in distant airports. The AP reports: “Beginning Monday, inmates in the state’s 10 prisons can receive messages from family and friends via email. But to send a letter, prisoners will still have to use paper, pen and postage. Any emails sent to the state’s 9,300 adult inmates will be printed by correctional officers and placed in their mailboxes. … The emails have a price. Each will cost the sender 30 cents, with 20 cents going to the state to cover expenses. The system will be run by Advanced Technologies Group of Iowa.”

We’re the best … in corn. The Ag department says Minnesota is leading the country in corn conditions. The McClatchy papers say: “In its weekly update, USDA said 82 percent of Minnesota’s corn was rated in good or excellent condition. For the nation as a whole, just 48 percent of the U.S. crop reached that threshold. In other corn-growing states, a widening drought and scorching heat have stressed the crop, making grain markets nervous. In Chicago, corn futures rose again Monday, with the September contract rising more than 22 cents a bushel, or 3 percent. Grain prices have climbed nearly 30 percent since mid-June. Minnesota farmers planted record corn acreage this year, so there’s at least the possibility of a rare confluence of events: record acreage, a strong price, and a high yield.” That translates to a lot of new pickups on the streets of Montevideo.

What is summer without a West Nile virus scare? Case No. 1 comes from up by Duluth. On the KBJR-TV site, it says: “A St. Louis County man has tested positive for West Nile after he became ill with meningitis in late May after traveling to south-central Minnesota. He was hospitalized and is recovering. … David Neitzel, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist specializing in diseases carried by mosquitoes, said that the highest risk for West Nile is expected from mid-summer through early autumn. ‘Sporadic early-season cases can occur, such as this first 2012 case,’ Neitzel said. ‘However, the species of mosquito that transmits the virus to humans is most abundant in July and August. Anyone not already using repellents should begin doing so now to prevent this severe disease.’ About 1 out of 150 people bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes will develop a central nervous system disease such as encephalitis or meningitis.”

The Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court, and several state timber companies are not pleased. Amy Forliti of the AP writes: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals decided Monday that a lower court erred when it ruled in favor of timber companies who claimed the state broke promises by capping payments under a forest management program. The decision essentially dismisses a lawsuit filed last year by three large timber companies who argued the $100,000 annual cap put in place as lawmakers were trying to balance the budget was a breach of contract. The appeals court ordered the case back to Ramsey County and said a judgment should be issued in the state’s favor.”

At MPR, Lorna Benson has a story about federal help coming in to assist Minnesotans with Alzheimer’s: “This spring, the Obama administration launched a national Alzheimer’s plan that devotes millions of dollars more in research money to the most common form of dementia. The federal initiative adds to work already under way in Minnesota to prepare the state for an expected surge in Alzheimer’s cases as baby boomers retire. Minnesota’s population of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to double over the next 30 years, to 200,000 people. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by age 65, 1 in 8 people has the disease. Among people over 85, nearly half have it. One of Minnesota’s main goals is to identify the disease much earlier so patients can get better care and their families can make smarter financial decisions. Another is to provide more support to overwhelmed caregivers, so patients can live with their families for as long as possible.”

The GleanAlso at MPR, blogger Aaron Brown has a commentary about a loss for union organizing in Iron Range plants. “Last month, the United Steelworkers conceded defeat in the unionization vote at the Mesabi Nugget plant near Aurora, Minn. According to Mesabi Nugget, the vote was 57-21. The vote took place over two days, included a complete unionization drive by the steelworkers and was overseen by federal labor officials. … This means that the DFL’s strongest ally — labor — is weaker. All but one of the mines are still solidly union, but any union steward would tell you it’s harder to get people excited and active in the union these days because the pay is good. Several Range mine unions willingly voted away the eight-hour day because younger workers prefer longer shifts with more days off. So, while the DFL has a socioeconomic and cultural advantage on the Range today, it will have to dramatically retool its long-term strategy to hold its historic margins here. The vote at Mesabi Nugget is one thing. But when looking ahead at future union votes on the Range — particularly at Essar Steel when it opens and any of the potential nonferrous mineral mines on the east Range — we have a real question. Can labor regroup and become relevant to newer workers, both young Rangers and those who come in from outside the area? That’s a daunting challenge.” No kidding.

Now we know … . Amy Senser is ”very remorseful.” And yes, her sentencing is at hand. David Hanners at the PiPress writes: “[D]efense attorney Eric Nelson said his client has strong ties to the community, has no criminal history and ‘has displayed reverence for all court proceedings in this matter.’ And, Nelson wrote, the Edina woman who struck and killed Anousone Phanthavong, 38, of Roseville, last August is sorry for what she did. ‘Ms. Senser is heartbroken by the pain caused to Mr. Phanthavong’s family and friends as a result of this terrible and tragic accident,’ the attorney wrote in his request for leniency. ‘She struggles every day with the fact that she is responsible, albeit accidentally, for the taking of a human life.’ Senser, who turns 46 this month, is to be sentenced Monday, July 9, in Phanthavong’s death. Hennepin County prosecutors are expected to file a reply to Nelson’s motion Thursday, said a spokesman for the office. … In his filing, Nelson says the presumptive sentence for Senser is 41 to 57 months. Although prosecutors have not yet said what they will ask for, the defense attorney asked Mabley to reject any request by the state to ‘aggregate’ the convictions for sentencing purposes.

Have you seen “the flying SUV”? Wisconsin TV station WQOW reports: “A sports utility vehicle went flying through the air Sunday, July 1, after it hit a buckle in the road near Eau Claire, Wis. … . The station reported Theresa Reich from Eau Claire was trying to take a picture of the buckled pavement on Wisconsin 29 near County Road T in Chippewa County when she accidently captured the incident on video. The two people in the SUV were taken to a hospital after complaining of back and neck pain.”

Personally, I hit “Spidey”-max two sequels ago, and the Strib’s Colin Covert gives me no good reason to see the latest “Spiderman”: “In the unlikely hands of indie romcom director Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”), it has more arguments and hugs and sulks and tears and lovelorn teens. It is ‘The Notebook’ in Spandex. ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is not quite so bad that you want to knock it off the screen and beat it to death with a broom, but it’s hard to imagine many fans being drawn into its web. The long-running James Bond series doesn’t feel the need to retell 007’s origin story every time a new actor steps into the role, but this yarn returns to Peter Parker’s fateful bite by a science-lab superspider, the death of his guardian Uncle Ben and his first big crush (it’s early girlfriend Gwen Stacy, not Mary Jane Watson this time). As a wise man once said, yadda-yadda-yadda. Movie people, we know who Spider-Man is. You know we already know who he is. He is a cultural icon. That is the reason you made a movie about him. Do not asphyxiate us with needless exposition.” Thank you, sir. That’s two hours of my life I still have.