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AG Swanson pushes North Memorial on Accretive contract

Three-zone duck hunt; Fringe Festival highlights; Sabo Bridge repairs near $1 million mark; legal scuffle over Bachmann mailing list; and more.

MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki writes that AG Lori Swanson isn’t done with Accretive collection services, at least not as  they relate to North Memorial Hospital: “The Minnesota Attorney General’s office says officials are still investigating North Memorial Hospital despite Monday’s settlement announcement with bill collector Accretive Health. Under federal law, hospitals and any contractor sharing patient data must have a signed agreement that sets out how they will protect that sensitive information. Swanson accused Accretive and North Memorial of working for at least six months without one of these contracts. Her lawsuit accused the organizations of ‘colluding’ to present a backdated contract, which was ‘deceptively made to appear as if it was signed in March 2011 when it was really signed in October 2011.’ “

Not being a hunter, I have to read these stories carefully to understand a “three zone” duck hunt. Sam Cook at the Duluth News Tribune says: “Minnesotans will have a 60-day, three-zone duck waterfowl season opening on Sept. 22, the earliest the season has opened in 45 years, Department of Natural Resources officials announced Tuesday. The state’s waterfowl season will open one-half hour before sunrise on Sept. 22 statewide. In the North Duck Zone (north of Minnesota Highway 210), duck season will run from Sept. 22 to Nov. 20. The daily bag limit of six ducks per day and a 60-day season are unchanged from last year. The mallard bag limit remains at four per day, including two hen mallards.” What?

By the end of the day Tuesday, I think just about everyone had heard enough about titling ballot initiatives. Jim Ragsdale and Baird Helgeson at the Strib report: “The partisan political battle over gay marriage and photo ID amendments developed into a full-fledged constitutional dispute at the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday, with both the Republican-controlled Legislature and the DFL-controlled executive branch claiming the right to determine how the proposals will be described on the ballot. The court vigorously questioned both sides on the issue of who should write the bold-faced titles of both the photo ID and the marriage amendments. No decisions were made, but two of the six justices asked whether the best bet might be to put the entire text of the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, rather than present them in a form favored by either side.” And what about candidate profiles and position statements for all those obscure judicial elections?

Marianne Combs at MPR offers her best bets for this year’s Fringe Festival. A couple of samples:

3. Nightmare Without Pants
Combine the witty writing of Joseph Scrimshaw (author of past Fringe hits ‘The Worst Show in the Fringe,’ ‘The Damn Audition’ and ‘Brain Fighters’) with the comedic talents of Shanan Custer, John Middleton, John Riedlinger and Anna Sundberg, and well, you’ve got a fringe hit. There is audience interaction, however, so if the show is less than stellar … well, it’s your fault. …
6. The Complete Works of William Shatner (abridged) — Snikt! Bamf! Thwip!
Okay, so I admit I’m a sci-fi geek, so I may be a little biased on this one. But the reputation of the cast, and the constant laugh lines in this short preview make me believe it’s about more than Star Trek, or the very VERY strange man who played Captain Kirk.”

Slow day at the Strib’s guest commentary desk. Arguing for “young earth creationism,” local doctor Ross S. Olson applies a veneer of thoughtful consideration to a kind of Erich von Daniken-like science. At one point, he says: “The mathematical odds of forming, by chance, a single protein molecule from its component parts can be shown to be so unlikely that it could not have happened anywhere in the known universe in 30 billion years. Much less could it be combined with the hundreds of other components to form the simplest possible living cell. … Evidence of coexistence of humans and dinosaurs is vigorously opposed by the evolutionary establishment but is actually quite convincing. Human and dinosaur tracks have been found in the same strata and have been uncovered on film to prove that they were not manufactured.” At least it’s not another climate change denier rant.

This is the sort of thing that gives the stop-government-spending crowd legitimacy. Maya Rao of the Strib writes: “The bill to fix problems at the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge in Minneapolis has grown to nearly $1 million, as Hennepin County commissioners voted Tuesday to increase a contract with a firm consulting on the damaged bike and pedestrian bridge to more than five times the original amount. The commissioners’ Public Works, Energy and Environment Committee approved raising the agreement with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to $550,000 to design repairs and manage construction. Those charges come on top of at least $420,000 the city said in May that it had spent to respond to failures on the bridge.”

Oh, we adorable Norskies and our quaint Scandahoovian cuisine. The New York Times’ Julia Moskin drops in and reports: “THERE’S no escaping Scandinavian heritage in the Twin Cities. At every turn, there’s a billboard for Norwegian language-immersion camp or a “Drool if You’re Finnish” baby bib for sale. But in food terms, it’s long been easier to get an authentic taco al pastor, Thai green curry or a grass-fed beef slider than a good kanel snegl (cinnamon roll). … ‘When I was growing up, if we wanted to have meatballs and lingonberries, we had to go to Ikea,’ said Kathryn Anderson, a student at the University of Minnesota. ‘That’s how bad it was.’ ” I’m not sure I even recognize the place she’s writing about.

Our Favorite Congresswoman’s weird legal scuffle over a mailing list continues to kick up dust. The latest, from the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling says: “A former Iowa staffer for Michele Bachmann’s abortive presidential campaign is suing the Minnesota congresswoman and almost a dozen others for allegedly stealing a private email list from the staffer’s computer and using it for campaign mailings last year. Barbara Heki, who was hired to advise the campaign on homeschooling issues in the state, alleges a database — which belonged to the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, or Niche — was nabbed from Ms. Heki’s private computer in November 2011 by the head of Ms. Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa, Kent Sorenson. … Justin LaVan, president of Niche, wouldn’t speculate as to how the Bachmann campaign obtained the list, only saying that the database somehow came to be ‘inadvertently used.’  The campaign later paid a ‘reasonable fee for the two uses that did occur,’ he said. ‘We’ve never asserted that the Bachmann campaign stole the list,’ Mr. LaVan said.  ‘There is no issue as far as I’m concerned with the Bachmann campaign.’ … The Hekis claim the alleged theft led to their dismissal from Niche’s board which, in turn, caused them to be ‘isolated and expelled from their professional, social, political, and spiritual lives and careers,’ according to the lawsuit. The suit alleges the plaintiffs suffered ‘emotional and financial damages’ and seeks an unspecified amount for compensation.” The characters in and around that campaign are beyond anything Dickens could imagine.

The ingredients for an industrial spy novel are in Leslie Brooks Suzukamo’s PiPress story about MTS Systems in Eden Prairie: “MTS Systems Corp. has agreed to pay $7.75 million to settle a federal probe into its compliance with government contracts and export practices, the company said after the market closed Tuesday, July 31. … The company was temporarily suspended from bidding on U.S. government contracts last year after it failed to disclose on an application that it had pleaded guilty in 2008 to two misdemeanors of falsifying documents in order to export equipment that could be used in India’s nuclear program.”