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Survey confirms drought impact on Midwest economy

Status of Mark Ritchie church talk unclear; “pesticide drift” ruled not trespassing; Tim O’Brien wins literary “peace prize: and more.

The latest survey out of Creighton University in Nebraska seems to confirm that the drought is pulling down the Midwest economy. The AP story says: “The ongoing drought, combined with global economic turmoil, is hurting business in nine Midwest and Plains states and boosting worries about the possibility of another recession, according to a monthly report released Wednesday. The region’s overall economic index for July plunged below growth neutral for the first time since 2008. The index hit 48.7, compared with 57.2 in June. The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. Concerns about Europe’s debt woes and the slowing U.S. economy already were weighing on the region’s economy before the drought hit this summer.”                                            

At the Strib, Rose French says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s speech to St. Joan of Arc parishioners in south Minneapolis is still on, as of this minute in time: “News that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has been uninvited to speak at a south Minneapolis Catholic church may be premature, according to church officials. Ritchie was scheduled to talk before mass on Aug. 12 at St. Joan of Arc. A spokesman for the archdiocese reportedly said that invitation was being rescinded over Ritchie’s efforts to change wording of the proposed marriage amendment. Leaders at St. Joan of Arc on Wednesday morning said their invitation to hear Ritchie still stands, and they’re looking forward to hearing his speech entitled, ‘A Spiritual Path for Democracy.’ ‘It has not been rescinded,’ said Dennis Heaney, communications and development director at St. Joan’s. ‘We did talk to the archdiocese back and forth on the phone yesterday, and they didn’t give us any order.’ ” Which could mean they’ll wait to see if you make the correct decision.

The AP reports that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that “pesticide drift” is not trespassing. “The Minnesota Supreme Court says pesticide chemicals that drift from one farm to another do not constitute trespassing under the law, reversing an appeals court decision that found otherwise. The state’s highest court issued its opinion Wednesday in the case of organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson of Stearns County, who sued the Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company. The Johnsons alleged the co-op repeatedly sprayed pesticides that drifted onto the Johnsons’ fields, preventing them from selling their crops as organic.”

Tim O’Brien, one of the state’s most respected authors, has won himself a mantel-worthy prize. The story at The Huffington Post says: “Vietnam veteran and author Tim O’Brien, whose writings have shown war and its long-term impacts through a regular soldier’s eyes, on Wednesday was named the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s lifetime achievement award. O’Brien wrote about his Vietnam experience as an Army infantryman in the 1973 memoir: “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.” Subsequent works have combined fiction with real details from his service. The Dayton honor was renamed last year the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, for the late, longtime U.S. diplomat who brokered the 1995 Dayton peace accords on Bosnia. The Dayton awards are meant to recognize the power of literature in promoting peace and global understanding, and the achievement award goes to a writer for body of work.”

These sorts of editorials are always less risky after the case has been won. Still, the Forum papers write: “Cheers to the Minnesota attorney general’s office and state commerce department for taking strong action against a debt collector running wild in three Minnesota hospitals. … It’s astounding that this kind of thing could happen in Minnesota — and shows how important it is to have strong government regulators to protect consumers in what increasingly seems to be a dog-eat-dog corporate world.” Can we assume the Forum editorial board will maintain that same attitude in other matters?

The GleanDo the Chinese kids get two mulligans? A Strib piece by Kim McGuire, Steve Brandt and Glenn Howatt says: “Elementary and middle school students earned higher scores on a revamped statewide test, but most also got to take it up to three times. Minnesota elementary and middle school students saw big gains on the statewide math test this year, but some educators say those improvements might be because students could take the test multiple times. Statewide, proficiency in math increased from 56 percent last year to 62 percent this year, according to Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results released Wednesday. Elementary and middle school students were given up to three opportunities to take the math test this past school year because it was the first time it was offered online. One of the state’s leading assessment directors compared that approach to a card player going to Las Vegas and getting three cards at a time instead of one.” This system would have done wonders for my GPA., City Pages owner VVM’s problematic web service, is back in the news. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib: “A Minneapolis woman is charged with harboring in her home two teenage runaways from Wisconsin and supplying them with illicit drugs while allowing the girls to be prostituted for several weeks through sexually explicit ads placed on and other websites. … Last month, two St. Paul men were charged with pimping two teenage girls at an Eagan hotel and threatening them with a gun after luring customers through a ad.” As the company certainly knows, “Sex sells.”

You did see this one, right? Mara Gottfried in the PiPress: “She lent her St. Paul neighbor a book, and how did he repay her? He thrust a Samurai sword inches from her face, alleges a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, July 31. Christopher James Meusburger, 29, was charged with terroristic threats. The criminal complaint told it this way: Police were called to an apartment building in the 1600 block of Sherburne Avenue on Monday at 8:10 p.m. A 62-year-old woman said she lend Meusburger a book, then saw it on the floor outside her door. (The reports didn’t list the book’s title.) The woman asked Meusburger why he didn’t just throw the book away instead of throwing it on the floor. She told police this question ‘enraged’ Meusburger and he confronted her, his nose touching hers. ‘He told her, ‘If you weren’t so weak I would seriously hurt you,’  the complaint said. ‘He pushed her back a few steps with his chest puffed up like he was getting ready to fight her.’ She could tell he was intoxicated and told him she would call police if he continued to push her. Meusburger sprinted inside his apartment and came out with a long sword in his hand.” I’m guessing the book was “50 Shades of Grey.”

Down in Rochester, Heather Carlson of the Post-Bulletin reports: “Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede on Tuesday urged rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo ID, calling it ‘unnecessary’ and ‘extreme.’ Joining the mayor at a city hall news conference to denounce the ballot measure was city council member Michael Wojcik. They cited estimates by local officials that the amendment could cost city taxpayers $120,000 extra per election cycle to cover the additional staffing that would be required. … Mark Krupski, director of property records and licensing for Olmsted County, has estimated that the voter ID amendment would cost the county an extra $200,000 per election cycle to cover additional staffing costs and voter education. The city would be responsible for roughly two-thirds of that, or $90,000 to $120,000, according to Scherr. It is unclear how much of that cost would be picked up by the state.” The GOP generally argues these costs are not valid but hasn’t yet offered to cover any overages from their fathomless coffers.