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Glaring holes, injustices in state Sex Offender program

Early start to ski season; ex-teacher at Shattuck charged with sex contact; UnitedHealth moves into Brazil; St. Paul police stay in “Ford family”; and more. 

Several glaring flaws in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program get a thorough dissection in an excellent piece by Paul Demko on the Politics in Minnesota site. Says Demko: “The troubles attending the MSOP are well documented, most thoroughly in a critical report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor released in 2011. What’s never been explored is the disturbing number of individuals like Timothy Coon who have no adult criminal convictions but are nonetheless being indefinitely detained. Currently there are 52 individuals enrolled in the MSOP who meet this description — roughly 8 percent of its entire population. These individuals are potentially facing a de facto life sentence despite never having been convicted of a crime as an adult. … Michael Miner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Program in Human Sexuality, says part of the problem lies with a history of turbulence within the MSOP. ‘There has been a great deal of instability in the leadership of the clinical programs,’ Miner said. ‘Every time there’s been a change in leadership, there’s been a change in the program, and that influences people’s ability to progress.’ … The program has also been hampered by insufficient clinical staff to provide adequate treatment.”

Well before Aspen and Vail, Minnesotans can start their ski seasons practically in their backyard. Larry Oakes of the Strib adds to a KARE-TV story, saying: “KARE-11 notes that one seasonal business in Minnesota  perfectly capitalized in the weekend’s drop in temperatures, and another says its perfect location allowed it to beat all the meterological odds stacked against it. The business getting the award for quickly answering when opportunity knocked is Wild Mountain ski area near Taylors Falls, Minn. When late-fall temperatures dropped into the wintry range early Sunday, the ski hill’s operators fired up its  machines and made enough snow to open one downhill run and set rails and boxes for snow-boarders. Co-owner Amy Frischmon said jumping the snow gun allowed Wild Mountain to continue its tradition of being the first ski hill to open in the Midwest, and this year made it the first ski hill to open in the nation, according to the story.”

It’ll be a spring start on the giant St. Croix bridge. Kevin Giles at the Strib writes: “Construction of piers that will support the new St. Croix River bridge will begin next spring, a year earlier than planned, the Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments said Monday. The $50 million contract will open for bids late this year or early in 2013, MnDOT said, with construction slated to begin next spring. Previously, construction was planned to begin in spring 2014.”

Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault has some uncomfortable questions to answer about a former teacher-turned-Hollywood actor. Jim Adams of the Strib writes: “A former teacher at a Faribault prep school was charged Monday with having sexual contact with six students from 1996 through 2003, and authorities are investigating why the school didn’t report the alleged perpetrator to the police sooner. The complaint filed in Rice County District Court charged former Shattuck-St. Mary’s teacher Lynn P. Seibel, 70, with 17 counts, including second-degree criminal sexual conduct, soliciting a child to engage in sexual conduct, and using a minor in a sexual performance. The incidents involved students ages 15 to 18 and allegedly took place in the school classrooms and the dormitory … Seibel is also a professional actor and director who’s appeared in movies and TV shows, including an episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ this year, episodes of ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ ‘Simon and Simon’ and ‘Knots Landing’ in the 1980s, and the third ‘Mighty Ducks’ movie in 1996.’ Now that is an eclectic career.

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The GleanDavid Benoit in the Wall Street Journal reports further on UnitedHealth’s move into Brazil:As Deal Journal wrote Friday, UnitedHealth appears to be willing to skip the U.S. consolidation wave as its rivals try to scoop up Medicaid-heavy insurers. Instead it is eyeing fast-growing international  markets.  Brazil is the second-fastest-growing health-care market in the world, according to analysts. UnitedHealth shares rose 1.8% to $58.15 in recent trading as analysts also immediately began to hypothesize on the possibility of consolidating more of Brazil, a heavily fragmented market. UnitedHealth ‘quietly’ has evaluated international market for years and has ‘known and engaged’ with Brazil’s Amil Participacoes for three years before announcing today’s $4.3 billion purchase, UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen Hemsley said on a conference call. … Deutsche Bank [analysts say], ‘The high valuation and Amil’s growth — This valuation is well above comparable U.S. health plan transactions but reflects the stronger Commercial growth and margin prospects for health insurers in Brazil along with a more favorable regulatory profile given the risks associated with U.S. health reform,’ ” That’d be “risk” to investors …

Mark Scott at the New York Times writes: “Insurers like UnitedHealth have been hunting for growth opportunities overseas, hoping to counter tepid business prospects in their home markets. Even the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which is expected to increase the number of customers, will not significantly drive profits. … Under the terms of the deal, UnitedHealth, based in Minnetonka, Minn., will first buy a 60 percent stake in Amil, and then acquire an additional 30 percent during the first half of 2013. After securing an estimated $600 million of Brazilian tax breaks, UnitedHealth said the proposed deal would cost around $4.3 billion.”

St. Paul will remain “a Ford family.” Tim Nelson at MPR says: “The demise of the standard Crown Victoria as a police cruiser has departments across Minnesota looking for replacements. … St. Paul’s selection [is] Ford’s new Taurus-based squad car. … it hit the street yesterday for the Twin Cities Marathon — this one was parked at Grand and Cleveland, a block from the action. The department also has several Ford Explorer-based squads in the shop, getting rigged out for duty.”

As entertaining as Sen. Mike Parry was — in the Legislature and on the campaign trail — he isn’t coming back. So the folks around Waseca have to pick someone new. Mark Fishenich of the Mankato Free Press reports: “With state Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, making an unsuccessful run for Congress instead of seeking re-election to the Legislature, his Senate District 24 seat is seen as winnable by both Democrats and Republicans, who are trying to retain control of the majority after four decades of DFL dominance.     Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, is co-owner of an independent insurance agency, serves on the Owatonna School Board and is an active member of the local chamber of commerce. She’s also destined to be a big-spending stooge of labor unions if elected to the Senate, according to mailers being sent by the Republican Party to district voters. Vern Swedin, R-Owatonna, is an entrepreneur who has started several small businesses, including his first at age 20, and has taken multiple mission trips with his church to help feed poverty-stricken residents  of Haiti. He’s also a failed business owner who left creditors in the lurch when his construction company went bankrupt, according to advertising run by a liberal organization promoting the election of Democrats to the Legislature. The district dominated by the cities of Waseca and Owatonna hasn’t been particularly competitive over the years, but it has shown a strong independent streak and has been trending more Democratic.” There’s still a month for one or the other to play the troop-hating, pedophile card.

John McCormick of Bloomberg is the latest to ask aloud if Our Favorite Congresswoman is actually in a difficult race: “[Michele] Bachmann, 56, who dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race after a sixth-place finish in January’s Iowa caucuses, is playing a more temperate tone as she faces one of the stronger tests of her political career. Her Democratic opponent, Jim Graves, is better financed than previous challengers and the state’s Independence Party, an official third party in Minnesota, hasn’t fielded a candidate. … The point Graves makes about Bachmann failing to shepherd any major legislation through the House is generally true. The one project she highlights — securing approval for construction of a $700 million bridge across the St. Croix River — is no longer in the 6th District.” Generally speaking, of course, the shepherd has to be with the flock to make anything move … . But then I suppose the congresswoman believes she was.