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Mayo wants $585 million from state for $6 billion upgrade

Coal-fired power plant switching; critical comments about doc ruled not defamatory;  U’s “orgasm seminar” draws fire; Hann hits Dayton sales tax plan; and more.

Six billion buys a lot of improvements. Jackie Crosby’s Strib story says: “The Mayo Clinic laid out plans Wednesday for an ambitious $6 billion, 20-year initiative that would support its effort to turn its Rochester-based hospital complex into one of the world’s top medical centers. Mayo Clinic officials announced the proposal with Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday, touting it as the largest economic development initiative in Minnesota and one of the largest in the United States. Under the initiative, which is known as Destination Medical Center, Mayo will invest $3.5 billion over the next two decades on projects directly related to medical care, including hospital and clinic facilities, lab space and biomedical sites. … Mayo is seeking $585 million from the state.”

John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune says: “Minnesota Power announced today it will convert its coal-fired power plant in Hoyt Lakes to natural gas and shut down one of three coal units at its Taconite Harbor plant on the North Shore as the utility continues a slow move away from carbon-causing coal. The company said it would spend $15 million in 2015 to convert the 110-megawatt Laskin coal plant in Hoyt Lakes to cleaner-burning natural gas, which produces much less carbon and mercury than coal. The plant would be the first gas-fired generator for the Duluth-based utility. The company also said it will retire one of three coal-burning units at Taconite Harbor but keep the other two units burning coal because they already have been upgraded with pollution control devices for mercury and other emissions.”

Also out of Duluth today … Steve Kuchera of the News Tribune writes: “Critical comments a patient’s son made about a Duluth neurologist are not cause for a lawsuit, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled. In an opinion filed today, the court reversed a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision sending Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit against Dennis Laurion back to State District Court in Duluth. Laurion’s comments were posted on a website where patients review their doctors, and the case has been watched with interest by people because of the potential conflict between free speech rights versus protection of professional reputations on the Internet. The court ruled that the statements Laurion wrote about McKee were not defamatory.” I think I mentioned this before. But if every journalist ripped in the comments section took his complaint to court …

Put “orgasm” together with “public university” and you know you’ve got a story with legs. In an opinion piece for US News, contributing editor Peter Roff writes about the U of M offering a class in “The Big ‘O’ ”: “[O]ne feels compelled to ask, ‘What were they thinking when they agreed to do this’? The short answer is they probably weren’t. It’s another reflection of the arrogance of those in publicly-supported ‘ivory towers’ who think they can do whatever it is they want with the taxpayers’ money. University spokesperson Patricia Mattern told the blog the workshop was being held as part of the university’s commitment to research and to education. ‘As a research institution, we study, publish, and educate on a vast range of topics, including human sexuality,’ she said in an E-mail — as though that excused the outrageous nature of the planned event. … Can anyone argue that attendance at such a workshop, which is voluntary, will do anything to further the pursuit of a college degree or to find a job once graduation rolls around? Will listing ‘Is able to achieve/help a woman achieve more and greater orgasms’ on a resume really help a person get hired — especially during Barack Obama’s anemic, jobless recovery.” Oh … I believe we’ve found the G-spot to this guy’s political libido.

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The GleanAlso out of the News Tribune, a commentary from Senate Minority Leader David Hann, ever the champion of the middle-class working family: “Every family in Minnesota would see a tax increase under Gov. Mark Dayton’s new budget proposal, which was released last week in St. Paul. … You may have heard that Gov. Dayton proposes to add sales taxes to oil changes and other car services, haircuts, digital books and music (digital downloads) and over-the-counter medications. Under Dayton’s plan, clothing items over $100 — like work boots, snowsuits, and wedding dresses also would be taxed. … The governor’s expansive state budget requires every family’s budget to get smaller. We need to work together, Republicans and Democrats, on practical solutions that grow the economy and provide opportunities for all Minnesota families.” Perhaps like another run of anti-abortion bills, Senator?

And … she still missed her granddaughter’s dance. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib: “A 49-year-old motorist was stopped for speeding four times in about 2 1/2 hours on a southern Minnesota interstate as she raced in from South Dakota and toward southeastern Wisconsin at speeds topping 110 miles per hour, authorities said Wednesday. Loretta Lacy, of Sioux Falls, was first stopped on I-90 in Martin County shortly before 2:30 p.m. Friday after witnesses reported her speeding and zipping in and out of traffic, according to the State Patrol. Lacy was clocked at 112 mph in her 1999 Chrysler LHS sedan as she passed a state trooper, then was pulled over and ticketed for speeding, no insurance and possession of marijuana … . Turns out that Lacy was trying to get to Racine in time for her granddaughter’s winter formal dance Friday evening.”

Time — again — to rethink the tanning bed. In Tim Nelson’s MPR story, he says: “The Minnesota Department of Health officials say that skin cancer rates have been growing quickly among Minnesotans, and officials are urging people to avoid the sun — even in winter. The department says melanoma cancer rates rose 35 percent for men and 38 percent for women between 2005 and 2009, the most recent data available. … [Health Commissioner Ed] Ehlinger said use of tanning beds to get a ‘base tan’ doesn’t help, and simply increases exposure to ultraviolet light that can cause skin cancers.”

So maybe the average Jamaican isn’t all that upset about the forthcoming Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen with the very white Minnesota guy affecting a happy Jamaican lilt. David McFadden of the AP says: “The predominantly black country of Jamaica is embracing a controversial Super Bowl ad that depicts a white office worker from the U.S. Midwest feigning the Caribbean island’s lilting patois accent to display a cheerful, upbeat outlook. Some U.S. critics have described the pregame Super Bowl ad from Volkswagen of America as offensive and culturally insensitive, apparently seeing the commercial that hit the web on Monday as an echo of segregation-era depictions of white people posing as happy-go-lucky black folk. On NBC’s ‘The Today Show,’ Barbara Lippert, editor-at-large at, said she believed the commercial was racist because it was ‘just saying that black people are happy.’ New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said during an appearance on CNN that the advertisement was like ‘blackface with voices.’ ” OMG. Here’s a link.

Overall, better for TCF. Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib says: “Profits at TCF Financial Corp. jumped 43 percent in the fourth quarter, capping a rocky year for the lender that started with a major financial restructuring and ended with a $10 million fine that chopped earnings. The Wayzata-based lender earned $23.6 million, or 15 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. For the year, it lost $218.5 million, or $1.87 per share, reflecting a $296 million charge TCF took early last year when it shifted gears and repositioned its balance sheet. Analysts had expected 18 cents per share for the quarter, but that was before a $10 million civil money penalty announced last Friday, which the bank said it would book in the fourth quarter, shaving off 6 cents per share. Minus the penalty earnings would have been 21 cents per share.”

Who doesn’t like soup? The Strib’s food guy, Rick Nelson, offers a few “best” bowls in town: “[M]any Twin Cities chefs find inspiration in our deep-freeze climate, conjuring up magic in their soup pots. A typical response comes from Ben Jacoby of the Craftsman in Minneapolis. ‘I love making soup,’ he said. ‘It’s not like a steak, that you salt and pepper and put on the grill. With soup, you really have to put time, and attention, and love into it.’ Cafe Levain
Every swoon-worthy spoonful of the onion soup at Cafe Levain represents hours and hours of slow, deliberate cooking. Chef Adam Vickerman constantly maintains a pot of carefully caramelizing onions on the stove their natural sweetness countered by gentle vinegar notes and the intensely flavorful veal knuckle stock, nurtured overnight on a low simmer, is embellished with scraps of rib eye.

Leave it to Patrick Atanalian to re-imagine beer-cheese soup. Staying true to form, the Sanctuary chef shuns orthodoxy, in this instance by enlisting ginger beer’s zesty bite to modernize a classic potato soup ($5). The cheery lemonade-like color is a tonic on a dark and dreary winter’s night.

I’m embarrassed to say how many of these places I’ve never heard of.