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Magazine: U of M Minneapolis campus one of the ‘ugliest’

Ceremony held for first E15 gas station; Medica to help with Rochester health plans; AG goes after Florida debt company; milk prices depend on farm bill; State Fair’s Heritage Square replacement; and more.

They should have seen it 25 years ago … In Travel + Leisure magazine, writing on the topic of “America’s Ugliest College Campuses,” Ivan Spencer declares: “Many of today’s least attractive campuses date to the post-World War II era, a heyday of free education that, unfortunately, coincided with Modernism, Brutalism, and a general love affair with concrete — and with the car. ‘We became suburbanized, and the campuses became suburbanized,’ says Richard Wilson, professor and chair of the University of Virginia’s department of architectural history. It’s no surprise then that sprawling commuter campuses like the University of Minnesota may bring to mind Dunder Mifflin, the uninspired setting of TV show The Office.”

It was a ribbon-cutting of sorts. Dave Shaffer of the Strib says: “Minnesota’s agriculture commissioner on Wednesday endorsed E15 at a ceremony in Minneapolis for the first gas station in the state to offer the 15 percent ethanol blend. ‘This is another great day in the history of Minnesota’s biofuels development,’ said Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Minnesota Agriculture Department. E15 went on sale this month at what is now called the Penn Minnoco, a former Mobil station at 60th Street and Penn Av. S. Minnoco is a new brand created by independent gas station owners including Richard Bohnen, who owns the Penn Avenue station and is president of Minnoco.”

This is how you deal with problems … Jeremy Olson of the Strib says: “State officials announced Wednesday that they have coaxed Medica into selling health plans on the MNsure exchange to individuals and small businesses in Olmsted and Dodge counties for 2014, in an effort to offer more competition in a part of the state where premiums are high. Until now, only Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota offered plans under the month-old MNsure insurance exchange in that region. Other insurers selling coverage in Minnesota balked at selling insurance in those counties, because Mayo Clinic is the dominant health care provider and is able to demand higher payment rates.”

Fraud story du jour … Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib says: “The Minnesota Attorney General is suing a Florida company that was a major buyer of overdraft debt from Minnesota banks, accusing it of churning out reams of fake bank affidavits to use in its collection from individuals and businesses. United Credit Recovery LLC allegedly created computer-generated affidavits with bank logos, cutting and pasting supposedly notarized signatures of bank officials onto the documents to make them look authentic. The electronically robo-signed documents were used for years on a “mass scale” not only to persuade people that they owed the money but to convince courts to award judgments and to hike the value of portfolios for resale downstream, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court.”

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The GleanIn the matter of the gridlocked farm bill … Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP says: “The fight over renewing the nation’s farm bill has centered on cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program. But there could be unintended consequences if no agreement is reached: higher milk prices. Members of the House and Senate are scheduled to begin long-awaited negotiations on the five-year, roughly $500 billion bill this week. If they don’t finish it, dairy supports could expire at the end of the year and send the price of a gallon of milk skyward. … Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who is one of the negotiators on the bill, says the legislation could also be a rare opportunity for the two chambers to show they can get along. ‘In the middle of the chaos of the last month comes opportunity,’ Klobuchar says of the farm legislation. ‘This will really be a test of the House of whether they are willing to work with us.’ ” If it’s OK with you, I won’t hold my breath.

New, improved and very likely deep-fried … The AP tells us: “Minnesota State Fair officials have unveiled a $15 million project to replace its aging Heritage Square attraction. General Manager Jerry Hammer says it will be called ‘West End Market’ and will open for next year’s fair. It’ll include an updated State Fair history center, a bigger entertainment stage, dozens of artisans and specialty merchants, and several new food and beverage vendors. It also includes a new entrance gate and transit hub for buses.”

Frac sand mining apparently guarantees a crowd … Elizabeth Dunbar of MPR reports: “Fears that a Wisconsin-style frac sand mining boom could reach the east metro communities of the Twin Cities drew a crowd of more than 300 people to a forum Tuesday night in Mahtomedi. It isn’t likely that Washington County and surrounding areas would become the next site for industrial sand mining to supply hydraulic fracturing rigs with silica sand. But there was consensus that Wisconsin’s experience, where many mines have clashed with local communities and in some cases have violated environmental laws, should not be repeated. ‘Minnesota is not Wisconsin,’ said Dennis Egan, who represents the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council.” Right, and we like it that way.

A Strib story by Abby Simons says: “The Minnetrista man charged with criminal vehicular homicide in the death of his 8-month-old daughter after his sport-utility vehicle crashed through the ice on Lake Minnetonka received a stayed 57-month prison sentence Wednesday. Jonathan Markle, 42, must also tell his story to groups 100 times over five years about the night he was legally drunk when he drove the family SUV onto the ice after he had been drinking. Markle’s attorneys intend to appeal on the admissibility of a blood test taken without a warrant, but did not dispute the sentence. Markle allowed the judge to find him guilty based on the facts of the case. While issuing the sentence, Hennepin County Judge Jay Quam said prison wasn’t appropriate in a case where Markle has already suffered enough.”

Not exactly your high-end thieves … Chao Xiong of the Strib writes: “Two east metro twenty-somethings allegedly got so drunk they broke into St. Paul homes this month in separate incidents and stole a package of bacon and a box of ice cream bars. Michael P. Gavin, 25, of Maplewood, was charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with one count of first-degree burglary for an Oct. 29 incident in which he allegedly ran off with a homeowner’s bacon. Mijajean L. Jourdain, 22, of St. Paul, was charged Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree burglary and attempted first-degree burglary for an Oct. 26 case in which she allegedly stole a box of ice cream bars and was confronted by the rifle-wielding homeowner.” Are you prepared to die for Eskimo Pies?

On the Atlantic website, Sarah Goodyear reports: “The troubled company that provides the equipment for bike-share systems in many cities in the United States, Canada, and beyond has a new problem this week: an unhappy customer in Minnesota. In a move first reported in the Montréal Gazette, Nice Ride Minnesota, which runs the bike-share system in Minneapolis-St. Paul, has filed a ‘notice of a material breach’ of its contract with PBSC, the Montréal-based company that supplies hardware for the Nice Ride program. It’s just the latest cloud in an already obscure financial picture for the Montréal-based PBSC (also known as Bixi), which supplies bikes and stations for similar programs in New York, Washington, D.C., Melbourne, Australia, London, and many other major cities. … According to the most recent numbers, it is $42 million in debt, with a $6.5 million deficit and $5 million in outstanding payments.” Sounds like a solid business plan.