I just invented a religion that requires me to drive a steady 90 mph up I-35. The Strib’s Jeremy Olson says, “A St. Joseph, Minn., employer has received a religious exemption to the federal mandate requiring birth control coverage in workplace health insurance, a case that stems from the Hobby Lobby ruling that weakened a key plank of Obamacare. American Manufacturing Co. won an exemption based on the fact that its owner, Gregory Hall, is an ordained Catholic deacon in Texas who fundamentally opposes the types of birth control and sterilization specified in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.”
Speaking of I-35, the protest that shut down the northbound lanes yesterday were a bit of a two-fer. Brandt Williams of MPR reports, “The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed I-35W northbound at Exit 14, near Lake Street, in Minneapolis for roughly an hour as more than 100 protesters staged a sit-in on the highway. … Many of them were part of a group that gathered inside a nearby Burger King restaurant to voice support for an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers. But as they closed traffic along both streets, they turned their attention to the long list of people, mostly African-Americans, killed by law enforcement officers, or shot by vigilantes as Trayvon Martin was in Florida.”
And on the subject of low-pay by big companies, a PiPress story says, “A longtime Delta Air Lines employee and Twin Cities labor activist, Kip Hedges, was fired this week from his job as a baggage handler after championing a $15 minimum wage for airline workers. According to multiple postings on social media, Hedges gave an on-camera interview to Workday Minnesota, where he said, ‘A lot of the Delta workers make under $15 an hour. As a matter of fact, I would say probably close to half make under $15 an hour.’ Delta officials told Hedges he was being fired for ‘disparaging remarks,’ according to an account on Workday Minnesota. It’s unclear how many Delta baggage-claim workers make less than $15 an hour, but some do, while others earn significantly more.” But as I read this, the Beloved Sort-of-Hometown Airline isn’t saying what he said was untrue.
The flu season has claimed its first victim. A Strib story says, “The victim was a child but was not identified Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health. The department said 18 new patients were hospitalized with flu symptoms last week, about average for this stage of the season, and eight school districts reported new flu outbreaks. Influenza’s severity varies widely from one year to another, with a national death toll ranging from 3,300 to 49,000 annually.”
A half-settlement between Mayo and Quest Diagnostics. Elizabeth Baier of MPR reports, “Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics have reached an agreement in Mayo’s suit against one of its former top executives. In a lawsuit filed in October, Mayo alleged Dr. Franklin Cockerill III was secretly hired by Quest Diagnostics but continued to work as the president and CEO of Mayo Medical Labs so he could steal Mayo trade secrets. Mayo also alleged Cockerill attended confidential meetings before telling the clinic he was leaving. … the clinic continues to pursue remaining claims against Cockerill to protect confidential trade secrets against improper disclosure.”
The Como Lakeside Pavilion is getting a serious upgrade. For the PiPress, Frederick Melo and Joe Lindberg write, “The operators of the Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul and the 331 Club in Minneapolis would renovate and manage the Como Lakeside Pavilion next year, according to a tentative agreement with the city of St. Paul. Visitors to the Como Park landmark would notice fewer weddings, more musical acts, expanded hours, bicycle surrey rentals, a possible farmers’ market and a fuller food menu under the proposed year-round contract. The deal is expected to net the city of St. Paul $1 million over the next five years.
They could just as well have played hockey at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday. At Fansided.com, Catharine Silverman writes, “NHL fans usually have pretty strong opinions when it comes to Gary Bettman, but one thing is certain — he knows how to grow the league. In the past two and a half decades, Bettman has seen league expansion and financial success many couldn’t dream of. … More than anything, the Stadium Series have been the uncontested big-ticket events in recent years. The series, which includes the highly-coveted Winter Classic game, seems like a perfect fit for the ‘hockey state’ — yet Minnesota has yet to be awarded one of the league’s outdoor games.”
The British TV ads are back at the Walker. MPR’s Euan Kerr says, “Between this week and Jan. 4, the Walker will screen the compilation of ads 88 times. Last year, almost 27,000 people saw the show. The Walker expects about the same number this year — although there’s room for a few more. Other U.S. cities host the show, but only for a few nights. What makes the show such a big hit in Minneapolis is a bit of a mystery. The Minnesotan passion for the British Arrows is simply unmatched, and hard to explain. … One answer to the popularity mystery may be interest generated by the large creative industry in the Twin Cities. Also many families have just made the British ad festival part of their holiday routine.” We suffer/enjoy severe Anglophilia around here.
How to avoid a “negative” rating. In the Strib, Christopher Snowbeck says, “Credit rating agency A.M. Best has revised its outlook for Golden Valley-based PreferredOne due in part to the health insurer’s troubled business through the MNsure exchange. A.M. Best affirmed the financial strength rating of B++ (Good) and the issuer credit ratings of “bbb” for PreferredOne Insurance Co., and an affiliated HMO. But the agency revised the outlook to negative from stable. A.M. Best said it subsequently withdrew the ratings in response to PreferredOne’s request to no longer participate in the ratings process.” See! Not so bad after all.