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U of M gives men’s basketball coach Pitino $400,000 raise

Plus: Minnesota students tops in ACT scores; state officials consider expanding medical marijuana program; Metro Transit offers free wifi; and more.

Coach Richard Pitino
MinnPost photo by Jana Freiband

Losing even more points for really bad timing. For the AP Dave Campbell reports, “Minnesota has finalized a two-year contract extension for coach Richard Pitino through the 2020-21 season, including a $400,000 raise.  The university released the details Tuesday, months after the terms were agreed to while Norwood Teague was the athletic director. Pitino, who finished his second year as coach of the Gophers, will now make $1.6 million annually. His $500,000 base salary stayed the same; his supplemental compensation was bumped up from $700,000 to $1.1 million. Pitino is still well within in the bottom half of the Big Ten, in terms of money being made by the men’s basketball coaches in the conference.”

That conference on prescription drug abuse and related problems got underway yesterday. Dave Chanen of the Strib writes, “Reflecting the level of interest in addictive opioids and the intensity of the problem they have created, registration for “The Pain. Pill. Problem” conference ballooned so quickly that it had to be moved from a smaller venue to Northrop Auditorium. Among those attending were physicians, health care professionals, public health officials, addiction treatment providers, corrections officials and community leaders.”

Says Libor Jany in the Strib, “Somali police officials have launched an investigation into the brutal death of a Minneapolis-born boarding school student following mounting pressure from U.S. authorities. … It isn’t uncommon for Somali parents to send their children away to boarding schools in their homeland to become more attuned with their culture and learn discipline, community leaders say. The practice, called dhaqan celis (loosely translated as ‘rehab kids’), isn’t without controversy, as critics point out that the students, many of whom were born in the states, often encounter a similar cultural gap in Somalia.”

We’ll know we matter when Donald Trump milks a cow at the Fair. In the PiPress, Rachel Stassen-Berger says, “Minnesota traditionally held an overlooked beauty pageant for Republicans in February that was little-attended. The Democrats’ caucus did win some attention but its place on the calendar meant it was often an afterthought for national campaigns. But that could change this year. Perhaps your columnist and Minnesota politicos are just being wishful in their thinking but Minnesota may actually net some sunshine in its shadowy existence.”

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Our kids are ACT smart. Alejandra Matos of the Strib reports, “Minnesota students continue to lead the nation in ACT college entrance exam scores, according to national data released Wednesday. The state’s graduating class of 2015 earned the highest average composite score, 22.7 out of a possible 36, among states in which at least half the graduates took the test. The national average was 21. This marks the 10th straight year that Minnesota’s students outscored the rest of the nation.

Too bad we don’t have full scale camera access in court rooms. The AP says, “Eight people across the U.S. who registered to use Ashley Madison are suing the website for cheaters after hackers released personal and detailed information of millions of users, including financial data and sexual proclivities. The lawsuits were filed between last month and Monday by Ashley Madison users in California, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Minnesota.”

Thanks all the same, I’ll swim at the gym. Says Allie Shah in the Strib, “Cue the ‘Jaws’ music. Unlike the predator from the granddaddy of all shark dramas, this menace to swimmers has no fins. In fact, it can’t even be seen. Worse, it takes many forms — parasite, bacteria or virus — and can make you really sick. In late summer, when sweltering heat drives many Minnesotans to seek relief in lakes and rivers, the risk of catching a bug from contaminated water rises. Because the lakes have gotten warmer along with everything else, there are more bacteria growing in them.”

Well, they better find a market somewhere. Says the AP, “State officials are weighing a question that could drastically expand Minnesota’s medical marijuana program and offer hope of relief to thousands of residents: Should it allow people with intractable pain to buy the new drug? … The state doesn’t have a firm grasp on how its patient base would increase if they expand the narrow list of qualifying conditions to include intractable pain. But there’s no doubt it would be a massive change. Manny Munson-Regala, chief executive of the medical marijuana manufacturer LeafLine Labs, said he thinks it could eventually triple or quadruple the 5,000 patients they currently expect to sign up.” And they’d double that if they counted existential anguish.

Vigilante justice in Winona. The AP (again) says, “Police say a pickup truck driver who accidentally struck a 4-year-old boy who had dashed into the street was beaten by bystanders in southeast Minnesota. … when the man got out of his vehicle to check on the child, bystanders started kicking and punching him. Winona Police Chief Paul Bostrack told The Associated Press that two or three people attacked the man. Police say the 18-year-old driver sustained scrapes and a chipped tooth and was released from the hospital.”

Now if they’d just serve espresso. Says Tim Nelson for MPR, “Metro Transit is offering free Internet connections aboard dozens of buses in a new test around the Twin Cities. The free Wi-Fi service will be available on nearly 60 express coaches and 10 local buses on a variety of routes. Riders will see signage on buses to tell them if there is Wi-Fi on board.” I hope it works better than the joke on airplanes.

Sally Jo Sorensen follows these, uh, “unique” individuals, so you and I don’t have to. In her Bluestem Prairie blog she writes, “On his personal Facebook page, which is open to all service users, Minnesota state representative Tim Miller shares a lurid Life News post, ‘Former Satanist: “I Performed Satanic Rituals Inside Abortion Clinics.”‘ Life News, which describes itself as ‘an independent news agency devoted to reporting news that affects the pro-life community’ with a weekly readership of 750,000, picked up self-proclaimed ex-satanist Zachary King’s sensational account from the Lepanto Institute, a conservative Catholic group founded last year by anti-choice activist Mitch Hichborn. … While King apparently first appears online in 2011 as a ‘Former Satanist turned Catholic Warrior for Christ’, his star more recently rose when he was featured as an expert on Satanism in the March/April 2015 ‘The Occult and Satanism in America’ issue of Crusade Magazine.”  My subscription lapsed and I sold my light-up devil horns at a garage sale.