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2017 traffic deaths in Minnesota lowest in 74 years

Plus: Minnesota man dies in Montana avalanche; local doctors see spike in frostbite cases; report says costs of medical procedures vary wildly at Minnesota hospitals; St. Paul settles with Fox 9 ‘s Alix Kendall over improper accessing of driver’s license information; and more.


Actual progress. Says Brady Slater of the Forum News Service, “A preliminary figure released by the state on Wednesday indicates Minnesota experienced its lowest number of roadway fatalities in 74 years in 2017. The 348 traffic deaths announced by the state is the lowest total since 1943 (274) and second-lowest since 1926 (326).”

Whatever happened to taking a week in Aruba? Says the AP: “A veteran Minnesota explorer is planning another adventure, an attempt at the first winter ascent of remote Mount Luciana in Canada. The seldom-visited, 17,146-foot peak is deep in Yukon’s Kluane National Park, about 40 miles north of Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan. Lonnie Dupre, of Grand Marais, Mn., says he and his climbing partner, Pascale Marceau, of Sudbury, Ontario, hope to fly into the St. Elias mountain range next week, weather permitting, with enough supplies for 25 days. He says they can expect temperatures of minus-50, gale force winds, limited daylight and storms that last for days.”

Meanwhile, the AP reports: “A Minnesota man died in an avalanche while he was snowmobiling about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of West Yellowstone in Montana. Gallatin County officials say 40-year-old Weylon Wiedemann of Pine City, Minnesota, was caught in the avalanche late Tuesday afternoon on the west side of Sage Peak, in the southern Madison Range. The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center says Wiedemann triggered the slide and was buried under 3 feet of snow. Fellow riders dug him out in 12 to 15 minutes, but he died at the scene.”

Closer to home, MPR’s Tim Nelson reports: “Frostbite cases were coming in at the rate of one an hour to Regions Hospital in St. Paul over the New Year’s holiday as the recent cold snap blanketed the Upper Midwest. … Regions’ emergency department has seen or treated more than 25 cases of frostbite since Christmas Eve with many of those coming the past few days. At the burn center, 15 patients were treated for frostbite. Hennepin County Medical Center has seen 26 patients with frostbite since Dec. 24, hospital spokesperson Christine Hill said.… Mohr said cases are worse this year than typical years, although it hasn’t been as bad as the historic polar vortex winter in 2013 and 2014.”

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If only there was a big button to get this done. Stephen Montemayor of the Strib reports: “With no nomination yet from President Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday appointed Minnesota’s acting U.S. attorney to continue in the role on an interim basis. Gregory Brooker, a former first assistant under Andrew Luger, has led the Minneapolis office since Luger was among the 46 holdovers from the Obama administration who were ordered to resign in March 2017. … Brooker is one of just seven interim U.S. attorneys selected to stay on after spending most of the past year as acting U.S. attorney. This is a signal that the administration is not yet close to nominating a candidate for Minnesota’s position.”

Always get a second (or third) bid. In the PiPress, Christopher Magan reports : “Minnesotans could pay up to eight times more for certain medical procedures depending on the hospital they choose, but it’s hard to know which facilities offer the most affordable services. That’s the take away from a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health aimed at making health care costs more transparent. Researchers examined the wide range of prices Minnesotans pay hospitals for four procedures — hip and knee replacements and normal and C-section births.”

Very much related. A Strib commentary by Apple Valley medical device sales rep John Folsom says: “Pricing for health care services is simply not transparent. This call could have gone to any of the major networks in Minnesota — including Fairview, Allina, Essentia, Children’s, HealthEast, Mayo or CentraCare — and the resulting runaround would have been the same. This lack of transparency has evolved because of consumer complacency. For the system to change, consumers must open their windows, lean out and shout: ‘I am not going to take this anymore!’ Patients should be able to enter a clinic or a hospital for a scheduled visit and have a pretty clear understanding of what a service will cost. Why is it different from taking your car to a mechanic?”

3,800 times. The PiPress Mara H. Gottfried reports: “After a local TV anchor said St. Paul officers looked up her private driver’s license information for non-law enforcement purposes, the city council agreed Wednesday to settle her federal lawsuit for $33,000. Fox 9 Morning News co-host Alix Kendall sued St. Paul and nearly 200 cities, counties and other agencies throughout Minnesota in 2014. The lawsuit claimed Kendall’s driver’s license information was accessed more than 3,800 times during a 10-year period … said Sonia Miller-Van Oort, Kendall’s attorney. Miller-Van Oort’s law firm, Sapientia Law Group, has handled about 35 similar lawsuits, and she said Kendall ‘was probably the biggest victim that was discovered in the state of Minnesota whose information was being rampantly accessed by law enforcement.’ The lawsuit said the searches were not for any legitimate law enforcement purpose.” You think?

Someone needs a serenity break. A WCCO-TV story says: “A southern Minnesota woman is facing felony charges after she allegedly kicked out an Uber driver’s windshield, damaged his cellphone and commanded her dog to ‘kill’ a responding police officer. Mary Kathryn Boettcher, 36, of Mankato, is charged with fourth-degree assault against a peace officer, obstructing the legal process and first-degree damage to property, according to documents filed in Blue Earth County.” So what’s her Uber rating now?