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Heroin use growing in Duluth, police chief says

ALSO: Winona-area famers happy with corn, bean crops; vandals strike Mankato church again; Rochester schools to re-evaluate teacher evaluation; and more.

Duluth has a growing heroin problem.

Peter Passi of the Duluth News-Tribune went to Monday’s city council meeting and heard from two people intimately aware of Duluth’s heroin problem. Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said police began to see widespread use of opiate-based drugs in 2010. When that flow was stemmed, they saw an increase in the use of heroin. He said most of the heroin in Duluth is brown heroin made in Mexico and distributed via Chicago. Users rarely know how pure the heroin is and run the risk of overdose. Both this summer and last, the city has seen as many as four heroin overdoses in a single weekend. Jodie Blegen’s 20-year-old son has been an addict for four years. Passi quoted her: “For me it’s like watching my child drown, and there’s nothing I can do to save him,” she said. “We can’t trust him. No one believes him or wants him around. He has no sober friends, and after four years of using, his criminal activities due to his addiction are catching up to him, and he has been in and out of jail. He is homeless and completely lost, jobless and certainly in no condition to be employed. He’ll steal anything that isn’t bolted down.”  

Drive down any road at night that isn’t in Hennepin or Ramsey counties and you are likely to see the bright lights of a combine – a sign that a farmer isn’t letting a little thing like daylight stop him from bringing in his crop. Nathan Hansen of the Winona Daily News reports that farmers in the area have battled rain and mud to get into their fields both in the spring and fall, putting harvest two weeks behind schedule, but the corn and soybean yield this year is good. “Yields have been really surprising for us,” said Lewiston farmer Duane Wirt. “Some fields have seen 200-plus bushels per acre.” To give an idea of how hard farmers are working to get their crops in, last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that Minnesota farmers had completed 20 percent of the corn harvest. By Sunday, half the crop had been harvested.

Two 100-year-old stained glass windows were destroyed by vandals early Friday at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Mankato, writes Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press. They also broke two regular windows and damaged an elevator door, said parish administrator Mark Frederick. Fixing the two regular windows will cost about $500 and fixing the elevator door will be about $1,000. It will be a while before the replacement costs for the two old stained glass windows are determined. A similar incident occurred Aug. 17, when 10 windows were broken. A couple of the windows appeared to have been kicked in and bricks were thrown through the other windows.

Anne Polta of the West Central Tribune has her finger on the pulse of the flu. Sporadic cases of flu are beginning to show up, she wrote. The Minnesota Department of Health has already confirmed several influenza cases. Although flu activity remains low, the state Health Department reported three hospitalizations for influenza-like illness during the week ending Oct. 19.

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Next year, Rochester teachers will undergo new evaluations. The new evaluations are eminently practical: Instead of being reviewed only in their first three years, teachers will be reviewed every year, and instead of having a principal do the reviewing, peer coaches (read: other teachers) will pass judgment on the teachers. The moves, as chronicled by the Rochester Post Bulletin’s Matthew Stolle, comes at the behest of the state Department of Education, following  a law passed two years ago that says school districts have to create a new rankings system on their own or have the state impose one on them.

Cristeta Boarini of the Faribault Times came up with a nice story about “Movember,” an awareness campaign for men’s health in which men spend the month of November growing their mustache. The Contented Cow in Northfield is helping with a Nov. 1 kickoff party for the event.  “It’s something we’ve been thinking about doing for a long time,” said the Cow’s co-owner Norman Butler. “It’s really about being a part of the global citizenry.” The campaign started in Australia in 2003 to raise money for men’s health, especially issues like testicular and prostate cancer research, as well as mental health access.