Still no answers in Oct. 17 Jennie-O plant illnesses

The Willmar City Council is quite naturally interested in finding out what sent 24 Jennie-O Turkey Store employees to the hospital on Oct. 17. They may not receive an answer, writes David Little of the West Central Tribune. All the workers were released from area hospitals the same day except one who was released the next day, and all returned back to work. Insurance is handling many of the claims, and Jennie-O has said it will cover any costs not covered. Jennie-O and the Willmar Fire Department couldn’t find a cause. Since no cause could be determined, there won’t be a report. OSHA said it will take months before its final report is ready.

The snow may be slippery on the roads, but it ground this season’s harvest to a halt, writes Heather J. Carlson of the Rochester Post Bulletin. Farmers managed to harvest 95 percent of the state’s corn crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Lisa Behnken, an extension educator with the University of Minnesota, said the snowy weather may have stopped farmers from making corn stock bales or tilling their land. Behnken said corn yields varied across the state from as low as 90 bushels per acre to 300 bushels per acre. Dave Heins, who works at All-American Co-op in Eyota, said the corn price of $3.25 per bushel is better than some analysts were expecting. “We were expecting a lot lower because there’s a big crop,” he said.

Greater Mankato Growth is ready to move forward on a plan to make Southcentral Minnesota identified with agribusiness the same way Silicon Valley is identified with technology, reports Tim Krohn of the Mankato Free Press. The GMG is committing $370,000 over the next three years and will hire an executive director to focus on four areas: promoting agribusiness, public affairs, education, and developing a support system for existing business and marketing for new ag-related businesses.

Nine hospitals in the Arrowhead region have banded together to form Wilderness Health, reports Peter Passi in the Duluth News Tribune. None will lose their independence, said Cassandra Beardsley, executive director of the new alliance. Members include St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Bigfork Valley Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, Cook County Hospital in Grand Marais, Cook Hospital in Cook, Fairview Range in Hibbing, Lake View in Two Harbors, Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake and Rainy Lake Medical Center in International Falls. “So for us, the challenge is: How do you meet all of the tenets of health care reform as a small facility, and you really have to have partners to do that,” said Mike Delfs, CEO of Mercy Hospital and the vice-chairman of Wilderness Health. “This is a vehicle that allows us to remain independent, and we’re with a bunch of independent, like-minded hospitals. We’re really trying to partner together to do the things we need to do to care for patients better, while at the same time maintaining our independence.”

When Jennifer Theisen, a programmer/analyst at Bemidji State University, heard about the Girls Who Code clubs, she knew Northern Minnesota was ripe to take advantage. She founded the Northern Minnesota Girls Who Code Club in Bemidji with the hope that maybe 10 girls would join and learn how to write computer programs. She now has at least 50 girls in 6th through 12th grade at each meeting, reports Bethany Wesley of the Bemidji Pioneer. “They’re soaking it up like a sponge,” Theisen said. “I can show them just a handful of things and then tell them to go ahead and do it on their own. … They’ll take what I’ve shown them and they’ll take it to the next step, which is so awesome to see.” The students are working with Scratch, a free online program that allows them to create a character and choreograph its movements. 

Ask any newspaper editor and they will tell you, there is no more harrowing experience involving newspaper readership than changing comic strips. Such is the case at the Faribault Daily News, where readers are being asked to choose among four choices to replace “Better Half,” which will be discontinued at the end of the month. The four choices are “The Lockhorns,” “Pardon my Planet,” “Take It From the Tinkersons,” and “Family Circus.”

A group of Carlton College students is pressing the Board of Trustees to divest any holding is has in the fossil fuel industry, reports Kevin Krein of the Northfield News. The Carleton Climate Justice Coalition has been pressing the issue for more than a year and found support from faculty, students and alumni when the college administration held a town hall meeting to discuss the divestment effort. The next step is to approach the college board of trustees with this information. “It’s a small percentage of the endowment,” said group leader Brent Murcia. “It could be safely reinvested. Our focus is on climate justice and I’d hope we could get the trustees to do this within a year or two.” Faculty member Bob Dobrow points out that the investments are not malicious on the part of the college. “The energy industry is a pillar of American capitalism,” he said. “It is almost impossible to escape. But for a college and a faculty who are in the business of preparing students for the future, how can we do that when we are involved with an industry that is going in the exact opposite direction?”

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