MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Food stamp debate resumes today in D.C.
The debate over funding for food stamps is again center stage as the Democrat-controlled U-S Senate and Republican-controlled House again try to reach agreement on a new Farm Bill (first meeting 130pm CT). State Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says the Senate bill "will be fine" for Minnesotans, but the House bill would mean more people going hungry in Minnesota. Jesson says "let's hope for a good compromise coming out of the conference committee." But Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says one in seven Americans receive SNAP benefits -- "far too many of us." Bachmann says reforms proposed by the House will preserve assistance for the most needy, while encouraging others to work.
A St. Paul woman has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the priest she says abused her at St. Joseph's parish in west St. Paul in the mid-80's. Jane Doe 23's attorney Mike Finnigan says internal memos show that church officials knew that Father Robert Thurner had previously molested another teenager in 1982, as well as provided pornography and alcohol to the then-16-year-old, when he was at St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins. Finnigan says Thurner was transferred to St. Joseph's six months later, but that local officials were not told of the molestation admission. Father Thurner also worked in parishes in Prior Lake, St. Paul, and Bloomington.
Minnesota State Fair officials are kicking off construction today (Wed) for a new area on the northwest end of the fairgrounds (Wed9:30am) to replace Heritage Square. Officials will unveil plans and announce the name of the new hub. They say it will be "a home for artisans, craftspeople, specialty merchants and stellar food-and-beverage options; an experience that brings the State Fair's rich history to life." Many of the old Heritage Square buildings have already been removed.
The Minnesota Poison Control System is reminding parents this Halloween that glow sticks are safe to wear - but not to eat. The good news is the chemicals inside are not poisonous and minimally toxic. Regional Director Kirk Hughes says exposure to children usually does not require a trip to the hospital and parents should call the Poison Center first. Hughes says they generally receive 90 to 120 calls about glow stick exposure around the Halloween season. The Minnesota Poison Control System operates 24 hours a day (800-222-1222).
Animal rights group Mercy for Animals is claiming employees at Pipestone Systems Hog Farm in Minnesota are abusing animals. The company says it was an isolated case. Mercy for Animals Executive Director Nathan Runkel says one of their members took an undercover video at the farm which he believes documented horrific animal cruelty, and they took their complains to a Minnesota court judge - which led to a further investigation by the Pipestone County Sheriff's department and the county attorney. Pipestone System CEO Dr. Luke Minion says the mistreatment case was an isolated incident and the employee caught on tape abusing animals was terminated. He also says the woman taking the undercover video had a specific agenda - and it isn't ensuring welfare of animals. Minion says it's his understanding that the county prosecutor has determined not to bring any charges against any farm employees at this time.
Minnesota U-S Senator Al Franken has authored a bill meant to train more workers in high-skilled manufacturing jobs, and help companies in the state find the employees they need to do business successfully. Franken says between one-third and half of the manufacturers in Minnesota can't fill the jobs they have available, and the Community College to Career Fund Act will create a competitive grant program that will focus on job training-related efforts, and create partnerships between businesses and community colleges. Franken says the partnerships will train workers for jobs in high-demand industries like health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology.
ClearWay Minnesota launched an ad campaign this week targeting kids and secondhand smoke. Spokesman Mike Sheldon says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and research shows that children are particularly susceptible to the health risks of second hand smoke because their bodies are still developing. Sheldon says 40 percent of children who visit the emergency room for asthma live with smokers, and while the tobacco companies claim smoking is a choice, many children don't get to choose.
As National Bullying Prevention Month wraps up, a Minnesota police officer is asking parents to continue watching for signs that their child may be a victim. Breckenridge Detective Sergeant Natalie Butenhoff says the outward signs are often not subtle -- children coming home with clothing that is torn or in disarray or damaged items, or with unexplained bruises or cuts. She says where parents turn next depends upon where the bullying is taking place. If it's happening in the neighborhood and outside of school Butenhoff says parents should call police. Minnesota law requires schools to have an anti-bullying policy, so she says if bullying happens within the school parents should report it to administrators. The message in this year's anti-bullying campaign is, "The End of Bullying Begins with Me."
Halloween sales are projected to be down this year over last. According to the National Retail Federation the average person will spend around 75 dollars this year. University of St. Thomas Marketing professor Dave Brennan says while Christmas is the big kahuna of holiday spending, the smaller days like Halloween and Easter do add up. A survey distributed recently by the NRF (National Retail Foundation) indicates that nearly 9 in 10 people plan to spend less on candy, costumes and decorations this Halloween season compared with last year.