News Day: Talking trash in St. Paul / Twine and turkeys / Unemployment update / GLBTQ-friendly school

©Maninblack – Fotolia.com

©Maninblack – Fotolia.com

Talking trash in St. Paul St. Paul council member Dave Thune has proposed that the city council study trash collection in St. Paul, and from the storm of comments unleashed on the E-Democracy forum, this ranks right up there with single-payer health care as a threat to the entire capitalist system. Currently, garbage collection in St. Paul is 100% private, which means that every house on a street might have a different garbage collector, with different trucks rolling down the street five days a week. Alternatives range from city-owned and operated garbage collection, which no one advocates, to city-awarded contracts for specific collection routes. The issue keeps on coming up, and the garbage industry has always rolled out the big guns to shoot down any proposals for change.

In unemployment news The MN unemployment compensation fund, forecast to go into the red early 2010, dipped into red ink in July, necessitating borrowing from the feds for a week, reports the Star Tribune. After that, unemployment tax collections put the fund back in the black – at least temporarily, with the next red ink forecast for October, before the end-of-quarter tax payments. Then the fund will go into the red again in December, with no prospect of pulling out of deficit until at least 2012. A big part of the problem: no jobs.

On average, laid-off Minnesotans collected unemployment checks for 14 weeks in 2007 and 18 weeks last year. In June, the timeframe rose to between 21 and 22 weeks.

The U.S. Department of Labor figures on initial unemployment benefit claims showed a slight decrease nationally, with seasonally adjusted initial applications for unemployment insurance at 550,000 for the week ending August 1, a decrease of 38,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 588,000.

Twine and turkeys Meeker County is in the news, which is rare enough, and it’s in the news for two separate stories on the same day, which is almost unheard of.

First, there’s the avian flu, discovered in one of the gigantic turkey factory farms. Not to worry, says the state Board of Animal Health, according to MPR. This is a mild form of avian flu, and besides that, theyve quarantined the farm, and besides that, none of the workers shows any signs of infection. In fact, it sounds like none of the birds are really sick — they just have the virus, which shows up multiple times each year, somewhere among the cages of the turkey-growing factories that make MN the top turkey-producing state in the country.

The Darwin Twine Ball is the second Meeker County newsmaker, with Martha Stewart naming it one of the “good things” in the country. Among more than a thousand Google references to Martha and the Twine Ball, here’s the local take from the Litchfield Independent Review:

Anyway, can anyone make a connection between Martha Stewart — the diva of home design and all that is proper — and the Largest Ball of Twine Collected By One Man?

Apparently, Martha and her team of TV producers are going to give it a try. Roger Werner, curator of the Darwin Twine Ball Museum, informed me yesterday that he got a call from one of the producers of the Martha Stewart TV show….

Werner admits he has no idea why Stewart would be interested in Darwin’s twine ball, but he figures that any kind of publicity is good publicity for the city’s humungous claim to fame.

Just in time for this Saturday’s Twine Ball Day celebration in Darwin.

Picture 8
For more than you ever wanted to know about the Twine Ball, click here to watch and listen to Weird Al Yankovic’s seven-minute ode.

Bankruptcies rise Both nationally and in Minnesota, bankruptcy filings are rising, reports the Star Tribune. Nationally, consumer bankruptcies were up 34 percent in July, compared to July 2008. In Minnesota, bankruptcies were up 30 percent in July, compared to July 2008, and “consumer bankruptcies for the first seven months of 2009 are running 35 percent ahead of the same period in 2008.” Bankruptcy attorneys said that more filers are people earning more than $60,000, both because filing became more expensive in 2005, and because people with higher incomes are more likely to have homes in foreclosure and second mortgages outstanding.

Nationally and in Minnesota, bankruptcy filings are expected to continue at high levels.

American Bankruptcy Institute executive director Sam Gerdano is expecting 1.4 million bankruptcies by the end of the year, the busiest year since 2005, when more than 2 million consumers flocked to file to beat the less-consumer-friendly reforms put in place that fall.

GLBTQ-friendly school A new on-line high school based in Maplewood says it is the first on-line GLBTQ high school in the country, reports the Pioneer Press. GLBTQ stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. David Glick, the first online learning coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education, founded the school and says it is getting national and international interest. So far, however, only 24 students have registered, and 50 are needed to start the school in the fall. Tuition for the private, on-line school is $5900 per year. While some fear that an on-line school could further isolate students from their peers, Glick is confident that will not happen.

Curt Johnson reaffirmed Glick’s assertion, saying his findings “overturned the conventional suspicions” of the online classroom. He is a managing partner at Education Evolving, a joint venture of the Center for Policy Studies and Hamline University that promotes technological progress in schools.

“The individual transactions of e-mailing and telephoning regularly creates a relationship between students and teachers,” said Johnson, who believes online schools will outnumber their physical counterparts by the year 2017.

Minnesota to the world Two Minnesotans have been confirmed as ambassadors, reports MPR. Miguel Diaz, a theology professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, will become the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Sam Kaplan, an attorney and DFL fundraiser, will become the U.S. ambassador to Morocco.

National/World News

“One of these things is not like the other” Paul Krugman points out that the news reports equating Republican health-care opponents with Democratic opponents of Bush social security privatization schemes are just wrong:

Indeed, activists made trouble in 2005 by asking Congressmen tough questions about policy. Activists are making trouble now by shouting Congressmen down so they can’t be heard.

Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will not hold any town hall meetings because of “threatening phone calls, including at least one direct threat against his life.

Dealing away health care reform The New York Times reported that the White House says it “stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion,” despite House proposals to “allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers.”

Closer to home, the Minnesota Independent reports that Blue Dog Democrat Colin Peterson said he won’t vote for the health care reform proposals now before Congress.

Scam alert The New York Times describes employment scams, which seem more widespread as more people feel more desperate in their search for work.

Like job seekers, criminals are after moneymaking opportunities online. And they’re setting increasingly sophisticated traps to prey on the desperation of the jobless, whose guards are down amid eroding savings, swelling debts and calamities like foreclosure and bankruptcy. Victims can ill afford another financial setback.

Among the most common scams: help for a fee, fishing for identity data, work from home, “money mule” and reshipper schemes.

War Reports

Afghanistan A roadside bomb killed 21 civilians, mostly women and children, who were headed for a wedding in the southern province of Helmand, reports the New York Times. A roadside bomb in another part of Helmand province killed five police officers and wounded three more. In Kandahar province, local officials said an attack by a U.S. Apache helicopter killed five farmers who were taking cucumbers to a bazaar. U.S. officials said the men were loading small arms, not cucumbers.

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