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April 29, 2007

Texas tea's getting more pricey

Star Tribune, WASHINGTON - Gas prices are on the rise again. Though supply is available, out-dated U.S. refineries can't kick out enough gasoline to meet demand. Prices are rising before the summer driving season, and some say it could get as high as $4 per gallon. [full story here]

But not everyone agrees. On Wednesday, the Pioneer Press reported that gas prices remained stable on Wednesday as the market prices climbed 36 cents. The national average now rests around $2.85 per gallon, and some say that's about where it'll stay. This reporter, however, saw the prices spike last week when her local gas station bumped its price up 20 cents overnight.

There are reasons. U.S. gas inventories are lower than they've been in 20 years. U.S. are working at roughly 88% capacity, and they simply aren't producing enough. Furthermore, they're dated. No refineries have been built since 1976, and the U.S. currently relies on Europe for the majority of its oil refinement. With an expected union strike at Belgian refineries (which collectively produce about 1 million barrells of refined oil each day), gas prices could easily jump again.

American motorists are also to blame for the rise in the prices. According to the most recent report released by the U.S. Energy Information Adminstration (EIA), gasoline consumption grew 2.3 percent over the last month alone, and and 2.2 percent over the past year.

But there is some faintly glimmering hope. If the strike doesn't happen and if the U.S. refineries can keep up without any glitches, major natural disasters or shut-downs, prices may not be so high.

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April 25, 2007

Don't Drink the Water, cont'd.

Star Tribune, METRO AREA - Documents released by 3M show that more than two decades ago the company was concerned about the chemicals that have been seeping into local water supplies. [full story here]

3M released the documents1 in the civil suit that began in March. The document, from 1983, suggests that 3M employees were divided about PFCs.

Some were concerned that since the chemicals are particularly resistant to degrading, they could have lasting and dangerous effects in the environment. Others felt that the compounds were stable, and though they don't break down, they also are not harmful. Nevertheless, the report suggests that tests should be run.

3M kept manufacturing the chemicals until 2000, when it began phasing them out due to rising concern over the chemicals spreading into the nearby environment, as well as into the human bloodstream. Especially since one of the chemicals, PFOA, may be a carcinogen.

PFCs have been found in local water supplies, as well as in the Mississippi and Lake Calhoun. Earlier this month, state health officials cautioned against eating a lot of fish from these areas.

1 3M did not want all of the information disclosed. The residents' attorneys "inadvertantly included confidential portions" in both "written notes" to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and in the documents provided to the Star Tribune. Later, the attorneys asked for both agencies to return the documents. MPCA swapped out their copies for a redacted version, but the Star Tribune kept the unredacted files. The attorney's then moved to block the newspaper from publishing the information, but the motion was denied.

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April 18, 2007

Bomb threat at University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota, MINNEAPOLS - Eight buildings on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota have been evacuated as a result of a bomb threat found in a bathroom.

Taken from the University Website

Building Evacuations on East Bank

All employees working in any of the buildings listed below are required to leave the building and will be dismissed from work for the remainder of the day with pay.

Employees scheduled to work evenings or night shifts in these buildings should report to their normal reporting sites in Mechanical Engineering and Scott Hall.

Unless notified otherwise all employees should report to work as usual on Thursday.

Kohltoff Hall, Smith Hall, Fraiser Hall, Science Classroom Building, Walter Library, Johnston Hall, Morrill Hall, Appleby Hall.

I have class on the opposite side of the mall right now and I am not going. It is better to be safe than sorry. If you have a class in Tate, Ford, Murphy, Lind, or even on to the CSci building, or the Biology building - I say do not go. Call your friends, make sure they're somewhere safe, and stay safe yourself.

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April 15, 2007

Shoooool's out forevah.

Minnesota Public Radio, MINNEAPOLIS - Despite public urging against the motion, the Minneapolis School Board voted 6-1 on Thursday to close six schools, five of which are in North Minneapolis. [full story here]

Tuttle, W. Harry Davis Academy, Jordan Park, Lincoln, North Star and Shingle Creek will be closing their doors, and this summer the Board will discuss other closings.

The reasoning for closings seem quite logical. Over the past years, enrollment's have declined almost 50%, losing students to charter, private, and suburban schools. District leaders also cite the achievement gap, because "the academic gap between white students and students of color on the north side is wider than in the rest of the city." The school board plans to pool resources, but some parents and students are not thrilled.

The last time the schoolboard opted to close down schools, debates were held over the course of a year. In this case, the plan to close the schools was announced three weeks prior to the decision, with one meeting for the public.

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PiPress v. Strib, 2007

Pioneer Press, MINNEAPOLIS - The Pioneer Press is taking on the competition... in court.; suing for 13 counts ranging from conspiracy, theft, and fraud, the PiPress claims Ridder took secret business information from the Pioneer Press to their arch-nemisis, the Strib. [full story here]

The PiPress alleges former publisher Ridder planned togo to the Star Trubune six months before his actual departure. They also claim he took computer files holding advertiser information, budget plans, and future business plans, delivering them straight to the hands of the competition.

This marks an interesting point in the Twin Citie's competetive press scene. I think it'll be interesting to see how ethical and legal bounds are defined in a court of law. It will also be interesting to watch the trial coverage from both sides of the argument. This is a true exercise in objective reporting.

So far, the PiPress is asking for a court order to permit a computer expert to inspect the Star Tribune's computer systems, especially those used by Par Ridder and the two executives. The lawsuit also asks for unspecified monetary damages, attorneys fees, and a one-year ban on Ridder working at the Star Tribune.

Stay tuned, more updates as they arrive.

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March 4, 2007

Pope and the Witch Opens, Controversy Ensues

Minnesota Daily, MINNEAPOLIS - The Pope and the Witch, though delayed by Thursday's blizzard and subsequent closing of the University of Minnesota buildings, opened on Friday on Rarig's mainstage. Some folks really aren't happy about it. [full story here]

The University's decision to mount this particular play play, which has been described as a "blasphemous" "attack on Catholicism" has recieved a lot of attention and heat recently. But the U went on in the name of artistic expression (increasing the security and checking bags along the way), and the show opened against the wishes of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Though the pre-opening buzz was considerable, attracting several local news sources, few anticipated the stir created on opening night when semarian protestors from St. John Vianney College Seminary recited the Lord's prayer, the rosary, and sang hymns outside of Rarig before Friday's opening.

Some see Thursday's cancellation as an act of God, showing his displeasure with the content of the play. For more information on the opening night happenings: click here.

Robert Rosen, director of Pope and the Witch, never thought the reaction would be this strong. In his director's statement, he explains that he chose this play because it is politically relevant to our daily lives. He stands by his production, and he defends the right of students and others to learn through satire, parody, and art - even when views are unpopular.

In an effort to create learning and understanding for all, there is a meeting before March 8th's performance. A Town Hall meeting is being held between 4:00 and 6:00 to discuss the play and its content. Afterward, the play will run and a talk-back will follow the performance. The public is encouraged to come.

The show will run through March 9th, without performances on the 5th and 6th. For ticket information call 612.624.2345

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March 1, 2007

OFFICIAL REPORT: Hell Hath Frozen Over

It's true. The University of Minnesota has closed due to snow conditions.

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL – The University of Minnesota is closing and canceling all classes and evening activities effective at 2:30 p.m. today, Provost Thomas Sullivan announced today.

"In light of current conditions and the forecast for severely worsening
weather, this is an appropriate measure at this time," said Sullivan.
"The mid-afternoon closing of metro area schools, colleges and
universities and other institutions made it even clearer that this is the
right thing to do."

President Robert Bruininks' State of the University address, which was scheduled for this afternoon, will be rescheduled.

CONTACT: Daniel Wolter, 612-625-8520, 651-485-3214 cell

So enjoy your brief hours of freedom. Stay warm and stay safe, drive carefully if you must and beware the impending Snow Emergency when parking.

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February 25, 2007

Snow Emergencies and U!

Snow emergencies are impossible to navigate. This is the first time I've ever had to deal with one. I am fortunate enough to live in an apartment complex with an off-street parking lot. I am not, however, at my apartment. I am currently in Dinkytown not watching the Academy Awards. Nay, I am diligently doing my homework while frantically worrying about my car.

I parked on 2nd street, which has been completely plowed to the curb. When I parked, there was at least one other car around so I felt better about my decision; although, I doubt tow-trucks buy into the whole "safety in numbers" concept. Still, it was reassuring. I even checked that today was an odd day (25) and that the addresses were odd on my side of the street. Everything checked out, so I put on the parking break and headed for my destination.

Still not fully comfortable, I immediately fired up my laptop and Googled "Minneapolis Snow Emergency," at which point I was bombarded by myriad useless websites put oEnter away message text here.ut by the City of Minneapolis.

The most helpful of which? Right here. And to be honest, it's not saying much. The only solace I find is within the following passage.

After a street is fully plowed to the curb, feel free to park there, even if Snow Emergency parking rules are still in effect. Fully plowed means the street is completely cleared and plowed to the curb. Plows may come through more than once, so make sure that it is fully plowed to the curb before parking.

I am still bobbing up from the couch every time I see flashing lights, just to make sure my car is where I left it. I have photographic evidence proving the street was "fully plowed" as according to the aforementioned specifications. But we all know that odd nights turn into even mornings, and I just hope I'm back in the safety of my own lot by then.

I wish the rest of you the best of luck.

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February 18, 2007

President's Day and You!

Sure, the calendar says it's a holiday, but what effect does it really have on you? Chances are, you still have to go to work. The bills are still due, and if you want to go out for dinner in a small town they probably won't be closing early.

If you're curious, though, the Star Trib has put together a list of what establishments within the metro area will and will not be open tomorrow. Check out the list here.

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February 11, 2007

R.T. gettin' his climb on...

Star Tribune, MINNEAPOLIS - Mayor R.T. Rybak arrived at the IDS tower on Saturday morning, along with approximately 700 civilians and many Minneapolis and St. Paul police officers and firefighters, stripped down to his sport treads, and bolted up 50 flights of stairs for the 26th annual Climb for a Cure. [full story here]

This year's Climb for a Cure, a pledge-based fundraiser expected to raise approximately $125,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, was made possible by Twin Cities law firm Briggs & Morgan and other corporate sponsors.

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January 27, 2007

That won't fly, MAC.

Star Tribune, MINNEAPOLIS - Hennepin County District Judge Stephen Aldrich ruled on Thursday that the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) broke their promise to soundproof air traffic noise for the thousands of houses near the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport. [full story here]

According to a related article in the Pioneer Press, in 1996 the MAC had agreed to spend $150 million to soundproof the houses effected by the airport expansion.

In order to qualify for full soundproofing, a citizen would need to be inconvenienced by 65 decibels of noise. The current dispute rests with homeowners who experience 60-64 decibels of pollution, who claim the original agreement extended full soundproofing to them as well.

How exactly does one fully soundproof a home from noise pollution? You can't exactly build a sound-barrier wall to block jet noise descending from on high. No, in order to protect from aerial noise, you must insulate your walls, get special doors and windows, install roof baffles, a furnace, duct work, and a central air-conditioner. Soundproofing a home can cost up to $45,000.

What, then, is partial sound-proofing?

In November 2004, commission board members had voted to scale back from the full treatment for homes in the 60-to-64-decibel range. Under a revised policy, it offered air-conditioning to 3,594 homes if their owners agreed to help pay for it.

Well, according to the quote above... it's the package deal, minus the central air-conditioner.

Almost 8,000 (7,800+ houses according to the main article linked above, PiPress reports 7,690) homes have already been fully soundproofed. [Note of Interest: By that math, about $360 million has already been spent.] The 5,628 homes with 60-64 decibels of pollution have been told by the MAC that they need to help buy their air-conditioners and they are most emphatically not pleased.

A trial to decide what remedy to give the homeowners will begin on Feb. 12.

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