Bob Shaw / St. Paul Pioneer Press
In the dimly lit room, Mark Quinlan struggles to be heard. His voicebox has been silenced by his thyroid cancer. He tries to whisper, but the hum of his oxygen machine drowns out the sound. The voice of the bone-thin 67-year-old barely carries to the edge of his hospice bed. But Christy Marek is listening. Marek, an end-of-life assistant called a death doula, leans forward to catch every word. She asks him about funerals, the afterlife and memories of happier times. “Do you want last rites?” she asks. The whisper: “I suppose.”
The toughest pollution cop in the state doesn’t wear a badge. It’s the trout — Minnesota’s pickiest species of fish, and an indicator of the highest-quality water. “There is a mystique about trout,” said John Lenczewski, director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. If water in a stream is clean enough for trout, he said, it’s clean enough for everything else. “If you have wild, naturally reproducing trout, that tells us the water is not polluted.”
STILLWATER, Minn. — Ivy Kemnetz and Connor Geary may be the best friends that Brown’s Creek ever had. Every week, they carry instruments to the creek in Stillwater. Every week, they measure water clarity and flow. Every week, they take its temperature, like parents doting over a sick child. They are part of a battalion of about 1,500 volunteers — and dozens of robots — fanning out across the state to check water quality this spring. Together, they are like Mother Nature’s eyes and ears, watching for signs of trouble.
A barefoot yoga teacher recently convened her first outdoor class of spring. “Roll over on your bellies,” Shaila Cunningham said to the 12 women on the basketball court. “You should be feeling some heat from your Hara,” she said, referring to an abdominal energy field. She didn’t tell them she is feeling the heat herself, as a small-business owner. She has been forced to compete with Shoreview’s $25 million fitness center nearby, with 19 yoga classes a week — all of them cheaper than hers.
MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - Ken Graack isn’t afraid of competition. He owns the American Strength Training Center, where he whips competitive weightlifters into shape. But competition has to be fair. That’s why he is bothered by the YMCA-managed fitness center in Maplewood. It’s only one mile away, with a bigger weight-lifting area and 80 fitness classes per week. Unlike Graack’s business, it pays no federal income tax or sales tax, and has an $11 million facility built by the city of Maplewood.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Methodist pastors are stunned by the church’s recent decision to strengthen rules against gay weddings and ordinations. They are talking openly about splitting the church apart, to form a new denomination more open to sexual and gender variations. “Pastors like me are heartbroken, anguished, mad and frustrated,” said the Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard of Hamline Church in St. Paul, which displays a rainbow banner outside the church.
ST. PAUL -- A state agency has levied its highest penalty ever — $7 million — against a company for polluting air in White Bear Township, Minn. Water Gremlin Inc., maker of fishing lures and battery posts, released a chemical solvent into the air from its factory, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, was released from 2002 until last January.
Better Angels, a national group promoting conversations between Republicans and Democrats, has pointers for anyone hoping to facilitate such a conversation on their own. These have been taken from the Better Angels website, moderator Kim Martinson, and published reports. The recommendations:
ST. PAUL — Sam Erb made Republicans seem like the worst self-hating psychos on the planet. “We are racist, homophobic, sexist, deplorable, Islamophobic and any other kind of phobic there is,” said Erb, a dedicated Republican from Minneapolis. But then, listening to Beth Varro, it seemed like Democrats were the monsters of humanity. “We are baby killers,” announced Varro, a Democrat, as she made a list on a poster-board. “We think we are the elites, the intellectuals. We want open borders. We are anti-business.”
EAGAN, Minn. -- An 11-year-old Eagan boy saved a drowning man more than twice his size Sunday, Dec. 30. Advaik Nandikotkur, who weighs 70 pounds, pulled the man from the bottom of a swimming pool in an apartment complex. The 170-pound man was then resuscitated by adults on the pool deck and, apparently, has made a full recovery. “None of the adults knew how to swim,” said Eagan Police spokesman Aaron Machtemes. He called the rescue “amazing.”