Minnesota Now August 18, 2022

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MPR News host Cathy Wurzer

Today on Minnesota Now, we give a COVID update and talk about solo hiking the Superior Hiking Trail, a look back on Iron Range labor activism and this week’s sports coverage.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] KATHY WURZER: It's Minnesota Now. I'm Kathy Wurzer. A new COVID vaccine is on the way, and the CDC is relaxing guidelines and rethinking its approach to COVID precautions. We'll talk to a Mayo doctor on practical precautions right now. And we'll talk to a woman about the personal triumph of her two week solo trek along the North Shore.


Small towns have been disbanding their police departments for decades. We hear from one town that's reversing the trend. And we dive into a bit of Iron Range history. The 1907 miners strike, and how it compares to today's labor movement. Plus we catch up on sports with our resident experts Wally Langfellow and Eric Nelson. All that plus the song of the day in the Minnesota Music Minute.


Stick around. It comes up after the news.

LAKSHMI SINGH: Live from NPR News in Washington, I'm Lakshmi Singh. Former President Donald Trump's longest serving business executive is admitting to conspiring with the Trump organization in a tax evasion scheme. Though he has not directly implicated Trump himself. NPR'S Andrea Bernstein says former CFO Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty today to 15 felony counts.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN: New York judge Juan Merchan began by asking, "did he, Allen Weisselberg, from 2005 to June 30th 2021, together with others at the Trump organization, engage in a scheme to defraud to underreport his income to tax authorities?" "Yes, your honor." Weisselberg said. 15 times, in New York Criminal Court.

Weisselberg who served four decades as Trump's chief financial officer, will have to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, interest and penalties, and agree to a jail term of five months. Most significantly for Donald Trump, Weisselberg has agreed to testify truthfully at a trial of Trump's business for the same scheme, scheduled for October. Andrea Bernstein, NPR News, New York.

LAKSHMI SINGH: The Food and Drug Administration is facing debate over its strategy for evaluating the next generation of COVID-19 boosters. Instead of requiring the companies to test the new boosters on people, the FDA, for the first time, is only requiring the vaccine makers test the boosters in mice initially. As NPR'S Rob Stein explains, the agency plans to make a decision based on the results of those tests in mice, not people, along with the data from people the companies collected about their first stab at boosters targeting the original Omicron.

ROB STEIN: Instead of authorizing the first boosters the vaccine companies produced, boosters that target the original strain of the Omicron variant, like the UK just did, the FDA wants to go with boosters that target the Omicron variants that are now dominating. The hope is they'll provide stronger, longer lasting protection. And that's why the FDA decided to use an entirely new strategy to evaluate them.

LAKSHMI SINGH: NPR'S Rob Stein reporting. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits suggest the US job market is still tight. NPR'S Scott Horsley reports on the latest figures from the Labor Department.

SCOTT HORSLEY: The Labor Department says fewer people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. Claims have been hovering around the 250,000 mark, which is low by historical standards. That suggests employers are reluctant to lay workers off at a time when there are far more vacant jobs than unemployed workers to fill them.

Minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting shows staffers at the central bank lowered their forecast for inflation slightly between June and July. Prices are still climbing faster than the central bank would like, however. The Fed's expected to raise interest rates again at its next meeting in September in an effort to curb inflation, although betting markets now point to a somewhat smaller rate hike than policymakers ordered last month. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

LAKSHMI SINGH: The Dow Jones Industrial average down 114 points to 33,864. This is NPR News.

SPEAKER 1: Support for NPR comes from NPR stations. Other contributors include Capital One with the Capital One quicksilver card. Details at capitalone.com. What's in your wallet? Credit approval required. Capital One Bank USA NA. And the listeners who support this NPR station.


KATHY WURZER: Around Minnesota right now, skies are sunny to cloudy. There's some rain out there. Temperatures today will be in the mid 70s to the lower 80s. It's going to be humid. At noon at the Duluth airport, it's raining and 66. It's sunny and 77 in International Falls. And outside Tilly's Bar and Grill in Orinoco, Minnesota, it's sunny and 74. I'm Kathy Wurzer with Minnesota News headlines.

There's still some cleanup to do today in downtown Cambridge where water ran into homes and businesses along Main Street. Four inches of rain fell in one to two hours yesterday. The city's newly renovated library will be closed today to assess damage.

There was some flash flooding in parts of Inver Grove Heights. Some drivers found themselves stranded in high water, forced to find refuge on the roofs of their cars. NPR's meteorologist Sven Sungaard says yesterday's storms were isolated, but where they did develop, they moved very, very slowly.

SVEN SUNGAARD: All because these storms just really there was nothing to move them along. Winds aloft were under 15 miles an hour. So that's why the rain just kept adding up. But then at the same time, 10 miles away, you wouldn't get a drop at all. So that was just kind of the nature of the activity yesterday.

KATHY WURZER: The region is looking at waves of rain mainly this afternoon. Heavy rain is possible late today, tonight, tomorrow through Saturday. A Minneapolis Park Board committee last night decided to go ahead with a plan to redesign the Hiawatha golf course, paring it back to a nine hole course and creating a channel for stormwater to flow into Lake Hiawatha. The 18 hole course was built on a marsh and has had problems with water runoff in the past. It's not clear if the course redesign plan will pass the full Park Board.


In our top story, the COVID pandemic. It's still here. And last night, the Biden administration said a reworked COVID vaccine that's designed for the virus that's circulating now, the BA.4 and 5 subvariants, should be available sometime next month.

Also last night, the director of the Center for Disease Control publicly denounced the way the Center has handled the COVID pandemic overall. She said it failed to respond quickly enough and called the public guidance, quote, "confusing and overwhelming." That's after the CDC recently dropped most of its recommendations for staying safe. Gone are quarantine requirements. Distancing and masking guidance is a distant memory for many.

It's now up to individuals to assess their risk and try to avoid COVID if they can. With schools starting in three weeks, we wanted to know how to do that. Joining us is Dr. Greg Poland. He's the director of Mayo Clinic's vaccine research group. Dr. Poland, welcome back to the show.

DR. GREG POLAND: Thank you. Good to be with you.

KATHY WURZER: Thanks for being here. The relaxed guidance from the CDC reflects the public mood on COVID. It's over for many people. They don't care. What does that mean for the trajectory of the pandemic?

DR. GREG POLAND: Yeah, you're very right, that sort of the public mood is that it's over. And the most alarming thing is that it certainly is not over. Now, good news in that hospitalisations and ICU admissions have fallen, but deaths now are increasing. And increased about 3% to 5% over the last week or two.

And so we we're in this bizarre situation where you're trying to give public health and individual clinical recommendations to people, to the population, and they're often ignored. There's a diversity, right? There are some people who will follow, very strictly, recommendations, and others who are completely unaware of it.

And this, as you're saying, Kathy, it amazes me. People will stop me on the street to ask me questions, and they'll often start off with saying, well, you know that the pandemic is over, don't you?

KATHY WURZER: And you say?

DR. GREG POLAND: And I say, it's far from over. now, what's happening, and this is a bit nuanced and difficult for people to appreciate. Among those who are vaccinated and have a healthy immune system, the likelihood of being hospitalized or of dying is dramatically lower than before vaccines were available. And instead, in those vaccinated people, what it has shifted to is asymptomatic mild or in some cases moderate infection.

So the risk is not dying or hospitalization, the risk is disruption of your social work or school life by having COVID. And the considerable risks of so-called long COVID or post-acute sequelae or complications of COVID. And that is what is being underestimated by individuals who have just thrown caution to the wind.

KATHY WURZER: Even among the vaccinated?

DR. GREG POLAND: Even among the vaccinated.

KATHY WURZER: I'm wondering, doctor, with BA.5, the king of the hill at this point, there doesn't seem to be another powerful variant behind it at least at this point. What does that mean for the development of this virus going forward? Does it simply become endemic?

DR. GREG POLAND: Well, the virus will and is continuing to mutate. We have a BA.4 subvariant, there's a BA.2 subvariant that's caused an outbreak in Illinois. Those will likely continue to expand. What this virus has demonstrated very clearly to us is that in the face of immunity, it will try to find ways around that.

So what the virus wants us to do is not get boosted, not get vaccinated and don't wear masks. Because the more times that it can infect people, whether they have symptoms or not, the more opportunity for that virus to mutate and find a way around our immunity.

KATHY WURZER: Let's talk a little bit about, you mentioned that you can still-- we all know that we can still get infected even if you're vaxxed. But I'm wondering, with the Biden administration expecting to roll out these retooled vaccines in September, how might those be helpful?

DR. GREG POLAND: Yeah, good question, Kathy. Those will help by boosting immunity, and in particular, boosting immunity against this, if you will, off-branch that's developed in COVID viruses in the BA or Omicron subvariant category.

So it'll boost our immunity, it will boost our immunity to the currently circulating viral subvariants. And even variants then that develop off of that, we likely, I want to stress likely because it hasn't happened yet. We will likely have higher levels of immunity. So the problem was that we all got vaccinated against the original Wuhan strain. Then we had Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma, and out of the blue, from Delta, Omicron strains developed.

And that, the distance between the original Wuhan strain and Omicron was large enough that it substantially diminished our immunity, our protection against Omicron subvariant viruses. So the idea is by giving an Omicron subvariant booster, in this case BA.5, that we will increase protection and boost our protection against other Omicron subvariants.

KATHY WURZER: Do you suggest that folks then wait until this Omicron specific booster becomes available and get the shot before the weather turns cold?

DR. GREG POLAND: Yeah. This is the common question that I get. And I would have to somewhat individualize it by somebody's medical history. But if they're elderly, if they've got a lot of medical conditions that place them at risk for severe COVID, I would get boosted now.

If that's not the case, then I see no difficulty-- what I would hope is that somebody has gotten two primary doses of vaccine, they've gotten one booster, and now they're questioning, do I get that second booster? If they're otherwise healthy, I would say I think you can wait on that because of the rapidity with which the new booster is likely to come.

Somewhere in the next three to five-ish maybe six weeks, we'll have that booster. Now, in the meantime, wear a proper mask properly when you're indoors around people who are not your immediate family, and that's the piece people are forgetting.

KATHY WURZER: Let me ask you-- let me drill down on that a little bit. So you are still recommending that people still wear well-fitting N95, decent quality masks?

DR. GREG POLAND: Absolutely. That is the safest way to protect yourself against infection and the possibility of complications from that infection.

KATHY WURZER: Do you-- what do you do in the case of, say, the State Fair? There's going to be a ton of people out there.


KATHY WURZER: Do people feel comfortable going about the fairgrounds without a mask? Would you still wear a mask? What would you do about that, even if you're outside?

DR. GREG POLAND: Yeah. Even when you're outside, if you're in very crowded venues, it's clear that you can still transmit and get infected with virus. So we're talking probabilities here. That probability is lower outside than inside. But even within the domain we call outside, there are very crowded environments and there are environments that are not. For example, I'm comfortable eating outdoors at a restaurant. I am not comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant.

KATHY WURZER: Also, as I'm sitting here thinking, there's so much to ask you here. And I'm sorry. I do want to ask you about the U of M research that was just out this week that threw some cold water on the effectiveness of Ivermectin to treat COVID. They released their study. They did find that Metformin, the diabetes drug, showed some promise. So if a person is already taking Metformin, does that offer some protection against serious illness?

DR. GREG POLAND: Yeah. Well, I would call those results early, and they form a hypothesis that would need further testing. So I would not depend on that. And if there is some benefit, great. By itself, it would not be taken as a preventative drug or as an antiviral though.

KATHY WURZER: So, before you go, it sounds as though we're heading into school starting here in three weeks. As I mentioned, the weather is cooling. We don't have the guidance as we had from the CDC. It sounds like it's kind of an individual decision as to how to protect yourself. So what are you telling patients who are medically compromised or who are living with someone who is, or who are anxious or reluctant to put themselves out there? What's your advice?

DR. GREG POLAND: I would even broaden what you're asking, Kathy, to anybody who wants to substantially decrease their risk of infection or complications from that infection. Like brain fog or fatigue and other things. And that is to be fully vaccinated, get at least one booster, knowing the second booster is coming, and to wear a proper mask properly when indoors around people who are not your immediate family.

KATHY WURZER: All right. Always a pleasure, Dr. Poland. Thank you so much.

DR. GREG POLAND: My pleasure. Thank you.

KATHY WURZER: Dr. Greg Poland is a physician and the director of Mayo Clinic's vaccine research group.


KATHY WURZER: This is the Minnesota Music Minute. This song is called Spark in Endless Black by Twin Cities based musician Cole Primo. It's off of his digital album called Universe/love released in 2013. Cole's a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Plays around the Twin Cities. You can find more of his music on Bandcamp. Search Cole Primo.


(SINGING) Yes I dream of love. Seas too vast to cross, but this much, but I'll never in these role inside, few chill feels all right, but it's just this much, in endless black.

KATHY WURZER: Minnesota has some pretty incredible places where you can hike, fish, simply soak up the beauty around you. Leah Lim is a citizen of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and spent most of her life in cities. First the Twin Cities suburbs and then Boston where she went to college. But recently, she's been venturing outdoors to the wilder places. And this summer, she headed out on a two week hike along the North Shore. All alone. Why did she do that? Well, we're going to ask her. Welcome back to the show, Leah. How are you?

LEAH LIM: I'm well, thank you, Kathy.

KATHY WURZER: You hiked the North Shore by yourself? Why did you want to do this?

LEAH LIM: Yeah, it's a totally fair question. So I started at Caribou Lake and then hiked down kind of close to Split Rock. And, I mean, I have so many reasons. I love getting off the grid, feeling closer to nature. And I'm also turning 40 here soon, and I wanted to celebrate in my own way with a chance to have this two weeks of contemplation and this quiet joy, which was amazing. And then also, frankly, I needed time to think. So what better way to do it than alone.

KATHY WURZER: That makes complete sense to me. And I really applaud you for doing this. Because not many people would.

LEAH LIM: But I tell you what, it was really nice to be able to make my own decisions. Because oftentimes, we get swept away with others' needs, others desires for us, like a job or family. But I also wanted to see what happens while being able to make pure decisions for myself, especially in kind of a dangerous situation.


LEAH LIM: It's safe and dangerous. It can be dangerous.

KATHY WURZER: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Would you describe yourself, Leah, as kind of outdoorsy?

LEAH LIM: OK. I would describe myself as medium or mild outdoorsy.


LEAH LIM: I like to garden and get out in the woods, but other days I like to wear my nails and my eyelashes and my heels.

KATHY WURZER: Now, I want to have you take us back to the first day on the trail. And you took a little video so we got to play some sound--


I Know. We're going to play some audio from that video. So here we go.

LEAH LIM: Hello, day one. I've made my way to mystery mountain. And there is a woodpecker out there. And I can hear the Poplar River. I've planned my route for tomorrow. Keep going Southwest. And purified my water, bare packs up. I don't know what else to do. It's 6 PM.

KATHY WURZER: So you're camping obviously? Was it boring? To be honest, no, is it boring?

LEAH LIM: I tell you what, yes. But I don't think boring is a bad thing.


LEAH LIM: Oftentimes I really just wish I could be bored, because oftentimes we're just too busy. So yeah, I would-- many days I would be done by five or six, and then I just lay in the tent and then go to sleep. And then wake up and do it again.

KATHY WURZER: Did you run into any four legged residents of the woods? That would be a little scary. Say a bear perhaps.

LEAH LIM: Yeah, I ran into a bear. I was in this part of the trail that was very thick, very woodsy. You can't see far beyond your shoulders even. I heard a baby bear out in the woods somewhere. And I couldn't tell precisely where it was. So I started making more noise. I found that I like singing Britney Spears on the trail for some reason. I don't know why Britney Spears just came to mind.

And I also have a bear bell that's constantly ringing. And I'm also not very light on my feet. So I'm always making noises. I rounded a bit of a corner and there they were, just eating. And then it saw me. And luckily, just turned around and ran away very fast. I must punctuate that they are very fast, bears.

KATHY WURZER: That's the one thing keeping me from camping, is running into bears. I have this fear.

LEAH LIM: Yeah, you have to be very bear aware. We don't leave trash around, you've got to make sure that you're packing everything up in bear canisters or bear bags and putting it high and far away from camp, high up in the trees.

KATHY WURZER: Any other run-ins with residents in the woods?

LEAH LIM: Yes. And I actually had to use my bear spray. I was attacked by a grouse.


LEAH LIM: And let me tell you,


LEAH LIM: They are scary. I think they poof way up, and run at you with their arms or their wings like spread way out. I called it a Velociraptor because it was just running after me, squawking. Sounds kind of like a guinea pig. And I didn't want either of us to get hurt, so I gave it the absolute-- and I stress-- the absolute lightest touch of bear spray to keep it back. And then it stopped and then sort of circled around behind me. But yeah, this grouse was not letting up on protecting whatever it was trying to protect.

KATHY WURZER: Wow! I did not know that they could get themselves a little unstrung. There you go. I learned something new.

LEAH LIM: Oh, yeah.

KATHY WURZER: I'm wondering too, this was, for you, a big trip. And I'm wondering too, when you were on the trail, did you think of your ancestors who also walked those paths for generations? Was the hike culturally significant for you?

LEAH LIM: Yeah. I think a lot of it had to do with the plants. There are plant relatives and our animal relatives out there. So I made sure that I brought my medicines. I had tobacco and sage with me, and then foraged a tiny bit of cedar while I was out there. And it was nice to just give thanks every day. I felt even more safe.

And I think just making sure that I gave thanks connected with the land and the water and the animals and the plants in that respect. And then it really kind of sparked a curiosity in me to be able to identify more of the plants and animals out there.

Remember, mild to medium outdoorsy. And so now that kind of sparked that curiosity to be able to identify the plants and their uses that have been around for millennia. I didn't really go out seeking. It so much as it just sort of popped up.

KATHY WURZER: That's interesting. Yeah. Now, what did you learn about yourself? You were out there two full weeks by yourself, which is, for many people, an amazing adventure. So what did you think you came away with in the end? What lessons did nature teach you about yourself?

LEAH LIM: Yeah. There are the obvious lessons like, I can do it, I'm capable, and I'm quick on my feet and I can innovate and use my equipment in new ways that helps me be more comfortable and effective out in the woods. But I think being mentally stronger is a takeaway. Because-- so, I do have obsessive compulsive disorder that's been a part of my life since I was nine years old. And I've struggled with anxiety and these sorts of mental hurdles that have just been a part of my life.

And I think taking the quiet, the calm, and really just knowing that I can work through these challenges, like I fell quite a few times and shed some tears over it because my knees were just absolutely trashed because of the falls. And just knowing that I can kind of still end up on the other side with a smile on my face. Happily eating a hamburger in Silver Bay. Like that's the joy right there.

KATHY WURZER: I am glad you did the trip. I really am. And it makes me think, maybe for other listeners too, can I do the same thing? So thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.

LEAH LIM: Yeah. Thank you, Kathy.

KATHY WURZER: Leah Lim lives in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She's a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. You can see photos from her hiking trip, including those skinned knees on our website nprnewsandnotes.org. To learn more about how to safely hike and camp along the Superior Hiking Trail along the North Shore, go online to superiorhiking.org.

SPEAKER 2: Support comes from Crayola Experience, Mall of America. Where kids and their families can color and imagine a world that's all about Crayola crayons. 20 hands on activities, including melted wax drip art. Visit Crayola Experience at Mall of America. Programming is supported by CenterPoint Energy's Home Service Plus, whose team of professionals repair, replace and maintain home appliances for thousands of Minnesotans every day. Learn more about HSP's everyday expertise at centerpointenergy.com/hsp.

KATHY WURZER: Say, yesterday at this time we had a great time with John O'Sullivan. He's from the Twin Cities, and he does these quick TikTok video tours of the Twin Cities, Twin Cities historic spots, hot spots. And he did a video when he was here at NPR.

I'm not going to tell you where it was or how he did it, but it's part of his one minute tour series on TikTok. We have a link by going to nprnewsandviews.org. You can also, if you follow me on Twitter, I just retweeted that. So we had a great time with him, you can watch the video too. Right now, John Wanamaker joins us with a look at the news. John?

JOHN WANAMAKER: Kathy, a top executive at former President Donald Trump's family business has pleaded guilty to evading taxes. And that deal, the plea deal with prosecutors, could potentially make him a star witness against the company at a trial this fall. Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg admitted, at a court hearing today, that he dodged taxes on lavish fringe benefits that he got from the company.

Weisselberg is the only person to face criminal charges so far in the Manhattan District Attorney's long running investigation of the company's business practices. It is accused of helping some employees avoid income taxes by failing to report their full compensation. Former President Trump is not charged in that case.

Deshaun Watson has reached a settlement with the NFL and will serve an 11 game suspension and pay a $5 million fine rather than risk missing his first season as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Watson was accused of sexual assault and harassment by two dozen women while he played for the Houston Texans. The League had sought to ban him for at least one year for violating its personal conduct policy. As part of the settlement, Watson may return for the Browns game on December 4th in Houston.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is meeting with the UN chief and Turkey's leader near Ukraine's border with Poland. The talks are focusing on the recent deal to resume Ukraine's grain exports, also the volatile situation at a Russian occupied nuclear power plant, and also efforts to help end the war.

Turkey and the United Nations helped broker an agreement last month clearing the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain that was stuck in its ports since Moscow invaded February 24th. The UN chief will focus on containing the situation at a Russian occupied nuclear power plant, while Turkey's leader will try to expand grain exports.

Firefighters are putting out the remnants of two wildfires on a Sicilian island that forced fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens more to flee to vacation villas overnight. The head of the region's civil protection agency said that arson was suspected in the wildfires that forced some 30 people to seek refuge in boats or in safer parts of the island. Armani's press office says he and his guest evacuated as flames near the Italian designer's villa, but the fire stopped short of the property. This is NPR News.

KATHY WURZER: It's Minnesota Now here on MPR News. I'm Kathy Wurzer. You know I love history. So we're going to talk about 115 years ago this summer, something happened on the Iron Range. There was a miners strike, and it made some history. Between 10,000 and 16,000 miners, most of them Finnish immigrants, walked off the job July 20th of 1907. It lasted two months.

Mining companies hired strikebreakers, but the event was notable because it was the first organized strike on the Range. Minnesota author, professor and historian Aaron Brown has a new article in the Minnesota Reformer news website that describes that strike and its similarities with today's union drives at places like Amazon, Starbucks and Trader Joe's. Aaron's on the line. Good to hear your voice.

AARON BROWN: Hey, Kathy. Nice to hear from you too.

KATHY WURZER: Hey, well, as you being a ranger, you know that the Range has kind of a rough and tumble kind of history. Take us back to what it was like there in 1907.

AARON BROWN: 1907 is still dirt streets in most of the Range towns. 90% of the male workforce works for or something connected to the mining industry. Men outnumber women six, seven to one. And half the population was born in a foreign country. Many of them still speaking foreign languages exclusively.

So it's a crazy place, lots going on. And, of course, the world's biggest corporation, US Steel, just formed six years earlier, and is trying to take over the world. So it's all happening in this little place in northern Minnesota.

KATHY WURZER: And US Steel had the Oliver Iron Mining Company, right?

AARON BROWN: That's right, the Oliver, they called it.

KATHY WURZER: OK. What were conditions like in that mine?

AARON BROWN: There were two kinds of mines that were very prominent. One was underground mining which you might be familiar with. If you can imagine going in like the coal mining regions of West Virginia, you go underground into drifts and shafts and you're looking for seams or veins of iron ore. And you're physically blasting and picking them off of the rock underneath.

And then there is the open pit mining which was very prevalent. it's one of the unique features of the Mesabi Range, was the available surface ore. And so that is stripping ore off of the ground in these great pits that, in fact, are still here today. And both were dangerous in different ways. Of course, underground you could be crushed, you could be flooded.

And over, in the pit, large equipment fell down, rolled down the sides of pits all the time. Lots of moving parts, lots of people digging at all times. And the fatalities were very high. Hard working conditions and you made $2 a day, less. Poverty wages accounting for inflation.

KATHY WURZER: So pretty tough. In the history that I've read about the range, Aaron, miners had gone on strike before, right? But this one-- this strike was different. Why did they choose to strike when they did?

AARON BROWN: There were labor strikes all the time. Wildcat strikes they might call them today. The renegade strikes by employees who were just mad about a particular situation, often a particular boss. A particular mining captain who was cruel or something like that.

But this was the first of the big organized strikes. And it was the first where Union organizers took a leadership role. People with an organized agenda to create a labor movement. In this case, it was the Western Federation of Miners. They sent an organizer, Teofilo Petriella, to Northern Minnesota to Hibbing which is where the strike was based. And he was tasked with creating an organization. And one of the things that made him unique and the strike unique was that he worked with leaders of different ethnicities to lead men who spoke different languages.

Before this, they would come in and speak in English, well, half the workers don't speak English. So they'd come in with some slick talking person, well, it never took hold. Well, this one did because, a, Petriella was Italian, and then the Finns who were labor minded, a lot of them were socialists. And then they had leadership in other ethnic groups as well. This is the first time they figured that out. That if you speak in the person's own language, they will respond better than if you don't.

KATHY WURZER: How was Mr. Petriella viewed by others in the community?

AARON BROWN: Slovenly. It' interesting seeing both the local and the statewide newspapers at this time in 1907, reading the articles, I mean, we would call it racist today. Ethnic slurs, all the stereotypes you could think of. His odor was a prominent feature in how he was described. He was dirty and filthy, and once crafty and sly and manipulative. On the other, stupid and cruel. All the bad words they could think of were used to describe him.

And one of the interesting details about him was he was a literature professor in Italy. And he was a labor guy, and he came over to the United States to organize unions. And so there was organized society, elites of this small town, the business owners and, of course, the mining companies were looking down at this guy.

Like, who is this guy? Why does he think he gets to mess up our whole thing we've got going on here by having the workers ask for more money or maybe even go on strike and disrupt our shipment strategy? So he was treated as a pariah. And an organized propaganda campaign was organized by the local newspaper.

KATHY WURZER: Wow! What a background story on him. So how would you compare Petriella to someone like Chris Smalls, you know?

AARON BROWN: Well, when I first started hearing about Chris Smalls in the Amazon Labor Union, of course, they successfully organized a warehouse at Staten Island in New York for Amazon. And they still don't have a contract, they're kind of stuck.

But when I saw Chris Smalls who was this very charismatic, almost a perfect for media figure. He's great for a soundbite. And he connects, and the workers seem to appreciate him. He's not a typical union person, not a typical political person. He's actually an aspiring rapper in an earlier life. So he's not a typical figure for this sort of thing.

And it kind of reminded me of Petriella in this way. In that he was, while speaking English, he was speaking a language in a style that would connect with the workers where the workers were at. It wasn't the refined smooth vernacular of a political operative. It was the way people talk. And that's I think critical. The language of the workers is important reaching them.

And so also the techniques used to isolate and divide what the movement Smalls was trying to make is similar. Why should we listen to him? You know. And so some of these same techniques were used against Petriella 115 years ago. So that's one of the things I noticed right away. That, and the fact that the company, in this case Amazon, was willing to spend vast amounts of money to make the union look unpleasant.

Now, the techniques were very different. One of the big contrast is that US Steel in the 1907 spent a quarter million on rifles. And hired men to carry them around the streets of the town and along the roads. Posted them like guards. Essentially they hired a private army. And so today, they don't hire a private army. It's not necessary to do it that way. They use marketing essentially to make the Union unpalatable to workers who are kind of on the fence.

KATHY WURZER: As we're talking about the 1907 miners strike, it lasted two months, right? It was broken by that small army that was created by US Steel. Would that be correct in saying that?

AARON BROWN: That was one of the factors that did it. The other big factor was that the company actually brought in immigrants from a different part of Europe, Eastern Europe, modern day Slovenia, Croatia, those places. Was then the Austrian empire.

And all those workers came, of course, from far, far away not knowing that they were being recruited to break a strike. And, of course, by the time they got here, even those who had moral qualms about breaking a strike were too far away from home to do anything about it. They took the jobs, and that was a major factor in reducing the strike as well.

KATHY WURZER: Boy, what did that do for relations between the new immigrants and the immigrants who had come prior, the Finns and others?

AARON BROWN: It took years. In 1916, which was nine years later, was essentially the product of those new workers realizing the same things the Finns and Italians realized in 1907 and uniting then together. But yeah, the sectarian ethnic divisions and rivalries-- of course, it's playful nowadays on the Range, you know.


AARON BROWN: But it was not as friendly, of course, for very real reasons. Because we weren't just talking about power in the broad sense and ambition of these people trying to become Americans and to make a living, but it was survival. This is a cold, cold place. It was life or death. People froze to death, people starved to death.

And that was a climate that's, I guess you could say different than now. But in one way, it is similar in that the divide between those who are running the show and those who are at the bottom in these places, like Amazon or Starbucks. That's the divide that I think you can also compare between then and now. Is if you can't afford to live, you've got to figure out a way to make it work.

KATHY WURZER: Wow! You did a good job looking back and looking at what's happening today through the lens of history. Aaron, I'm always so happy to talk with you. Thanks for joining us.

AARON BROWN: Thank you, Kathy.

KATHY WURZER: Aaron Brown is an author, professor, and historian. You can read his article on the 1907 strike at minnesotareformer.com.


It is time, friends, for a music break. I think we need one right now. Today's song of the day comes from our friend Isaac Yanta who is at 101.1 FM, the River, in Winona. What do you have for us today, Isaac?

ISAAC YANTA: Hey, Kathy. Greetings from Winona. I've got a Minneapolis artist to show you today. This is Lena Elizabeth. She's just an amazing songwriter. I really enjoy every song I've heard by her. This is one of my favorites. It's called Loaded Gun.


(SINGING) Lay your rifle down.

ISAAC YANTA: That's Loaded Gun by Minneapolis singer, songwriter Lena Elizabeth. I hope you enjoyed that song as much as I do, Kathy. And I hope you have a great rest of your afternoon.

KATHY WURZER: Oh, you too, Isaac. I like that song. That's Isaac Yanta. DJ at 101.1 FM, the River, in Winona.

SPEAKER 2: Programming is supported by Newgate School. Providing automotive training for underserved young adults in our community. This spring, why not donate a used vehicle to Newgate School. They get good jobs and you get a tax deduction. Do something good.

KATHY WURZER: Small towns have been disbanding police departments for decades. Many for budget reasons, and more recently, because of challenges in hiring officers. But a northern Minnesota town is challenging the trend by rebuilding a police force 22 years after it was shut down. Dan Gunderson has the story.

DAN GUNDERSON: A tour of the Fosston Police Department takes only a few minutes. There's the chief's office, a small workroom, and a short wall of historical photos. Dustin Manecke is the chief of police for this town of about 1,400.

DUSTIN MANECKE: It might only be 1,400 and some on the sign, but when we get the industrial Park full, there's a lot of people here each day. Plus obviously having a major US Highway run through the middle of the town brings a lot of interesting people that come and go through town.

DAN GUNDERSON: Fosston is about 45 minutes West of Bemidji on US Highway two which brings several thousand vehicles a day through the community. Until this year, Fosston was under contract with the Polk County Sheriff's Office for policing.

DUSTIN MANECKE: Obviously I know the trend in today's world where small towns are disbanding police departments, not for that they don't like them or they're not pertinent to their area, but a lot of it comes down to funding.

DAN GUNDERSON: Fosston decided to increase funding for law enforcement, creating a four person department in January. Mayor Jim Offerdahl says the city was spending $250,000 a year for the contract with the Sheriff's Department. The decision to create a new police department started with a city council discussion about law enforcement spending.

MAYOR JIM OFFERDAHL: And the conclusion was, no, we're not spending enough on law enforcement. We haven't been for years.

DAN GUNDERSON: The choice, expand the contract with the Sheriff's Department or start from scratch.

MAYOR JIM OFFERDAHL: It became apparent that we could get more service and more community oriented service by having our own department versus expanding a contract with the Sheriff's Department.

DAN GUNDERSON: Offerdahl says it's not that the Sheriff's Department did a bad job, but residents wanted more enforcement of city ordinances. And the mayor felt the city needed more focus on community policing.

MAYOR JIM OFFERDAHL: Fosston's a relatively, relatively peaceful town, but there's plenty of criminal activity too. For anything from drugs to vandalism to those kinds of things.

DAN GUNDERSON: Manecke says dealing with the little irritations is a big part of policing in a small town.

DUSTIN MANECKE: I have to train officers that, yes, it might be a barking dog to us, but for them, this is their biggest problem in their life right now.

DAN GUNDERSON: The city council approved a budget of about $400,000 for a four person department. For Chief Dustin Manecke, it's where he wants to be.

DUSTIN MANECKE: Born and raised in Fosston. graduated in 2004 and then I moved away to Fargo, West Fargo area.

DAN GUNDERSON: Manecke worked for the West Fargo Police Department for nine years, rising to the rank of detective in a Department with 65 employees.

DUSTIN MANECKE: And I worked a lot of really big, really neat cases. But coming back home, being able to be a part of something that is in my heart, it means a lot to me.

DAN GUNDERSON: So Manecke jumped at the chance to lead a department of four. He says city officials agreed that if they were going to start a police department, they would do it right. Competitive pay and the latest gear, including body worn cameras. When they advertised for two officers early this year, there were 18 applicants. Manecke says there are the same kind of crimes in a small town as he dealt with in a city of 36,000, just fewer cases.

DUSTIN MANECKE: One of the things that was so similar to a West Fargo, Fargo Moorhead area was the mental health issues. There is a dire need for mental health services, and fast. And just like there are in every community.

DAN GUNDERSON: But mental health services are more difficult to access in a small town, and Manecke says that issue has become a priority for him. Another priority is being seen in the community. Visiting the schools, stopping at the coffee spots, keeping his office door open for visitors. The mayor and the chief say most local residents like the change. Of course, not everyone in a small town as thrilled to have more police presence on the streets.

DUSTIN MANECKE: I mean, you're always going to get the person that isn't happy that they got stopped. And feel that, why do I need to stop at the stop sign now if I didn't have to stop at it the last 10 years?

DAN GUNDERSON: They'll have to get used to it. City officials say they've run long term budget projections and they're confident the Fosston Police Department is here to stay. Dan Gunderson, NPR News, Fosston.


KATHY WURZER: 12:49 here on Minnesota Now. I'm Kathy Wurzer. It's been a sad week for Lynx fans. But the Twins may lift your spirits if they can deliver this weekend. We're going to dive into the latest sports news with our resident sports experts Wally Langfellow and Eric Nelson.

Wally is the founder of Minnesota Score magazine and the co-host of 10,000 Takes sports talk show on radio and TV. Eric Nelson is the other host of 10,000 Takes and the Minnesota Vikings reporter for CBS Sports Radio's Eye on the NFL. They join us every week with the sports news we need to know. Hey, guys, how are you?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Good, Kathy. How are you?

KATHY WURZER: Good. Thank you for asking.


KATHY WURZER: Eric, Hi, Eric.

ERIC NELSON: Happy Thursday.

KATHY WURZER: Happy Thursday my friends. I understand you're both at TCO Stadium watching the Vikes practice. Is that right?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: This is true. We just got done watching the Vikings and 49ers. They practiced and then they had scrimmages which got a little testy at times to be honest. There were some pushing and shoving. We talked to a couple of players afterwards. We talked to Eric Kendricks, the linebacker, and then we just got done talking to Alexander Mattison about three minutes ago.

And I think while the players gain something from these practices, because it's nice to see a different color uniform because they've been hitting each other and practicing with each other for the last several weeks. But there are kind of a little concern about the chippiness that happens. Because after all, it's another team with a different color on and it's, as Alexander Mattison just told us, he said, well, he says, San Francisco treats us like a Sunday afternoon game.

So not quite as thrilled with that aspect. But they do feel like they get something out of it. Of course, the Vikings and 49ers play on Saturday night at US Bank Stadium in the Vikings second preseason game. Of course, they lost to the Raiders last Sunday. And Eric was up and all over the San Francisco 49ers angle because Trey Lance, the guy from Marshall, Minnesota, was the center of attention. Wasn't he Eric?

ERIC NELSON: Yeah, Kathy and Wally. It's really a pretty cool scene out here at TCO Performance Center yesterday, today, and then, of course, on Saturday night when they play the actual exhibition game. But here we are in the heart of the Purple Nation, right? The Twin Cities, Vikings' training camp.

And Trey Lance, who played at North Dakota State, was the 49ers top pick a couple of years ago. A young quarterback from Marshall, Minnesota. And, boy, he has so much upside and potential. And the entire Marshall football team showed up. We talked to their head Coach Terry Bauman who just raves about Trey, not only as an athlete but as a person.

And the interesting thing is the Minnesota Gophers recruited Trey Lance, Kathy, but wanted him as a safety. And Trey said, no, I'm a quarterback. And North Dakota State said, you're going to play quarterback here. So he went to the Bison, won a national title, jumped to the NFL, and he now is one of the young potential upcoming stars in the National Football League. So Trey Lance, Marshall Minnesota is much a part of the story here as the Vikings and 49ers.

KATHY WURZER: I love the fact that the Marshall Minnesota High School football team came out to watch. That is fantastic By the way, guys, what's the-- what's the feel like? What's the tone like at the practice facility? Is it full of fans? I mean, what's it like?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Oh my goodness, yes. The stands, which I would believe this would be the South end of the practice field. So there's like four or five practice fields that butt up against each other and their stance, and they were packed. And Oh, Eric told me that he tried to get tickets for his kids to come, there were no tickets available. It was completely sold out.

So, yeah, jam packed out here. Players were signing autographs once practice and the scrimmage had ended. Yeah, very upbeat and a lot of fans out here.


ERIC NELSON: Well, and too, Kathy, yeah, training camp has become condensed now in the NFL. You remember when the Minnesota Vikings used to go down to Minnesota State Mankato, and for decades that was where they went. Now everything is centered here in Eagan. And they only have three preseason games.

But what the NFL has done with these joint practices, by bringing the 49ers in to scrimmage against the Vikings twice during the week and then play them, it's almost like another exhibition game built into the schedule. Because as Wally said, you get the different looks, and it's spirited, it's physical. San Francisco was a team last year that missed the Super Bowl by one game.

But the vibe out here, very energetic. And this facility is spectacular. It has all the bells and whistles, and the outdoor grass fields, there's five of them, 100 yards long. And I love the setting where we're outside, you can see the clouds. And the rain didn't come, but it certainly looks like it might. And it's just a great place to come out and sample the NFL.

KATHY WURZER: Let's talk about the Twins. I have fears, you guys, of the Twins imploding down the stretch here because they now find themselves in what, a three-way race with Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central title?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: They do. And we still have about six weeks left to the regular season. But the upside is they did just got done sweeping Kansas City. The Royals did not look good at all. The Twins pitched well, including another win yesterday afternoon. So they're just one game out behind Cleveland.

Cleveland pulled one out late last night or the Twins would have been tied for first. But they're just one game back. They've got Texas this weekend. And Cleveland and Minnesota have eight games coming up in September. Three here and five in Cleveland. So it's going to be-- come right down to the wire. And let's not forget about Chicago. Chicago's only two games out and one game behind the Twins at this point.


ERIC NELSON: Yeah. So the Twins are off today, Kathy, and in comes the Texas Rangers Friday and Sunday. And it's a team that, on paper, the Twins should be able to handle. The Rangers are in the middle of the pack in the AL West and they're not very good. They are many games below 500. But the one thing about the Twins, being in this three team race, you can't afford to blow any games.

Everything now is magnified. And even though they won that ballgame yesterday over Kansas City, Tyler Marlay had to leave in the second inning, the starting pitcher, with an injury. I think the main thing for the Twins-- and look, I think a lot of their fans are still skittish. They're hesitant to dive into this team and wrap their arms around them.

But the bottom line is this. We're now looking at, we're in mid-August and September is around the corner. If you're playing meaningful games in September, that's all you can really ask for. And I think that's clearly what's going to happen with the Twins. It's a three team horse race, Chicago, Texas, the opponent on Saturday, and, of course, then you've got the other team they're batting, Cleveland.

KATHY WURZER: I would be remiss you guys if I didn't bring up the Lynx. Of course, they missed the playoffs. Sylvia Fowles retired. A lot of sad faces over that. How will that team be different without a player like Sylvia Fowles?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, I think Cheryl Reeve has talked about a reset, Kathy. They have to reset. And that she never really did-- was able to reach her team like she had wanted to get the energy that they needed to be a playoff team this year. So obviously losing Sylvia Fowles is huge. She's the all-time rebounding champion in the history of the WNBA.

She's got over 4,000 rebounds, and she reached that plateau in the final game. She's headed to the Hall of Fame. She will be in the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame Springfield, Mass in the not too distant future. So yeah, obviously you're going to miss a player like that. But at the same time, they do need to do a reset. And I think Coach Cheryl Reeve is the right person to lead the charge on that, no question.

KATHY WURZER: What do you think, Eric?

ERIC NELSON: Well, I think, first and foremost, Sylvia Fowles, and then before her, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, Simon Augustus. We got so spoiled here in Minnesota by that quartet of greatness. And let me throw in Rebekkah Brunson. So a quintet of greatness. This is the first time the Lynx haven't made the playoffs since 2010. So in Minnesota, it's not only get to the playoffs but it's win a title, which the Lynx did four times.

Sometimes you do have to regroup. The obvious sendoff that they had last week against Seattle at Target Center was spectacular. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they got pummeled by the storm. They lost that game, they lost to Connecticut two days later. So it wasn't the way they wanted Sylvia to go out. They thought they'd maybe have a playoff game but they don't.

But the one thing about Sylvia Fowles, whatever she's going to do, and I believe she's going to become a mortician in her real life career. So she will do very well at that. We can tag the Lynx toe this year. They're dead. But they will come back, and I know that Sylvia Fowles will be very good in her job as a mortician in the future.

KATHY WURZER: Well, she's actually-- she and I are going to be talking about that career switch. We're doing an interview with her, coming up here in the coming week. So, I hope you guys enjoy your time out there at the TCO Stadium with the Vikes. It sounds like it's kind of fun out there.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Yeah, it is. And as long as the rain holds off, and they were talking about rain all morning and it never hit us. So we've had clouds and sun, and it's been just fine.

KATHY WURZER: All right.

ERIC NELSON: Yeah, good for us.

KATHY WURZER: You guys, we'll talk to you next week. I appreciate it. Thanks.


ERIC NELSON: See you, Kathy.

KATHY WURZER: See you. Wally Lanfellow's the founder of Minnesota Square Magazine, the co-host of 10,000 Takes Sports talk show. Eric Nelson's the other host of that show. He's also the Minnesota Vikings reporter for CBS Sports Radio's Eye on the NFL.

That is it for Minnesota Now this week. We've had a heck of a week of shows for goodness sakes. The senior producer is Melissa Townsend. Our producers are Gretchen Brown, Ellen Finn, and Britt Emmett. Our technical director is Maury Jensen. And our newscaster has been John Wanamaker. I'm Kathy Wurzer. Thanks for listening. Stick around, more coming up.

This is NPR News 91.1. KNOW Minneapolis Saint Paul. And support for Minnesota Now comes from True Stone Financial Credit Union. Dedicated to giving back to the community since 1939. Full service banking is available at 23 locations, and online at truestone.org. True Stone is an equal housing opportunity lender insured by NCUA.

Yeah, it's kind of muggy out there. And Wally was talking about the potential for rain. Yes, there is the potential for rain late this afternoon. Consistent rain could be heavy at times. By the way, I got to tell you about this. Multi-vehicle crash Eastbound 694 near the East River road. It looks like there is seven vehicles involved in this one. Looks like one is rolled over on its roof. Three reported injuries. There are three lanes of traffic closed at this point. So steer clear. Eastbound 694 near the East River road. It's 1 o'clock

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