Today on the MPR News Update: The frac sand debate moves from southeastern Minnesota to the State Capitol today, Minnesota industry is doing a better job of scrubbing mercury from its emissions, we get a hot beverage on a cold day from a Twin Cities coffee shop that specializes in Arctic Circle home brew, and we'll hear from a woman who's Army sergeant son took his own life.
FRAC SAND: A joint legislative committee holds a hearing today on how lawmakers should approach the booming frac sand mining industry -- and the issues it raises. More companies want to start mining silica sand, and that's prompting concern over the impact it could have on road congestion, water and air quality. Tom Scheck tells us about state lawmakers' attempts to address the issue.
MERCURY EMISSIONS: One environmental concern that seems to be easing involves mercury emissions. State officials and energy companies say Minnesota is three years ahead of schedule on its reduction goals. Mercury is a neurotoxin that's especially harmful to children's brain development. Sasha Aslanian says reductions have come about primarily through changes at power plants.
TAX CONFORMITY: A bill that would adjust state tax law to match the federal tax changes Congress made at the end of 2012 is headed to Gov. Dayton. The House passed the so-called tax conformity measure yesterday. Tom Scheck reports that the bill continues tax deductions for teacher expenses, mortgage insurance premiums and college tuition. Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth complained the bill also removes a requirement that citizens sit on the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board. But DFL Rep. Carly Melin says citizens on the board were political appointees who answered to no one.
BRODKORB COSTS: Tim Pugmire reports that a Minnesota Senate panel has approved the payment of another legal bill related to the firing of Republican staffer Michael Brodkorb. Members of the Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously Monday to pay a bill of nearly $6,000 from an outside law firm for three months of work. The total bill is now more than $200,000.
MILITARY GRIEVING: The military is trying to understand the unique grieving process families go through when they lose a loved one in the military. Family members of military casualties are being encouraged to participate in the National Military Family Bereavement Study. The results will help the armed services improve the support they provide to families. One of the people participating in the study is Mary Claire Lindberg. Her son Ben was a sergeant in the Army who served in Iraq. In 2008, while he was home in Minnesota on leave, Ben committed suicide. She talked with Cathy Wuzer about her son.
MORE ON VETERANS: Although veterans as a whole have a lower unemployment rate than the nation at large, younger veterans who served in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks are having a much harder time finding work. The unemployment rate for veterans between 18 and 24 exceeded 20 percent last year. It was also in double digits for those 25-34. The unemployment rate for both age groups was higher than for their nonveteran peers and much higher than the national average.
ESPRESSO WITH AN EXTRA SHOT OF SAMI: For centuries, lavvus were the standard dwellings of the Sami, the indigenous people of the far northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Nikki Tundel reports that there's also one standing in the Lavvu Coffee House in Minneapolis. The owner, Chris Pesklo, comes from a family of Norwegian Sami and he has designed his whole shop around the culture of his ancestors.
DAVID VS. GOLIATH: Vernon Hugh Bowman seems comfortable with the old way of doing things, right down to the rotary-dial telephone he said he was using in a conference call with reporters. But the 75-year-old Indiana farmer figured out a way to benefit from a high-technology product -- soybeans that are resistant to weed-killers -- without always paying the high price that such genetically engineered seeds typically bring. In so doing, he ignited a legal fight with seed-giant Monsanto Co. that has now come before the Supreme Court, with arguments taking place Tuesday.
ZERO TOLERANCE: Waiting in line for the bus, a Pennsylvania kindergartener tells her pals she's going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. In Maryland, a 6-year-old boy pretends his fingers are a gun during a playground game of cops and robbers. In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while "simulating the sound of gunfire," as one school official put it. Are these kids with active imaginations? Or potential threats to school safety?
ART HEROES: Here are the challenges faced by Faye Price and Noel Raymond, who run Pillsbury House and Theatre on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis: It's in a neighborhood which has sometimes had a reputation for crime as much as creativity. It's a professional theater company in a community center that suffers from the low expectations assigned to a "community theater." And its budget took a beating in the recession. Marianne Combs reports that despite the challenges, Pillsbury House has also changed people's minds when it comes to their expectations for what a community center can achieve with an injection of artistic talent.
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