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Monday, April 16, 2018


CALIFORNIA TRAGEDY HAS ROOTS IN SD  On March 26th, Jen and Sarah Hart drove off a cliff in Northern California with their six adopted black children.  Jen Hart and Sarah Gengler grew up in Huron and Big Stone City, respectively, both in northeastern SD.  The women studied at Northern State University in Aberdeen in the early 2000s.  After adopting children in Texas, the family landed in Alexandria, Minn. (about 100 miles southeast of F-M) where they started a pattern of evasive behavior.  

FIRST TIP CAME IN MINNESOTA  When the white, same-sex parents were charged with child abuse in Minnesota, Sarah plead guilty and reached a probation agreement.  Afterwards, the family moved to Oregon and Washington, in every case, the family moved to another state after investigation by child protective services.  The last move from Woodland, Washington, appeared to lead to the family’s suicide/murder on California’s rugged Mendocino County coast.  Academics who have studied the incident claim home schooling and isolation prevented authorities from seeing the full extent of the family's problem.
ND REPUBLICANS chose candidates at their annual convention last weekend in Grand Forks.  Kevin Cramer will run for the U.S. Senate and Kelly Armstrong for the House.  Incumbents were renominated for most state offices with the exception of Secretary of State, where Will Gardner was selected over long-time incumbent Al Jaeger.
“THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING” — Columnist Mike Jacobs believes control of the U.S. Senate could depend on the outcome of the Cramer/Heitkamp race.  He noted the large attendance at the Republican convention and said: “Greater numbers mean bigger vibes. The Democrats seemed compact and confident; the Republicans seemed large and in charge.”
JOB OPENINGS spiked, rising as much as 35 percent in the last couple months, in Burleigh and Morton counties, as well as ND’s northwest Bakken counties.  In each case, job openings are the highest numbers since 2015.  The surprising jump in jobs caught Williston by surprise.  Apartments and hotels are filled and a shortage of single-family homes is rapidly developing.  Builders from as far away as Bismarck are being invited to help build needed housing in Williston.  ND currently exhibits two economies: a strengthening oil economy in the west; a still weak ag economy in the east.
ND STUDENTS ARE WEAK READERS  The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (the nation’s report card) was released this week for math and reading.  ND’s overall scores are near the national average in reading and well above the national average in math.  ND ranks in the middle of neighboring states (MT, MN, SD, WY) in math, but below them in reading.  If you consider the scores of white students only, ND remains in the middle of neighboring states in math, but well below its neighbors and the national average in reading.  Minnesota students are at the high end of regional and national rankings.
$15 MINIMUM WAGE  Lloyd Omdahl devoted a recent column to the $15 minimum wage being proposed for ND.  He provided pros and cons, but leaned toward approval.  He recognized that “one size does not fit all” and $15 could represent trouble for small town businesses.  He wished the minimum wage was negotiated by employees and employers in each sector, rather than imposed by state government. 
BE CAREFUL  A WSJ editorial warned Trump’s tariff proposals may harm Farm Belt states which supported him.  A WSJ table showed those states were already struggling.  In 2017, ND had a 0.3 percent reduction in personal income and ranked 50th among states in that respect; other Farm Belt states had similar low rankings.
STATE FLOUR MILL  Which is the only state owning a flour mill?  The ND Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks is unique, large and growing.  The mill has 4 million bushels of storage and hopes to add 500,000 bushels this year.  Over three miles of railroad track are expected to be added to its sidings to accommodate deliveries from mile-long trains which are becoming common.
MASCOT CONSULTANT  A reader noted UND is paying $32,000 to a mascot consultant who will suggest mascot looks and costumes for a student vote.  The reader characterized the spending as “frivolous and wasteful” in view of UND’s budget problems.  He believes the administration is throwing a bone to the students to build excitement for the Fighting Hawks nickname which has thus far not caught fire. 
NITWITS  I once ran a series of items showing ND criminals were an embarrassment to their profession.  They lacked any subtlety.  The series eventually died for a lack of good examples.  This week, two Jamestown men may have revived the series.  Jason Anderson (37) and Reed Middleton (27) threatened to bomb the Jamestown Walmart.  Also immediately, the JPD determined who they were and arrested the bumblers the same evening.
SHED A SMALL TEAR for Hanson’s Bar in Robinson (Kidder County) ND, which for one year held a trademark for being the Geographical Center of North America. It surrendered the trademark to Rugby (Pierce County) where it had been for 80 years pursuant to an amicable agreement between the two parties.  Robinson developed its claim by including the Caribbean in N. America.  Center (Oliver County) cites its convenient name and research by a NY professor to also claim to be the center of N. America.  Center does not wish to ruffle Rugby’s feathers and is content to co-exist as a center.
NUKES  Eastern ND once had 150 Minuteman III missile sites in a 6,500-square-mile area around Grand Forks AFB — they were closed in 1997 as a condition of an arms reduction treaty with Russia.  Last Sunday, Oscar-Zero, a missile launch control facility near Cooperstown, opened as a State Historical Site.  Visitors will be able to visit quarters for the 8-man crew and descend 90 feet below ground to the command post capsule.  ND has not given up its missiles completely — about 150 miles west of Oscar-Zero there are still another 150 nuclear missiles surrounding Minot AFB.
DAKTOIDS:  Marijuana seizures on Interstates leading to Minnesota from the west are steadily increasing — frequently the drug runners are Hmong from the Twin Cities . . . Minot AFB has 1,400 military police — the most of any AFB due to Minot’s dual nuclear missions . . . Minot property values continued to drop in 2018: Residential (2%), apartments (16%) and motels (19%) . . . Sen. Hoeven, chair of the Senate ag appropriations committee, has been added to the Senate defense appropriations committee — an important assignment because of ND’s two AFBs.

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