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When 12 students and one teacher were killed in Littleton, Colorado, 20 years ago, it not only became what at the time was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history. It also marked when American society was first handed a script for a new form of violence in schools.

We make that observation as researchers – a psychologist and a sociologist – who have been studying mass public shootings as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Since the 1999 tragedy at Columbine High School, we identified six mass shootings and 40 active shooter incidents at elementary, middle or high schools in the United States. Mass shootings are defined by the FBI as an event in which four or more victims died by gunfire.

In 20 – or nearly half – of those 46 school shootings, the perpetrator purposely used Columbine as a model.

Columbine’s influence continues until this day. On April 17 – just three days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting – authorities closed schools across Colorado due to a credible threat of a woman armed with a shotgun and who was “infatuated with Columbine.” The 18-year-old Florida woman was reportedly found dead in Colorado later in the day from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The ties that bind to Columbine

In our study of school shootings, we only looked at cases where a gun was fired on campus, following the practice of The Washington Post’s database on school shootings. Had we included foiled plots, the number would be significantly higher.

Jillian Peterson
Several school shooters in our study were fascinated with Columbine and researched the massacre before their own. This includes the Parkland shooter, a 14-year-old who aspired to be “the youngest mass murderer,” and a 15-year-old who shot at his teacher after she refused to praise Marilyn Manson, the rock singer who was erroneously blamed for inspiring the Columbine killers.

The timing of the April 17 threat to Colorado schools is no coincidence. Prior perpetrators chose the anniversary of Columbine to commit their shootings, including one month and two years after. A different shooter talked of how he was going to “pull a Columbine.” Others discussed Columbine with classmates, even joked about it.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter idolized the Columbine killers and curated a Tumblr account paying homage, alongside a graphic collage of Columbine victims. A North Carolina shooter was so obsessed with Columbine that he took a vacation there with his mother and fantasized about “finishing off” any wounded survivors.

Multiple shooters, including one 15-year-old in Oregon and another in Washington state, were inspired by a documentary about Columbine that included detailed recreations of what happened. One Wisconsin teenager held his classroom hostage after reading a book about Columbine.

Perpetrators also dressed in trench coats like the Columbine shooters, including those responsible for the 2018 Santa Fe shooting, where 10 people died, and a 2004 nonfatal shooting in New York. Indeed, the trench coat has appeared in subsequent school shootings because Columbine gave it meaning beyond any intrinsic use.

Why Columbine?

Columbine has spawned an entire subculture of “Columbiners” and copycats. A March 2019 shooting in Brazil that killed eight shows that Columbine’s influence is global. But Columbine was not the first school shooting, not even that year. Eleven months before the horror in Littleton unfolded, an expelled 15-year-old – also wearing a trench coat – killed two and injured 25 at a school in Springfield, Oregon. Why do we not now talk about the “Springfield effect”?

James Densley
Partly because the perpetrator in Springfield was professionally diagnosed as psychotic, meaning his attack could be more easily explained away. He also acted alone, whereas having two shooters immediately intensified the intrigue around Columbine. But the main reason for Columbine’s longevity was that its perpetrators created manifestos and home movies of their preparations in hopes that their story would outlive them. Unfortunately, it has.

Before Columbine, there was no script for how school shooters should behave, dress and speak. Columbine created “common knowledge,” the foundation of coordination in the absence of a standardized playbook. Timing was everything. The massacre was one of the first to take place after the advent of 24-hour cable news and during the “the year of the net.” This was the dawn of the digital age of perfect remembering, where words and deeds live online forever. Columbine became the pilot for future episodes of fame-seeking violence.

Separating myth from reality

Our research has found that school shootings have nothing to do with jock envy, satanism, video games, or Keanu Reeves, and school shooters are not psychopathic masterminds. In fact, these soundbite explanations for aberrant behavior only blind us to the reality of school violence.

School shooters are almost always current students of their schools. They are students who are in crisis, students who have experienced trauma, and students who are actively suicidal prior to the shooting and expect to die in the act. Such children have always existed. But for 20 years they’ve had a new script to follow.

And we, the public, have contributed to the production and direction of this script. Again and again and again. Through our obsession with true crime and films, books, memes and entire websites devoted to Columbine. By releasing CCTV footage of the shooting to the public. By running our children through regular lockdowns and active shooter drills starting in preschool through 12th grade. By sending them to school through secure entrances with clear backpacks and bulletproof binders. Society and culture have reared a Columbine generation, modeling that this is just part of childhood in America.

Flipping the script

After serial killing peaked in the late 1980s, it’s hard to know which faded first – the serial killers themselves or the public obsession with them. The same fear and fascination that created the serial killer panic is what drives the Columbine effect. After 20 years, it’s time to rewrite the script being rehearsed with young people.

It starts with no names, no photos and no notoriety for mass shooters in media coverage – which is why we don’t indulge here. The next step is a paradigm shift from homeroom security to holistic violence prevention in schools – mental health, supportive environments, strong relationships and crisis intervention and deescalation. Teachers should feel as comfortable asking a student about suicide as they feel going into lockdown; empowered to spend as much time teaching empathy and resilience as they do now training to run, hide, fight.

The victims and survivors of school violence must not be forgotten, but to prevent another two decades of contagion and copycats, it requires a recognition that it is time to close the curtain on the spectacle of Columbine.

Jillian Peterson is an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University. James Densley is an associate professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Thursday came and went without a decision on the future of St. Thomas in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

According to the Star Tribune, the MIAC Presidents Council was supposed to vote Thursday on changing conference by-laws to cap the enrollment of conference members — a passive-aggressive way of disqualifying St. Thomas, by far the MIAC’s largest school. The Council met and discussed membership but took no action, a MIAC spokesman said.

It’s an unusual week when a bomb threat that forced the UST to evacuate its St. Paul campus Wednesday wasn’t the most disruptive thing endured by the school. That the MIAC seeks to expel UST, one of seven charter members from the its founding in 1920, is stunning, a rare rebuke of a school for being too successful. St. Olaf and Hamline, which suffered embarrassing football losses to the Tommies in recent years, are believed to be behind the oust-the-Tommies movement.

So how did it reach this point? 

A brief history of D3 and the MIAC

Like most breakup tales, it’s a long, complicated story. But before we get to that, a little background is in order.

D3, as it’s known, is the NCAA’s largest division with 449 members — about 40 percent of all NCAA schools, according to the NCAA. Undergraduate enrollments range from 274 to 25,175. Among football schools the spread is less pronounced but still massive, from 440 at Finlandia in Michigan to 12,301 at Montclair State in New Jersey, per d3football.com.

Academics, not athletics, are supposed to be paramount. D3 forbids athletic scholarships, though about three-quarters of athletes receive financial aid, per the NCAA. Athletes play shorter seasons and fewer games than Division 1, and travel shorter distances to do so. Bus trips in the MIAC are generally 90 minutes or less, except to Concordia-Moorhead, at Minnesota’s western border near Fargo. Staffs are smaller, too, with some coaches pulling double-duty as equipment managers, sports information directors and compliance officers. Most assistant coaches work part-time. Nobody is getting rich.

The problem is, commitments to athletics vary from school to school, even within the same conference. So do facilities. A movement to create a D4, separating schools who take athletics more seriously from those who don’t, failed in 2008 because member presidents and athletic directors couldn’t decide how to split them up.

That leads to disparities like those in the MIAC, where St. Thomas, St. John’s, and Bethel emphasize athletics more than Carleton and Macalester. Mac pulled its football team out of the MIAC to go independent in 2001, eventually finding a better competitive fit in the Midwest Conference. The school’s other teams remain in the MIAC. (The MIAC changed its bylaws to prevent anyone else from doing this; now it’s all in or all out.)

Over the years, St. Thomas’ undergraduate enrollment has grown to be almost twice as big as the next-largest institution, St. Catherine’s. Add the graduate school and St. Thomas boasts almost 10,000 students. But since graduate students aren’t eligible in the MIAC, undergraduate enrollment offers the fairest comparison.

MIAC SCHOOLS
InstitutionUndergraduate enrollmentAnnual tuition
University of St. Thomas (sponsors football)6,199$41,133
St. Catherine University**3,158$39,669
St. Olaf College (sponsors football)3,035$47,840
Bethel University (sponsors football)2,904$37,300
Augsburg University (sponsors football)2,427$38,800
Gustavus Adolphus College (sponsors football)2,201$45,100
Hamline University (sponsors football)2,162$41,473
Macalester College (football in Midwest Conference)2,136$54,348
Carleton College (sponsors football)2,078$54,759
Concordia College (sponsors football)2,034$40,042
College of St. Benedict**1,937$45,264
St. John's University* (sponsors football)1,720$44,990
St. Mary's University1,503$35,110
Source: U.S. News and World Report; * = men’s schools, ** = women’s schools.

Enrollment isn’t always a predictor of athletics success. St. John’s ruled MIAC football for decades under Hall of Fame coach John Gagliardi, while St. Thomas struggled. Glenn Caruso’s arrival as football coach in 2008 began an unprecedented run of Tommie dominance, and not just on the gridiron.

Caruso and his staff elevated the one major sport that had been lagging, leading the Tommies to six MIAC titles, eight NCAA Tournaments and two national championship game appearances in 11 seasons. Before that, St. Thomas hadn’t won a MIAC football title since 1990. Football’s emergence helped the Tommies sweep the MIAC men’s and women’s All-Sports competition the last 11 years, and they currently lead both categories again. Since 2013-14, the Tommies have amassed 72 conference titles, far more than the next closest schools, Gustavus Adolphus (16) and Carleton (10).

All the success aggravated officials at certain MIAC schools. That’s where it all started.

So it’s all about football?

Not exactly, though football pushed things over the edge. As one MIAC school official put it, it’s about enrollment and competition for students.  

Officials at multiple MIAC schools, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to publicly, say St. Thomas bruised feelings with two ambitious institutional decisions that put it in conflict with conference members — reopening its law school in 1999, and most recently announcing plans for a nursing school.

The St. Thomas School of Law was the fourth in the Twin Cities — a lot for an area this size. Some claim St. Thomas pulled away potential students from Hamline, a MIAC institution, and William Mitchell. Those two law schools merged in 2015. And some in the conference fear a similar scenario with the St. Thomas nursing school, which will be located a mile from MIAC neighbor St. Catherine’s, whose nursing program goes back more than 80 years.

Some MIAC administrators believe St. Thomas eventually plans to expand to to 8,000 or 9,000 undergraduates, putting its teams even farther out of reach. Yet it’s not clear where that notion from. St. Thomas officials say undergraduate enrollment has been flat for 20 years, and nothing in the school’s 2020 Strategic Plan released in 2014 indicates a significant increase. Two dormitories under construction are meant to house all freshmen and sophomores on campus, a popular requirement in the MIAC, not to increase enrollment.  

Then there is football, which like it or not drives male enrollment. St. John’s listed 170 players on its 2018 roster and St. Thomas more than 100. No one else in the MIAC matches those numbers. Given a choice of being a fourth-stringer at St. Thomas and St. John’s or starting for Hamline and St. Olaf, many recruits prefer standing on a winner’s sideline than getting their heads bashed in every week. That doesn’t help the second-tier MIAC schools compete, especially with high school participation numbers trending downward over concussion concerns. It also leads to lots of one-sided scores.

The oust-the-Tommies movement apparently gained strength in 2017 after its nationally-ranked football team routed Hamline 84-0 and St. Olaf 97-0. Both happened on the road, where MIAC rules limit travel rosters to 60 players.

University of St. Thomas/Mark Brown
Glenn Caruso’s arrival as football coach in 2008 began an unprecedented run of Tommie dominance, and not just on the gridiron.
St. Olaf officials in particular accused Caruso of poor sportsmanship. In the final game of the regular season, St. Thomas led 64-0 at half yet still sent out its starters to begin the second half. Another touchdown resulted. Then the Tommies converted a late Oles turnover into a touchdown on a run by a backup offensive lineman. This season Caruso changed his approach, pulling starters at halftime or earlier in blowouts.

St. John’s caught much less flak for a 98-0 non-conference wipeout of St. Scholastica in Collegeville that same season because it used nearly 100 players and subbed out starters in the second quarter. Caruso has supported expanding travel rosters, but conference athletic directors voted down a modest increase to 65, citing a lack of visiting locker room space.

Why is St. Thomas still in D3 anyway?

This comes up a lot. UST is larger than Augustana, the small Sioux Falls, S.D. university reclassifying from D2 to D1 (1,665 enrollment). And UST’s enrollment falls on the low end of D1 Catholic schools in the Midwest — bigger than Creighton and Xavier, but smaller than DePaul, Notre Dame, Marquette and Saint Louis. Notre Dame is the only one playing football.  

MIDWEST D1 CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
InstitutionUndergraduate enrollmentAnnual tuition
DePaul University14,816$39,975
University of Notre Dame (sponsors football)8,576$53,391
Marquette University8,335$41,870
Saint Louis University7,411$43,996
St. Thomas University6,199$41,133
Xavier University4,645$38,530
Creighton University4,255$39,916
Source: U.S. News and World Report

But moving up is not that simple, or affordable.

St. Thomas studied possible reclassification to D1 in 2005 and chose to stay put, repelled by the cost and the likelihood of dropping football to pay for it. Now it’s even more complicated.

The NCAA forbids schools from going directly from D3 to D1. Any move to D1 requires a stop in D2, and the reclassification period from D3 to D2 to D1 can take up to twelve years. Used to be, schools could be D1 in one sport (usually hockey) and D2 or D3 in everything else. Not anymore. Now the entire program must move. And no D2 school can join D1 without a conference invitation in hand.

In 2014, the NCAA estimated the median annual operating expenses of a D3 athletic program with football at about $3.4 million. Expenses for a FCS program rise to about $17.3 million, and a D1 school without football close to $16 million, per the NCAA.

Where’s that money coming from? Certainly not gate receipts, where last season St. Thomas home football attendance averaged 3,161. And forget about the Johnnies-Tommies Holy Grail rivalry filling home coffers every other year. That goes away if the Tommies leave D3.

UST decided long ago that D3 best fits its mission and values. That should be their decision to make, not someone else’s. Despite the enrollment disparity, by geography and philosophy St. Thomas still belongs in the MIAC. We’ll see if the Tommies get to stay there.   

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We’d be offended if we hadn’t been. Cathy Wurzer at MPR News spoke to Secretary of State Steve Simon about the Minesota bits in the Mueller report: “The way that Homeland Security has described it to us is that we were targeted. And the analogy that we’ve all settled on is this: Imagine a car thief casing a parking lot to see if he’ll go in and steal cars. Our parking lot was cased extensively, and what the intelligence folks have told us is that they know who is doing it, they know who those people were working for, and they know the purpose for which they were casing our parking lot. We were one of the 21 states that had this sort of casing.”

Great choice. Liz Sawyer of the Star Tribune has a piece on activist Abby Honold’s new role in the Walz administration: “Abby Honold, a Minnesota rape survivor who gained national attention for her work to improve the way police handle rape cases, has been appointed to the state Sentencing Guidelines Commission. Gov. Tim Walz appointed Honold to a four-year term, effective April 23. The 24-year-old will become one of only three public representatives on the 11-member body.”

Make a will, everybody. Maria Puente at USA Today looks at why, three years since the passing of Prince, his estate is still not settled: “…platoons of lawyers have been working on it for three years, racking up bills, arguing with each other, arguing with the heirs, arguing with consultants hired to advise on various estate matters, and filing blizzards of documents and paperwork with the Carver County probate court, which has made little progress in its mission to sort all this. Puzzling out what is happening isn’t easy because many of the documents in the case are heavily redacted. Has the value of the estate (once estimated at $200 million to $300 million) increased or decreased? Not clear.”

So, Strike #1? Josh Verges at the Pioneer Press covers an arbitration ruling that will allow a UMN cop back on the job after an off-duty assault: “A University of Minnesota police officer should have been suspended, not fired, for an aggressive off-duty encounter with a pedestrian outside a St. Paul restaurant, an arbitrator has ruled. … arbitrator Phillip Finkelstein last month reduced Lombardi’s punishment to a 10-month unpaid suspension, writing that Lombardi’s record shows him to be an ‘excellent’ officer with no prior discipline.

Choose your seat from tens of thousands. Bob Collins at NewsCut posts on the U of M reducing prices for some season tickets: “The athletic department announced on Thursday that season tickets for men’s basketball will drop to $340 in some sections — a $190 drop. Six sections overlooking the court will drop by $150. Hockey will drop from $600 to $500. It’s the second straight season that hockey will drop by $100. … It didn’t really require much studying of the data, though. Nothing speaks louder than empty seats.”

In other news…

Tragic: “Minnesota deer farm’s herd euthanized to limit chronic wasting disease” [Pioneer Press]

Or Canada: “Why does Isle Royale belong to Michigan and not Minnesota?” [Star Tribune]

Tackling education: “Former Viking Matt Birk starts new south metro high school” [KARE]

How… nice:Nice Ride offers Minneapolis free bike passes on Earth Day” [FOX9]

Does not include real mammoths:Check out Minneapolis Parks & Rec’s mammoth free concert schedule for summer 2019” [City Pages]

Maybe try letting a five-year-old take care of this: “‘It’s alarming’: Thousands of goldfish invading Chaska inlet” [KMSP]

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In his second State of the City address, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey put spotlight on new changes to police training, housing problems, and future economic growth in the city.

Here are takeaways from the speech, given before a crowd of local elected officials and activists at Bio-Techne, Minnesota’s largest biotech company, in northeast Minneapolis Thursday:

Affordable housing, homelessness remain priorities

In the first few minutes of his remarks, Frey underscored the 2019 city budget’s dedication of $21 million towards the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Program, which is a pool of federal and city money to help developers build or maintain affordable rental units. He also touted the success of a program that allows landlords to receive property tax breaks in exchange for keeping rent prices affordable for those who make less than 60 percent of the area’s median income, which is roughly $39,660 for a single person.

So far, property owners across the city have committed a total of more than 750 rental units to the program for 10 years, the mayor said. “We’re becoming a more serious player in the affordable housing crisis, and the reality is that we have to,” Frey said after the speech. “In the face of government inaction at the federal level, it’s been incumbent on cities to step up … and do affordable housing right.”

Even so, a growing number of Minneapolis renter households are spending more than half of their incomes on housing, city and federal data show — and more and more residents can’t afford homes at all.

The shortage is hitting the city’s poorest residents the hardest. In Minneapolis, that became especially clear last summer, when upwards of 300 people established a homeless encampment alongside Hiawatha Avenue. In his speech, Frey described the encampment as “the most complex” issue of 2018.

The city is currently partnering with Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness to create a response plan if or when similar homeless encampments form in the future. A draft of the plan outlines steps for connecting people to emergency shelter before crews clear future sites, among other goals. Frey said he expects city and county leaders to finalize the plan soon.

Minneapolis and the county are also working on a plan to wind down the city’s first government-sponsored navigation center by May 31. A temporary shelter for former residents of the Hiawatha encampment, the center consists of three heated tents with beds and trailers with hygiene services and food, neighboring the Franklin Avenue light-rail station. As of last week, 84 people were still living there — down from a peak of 175 when the center opened in mid-December, and half of the people who have left the center have moved into permanent housing or treatment facilities.

“I’m not naive enough to think that unsheltered homelessness will suddenly ceased to exist,” Frey said after his speech. “It will, and we’re in the process right now of working through a plan … to have a set of procedures and practices as to how we’re going to handle unsheltered homelessness with compassion, and how we’re going to do this better.”

The mayor wants more dedicated bus lanes

To shorten bus rides, the mayor wants to test three or four new dedicated bus lanes in the future.

He did not say where or when, but that they are an option because of the city’s participation in the American Cities Climate Challenge, a program sponsored by Michael Bloomberg that aims to help U.S. cities nationwide reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (A pool of grant money — the Minneapolis Climate Action and Racial Equity Fund — has the same goals at the local level.)

Lanes reserved exclusively for Metro Transit buses is not a novel idea for Minneapolis. The transit agency and the city tested them on a stretch of Hennepin Avenue between Franklin Avenue and the Uptown Transit Station for three days last spring. They decided not to move forward with the idea — for now. The corridor is part of a massive reconstruction project that will last four years and change all sorts of traffic patterns, and Metro Transit planners are leaving the possibility of bus-only lanes in the redesign.

… and for weed to be legalized

Also on the mayor’s wishlist: Legal cannabis. He mentioned it twice in the roughly 45-minute speech, saying Minneapolis is “leading the fight to end the prohibition” and he supports efforts at the state level to decriminalize the drug. (Last month, the mayor celebrated the opening of North Loop’s first store with hemp and CBD, which are made from the cannabis plant but don’t have the psychoactive cannabinoid THC that gives marijuana its intoxicating effects.)

MPD officers are no longer allowed to attend ‘fear-based’ training

For off-duty officers, Frey announced a ban on all so-called “warrior” or “fear-based” trainings that teach officers they are under a constant threat of being harmed. Those lessons can escalate police interactions with residents and run counter to MPD’s goals of curbing physical force incidents, the mayor said. He said the ban is the first of its kind in the U.S.

Critics of the trainings often cite use-of-force cases in which the officers involved had received some type of fear-based training in the past. Locally, the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in 2016, Jeronimo Yanez, had taken a class called “The Bulletproof Warrior,” two years before Castile’s death.

MinnPost photo by Jessica Lee
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaking to reporters following Frey's address on Thursday.
In Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department currently does not allow fear-based lessons in its internal trainings. But some MPD officers have undergone specialized programs while off-duty. The department has not kept records on which officers have attended those external courses, he said.

“You can’t just flip that switch on,” Arradondo said after the mayor’s speech. “A lot of that training becomes muscle memory, and to say that officers are engaging in fear-based training on the weekends, but they can just simply switch it off when they come to work on Monday and put on the uniform, that is false.”

The chief and mayor want to create a new policy that would require all officers to report off-duty trainings to administration. The department could take disciplinary action against any officer not following the rule, Arradondo said.

“We weren’t really tracking or monitoring,” he said. “We can’t allow that, particularly around all of the things that we do in terms of use-of-force. The force that we have to use against someone, or at worst, the taking of a life — we have to make sure that all of our training is grounded in the principles of procedural justice and community-oriented policing. This will be a major first step in changing the paradigm shift.”

Much of the speech focused on ‘economic inclusivity’

Throughout the speech, Frey highlighted businesses and projects that he views as benefitting the city’s economy.

He pointed to the event’s host, Bio-Techne  — a company that has added 100 jobs over 5 years  — as an example of the city’s job growth. He cited plans for a $330 million building with a hotel and condos on the Nicollet Hotel block downtown as a “new generation of commerce”; and he described the Upper Harbor Terminal project as a “catalyst for inclusive economic growth” in North Minneapolis.

But he also said the city can do a better job finding “specific solutions that undo the legacy of institutionalized exclusion of black, indigenous, people of color, and immigrants and furthers the economic, social independence of these communities.”

“In principle and in practice,” he added, “this means that these communities are prioritized as the primary beneficiaries of, and key partners in, our decision-making process.”

To that end, the city is working on a new initiative to create cultural districts in which local businesses receive special help from the city, Frey said, which could possibly include better lighting, more frequent trash collection, new storefronts or loans for renovations.

Nothing happens without the City Council

Minneapolis has a weak-mayor system, meaning the city’s mayor almost always needs approval from the City Council to implement their ideas.

Frey acknowledged that dynamic in his speech Wednesday, though said he’s confident the majority of his new proposals will make it through the legislative process — considering the City Council’s politics that often align with his. (The council includes 12 DFL members and one Green Party member, Ward 2’s Cam Gordon.)

“We will not succumb to petty politics,” he said in closing his speech. “We’re on the same team, guided by the same principles, and guided by the same community. In Minneapolis, we move forward.”

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The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo, the first of (hopefully) many written by Gabe Schneider, our new Washington correspondent. This week in Washington: The president has continued to stir up threats of violence against a member of the Minnesota delegation, tax day (for us and members of Congress), fundraising day (just for members of Congress), and more.  

So let’s get on with it.

Omar in context

On Monday, President Donald Trump visited Burnsville to emphasize his tax plan and what he argues has been a net-positive for Minnesotans. He also took time in Minnesota to tell KSTP-TV’s Tom Hauser that he’s had no second thoughts about his constant barrage of attacks on U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.

Trump spent much of last week attacking Omar, culminating in an Islamophobic video that interspersed one of the nation’s first Muslim congresswomen with images of the September 11  terror attacks. Much of the president’s ire focused on a partial quote from a speech Omar gave about Islamophobic bigotry, in which she in part referred to the attacks as “some people did something.”

House Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Capitol Police to examine Omar’s security needs, following the increased incitement and threats of violence (Twitter is currently collaborating with Capitol Police to review death threats posted online).  Meanwhile, a lot of other people also weighed in:

Worth noting is that Omar’s speech concluded with this remark: “I know as an American, as an American member of Congress, I have to make sure I am living up to the ideals of fighting for liberty and justice. Those are very much rooted in the reason why my family came here.”

Tax day!

Monday was tax day, which for most people means … paying their taxes. But for some folks in DC, it also means more.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar released her 2018 tax return, revealing a total joint income between her and her husband of $338,483. In all, she has now released 12 years of her taxes.
  • The House Blockchain Caucus (a real thing), co-chaired by Sixth District GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, sent a letter to the IRS late last week urging clarity in how they interact with virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

Outside of federal taxes, MinnPost’s Greta Kaul has a great breakdown of where Minnesota’s tax revenue comes from … and where it goes.

Easy as F-E-C

Monday was also the deadline for first quarter of 2019 fundraising, requiring all members of Congress and presidential candidates to release how they raised and spent money from Jan. 1 to March. 31. Here’s what the fundraising totals looked like for members of Minnesota’s delegation:

House of Representatives

  • Ilhan Omar, CD5: $832,024
  • Angie Craig, CD2: $328,704
  • Collin Peterson, CD7: $281,769
  • Tom Emmer, CD6: $261,220
  • Jim Hagedorn, CD1: $237,680
  • Dean Phillips, CD3: $195,811
  • Pete Stauber, CD8: $193,347
  • Betty McCollum, DC4: $174,200

Senate

  • Sen. Tina Smith: $1,094,182
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar: $114,673
Amy for America

As you know, Klobuchar is also running for president (which helps explains her smaller Senate-side fundraising), and filings show she transferred $3.57 million from her Senate committee to infuse her presidential campaign with cash. Some other numbers to help you make sense of her bid:

  • Total Raised: $5.21 Million
  • Total Spent: $1.81 Million
  • Cash on Hand (Mar. 31): $6.98 Million
  • Percent of Donations Under $200: 34.6 percent

The biggest concern when it comes to a presidential campaign is having enough cash to adequately pay staff, something Klobuchar shouldn’t have to worry about for some time. If anything, it’s often more helpful to look at early polling, which can be a strong indicator of whether if her path to the nomination is viable. Which brings us to …

The latest Klobuchar polling

Two new polls on early primary state voters put the primary into context. These polls are bound to change dramatically as candidates drop out, but are helpful in understanding the current snapshot for how voters are feeling.  (n = number of participants. +/- = margin of error).

  • Morning Consult (n = 486, +/- 4 percent)
    • Amy Klobuchar: 2 percent (both for early primary state voters and Democratic Primary voters as a whole). Context: Sen. Bernie Sanders leads at 29 percent, followed by Joe Biden at 24 percent, followed by the next five candidates, then Klobuchar.
  • Emerson Polling (n = 365, +/- 5.2%)
    • Amy Klobuchar: 2 percent. Context: Biden leads at 31 percent, followed by Sanders 23 percent, followed by followed by the next eight candidates, then Klobuchar.
What else?
  • Former Alabama senator and attorney general Jeff Sessions visited the University of Minnesota to a full auditorium, and student protestors were vocal about his visit. “People die at the border because of your policies,” one shouted. “How do you sleep at night?”
  • Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson made a surprise visit to a League of Women Voters town hall in Detroit Lakes, primarily lamenting about how he thinks both sides of the aisle don’t get much done. “We’re so dysfunctional. The president’s to blame. The Democrats in the house are to blame,” he said. “We’re all to blame.”
  • Finally, all 448 pages of the Mueller Report were released this week, with redactions. When former Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed the president of Mueller’s appointment, the report says he sat back in his chair and said: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
Quote of the week

“He is highly biblical and we will in all likelihood never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.” —former Sixth District Rep. Michele Bachmann speaking to Christian radio program “Understanding the Times” about Donald Trump.

What we’re reading

The Star Tribune: Denied Justice: When rape is reported and nothing happens”

ICYMI the first time around, earlier this week this series was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting (The Advocate, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the award). Warning: The stories contain frank and graphic discussions of sexual assault.

NYT: “Want to Escape Global Warming? These Cities Promise Cool Relief”

Climate experts say Duluth, Minnesota, is an excellent location — maybe the best location — to be if extreme weather makes your home unlivable.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabeschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.

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I’ll eventually get around to saying something (something amazing and historic) about the developing campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination, but indulge me first, if you have the time and inclination, in a little ancient history.

I’m so old that 1960 doesn’t strike me as ancient history. I turned 9 that year, and, growing up in Massachusetts in a liberal, Democratic FDR-worshipping Jewish family, we were very excited about the presidential prospects of our young senator, John F. Kennedy.

One of the big political/cultural questions that year was whether the country was ready to elect a Catholic as president. It had never happened. In fact, every president up to then was a full-on WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) except for a few who were predominantly Dutch (the two Roosevelts for example) and then-incumbent, Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose ancestry was mostly German. Herbert Hoover was a Quaker, which might or might not be considered exactly “Protestant” by some people, for reasons I don’t understand.

But a Catholic? That would be a big diversity move to the America of 1960. Only one Catholic had ever been nominated: New York’s Democratic Gov. Al Smith in 1928. He had to overcome substantial anti-Catholic resistance to get the nomination, but he was crushed in the general election.

One reason I bring this up is that I recently re-read a breakthrough book about the Kennedy-Nixon election, “The Making of the President 1960,” by Theodore White. Published in 1961, after closely following the 1960 campaign, White took an insiderish, novelistic approach to how presidential campaigns really worked.

As I read it in 2019, it seemed almost naïve. (White didn’t go anywhere near the matter of JFK’s philandering, for example, which I’m sure was considered too risqué to discuss at the time. The 1988 front-runner candidacy of Democratic Sen. Gary Hart was the first time the press decided that philandering by a candidate was newsworthy.)

But in 1960, the is-America-ready-for-a-Catholic-president angle was very big. JFK had to make clear that he would not be taking orders from the pope on how to run the country. And anti-Catholic bias was such a concern that the West Virginia primary became a very big deal.

In 1960, there were still very few primaries. You could run for president without competing in any of them. (In most states, the party bosses put together the delegations to the nominating conventions. And the few states that did hold primaries operated on a winner-take-all basis. Whoever won got all of a state’s delegates. So even candidates who were interested in using primaries to demonstrate their popularity would compete only in states where they thought they could finish first.)

In 1960, on the Democratic side, the two who hoped to primary their way to the nomination were JFK and Minnesota’s own Hubert H. Humphrey. The first primary, as always, was New Hampshire. But Humphrey had no incentive to challenge JFK in a state that bordered Massachusetts. JFK won easily.

Wisconsin was second, where Humphrey had a similar neighboring-state advantage. But JFK decided to compete there, and try to finish off Humphrey. Kennedy’s money and charisma enabled him to win there, too, leaving the Humphrey bid on life support.

The desperate Humphrey campaign searched for a place to try to stop Kennedy. They looked at the remaining (very limited) list of primaries and decided to make a last stand in West Virginia. I’m a huge Humphrey admirer. And this might not sound defensible. But in choosing West Virginia, Team Humphrey surely believed that they needed a redneck state with very few Catholic voters in which to underscore the risk the Democrats would be taking if they nominated a Catholic. West Virginia’s population was roughly 95 percent Protestant. Humphrey didn’t say anything despicable along those lines, but that clearly was the logic behind making a last stand in West Virginia.

Anyway, it didn’t work. JFK defeated Humphrey by a solid margin in West Virginia, Humphrey dropped out of the race, and that essentially ended any serious resistance to Kennedy for the nomination during the primary season. (He still faced some big names who hoped to stop his nomination at the convention, based, as I said above, on the fact that most of the delegates back then were not chosen in primaries. But, of course that didn’t work either. JFK was nominated and elected.

I hope that history wasn’t too boring. The main point that’s relevant to today is to recall that as recently as 1960 the big “diversity” question was whether America was ready to elect a president who wasn’t a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. And it turned out the answer was yes, we were ready for a handsome, rich, white, Irish Catholic. It was quite a big breakthrough.

Since I read the book, I’ve been meaning to write some of this not-so-ancient history of what passed for diversity in 1960. But I got off my duff and did it today because I just looked at the latest update of the Washington Post’s perhaps silly, roughly weekly, ranking of the likeliest winner of the race for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination. They call it the Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking, in which members of the Post’s editorial and columnist crew generate their updated best guess of who will be the 2020 nominee.

I’ll provide a link below. We, the obsessed, may enjoy these exercises, but it’s vital to bear in mind that as predictions, they border on worthless, as evidenced by the fact that they redo them every week or so. They don’t even claim to be making predictions. It’s roughly equivalent to speculating who might win the SuperBowl three years from now.

But it does seem better than 50-50 likely that someone on their list of 15 – 15! – contenders will be the nominee. I’ve decided not to get overly excited about week-to-week movement on the list.

I bring it up today, after the long history lesson above, to note and to celebrate how far Americas (or at least Democrats) have come since 1960 in its willingness to consider individuals of various races, genders, religions, affectional orientations and fundamental ideologies.

The top four on the list (all apparently tied for No. 1) are Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former senator and VP Joe Biden, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

We may think of Harris as African-American. Her mother was actually Tamil-Indian and her father Jamaican. We have never had a president (nor a major party nominee) of Tamil, or Indian, or Jamaican ancestry. We never had a non-white president before Barack Obama, which was pretty recent and still pretty astonishing. We’ve never had a female president and we never had a female major party nominee before Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If elected, either Biden or Sanders would be the oldest ever president at time of election. (We have that right now, by the way. Donald Trump was 70 on Inauguration Day 2017. If he is the nominee in 2020, he will be 74. Biden will be 77. Sanders will be 79. I’ll confess that I’m a little nervous about the age factor, considering the strains of the job, and perhaps the electability factor. But certainly this paragraph reflects great progress against ageism in presidential politics.

Biden is also Catholic, which, as this piece above mentions was a pretty big deal as recently as 1960, but is now barely noteworthy in terms of diversity breakthroughs.

Sanders, in addition to being the oldest president ever at time of election, is also Jewish. We’ve never had a Jewish president, a Jewish major party nominee, nor a Jewish vice president. The closest we’ve ever come was Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s Jewish running mate in 2000. Until recently, the Jewishness of a candidate would at least be somewhat interesting/controversial.

Sanders would also be the first major party nominee or president who describes himself as a democratic socialist. And that, of course, will be controversial.

Buttigieg. OMG. If nominated or elected, he would be the youngest president ever (he’ll be 38 on Election Day; the Constitution requires 35;  the previous youngest ever on Election Day was the aforementioned JFK, who was 43.) Mayor Pete would also be the first of Maltese extraction. But, of course, I buried the lede: Buttigieg would the first openly gay, and gay-married nominee or president, and the first in that category to ever be seriously considered at any point in any presidential contest.

That’s just the top four on the Post list. Keep going. At No. 5 is Beto O’Rourke. Despite his nickname, he would not be the first Hispanic president, although he would be the first Hispanic-nicknamed. And despite looking very young, would be older than JFK on Election Day.

But after Beto, comes Cory Booker (who would be just the second nominee or president of color, after Barack Obama). And then, ranked 5-10, come four more women, three of them senators: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen Amy Klobuchar, Stacey Abrams (who is also African-American), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

When JFK beat Nixon in 1960, there was exactly one woman in the Senate, Republican Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, the first woman ever elected to the Senate without having first been appointed to the seat to serve out her late husband’s term. In 1964, Smith became the first woman ever to seek a major party nomination for president. In announcing, she said: “I have few illusions and no money, but I’m staying for the finish. When people keep telling you, you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try.”

She didn’t win any primaries but never dropped and become the first of her gender to have her name placed in nomination at a major party convention.

At present, without getting into any handicapping, we have a Democratic field that includes in its top 10 contenders (according to the Post power people) five women; two candidates of color; one Jew (also a self-described socialist) two candidates who would set a record for oldest at time of election, and one who would set a record for youngest, and who also be the first to break the homosexual barrier.

Personally, I haven’t settled on a favorite, and I hope Democrats who will figure out the best combination of a candidate who can win and who will be an excellent president. But I call this level of diversity in their current field progress, at least on one side of the partisan divide.

(Here’s the Post Pundit list.)

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A coalition calling for $80 million in new state funding for recruiting and retaining more teachers of color in Minnesota is disappointed in the the level of support lawmakers are offering this year to address the longstanding issue.

None of the initial budget proposals unveiled at the Capitol this session — in the DFL-controlled House, the GOP-controlled Senate or by Gov. Tim Walz — meets the lofty spending target supported by the Coalition for Increasing Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers, a local group focused on “the lack of racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity” in Minnesota’s teaching ranks. The House DFL budget, HF 2400, gets closest, dedicating $37 million over the next two years to new and existing programs. Gov. Tim Walz included $16 million in his budget for 2020-21.

The Senate did not include any new funding for the programs outlined in SF 1012, the Senate version of the bill that includes the coalition’s priorities, the Increase Teachers of Color Act. The bill wasn’t heard in the Education Finance and Policy Committee. The Senate education spending bill, SF 7, however, provides the same level of funding for existing programs and increases spending on other initiatives that Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, chair of the committee, sees as related to the overall goal of increasing teacher diversity.

Nelson sponsored the 2017 bill that created new programs and expanded others to include teachers of color, which she’s cited to show that her support for addressing the shortage hasn’t wavered. But she also said she had constraints within the Senate’s proposed budget. “We need to have more teachers of color in our classrooms. I’ve continued to work on that,” she said. “Right now these are just positioning bills.”

Paul Spies, a professor in the School of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University and head of the legislative action team with the coalition, was disappointed with the reception the Increase Teachers of Color Act had in the Senate this year. He said the coalition invited Nelson to sponsor it, banking on her past support.

“Even with a small target, we would have hoped there had been some increase in some of the programs that have been running to focus on teachers of color,” Spies said. “There’s demand for more funding. … We’ve just been investing small amounts of money in small programs. We have to bring them to scale.”

A way to address education gaps

The spending requested in the Increase Teachers of Color Act is the minimum it would take to increase the portion of teachers of color from 4 percent statewide to 5 percent, Spies said. That’s a net increase of about 630 teachers.

State Sen. Carla Nelson
It seems like a small goal. But a report by the state Professional Educator Licensing Standards Board (PELSB) delivered to the Legislature in January says that statewide percentage hasn’t changed since at least 2015-16.

At the same time, the number of students of color in Minnesota continues to increase. It’s estimated that a third of Minnesota students are now children of color. Advocates say the lack of teacher diversity impacts outcomes for all students and contributes to the opportunity and achievement gaps between students of color and their white classmates.

Changes to Minnesota law passed in 2016 require school districts to evaluate their teacher pool with the goal of reflecting the diversity of their student bodies because of the impact it reportedly has on closing those gaps.

“One of things holding us back in our state that’s causing one of the nation’s’ worst achievement gaps is the fact that we have such an imbalance in who’s teaching and who’s learning,” Spies said. “It’s one of the things we haven’t tried over the last two decades. We haven’t systematically diversified our workforce.”

The coalition supports recruiting teachers of color through a variety of means: Grants and scholarships to help people of color and Native Americans enroll in teacher preparation programs and complete student teaching requirements, pathways for school staff, such as paraprofessionals (called Grow Your Own programs), to get teaching licenses, and concurrent enrollment for high school students in teacher prep classes.

Some of these programs are already established, and the Increase Teachers of Color Act calls for spending enough to recruit the desired number of teachers over the next two years.

The same PELSB report says more than half of teachers with an active teaching license aren’t working as teachers. It’s not clear what that statistic is for teachers of color, but it’s a problem the state has to figure out how to tackle.

The bill also targets retainment through mentorship and loan forgiveness for teachers, as well as grants for schools to make comprehensive plans for diversifying their teaching staff. “Until the state really gets serious about this and doesn’t treat it like a small program but a major initiative that has to happen, we’re not going to meet the 2016 promise that they should have equitable access to effective and diverse teachers,” Spies said.

Bipartisan support, disagreement on funding

As the driving force behind the Increase Teachers of Color Act, the coalition has been able to unite education groups that seldom see eye to eye on other policies and ideas. That, Spies said, shows just how well opposing parties can agree on the need for more teachers of color.

Based on past and present co-authors on the bills, the goal of the Increase Teachers of Color Act enjoys bipartisan support. But when it comes to funding it, there’s plenty of disagreement. “We each were given a budget target that we must live within,” Nelson said. Hers was $206 million, and her spending bill prioritizes a small general education formula increase, safe schools aid, and early learning scholarships.

The Senate did not include state or local tax increases, which the House DFL budget relies on to fund a hefty $900 million education budget proposal.

State Rep. Ryan Winkler
“We can’t have this for free,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said during a press conference on the education budget. “If we want a world-class education system that provides opportunity for all kids, we have to pay for it … and we’re not shy about putting the price on the table that it costs to actually do these things.” Concerns about negotiation results

Each of the three spending proposals treated the Increase Teachers of Color Act differently. The House spreads about $18 million a year across nearly all the new and existing programs the Increase Teachers of Color Act proposes, but it doesn’t put money toward a marketing campaign to recruit teachers and report on how the programs are performing.

Spies said he’s concerned about how the high House target will be treated as the session nears its end May 20. “We’re hoping that this becomes not some kind of super high bar that just gets whittled down through negotiations but actually people see it as all that could be done.“

The Senate includes base funding for Grow Your Own programs and three different teacher preparation grants. Outside the Increase Teachers of Color Act umbrella, Nelson also dedicates public dollars to an alternative teacher preparation program that Nelson called “a pipeline for teachers of color” and increased funding for the Sanneh Foundation, a youth development organization that has a program to recruit diverse teachers.

Nelson said the Senate’s choice not to include proposed changes to the state’s teacher licensure system also shows support for increasing teachers of color. The House education spending bill includes those changes, which would set limits on tier 1 and tier 2 licenses. Critics argue the changes would disproportionately impact teachers of color because about a quarter of teachers of color in Minnesota hold those licenses.

The Walz administration’s strategy was to propose large sums for a few programs, including a little more than $2 million for student teaching grants, which matches the allocation in the original bill. Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said that aspect caught the administration’s attention because it’s a prominent roadblock for aspiring teachers.

“When we proposed $8 million [per year], it was the largest investment in diversifying the teaching profession ever,” Ricker told MinnPost, adding that future budget negotiations will focus on where and how much to invest. But the consensus to invest anything at all is already there. “I think getting the consensus there first invites the Senate to come to the table to find some common ground with us.”

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The newest scientific survey of global warming’s impacts in the Arctic describe a climate, a landscape and an ecology that are not so much evolving as falling apart.

As sea ice continues to decline and the terrestrial seasons of hard freeze and snow cover grow shorter, the world above 60 degrees north latitude is getting rainier, cloudier and more humid. (Bill McKibben, commenting on the findings, coined a word to summarize these converging effects as “slushifying.”) But that’s just the tip of the … you know.

The permafrost season is shrinking, too, undermining forests as well as buildings and infrastructure; in combination with rising sea levels, it’s accelerating coastal erosion.

The pace of glacial melt is rising, too, and together with heavier rainfall is flushing more nutrients into marine ecosystems, modifying water chemistry and, eventually, food webs. Some important fisheries appear to be threatened as habitats shift away from the conditions necessary for spawning.

Growing seasons on the tundra are shifting around, but not in an orderly way; flowering cycles of plants are both earlier and shorter, falling out of sync with pollinators. Forests, notably, are becoming more vulnerable to insect infestations, as well as faster growth in the shrubby understory, both of which can make wildfires more frequent and more severe. Oh, and fire-starting lightning strikes seem to be on the rise.

Many of these impacts are not new discoveries, of course. What distinguishes this project, whose findings were published last week in Environmental Research Letters, is its comprehensive analysis of how all of these factors are linked together — and of their aggregate impact.

The paper is the work of an international team of two dozen scientists with Jason Box, of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, in the lead author’s role. And they are agreed on this point:

The key driver of change across nine interrelated indicators — air temperature, permafrost, hydroclimatology, snow cover, sea ice, land ice, wildfires, tundra and terrestrial ecosystems, and carbon cycling — is air temperature.

That’s rising across the Arctic, just as it is worldwide — only faster, because corresponding changes in sea ice, snow cover and other temperature-driven influences create feedbacks that become part of the so-called Arctic amplification.

Twice the hemisphere’s warming

Based on temperature records from 1971 through 2017, the data show an increase in average year-long temperature of 2.70 C.  (just under 50 F.), which is 2.4 times the rise for the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Winters are warming faster than summers in the Arctic; looking just at the “cold season” from October to May, temperatures rose 3.10 C, or 2.8 times as much as for the entire hemisphere.

As for the future, the research simply notes that there’s little likelihood that the world’s temperature trend is likely to change much, and that the pace of some key impacts has been accelerating since the 1980s and 1990s. Thus the conclusion:

The Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its previous state and into a period of unprecedented change, with implications not only within but also beyond the Arctic.

Among the impacts beyond the Arctic: disruptions of ocean circulation patterns, like those that caused last year’s horrific heatwave across northern Europe, and an increase in the frequency and severity of weather extremes, including major storms, for the upper latitudes.

The paper is fairly silent in addressing, at least directly, the impact on human communities across the Arctic; it calls for further research on “socioeconomic indicators,” whose “development has lagged the compilation of physical and biological factors.”

However, co-author Jim Overland of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had seemed to have Alaskan fisheries in mind when he spoke with Inside Climate News about a “domino effect” of declining sea ice and warming temperatures on the Bering Sea:

“In the past, you had sea ice growing in the fall, with northerly winds that helped grow ice. Now, with the delay of Arctic-wide freeze-up, you don’t have the pre-conditioning for the Bering freeze-up.”

Weather disruptions  beyond Arctic

Combined with unusual storm systems, you can get these off-the-charts changes in the Bering Sea,” said Overland. … “Last year, with no sea ice and no pool of deep, cold water, pollock were found in the north Bering Sea where they don’t usually go. The question was if they will they spawn in the new location or not, and it doesn’t seem that they did,” he said.

“When this happens two years in a row, it becomes really important. The Bering Sea is now in a state we’ve never seen before.”

Andy Mahoney of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a geophysicist who has studied sea ice patterns and their importance to indigenous communities in the Arctic, shared his thoughts on the Box paper’s implications with a newsletter of the Global Landscapes Forum, which noted that “roughly 4 million people live in the Arctic, including indigenous peoples, recent transplants, hunters and herders, and city dwellers.”

Almost all of the changes described in the paper, including warming air temperatures, thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, increased river discharge, and changes in the arrival of migratory species have direct impacts on the residents of Arctic communities, particularly those near the coast.

If [the study’s authors] were to consider metrics such as the cost of maintaining or relocating infrastructure, they would likely find that these are strongly correlated with rates of coastal erosion and permafrost thaw.

Rapid environmental change such as loss of sea ice as a hunting platform and bigger waves during the open water season is also affecting traditional subsistence activities in indigenous communities throughout the Arctic. But it is far from clear if these impacts outweigh those from other socioeconomic factors that are also changing, such as fuel prices, wildlife regulations, industrial activity and pressure to participate in the wage economy.

* * *

The full paper, “Key indicators of Arctic climate change: 1971-2017,” can read without charge here.

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Sleep plays a crucial role in our physical and emotional health. If either the quantity or quality of our sleep is chronically below par, we put ourselves at increased risk of developing major long-term health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

Poor sleep habits can affect our lives in the short term, too. When we’re tired, we don’t think as clearly, react as quickly, or learn as efficiently as we do when we’re rested. We’re also more likely to injure ourselves in some kind of accident.

Yet surveys have repeatedly shown that most of us — one-third of all American adults — fail to get a good night’s sleep on most nights.

One reason for our poor sleep habits may be a disinclination to take sleep seriously. And we may be doing that because we make assumptions about sleep that simply aren’t true.

Americans aren’t good at separating myths from fact about many health issues, and sleep is no different.

The most harmful myths

To get a better idea of the kinds of sleep myths that Americans harbor — and how those myths might be affecting the public’s health — a team of researchers searched more than 8,000 websites for common statements about healthy sleep habits. They then presented those statements to 10 leading sleep experts, including neuroscientists and chronobiologists.

The experts identified the 20 most common “myths” — beliefs about sleep that lack scientific evidence — among those statements. They then ranked them according to how false they were and how harmful they were to people’s health.

Those rankings are presented in a paper published online this week in the journal Sleep Health.

The authors of the paper point out that such myths aren’t innocuous. They can shape people’s behavior. Indeed, prior research has demonstrated that myths about obesity, smoking and the risk of breast cancer can lead not only to unhealthy behavior by individuals, but also to adverse public health decisions by policymakers.

“Sleep is a vital part of life that affects our productivity, mood and general health and well-being,” says Rebecca Robbins, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral research at New York University, in a released statement. “Dispelling myths about sleep promotes healthier sleep habits which, in turn, promote overall better health.”

The top five myths

Here are the five myths that received the experts’ highest scores for posing the greatest risk to health:

  • Many adults need only five or less hours of sleep for general health.

The evidence clearly shows this statement to be false, say Robbins and her co-authors. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal physical and mental health. Yes, there are individuals — people from families with particular genetic mutations — who are able to function fully on less sleep, but they are rare.

  • Although annoying for bed partners, loud snoring is mostly harmless.

Snoring is caused by partial obstruction of the upper airway during sleep. It’s a main symptom of obstructive sleep apnea — a condition that is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure and other types of cardiovascular disease.

But, as Robbins and her colleagues point out, snoring is associated with adverse health outcomes even when it isn’t a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. “Thus, loud or bothersome snoring may be an indication that one needs to consult with a health care provider,” they warn.

  •  Your brain and body can learn to function just as well with less sleep.

After a few nights of not getting enough sleep, sensations of daytime sleepiness may plateau, but that doesn’t mean that the lack of sleep isn’t having an effect on people.

In fact, research shows just the opposite.

“Individuals might ‘adjust’ to consistent sleep debt and/or circadian misalignment but do so at the risk of serious health consequences,” Robbins and her colleagues write. “Consequently, evidence refutes the statement that the brain and body can adapt to function on less sleep.”

  • Being able to fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” is a sign of a healthy sleep system.

Actually, it’s a sign of being chronically sleep-deprived. It may also be a sign of an underlying sleep problem, especially obstructive sleep apnea.

People who can fall asleep “anytime, anywhere” are also at increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, Robbins and her co-authors point out.

  • Alcohol before bed will improve your sleep.

Drinking alcohol before bed may help people fall asleep faster, but many studies have shown it also disrupts the sleep cycle, often by delaying the onset of REM (dream) sleep.

The consumption of alcohol also worsens the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Additional myths

Here are the other 15 common sleep myths identified by the experts in the paper:

  • Adults sleep more as they get older.
  • If you can get it, more sleep is always better.
  • One night of sleep deprivation will have lasting negative health consequences.
  • In terms of your health, it does not matter what time of day you sleep.
  • Lying in bed with your eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping.
  • If you have difficulty falling asleep, it is best to stay in bed and try to fall back to sleep.
  • A sound sleeper rarely moves at night.
  • Hitting the snooze when you wake up is better than getting up when the alarm first goes off.
  • If you are having difficulties sleeping, taking a nap in the afternoon is a good way to get adequate sleep.
  • For sleeping, it is better to have a warmer bedroom than a cooler bedroom.
  • Boredom can make you sleepy even if you got adequate sleep before.
  • Watching television in bed is a good way to relax before sleep.
  • Exercising within four hours of bedtime will disturb your sleep
  • During sleep, the brain is not active.
  • Remembering your dreams is a sign of a good night’s sleep.

For more information: You’ll find an abstract of the paper on the Sleep Health website, but the full version is, unfortunately, behind a paywall. You can, however, read about many of these sleep myths at the website for the National Sleep Foundation, which publishes the journal.

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MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson
Last year, Mayors Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter stole the show with their debut musical performances. This year, they’ll have to make way for Duluth Mayor Emily Larson in her MinnRoast debut. With a history of winning the support of a crowd, she expects to get at least 72 percent of the audience laughing (if not more). Will she dethrone Frey and Carter, becoming the star of MinnRoast? Get your ticket to find out!

MinnRoast is the highlight of Minnesota’s political calendar. Every year politicians, journalists, actors, and singers converge at the State Theatre to gently skewer Minnesota politics and each other. Acts are wide-ranging in this variety show —  from monologues and video sketches to songs and parodies.

Mayor Emily Larson joins a packed cast including: Gov. Tim Walz, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, KARE11’s Jana Shortal, both Twin Cities mayors, the entire Minnesota delegation to the U.S. House, actress Sally Wingert, choral group OutLoud! and more!

Buy your tickets online through Ticketmaster or in-person at the State Theatre box office.

Become a MinnRoast Patron to receive premium seats and access to the exclusive pre-show reception. Patron packages can be purchased at MinnRoast.com.

MinnPost Gold and Platinum members receive a 25 percent discount on show-only tickets. You can become a MinnPost Gold member by donating $10 or more a month. Gold and Platinum members can contact the Membership Team for their discount code.

Not only is MinnRoast a fun night out, it’s also MinnPost’s biggest fundraising event of the year, garnering crucial financial support for our nonprofit newsroom. If you can’t make the show, but want to get behind MinnPost’s in-depth coverage of Minnesota, you can make a tax-deductible donation right now.

For more information about MinnRoast, please visit MinnRoast.com.

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