MPR News Update

Fire and snow in northwest Minnesota

by Phil Picardi, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio

Oct 3, 2012

The residents of a small town in northwestern Minnesota are back in their homes after fleeing wildfires. The state's tax burden is shifting from homeowners to commercial property owners. And, is requiring a photo ID to step into a voting booth an effort to suppress the votes of minorities? All that and more on today's MPR News Update.

WILDFIRES: Crews fought a wildfire late into Tuesday night near the Canadian border, after it forced evacuations and destroyed a number of homes. At one point, the wind-whipped blaze almost surrounded the town of Karlstad, where we spokes with crews evacuating a nursing home. We have dramatic photos from Karlstad, as well.

WILD WEATHER: By midday Wednesday, most of the fires were out or under control. And fire crews can look forward to a helping hand from Mother Nature: A winter storm watch is in place for the region, meaning there's a chance it may snow on the remaining hotspots.

VOTER ID, OR VOTER SUPPRESSION? Many opponents of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls say it unfairly deters minorities, the elderly and students from voting. And some African-American leaders, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, say it amounts to an effort aimed at suppressing support from traditionally Democratic constituencies.

A DEBATEABLE ISSUE: We've created a special section on the website dedicated to the voter ID ballot question. You can go there to read the text of the proposed amendment, read opinions supporting and opposing the measure, weigh in with your own comments and read our past and continuing coverage of the debate. Check it out here.

HIGH-RISK THEATER: President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney come face to face for the first time in this presidential campaign Wednesday night for a nationally televised debate that will give millions of Americans a chance to size up two fierce competitors in a moment of high-risk theater. We'll be liveblogging the debate here, as well providing a live audio feed and related news coverage on the radio and online.

SPEAKING OF POLITICIANS: Have you ever wondered why it is that political candidates frequently avoid uncomfortable topics in a debate by diverting the conversation to an unrelated strength? Many politicians hire debate coaches who have perfected this technique, called "the pivot." So why do these dodges usually evade our cognitive radar? A psychologist explains.

RONALD EDBERG: Funeral services were held Tuesday evening for Ronald Edberg, one of five people killed by a fired employee at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis last week. Edberg. who was 58, was described by his family and friends as kind, quiet and talented. His daughter, Jessica Edberg, said her father didn't say much, but the words he shared were always gentle and often funny.

TAX BREAK? THANK A FARMER: Thanks to the agricultural boom, in many rural counties farms make up an increasing share of the tax base. That is one reason many Minnesota homeowners will see smaller property tax bills next year. Along with the story, we have a graphic that charts how the property tax burden has shifted for Minnesota homeowners in recent years.

SHIFTING SANDS: In a one-on-one debate, MPR explores silica "frac" sand mining in the region with two men who have differing perspectives: GOP state Sen. John Howe of Red Wing, an area which is rich in silica sand, and Fred Corrigan, the executive director of the Aggregate and Ready Mix Association of Minnesota. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzermoderated the debate.

THERE'S AN APP FOR SCHOOL: Worried your kids spend too much time with their faces buried in a computer screen? Their schoolwork may soon depend on it. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Tuesday for the nation to move as fast as possible away from printed textbooks and toward digital ones. "Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete," he declared.

SUPPLEMENTAL NONSENSE: Dozens of weight loss and immune system supplements on the market are illegally labeled and lack the recommended scientific evidence to back up their purported health claims, government investigators warn in a new review of the $20 billion supplement industry.

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