MPR News Update

Thundersnow, wildfires and a wicked congressional race

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

Oct 4, 2012

Early snow helps wildfire fighters, corn farmers profit in the drought, another shooting victim is laid to rest. And what did you think of last night's presidential debate?

STORMY THURSDAY: Winter weather, including some 'thundersnow,' blasted its way into northwestern Minnesota this October morning, and not a minute too soon as far as crews battling eight stubborn wildfires are concerned. The cold and damp should help tamp out flames, and also force the firefighters to take a little time out to rest up.

PEAT PROBLEMS: It may be some time before the fires are fully extinguished, because many of them ignited peat bogs. The northwest region of the state contains some 6 million acres of peatland, which under normal conditions is wet, spongy, decomposing vegetation. But when peat dries out, as it has during the drought, it can smolder forever, making putting out the fire tedious work.

SO IT BEGINS: In case you're wondering if this snow storm is a little early - it is. Paul Huttner writes on Updraft that the earliest 1 inch of snowfall on record in Grand Forks is Oct. 2, 1950. The average first inch is Nov. 15!

STILL DRY THOUGH: The nation's worst drought in decades is showing no sign of letting up in several key Midwest farming states, worrying farmers harvesting the summer's withered corn crop in record time that their winter crops may also be at risk.

SPEAKING OF THE DROUGHT: The drought hurt production this year, but damage to Minnesota's $7 billion corn crop wasn't as serious as in other areas. With summer now over, Minnesota farmers are expected to harvest the best corn crop of any of the major grain-producing states.

DEBATE THE DEBATE: Obama and Romney went head to head last night in a debate at the University of Denver. If you caught the show, tell us what you think about the outcome at Today's Question. If you missed out, you can revisit the action blow-by-blow on our live blog hosted by Bob Collins.

UP NORTH: Medicare is a big deal in this election cycle - in any election cycle, really -- because about 10,000 baby boomers are expected to retire every day for the next 20 years or so. That means enrollment in Medicare will nearly double, as will its cost, and there will be fewer people working to support those getting the benefits. That helps explain why the predominant narrative in the congressional race between GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack and his DFL challenger Rick Nolan is about Medicare's fate.

COLLEGE KID OR TERRORIST? Jamal Sheikh Bana was a hard-working college student from Minneapolis, but the 19-year-old man wouldn't have been able to function in his native Somalia without help, his mother told a federal jury Wednesday. Bana hardly knew his homeland, having left the country when he was younger than 2 years old -- yet in November 2008, he was among a group of six young men from Minneapolis who the government alleges surreptitiously traveled to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab.

BACHMANN: In the middle of her bid for reelection in the 7th Congressional District, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann says the recent anti-American violence in the Middle East proves that her past assertions about the Muslim Brotherhood's influence on the U.S. government are accurate - although she didn't say how.

DREAMS CURTAILED: Friends and family who gathered at the funeral for Jacob Beneke, the youngest of the six people who died in last week's workplace shooting rampage in Minneapolis, remembered him as being a man on his way to reaching his dreams.

JAZZERS: When accomplished jazz musicians begin to compose new work, they might draw from a variety of influences, from classic songs and works of art to musings of children. Such is the wide stream of ideas that inspired pianist Larry McDonough and saxophonist and poet Richard Terrill on "Solitude," a new recording that springs from jazz standards, classical music, Minnesota poetry and children with disabilities. McDonough spoke with MPR ahead of a performance tonight at The Artists Quarter.

ART HOUNDS: This week, photographer Wing Young Huie is drawn to "Granite Falls: A Meandering River Walk," a piece of "walking theater" about the 10,000 year history of the town. Musical comedy writer Maureen Kane Berg is admiring the near perfection of Consortium Carissimi's Italian baroque music. And Minneapolis comedy writer and performer Levi Weinhagen says "Two Sugars, With Room for Cream" pairing Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool, is a musical showcase that has a lot of heart and laughs.

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