Steering away from the cliff; tuning up for orchestra negotiationsby Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
Today on the MPR News Update: Legislation averting the so-called fiscal cliff passed the House Tuesday night with half of the Minnesota delegation voting yes. Musicians and managers of both the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra are back at the negotiating table. And state health officials say we could be in for a really bad flu season.
HOW MINNESOTANS VOTED: With two notable exceptions, Minnesota's congressional delegation largely voted along party lines for the legislation avoiding the "fiscal cliff," which passed the House and is now headed for the president's desk. See how they voted, and what they had to say, by clicking here.
INTERACTIVE: The bill's passage 257-167 in the House of Representatives avoided the economy-threatening "fiscal cliff" of middle-class tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts. Check out this interactive, which tracks the key components in the plan crafted by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden.
TAXES GOING UP ANYWAY: While the legislation will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, most of them will still end up paying more federal taxes in 2013. That's because the legislation did nothing to prevent a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring.
THE POLITICS BEHIND THE DEAL: Two guests on The Daily Circuit today discussed the politics behind the 'fiscal cliff' debate. Wendy Schiller is associate professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, co-author of 'Gateways to Democracy: An Introduction to American Government," and Aaron Blake is a Washington Post reporter covering national politics. We'll have audio later today.
YOUR THOUGHTS? The fiscal deal avoids the major spending cuts and widespread tax increases known as the "fiscal cliff." Today's Question: What do you think of the deal to stop the country's fall off the fiscal cliff?
ALSO IN POLITICS: Former DFL Congressman Rick Nolan will be sworn into office tomorrow as the newest member of Minnesota's congressional delegation. Nolan previously served three terms starting in the mid-1970s.
Meanwhile, outside the beltway...
TUNING UP: Later today representatives of locked out musicians at the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will sit down with representatives of their respective managements to negotiate. These are the first formal talks in many weeks in the contract disputes which have now led to the cancellation of all concerts through early February. Euan Kerr has been covering the disputes since the beginning. He spoke with Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer about the status of the negotiations. Here's an edited transcript.
VALUING LOYALTY: It seems that virtually every retailer tries to reward loyal customers these days. The number of such programs at places like Target, Cub Foods and Best Buy has soared over the past decade. And most shoppers eagerly sign up for the programs, looking to save money wherever and whenever they can. Some 40 million people are members of Best Buy's Reward Zone program, for example, which basically gives shoppers rebates equal to 2 percent of their spending.
HIGHER ED FUNDING: DFL leaders say they'd like to make more higher education funding a priority when the legislative session starts next week. But public colleges and universities may have to work harder to get that money. After years of watching the Legislature spend less and less money on higher education, Minnesota Private College Council President Paul Cerkvenik senses a change in attitude.
BAD FLU SEASON: The Minnesota Department of Health is predicting this could be the worst flu season we've seen in years. Some Twin Cities area hospitals are already filling up with people suffering the affects of influenza. If this pace continues, it could rival the severity of the 2009 H1-N1 pandemic.
SCIENCE MUSEUM DIVERSITY: The Science Museum of Minnesota will dedicate four afternoons in January to celebrating scientists of color. The Science Fusion series kicks off Jan. 5 with African Americans in Science, inviting museum visitors to interact with African Americans who have careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
HUMAN GROWTH HORMONES: A federal crackdown on illicit foreign supplies of human growth hormone has failed to stop rampant misuse, and instead has driven record sales of the drug by some of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, an Associated Press investigation shows. Big Pharma has been satisfying the steady desires of U.S. users and abusers, including many who take the drug in the false hope of delaying the effects of aging.
NOT EVEN A DRY HEAT: The National Weather Service in Chanhassen says 2012 was a warm one in the Twin Cities: Only one other year in the climate data reflected weather as warm as last year. 2012 finished with an average temperature of 50.8 degrees for the metro area, according to Tony Zaleski a forecaster with the weather service office and says. That ties the average temperature set for the year set back in 1931.
GIVING DOWN: The Salvation Army in Minnesota and North Dakota is still pushing to reach its 2012 Holiday campaign goal after falling about 7 percent short. The charity set a $9.8 million goal for its 2012 Twin Cities Christmas campaign, down slightly from last year.
FRUCTOSE ON THE BRAIN: Scientists have used imaging tests to show for the first time that fructose, a sugar that saturates the American diet, can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating. After drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn't register the feeling of being full as it does when simple glucose is consumed, researchers found.
Matt Sepic is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for MPR News.