St. Cloud Times, May 13
Don't promote the 'cold water challenge'
From CaringBridge to Kickstarter, the Internet and social media are great ways to connect well-intended people with everything from helping sick friends to funding up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
This spring, though, social media is at the heart of a dangerous connection: the "cold water challenge." It's a stunt that must end now.
Couched as an unofficial fundraiser, one variation has a well-intended participant filmed standing next to a body of water and calling out some friends via the camera to follow his or her lead. The participant then jumps into that frigid lake or river and posts the video to social media. Upon viewing it, friends are either supposed to do the same or donate to their favorite charity.
The danger is obvious. Frigid spring water temperatures pose huge — even deadly — risks for participants.
In fact, 16-year-old Davis Colley drowned Friday night in Eagle Lake in Carver County perhaps while answering a challenge alone, according to news reports. Other reports from Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and the East Coast state participants have suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to paralysis. Most reports involve teenagers and 20-somethings. However, older adults are known to participate, too.
The fad is sweeping the nation to the point that schools, public safety officials and even state agencies are urging the challenges end. Here's what makes the challenges so dangerous:
. Local water temperatures are in the mid-40s to mid-50s, well below the 70 degrees at which the body can adequately replace heat dissipated by cold water.
. Immersion in such frigid water immediately causes blood pressure, heart rate and adrenalin levels to skyrocket, potentially triggering cardiac arrest and even death. To say nothing of the intense pain and massive shivering, the body's natural reactions to cold water.
. Immersion in cold water automatically causes you to gasp for air; if that is done underwater, it can spur panic and lead to drowning.
. Many lakes and rivers are at high levels, plus the water is murky. Both conditions can hide potential dangers such as rocks, debris and drop-offs, especially along riverbanks that already are overflowing.
Again, yes, the Internet and social media can be great tools for having fun and helping people. But using them to advance this cold water challenge stunt isn't worth the risks — especially in Minnesota, where the water is still frigid and there's little evidence charities are benefiting.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 13
Resist compound spending
Spending down Minnesota's projected $1.2 billion budget surplus comes with some serious risks.
But calls for restraint are a rarity in the halls of the Capitol, at least among the party in power. As the 2014 session enters its final days, lawmakers should be concerned about spending that will make government bigger and more expensive to maintain. They don't seem to be.
As the May 19 deadline approaches, passage of a public works bonding bill, lawmakers' key task in even-year sessions, plus a second tax-cut measure and an appropriations package, are included on "must-do" lists, the Pioneer Press' Bill Salisbury reports.
When it comes to bonding, our approach is cautious. Even with near-record-low interest rates mitigating some of the financial pressure, bonding is borrowing -- money that taxpayers pay back in subsequent years, with interest. It takes a three-fifths super-majority to pass such a measure in each chamber, which means that if all DFLers vote for a bonding bill, they still need at least two Republicans in the Senate and eight in the House to agree to the projects.
When it comes to more spending on ongoing programs, concerns compound. Spending now sets us on a path for more spending later. One-time investments? Maybe. Drawing on the surplus to fund continuing government programs, however -- adding to the spending base -- is unsustainable.
The projected budget surplus was welcome news when it was announced in February as a sign of the state's economic recovery.
But the April revenue review released Monday by Minnesota Management and Budget shows state revenue down $12 million, or 0.7 percent, from projections.
For fiscal year 2014, year-to-date receipts are now $15.3 billion, $78 million less than forecast.
Are such results an indicator of a slowing economic recovery? MMB warns that monthly revenue variances should be interpreted with caution. Swings may be caused by variations in the rate at which receipts are received and refunds are issued, the department says.
Even so, holding the line on new spending just makes sense.
We've warned here repeatedly about the cushion of a surplus, about the comfort it gives lawmakers who find it tempting to give up the discipline that tighter times require.
Lawmakers in 2013 raised taxes by $2.1 billion to fund new spending. With campaign literature in mind, they gave some back in tax cuts and may give back more. As we've observed here, making tax relief a priority enhances the possibility of some fiscal discipline.
Spending decisions also should consider the reckoning ahead with a sweeping demographic shift as the baby-boom generation ages and its demand for services strains government resources. Restraint now will give us more room later to maneuver as times and priorities change.
Mesabi Daily News, May 12
Come on, say it: Radical Islam
The outpouring of national outrage over the bizarre and really barbaric act of kidnapping and planning to sell about 300 girls by a radical Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria is more than understandable.
If there was anything less of a response we should put our collective American psyche on the couch for thorough examination.
But, unfortunately, while shocking, it should not be that much of a surprise.
Radical Islam is very much alive and very much active in pushing its brutal agenda, which includes what is a real "War on Women," not some contrived and excessive buzz phrase made up by Democrats in the U.S. strictly for political purposes to try to tar those who may not agree with their views on issues such as government support for birth control and abortion rights.
And this is happening in Nigeria — a country that has provided a far too comfortable home for the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.
Nigeria is a corrupt country whose leaders are much more concerned with their own bank accounts than the well-being of their people.
Case in point: What happened to $20 billion in oil revenue from the country's Central Bank over an 18-month period? Well, the Central Bank's governor will not be able to get to the bottom of that question. He was ousted by Nigerian President Goodluck (gotta love that appropriate name) Jonathan as he started to hit too close to home during his investigation. He's lucky to still be alive.
So a corrupt country in Africa has helped to fuel a terrorist Islamic organization that is now holding about 270 girls as ransom for release of some terrorists.
Meanwhile, a hashtag social media/pop culture-"selfie" craze has been ignited to "Bring Back Our Girls."
It's certainly all well and good to focus the too short-lived attention span of today's society on a terrible wrong being wrought on these girls in Nigeria — so keeping something important in the national conversation is a good thing.
But all the hastags and "selfies" of the world aren't going to warm the hearts of these cold-blooded killers. The Boko Haram couldn't care less about "selfies" — unless they are in them — or Twitter — unless it's used to get their hate-filled messages out — or, oh so sadly, the lives of the 270 girls or really of any females.
So go ahead, hashtag away.
But what's really needed is a realization at the highest levels of government in the United States and other nations of freedom that radical Islamic terrorism is an evil which we cannot, nor should not, ever deal with in negotiations. And looking away will not make it go away. That will only allow it to continue its growth like a terminal cancer.