Calorie counting at the counter
THUMBS UP: While not everyone is in favor of the recently-signed massive federal health care bill, one good thing will quietly come out of it: A small provision in the bill will make restaurants display on their menus calorie counts of their fare. The new rule covers restaurant chains with 20 or more locations - in other words, the big boys, like McDonald's Burger King, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, etc. Advocates say it's one way to help fight America's obesity problems, and while it won't keep us from patronizing our favorite fast food joints, it might make us think twice before going large or choosing a Big Mac over a simple hamburger. It will, at the least, remind us that we can still enjoy a fast food meal without having to literally loosen our belts, as long as we make the right choices, and that will soon become a lot easier to do.
THUMBS UP: Today is a big day for many local residents and will be one to remember for all of us, as the Marshall area Minnesota National Guard troops from the 1st Battalion, 151st Artillery, A Battery, will be rolling into Marshall after spending the last 12 months in Iraq. In the military spirit, we're giving you an order to take a few minutes out of your day today to help welcome our troops home. Businesses should also let their employees take an hour to join a true homecoming parade. Imagine being away from your family for an entire year - not being able to see the kids off to school each morning, not being able to go out to eat or to a movie with your spouse, or even say goodnight to him or her. The soldiers deserve to see the streets lined with screaming, flag-waving, sign-holding residents of the community today.
Race to the Top
THUMBS DOWN: Minnesota lost out on its chance at a piece of the federal education funding pie when it finished 20th out of 41 applicants for the Race to the Top competition that awards stimulus funds set aside by the Obama administration to encourage school innovation. But the thumbs down isn't just because of the fact that the state lost out on much-needed money as much as it is why we lost. Minnesota's "scorecard" showed that the state lost major points in developing "great teachers and leaders." Ouch. If I'm a teacher reading this I would be offended. The Independent does numerous education-based stories that almost always include our great teachers and the programs they incorporate into their classrooms. The Minnesota Department of Education and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have blamed the statewide teachers union, Education Minnesota, and Education Minnesota is blaming the state. Useless fingerpointing aside, take heart parents, we believe your kids are in good hands. Southwest Minnesota employs some of the finest teachers in the state, regardless of the outcome of Race to the Top.
THUMBS DOWN: There's something rotten in Murray County. Thousands of dead carp have surfaced on the shores of Lake Shetek near the first bay thanks to this year's unusually high winterkill and, needless to say, it's pretty pungent out there. The Department of Natural Resources says it's not responsible for the removal of the fish. That policy needs to be amended. While it would be nice to have volunteers go out and collect the fish, there's no guarantee that's going to happen. Years ago during a similar winterkill, garbage trucks were brought in, and the fish were hauled out and put to use in some way or another. But if no one steps up to do something similar this year, those fish - and the accompanying stench - will remain through the decaying process. The DNR shouldn't be required to take care of winterkill's side effects every year, but when it gets this bad, it should step up and help clean up the lake. The good news that can come out of this is with all those lake-ruining carp out of the way Shetek's ecosystem should improve and it might eventually become a cleaner lake.
THUMBS UP: The U.S. Census Bureau says 60 percent of Minnesota residents have returned their census forms as of Thursday, the soft deadline for mailing back the questionnaire. It's good to see local counties doing their share, too. Redwood County's return rate is 70 percent, followed by Yellow Medicine (67 percent), Lyon (64 percent), Murray (62 percent) and Lincoln (59 percent).