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Short takes for Jan. 13

January 13, 2012
Marshall Independent

USDA?offices shutting down

THUMBS DOWN: Finally, someone gets it - we just wish it was a different federal agency. In an effort to cut costs, the U.S. Agriculture Department announced Monday it will close nearly 260 offices nationwide. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the goal was to save $150 million a year in the agency's $145 billion budget. About $90 million had already been saved by reducing travel and supplies, and the closures were expected to save another $60 million, he said. The plan calls for 259 offices, labs and other facilities to be closed, affecting the USDA headquarters in Washington and operations in 46 states. Seven foreign offices also will be shut. This is what the government means when it talks about agencies pinching their pennies. The real downside is that closures hit the Midwest hard - the Food Safety and Inspection Service in Minneapolis will close, for instance, as will similar offices in Wisconsin and Kansas. Even though widespread layoffs aren't expected, it's still a blow to the ag industry, especially when it comes to food safety, and we're concerned about the potential for limited access to farm agencies and the services they provide in rural areas. We can only hope other federal agencies take a cue from the USDA and make similar bold, cost-saving decisions.

Barbie can send a message

THUMBS UP: A bald Barbie? If the people behind an online movement can encourage toy maker Mattel Inc. to produce a folicle-free version of the 52-year-old doll, you might just see one in the future. A Facebook page titled "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" was started a few days before Christmas. By Wednesday, the page had more than 16,000 fans. The goal is to get Mattel to create a bald Barbie in support of children with cancer. What an incredible idea. It's a shame Mattel doesn't accept ideas from outside sources, but who knows - perhaps it will make an exception in this case. Barbie was created to show little girls they can be whatever they want to be in life, and if Mattel can produce a tattooed Barbie, we certainly think they can make one that portrays a cancer survivor to show sick little girls that real beauty isn't about how you look on the outside and give them the strength to believe they can live their lives to the fullest, with or without hair.

Land development in Marshall

THUMBS UP: It's good to see some kind of concrete progress concerning the future of the vacant property that was once home to the Marshall Junior High School. The city council this week voted unanimously to approve a purchase agreement to sell the property to Trident Development, LLC, which would develop a 70-unit senior apartment complex on the 4.5-acre parcel of land near the intersection of Lyon and 4th streets. The land has been vacant since the 2008 demolition of the old school. A?proposed townhome project that would've partnered the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton and the Schwan Food Co. fell through, but we see even more potential for a project that would expand housing for seniors in the area.



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