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Local/state briefs

Christmas Bird Count starts Dec. 14

The National Audubon Society 120th Christmas Bird Count will be conducted between the dates of Saturday, Dec. 14, through Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. The Cottonwood Count is scheduled for Dec. 15 and is organized by Paul Egeland, former Cottonwood resident. The Marshall Count, organized by Sue Morton, will take place on Saturday, Dec. 14, and includes Lynd and Russell. Other local counts include Lamberton, Lac qui Parle and Granite Falls.

Since the Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago, it has relied on the dedication and commitment of volunteers. The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society, with over 100 years of community science involvement. It is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds.

There is a specific methodology to the CBC, and all participants must make arrangements to participate in advance with the circle compiler within an established circle, but anyone, any age, experienced or not, can participate. Each count takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally — all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher If your home is within the boundaries of a CBC circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your feeder on count day as long as you have made prior arrangement with the count compiler. Residents can even participate by simply filling bird feeders.

This event is for the experienced birder, the beginner and families. If interested in participating in the Cottonwood or Marshall CBC or any of the other local counts, call or text Sue Morton at 507-476-8335.

Probe can’t determine cause of Minneapolis high-rise fire

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Fire officials said they haven’t been able to determine the cause of a high-rise apartment fire that killed five people last week in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Fire Department said Monday that the investigation into Wednesday’s fire is completed. Officials found the blaze was accidental and there were a handful of factors that may have contributed to the fire’s start, but they weren’t able to pinpoint an exact cause. Its origin was a bedroom wall in a unit on the 14th floor.

The apartment building is 50 years old and was not required to have sprinklers due to its age.

The complex that includes this building was scheduled for a routine inspection by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday. But HUD said that inspection is being rescheduled.

Minnesota OKs medical cannabis for chronic pain, eye disease

ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota is expanding the state’s medical marijuana program to include chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration as conditions that can qualify for treatment, state health officials said Monday.

The state Department of Health also said it would allow more sites where patients can access medical cannabis. The changes take effect in August, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Minnesota’s medical marijuana program began in 2014. Originally, only nine conditions were on the list, but now it covers such conditions as obstructive sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer.

Sensible Change Minnesota, a group trying to change marijuana policy in Minnesota, sought the addition of chronic pain. A doctor’s diagnosis of chronic pain will be required. It could be easier to certify than intractable pain, which was added to the program a few years ago.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the added conditions give more people more ways to deal with debilitating illness.

“The bottom line is that people suffering from these serious conditions may be helped by participating in the program, and we felt it was important to give them the opportunity to seek that relief,” Malcolm said in a statement.

Maren Schroeder, policy director for Sensible Change Minnesota, said doctors have been hesitant to certify intractable pain cases because that carries a specific legal definition by which pain cannot be removed but only managed and other options have failed to achieve results.

“This will give doctors a little more comfort in getting their pain patients into this program as well as helping those patients qualify,” Schroeder said.

Residents petitioned to include the new conditions this summer. Those requests were reviewed by a citizens panel and Health Department staff. Four conditions were rejected: anxiety, insomnia, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury.

As of October, nearly 18,000 patients were certified for the state’s medical marijuana program.

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