Minnesota tops in volunteerism

The latest "Volunteering and Civic Life in America" study suggests there's something to all that "Minnesota Nice" stuff.

According to the 2011 census data used in the study, Minnesota has the fourth most per-capita volunteers of any state, and the Twin Cities' spirit of volunteerism is even more impressive: Minneapolis/St. Paul has the most per-capita volunteers of any major metro region.

Here are some of the survey's findings as they pertain to the state as a whole:

— 38.0 percent of residents volunteer, ranking us 4th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

— 41.5 volunteer hours per resident

— 71.3 percent do favors for their neighbors

— 89.2 percent eat dinner with their family a few times a week or more

— 52.7 percent discuss politics a few times a month or more

— 1.58 million volunteers

— 171.8 million hours of service

— $3.8 billion of service contributed

And here are some of the specific Twin Cities findings:

— 37.0 percent of residents volunteer, ranking us 1st among the 51 largest MSAs

— 86.5 million total volunteer hours

— 72.6 percent do favors for their neighbors

— 86.8 percent eat dinner with their family a few times a week or more

— 55.6 percent discuss politics a few times a month or more

— 918,400 volunteers

— $2.2 billion of service contributed

After the Twin Cities, the number two through five metropolitan bastions for volunteering are Rochester (New York), Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Jacksonville, respectively.

Nationally, the number of volunteers in 2011 was the highest in five years. Eight billion volunteers generated nearly $171 billion in economic value through their work.

Hotel chimney death

Nicholas Weime, a 23-year-old Minnesota man, died last week after falling in the Intercontinental Hotel building's chimney in downtown Chicago.

He was trying to take photos atop the 42-story building when he fell, the Chicago Tribune reports.

After falling 22 feet, the man hit an angled portion of the chimney, and his descent was broken. The chimney drops 42 floors to the base of the building after the angle.

Weime reportedly survived the initial fall, which happened around 1 a.m., and communicated with his girlfriend and firefighters until he lost consciousness about 3:15 a.m.

After finally being extricated from the building around 5 a.m., the man was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

DWI champ back at it

It's not a record anybody wants to have, but it's Danny Bettcher's claim to fame. The 59-year-old resident of New York Mills has the most DWIs in Minnesota history: 27.

Just over a month after being released from prison, Bettcher is back in jail after he was "allegedly seen in an establishment that serves alcohol, and was consuming alcohol, both violations of his parole," the East Otter Tail Focus reports.

According to the Focus, Bettcher had to stay sober as a condition of his release. Bettcher could land behind bars for the rest of the four-year sentence he began serving in January 2010.

Shots Fired

Over the weekend, President Obama traveled to Newtown, Connecticut, and gave a speech at a memorial service for the victims of Friday's school shooting.

His remarks received praise from both both liberals and conservatives, but some have dinged the president for not using the word "guns" in the course of making his strongest pro-gun-control statement yet.

The speech was surprisingly given two thumbs way up by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who in 2003 received an A rating for his support of pro-gun-rights policies from the NRA: "The President has been a superb healing force in wake of the Newtown tragedy.I stand w/all on the other side of the aisle in saying Thanks."

Will Coleman and other gun-friendly Republicans still thank the president, assuming Obama's words do indeed translate to some sort of action? Perhaps Newtown really has shifted the terrain of America's gun control debate. Time will tell.

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