Calcium deposits lead to scrutiny of Bismarck water

BISMARCK (AP) — Some north Bismarck residents are alarmed about the calcium deposits in their water, even though officials have said the water is safe to drink.
When Bill Wood cleaned out his home’s faucet filter, he found sand-like flakes.
“My two grandkids that come over to my house every other week, I’m concerned about their welfare,” Wood told the Bismarck Tribune . “Is it safe for them to take a shower or a bath? I don’t know.”
Bismarck’s director of utility operations, Michelle Klose, said the residue doesn’t present a health risk for people.
The residue is forms of calcium from a water chemical reaction.
Klose described the problem as “solids precipitation,” and said it has been found in at least 64 homes. She noted the issue is most prevalent in newer homes.
Greg Wavra, administrator of the North Dakota Drinking Water Program, said the drinking water meets requirements of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. And calcium buildup, he noted, “isn’t anything new” in water systems.
“When you look at a water tap and you see that white, scaly stuff sometimes, that’s what that is, it’s just that precipitate coming out of solution around those fixtures,” Wavra said.
But complaints have been rolling in from affected homeowners, prompting the city to address the issue first through a letter in May then an informational session earlier this month.
Decreased water pressure has also been an issue residents experienced.
Klose noted that magnesium heating rods may cause the calcium sediments to show up when the water is heated.
The city suggested that homeowners switch to aluminum heating rods and lower the temperature of water heaters to mitigate the problem.
Wood said he won’t replace his plumbing, adding his water heater doesn’t have magnesium.
“We’re trying to pull the right resources together with the homeowners to see if we can try and help them find some solutions,” Klose said.

Ex-North Dakota grain trader signs plea deal in fraud scheme

FARGO (AP) — A former North Dakota grain trader who became involved in the business shortly out of high school has signed a plea agreement on accusations he ran a multimillion dollar fraud scheme, according to federal court documents unsealed Monday.
Authorities say Hunter Hanson, of Leeds, bilked about 60 farmers, elevators and commodity brokers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. The deal calls for Hanson, 22, to plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering and play back about $11.4 million.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission shut down Hanson’s Devils Lake-based businesses last year after it received multiple complaints from farmers and others. The case led state lawmakers, upset that Hanson received a license when he allegedly had no grain marketing training or experience, to transfer grain regulatory authority from the PSC to the state Agriculture Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan O’Konek said in a statement that his office is committed to investigating white collar crimes and Hanson “will be held accountable for his actions.” Hanson faces a total of 40 years in prison on the two counts.
Defense attorney Lucas Wynne did not immediately return a phone message Monday seeking comment.
Court documents show that Hanson contracted with farmers and grain elevators last year to buy crops and either failed to pay them or sent them checks that bounced. He is accused of laundering money between his multiple bank accounts and other businesses. In 2018 Hanson had 11 identified bank accounts associated with his businesses, according to the investigation.
The plea agreement said Hanson would “lull farmers into a false sense of security” by lying about his business in emails, in one case telling a Morden, Manitoba commodities broker that the bank told Hanson he had the wrong account number and he would sent the wire transfer as soon as possible.
Hanson often bought crops from farmers and elevators above the per-bushel market value and then sold them below market value, in order to further the Ponzi scheme. In doing that, Hanson lost more than $131,000 in transactions between McClusky Coop Elevator and Osnabrock Farmers Coop Elevator, documents show. At one point the bank account of Hanson’s Midwest Grain Trading company was in the red by more than $460,000.
A change of plea hearing is scheduled July 30 in Bismarck.

Fargo man accused of shooting vehicle

FARGO (AP) — A Fargo man is accused of shooting at a motorist with whom he had an argument.
The 26-year-old man was arrested late Sunday night on a possible charge of reckless endangerment. KFGO reports the man was taken into custody at his apartment. Police determined the victim’s vehicle was struck by shots fired from a BB gun. The victim wasn’t injured.
Authorities say a BB gun was recovered from the suspect’s apartment.
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Bauer pitches 1st shutout as a pro, Indians beat Tigers 8-0, sweep series

DETROIT (AP) — Trevor Bauer has accomplished a lot of things in his career, but there was one box he wasn’t able to check off until Sunday in Detroit.
Bauer pitched his first shutout as a pro, ending the longest winless streak of his career as the Cleveland Indians beat the Tigers 8-0 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
Bauer (5-6) gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked none. This was his 224th start since being drafted out of UCLA, including 166 in the majors.
“I’m only disappointed that my strikeouts lagged a little,” he said. “If you pitch a complete game with 10 strikeouts and no walks, you’re really getting into rarified air.”
“I have some mechanical stuff that was out of whack, but I was able to compensate and go out there and get those results,” he said.
The 28-year-old righty had been 0-5 in his previous eight starts before dominating the Tigers in his third career complete game.
“Any time you go out there and throw nine innings without giving up a run, you are doing a lot of things right,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He got out of an early jam when it was still 1-0 and then we got him some runs and he settled in.”
Harold Castro hit a leadoff triple in the second, but Bauer stranded him with a popup, a groundball and a strikeout.
“He was a monster out there,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s such a fierce competitor and he went out there and spun the ball against us. When he needed a fastball, he always had it.”
The Tigers have lost 17 of 19 at home.
Gardenhire met with his players after the game, and made it clear he wasn’t happy with their lethargic play on Sunday.
“I’m not happy. I respect the hell out of these guys, and I know the losing is beating them down, but it doesn’t take any effort to run out a pop fly,” he said. “You owe that much to the guys on the bench and the fans in the stands.”
Rookie Oscar Mercado drove in four runs and Jason Kipnis homered and drove in three. The Indians are 18-7 against Detroit since the beginning of last season.

Swastika found at cemetery

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — A swastika has been found in a Jackson County cemetery where World War II soldiers are buried.
Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies has reported the vandalism at the Mount Evergreen Cemetery to the police department. Authorities believe it happened before the weekend, possibly early Friday morning.
City officials say about 120 WWII veterans are buried at the cemetery in Jackson.
The vandalism has upset members of the community.
Yasirah Nelson’s great-grandfather is buried at the cemetery.
She says Nazis invaded his city in Germany, prompting him to flee to the U.S. and join the Army in 1941. She hopes the person responsible for the vandalism will learn more about WWII and its lasting impact.

Port Huron to open sledding hill at park this summer

By JACKIE SMITH
Port Huron Times Herald
AP Member Exchange
PORT HURON— Soon, the winter won’t be the only time local families can go sledding at Palmer Park.
Two artificial ramps for a sledding hill will open up later this month to the public, and those interested will be able to take out tubes to give them a test ride at no cost. Port Huron received an award in 2018 from the KaBOOM! and Ralph C. Wilson Jr. foundations, as part of a “Play Everywhere Challenge” program, to pay for the feature.
City officials, touting it as just the second sledding feature of its kind in the state, recently gave the ramp a test drive. Officials said they still have to finish getting equipment in place, and City Manager James Freed said the city is waiting a couple more weeks because of staffing.
Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Winzer said they’ll celebrate its opening today, the Port Huron Times Herald reported.
“One of our major goals is to provide innovative play in our playgrounds, and we feel that in innovative play, we’re getting kids outside and getting them active,” she said. “Obviously, they have many options on their phones and tablets, so we have to be very creative to get them to want to be outside.”
The KaBOOM! and Wilson foundations have also been involved in other efforts in the city, including the 2018 custom-built playscape at Optimist Park and the ongoing effort to revitalize that park’s skateboarding facilities.
Winzer said they’re also waiting to hear back on two other efforts, but she added it was too soon to divulge what those projects were.
Earlier this month, the city promoted a race down the Palmer Park sledding ramp between Freed and Mayor Pauline Repp, citing a casual challenge after the grant agreement was approved by City Council members last year.
At the time, Winzer said they discovered the sledding ramp idea at a conference and that followed the city’s effort to implement opportunities with free play activities for kids.
She said the only other feature of its kind in the state was at the Detroit Zoo.
The $40,000 grant from KaBOOM! and Ralph C. Wilson funded the 150-foot ramps and accompanying tubes.
The actual sledding feature was slated to cost a little more than $31,000, and Winzer has said the remaining funds would go to pay for any amenities related to it.
She said they haven’t decided yet if that’ll include a smaller ramp for small children.
The sledding ramps are aimed to be used all year round. For now, Winzer said they aren’t charging anyone interested in giving it a run, although they may have to consider a nominal charge down the road.
She said the current ramps can be used by anyone ages 4 and up. A trailer will be located outside to help facilitate its use.

Overflowing Great Lakes pose new threat for endangered bird

By JOHN FLESHER
AP Environmental Writer
GLEN HAVEN — Peering through a spotting scope mounted on a tripod, researcher Alice Van Zoeren notices a piping plover skittering across a sandy, pebble-strewn Lake Michigan beach and hopping into a nest, swapping places with its mate.
“Nest exchange! Did you see it?” Van Zoeren calls to colleagues. Male and female plovers take turns incubating their eggs, and this pair’s flawless changing of the guard is a healthy sign.
Yet trouble is brewing for them — and for other piping plovers, already one of the Great Lakes region’s most endangered species — as water levels surge during a rain-soaked spring that has flooded large areas of the Midwest.
Pools are forming behind several nests along this beach at Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And the big lake — gray and slightly rippling on an overcast, breezy morning — has crept within a few yards of the plovers’ nesting zone.
Their home could be one storm away from destruction. And this is one of the most hospitable spots for the plump, sparrow-sized shorebirds. Conditions are worse in some places.
The Great Lakes are reaching some of their highest levels since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began keeping records 101 years ago. Streets, businesses and houses have flooded.
Many beaches are shrinking or submerged. For tourist-oriented businesses and waterfront homeowners accustomed to wide expanses of sand, that’s a worrisome development.
For piping plovers, it’s a mortal threat. Squeezed out of familiar turf, they move closer to places with trees and underbrush, where predators lurk, or even flee to urban areas. A pair recently took up residence on one of Chicago’s busiest Lake Michigan beaches.
“The high water levels really put them in danger more than most other species because their habitat has been greatly diminished,” said Vince Cavalieri, piping plover coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some nests on the Canadian side of the lakes have been swept away, he said.
The Great Lakes generally rise with the snowmelt and rainstorms of spring and dip during later dry spells. Those minor fluctuations happen within larger high and low periods that can last years.
But some scientists believe climate change is causing more frequent and intense shifts. Lakes Huron and Michigan hit record low levels in 2013 amid a lengthy slump.
An abrupt turnaround followed. Bitter winters froze lake surfaces and limited evaporation, while snowfall and spring downpours got heavier.
As parts of the nation’s midsection flooded this year, the lakes filled to the brim.
University of Michigan hydrologist Drew Gronewold and climate scientist Richard Rood concluded in a recent article that “rapid transitions between extreme high and low water levels in the Great Lakes represent the ‘new normal.’”
If so, the piping plovers’ situation could become more precarious. Their numbers already have plummeted with shoreline development. The federal government lists them as threatened in the northern Great Plains and along the Atlantic coast, where rising sea levels imperil their wintering grounds. But the Great Lakes population is endangered, hitting a low of just 12 breeding pairs in 1990.
Recovery projects are helping; 76 pairs were counted in 2017 and 67 last year. This year’s census is still underway but expected to yield similar results, said Cavalieri of the fish and wildlife service.
The next few weeks are crucial. Most of this year’s eggs will hatch by the end of June. If additional storms don’t wash away nests, a new batch of youngsters may survive.
But long-term prospects will be dicey until the waters recede.
Piping plovers are a migratory species, breeding during summers in the northern U.S. and Canada and heading south to winter in coastal areas from the Carolinas to Texas.
Once settled in, they spend lots of time on the ground — building nests, guarding eggs, darting about in search of food such as insects, spiders and crustaceans. Their plumage, a mixture of light browns and grays with a black collar, provides camouflage.
At Sleeping Bear Dunes, home to nearly half of the Great Lakes plovers during spring and summer, breeding grounds are roped off and posted with keep-out signs.
Nests are topped with cage-like enclosures that bar entry to predatory merlins, gulls, raccoons, foxes and coyotes but leave enough space between the wires for the plovers to enter and exit.
Unleashed dogs are the biggest problem, said Erica Adams, a National Park Service plover specialist. They’ve been known to spook the birds so badly that they abandon their nests.
In addition to serving as security guards, professionals and volunteers can perform emergency rescues if flooding is imminent.
Van Zoeren, a research assistant with a University of Minnesota team that bands plovers, recently removed eggs from a nearby island as a storm rolled in. They were stored in an incubation machine at the Sleeping Bear Dunes headquarters and returned to the nest after the lake calmed.
Even if the birds aren’t flooded out, the rising waters make their lives harder.
“It’s forcing them to use the same areas as birds they might not be used to neighboring with,” Adams said. “That increases competition, especially for the chicks that hatch this year. If they don’t have enough food, enough space to forage, they won’t have enough calories to make the journey down south.”

Follow John Flesher on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/johnflesher

Saying “no” and other work productivity hacks

In today’s nonstop, hectic work culture, the lines between our professional and personal lives are blurred and intertwined like never before, which often means that we’re always operating at breakneck speeds to complete everything we need to get done in a given day. No one likes to end a day with the sense that they […]

In today’s nonstop, hectic work culture, the lines between our professional and personal lives are blurred and intertwined like never before, which often means that we’re always operating at breakneck speeds to complete everything we need to get done in a given day. No one likes to end a day with the sense that they didn’t add enough checkmarks to their to-do lists. And since no one has figured out a way to add more hours to the day yet, we have to compensate by maximizing our work productivity.

Particularly at work, staying on top of responsibilities is mission-critical for a variety of reasons—not only does failing to handle assigned tasks on schedule reflect poorly on you, but it can also have long-term consequences on your career and future opportunities. Delayed projects can adversely affect the workflow of your colleagues. Plus, the negative impact of falling behind at work can include added stress, anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, and a host of other unwanted mental and physical effects.

There are ways to make what may feel like a maelstrom of daily tasks a little more manageable. Consider utilizing the following foolproof work hacks to help you stay on top of things.

First, get organized

Don’t expect to be able to allocate your time, energy, and resources to tackling your daily to-dos effectively if you don’t have a good handle on them and what you need to get done each day. You’ll have to get organized.

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to organizing—use whatever tools work best for you for keeping track of and staying on top of everything you need to get done. There are a wealth of organization tools available to check out—including apps, software, and good old-fashioned notebooks and paper. Feel free to use the trial and error approach until you devise a system that works for you, but don’t fall prey to thinking that you can juggle it all in your head—that’s a recipe for disaster. Consider the time you spend building a good organization system a real investment in your productivity—one that will surely pay off in the long run.

Take the time to prioritize

Are you the sort of person who looks at a long list of tasks and, overwhelmed by its sheer size, chooses to turn away and put it all off for later instead? Breathe—and consider a better approach.

When faced with an imposing to-do list that threatens to decimate your productivity, fight back by taking a few minutes to prioritize every item. If you’re unsure of what should come first and what can wait, it’s fine to ask your manager—you are taking proactive steps to get your work done in the most helpful way possible. Once you’ve prioritized, you can narrow your focus on the most important tasks first. As your list shrinks, you’ll have the bandwidth to tackle those less critical tasks later, with a renewed sense that everything is going to be okay.

Break down complex tasks

We all know what it’s like to face a complex, multi-faceted task with multiple sub-tasks and interconnected dependencies—it can often seem downright impossible to complete. A simple approach to keep these toughest to-dos from halting your work productivity is to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Tackle them methodically, one by one. Breaking a big to-do into smaller to-dos has the net effect of chipping away at previously insurmountable projects and keeping your work productivity high.

Use the secret weapons

When it comes to being productive, you have two “secret weapons” at your disposal that are often underused, but can make a big difference—getting help and saying no.

When faced with an enormous task, one where it makes more sense to utilize the capabilities and energy of other folks, don’t hesitate to ask for help. People often view asking for help as a sign of weakness, but in fact, it’s the opposite. Asking a team member for assistance is a strategic use of available resources to maximize work productivity and complete a task. After all, do generals go off into battle alone, or do they develop a plan to use the troops and resources at their disposal?

Another underused strategy for staying productive is to avoid taking on more than you can handle at any given time by simply saying “no.” True, this can be misused and abused in the face of tasks you simply don’t want to do, but when used responsibly and appropriately, saying that you simply don’t have the time to tackle a task at the moment can help keep you focused, on track, and at the peak of your productive potential. Be polite, and make sure you back up your “no” with reasons why focusing on the unwanted task will make you less productive for other things on your list.

If you’re eager to take your work productivity to the next level, then consider using the strategies and advice presented here to help you get moving in the right direction. Good luck!

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How to answer the toughest behavioral interview questions

When you’re preparing for an interview, chances are you’ve got the usual stuff down: your resume, talking points, stellar eye contact, and small talk. Those are easy—you can practice them in the mirror or with a trusted interview prep buddy. But what happens when you get a bit of a curveball, like difficult behavioral interview […]

When you’re preparing for an interview, chances are you’ve got the usual stuff down: your resume, talking points, stellar eye contact, and small talk. Those are easy—you can practice them in the mirror or with a trusted interview prep buddy. But what happens when you get a bit of a curveball, like difficult behavioral interview questions that you weren’t expecting?

Behavioral interview questions (“how would you handle…”, “tell me about a time when…”, etc.) are pretty common in interviews these days. Interviewers like them because they can tell you a lot about how a person thinks and reacts on their feet. They’re also more conversational, outside of the rote resume points and talking about the job. But sometimes they can be extra challenging—especially when you’re asked for a personal opinion or way of doing things.

Some examples of extra-challenging behavioral interview questions are things like, “How do you like to be managed?” or “What kind of management style do you respond to?” These aren’t so out of left field, but for most of us, questions like that tend to fall outside of our interview comfort zone of talking about our experience and accomplishments. It’s also tough because this kind of question speaks to interpersonal dynamics—there’s no clear right answer, but you’ll be judged nonetheless. So what’s the best way to tackle them?

Think about past experiences, and gather examples

When you’re asked about your professional preferences, you need to be able to think of examples to back them up—just like any other aspect of an interview. If you’re asked what kind of management style you like best, you can’t just say, “The kind that lets me do my job most efficiently” and be done with it. Take a moment to reflect on some of your best and worst managers, and use real-life examples that show why you feel the way you do.

Always keep the tone positive and professional

Even if you’re asked an opinion question, this is not the time to air grievances. If you want to say something along the lines of, “I can’t stand a micromanager because I don’t work well with someone breathing down my neck like my last boss,” think of ways to spin it positively and productively. For example, you could go with, “My last manager was very hands-on, but I find that I am able to work faster and smarter when I’m given space, with occasional check-ins.”

Do your homework ahead of time

You can’t anticipate exactly what kind of behavioral
interview questions you’ll get, but you can
do some due diligence on the company and its culture ahead of time. Check the
company website for the official line, but also look at sites like Glassdoor to
see what employees say about the culture at the company. Once you have a sense
of the kind of general management style and priorities, you can tailor your
answers to align with that style.

Take a minute to organize what you want to say

This is a good rule of thumb for any interview question. You don’t want there to be an awkwardly long silence, but starting to ramble without planning what you want to say is not helpful either. It’s perfectly okay to say something like, “That’s a great question,” and take a few beats to consider what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Your answer doesn’t need to be overly complicated or detailed. You just need the what (I like a manager who…) + the why (I get better results when I have the confidence and agency to manage projects on my own…). If the interviewer wants more information, he or she will ask follow-up questions. You really don’t need to launch into a detailed soliloquy.

The trick with any behavioral interview question is to take the time to consider the question thoughtfully and organize your thoughts a bit in your head. Because there’s usually no right or wrong answer, the interviewer will be watching to see how you answer. As long as you show confidence and thoughtfulness, that will go a long way.

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No job after graduation day? Try these 6 tips

As my senior year of college started to wind down, I saw many of my friends scooping up job offers that would match their fancy new engineering and business degrees. Things were a little different for me, as an English major. There were no tech or finance companies out there picking up recent grads who […]

As my senior year of college started to wind down, I saw many of my friends scooping up job offers that would match their fancy new engineering and business degrees. Things were a little different for me, as an English major. There were no tech or finance companies out there picking up recent grads who could parse Shakespeare like nobody’s business. I was still figuring out what my post-college career would look like, and as a result, I found myself with no job after graduation. If you find yourself in a similar boat, don’t despair! These strategies can help you get over that “college is over and I don’t have a job and holy moly what am I doing to do?” panic.

1. Don’t freak out

Seriously. You’re graduating with an education and all sorts of skills. You may not have a job now, but that won’t be a permanent state—I promise you. When you’re cranking out application after application and not getting far, it can make you question everything. No job after graduation doesn’t mean you’re not capable of success. Through the stress, always remember that you have already accomplished a lot.

2. Be realistic about your finances

For many recent grads, factors like housing costs and basic life bills come into play in a way they hadn’t during school. Now is the time to take a cold, hard look at your living expenses, both now and what you expect them to be in the near future. Being responsible may mean moving back in with your parents or other relatives, finding an apartment with six other roommates, or other cost-cutting measures.

If you’re living way above your means while you look for a job (read: putting it all on credit cards), that’s a reality that will come crashing down on you hard at some point when the bills come due, and could potentially set you back financially for years to come. Put yourself on a budget and do everything you can to save money while you look for work.

3. Build your network

Right after college is hands-down one of the best times to start cultivating your network. You’re still in touch with professors and peers from school, and it’s much easier to keep cultivating relationships than to let them lapse and then awkwardly try again later. Plus, just about every school has resources devoted to helping students (or recent grads) find jobs through networking events, job fairs, alumni networks, mentoring programs, etc. Take advantage of whatever your school has to offer because you never know when an opportunity can come in through someone in your network.

4. Broaden your job hunt

If you’re approaching your job search with very narrow parameters (like a handful of companies you’re willing to work for, only one city, or a very specific job title), you’re limiting your opportunities. Think hard about whether your job requirements need to be so strict. You may not be willing to pick up and move across the country, but what if you expand your search into the next county? Or how about searching for skill keywords instead of specific job titles?

One common mistake recent grad job seekers make is bypassing some of the most basic entry level positions because they feel overqualified due to their coursework. In reality, entry-level jobs are growth opportunities and a chance to get your foot in the door. By loosening up your expectations, you might find that you’re finding more potential positions.

5. Build your skills

As a recent grad, your resume might be a little thin. The best way to counteract that is with some skill-building. Do a little research about the kinds of skills, certifications, etc., that can get you to the next level in your chosen career path. The time you have now, while you send out applications and hope for interviews, can be used to take online classes or do extra reading to make your skill base broader and deeper. Learn how to code. Develop your Excel wizardry. Take a public speaking class. It may be more difficult to make time for these kinds of activities later on, so take advantage of the time you have now.

6. Stay busy

Volunteering, temp jobs, working on hobbies, part-time jobs in fields you ordinarily wouldn’t consider as a career…these are all ways to keep busy while you look for your “real deal” job. And in the case of a part-time or temp job, it’s a way to earn money while you look for a more stable, career-path job.

No job after graduation can feel frustrating but look at it as an opportunity to put time and care into every aspect of your life. Once you do get a job, you may find yourself longing a bit for the days when you had time and flexibility on your side. So relax, keep yourself busy, and stay optimistic!

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