BRIEFS DFL rejects earlier precinct caucuses

WILLMAR, Minn. -- Members of Minnesota's DFL State Central Committee have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to hold their precinct caucuses two weeks earlier than scheduled next year.

Opponents of the earlier caucus argued at the committee's meeting Saturday in Willmar that the change would confuse people and reduce turnout.

Proponents had said the earlier caucus date would make Minnesota a more attractive stop for candidates competing for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The vote means precinct caucuses, the first step in a process that culminates in selecting delegates to the parties' national conventions, will be held March 2 for all parties as prescribed in state law.

Moving the DFL caucuses to Feb. 17 would have made Minnesota the only state besides Wisconsin holding primaries or caucuses on that night. Twelve states -- including California, Texas, New York and Ohio -- are holding primaries and caucuses March 2.


Hubert "Buck" Humphrey IV said that when DFLers in 2000 experimented with holding caucuses on a weekend, turnout declined to about 11,000, from 26,000 in 1996.

"I think this is good," Humphrey said. "We see much more participation when the state is involved in publicizing the caucuses and when everybody in Minnesota is aware that every party is involved on the same day."

Bancroft, Arneson to traverse Arctic Ocean

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota polar adventurer Ann Bancroft and expedition partner Liv Arnesen have scheduled a 100-day, 1,240-mile hike across the Arctic Ocean with a start date in February 2005.

In a trip completed in February 2001, Bancroft and Arnesen traveled alone for 97 days across Antarctica, pulling 250-pound sleds 1,700 miles across mountain glaciers and a vast polar plateau.

This time, the dangers will include colder weather, open water and polar bears. Bancroft calls the expedition -- perhaps the last big journey that Bancroft, 48, and Arnesen, 50, will do -- the "ultimate trip of a lifetime" and one that is more dangerous than their Antarctica trek.

"The Arctic is in both of our back yards; north is our closest direction," she said, referring to her Minnesota home and Arnesen's native Norway. "It just feels like the right time to take on such an enormous challenge."

Such a trip is also what she and Arnesen do for a living. Both are former schoolteachers who have turned polar exploration into a lucrative classroom.


In 1998, they formed a for-profit company that sells corporate sponsorships of their adventures, which reach an international audience -- including as many as 3 million schoolchildren -- that follows their trips on the Internet.

They started a 10-city tour on Monday to promote their new book about the Antarctica trip.

The Arctic traverse is scheduled to begin from a remote Russian island in 24-hour twilight and air temperatures approaching 75 degrees below zero in late February 2005. It will reach the North Pole as spring arrives in the Arctic, and it is scheduled to end in June at Canada's Ellesmere Island. They will carry firearms to protect against the polar bears and might develop a special wet suit so they can swim across short stretches of open ocean.

St. Paul couple gives $5 million to hospital

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A St. Paul couple has donated $5 million to United Hospital's John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute, where doctors are working to improve the diagnosis and treatment of strokes, epilepsy and Alzheimer's Disease.

Larry Bentson, 82, and his wife, Nancy, 79, are giving the money to set up an endowed chair for the center and to fund its research. Larry Bentson didn't want to disclose the amount, but friends and associates said it is $5 million.

The announcement came Saturday night as the Bentsons were honored with a Service to Humanity Award at a fund-raising dinner for the St. Paul hospital.

Bentson runs Midcontinent Media Co., which builds and operates cable television systems, radio and television stations and other communication operations in Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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