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Daily Glean: The attack of the low-sloping foreheads

By David Brauer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 In Wednesday’s local news roundup, double homicide suspects are charged and the senselessness deepens. Also, Northwest Airlines literally decimates its fall flight schedule.

Two local teens were charged in Monday’s horrific double murder of a mom and her 10-year-old son. The Strib’s Rochelle Olson and David Chanen report that the alleged gang members finked on each other. Prosecutors claim the pair knew the woman’s 15-year-old son, jailed in Chicago at the time; MPR’s Mark Zdechlik says the duo were allegedly welcomed into the home to watch TV and wound up stabbing the mom 100 times and crushing the boy’s skull with the tube.

Northwest Airlines will ax nearly a tenth of its fall flight schedule; it had planned a 5 percent cut, the PiPress’ John Welbes writes. Unspecified job losses will follow, beginning with buyouts. MPR’s Bob Collins provides NWA CEO Doug Steenland’s memo — yes, the cuts are another reason to merge with Delta! The airline is parking its least efficient —and noisiest? — planes. Here under the flight path, we’re grasping for silver linings.

Related: KSTP reports that starting today, Sun Country won’t let you pay cash for cabin purchases; you’ll have to use a Visa or Mastercard.

It’s a different journalistic era, so the Strib hasn’t sent busloads of reporters to Iowa just because there’s a flood in the next state. In fact, several days after the washout, Jon Tevlin is the Strib’s first on-scene scribe Still, he crafts a Minnesota-focused flood tale — Minneapolis cops on the lookout for Cedar Rapids thieves, Albert Lea meal deliverers, a Bemidji orchestra conductor home to help.

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Tempting fate, KSTP offers a good breakdown on why a St. Paul flood is unlikely. Levees can hold back twice the highest water levels ever recorded. The record, by the way, was set in 1965.

The Strib’s Pam Lowagie profiles a Minneapolis couple who took advantage of California’s new gay marriage law. Kelly Krebs and Tom Clemens were “among the first” to wed, in San Francisco. They aren’t planning legal action in Minnesota, which won’t recognize their union. California is the first state that allows non-resident gay and lesbians to marry. The couple, university administrators, met 10 years ago.

Al Franken seemed to score some Senate race points Tuesday. In the Strib, he was able to say he was “astounded” Norm Coleman still thinks going to war in Iraq is the right decision. Reminding voters of that event is a net win for the DFLer. Franken also asserted civilians, not generals, should decide whether to stay in Iraq.

Who says there’s no good news? Minnesota’s reported meth labs have declined 87 percent since 2004, according to a draft report cited by the Strib’s Joy Powell. Recent restrictions put the raw materials off limits; Minnesota’s drop is greater than the nation’s 70 percent decline. The bad news: Meth is still coming in, readymade from Mexico. But Dakota County lab busts are down from 28 in 2004 to one this year, drastically reducing property damage.

Also seemingly good: The Strib headlines “No vapor hazards in St. Louis Park” — but it’s a bit misleading. Soil tests found no “hazardous conditions or injuries” in 268 homes and businesses near volatile organic compound contamination. However, 53 properties had readings “exceeding [state] screening levels,” the Strib’s Herón Márquez Estrada reports. That means no “imminent danger,” but more investigation is needed.

Fascinating story from Finance & Commerce’s Betsy Sundquist: Nearly half the folks who take the state’s manicurist test fail. This does not necessarily mean your cuticles are endangered. The test is only offered in English, but many potential nail polishers don’t speak the language. Nationally, 43 percent of manicurists are Vietnamese. Other states offer the tests in multiple languages, but our bureaucrats don’t seem willing.

While new Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson argues in the Strib for less-contested judicial elections, the PiPress’s Emily Gurnon says pro-election activist Greg Wersal was in district court arguing for looser judicial fundraising rules. Wersal doesn’t like Minnesota’s law preventing judicial candidates from personally soliciting contributions. Last time Wersal fought the state to the U.S. Supreme Court, he won.

Back to Magnuson: In a wide-ranging Strib q-and-a, the new chief favors “retention elections,” where the electorate can vote out judges, but only the governor can appoint. Magnuson says Wisconsin’s wide-open races are what Minnesotans should avoid: “Special-interest groups, attack ads, one-issue campaign themes — really, really brutal.” He also favors an evaluation board to go with the current judicial selection panel.

Best Buy’s sales are up, profits are down and most analysts are happy. Such are the lowered expectations of a near-recessionary economy. Government stimulus checks helped first-quarter numbers, Finance & Commerce’s Kendall Anderson writes. Flat-screen TVs, gaming consoles and “foreign currency exchange fluctuations” floated the bottom line. The PiPress’s Gita Sitaramiah says Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson termed one downbeat analyst’s report “irrational.”

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The PiPress’s Megan Boldt reports that 89.5 percent of Minnesota high school freshmen passed a writing graduation test. That’s impressive, considering diplomas are three years away. However, the pass rate is down a percentage point from last year’s inaugural effort. The white-black achievement gap: 94 percent-69 percent. St. Paul’s pass rate: 73 percent. Minneapolis dropped from 73 percent to 67 percent, the Strib’s Norman Draper notes.

MPR’s Sea Stachura says Minnesota River farmers are major contributors to the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone. Hoping to reduce the oxygen-starved zone by a third, feds want farmers to cut back on phosphorus use. However, farm advocates say fertilizer prices are already making that happen. Stachura notes a rebound is tough; contamination is rising and the current flood will make it worse. Other helpful approaches: more wetlands and less urban runoff.

Hennepin County will spend $1.2 million to demolish just 50 boarded homes, MPR’s Brandt Williams reports. It will slap $17,500 assessments on the properties to recoup 70 percent of the costs, even if that makes tough-neighborhood sites tougher to sell. North Minneapolis Council Member Don Samuels says a vacant lot is better than some board-ups, which attract squatters and vandals.

A second protester group is suing St. Paul over a GOP Convention route. KARE’s Scott Goldberg says the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign can’t even get a permit to march; it wants to go on the convention’s second day. For locals with long memories, the group is lead by Cheri Honkala, who organized a ton of poor people’s protests here in the ’80s before moving to Philadelphia.

Since we’ve had remorseless Pawlenty-for-VP speculation, the Strib’s Steve Brandt takes license to game plan Minneapolis City Hall, should Mayor R.T. Rybak move to the Obama administration. Relatively conservative DFL Council President Barb Johnson would become an unlikely mayor — but only if Rybak resigned after March ’09. He’d almost certainly leave before that, forcing a special election for a less-than-one-year term. Several council members would tear each others’ eyes out to get the job.

KARE’s Boyd Huppert says the Golden Valley Fire Department is advertising for on-call firefighters … on the sides of its trucks. Statewide, there’s a shortage of fill-ins, who make $8 an hour in the FDGV.

WCCO offers a fun report on a teen yo-yo champ. Amazing walk-the-dogs ensue.

MPR provides a classic good-news-is-really-bad-news headline: “South Dakota drought ends, West Nile season begins.”

Nort spews: Congrats to KG — I wished like hell you’d done it here, but thanks for screaming ” ‘Sota!” right after you became a world champ. Special Soar Winner here. The Twins beat the Nationals 2-1 on Justin Morneau’s homer. D.C. Sore Loser here.