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Daily Glean: It’s back to the ’70s — clever gas thieves, vinyl records

Everyone goes big with UnitedHealth Group shedding 4,000 jobs on the same day it settled an options-backdating suit for nearly $900 million. The Minnetonka-based company will eject 6 percent of its workers; the Strib’s Chen May Yee says its unclear how many of Minnesota’s 10,000 jobs will be cut. Former CEO Bill McGuire and top lawyer David Lubben are still on the hook in a separate suit.

More United Health: Yee notes that McGuire and other execs have “given back” options that roughly equal yesterday’s payout; the PiPress’ Julie Forster notes the total is “more than double” the combined payout of 11 other corporate backdating settlements. On the operating side, UnitedHealth margins were cut by rising medical costs, a failed cost-containment plan for chronically ill seniors and canceled pharma-research projects. Go-go growth seems a thing of the past.

It was Energy Day in the U.S. Senate race. The PiPress’ Rachel Stassen-Berger has Norm Coleman predicting that expanded offshore drilling will curb short-term speculation, even though new supplies would be a decade away. Al Franken opposes new leases and says oil companies should explore existing watery holes. He also favors shifting oil-industry tax breaks to alternative energy, the Strib’s Kevin Duchschere notes. Polls may favor Coleman’s position. Both men support nukes and oppose Alaskan drilling.

The Strib’s Jim Adams writes that more drive-off gas thieves are foiling security cams with stolen license plates. In Chaska — Chaska! — cops advise folks to park in garages “or under bright lights” to avoid plate thieves. We got gas-cap locks in the ’70s — can plate locks be far behind? Station owners will inevitably require more gas pre-payment.

Bowing to their lawyers’ skepticism and perhaps political fears, the St. Paul City Council won’t put instant-runoff voting on the ballot this fall, the PiPress’s Jason Hoppin reports. Despite a successful petition drive, the council tabled the IRV initiative until a Minneapolis case is settled. The Strib’s Chris Havens says IRV backers might sue, but would getting on the ballot be a pyrrhic victory given this year’s public static? (Disclaimer: I pushed for IRV in Minneapolis.)

On the eve of the Fourth, MPR’s Tom Robertson reports state park camping visits are down 10 percent so far this year. Officials blame the cool weather (indoor lodging around Itasca was up 70 percent in May) and high gas prices, but expect full facilities this weekend. Typically, 15 percent of state park visitors are from out of state, but that will probably drop.

Inevitable: Struggling restaurateur David Fhima filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy; his establishments once lorded over the ‘burbs and St. Paul, with a grand downtown Minneapolis spot on the drawing board. He’s now $2 million in hock, the Strib’s Steve Alexander reports. He owes Grant, Minn.’s David Wicker $1 million. Only two restaurants, Zahtar and LoTo, remain in business.

An $850 million, 400-megawatt wind farm is being proposed near the Iowa border, the Winona Daily News’s Amber Dulek writes. That’s a pretty big output; for comparison, the Prairie Island nuke plant generates 1,100 megawatts. The Fillmore County plan would feature 266 turbines on 466 acres. Construction could start in 2009 if locals sign off.

Embarrassing: Turns out historic rings and crosses believed stolen from Archbishop John Nienstedt’s St. Paul home were in a cardboard box in a bedroom closet. At MPR’s News Cut, Bob Collins mocks a church staffer’s statement that he found the stuff after a “final” sweep. Apparently the Columbo-like cleric wondered how thieves could carry a 75-pound safe and jewelry box down from the roof. The safe and Nienstedt’s personal jewelry are still gone.

KSTP’s Glen Barbour says Minneapolis cops are cracking down on bicycle parking — including several spots you might think are fine: parking meters, streetlights and the less reasonable trees and handicapped signs. Technically, you can only park in designated racks and some street signs. Some rack owners have complained about abandoned bikes, so police post warning tags and later take those two-wheelers away, too.

MPR’s Tom Scheck notes that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will come to the Twin Cities July 25. The multibillionaire ex-Democrat, ex-Republican and current vice-presidential possibility will raise money for Minnesota’s Independence Party.

Holy crap: Best Buy will start selling vinyl records at an undisclosed number of test stores, the Strib’s Jackie Crosby writes. Vinyl sounds “warm,” and covers look “fun,” one aficionado gushes. Rap and hip-hop deserve a lot of the credit. The local indies who kept the format alive say they’ll survive the mainstream onslaught. Electric Fetus has tripled its vinyl section in 18 months.

Cities 97 DJ Brian Turner and event promoter Kevin Campbell bought Taste of Minnesota, the PiPress’s Dave Orrick notes. They’ll take over for next year’s festival. No sale price leaks.

Attention, Michele Bachmann! Fox9’s Christine Clayburg reports that a new light bulb using less than half a fluorescent’s energy is now available in the Twin Cities. Good news: The LED bulb allegedly lasts 43 years, has no mercury, and is indestructible. Bad news: It costs 50 bucks and the light looks spotlight-y. One bummer: I couldn’t figure out from the report exactly where in town to find these things.

Bzzt! A Maple Grove bike bridge had to be closed after it shocked bikers, KARE’s Dana Thiede reports. Turns out the bridge wasn’t grounded properly, officials say. Why does a bridge have to be grounded? Nearby power lines are really big and really close. So grounding means the substantial electric field will still be emitted; you just won’t feel it as much? Doesn’t sound healthy.

Nort spews: How ’bout those Twins rookie starters? Nick Blackburn dominates as Minnesota beats Detroit 7-0; it’s the Tigers’ first series loss in nearly a month. Sore Losers here and here.

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