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Daily Glean: Win a date with Obama: illegal in Minnesota?

In Tuesday’s local news roundup, an Obama spiff to campaign donors may run afoul of Minnesota gambling regs. Also, is Norm Coleman wrong about Chinese drilling? And the State Fair is looking out for your wallet and perhaps your arteries.

Is Barack Obama’s website conducting an outlawed-in-Minnesota raffle? The Minnesota Gambling Control Board thinks giving new donors a chance to meet Obama backstage in Denver is worth investigating. The Strib’s Randy Furst says only nonprofits, not campaigns, can conduct raffles in Minnesota. The raffle standard: it costs money to participate, it’s based on luck of the draw, and something of value is at stake. Obama’s campaign sounds like it will argue the winners won’t be random.

In June, more than 100 fugitives were nailed in Minnesota, thanks to a U.S. marshal-led sweep. The state-fed-city effort occurs annually; authorities found 112 of the 350 to 400 people on their list, the Strib’s James Walsh reports. Fox9’s Beth McDonough offers video of the busts. Crimes included five sex offenses, seven armed robberies, 29 assaults and 19 “narcotics-related offenses.” No shots were fired. Unasked question: why don’t they do this more often?

Minnesota Independent’s Paul Schmelzer writes that Norm Coleman is trafficking in a debunked claim about Chinese drilling off the Cuban coast. says China negotiated an offshore Cuban lease, but may only explore, not drill. No Chinese companies are involved. Coleman’s quote is hedgier than Dick Cheney’s original drilling falsehood but still wrong: “The Chinese are able to begin operating 90 miles off shore by working with the Cubans.” Hey, major media — gonna cover this?

Following up on recent school test scores, the Strib’s Terry Collins interviews a “weary … sad” Minneapolis official unable to announce significant progress. The city district still has a whopping achievement gap, and improved only a single point on reading and math tests. Some high-poverty school results fell significantly, even though different tests showed progress. State results don’t track changes in a school’s population, but Minneapolis just isn’t getting it done for kids from troubled families.

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Some knothead driving a too-tall truck got stuck in the Stillwater Lift Bridge, closing it for five-plus hours during the evening commute. Fox9’s Mike Durkin and Rob Olson say 11 beams were damaged, but the bridge still reopened. Charges are possible against Lampert’s, a building/lumber company, and its 70-year-old driver, the PiPress’s Mary Divine and Frederick Melo report.

The Strib’s Nick Coleman mocks an interesting detail from the Legislature’s 35W report: instead of studying the doomed bridge’s deck with ground-penetrating radar, MnDOT saved $40,000 by dragging a chain across the surface and … listening. The “highly subjective” approach may have missed the redecking imperative, which could have staved off later resurfacing-supplies overweighting. (Disclaimer: My wife works for the Legislature’s law firm but didn’t work on the report.)

We’ll see: The State Fair is asking vendors not to increase prices this year, WCCO’s Esme Murphy says. Fair officials argue for “family pricing” and even smaller portions (some ancillary health benefits there). One vendor is receptive, but notes food prices have gone up since 2007. Maybe existing profit margins are big enough to take a hit. We assume the fair won’t raise vendor fees and admission prices, either.

Not just for cops anymore: Canterbury Park and Valleyfair are using portable breathalyzers on customers, Fox9’s Bill Keller reports. At the pony palace, the test is offered as a courtesy, and management will call you a cab. If you insist on driving, they’ll call the police. The move protects business licenses, and also area safety.

A Lakeville man says local cops violated his rights by marching into his house at 3 a.m., banging on his walls and shining a flashlight on his face. Why? The police were leaving reminders on open or unlocked doors, windows and garage doors. Why did they overstep boundaries? According to the PiPress’s Maricella Miranda, the homeowner’s “garage door was open, the TV was on, keys to his truck were in the ignition and the door to his house was ajar.” The ACLU says that’s no excuse.

WCCO’s Lisa Kiava says compared with downtown Minneapolis parking, higher-fare bus service still makes economic sense for commuters … unless you don’t make much and are already transit-dependent. Metro Transit express round-trips could go from $5.50 to $7 if a second price increase is instituted next year.

If you’ve ditched your car for a bike, you’ve got company; there are 50 percent more cyclists on the Lake Street bridge than last year, the Strib’s Libby Nelson reports. Other numbers: A Metro Transit pedal-commute program expected to have 700 enrollees by next January already has 1,100. Downtown bike stores are booming, but some suburban stores say the commute’s too long to pump them up much.

The Strib’s Steve Brandt looks at the noncontroversial Fifth Congressional District race, which seems like a walkover for incumbent Keith Ellison. The controversies of 2006 are largely buried as the Democrat has moderated rhetoric; even an Independence Party stalwart says, “I don’t think he has screwed up.” You mean these Muslim dudes aren’t a threat to the Republic after all?

On the airwaves: Third District Democratic Congressional candidate Ashwin Madia gets face time on MTV. It’s a great piece for the candidate (Hat tip: PiPress’s Dennis Lien).

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More airwaves: On the Senate side, AP notes that the Sopranos’ Johnny Sack backs Norm Coleman and blasts Al Franken in a business-sponsored TV ad. Franken would guarantee union representation if a majority of workers sign not-always-private “card checks.” Coleman says it should be secret ballot, but Franken says Norm is carrying water for businesses that have abused organizing rules, and the legislation ensures good-faith bargaining.

The other day, the Strib broke the news that Gov. Pawlenty archives next to nothing about official decisions, a nice if unstatesmanlike hedge against vice-presidential scrutiny. In the paper’s Whistleblower blog, James Shiffer follows up by astutely contrasting actual memos archived by Pawlenty and Gov. Ventura, who was unafraid to preserve politically controversial moments.

Given all the heat over the proposed Big Stone II coal-fired power plant, H.J. Cummins checks in with a nice look at its backer, Otter Tail Power. Turns out it isn’t much of a power company at all — 74 percent of its revenue comes from non-electricity: medical equipment, ironworks, plastics. Some competitors in those industries think the utility is using regulated profits to unfairly compete, and there are accounting accusations only now being checked by state regulators.

Curious what the crosses burgled from Archbishop John Nienstedt look like? Photos here, courtesy of the PiPress.

Nort spews: Dice-K silences the Twins’ bats as Minnesota loses 1-0 to the Red Sox in Boston. The Twins are now one-and-a-half back of the White Sox.