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Daily Glean: AP analysis gives Franken recount lead

“Obvious” ballot advantages wipe out Norm’s current lead. Also: the saddest mall of them all.

Is Al Franken the recount favorite now? His campaign announced he would cut challenges to under 500; Coleman opted for under 1,000. The Strib’s Héron Márquez Estrada says Franken might be at a disadvantage, but the Democrat’s campaign points to an AP analysis that shows their guy will net 200 “easily assigned” votes, wiping out Coleman’s current 192-vote advantage. Franken also has 100 more votes in the rest of the pool and should gain more when uncounted absentees are included.

Although the Strib’s “Election is all FUBAR” meme was overwrought this weekend, Monday finds a worthy target: an absentee voting system that so far has rejected 13 percent of votes improperly. Gov. Pawlenty vetoed a bill last year that would’ve eliminated the requirement that absentee voters give a reason; suppression by complexity?

Give Chris Coleman credit for cojones; the St. Paul mayor mailed Barack Obama a request for $186 million in capital improvements, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick reports. The wish list includes light rail, bridges, tunnels and “refurbishing park monuments many people probably never have heard of.” Orrick says the stunt is tied to a possible $100 billion stimulus plan “circulating around statehouses.” It would bring Minnesota $777 million in ’09 and $909 million in ’10.

Related: Forum Communications’ Don Davis says there may not be a bonding bill this year because the state is over its self-imposed 3 percent limit.

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We may have more immediate needs anyway: The New York Times notes Minnesota’s unemployment-compensation fund will run out in four to eight months, below the one-year reserve recommended. That’s scary in what still seems like the recession’s early months. Some states are levying a “solvency tax” on remaining employers, while begging the feds for help.

The Minnesota Independent’s James Sanna says House DFL leaders are rejecting DFL Sen. Larry Pogemiller’s call for a 1.6 percent across-the-board spending cut because education can’t take that hit. But Pogey in essence says education is the No. 1 expenditure and can’t be avoided.

Just in time for Christmas, the Strib’s Susan Feyder looks at the saddest mall of them all, Brookdale. After a brief period of new ownership, it’s gone back to its lenders. The mall was at least 20 percent unoccupied going into the latest round of closures, and a potential Wal-Mart pullout has accelerated the newest decline. Brooklyn Center, which had 87 percent of the average metro per-capita income in 1990, now stands at 64 percent, and is analogized to Detroit.

Related: MPR’s Michael Caputo looks at the threat to business from no-gift-giving initiatives this holiday season. Family time just doesn’t stimulate the economy, folks! But if you want to do something good and cheap, donate $5 to a new United Way microgiving campaign, the Strib’s Nick Coleman urges. He says it’s based on an Obama-style “viral” fundraising effort.

The Strib’s Pam Louwagie looks at the five-year anniversary of a local Somali student’s pre-trial detention on terrorism accusations. Some Guantanamo defendants have gotten out faster. A right-wing scholar says stuff happens. Part of the delay is because of appeals over whether Mohamed Warsame received his Miranda rights. The case could be a harbinger of lengthy court proceedings if Gitmo cases come into the federal system, an ex-CIA lawyer says.

Some drivers are mad at transit-only lanes and Strib transportation writer Jim Foti issues a pithy response: “Governments are shifting their fight against congestion from the number of vehicles moved to the number of people moved.” So there.

Stribber Troy Melhus, an ex-Marine, writes about being threatened with death by robbers on Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway trail. “He slides the muzzle up behind my right ear. I feel him lean in close. This is the end of my life. I’m about to be shot in the back of the head.”

There will be no fewer paddlewheelers on the Mississippi next summer, the PiPress’ Mikel Sporer reports. It’s not an economic thing; the Delta Queen lost its exemption from federal fire-safety rules when it expired Oct. 31. U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar insists the rules apply to the wood-hulled vessel.

Cool story from MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill on U researchers using stalagmites to chart the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. The cave rocks track drought that crippled empires from Central America to China, and there’s a nice world history lesson in the piece.

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Uh-oh: Gophers football coach Tim Brewster is ringing NASDAQ’s opening bell today, the Strib’s Kent Youngblood notes. If it’s anything like the season, expect an early rally followed by a steep sell-off.

Nort spews: Tarvaris Jackson, we wuv yoooouuu! The Vikes’ signal-caller threw four touchdowns, and only a dumb pass or two, as Minnesota walloped Arizona 35-14. The Vikings have now beaten two NFC division leaders (Carolina is the other) with one (the Giants) left to play. Their magic number to win the North is one. Sore Loser here and here. Speaking of losers, the Wolves got beat by the Lakers and the Ducks clocked the Wild.