Federal authorities blocked two Minneapolis mosque leaders from flying to Mecca and Medina, the Strib’s James Walsh and Pam Louwagie write. The feds aren’t talking, but the leaders’ attorney says the government believes the mosque is where local Somali men are indoctrinated to return to Somalia to fight. The attorney denies the link. Get ready to hear a lot about “Abubakar As-Saddique, a large mosque in the Cedar-Riverside area of Minneapolis.”
More mosque: Relatives of returnees don’t blame the mosque per se, but think that’s where the men were “brainwashed,” as the Strib writers put it. Other local Muslims were also stopped; no word on why, or the numbers involved.
Deceptive housewife: The Strib’s Randy Furst profiles a 50-something sheriff’s deputy who infiltrated local anarchists for a year pre-RNC. Marilyn Hedstrom represented herself as a war opponent, even bringing in a “daughter” who was really a jail guard. Hedstrom “cooked meals for some meetings, ran errands, coordinated committee discussions and represented the organization at some gatherings of the protest movement,” writes Furst, who obtained 1,000 pages of spy notes from unnamed sources.
More infiltrator: So how serious was what she heard? Hedstrom witnessed “occasional” talk of property damage and disruption; an unnamed FBI informant allegedly relayed the harsher talk. “I wonder how she lives with her conscience,” one protester tells Furst. “She knows the truth of the matter. We were not conspiring to riot.” Civil libertarians fret over the in-depth spying. There’s a sweet family portrait of the “RNC 8.” The Strib’s Anthony Lonetree says Ramsey Sheriff Bob Fletcher is still pursuing RNC-related suspects.
Despite some tiptoeing around the actual figure, state ag commissioner Gene Hugoson says Minnesota’s soon-to-be-projected deficit is between $4 billion and $5 billion, the Worthington Globe reports. He says his department could face up to a 10 percent cut. (Anecdotally, I’ve heard the same figure bandied at Health and Human Services.) Hugoson says the cut won’t be across-the-board; some whole programs will probably be eliminated.
MPR’s Tim Pugmire foreshadows Minnesota’s coming tax debate in the deficit era. Senate committee head Tom Bakk talks about broadening the sales tax to clothing but dropping the rate, which wouldn’t plug the hole. Gov. Pawlenty provides a figure I’ve been looking for: How much would a tax hike raise? He says a 1-percent bump in the top rate (7.85 percent to 8.85 percent) raises $300 million. That’s too little to consider, the guv implies, given the scope of the problem. But every little bit helps! He and House DFLer Ann Lenczewski want to lower the corporate rate by getting rid of loopholes, also a non-deficit-closer.
The state’s unemployment insurance fund is expected to go into the red in early 2010, the Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Sheila Regan notes. That’s according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s attorney. The fund is currently $550 million in the black, but each 1 percent unemployment jump costs $200 million a year. In the worst-case scenario, the state would borrow from the feds, just like everyone else, apparently.
Your recount tidbit: With the tallying tables silent over the holiday, Forum Communications’ Don Davis looks way down the road to the inevitable judicial contest. The case could drag on beyond Jan. 6, when the term begins, and a court could block Pawlenty from making an interim appointment if the winner is unknown. Should Al Franken later be crowned, he would be at the bottom of the seniority list.
A wildlife refuge near the Mall of America isn’t very good at sustaining wildlife, the Strib’s Mary Jane Smetanka reports. Trace toxicity is killing off ecosystem insects and yearlong high water levels subsume plant diversity. A new water-control gate might help the latter problem, but controlling chemicals is thornier. Nearby development could complicate the problem, but solutions are deemed expensive.
As part of the Strib’s food series, Chris Serres crafts a pretty engaging portrait of a bartender-turned-grain-trader who rode the market upward and is trying to hang on as it crashes. Dude is still up a million bucks for the year, has a new downtown condo, new front teeth and a bunch of dough in conservative bond funds. So I guess the moral is, financial legerdemain pays!
Mortgage meltdown: MPR’s Martin Moylan profiles locally based ResCap, which is “getting crushed by mortgage defaults.” The company, which once employed 2,300 people, is now down to 900; its parent says there’s “substantial doubt” it can survive. Trouble was, it made loans for more than houses were worth. Notes Moylan, “ResCap has fallen victim to the mess it helped create.”
Nort spews: The Brad Childress Farewell Tour is on break after a 34-14 dismantling of Chicago; the trip may resume after season-ending tilts with Arizona, Atlanta and New York. Adrian Peterson sliced through the Bears’ defense and Jared Allen sliced through their offensive line. Sore Losers abound; Rick Telander here, Rick Morrissey here, Sun-Times game story here, goal-line stand laments here and here, Tribune gamer here.