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Daily Glean: Stimulating: why the Norm-Al contest matters

Dueling op-eds reveal just how much a single race means to the country’s future. Also: foreclosure = death?

If you need a reminder about what’s at stake in our still-undecided Senate race, check out the Strib’s dueling stimulus op-eds by Norm Coleman and Al Franken. My favorite part of Coleman’s piece: He criticizes the plan’s haste by referencing the $700 billion bank bailout … that he voted for! And Franken opposed! Norm believes that building trails, remodeling government buildings and buying federal supercomputers is pork. Wonder what FDR would say.

Meanwhile, Franken says tax cuts won’t do it and zero interest rates mean monetary policy won’t work either. That leaves spending — including $40 billion in state aid Republican moderates excised. And you say elections don’t matter!

No surprise here, but a Minneapolis mosque leader strongly denied that his house of worship recruits men for jihad, the Strib’s Richard Meryhew writes. Farhan Hurre’s comments foreshadow a noon news conference today. Despite “millions of questions coming to us,” Hurre insists the mosque inveighs against such actions as suicide bombing. Overall, a half-dozen or so men have left the Twin Cities to fight in their war-torn native land.

A Mora double-murder is tied to a foreclosure, the Strib’s Chao Xiong and Paul Walsh report. One suspect is the son of a real estate agent who was being sued by the victims, Larry and Lois Steenerson. The agent, Linda Hohenwald, had done many deals with Larry Steenerson but fell behind on two 10-acre lots they bought. Her son, Craig Hohenwald, was arrested with Jennifer Seiberlich; no charges have been filed.

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Folks who bought zero-dollar Northwest tickets get what they paid for. The airline, citing computer glitches, canceled the tickets, as is its right, the Strib’s Suzanne Ziegler reports. The only passengers who scored were the ones who already flew or were in the middle of a trip.

The laws of economics have not been repealed: The Strib’s Jenna Ross says Minnesota’s priciest private colleges have seen applications slip. Overall, applications were down a mere 5 percent, though Carleton ($48,000 for room and board) had to send out last-minute “encouragement” emails. Macalester apps were down 10 percent and Augsburg saw a 13 percent plunge. Still, applicant pools are near historic highs. Meanwhile, U of M applications are up 15 percent, Fox9’s Bill Keller says.

A couple of DFL legislators are proposing a “People’s Bailout,” the PiPress’ Jason Hoppin notes. Sen. Dave Tomassoni and Rep. David Bly would freeze the five-year clock on welfare benefits for two years, extend unemployment checks for another 13 weeks and force bankers to rent to foreclosed mortgagers. The bill would also prohibit government layoffs and fund public works despite the deficit. No cost estimate is provided.

Related: MPR’s Bob Collins notes calls to crisis hot lines rose 28 percent from the first to last quarters of ’08, with suicide-line calls up 35 percent.

Nice piece from the PiPress’ Jeremy Olson detailing home health-care fraud costing state taxpayers millions. A single provider had $800,000 in questionable bills, but the centerpiece of the article is one 62-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and her travails.

Strib food guy Matt McKinney notes the plummeting price of milk, at least at the wholesale level. Shocker: Consumer prices haven’t dropped as much. Wholesale prices are down 50 percent from last summer and 32 percent in the past month, but grocer prices have only fallen 7 percent. Of course, the raw product makes up only a sliver of the total cost, even though that didn’t seem to be true on the way up. A higher dollar has forced some supply back into the domestic market.

As the PiPress’ Bill Salisbury archly notes, “A Senate committee Monday approved a constitutional amendment to make it harder to pass a constitutional amendment.” DFL gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Bakk wants to require a 60 percent vote in both legislative chambers to place an amendment on the ballot; the current total is 50 percent. Fortunaely for Bakk, the lower number would be in place should voters get a crack at this. Contrary to conventional wisdom, almost all ballot amendments pass: 17 of 18 since 1980.

The Strib’s Steve Brandt attends the first neighborhood Minneapolis budget cutting meeting and discovers the populace may want police spending to slow. The meeting was in relatively safe southwest Minneapolis. Among suggestions from 140 city employees: “unpaid days off, broadening use of the city sales tax, eliminating free parking for some appointees, streamlining procedures, offering early retirement incentives, merging park police into regular police, collecting trash every other week and consolidating services with the county.” MPR’s Brand Williams has more details here.

The hardworking Brandt also notes that despite calls for local elected officials to cut their pay, state law prohibits any changes during a term. You can cut pay down the road, but that might be after the recession is (hopefully) over. Hennepin Commissioner Mike Opat says they should flout the rule and try anyway, while others call for voluntary givebacks.

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We’re all kinda guessing, but Moody’s predicts the Twin Cities housing market won’t hit bottom until early 2010, the PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck notes. The bottom will come later, however, if the feds don’t enact lavish incentives like a $15,000 credit for homebuying,

Really, National Lawyers Guild? You’re going to protest an Israeli dance troupe’s local performance because it gets money from that nation’s government? Even though the troupe has criticized Israeli policy and is not exclusively Jewish? Graydon Royce has the back-and-forth.

Fox9’s Scott Wasserman talks to the kid who plunged 50 feet into a gravel pit on a snowmobile. “I see this little hill and I’m going 30 miles per hour, and I accelerate a little, next thing you know I’m throwing my arms in the air,” John Billo says. He suffered a broken wrist and cracked femur, but thankfully wore his helmet.

Meth tunnel! The PiPress’ Brady Gervais probes Friendly Fridley, where cops found a 6-foot-wide tunnel that was 15 feet deep under an alleged dealer’s home. There was no brewing equipment there, but authorities say they found precursor chemicals in the above-ground domicile.

How to get scammed buying a used car online, by WCCO’s Bill Hudson. Tip: Don’t wire someone who lives in Britain the money before you have the car in your possession.

The Business Journal’s Katherine Grayson reports on perhaps the worst-named new restaurant out there: Gas-tro-nome, soon to open in near northeast Minneapolis. My favorite congnitively dissonant part: “The eatery will have a ‘butcher shop’ feel and will serve ‘thoughtful, delicately prepared gourmet dishes.’ “

Nort spews: Pat Reusse’s Sunday call for baseball commissioner Bud Selig to quit earns him a call from the commish. Selig says collective bargaining tied his hands in the Alex Rodriguez steroid case, a point that cools Reusse’s bloodlust. Still, the columnist tells Selig he wants Rodriguez publicly spanked, and the commissioner sounds amenable.