You hear about the hooker and minister? You will

You won’t have to wait long today before someone asks, “Did you see the one about the minister snagged in the prostitution sting?Tad Vezner of the PiPress files a piece with some sly tongue-in-cheek reporting on the 35-year-old “rock ‘n’ roll minister,” John Erbele, “senior pastor” of something called Lifeprint Church in Prior Lake. For example, writes Vezner, “Erbele, who plays rock guitar, took his father’s church of 40 and increased attendance to more than 300 and converted his father’s office to an espresso bar for parishioners. ‘I do anything to get people involved and excited,” Erbele was quoted as saying. “From fishing for trout out of a tank to wearing a coconut bra.’ “ It appears he may have taken that “do anything” business juuuussst a bit too far.

There’s Denny Hecker news, albeit more of the same. But anytime a court proceeding mentions both a $154,000 ring the guy gave as a present and subpoenas for big Vegas casinos, it catches your interest. Dee DePass of the Strib writes that the U.S. trustee in the case “explained he wants to question [Hecker’s daughter] about her ring and allegations that Hecker gave her money before his June 4 bankruptcy filing, which claimed $767 million of debt and $18.5 million in assets. Seaver also suggested that Hecker may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of chips from the casinos in April.” So does that mean our guy Denny could have a stash of Bellagio and Mirage chips in a secret safe, or buried on his $12 million Cass Lake estate? Tell me this wouldn’t make good pulp TV.

Continuing a theme of guys living stratospherically high on other people’s money. The PiPress’ John Brewer has a very solid story on the latest in the Myth nightclub saga, the enormous venue up in Maplewood. Brewer quotes the court filing, saying, ” ‘Mike told Steve that there was a bench warrant for his arrest from Nevada, which would be served unless he came up with cash immediately,’ … Sadowski said he gave Ogren $14,000 toward $50,000 Ogren wrote in bad checks to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.” Hmmm, bad checks to a Vegas casino. How would Joe Pesci handle that?

A day after Pfizer was nailed with the largest fine in history — $2.3 billion — for fraudulent marketing practices, the Strib’s Janet Moore has a story about a smaller pharma operation dropping $750,000 on Minnesota physicians/psychiatrists/etc. alone in “speaker fees,” which an investigation by The Pew Prescription Project strongly suggests smacks of conflict of interest. ” ‘The analysis tells us that a lot of doctors in Minnesota have become extensions of Forest’s marketing campaign,’ said Allan Coukell, director of The Pew Prescription Project.” The antidepressant involved, Lexapro, is said to have generated (coincidentally) $2.3 billion last year for the company involved, Forest Laboratories Inc. of New York. And yes, there are plans to stop this sort of thing with health insurance reform.

Do dial down into the comments on that one for this gem: “Just another attempt of this poor excuse of an Administration to demonize yet another legitimate business. Just look at all the boogy men. Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Insurance, Big Banking, Big Talk Radio, Big etc. However, they can’t have enough Big Government now can they?”

Today is ground-breaking day
on the long-awaited extension of the 610 freeway from Hwy. 169 over to Maple Grove. It’s a stimulus package jump-starter, (much of the work was expected to take until late summer to get going). Bob Von Sternberg’s story in the Strib says, “The 610 project, financed with $86 million of stimulus money, will extend the road from Hwy. 169 about 3 miles west to County Road 81 in Maple Grove. Besides providing more than 2,000 construction jobs, the extension will unravel congestion at the 610-169 interchange, shorten residents’ commuting time and promote north metro development, local officials have said.”

MPR’s Mark Zdechlik has a related stimulus-money story, this one less encouraging. Says Zdechlik, “Six months after Congress allocated billions of federal stimulus dollars to weatherize low-income homes and create jobs, much of the money remains unspent. In Minnesota only 2 percent of the state’s more than $130 million has been spent as of the end of July. Even supporters of the program complain the roll-out has been ‘agonizingly slow.’ ”  He adds that one employer says  “he’s ready to put stimulus money to work. Extra crews have been trained but they’re sitting idle. ‘Homes have not been weatherized,’ [the employer] said. ‘People have not been hired. Low-income people that could be saving on their energy bills by a more efficient house haven’t been able to feel the full effects of that.’ ” The problem is a silly hang-up over how much low-income weatherization workers can be paid under the rules.

Good story — via the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram — about three women who pulled a 51-year-old man out of his burning car after he went into diabetic shock and crashed near Osseo, Wis. One of the women “was trying to convince [the man], who didn’t want to leave his dog, Toby, behind, to exit the vehicle when she realized how dire the situation was. ‘I heard somebody say the car was on fire, and I looked down and my shoes were melting,” [she] said.  ‘So I knew we had to get the guy out.’ ” Do you think?

Also over in the strange land to our east, the LaCrosse Tribune has the story (with photo) of the midnight pot grower (as in growing on someone else’s land) who wandered in to like, check on his weed, dude, and spotted a surveillance camera installed by the cops following a tip from the landowner. In a move sure to get him 30 seconds on Leno (if Jay were on), Weed Man forgets that cameras, like, take pictures. Without covering his face he attempts to disconnect the thing and … you guessed it … flash! Thanks for the close-up, pal.

More burgers? How is it possible?
Scott Carlson of Finance and Commerce has a story up about yet another burger franchise coming to town with big plans for expansion — and big burgers. Burger Time touts itself as value-conscience purveyor of big beef: Its smallest burgers are a third of a pound, and the french fries and drinks only come in one size: big. Burger Time’s website lists its one-third pound burger combo meal at $4.69. In a press statement, Upland and Food Shacks [the two companies involved] said the typical Burger Time store is a 620-square-foot building with a double drive-through, one on each side of the building, and no indoor seating.” Ever wonder why no one has a Pronto Pup drive-through?

Strib Vikings reporters Judd Zulgad and Chip Scroggins report that the team — which has to get down to season-roster size pretty quick — are dangling Tarvaris Jackson as trade bait. “The Vikings have four quarterbacks on their roster, which must be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday. Coach Brad Childress said recently the team possibly could keep four quarterbacks, but it seems more likely that it will trade or release one.” The same story reports the sad news that the Vikings franchise has lost $4 million in value over the past year. This means, according to the same story, the Zygi Wilf’s 2005 investment has now only appreciated $235 million, or somewhere slightly north of 30 percent. And how’s your IRA again?

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