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Land of cougars: Big cats make big news

ALSO: Nurses talk strike; Klobuchar talks cell phone bills; Bachmann won’t talk; talk dies on Vikings bill.

We’ve been following the budget quite a bit for the last few days. It was a big story, and a lot to cram in to the Daily Glean, and now it’s done. Sort of. The budget may have passed, but there’s going to be a lot of grousing about it, from Wayne Cox on MinnPost (“Most Minnesotans, however, will find tough times just got tougher”); from Senate Finance Chairman Dick Cohen (“This is not a very good bill,” he told the Star Tribune); and from Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio (“lawmakers and the governor actually pushed a big part of the budget problem into the next budget cycle“); and WCCO’s Pat Kessler (“Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized the budget for only putting off the state’s problems, which as bad as they were this year, will be far more serious for the next governor and legislature.“). Oh well; it should make for an exciting gubernatorial race.

In the meanwhile, there is other news. Minnesota’s nurses, for instance, may go on strike. The Minnesota Nurses Association is discussing the possibility of a one-day walkout to protest … well, a few things. As Chen May Yee of the Star Tribune reports, the association is demanding ratios to make certain there are enough nurses to cover the needs of their patients; they are also protesting proposed changes at hospitals that would “cut pension and health benefits and change work rules in ways that would endanger patients.”

There’s a lot of cougar news lately, which isn’t the sort of thing you ever expect to type, but there you go. The Associated Press just ran a story about the big cats making inroads in Wisconsin and, as if to prove them right, a mountain lion attacked and killed a cow in Juneau County.

In the meanwhile, a parent at Como Zoo made the sort of decision that doesn’t just seem bad in retrospect but should have seemed terrible when it occurred to him and should have caused him to think, “Am I doing something incredibly stupid?” as he was doing it. Specifically, he lifted his child over the barrier protecting zoo visiors from the live cougars on display there. As KARE11 reports, the child was promptly scratched by one of the cougars. Mara H. Gottfried of the Pioneer Press examines the scene of the cougar attack: “There are at least 10 signs in the area of the cougar exhibit that say, ‘Dangerous area, stay behind guardrail,’ ‘Thank you for not climbing,’ and ‘Warning: stay back, stay safe.‘ ” The man left with his child before zoo officials arrived, claiming he was taking his child for medical attention.

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Also, Google banned a “cougar” dating site, as reported by FOX9. It’s not a local story, but, when you’re reporting on cougars, you might as well be comprehensive.

Let’s take a look at national politics for a moment: Amy Klobuchar has been typically busy, as Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent details: She wrote a letter to the FCC arguing that telecoms have to do a better job explaining their billing process to their customers, who have started to experience “bill shock” when they discover how many hidden fees they owe.

In the meanwhile, Al Franken’s been quite the social butterfly. Although he wasn’t in attendance (he was voting on the financial reform bill), Franken was the subject of an invite-only party in Minneapolis; specifically, the event was to raise money for Franken, and Conan O’Brien was the featured guest, as FOX9 reports. In the meanwhile, Franken will be meeting today with a celebrity of a different sort: Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, according to MinnPost’s Washington correspondent Derek Wallbank. We were hoping Franken was planning to meet with a mountain lion, just to tie everything together, but the closest we could find was this imagined conversation between Franken and Indiana rocker John Mellencamp, formerly known as Johnny Cougar:

Johnny Cougar – “Yeah, that’s right. Just call me Senator Cougar.” Al Franken – “Sorry, Barbara Boxer has already claimed that title.”

Headed over to the House of Representatives, there’s a follow-up to the story of Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, who has been following around Rep. Michele Bachmann (who “The Daily Show” once called a “free-range cougar“) and tweeting (and fact-checking) her comments. Hart Van Denburg of City Pages sums up the story: Romano’s cut-finger’d tweets (which he seems to regret somewhat) got him frozen out of a scheduled meeting with Bachmann. His summary: “[I]t turns out that she’s just a louder-mouthed version of the old model: happy to attack her opponents from afar, happy to play the victim, but unwilling to engage, mano a mano, with anyone she deems insufficiently friendly. What Twitter revealed about Bachmann is that she’s not democratic enough for Twitter — or the new era it embodies.”

Would that be our only Bachmann story for the day — well, it would be a pretty atypical day, as Bachmann produces news stories like a hydra produces heads. But Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey, who has probably written more about Bachmann than any person on earth, discovered that while Bachmann is decrying “socialized medicine” with one hand, the Christian mental health clinic founded and run by her husband has taken in $27,564 in Medical Assistance. Ooh, take that to Twitter!

In sports: CP’s Hart Van Denburg looks at the proposed bill to pay for a new Vikings stadium, and concludes that it’s dead.  Cougar attack, probably.