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Tales of the storm

ALSO: Bachmann’s BP comments almost universally unpopular; Franken takes on the Supreme Court; Klobuchar takes on “murderabilia”; No more ladies’ nights for local bars.

There is an exhibit at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul — it may or may not be up right now — that places attendees in a typical midwestern basement. Over the course of five minutes or so, old-fashioned televisions and radios spring to life, warning of an approaching tornado. Then, suddenly, out through a garden-level window, attendees see the sky turn green and a tree fall down as what sounds like a locomotive passes overhead.

It’s terrifying (there is actually a sign outside the exhibit warning that the exhibit may be too intense for some children) and about as close to an actual tornado as we at the Daily Glean would want to get. Real tornadoes are machines of destruction, and last Friday saw a record number hit Minnesota — 39 is the estimate, and, as the Associated Press reports, that easily beats the previous record: 27 twisters in 1992. Additionally, at least two of these tornadoes were unusually powerful: According to Bill McAuliffe of the Star Tribune, two twisters were rated EF4 by the National Weather Service; this is a tornado so powerful that less than 1 percent of all tornadoes get that rating.

Minnesota Public Radio’s website is hosting a number of photographs of the devastation caused by the storm, many of them from Wadena, which was especially hard hit — one of the EF4 tornadoes touched down there, and it is estimated to have been a mile wide, traveled more than 10 miles, and had winds of up to 170 miles per hour.

The slide show includes an image of the Wadena Community Center, which was torn apart. Tom Crann of MPR gets an eyewitness description of the tornado strike on Wadena from a resident who experienced it, and whose house had its roof torn off, among other damage. “I could hear all the windows shattering,” she says.

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The Star Tribune’s Kevin Duchschere tells the bitterly ironic tale of Debbie Lichtenberg, who moved to Wadena to escape the frequent hurricanes that struck her Florida town of Punta Gorda. Her three-bedroom apartment was destroyed by the Wadena tornado. In the meanwhile, Don Shelby of WCCO tells the story of a Freeborn couple who fled to their basement to escape a tornado and emerged to discover the house had been moved, intact, 50 feet off its foundation, and the neighbor’s horse had been deposited, alive, in their backyard.

Julianna Olsen of KARE11 tells of one of the storm’s fatalities, Wes Michaels, whose convenience store was demolished with him and his daughter in it. “I called out for him to save me and he had already saved me,” his daughter says. Both had been buried under rubble, but he had laid his body on top of hers to protect her from the debris. The story is also detailed by Kevin Bonham of the Grand Forks Herald, republished in the Pioneer Press.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has declared a state of emergency for affected counties, as reported by the AP, while FOX9 reports that Sen. Al Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar have pledged to assist victims of the tornado. According to the AP, Klobuchar will be visiting Wadena to asses damage.

In other Al Franken news, Derek Wallbank, who writes at MinnPost’s DC Dispatches, reported on comments Franken made at the American Constitution Society in regard to the Supreme Court, criticizing it for favoring the interests of corporations over individuals. “And in case after case after case, the Roberts court has put not just a thumb, but a fist, on the scale in favor of those corporations,” Wallbank quotes Franken as saying. “A fist with brass knuckles.  Which weigh a lot. Because they’re brass.”

And in other Klobuchar news, the senator is co-authoring a bill to stop the sale of “muderabilia” — relics of homicide that prisoners might use to profit from their crime (apparently, there is something of a thriving online market in this stuff). Hart Van Denburg of City Pages offers a roundup of stories about this bill.

You know you have made a political miscalculation if you’re Michele Bachmann and you find yourself being grilled by Bill O’Reilly on FOX News, but that’s precisely what happened recently. O’Reilly was responding to Bachmann’s characterization of Obama’s agreement with BP to create a $20 billion escrow fund for victims of the Gulf oil spill. “Using words like ‘shakedown’ and ‘extortion’ and all of that — I’m not agreeing with that,” O’Reilly tells Bachmann. Geraldo Rivera, in the meanwhile, described Bachmann’s use of “extortion” as a “wacky charge.” City Pages has both videosPaul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Independent offers up some analysis and transcibes part of the O’Reilly interview.

Democratic congressional candidate Tarryl Clark is finding all this terrifically useful in her campaign against Bachmann, and, as Pat Kessler of WCCO points out, has already produced one commercial attacking Bachmann on her statements regarding the Gulf spill. (City Pages also has that video.) According to Paul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Independent, Bachmann has responded by calling the ad “misleading.” In fairness to Bachmann, she has indicated that she thinks BP should pay. She just finds it intolerable that Obama is spearheading that, and argues it is an intolerable expansion of the power of the executive branch. Contrariwise, this didn’t seem to bother her at all during the Bush presidency, which was marked by unprecedented amassing of power in the executive branch.

You may have noticed that there will be no more ladies’ nights at bars in the Twin Cities — well, at least for a while. There is sort of a cycle of them getting shut down after complaints, and then quietly restarting, because it’s believed to be good business to have a lot of semi-intoxicated females at a bar. But who is filing these complaints? It’s mostly one guy, Steve Horner, who Abby Simons profiles in the Strib.  Local bar owners complain that some bars are getting cited for ladies’ nights, while others aren’t. We at the Glean would like to offer our own complaint: It should be against the law to serve a badly made Manhattan. Perhaps it isn’t an actual crime — ladies’ nights unambiguously violate laws against discrimination based on gender. But not being able to make a decent cocktail is a crime against good taste.

We at the Glean offer up sports news every day, but this reporter has chosen to add an additional feature as well — an arts story. Today, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at the Jungle Theatre: the Strib’s Graydon Royce interviews director Joel Sass about the production, which Sass directed just seven years ago. “Certain pieces are so exciting and challenging, you revisit them periodically through your career,” Sass responds.

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In sports: WCCO offers a photo of an unlucky baseball fan, her face bandaged, while Maya Nishikawa tells the story: Darcie Hill was struck in the face by a foul ball, which “broke her nose, jaw, cheekbone and other bones around her eye.” “”There was a lot of blood,” Hill says, “it was a little scary.”