Tensions mount as Rwandans prepare to rule on Erlinder

Peter Erlinder, the William Mitchell professor who has been jailed for three weeks in Rwanda on charges of violating the country’s (arguably too strict) laws against challenging orthodox thinking on the 1994 genocide, will be hearing some kind of decision very soon. His family, in St. Paul, is hoping the Rwandans drop the charges. Laura Yuen’s MPR story says: “Erlinder, 62, was under the constant watch of doctors in Minnesota, his daughter said. He has a non-cancerous tumor on his skull, was hospitalized last year for a bleeding ulcer, and was born with a heart condition that will require him to at some point to undergo surgery. His family is paying for his meals to be delivered to him through U.S. embassy officials, afraid that he could be poisoned by prison staff. Erlinder also admitted in court that he tried to kill himself while in jail through a pill overdose. He told a judge he has struggled with depression for nearly 25 years.”

A piece up on Radio Netherlands WorldWide notes, as others have, that 30 other defense attorneys working in Rwanda have signed a statement stopping their work, in support of Erlinder. The story quotes the Rwandan foreign minister saying, “There has been a lot of theatrics surrounding this case, but genocide ideology laws are not about politics or symbolism, and revisionists and ideologues who traffic in genocide denial will be prosecuted and imprisoned.”

Meanwhile, over on The Huffington Post, Robert Amsterdam, delivers an impassioned defense of Erlinder’s fundamental purpose. He writes:”[A] disgusting backlash has come out against Erlinder, somehow justifying his grotesque imprisonment because these voices disagree with his political opinions. Right here on The Huffington Post, the seemingly well-intentioned genocide survivor Freddy Umutanguha misconstrues the Erlinder case and argues that ‘every Rwandan I know would place our right to protect our nation’s peace and stability ahead of Mr. Erlinder’s right to endanger them.’ But is that really what Erlinder was doing? Of course not. The mere suggestion that Hutus, as well as Tutsis, were systemically slaughtered — sometimes by the people currently in power — appears to be a politically inconvenient discussion that Kagame wants to conceal underneath arbitrary laws of the thought police.”

The situation for Minnesota nurses vis a vis their hospital employers is not improving. The consensus seems to be that last week’s one-day strike did nothing to move the hospitals off their position. Josephine Marcotty’s Strib story this morning says: “Union officials said Tuesday that federal mediators, who have been assisting negotiations for several weeks, did not encourage the return to bargaining. The hospitals have said through mediators ‘that nothing has changed unless the MNA changes its position,’ said Susan Mason, lead negotiator for the union.” Marcotty adds: “Mason said she does not think the strike vote Monday will influence the hospitals’ position. After all, she said, the one-day strike, which won a 90-percent authorization by nurses, had no effect on the hospitals’ position. ‘The nurses are concerned that there wasn’t any movement,’ she said. ‘The situation grew more serious after the one-day strike.’ “

Best Buy had a somewhat disappointing first quarter, coming in a few ticks under analysts’ projections. It’s stock was off 6 percent Tuesday. But Forbes’ “Great Speculations” blog is very upbeat about the local store’s long-term prospects. In fact, it says Best Buy “just oozes value.” Analyst Ned Douthat writes: “Make no mistake, this quarter was a disappointment as management did not do a very good job of reining in costs while sales were less than impressive. However, the fact that the company has reaffirmed guidance gives us reason to believe it was a hiccup and not a particularly worrisome trend. Expectations for sales may have been much better than at this time a year ago, but after today’s decline the stock is trading for just about the same price level as it was twelve months ago. In that context, we believe BBY offers a compelling value with sales and expected full year profit showing nice growth.”

Gov. Pawlenty is out in California today, and he’s not taking a mud bath in Calistoga. Money is on his mind as he prepares for the full-tilt presidential campaign everyone presumes will begin a half hour after he leaves office next January. Rachel Stassen-Berger, writing in the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” blog, says: “Pawlenty is currently in California where he is doing fundraising for his federal PAC.  The west coast trip included a luncheon with former Fingerhut exec Ted Deikel. Pawlenty, whose Minnesota public events schedule frequently includes the line ‘No Public Events Scheduled’ these days, will return to Minnesota Thursday.”

The Hill’s “Blog Briefing Room” notes, as others did, that Pawlenty also established PACs in Iowa and New Hampshire Tuesday. A fellow has to build alliances with local candidates after all, and nothing says “alliance” like money. “Newspapers in both states pointed out that Pawlenty isn’t the only one playing in the nominating states, though. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), another potential 2012 candidate who last time ran for president in 2008, has written a check to support former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s (R) bid to retake the governorship,the Des Moines Register noted. The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Romney also registered his Free and Strong America PAC in New Hampshire last year.”

A “serial tagger” has been paint-bombing bus shelters and utility boxes in Minneapolis,
and the city (and private property owners) are getting tired of the $3,000 clean-up fees. A Fox9 story by Tom Lyden takes viewers on a tour of a few of the bomber’s greatest hits. While Lyden and annoyed civic groups hasten to declare the vandal talentless, a few of his “drip” pieces have a certain abstract expressionist flair. Says Lyden, “Technique aside, his work seems to be a sort of homage to the artist Jackson Pollock, who turned paint drips into pop art.”

Oops, the Republican-endorsed candidate running against Betty McCollum probably should have controlled the message about that DWI past. The Strib story, by Eric Roper, is instead tasked with revealing to the public that law professor Theresa Collett has had a couple of drinking-and-driving episodes: “The University of St. Thomas law professor is pursuing the seat held by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents the Fourth Congressional District. Collett’s encounters with law enforcement while intoxicated — an arrest for drunken driving and a citation for careless driving — are rare for an endorsed congressional candidate in Minnesota.” The story says she told state Republican officials about the incidents, although Tony Sutton, Republican chairman, was only told a month ago, after Collett received the nomination.

The killer in one of the more colorful murder stories of the 1990s hanged himself
in his Stillwater cell. Alex Ebert reports for the Strib that Zachary Persitz, now 59, was found dead Friday morning. “He was serving life for killing and dismembering his friend and stockbroker Michael Prozumenshikov, 37, in 1991. … Persitz lost money in a stock market downturn in 1987, and he blamed Prozumenshikov. Persitz, then a dam inspector for the state Department of Natural Resources, shot Prozumenshikov and dismembered him with an ax before dumping his body in a compost heap. The two Russian immigrants and their families were close; one of the slain stockbroker’s children stayed overnight at the Persitz house the Friday and Saturday following the killing. A&E cable’s “City Confidential” did an episode on the case several years ago.

Over at the lefty website mnpACT! Dave Mindeman has fun with Republican candidate Tom Emmer’s budget-cutting scenario, which was offered, more or less, to MPR’s Gary Eichten the other day. On air Emmer sounded like he was saying you could “easily” lop 20 percent out of state government costs. Or was that $20 billion? Anyway, Emmer’s campaign now has something called “EmmerTruth,” a set-the-record-straight sort of thing for clarifying these things and straightening out the pesky media when they don’t play along. “EmmerTruth” writes: “A 20% reduction in the state budget over four years translates to a 10% reduction for each of the next two state budgets, or $6 billion out of the overall $60 billion budget.” To that, Mindeman responds, “So, now its 10%. The $20 billion that Emmer actually referenced ($60 billion – $40 billion = $20 billion) is now ‘bogus’? What exactly is Emmer trying to say? He is raising all sorts of new questions. He doesn’t talk about the balance of [Tom] Scheck’s [MPR] piece that refutes the idea that eliminating state agencies will actually save enough real money to make any difference in budget balancing. And even at 10% cuts to the budget, there is still no specifics that add up to this made up number.” Oh, come on man! “Specifics”? It’s campaign season.

If scientists introducing wasps to fight the emerald ash borer doesn’t sound like a “B” sci-fi movie premise … set to go horribly wrong, then I don’t know what does. Emily Reese at MPR reports on a plan to do just that, with the important caveat that these wasps have no stinger. “Gier Friisoe, the Division Director for Plant Protection with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said the state will introduce a natural predator of the emerald ash borer. ‘There’s three wasps, stingless wasps, that prey on the emerald ash borer, and they prey on both the larvae and the eggs,’ Friisoe said. ‘We’re hopeful by introducing those biological control agents that we’ll get a bit of a balance; at least bring down the infestation level.’ Friisoe said stingless wasps have worked well in other parts of the world. ‘In China, where emerald ash borers [are] native, some of these stingless wasps have been shown to parasitize up to 90 percent,’ Friisoe said.” I’m sure Friisoe is wonderful guy, but if I were scripting a mad scientist into “Revenge of the Wasps 3D,” he’s got the perfect name.

The restaurant opening of the week is the Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group. The foodies are aflutter, and the Strib’s night life guy, Tom Horgen, liked what he saw. “As the name suggests, this is [parent company] Parasole’s version of a vintage cafeteria on steroids. The street-level restaurant is a stunning mish-mash of colorful retro seating. The ‘wow factor,’ however, is the huge rooftop perched above Calhoun Square (with views of downtown Minneapolis). It’s covered in cedar wood and features a long bar area. I’m digging the glass elevator that overlooks Lake Street.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Rich Crose on 06/16/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    My favorite quote from the Collett article:

    “Collett acknowledged that she had been drinking but also was taking an antidepressant for menopause-related migraines that she said exacerbated the effects of the alcohol.”

    Whoa! Stop! Too much information!

  2. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 06/16/2010 - 12:26 pm.

    Whether it’s Balloon Boy, hikers in Iran, little girl sailors or goofy law professors, I’m tired of spending our time and money bailing out these self-centered fruitcakes just so they can “follow their dreams”. Ya roll the dice and ya takes your chances.

  3. Submitted by Mark Williamson on 06/16/2010 - 08:42 pm.

    “. . . a few of his ‘drip’ pieces have a certain abstract expressionist flair.”

    Really? Brian, please allow me to come over and do my best Ellsworth Kelly on the side of your garage — preferably between the hours of 2 to 4 a.m. Tagging is vandalism, despite hipster doofus yearnings to the contrary.

Leave a Reply