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The limits of tolerance

INCLUDING: Presbyterian vote on gay clergy, discuss same-sex marriage; more anti-Somali sentiment in St. Cloud; Prince vs. Kenny G. on the Internet’s future; a Duluth woman opposes the running of the bulls; and a Duluth man slashes balls.

We’ll start with a story of death, and a story of life, and it might get a little complicated, because we’re talking about plants. First, the bad news: According to FOX9, the oldest tree in Minneapolis has died. It was an oak, it resided in the Seward neighborhood, and was estimated to be 333 years old. One suspects that once upon a time, she loved a little boy, but that could not be confirmed.

But life is a circle, at least if animated lions are to be believed, and evidence of it comes in the form of a flower that smells like a corpse when it blooms. Specifically, we’re talking about Gustavus Adolphus’ Titan arum, better known as a corpse flower, and, in this instance, specifically known as “Perry.” It’s about to bloom for the first time since 2007, according to a story by Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press, attracting carrion-eating beetles, who germinate the plant, and goths alike. This reporter has smelled a corpse flower in bloom before, and also smelled a dead person, and the two are not dissimilar, but viewers who are hoping to be exposed to the full stink of death may be a little disappointed by the flower’s somewhat subtler bouquet. They’d be better off simply purchasing some cadaver training pseudo scent.

There are several hate-crime-related stories today. Firstly, and briefly, FOX9 reports that Bryan Westlerlund had pleaded guilty to a racially motivated robbery and beating from last October. For those of you who don’t remember the story, Westerlund was one of several armed men who attacked Derrick Thomas, an 18-year-old African-American man with autism, in Brooklyn Park, hurtling racial epithets and stealing his clothing; shortly after, they attacked his uncle, several blocks away. (Here’s a Star Tribune story on the beating).

In May, a Mankato man responded rather badly to getting fired from his job: As Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press (republished in the Pioneer Press) reports it, he “allegedly used racial slurs while threatening to kill a black employee at the business.” He also called himself a “true peckerwood,” which, aside from being a derogatory term for white people, is also apparently a white supremacist prison gang. The PiPress notes that the man in question has a lengthy criminal history and is now facing felony charges.

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In the meanwhile, in St. Cloud, where this past year somebody hung anti-Muslim cartoons outside a Somali market, another Somai market has been vandalizedaccording to the Associated Press, somebody spray-painted “GO HOME” on the front of the building. It’s worth noting that at the moment Somali is enmeshed in civil war that has been waging since 1991, with an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 dead, with street battles in the capital of Mogadishu this past year killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands. In the past year, there have been six suicide bombings that have killed more than 100 people.

So, unless you’re a militant looking to get into the fight, there are good reasons not to go home to Somalia. And, of course, notoriously, a group of Somali men did exactly that just a few years ago; about 20 returned to Somalia to train and fight with the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, including Shirwa Ahmed, who drove a car loaded with explosives into a government compound, making himself the first known U.S. suicide bomber. At least five of these men are also believed to have been killed in fighting in Somalia, and, as the AP reports, the investigation is ongoing.

One begins to wonder if whoever painted “GO HOME” was completely familiar with the complexities of what they were demanding.

The question of the limits of tolerance seems to be an ongoing one in the news. For instance, the Presbyterian Church is currently engaged in a series of votes regarding the status of homosexuals in their church. They voted a few years ago to allow gay clergy, so long as they were celibate, but the AP reports that on Thursday they voted to expand that to non-celibate gays and lesbians who were in committed relationships. According to the AP, this didn’t sit well with more conservative members, who complained, saying, “[b]lurring or obscuring the clear teaching of God’s Word in order to keep in step with secular laws and changing personal morals only confuses our witness and causes innumerable problems for the future.” The church also considered changing the language of marriage to make it more inclusive but chose to shelve that vote, which may yet be forthcoming.

In the arts: You might have heard Prince’s inexplicable rant that the Internet is “over,” which is a bit like railing against the printing press in 1460; “[A]ll these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you,” the entertainer said, leading one to suspect that he had either never met a mathematician or has met enough to have a critique of them. Well, Prince has made himself a powerful enemy in the form of mellow soprano saxophonist Kenny G., who responded by saying, “[T]hen I must be dead, too, ’cause I use it all the time,” as the Associated Press reports. Next up: Comedian Sinbad and Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli argue about the X-Box 360 platform.

In sports: Well, we’re not certain that the running of the bulls in Pamplona is a sport, but if it involved any sort of physical exertion, we at the Glean are probably going to declare it a sports story. As far as we’re concerned, walking to your mailbox in your pajamas and bathrobe while smoking a cigarette is a sport. Anyway, City Pages points us to a story in the Duluth News Tribune by Matthew R. Perrine, telling of Elisa Allen, a former Duluth resident and graduate of East High School, who participated in an unusual protest of the running of the bulls organized by PETA: She stripped down to her undergarments, painted herself and joined other protesters in lying down in the street, forming the shape of a bull.

One more, again from Duluth, this time concerning exercise balls. You may remember Christopher Neil Bjerkness, although you probably don’t remember his name: He’s the fellow who allegedly an unusual sexual fetish. Specifically, he breaks into buildings and slashes exercises balls with a knife. According to John Lundy of the Duluth News Tribune (again reprinted in the PiPress), he’s back in jail and accused of violating probation, so people might want to check their exercise balls, just to be sure.