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A fact-checking frenzy

Pat Kessler and all-caps; Tom Emmer and graduation statistics; New Ulm and the German language; panhandling and what to do about it; the Children’s Theatre and debt.

Let’s start with two fact-checking stories, both related to GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The first comes from the Twin Cities’ resident political fact checker, Pat Kessler, whose “Reality Check” segment on WCCO tends to be transcribed onto their site with a sort of breathless use of capitals, as though Kessler were a tabloid writer. So when Tom Emmer says of Arizona’s contentious immigration law that “I was asked one question: ‘what do you think about the Arizona law?’ I said ‘it’s a good start when you talk about Arizona,’ Kessler responds with “IN FACT, that’s not what he said.”

What he actually said, as Kessler reminds us, is “I think what Arizona did is a wonderful first step.”  Kessler is right; there’s a shift in nuance. “Wonderful first step” sounds a lot more excited than “good start.” But, still, they’re pretty close. The point Kessler is making, when he’s not shouting, is that there has been a shift in Emmer’s tone; the politician has started sounding a lot more cautious about things that used to heat up his firebrand. Emmer has come off sounding like a dyed-in-the-wool Tenther in the past, as MinnPost’s Eric Black pointed out back in July, discussing Emmer’s sponsorship of a bill that would allow Minnesota to exempt itself from any federal laws and mandates that they deem to exceed the U.S. Constitution. But, reminded of the fact, he seemed a bit, well, evasive: “What I have always proposed is that you gotta go based on the Constitution.” Again, he’s not entirely backpedaling, but neither is he being very forthcoming, which earns him a big old “IN FACT” from Kessler.

Eric Black doesn’t resort to all caps when he fact-checks, but he does bold text when he is feeling forceful, as we do here at the Glean, although we’re starting to feel like all caps is the way to go. So Black looked into Emmer’s claim that we have a 60 percent dropout rate in Minneapolis schools, which Emmer stated at one of the debates last week. Uh-oh, here comes the bold text: “The Minneapolis School District does not have a 60 percent dropout rate.” The actual dropout rate, according to Black’s research, is 23.64 percent.

While we’re on the subject of fact-checking, Nekessa Opoti of TC Daily Planet, inspired by Lino Lakes’ English-only resolution, looked into just how unfriendly Minnesota has been to non-English speakers in the past. AS IT TURNS OUT, in 1890, voting instructions in Minnesota were in nine different languages. Additionally, apparently the City of New Ulm was once predominantly German-speaking. We at the Glean did our own fact-checking on this: THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS that the people of New Ulm have stubbornly stuck to German over the years. For instance, here’s a photo of a New Ulm policeman from the mid-20th century standing next to a police car. Not only is “Police” written in some scary Black Forest font (if we had to guess, we would guess Fraktur), but you can just barely make out the word “Polizei” — the German word for police! And, as this website demonstrates, they still teach children German, and the mayor hands them little German flags!

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The Basilica of St. Mary held a forum on panhandling Monday night, described by WCCO’s Heather Brown, who didn’t use all caps, but we will. Attendees shared their frustrations and questions about downtown panhandlers, and Minneapolis’ relatively tough aggressive-begging laws. It does not sound like many walked away from the forum without any clear answers, which wouldn’t be surprising. IN FACT, there are few studies out there about panhandling, and the subject is rather hotly contested among advocates for the homeless, as this 2007 story in the Seattle PI details. On one hand, many panhandlers certainly use the money to support chemical addictions, and organizations that seek to help the homeless feel that money might be better spent on, well, their organizations. On the other hand, some panhandlers certainly require the money they make panhandling to take care of basic needs, especially in this economy; Brown details one such panhandler in her story.

In other tales of this economy, Annie Lowrey of the Minnesota Independent discusses COBRA, a program intended to help the unemployed with health care that was given an especially alarming name, for some reason. THE TRUTH IS, as reported by Lowrey, “a popular stimulus provision, the federal subsidy of COBRA benefits, expired for newly unemployed workers as of the first day of June”; for them, the cost of COBRA has tripled. Sen. Al Franken is among those supporting a bill to extend the funding for this assistance program.

If you pass by the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant today, don’t be alarmed if you see what looks like a full-scale emergency: IN FACT, according to the Associated Press, it’s an emergency-preparedness exercise.

In arts: Arts organizations are often the canary in the coal mine of the economy, at least when things turn sour. They’re among the first hit, and the slowest to recover. So it’s no surprise to discover that Minneapolis’ highly regarded Children’s Theatre is ailing, although the exact amount is a bit overwhelming: According to the Star Tribune’s Rohan Preston, it’s $3.8 million in the hole. But IN FACT, there is reason for some optimism: Its leaders have trimmed their budget and pared down their staff; additionally, as Preston points out, other theaters have started to enjoy a jump in attendence, so perhaps this particular coal mine isn’t as toxic as it has been for the past few years.

In sports: “Another Favre Return, Another Football Win,the New York Times tells us. But, wait — if it’s talking about Sunday’s game against the 49ers, the Vikings actually lost. ACTUALLY, what they’re talking about is television ratings: The game apparently dominated the Nielsens that night.