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Wolf expert doubts there was ‘any risk to anyone’

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: MnSCU shutdown preparations; Central Corridor business impact; fact-checking Walz; measles scare subsides; campaign against marriage amendment ramps up; and more.
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The Strib’s Josephine Marcotty goes to wolf expert Dave Mech on whether the Minnesota Zoo really had to kill the gray wolf that escaped Wednesday: “The zoo had to create the perception that it had done everything possible to protect the public  — even if the public didn’t really need protecting. The myth that wolves in North America are dangerous to people is one of  the most enduring  of all, said Mech, a wolf researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey and vice chair of the International Wolf Center in Ely. ‘They were protecting themselves from the perception and the insurance and so many other things. It would have looked pretty bad if the wolf got out of the zoo and caused a big fuss around town. But I don’t think there was any risk to anyone,’ he said. The media attention around the whole affair only perpetuated the unfounded fear that the animal was dangerous. ‘You’d think it was a man-eating tiger or a lion,’ he said. ‘The poor thing was probably scared to death.’ The eight-year-old male wolf had lived its life in captivity. That would make it even less of threat than a wild one.” This fits with my Grand Operating Theory that insurance actually controls most activity in modern America.

Forbes magazine’s Chris Williams is watching the looming shutdown here in Minnesota and telling readers: “The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will send layoff notices to 6,000 employees Friday if it can’t work out a deal to get access to its money during a looming state government shutdown, said Laura King, the system’s chief financial officer. King told the MnSCU Board of Trustees during a special meeting Wednesday that the system has enough money in tuition and reserves to keep operating through the fall term. However, the system’s accounting, payroll and other financial functions are within the state government. So if the government shuts down, she said, the system and its colleges and universities might do so as well.” Oh hell, let’s all take the summer off.

The body found in an alley by a little kid has been identified as that of a local musician. Tim Harlow of the Strib says: “[T]he victim is Quincy Antwain Blue, 30, who leaves behind two children and dreams of becoming a business owner. Authorities are treating his death as a homicide and are waiting on autopsy results in hopes of getting answers to their questions. … Quincy Blue grew up in south Minneapolis and graduated from South High School. He loved music and ‘everything about hip-hop,’ his sister said. He wrote a lot of his own songs and played in the group, the Street Kingz. He was a student at DeVry where he was studying business management. He hoped to open a business and teach others how to do the same after he graduated next year, Shelema Blue said.”

Construction of the Central Corridor LRT is having an effect on business activity. The PiPress’s Frederick Melo tries to get a handle on how much: “John Vaughn doesn’t consider himself an enemy of light rail so much as a concerned optimist, or perhaps a resigned pessimist. He sees small businesses on the firing line. ‘We had expressed a lot of angst and skepticism and held the Met Council’s feet to the fire prior to construction,’ said Vaughn, interim executive director of the University Avenue Business Association. ‘I think the skeptics are now the copers, now that it’s started. The rational approach is to believe your eyes, now that they’ve dug up the street and installed a fence.’ Vaughn, a longtime Twin Cities business advocate and twice-a-week volunteer with the association, walked up and down University Avenue in December and again in May, hand-counting the numbers of vacant storefronts, and he’s spotted what he considers a disturbing trend. To his mind, businesses are shutting down or relocating. The question is: Why? Out of the 398 storefront businesses in his count, 86 were vacant — a sobering 22 percent of first-floor retailers and restaurants that front University Avenue. Is that the natural ebb and flow of business on the avenue, or is some of it related to a loss of customers because of Central Corridor construction? Did some businesses flee in advance of construction? Is it all the recession’s fault?”

Today’s LiveChat with Strib food critic Rick Nelson covered the usual ground — openings and closings, favorite chefs, new variations on Juicy Lucy’s … and bacon.

“Comment From Steve
Hey Rick. Just to get things started — can there be too much bacon in the local restaurant scene? Is Tilia really that good, and do you think he’ll fix the front end stuff? Is the new Modern Times a competitor to Seward Cafe?

Rick Nelson:
Hey Steve. No, there can never be too much bacon, EVER (btw, if you’re in search of crazy-good bacon, check out the new Wise Acre Eatery, Nicollet and 54th, for some amazing thick-cut bacon, sourced from the restaurant’s farm). 2. Yes, Tilia really is that good, and for the price, it’s extraordinary. And I can’t imagine that the service issues won’t get hammered out; the restaurant has only been open for about 10 weeks, and they’ve been slammed every day, they’ll catch their breath and figure it out. 3. I’m hoping it’s a competitor to the Seward, a place for which I have great affection but wish would ramp up its act a bit.

Catharine Richert of MPR’s PoliGraph checks out Congressman Tim Walz’ claim that every day we ship $1 billion overseas (to cover the cost of oil imports). She says, “Walz gets this one right. The Evidence The price of oil fluctuates daily and so does the amount of oil the United States imports. But using recent Energy Information Administration data, Walz’s estimate is essentially correct. … In March, the country spent an average of $1.2 billion a day on oil imports. In 2010, the cost was similar: Every day, the cost of oil imports was in the ballpark of $1 billion.”

The measles scare is over, in case you were wondering about that itch on your elbow. The Strib’s Maura Lerner writes: “The state’s outbreak — the largest in the country so far this year — began in February, when a Minneapolis baby was hospitalized with the disease. Then more cases started popping up, many among unvaccinated children in the Somali community. But no new cases have surfaced since late April, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, and officials say the danger has passed for now. The Health Department decided to wait six weeks — twice the normal incubation period for the measles virus — to be certain, said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the Minnesota state epidemiologist.”

Also at MPR, Tim Nelson reports: “The campaign to defeat the proposed constitutional amendent banning same-sex marriage will make its debut in coming days. There’s going to be a fundraiser at Lush, a Nordeast bar, on Monday night. A week later, the Loring Playhouse is hosting the official kickoff of the campaign asking voters to vote ‘No’ on the proposed amendment. The effort’s been titled Minnesotans United for All Families. Both events are touting appearances by Gov. Mark Dayton, but we haven’t been able to confirm he’ll be there. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, is listed as a featured speaker at the Loring.” If nothing else, there’ll be a lot of good gay happy hours coming out of this campaign.

One of the big popcorn movies of the summer, “Super 8,” a kind of latter-day “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” opens Friday, and film critic Colin Covert of the Strib is lovin’ it: “I haven’t seen another studio release this year that jitterbugs with love for movies like “Super 8.” As the title suggests, it’s a valentine to filmmaking, especially the family-oriented science-fiction variety. J.J. Abrams, who directed the best entries in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Star Trek’ franchises, delivers a phenomenal pop-art experience, dazzling the senses while aiming straight for the heart.”