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Pagami Creek Fire blows up, bums out Brewers

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Bachmann’s surprise “friend and foe”; PCA’s taconite permit; AG takes bond work out of state; “deferential” Senser media treatment draws ire; and more.
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MORNING EDITION

When a major-league team 300 miles away closes its dome because of a fire, you know it’s a giant conflagration. The 160-square-mile Pagami Creek Fire now easily tops 2007’s Ham Lake blaze, with a “pretty much unprecedented” speed, according to the Strib. It could get much worse: The fire’s eastern edge has reached the 1999 blowdown. MPR has some excellent big pictures of the fire; a local Patch.com editor happened to be camping there and notes the fire is moving underground. If you want some sense of scale, the fire is as big as Minneapolis and St. Paul put together — with another Minneapolis attached.

It’s a crazy world — Rush Limbaugh is criticizing Michele Bachmann and ex-City Pages reporter Nick Pinto is defending her. Limbaugh opined that Bachmann “jumped the shark” by onpassing a woman’s baseless claim that the HPV vaccine made her child retarded. (The vaccine was Monday’s GOP debate centerpiece.) The Strib editorial page and ex-Minnesota medical ethicist Art Caplan go further, saying Bachmann’s recklessness will harm women’s health. But in the Village Voice, Pinto gives Bachmann some health cred for her crusade against mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs. Pinto slices this fairly thin — there may be bigger household effects from a broken bulb than realized, even if fluorescents reduce societal mercury and the federal law only outlaws the piggiest incandescents (rather than mandating CFLs). It’ll be interesting to see if the Bachmann-bashing City Pages, owned by the same publisher, reprints “Michele Bachmann’s Bright Idea.”

Speaking of mercury, MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill notes the Minnesota Pollution Agency approved a U.S. Steel taconite plant air pollution permit. Taconite is the state’s second-biggest source of mercury emissions, and the permit doesn’t guarantee reductions. In what Hemphill calls “new territory,” the MPCA will “wait to see how well the company’s controls work before it sets a restriction.” U.S. Steel forecast an 80 percent drop. If you prefer mercury-free nuclear, well, there’s a little problem with sand clogging the Monticello nuke’s fire suppression system, the Strib’s David Shaffer reports.

Remember those Pace Picante ads that featured salsa eaters outraged that a competitor was from New York City? Well, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is sliding Minnesota bond work from Dorsey Whitney to a firm from Omaha, Neb. Strib pit bull Mike Kaszuba says Swanson stresses “ethical conflicts” — mostly Dorsey representing clients with competing interests. However, there’s also the juicy detail that Dorsey would only reduce its $423-$465 hourly fee by 11 bucks in the face of the state fiscal crisis. Dorsey received a measly seven days’ notice they were canned. Critics of the switch say a lot of institutional memory has been lost. You get the sense there’s more to this story. 

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City Pages’ Mike Mullen highlights an angry missive from Anna Prasomphol, owner of the True Thai restaurant, ripping the local media for being too deferential to Amy Senser in the fatal hit-and-run of her employee, Anousone Phanthavong. Journalists may argue for a diligent investigation, but Prasomphol sees it as media pals circling the wagons. “I do not think the local news media cares about Ped’s side of the story,” she writes, noting no one contacted the family and the Star Tribune didn’t even reply to her op-ed submission. (It doesn’t appear Mullen checked that with the Strib.) Prasomphol names WCCO’s Esme Murphy, the Strib’s Gail Rosenblum and MPR’s Bob Collins. Collins (confession: a pal) responded: “My ‘arguments’ have nothing to do with defending Mrs. Senser nor failing to understand the position of the family of Mr. Phanthavong. My post and subsequent comments were strictly on behalf of the investigatory process and, ultimately, the judicial process.” Prasomphol’s story made me realize we really don’t have a tabloid type in this town who will bleed for the victim, systemic imperatives be damned.

MPR’s Tom Scheck reports that DFL-backed state Senate candidates Jeff Hayden (Minneapolis) and Chris Eaton (Brooklyn Center/Brooklyn Park) cruised to wins in their primaries and are favored to success Linda Berglin and Linda Scheid, respectively. Hayden got 61 percent of the six-way vote; Eaton 88 percent of the two-way.

Nort spews: The Twins were two-hit by Justin Verlander … make that, Bruce Chen, falling to the Royals 4-0. Minnesota must go 4-11 to avoid 100 losses, but at this point, they deserve that ignominy. Recalling a stat from earlier this year, the Twins would be the second team to have a $100 million-plus payroll and 100 losses. (The 2008 Mariners did it first.) In an example of not-so-great timing, City Pages’ Erin Carlyle asks, “Can Donovan McNabb Conquer the Past and Lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl?” He’ll have to pass for more than 50 yards a game first.

Glean creator David Brauer returns to fill in for vacationing Brian Lambert.