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White House fast-tracks Southwest light-rail project

Minnesota Orchestra locks out musicians; fifth anniversary of Minnesota smoking ban; St. Paul’s fiber-optic plans draw interest; and more.

Those meddling Big Gummint feds … Jessica Mador of MPR reports: “The Obama administration Monday announced plans to expedite the Southwest light rail project, which would run from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The White House says it selected Southwest light rail for fast tracking because the line would improve transit access in the Twin Cities metro area. Federal officials say expediting Southwest could shave several months off the project schedule. The transit project is still in the planning stages, with a goal of opening to riders in 2017. The announcement was part of the president’s ‘We Can’t Wait’ initiative, which officials say is aimed at creating jobs, modernizing transit systems and making infrastructure projects more efficient.” When will they learn government doesn’t create jobs?

Apparently the replacement string-section idea was not viable. Graydon Royce’s Strib story says: “The Minnesota Orchestra has locked out its musicians and canceled concerts through Nov. 25. The season was to have begun Oct. 18 in the Minneapolis Convention Center while Orchestra Hall is remodeled. The Orchestra made the announcement Monday morning as its contract with union musicians expired.”

At The Washington Post, Matt Brooks writes about ex-Viking Matt Birk’s Strib commentary and the video he shot for the Minnesota Catholic Conference: “The Six-time Pro Bowl center and Minnesota native wrote an editorial that appeared in Sunday’s Minnesota Star Tribune advocating the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment. He also appears in an online video for the Minnesota Catholic Conference in which he asks voters to keep marriage only between a man and woman, the Baltimore Sun’s Ravens Insider reports:

” ‘I can put up with a lot from the government like higher taxes and while I don’t like it, pushing God out of public schools, but letting a small number of business and government elites and judges define what marriage is for Minnesotans doesn’t seem very fair and doesn’t make a lot of sense,’ Birk said in the video. ‘Politicians have said they will try to redefine marriage at their earliest opportunity, even next year, if the marriage amendment doesn’t pass. Our culture today of moral relativism attacks marriage and a lot of our Catholic values, but marriage is a foundation of our society and it’s definitely something worth fighting for, my marriage and the institution of marriage itself.’

In a Duluth News Tribune commentary, Gary Eckenberg reflects on the fifth anniversary of the Freedom to Breathe Act: “I have a little history with the Freedom to Breathe battle, first as a health-education proponent with our St. Louis County Health Department in the mid-1980s, then as a Duluth city councilor who co-sponsored Duluth’s smoke-free restaurant ordinance more than a dozen years ago, and also as a member of the St. Louis County Smoke Free Coalition and as a board director for ClearWay Minnesota. … Five years later, the evidence is clear: Freedom to Breathe is an overwhelming success! The law is supported by 79 percent of Minnesotans with 86 percent believing smoke-free bars and restaurants are healthier for customers and employees. … Freedom to Breathe has contributed to an 11 percent decrease in secondhand-smoke exposure. Minnesota hospitality workers are healthier. Exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens fell by 85 percent, and nicotine exposure decreased by 83 percent after the law went into effect. Also, the smoke-free law has not impacted Minnesota’s economy. Employment levels are a key indicator of economic impact, and since implementation there has been no decrease in jobs for hospitality workers.” Eckenberg remembers being called something along the lines of a commie-pedophile-troop-hating nanny-stater during the debate over the law.

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The GleanThe PiPress’ Leslie Brooks Suzukamo writes  about businesses looking to link in to St. Paul’s fiber optic system: “The streets have yet to be ripped up, the trenches yet to be dug, for a proposed $14 million ultrafast fiber-optic underground broadband network in Ramsey County. The county has long said the network would be exclusively for government use. Facilities without fiber connectivity, like the county workhouse, or governmental bodies like the City of St. Paul — which is considering leasing space on the network to replace its service from Comcast — would be the only users, the county says. But once the streets are dug up, businesses are considering ways to leverage the project, too.”

Again … I’m shocked. Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “A one-time world-record Twin Cities weightlifter has been sentenced in federal court after being caught in a sting selling nearly 10,000 units of anabolic steroids.
Andrew J. Fiedler, 38, of Apple Valley, was sentenced to five years’ probation on Friday after admitting to conspiracy to distribute and possession of anabolic steroids. Fiedler’s sentence also includes 500 hours of community service, drug testing, a ban on drinking alcohol, substance-abuse classes and mental-health treatment. In 2004, Fiedler set the world record in the bench press for a 275-pound competitor, lifting more than 800 pounds. That mark has since been broken.”

Also from Walsh: “The [Minneapolis Police] department will issue later Monday ‘an accurate time line of what happened’ that led to five people being shot by newly fired Accent employee Andrew Engeldinger before he fatally shot himself at the business, the chief said on WCCO. Dolan added that there were ‘three distinct areas’ where the violence occurred in what he characterized as ‘the worst shooting we’ve had in the state of Minnesota.’ The chief said the ‘people in those areas didn’t have an idea what was going on outside of [their] areas until it was right in front of them.’ … According to Hennepin County Medical Center, Accent Signage’s production manager, Eric Rivers, remained in critical condition, while director of operations John Souter was in serious condition. Dolan said his department knows where Engeldinger got his handgun about a year ago, adding that the shooter had been carrying out ‘lots of practice.’ ” And do we know who sold someon like him thousands of rounds of ammo?

That lawsuit North Dakota has filed against Minnesota over selling coal-generated electricity has been given a go-ahead. Dave Shaffer of the Strib says: “North Dakota’s lawsuit against Minnesota over the right to sell new coal-generated electricity across state lines has survived its first legal skirmish. A federal judge has ruled that North Dakota government, coal and utility interests have made a ‘plausible’ case that a restrictive 2007 Minnesota energy law is invalid because federal law preempts it. The ruling, filed electronically on Sunday by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul, dashed the Minnesota attorney general’s efforts to derail much of North Dakota’s lawsuit on legal grounds.”

In an MPR commentary, author K.C. Boyd taps into an under-examined facet of the current political psychosis. She writes: “While America wrestles with the tragic deaths in Libya and the unrest roiling the Middle East, Christian Zionist pastors such as John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, are using the conflict to feed the ever-present fear and hatred of Muslims. Their ultimate goal apparently is to accelerate the end of the world as “foretold” in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. … Words like these would matter little if no one were listening. But millions watch Hagee and other Christian broadcasters, and they hang on these pastors’ every word. Even more significant, mega-pastors like Hagee have the ear of countless politicians who either believe as they do or who want to court their voting bloc. The end of one of Hagee’s sermons should strike fear in America’s collective soul: ‘We are living in the final moments of the Dispensation of Grace,’ Hagee preached, referring to the period prior to Revelation-predicted calamities and suffering before the Second Coming, ‘and prayer is the only thing that will save us. Hallelujah.’ Prayer. So much for diplomacy, democracy or wisdom.”