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Ex-councilman Minn faked emails in fight with rival developer

Nordstrom to open Ridgedale store; multifaith effort to pray for civility in politics; violent video games; settlement in “vodka mom” case; and more.

Many have considered this tactic … before realizing the downside was steeper than the up. Eric Roper of the Strib reports: “A bizarre attempt to derail a business rival’s projects at Minneapolis City Hall using fake names and e-mails has prompted city attorneys to investigate allegations against Steve Minn, a prominent local developer who once served on the City Council. The accusations about Minn are contained in an inch-thick stack of documents delivered to council members and the mayor this week. It was signed by developer Kelly Doran, who has feuded with Minn. Several weeks ago, Doran discovered that Minn had created pseudonyms to influence two development decisions and make online posts about council members. Minn admitted Thursday to using the pseudonyms. The fake identities — Howard Wilbur, Suzanne Sharp and Louis C. Brown — all appear to be derived from the names of family members.”

But will they bring the Rack with them? Says Janet Moore in the Strib: “Nordstrom said Friday that it will open a second store in the Twin Cities market at Ridgedale mall in Minnetonka. The Seattle-based upscale department store retailer confirmed speculation that surfaced anew when Macy’s said Thursday it would close one of its two anchor stores at Ridgedale. Nordstrom, which now only has one store in Minnesota at the Mall of America, plus two off-price Rack stores at the megamall and in Maple Grove, has made no secret of its desire to expand here. Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said Friday that the retailer will open a two-level store at Ridgedale by fall of 2015.”

Well, obviously the threats and name-calling haven’t worked … . In the Strib, Rose French writes: “Prominent Minnesota minister The Rev. Peg Chemberlin is leading an effort by a diverse array of national religious leaders, who are calling on Americans to pray for more civility in politics. The nonpartisan group Faith & Politics Institute on Thursday announced the ‘18 days of Prayer for the Nation’ with faith leaders, denominational and organizational leaders and all Americans, ‘concerned that excessive political polarization is harming America,’ according to a released statement from the group. … Both conservative and left-leaning faith leaders have signed on to the effort, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Richard Land of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.” Is the Rev. Bradley Dean on the list anywhere?

Milk, if not honey, flowed well in November. The AP says: “Dairy farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota had an especially strong month in November. Milk production in both states increased 5 percent compared to their output in November 2011. No other state showed as large an increase, and the increase nationwide was just 1 percent. Wisconsin dairy farmers harvested 2.2 billion pounds in November. That was an increase of 99 million pounds from the same month a year earlier. In Minnesota, 739 million pounds were harvested in November, an improvement of 22 million pounds.” As usual, those hippies in California led the country.

In the PiPress, Ruben Rosario laments the popular acceptance of machine-gunnin’ video games: “The NRA, which loses credibility with me each time its leader opens his mouth, blamed such games for playing a role in mass shootings. But he did not utter a peep about the accessibility of the type of semi-automatic assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines used in the slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Conn., and other shootings. He knows where his bread is buttered, and it’s not where the best interests and welfare of the citizenry is the top priority. But back to video games. Life and my gut tell me that playing violent video games by itself doesn’t cause people to turn violent or carry out a mass murder. But I do believe such games contribute to a far too accepted culture of violence in America, if not elsewhere. And they do legitimize or reaffirm violence as the way to resolve conflict in those folks predisposed to violent, aggressive behavior. Case in point: Anders Breivik, the man responsible for Norway’s mass shooting in July 2011, acknowledged that he prepped for the deadly assault with the same type of ‘Call of Duty’ game Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza played.” For a lot of folks “credibility” and “NRA” has been a “lost” (as in distant past tense) concept for a long, long time.

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The GleanA Cottage Grove family has settled with Nancy Grace … Megan Boldt at the PiPress says: “The survivors of a Cottage Grove mother who killed herself after being ridiculed on national television by an HLN host as ‘the vodka mom’ reached an out-of-court settlement with the network in connection with her death. Attorney Mike Padden, who represents Toni Medrano’s family, said the settlement agreement with CNN Worldwide, the parent company of the ‘Nancy Grace’ show, will be filed in Dakota County District Court on Friday, Jan. 4. … On the night of Nov. 21, 2011, Medrano allegedly drank a fifth of vodka before falling asleep on a couch next to the baby. About 10:30 a.m. the next day, police received a call that the baby was dead. According to an autopsy, he was smothered. The mother was charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter on June 7. Four days later, on a segment of the ‘Nancy Grace’ television show, Medrano was ridiculed and dubbed ‘the vodka mom’ — a nickname that was repeated by news outlets across the country.”

MPR’s Tim Pugmire offers a synopsis of “issues to watch” at the Legislature this winter.
HEALTH CARE Minnesota is moving ahead with plans for a new health insurance exchange, which is required by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. State exchanges will allow consumers to comparison shop for health insurance in online marketplaces. … Democrats, including Dayton, will have to find revenue to pay for the exchange while balancing the concerns of business leaders worried about costs and consumer advocates worried about access. Expect Republicans to oppose whatever plan moves forward since they have been universally opposed to the Affordable Care Act on both the state and federal level. …
Gov. Dayton has said education funding is among his top priorities. But the state still owes schools more than $1 billion in delayed payments that were part of earlier budget deals. DFL legislators have said they want to make education funding less dependent on the passage of local property tax measures. They also want to boost funding for colleges and universities. University of Minnesota officials have promised a tuition freeze in exchange for increased state funding.”

Very good piece by MPR’s Catharine Richert on, dare we say, a very cynical mailing strategy: “Sometimes dubbed ‘Medi-scare’ mail, these types of solicitations have been around for years and are largely legal. Even in the digital age, it remains an effective way to reach older people who are at the center of a debate in Washington over whether to cut entitlement spending to close the deficit. The groups behind the mail are difficult to track. Some have out-of-date websites, some list disconnected phone numbers, and there’s little information available about what these groups do with the millions they raise each year. All are nonprofits, so they don’t have to disclose donors.” And who gets credit for keeping this stuff opaque?

In an MPR commentary, DFL Sen. John Marty writes: “I was an author of a Minnesota law requiring lockdown drills to improve security in schools. Although it is not something government can do, I believe it is important that each of us challenge the idea that watching violence, or ‘virtually’ killing others, is entertainment. And we would see huge reductions in violent crime if we ensured that all people, including those most troubled by mental illness or chemical dependency, receive the care they need when they need it. To make this happen, we need more than rhetoric: We need to pass the proposed Minnesota Health Plan, or an alternative that truly delivers comprehensive care for everyone. But in addition to these reforms, it is also time to take a comprehensive look at our gun laws. …     The NRA’s call for the federal government to spend several billion dollars a year to pay for one or more armed police officers at every school in the country would be one of the most expensive, ill-conceived solutions possible. Gunmen like those at Columbine or Sandy Hook or other schools often orchestrate their attacks carefully. They could easily plan to kill at times or places in the school where the officer was not around. Besides, most of these killers have far greater firepower than the school police officers would have.”

And he wasn’t Denzel Washington … .  KARE-TV reports: “An airport spokesman says an American Eagle pilot preparing for takeoff has been arrested after failing a blood-alcohol test at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Spokesman Patrick Hogan says witnesses alerted airport police that the pilot smelled like alcohol before he boarded the plane. Hogan says the pilot was conducting preflight checks about 6:30 a.m. Friday when officers boarded, conducted a Breathalyzer test and arrested him on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol. Passengers had not yet boarded the flight to La Guardia, New York City.”