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Rural Minnesota Democrats feeling squeeze in gun debate

Pre-Labor Day school start causes rift; DuPont paying for tree deaths; musician Steve Kramer dies; family seeks “compassionate” drug test for child; and more.

Tim Walz is an interesting character in this fight. Kevin Diaz of the Strib writes: “President Obama said members of Congress are ‘going to have to have a debate, and examine their conscience.’ Nowhere will that examination be more searching than in outstate Minnesota, where support for gun rights is strong and Democrats control all three big rural districts. This checkerboard of farms, forests and prairie could well be the firewall that determines how far the administration can push a bitterly divided Congress to act on an expansive overhaul of gun laws. Amid peaking emotions and stiffening gun lobby opposition, one centrist Minnesota Democrat has already altered course, while others find themselves having to finesse or refine their public postures on politically touchy measures that have long been stymied by a wary Congress. ‘I’ve got to live with myself on these things,’ said Tim Walz, a southern Minnesota Democrat who runs with an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). ‘There’s a point where I’ve got to say, how do I want to wake up tomorrow?’ ” He could, of course, tell the NRA what they can do with their “A” rating.

Speaking of … In a context where an “F” is an “A” … the Strib, with Pro Publica, writes: “These are the ratings given to members of the Minnesota congressional delegation by the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence …  .
                                            NRA    Brady
Sen. Amy Klobuchar          F            66
Sen. Al Franken                  F           100
Rep. Tim Walz                    A           0
Rep. John Kline                 A           0
Rep. Erik Paulsen              A          n/a
Rep. Betty McCollum        F         100
Rep. Keith Ellison              F         100
Rep. Michele Bachmann  A          0
Rep. Collin Peterson         A          11
Rep. Rick Nolan                F         n/a.”

At MPR, former newspaper editor Phil Trieb follows rhetorical footprints in accusing President Obama of “playing the child card”: “[I]n announcing their gun initiative, the president and vice president shamelessly played the ‘child card’ (especially exploiting dead children) to push for new gun laws. In the 3,200 words the president and vice president spilled on Jan. 16, they used such terms as ‘children,’ ‘kids’ and ‘students’ 27 times. They specifically referred to Grace McDonald, a child victim of the Newtown shooting, an additional six times. And they trotted out four letter-writing children to watch as Obama circumvented the Constitution to sign an executive order unilaterally spending another $500 million we don’t have. If that’s not using children as pawns, what is? …  The president wants scientific and medical research as to the ‘causes of gun violence.’ He is clueless. Nothing ‘causes’ violence. Violence against the innocent is a result of evil. And he only used that word, ‘evil,’ once. So if anything is cowardly in this debate, it is to take the easy path, to blame guns and not deal with a culture that produces so much evil.” So is “evil” protected by the Second Amendment?

What’s the higher priority? Our kids competing with the Chinese, or Bob’s Fishing squeezing out another week of bait sales? Says Kelly Smith at the Strib: “More schools across Minnesota are petitioning to begin their school year before Labor Day, pitting the tourism industry and parents against schools that want to give students more time to prepare for crucial state and national exams. Parents in Northfield quashed a proposal last week to start school Aug. 13, saying it would conflict with the State Fair and programs like 4-H. In Edina, more than 200 parents are protesting a calendar shift to start in August that will be discussed this week, saying it infringes on valuable family time. And in Le Sueur, schools are preparing for a similar fight this month.” The Edina kids will barely be back from the Cote d’Azur.

The PiPress has a story about local homeowners and businesses slogging their way through legal action against mighty DuPont: “The herbicide Imprelis was pulled from the market in October 2011, but its impact only recently is becoming clear. Imprelis is now blamed for the deaths of thousands of trees in Minnesota and many more nationwide.  … DuPont is in the process of making payments that could top $700 million, according to a document on the company’s website. In Minnesota, it has agreed to pay $38,000 to Washington County and $381,800 to the Baker National Golf Course in Medina.”

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A slice of Minnesota’s pop history has passed away. At MPR, Rupa Chenoy writes: “Twin Cities musician Steve Kramer has died. Kramer’s business partner, Bob Hest, confirmed that he died in his sleep on Saturday night while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Kramer was an accordionist best known for his punk-polka band The Wallets. He led the band and wrote much of the music before the band folded in the late 1980s. The Wallets were known as one of the most original and unique bands in the Twin Cities. They traveled by converted ambulance on cross-country tours, and Kramer later said those grueling drives were the reason the band folded.”

The accused killer in the La Crosse photo-shop double homicide will stand trial in May. The AP says: “A Minnesota man accused of killing a La Crosse photography store owner and his son is set to stand trial in May. Investigators say Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota killed Paul Petras and Petras’ son, A.J., at May’s Photo in downtown La Crosse last September. They say they recovered multiple items from the store at Lepsch’s house during an October search.”

KARE-TV’s Lindsey Seavert tells the story of a family pleading with Big Pharma to have a heart: “Six year old Gavin Pierson, a Ramsey first grader, nicknamed his tumor ‘Joe Bully.’ It was the way he perceived the fast growing mass, as the bully in his brain. He’s had five brain surgeries in the past seven months. Now, Gavin’s family and doctors are taking on a bigger fight. They’re asking the drug company Pfizer to offer him what is known as a ‘compassionate use’ of a trial drug only tested on adults. ‘If they could give us this drug, it could save his life and we would know as parents that we did everything we could,’ said his mother, Nicole Pierson, and father, Steve Pierson.”

The lucky bidders have to have their paperwork in tomorrow. Says Richard Meryhew of the Strib: “Within days, the team and public authority overseeing construction of the nearly billion-dollar downtown Minneapolis development will make perhaps their most important decision — picking the company that will build the team’s new NFL home on the current Metrodome site. That hire, more than any other, will largely determine whether the 65,000-seat multipurpose stadium goes up on time, is built within its $975 million overall budget, and features a retractable roof or wall that opens to the sun, the stars and the city’s downtown skyline. … Early on, the builder will establish a project safety program, line up subcontractors and submit a guaranteed maximum construction price. If there are cost overruns, ‘all the risk lies with the construction manager,’ said Ken Johnson, an executive vice president with Hunt [Construction]. ‘The risk of everything comes down to one entity, and you better pick one who can deliver.’ “