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GOP Rep. Jim Abeler enters Senate race

Teacher-prep courses get mediocre grades; poll backs tax hikes on upper incomes and cigarettes; Amazon drops blogger links over state’s new law; and more.

Well, this is a bit more like it … Tim Pugmire’s MPR story says: “State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, announced today that he is forming a start-up committee to run in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by incumbent Democrat Al Franken. Minnesota needs a senator who protects personal privacy and liberty and unlocks the ‘stifling stranglehold the federal government holds on Minnesota,’ said Abeler in a press release. … Abeler is a chiropractor serving his eighth term in the Minnesota House. He is currently the Republican lead on the Health and Human Services Finance Committee. He previously chaired the same panel. Abeler sided with House Democrats in 2008 to override then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a gas tax increase.” Next on the to-do list … get $15 million.

So not even … “above average”?  Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Times goes to St. Cloud State for reaction to a study that says American teacher preparation courses are mediocre … at best: “The report determined overall ratings based on a set of key standards at 608 institutions, including many in Minnesota. According to the report, the evaluations show that a vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their invest of time and tuition dollars. … Fewer than 10 percent of rated programs earn three stars or more. Only four programs, all in secondary education, earn four stars. St. Cloud State University got 2½ stars out of four in undergraduate secondary training and 1½ in undergraduate elementary training. Minnesota State University — Mankato, similar to St. Cloud State in size and programs, received the same ratings. The University of Minnesota — Morris, University of Minnesota — Duluth, the University of St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus College all earned three stars at the undergraduate secondary level.”

While the exodus of millionaires continues making its way to South Dakota … Jim Ragsdale of the Strib writes about the latest Minnesota Poll: “DFL-backed tax hikes on upper-income Minnesotans and cigarette smokers enjoy broad popular support, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found. An income tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans, the centerpiece of Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget, is supported by 58 percent of those polled, compared with 36 percent opposed. Even more popular is the $1.60 per pack jump in cigarette taxes, favored by 64 percent with 32 percent opposed.” Surely we’ll tip into an economic abyss by September.

The PiPress story by Joseph Lindberg and Michael Berardino says: “A bus carrying a Minnesota Twins minor league team was involved in a fatal crash near Jacksonville, Fla., early Tuesday morning. No Twins players or staff members were injured in the crash, which involved the organization’s rookie-level affiliate based in Elizabethton, Tenn. However, the driver of a second vehicle involved in the accident died after the head-on collision, Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse said in a statement. According to Morse, Florida State Patrol officers were on the scene almost immediately; they had received reports of a car traveling the wrong way on Interstate 295. The crash happened just after 4:30 a.m., according to the Florida State Patrol website. The bus driver saw the car approaching and tried to pull over to the side of the road, but still was hit by the car, Morse said.”

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Meanwhile, a paralyzing blow to guys already down to their last pair of sweat pants in their parents’ basement … Says Adam Belz in the Strib: “Amazon and other e-commerce firms are cutting ties with all Minnesotans who earn money by posting links that send traffic to online merchants after lawmakers passed a tweak to state sales tax law. Minnesota E-Fairness legislation, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 23 and going into effect July 1, classifies independent bloggers and online reviewers as a physical presence of a business in the state. This means online companies who pay these people to generate new sales must collect tax not just on those sales, but on all sales in the state. Amazon is having none of it. The company sent an email to associates in Minnesota, saying it will close all accounts in the state to avoid the tax.” There goes that pack of cigarettes Amazon money paid for …

Here’s the Strib’s Lori Sturdevant on Best Buy founder Richard Schulze’s plan to enlarge his family foundation: “While being treated for brain cancer in 2009, my friend Jackie and her family were well served by the Richard M. Schulze American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. It’s a well-appointed, comforting home away from home for cancer patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center/Fairview. That personal connection with the generosity of Best Buy‘s founder gave me reason to cheer Monday’s news that there will soon be more where that came from. The decision of Dick and Maureen Schulze to donate roughly half of their personal fortune to the foundation bearing their name is very good news. Proceeds from the foundation’s investments will be put to use for learning and healing, much of it in connection with medical research at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.”

The GleanWho does the Pentagon think it is? Jim Spencer at the Strib says the piddly gnat-on-the-rump military shop is showing frustration with … UnitedHealth: “The Defense Department has extended for a second time an emergency measure to address problems UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans has had in administering a $20.5 billion contract that provides medical services to military members, retirees and their families.  Delays in referrals to specialists led the government to step in and allow primary care doctors to send patients directly to specialists without a UnitedHealthcare review. … UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans’ officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.” The impertinence of some people!

Target will soon offer a brand completely free of GMOs. At the Nation of Change site, Elizabeth Renter writes: “Super store giant, Target, has announced they will be adding a new brand to their shelves — one that is made with natural health in mind. Called Simply Balanced, the brand will be on shelves soon and will phase out genetically modified ingredients by the end of 2014. According to a press release on the Target official website, the initial roll-out will include a selection of foods that are 40% organic and the majority of them will not contain GMOs. GMOs will be completely absent from the ingredients within the next year and a half. … The Simply Balanced collection is crafted to be free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, and avoids high fructose corn syrup. The collection never uses trans fats, is mindful about the amount of sodium in each product, and forty percent of the products are organic.” Just don’t mess with the Funyuns.

If you were anywhere near “Rock the Garden” over the weekend, you can appreciate that there’s already plenty of Brooklyn in Minnesota. Now … for the reverse. Jahna Peloquin at VitaMN tells us about “ … a soon-to-be-opened, musician-run bar called Lake Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn … . Its owners include Twin Cities-bred drummer Bobby Drake (of the Hold Steady), Moorhead, Minn., native Eric Odness (bassist for the Wanted), Kansas native Rob Pope of Spoon and Frank Bevan (w/o.), who spent their fair share of time in Minneapolis while playing in various bands including Arm, Capital!Capital and Chariots. Along with Stevie Howlett of East Village bars the Scratcher and Heathers, the group plans to open its doors to the public soon, according to a story today in Brooklyn blog Bedford+Bowery. … Another local connection appears in one of the bar’s bathrooms, which is covered in the crude diaries of Hiro Tanaka, a legendary roadie/photographer who did a fair amount of time in Minneapolis and toured with Minneapolis bands Selby Tigers and Birthday Suits.” Wait a minute. The Selby Tigers had roadies, and one of them was “legendary”?