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Wildfires in Canada mean air pollution in Minnesota

Plus: grizzly finds zoo unbearable; record rainfall around the metro; drunken boaters overwhelm Lake Minnetonka; and more. 

Firefighters tackling a wildfire near the town of La Ronge, Saskatchewan, on Sunday.
REUTERS/Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations

Damned Canada (and Alaska). The milky skies aren’t clearing soon enough. Says Mary Lynn Smith for the Strib, “The worst of the air hung over a large swath of Minnesota from the south to Duluth and a pocket along the northeast border for much of Monday, gradually shrinking and lessening by mid-evening. On an air-quality scale that ranges from 0 to 200, some parts of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, pushed into the mid-170s and 180s, said Steve Mikkelson, a spokesman for the MPCA.”

Says Paul Huttner at MPR, “Monday morning’s downpours (and flash floods in the east metro) got our attention early. Just when you thought it was safe, the core of the dense smoke plume from over 600 wildfires in Alaska and western Canada arrived. … What happens when you combine record low season snowfall in Alaska with a very warm May? An unprecedented fire season. And yes, there is probably a climate change connection. We call them feedback loops. The climate warms, wildfire activity increases, more carbon is released into the atmosphere, soot from fires darkens snow in the Arctic creating faster melt.”

Our “racist” flag is, of course, catnip for the conservative Daily Caller. Writes Blake Neef, “Whether or not Minnesota natives accept her [Judith Harrington, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse] reasoning, they may have another reason to consider dumping the flag: A 2001 poll by the North American Vexillogical Association found that the public rated Minnesota’s flag as the sixth-ugliest state flag in the country.” I had to look up “Vexillogical,” too.

Speaking of official art, Tim Pugmire at MPR reports, “A state panel will spend the next six months trying to decide what kind of art is needed inside the renovated Minnesota Capitol building. The panel likely will consider how to display governor portraits and whether some of the depictions of Civil War battles should come down, at least temporarily.”

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Don’t mess with the Griz. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib, “A grizzly bear at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley picked up a basketball-sized rock with both front paws Monday morning and repeatedly slammed it into a pane of glass, shattering the barrier as startled patrons stood on the other side. The five-layer pane stayed in place ‘like a windshield,’ and no creatures on either side of the multiple panes were harmed, said zoo animal collections manager Tony Fisher. The rambunctious bear and two other grizzlies in the open-air exhibit were called back inside, and the area remains closed to the public until a temporary fix can be made … .”

A Wisconsin CEO has had enough of this “Minnesota is WAY better” stuff. In his opinion, published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Kurt Bauer writes, “President Barack Obama addressed that question during a visit to Wisconsin last week. In his mind, comparing the Wisconsin and Minnesota economies discredits Republican governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s reforms and promotes those pursued by progressive Democrats like him and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. The problem is that any history professor worth his or her salt will tell you it is far too early in Walker’s tenure to determine how his pro-business reforms have impacted Wisconsin’s long-term economic competitiveness. That is especially true when you consider that Walker’s first term was marred by protests and a series of recall elections that delayed a lot of business decisions because of the uncertainty they created.” See! It’s those protestors that are holding the state back!

More dough. Fewer students. Says Christopher Magan in the PiPress, “Minnesota’s widely debated preschool scholarship program may reach fewer children next year despite millions in new spending. The anticipated dip in recipients may be short-lived. It would follow Monday’s announcement by Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, that she will increase the scholarship cap to $7,500 per student.”

Some numbers on yesterday’s rain: Andy Rathbun of the PiPress says, “At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a record 2.83 inches of rain fell. Several metro locations had even higher amounts — like Stillwater, where 4.03 inches fell, and Farmington, which got 4.61 inches. But the highest amounts were in western Wisconsin. In Hudson, 7.17 inches was reported, and the total reached 7.67 inches at River Falls, according to the National Weather Service.”

Speaking of sloshed, Kelly Smith of the Strib says, “Intoxicated boaters flocked to Lake Minnetonka for the July 4th holiday weekend, inundating first responders with calls during the busiest weekend of the year. No deaths were reported on the Twin Cities’ most popular lake, but some local leaders are worried that Minnetonka’s party scene is out of control, with not enough patrols and too much underage drinking and intoxicated boating. ‘We had ambulances nonstop,’ said Gabriel Jabbour of Orono, who is on the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District board … .”

Editorially speaking, it’s a bit like rolling a drunk when the Strib tut-tuts the Confederate-flag-waving fireman. “Brian Nielsen, who drove the truck, has said he flew the flag to protest ‘political correctness.’ Yes, those who wish to limit free speech and debate due to concerns about offensive terms can go too far. But the growing push to remove the Confederate flag from publicly owned buildings after the Charleston, S.C., church shootings is not one of those occasions. Nor did Nielsen display good judgment in deciding when and where to lodge his one-man protest against ‘political correctness.’”

Pity Isanti. City Pages pulls together a quasi-scientific survey of the metro’s “worst commutes.” And we have a winner/loser. Says Michael Rietmulder, “Congratulations, people of Isanti. You officially have the crappiest commute in the region. According to census data, NO ONE there uses mass transit and the commute times — 36.5 minutes each way — are easily the area’s longest. Isanti’s overall score was almost half of runner-up loser Zimmerman’s. Sitting between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, rural Zimmerman fared consistently bad (but not the worst!) in all metrics. Few have bus passes and gas and insurance ain’t cheap, while drivers spend the second most time in their pickup trucks. Third-worst North Branch residents, at least those presumably not employed by the town’s Gymboree outlet store, spend more than an hour and five minutes commuting each day — just a few ticks longer than folks from Elko New Market and Becker, Nos. 4 and 5.”