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Highlights in Minnesota politics, Oct. 22-28

A Florida-based group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-gay hate group is taking aim at Minnesota-based Target for advertising during a Teen Nick show, Degrassi, that contains gay characters. The group, the Florida Family Association, is calling for a boycott.

Pres. Barack Obama released a plan to provide student loan debt relief to millions of Americans this week. Sen. Al Franken, who has sponsored similar legislation, praised the executive orders. But student loan advocates said the reforms were too limited.

The Occupy Wall Street protests saw their first serious injuries this week as Oakland, Calif., police used crowd control tactics on a peaceful march. One of those injured was former Marine and Wisconsin native Scott Olsen, who took a police projectile to the head and is expected to undergo surgery. Warning: the embedded video is intense.

Campaign finance disclosures filed for October show both the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and Republicans are in debt. The Republicans carry more than half a million dollars in debt, while Democrats have about half that.

Less than a week after a Minnesota Independent story on Rep. Erik Paulsen’s intimate connections with the medical device industry, the New York Times published a piece profiling his attempts to relax Food and Drug Administration oversight of device approval.

The Inver Grove Heights City Council rejected a measure that would have allowed a domestic partnership registry in the city. One of the main opponents on the council, Dennis Madden, said he was “tired of these weird little groups that do all these strange things.” The rejection came after a pressure campaign from religious conservatives.

A union locked out since Aug. 1 will take the most recent offer from American Crystal Sugar to a vote by the end of the month, although the union isn’t happy with the offer. Replacement workers brought in by Strom Engineering of Minnetonka, which specializes in supporting companies involved in labor disputes, have staffed the plants since the lockout started. Union members have blamed replacement workers for a number of fires at the plants this summer and fall.

Just weeks after a Minnesota Independent article retraced the political influence wielded by Comcast’s to push through their early 2011 merger, Pres. Barack Obama hired one of the company’s paid lobbyists. The lobbyist has also been involved in pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline, which Obama has not opposed.

After almost three weeks of protesting, someone left a box labelled “riot equipment” on Hennepin County Government Plaza. The spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department sent out an email to all media, attaching photos of the box and listing incidents where police have responded to the plaza since the occupation started. Occupy MN organizers blamed a “provocateur” for the box, and said protesters aren’t responsible for many of the incidents downtown.

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared on the show of controversial preacher Bradlee Dean. Santorum reinforced his support for “sodomy laws” and accused gay people of using marriage rights issues to “secularize our society.”

The Minnesota Independent also reported at the start of this week that an anti-abortion activist was planning to use a run against Rep. Keith Ellison to force Twin Cities media to play graphic anti-abortion ads. Legacy media later picked up on the story.

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