In a letter last week addressed to students, faculty, and staff, University of St. Thomas President Dennis Dease admitted he had "made the wrong decision" in not inviting Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on campus because of allegations he was anti-Semitic.
"Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do," he wrote. "PeaceJam International may well choose to keep the alternative arrangements that it has made for its April 2008 conference, but I want the organization and Archbishop Tutu to know that we would be honored to hold the conference at St. Thomas. In any event, St. Thomas will extend an invitation to Archbishop Tutu to participate in a forum to foster constructive dialogue on the issues that have been raised."
St. Thomas administrators received a barrage of indignant emails and phone calls after we broke the story that university brass had opted out of hosting the Nobel Laureate amid concerns that his critical stance regarding Israeli policy might offend the local Jewish community ("Banning Desmond Tutu," 10/10/07).
Julie Swiler, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, had previously told St. Thomas officials that Tutu's words during a 2002 speech were especially controversial and hurtful. Now she has agreed to co-sponsor the forum, should Tutu accept the offer. —Matt Snyders
Our Dumbest Criminal
Yazeed Abdulrazzak Al-Qublan may be the dumbest man alive, if a criminal complaint filed last week is to be believed.
According to the complaint, the 24-year-old St. Paul resident stole a woman's purse from a party in Minneapolis. Inside the purse was the woman's cell phone. When the woman called her phone, Al-Qublan answered. The enterprising crook offered to return it for $100.
Meanwhile, the woman's friends, standing outside the Target Center, flagged down a couple of cops. The friends told the officers what was going on, and one of the cops took the phone and started to talk to Al-Qublan. The officer and the alleged thief agreed to meet at Lyndale and Glenwood to make the exchange. Helpfully, Al-Qublan told the officer he'd be wearing a green hat.
Which, long story short, he was. He was also carrying .14 grams of cocaine, according to the complaint, and has been charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. —Jonathan Kaminsky
There are many plausible explanations for why the Minnesota Twins aren't playing postseason baseball this season for just the second time in six years: An anemic lineup featuring a starting third baseman with the hitting pop of a gnat; a tepid, injury-riddled season from Joe Mauer; perennial Cy Young contender Johan Santana's failure to put together another dominating campaign. All undoubtedly contributed to the team's disappointing third-place finish.
But leave it to Pioneer Press sports gossip Charley Walters to come up with an explanation that absolves all human beings of blame. Last week, "Shooter" used his valuable column space to point out that the Twins were a semi-competitive 55-51 prior to the 35W bridge collapse, but a woeful 24-32 afterward.
Apparently, Nick Punto was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. —Paul Demko
Betraying our troops
When more than 1,100 members of the Minnesota National Guard's Red Bull Brigade returned home last month, they had the distinction of having served the longest consecutive tour since the war's start in 2003.
The guard members had each served between 718 and 729 days. The soldiers were conspicuously close to the 730 days a soldier is required to serve before the GI Bill kicks in, providing vets extra cash—between $500 and $800 a month—for school.
But there would be no money. 729 days was not 730 days, and that, it seemed, was that.
Then the Minnesota Congressional Delegation stepped in. Sen. Norm Coleman told NBC it was "simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq."
Retired Command Sgt. Major Tim Walz, now Congressman Tim Walz, made the most noise. He was instrumental in passing a resolution commending the service of the brigade best known as the first division deployed to Europe in World War II. Next Walz announced his sponsorship of the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, which would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide six months' unpaid leave for those burdened with an injured and unemployed soldier.
He struck at the GI Bill issue directly when he asked the storied congressman and war critic Jack Murtha to call General Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, and make something happen.
Something did happen: Last week, Walz announced that Gen. Cody agreed to send a team to Minnesota to "further address and continue to rectify the situation."
Until the situation is completely "rectified," City Pages has a message for Minnesota college students (the ones who haven't been to the war and back): We declare the month of October "Take a Soldier to Class Month."
Somebody's got to support the troops, right? At least that's what the president says. —Jeff Severns Guntzel