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‘Simpsons’-Esque Hyperloop Grift Playing Out In MN, Apparently

Plus dire restaurant predictions, Friedman remains dumb, and Grammy local angles in today's Flyover news roundup.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Hyperloop. What's It Called? Hyperloop!

Before we get into the feasibility of hyperloop transportation, a still-theoretical technology noted huckster Elon Musk hyped over a decade ago, let's talk about Global Wellness Connections. Why? Because the locally headquartered nonprofit just requested that the Met Council provide "most of the $2.5 million" required to study whether an underground hyperloop tunnel could one day zip people via vacuum-accelerated pods from the Twin Cities to Rochester at 750 mph, reducing the trip to just 15 minutes. GWC, whose board includes Edina Mayor Jim Hovland, Plymouth Mayor Jeffry Wosje, and ex-Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, currently rocks a comically low-rent website, one that devotes a grand total of 77 words to its hyperloop initiative (generic stock photos, however, abound). Hovland, it turns out, also chairs the Met Council's Transportation Advisory Board. Hmmm!

A handful of hyperloop projects exist around the world, but the prohibitive cost of engineering a novel transit infrastructure has snuffed out excitement around the "once-promising" tech, the New York Times concluded in a 2022 article headlined "Is the Hyperloop Doomed?" Carlo van de Weijer, a mechanical engineer at the Eindhoven University of Technology, supplied a fun kicker to that story: "While small test tracks might be built, there will not be a hyperloop system constructed that will transport either goods or passengers—or I’ll eat a tractor.” The 34-member Transportation Advisory Board will make a decision about funding the hyperloop study by this summer, the Strib reports. In the meantime, GWC can hone its sales pitch by studying fellow transportation pusher Lyle Lanley.

What's the State of the Twin Cities Food/Drink Economy?

Not great! That's according to St. Paul restauranter/podcaster Tim Niver, who recently spoke at length about the Twin Cities restaurant industry with Adam Platt of Twin Cities Business. Fans of increased minimum wages, labor standards boards, sick time, biodegradable packages, and canceling reservations won't like what Niver has to say—he suggests all of those factors are making his life harder. Landlords are spared in the grievance-loaded Q&A, a rarity in what Niver accurately describes as our "gladhand"-y local media world. "I don’t like being the negative person, but I feel like there’s not enough people saying what’s going on," the owner of Mucci's Italian and Saint Dinette tells Platt. "People find complaining to be inhospitable. But this industry is in trouble in a lot of ways."

MN Export Thomas Friedman Compares Middle East to Bugs

When thinking of St. Louis Park's biggest-name exports—Thomas Friedman, Al Franken, and the Coen brothers—at least we can at least remain proud of the Coens. When it comes to Friedman, however, we must endure his New York Times musings at a regular clip, and the increasingly odd geopolitical bloviator sure dialed up a doozy over the weekend. The columnist backed himself up against the wall with his headline premise: "Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom." Oh, boy...

So, as the reported Palestinian death toll in Gaza approaches 30,000, one would hope—pray, really—that Friedman's editors would save him from comparing the Arab and Muslim countries surrounding Israel to bugs. But, nope, that's what he went ahead and published. The U.S. is an "old lion" in this easily avoidable scenario, he reasons, while Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is a "sifaka lemur," a creature he brags about having seen first-hand in Madagascar. Here are the other players, all cast in ways that aren't at all historically problematic:

Iran is to geopolitics what a recently discovered species of parasitoid wasp is to nature. What does this parasitoid wasp do? According to Science Daily, the wasp “injects its eggs into live caterpillars, and the baby wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.”

Is there a better description of Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq today? They are the caterpillars. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the wasp. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Kataib Hezbollah are the eggs that hatch inside the host—Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq—and eat it from the inside out.

"We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle," the Pulitzer Prize-winning war hawk writes, seemingly endorsing the notion of bombing the entire region. (Hamas is the "trap-door spider," for the record, but apparently also a wasp egg?) We'll give the final word to our buddies at Defector, who point out that fellow NYT columnist Bret Stephens threw a massive 2019 tantrum when he was jokingly compared to a bedbug. "A lazier writer might compare him to a tick," Samer Kalaf, Defector's managing editor, writes of what Friedman contributes to our country's most influential newspaper. "But at least ticks can provide nutritional value for other creatures."

Grammy Local Angles!

Not a whole lot to report on the tedious local angle front. Lizzo is apparently un-canceled; the Minneapolis-launched rap/pop star presented the award for Best R&B Song, SZA's "Snooze," amid abusive boss allegations. Dan Wilson scored a Grammy for Best County Song; the Semisonic frontman cowrote the winning ditty, "White Horse," with Chris Stapleton. (Wilson/Jon Batiste collab "Butterfly" lost to Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” in the Song of the Year category.) And, perhaps most entertaining for our video-embedding purposes, Prince & the Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman joined Annie Lennox for a gorgeous performance of "Nothing Compares 2 U"; the Prince-authored ballad was made most famous by in-memoriam honoree Sinead O'Connor, who died last July. (Lennox, an outspoken activist like O'Connor, called for a ceasefire in Gaza after the song ended.)

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