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Sales of million-dollar homes bounce back

Dramatic changes in LGA possible; fight likely over labeling genetically modified organisms; a cold-hearted thief; nanotechnology worries; dying birch trees; and more.

I was so worried about this particular market segment … . In the Strib, Jim Buchta writes: “When Ralph and Peggy Burnet put their sprawling Lake Minnetonka estate on the market during the depths of the housing downturn, they knew it could take several years to sell. But less than two years later, the Coldwell Banker Burnet chairman and his wife sold their contemporary manse to an heir of the Cargill fortune for $9.1 million, the most expensive housing transaction in the Twin Cities last year. The deal capped a pivotal year for the upper crust of local real estate, which saw sales of houses priced at $1 million or more jump nearly 20 percent. The gain outpaced the broader market, according to year-end data from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, and it’s a sign that the area’s wealthiest buyers are gaining more confidence in the economy.” And I thought they had all moved to South Dakota …

At the St. Cloud Times, Katie Petrie and Stephanie Dickrell file a story on Minnesota cities’ LGA prospects for 2014: “Minnesota cities could see dramatic changes in the amount of Local Government Aid (LGA) they get from the state next year. The Minnesota Department of Revenue has released estimates for 2014 LGA amounts. Those estimates could change depending on the outcome of budget discussions between Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature this session. The shift is another change in a funding source that has been unreliable for cities. Local Government Aid is based on a number of factors, including how many traffic crashes occur in a city, how old housing is and whether the city is a regional center.”

KMSP-TV reminds viewers of the fight over Genetically Modified Organisms coming to Minnesota: “In California it was known as Proposition 37 and it failed. Prop 37 … would mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods in California. Four corporations headquartered in Minnesota funded opposition to California’s Proposition 37: General Mills, Inc. ($519,401.17), Hormel Foods Corporation ($374,300.00), Cargill, Inc. ($202,229.36) and Land-O-Lakes, Inc. ($21,513.78). However, this month, in January Minnesotans will lobby legislators to mandate products containing GMOs to be labeled accordingly.”

Yeah, it’s cold. But this is colder. The AP — via the St. Cloud Times — says: “Authorities in Todd County say a thief stole a car while the owner was letting it warm up. A St. Cloud Times report says the vehicle was found about 20 minutes later. It had been involved in a single-vehicle rollover, and the driver wasn’t around. Deputies say the vehicle’s owner told police he started his car Saturday afternoon and was letting it get warm. He says someone stole the car while it was idling. … The sheriff’s office is looking for suspects.” So, like, do they have any, you know … leads?

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Babs had a shopping problem. Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “A co-owner of a small-town restaurant in southwestern Minnesota has been sentenced to prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bank in a nearby town where she also worked in a scheme that cost the bank more than $1 million. Barbara Kaye Rechtzigel, 48, of Belview, Minn., is scheduled to start serving her two-year term on Feb. 4 at the federal prison in Waseca, Minn. From 1998 until June 2012, Rechtzigel stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from CD accounts of customers at Minnwest Bank in Belview, where she was senior operations manager, to pay off shopping debts.”

The GleanSo we’ll assume they do have something to hide … Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib follows up on a story involving Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Times: “An otherwise unremarkable DFL endorsing convention Saturday lit up social media when it was closed to the media, in apparent violation of the party’s rules. Saturday morning St. Cloud Times reporter Mark Sommerhauser tweeted that he was barred from the convention, where local DFLers endorsed a candidate to run in the St. Cloud area special election for a vacant state House seat. The candidate, Joanne Dorsher, was running unopposed for the DFL nod. The St. Cloud Times reported that Dorsher’s campaign manager Doug Clark, who is married to former congressional candidate Tarryl Clark, told him that media was not permitted in the convention because the campaign feared Republican trackers would attend. Trackers, young partisan activists who follow opposition candidates around with video cameras, have long been a routine part of politics.”

At MPR, Dan Kraker reports on the rapid decline of birch trees up on the North Shore: “Anyone who has driven along the North Shore of Lake Superior recently has likely noticed huge stands of dead birch trees. On a spot along Highway 61 where the Split Rock River spills into Lake Superior, for example, there is a hillside of dead and dying paper birch trees. ‘This is a classic shot of declining birch,’ said Harley Hanson, a North Shore resource specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources. Historically there weren’t many birch trees along the North Shore. But they sprouted like weeds after heavy pine logging and severe forest fires in the 1920s. In recent years, several factors, including hungry deer, drought, development and thin, rocky soil, have drastically changed the forest in one of Minnesota’s most popular and scenic areas. To address the area’s decline, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing an ambitious new plan to restore 12,000 acres of forest along the North Shore.”

Like something out of a Michael Crichton novel … Dan Gunderson of MPR writes: “Nanotechnology is changing many products. Engineered particles smaller than a virus can make batteries, safer food and cleaner socks. But there are a lot of questions about what happens to those nanoparticles when they find their way into the environment. A new federally funded research center based in Wisconsin brings together scientists from several states to help answer those questions. … Not all products pose environmental risk, and scientists don’t believe the nanoparticles now in use will cause serious problems, at least in the short term. But Hamers said science needs to stay ahead of rapidly developing nanotechnology. ‘We can’t really wait until we know what kinds of nanoparticles are likely to make it into technology in order to test those,’ Hamers said. ‘We need to develop ground rules for developing a fundamental mechanistic understanding of what classes of nanoparticles are more or less likely to be toxic.’ ”

Finally … without further comment … The Appleton Post Crescent says: “Two dancers on stage at an exotic dance club in Juneau [Wis.] got into a physical fight over $1, according to a Dodge County Sheriff’s Department report. Officers were called to Silk Exotic around 9:30 p.m. Thursday to break up the fight. A customer was trying to give a dollar to one of the dancers, but the other dancer took it, according to the report. Both women fell to the floor, pulled each other’s hair and punched and slapped each other. Other dancers and customers separated the women. One of the dancers involved in the fight is pregnant.”