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Washburn noose incident produces emotional meeting

Harry Blackmun issue resurfaces; “Doubt” opera buzz; database violations gain attention; businesses attack “killer” sales tax; Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn dating; and more.

There was plenty of emotion in the air at the public meeting over the Washburn High (black) doll on a noose incident. Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “As some Minneapolis Washburn High School students said Wednesday that they’d find healing in an apology from the perpetrators of a doll-hanging incident, a number of adults at a later community meeting said they believe the incident was the result of a lack of understanding about history. At the end of the day of intense discussion, the district’s superintendent said she will review the social studies curriculum to make sure that all students learn why incidents like the Jan. 11 hanging of a dark-skinned doll are unacceptable. During Wednesday’s school day, students were shuttled through small-group sessions guided by outside facilitators to discuss the incident, which led to the discipline of four students. … While many students had seemed ready to move on from the incident, many adults who spoke were not. Former Washburn parent Al Flowers said he wasn’t there to see a pep rally, a tone set early when students cheered for their school, but to see if students know enough history to understand the implications of hanging a dark-skinned doll.”

If not him, who? The AP reports: “An effort to honor former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun with a bust in the state Capitol of his native Minnesota has resurfaced. The push from Democratic lawmakers is notable because such recognition got mired in abortion politics a dozen years ago. Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in the Roe vs. Wade case in 1973 that legalized abortion. A group that promotes anti-abortion legislation was successful in stopping the honor to Blackmun. The bill introduced Thursday, Jan. 24, would place the bust outside the state Supreme Court chambers on the Capitol’s second floor. It would be opposite one recognizing former Justice Warren Burger.”

The opera version of “Doubt” is opening, and in the PiPress, Rob Hubbard writes: “[John Patrick Shanley] and composer Douglas Cuomo have adapted Shanley’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama ‘Doubt’, and it will receive its world premiere in a Minnesota Opera production that opens Saturday, Jan. 26, at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. … Adding to the buzz about “Doubt” is that two major American opera stars have central roles in the Minnesota Opera production: Soprano Christine Brewer is the principal, Sister Aloysius, and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is Mrs. Miller, the mother of the school’s lone African-American student, whom the priest could be either protecting or assaulting. The confrontation between them should be full of the emotional extremes Shanley believes to be a big part of opera’s appeal.” (MinnPost’s Michael Anthony offers his take here.) There’s an opera in “The Love Songs of Denny Hecker.”

Eric Roper of the Strib looks at talk about getting tough with government employees checking out the Department of Motor Vehicles database info for no good reason and says: “The bill would have broad implications for breaches of state databases, but is targeted toward misuse of driver and vehicle services (DVS) data. That database, which is protected under state and federal law, contains photographs, addresses and driving records on nearly every Minnesotan. A Star Tribune analysis of state records last fall showed that 160 individuals, mostly in government agencies, had improperly used the DVS database over a span of two years. Discipline ranged from reprimands to termination, but it very rarely lead to criminal charges. … Local governments who discover misuse would have to send out data breach letters — currently only mandated for state agencies — and then publish their full investigations online. [GOP Rep. Mary] Holberg said the goal is to change the ‘culture’ in government offices, particularly since hearing that the DNR employee was a ‘really nice person’ whose actions mirrored his co-workers.”

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The GleanAbout now, officials at Maple Grove High will discuss “the incident” involving more than a dozen hockey players. WCCO-TV says: “Last week, 13 players on the team were suspended for an off-ice incident that happened at a private home. The incident violated laws that are in the Minnesota State High School League’s code of conduct. Due to privacy laws, officials couldn’t specify what the details of the incident were. Maple Grove hockey coach Gary Stefano was also suspended from his coaching duties, but due to an incident not related to the hockey team. He was reinstated as hockey coach late last week.”

It didn’t take long to get to “killer” … David Phelps and Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib report: “From accounting firms to law firms to ad agencies, opposition to Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to expand the state sales tax to services is overwhelming and portends a bruising legislative battle. The prospect of a sales tax on the dollars companies spend on services — such as consulting and legal work — is variously described as anti-competitive, job-killing and discriminatory. ‘It would really handicap the Twin Cities advertising and public relations community,’ said Doug Spong, president of the Carmichael Lynch advertising agency and founder of Carmichael Lynch Spong Public Relations. ‘It’s absolutely a business killer. Ninety-nine percent of our clients are based somewhere else. When you add sales tax to a fee proposal, procurement officers will make the decision not to go with a Minnesota-based agency.’ “

I really have to pay more attention to those promotional offers … John Ewoldt of the Strib writes: “The early birds got the deal with Best Buy’s MasterCard promotion earlier this week. Others went home disappointed. On Monday, the Richfield-based electronics retailer sent an e-mail to its Reward Zone members who are also MasterCard holders with a coupon offering $50 off a purchase of $100 or more, if they paid with a MasterCard. … but it had two huge loopholes through which many bargain hunters jumped. It allowed consumers to use the offer on gift cards at iTunes, Amazon or Best Buy, and it had no limit on the number of cards that could be purchased. The unprecedented offer went viral on deal sites such as Slickdeals on Monday, and a few early customers made off with Amazon and Best Buy gift cards worth up to several thousand dollars, according to Consumerist.org.”

I don’t usually bother with celebrity dating news. But this is … interesting, I guess. According to Esther Bradbury in Britain’s Daily Mail: “It appears that disgraced golf star Tiger Woods may have been tamed by new love, champion skier [and Minnesota native] Lindsey Vonn. The pair apparently began seeing each other in November last year, and the shamed golfer is pulling out all the stops to ensure this relationship goes the distance, unlike his marriage. … Lindsey is an accomplished sportswoman, she is one of only six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing and has won 58 World Cup races in her career, and has won four overall World Cup championships — one of only two female skiers to do so. The skiing superstar is also renowned for her beauty, appearing in Sports Illustrated’s Olympic Swimsuit Edition in 2010, and making No. 59 on Maxim’s Hot 100 list of the same year. Lindsey’s friends are concerned that the golfer will go back to his old womanising ways, but for now it seems that this Tiger has been tamed.” Riiight. And what does her mother have to say about this?