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Miss Minnesota is junior prom date for young man with Down syndrome

No Sunday liquor sales a “Good Question”; rental costs rising; foodie guru Michael Pollan; Boise lays off 265 paper workers; Amy Senser appeal; Gilmore files $10M suit; and more.

Awww … The AP tells us: “A Wisconsin teen with Down syndrome will have a dream date to his junior prom Saturday: He’s taking Miss Minnesota USA Danielle Hooper. A mutual friend arranged the date after Charlie Gainey, 18, was nominated to the prom court. Julie Schultz has a child who swims on a Special Olympics team with Gainey, and she works with Hooper in University of Wisconsin-Stout’s financial aid office. Hooper said she thought the date would be a wonderful opportunity to make people happy. ‘Actually, I have a 2-year-old cousin, Eden, in Seattle, who was born with Down syndrome,’ she said. ‘That was a big surprise to our family and was my first introduction to it. She is such a joy and blessing to us, so I kind of have a soft spot for that, and knowing Charlie’s story drew me to this.” … A very savvy young lady.

We dodged it, or it dodged us. Either way, the snow went places other than the Twin Cities. At MPR, Tim Nelson writes: “Reports to the National Weather Service range from 13 inches of snow in Owatonna, to nearly 11 inches near Hayward, and 8.5 inches near Hastings. …  A dispatcher in Rochester said 50 or 60 911 calls have been coming in every few minutes, and the roads are as bad as he’s seen them in 30 years. In western Wisconsin, a crash involving two semis on Interstate 94 killed one of the drivers just before 1 a.m. … Roads in west central and north central Iowa, including Interstate 35, are partially to mostly snow-covered. Jack-knifed semis were blocking traffic on two major roadways, including I-80 west of Des Moines.” In other words, a pleasant spring day.

On his “Good Question” segment Wednesday night, WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha looked into Minnesota’s liquor laws, specifically that “closed on Sunday” clause: “[H]ow does Minnesota compare to other states when it comes to liquor laws? ‘Minnesota has some of the most restrictions on liquor sales,’ said legislative auditor James Nobles. He said that the Sunday restriction was just part of it. Minnesota doesn’t allow liquor sales inside grocery stores. And owners are restricted to one license for a liquor store in any given city. ‘There’s a lot of inertia,’ said Bryan Buser, a certified cicerone at Four Firkins in St. Louis Park. … Every border state and Canada allows Sunday liquor sales. Across the country, Minnesota is part of just twelve states that still have the Sunday blue law: Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.” Now THAT is some proud company.

Hence the crush of new rental complexes … Jessica Mador of MPR says: “New numbers show the average market rent in the Twin Cities for the first three months of this year was $966 a month. That’s about $30 more than it was a year ago, according to Marquette Advisors, a real estate consulting firm. More metro renters are spending more than half their income on housing. according to 2011 Census data. A national study recently ranked Minnesota the least affordable state for housing in the Midwest. … People who could not afford to buy homes during the crash also wound up renting. With more renters in the market, it is harder than ever for those people with lower income to find a place that does not swallow their paycheck every month.”

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The GleanResponsible foodie guru Michael Pollan was on Kerri Miller’s MPR show this morning. A few highlights:
“2. The food shows treat cooking like a competitive sport and make it “really intimidating,” said Pollan. But he swears cooking is actually “approachable and easy to do.” His recommendation: Take a half hour that you spend watching food shows and try it yourself.
… 6. Cooking is a way to take charge of your diet. ‘When you let corporations cook for you, they don’t cook very well,’ said Pollan. Packaged foods contain too much salt, fat and sugar.
… 9. All you need is one cast iron pan, one knife and one cutting board, and the world will open up to you.”
Here I thought all I needed was a microwave …

The Mesabi Daily News in Virginia reports: “Boise Inc. says it plans to lay off 265 paper workers at its plant in International Falls. … the company will idle two production lines and permanently terminate the workers by Oct. 1. Boise International Falls spokeswoman Lori Lyman says the company remains committed to the community. 580 employees will remain at the plant after the layoffs.”

Abby Simons’ updated Strib story on Amy Senser’s appeal hearing says: “The crux of the arguments surrounded a 2010 Minnesota Supreme Court decision in the case of Mohammed Al-Naseer, whose criminal vehicular homicide conviction was reversed after the court found the state failed to prove that Al-Naseer, who had fallen asleep, knew he struck and killed a man changing a tire; Al-Naseer left the scene. Nelson said that based on the ‘clear, guiding precedence’ of that case, the court should find that the evidence was more consistent with Senser’s innocence than guilt, and that her convictions should be reversed. Although Senser was awake, he said, she was distracted and looking away from the roadway when she struck and killed Phanthavong, mistaking the impact for hitting construction equipment.” If this weren’t so serious, I’d say there’s almost a Monty Python quality to that argument.

Truth Hardware down in (snowbound) Owatonna has a new owner. Says Steve Alexander in the Strib: “Truth Hardware of Owatonna, Minn., which makes metal parts for home windows, doors and skylights, has been sold for $200 million in cash by its British parent firm, Melrose Industries PLC, to another British firm, Tyman PLC. Truth Hardware has 700 employees across North America, and reported sales of $126 million, down from its 10-year sales peak of $167.8 million, said Tyman, a building products company based in London.”

Maybe Andy Parrish can represent him … Nick Halter of the Downtown Journal reports: “John Gilmore, a conservative activists and blogger, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis over his June 16, 2011 arrest on Nicollet Mall in which he was accused of confronting two women in traditional Muslim dress. Gilmore’s complaint, filed on April 30, alleges that the city’s ‘baseless’ arrest created a narrative of Gilmore as ‘bigoted, intolerant and prejudiced toward Muslims, Muslim women in particular,’ a narrative he claims is false and has continued to damage his reputation. Gilmore was arrested after a dustup with several Netroots Nation attendees who had been at a conference in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Gilmore attended Right Online, a nearby conservative gathering that boasted Andrew Breitbart as the star attraction. … Gilmore’s complaint says the activist left the ‘aggressive’ crowd and went to dinner at the Newsroom. Gilmore says he had just placed a vegetarian order when police ‘manhandled’ him out of the restaurant in his Birkenstocks. Officers then ripped up Gilmore’s Minnesota Conservatives sign, according to the complaint.” Why that sign alone has to be worth $9 million …