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A surge in heroin ODs and deaths seen in Hennepin County

City Hall’s rooftop beekeepers; girl gets special bedroom makeover; GOP efforts strengthen Collin Peterson’s resolve; big week for big gifts; Vennes says he believed Petters; and more.

Nasty stuff … . Kelly Smith of the Strib says: “Hennepin County has been hit by a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths and emergency room admissions for overdoses, officials announced Thursday at a joint news conference of the Sheriff’s Office and North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. The county is on pace to set grim records in heroin deaths, hospital and emergency room admissions due to overdoses and other markers related to the drug, Sheriff Rich Stanek said. But ‘this isn’t just a problem for one county,’ it’s true across the nation, he said. In 2012, 37 people died of heroin overdoses in Hennepin County — an 85 percent increase over deaths in 2011, he said.”

Gimme some of that sweet, sweet City Hall honey … Elizabeth Dunbar of MPR reports: “Mayor R.T. Rybak and the chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Charlie Vig, will show off City Hall’s new beehives today. No, they won’t be buzzing around the hallways stinging the parking enforcement officers, they’ll be on City Hall’s green roof. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community donated the bees from its apiaries, according to a city news release. The hives are expected to grow 50,000 bees.”

Here’s the feel-good story of the day. Kim Palmer of the Strib writes: “Kasey Reamer, 14, loves snowmobiling, archery, hot pink and sleepovers with her best friend. ‘She wants nothing more than to be normal, like everybody else,’ said her mother, Julie Reamer. But Kasey’s quest for a ‘normal’ life has faced more challenges than most people encounter in a lifetime. Born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a rare birth defect, Kasey is deaf, blind in one eye, and has a fused spine and only partial jawbones. A doctor told her parents she’d never walk, but Kasey proved him wrong. She’s undergone more than 20 surgical procedures and uses a tracheal tube to help her breathe. … That irrepressible spirit made Kasey an immediate choice when the staff at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota was asked to recommend a deserving child to receive a bedroom makeover via Special Spaces, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based nonprofit with a new chapter in the Twin Cities.”

According to MPR’s Brett Neely, 7th District Congressman Collin Peterson is holding up well despite a GOP push to finally defeat him: “Peterson, the longest-serving member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, says he’s likely to run for office again in part because of mounting Republican efforts to unseat him. … This week, some GOP operatives have also been spreading rumors online that Peterson plans to purchase a condo in Florida and retire from Congress. In an interview, Peterson, who turns 69 later this month, denied the rumors about retirement and a Florida condo and said the recent Republican efforts to push him out the door were having the opposite effect. ‘I went from neutral on running again to 90 percent just because of this stupid stuff they’re doing,’ said Peterson.” They are some powerful motivators.

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It’s been a good week for big gifts. First, the Institute of Arts receives $25 million in Japanese treasures, now the U of M ag school … Lydia Coutre of the Strib writes: “The College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota will receive $12.3 million from a trust created in Millicent Atkins’ estate. The farmer and business woman, who owned farm land near Aberdeen, S.D., designated the gift specifically for the college. It is the single largest gift to the college and is unrestricted, meaning the college can spend it on anything.”

We might say the same … In David Phelps’ Strib story on the latest Tom Petters-related trial he quotes convicted con man Frank Vennes of describing his reaction to Petters’ scheme as one of “total disbelief”: “Frank Vennes Jr., a central figure in the fundraising activities for Tom Petters’ $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme, testified Wednesday that he believed the Petters operation was legitimate up to and even after federal authorities staged a major raid in 2008 to bring the decadelong fraud to a halt. Testifying for the first time in a Petters-related case, the elusive born-again ex-convict insisted that he fell for a series of lies and excuses offered by Petters and his associates about the health of investments made with Petters Companies Inc. (PCI) involving the sale of purported electronic goods. ‘I was in total disbelief that anything like this was happening,’ Vennes said during more than four hours on the witness stand.”

The GleanThere’s been some blowback from unexpected quarters to that idea of de-funding an investigative journalism center in Wisconsin. The AP says: “A conservative radio talk show host and a moderate Republican state senator are both bashing a move to quash an investigative journalism center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee in the early morning hours Wednesday voted to force the Center for Investigative Journalism off the UW-Madison campus where it is housed. The state budget amendment would also prohibit UW employees from doing any work related to the news center. WTMJ-AM radio host Charlie Sykes on Thursday posted a blog post calling the move a vindictive attack on a journalistic operation on ideological grounds.” Well, what’s the old line about a stopped clock?

Ex-Viking Matt Birk boycotted the White House visit of his Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens. At City Pages, Aaron Rupar writes: “Birk, who announced his retirement after the season — refused to attend. The reason? A comment Obama made in support of Planned Parenthood during an April speech. Here’s what Obama said: “As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.” During an appearance on KFAN [Thursday] morning, Birk said he has ‘great respect for the office of the presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, ‘God bless Planned Parenthood.’ ‘Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,’ Birk continued. ‘I am Catholic, I am active in the pro-life movement, and I just felt like I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t endorse that in any way.’ “