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Minnesota Munchkin passes away at 95

St. Paul schools partner with Dell; Women a majority of Duluth council; 1,300+ meet on copper-nickel mining; Dome deflation Saturday; new life for Victoria Theater; and more.

A scene from the 1939 motion picture "The Wizard of Oz."
Warner Home Video

She’s off to see the wizard … The AP says: “Ruth Robinson Duccini, the last of the original female Munchkins from the 1939 movie ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ has died. She was 95. With her death, only one actor who played one of the original 124 Munchkins in the movie remains alive. Duccini died of natural causes in Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas on Thursday. … Duccini, born in Rush City, Minn., traveled to California with a troupe of little people, and was cast in the MGM fantasy movie starring Judy Garland. Duccini was 4 feet tall.”

The computer company, Dell, seems to have a good thing going in St. Paul. Mila Koumpilova of the PiPress says: “Beyond the $4.3 million Dell contract, the district would need to invest in major software and hardware upgrades. During this school year, such upgrades take up more than half of the $9 million-a-year, St. Paul-taxpayer-backed technology plan. That has meant additional business for Dell, a longtime hardware provider for the district. … As St. Paul’s go-to personal computer vendor, the company also might have an edge in an upcoming multimillion-dollar device purchase.”

The women are taking over … In the Duluth News Tribune, Peter Passi says: “For the first time in more than a decade, women now occupy a majority of the seats on Duluth’s City Council. With the election of Barb Russ to the council in November, Duluth now boasts five female city councilors. Only once before — from 1996 to 2000 — have women been this well represented on Duluth’s nine-member council.” I can’t imagine these women and others will have a hard time vaulting the low bar men have set for incompetence and venality.

In a blizzard, no  less … Josephine Marcotty of the Strib reports: “Throngs of Minnesotans turned out Thursday night to join the conversation about what could be the most contentious environmental issue the state has faced in decades — its first proposed copper-nickel mine. An estimated 1,300 to 1,500 people braved blowing snow and low temperatures to attend a five-hour public hearing held by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and federal agencies to present details of a project that could define the future of the wildest and most beautiful corner of the state.”

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A fire … with a whiff … Paul Walsh of the Strib writes: “Smoke and flames badly damaged a $1.5 million home along Lake of the Isles from top to bottom, fire officials said. … The home is owned by Michael Appleman, owner of Edina-based Mobile Diagnostic Imaging Inc. (MDI). The company and dozens of chiropractors were accused in a federal lawsuit filed in October of defrauding Minnesota’s no-fault car insurance system with unnecessary medical procedures and kickbacks to practitioners who ordered them.”

Face it, a deflation isn’t nearly as much fun as an implosion. At MPR, Tim Nelson says: “On Saturday morning, they’re planning to pull the plug on the Metrodome. The lights will go off and the fans will shut down and the iconic Teflon roof will settle into the bowl. If you don’t want to stand in the forecast single-digit windchill to watch, there may be another option. EarthCam, of Hackensack, N.J., is expecting to carry the deflation live this weekend, streaming on the Vikings official website.  The Vikings have hired EarthCam so fans can watch the work in progress and so team owners can keep an eye on their $500 million investment in Minnesota.” In Norway, thousands watch live video of logs burning.

There’s a chance the old Victoria Theater on University in St. Paul will live again … Curtis Gilbert of MPR says: “If not for the 1927 song ‘Moonshiner’s Dance Part One,’ the former Victoria Theatre on University Avenue (also a former speakeasy) would probably be a parking lot. The building was scheduled for the wrecking ball in 2009, but then amateur historian Kurt Gegenhuber discovered a tune on the Smithsonian Anthology of American Folk Music was recorded by the Victoria Cafe house band during Prohibition. … On that basis, St. Paul designated the building historic.”

Uh, a “C” is not “above average.” A KARE-TV story says: “A new report released by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) shows that support for hospitals and emergency room patients is deteriorating. ‘America’s Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card’ forecasts an expanding role of emergency departments under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects wrought by the competing pressures of shrinking resources and increasing demand. The state-by-state analysis finds that Minnesota scores a C grade overall.”

Sun, glorious sun … Patrick Anderson of the LaCrosse Tribune reports:  “A new solar energy facility planned for southeastern Minnesota will add to Dairyland Power Cooperative’s renewable energy sources. The plant, scheduled to open by June, will produce enough energy to power about 60 homes, according to an announcement Thursday by Dairyland. Solar produces a fraction of the electricity produced by fossil fuels, but the new Minnesota plant should still ease the peak-time burden on other, less clean energy sources, said a spokesman for the La Crosse-based cooperative.”