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Juror: Byron Smith case ‘not a tough one to decide’

Cedar-Riverside improvements; an actual gun ban?; minimum-wage supported, but nixed; and more.

Joy Powell of the Strib talks with a few Byron Smith jurors … . “[T]wo jurors, speaking just hours after their verdicts were delivered, said the picture of Smith that emerged from days of often chilling testimony was of a man who methodically planned for a violent confrontation rather than a homeowner surprised by intruders. Several other jurors declined to comment in detail, saying only that it was a tough case to hear but not a tough one to decide.”

“Major changes” at Cedar-Riv will be an improvement … . Says Eric Roper in the Strib, “When the Green Line light rail opens on June 14, Cedar-Riverside will be the only area outside of downtown Minneapolis served by two LRT lines. To coincide with that, the Cedar Cultural Center is planning a new multi-use ‘destination’ plaza to improve the outdoor realm near the Riverside Plaza towers. A simultaneous $1.7 million Cedar Avenue street reconstruction this summer will widen sidewalks, add pedestrian lighting and create additional on-street parking.”

Today in gun-grabbin’ and trampling on your precious Second Amendment rights … . The AP story says, “The Minnesota House has passed a bill banning gun possession by people convicted of certain abuse crimes or subject to restraining orders. The bipartisan measure marks a rare instance where lawmakers appear ready to tighten gun restrictions.” You can read MinnPost’s analysis here.

Nice try, Al and Amy. Brett Neely of MPR notes, “DFL Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar both voted in favor of opening debate on legislation that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, the level proposed by President Barack Obama during his January State of the Union address. While the measure got the support of 54 senators, it won’t advance because of a Republican-led filibuster that required 60 votes to break.”

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A decline in HIV cases … . Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress says, “The annual tally of new HIV cases in Minnesota dropped slightly last year, the state health department reported Wednesday. The state tabulated 301 new cases during 2013, down 4 percent from 314 new cases the previous year. Among people living with AIDS and the virus that causes it, racial and ethnic minority groups along with men who have sex with men continue to be over-represented, the health department said.”

Here’s one for that “only in Minnesota” ad campaign … . Angela Davis of WCCO-TV reports, “Head north of the Twin Cities along the shores of Lake Mille Lacs and you’ll find some residents dealing with large piles of ice being blown onto shore — and creeping towards their homes. With the month of May just two days away, trees should be showing some signs of spring, but trees along Lake Mille Lacs are showing signs of distress. They’re split and shoved by creeping ice.

The poor dears. From the Los Angeles Times, Kevin Baxter, covering the Dodgers writes, “What’s worse than playing 16 baseball games in 16 days? How about 16 games in 15 days? That’s the challenge facing the Dodgers after Tuesday’s game in Minnesota was postponed by rain and cold. … All those plans depend on the weather, of course. And in Minneapolis in April, that’s not a good thing to depend on. Forecasts for Wednesday and Thursday call for near-freezing temperatures and a mix of snow and rain.” BTW … temperatures around Dodger Stadium yesterday were close to 100.

Intimidated by transparency? Scott Bauer of the AP says, “Gov. Scott Walker did not disclose Wednesday how much he was paid to write a book he released last fall, providing only the bare minimum required on a statement of economic interest form he filed with state regulators. The form showed Walker received payment of more than $1,000 from his publisher for ‘Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge,’ which was released in November.” I like Zach Galifinakis as Scott Walker in the movie version.

Also next door … . The AP says, “A dance coach fired after her team performed to an edited version of Robin Thicke’s popular but racy hit ‘Blurred Lines’ has filed a discrimination complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Coach Lisa Joling says in her complaint that male coaches who allowed more egregious songs to be played in locker rooms or at school functions faced no penalties.”

The GleanWe have a winner … . Erin Adler of the Strib reports, “Hundreds of juniors wearing Google t-shirts flooded the auditorium at Burnsville High School Tuesday morning, but the reason for the impromptu assembly was a mystery. After a half-hour presentation on the magic of Google by two company employees, they learned why they were celebrating: Junior Paul Nong was named Minnesota’s winner of the 2014 ‘Doodle 4 Google’ contest. Nong will fly to Google’s headquarters in California, all expenses paid, on May 21 to find out if his drawing, titled ‘The Dream Machine,’ makes it into the top five nationally.”

Can you tolerate more celebrity “news”? Details magazine has an interview with Minnesotan Josh Hartnett, on why he’s back here instead of living the full tilt movie star dream in LA. The chat with Benjamin Svetkey goes like this: DETAILS: “At the height of your success, after Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down, you disappeared to Minnesota, where you grew up.” Why? Josh Hartnett: “I was on the cover of every magazine. I couldn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was alone. I didn’t trust anyone. So I went back to Minnesota and got back together with my old friends — ended up getting back together with my high-school girlfriend for a while — and I didn’t do any filming for 18 months. I’m still finding my way through all that.” I know you all have had such problems.