The case has been boiled down to a sliver of its former self. Stephen Montemayor of the Strib reports, “When jury selection begins Monday in the trial of a national right-to-die group accused of helping an Apple Valley woman kill herself, much will have changed since Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom first filed charges three years ago. Just one of the four people originally charged will be in the courtroom. Meanwhile, the case that prosecutors can present will be limited in scope by a series of rulings issued as the case worked its way through the court system. Since Backstrom charged Final Exit Network Inc., a Georgia nonprofit, and four affiliates with assisting the 2007 suicide of 57-year-old Doreen Dunn, charges were dropped against one member, another died, and the trial of a third was suspended because of her poor health. Left to stand trial is the corporation itself and Lawrence Egbert, an 87-year-old Baltimore man who served as the group’s medical director.”
Better check the ingredients at that next luau. According to the AP, “In Hawaii, Spam rules. To honor Spam lovers in Hawaii, Hormel Foods released a new flavor — Portuguese sausage Spam — exclusively for the state at the Spam Jam street festival on Saturday in Honolulu. The flavor, which was available to sample at the event, may eventually be sold elsewhere in the region and internationally, the company says. Gaby Kim, who grew up in Oahu, said she eats Spam often and always has. ‘I grew up eating Spam musubi a lot from 7-Eleven,’ she said. ‘It’s kind of ghetto but it’s good. I like the cheese one.’ Spam musubi, a sushi-inspired variation, is one of the more popular forms in Hawaii. It consists of a slab of Spam, rice and sesame seeds tied in seaweed.” It’s on the menu at all the chi-chi places here in town, I assume.
You can only wonder what went on here. In Paul Walsh’s Strib story, “A home on a southwestern Minnesota farm was engulfed in flames, a generous husband and wife are dead, and three young men are in jail. That’s the grim scenario in Lyon County, where a blaze Thursday in Balaton killed 75-year-old Jim Hively and his wife, Cathy, who was 71. Under arrest are three men who could be charged as soon as Monday. They are all from that area of the state and range in age from 18 to 21. All are suspected of arson and burglary. Two of them also are suspected of murder.”
They’re up there, and they’re watching you. MPR’s Dan Gunderson writes, “Northland Community and Technical College, in Thief River Falls, Minn., is using a federal grant to encourage high school students to consider working in the unmanned aircraft industry. The college was just awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Jon Beck, an unmanned aircraft system instructor and program manager at Northland, said the college will develop science-based high school curriculum about careers in the industry. The college will also hold a summer camp where students can get hands-on experience.”
Adam Belz’ Strib story on Cedar Rapids, uh, revenue-enhancement project, will do wonders for the tourism industry down there. “Cedar Rapids has become the ultimate speed trap in the Midwest. Ever since installing hidden cameras on the interstate that runs through it, Iowa’s second-largest city has been sending out tickets at an unprecedented rate, including to thousands of Minnesotans. … In 2010, Cedar Rapids installed four sets of cameras on Interstate 380. Over a 20-month period in 2013 and 2014, Cedar Rapids cited more than 160,000 motorists for speeding on the interstate through town, including 16,537 from Minnesota.”
The Center for Fiscal Excellence has spoken. In a Strib commentary, Mark Haveman argues that the state should get rid of its general property tax levy. “Minnesota’s State General Property Tax … will cost business property and cabin owners over $850 million this year. It’s time to start phasing out the state general property tax, as this year’s House tax bill would do. … Since 2002, this state levy has grown about 40 percent faster than inflation. As a result, the burden it imposes has become a growing concern for Minnesota’s businesses. It is routinely the largest line item on a business’ property tax bill, commonly adding 33 to 50 percent on top of the total local tax bill.”
In the Worthington Daily Globe Kirsten Kirtz reports, “David Mills is going to need to pack more than a fur hat for his upcoming Russian adventure. Mills, a history instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to spend 21 weeks teaching at Bashkir State University in Ufa, Russia, a southern Russian city more than 700 miles from Moscow and with a population of more than 1 million people. The Fulbright Scholar Program selects 800 people to receive a scholarship. It only reserves five spots for community college instructors each semester.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Ufa before this.
This year’s Teacher of the Year comes from St. Paul. MPR’s Peter Cox says, “A St. Paul high school teacher who teaches writing and English to immigrant students has been named Minnesota’s 2015 Teacher of the Year. Amy Hewett-Olatunde was announced Sunday as the 51st winner of the award. She is the fourth Minnesota Teacher of the Year from the St. Paul district. Hewett-Olatunde teaches students at LEAP High School in St. Paul. The school enrolls students up to age 20 who are new arrivals to the U.S. and are not native English speakers.”
Wisconsin’s so-called “John Doe case” is far from over. In the Wisconsin State Journal, Matthew DeFour says, “Tensions in a long-simmering John Doe investigation are boiling over as the state and U.S. Supreme Courts move closer to weighing in on a case that still looms over Gov. Scott Walker’s potential presidential run. Two lead prosecutors in the stalled probe made rare public statements last weekend accusing Walker of lying in a recent interview in which he called the investigation a ‘political witch hunt,’ a phrase he has used before. The latest brouhaha erupted after conservative political magazine National Review published firsthand, anonymously sourced accounts of police tactics used in the investigation.” I sure hope Gov. Walker has some well-heeled allies to help buy the best legal protection available.
Meanwhile, it’s a cold case up in Two Harbors. Says LaReesa Sandretsky for the Duluth News Tribune, “Six years after someone cut down the famous ‘Honking Tree’ in the median of the Two Harbors Expressway, the crime remains unsolved, and the outrage has faded — but the iconic white pine hasn’t been forgotten. … In 1959, engineers began constructing the Highway 61 expressway between Duluth and Two Harbors. Legend has it that Charlie Hensley, a Minnesota Department of Transportation road inspector, requested that a tall white pine in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes be saved. It was an unusual request at the time, when it was expected that highway construction meant clearcutting the planned route. But the tree remained — and over the years, it became a familiar landmark. It earned the name “the Honking Tree,” as North Shore residents would honk their car horns when they spotted the tree to signify they were ‘home.’ Then, sometime late on the night of April 29, 2009, or early the next morning, someone used a chainsaw to cut down the stately 75-foot-tall tree.”