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Easter eggs like raindrops...

Thousands of multi-colored plastic Easter eggs will be falling from the sky this Saturday at Lake Elmo's Oak-Land Junior High school.

Children will be treated to music and a visit from the Easter Bunny, according to the Pioneer Press. Then at 11:15 a.m. the eggs will be released from a helicopter ("call it the Hopper Chopper") over the school's athletic field. Any eggs that fail to fit into the helicopter will be scattered by earthbound volunteers.

Then begins the real fun. The Valley Creek Church, who is sponsoring the event, is hoping to minimize chaos and unfair competition by dividing the children (12 and under) into four age groups, the Star Tribune reported. Each group will head to its own section of the field to gather eggs.

Inside the eggs will be candy, for the most part, but some children will instead discover coupons that they can redeem for prizes including an iPad 2, a Nintendo Wii, an American Girl doll, and a bicycle and a helmet, according to the Star Tribune's report.

The Valley Creek Church, which has an attendance of approximately 250 people, currently rents space at Oak-Land Junior High, according to the Pioneer Press. The egg drop is just a dramatic example of the community outreach they try to engage in year-round, explained children's pastor Charity Silvis in the Oakdale Lake Elmo Review.

Absent from advance reports of the event are any mention of religious activities or overtones. It would seem this day is to be purely for the worship of the Easter Bunny, although perhaps the winners of the big prizes will feel that there was some sort of divine presence involved.

The Jesus at the edge

110410061412_Jesus statue close up.jpgThe seven-foot high subject of a St. Paul city council zoning dispute, a marble statue of Jesus, was damaged by a fire early this morning.

The statue stood on a pedestal in Tuan Pham's back yard, a part of his catholic-based prayer garden, according to Kare11. Pham, 75, had custom ordered the replica of the 105-foot Christ of Vung Tau statue from his native Vietnam.

At 10 feet away from the Mississippi River bluff line, the marble Christ was 30-feet too near. The St. Paul City Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday to uphold a zoning board decision which would not allow Pham a variance for the statue.

Early this morning Pham and his wife awoke to find a pile of lighted boards gathered at the base of the statue, the Star Tribune reported. The fire was put out with minimal damage to the statue.

Joe Soucheray for the Pioneer Press pointed out that Pham's Jesus is not the only stature violating the 40-foot bluff line rule; a statue on the corner of Prospect Boulevard and Stryker Avenue, about 8 blocks from Pham's (and seemingly on the public boulevard) stands as close as or closer to the bluffs.

Also, if the 40-foot setback rule truly applied to "any material change in the use of the land", as council member Kathy Landry commented, then it would also have to apply to such things as benches.

Pham believes that the fire was an act of arson, related somehow to the current legal actions, the Pioneer Press reported. (It would not be the first time the statue was targeted. Not long after Pham had it put up last fall, someone shot it with a paintball.)

Pham fled Vietnam, where he said he had been prosecuted for his Catholic beliefs, according to Kare11.

"This is certainly not the part of the American dream he was looking for," said his son-in-law, quoted in the Star Tribune.

"30 Hmongs in a House" not funny to everybody

KDWB's Dave Ryan in the Morning show has faced sharp criticism over a song parodying the Hmong community, broadcast last week.

The song, performed on air by cast member "Steve-O" (Steve LaTart), contained lyrics about how Hmong live packed in a house like "sardines" and Hmong women have seven children by the time they are 23, according to the Pioneer Press.

In a commentary on MPR, Hmong comedian and entertainer Tou Ger Xiong criticized the song for being not just offensive, but dangerous for its potential influence on public opinion. The song perpetuated stereotypes that many find degrading and dehumanizing, Xiong wrote; he went on to cite instances of violence perpetrated on Hmong individuals as examples of the danger of dehumanizing a group.

AT&T and Health Partners pulled their advertising off of KDWB, Fox 9 reported. AT&T Minnesota president Bob Bass said that AT&T would not financially support a station which allowed discrimination to be included in its broadcasts.

Some found the backlash to be unwarranted. "I had to wonder when we ceded to the most sensitive and thin-skinned among us the right to set the limits on public discourse," wrote Chisago City resident John Kirby in a letter to the Star Tribune.

KDWB issued an apology via the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show's Facebook page, stating that they were sorry if they had inadvertently offended anyone and stressing that the shows audience would have known that the song was a parody, the Pioneer Press reported.

Still, several Hmong notables were unimpressed by the apology. Bee Vang, the Hmong American actor who played Thao Vang Lor in the film "Gran Torino", wrote in an opinion piece for the Pioneer Press that the apology was half-hearted, and called the song "racist and harmful". "Yes, we all have freedom of speech, but some have more than others. If we Hmong avail ourselves of it, we might just be laying the groundwork for more backlash," Vang wrote.

Minnesota's new budget will likely include major cuts in spending, although the bills working their way through the Republican-controlled house and senate will probably have to be substantially amended before Democratic governor Mark Dayton agrees to sign them into law.

The goal is to make up for a $5 billion deficit, and provide a balanced budget for the next two years, reported the Post Bulletin.

Republicans want to solve the deficit purely through cuts in spending, according to Doug Grow at Minn Post. Cuts which made their way through the legislature this past week included $1.6 billion from proposed Department of Human Services spending and $400 million dollars from higher education. Nearly two thirds of the Department of Human Rights' budget would also be cut, as well as substantial DNR funding.

The cuts to health and human services would translate into repealing the expansion of Medical Assistance which Governor Dayton had planned in accordance with the new federal healthcare law, as well as forcing more than 100,000 low-income Minnesotans off of Medical Assistance and cutting coverage for eyeglasses, dentures, and prosthetics for adults, the Austin Post Bulletin reported.

The Minnesota Daily and Fox 21 reported that the cuts to higher education would be closer to $300 million, and Fox 21 framed the issue by pointing out that this was a vote to lower the budget of state run colleges from $2.8 billion to $2.5 billion. These would nevertheless be the largest reductions to higher education in state history, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Governor Dayton has proposed to balance the budget through a combination of spending cuts and tax raises, Grow reported for Minn Post in an earlier article. Dayton would like to see taxes raised for the top five percent of wage earners, which he argues would merely bring their tax rate up to match the middle class tax rate. The top five percent now pays taxes at a 9.3 percent rate; the lower 90 percent pays at a rate of 12.3 percent.

The disagreements ought to be worked out by May 23, the end of the legislative session, although some experts see no signs of compromise and doubt the deadline will be met, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Life-long truck driver died in truck accident

Grand Meadow truck driver Richard Q. Quentin Hoefs, 84, died Tuesday evening in a Semi Truck Pic.jpgtruck accident.

Hoefs was born in 1926 near Lewiston, in Winona County, Minnesota, according to the Austin Daily Herald. He lived in Lewiston with his wife, Margaret, until 1963 when they moved to Grand Meadow, which is near the Minnesota/Iowa border.

Hoefs got his first trucking gig as a 16-year-old, driving milk and eggs, and drove trucks for a living until he died, the Austin Daily Herald reported. At the time of his death he was driving a semi truck for Stier Farms.

Hoefs' semi struck a car partly on the shoulder along Interstate 80 near Des Moines, Iowa, and rolled over into a ditch, according to Rochester's Post-Bulletin. Hoefs was declared dead at the scene, and the driver of the other car was treated at the scene for injuries.

Hoefs has six surviving children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren; his wife Margaret and one child and grandchild had died previously to him, the Austin Daily Herald reported.

Former Gophers football coach Murray Warmath died on March 16 at 98 years.

With Warmath as coach, the Gophers made it twice to the Rose Bowl (winning one, losing one), won the nationals, and two Big Ten titles, according to the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman.

He was the last coach to accomplish these feats, reported the Minnesota Daily.

However, Warmath had to overcome difficult losing years in 1958 and '59, during which detractors threw trash in his front yard and tried to raise money to buy out his contract, according to the Star Tribune.

Perhaps most of all, though, Warmath should be remembered for recruiting and playing African-American athletes, which helped "to break down the color barrier at universities all across the country," said University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, quoted in the Fergus Falls Journal.

Warmath went on to an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings and then worked as a talent scout before retiring in the 1990's, the Fergus Falls Journal reported.

As Gopher's coach, Warmath led his team with discipline and high expectations, according to the Star Tribune. His memorial on Monday--the first of two--was attended by hundreds, among them dozens of former players who ended the service by singing the "Minnesota Rouser.''

Murray Warmath Jr., Warmath's only surviving child, delivered the eulogy at the memorial.

Bachmann fires up crowds but misses shot heard around the world

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann drew cheers from Tea Party supporters in New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday, but misspoke on matters of Revolutionary War history.

Bachmann told supporters, "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord," reported Holly Ramer for the Associated Press. The revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord actually took place in Massachusetts.

After sounding this claim in speeches Friday night and Saturday morning, Bachmann caught on to her mistake and in her final speech in New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon emphasized instead that people from N.H. had helped those in Massachusetts, where the first shot was fired, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Bachmann was the second potential presidential candidate from Minnesota to visit N.H. in recent days, Ramer reported. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty was wrapping up his own visit in the state of the first presidential primary as Bachmann arrived.

Minneapolis blogger ordered to pay $60,000 in damages

A Hennepin County jury ordered Minneapolis blogger John Hoff to pay $60,000 in damages to a former community organizer, Minnesota Public Radio reported Friday.

Hoff, aka Johnny Northside, had accused Jerry Moore in a 2009 blog post of involvement in a high-profile mortgage fraud case. Moore was fired from his position at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center the day after the post, and subsequently sued Hoff on claims of defamation and contract interference, reported the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

While the jury found that Hoff's statement was true and therefore dismissed the charges of defamation, it ruled that Hoff had intentionally interfered with Moore's employment contract at the University of Minnesota, according to Sheila Regan's report for the TC Daily Plant.

The Star Tribune reported that the trial was closely followed by First Amendment scholars and free-speech advocates because of its potential impact on citizen journalism.

According to Regan in the TC Daily Planet, Moore's attorney argued that much of the First Amendment and freedom of the press discussion was not relevant to blogging, and said that blogs need to have limits.

University of Minnesota media law professor Jane Kirtley, quoted in the Star Tribune, said that she expected the case to be overturned on appeal.

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