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The Northland's week in review (Feb. 12-18, 2010)

Friday through Sunday, Feb. 12-14

• The Winter Olympics in Vancouver started with tragedy as Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, died Friday morning while practicing at Whistler Sliding Center. As a result, the track was modified prior to the first official runnings.

• On Friday the Minnesota House Telecom Telecommunications Regulation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill that sets goals for higher-speed Internet access for Minnesotans. Meanwhile, Don Ness is campaigning for Duluth to become one of Google's test markets for its "fiber optic to the home" initiative. If the mayor is successful, the city will experience Internet access speeds that are 100 times faster than current broadband speeds. "Providing Google Fiber to Duluth would be akin to giving Picasso his first paintbrush, Brett Hull his first hockey stick or giving Brin and Page start-up capital," Ness said in a statement. "OK, so that may be overstating it a bit, but that's an indication of our ambition. If Google chooses Duluth, they can be sure we will make the most of the opportunity."

• The 10th annual Big Jig Ice Fishing Contest and Festival on Pike Lake drew roughly 1,100 anglers Sunday.

• Allete, the parent company to Duluth's Minnesota Power, reported a net income drop of $23 million from 2008 to 2009, according to its annual earnings report.

• Business rumblings: New Page supplier Minerals Technologies will bring a production facility to Superior this year.

• Veteran groomer and Cloquet resident Beth Collins received the prestigious 2009 Cardinal Crystal Show Dog Groomer of the Year at the 55th Annual Show Dogs of the Year Awards, which took place Feb. 13, 2010, during the Westminster Dog Show in New York. Collins, a Nationally Certified Master Groomer, has been showing dogs for over 25 years. She has groomed many champion Afghan Hounds, including Best in Show, Best in Breeders Cup and multiple Best in Specialty Show winners.

• Also at Westminster ... Kaili, the silver miniature poodle from Duluth featured in last weekend's Budgeteer, was judged the best female of her breed. She was edged out for the top honor by a male.

• Two search planes, one helicopter, a thermal-imaging camera and dozens of volunteers all spent days looking for a horse missing for nearly a week north of Duluth. Their search efforts paid off when the horse was rescued Saturday.

Monday, Feb. 15

• The University of Minnesota has launched a nation-wide search to replace University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin who has announced she will retire at the end of July after 15 years as chancellor. A 15-member search committee has been selected and is led by co-chairs Vincent Magnuson, UMD Vice Chancellor for Academic Administration, and Nancy "Rusty" Barcelò, U of M Twin Cities Vice President and Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity.

• (run online only) Average retail gasoline prices in Minnesota have fallen 4.7 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.56/g today. This compares with the national average that has fallen 2.9 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.62/g, according to gasoline price Web site

Including the change in gas prices in Minnesota during the past week, prices today are 60 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 15.3 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 11.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 67.6 cents per gallon higher than this day a year ago.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

• The U.S. men's hockey team got off to a good start with a 3-1 win over Switzerland, while the U.S. men's curling team didn't do as well, losing 7-5 to Germany and 6-5 to Norway later in the day. The U.S. men's team curls out of Duluth. Also Tuesday, the U.S. women's hockey team beat Russia 13-0. Former UMD standout Jenny Potter scored three goals to set an Olympic record with her second straight hat trick; the team beat China 12-1 in their opening game Sunday. Potter scored five goals in that game.

• Former local TV anchor Julie Pearce is blogging about her experience as a nurse in Haiti at

• Iranian authorities are considered a request by the families of three detained Americans to visit them in prison. Nicole Lindstrom of Duluth is the sister of imprisoned hiker Shane Bauer. All three are being held on espionage charges; they say they accidentally crossed the border into Iran when they where hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

•Michael Scott Sampson, 18, of Duluth, pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbing the Great Lakes Laundromat in October and burglarizing two Duluth residences on Christmas Eve. Sampson will be sentenced March 30.

• Lake Superior Zoo announced that Nellie the bat-eared fox gave birth to two kits Jan. 24. Visitors to the zoo can find the fox family in the nocturnal wing of the zoo. (But please be quiet, so you don't wake the babies.)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

• Registration for June's Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon began Wednesday and runs through 8 a.m. March 1. The race entry process is conducted through a lottery in which 5,000 participants will be randomly selected. See to register.

• The U.S. men's curling team lost 7-6 to Switzerland on Wednesday.The U.S. led 6-4 after eight ends, but Switzerland (2-0) recorded one point in each of the last three frames to take the close victory.

• The city of Duluth's fire union has filed a lawsuit against the city hoping to protect health insurance for firefighters who retire.

Thursday, Feb. 18

• A bill is in the works requiring mobile telephone companies to assist in locating phones belonging to people in danger. The bill is being pushed by a Kansas couple who lost a daughter after a mobile phone provider refused to help them locate her telephone, but several Minnesota missing persons cases also have involved trying to track the people with cell phone signals.

• The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office is seeking information in a case where a college student fishing in Ely was hit by a bullet while in his fish house. The bullet grazed his head; the 18-year-old was treated and released.

• In Austin, Texas, a 53-year-old pilot crashed his small aircraft into an office building containing IRS operations. A reported suicide note prompted authorities to believe he did it on purpose in some sort of anti-government stance.

• Emma Stauber scored a hat trick against Elk River Thursday to lead the Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall Mirage girls hockey team to a 4-0 victory in the Section 7AA championship game. The Mirage will advance the Minnesota Class AA state tournament next Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

• The U.S. men's hockey team beat Norway 6-1 at the Olympics, but both the men's and women's curling teams lost 7-6 to Denmark. The men's curling team must win their remaining five games to get to the semifinals. Also Thursday, Evan Lysacek of the United States won gold in the men's figure skating competition, completing a nearly flawless performance.

Want to know more about any of these stories? Look under the News tab at

This weekend

• If you're reading this Saturday morning, it's not too late to register for the Polar Bear Plunge today, Feb. 20. Register between noon and 3 p.m. at Grandma's Sports Garden in Canal Park, the plunge starts at 3 p.m. There will be a costume contest.

• The 44th annual Duluth Boat, Sport and Travel Show, along with the first Northland Outdoors Duluth Deer Classic, wraps up at the DECC this weekend. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $8 for adults, $4 for ages 6 through 17 and free for children 5 and younger.

Find more events in our community calendar, linked to this story.