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Navigating peaceful coexistence between more mining and the environment on the Range

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Closed-down concentrator
The inside of the closed-down concentrator building at Polymet Wednesday, February 20, 2013 near Aurora, Minn.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Today on the MPR News Update we hear about legislation that opens early education to more students, the question of jobs versus the environment for northern Minnesota, why Xcel Energy wants to increase your rates, and game-changing news in the effort to find a cure for HIV-AIDS.

PROSPERITY ON THE RANGE: Proponents of the PolyMet plant and other proposed copper-nickel mines by Twin Metals, say the Iron Range is poised for a rebound. While backers of the mines tout the jobs they could bring, opponents ask whether those jobs are worth the environmental risk.

EARLY LEARNERS: Many Minnesotans like to think that by offering quality classroom instruction starting in kindergarten, the state is ensuring that children can make it in life. But at the Bigelow Head Start program in St. Paul, learning comes much earlier, even at a restroom faucet that comes up to an adult's knee.

OUT OF BOUNDS: The shortfall in electronic pulltab gambling revenue to pay for a new Vikings stadium has some state officials already looking for a way to close the financial gap. But Gov. Mark Dayton has said he doesn't consider racino or casino expansion viable alternatives. And now in Minneapolis, Hennepin County officials say they'll fight an effort to use surplus proceeds that go to Target Field stadium bonds.

NOT AN ADULT: The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned the certification of a 17-year old to stand trial as an adult for his participation in a gang-related rape of a girl on St. Paul's East side. Jim Her was certified to stand trial as an adult last year in the 2011 attack on the 14-year-old girl in an abandoned house on White Bear Avenue. He did not actively participate in the rape, according to court documents, but he was in the room and he didn't try to stop it.

BIKE BOOST: The Twin Cities nonprofit Transit for Livable Communities says bike riding in the metro area has increased by more than 50 percent and walking has increased by 20 percent in the past five years. Transit for Livable Communities administers a $28 million federal grant funded 42 bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects, including a dozen set to be completed this year. Volunteers counted bikers, walkers and cars at 40 metro locations to gauge whether the projects resulted in more use, said Transit for Livable Communities spokeswoman Hilary Reeves.

WOLF SAFE ZONE: As long as wolves have been making their comeback, biologists and ranchers have had a decidedly Old West option for dealing with those that develop a taste for beef: Shoot to kill. But for the past year, Oregon has been a "wolf-safe" zone, with ranchers turning to more modern, nonlethal ways to protect livestock.

HIV CURE: A baby born with the virus that causes AIDS appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who's now 2 1/2 years old and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection. There's no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated testing uncovered just traces of the virus' genetic material still lingering. If so, it would mark only the world's second reported cure.

MAYO COMPETITORS: Minnesota's Mayo Clinic is consistently ranked as one of the nation's top medical facilities, with clinical and research activities and a large philanthropic base. But Mayo's competitors are also growing. And that's one reason the Rochester-based clinic is proposing a $5 billion expansion plan over the next two decades -- to stay ahead in the race to be a global medical leader. Who are those competitors? Read on.

SEQUESTER BEATERS: University of Minnesota researchers will be able to tap a new pot of money to support their projects if they lose some of their federal grant funding: The university says it is creating a bridge funding program for its researchers in response to sequestration cuts. 

MORE U NEWS: The University of Minnesota wants to revamp its graduate school programs. President Eric Kaler said after his State of the University address last week that the U needs to shift money toward its strongest programs in reorganization he calls "Graduate School 2.0." The university should invest more in its strongest grad programs, start new ones in promising fields -- and possibly close down others, he said. Changes could come within five years.

XCEL RATE HIKE: In the midst of an effort to win a 10.7 percent rate hike that it says it needs to remain competitive, executives at energy utility Xcel are defending the money it spends on employee compensation. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is challenging the rate increase, which would amount to about $285 million, saying Xcel should cut $22 million in bonuses for Xcel executives and expensive flights on corporate jets.