- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014
Minnesotans embrace their rebel side, see ‘The Interview’

By The Associated Press (AP) - Minnesotans are channeling their sense of defiance and heading to theaters to see “The Interview.”

The Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1wLeTaZ) reports two Christmas Day showings of the controversial film at a Minneapolis theater were sold out. An hour north in North Branch, just 30 people trickled into a theater for the movie premiere.

Just 10 Minnesota cinemas are showing the film after Sony reversed its decision to pull it amid threats of violence from hackers tied to North Korea. The movie stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists tasked by the CIA with killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Todd Powell drove from St. Paul to North Branch to see it Thursday. Quality of the movie aside, he says he wanted to see it to make a statement.

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Big gift: St. Cloud man buys fiancee a whole store

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Jared Brigmon wasn’t kidding when he told his fiancee he needed help carrying her Christmas gift home.

Brigmon surprised longtime girlfriend Misty Maurer on Christmas Eve by buying her a women’s shoes and accessory store a St. Cloud mall. The St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/1xd8cgu) reports Brigmon kept the brewing purchase secret for weeks. The sale was finalized Tuesday.

Maurer says she and her daughters are loyal customers at the store, called Bling. She was in tears as the owner handed over the keys.

Brigmon, who owns a landscaping business, says he wants to give his fiancee her own business to grow.

After the surprise wore off, one of Maurer’s daughters asked: “Do we get everything for free now?”

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Sub teacher shortage hitting Minnesota schools

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A shortage of substitute teachers is putting Minnesota schools in a bind.

As school districts struggle to pull in substitutes, teachers are heading to class sick. Principals are splitting up children between classrooms or even taking up teaching duties, the Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1JRRfyShttps://strib.mn/1JRRfyS ). It’s a problem nationwide, driven by more substitutes finding permanent work while other teachers leave the field entirely, drying up the pool of retired teachers that pinch hit when needed.

In Minneapolis, the substitute teacher pool is 516 this school year - down more than 60 from last year.

“It’s a crisis,” said Duluth teacher Bernadette Burnham. “It’s another layer of stress for everybody.”

The shortage has had compound effects. It’s prevented some teachers from attending professional development days, while also putting extra pressure on teachers to show up every day.

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St. Cloud prison spreads some cheer to inmates

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Christmas behind bars comes with little of the typical holiday cheer.

Yet, staff members at the St. Cloud prison have worked to make the holidays a little better for inmates, many of whom are spending Christmas apart from their family and friends for the first time, Warden Collin Gau said. They’re handing out gift bags with candy and snacks, arranging religious services and hosting special holiday meals. Those who attend a church service get extra gifts - a pen, pad of paper, a calendar and a planner.

“For these men having everything stripped away, these items are precious,” Chaplain Bill Dornbush told the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/1AZ0nf8https://on.sctimes.com/1AZ0nf8 ). “It’s like gold to them.”

Many of the inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud have been recently convicted, as the facility is a starting point for up to 400 convicts each month before they’re moved to other facilities.

Though some inmates reach out to family, Dornbush said it’s a mostly solemn time.

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