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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Medtronics to begin trials on the world's smallest pacemaker

MOUNDS VIEW, Minn.  --  Minnesota-based Medtronic says it will begin clinical trials on what they call the world's smallest pacemaker, which is injected through a vein and attached directly to the heart wall. 

Pat Mackin, president of Medtronic's Cardiac Rhythm Management Division indicates the pacemaker will probably be commercially available to patients in the U.S. in about three years.  Mackin says because there's no pacemaker implanted in a patient's chest, the new device eliminates the chance of infection.  It also does away with complications from the lead that goes from a conventional pacemaker to the heart.


Today's high of seven degrees above zero in the central Minnesota will be the warmest day until the end of the week.  The National Weather Service in Chanhassen is cautioning that wind chills will remain at dangerous levels today, dropping  to as low as 19-below and down to 25-below tonight. A brisk wind is also expected to bring blowing snow and the potential for dangerous driving conditions in western and southern Minnesota. Wednesday's high is expected to be just one degree, and the wind will make it feel as if it's nearly 30-below.  A  warmup is expected for Thursday and Friday with temperatures getting up to between 17 and 20. 


A 19-year-old University of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore is hospitalized in the Twin Cities with hypothermia after sleeping outside on a porch Friday night in subzero weather.  The "St. Cloud Times" reports 9-year-old Alyssa Jo Lommel in stable-critical condition after she was found unconscious on a neighbor's  front porch Saturday morning after being dropped off at her home about nine hours earlier.  Temperatures fell to around 17 degrees below zero as she slept outside, and her parents have been told she may lose at least one hand or foot.


Gun rights activists might consider it an early Christmas gift, of sorts.  Democratic State Representative Michael Paymar, the man behind the push for gun control measures in the last state legislative session, has announced he will not run for office again.  Republican State Representative Tony Cornish of Vernon Center opposed Paymar's efforts to tighten background checks and ban guns at the State Capitol and doesn't believe there will be much support for gun control in 2014.  He believes it will be much longer than a year, though, before gun rights issues come up again at the legislature.


University of Minnesota Police have issued a campus-wide crime alert, after another attempted robbery on the Minneapolis campus.  UM police say a woman was cleaning ice from her windshield Sunday afternoon when a man with a handgun demanded money.  When the woman's boyfriend walked out of their home in the middle of the robbery attempt the gunman ran off.  Nothing was taken and nobody was hurt.  There have been nearly 30 robberies on and around campus since the start of the school year. 


Safety on college and university campuses in the metro area is the topic of a State Capitol hearing this morning, prompted by the recent rash of robberies and assaults.  Committee Chair Terri Bonoff wants to find out if there are any obstacles to law enforcement agencies working together.  Bonoff says for example, she learned from the Ramsey County sheriff that university campus police don't have direct access to the emergency radio system.  Bonoff says perhaps the legislature could change that policy.


The repairs to pilings on the pier beneath southbound I-35 in Duluth have been made and MnDOT is scheduled to reopen the lanes between Lake Avenue and 21st Avenue West by mid-morning Wednesday. The lanes have been closed since November 18th. The stabilizing "strongback system" will be removed today and maintenance crews will then plow the closed section and do final clean up work prior to the opening to traffic.  MnDOT District Engineer Duane Hill thanks the public for their patience during the unexpected closure and says he realizes it was a big inconvenience to many people, made even worse by last week's snowstorm.  The bridge carries around 51,000 vehicles a day.


University of Minnesota human rights leaders are calling for the immediate release of a former student from a prison in Abu Dhabi.  Shezanne Cassim is a 2006 U of M grad from Woodbury who was arrested in April in the United Arab Emirates after posting what was intended to be a funny video on YouTube.  The clip makes fun of Dubai teens who are influenced by hip-hop culture.  Director of the U's Human Right's Program Barbara Frey says they are concerned about Cassim's lengthy detention, his limited access to legal counsel and a lack of due process in the case.  Cassim was working in Dubai for a consulting firm when he was arrested.  He is charged with endangering the national security of the United Arab Emirates and is being held in a maximum security prison.  His next hearing is scheduled for December 16.


A Dakota County man has pled guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in a 2012 crash that killed his passenger.  County Attorney James Backstrom says Keri Gesme was driving his pickup as fast as 106 miles per hour on Highway 50 in Hampton Township when the truck went airborne and struck a tree, killing 27-year-old Dennis Underwood of Cannon Falls.  Gesme's relatives told police last November that he'd been drinking since the morning of the crash and analysis showed he had a blood-alcohol level of .20.  Backstrom says he's pleased that Gesme took responsibility for, "his criminal behavior that took a life."  He will be sentenced in February.


The Duluth Police Department is warning of a scam circulating in the area.  Investigators say people have received phone calls from someone claiming to be with the State Bank of Belle Plaine, and trying to obtain or verify personal or financial information from the victims. They say that information should not be given during a phone call and electronic funds transfer requests should never be arranged by phone, and add that most financial institutions will not request such information in that manner. 


Services are this morning for a Lakeville North High School junior who was killed last week in a crash on her way to school.  Principal Marne Berkvam says 16-year-old Alyssa Ettl was a junior class officer, an officer in several other groups, was on the soccer team that went to the state tournament and would have been team captain next year.  Berkvam says Alyssa definitely was a leader and will be terribly missed.  Ettl died Wednesday when the car she was driving slid on an icy road a quarter-mile from school and was struck by an SUV.


There's a court appearance today for a Willmar teen accused of helping murder another teen's grandmother -- but it looks like the hearing will be for a plea bargain, rather than prosecutors' request to certify Devon Jenkins as an adult.  The 16-year-old is currently charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder in the July 29th stabbing and strangulation of 79-year-old Lila Warwick in her Willmar home.  Prosecutors allege Jenkins drove co-defendant Brok Junkermeier to and from Warwick's home the morning of the murder.  He's also accused of planning of the murder, along with Junkermeier and Warwick's 18-year-old grandson Robert Warwick.  Junkermeyer and Warwick are both being tried as adults on charges of first-degree murder.


Thousands gather today in South Africa to mourn the loss of that nation's first black president.  Today's memorial service for Nelson Mandela will also serve as a rare union of nearly all of the living American presidents.  Former Vice President Walter Mondale says he wasn't surprised when he learned that President Obama and the First Lady would travel to Johannesburg to pay their respects.  Mondale says he's sure it had a lot to do with how Obama looked at public life  -- the fact that this remarkable South African had shown it could work under much tougher circumstances.  Also paying their respects, former Presidents George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.  George H.W. Bush is the only living president who will not attend because he is not able to travel long distances.


The Minnesota Agriculture Department is leading a group of eight delegates on a feed-focused trade mission to Vietnam and Thailand this week(11/10-18).  The primary goal is to arrange one-on-one meetings between Minnesota suppliers and potential overseas importers.  Among the delagates is Paul Freeman of Starbuck who also sits on the Minnesota Soy Bean Growers Association's Board.  Freeman says Vietnam is an up-and-coming country and has recently opened a couple new processing plants.  This is the third feed mission to southeast Asia since 2011.  The first Vietnam mission resulted in 14-million dollars in sales after 12 months.