News Duccini, right, at the 75th anniversary celebrations of 'The Wizard of Oz'

Ruth Duccini was the last of the original female Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz. Uncredited, Duccini, who was four feet tall, played one of 124 Munchkin townspeople in the 1939 classic. There is now only one surviving Munchkin, Jerry Maren.

Christian right splits the Republicans: Political mobilisation of religious radicals in America is sidelining moderates and threatening the party's ability to regain power

THE QUESTION should not have shocked. There is, after all, a civil war going on in the Minnesota Republican Party. Before acquiescing to the interview, Allen Quist, renegade candidate for state governor, wanted to check that I was not an agent of the enemy. 'They like to get journalists to do their dirty work for them, see,' he explains. 'They have them write distorted pieces about me and then they circulate them to their people.'

Education: Schools Inc takes charge: Lucy Hodges reports on a US city's radical attempt to place its whole education system in private hands

Schools in Britain are constantly being urged to further their links with business, and to include more industrialists on their governing bodies. Now, in the United States, the relationship between schools and business has been taken a dramatic stage further: the Minneapolis school board (education authority) has hired a private consulting firm to do the chief education officer's job of managing the city's 79 schools.

Health Update: Time to talk

AMERICAN researchers have identified the 'yak factor' - talking to your sexual partner - as crucial in protecting against diseases such as herpes and HIV infection. People who discussed their previous partners, Aids, condom use and other intimate matters, were three times less likely to have had a sexually transmitted disease, according to a survey of 550 teenagers in Minneapolis and St Paul. Dr Michael Resnick, who led the study for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the University of Minnesota, said: 'Talking implies that 'you look before you leap'.'

We'll pull your socks up for pounds 50

PERHAPS I should explain why the new announcement on my answering-machine says: 'Hallo, Chelsea Drugs. Please state your requirements after the bleep.'

Health Update: Stretch marks study

A POOR diet may make pregnant women more prone to stretch marks, according to US research. Dr Diane Madlon-Kay, from St Paul-Ramsey Medical Center, Minnesota, has found that women with abdominal stretch marks are more likely to be getting state medical assistance, presumably because they are from lower socioeconomic groups. She suggests these women also have a low-protein diet, which results in poorer connective tissue formation.

MUSIC / St Paul's hot gospel: The best little orchestra in Minnesota is here this week. Michael White talks to its charismatic music director

Minnesota is a land of lakes, loggers, loons (the State bird) and Garrison Keillor: the heartland of America and home to the disarming small-town affability known as Minnesota Nice. But it is also, less obviously, home to an emergent cultural citadel. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul are two squeaky- clean, compact metropolises joined by a few minutes of umbilical freeway, to form what is being called the 'hottest' urban district in the Union. Given that St Paul and Minneapolis have six-month winters, the accolade is a touch ironic, but it shows that they have become a Place To Be - alive, liberal, socially progressive, and blessed with resources such as the St Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), whose music director, Hugh Wolff, is on the way to being one of the most talked-about figures on the American conducting circuit.

Bookworm in a bind

A man described by his family as an avid reader has been arrested for stealing 30,000 library books, found in his home, car and two rented lockers, Reuter reports from Minnesota. Police said Gerald Lapre, 40, would be charged with theft. They said he smuggled the books in paper bags or used false library cards over a 10-year period. The books, ranging from Greek and Roman mythology to Garfield the Cat, were worth pounds 380,000.

Health Update: Post-natal blues

SEXUAL intercourse in the months after having a baby may be a greater problem than doctors think, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. They found that three months after childbirth, 40 per cent of women still had problems, including discomfort during intercourse and difficulty reaching orgasm.

Obituary: Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle, writer and teacher, born St Paul Minnesota 19 February 1902, Foreign Correspondent New Yorker 1946-53, Professor of English San Francisco State University 1963-79, publications include Plagued by the Nightingale 1931, Year Before Last 1932, My Next Bride 1934, Being Geniuses Together (with Robert McAlmon) 1968, Words That Must Somehow Be Said 1985, married 1922 Richard Brault (marriage dissolved; one daughter by Ernest Walsh), 1931 Laurence Vail (three daughters), 1943 Baron Joseph von Frankenstein (died 1963; one son, one daughter), died Oakland California 27 December 1992.

Clinton picks third black

WASHINGTON - President-elect Bill Clinton yesterday filled two more top positions, choosing a black woman as Energy Secretary and a former state governor as Education Secretary, writes David Usborne. In selecting Hazel O'Leary, who is an executive for a Minnesota power company, for the energy post, Mr Clinton brings to three the number of blacks in his future cabinet, the highest of any president in history.

Letter: 'Powdermilk cookie' takes the biscuit

Sir: I am in London with a contingent of 35 students and staff from Gustavus Adolphus College, St Peter, Minnesota, studying here for the autumn term. Your article on Garrison Keillor (3 October) and Lake Wobegon made us feel right at home, but your use of the term 'powdermilk cookie' struck a false note.

Arts: Chimes of freedom - It is now 30 years since the most influential songwriter of the rock'n'roll era released his first record. In a new illustrated biography, Richard Williams traces Bob Dylan's path from Nowhere, Minnesota, to the epicentre of a musical and social revolution

The Independent on Sunday IT HAPPENED this way. First there was the radio, picking up messages from the twilight zone. Then the record-player, and the small pile of 45s, each one committed to memory. Then a home-made guitar, or somebody's cast-off, or perhaps an old banjo with half of a set of war-surplus headphones taped under the bridge and plugged into the valve radio to simulate a pick-up and amp. Then a friend with a real guitar, and another with a junk-shop snare drum.

Columbus guilty

(First Edition)

Thousands flee in US toxic spill

DULUTH, Minnesota (AP) - A cloud of toxic vapour from a derailed tank car forced at least 50,000 people to flee homes and offices yesterday in Minnesota and Wisconsin, creating traffic jams and leaving central Duluth deserted.
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