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MINNESOTA NEWS BRIEFS: German prosecutors looking into Minnesota man accused of war crimes

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BONN, Germany - German prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation of a Minnesota man who has been accused of commanding of a Nazi-led unit during World War II, to determine whether there is enough evidence to charge 94-year-old Michael Karkoc with war crimes.

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An Associated Press report alleged that Karkoc entered the United States in 1949 by lying to immigration officials about his military service. The AP's evidence suggests that Karkoc may have taken part in torching villages in Poland and killing civilians as part of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion. The head of the special German prosecutors's office responsible for investigating Nazi-era crimes, Kurt Schrimm, confirms that an investigation is underway, but won't speculate on how long it may take to complete. Poland's National Remembrance Institute, which investigates Nazi and Soviet crimes, is also reviewing files on Karkoc's unit for any evidence that would justify charges.

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A Minnesota state champion pitcher is in critical condition and a University of Minnesota baseball player is seriously hurt after a two-car crash in Carver County. Minnesota State Patrol says Kasey Ralston, who pitched Holy Family High School in Victoria to the Class 2A state title in 2012 and who was on Indiana University roster last season, was in critical condition the day after the car he was riding in was hit by a pickup truck near New Germany. Gopher freshman Dalton Sawyer was driving, and is being treated for chest and head injuries. Investigators say the pickup had the right of way, and none of the four passengers in it were hurt.

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Two people are dead after an apparent shooting in a home in St. Peter. Police have not released the names or any other details about the victims, but say they are not looking for any suspects and the public isn't in danger. The home where the shooting occurred is directly behind the Nicollet County Courthouse.

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Xcel Energy crews continue to work around the clock to restore power following severe thunderstorms that swept through Minnesota this past weekend. As of 6:00 a.m. this morning(tues) around 24,000 customers were still without power. At the peak of the outages, nearly 617,000 Xcel Energy customers were without power. Officials hope to have most of the power restored by tomorrow. Xcel officials say most of the remaining outages are in the Twin Cities' west metro, and they expect most to be back online by noon tomorrow (Wed). So far Minneapolis city crews have removed about 800 trees just to make city streets passable, and will likely have to take down many more. About 500 trees have been lost so far in St. Paul.

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A man is dead and a woman is in jail after an early morning shooting in a Minneapolis home. The 911 call reporting the shooting was made just before 5 a.m., and responding officers found the man dead of a gunshot wound inside the home. They identified a suspect on-scene, and say there were several witnesses at the home as well. The female suspect was arrested. Minneapolis Police Department Homicide Unit investigators are in the process of interviewing the witnesses to determine exactly what led up to the shooting. 

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Officials in Crow Wing County are looking for a young man who's been missing since last Friday. Authorities say 27-year-old Jesse Larson was last seen leaving in his vehicle the night before and parents notified authorities when he didn't return. The vehicle was found on family property and searchers also located one of the two dogs Larson took with him. An aerial search was unsuccessful and ground searches continue. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Crow Wing County sheriff's office.

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Many highways in Minnesota, particularly in the northwest, north central, and southeast regions of the state, remain closed by high waters caused by up to a foot of rain and the flash flooding it caused. MnDot's Kevin Gutknecht (GOOT'-necked) says it's a problem that could get worse before it gets better, because when it rains upstream it takes a while for the whole system to drain into the bigger rivers. He expects many areas will see even higher water levels later in the week. St. Croix, for instance, is supposed to rise as much as five feet. Gutknecht says regional directors are watching the water situation closely, and hoping that an expected brief break in the rainfall will help water levels drop slightly.

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Lots of Minnesotans are looking for home repair contractors as the Twin Cities and vicinity cleans up after Friday's storms. Mike Kress with State Farm Insurance urges people to find a reputable firm, ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau. Kress warns there will be a lot of door-to-door people going around -- and homeowners should not sign a contract until they're sure they've covered all their bases. Kress says word-of-mouth is a good way to find a good home repair contractor.

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A man from Hibbing will spend a year in jail and ten years on probation after pleading guilty earlier to striking and killing a man on a mobility scooter with his pickup truck. Prosecutors say 71-year-old Elmer White was driving drunk when he hit the scooter operated by 78-year-old Eugene Zeroth. The criminal complaint says deputies smelled alcohol on White's breath and a test at the hospital showed his alcohol concentration was point-zero-nine. The State Patrol later determined the crash was caused by the scooter failing to yield right-of-way, but that alcohol impairment was a major contributing factor.

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The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution at its annual meeting in Las Vegas urging Congress to pass background check legislation for all gun sales. Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede says the mayors are pushing for a national call to action on gun violence. Brede says about 90 percent of Americans say there should be background checks or similar measures, and then lawmakers in Washington D.C. don't do anything about it. Opponents warn expanded background checks will violate Americans' Second Amendment rights.

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Voters go to the polls today to decide whether the Brandon and Evansville school districts will consolidate. They already have combined middle schools and high schools. For the ballot question to pass, a majority in both districts must vote "yes." Officials say if the two districts merge, property taxes in Brandon would go up, while property taxes in Evansville would drop.

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The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports 42 business expansion projects in the first quarter of 2013. The agency says the projects are expected to create more than 1,300 jobs in the state. Thirty-six of the expansions are companies already doing business in Minnesota and six projects are employers that are new or returning to the state. DEED says it played a role in half of the expansions, including Pinnacle Airlines headquarters and New Flyer bus in Saint Cloud.  

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals will not overturn the criminal homicide convictions of Amy Senser in the August 2011 hit-and-run death of Anousone Phanthavong. In a unanimous decision, the court said errors made by the district court judge had no effect on the jury's verdict and that Senser received a fair trial. The appeals court also said the state presented more than sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Senser knew she hit a person or a vehicle. Senser has served nearly one year of a 41-month sentence at the Shakopee women's prison.

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Flash flooding caused by weekend storms has closed several highways in Fillmore and Houston Counties. MN-DOT's Kevin Gutknecht says Highway 43 between Mabel and Choice is closed, as is Highway 26 in Houston county, Highway 16 near Houston, and Highway 76 between Houston and Caledonia. Gutknecht says southeastern Minnesota received about a foot of rain over the past three days and it's nearly impossible to get to the city of Houston. He says while that part of the state is hardest hit, roads are also under water in central, northwestern and north-central Minnesota.

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A Pine River man is dead after a one-vehicle crash was discovered late Sunday afternoon in Manhattan Beach. Crow Wing County investigators say the accident was difficult to see because of trees and brush, and likely occurred overnight Saturday. A passing motorist noticed tire tracks leaving the roadway and entering a farm field. The 34-year-old victim was found inside the car and pronounced dead at the scene. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner is doing an autopsy to determine cause of death. The man's name has not been released. 

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Farm advocates have been trying for years to reduce or eliminate gaping loopholes in farm program payment limitations that they say are unfair to Minnesota family farms and favor mega-farms and passive investors. Those reforms were included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill, but the legislation failed in the House. Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs says what happens now with the Farm Bill depends on whether they start over from scratch or change some of the most objectionable portions of the measure. Democrats who had been ready to compromise and vote "yes" on the bill in the House changed their minds when Republicans added amendments that would allow states to require recipients to take drug tests and undergo work training.

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Minnesota is ranked 4th in the latest "Kids Count" Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That's up one spot from last year, but there were a number of indicators that did worsen. Stephanie Hogenson of Children's Defense Fund Minnesota says the state's ranking on child health dropped from seventh in the country to 15th -- primarily because many states have decreased their number of children without health insurance, while Minnesota's is still at about 80-thousand The number of Minnesota children living in poverty also increased to 15 percent.

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Retiring Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says she wants one of her final acts in the U.S. House to be stopping an immigration bill that she and other conservatives say is too weak on border security. Bachmann made that message clear to a group of Tea Party supporters who showed up at a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, opposing the "Gang of Eight" plan to revamp immigration. Bachmann and other Tea Party lawmakers say the proposed immigration reforms will cost the U-S too much in social welfare services and, in the end, won’t convince Hispanic voters to support Republicans.   

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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