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Minnesota News Briefs: Warm weather to continue for much of state

Most of the state got a bit of a break on Wednesday from a three-week-long hot spell, but the relief will likely be short-lived. The National Weather Service predicts daily highs will stay in the mid-80 to mid-90 range from now into early next week.

Minnesota's long, hot spell leaves Minneapolis with the second-longest run ever of daytime temperatures 85-degrees or more -- a 21-day stretch only exceeded in August of 1941. The three-week-long hot spell in St. Cloud is beat only by 26-days of 85-degrees or more back in 1936 -- and 34 days in 1921. National Weather Service forecaster Shawn DeVinny says such a stretch of high temperatures is "pretty rare." But DeVinny says despite very muggy overnight lows on several days -- most notably the 4th of July -- Minnesota did not come close to breaking any records in that category.

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The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows increasingly dry conditions throughout the state. The worst drought right now is in northwestern and southern Minnesota with western areas of the state also much drier than normal. Many of Minnesota's major crops are suffering in these conditions. Some rain across the lower half of the state on Wednesday helped a bit but commodity broker Tim Roth says, for soybeans, rain is needed earlier in the season. He thinks farmers could end up with a "decent" bean crop but that depends on weather patterns changing for the better over the coming weeks -- something that just can't be predicted.

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June's Minnesota unemployment numbers remained unchanged at 5.6 percent for the third straight month, while employers added 7,200 jobs. State labor analyst Steve Hine says this comes after officials revised numbers for previous months, with job losses now greater than originally reported. He says between March and May the state lost 56-hundred jobs, so a 7,200 job gain in June was a welcome respite. Job gains were led by professional and business services, which added over five-thousand jobs. Leisure and hospitality lost 2,300 jobs and is at its lowest level in ten years.

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Minneapolis police sergeant David Clifford is due in court today, charged with first-degree assault after an incident in June. Prosecutors say the SWAT team leader punched Brian Vander Lee in an Andover restaurant while the Ramsey man was using his cell phone. Clifford was off-duty at the time. It left Vander Lee temporarily on life support and he has undergone three surgeries since the incident.

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Police in Minneapolis are still looking for suspects but add that the public is not at risk, after a fatal shooting on the city's southside on Wednesday A 24-year-old man was found dead in a house along with another man who was seriously wounded. Police say they are looking for more than one suspect and think the victim was targeted.

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Authorities have identified the body of a man found burned in a car in Rice County. Officials used dental records to identify 45-year-old Michael Fraser who lived in the Northfield area. The body was discovered Sunday in rural Cannon City Township. Toxicology results are still pending, and authorities have not yet determined cause of death.

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There's reaction now from officials from a southern Minnesota hog producer after the release of a video alleging abusive practices. CFO of Christensen Farms Glen Stolt of Sleepy Eye says the video doesn't give a complete picture of what goes on in hog production and "based on independent outside review, I think there's enough documentation that would suggest that it wasn't in any violation of any laws or any industry practices." The short video, hosted by Bob Barker, was secretly filmed by the group Mercy For Animals and shows pigs in gestation crates -- which have come under fire from animal rights activists due to their small size.

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A central Minnesota hospital is dealing with a death investigation unlike others -- from a single gunshot wound inside one of its rooms. Reports say a 68-year old Rush City man killed himself in a single-occupancy room at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming on Wednesday. There were no other injuries and entrances that were locked-down have since reopened. Police say the man had checked himself in on Tuesday.

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Police in Minneapolis police are still looking for suspects but add that the public is not at risk, after a fatal shooting on the city's southside on Wednesday. A 24-year old man was found dead in a house along with another man who was seriously wounded. Police say they are looking for more than one suspect and think the victim was targeted.

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There's a training exercise again tonight (6-8pm) at Delano High School high school and other locations around Delano as emergency responders learn more about how to react to a simulated incident in a high school chemistry lab. Kevin Reed with the state Department of Homeland Security says agencies from the local all the way up to the federal level will participate. Reed says emergency responders will also be able to use some of the information in situations involving meth labs, homemade explosives or biological agents.

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You still have time to donate to your local food shelf and help them compete for matching dollars in the third-annual "Food Shelf 100-thousand Dollar Challenge." Arna Yetter with Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless says the effort is especially important because summer is normally a time when donations are down -- and some 250,000 kids home from school are not getting free meals. She says summer can be a tough time for families who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The food shelf challenge runs through July 31st.

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A major Minnesota drug-testing lab has been closed because its credibility has been questioned. St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith says his department will review and reorganize leadership at the St. Paul police crime lab in light of testimony exposing poor, undocumented work practices. Several defense attorneys will challenge convictions based on the lab's work in cases in Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties. Besides the St. Paul lab, the B-C has two drug labs, one also in St. Paul and one in Bemidji.

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Political and legal gyrations continue in Minnesota over the two proposed constitutional amendments scheduled to be on the ballot this fall. While the state Supreme Court considers a request by the ACLU to throw out the ballot question on the proposed voter photo-ID constitutional amendment, there's a court hearing in a week-and-a-half on a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie over the proposed marriage amendment. A group of Republican lawmakers wants the heading printed above the question on the ballot to read "Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman." Ritchie wants it to say "Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples." Meanwhile, two Republican lawmakers say they'll sue Ritchie over the title he wants printed above the ballot question on the voter photo-ID amendment.

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More than 220 bicyclists are part of the 2012 Red Ribbon Ride that kicked off this morning at the Mall of America. Executive director Theresa Fetsch says it's the tenth year they've raised money for the fight against HIV/AIDS. It's a four-day, nearly 300-mile ride that benefits eight AIDS service organizations in Minnesota. Overnight stops are in Lake City tonight, Rochester Friday and Northfield on Saturday. This year's fundraising goal is $450,000.

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