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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Duluth firefighters battle big blaze in unoccupied building

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DULUTH -- Over two dozen firefighters from five fire stations battled a fire just after midnight in an unoccupied building in Duluth. 

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Fire was active on the first and second floors of the three story structure when firefighters arrived and they were able to keep it from spreading to the third floor.  No injuries were reported.  Damage was estimated in excess of $150,000.  The Duluth Fire Marshal's Office is investigating.

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Two parents in Minneapolis are being accused in the death of their six-week-old baby.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports 39-year-old Cardie Jackson and 40-year-old Shonwta Jackson have been charged with second-degree murder.  This after their baby girl apparently suffocated in a laundry basket in early March. Cardie Jackson claims she put the baby in the basket to sleep. She says her husband later found their daughter not breathing.  Investigators say the baby was the couple's 11th child; they had previously lost custody of nine children and a 2-year-old is in foster care. 

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A Newport woman has pleaded guilty to giving her husband a drug that ended up taking his life. Police say in March of 2013, 43-year-old Jennifer M. Johnson gave her husband methadone to help him sleep after a night of drinking. After law enforcement were called to the scene, 32-year-old Denis K. Parmuat, was found unresponsive and gasping for air.  He later died at Region Hospital in St. Paul.

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Minnesota has now logged over 200 traffic deaths in 2014, 16 fewer than at this time last year.  31 were motorcycle crash fatalities, versus 44 at this point in 2013.  State Patrol Lieutenant Eric Roeske says the top four factors related to fatal crashes are alcohol, distracted driving, speeding and injuries from not wearing a seatbelt.  There's a stepped-up DWI enforcement campaign through Labor Day.

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The state continues its series of briefings today in International Falls  and Baudette to give local officials information on applying for disaster assistance.  It's to help repair damage to public infrastructure from severe storms and flooding in June and July.  Joe Kelly with the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division says after applications are submitted, local governments have the work performed and then submit claims for reimbursement.  75 percent of eligible costs are picked up by the federal government and 25 percent by the state.  There are briefings tomorrow in Warroad and Warren, Thursday in Red Lake and Waskish, and Friday in Wadena County and Long Prairie.

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Many state and federal organizations are keeping a close eye on the Midwest propane supply and the projected price for the fuel, used to heat homes across Minnesota and by farmers to dry down their grain crops after harvest.  Last winter a shortage led to record high prices and some low-income Minnesotans found it impossible to pay for a mid-winter tank of propane.  U.S. Energy Information Administration petroleum market analyst Mason Hamilton says prices for the upcoming season are still a bit up in the air.  Hamilton says inventory is higher than last year although still below normal, but supplies are building faster than usual -- and he says if winter isn't quite as brutal as last year it may be adequate and prices could stay much lower.  Hamilton says only time and mother nature will tell -- because another brutally cold winter could quickly deplete the supply.

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Some parts of west-central and eastern Minnesota received major rainfall from Sunday's thunderstorms.  The National Weather Service reports 7.7 inches near Gluek in Chippewa County, 7 at New York Mills in Otter Tail County and 4.3 inches in Starbuck in Pope County.  Hampton had 5 inches and Dakota County saw flash flooding and intersections under water near Miesville.  The statewide forecast calls for a chance of showers and thunderstorms most of this week.

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The Minnesota State Patrol has identified the Rochester woman killed Sunday evening in a motorcycle crash.  Troopers say 58-year-old Laurie Snyder was riding on Highway 52 with two other bikers when she lost consciousness and crashed under a highway overpass.  Snyder was pronounced dead at Saint Mary's Hospital.  The accident report shows Snyder was wearing a helmet and there was no alcohol in her system.  

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Students entering seventh grade may need another round of vaccinations.  A new state requirement goes into effect this school year requiring vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough.  Students must also be vaccinated against meningitis, which state Health Department spokeswoman Lynn Bahta says can be very devastating in the adolescent years.  Batha says health providers also recommend an immunization for the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV, beginning at age 11.  

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Experts say it's too early to tell what will happen with propane prices in the next heating season.  "It's all up to the weather," says U.S. Energy Information Administration Petroleum market analyst Mason Hamilton.  He says supplies so far are greater than last year at this time, and while they are still below average, inventories are building faster than usual.  Current wholesale propane prices are just over a dollar a gallon.  Last January the average nationwide wholesale price was at $4.49 a gallon, and some Minnesotans reported paying about seven dollars a gallon retail for propane.

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With summer quickly winding down, the need for blood donors in Minnesota is up.  Sue Thesenga (thay-SING'-guh) with the American Red Cross says there are generally fewer donations over the summer months as many people are busy with plans and projects, and school is also out of session.  She says 20 percent of donations come from high school and college blood drives during the academic year.  Thesenga says nationwide more than 41-thousand blood donations are needed every day to ensure an adequate supply.

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Anti-bullying legislation Governor Dayton signed into law in April takes effect at the start of this school year.  The law applies to posts on social media and other websites -- even those made off-campus -- if they disrupt student learning or the school environment. Bullying expert Peggy Caruso says in addition to increased technology providing outlets for bullies, it has also decreased traditional communication between children, like talking and face-to-face problem solving.  Caruso says to deter negative online interactions, advise your child to resist the temptation to respond to the bully or retaliate, and save any evidence and use online privacy tools and settings to block the bully.

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The ALS Association Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota chapter has seen a 100-percent increase in donations and new donors from its "ice bucket challenge."  People pour buckets of cold water over their heads and challenge others to do the same or make a donation.  Executive Director Jennifer Hjelle says there is no cure for ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, but this fundraising craze gives them new hope and will help accelerate their global research program.  She says Mayo, the U-of-M and Hennepin County Medical Center are all doing research locally.  Hjelle believes there are going to be some treatment options for ALS patients in the next five to ten years.  The ice bucket challenges have raised $16-million dollars for the ALS Association and its 38 chapters since late July. 

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