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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Head-on crash kills two in Norman County

ADA, Minn. - Two people are dead after a head-on crash Thursday afternoon on Highway 32 in northwestern Minnesota's Norman County. 

The State Patrol says a southbound vehicle driven by 76-year-old Doris Hanson of Brooks swerved into the northbound lane and collided with a car driven by 66-year-old James Bateson of Gary.  Both drivers died at the scene.  The accident report shows the roadway was dry and both victims were buckled up. 


The US. House of Representatives passed a stopgap farm measure while lawmakers wrap up a new farm bill.  It extends current law until January 31.  Democrats, who control the Senate, oppose it but Minnesota Democratic-Farm Labor U.S. Senator Al Franken says it's a workable compromise.  Without a farm bill in place, dairy subsidies would have reverted on December 31 to terms of an underlying 1949 law that analysts say could have doubled the price of milk in grocery stores.  But Democrats say the so-called "dairy cliff" is fiction. 


Funeral services were today in Hibbing for the 86-year-old mother of Basketball Hall of Famer Kevin McHale.  Josephine McHale died Tuesday in her Hibbing home with her children by her side.  McHale is head coach of the Houston Rockets and missed his team's loss at Portland last night to be with his family in northern Minnesota.  Josephine McHale will be laid to rest at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Hibbing.


Minnesotans' Military Appreciation Fund is awarding its 15,000th grant today to a local soldier wounded in Afghanistan.  Twenty-seven-year-old Specialist Kristopher Francisco of Prior Lake suffered serious injuries when an IED exploded under his vehicle in May 2010.  Francisco is a Purple Heart recipient and recently retired from the U.S. Army.  He's getting a $10,000 grant today, in addition to the two-thousand-dollar award he received at the November 13th Timberwolves game. 


A 45-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the string of suspicious envelopes that were mailed last month to the Pine County Courthouse.  Pine County Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell says the investigation positively linked the mailings to a string of homemade devices made to look like bombs that were placed in various spots throughout the county.  The powder in the envelopes turned out to be a bacterial agent mixed with a household powder.  Blackwell says that led investigators to believe the suspect may eventually commit a crime with much more lethal consequences if he wasn't caught.  The man is jailed on multiple terroristic threats charges.


Despite the cold weather, you still have to be careful venturing out on the ice -- and two fishermen found out Wednesday just how unsafe it can be.  They were out on Lake Ida in Douglas County when both their fish house and SUV plunged through the ice.  Luckily, both men inside the truck got out okay.  The DNR recommends four inches of ice for fishing, five inches for a snowmobile or ATV and 12 to 15 inches for a medium truck.


The West-Central Minnesota Narcotics Task Force and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office have made three significant meth busts this week.  Special Agent in Charge Scot Umlauf says Kyle Hildebrand and Jami Johnson were arrested early in the week after they sold 106 grams of meth to an undercover agent -- street value about 21 thousand dollars.  Later, between an undercover buy and more meth found in a search of their car afterward, Andrew Denny and Michael Larson were also busted in Alexandria.  Umlauf says they were in possession of $19,000 worth of the bathtub drug.  Michael Burkey was also arrested on similar charges after a Thursday bust. 


It's been a tough season for the Salvation Army's red kettle campaign in Duluth.  Development Director Gordy Mesedahl says the big snow combined with very cold temperatures has resulted in fewer shoppers and also fewer bellringing volunteers.  That number is down 30 percent from last year.  Hearty bell ringers are needed to fill two-hour shifts at various red kettle locations in Duluth.   


Eastbound mariners have reported a problem with glare from the new landmark lighting system on the Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior.  MnDOT Engineers and the lighting contractor evaluate and re-aim some of the fixtures so they won't interfere with marine traffic.  While changes are made over the next several days, the lighting system will be turned off, but all roadway and navigational lights will stay on as usual.