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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Heat, humidity wave should break today

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CHANHASSEN, Minn. --  Minnesotans might get a break from the heat as temperatures are expected to drop today. 

Monday saw temps above 90-degrees including a heat index in the triple digits.  An excessive heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service throughout most of the area.  Cooler air is expected to blanket the region today causing temps to drop into the 80's.

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Parts of the northern Red River Valley got dumped on overnight in a storm that also brought strong winds.  National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Grafenauer says parts of the region recieved as much as five inches of rain and wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour.  A trailer was flipped over in Crookston and a lot of large trees and power lines were downed.  Grafenauer says the worst of the weather was seen in a line from Devils Lake to Grand Forks to Thief River Falls.  Sixty to 80 mile an hour winds were common across the Highway 2 corridor.

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President Obama on Monday declared eight counties in Minnesota a federal disaster area in response to severe storms and flooding.  The counties are Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville and Rock, and the governor's office expects more to be added as new damage estimates are submitted.  Officials say the most recent estimates show about $37 million in eligible infrastructure damage, nearly half of that to roads and bridges, and about five million dollars in damage to park/rec facilities and a similar amount to water control facilities  The federal government will reimburse 75 percent of eligible costs and the state will pick up the rest.  The state will hold informational meetings for officials in affected communities.  Assistance to individuals or businesses for flood or storm damage is *not* included in the presidential disaster declaration.

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A number of volunteer groups are pitching in to help clean up flood damage in Wadena in central Minnesota.  Mark McGilvery with the Jewish group NECHAMA says they're helping coordinate teams of volunteers all over the city, who are doing everything from debris removal to gutting, physical labor and clean-up work.  He says a majority of volunteers are residents who wanted to help but might not have had the resources, experience or tools to do it themselves.  McGilvery says a number of other groups are involved in flood clean-up in Wadena, including Catholic United, Latter-Day Saints, the Red Cross and city officials.

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With kids out of school and families busy with summer plans, July is traditionally a tough time for food bank shelves as demand rises and donations fall. But according to Suzanne Shatila, director of Minnesota FoodShare, a boost is on the way thanks to the March Campaign, a statewide grassroots effort in which every dollar given goes to local food shelves. Shatila says some 300 food shelves took part in the effort and will each receive a share of about $500,000 today. In addition to the money being distributed today, more than four million pounds of food and $7.5 million dollars in donations came in to food shelves statewide during the March Campaign. 

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When it comes to the well-being of children, Minnesota is once again one of the best places in the nation, although challenges remain. Stephanie Hogenson with Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota says despite the state being ranked fifth overall in the 25th annual Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there was a steep increase in children living in single-parent families and in high poverty neighborhoods. The report also found high disparity rates for the some of the state's minority children. Hogenson says children of color and Native American children are less likely to attend preschool; they're more likely to live in poverty and they're more likely to have poor education outcomes in categories such as reading by third grade and graduating on time. To close those gaps, she says Minnesota should ensure policies and programs that serve children of color and Native American children are expanded, are culturally relevant, and address the economic needs of those families. 

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A Minneapolis woman accused of beating her boyfriend to death and stuffing his body is a chest freezer stopped her trial in the middle of day four and pled guilty to second degree murder.  Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says Jetaun Wheeler admitted to killing Eddie Sole unintentionally last July and will be sentenced next month.  Freeman says that while the case was going well, they would have needed Wheeler's pre-teen children to testify and that would have been difficult for them -- so the guilty plea spares her children but means she will still do significant time in prison.  The prosecution intends to ask for the maximum sentence, 15 years in prison. 

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Authorities are investigating after a St. Cloud man ran his car into an apartment Sunday night.  Police say the 24-year-old faces multiple charges for crashing into the lower level apartment on the 1400 block of 12th Avenue North.  The residents were not in the living room when the car came through the wall so nobody was injured.  The apartment has since been condemned by the city's Health Department.  

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A new interactive online bicycle route map is now available to riders statewide.  MnDOT has launched the "Cyclopath" map, which includes up-to-date and editable information on road conditions and routes, with ratings from other bicyclists.  Officials say cyclists can put in their own comments, for example saying a particular road has a narrow shoulder, high traffic or an obstruction.  The map is available for desktop users and as an app for Android users.  For more information, go to cycloplan-dot-cyclopath-dot-org (cycloplan.cyclopath.org).

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Luverne will have an impact on the new season of the Fargo TV series.  FX picked up a new ten-episode season this week.  Producers say it will be set mainly in Luverne and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  It will also feature a new cast, and will tell a new story dating back to 1979.  The show is based on the cult-classic film of the same name.

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A Ramsey County judge Monday afternoon refused a request by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to dismiss a clergy sex abuse lawsuit.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports attorneys for the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona argued the lawsuit by "John Doe 1" does not prove church negligence and they warned of the impact of sensational media coverage on court proceedings.  Jeff Anderson, attorney for the alleged victim, presented over 200 exhibits to the court which he contends clearly show that church officials were aware of the Reverend Thomas Adamson's sexual misconduct with minors.

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Former Governor Jesse Ventura's defamation trial could wrap up today in St. Paul.  Ventura is suing the estate of Chris Kyle, who is the author of the book "American Sniper." Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, wrote a story in the book about a time he punched out the former Governor at a California bar in 2006.  The lawsuit claims the incident did not happen. Testimony ended last week with witnesses on the scene arguing both sides. Closing arguments are expected to begin this morning, while the jury could begin deliberating by the end of day.

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After four near-drownings over the past weekend in the metro area, officials are urging everyone on or near the water to use extra caution.  Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says as things heat up, children in particular need to be looked after.  Stanek says it's okay for parents to bring a book to the beach or maybe drink a Diet Coke, but he says people have to pay attention to where their kids are because you can't expect them to do it themselves.  Stanek urges adults and kids to wear life jackets whenever they go on or in the water.  

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A 16-year-old St. Paul boy is being called a hero after rescuing a man from a blaze.  Ricardo Martinez was at a friends house when he heard voices coming from a burning home on the 400 block of West Goodrich Avenue.  Martinez climbed onto the roof and pulled one of two brothers inside to safety.  Fire crews called to the scene were able to save the other brother.  Authorities are currently investigating the fire as an arson. They believe a suspect could be arrested soon.

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A Big Lake man is in custody after a six-hour standoff with Sherburne County law enforcement on Sunday.  Deputies saw the 47-year-old suspect carrying a shotgun toward a neighbor's home after telling dispatchers he planned to shoot his neighbor.  The standoff began after he went back into his home.  Neighbors were evacuated and authorities negotiatied with the suspect over the telephone before he surrendered around 10pm. The man is jailed pending terroristic threat charges. 

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A Willmar man says he's forgiving the people who shot down the Malaysian jet last week, killing two of his family members.  Drew Ryder told NBC's "Today" show he lost his brother and sister-in-law in last week's tragedy.  Dutch investigators are now in eastern Ukraine to survey the devastation.  The Dutch prime minister says the investigators are now at a train station where some of the bodies from the Malaysian jet are being stored.  Most of nearly 300 people on the Malaysia Airlines jet were from the Netherlands.  

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President Obama is expanding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and a Minnesota group of ex-priests is pleased the executive order does not exempt government contractors with religious affiliations -- despite pleas from faith leaders.  Bob Minton, one of five members of Former Priests for Marriage Equality, says the group has been advocating for LGBT rights in Minnesota for a couple of years.  The group says at least two separate human rights declarations support their stance on Obama's executive order.

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Police say a 22-year-old woman found unresponsive inside her car and who later died, had been shot.  Authorities say the woman was found in St. Paul Saturday night near the intersection of Robert and George Streets.  She was pronounced dead Sunday at Regions Hospital.  The investigation is ongoing. 

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More than 1,100 people lined up around the block in front of Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books in St. Paul Sunday to have their copies of the memoir "Hard Choices"signed by former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Terry Smilanich of Savage says he was there to get a copy signed for his daughter.  He says "it's all about women's power and getting women out to vote, and let's have our first woman president."  Clinton hasn't said yet if she's going to be a candidate for president in 2016, but many of the people in attendance yesterday said they'd likely support her if she decides to run.

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Funeral services for long-time Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President David Olson took place yesterday in Minneapolis  Fifty-seven-year-old Olson of Golden Valley lost an 18-month battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma last Wednesday.  He led the Minnesota Chamber for 23 years and was known as a grassroots, bi-partisan business leader.  Governor Dayton called Olson "a gentleman in the best sense of the word." 

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The historic stone pavilion in Duluth's Lincoln Park has $75,000 dollars in fire damage and investigators believe it was arson. Firefighters were called early Saturday to a portable toilet on fire and flames soon spread to the roof of the pavilion.  Crews extinguished the blaze and most of the damage is to one side of the roof.  

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An effort to get more fresh, healthy and local foods on the plates of children in day care is ready to roll out across Minnesota.  Erin McKee VanSlooten says the development of the "Farm to Childcare" curriculum was led by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and has just been released for use statewide.  She says it's available free to any childcare provider, whether they're in centers, in Head Start locations or work out of their home.  The other partner in the initiative, New Horizon Academy, now has "Farm to Childcare" in all 62 of its centers in Minnesota

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