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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Mom, two kids escape injury in home explosion

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KASSON, Minn.   --  Firefighters in southeastern Minnesota responded to an explosion and fire at a rural home near Kasson yesterday. 

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Dodge County Sheriff Jim Jensen says investigators are working to determine why a home on County Road 34 blew up.  A woman and her three-and-seven-year-old children were inside the house but were able to get out without injury.  

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A seven-year-old southeastern Minnesota girl is hospitalized after she was found floating in the community pool in Dodge Center.  Dodge County Sheriff Jim Jensen says lifeguards pulled Courtney Chicos from the water at the Natalie Webb Family Aquatic Center and performed CPR until paramedics arrived, and the girl was breathing when she was flown to the hospital.  She is expected to recover.

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A Minnesota man and a North Dakota woman are dead following a motorcycle accident in Minot.  The victims have been identified as Tanner Platt from Minnesota and Kaitlyn Bacon of Minot.  Witnesses say the bike was traveling at a high speed early yesterday when it left the road and hit a tree.  Neither of the victims was wearing a helmet.

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Two firefighters were hurt and heavy equipment had to be used to battle a fire at the former Verso Paper Mill in Sartell Wednesday night. The mill is being demolished following an explosion and fire that killed one person and injured four others on Memorial Day 2012.  Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim says the fire started in a coal chute and says it's likely torches or some other demolition equipment sparked coal dust, insulation or other materials.  Seven different fire departments were on scene helping battle the fire.  Heim says one of his firefighters hurt his shoulder and another hurt his knee

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A Stillwater cafe has waded into the debate on minimum wage.  Oasis Cafehas added a 35-cent fee to every tab to help offset the cost of the increase to minimum wage.  The state's minimum wage increased by 75 cents on August 1st.  The change is getting some pushback from patrons, who are using social media to encourage people to avoid the cafe.

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Adult zebra mussels have been found in Gilbert and North Long Lakes in the Brainerd lakes area and both are now designated as infested.  The DNR says the initial discovery was reported by parents of two boys who retrieved a plastic container with attached zebra mussels in Gilbert Lake.  A few days later children swimming in North Long Lake found zebra mussels.  Signs are going up at public accesses on both lakes to alert boaters, anglers and swimmers.  Minnesota has more than 175 bodies of water designated as infested with zebra mussels.  

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A band of volunteers and attorneys are trying to offer peace of mind to first responders around the state.  The Wills for Heroes program travels each week around the state giving police officers and firefighters free legal advice as it relates to estate planning, health care directives and power of attorney statements.  The program has already helped nearly nine-thousand first responders.

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The Minnesota Vikings play their first pre-season game in TCF Bank Stadium on the U-of-M campus tonight, even as construction of their new stadium proceeds across the river in downtown Minneapolis.  Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson says in April they began their $6.6 million dollar renovation at TCF Stadium to prepare for tonight's opener.  The bigger project involved replacing the turf and installing heating coil underneath the surface.  But Anderson adds it will be a much better experience than what fans were used to at the Metrodome, with "tremendous site lines," a state-of-the-art video board, wider concourses, and nearly twice as many restrooms.  Anderson encourages Vikings fans to plan their route to TCF Bank stadium in advance and allow plenty of time.  He says things may be a little confusing the first few games as people adjust to the venue change.

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A newlywed couple from St. Paul will have an interesting wedding album.  Staffers at Regions Hospital decorated a room and dubbed it the "honeymoon suite," after the groom wound up in the emergency room in need of surgery to repair a perforated appendix.  The groom has been released from the hospital, but at least one photo shows his bride next to his hospital bed in her wedding gown.

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Winona County deputies say a Rochester man that drove a bulldozer into the Mississippi River has been arrested and is expected to be charged with drunk driving.  Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude says the 54-year-old man was moving sand on Dakota Island for a bridge construction project when the bulldozer got stuck in the river.  He used a boat to get back to shore but the 'dozer had to be pulled out with a crane.  KAGE-AM reports the man was cited for first-degree DWI and refusal to take a sobriety test.

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A man from Kasson in south-central Minnesota is charged with manslaughter after prosecutors say he kicked a 15-year-old boy who overdosed on drugs out into sub-zero cold last January -- and the youth was found dead two months later buried in the snow near railroad tracks.  19-year-old Darrian Rice is charged in the death of Noah Graddy from Byron.  The criminal complaint alleges Rice kicked Graddy out of the house because he "began to act strange and was being loud" and was concerned his grandmother would be awakened.  

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Authorities have little to go on and continue asking the public's help in finding the driver in Saturday night's hit-run crash that claimed the life of a bicyclist and critically injured the woman's husband.  State Patrol Lieutenant Eric Roeske says investigators wish they had more information, but there's no evidence of damage to a vehicle or debris at the scene.  Investigators say 35-year-old Mai Yang and her husband, 37-year-old E. Xiong (zhong), were struck head-on while riding on a Highway 36 frontage road just before midnight Saturday.  Yang died later from her injuries.  Her husband is recovering at Regions Hospital.

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Fire crews working to put out what seemed like a routine dumpster fire in Minneapolis late last night discovered a body next to the burned trash bin.  Minneapolis Police Department Homicide Investigators have been assigned the case and they are currently gathering more information. The identity of the victim and the cause of death have not yet been determined.

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The Burnsville community is mourning the loss of a teenage boy, who died earlier this week in a rollover crash that injured three of his friends.  Authorities said Ty Alyea was not wearing his seat belt when he died in the crash, and neither was Cole Borchardt, who was critically injured.  Burnsville students gathered last night for a vigil, where Alyea's three siblings attended to mourn their loss.  Authorities have said alcohol was not a factor in the crash.

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 A U-of-M researcher and a colleague from the U.K. appear to have discovered a way to possibly prevent a number of types of cancer.  Doctor Eric Hendrickson says worn out cells in the body usually destroy themselves, but they found that if a particular gene is present, those cells live on and turn into cancer.  Hendrickson says if doctors find pre-cancer cells in a patient, for example lesions on the skin or in the intestine, it's now possible to block that particular gene and ensure that pre-cancer cells do not become cancerous.  Hendrickson calls the discovery "probably a fairly big deal."  But he says unfortunately if a person already has cancer, it probably won't help them.

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Five million federal dollars has been sent to St. Paul to help fix roads and bridges across the state that were damaged by flooding in June.  Governor Mark Dayton's office says that's on top of $5 million previously released by the Federal Highway Administration.  The money will be managed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation but will be used to make local repairs, especially in smaller communities that may not be able to raise the needed money themselves.  Minnesota officials are still waiting to hear about whether other federal disaster aid requests that could help with repairs to other damaged infrastructure are approved.

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Former Vice President Walter Mondale disagrees with his ex-boss about the war between Israel and the Palestinians.  Former President Jimmy Carter recently said Hamas should be recognized as a "legitimate political actor" because it represents a large portion of the Palestinian people.  But Mondale says Hamas is a radical group that won't abide by any rules but their own, plus the group has the official position that Israel must be destroyed.  Mondale says he's not sure he agrees that Hamas should be accepted as legitimate.  Mondale adds the situation is the Middle East is tragic but Israel has to defend itself. 

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The Minnesota Health Department is getting a lot of interest from potential manufacturers for the state's medical marijuana program.  Spokesman Mike Schommer says they had to move today's meeting for interested parties to the Minnesota History Center's 3M Auditorium in St. Paul because they had over 220 RSVPs.  Schommer says officials will explain the preliminary rules and request for applications and answer questions.  The Department of Health will choose two certified cannabis oil manufacturers for the state's new medical marijuana program.  About five-thousand patients in Minnesota will be eligible for cannabis oil next July.  

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A bicyclist seriously hurt in a hit-and-run crash Saturday night in Oak Park Heights has died of her injuries.  Thirty-five-year-old Mai Yang and 37-year-old E. Xiong (zhong) were riding on a Highway 36 frontage road when they were struck.  The suspect vehicle fled the scene and has not been located.  Yang was reportedly taken off life support Wednesday at Regions Hospital.  Xiong remains hospitalized with leg injuries.  

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The former police chief of Brownsdale in southeast Minnesota is in trouble with the law again.  Jason Mindrup is awaiting trial on criminal sexual conduct charges after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he offered a ride to last year after she left a bar in Waltham.  Mower County sheriff's investigators say Mindrup is jailed on a 72-hour hold for violating the no-alcohol condition of his pre-trial release.  The eventual consequences have not been determined but authorities say he could be held until trial or have his bail amount increased.  Mindrup was fired from the Brownsdale Police Department after the charges were filed.  

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A West St. Paul company is making five-dollar stickers to benefit the family of fallen Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick.  They feature a police badge, Officer Patrick's name and a blue ribbon with E-O-W (end of watch) 7-30-2014 across it.  Dustin Truesdell of BT Design says they initially printed 250 last week and delivered 500 to the Mendota Heights Police Department Monday, and now have made over three thousand.  The stickers are available on BT Design's Facebook page, at TK's Coffee in Mendota Heights or at the Mendota Heights P-D.  Truesdell says they've received requests from lots of people and police departments out of state.  

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Motorists traveling in the Detroit Lakes area this weekend should expect heavy traffic when the "We Fest" country music festival is underway.  MnDOT and State Patrol are asking motorists to be patient and expect delays and sudden stops.  A bridge replacement east of Moorhead will also affect traffic from the Fargo-Moorhead area heading to Detroit Lakes.  You can also expect road work on Highway 10 around Wadena and Highway 59 around Pelican Rapids.  

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State officials are holding the first of a series applicant briefings with counties included in a federal disaster declaration following severe storms and flooding in June and July.  The first round of briefings is in Faribault, Jackson, Murray, Pipestone, Rock and Renville counties.  Joe Kelly with Department of Public Safety says local officials will be briefed on how the process works and how they apply for assistance -- plus basics of financing and eligibility.

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Custom Products in Litchfield is expanding.  The maker of cabs and operator protective structures for industrial off-highway vehicles is investing more than two-million dollars in the expansion.  As a result company officials hope to create 31 new jobs averaging around $17 an hour.  

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