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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Redwood Falls man convicted of arson and murder

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REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. -- A Redwood Falls man has been convicted of arson and second-degree murder in a fatal apartment complex fire last January.

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A jury found 48-year-old Peter Warren guilty Tuesday evening on 12 of 13 counts against him. Warren was charged with starting a January 24th fire at Lakeside Manor that caused the death of 72-year-old Gene Gilland and displaced more than 50 residents. Investigators determined the blaze was intentionally set in a storage closet, and Warren was reportedly seen on surveillance video in the area before smoke filled the room. A sentencing date hasn't been set yet. 

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U.S. Senator Al Franken's bill that would increase transparency in government surveillance programs is the subject of a committee hearing today (10am). It would require the NSA to disclose how many Americans are subject to cell phone number and email address collection -- and how much of that data is looked at by government agents. The legislation would also loosen the gag order on companies about data the government requires them to turn over. Franken says it's a bipartisan bill that Americans want to see passed. He says Americans believe there should be a balance between national security and privacy, and we haven't struck that balance. Representatives from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Attorney General's office, Google, and the Free Expression Project are testifying at today's hearing.

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Lawmakers touring the State Security Hospital and Minnesota Sex Offender Program facilities in Saint Peter yesterday saw that rooms for civilly-committed, dangerous patients are up narrow stairways and around corners, out of the view of staff who are supposed to supervise them. Republican Senator Julie Rosen of Fairmont says changes need to be made. On a related issue, DFL Senator Kathy Sheran from Mankato says the Minnesota House needs to pass a bill in 2014 that will answer a federal court order to overhaul Minnesota laws about holding sex offenders after they have served their prison terms. She warns otherwise the federal government will come in and tell the state what to do. The legislation stalled last session after passage in the Senate.

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The USS George Washington aircraft carrier group, including five thousand sailors and more than 80 aircraft, is headed to the Philippines to help with disaster relief in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. They are joining about 90 U.S. Marines already on the ground -- and a Marine Expeditionary Unit of about two thousand is also expected to help. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) says the Defense Department is assisting with the logistics of the recovery effort and calls the situation in the Phillippines an enormous human tragedy. Franken says Minnesotans often participate in recovery efforts after tragedies as well, by donating to reputable charities.

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The fifth-annual "Give To The Max Day" kicks off at midnight. Participating non-profits and schools around the state will be competing for matching grants through the 24 hours of giving. Spokeswoman Dana Nelson says the GiveMN.org website is a great one-stop-shop of non-profits. She says every non-profit in the state has their own webpage and it's easy to find using the Give-MN search engine. Last year 53-thousand people donated over $16-million to the state's non-profits and schools in a 24-hour period.

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