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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Software for Target data breach traced to Russian teen

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MINNEAPOLIS - A California security firm has identified a Russian teenager as the author of malware likely used in cyberattacks against Minneapolis-based Target. 

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The possible identity of the malware author was revealed in an on-line report by cybersecurity firm IntelCrawler.  The firm's president stresses while the 17-year-old did not perpetrate the Target attacks, he did write the programs that made it possible.  The teen is reportedly very well known in underground marketplaces for writing malicious code.  It's believed 60 different versions of the malware may have been sold to dozens of cybercriminals, making it likely that retailers other than Target and Neiman Marcus have been or will be hacked for customer information.  Around 110 million Target shoppers may have had their personal information compromised in last month's data breach. 

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Xcel Energy's Monticello Nuclear Power Plant is shut down for repairs.  The company announced yesterday  the facility was taken off-line on Friday to repair a leaking heat exchanger on the coolant system of the reactor.  Plant officials say there is no emergency and no radiation was released.  The plant is located 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.

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A man walking on the tracks west of Elk River was hit and killed by a passing train Monday night.  Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott says the gate arms were down when the man was struck.  Passengers on the Northstar train were taken to their destinations by a combination of trains and replacement buses while the investigation took place.  There were no other injuries.

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A joint effort that involved Cass County Sheriff's investigators, tribal police, and several drug task force's operating in north-central Minnesota has taken down a suspected meth ring  Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch says they found methamphetamines and more than $8,000 in cash during the bust, and made three arrests.  41-year-old Gary Keezer and 22-year-old Randolph Headbird have been charges with several drug crimes.  A 23-year-old man was also arrested but had not yet been formally charged. 

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A man who pleaded guilty for his role in a prostitution case in Fergus Falls and then didn't show up for sentencing is in the Cass County Jail.  James Caswell was arrested over the weekend by Fargo police.  He is being held on a parole violation and giving false information to police.  Caswell pleaded guilty in August to felony prostitution charges.  He and another man were accused of pimping three women.

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Cancer has claimed the life of a Minnesota rocker.  Twin Cities rock and roll singer Fergie Frederiksen died Saturday at his home in Mound.  The Michigan native and former Toto lead singer adopted Minnesota as his second home in the 1990's.  The 62-year-old had been battling liver cancer.  The news of Frederiksen's death was revealed on the singer's official website and Facebook page, which says, "He was in no pain, his legacy lives on!"

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Minnesotans are waking up in the deep freeze again today with temperatures double-digits below zero across the state.  National Weather Service Meterologist Tony Zaleski says arctic air will stick around for a few days with a second push coming in Wednesday night, bringing "pretty brutal" temperatures.  Zaleski says lows will be 10- to 15-below in far southern Minnesota to as cold as 25- below in the far north.  Most of Minnesota is under either a wind chill warning or advisory through this afternoon.  Zaleski says temps statewide will climb above zero Thursday and moderate into the 20s and 30s on Friday. 

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Another push is set to start to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota to nine-dollars-50-cents an hour.  Lawmakers tried in 2013, but were unable to get the increase from six-dollars-15-cents an hour for some jobs and the federal standard of seven-25 passed.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Governor Mark Dayton wants the wage increased, and there is support in the House, but DFL leaders in the Senate remain reluctant.  Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook warns if the wage isn't increased the right way by lawmakers, businesses will be hurt and unemployment could shoot higher.

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"Safe driving" and other classes that Minnesotans with minor traffic violations can take to avoid getting a ticket would end, under proposed legislation being unveiled at the State Capitol this morning.  A judge recently ordered Wabasha County to end its program, but plaintiffs' attorney Erick Kaardal says nearly three-dozen Minnesota jurisdictions still have similar programs.  Kaardal says "this is a heck of a way to govern a county or a state," with law enforcement officials violating the law.  The bill being rolled out today would also award repayment to those who participated in the programs.

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Ways to make smartphones less of a target for robbers -- that's one topic as U-of-M students return from their winter break.  Senator Amy Klobuchar is highlighting her bill that would require a "kill switch" that renders smartphones inoperable if lost or stolen.  State Representative Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) has proposed a similar measure at the Minnesota Legislature.  He says with recent assaults at the U's Minneapolis campus, it's the right time to introduce a bill.  Atkins hinted there could be initial reluctance by the wireless industry but hopes they'll embrace his smartphone "kill switch" bill.

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No one is yet in custody for Sunday's triple shooting near a bus stop in Minneapolis, but police believe they have "strong leads" in the case.  The three victims are recovering at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.  Authorities are still trying to find the suspected shooter, who ran off after squeezing off several shots. Police blame an argument for the shooting.

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The Twin Cities are being touted as the healthiest and fittest place in the country.  The American College for Sports Medicine's latest American Fitness Index ranks Minneapolis and St. Paul number one, followed by Washington, DC, Boston, San Francisco, and Hartford, Connecticut.  The Twin Cities area has more parks per square mile than any other major city in the country and twice as many farmers markets than the top ten-percent of American cities.  Minneapolis and St. Paul are also second for the number of bicyclists per capita, with Portland, Oregon coming in at the top.

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A crash in Wright County involving an ambulance answering a call and an SUV during the weekend snowstorm has left two medical workers facing long recoveries and two other people also injured.  Emergency medical technician Tim Day of Albertville was driving the ambulance and a Facebook post by the president of Allina Health Emergency Medical Services says that he gave emergency medical care to others involved in the crash -- even though he had lower body injuries so extensive he is expected to be wheelchair-bound for several months.  Paramedic Brian Nagel of Greenwood was also seriously hurt and is in critical condition and on a ventilator.  No information is currently available about the other two people injured in the crash.

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Police have released the names of three people shot outside a liquor store in neighboring Hudson, Wisconsin yesterday morning.  Twenty-three-year-old Abdirahman Hersi of Minneapolis and 21-year-old Mohamed Hussein of Savage are now out of the hospital.  But a third victim, 28-year-old Fartun Aidid of Hopkins remains hospitalized and her condition is unknown. Police say the three were shot in an SUV parked outside a store after an argument that started a short time earlier at a gas station across the street.  Witnesses gave a description of the suspect vehicle and a couple hours later, after being spotted driving on I-494 by Eagan police, two suspects were arrested near a hotel in Bloomington.  The suspects are being held by Bloomington police awaiting formal charges.

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The body of a fourth and final victim of a crash into the Mississippi River in Winona has now been pulled out of the icy water.  The Winona County Sheriff's Department recovered the remains of 29-year-old Andrew Kingsbury on Sunday south of the Highway 43 bridge, in water about ten feet deep.  Kingsbury died along with three others earlier this month when a vehicle driven by Christina Hauser went off a side street and into the river.  The other three bodies were recovered earlier.

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Tense moments in Barnesville when a large industrial propane tank caught fire Sunday morning.  I-94 was shut down while crews fought the fire at Agassiz Alley Grain Company.  Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist says the biggest issue was there were many valves that had to be closed, and firefighters first had to cool everything down before they could get in there.  Bergquist says crews had some trouble with some of the valves.  Firefighters constantly poured water on the tank to keep it cool and prevent an explosion.  Bergquist says there's nothing suspicious about the fire, but the cause will be investigated.

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Health effects of smoking and progress made in smoking prevention and cessation are outlined in a recently-released report from the U-S Surgeon General.  Director of Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center Doctor Richard Hurt, director of Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center, says while fewer people are taking up the habit, cigarettes still kill 480-thousand Americans every year -- two-thirds of the people who use them.  Hurt says cigarette smoke affects every organ system in the body and the report, for the first time, definitively links cigarette smoking with colon cancer.

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