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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Austin man rescued from extreme cold

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AUSTIN, Minn. -- It's been a dangerously cold winter in Minnesota, with several deaths and near deaths from hypothermia, but an extremely cold Austin man was rescued by police who heard him calling for help. The officers patrolling near the city's industrial park found the man in deep snow, wearing only a lightweight jacket and no hat or gloves. It was nine below with a minus 23 wind chill at the time, and KAAL-TV reports that the man was too drunk to tell police how long he'd been outdoors or how he got into the deep snow where he was discovered. He is recovering in an Austin hospital. A six year old girl and at least five adults have frozen to death this winter. Nineteen year old University of Minnesota Duluth student Alyssa Jo Lommel had parts of her hands and feet amputated after spending a December night outside on a neighbor's porch.

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A Minnesota lawmaker is condemning the Russian invasion and occupation of the Ukrainian territory. Senator Al Franken is calling for the U-S to provide aid to the new Ukrainian government and impose sanctions against Russia if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not withdraw the military from the Crimean region. Franken says this is really complicated but Putin needs to pay a price or back off and reverse course. He says Russia has broken agreements that they have made to observe Ukraine's sovereignty. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U-S Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to meet today (Wed) in Paris for their first face-to-face talks on the crisis.

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A 23-year-old man was found dead yesterday (Tue) in a field in Faribault. Investigators have not released the victims name, but say he lives and works near where his frozen remains were discovered. Footprints in the snow lead investigators to believe that he walked to the field where he was found. The police chief says there are no obvious signs of trauma and his department will work with the medical examiner to determine how the young man died and whether the extreme cold led to his death.

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It's been a dangerously cold winter in Minnesota, with several deaths and near deaths from hypothermia, but an extremely cold Austin man was rescued by police who heard him calling for help. The officers patrolling near the city's industrial park found the man in deep snow, wearing only a lightweight jacket and no hat or gloves. It was nine below with a minus 23 wind chill at the time, and KAAL-TV reports that the man was too drunk to tell police how long he'd been outdoors or how he got into the deep snow where he was discovered. He is recovering in an Austin hospital. A six year old girl and at least five adults have frozen to death this winter. Nineteen year old University of Minnesota Duluth student Alyssa Jo Lommel had parts of her hands and feet amputated after spending a December night outside on a neighbor's porch.

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A St. Paul woman whose body was found near a trash container in Fridley apparently died of exposure. Anoka County authorities say toxicology results are still pending in the autopsy of 36-year-old Lesean Taylor but the cause of death appears to be exposure. The investigation continues, but sheriff's investigators say her death appears accidental. A garbage truck driver discovered the body on Monday and called police.

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A new contract is now in the hands of the school board in St. Paul. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers overwhelmingly ratified the deal on Tuesday, with more than 95-percent voting in favor. The school board will vote on March 18. The new contract includes consistent limits on class sizes, a six-point-eight-percent increase in wages and benefits over the length of the deal, and new jobs such as licensed media specialists, elementary counselors and social workers.

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 Today(WED) is National "Spread the Word to End the Word" Day, an effort to get people to stop using the word "retarded" when referring to individuals with disabilities. Julie Hertzog is director of the PACER's National Bullying Center in Minneapolis and says while today is focused on getting everyday people to stop using the "R-word", on a higher level, recent years have seen its use removed from the text of local and national code and law. Hertzog says words really do affect our perceptions about people and the term "mental retardation" is being replaced by "intellectual disability, in much of our medical dictionaries and our laws. According to the state Department of Health, more than one in five Minnesotans has some type of disability that impacts their daily life.

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The St. Paul school district has an extra 50-thousand dollars from Comcast as a "thank you" for its recruitment of low-income families now using the company's low-cost broadband service. St. Paul is among 15 districts nationwide cited by Comcast for how effective they've been signing up low-income families for Internet Essentials. The Internet service costs just under ten-dollars a month for families with students in the National School Lunch Program. The district will take the money and put it in the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation to distribute as grants.

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Funeral services are set for Saturday for two Carleton College students from Minnesota who died in a crash last week which also killed a classmate from Connecticut. Services for 20-year-old James Adams will be Saturday morning at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul. Memorial services for 21-year-old Paxton Harvieux are Saturday afternoon at Stillwater Junior High School. Two other students injured in the crash, one from Seattle and the other from the Chicago area, are in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

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An Eagan man has been charged with three counts of manslaughter and child neglect and endangerment in the death of his infant son Dakota County Attorney James Backstromsays 30-year-old Nathan Savage had been drinking when he rolled over in bed onto two-month-old Nolan Sikich last October, smothering him. Savage also admitted that it was not the first time he and the baby's mother had put the baby to sleep in the same bed that they slept in. Backstrom says the tragedy underscores the danger associated with co-sleeping with an infant.

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Court documents show that a northern Minnesota fire chief who pled guilty so setting fires in the Superior National forest has been diagnosed as a pyromaniac. Former Babbitt fire chief Ryan Scharber is awaiting sentencing in federal court, after pleading guilty to setting one fire in the forest and trying to light another at Mattila's Birch Lake Resort He admitted, though, to setting nine fires in the area. Scharber's lawyer is hoping to convince the judge that the defendant should serve less than the five years sentencing guidelines call for because a psychiatrist diagnosed the 30-year-old with pyromania. Prosecutors say Scharber's actions put other firefighters and the public at risk, and hope he is given the maximum when Scharber is sentenced April 10 in Duluth.

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The U-S House has passed a bi-partisan heating assistance transportation bill sponsored Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz. The First District Democrat says the legislation will help ensure that propane and fuel supplies are delivered to consumers as fast as possible through the rest of the winter. Walz says with this being the coldest winter in decades, people need to have an affordable supply of propane to heat their homes for as long as necessary. He's urging the U-S Senate to take up the bill without delay.

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 A five-percent increase in state funding to businesses providing services for older adults and those with disabilities who live in the community -- that's the bill up for debate in a Minnesota House committee this afternoon (215pm). Bruce Nelson with the group ARM says current wages are insufficient. He says people who have dedicated their lives to providing care and support to those with disabilities and to older adults are leaving that line of work because they can't support their families Nelson warns staff turnover at care providers will hurt quality of life for older Minnesotans and those with disabilities. Nelson says he doesn't know if care providers will get a five percent increase, "but we're pushing for it."

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Governor Dayton as part of his so-called "unsession" agenda wants most environmental permits for businesses issued in 90 days or less. Most permits currently take 150 days or less. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine promises current protections for the environment, natural resources and human health will remain with no modifications. But some environmentalists are leery. Scott Strand, board chair of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, says the governor's proposal could make sense for routine projects -- depending on what's considered "routine." Strand says his group may have its own suggestions for ensuring that decisions on environmental permits serve the best interests of Minnesotans.

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 Minnesota-based Xcel Energy plans to add up to 150 megawatts of large-scale solar resources in the next two years. A new law requires utilities to get one-and-a-half percent of their electricity sales from solar energy by 2020. Xcel's Jim Alders says they're looking for proposals to build new solar generating facilities. Alders says they hope to install 150 megawatts of solar before the federal Investment Tax Credit declines from 30 to ten percent at the end of 2016. Xcel has notified the Public Utilities Commission of its intent to issue request for proposals by April 15th.

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