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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Farmington Republican's Tweet derided as Racist

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FARMINGTON, Minn. -- A Minnesota politician has ignited a firestorm of controversy with a Tweet many are calling racist. Republican Representative Pat Garofalo of Farmington posted on Twitter last (Sunday) night: "Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime." Responses range from hundreds of "retweets" to critical replies that say the statement is racist to outraged basketball fans pointing out that NFL players were arrested three times more than NBA players in 2010.

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A 5-year-old boy abducted by his mother, who did not have custody of the child, was found safe Sunday afternoon in Owatonna. Scott County sheriff's deputies say Nolen May-Schmitz was returned to his father, and his mother, 29-year-old Nichole May, was arrested by Owatonna police without incident. May took off with the boy during a court-ordered, supervised visitation appointment on Saturday afternoon. The investigation continues.

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The Walmart in Forest Lake is back to normal this (Mon)morning after it was evacuated for several hours Sunday night. Employees at the store in Washington County saw a crack in the wall and noticed structural steel had started to bend. The county sheriffs department was called in just after 6 p.m., and by 10:30 the store was back open. Walmart will continue to investigate and make any needed repairs.

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The second car versus train accident in a month has claimed the life of a woman in the city of Independence. Investigators say the crossing at County Road 92 has both lights and gates, and they appeared to be working properly when 25-year-old Paulina Lang turned her car in front of the train at the intersection and was struck. She was pronounced dead at the scene. West Hennepin Public Safety Director Ray McCoy says that drivers should always be cautious around railroad crossings, and always obey the crossing arms and flashing lights. McCoy says drivers should never try to "beat the train" because it's hard to judge the speed of a large train approaching, and they often appear to be moving slower that what they are.

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Three people were injured when the driver of a car they were traveling in lost control and rolled the vehicle on County Road 43 in Eden Lake Township. Police say 25-year-old Kimberly Donnay of Paynesville and 27-year-old Kyle Gabrelcik and 25-year-old Phillip Krumwiede, both of Eden Valley, were thrown from the car. Two of the victims were hospitalized and the third suffered just minor injuries and refused treatment. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

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Minneapolis Police continue to investigate the death of a man found injured in the entryway of a home on Hillside Avenue Saturday night. Investigators say the African American man was found shot an suffering from critical injuries. He died at the hospital Sunday morning. His name has not been released, and detectives continue to follow up on leads in the case.

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Minneapolis police responding to a report of gunshots found the body of a man lying near Longfellow Avenue South just after 10:00 pm Saturday night. The medical examiner has ruled that 23-year-old Anthony Fairbanks was murdered and died of a gun shot wound to the head. Investigators are hoping witnesses will come forward with more information about the incident.

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President Obama is scheduled to meet with the University of Minnesota women's hockey team at the White House today (MON). The president will recognize the team for its perfect 2012-13 season at formal ceremony on the South Lawn. The Gopher women compiled an unprecedented 62-game win streak spanning from 2011 to 2013 and capped off last year with a second-straight national championship. The Gopher women are expected to return to Minnesota tonight as they prepare for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. 

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 For the second Monday in a row, a community is mourning the loss of several young men after a fatal crash on icy Minnesota roads. Four men were killed near Sleepy Eye Friday night when the vehicle they were in lost control and was broadsided by a pickup. State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske (ross-kee) says it's similar to the crash last week that resulted in the deaths of three Carleton College students near Northfield. State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says both incidents serve as tragic reminders to all of us to slow down and drive speeds appropriate for the conditions. Friday's crash, which resulted in the deaths of 20-year-old Tyler Hadley; 18-year-old John Mangen; 17-year-old Caleb Quesenberry and 17-year-old Payton Adams, remains under investigation.

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Governor Dayton has ordered flags be flown at half-staff today (MON) at all state and federal buildings in honor of a fallen Marine from southern Minnesota. Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal Caleb Erickson of Waseca was killed in action on Friday, Febraury 28th by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Erickson is set to be laid to rest today at Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca (10:30 am).

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Minnesota House and Senate negotiators continue trying this week to hammer out a compromise on a minimum wage increase. The Senate agreed to increasing the minimum wage in steps to 9-50 an hour, but House leaders also want further increases beyond that keyed to inflation. Speaker Paul Thissen argues even when Minnesota reaches 9-50 that the next year and immediately thereafter, that minimum wage starts to lose its value. Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Hayden acknowldges that negotiations have been testy at times, but that's just part of the process. Lawmakers wanted to send a minimum wage increase to Governor Dayton's desk early-on in the 2014 session, but they might not make that goal.

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A bill that extends Cold Weather Rule-type protections to propane users in Minnesota has a hearing today in the Senate Commerce Committee (Mon12pm). Senator Kevin Dahle (dahl) of Northfield says it requires propane suppliers to work out a reasonable payment plan with struggling customers, which some already do. He just wants to ensure the process is more uniform and consumers have the protection they need. The legislation would also regulate propane suppliers that have minimum delivery requirements, delivery fees and security deposits. Some in the propane industry have expressed concern with the bill.

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If you are planning to get health care coverage, you may want to do so before March 31st. Jenni Bowring McDonough with the state's health care exchange MNsure says March 31st is a key date. It's not only the last day of the open enrollment period for MNsure but it's the last day to enroll in health insurance inside or outside the exchange, without facing a tax penalty. Also if you would like coverage starting April 1st through MNsure, you need to apply no later than March 15th.

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The latest forecast shows just a slight chance of serious spring flooding across flood-prone areas. National Weather Service Hydrologist Craig Schmidt says things could change, for example, if we had a very sudden warm up with temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Another wildcard is thick river ice. If it breaks up in a way that produces major ice dams, unexpected flooding could happen.

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