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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Sauk Rapids teen sentenced to prison

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ST. CLOUD -- A Sauk Rapids teenager has been sentenced to prison for punching and killing a 20-year-old man near St. Cloud State University in September of 2012. A judge sentenced 18-year-old Jesse Smithers to ten years in prison for throwing the deadly punch that killed 20-year-old Colton Gleason of Greenfield. Gleason was walking with two female friends in an alley in when one of them touched the car Smithers was riding in. Smithers and the others in the vehicle got out of the car, and Smithers threw a single punch knocking Gleason to the ground and causing him to hit his head, knocking him unconscious. Gleason regained consciousness at St Cloud Hospital, but later died. Gleason's father, John, says no punishment is great enough to bring his son back. Smithers apologized for what he called a "complete accident."

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The U-S Senate remains deadlocked on a measure that would extend long-term unemployment benefits, after two procedural votes Thursday fell short of the majority needed to advance the bill. Senator Al Franken urged his colleagues to move forward as quickly as possible to restore a "vital lifeline," before more Americans who've worked hard and followed the rules slip from the middle class into poverty. Senate Republicans object this latest proposal to extend unemployment benefits doesn't cut spending in other areas to ease the impact on the federal deficit.

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More evidence of how long and cold a winter we're actually having in Minnesota: Officials in Bemidji say many water lines have been freezing due to extreme frost depth, and they're advising residents to periodically check the temperature of the water coming out of their taps. They say if it's below 34 or 35 degrees, residents should let the water run 24/7 in a pencil-size stream until the water temperature comes back up over 34 degrees. Officials say customers must notify Bemidji City Hall if they're leaving the water running and they *will* be charged for extra usage -- but only the normal sewer rate.

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A bipartisan group of midwestern lawmakers led by First District Congressman Tim Walz is asking for U-S House hearings on the propane shortage. They also want the panel to examine the long-term outlook for propane supplies and potential solutions to the problem. Among those requesting hearings are Minnesota Representatives Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan, plus several of their colleagues in Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and other states.

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This is National Black H-I-V/AIDS Awareness Day (Fri) and state health officials are calling attention to the toll the disease takes on African-Americans. The Minnesota Department of Health's Krissie Guerard says black communities face some of the highest infection rates -- 12 times that of the population-at-large. She says one in three people with H-I-V in Minnesota are black. Guerard says many people in African-American communities often lack access to quality medical care. She says the state funds 21 community-based programs for H-I-V prevention and testing in the most-affected communities.

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Soldiers from the Upper Midwest are gathering at Camp Ripley today and tomorrow for the National Guard Regional Biathlon (Fri&Sat). Major John Donovan says athletes from the five-state area will compete in cross-country skiing sprints, mid-distance and marathon laps, testing their accuracy by shooting at targets. Donovan says the biathlon was born in Europe when troops marched across the snow. Winners of each event go to the National Guard Bureau Championships in Vermont. 

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Carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected as the culprit after 30 elementary students at a southwestern Minnesota school had to be hospitalized after falling ill yesterday. Springfield Public School was evacuated around 9 a.m. Thursday, after several fourth and fifth graders started vomiting and fainting in the auditorium, prompting the superintendent to clear the building. At the school, first responders tested for carbon monoxide, but initial tests turned out negative. Additional tests are being conducted to try and determine what caused the incident. Officials did close school today. 

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Dilworth Fire Chief Kurt Kennedy has been fired. The city council made that decision following a closed-door meeting. Kennedy is facing charges for allegedly making threats against several firefighters and the city council in December. Court documents show he threatened to burn down the homes of every Dilworth firefighter. Kennedy had been on paid administrative leave. He is due back in court at the end of the month on felony terroristic threat charges.

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Today is National Wear Red Day. The American Heart Association's annual event raises awareness that heart disease is the leading killer of women. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Warmka says a lot of

women mistakenly think it's cancer. And while cancer is very serious, heart disease actually takes more womens lives then all forms of cancer combined. The campaign strives to raise awareness and help women to take preventative action to reduce their personal risk factors for heart disease. Quitting smoking, eating healthy and getting exercise on a regular basis can help reduce your risk of heart attack.

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People riding the rails in the Twin Cities and the Upper Midwest are growing frustrated by delays and canceled trains. The blame is falling on overcrowding on the lines due to freight trains carrying loads from the oil fields in North Dakota. According to an Amtrak spokesman, they're trying to ease congestion by busing passengers in eastern and central North Dakota through the end of this month. A train from Seattle to St. Paul was eight hours late recently, while the Empire Builder has been as far off schedule as 13 hours going from St. Paul to Milwaukee.

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