MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Stillwater native wins "Biggest Loser"
A Minnesota-native is the grand prize winner of NBC's season 15 finale of "Biggest Loser". 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson went home with the grand prize of 250-thousand dollars.
Frederickson, also set a record for the highest percentage of weight loss for any player in history of the show. She weighed 260 pounds at the start of competition and finished at 105 pounds. Fredrickson went to Stillwater High School and was a state swimming champion three years in a row.
Toxicology test results show the driver of an SUV that veered off a side street and into the Mississippi River early last month in Winona was legally drunk. Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand says 36-year-old Christina Hauser of Winona had a blood alcohol level of point-one-six, twice the legal limit. Hauser was one of four people in the SUV that were killed and their bodies recovered in the river. The passengers in the car included 28-year old Blake Overland of Stewartville, 29-year old Matthew Erickson of Chatfield and 29-year old Andrew Kingsbury of La Crosse.
A Texas man has been charged with having sexual contact with a 13-year-old Rochester boy. 30-year-old Jonathan Perez was arrested in Texas on a warrant issued by Olmsted County and transferred to Rochester. Police say the boy's father found his son and Perez in bed at the family's home on December 16th. Police eventually learned the younger boy had established an on-line relationship with Perez, who said he was 17. It was also learned Perez was convicted of a sex-related crime in Texas in 2008.
Target chief financial officer John Mulligan apologized to customers affected by the massive data breach at the retailer over the holiday season. He testified yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be in front of a House panel today (wed) on Capitol Hill. Mulligan says he hopes to gain support from the federal government and banks in moving toward chip and pin technology. The technology would replace the common magnetic strip and add extra layers of encryption, making it harder for hackers to access account information. Target plans to use the technology on their own cards starting in early 2015.
A frigid caucus night didn't keep Minnesotans from showing up to do their part to shape the 2014 elections. Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert narrowly lead the field in last (Tue) night's nonbinding GOP straw poll for governor. Seifert won with 28% of the vote, with State Senator Dave Thompson in second, at 26%. Minnesota State Senator Julianne Ortman won the straw poll for U.S. Senator with 31% of the vote. Mike McFadden came in second with 22%. The official tallies will be verified and posted later today (Wed). In Minneapolis, a fight broke out among D-F-L caucus attendees and police shut down the caucus and ordered people to leave the Bryan Coyle Center just 45 minutes after the meeting started.
Governor Dayton is expanding eligibility for the state's heating assistance program because of the continued propane shortage. Income guidelines will increase so households of four making less than about 52 thousand dollars a year will be eligible -- and officials expect an additional 30- to 40-thousand households will apply. State Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says the new state hotline is getting hundreds of calls daily from people who are either out of propane, close to being out, or have been subject to very high prices. Governor Dayton has also asked the federal government for additional funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance, or LIHEAP (LIE-heep) program. He also notified top state lawmakers that, if federal money isn't forthcoming, he'll ask the legislature for 17 million dollars to beef up the program.
Congress has passed a new five-year Farm Bill, and Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Papp says farmers have been waiting for it for 491 long days. Papp says it's good for agriculture but more than a Farm Bill because 79 percent of the funding is food-related. Papp calls it "the connection between the consumers and the farmers." The Farm Bill makes some cuts to food stamps, but it's a fraction of what the Republican-controlled House proposed. It basically ends direct payments to farmers but beefs up crop insurance and the sugar program is preserved. Senator Al Franken says there are some cuts in conservation funding, but a farmer also must participate in those programs if they receive help with crop insurance. Franken's renewable energy incentives were also included in the final package.
Despite all the snowpack across the state, the spring flood outlook is looking pretty normal. National Weather Service hydrologist Craig Schmidt says seasonal snowfall to-date is just a few inches above average in many areas and the water equivalent in that snow is not out of the ordinary. Schmidt adds, though, if the state gets a couple more good-and-wet snowfalls and then a quick warm-up, things could change dramatically. But he says so far the 30-to-90 day outlooks do not indicate any strong signals for above- or below-normal precipitation.