Minnesota News Briefs: White Bear Lake couple finally IDed in Italian shipwreckMinnesota News
-- More than three months after the wreck of a cruise ship off the coast of Italy, the bodies of two Minnesotans have finally been identified.
GIGLIO, Italy -- More than three months after the wreck of a cruise ship off the coast of Italy, the bodies of two Minnesotans have finally been identified.
Reports say Italian authorities named Gerald and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake among the five bodies found last month. At least 30 people died when the Costa Concordia capsized back on January 13th.
Prosecutors say the wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser may have been drinking the night she struck and killed a pedestrian. According to reports, prosecutors claim this is evidence that Amy Senser admitted to one of her daughters that she had consumed alcohol the night she hit the 38-year-old man who was pouring gas into his stalled car. During Monday's pre-trial hearing, Senser pleaded not guilty to a third charge of criminal vehicular homicide after an investigation determined she was on her cell phone at the time of the accident. Jury selection in her trial starts Monday.
Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) is disappointed the so-called "Buffett rule" failed to make to the U.S. Senate floor Monday for a vote. The bill that would force millionaires to pay to 30-percent of their income in taxes fell nine votes short of moving forward. Franken says CEOs and wealthy Americans often pay tax rates that are much lower than middle class families and the Buffett rule would have fixed the unfair practice. Opponents say the measure will not help anyone find a job and won't make any progress paying down the national debt.
After further review of data, the state Health Department reports one community's cancer rate is not as elevated as first thought. Health officials say Fridley still shows an overall rate that's seven-point-six-percent higher than the statewide average -- not the 10-percent that was announced in recent weeks. Researchers say some addresses were wrong in the area which affected totals and Minnesota's average rates also went up, which cut into the ratio. The big concern in Fridley and in Anoka County is the rate of lung cancer, especially among women. Fridley's lung cancer rate is 30-percent higher than the statewide average and among women it's 49-percent higher. Health officials think smoking is behind those numbers, not some residents' opinions that local Superfund sites are causing the cancer.
The state Department of Corrections has denied parole for a man convicted of killing a Robbinsdale police officer in 1985. Seventy-year-old Ronald Schneider is serving a life sentence for killing Officer John Scanlon. Currently, if someone kills a police officer, he or she would get life in prison without parole. But Schneider was sentenced under old laws that made him parole eligible after 17 years. Schneider's parole application will be reviewed again in five years.
Safety officials say distracted driving is involved in one-fourth of all highway crashes in Minnesota each year. Inattention takes many forms - from daydreaming to changing radio stations to texting and cellophane use. The State Patrol's Eric Roeske (ROSS-kee) says Minnesota law makes it illegal to text, e-mail or surf the Internet while driving even when you're stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. Roeske says distracted driving citations are increasing every year. Last year, nearly 800 motorists were ticketed. Safety officials have set aside this Thursday for focusing public attention on the dangers of inattention behind the wheel.
The month of March was good for retail sales in Minnesota. Dave Brennan at the University of St. Thomas says sales figures were up significantly over March of last year - and it means the economic recovery is for real. Brennan says we're tracking between a three- and four-percent increase and getting back pretty close to where we were before the recession. He says electronics, home furnishings and furniture all showed increases last month - and those were categories that had lagged badly until recent months. He says Minnesota's relatively low unemployment rate is another factor pushing the state's economy in the right direction.
A decision on the fate of a Minneapolis pedestrian bridge is expected this week. The Sabo Bridge has been closed since late February when cracks were found in the connection plates for three main support cables. A city spokesman said engineers are looking at inspection data and will make a recommendation as to whether the bridge is safe enough for people to use this summer.
A cold morning has settled in over the state following Monday's blustery weather and snowfall. The National Weather Service reports overnight temperatures in the single digits along the North Shore at Grand Marais and in the teens across parts of northern Minnesota. Low-30's can be found in southern Minnesota. Meanwhile, Severe Weather Awareness Week continues statewide and today's focus is on severe warnings and the emergency alert system -- found during regular radio broadcasts and on specialized weather radios.
Midnight tonight is the deadline to file your 2011 income tax return. Pete Nowacki with the U.S Postal Service in Minneapolis says the days of post offices staying open late are a thing of the past. He says with electronic filing, about 80-percent of the business they use to get is gone However, Nowacki says their facility at Twin Cities International Airport will stay open until midnight. Nowacki says be sure to apply proper postage to your returns and have a return address on your envelope in case there are any problems.
Consumer confidence is on the increase but one Minnesota analyst says there's still plenty of caution. St. Cloud State economics professor King Banaian says spending is up and "people are beginning to feel comfortable enough that they're willing to back to the consumption levels of ten years ago but certainly not to the extent that they were consuming more than they earned or using their houses as an ATM machine." Banaian adds that he's seeing people relax a bit in their savings habits -- after a surge in savings during the recession in order to "repair their portfolios."
Minnesota's "Wildfire Awareness Week" arrives just as the state's parched topsoil gets soaked with rain and snow. After recent days that included red flag warnings, Minnesota's overall fire danger rating has dropped to what the DNR terms "low" risk. There are still numerous burning restrictions in effect -- especially across the upper half of the state.
An Albert Lea man is dead after a head-on crash near his home on Saturday. The State Patrol reports 47-year old Michael Skov died after his car crossed over the center-line of Highway-13 and smashed into another car. A 17-year old driver and his two male passengers were treated and released from the local hospital.
Two hundred-15 Minnesota National Guard soldiers returned home from Kuwait on Sunday. Hundreds more will follow in the weeks to come. Major Gerald Halloran says for some soldiers, the adjustment to home life can be difficult but there are resources available to help smooth the transition, including representatives from veterans affairs, various employment services and the state patrol. Major Halloran says rejoining with their families and being in familiar surroundings are also crucial elements in soldier reacclimation.
Here are the winning numbers from the Minnesota State Lottery for Monday, April 16th, 2012. The Daily Three: 6-8-0. Northstar Cash: 3-5-6-8-15. Gopher Five: 2-22-26-31-46.