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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Former Congressman, Senator Grams dies of cancer

ST. FRANCIS - Former U.S. Senator Rod Grams died late last night at the family farm where he grew up in Crown Township near St. Francis, following a long battle with cancer.  He was 65. 

Grams represented Minnesota's 6th District in the U.S. House from 1993 through '95.  He served a single term in the U.S. Senate after that, but lost his re-election bid to Democrat Mark Dayton.  Before entering politics, Grams was lead news anchor on Channel 9 in the Twin Cities for nearly a decade.  Funeral services are pending.


Police in Rosemount are investigating the deaths of two local residents.  Officers doing a welfare check on a couple last night  found them dead inside an apartment.  Police say they're not actively seeking any suspects and there is no risk to the community.  The Minnesota BCA and Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office are assisting with the investigation.


Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) says he's a little surprised and certainly frustrated that the federal government shutdown has stretched into a second week.  Franken is calling on Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to suspend the Hastert Rule and allow a vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government.  Franken says Boehner violated that rule three times in the last year or so -- to pass the Violence Against Women Act, deal with the fiscal cliff and approve relief for Hurricane Sandy.  Meanwhile, Congressman John Kline (R-Burnsville) places blame for the shutdown on Democrats, and asks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and President Obama to join House Republicans in negotiations to get the government back up and running.  Kline says the House passed bills with overwhelming majorities -- bipartisan votes -- to keep important, essential services up and running.  He says, "There are grounds for agreement, we just have to negotiate."


About 150 federal workers who process claims for Minnesota veterans have been furloughed due to the government shutdown.  The employees at the Veterans Benefits Administration regional office were notified Tuesday that their positions are considered non-essential.  Many of them picketed outside the Whipple Building at Fort Snelling.  AFGE Local 1969 President Vicky Sirovy says 148 of the estimated 685 people who work in veterans claims were furloughed.  The furloughs are expected to delay processing but will not interrupt benefits to veterans.  The VA hospitals and clinics are not affected.  


Cattle losses are so severe from the weekend blizzard that hit western South Dakota that the Civil Air Patrol has been called in to identify and photograph areas where dead livestock are blocking highways or are in road ditches.  Sylvia Christian of the South Dakota Stockman's Association says some ranchers have lost their entire herds and reports of 50-percent losses are common.  She says cattle have drifted and wandered ten miles from where they started...cattle are mixed in with other people's herds...and they're finding live cattle but don't know who they belong to.  Many cattle died of exposure from rain and heavy snow.  Others drowned after temperatures rose into the 60's and 70's and melted the snow. 


A 29-year-old Golden Valley woman has been charged with felony drug possession after police seized more than two-thousand grams of marijuana.  Ashley Firnschild is accused of growing the marijuana outside in a garden, and in the basement and attic at the home she was living in.  Firnschild claims the home belongs to a relative, but admitted to police that the marijuana plants belonged to her.   


Superman, Batman and Spiderman are making a special appearance today at Children's Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis.  The superhero trio is washing windows as patients and families watch from inside.  Officials say when they have the windows all clean, they'll come in and let the kids take a few pictures plus sign autographs.  Children's Hospital spokeswoman Carol Allesee (AL'-uh-see) says throughout the morning, patients and their families will gather to create superhero masks and a "Save the City" mural of superheroes.