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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP:Train carrying taconite derails near Two Harbors

TWO HARBORS - Two people are injured after a train filled with iron ore pellets derailed  Thursday afternoon in Two Harbors on Minnesota's North Shore, but officials with Canadian National Railway  say those injuries are minor. 

The Duluth News Tribune quotes an official at Northshore Manufacturing who says rail cars were everywhere, stacked up like cord wood, with some pointing up.  The derailment happened on a bend in the tracks.  


While thousands of fast-food workers across the country went on strike yesterday, community members in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Cambridge gathered to protest poverty wages and show support for those striking workers nationwide. Pastor Grant Stevensen from Spirit of the Truth in St. Paul was one of about 50 people protesting outside a McDonald's location in Minneapolis, and says he and the others are, "Tired of seeing our community and our schools hurt by low wages." Representative Keith Ellison says that, in the richest country in the world, no one working full time should be living in poverty." The protesters demonstrated peacefully outside the McDonald's over the lunch hour. 


More police are on patrol in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota campus in response to a several assaults and  robberies since August.  Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Bruce Jensen tells  WCCO-TV that they're primarily focused on the Como, Marcy-Holmes, and Prospect Park neighborhoods.  The number of officers on  patrol has more than doubled to try to fight back.  At the same time, police  are telling students they have a responsibility to be aware of their surroundings at all times.


Former Vice-President Walter Mondale is getting involved in the controversy over the federal government's massive collection of email and telephone records.  Mondale is calling for Congress to prohibit the collection of metadata from what he says are "innocent Americans".  Mondale served on the Senate's "Church Committee", (named after former U.S. senator Frank Church of Idaho) which investigated intelligence gathering in the 1970's.  He says the government's current practice of "preventive intelligence" was "never the idea of our country."


With the first sub-zero readings of the season ahead, a Mayo Clinic physician says many Minnesotans forget to protect their skin.  While frostbite is one of the most dangerous threats our skin faces in winter, Dr. Dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis says excessively dry skin is uncomfortable and can also lead to infection so prevention is the key.  Frequent hand washing, especially with hot water, can dehydrate skin, so Dr. Davis says after gently patting hands dry, reapply moisturizer.


Despite our arctic blast, the Department of Natural Resources is urging you to think twice before heading out onto the ice.  The DNR's Kara Owens says recent precipitation and snow is slowing down ice formation.  Owens recommends anyone heading out onto the ice check with a local bait shop for the latest ice conditions -- and you should measure the ice before you step out.


An Apple Valley assisted living facility has been cited after police found an employee passed out drunk-- leaving many elderly clients unattended.  The Minnesota Department of Health ruled that Ecumen Centennial House was responsible for the neglect of the clients.  The facility has since made corrections required by the state.  The employee, who showed a blood alcohol level of .32 on the night of the May incident, was immediately fired.  None of the elderly people living in the home were hurt.


The Farmington Police Department has issued a statewide alert for a missing woman who was last seen in the Rochester area in early November.  Officials describe 37-year-old Laura Jean Simonson as a vulnerable adult who lives with mental health complications and could be without her medication. She is white, 5 foot and 105 pounds, with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. Anyone that know where she is should get in touch with police.


South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95, after battling health issues in recent years.  Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his fight against apartheid, but after being released in 1990 he was determined to unite the nation -- without bitterness  U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymouth) says, "Mandela's life is a powerful affirmation of the strength of the human spirit," and she says he transformed the world. 


The remains of a second child killed in a farmhouse fire in southwest Minnesota have been recovered.  Two adults and other kids were able to get out from the home in Lucan Wednesday afternoon when the fire started, but two children were unable to escape.  One was found Wednesday  night, with the other recovered yesterday (Thu) afternoon.  Investigators have not  yet determined a cause of the fire.  Neal Hansen, the Vesta Fire Department firefighter injured on scene, is still in a Mankato hospital.


In a scathing order, U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle has denied Tom Petters' request to have his 50-year prison sentence reduced.  Petters argued his trial lawyers did not inform him of a plea offer by prosecutors that would have capped his sentence at 30 years.  But Judge Kyle said, quote, "staring into an abyss of nearly 15,000 days of incarceration, Petters has tried to pull off one final con."  The judge goes on to say "Petters last-ditch attempt to escape just punishment for his crimes does not hold water; he received constitutionally effective counsel and his sentence was not unlawful.  He is entitled to neither relief nor sympathy from this court." 


It's been a tough year for Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar.  President and CEO Dave Berg told the cooperative's annual meeting in Fargo that overall payments will be down $410 million, with grower payments dropping than $300 million dollars.  He calls it a "very serious situation" because money that doesn't wind up in farmers' pockets isn't spent in towns in the Red River Valley.  Berg attributes the sharp decline to large imports of sugar from Mexico under NAFTA, plus lower sugar content in this year's beet crop.  Berg wouldn't speculate on the possibility of future losses.


The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is urging the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature to repeal three controversial business-to-business sales taxes.  Governor Dayton said Thursday he'll support it, if the state's billion-dollar budget surplus holds up through the next forecast in February.  But Senate Democratic leaders are noncommittal, saying they want numbers from the February budget forecast before deciding whether they'd support repealing the business sales taxes.  The Minnesota Chamber's Beth Kadoun says businesses are telling them that they really want to stay and expand in Minnesota but are holding off on those decisions, hoping the new taxes are repealed.