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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Arson found to be cause of fire at historic Duluth home, security increased

DULUTH - Officials are stepping up security, particularly after-hours, at the historic Glensheen mansion in Duluth after investigators determined a fire early Monday morning at a nearby historic house was arson. 

Glensheen Interim Director Dan Hartman says when there's a connection that's close to Glensheen's history, it's important that the historic mansion be safeguarded.  The Traphagen House that was badly damaged in Monday's fire was at one time the residence of the Congdon family while Glensheen was being built.  Duluth officials say it's unclear if there is any connection between the Traphagen fire and a Molotov cocktail thrown through a window of a building across the street which did not ignite.  


Minnesota students ranked top in the nation in several performance categories on the ACT college entrance exam.  For the ninth straight year Minnesota seniors had the highest average composite score among students in which at least half of the graduates in the states took the test.  Minnesota also has the highest number of students deemed college-ready in the four subjects included in the test -- English, math, reading and science.  Governor Mark Dayton says the high scores demonstrate,  "The academic ability of Minnesota students, the dedication of our teachers and the world-class quality of our education system." The report also shows minority students continue to score well behind - the results show that 62 percent of Minnesota's white students reached the minimum college-readiness benchmarks in at least three subjects, while only 17 percent of black students doing so.


The helicopters that flew over the Twin Cities this week without warning, are part of a military training exercise, and the Minneapolis Police Department has apologized for any alarm or inconvenience the training may have caused. Officials say the exact location of the exercises cannot be released for security reasons, but the flyovers will continue in the area through tomorrow.  The training involves Homeland Security and local law enforcement, and includes urban style training performed by Navy Seals and Army pilots.


A Deephaven woman who had been living on a million-dollar yacht pled guilty to welfare fraud.  Hennepin County authorities say 54-year-old Andrea Chisholm and her husband, 62-year-old Colin Chisholm III, were both accused of collecting over $167,000 in state public assistance, while living in Florida on a yacht.  After pleading guilty yesterday, Andrea was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Colin Chisholm III is currently on trial. 


A federal judge in Minnesota will hear a consolidation of three lawsuits filed by retired NHL players over concussion injuries.  The special panel assigned to the cases determined that not only was U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson of St. Paul already presiding over one of the cases, but Minnesota is a convenient, central location for the former players and their witnesses.  More than 200 former players in Minnesota, New York and Washington have filed lawsuits against the league. The panel also decided that two similar cases pending in Minnesota and New York may be added later.  The lawsuit is not much different than the ones filed by ex-NFL players, which resulted in an $870 million settlement. 


Duluth Police are looking for the suspect they say shot another man in a fight over a bag.  Investigators say at least three black men were fighting in an alley when one of the men pulled out a handgun and shot a 21-year-old Duluth man in the leg before he ran away with the victim's bag.  The suspect and the victim apparently knew each other and officers say it was not a random shooting.  The victim was treated for minor injuries.


The Southwest Light Rail Transit Project is one step closer to reality.  The Hennepin County Board approved the preliminary design plans yesterday. The city will vote to approve those plans on August 29th.  The new line will operate out of the downtown area.  The 16-mile double track will serve St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie.


After a day of recounting the ballots Tuesday, the last spot in the general election for the St. Cloud area school board is decided by just one vote.  Candidate Hassan Abdullahi Yussuf won the recount between candidate Scott Andreasen. Yussuf finished with 1,317 votes - the same number of votes he had prior to the recount. However, Andreasen's final vote total is 1,316 - five fewer than he originally had.  The results are unofficial until canvassed later this week by the school board.  Yussuf will join five others on the November ballot.  The top three vote getters will be elected to the school board.


Minneapolis-based Target is expanding their late night hours at a number of their stores.  Select stores will now be open between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m on Sunday.  Over 900 stores across the country have extended their hours in a bid to try and boost slow sales.  Around 300 stores have pushed their closing time to midnight.  Company officials say they reviewed feedback on store hours and heard from guests that they would like the added convenience of extra time to shop in the evening.  Target hopes to compete with other retail stores like Walmart and Walgreens, who are often open 24 hours a day.


The Life Link Air Ambulance system took another step in providing patients with high quality transport care.  Life Link has bought six new helicopters to operate at each of their five bases.  The new aircraft will help Life Link get to and transport patients faster while continuing to provide the highest quality care en route.  The aircraft are equipped with high-tech navigation systems and satellite weather to provide pilots with greater situational awareness.  Life Link bases are located throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin and operate 24-hours a day.  


Five locally produced programs by Pioneer Public Television in Appleton have been nominated for Emmy Awards to be issued by the Upper Midwest Academy of Television Arts and Sciences next month.  This is the most Upper Midwest Emmy Award nominations that have been earned by Pioneer in a single year in the 48-year history of the local public television station. The nominated programs feature stories about recent immigrants from the Micronesian Island of Chuuk to the town of Milan, a singer songwriter from Cokato who moves to Minneapolis, a glass blower from Vining, a pair of blacksmiths from Madison and a couple from Prinsburg who adopt two children from Haiti.  The award ceremony will be held September 13th in Minneapolis.


Gasoline prices are on the decline in Minnesota as summer winds down.  The statewide average for regular unleaded is around 3-35 a gallon, and Gail Weinholzer of Triple-A Minnesota says that's the lowest Minnesotans have paid at the pump in August for a decade.  She expects the decline to continue, heading into the Labor Day weekend.  Weinholzer says crude oil prices have stabilized significantly and demand for gasoline has dropped this month.


A federal judge says he'll rule by noon today on a national group's request to stop an election -- already in progress -- on whether home care workers in Minnesota will be represented by Service Employees International Union.  An attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation warns a union would have exclusive bargaining power, infringing on workers' free speech rights.  But home care worker Sumer Spika from Saint Paul says no one is forcing a union on anybody.  Spika says even if a union is formed, any home care worker can decide not to join and doesn't have to pay dues.  The issue has produced ongoing conflict between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who pushed hard for a union election, and his political opponents who warn government is sticking its nose into workers' business.


Because of negative feedback in public hearings the DNR is backing off on plans to expand recreational opportunities such as hunting, trapping and dog-walking at eight of the state's Scientific and Natural areas.  The DNR's Steve Hirsch says the agency is still very interested in broadening support for the program, but needs to re-think the best way to do it.  The DNR however still plans to allow deer hunting during the regular season without a special permit on portions of Lake Alexander Woods in Morrison County.  And dogs on leashes will be allowed at Minnesota Point Pine Forest in Duluth, which the DNR says is consistent with well-established public use. 


A Minneapolis man was killed Monday night in an accident in a construction zone near Hillsboro on Interstate 29.  Police say 22-year-old Elyas Abdulkadir Ali was driving fast and passing other vehicles on the shoulder. He lost control while passing a semi, went into the ditch and rolled several times. Ali was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 


The Great Minnesota-Get-Together opens tomorrow.  Dan Hendrickson of the Minnesota division of the Better Business Bureau says if you are planning on getting more than food on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair, research what you are buying, do some comparison shopping and check out the vendor on-line at bbb-dot-org.  Hendrickson says it's also a good idea to obtain the company's physical location and telephone number, in case you need to return or exchange an item after the Fair is over.