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AROUND MINNESOTA: State fires ID verifier ... Police mum on shootings ... Anti-Muslim poster pinppointed ... more

State drops firm that verifies IDs ST. PAUL -- The state of Minnesota says its agencies have stopped using a Texas company to verify the identities of new employees. Minnesota Public Radio reported that state officials are concerned that some 500...

State drops firm that verifies IDs

ST. PAUL -- The state of Minnesota says its agencies have stopped using a Texas company to verify the identities of new employees.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that state officials are concerned that some 500 employees' names, birth dates and Social Security numbers may have been accessible on the company's Web site.

State agencies paid Lookout Services of Bellaire, Texas, $1.50 a name to verify hires are authorized to work in the U.S.

The company runs employee data through the federal Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program, which confirms that a worker has legal status and a valid Social Security number.

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Attorney David Person said the company plugged "the hole" after that incident but didn't alert clients whose employees' data might have been viewed.

Police mum on shooting incident

STILLWATER -- Stillwater authorities haven't released additional information about the officer who shot and killed a man after he fatally wounded his wife and injured another woman at his apartment.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported Saturday that authorities had not yet released the identities of the man or either woman after the Friday afternoon shooting. Neighbors have said the older woman managed the apartment complexm and the younger woman was a daughter of the couple.

Authorities said dispatchers received a 911 call from a 62-year-old woman saying her husband needed medical attention. While on the phone with the woman, the dispatcher heard multiple gunshots.

Police arrived and confronted the 62-year-old man, who was killed in the ensuing shootout.

Anti-Muslim poster pinpointed

ST. CLOUD -- Police said they've determined the person responsible for putting up anti-Islamic posters in the central Minnesota city of St. Cloud.

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Sgt. Mark Sayre said the suspect has not been arrested or charged yet, but police determined who he is Friday and are continuing to investigate. The suspect's identity is not being released.

Graphic, sexually explicit cartoons were found this week on a telephone pole in front of a clothing store that caters to Somalis, and on another pole near a mosque.

St. Cloud police are asking anyone who's found similar material or has additional information to call.

The city attorney's office had said it was planning gross misdemeanor obscenity charges once a suspect was arrested, and that it may categorize the matter as a bias crime.

U of M students want fees clarified

MINNEAPOLIS -- University of Minnesota student representatives are asking school officials to help clear up the mix of fees and give students more say in creating them.

The Star Tribune reported that tuition at the university is $4,560 a semester, but other fees associated with the college can tack on $1,000 or more.

Minnesota officials already are conducting a study of university fees and how they might be able to simplify and streamline them in a way that students can understand.

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Fees include things like capital improvements, the expansion of the campus recreation center and course-specific expenses.

After analyzing the data, officials will determine whether the method for calculating the fees makes sense or if changes should be made for the fall.

Former Ironworld finances reviewed

CHISHOLM -- An accounting firm will look over the financial records of a shuttered, cash-strapped museum in Chisholm to see if it can eventually reopen.

The Minnesota Discovery Center, called Ironworld until June, closed Nov. 20 and laid off its 26 full-time employees after failing to find enough money to cover payroll and other day-to-day operations.

The 660-acre property includes a museum, entertainment venue, park and research library.

After the 30-day review, officials hope to decide by March 31 whether they can develop a plan to reopen the facility that had been sustained by a $10 million endowment after becoming a nonprofit in 2007.

Minnesota Discovery Center is dedicated to the history and cultural heritage of northeastern Minnesota.

Bloomington light rail station opens

BLOOMINGTON -- Metro Transit in the Twin Cities has opened a new station for its Hiawatha light-rail line.

The new station opened Saturday in Bloomington. It's at 34th Avenue and American Boulevard just south of Interstate 494, between the international airport and Mall of America. The site is the future anchor for a transit-oriented development initiative of the city of Bloomington.

It's the first light-rail station with a split-platform design, with trains bound for Minneapolis stopping north of American Boulevard and Mall-bound trains stopping south of the intersection.

The general manager of Metro Transit says Bloomington officials should be commended for incorporating transit into the city's development plans.

FBI agent meets with young Somalis

MINNEAPOLIS -- The FBI in Minneapolis is continuing efforts to reach out to the Somali community.

Special Agent in Charge Ralph Boelter met Saturday with a group of young Somalis at the Brian Coyle Center. The goal was to have an engaged discussion -- where the FBI can tell the young men how it operates, and young Somalis can share their culture with the FBI.

The young men planned to put on a skit and show a video to the FBI.

Saeed Fahia is executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. He says the goal is to build trust and get rid of misconceptions Somalis might have about law enforcement.

Boelter has done many things to reach out to the Somali community.

The FBI is investigating the disappearance of about 20 young Somalis who left Minnesota to fight with terrorists in their homeland.

Attorney general: Deny rate increase

DULUTH -- The Minnesota attorney general says she is asking the state's Public Utilities Commission to deny a rate increase requested by Duluth-based Minnesota Power.

Attorney General Lori Swanson says the commission has the authority to deny the increase and that the region's high level of unemployment and beginning of winter are reasons customers shouldn't have to pay more.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that Minnesota Power filed a request in November to raise rates on its customers by a combined $80 million, or about 20 percent. If approved, customers' monthly residential bills could rise an average of about $13.

The proposed increase would be on top of a recent $20.4 million rate hike approved by the state and already being charged by Minnesota Power.

Winona excited about pod project

WINONA -- Winona officials are supporting a $25 million proposal to test a futuristic transportation system in the city.

Personal Rapid Transit is a network that uses small, pod-like vehicles to shuttle passengers to their destinations. Critics say the technology is unproven and say there's been many failed attempts to make it work.

The Winona Daily News reported city officials want to build a PRT test lab at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical. City manager Eric Sorensen says "this is all about jobs."

The first phase would include a one-mile guideway at Southeast Tech with about 20 pods.

The project could grow to $200 million and eventually link Southeast Tech with other hubs in the community.

November iron ore shipping tops year

DULUTH -- More iron ore was shipped on the Great Lakes in November than in any other month this year. But the amount was far less than the average amount shipped for the month during 2004-08.

Just more than 4.6 million net tons of ore were shipped last month -- 27 percent more than October's tonnage, according to numbers released Thursday by the Lake Carriers Association. Still, November shipments were 6 percent less than last year, and nearly 14 percent below the month's 2004-08 average.

For the year, the Great Lakes iron ore trade stands at 27.5 million tons, a decrease of 50.1 percent from last year and 49.3 percent less than the five-year average.

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