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Cigarette brands stopped paying money owed state under tobacco settlement

Plus: Woman found dead at Minneapolis’ navigation center; Minnesota experiencing alarming number of pedestrian fatalities; state investigating four cases of Legionnaires’ disease; and more.

In a Star Tribune story by Glenn Howatt: “Several cigarette brands, including Salem and Winston, have stopped paying money owed to the state of Minnesota under the historic 1998 court settlement with Big Tobacco. The shortfalls, estimated at $15 million a year, come as funding for the state’s free quit-smoking assistance program is set to expire next year. … The state has sued the tobacco firms to recapture the funds, and bills were introduced in the Legislature last week to dedicate any resulting money to anti-tobacco efforts.”

MPR’s Cody Nelson reports on Amy Klobuchar’s first foray on the campaign trail as a presidential candidate: “This inaugural out-of-state run brought Klobuchar’s week-old campaign to a bike-and-coffee shop in Eau Claire, Wis., and a bar in Mason City, Iowa, on Saturday, then a brewery and church in the southeastern Iowa towns of Knoxville and Albia. The events were relatively small, with Klobuchar’s daughter Abigail and husband John Bessler attending each one. The senator seemed at home in Iowa amid the weekend snowstorms, often name-dropping people she knows or had campaigned for such as former Sen. Tom Harkin. Klobuchar highlighted her ability to win in areas Democrats traditionally don’t.”

The Strib’s Erin Adler reports, “A woman was found dead Friday night at Minneapolis’ navigation center, the heated tents near the Franklin Avenue light-rail station that shelter homeless people as they move toward permanent housing. This is the second death at the center since it opened in December.”

For MPR, Mike Moen says, “Authorities say Minnesota has seen an alarming number of pedestrian fatalities to start the year. The Department of Public Safety said that, going into this weekend, 10 pedestrians had been killed in traffic incidents statewide in 2019. That compares to three at the same time last year.”

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Also at MPR:A Shakopee police officer won’t face criminal charges after fatally shooting an armed man at a home last fall. Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar on Friday released a report finding that Officer Thor Carlson was justified in using deadly force when he fatally shot 61-year-old James Hanchett on the night of Nov. 9. Officers were responding to a fire alarm at Hanchett’s home at the time of the shooting. The county attorney’s report, based on an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said body camera footage from Carlson and another officer at the scene shows Hanchett answering the door with a handgun pointed at Carlson.”

The AP reports, “The state Department of Health is investigating four recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease in northwestern Minnesota. The department said Friday that the four people became ill between Jan. 22 and Jan. 27 after visiting the Crookston Inn and Convention Center. The four did not stay overnight but had visited the hotel. Investigators are working with the hotel to determine the source of the bacteria. But evidence suggests the source is the hotel’s spa.”

A Strib editorial says, “Reams of research on police traffic stops across the nation couldn’t be clearer: Studies prove that racial profiling is real when it comes to the choices cops make about pulling over motorists. Minneapolis is no different. A recent local study confirmed what African-American and other people of color have experienced for years. Officers stop and often search minorities at significantly higher rates — even though the vast majority of the stops don’t improve safety, uncover a crime or result in an arrest. As a result of concerns raised by the community, the Minneapolis City Council is discussing asking the police to temporarily suspend certain types of traffic stops — including broken tail lights or headlights.”