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Smoke from Canadian wildfires prompts state to expand air quality alert to much of Minnesota

Plus: Minneapolis and St. Paul impose watering schedules and restrictions; delta variant now responsible for estimated 75% of Minnesota’s new COVID cases; Milwaukee Bucks win NBA title; and more.

MPR reports: “Heavy smoke from Canadian wildfires has prompted the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to expand an air quality alert originally for northern Minnesota to much of the state. …Fine particle levels are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as people who have asthma or other breathing conditions, during this time, the MPCA said. The smoke will remain over the region through Wednesday, when winds will push the smoke north and out of Minnesota, the agency said.”

FOX 9 reports: “Several cities in the Twin Cities metro, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, have imposed watering schedules and restrictions and are encouraging residents to conserve water amid the ongoing drought. The changes come after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced last week the state is now in the ‘drought warning phase’ of the statewide drought plan, with 52% of the state experiencing a severe drought.”

KARE 11’s Alexandra Simon reports: “There is no doubt about it, Minnesota is in the middle of a serious drought. … The tributary near 50th Street that runs from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek has all but dried up, with the dry bottom clearly visible. … Conditions are also dry at the iconic Gooseberry Falls State Part in Two Harbors, Minnesota. A photo from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows the west side of the Lower Falls completely dried up.”

The Star Tribune’s Glenn Howatt writes: “The highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant is responsible for an estimated 75% of Minnesota’s new cases, according to the state’s infectious disease director. As has happened across the United States and in many countries, delta has become the dominant form of the virus, fueling a COVID-19 surge in places with low vaccination rates. New infections are accelerating in Minnesota but not at the pace seen in other states.”

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Nick Woltman and Mara H. Gottfried write for the Pioneer Press: “A St. Paul man with a popular YouTube channel is accused of shooting a woman with a stun gun after she refused his sexual advances as he drove her home. Anthony Michael Wicklace, 20, was charged Tuesday with one count each of assault with a dangerous weapon and criminal sexual conduct, according to a criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court. Wicklace, who describes himself as an advocate for governmental transparency, frequently films police and other public officials for videos posted to his Minnesota Guardian YouTube page, which has nearly 14,000 subscribers and more than 2.2 million views since 2019.”

Rochelle Olson writes in the Star Tribune: “Winston Smith Jr.’s killing by members of a federal task force in Minneapolis last month is prompting fresh scrutiny of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, along with its newly formed unit dedicated to investigating violent or deadly police encounters and other misconduct. The latest investigation lies with the year-old Force Investigations Unit (FIU), specifically dedicated to decreasing law enforcement violence. … But the relatively new FIU is just getting started with two years of funding. Its future and efficacy remain an open question to critics who would rather see entirely independent oversight of law enforcement.”

Also in the Pioneer Press, Ava Kian writes: “A Roseville man who threatened neighbors for posting racially-inclusive signs in their yards has avoided jail time under a plea agreement with Ramsey County prosecutors. Kevin Jay Karjalahti, 50, was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation and will be required to participate in a men’s group and restorative justice programs. …Between May 29 and June 1, 2020, soon after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Karjalahti left threatening notes at four different neighbors’ homes, according to the criminal complaint. The notes threatened to burn down homes if the residents continued displaying lawn signs that read ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘All Are Welcome Here.’”

ESPN reports: “The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have snapped a 49-year title drought, the league’s fifth longest entering this season. This ring proved to be hard-fought as Milwaukee is just the third team in Finals history to win four straight after trailing 2-0, joining the 2006 Miami Heat and 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Bob Pettit as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in a finals clincher.”