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Study finds link between 3M-made chemical and cancer

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A chemical made by the 3M Co. found in drinking water may be linked to cancer of the testicles and the kidneys, according to a panel of scientists.

The panel studied the effects of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, in drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia, but smaller amounts of the same chemical have been found in Washington County, the Pioneer Press said.

There is no reason to think there is an increased cancer risk in Minnesota based on the study, said Jean Johnson, epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health.

The findings are inconsistent with those of other studies and must be backed up by further research, she said.

"I am not discounting it - it's something we will have to watch," Johnson said. The PFOA found in Washington County residents is about one-tenth the level found in residents of Ohio and West Virginia, she said.

A panel of scientists formed in 2005 by a judge in West Virginia completed the study, sctimes.com said. The judge ruled that residents had been drinking traces of PFOA that leaked into the groundwater from a nearby DuPont Corp. plant and told the panel to study the health effects.

The three-scientist panel studied the health records of 32,000 people in the area, sctimes.com said. It found 19 people had testicular cancer and 113 had kidney cancer. The panel found that the higher the level of PFOA in their bodies, the greater the rates of those cancers.

In an email written by 3M medical director Dr. Larry R. Zobel, 3M gave this response to the study:

"In more than 25 years of medical surveillance, we have observed no adverse health effects in our employees resulting from their exposure to ... PFOA," Zobel said.

"This is very important since the level of exposure in the general population is much lower than that of production employees who worked directly with these materials."

Santorum drops out of Republican race

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Rick Santorum cleared the way for Mitt Romney to claim victory in the long and hard-fought battle for the Republican nomination Tuesday, giving up his "against all odds" campaign as Romney's tenacious conservative rival.

Santorum's withdrawal sets up a seven-month fight for the presidency between Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Democratic President Barack Obama, the La Crosse Tribune said.

"We made a decision to get into this race at our kitchen table, against all the odds, and we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race is over for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting," Santorum said during an address in Gettysburg, Pa.

"This game is a long, long, long way from over," he said. "We are going to continue to go out there and fight to make sure that we defeat President Barack Obama."

The Pennsylvania Republican had pledged to continue campaigning through the upcoming Pennsylvania primary, huffingtonpost.com said. Due to the combination of his daughter's ailing health and recent poll numbers showing him possibly losing his home state may have prompted the early departure.

According to Yahoo! News, Santorum called Romney earlier in the day to inform him of his decision to suspend his campaign, though he did not endorse him in his speech.

"This has been a good day for me," Romney told supporters in Wilmington, Del., saying he believes Santorum "will continue to have a major role" in the Republican Party.

Romney has begun looking ahead to Obama, even though Santorum refused to get out of the race earlier, the Tribune said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was released from the hospital Tuesday, 10 days after getting a new heart, his office said.

Cheney, 71, received the organ from an unknown donor on March 24 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, VA., the Seattle Times said.

"As he leaves the hospital, the former vice president and his family want to again express their deep gratitude to the donor and the donor's family for this remarkable gift," aide Kara Ahern said in a statement.

Cheney waited roughly two years for the transplant. His lifelong history of heart disease includes five heart attacks, with the first one striking him at age 37 and the most recent one in 2010, the Times said.

The transplant opens debate about whether rules should be changed to favor youth over age in giving out scarce organs, the New York Daily News said. Doctors said it is unlikely that Cheney was given special treatment at age 71 despite thousands of younger people also being in line to receive a heart.

Currently time on the waiting list, medical need and where you live determine the odds of scoring a new heart - not how many years you'll live to make use of it, the Daily News said.

The odds of survival are good. More than 70 percent of heart transplant patients live at least five years, although survival is a bit lower for people over 65.

More than 3,100 people are on the national waiting list to receive a new heart, the Times said. Just over 2,300 transplants were performed last year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

According to UNOS, 332 people over age 65 received a new heart last year. The majority of transplants occur in 50- to 64-year-olds.

College entrance exams to get security upgrade

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Students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to adhere to tighter security following recent allegations of widespread cheating at a number of high schools on New York's Long Island, a prosecutor and testing officials announced Tuesday.

Students will have to have to submit photo IDs with their applications, CBS News said. It is one of a number of initiatives following the arrest of 20 current or former high school students accused in a cheating scheme.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said some of the students were paid as much as $3,500 to stand in for other students on the SAT exam.

She said students 50 students were likely involved in the scheme, but she only had evidence to arrest 20.

Rice said she learned one male student allegedly stood in for a female on one occasion. She said students have easy access to phony identification cards, making it difficult for administrators at testing sites to determine if a student is actually who he or she claims to be.

"These reforms close a gaping hole in standardized test security that allows students to cheat and steal admissions offers and scholarship money from kids who play by the rules," Rice said.

New testing requirements include making students upload a photograph of themselves when registering for the ACT or SAT, the report said. Those unable to upload a photo will be permitted to mail one, which will be scanned by the testing agency.

Other changes include checking student IDs when students enter a test site or re-enter the test room after breaks and when the answer sheets are collected, CBS News said.

Test-takers will also have to identify their high school, which will now receive their scores, the New York Times said. Previously, it was up to students to decide whether their scores were sent to their high schools, making it difficult for schools to detect suspicious scores.

The changes, Rice said, send a message to students who might consider cheating.

"They will be caught, and they will be held accountable," she said. "The old system did not ensure that."

French shooter may have filmed attack

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French authorities said Tuesday the gunman that killed a rabbi and three young children in an attack may have filmed his actions.

Claude Guéant, French interior minister, told a French radio station that surveillance footage from the Jewish school's security cameras showed what appeared to be a video camera strapped to the gunman's chest, the New York Times said.

With the nation's terrorism alert at its highest level - "scarlet" - the French authorities pursued a broad and high-profile search on Tuesday for the assailant, but Guéant said little was known about him.

The attack has been linked to two earlier shootings of French paratroopers, with the police saying that the same gun, a .45-caliber automatic pistol, was used in all three assaults and the attacks were carried out the same way - a man on a powerful motorbike who killed and then fled. The soldiers were all Arab or black, and appeared to have been targeted specifically, witnesses said.

"We are faced with an individual who targets his victims specifically," said Élisabeth Allannic, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, which is handling the investigation. "He targets his victims for what they represent."

Authorities released a photo of some of the victims, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his two sons, Ariel and Gabriel, who were killed in the attack, The Daily Beast said. Miriam Monsonego, 7, was also killed in the attack.

The bodies of at least three of Monday's four victims were to be flown Tuesday to Israel for burial, said Nicole Yardeni, who leads the regional branch of the Crif, France's most prominent Jewish association.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the shooting a "national tragedy" and ordered a minute's silence at schools across France at 11 a.m., the Times said.

Silver carp reach Winona

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A commercial fisherman caught a silver carp Thursday in Pool 6 of the Mississippi River, confirming that another invasive species has made its presence known in Winona.

Commercial fisherman netted two invasive Asian carp last Thursday, the La Crosse Tribune said.

"This is by far the most northerly catch in the Mississippi River," said Department of Natural Resources communications director Chris Niskanen.

Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR's Mississippi River Team said it's disappointing but unsurprising evidence that Asian carp continue to move up the Mississippi.

Silver carp are classified by the DNR as a prohibited invasive species along with bighead carp. Both species were imported from China in the 1960s and 70s, the Winona Daily News said. By the 1980s, the Asian carp had escaped into open waters in southern states.

Asian carp eat large amounts of plankton and aquatic plants, out-competing native fish species. Silver carp also pose a safety hazard as they jump out of the water when watercraft, possibly injuring boaters.

Testing last year indicated the presence of Silver Carp DNA in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers in the Twin Cities area, though no live Asian carp have been found, the Tribune said.

Mitt Romney is looking to build momentum after winning the Michigan and Arizona primaries Tuesday.

Romney scored a hard-won but narrow home state triumph and powered to victory in Arizona, the Star Tribune said. The Republican presidential race now expands to the 10 states that will vote on Super Tuesday.

Romney's slight edge - 41 percent to Rick Santorum's 38 percent - raised questions about whether he would change his strategy, the article said.

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough," he told supporters in Michigan.

Romney said he had made personal mistakes in recent weeks and was trying to "do better and work harder."

Romney signaled Tuesday night that he intends to stick to his core campaign message of fixing the economy and reducing unemployment.

"More jobs, less debt and smaller government - you're going to hear that over and over in the states ahead," he said.

The victories earned Romney about three-quarters of the delegates at play Tuesday night, extending his numerical lead over his opponents, the New York Times said. Romney won all 29 of Arizona's delegates and about half of those in Michigan, where the final allocation was still being worked out.

The Times said that Romney's twin victories over Santorum have quieted - for now - what had been growing questions about his command of the Republican field and his ability to appeal to the conservative base of his party.

All four candidates face financial strains as they try to advertise in a slate of expensive states, the Tribune said. Costs to run a week's worth of ads across the states voting next week are estimated to be about $5 million.


Fat Tuesday underway in New Orleans

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Fat Tuesday began in the early morning hours Tuesday, marking the final unfettered party before Lent.

Post-midnight celebrations Monday featured entertainers Cyndi Lauper and Bret Michaels, who gave performances and tossed beads to members of the crowd.

Lundi Gras - or Shrove Monday - has become more popular in the last couple of decades, the Chicago Tribune said. The centerpiece is the ceremonial meeting between the king and queen of the Zulu krewe and Rex, the King of Carnival, and his queen.

Fat Tuesday is the official end of the Carnival season and is described as a thrill complete with food, booze, masked parties and other entertainment. The end of Mardi Gras gives way to the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting and repentance before Easter Sunday.

The French Quarter was full of costumed revelers, an nj.com article said, and the stakeout for prime spots along the Mardi Gras parade route started Monday. Die-hard parade-goers jockey for the best places to vie for beads thrown from floats on Tuesday.

Stephanie Chapman and her family said they would arrive at 4 a.m. today and would remain for the duration of the parade.

"This is a beautiful day and we'll be here until it's over," she said. "It won't rain on my parade, but if it does I won't pay any attention," she said.

Mardi Gras was getting into full swing across the Gulf Coast Monday. In the Cajun country of southwest Louisiana masked riders were preparing to go from town to town, making merry along the way in the Courir du Mardi Gras, nj.com said. Parades were scheduled elsewhere around Louisiana and on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts as well.

The celebration arrived in Louisiana in 1682 when the explorer LaSalle and his party stopped at a place they called Bayou Mardi Gras south of New Orleans to celebrate.

Senate committee approves amendment to require voter IDs

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The Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections approved Wednesday an amendment to the Constitution that will require voters to present a photo ID.

The controversial bill passed by an 8-6 vote, the Pioneer Press reported. A government innovation and veterans committee will handle it next.

Republicans defended the proposal as a reasonable way of insuring election integrity, a Star Tribune article said. The proposal would effect voting in November.

Two weeks ago, the bill was the subject of a five-hour hearing, where testimony was taken from about three dozen witnesses, the article said. Most witnesses opposed the amendment.

The article said that Constitutional amendments require no action by the governor to get on the ballot. Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill last session.

Gundersen Lutheran seeking public help to fund expansion

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Gundersen Lutheran is seeking public help to fund the rest of its $70 million Campus Renewal project.

The health care provider has raised $38 million since the project broke ground last year, well short of its goal. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, a La Crosse Tribune article said.

Greg Prairie, a member of the Gundersen Lutheran Board of Trustees, said medicine is important to all of us" and that the project "is going to help expand great medical service to everyone across the region."

Prairie is optimistic the hospital will reach its goal.

"I'm always amazed at the participation level and support," he said.

About $8 million of the raised funds have come from hospital employees, said Dave Solie in a WXOW report. The rest has come from corporate and private donors, the tribune said.

The new part of the building will include private rooms for patients, a new operating facility, E.R. and trauma center. The improvements will help enhance and expand inpatient behavioral health services offer improved medical, surgical and critical care units and allow for new technology and innovation, officials told the tribune.

Dave Skogen, Campus Renewal campaign co-chairman, said the project will be a legacy and meet an increasing need for health care services in the La Crosse area. He thinks the hospital needs to continue to grow in staff and technology.

"And you don't do that without a good facility," he said.

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