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Emmer concedes, Dayton wins

Mark Dayton became the first Minnesota DFL governor elected in more than two decades, after Republican Tom Emmer conceded Wednesday morning.

Dayton accepted Emmer's concession Wednesday afternoon, The Minnesota Daily reported.

"Minnesotans made their choice, by however thin a margin, and we respect that choice," Emmer said at a news conference in front of his Delano home, USA today reported

Emmer called Dayton at about 10:10 a.m. Wednesday. They both characterized the conversation with "gracious" and "gentleman," The Minnesota Daily reported.

Dayton was up by 9,000 votes, less than the half-percent margin necessary to instigate an automatic recount, The Minnesota Daily reported.

Dayton will take the oath of office on Jan. 3.

20-year-old St. Thomas student dies in a house fire

A sophomore was killed in a fire early Saturday morning at a house rented by Univeristy of St. Thomas students.

Four students were at the house at 1795 Selby Avenue during the fire, St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said. Three of them jumped out of the second-story window after the smoke alarm went off at 3 a.m., the Star Tribune reported. They were taken to Regions Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and injuries.

The fourth student was asleep on the couch on the first floor, the Pioneer Press reported. He died in the fire.

When firefighters arrived on the scene at 3:15 a.m. smoke and flames had reached the second floor, the Star Tribune reported. The three students who escaped the blaze, one female and two males, were found outside.

The name of the 20-year-old sophomore has not been released, but Zaccard confirmed he was a student at the University.

The fire seemingly started on the front porch outside, although the cause is unknown, Zaccard said.

The house was heavily damaged and is "probably a total loss," Zaccard said, the Pioneer Press reported.

As students and staff head home to enjoy the holidays, buildings, offices and student study spaces at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus will shut down from Dec. 24, 2010 until Jan. 2, 2011, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The closure will reduce labor and utility costs, helping trim down the University's $3 billion annual budget, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Only essential services, including hospitals, some labs and a few residences halls will stay open, according to U of M spokesman Dan Wolter, MPR reported.

"It's comparable to what you do at your house when you turn the heat down," Wolter said. "It obviously requires less energy to heat a building when the thermostat is at 55 as opposed to 68. So that will be a portion where a lot of savings will be incurred."

Over winter break, the University anticipates $160,000 will be saved on utilities on the Minneapolis campus alone, MPR reported.

Some residence halls will stay open, although all University Dining Service operations will shut down, including the residence hall dining services, the Minnesota Daily reported. All university libraries will close.

From Dec. 28 to Dec. 30, Boynton Health Services will provide pharmacy, walk-in care and some other services.

In addition to the shutdown, the University will cut costs with a mandatory, three- day unpaid furlough involving 8,200 hourly employees, although University officials are not sure how much it will save.

When the furlough is added to the 1 percent pay cut for salaried University employees, officials expect $18 million cut from the budget this year, MPR reported.

Residents call for peace at a vigil in Powderhorn Park

Hundreds of residents held a vigil in Powderhorn Park Wednesday, as an effort to take back the park after incidents of sexual violence last week.

A 45-year-old woman was assaulted while cross country skiing in the park with two of her children the night before Thanksgiving, the Star Tribune reported. She wrote that the gathering should be a "celebration of our community and our park."

Although the woman did not speak, Erik Jacobson referred to her words as inspiration for the neighborhoods combined effort to reclaim the park, the Star Tribune reported.

"It's hard to give over the park to people who want to do harm," Jacobson said.

The neighborhood held a vigil in response to the series of armed robberies and sexual assaults near the park, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Four teenagers have been charged with the crimes.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was among the speakers, and told attendees he was impressed with their joint resolve, MPR reported.

Man tried to lure 17-year-old girl into truck

St. Paul Police are asking the public to help identify a man who attempted to lure a 17-year-old girl into his truck Thursday morning.

The girl was walking to school on the West side after 8 a.m. when the man came up to her three times, police said. He approached her along Humbolt Avenue, where he stopped his truck and talked to her, KARE 11 reported.

The third time the man stopped, he got out of his truck and told her to get in it. The girl refused and ran to a school to call the police, the Pioneer Press reported.

The incident is not believed to be connected to recent luring attempts, police said in a statement. "There are some notable differences between this man's description and the men described previously."

The man is described as a 40 to 50-year-old Latino male with a heavy build, long dark ponytail, and an unkempt beard.

The girl told police that the truck was a newer silver pickup with a Mexican flag or decal on the rear window with Minnesota license plate with ducks, which could be Critical Habitat plates, KARE 11 reported.

The Minnesota School Board Association is recommending that schools modify their bullying policies on violence and harassment to include gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, among other groups.

"We wanted to make it clear that safety is important for all students no matter sex, race, creed or sexual orientation," said Greg Abbott, School Board Association spokesman.

The association is advising boards to urge school officials to interfere when they see bullying, the Star Tribune reported.

If schools adopt the update, any form of harassment or violence based on race, color, beliefs, religion, nationality, sex, age, marital or familial status, sexual orientation or disability would be prohibited, the Associated Press reported.

The advice might be controversial, as schools decide whether to heed the association's recommendation, the Star Tribune reported.

West St. Paul man dies after jumping off a freeway off-ramp

A man jumped to his death after being chased by Minneapolis police responding to a fight call outside a night club early Saturday, KARE 11 reported.

Jason Yang, 29, of West St. Paul, died after he leaped off of a freeway off-ramp and fell several stories, according to police and the Hennepin County medical examiner's office.

Yang was being pursued by officers after instigating a fight in front of Epic night club at 110 N. Fifth St. in downtown Minneapolis.

Yang ran into a nearby parking ramp in order to flee from the officers.

He ran onto a nearby freeway off-ramp, cleared a concrete barrier and fell, the Pioneer Press reported. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.

29 people have been accused of interstate sex trafficking

Twenty-nine people have been charged for their alleged involvement with a Minneapolis-based sex trafficking ring in which girls, one as young as 12, were forced into prostitution.

The defendants have been accused of recruiting girls under 18 and forcing them to engage in sex acts and moving them between Minnesota, Tennessee and Ohio, the Associated Press reported.

According to the indictment, Somali gangs have been identified in connection with the ring that has been operating for 10 years, the AP reported.

The indictment says that young Somali and African-American girls were taken between states and forced to engage in sex acts with multiple people in exchange for money and other substances, the AP reported.

Most of the defendants are involved wit the Somali Outlaws and Somali Mafia gangs, the Star Tribune reported.

John Marton, the director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that this case was significant because the victims were forced into sex acts for several years and moved between states, the BBC reported.

"Human traffickers abuse innocent people, undermine our public safety and often use their illicit proceeds to fund sophisticated criminal organizations," Morton said.

"ICE is commited to bringing these criminals to justice and rescuing their victims from a life in the shadows. We will continue to fight the battle to end human trafficking both here in the United States and around the globe."

The indictment charges some of the accused people with conspiring to obstruct the investigation by lying to a grand jury, burglary, credit card fraud and stealing a motor vehicle, AP reported.

Twelve of the defendants were arrested in Minnesota, eight in Tennessee and six were already in jail, AP reported.

Kurt Zellers and Matt Dean to lead Minnesota House GOP

Minnesota House Republicans chose their leaders Saturday after a momentous takeover of the state Legislature.

Republicans elected Representative Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove as the new Speaker of the House and Representative Matt Dean of Dellwood as the new House Majority Leader, the Star Tribune reported.

Zellers is in his fifth term representing Osseo and part of Maple Grove, and has been the House Minority Leader since 2009. Dean is in his fourth term representing Dellwood.

Zellers and Dean said the state Republicans will stick with their agenda to "streamline government," regardless of who wins the gubernatorial race, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Zellers said he looks forward to collaborating with either Democrat Mark Dayton or Republican Tom Emmer, because both have said that they will work to improve jobs and the economy in Minnesota, MPR reported.

"So in either case we'll take both candidates at their word that they're ready to focus on jobs and bringing the economy up," Zellers said.

Republicans dominated legislative races Tuesday, earning a 37-30 margin in the Senate over the DFL, the Star Tribune reported. Three races remain unresolved, but the GOP has a provisional 10-vote majority in the House.

Officials in Hennepin County are securing ballots to prepare for a likely recount in the Minnesota gubernatorial race, after an elections worker inaccurately reported tallied votes.

The nearly 500,000 ballots will be stored at the Hennepin County Government Center and guarded around the clock "to ensure the security, uniformity and transparency of the recount process," Hennepin county officials said.

At about 10 p.m. on Election Day, someone hit a wrong button and added some of the tallied votes twice, which gave Democrat Mark Dayton an additional 60,000 votes in his lead against Republican Tom Emmer, MinnPost reported.

Jill Alverson, county auditor, said that the new security measures are not a result of criticism the county has received from Republicans, MPR reported.

"Even without the incident on Election Night we would have recommended that we handle the recount this way," she said.

Rachel Smith, Hennepin County elections manager, explained that the mistake occurred when elections staff was creating a computer file with updated totals of in-person and absentee ballots, MPR reported.

Someone mistakenly clicked "add-to" instead of "replace" on a screen, doubling the actual number of votes instead of replacing previous totals. The file was then sent to the secretary of state's office.

Staff figured out the mistake about 45 minutes after the file was sent and then corrected it around 12:30 a.m., MPR reported.

"This was certainly unusual and hopefully will never happen again," Smith said.

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