HEALTH INSURERS-OVERHAUL-EXCHANGES Insurers may prove choosy with overhaul exchanges MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) – UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley is warning analysts not to assume that the insurer will participate widely in a key health care overhaul coverage expansion that unfolds later this year. State-based exchanges will debut this fall and allow people to sign up for coverage online, with some using income-based tax credits to help pay the bill. Hemsley says UnitedHealth may participate in as few as 10 exchanges when as many as 100 might be set up. He says whether the insurer participates will depend on if the exchanges are fair and provide a reasonable financial return. Analysts say it’s too early to determine whether some exchanges will wind up thin on competition. Competition on exchanges is intended to keep prices in check. UnitedHealth is the nation’s largest health insurer.
MINNESOTA-FLU Minn. officials: flu-related deaths rise to 60 (Information in the following story is from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org) ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Flu-related deaths continue to rise in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 33 more flu-related deaths, raising the state’s death toll this season to 60. Since the start of the flu season, more than 1,800 people have been hospitalized in Minnesota with confirmed influenza. Health officials say 476 people were hospitalized in Minnesota with confirmed influenza last week. But the Health Department says there’s nothing unusual about the situation. Kris Ehresmann, the department’s infectious disease director, says that while flu numbers are much higher than recent seasons, that’s also a reflection on how mild recent flu seasons have been in comparison.
STANDOFF SHOOTING 1 confirmed dead after Minn. standoff shooting (Information in the following story is from: The Free Press, http://www.mankatofreepress.com) NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (AP) – One person is confirmed dead after a police standoff in North Mankato led to a shooting. Police released few details about the shooting that came after a three-hour standoff at a home on the North Mankato hilltop Thursday. Police began advising motorists at 11 a.m. that streets might be shut down for what was called a “welfare check.” Within minutes, police from Mankato and North Mankato and a regional tactical response team had the home surrounded. Assault rifles were trained on the house throughout the standoff. Just after 2 p.m. Thursday, officers entered the home and multiple gunshots were heard several minutes later. An ambulance left later with a body. North Mankato Police Chief Chris Boyer confirmed there was a death but offered little information.
GRANDDAUGHTER SHOT Minn. man charged for shooting granddaughter ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) – A Rochester pastor is charged with a felony for shooting and wounding his granddaughter after mistaking her for an intruder last month. Sixty-one-year-old Stanley Wilkinson is charged with intentional discharge of a firearm that endangered safety. A court appearance is scheduled February 25th. Wilkinson told police he grabbed his pistol after hearing a noise outside his house Dec. 10 and fired two rounds after seeing what he thought was someone trying to open the deck door. It turned out to be his 16-year-old granddaughter, who was struck once in the neck. The teen had been living with her grandparents. She told police she left the house without her grandparents knowing. Wilkinson is pastor at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Rochester. Calls left for him were not immediately returned Thursday night.
MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL-RACIAL INCIDENT Mpls. school disciplines 4 in racial incident (Information in the following story is from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com) MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A Minneapolis high school has disciplined four students after a dark-skinned doll was dangled by its neck with a piece of string. Minneapolis Public Schools said Thursday students recorded the incident that happened last Friday at Washburn High School. Images were posted on social media sites and also caught on school security cameras. The district says it’s “deeply disturbed” by what it calls “an incident of racial intolerance.” The district says the four students were disciplined but didn’t say how, because of school privacy restrictions. Washburn on Thursday canceled after-school activities, including a basketball game, because of safety concerns following the provocation. In a letter sent home to parents, Principal Carol Markham-Cousins said she took immediate action when she learned about the incident.
INAUGURAL PARADE-FERGUS FALLS BAND Minn. high school band on way to Inaugural Parade (Information in the following story is from: KBRF-AM, http://www.kbrf1250.com) FERGUS FALLS, Minn. (AP) – The Fergus Falls High School marching band is on its way to President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Parade in Washington. Police and fire trucks escorted the band’s three buses out of town as they left about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Band director Scott Kummrow addressed the students at sendoff and asked them to follow the band’s progress on Twitter. KBRF-AM reports it was 11 degrees when the chartered buses were loaded. Highs are expected to range from 32 to 40 degrees when the band marches in Washington on Monday. The Fergus Falls band also took part in the 2009 inaugural events.
PARK HAZE RULES EPA issues rules to cut haze over Voyageurs, BWCA (Information in the following story is from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com) DULUTH, Minn. (AP) – Federal regulators have issued final regulations aimed at reducing pollution from taconite plants that causes haze over northern Minnesota’s wild areas including Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The Duluth News Tribune reports the regulations will force some taconite operations to add expensive new equipment to curb nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the plan will cut pollutants that are harmful to people’s health and that impair visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. The agency says the rules are expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 22,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide emissions by about 2,000 tons. The rules affect all six taconite operations in Minnesota as well as the lone taconite operation on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.