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    A defense attorney says a former Minneapolis police officer who held back bystanders while his colleagues restrained a dying George Floyd is innocent of criminal wrongdoing and should be acquitted. But prosecutors argue Tou Thao “acted without courage and displayed no compassion” even though he could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away. Tuesday was the deadline for both sides to file final written arguments in the case of Thao, the last of the four former officers facing judgement in Floyd’s murder. Judge Peter Cahill has 90 days to rule on whether Thao is guilty on state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

      Former U.S. Senator David Durenberger has died at age 88. Durenberger was a Minnesota Republican who espoused a progressive brand of politics. His longtime spokesperson says his health has declined in recent months and he died Tuesday morning at his St. Paul home. Durenberger won a U.S. Senate seat in 1978 and served three terms. He was a champion of health care reform. He became a critic of the Republican Party as it tilted toward slashing government programs. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz will give a eulogy at Durenberger’s funeral next Tuesday at the former senator’s alma mater, St. John’s University in Collegeville.

        A judge has dismissed a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in a case that roiled the university. The players, who were not identified in their lawsuit against the school, alleged that they suffered emotional distress and financial damage after being accused of being sex offenders. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week. He said the players didn't provide any evidence to support their claims that they suffered financial damage or that investigators were biased. A woman said as many as a dozen football players raped her or watched at an off-campus party. No players were charged.

          Gov. Tim Walz has enshrined the right to abortion and other reproductive health care into Minnesota statutes. He signed a bill Tuesday that Democratic leaders rushed, with their new control of both houses of the Legislature, in the first month of the 2023 legislative session. The White House has welcomed Walz’s signature on the bill, noting that Minnesota is the first state Legislature to codify protections into law this year. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says that voters have also turned out for ballot initiatives to defend access to abortion in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.

            A judge has followed the recommendation of a Chicago prosecutor and dismissed sex-abuse charges against R&B singer R. Kelly. Tuesday's hearing lasted just minutes. It came a day after Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said she was comfortable dropping the case because Kelly already will spend decades in prison for convictions in federal court. Kelly was awaiting trial in Illinois state court on charges of sexually abusing four people in the Chicago area, three of whom were minors. Federal juries in Chicago and New York have convicted him of a raft of crimes, including child pornography, enticement, racketeering and sex trafficking. Kelly is serving a 30-year prison sentence in the New York case.

              As Memphis police officers attacked Tyre Nichols with their feet, fists and a baton, others held Nichols down or milled about, even as he cried out in pain before his body went limp. Just like the attack on George Floyd, a simple intervention could have saved a life. Instead, Nichols is dead and five Memphis officers face murder charges. Memphis and Minneapolis police departments are among many with “duty to intervene” policies. It’s also the law. Three Minneapolis officers who didn’t try to stop the attack on Floyd were convicted of federal crimes. Experts agree peer pressure, and in some cases fear of retribution, is on the minds of officers who fail to stop colleagues from doing bad things.

              A Chicago prosecutor is dropping sex-abuse charges against singer R. Kelly. The decision follows federal convictions in two different courts that ensure the disgraced R&B star will be locked up for decades. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made the announcement Monday, a day ahead of a court hearing. Kelly was indicted in 2019 on multiple crimes and accused of sexually abusing four women in Illinois, including three who were minors. Since then, federal juries in Chicago and New York have convicted him of a raft of crimes, including child pornography, enticement, racketeering and sex trafficking. Kelly is already serving a 30-year prison sentence.

              The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s “Clean Car Rule,” which ties the state’s vehicle emission standards to California regulations. A three-judge panel Monday rejected the arguments of Minnesota’s auto dealers, who argued that state pollution regulators exceeded their authority and unconstitutionally delegated their rulemaking authority to California. The court accepted assurances that California’s planned phaseout of gas-powered cars won’t automatically apply in Minnesota. The decision was a victory for the administration of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, which adopted the rule in 2021. Seventeen states link their emission standards to California’s, which are stronger than federal regulations.

              Police video of the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols by officers in Memphis, Tennessee, is hard to watch. The images are a glaring reminder of repeated failures of efforts to prevent police brutality. Nearly 32 years ago, the savage beating of Rodney King by police in Los Angeles sparked calls for reform. Such brutal scenes have repeated themselves, with police killing roughly three people per day since 2020. The Memphis officers were fired and face murder charges, and their so-called Scorpion unit has been disbanded by the police chief. But advocates say nothing less than a cultural change in law enforcement will provide the safety and liberty Black people demand.

              Access has improved across the U.S. to a rescue drug that reverses opioid overdoses, but advocates say naloxone — commonly known by its brand name Narcan — still isn't getting to everyone who needs it. A small group of volunteers run an organization that appears to be the largest distributor of naloxone in Albany, Georgia. But many communities lack similar structures. Public health experts are telling U.S. state and local government officials in charge of using funds from opioid settlements to consider getting more naloxone into the hands of people who use drugs and those who are around them. In some places, it goes mostly to first responders.

              If Vegas oddsmakers are correct — and there’s a reason those casinos are huge and luxurious — then football fans are in for a treat this weekend. The NFL’s conference championship weekend is here: The Philadelphia Eagles will host the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC title while the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC. Both games are Sunday. The gambling odds are tight for both games, though both home teams have a slight edge. The Eagles are a 2 1/2-point favorite while the Chiefs are favored by 1 1/2 points, according to odds from FanDuel Sportsbook. The winners will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

              The Minnesota Senate has voted to write broad protections for abortion rights into state statutes, which would make it difficult for future courts to roll back. The pill passed 34-33 early Saturday after a marathon debate. Democrats have made the bill one of their top priorities in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. While a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision protects abortion rights, sponsors want to make sure those protections remain in force no matter who sits on future courts. The House passed the bill last week. Gov. Tim Walz hopes to sign it before the end of the month.

              The outrage, frustration, sadness and anger over the killing of Tyre Nichols was evident around the NBA on Friday. Games were played not long after the video was released showing how Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was killed by five Memphis police officers. Several teams released statements of support for the family, as did the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. And the emotions around the league were palpable, as has been the case so many times after so many other other incidents of violence by police against Black men and women in recent years.

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              North Dakota landowners testified for and against a carbon capture company’s use of eminent domain. Some landowners said carbon companies should not be able to forcibly buy people's land. Other landowners said carbon companies should be able to so they can complete pipeline construction quickly and serve an important public interest. Summit Carbon Solutions' $4.5 billion proposed pipeline would reduce the state’s carbon footprint and allow North Dakotans to continue working in energy and agriculture. The massive underground system of carbon dioxide pipelines would span 2,000 miles across several states, running under hundreds of people’s homes and farms in the Midwest.

              Some student leaders at a Minnesota college where a lesson on Islamic art included a painting of the Prophet Muhammad are supporting the embattled president. The students wrote in a letter on Hamline University’s student news site that they do not want school President Fayneese Miller to resign. This after the faculty voted to call for Miller’s resignation for violating their academic freedom. It all started when a Muslim student said seeing the artwork violated her religious beliefs. Miller dismissed the teacher. Some student leaders say the faculty are making the president a scapegoat for larger problems at the school in St. Paul.

              A lawyer who purchased gasoline that another lawyer used in firebombing an unoccupied New York City police car during protests over George Floyd’s death in 2020 has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Colinford Mattis appeared in federal court Thursday. He was also ordered to pay just over $30,000 to the New York Police Department for the destroyed vehicle. An attorney for Mattis declined to comment. Mattis and Urooj Rahman were arrested May 30, 2020, as demonstrations and protests raged over the killing of Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Rahman was sentenced in November to 15 months in prison.

              Gov. Tim Walz has proposed a $3.3 billion public infrastructure package. It would use a combination of borrowing and cash to finance improvements to roads, bridges, water systems, housing and the environment across Minnesota. The proposal, known as a bonding bill, would be the largest in state history if the Democratic governor gets everything he wants. But that appears unlikely, given that he needs at least some Republican votes in both the House and Senate for the state to take on more debt. His fellow Democrats will get to weigh in with their favorite projects, too.

              The Biden administration has moved to protect the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota from future mining. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed an order Thursday closing over 350 square miles of the Superior National Forest to mineral leasing for 20 years. Haaland says the decision is intended to protect the Boundary Waters for future generations and to boost the local recreation economy. The move deals a potentially fatal blow to the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel project near Ely. But Twin Metals, which was already suing the Biden administration, says it's not giving up despite this latest setback.

              Sean Bérubé said he thought it was a joke when he was first asked to help assemble a team of Ukrainian preteen refugees, displaced by war and spread out across Europe, to play in a renowned Quebec City hockey tournament. Bérubé was having a beer in Bucharest last March with Evgheniy Pysarenko, whom he played hockey with in Ukraine as a teenager. Pysarenko requested a favor from Bérubé. That favor morphed into a mission, culminating with a group of 11- and 12-year-olds from Ukraine playing in the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament.

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