- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014
River currents hamper search for car in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Treacherous currents and heavy rain hampered the search for a car that went into the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday, and authorities weren’t sure several hours later whether anybody was inside.

Major Darrell Huggett of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office told reporters a jogger reported a car in the river around 9 a.m. Huggett said a Minneapolis police officer saw it sink nose first.

A buoy was placed to mark the approximate place where the car went under, he said, and investigators were using a boat towing a side-scanning sonar device to try to find the car. Huggett said authorities opted not to send down divers until they find the car because of the swift current, which he said was four to five times the normal summer level.

“It’s extremely dangerous now due to the current,” Huggett said, adding that the heavy rain has “wreaked havoc on our electronics.”

The search area was about 100-150 yards downstream from the 10th Avenue Bridge, near the University of Minnesota campus, in about eight to 12 feet of water. Tire tracks were spotted near the bridge in a place where gravel leads all the way down to the river, he said.


Paralyzed player takes ESPN host to senior prom

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota prep hockey player who was paralyzed during a game two years ago made a splash at his senior prom with a celebrity date.

Jack “Jabs” Jablonski took ESPN SportsNation host Michelle Beadle to his prom Saturday night at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park.

Jablonski asked her during a radio interview in March. The school made an exception so the 38-year-old Beadle could attend.

Beadle had dinner with the Jablonski family, then participated in the grand march at the school and rode a school bus with other prom-goers to the dance off site.

Beadle, who posted several pictures on her Twitter feed, says she admires Jablonski for keeping smiling despite what he’s gone through.


Dayton, Democrats try to head off the dropoff

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) - When Tina Smith arrived at an eat-in bakery recently as an ambassador of Gov. Mark Dayton’s re-election campaign, there wasn’t much mystery about the allegiance of her assembled audience. A couple dozen tried-and-true Democrats who huddled around Smith were anxious to meet the governor’s new running mate, and she was just as eager to deliver an early call to action.

“It’s going to be a tough election,” she warned.

These days, Smith is flitting between labor halls, campus meetings of college Democrats and local party gatherings on behalf of Dayton, who has barely stepped foot on the campaign trail this year while tending to the legislative session and recovering from a hip surgery that severely limited his mobility. Smith’s itinerary and her prodding of activists are aimed at a perpetual problem for Democrats that is as fearsome as any of the six Republicans jockeying to face Dayton: They typically lose more voters each midterm election than the GOP does.

Minnesota’s top-of-the-ticket Democrats consistently see their vote totals shrink by hundreds of thousands in midterms compared with presidential years. Roughly 650,000 fewer people in Minnesota voted for Dayton in 2010 than Barack Obama netted as a presidential candidate both times he ran, in 2008 and 2012. Republicans have a fall-off too, but not nearly as dramatic because of a base seen as older, deeper-rooted and generally more reliable.

To fight the problem, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders are putting staff in the field months earlier than usual, scouring voting data to identify supporters prone to skipping, starting registration drives sooner and conveying a sense of urgency across to their base. They also hope to turn a change in law - no-excuse absentee voting - to their advantage by connecting more people with ballots weeks in advance.


PreferredOne grabs big share of Minnesota market

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota health insurance company didn’t expect to offer some of the nation’s lowest premiums - it just turned out that way for PreferredOne.

PreferredOne had been just a small player in Minnesota’s market for individuals who buy health insurance without help from their employers. So the company figured it had to offer competitive prices. The strategy seems to be working on Minnesota’s online health care marketplace, MNsure. PreferredOne has about 59 percent of the MNsure market, while Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has about 24 percent.

“We were, frankly, as surprised as anybody,” Marcus Merz, CEO of the Golden Valley-based company, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1iqFLqzhttp://bit.ly/1iqFLqz ).

PreferredOne’s “Select” network allows consumers to save about 10 percent on their premiums because it steers them to a limited number of doctors and hospitals. It also offers “Choice” policies with higher premiums but broader networks. A 40-year-old who enrolled in a PreferredOne Accent Select silver plan during open enrollment got a premium of $154 per month, compared with $172 per month for the broader silver plan.

Individuals can bypass MNsure and purchase policies directly from insurance companies, so it’s not clear yet how each company’s overall share of the individual market stands. PreferredOne had just 2 percent of Minnesota’s individual market in 2012 - before the federal Affordable Care Act made health insurance mandatory - compared with the 65 percent share held by Blue Cross.



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