80-year-old man injured in St. Paul house explosion dies

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — An 80-year-old man injured in an explosion at his St. Paul home last month has died.
A spokeswoman for Regions Hospital in St. Paul tells the Star Tribune that John Lundahl died Tuesday at the hospital from his injuries.
The Nov. 23 explosion left Lundahl with significant burns and a broken arm and pelvis.
Lundahl was found buried beneath insulation and debris. Firefighters pulled him out of the ruins.
Several nearby buildings were condemned because of damage caused by the explosion. A gas leak is suspected, but fire officials say the cause remains under investigation.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

1 of 3 men accused in mosque bombing negotiating plea deal

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — An attorney for one of three Illinois militia members accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque says his client is negotiating a possible plea deal with federal prosecutors.
Michael James McWhorter pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal hate crime charges, but the Star Tribune reports his attorney told a federal magistrate that McWhorter was working on a possible deal.
According to court documents, McWhorter admitted he, Michael Hari and Joe Morris drove from Clarence, Illinois, in August 2017 and attacked Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. McWhorter allegedly said the men did it to scare Muslims from the country.
McWhorter also allegedly admitted the men attempted to bomb an Illinois women’s clinic. Federal charges were filed in both states. McWhorter’s and Morris’ cases have been combined in Minnesota, while Hari’s cases remain separate. Hari is still in federal custody in Illinois.

Federal jury convicts 5 in Thai sex trafficking trial

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Five people on trial for an alleged ring that prosecutors said sold Thai women for sex in the U.S. were convicted Wednesday on sex trafficking charges.
A federal jury in Minnesota found all five guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and other charges, the Star Tribune reported . Jurors returned their verdict just a day after receiving the case.
The defendants were Michael Morris, 65, of Seal Beach, California; Pawinee Unpradit, 46, of Dallas; Saowapha Thinram, 44, of Hutto, Texas; Thoucharin Ruttanamongkongul, 35, of Chicago; and Waralee Wanless, 39, of Colony, Texas.
Prosecutors alleged during the six-week trial that the defendants, along with 34 co-conspirators, ran a sex trafficking operation that lasted more than a decade and crossed borders.
“Sex trafficking is an industry that is built on supply and demand, and this organization fed that industry,” U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said Wednesday, calling the case one of the largest trafficking networks ever dismantled at the federal level. “It exploited, it abused, enslaved and sold women in response to the high demand for commercial sex that exists not only in the United States but here in Minnesota.”
Government attorneys called it a case of “modern day sex slavery,” with Thai women forced to have sex with multiple men daily to pay off “bondage debts” owed to traffickers for help coming to the U.S. Some victims testified during the trial.
Prosecutors said the victims were misled about how much they owed. The women were threatened if they tried to leave the business, prosecutors alleged.
Defense attorneys for all five contended the women were willful participants.
Paul Engh, an attorney for Thinram, predicted all five defendants will appeal.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

No. 13 Minnesota women remain undefeated, top Coppin State

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kenisha Bell scored 20 points, Destiny Pitts made four 3-pointers and added 14 points and No. 13 Minnesota remained undefeated with an 84-52 victory over Coppin State on Wednesday night.
Minnesota followed up its highest-scoring first quarter of the season at 29 with its most halftime points, 50, for a 24-point lead. The Golden Gophers cruised in the second half to their third 10-0 start in program history. Minnesota’s program record is a 15-0 start in the 2003-04 season, when current head coach Lindsay Whalen was a senior.
Taiye Bello had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota, which is one of 18 undefeated teams in the country. Pitts was coming off a career-high 35 points on Sunday in a comeback win over Boston College.
The Golden Gophers are tied for second for the longest active winning streak, trailing Indiana’s 15.
Coppin State (0-8) has lost 17 straight games. Chance Graham had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Brooke Fields added 14 points.

Oakland sues NFL, Raiders over move to Las Vegas

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The city of Oakland has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit trying to recover damages for the Raiders’ upcoming move to Las Vegas.
The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the Raiders, the NFL and the other 31 clubs seeks lost revenue, money Oakland taxpayers invested in the Raiders and other costs. The suit does not ask the court to prevent the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas but asks for damages that will help pay off the approximately $80 million in debt remaining from renovations on the Coliseum.
The city says the defendants violated federal antitrust laws and the league violated its own relocation policies when the teams voted in March 2017 to approve the Raiders’ decision to move to Las Vegas.
“The Raiders’ illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill,” Oakland city attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement. “The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants’ unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland.”
The Raiders are planning to move into their new stadium in Las Vegas in 2020. The team hasn’t signed a lease for 2019. The Raiders had been in talks with Oakland about a lease for next season but they might now look for another option following the suit.
The NFL and the Raiders didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Charlie Morton to Rays and a Tanner-for-Tanner trade at meetings

By Ben Walker
AP Baseball Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An All-Star starter to the relief-reliant Rays, a Tanner-for-Tanner trade and a Scott Boras sighting. Intrigue at the winter meetings, but not much impact.
Not yet, anyway.
Charlie Morton was the top name to switch teams Wednesday, joining Tampa Bay for a $30 million, two-year deal after going 15-3 with Houston last season.
And in the majors’ first swap of players with the first name of Tanner, the Washington Nationals sent Tanner Roark to Cincinnati for Tanner Rainey in a trade of right-handers.
Roark led the National League with 15 losses, but expected he would be part of a prime rotation that recently added All-Star Patrick Corbin to stars Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
“I felt like we would have a pretty good staff over there in D.C. but they thought otherwise and I don’t know what their plans are,” Roark said on a conference call.
Fans all over, meanwhile, waited to hear where the likes of free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and trade targets Corey Kluber and J.T. Realmuto might go.
The New York Yankees worked to re-sign lefty J.A. Happ but, as always, were on the lookout for bigger prizes.
“We’re a fully operational Death Star,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Boras, meanwhile, said there are teams ready to move right now on Harper.
“Bryce is open to a lot of different venues, so it’s really about what a lot of owners have said to him about their commitments and what they want to do long term,” the prominent agent said.
The 26-year-old Harper, who lives in Las Vegas, had a career-high 100 RBIs while hitting 34 home runs and batting .249 last season for Washington.
“So, we’re really at a point where you could be meetings away from a deal,” Boras said. “And then again, you could be in the situation where it’s just further meetings and conversation.”
Or, as Boras put it: “When the nurse walks in with the thermometer the issue isn’t what (it reads) that day, it’s the health of the patient when they’re ready to leave the hospital.”
The session ends Thursday after the Rule 5 draft for players left off 40-man rosters. While some big trades got made at past gatherings — Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Sale — more and more the winter meetings are becoming a place where deals get set up for later.
Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski would like to see that changed.
As in, maybe a change to encourage clubs to roll the dice.
“When I first started out … when the winter meetings ended, there was a trade deadline. You couldn’t make a trade for a couple months. So everything had to be done when you left,” the longtime executive said.
“You got to the point where almost everybody wanted to be signed by the holiday, by Christmas holiday. Everybody wanted a job, so people would sign. I don’t really know what’s happened, where it’s changed. It’s just doesn’t seem to be very important for people,” he said, later adding, “they need to change the rules or something.”

Vikings QB Cousins takes OC DeFilippo firing ‘personally’

By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — When the Minnesota Vikings went all-in on Kirk Cousins as their long-sought franchise player last spring, they paired him with a new offensive coordinator considered to be part of the current wave of up-and-coming quarterback developers and innovative play-callers putting a strong imprint on the NFL.
The partnership with John DeFilippo that had so much potential lasted nine months.
Cousins and his Vikings teammates were doused this week with the cold shower of coach Mike Zimmer’s decision to fire DeFilippo after just 13 regular-season games, the latest dose of the reality of this cutthroat league as well as a sobering reminder that their lagging performance ultimately cost him the job.
“It’s the hard part of this business, and it was tough news,” Cousins said before practice on Wednesday. “I hate seeing it happen.”
Pro football’s furnace of fan-driven angst over a struggling offense had been directed over the past month toward DeFilippo and his in-game decision-making, with Zimmer’s public second-guessing of the play-calling only adding to the heat.
Cousins, in the first season of his fully guaranteed, three-year, $84 million contract, joined DeFilippo over the past month on the firing line.
The Vikings (6-6-1) have lost three of their past four games, with Cousins posting three of his five lowest passer ratings in those games, all on the road against postseason-bound teams.
“One of the things I did communicate to coach Flip yesterday was, ‘I believe with the ball in my hand, had I played at my fullest potential play-in and play-out, we’re probably not having this conversation right now,’” Cousins said.
“That’s something I take personally and is certainly tough for me and keeps you up at night. But at the same time, all you can do now is go forward.”
Cousins complimented DeFilippo for his “very classy and very gracious” conversation with him on Tuesday after the dismissal.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. I have a lot of respect for him as a person. And I believe that his best days in this league are ahead of him,” Cousins said. “I think he’s a very good coach, and I think he’ll be a coordinator again. I think he’s head coach material, as well.”
Zimmer made the move about 12 hours after Minnesota’s 21-7 loss at Seattle on Monday, when the offense didn’t score until 70 seconds remained in the game.
With the Vikings still, somehow, in control of the second wild-card spot in the top-heavy NFC, Zimmer decided to fire DeFilippo and make quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski the offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season in a last-ditch attempt to create a spark for a sputtering unit.
“It may work. It may not work. You get feelings and you trust your gut,” Zimmer said. “It’s no different than, it’s fourth-and-8, you’ve got to call the blitz, you meet it head on, and you go. Now are we going to talk about Miami? Or are we going to keep talking about this?”
Ah, yes, the Dolphins (7-6), who are due in Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. They’re tied for third in the NFL with 25 takeaways, a dangerous trend for Cousins and his 16 turnovers that are tied with New York Jets rookie Sam Darnold for the most in the league.
“I’d be the first one to say if I had played at a higher level, we’re probably not talking about the things we’re talking about,” Cousins said.

Jacks try to take next FCS step, powerful Bison up next

FARGO (AP) — South Dakota State linebacker Christian Rozeboom tried watching last year’s Football Championship Subdivision title game between rival North Dakota State and the team that knocked them out of the semifinals, James Madison. It wasn’t long before he turned the channel.
“It was just a little bittersweet,” Rozeboom said of seeing the Bison win their sixth FCS title in Frisco, Texas, after the most successful season in Jackrabbits history fell one game short.
Bittersweet has been the story of South Dakota State’s duels with North Dakota State since the two teams moved up from NCAA Division II in 2004. The Jackrabbits have held their own for the most part. They are the last team to beat the Bison, in 2017, and the last team to defeat them in the Fargodome, in 2016. But the Jacks are 0-3 against the Bison in the playoffs.
Round four is Friday night’s semifinal at Fargo’s indoor stadium where North Dakota State (13-0) is 23-1 in FCS playoff games. Adding to the degree of difficulty for South Dakota State (10-2) is a group of Bison players who say they want to win this one for beloved coach Chris Klieman before he takes over at Kansas State.
“Emotions run high, especially for coach Klieman, it’s his last one in there,” Bison wide receiver Dallas Freeman said. “So I could just imagine the dome being electric, especially against SDSU, our biggest rivalry. You wouldn’t want anything else in the world.”
It’s South Dakota State’s second trip to the dome this year, after the Bison won the regular season game 21-17 in a game that was as close statistically as it was on the scoreboard. Rozeboom, for one, is tired of close and said there’s no fear in taking on the defending champions in their building.
“Obviously they’re a good team. But we’re a good team too so we’ll see how that rolls,” Rozeboom said. “We’re just trying to take that next step every single time. Obviously we haven’t done what we’ve wanted to yet. Getting to Frisco is the ultimate goal and winning there.”
Perhaps no South Dakota State player is a better team historian than running back Mikey Daniel, who moved to Brookings when he was 10 years old and followed the team’s venture into what was then the Division I-AA level. The Jacks, an average Division II squad, has now qualified for postseason play seven years in a row and eight of the last 10 years. Boosters have ponied up as well. The team moved into a new headquarters in 2010 and completed construction of a new stadium in 2016.
Daniel, who was recruited by North Dakota State and turned down offers from Army and Mississippi Valley State to stay home and play, paused when asked what a trip to Frisco would mean for South Dakota State fans.
“I can’t even explain it,” Daniel said. “The amount of support and love from the community here for me has been amazing. All the Jacks have it, but when you’re a hometown kid obviously it’s a little more special.”
Klieman and South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier, who signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday, said they expect a close game that will come down to big plays, most likely by quarterbacks Easton Stick of the Bison and Taryn Christion of the Jackrabbits. Both players have the green light to change plays at the line of scrimmage and improvise.
“Those two kids are phenomenal football players that are playing at a high level with a ton of confidence,” Klieman said. “Both those guys are just going to make plays. We can’t panic when Christion makes a play because he makes them against everybody. They can’t panic when Easton makes a play because he makes them against everybody.”
The game will be the 10th of the year at the Fargodome for the Bison, thanks to rare non-conference scheduling and three playoff contests.
“Most people play 10 games in a season. We’re going to play 10 games at home,” Klieman said. “That’s pretty special for those guys.”

Chiefs seek 10th straight win vs Chargers, AFC West title

By Dave Skretta
AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are missing their star running back, likely without his backup and could have their top two wide receivers hobbled or shelved for their crucial AFC West showdown against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.
They still have Patrick Mahomes, though.
And they’re still playing the Chargers.
Yes, the Chargers (10-3) are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won three straight and nine of 10 to close within a game of Kansas City (11-2) in the division race.
But the Chargers also have had about as much luck against the Chiefs as the Redskins have had with quarterbacks this year, losing nine straight and many of them in lopsided fashion.
That includes this season’s opener in Los Angeles, when Mahomes announced his arrival to the NFL with his first four touchdown passes in the Chiefs’ 38-28 victory at StubHub Center.
“We’re familiar with this group, but they do so many things. It’s never easy going up against Kansas City,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.
“Go back to September. You can go back to last year, to 2017, when we lost to those guys twice — same things. They are just really good.”
The Chiefs have continued to play at a high level despite some personnel challenges.
Running back Kareem Hunt was released nearly two weeks ago because of off-the-field issues, and new starter Spencer Ware hurt his hamstring last Sunday against Baltimore.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is likely to miss Thursday night’s game with a lingering foot problem, and speedster Tyreek Hill is nursing wrist and heel injuries, but has insisted all week that he’ll be ready.
“One thing we have been talking about all season long, you never know when your number is going to be called, so it is important that you are ready,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “It’s all hands on deck. When it’s all said and done, we go out and play.”
Besides, it’s not as if the Chargers haven’t had injury issues of their own.
Running back Melvin Gordon is expected to be a game-time decision after spraining his right knee against Arizona and missing the past two games. His primary backup, Austin Ekeler, is likely out after hurting his neck and sustaining a concussion in last week’s win over the Bengals.
“I’ve been grinding hard to get back,” Gordon said. “I know Coach (Lynn) is trying to be careful and doesn’t want me to further hurt myself or things like that. So we’ll see where that goes.”
If he’s unable to play, rookie Justin Jackson would get his first NFL start.
“What is it, Week 15 in the NFL? These things happen,” Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’ll see who shows up Thursday and go from there.”
As the Chiefs and Chargers prepare to meet, here are things to know:
The Chiefs can clinch their third straight AFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win. But even with a loss, the Chiefs would hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers by virtue of their better division record. Los Angeles needs a win to clinch its first postseason trip since the 2013 season.
“Both teams are going to be all hyped up and ready to go,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is 11-3 against the Chargers in his career.
There have been signs this week that Chiefs safety Eric Berry will make his season debut against the Chargers. Berry sustained a season-ending injury in last year’s opener, then hurt his heel early in training camp.
“It is killing him not to be out there,” Reid said, “but at the same time, you want to be smart with it. I know he would like to play in the game.”
Mahomes has been getting all the attention, but Chargers counterpart Philip Rivers has been nearly as good this season. He already has 29 touchdown passes, five shy of his career best, and his interception rate is the lowest of his career.
But Rivers also has struggled against the Chiefs, throwing 14 interceptions during the Chargers’ nine-game losing streak. “He’s a guy who can make all the throws,” Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller said.
The Chiefs hope wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who was cut by the Bills and signed with Kansas City last week, will be active for the game. Benjamin would provide a big body on the outside and some additional depth with Watkins likely to be out.
Both teams dismissed the challenges of playing on a short week, especially given how well they know each other. But the Chiefs also were at home Sunday, and the Chargers will be traveling across two time zones to Arrowhead Stadium, one of the toughest venues in the NFL.
“We have a lot to prepare for,” Lynn said, “and like I said, it’s going to be more of a mental week. So we have to find ways to get that done.”

Charges against officials dropped

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — A prosecutor has dropped charges of failing to report child abuse against two school officials in a case where an art teacher threw a chair in his southwestern Michigan classroom , hitting and injuring an 11-year-old student.
Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic announced Tuesday the decision comes after Benton Harbor Charter School Academy’s governing body, Choice Schools Associates, took steps educate those at its schools about reporting child abuse. The principal and assistant principal who were charged participated in the training. Sepic says a delay in reporting the alleged abuse Nov. 6 “in this case ultimately did not hamper the investigation.”
The teacher, Thomas Barnes, was fired. He pleaded guilty in November to misdemeanor assault and received a 30-day suspended jail sentence, nine months of probation and 50 hours community service.