Sam's Top 5 Things to Know for Thursday

1. Two dead after gas explosion, collapse at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis

FOX 9: An explosion at least partially fueled by a natural gas leak at the Minnehaha Academy Upper School in Minneapolis Wednesday morning killed two staff members, sending nine more people to the hospital with injuries of varying severity.

Minnehaha Academy confirmed through a Facebook post a few hours after the blast that receptionist Ruth Berg died as a result of her injuries, leaving a heartfelt goodbye message to the first person everyone saw when entering the school. She had worked there for 17 years.

The school said in a statement, "As our receptionist, she welcomed everyone with a smile and was always willing to go the extra mile to help our students, families and staff. She will be greatly missed."

After almost 12 hours of searching for custodian John Carlson, officials said they had located his body near the original blast site. Friends and family waited with bated breath at the scene as crews worked diligently into the night to clear a large pile of debris near the site of the explosion, a pile of jagged brick and steel where just hours earlier a block of classrooms had stood. They spent most of the day hoping that pile contained enough void space for Carlson to have survived, though ultimately firefighters found his body just after 8 p.m. next to the spot where Berg was found hours earlier.

2. Would Japanese nukes stop North Korean aggression? Tokyo taboo weakens amid NK testing

Fox News: As North Korea advances its nuclear ambitions with yet another test of a long-range missile system, the once unthinkable has started to go mainstream in Japan: a discussion of the idea that Japan needs to have a nuclear deterrent of its own to survive in an increasingly unstable region.

Japan's "nuclear allergy" stems from its unique, tragic history with nuclear weapons. It is the only country in the world to suffer their impact, when the United States leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to end World War II.

Since then, there have been brief public discussions of gaining nuclear weapons to stave off threats, such as in the '50s at the height of the Cold War, but such discussions were almost always relegated to extremists who longed for a return to Japan's imperial military heyday.

Today, experts tell Fox News the idea that Japan can and should possess nuclear weapons on its own soil, whether they are domestically developed or provided by the U.S., is no longer the exclusive realm of Japanese extremists.

3. Semitrailer truck busts 47 lights while driving through Lowry Tunnel

Star tribune: The driver of a semitrailer truck who illegally drove through the Lowry Hill Tunnel last week and damaged overhead lighting might be getting a hefty bill from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. That is, as soon as officials identify the driver.

A video released Tuesday shows the westbound big rig with the letters JNJ displayed on the top of its cab rounding the curve inside the tube during last Friday's morning rush hour and its trailer clipping off 47 lights affixed to the wall adjacent to the inside lane as it passed through.

Fixtures, light bulbs and large metal pieces rained down on passing motorists and littered the traffic lanes with debris. A few pieces were so big that construction workers nearby stopped traffic for a moment while they picked them up and tossed them over a concrete barrier.

Trucks and vehicles over 9,000 pounds have been banned from the Lowry Hill Tunnel since late June, when MnDOT reduced the number of traffic lanes to two in each direction and at times have had motorist sharing one side of the tunnel. Take note: Another switch is coming Friday when all traffic will be shifted to the westbound side of the tunnel with two lanes in each direction. That is similar to the configuration last month when drivers shared the eastbound lanes.

Large vehicles were banned because of the narrow traffic lanes - only 10 feet wide instead of the normal 12 - and that created a safety hazard due to the squeeze, said spokesman David Aeikens. The job for finding the driver is in the hands of the patrol, Aeikens said. But, he said, "if we figure out who did it, we will send them a bill," he added.

4. Black Lives Matter Minneapolis apologizes about photo of 'lynched' man

Fox News: Black Lives Matter Minneapolis apologized on Tuesday after it sparked rumors by sharing horrific photos that suggested a black man had been lynched -- even when police clarified the picture was of a white man who had hanged himself in a city park.

The group issued the apology on its Facebook page Tuesday night, sending condolences to the family of Michael Bringle, the man who committed suicide, and saying it retracted its earlier statements.

"As more information came out and Mr. Bringle's family came forward, it became clear that this was an unfortunate incident caused by mental illness," the group said.

It added: "We are sorry if our post offended anyone and hope that folks see we were simply echoing the questions and concerns that community members had."

Organizers said they had taken down the Facebook post, but it was widely spread during the hours it was up. Bringle, 50, was found hanging from a tree in Indiana Mounds Park in St. Paul. A passerby found the body just before 6 a.m. Tuesday and posted three photos of the scene on Facebook, suggesting that the man was a victim of a hate crime.

 5. NAACP issues its first statewide travel advisory, for Missouri

CNN: The organization is circulating a travel advisory after the state passed a law that Missouri's NAACP conference says allows for legal discrimination. The warning cites several discriminatory incidents in Missouri, included as examples of "looming danger" in the state.

The NAACP says this is the first travel advisory ever issued by the organization, at the state or national level. The Missouri conference initially published the advisory in June, and it was recognized nationally at the NAACP's annual convention last week. The advisory warns, "Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri."

The advisory was issued after Senate Bill 43 -- which makes it more difficult for employees to prove their protected class, like race or gender, directly led to unlawful discrimination -- passed through the Missouri Legislature in June. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed it into law soon after. Greitens and other supporters of the bill have said it puts Missouri's standards for lawsuits in line with other states. But that's not how the NAACP sees it. The Missouri NAACP State Conference called the legislation a "Jim Crow Bill."

"This does not follow the morals of Missouri," Conference President Rod Chapel Jr. told CNN. "I hate to see Missouri get dragged down deep past the notion of treating people with dignity."

There have been other instances of discrimination in the state that could have elicited an advisory before this, several of which are listed in the warning. Among them are racist incidents reported at the University of Missouri that prompted protests across campus in 2015, as well as the state attorney general's annual report that found black drivers were stopped by police at a rate 75% higher than white drivers.

Chapel said he met with Greitens about the Senate bill several times. After the bill passed, he said they had a "fair and frank discussion" about what the legislation would do. At a later meeting, Chapel said he brought several faith leaders in the community to talk with the governor about theology and morality. Chapel said, "Ultimately, none of that worked.”

The advisory doesn't tell people to not go to Missouri. Rather, the NAACP wants minority travelers to be aware of what it says are potential risks.


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