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Vice President Mike Pence is headed for North Dakota's Minot Air Force Base, the second time in six weeks that a top Trump administration official has visited the nuclear weapons base....

     MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Vice President Mike Pence is headed for North Dakota's Minot Air Force Base, the second time in six weeks that a top Trump administration official has visited the nuclear weapons base. Pence's visit today is billed as a tour. He's also scheduled to address service members.
     Defense Secretary James Mattis toured the base in September, in a visit widely seen as a reminder to North Korea of U.S. nuclear capabilities. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer says the nuclear assets in North Dakota have never been more relevant.
     Minot has one of the nation's two B-52 bomber bases. The base also oversees 150 of the Air Force's 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles. Sen. John Hoeven says the administration is putting much-needed funding into the base to maintain a "modern nuclear force."


     FESSENDEN, N.D. (AP) - A Southeast District Court judge has rejected a plea agreement for former Wells County Sheriff Johnny Lawson. Lawson is accused of drug-dealing, bribery and not performing his duties. He faces felony charges.

    The Minot Daily News reports that Judge Daniel Narum on Thursday rejected an agreement Lawson had reached with prosecutors. Its terms called for Lawson to plead guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge and testify against a drug suspect in a related case. The other charges would be dropped. Narum said the plea deal "is inappropriate and doesn't serve justice." The 41-year-old Lawson abruptly resigned in April, citing personal reasons. He was arrested about a month later.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota Land Commissioner Lance Gaebe is still in the running to keep his job. Gaebe was appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. John Hoeven and his term expires at the end of the year. A search committee has been reviewing applicants for the position after that. Thirty-two people applied for the job. The Bismarck Tribune reports that the committee has decided to conduct background and reference checks on four candidates, including Gaebe. The commissioner manages the state Land Department. The agency leases grazing rights and rights to produce oil, coal and gravel from state lands.

     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Gov. Doug Burgum and some lawmakers are criticizing compensation for employees of a tobacco prevention agency that was shut down this year. The Republican-led Legislature decided the Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy, or BreatheND, duplicated anti-tobacco efforts by the Health Department.
     The agency closed June 20 and its nine employees were each given six months of salary and a cash payout equal to the cost of six months of health insurance. The severance package was a much sweeter deal than that given to state employees under a voluntary buyout program this year.
     Eric Johnson, a Grand Forks physician who served on BreatheND's executive committee and approved the payouts, defended them. He said they were "well within the limits of the law." They cost the state about $400,000 total.

     EDINBURG, N.D. (AP) - Authorities are investigating the cause of an early morning fire that destroyed several storage buildings owned by a potato company in northeastern North Dakota. No one was hurt.
     J.G. Hall and Sons partner Roger Hall says the company lost four buildings at its Edinburg complex, but none of them held any potatoes or farming equipment. He says the company's main facility is in Hoople. J.G. Hall and Sons is one of the largest potato producers in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. Five fire departments responded to the blaze about 4 a.m. Friday. They were hampered by strong winds. Hall says there isn't anything to indicate the fire is suspicious.


   (Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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