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Forum Focus: Synagogue fire, Duck numbers, Jane's Journey, Motivational speaker

• Charges in Duluth synagogue fire

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Matthew James Amiot

A homeless Duluth man allegedly admitted to starting the fire that destroyed the Adas Israel Congregation synagogue last week.

Matthew James Amiot, 36, was charged Monday, Sept. 16 with felony and gross misdemeanor offenses in the Sept. 9 blaze that ravaged the 118-year-old synagogue in downtown Duluth. Bail was set at $20,000.

Police have said there is "no reason to believe that this is a bias or hate crime," and Amiot's brother attributed it to a misguided attempt to stay warm on a blustery night.

Read more from Duluth News Tribune

• Duck numbers before ND waterfowl opener


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All signs point to strong production and good numbers of mallards and other ducks for this year's North Dakota waterfowl season, which begins Saturday, Sept. 21 for residents and Saturday, Sept. 28 for nonresidents. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Mark Fisher was driving down a muddy gravel road Tuesday morning, Sept. 10, near Minnewaukan after the previous day’s rain when he passed a harvested wheat field with 4,000 to 5,000 mallards.

If that doesn’t get a duck hunter’s blood flowing, nothing will. North Dakota’s waterfowl season opens Saturday, Sept. 21 for residents, and nonresidents can take the field beginning Saturday, Sept. 28.

“I’m starting to see mallards and pintails out in the grain fields, and that’s definitely a sign of fall, the harvested wheat, and they’re out by the thousands feeding,” said Fisher, district wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Devils Lake. “Most of the barley is gone, and wheat is well on the way to being harvested.

Read more here

• Jane's Journey

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Jane Comfort, a 2-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy, looks at herself in the mirror while waiting for her physical therapy appointment to begin at Sanford Bemidji Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center on Thursday. Photo / Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer

Jane Comfort wasn’t even two months old when her parents began to notice something was wrong. She started to miss the milestones that parents always look forward to seeing. She wouldn’t lift her legs. She would track things with her eyes but wouldn’t reach for them.


Family and friends tried to encourage parents Megan and Bryant Comfort that their baby girl would be alright, but they soon learned that Jane had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The condition is a genetic disease “affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement,” according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

More from The Bemidji Pioneer

• From 'Deadliest Catch' to motivational speaker

Motivational speaker Nick "Sunshine" Tokman, from Discovery Channel's show "Deadliest Catch," speaks to students Friday, Sept. 13, at Centennial Auditorium in Staples. Photo / Kelly Humphrey - Brainerd Dispatch

People may not think a man like Tokman would be a person who struggled with his self-worth. After all, he left his home in Massachusetts to travel to Alaska with nothing but a backpack and went on to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world — Alaskan crab fishing. Then he landed on a TV series. But he did struggle. He shared his journey with students on how he overcame feelings of seeking acceptance and doing what others wanted him to do, eventually realizing every person must be true to themselves and go after what they want.

More from the Brainerd Dispatch

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