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This Hour: Latest South Dakota news, sports, business and entertainment

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THUNE-INTERNET ACCESS

Thune could play pivotal role in internet access

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - U.S. Senator John Thune from South Dakota could play a pivotal role in shaping the future of internet access in America should he become the head of the powerful U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Whether he takes charge of the committee or remains the second in command depends on Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate this November.

The Argus Leader reports Thune could take on the lead role at a time when residents in even the most isolated parts of country demand faster Internet connections.

The committee has jurisdiction over issues including highways, space, product safety and insurance.

The newspaper reports Thune could oversee changes to the country's communication law that has been criticized for failing to keep up with innovation in cable, telephone and Internet.

FARM EQUIPMENT SALES

Agriculture equipment sales decline in 2014

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - Agricultural equipment manufacturers and farmers say machinery sales have fallen recently because of lower commodity prices and changes to a federal tax break.

Shawn Berry said at a sales event in South Dakota that the Ohio-based company he represents could end this fiscal year up to 30 percent short in sales in some areas of the country compared to last year.

John Horter owns a farm in Andover, South Dakota. He says the slump in income has forced him to delay some equipment upgrades.

The tax deduction that allowed farmers to write-off equipment upgrades dropped dramatically this year, from $500,000 in 2013 to $25,000 for 2014.

Farm equipment prices vary widely. A tractor can run between $40,000 and $200,000, while a combine for grain harvesting can cost $400,000.

DIRECTOR-AG SERVICES

New director of SD Ag Services Division named

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Brandon Beshears is the new director of the Agricultural Services Division for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch says Beshears technical and regulatory policy experience will be an asset to the agency.

Beshears has more than a decade of experience in public policy and agriculture. He previously served as a member of the professional staff for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and as confidential assistant for marketing and regulatory programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Beshears earned a master's degree in international affairs from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a native of Ralls County, Missouri, and grew up working on his family's hog and row crop operation.

STATE FAIR BUILDING

SD State Fair hopes to raise money for 4-H hall

HURON, S.D. (AP) - Officials with the South Dakota State Fairgrounds hope to raise donations during the ongoing fair in Huron toward the goal of building a new 4-H exhibit hall.

The state's Department of Agriculture hopes to entice fairgoers to donate more than $1,000 by giving them the opportunity to have their name etch into one of the bricks near the new exhibit hall.

State officials have a $4 million goal. The proposed 47,000-square-foot hall will feature classrooms, a large kitchen for 4-H special food competitions, year-round concessions and a performance stage.

The building that used to host some of those events was demolished last year. It had been built in the 1950s.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2015 and be finished by the end of that summer.

LAKOTA ARTIFACTS

School of Mines helping Native American artists

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are using 3-D imaging and other modern tools to reveal the history of Lakota artifacts.

They're also testing how to ensure the authenticity of those works through the use of invisible marks.

The effort includes staff at the Center for Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology, which is developing new ways to guard against forged money, pharmaceuticals, electronics and other items.

Researchers can test the items without disturbing them, which is important for both cultural sensitivities and when handling delicate items, such as a child's moccasin from the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre and a century-old pouch.

The researchers have also started testing how to put invisible QR codes on artwork and other valuable pieces to prove they're authentic.

TRIBE-BEATING SENTENCE

SD man sentenced in beating case in Cheyenne Rez

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. (AP) - A Dupree man has been sentenced to one year in prison in an assault incident in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says 31-year-old Lester Clown was also ordered to one year of supervised release. Clown pleaded guilty to a striking, beating and wounding charge.

Authorities say Clown got into a verbal argument with the victim on December 2013 at No Heart Housing near Eagle Butte. The prosecutor says the argument escalated and Clown assaulted the victim.

Clown is under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

TEACHER-CHILD PORN

Ex-teacher pleads not guilty to child porn charges

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A former middle school teacher in Rapid City has pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges.

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says 27-year-old Andrew Hiipakka entered his plea to charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

A federal indictment against Hiipakka states that between November 2013 and August 2014 he knowingly received and possessed computer files containing child porn.

The Rapid City man was arrested August 19th after detectives with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a tip that led to a search of his home.

It's unclear whether Hiipakka has an attorney. Conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Hiipakka was immediately fired from St. Thomas More Middle School after police contacted the Rapid City Catholic School System regarding the investigation.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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