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STATE NEWS ROUNDUP: Southwest half of Wisconsin a high risk for wildfires

The southwest half of Wisconsin has a moderate-to-high risk of wildfires. That’s roughly the same area where drought conditions have been revived in recent weeks, due to a lack of rain and a pair of week-long hot spells. The Badger State has not had the types of wildfires that were just put out at two nature areas in neighboring Minnesota. Still, the Wisconsin D-N-R’s Web site says 19 western and central counties have a high fire danger. That’s roughly along a wide path from Hudson to Columbus. Fifteen surrounding counties have moderate fire danger. Fire risks remain low northeast of a line from Kenosha to Superior. We have not been told about sweeping limits on open burning. Restrictions for each county are posted after 11 a-m on the D-N-R’s Web site, accessible at Wisconsin.Gov. Dry weather is predicted for at least the next couple of days, with highs generally in the 70’s-and-80’s. The next chance of rain is on Friday in northern Wisconsin, and on Saturday statewide. 

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Wisconsin schools will put a new emphasis on reading during the school year that began in earnest yesterday. Early education teachers have a new goal of getting kids ready-to-read by the first grade, to help Wisconsin meet the new Common Core voluntary national standards for English and language arts. Students will be tested on the basis of those standards, in an effort to improve Wisconsin reading scores that have lagged behind other states. The new state budget has two-and-a-half million dollars to provide literacy screening for kindergarteners and first-graders. Officials say it will help teachers identify student needs. Also, incoming teachers will be better trained for reading instruction. Starting in January, new teaching candidates will have to pass tests to ensure that they know the key elements of reading courses. Wisconsin’s reading scores have shown little-or-no improvement since the mid-1990’s. Two years ago, the Badger State ranked 16th in fourth grade reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Wisconsin was second in that department in 1994. 

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A full house is expected tomorrow night, when former Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop Tim Dolan returns to the city. He’ll speak to around four-thousand people at the downtown Milwaukee Theatre, during the church’s 10th annual Pallium Lecture. Dolan was the Catholic leader in 10 southeast Wisconsin counties from 2002-through-’09, when he left to become the Archbishop of New York. While there, he was elevated to cardinal – and earlier this year, Dolan was among those who elected the new Pope Francis. Dolan remains popular in southeast Wisconsin – as evidenced by the fact that his speech will take place in a hall 10 times larger than the 300-to-400 at previous Pallium Lectures. Dolan started those lectures a decade ago. This year’s program will deal with the current “Year of Faith,” which encourages Catholics to re-engage with the church and celebrate their faith more deeply. 

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A Plover man is due back in court a week from today, on charges that he raped and killed a neighbor in his apartment building, and then set her body on fire in her car. 32-year-old Jose Flores Aca appeared in Portage County Circuit Court yesterday on a video hook-up from his jail cell. He was charged with first degree intentional homicide and sexual assault, and hiding a corpse. Prosecutors said Flores Aca had a conversation with 36-year-old neighbor Jamie Koch last August seventh – and at some point, they ended up in her apartment where he allegedly punched-and-kicked Koch and then molested her. Investigators said Flores Aca wrapped her body in bed sheets, placed her in her vehicle, drove it to a farm field in neighboring Waupaca County, and started the car on fire to destroy the evidence. His friends then reportedly drove him back to Plover. If he’s not eventually sentenced to life in prison, officials say Flores Aca could be deported back to Mexico. For now, he’s in jail under a million-dollar bond. 

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The owner of Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm is buying three farms in southeast Michigan. According to the Adrian Daily Telegram, the Kaukauna-based Milk Source has signed papers to buy the former Vreba-Hoff dairies. That includes three dairy farms and 22-hundred-50 acres near Hudson Michigan. The firm of Rabo Agri-Finance closed the dairies in 2010, after it filed for foreclosure. Milk Source owner Jim Ostrom says his firm will spend about 90-million dollars to acquire the Michigan dairies and get them running. They’ll employ around 100 full-timers. In Wisconsin, Milk Source owns the Rosendale Dairy – plus three other dairy farms, along with a genetics herd and a calf-raising operation. 

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Wisconsin National Guard members have joined the search for a five-month-old boy missing for two weeks in northeast Illinois. Hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officers have been looking for Joshua Summeries, who vanished from his home in Zion Illinois on August 21st. According to broadcast reports, police identified the mother’s boyfriend early on as a person-of-interest – and he has since admitted killing Joshua. The search for the infant is now centered at a landfill in Zion. National Guard member Jamie Stroh of Racine rounded up some of his fellow troops to help search the smelly dump. Lieutenant David Dicker of Muskego said he’s taken aback by the massive size of the landfill. The searchers have been told that Joshua was placed in a backpack. 

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Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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