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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Continued heat in Wisconsin for another

It’s another hot day in southern Wisconsin. By noon, the heat index got up to 108 near Boscobel in Grant County – and by one p.m, the actual temperature reached 93 in Racine, Kenosha, and Janesville.

Forecasters said highs would reach the mid-90’s in southern Wisconsin this afternoon – and many places would get a heat index of 105 if they haven’t already. The National Weather Service issued a rash of new heat advisories late this morning. They’re in effect until six tonight in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Waukesha, Jefferson, Rock, Dane, Iowa, Lafayette, Green, Crawford, Richland, and Grant counties. Things were much cooler in northern Wisconsin at mid-day. Eagle River and Land O’Lakes didn’t hit 70 until one o’clock. The northern half of the Badger State was just starting to reach 80. A cool-down is expected tomorrow, with highs in the 70’s-and-80’s. By Labor Day, temperatures might not reach 80 anywhere in Wisconsin. Showers and thunderstorms are possible on-and-off throughout the holiday weekend.

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Drought conditions continue to spread in Wisconsin, after hot-and-mostly dry weather returned. The U.S. Drought Monitor said today that about 62-percent of the state’s land area is abnormally dry or worse. A cool-and-wet spring ended Wisconsin’s massive drought from a year ago. Now, the northeast third of Wisconsin is the only region that’s drought-free – everything east of a line from Milwaukee to Stevens Point to Medford to Bayfield County. Also, about 21-percent of the state is back to having a moderate drought. That covers a territory on the west central edge of the state, bounded roughly by Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Dells, Chippewa Falls, and Prescott. A small area near Superior is also in a moderate drought. Drought conditions slowly returned almost a month ago – but they’re really spread in the last week, once the heat index began soaring above 100 in much of the Badger State. Iowa State professor Roger Elmore calls it the worst-case scenario for farmers in the Upper Midwest, as farm soils rapidly dried up after the Fourth-of-July. He said much of the late corn-and-soybeans have developed to the point that the number of kernels will not be reduced. However, he said the kernels could be reduced, thus reducing harvests this fall. 

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At least some Wisconsin farmers are tapping their winter food supplies to keep their animals fed during the extremely dry weather of the past two months. In Manitowoc County, Karl Klessig says grazing normally provides about the half the food for his farm’s 550 dairy cows near Cleveland. This year, his pastures are only providing a third of the necessary feed. As a result, Klessig says his Saxon Homestead Farm is dipping into a winter supply that normally does not get touched until October or November. Klessig says he’s selling animals to reduce the demand for food – and for the first time, he might have to sell female calves. 

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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farm expenses have gone up. Forecast projections for 2013 are over $13-billion dollar to $318-billion, showing a trend of significant increase the past two years. USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber says the largest increase is in feed costs, up two-billion dollars to an estimated $61-billion. Additional information and highlights on the forecast is available at USDA-dot-gov (www.usda.gov).

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Wisconsin wildlife officials have come up with a plan to make sure a nationally-embarrassing incident, in which the state euthanized a baby deer, does not happen again. The plan would let state residents keep deer they find in the wild. Last month, an animal rehab shelter in Kenosha County was caring for a wild fawn named “Giggles” when DNR and sheriff’s agents took custody of the deer and euthanized it. They reminded shelter officials of a state law against possessing live wildlife, and they explained a DNR policy which resulted in the animal’s death. A Facebook page attracted national outrage. DNR workers admitted receiving threats. And Governor Scott Walker ordered the agency to re-examine its policy. Today, the DNR and the state Agriculture Department unveiled a plan to let residents wild deer if they build enclosures, have health tests performed, and notify the ag agency. Officials say they’ll ask the Natural Resources Board to take up the new policy next month. Walker endorsed the new plan, and asked everyone involved to “carefully consider” it. 

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 “Solidarity Sing-Along” protesters have been given a three day permit next month. Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch says a Madison man asked for the permit with no end date, but Governor Scott Walker’s administration has granted the request from September 9 until September 11. Despite the permit, organizers of the protest say they will continue to exercise free speech rights – with or without a permit. Over 250 citations and arrests have been made since July, when a judge granted a new rule to require a permit for 20 or more people at the Capitol rotunda.

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A Winnebago County Executive says he will not run for governor, but will reconsider if other candidates decide not to run. Mark Harris, a Democrat, made the announcement today. Harris says he will consider a run if former Trek executive Mary Burke – considered the heavy favorite for the Democratic ticket – decides not to run. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is also reportedly considering a run for governor in 2014.

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Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi says he is not seeking the state senate seat being vacated by Assemblyman Mark Honadel of South Milwaukee. Scaffidi, a Republican, told the Oak Creek Patch he wanted to concentrate on his job as Mayor. However, some Democrats are critical of the decision, saying his party looked down on his decision to support “reasonable laws about guns” and meeting with President Barack Obama after the Sikh Temple shooting. With Scaffidi dropping from the race, the race for the open state Assembly seat is wide open.

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A Milwaukee man who had a prostitution conviction overturned is asking the State Claims Board for $46,000 in compensation. David Turnpaugh, who’s now 51, was found guilty in 2006 of soliciting a person for sex who happened to be an undercover police officer. He spent three days in jail, and 57 days under electronic monitoring. In 2007, the conviction was overturned after a court found that he offered money to the police officer not for sexual contact – but to watch the officer perform a sex act. After his conviction was overturned, he asked the Claims Board for almost $19,000 – and the panel turned him down. Members said Turnpaugh might have been innocent, but his actions still helped convict him in the first place. A judge later criticized that logic. Turnpaugh is now back before the Claims Board, which will hold a hearing in his case on September 11th. 

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A detention hearing is scheduled next week for a Racine man accused of making illegal pipe guns. 42-year-old Donald Rees was indicted by a federal grand jury in Milwaukee this week on six charges – two each for making firearms, illegally transferring firearms, and possessing unregistered firearms. The U-S attorney’s office said Rees produced seven homemade pipe guns and sold them a couple times. He’s currently jailed under a temporary detention order. The U-S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives investigated the case. 

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A judge in Madison approved a plan today to get Wisconsin’s fourth-largest bank out of bankruptcy. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Martin approved a Chapter-11 reorganization of Madison-based Anchor Bank. The deal forgives $183 million which Anchor owed to U.S Bank and others, in exchange for a cash payment of $49 million. Also, Martin said Anchor does not have to pay back $139-million it owed the federal government from Troubled Asset Relief Program that was designed to keep banks afloat during the Great Recession. The plan also cancels Anchor Bancorp’s current stock shares. Meanwhile, Anchor is still waiting for $175-million from investors, designed to help the bank increase its lending. Anchor will not get the money until the court approves it. Chris Bauer of Anchor’s holding company says the investors are a broad group from around the country.

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Former state Senate Republican Tom Reynolds of West Allis has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for contempt-of-court in connection with a previous divorce case. He’ll serve his time at Milwaukee County’s House-of-Correction in Franklin, with work-release privileges. His ex-wife Sandy was granted a divorce from the 56-year-old Reynolds last year. The Journal Sentinel said Reynolds has not responded to a request by Sandy’s lawyer for expense records in the case. If he does not provide it in 10 days, Reserve Judge Dennis Flynn says Reynolds will get 30 days added to his term. Also, the judge says the ex-lawmaker needs to pay 26-hundred-dollars within a month for bringing unnecessary litigation. If he doesn’t, he’ll get an extra 50 days behind bars. The Milwaukee paper said the most recent disagreements in the case involved the custody and schooling of the Reynolds’ youngest daughter. Judge Flynn said Reynolds interfered with the girl’s placement. Reynolds unseated fellow Republican state Senator Peggy Rosenzweig  in 2002. He lost a close re-election bid four years later. 

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Tiny plastic particles have now been discovered in all five Great Lakes. The plastics were first found a year ago in Lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie. UW-Superior researcher Lorena Rios-Mendoza now says studies this summer showed small concentrations of plastic particles in Lakes Michigan and Ontario. She said Lake Erie apparently has the largest concentration of plastics, because the particles often float downstream from the upper lakes. She said the tiny plastics have also been found in Lake Superior’s sediment – which means at least some of the plastics are heavy enough to sink and not float on the surface. Researchers used fine-mesh nets to pull up some of the plastics. Some of it can be only been seen through a microscope. 

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An international panel that oversees the Great Lakes is asking both the U.S. and Canada to pass tough regulations on farm runoff and other sources of phosphorus that seep into Lake Erie. The International Joint Commission announced its proposals today, aimed at reducing algae blooms that have grown in the lake. The agency will take public comments before revising its plan, and sending it to both the American and Canadian governments. This comes in the wake of a discovery of a so-called “dead zone” on Lake Erie which is deprived of oxygen, and can release toxins. A similar dead zone was reported in the Bay of Green Bay off Lake Michigan, but today’s report applies only to Lake Erie. It sets firm targets for reducing runoff. It also proposes a ban on most lawn care fertilizers that contain phosphorus – something Wisconsin already does – plus new regulations on farm fertilizing.  

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Two people who robbed a liquor store near Oshkosh and killed themselves in a police standoff were also suspects in the theft of jewelry during a home burglary. Winnebago County sheriff’s deputies said they had planned to talk to Randy Lamb and Ashley Luka about the break-in – but it was too late, after the pair committed suicide on Wednesday evening. The burglary and jewelry theft occurred on Tuesday at a home in the town of Vinland. Authorities said the 29-year-old Lamb robbed a liquor store in Vinland the next day – and officers soon spotted his vehicle on the busy Highway 41 freeway near Oshkosh. Lamb and the 28-year-old Luka refused to get out of their car after they were stopped. A standoff continued for two hours, until Lamb and Luka shot themselves to death in their vehicle. Both were from Neenah. 

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A suburban Milwaukee man has died in a motorcycle crash. New Berlin Police said today that a 46-year-old biker from Muskego was killed after his bike crashed on a street near Interstate-43. It happened just after 6:20 last night. The rider’s name and other details were not immediately released.   

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We Energies and West Bend Police are warning customers of a bill collecting scam. Spokesman Barry McNulty with We Energies says someone posed as an employee and went to a customer’s house, asking for a payment with the use of a phone scanner. In other instances, customers have received calls that they are past due on their bill or a meter needs replaced, unless the customer provides a Green Dot card. McNulty says We Energies employees will never ask for cash or card payments on the field. He recommends listening to what the scammer is saying for informational purposes, but NEVER provide credit or debit card information. Hang-up or close the door and call We Energies at 800-242-9137.  Anyone who’s experienced a similar encounter is asked to contact local law enforcement and file a report.

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The family of a Madison man who was shot and killed by a police officer last year has filed a lawsuit. The family’s attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, says the suit was filed in federal court today – naming Police Chief Noble Wray and Officer Stephen Heimsness. The family of 30-year-old Paul Heenan say they dispute the official report that Officer Heimsness fired at Heenan when he went for his gun in a neighbor’s home. The district attorney cleared Officer Heimsness in the shooting. 

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More Wisconsin banks are turning profits than a year ago – but the growth of their earnings has slowed down. The FDIC said 17 banks headquartered in the Badger State lost money from April-through-June. That’s down from 23 banks that were in the red in the same quarter of 2012. Only 52-percent of Wisconsin’s 260 banks reported gains in earnings during the first half of this year. At the same time a year ago, 71-percent saw their earnings grow. Total loans made by Wisconsin banks were also down slightly in the last quarter. The state’s largest home-grown bank, Associated of Green Bay, had the highest quarterly net income at $52.5 million. Baraboo National Bank had the largest loss at three-and-a-half million. 

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The owner of a Green Bay tavern and two of its former bartenders are accused of food stamp fraud. Prosecutors said the Billy Goats Pub bought Food-Share cards from recipients for half-price, and used them to buy pizza and other food for the tavern. Investigators said some of the food was given back to customers for free, in an effort to generate business. The bar’s owner, 37-year-old Sue Long, told investigators she was helping Food-Share recipients by giving them money they could use for other things like medicines, and diapers-and-clothes for their kids. She has since surrendered her liquor license. Long is charged with 15 counts, eight for the unauthorized use of Food-Share cards, and seven counts of theft. She’s due in court October third. Ex-bartender Jodie Hanback, who’s 47 from Green Bay, is charged with nine food stamp fraud counts and eight thefts. Her initial court appearance is set for Oct. 4. The other bartender, 36-year-old Victoria Cannon of Green Bay, is due in court October eighth for one count each of food stamp fraud and theft. Six of the 34 total charges are felonies, with each defendant charged with at least one each. 

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Newly-filed charges show that Waupun police lieutenant Brad Young planned to kill himself during his recent crime spree. On Tuesday, Burnett County prosecutors filed a felony count of burglary and a misdemeanor theft charge against the 43-year-old Young. That was after two other charges were filed in Barron County, and seven in Green Lake County much closer to Young’s home in Brandon. According to the new Burnett County complaint, Young went to a relative’s cabin soon after he crashed a stolen pick-up truck in Barron County and ran off. Officials said Young planned to kill himself at the cabin, but he couldn’t find a gun – so went into an unoccupied cabin west of Spooner where he found a rifle. Prosecutors said he decided to surrender there after he got a phone call from his mother, and had talked to his children. Young resigned from the Waupun police force on Tuesday, and the city’s Police-and-Fire Commission was scheduled to accept his resignation today. Most of the incidents occurred between August 4th-and-6th. Authorities said Young broke into grocery stores in Waupun, Berlin, and Markesan. He allegedly stole a pick-up truck in Green Lake County and crashed it in Barron County, where he’s accused of stealing another vehicle near Rice Lake. The state Justice Department is investigating incidents for which charges have not been filed – including two grocery store break-ins sometime before the crime spree. 

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