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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: National Guard troops back home in U.S

Almost 150 Wisconsin National Guard troops are back in the U.S, after spending nine months in Afghanistan. Members of Prairie du Chien’s 229th Engineer Company are still being de-briefed at Fort Bliss in Texas. They’re expected home soon. Officials said the unit helped improve the mobility of U.S. troops in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. They worked on improvements to military bases and combat outposts, and they built new-and-improved roads and chopper pads. The troops were well-qualified for those jobs. The Guard said many have construction-and-engineering jobs in their civilian lives. The company conducted almost 600 missions while in Afghanistan, earning 23 combat action badges.

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U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan enjoyed a taste of Wisconsin on the Fourth-of-July. A program called “Pizzas for Patriots” delivered 20-thousand Chicago-style pizzas, topped with cheese from Saputo’s in Waupun. Retired Master Sergeant Mark Evans started the program in 2008. He explained it to the CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board at a recent trade show in Chicago – and James Robson got Saputo’s involved. Great Kitchens of Chicago made the pizzas, and they were frozen before being cooked in Afghanistan for the troops. Robson says the marketing board is thinking about being a part of Evans’ next “Pizza-For-Patriots” delivery for the next Super Bowl in February. 

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A three-year-old Madison area girl drowned on the Fourth-of-July at Devils Lake State Park near Baraboo. Relatives pulled the toddler from the water, and then called authorities about five yesterday afternoon. The state D-N-R said the girl was unresponsive when she was pulled from the south shore of Devils Lake. Two doctors and a nurse who happened to be visiting the park performed CPR. Ambulance and med-flight personnel also tried saving the youngster, but could not. She died just after 6:05 p-m. Her name was not immediately released. 

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A man was killed on the Fourth-of-July after his all-terrain vehicle struck a tree in central Wisconsin. Jackson County authorities said the man was riding on a county forest road near City Point, about 30 miles east of Black River Falls, when the ATV lost control about two yesterday afternoon. Officials said he was not wearing a helmet, and he died at the scene. His name and age were not immediately released. 

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A man killed when his riding lawn-mower was hit by an SUV has been identified as 81-year-old Leonard Schrock. The incident happened Wednesday afternoon in Redgranite. Waushara County authorities are still investigating.

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Authorities in the Wisconsin Dells area continue to investigate the death of a go-cart driver. A 45-year-old Iowa man was killed late Wednesday night at the Alligator Alley track. Lake Delton officers said the man had a severe head injury, after his cart went out of control and struck a wood-post on a side of the track. No other go-carts were said to be near him. A med-flight team from UW Hospital in Madison responded -- but rescuers could not save the man. He died at the scene. His name was not immediately released. Officials said he was visiting the Dells with relatives from DeWitt, Iowa. Alligator Alley is located next to the Extreme World amusement park in Lake Delton where Teagan Marti fell 100-feet to the ground from the Terminal Velocity ride three years ago. 

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A fireworks show in suburban Milwaukee was cut short, after one of the people setting off the big boomers suffered a broken leg. The show in Hales Corners started just before 9:30 last night as scheduled, but it stopped after just four rounds. Early reports said one of the fireworks exploded on the ground. Police called it a “minor malfunction.” The show never resumed after that. Other details were not immediately available, including the condition of the injured worker. 

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Friends and relatives of Blake Draeger gave him a nice “welcome home” on the Fourth-of-July. Blake is the eight-year-old central Wisconsin boy who was struck by lightning on June 26th, while riding his mini-bike at his great uncle’s farm near Edgar. He was released yesterday morning from UW Hospital in Madison. Blake told reporters he couldn’t remember what it was like being struck. He said he couldn’t wait to get home to his kittens, garden, and chickens. Blake had burns over about a quarter of his body, along with ruptured eardrums and scratched eyeballs. Blake's nickname is "Tuffy." A relative said it describes exactly how he's handling his recovery. His father says doctors expect no permanent damage to the boy's eyes-and-ears. 

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The Experimental Aircraft Association has asked a federal appeals court to drop a $447,000 from the F-A-A, to provide service at its convention in Oshkosh. The F-A-A has traditionally provided air traffic controllers for free at the annual Air-Venture show, where 10,000 planes will gather at the end of this month. This year, the free service went out the window when the automatic federal spending cuts took effect in March. And for the first time, the FAA billed the Oshkosh group to have 87 controllers handle all the air traffic going in-and-out. EAA chairman Jack Pelton said he understands why the federal agency would want to quote, “augment its congressional appropriation.” However, he said the new fee quote, “unlawfully circumvents congressional approval and standard due-process.” The head of the FAA said his agency had to raise revenues somehow, to make up for $384-million overall budget cut. Air-Venture paid part of its bill last month, and promised to pay the rest after the week-long show. The EAA said it was paying both under protest. 

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A gasoline pipeline spill from last July caused more pollution in Washington County than what’s been reported. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the total number of residential wells near Jackson that were polluted with petroleum compounds has risen to 65. DNR hydro-geologist Marty Nessman said 23 wells were not included in the state's official list of polluted wells, because they had so little pollution that the exact amounts could not quantified. The paper also said 12 of those 23 wells do not have carbon filters which the pipeline's owner provided for 77 other well-owners. Filters were only given to those homes close to where the largest contamination took place. The pollution was caused after 55,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from a West Shore Pipeline Company line last July 17th. The company has paid for numerous tests, temporary water supplies, and other measures. Over 200 families in the area have filed against West Shore and Buckeye Partners, saying the firms were negligent in failing to prevent the gas spill. Next year, over 100 properties will get village water from nearby Jackson. Officials expect to bill West Shore for the extensions. 

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Growing numbers of Wisconsin armed robbery suspects are being tried in federal courts instead of state courts – and they’re getting tougher sentences. Ten people in the eastern half of Wisconsin received federal indictments this year for holding up places like taverns and convenience stores. That’s the same number that was prosecuted over the last three years in federal courts in Milwaukee and Green Bay. At one time, the F-B-I only investigated hold-ups that involve banks. Now, the weight of the federal government is being pushed on robbers of all types. U-S attorneys generally take cases with multiple hold-ups in more than one city-or-county, mostly in which guns are involved. Those who brandish guns in robberies get minimum prison terms of seven years – and if a gun is fired, a robber faces at least 10 years. Robert Botsch, who heads the violent crime unit of the Milwaukee F-B-I office, says there’s no “wiggle room” for defendants. He says those who commit multiple robberies get “significant” prison time. The cases are prosecuted under the Hobbs Act, which first focused on organized crime and union racketeering. The federal government has the authority to handle robberies at stores with merchandise which was delivered across state lines. 

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Two dozen Wisconsin counties have been declared as natural disaster areas, after heavy rains and snows resulted in crop losses. It means that eligible farmers in the affected counties can get emergency federal loans and other assistance. The counties are generally located in west central Wisconsin and the eastern half of the state. Governor Scott Walker asked for the federal disaster declaration late last month. He said farm fields in the affected areas kept thawing and re-freezing during a winter that last much longer than normal, followed by torrential rainstorms. The governor said the crop losses ranged from 30-to-70 percent in some areas. 

-7/6- 

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