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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Arctic cold front enters state

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News Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

An arctic cold front has shattered the spring-like weather across the state the past few days. The National Weather Service in Sullivan says wind chills of minus-20 to minus-30 degrees dropped the mercury from the 30s to single digits and into the teens. A spokesperson for the service says if you plan on traveling today, take extra time getting to your destination. Roadways will be slippery, especially during the morning hours.

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Authorities have found the body of an Illinois businessman that had been missing in northwestern Wisconsin since Monday. The Washburn County Sheriff’s office says the truck of 30-year-old Edward Steinhardt was discovered partially submerged in the south end of Dilly Lake over the weekend. The victim’s body was discovered a short distance from the truck. An autopsy has been ordered to confirm a cause of death, byt authorities believe the Naperville, Illinois man likely died from the cold after escaping his truck. It’s unknown why the victim drove the truck on the frozen lake.

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Racine authorities say a man missing from a group home was found dead over the weekend. Racine Police say the body of 57-year-old Ruben Santos was discovered in a wooded area near the home on Friday. Family members of the victim say he suffered from a brain injury and was known for wandering off. Police say there were no signs of foul play. Santos had been missing since last Sunday.

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The Department of Natural Resources wardens are investigating a snowmobile crash in Columbia County near Cambria that happened at about 1:00 p.m. Friday. Authorities say a 36-year-old Michigan man died in the crash. Investigators believe speed and snow conditions may have been factors in the accident. The man’s name is being withheld until his family is notified.

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State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says changes to the Common Core academic standards will be “difficult”. Changes to the standard has become a hot topic for debate at the state Capitol, with some lawmakers calling for a repeal. Fitzgerald, a Republican, says the Senate will likely vote to review the standard… but the votes to change or repeal are not there. Advocates say Wisconsin schools have already spent 25-million dollars to implement the Common Core standards.

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The latest “America’s Health Rankings” report from the United Health Foundation ranks Wisconsin the 20th healthiest state in the U-S. The annual ranking shows the state scored well in high school graduation rates, health insurance and several other key factors. However, Dr. Rhonda Randall with the foundation says the state scored low in several areas… including dead last for binge drinking. Another area of concern, both at home and nationally, is obesity and diabetes. While the diabetes rate has gone up nationally, Wisconsin did very well in the diabetes category, ranking 10th overall in this year’s ranking. As for the healthiest state in the Union, Hawaii ranked at the top of the list, followed by Vermont and our neighbors to the west… Minnesota. The interactive rankings can be viewed at WWW-dot-AMERICASHEALTHRANKINGS-dot-ORG (www.americashealthrankings.org ).

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Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima is seeking a second term. The 35-year-old businessman was mum on whether or not he would seek a second term, but Treasurer Clerk Gina Kozlik says he officially filed a declaration of candidacy and a campaign registration statement today. Scrima, an Independent, was first elected in 2010. Born and raised in Waukesha, He has vowed to make it “the best small city in America” by 2018.

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An 85-year-old woman killed in a house fire in Antigo was identified as Thelma Bula.  There's no evidence of foul play connected with yesterday's blaze, which took four hours to get under control.  State and local investigators looked into the fire -- but they could not determine an exact cause, because the flames ignited in a number of places.  Officials said the flames got into a wall, and went both up-and-down.  It started several fires in the basement, plus one in the attic.

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Authorities are looking for four teenagers who abandoned a stolen vehicle after a police chase in Colorado.  One is a 15-year-old diabetic girl from Eau Claire, who left her medication behind in the stolen mini-van.  Officials said Breanne Gomez is at risk of getting seizures without her required insulin.  She was reported to be a runaway on Monday.  Officers said they chased the stolen mini-van through two counties before losing it.  The vehicle was later found about 50 miles northeast of Denver -- but the occupants were long gone, including Gomez.  Officials said the four might have been headed to Riverside, California in the mini-van.  

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Wisconsin's insurance commissioner has been elected the Midwest chairman of his national organization.  Ted Nickel will chair a segment of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  Starting next month, he'll promote the interests of insurance officials from 13 states between North Dakota and Ohio.

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The Wisconsin Lottery continues to be popular, 25 years after it began -- but it's not delivering as much property tax relief as it used to.  The Appleton Post-Crescent says the lottery's scratch-off and online games have generated three-and-a-half billion dollars to cut homeowners' property tax bills over the last quarter century.  Lottery director Mike Edmonds calls that a "good chunk of money."  However, each homeowner's share of the lottery's tax relief has dropped.  The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has analyzed the amount of relief folks get from the annual lottery credit.  Alliance president Todd Berry said it used to be 4-or-5-percent of the average homeowner's tax bill at its peak.  Now, it's down to around one-percent.  The lottery used to provide average tax credits of over 100-dollars in the 1990's.  It's been under 100 on average since 2000.  State Senate Republican Rob Cowles (coles) of Green Bay says people have accepted the lottery, even though it's not delivering the tax relief that was billed when voters approved it in 1987.  Edmonds says people look favorably upon the lottery in general, and it's been a consistent source of tax relief.  Voters also approved pari-mutuel dog track betting when they said yes to the lottery.  Five dog tracks have come and gone, victims of the easier and more convenient Indian casino gambling.  

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A state appeals court said a circuit judge was wrong to drop a lawsuit filed on behalf of an employee who died after being exposed to asbestos.  The First District Court of Appeals in Milwaukee ordered a civil trial today in the case of Robert Viola.  The judges said it was proper for Viola's survivors to claim negligence on the part of the former Wisconsin Electric Power Company.  Viola installed insulation on large pipes for almost 30 years, ending in the early 1980's.  Some of his projects were on properties owned by Wisconsin Electric, which is now We Energies.  Viola was exposed to asbestos dust during his work.  He died from cancer in 2009.  The utility claimed that Viola could not collect damages, because he did some of the work in releasing the asbestos dust.  The appellate court disagreed, and said it's up to a jury to decide.  

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Eight baby whooping cranes continue their migration trip from Wisconsin to Florida.  The group is grounded near Montgomery, Alabama due to high winds, but they hope to resume their flight tomorrow.  An ultra-light pilot from Operation Migration is leading the group of eight.  They started the trip October second at a wildlife area in Green Lake County, heading to a refuge on Florida's Gulf Coast.  It's part of the 13th annual project to re-introduce the endangered whooping crane in the eastern U-S.  Meanwhile, another group of eight baby cranes had trouble and delays leaving the Horizon Marsh area.  They were supposed to fly with birds which made the trip in past years -- but three of the babies have died in Wisconsin as the weather got colder.  The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership said the other birds were tracked in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama as of December 15th.  

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Gogebic Taconite has some explaining to do, before it can test for potential iron ore at its proposed mine in Ashland-and-Iron counties.  The state DNR has asked for 11 clarifications about the company's latest plan to excavate four-thousand tons of rock at five locations on the property.  The agency also wants answers to 29 questions before it will issue a storm-water handling permit.  The Ashland Daily Press quoted a letter from DNR hydro-geologist Larry Lynch, who said it might be difficult to fully identify asbesti-form minerals using standard field methods.  He suggested an alternative.  Also, the state wants to know if blasting is anticipated for reaching the deepest materials.  In its latest proposal, Gogebic said blasting would only be an option if the firm could not get enough test minerals from excavation equipment.  Meanwhile, the state and federal governments will not work together on preparing environmental impact statements for the new mine.  It was mentioned at a previous public hearing that the DNR and the U-S Army Corps of Engineers would go their separate ways.  The state asked for federal collaboration anyway, and the Corps recently said no.  The DNR's Ann Coakley tells the Wisconsin Radio Network the federal impact statement could come a year after the state's -- and that could delay the mine's permit approval process.

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A Wisconsin company that makes the active ingredient in blood thinner is about to be sold to a similar outfit from China.  The Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical company plans to spend 338-million dollars to buy Scientific Protein Laboratories, which is based in Waunakee.  Both companies produce the active pharmaceutical ingredient in the common blood thinner heparin.  The Dane County firm also makes pancreatin.  That's an enzyme replacement for those who do not have a properly-functioning pancreas -- including cystic fibrosis patients.  Scientific Protein Labs started in 1976 as a spin-off from Oscar Mayer Foods of Madison.  It was designed to make chemical and medicinal items from the by-products of animal processing.  The pig pancreas and intestines are the key ingredients in the two major products from Scientific Protein Labs.  The headquarters in Waunakee employs over 165 people.  A plant in Sioux City Iowa has 34 workers.

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Wisconsin's largest city might exceed its snow removal budget for the year by 25-percent.  Milwaukee was planning to spend seven-point-nine million dollars this year to removal snow-and-ice from city streets.  As of 10 days ago, the price-tag was eight-point-six million -- which does not include the cost removing up to nine-inches of snow last Sunday and Monday.  Milwaukee officials expect the final cost for 2013 to be above 10-million dollars, once all the invoices are paid and charges are posted to the city's books.  There's a chance of snow showers on Sunday -- but otherwise, Milwaukee expects no more snow for the rest of this year.  

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Wisconsin is about to finish one of the safest years on the state's roadways since the 1940's.  As of last Sunday, the state DOT said 519 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the Badger State this year.  That's well below last year's total of 601.  Michael Panosh of the DOT's transportation safety bureau said 2013 could end up having the fewest traffic deaths since World War Two.  To achieve that, the final number would have to be below 2009's total of 542 deaths.  Law enforcement officials point to their own traffic safety efforts in explaining part of the drop in fatalities.  They include stricter enforcement, and more education about the dangers of driving drunk and not wearing seat-belts.  Also, we recently learned there are a lot fewer vehicles on the road.  The U-S Public Interest Research Group said folks in the Milwaukee and Madison areas reduced their driving by about 20-percent from 2006-through-2011.  Panosh said motorcycle deaths were down due to this year's late winter.  And gasoline prices remain relatively high.  The Triple-"A" said today's statewide average of regular unleaded is $3.21-a-gallon -- just under a penny more than on this date a year ago.  

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About five-of-every-six Wisconsin counties now have at least some of their snowmobile trails open.  Travel Wisconsin-Dot-Com said 11 of the 72 counties still had not opened their trails at last word.  Eight of those counties are in the west central part of the state.  Seven counties report excellent snowmobiling conditions -- Polk, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Vilas, Oconto, and Washington.  Ashland County reports good conditions with a 10-inch base as of yesterday.  Apparently, the county did not get pounded like the city of Ashland did last Sunday and Monday, when 31-inches of snow fell there.  Many counties opened the trails this week, after groomers from local snowmobile clubs got them ready.  Many trails have opened earlier than normal, due to all the snow we received this month.  Part of a Lincoln County trail was still closed at last word due to standing corn from a later-than-normal harvest.  

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The owner of a tattoo parlor in Eau Claire is free on a signature bond, after he was accused of secretly recording sex with a client.  39-year-old Jason Rogers of Osseo is charged with a felony count of capturing a nude image without the subject's consent.  Authorities said Rogers had sex with the 29-year-old woman a half-dozen times while she was having a large tattoo placed on her back over a period of two months.  Prosecutors said he reduced the woman's fee by 30-dollars for each time they had sex -- but they never talked about a discounted arrangement.  Officials said Rogers' ex-girlfriend discovered video of sex with several female clients at his business.  Police said the local health department received a complaint that Rogers engaged in unsanitary practices with the alleged sexual contacts.  Rogers waived the state's time limit for a preliminary hearing on his criminal charge.  He's due back in Eau Claire County Circuit Court on February fourth.

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