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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Barron teen arrested for making bomb threats

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BARRON - Criminal charges are possible against a 17-year-old boy suspected of making a bomb threat last week at Barron High School in northwest Wisconsin. 

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Sheriff's deputies said the boy admitted writing the threat on a wall at the school.  Officers said they obtained the confession yesterday during an interview with the teen.  The Barron County district attorney's office will decide what, if any, charges to file.  He's also awaiting an expulsion hearing at his school, and is suspended for now.  Also, prosecutors are still reviewing possible charges against a 16-year-old student arrested for making a bomb threat at Glendale Nicolet High School on Wednesday.

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Jefferson County's chief prosecutor said she had no choice when she gave a break to a former state Democratic operative on a recent drunk driving charge.  Graeme Zielinski, a former spokesman for the state party, was convicted of a non-criminal first-time OWI violation on what was really his third such conviction in the last 22 years.  Susan Happ tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel she was disappointed in the outcome of Zielinski's case, but it couldn't be helped.  Her comment came amid heavy criticism from conservatives over the way Zielinski got his break.  His first OWI in 1991 could not legally be considered, because it happened over 10 years ago.  The second came in 1999 in Virginia, and his current lawyer said Zielinski should have been given the right to waive an attorney he never received in that case.  Assistant Jefferson County DA Monica Hall could not challenge Zielinski's claim, since no records of the case exist in Virginia.  Therefore, Happ said the only OWI case that could stick was the one he had June second in Jefferson County, when his blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit.  Happ said she had to make similar dismissals in the past, but it doesn't happen often.  Zielinski was fined $924, lost his driver's license for eight months, and was given an sobriety lock for his vehicle for a year.  Zielinski apologized yesterday on a liberal blog.  

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Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is seriously thinking about joining what could be a crowded field for next year's state attorney general's race.  Media reports said Ozanne has not set a deadline for his decision.  Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle appointed him as the Madison area's chief prosecutor in 2010.  He got statewide publicity a year ago, when he tried unsuccessfully to stop the Republican law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most public employee unions.  Incumbent J.B. Van Hollen is stepping down next year, and several people are at least considering throwing their hats in the ring.  Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel is the only Republican to declare his candidacy so far.  State Assemblyman Jon Richards of Milwaukee is the only Democrat in the race.  There are reports that other Democrats are thinking about jumping in -- former DNR and corrections' secretary Matt Frank, and Madison state Assemblyman Chris Taylor.  State police union chief Jim Palmer is also considering a bid.

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Would you choose a college based on how attractive the other students look?  Chances are, you wouldn't -- but the Daily Beast Web site still found it important to rate universities that way, and UW-Madison was rated No. 1.  Miami of Ohio ranked second, and Georgia was third.  The Daily Beast poll said the UW's flagship campus was given a score of 9.32 out of 10 for having the "hottest guys," and 9.12 out of 10 for the "hottest girls."  The survey also took into account a sexual health score from the company that makes Trojan condoms.  It gave the UW the fifth best of ranking of 141 schools surveyed.  The Daily Beast said it looked at two-thousand U.S. colleges and universities, and it ranked the 200 best.

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Heroin use has grown dramatically in the Green Bay area this year.  That's because dealers can make much bigger profits by selling in Brown County than in southern Wisconsin.  Lieutenant David Poteat of the Brown County Drug Task Force said a gram of heroin can go for up to $600 in Green Bay if it's finely cut.  He says the increase in dealers has also resulted in a big increase in users, as evidenced by the numbers of arrests being made.  Poteat told the Brown County Board that 149 grams of heroin were seized by his officers so far this year, compared to 55 grams last year.  Thirty-three people have been arrested in 2013 for possessing heroin, and 55 others were arrested for distributing it.  Heroin-related deaths have been cut in half, to about a half-dozen.  Poteat said it's because emergency health providers are more experienced in saying users from fatal overdoses.  Nationally, authorities say heroin users spend up to $200 a day to support their habits.  In Brown County, Poteat says users are spending $300 a day, because the cost of their drugs is a lot higher than elsewhere.

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A Marquette University graduate who was kidnapped in Syria last Thanksgiving turns 40 today.  James Foley has been missing ever since he was abducted by two unidentified gunmen.  It happened when his vehicle was stopped as he was driving toward Syria's border with Turkey.  Foley was a freelance reporter at the time for the Global Post, an online news outlet based in Boston.  His mother says there will be a worldwide vigil for Foley at five o'clock this afternoon.  Foley graduated from Marquette's Milwaukee campus in 1996 with degrees in history and Spanish.  He and three other journalists had been held in Libya for 45 days in 2011, while they were reporting for the Global Post on Libya's civil war.  He has also done reporting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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A Milwaukee food company is expanding a recall of its products.  Garden-Fresh Foods Incorporated recently recalled over nine tons of foods like chicken salad and ham salad.  Now, the USDA says 20 more products are being called back, totaling 6,700 pounds.  The first recall last month included 11 different items.  The recalls are being made due to possible listeria contamination.  In all cases, officials say the bacteria was found in routine microbial testing.  There have been no reports of anyone getting sick from the food.  More information -- including a complete list of the recalled products -- can be found at the USDA's Web site.

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The numbers of deer ticks that carry Lyme disease have been growing in Wisconsin.  A recent UW-Eau Claire study showed that 35-percent of female deer ticks examined in 21 counties over the past three years tested positive for the Lyme bacteria.  Just over 340 adult female ticks were studied from 21 counties.  Diep Hoang Johnson of the state Health Services Department says climate change might be responsible for part of the increase.  She also blames people for building new country homes in areas where deer ticks thrive.  In August, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the numbers of people with Lyme disease were vastly under-reported.  They said the 30,000 reported Lyme cases each year were more like 300,000 -- and tick-heavy places like Wisconsin have the highest rates of under-reporting.   Wisconsin was among the first places where Lyme was discovered.  The Marshfield Clinic's Medical Research Foundation has done numerous studies of the tick-borne Lyme. 

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A search continued in Milwaukee today for a 27-year-old woman missing for a week.  Yesterday, police arrested a 38-year-old man who was said to be a friend of the missing woman.  He was picked up on an unrelated charge of maintaining a drug house.  WTMJ-TV said the man's high-rise apartment building was one of the last places that Kelly Dwyer was seen before she vanished.  She was reported missing after she failed to show up for work last Saturday.  Police are not calling the arrested man a "person of interest" in the case -- but WTMJ said the case has been building.  

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Storm warning sirens are operating again in Outagamie County.  Emergency management director Julie Loeffelholz says regular tests of all 47 sirens will resume at noon tomorrow.  New radio systems have been installed in all the sirens -- many of which did not alert people in time to get out of the way of heavy storms and tornadoes in early August.  Loeffelholz recently said a tower that controls the sirens lost power before she could order that the sirens be activated.  She urges people not to rely only on the outdoor warnings for storm warnings.  Up-to-the-second information is also available on National Weather Service radios, smartphone apps, and local broadcasts.

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Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel said less than 50 people were able to sign up for health coverage in the first week the federal exchange was open.  Nickel tells the Gannett News Service the ongoing problems with Healthcare.gov could jeopardize the state's effort to sign up thousands who are required to have coverage.  Over 500,000 uninsured residents plus 92,000 people who are losing their Badger-Care need to sign up by December 15th -- or they could face fines by not being insured by January first.  Wisconsin is among 36 states which refused to create its own Obama-care exchange, thus putting pressure than expected on Healthcare.gov.  Consumer Reports said many people need to remove cookies from their computers, in order to gain access to the various health plans in the exchanges and decide which ones are best for them.  Another report said almost a million people have tried looking for what's available on the Web site, but could not find it.  Nickel, who was in Washington this week at a conference on Obamacare, said his office is trying to arrange paper sign-up forms if necessary.  Gannett said the site uses technology that's 10 years old, and it may need constant updates and fixes over the next six months -- and maybe a complete overhaul. 

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The No. 1 cause of death for Wisconsin teens is still traffic crashes.  That's according to the state DOT, which is promoting safer driving for young people in advance of Teen Driver Safety Week next week.  Forty-eight teenagers were killed in Wisconsin crashes last year -- and over five-thousand young people were injured.  David Pabst, who heads the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Safety, said the grim numbers reflect the inexperience of teen drivers -- and their willingness to ignore state laws against things like texting-behind-the-wheel.  Speeding and a lack of seat-belt use are other factors.  Nationally, Pabst says teen drivers are four times more likely than the rest of us to get in a crash.  16-year-olds are twice as likely to crash at night than during the day.  And the risk of teen mishaps grows when other teens are in the vehicle -- something the state limits with its graduated licensing law.

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Governor Scott Walker's new book is due out in a month -- and among other things, he criticizes Mitt Romney for the way he ran his 2012 GOP presidential campaign.  The Associated Press put out a story about the book today, after it obtained an advance copy of "Unintimidated -- A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge."  The 278-page book hits the stores November 19th.  It provides a glimpse at what a Walker presidential candidacy might look like for 2016, if he goes ahead with it.  The Republican governor went into detail about his 2011 battle with public employee unions over the new law which took away virtually all of their collective bargaining privileges.  Walker also mentioned death threats to his family, as he justified what he did.  In questioning Romney's message, Walker said the nominee never responded to his email which offered advice during the presidential campaign.  Soon after the election, Walker and other GOP governors said Romney failed to adequately spell out his vision for the country -- and he was too slow to respond to the barrage of criticisms from President Obama and other Democrats.

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The state Justice Department has fired a drug agent who accused his ex-boss of keeping a stolen machine gun, and producing-and-selling unlicensed firearms to police officers.  The Wisconsin State Journal said Dan Bethards was let go last Thursday.  The Madison paper quoted a termination letter which said Bethards' allegations were not sincere -- and he failed to be honest in his own dealings.  Bethards had run-ins with Jay Smith, when he worked for Smith at the Justice Department's former field office in Superior.  The state closed the facility in May, but insisted it was not because of the personnel problems.  Bethards told the State Journal the termination letter was "garbage," and he can counter most of the accusations against him.  He has filed three complaints with the state's workforce development agency, claiming that Justice officials retaliated against him for making his allegations against Smith.  Those allegations led to a federal investigation.  In August, authorities decided not to charge Smith.   

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Folks in far northern Wisconsin could see snow on the ground by the time they wake up on Monday.  The National Weather Service says a low-pressure system is moving east through the Upper Midwest today.  Northern and central Wisconsin could see a mix of rain-and-snow showers late tonight and into tomorrow.  Then on Sunday, another low-pressure system will move through.  Right now, the forecast is for just rain in most of the state.  Northern areas could get all snow Sunday night and Monday, with around an inch on the ground by Monday morning.  Lake-effect snow showers are possible along Lake Superior in far northern Wisconsin early next week.  Of course, all this means it's finally getting colder.  Highs are projected to be in the 40's-and-50's all weekend throughout the Badger State.  The Weather Service blames the falling of the jet stream from the north of Wisconsin to the south.  Statewide temperatures were running 5-to-6 degrees above normal during the first-half of October.  For the latter half, forecasters say it could get down to 10-degrees below the norms.  

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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