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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Judge puts halt to same-sex marriages

MADISON - There will be no more same-sex marriages in Wisconsin, unless higher courts affirm Federal Judge Barbara Crabb's decision to allow them.  Yesterday, Crabb finalized her ruling from a week ago, which found that the state's gay marriage ban from 2006 was unconstitutional.  However, she issued a stay of that ruling -- which means the ban will remain in effect until the state is done with its appeals.  

Crabb made it clear she wanted to legalize gay marriage now, but she could not do so because stays were issued in similar cases in other states.  She said she had no choice but to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's guidance in the matter. As Crabb wrote, "Same-sex couples have waited many years to receive equal treatment under the law, so it is understandable that they do not want to wait any longer."  As of late Thursday, almost 600 same-sex couples were married in 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.  Crabb did not indicate whether those marriages would stay valid.  The U.S. Supreme Court could settle the issue as early as next year, as similar cases from other states are also heading toward the nation's highest court.  If Crabb's ruling is eventually upheld, same-sex couples would get the same tax, adoption, and pension benefits as heterosexual married couples.  That's because Crabb ordered the governor and the state registrar to treat gay couples the same.

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The recent jump in crude oil prices slowed down yesterday.  One of the benchmarks for U.S. oil prices, West Texas Intermediate crude, rose only four-tenths-of-one-percent to almost $107 dollars a barrel.  Experts are trying to determine the effect on gasoline prices, as the possibility looms for a civil war in Iraq.  In Wisconsin, the Triple-"A" says prices have generally held steady over the last week.  The state's average for regular unleaded was $3.72-a-gallon this morning.  That's 12-cents more than a month ago, but 26-cents less than a year ago.  Chicago area analyst Jim Ritterbusch expects a 7-to-9-cent increase in pump prices over the next one-to-three weeks.  

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A $200,000 cash bond has been set for a Waukesha County man accused of burning down a home three years after starting a large casino project in Macedonia.  58-year-old Joe Islami of Oconomowoc appeared in court yesterday on felony counts of arson, false swearing, and two fraud-related counts.  He's due back in a Waukesha courtroom July 25th for a preliminary hearing.  Islami was arrested Thursday, after he allegedly burned down a one-and-a-half-million-dollar lakeside home at Lac La Belle in Waukesha County.  The criminal complaint said an insurance company paid off the home's 275-thousand dollar mortgage, plus living expenses after that.  It was mentioned in a loan application with an Oconomowoc bank for a nearly nine-million-dollar hotel and casino project Islami was working on in Macedonia.  Investigators said the casino has not been completed.  Sheriff's officials said an investigation continues, and more charges are possible.

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A former head of the Wausau Area Builders Association is free on a signature bond, after he was charged with embezzling almost $170,000.  Forty-three Christopher Briquelet of Iola appeared in Marathon County Circuit Court yesterday on 16 charges of theft from a business setting.  All but two of those counts are felonies.  He waived the state's time limit for a preliminary hearing.  Prosecutors said Briquelet had numerous checks improperly written to him, and he made unauthorized purchases from a builders' association credit card.  Authorities quoted him as saying he blamed alcohol and an addition to Vicodin for what he did.  Briquelet was terminated from the builders' group in March of 2012, after serving for about three years.

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About three-thousand Kohl's employees in suburban Milwaukee were treated to a private fashion show put on by Jennifer Lopez yesterday.  She highlighted spring-and-summer items from her exclusive clothing line that's sold by Kohl's Department Stores.  The outdoor event took place at the company's headquarters in Menomonee Falls.  J-Lo said it was her first visit there -- and if you watch "American Idol," you've seen her wear items from her Kohl's product lines.  Lopez has had an exclusive collection at Kohl's since 2011.  Her fashion show came a day after she closed out the World Cup's opening ceremony in Brazil.  

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A ticket sold in neighboring Michigan won the $66-million Mega Millions' jackpot last night.  It was the sixth time this year the jackpot was claimed, and the first time since May 20th.  Nobody from Wisconsin won the million-dollar second prize last night.  A player in Virginia was the only one to do that.  Last night's numbers were 7, 38, 46, 49, and 56.  The Mega Ball was one, and the Megaplier was five.  The jackpot goes back to $15-million for the next drawing on Tuesday night.  Tonight's Powerball jackpot is also at its minimum of $40-million.  That was after a ticket sold in Tennessee won a prize of $259-million on Wednesday night.  Speaking of Powerball, Joe Powers of Sheboygan cashed in a million-dollar ticket this week.  He matched all the numbers but the Powerball in the May 31st game.

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A jury in Stevens Point has found a man guilty of causing the death of his girlfriend's two-year-old son.  The jurors deliberated about six hours yesterday and this morning before convicting 28-year-old Reymundo Perez on both charges against him -- reckless homicide and felony child abuse.  Perez was accused of slamming young Felix Villa-Martinez to the ground, while he was baby-sitting the toddler in October of 2011.  A defense lawyer claimed that the boy's mother had actually caused the fatal injuries at another time.  A sentencing date has not been set.  That could happen on Monday, when all parties plan to take part in a scheduling conference.  

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UW-Madison Police are seeking 84 criminal charges against a former university hospital nurse suspected of stealing morphine.  A 31-year-old Cottage Grove woman was arrested yesterday.  Police said she apparently stole painkillers that were supposed to be given to patients in 42 separate instances.  For each instance, police are seeking a felony count of illegal drug diversion, and a charge of reckless injury.  UW Hospital officials reportedly learned about the thefts after seeing that evidence caps on syringes had been tampered with. UW Police said they're not sure how many actual patients had drugs missing.  

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Authorities now say a man killed near La Crosse was a taxi driver who was thrown in the trunk by the thief who stole the victim's vehicle.  Officials said 25-year-old Timmy Johnson Junior of Lancaster was released yesterday from the Grant County Jail -- and on the same day, Johnson allegedly abducted the 79-year-old cab driver from Platteville and stole his car.  La Crosse Police said an officer recognized the missing cab driver's license plate around one this morning.  A chase began north on Highway 35 into Holmen.  Officials said the car rear-ended another vehicle before rolling over.  Police said the victim was then found in the trunk, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.  An autopsy was reportedly underway this afternoon.  Officials said the cab driver appeared to be beaten prior to the car crash.  His name was not immediately released.  A passenger in the other vehicle had minor injuries.  Court records showed that Johnson was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation, after he pleaded no contest to vehicle theft and bail jumping.  The La Crosse Tribune said Johnson was convicted for stealing a vehicle from a business in Dickeyville, and trying to bribe the officer who arrested him.  He's now in jail, where police say he faces a possible homicide charge.

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Eleven start-up businesses are getting help from a summer program at UW-Madison.  The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation provided $90,000 for a program called "Mad-works at Campus."  It's a 12-week program in which the chosen start-up companies get help with mentoring, business development, and setting up office space.  They also get up to ten-thousand dollars in seed funding.  WEDC leader Reed Hall says the goal is to link dedicated entrepreneurs with mentors who can help guide them to set up viable businesses, and boost their growth potential.  Seventy companies applied for the program.  The eleven chosen firms are working on things like more efficient Web site building, smartphone software for ice fishing, software for decisions on organ donations, a new Internet patent search tool for attorneys.

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Three Wisconsinites got sick by adding chia powder to their food, in an attempt to eat healthier.  The U.S Centers for Disease Control announced the illnesses today.  The three were among 21 people in 12 states who came down with salmonella poisoning linked several brands of chia powder.  The CDC said two people were hospitalized, but the agency did not say where those people were from.  Williams-Sonoma chia powder has been recalled -- along with Organic Traditions, Green Smoothie Girl, and Navitas Naturals.  The CDC warned consumers that chia powder can have a long shelf life, so folks should check their shelves to see if they have any of the recalled products.  Officials said the salmonella symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.  They can start anywhere from 12 hours to three days after a person's infected.

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A dog left in a stolen vehicle has made his way back home.  Greenfield Police said two males pulled a woman from her car when she parked it late Wednesday night, and they drove off.  One dog jumped out at the time -- but a Bichon-poodle mix named Teddy was still trapped inside.  Police said the vehicle was later found abandoned, and Teddy was not there.  This morning, the dog was found wandering on the southwest side of Milwaukee.  Teddy was eventually taken to the nearby Greenfield police station, and was re-united with his owner.

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A police chief near La Crosse has been put on paid leave, after he was suspected of retaliating against a tea party activist by stealing his identity.  Chief Tim Kelemen of the town of Campbell was put on leave by the Town Board during a special meeting yesterday.  He's been accused of using activist Greg Luce's name to create accounts on pornographic and dating Web sites.  Kelemen's lawyer said the move to put his client on leave did not imply guilt.  Board chairman Scott Johnson said his panel won't consider possible disciplinary action until prosecutors decide whether to file charges.  Kelemen came into conflict with Luce when the tea party group put up signs at an Interstate-90 overpass calling for President Obama's impeachment.  The signs prompted the town to pass an ordinance against such activity.  Chief Kelemen called it a safety measure, but tea party members have filed suit to get the ordinance struck down.  Luce is seeking damages against Kelemen for invading his privacy, and violating his right to petition the government without retaliation.

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A new poll says three-of-every-four Wisconsin registered voters support raising the state's minimum wage.  The quarterly Economic Scorecard from UW-Milwaukee shows that 70-percent of voters favor automatic hikes in the minimum wage according to inflation -- thus leaving politics out of it.  When asked what the minimum wage should be, the most common answer was 10-dollars an hour.  It's at 7.25 now.  The UWM poll surveyed 526 Wisconsin registered voters by phone from June second-through-fifth.  The margin of error was just over plus-or-minus four percent.

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An Appleton man who drowned in north-central Wisconsin on Tuesday was identified as 24-year-old Deontae Propst.  Langlade County sheriff's officials said two people jumped from a motorboat, and Propst jumped from a tube that was being pulled.  The other boaters made it to shore, while Propst struggled and went under.  It happened in Deep Wood Lake near Elcho.

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A police chief near La Crosse has been put on paid leave, after he was suspected of retaliating against a tea party activist by stealing his identity.  Chief Tim Kelemen of the town of Campbell was put on leave by the Town Board during a special meeting yesterday.  He's been accused of using activist Greg Luce's name to create accounts on pornographic and dating Web sites.  Kelemen's lawyer said the move to put his client on leave did not imply guilt.  Board chairman Scott Johnson said his panel won't consider possible disciplinary action until prosecutors decide whether to file charges.  Kelemen came into conflict with Luce when the tea party group put up signs at an Interstate-90 overpass calling for President Obama's impeachment.  The signs prompted the town to pass an ordinance against such activity.  Chief Kelemen called it a safety measure, but tea party members have filed suit to get the ordinance struck down.  Luce is seeking damages against Kelemen for invading his privacy, and violating his right to petition the government without retaliation.

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A new poll says three-of-every-four Wisconsin registered voters support raising the state's minimum wage.  The quarterly Economic Scorecard from UW-Milwaukee shows that 70-percent of voters favor automatic hikes in the minimum wage according to inflation -- thus leaving politics out of it.  When asked what the minimum wage should be, the most common answer was 10-dollars an hour.  It's at $7.25 now.  The UWM poll surveyed 526 Wisconsin registered voters by phone from June 2-5.  The margin of error was just over plus-or-minus four percent.

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Almost three of every four Wisconsinites are against spending state tax dollars on a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.  That's according to a new poll from UW-Milwaukee.  Seventy-three percent of almost 570 residents surveyed earlier this month opposed public funding.  Twenty-four percent favored it.  Among those in Metro Milwaukee, 63-percent opposed public funding for a new entertainment facility -- while 34-percent supported it.  The Bucks' new owners, Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, are putting up $100-million toward the new arena.  Former Bucks' owner Herb Kohl put up the same.  That still leaves at least $200-million, which the Bucks owners hope to partially get from private investors.  They said tax funds would still be needed, however.  Survey director Joseph Cera said he was not surprised by the large opposition, and he said it's "not good news for backers of a new Bucks' arena.  Kohl has noted that it's not just the Bucks that would use it. Marquette University men's basketball would also play there, as well as concerts and various other events.  Tim Sheehy of the Milwaukee Metro Association of Commerce is among those looking for regional funding.  Without it, he said "falling behind will be a reality."  

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An Appleton man who drowned in north central Wisconsin on Tuesday was identified today as 24-year-old Deontae Propst.  Langlade County sheriff's officials said two people jumped from a motorboat, and Propst jumped from a tube that was being pulled.  The other boaters made it to shore, while Propst struggled and went under.  It happened in Deep Wood Lake near Elcho.

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A scammer tried to convince two older people in Madison that they missed a summons to jury duty -- and they'd go to jail under they pay $493 fines.  According to Madison police, a man passed himself off as sheriff's lieutenant Brian Harris and claimed he was with the warrants' division.  He made separate calls to an 85-year-old woman and a 62-year-old man.  Both caught the ruse and called Madison Police, where they were assured that they didn't miss a thing -- and they don't owe a penny.  Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the phone number used by "Lieutenant Harris" has since been disconnected.

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Wisconsin utilities have met their requirement to produce ten-percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.  The state Public Service Commission said today that the power companies achieved the standard two years before they were supposed to, under state law.  According to the utilities' compliance reports, they generated almost ten-point-two percent of their power with renewable sources last year -- much of it being wind turbines. Back in 2006, it was not even four-percent.  PSC chairman Phil Montgomery said utilities are "well-positioned" to keep meeting their production requirements for the forseeable future.  The agency predicts 11-and-a-half percent of energy from renewable sources by 2016.  And with the wind energy projects which are lined up, Montgomery says the utilities will probably keep meeting the 10-percent target through 2020.  This comes as the federal EPA ordered Wisconsin to reduce its emissions from coal-burning power plants by 34-percent between now and 2030.  Commissioner Eric Callisto says things like wind power add value as we enter in his words, "a carbon-constrained regulated world."

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Joshua Richards may have been murdered last December -- but parts of him live on in seven other people.  The 25-year-old Richards was shot and killed at a bar in downtown Appleton.  Yesterday, Richards' family met the man who received Joshua's heart in a transplant in January.  Forty-seven year old Benjamin Adler of Island Lake, Illinois said doctors found a blood clot on the morning of his transplant -- and without the new heart, he might not have lived for another 24 hours.  Adler tells the Appleton Post-Crescent that he first suffered a heart attack in 2003, and he had four more after that. Richards' mother, Jackie Pische, said it was devastating to lose her son -- but seeing Adler was simply awesome.

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The FDA agreed to get more input before banning wooden boards in the cheese aging process.  The Food-and-Drug Administration recently called the practice unsanitary.  Yesterday, the agency said it would work with artisan cheese producers to see if there's a safe method for using wood -- which cheese-makers have used for years to create their unique flavors and textures.  Rene Weber of Emmi-Roth-USA said a categorical rule would be devastating for Emmi-Roth and others who try to make high-quality cheeses.  Weber said the industry's nervousness would remain "until the final statement of the final ruling is out."  Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel is credited for the partial reprieve.  He asked the FDA to take a second look.  The FDA has said that wood cannot be sterilized adequately -- and small amounts of Listeria and other unhealthy bacteria could remain after the boards are cleaned.  However, Milwaukee and Sauk County cheese-maker Bob Wills said there's never been a product recall due to contamination from wooden boards.

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The post office in De Pere will be named in honor of a Green Bay Army reservist killed in Afghanistan.  President Obama has signed a bill naming the postal facility for Corporal Justin Ross.  The 22-year-old Ross died in March of 2011, when his unit was hit by enemy fire.  Green Bay area House Republican Reid Ribble introduced a bill in March of last year to re-name the De Pere post office.  He said he wanted to honor all service members from his district who had died in combat since Ribble took office at the start of 2011.  He was referring to Staff Sergeants Jordan Bear, Garrick Eppinger Junior, and Matthew Hermanson -- and Sergeant Paul Atim.  It took two years for the full House to pass Ribble's bill after he proposed it.  The Senate okayed it three weeks ago.

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You cannot protect an individual retirement account from bankruptcy, if you inherit it from somebody who's not a spouse.  That's what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning, in a unanimous decision against Heidi Heffron-Clark of the Madison area.  She filed for bankruptcy after her and her husband's pizza restaurant closed in Stoughton in 2009.  A trustee collected money to pay the couple's debts, which kept growing after the restaurant shut down.  Heffron-Clark inherited a $293,000 IRA after her mother died.  Most retirement funds are protected from creditors, and Heffron-Clark contended that her inherited IRA funds were protected as well.  Lower courts disagreed, saying the status of the IRA changed when it was passed down to Heffron-Clark.  As a result, she could spend the money at any time and any way she chose, instead of having to wait until she was older to cash in the IRA. 

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In what would be a first for Wisconsin, a federal agency wants to put a biological pesticide into a public lake, to see if it would kill invasive zebra mussels.  The U.S. Geological Survey proposes to apply a bacteria called "Zequanox" in parts of Keyes Lake in Florence County in the far northeast part of the state.  If the experiment succeeds, it could lead to a treatment method for controlling the spread of zebra and quagga mussels -- both of which eat up the food that native fish eat.  There's a lot at stake, since zebra mussels are now found in 163 inland lakes and rivers in the Badger State.  Quagga mussels have been discovered in the Great Lakes, but not inland in Wisconsin yet.  The state Agriculture Department has found that the bacteria does not pose a harm to Keyes Lake if it's used the way the manufacturer prescribes. The ag department is taking public comments through June 19th.  James Luoma, a research scientist with the Geological Survey, said Keyes Lake was chosen because zebra mussels have been found there -- and  it has healthy population of native mussels.  

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A former manager of a northern Wisconsin bus line and his wife are both free on signature bonds, after they were charged with embezzlement.  Forty-four Shad Harper managed the Tomahawk Bus Company, and his 46-year-old wife worked in the office until both were fired a year ago.  Prosecutors said the couple stole $90,000 from their ex-employer -- and they reportedly used it for synthetic drugs, groceries, vehicle repairs, and other things.  Both Harpers are charged in Lincoln County with felony counts of theft, financial card fraud, and identity theft.  They waived the state's time limits for preliminary hearings, and further proceedings will be scheduled at a conference on June 26th.  

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