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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Local judge on Joe Doe case signed Walker recall petition

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ALMA - A western Wisconsin judge with a shirt-tail connection to the latest John Doe Walker investigation signed the recall petition against the governor in 2012.  James Duvall of Alma, the chief judge in the state's Seventh Judicial District, was among the defendants listed when three unnamed plaintiffs tried halting the John Doe probe. 

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A state appellate court ruled Friday that the investigation will continue.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Duvall was the only judge listed by the plaintiffs to sign the recall petitions against Walker -- but the paper said Duvall's involvement may be nothing except for the position he holds.  Duvall is not commenting.  He's a circuit judge for Buffalo and Pepin counties.  The John Doe probe is reportedly determining whether conservative groups illegally coordinated their efforts with the candidates in the gubernatorial and Senate recall contests in both 2011-and-2012.  The Journal-Sentinel said there are investigations in Milwaukee, Dane, Dodge, Columbia, and Iowa counties.  Twenty-nine circuit judges throughout Wisconsin signed the Walker recall petitions. 

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Two Milwaukee police officers were hurt when their squad car slid on a snow-covered street and hit a tree.  It happened just before six last night, while the officers were driving to a place where another officer was chasing a suspect on foot.  A witness told WISN-TV that one of the injured officers made it out of the damaged squad car, and helped the other officer who was driving.  Both were taken to Froedtert Hospital.  The crash is still being investigated.  It didn't snow very much yesterday in southern Wisconsin -- just two-and-a-half inches at the most -- but it was still enough for two people to be killed after their vehicles slid in Dane County. 

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The IRS has granted tax-exempt status for a new Wisconsin foundation that will provide venture capital for start-up businesses.  Donors will get federal tax breaks for giving charitable donations to the new Bright-Star Wisconsin Foundation.  The IRS announced the tax-exempt approval yesterday.  Foundation president Tom Shannon says it will open the door to seven-million dollars that have been pledged by investors -- and they'll start raising more.  Shannon says 12 new companies have applied for start-up funds, and the foundation's Investment Committee will most likely start acting on those requests in January.  Bright-Star chairman Jeff Harris says its funding will be given to companies that are poised for the most growth and job creation.  The new group was first announced this summer.  Former state Financial Institutions Secretary Lorrie Heinemann has been hired to help Bright-Star raise money.  Shannon, who use to own a bio-tech company in Waukesha, says the new effort is a true cause.  That's because entrepreneurial activity in Wisconsin is among the lowest in the nation -- and the new group is intended to prop that up.  Harris, Shannon, and six other founding donors have each pledged a half-million.  Wisconsin taxpayers also have a skin-in-the-game.  The state's Economic Development Corporation has pledged $300,000 to the new group. 

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Wisconsin's corn harvest remains behind the national average going into Thanksgiving Week.  The USDA said 82-percent of the state's corn is in, eight-percent more than a week ago.  Some of the crop had high moisture throughout the fall, and farmers were waiting for drier weather to harvest it.  Many couldn't wait anymore after the cold-and-snow moved in.  Wisconsin farmers didn't have a corn moisture problem last year, due to a long drought.  100-percent of the state's crop was harvested by this time in 2012.  The average for the previous five years is 87-percent, and Wisconsin farmers are five-percent behind that.   Nationally, 95-percent of the corn is harvested, four points higher than a week ago.  The five-year national average is at 91-percent.  This is the final weekly crop report of the year.  The USDA will issue its final corn-and-soybean production estimates for 2013 in January.

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There might be more legal action stemming from the new re-certification elections that begin Friday for over 400 public school unions in Wisconsin.  The state's Employment Relations Commission notified school districts and unions yesterday about the voting window -- which will run from Friday through December 19th.  Last week, the State Supreme Court threw out a contempt order which held up the annual union re-certification elections, which are part of the Act-10 public union bargaining limits.  The Supreme Court is still reviewing a judge's decision that Act-10 is unconstitutional for public school and local government unions.  Union attorney Lester Pines says it means that all school unions continue to be certified bargaining limits -- and if there are unions that don't win the new elections, Pines says they'll go to court to try-and-keep their certification status.  Under Act-10, fifty-one percent of all union members must vote to recertify, instead of the old requirement of 50-plus percent of those voting.  That means members who don't vote are actually voting no.

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Investigators still cannot figure out why a classic Model-"T" Ford car was found a month-and-a-half ago in the Mississippi River.  The "Tin Lizzie" was discovered October 9th during a sonar scanning demonstration for Winona County, Minnesota, northwest of La Crosse.  Chief sheriff's deputy Ron Ganrude said at least half the car remains buried on the sandy bottom of the river, about 20-feet underwater and over 150-feet from the Winona shore.  The scanner is owned by Keith Cormican of Black River Falls.  He said he couldn't tell if there was anyone in the car, because the passenger compartment is buried in the sand.

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"Dishonorable, depraved, and malicious."  That's how a judge in Saint Paul described the way Jeffrey Trevino treated the body of his Wausau area wife after he killed her in February.  Judge Leonardo Castro sentenced the 39-year-old Trevino yesterday to 27-and-a-half years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder in the death of 30-year-old Kira Steger at their Minnesota home.  The maximum sentence was 15 years under Minnesota's sentencing guidelines.  The prosecution wanted 30 years, saying Trevino never provided medical help to Kira, disposed of her body, and never told anyone.  Searchers spent over two months trying to find Steger before she was found in the Mississippi River in Saint Paul in early May.  The judge called the disappearance a justifiable reason for going beyond The defense asked for 10-and-a-half years, saying Trevino served in the military and had a clean criminal record until now.  The judge also rejected an earlier defense request to throw out Trevino's conviction, saying there was no proof that he caused the fatal blow to Kira's face.  Steger's relatives gave impassioned pleas for a 30-year term.  Her father, Jay Steger of Marshfield, said Kira asked him to help get her own apartment just weeks before the murder.  He said, quote, "I didn't have the money to give that beautiful woman, so that she could get a place to live that was away from her husband."  Steger said he's now haunted by guilt over that decision.

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The owner of a pit bull was given two citations, after the dog attacked a seven-year-old boy in Racine.  Police said the Kenosha boy was playing at a cousin's house last Friday when the dog was disturbed by noise from the youngsters -- and it ran to the boy and attacked him.  The boy's mother and a man pulled the dog away, and the mother was treated at a hospital for a puncture wound to one of her hands.  The injured boy was taken to a Racine hospital, and then to Milwaukee Children's Hospital.  There was no immediate word on his condition.  The pit bull's owner was cited for having an unlicensed and unvaccinated animal.

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No citations will be issued after a driver crashed through a wall at Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids.  Police Chief Kurt Heuer said the driver is believed to have suffered a medical condition just before last Saturday's mishap.  An SUV driven by 29-year-old James Pecher was going east on the Riverview Expressway when he blacked out and drove across oncoming traffic lanes and a parking area.  He then slammed into the south wall at the hospital.  A small waiting room and a hallway were damaged in Riverview's emergency department.  

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Yesterday's light snow was apparently a factor in two traffic deaths in Dane County.  A 26-year-old woman was killed in Fitchburg.  Police said she was a passenger in a car that left a road and overturned.  The driver was a 23-year-old man who went to a hospital to be checked out.  In the other crash, a 51-year-old Minnesota man died when a Deerfield school van slid into the opposite lane and struck a pick-up truck driven by the man who was killed.  It happened on Highway 12-18 at Cottage Grove.  Officials said no students were in the van at the time.  The 50-year-old woman who was driving the van was treated at a hospital and later released.  It was the first significant snow of the season, and authorities say it always seems to throw drivers off.  Sussex had the most, at two-and-a-half inches.  The National Weather Service says more light snow showers are possible in much of Wisconsin today, as an upper-level disturbance swings to the southeast.  The north could get as much as an inch.  Lighter amounts are expected in central and southern areas.  Today's highs are supposed to be in the 20's-and-30's.  It could be a few degrees colder tomorrow.  Lake effect snow is expected close to Lake Superior, with 3-to-6 inches today and tomorrow.  A gradual warming trend is predicted for Thanksgiving and into the weekend.

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For the first time yesterday, Milwaukee authorities said a wanted man who was shot during a police chase at Children's Hospital broke the skull of the baby he was seeing there.  Prosecutors filed an additional charge of child abuse against 22-year-old Ashanti Hendricks, who waived a preliminary hearing yesterday.  He pleaded innocent to that, plus other counts of illegal gun possession as a convicted felon and two counts of bail jumping.  There was no sign that the baby was hurt on the day the incident occurred November 14th.  Prosecutors said it was a week later when a medical report showed that the child had a skull fracture consistent with a short fall.  Milwaukee Police said they learned that Hendricks was seeing his baby at Children's Hospital when they went to arrest him for skipping out on a previous sentencing.  He ran off and reportedly showed a gun when police shot-and-wounded Hendricks during a chase on the hospital's seventh floor.  Police have been criticized for their response to Children's Hospital and the resulting chase and gunshots.  Police officials said earlier that they have no policy on handling armed suspects at hospitals -- and they're starting to work on one.

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Marathon Petroleum has agreed to pay for over a-third of the cost of building the proposed new pipeline from the North Dakota oil fields to northwest Wisconsin.  Marathon said it would cover 37-and-a-half percent of the estimated $2.6 billion dollar cost for building the Sandpiper line.  It's due to open in 2016 from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to the Enbridge Energy terminal in Superior.  In exchange for Marathon's contribution, the oil company will get a 27-percent interest in Enbridge's total pipeline system in North Dakota.  The companies said Marathon could increase that share to 30-percent with investments in future improvements.  Marathon will be an anchor shipper for the new 610-mile pipeline.  The company is the nation's fourth-largest refiner.

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Wisconsinites are being urged to prune their trees this winter.  DNR foresters say it reduces the spread of tree diseases, like the common oak wilt.  That's because pruning gives insects fewer chances to attack a tree's open wounds.  Also, experts say pruning reduces the stress on trees -- and it makes it easier to spot branches that are hanging, cracked, or broken.

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