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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Madison could house child refugees from Central America

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MADISON - Madison is the latest Wisconsin city to consider housing some of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. at its border with Mexico.

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Mayor Paul Soglin tells the Wisconsin State Journal the federal government is looking for about 90,000 square feet of space that can be leased.  It has to be available immediately, and have adequate security.  Soglin says there does not appear to be any disadvantages to the idea. It would house up to 250 unaccompanied children for 30-to-60 days, while hearings determine whether they'll stay with relatives in the U.S., or go back to their home country.  Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency made a similar request to Catholic Charities' leaders in Milwaukee.  Over 57,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border since last October.  Most are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

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Authorities in southwest Wisconsin now say that a nine-year-old boy who died while trapped in a grain bin was not trying to repair equipment, as was first reported. Grant County authorities said it now appears that Nathan Sensenig climbed up a ladder and fell into the bin for reasons that are still not known.  At first, investigators thought Nathan was trying to help other family members fix an auger that got stuck.  But that theory was later ruled out, because the auger was not plugged in at the time.  The mishap occurred this week near Lancaster.

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About six of every ten Badger-Care recipients who lost their coverage in the governor's Medicaid reform plan never applied for Obamacare or another Medicaid package.  State health officials said today that 19,000 people above the poverty line bought Obamacare exchange packages by the June 30th deadline.  Around six-thousand more people drifted below the poverty line, and was able to get Medicaid coverage under the Walker changes.  That leaves about 38,000 who lost their Badger Care in April but did not either get new coverage under the exchanges, or bought a private plan not on the exchange, or obtained coverage through an employer or spousal benefits.  Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades says there are too many unknowns to give a complete picture of what choices people made to either get on Badger-Care, or find something else after being taken off.  Meanwhile, critics say the large numbers of uninsured demonstrate the need to accept federal Medicaid funds to put more people on Badger Care.  The state can do that at any time, but the Republican Walker refuses.  He fears the state would lose the extra federal money and be left holding a huge bag.  Walker's main election opponent, Democrat Mary Burke, calls the governor's decision to reject funding "irresponsible and political."

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One of the targets in the John Doe probe into the state recall elections says it needs three more weeks to decide which of its documents should be made public.  A number of reports have come out about allegations that Governor Scott Walker and other top Republicans illegally coordinated the campaigns of GOP recall elections in 2011-and-'12 -- including the governor himself.  Walker has denied any wrongdoing.  One of the groups that was under investigation -- the Wisconsin Club for Growth -- has had about a month to work with prosecutors to decide which records should be unsealed.  Judge Rudolph Randa's latest deadline is tomorrow -- but the Club for Growth says it's "infeasible" to review about three-thousand records that are being challenged for release.  No one has been charged in the matter.

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Former Kenosha County Board member Rob Zerban has about ten times as much campaign money on hand as his Democratic primary opponent for Congress.  According to the latest campaign finance reports, Zerban raised about $104,000 from April through June -- and he had around 102,000 on hand as of June 30th.  Zerban is making his second try to unseat Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville.  Amar Kaleka raised about $29,000 dollars from April through June.  Kaleka had about $10,000 on hand at the start of July.  Zerban and Kaleka are squaring off in an August 12th primary, for the right to face Ryan in 2014.

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All 15 Wisconsin State Senate Democrats have asked the state's Republican attorney general to drop his effort to preserve the ban on gay marriage.  J.B. Van Hollen has appealed Federal Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling from last month, which threw out the 2006 state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages sand civil unions.  Democrats say it's a waste of tax money to keep fighting for one-man one-woman marriage, after a bevy of court rulings which eliminated similar bans in other states.  The Justice Department's Dana Brueck said her boss is simply fulfilling his oath, and doing his job.  Governor Scott Walker is also a defendant in an effort by the ACLU and several same sex couples to strike down the ban.  Walker's office has not commented on the Democrats' latest request.

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Former state Commerce Secretary Aaron Olver was named today as the managing director of the University of Wisconsin Research Park on the Madison campus.  The park has 126 companies that employ university research.  Those firms have about 3,600 employees.  Olver replaces Mark Bugher, one of former Governor Tommy Thompson's top aides who retired last November.  Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Olver's appointment today.  He ran the former state Commerce Department in the final year of Governor Jim Doyle's administration in 2010.  

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled this morning that student fee protester Jeffrey Decker's actions amounted to harassment.  However, the justices said a restraining order to keep Decker off all 26 University of Wisconsin campuses was too broad -- and they sent it back to Dane County Circuit Court to narrow it.  A county judge originally ruled that Decker should be kept off all campus property, because he protested a lack of access to student fee information to the Board of Regents and other university campus meetings.  A state appeals court ruled that Decker's actions were not harassment, but were legitimate protests under the First Amendment.  The justices disagreed.  Jeffrey Decker is a son of former Democratic Senate leader Russ Decker of Weston.

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A man accused of holding a McDonald's manager hostage in Wittenberg will find out August 26th where he'll serve a mental health commitment.  Travis Keiler of Gillett struck a plea deal yesterday in Shawano County Circuit Court.  It found him innocent-by-insanity on felony charges of taking hostages, and not complying with officers while in custody.  Two misdemeanor counts were dropped.  Keiler surrendered after a two-hour-long standoff April 22nd at a combined McDonald's and Shell gas station off Highway 29.  Keiler told officers he had just quit a job, and was driving around with a stolen gun before stopping in Wittenberg.  Officials earlier said that Keiler wanted to get into a confrontation with police, and he gave others a chance to leave before holding the manager hostage.  No one was hurt.  For now, Keiler remains in jail under a 50-thousand dollar bond.

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A former state prison employee has been convicted of sexually assaulting an inmate at the facility where she used to work.  Forty-one Karina Herrera was put on probation, and was told to register as a state sex offender.  She was accused of smuggling a cell-phone to an inmate and performing sex acts on him at the Racine Correctional Institution.  Last month, Herrera pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault by a prison staffer.  Prosecutors wanted to send Herrera to prison.  However, Judge Charles Constantine said probation and sex-offender registration was punishment enough.  He said Herrera did not have a criminal record until now, and she lost her job as she was charged.

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After the housing crisis of the Great Recession, Milwaukee mortgage insurer MGIC saw its profits jump by almost 400-percent from this time last year.   The company that insures lenders against bad mortgages had a net income of $45.5 million dollars from April through June.  That's way up from $12.4 million in the same quarter of 2013.  Earnings totaled 12-cents a share, up from four-cents the year before.  However, the new earnings figure was two-cents less than what outside experts from Yahoo Finance had expected.  At the end of June, almost nine-percent of MGIC insured loan policies were delinquent.  That's down from 12-percent a year ago.  Also, new insurance business kept rising in the last quarter.  

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A Chicago area company wants to buy the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant that closed just over a year ago in eastern Wisconsin.  But the current owners say it's not for sale.  RGA Labs still plans to make its pitch to area officials and residents tomorrow night.  RGA president Robert Abboud tells WBAY-TV in Green Bay that his firm would pay millions in cash for the nuclear plant, and re-start the production of electricity.  Dominion Resources of Virginia closed the Kewaunee plant after utilities which had bought the facility's power found it cheaper to make their power using natural gas.  Dominion has been busy preparing to move spent fuel from inside the plant, and proceeding to a new stage of decommissioning the facility.

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