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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Man killed in Beloit house fire IDed

BELOIT - A man who died in an overnight house fire in Beloit is identified as 53-year-old Thomas Jenks.  The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.  

It started around three this morning in a single-family home.  Authorities said one person was out of the house by the time fire-fighters arrived.  Rescuers pulled the second person to safety.  Jenks was stuck in the home's basement, and he died later at a Beloit hospital.


One death has been blamed on Sunday night's heavy thunderstorms in far northeast Wisconsin.  Oconto County authorities said 27-year-old Brad Cox of Abrams was electrocuted, when lightning struck a tree house he was working.  Also, a 31-year-old man was hospitalized in critical condition at last word, after he was hurt while working on the tree house.  He apparently fell to the ground, and was taken to a medical unit in Green Bay.  Heavy rains and small hail fell during Sunday night's storms.  Yesterday and last night, heavy rainstorms pushed through mid-Wisconsin.  Neillsville in Clark County had two-and-a-third inches in a 24-hour span.  Pittsville, about 15 miles south of Marshfield, had two-inches.  It was dry and in the 70's throughout Wisconsin early this afternoon.  Clear to partly cloudy weather is predicted for the rest of the week, with highs generally in the 70's and lows in the 50's.


The Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association will pay $20,000, and its insurer will pay $650,000, to settle claims that it mismanaged a trust account.  In exchange, the state Financial Institutions Department will drop a civil suit it filed against the funeral directors in 2012.  The settlement was filed today in Dane County Circuit Court.  The trust fund was supposed to cover prepaid-funerals that numerous families bought from their local funeral directors throughout Wisconsin.  However, the fund was discovered to have a $21-million shortfall in 2012 -- and it was thrown into receivership.  Receiver John Wirth said the trust fund has recovered just over 11-million dollars, but there's still a shortfall of around 15-thousand.  The funeral directors will pay about $10,000 to the trust fund, and another $10,000 to the state.  Funeral homes have been covering prepaid funeral homes from whatever money's been in the trust fund -- while paying the rest from their own pockets.  A federal investigation into the matter continues.


Wisconsin farmers are making more barley that's being used in a growing craft beer industry.  Craft breweries are already using Wisconsin-grown hops -- and if they can get local barley, the State Journal of Madison says it would be especially appealing to drinkers who want locally-grown products.  Darlington farmer Jim Gratz is harvesting 80 acres of barley this week -- and if it meets the industry's standards, the New Glarus Brewing Company expects to use it next spring in some of its award-winning craft products.  If that happens, Gratz says he'll increase his barley output.  Wisconsin used to be a prime source of barley, but farmers eventually found it more profitable to grow corn and soybeans.  Most barely that's made in Wisconsin is used to feed farm cattle.


Only about one-of-every-seven eligible voters in Wisconsin are expected to turn out for next Tuesday's fall primaries.  State Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy predicts a 15-percent turnout.  That's less than the 20-percent turnout in a similar primary four years ago -- when Scott Walker won a three-way Republican contest for what was then an open governor's seat.  Also, that primary was after Labor Day, when many folks start tuning into politics.  Wisconsin had to move its fall primaries to August in 2012 due to new federal time limits for getting ballots to-and-from overseas voters.  As a result, lots of voters will miss what could be some interesting primary races -- including a three-way Democratic contest for state attorney general, a four-way GOP battle to replace Fond du Lac Congressman Tom Petri, and various state legislative races in which former Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan from Janesville and ex-Senate Republican Van Wanggaard of Racine are trying to return to the halls of the Capitol.  


A Sheboygan woman has had nine years chopped off her prison sentence, after she successfully argued that her term was unfairly longer than four co-defendants.  Thirty-four Renata Neuaone was given a new 13-year term by a Sheboygan County judge -- and she's now expected to be released by the end of this year.  Neuaone and the other four suspects were accused of kidnapping a woman in 2001 over a drug debt.  The 20-year-old victim was beaten, drugged, and hung from a clothesline at a railroad tressel.  That woman survived.  In her original court case, Neuaone struck a plea deal in which prosecutors promised to ask for 12 years in prison -- but the judge gave her 22 years instead.  She won't be totally free when she's let go, however.  Neuaone must serve 18 years of extended supervision once she gets out.