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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: New Year brings cold, snow to Wisconsin

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It's not as cold as expected in northern Wisconsin on this first morning of 2014.  But the eastern counties along Lake Michigan will get a bigger dose of lake-effect snow than was originally forecast -- up to eight inches in Metro Milwaukee.  

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About the southern third of the Badger State got at least some snow on New Year's Eve.  Janesville reported the most, with three-and-a-half inches by early evening.  Most other parts of the region had 2-to-3 inches.  The National Weather Service says a low pressure system that's moving south of Wisconsin will bring lake-effect snows to eastern Wisconsin.  Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha could get 4-to-8 inches today and tomorrow.  Three-to-five inches are in the forecast along the lake between Kewaunee and Ozaukee counties.  The nearest tier of inland counties can expect 1-to-3 inches.  The rest of Wisconsin will stay dry, or close to it.  Meanwhile, it's warmer than expected in the north, if you can call it that.  It was 17-below at five a-m in Hayward, where the overnight low was predicted to be minus-27.  Winds are light for the most part.  Highs today are expected from the single digits above in the north, to around 20 in the southeast.  Tonight's lows are expected to be in the teens in the south, to the teens-below in the far north.  

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The federal health care reform law has identified 32,000 low-income Wisconsinites as being eligible for the state's Badger-Care health program.  Some of those people could receive coverage as early as today, when key parts of the Affordable Care Act take effect for the New Year.  State Medicaid director Brett Davis wrote the affected residents last week to explain their options.  The 32,000 referrals were almost twice the 18,000 referrals announced a month ago.  They were made by the Obamacare online purchasing exchanges, which are now handling hundreds-of-thousands more cases now that the system's early computer glitches are disappearing.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the early referrals represent about a-third of the 94,000 adults expected to sign up for state coverage as the result of Obamacare.  Some of the referrals appear to involve people who've been eligible for BadgerCare for a long time, but are only coming forward now because of the Obama-care requirement to get covered by January 1.

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A sheriff's deputy is being called a hero for saving a western Wisconsin teenager on a ski slope in neighboring Minnesota.  17-year-old Dan Mannon, a snow-boarder from Wilson, was waiting in line for a chair-lift ride when he collapsed last Saturday at the Afton Alps ski resort east of Saint Paul.  Mannon just happened to be standing next to Washington County deputy Shane Linehan -- who kicked off his skis, checked Mannon, and found that the teen did not have a pulse.  Linehan and ski instructor Kevin Neubauer performed CPR while the ski area's general manager, Joe Yasis, arrived with a defibrillator.  The unit shocked Mannon's heart enough to get it going again.  He's still undergoing tests at Regions Hospital in Saint Paul to find out what happened and why.  At a news conference yesterday, Mannon thanked Linehan and the others who saved him.  Without the officer's fast action, the teen said he wouldn't be alive right now.

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A young boy and his sister were hospitalized in serious condition at last word, after they were crushed by a large pack of snow that fell on them from a roof.  Seven-year-old Norma Nolt and her 10-year-old brother Nelson of Chippewa Falls were both taken to an Eau Claire hospital before being transferred to a unit in Rochester, Minnesota.  Authorities said the youngsters were playing on a skid-steer in a shed, when the snow slid from a neraby barn on the shed's roof.  That caused the roof to collapse onto the skid-steer's cab -- where the youngsters were crushed underneath.  Their father heard the collapsed, and used another skid steer to free them.  Neither child had a pulse then, but rescuers revived both.  The incident happened last Saturday afternoon.

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Authorities have confirmed that Milwaukee educator and child sex abuse suspect Ronnie Johnson died in a fire early Monday at his home in Brown Deer.  An autopsy was performed.  Police are still waiting for preliminary results.  They said it could take two months or longer to get results from toxicology tests on the 47-year-old Johnson.  His body was burned extensively -- and authorities were not sure at first whether the victim was a man or a woman.  Officials said Monday that Johnson owned the home which was gutted.  The cause of the fire has not been determined.  Federal and state investigators are helping Brown Deer look into the blaze.  Johnson was charged last summer with almost two dozen felonies, for allegedly molesting five children of various ages from 1991 until 2013.  He's a former charter school leader and Milwaukee public school teacher.  His attorney, Rodney Cubbie, offered no new comment yesterday. On Monday, Cubbie said Johnson had followed the terms of his jail release -- including home confinement and electronic monitoring.  His body was found in a front room of his home.

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The last of 74 malnourished animals taken from a farm in Racine County has found a new home for the New Year.  Pedro and Michelle Rivera, who own a wellness center for animals in Sturtevant, have adopted a black-and-white-spotted pony named Maximus.  They plan to use the animal to help teach equine spinal manipulation techniques to veterinarians and other animal health professionals.  The pony was the last of 23 horses and 51 other abused animals taken in April from a farm at Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County.  The farm's owners are facing charges of mistreating animals while causing death.

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The Wisconsin DNR will spend the next few months surveying the deer population in the zone where chronic wasting disease has hit hard.  Officials are warning residents that they'll use low-flying choppers and fixed-wing aircraft to get as low as 100-feet of the tree-tops.  Eastern Rock County and western Walworth County will be the first places to be checked in early January.  Flights will also take place in parts of Dane, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk counties.  The DNR said the survey work should be finished by the middle of February.  The information will help determine the deer population in the CWD zone.

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It's becoming more likely that most Wisconsin adults will have to show photo ID's before they can vote in next year's major elections.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) now says his chamber could possibly vote on a modified voter ID law.  That's if the courts don't settle the issue by the time the Legislature is due to adjourn for the year in early April.  Fitzgerald has refused to let his house vote on the modified ID bill passed by the state Assembly. Fitzgerald has been waiting the courts to rule on the constitutionality of the original voter ID law from 2011.  A state appeals court has ruled the law as constitutional -- but the matter is still pending before the State Supreme Court, where two legal challenges are being reviewed.  Also, a federal court has yet to rule on two other lawsuits challenging the mandate.  Earlier this year, state Assembly Republicans passed a modified bill they believe would be constitutional.  It allows people to vote without ID's if they sign sworn affidavits that they're too poor to obtain the ID's, or the birth certificates required to have them -- or if they have religious objections to showing ID's. Their votes would undergo special scrutiny during recounts.  Critics say the measure would put a Scarlet Letter on the poor.  Republicans say voter ID is needed to curb potential vote fraud.

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Target said today that only a small fraction of its holiday gift cards were not activated properly.  Earlier reports said as many as 40,000 Target gift cards were not activated -- and therefore, they were not accepted at the checkouts. Today, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said the numbers were much less than what's been reported in the media -- but she didn't give the correct total.  Snyder said less than one-tenth of one-percent of Target's gift cards were not fully activated -- and they can be either re-set at the stores' customer service desks, or by calling a toll-free number listed on the cards.  The problem comes just days after Target suffered one of the nation's largest security breaches, when data was compromised from thousands of customers' credit-and-debit cards.  That problem occurred at virtually all of Target's 1,800 U.S. stores, including around 40 in Wisconsin.

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Fire-fighters in Eagle River have been busy building a massive ice castle -- a tradition that goes back for eight decades.  Deputy fire chief Jim Bonson says it's a way to thank the community for supporting its volunteer-based fire service.  It's also a big draw, attracting tourists from throughout the Midwest.  The castle is made from thousands of blocks of nearby lake ice.  The towers are about 30-feet tall.  It lights up at night -- and as cold as it's been, it should stay around for a while.  The castle is near Highways 45 and 70.

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A Saint Norbert College graduate who became a Hollywood designer and author will speak to this spring's grads at his alma mater.  Chris Ayers (airs) will be the commencement speaker May 18th for the De Pere school.  He'll also receive the President's Medal for his work.  Ayers has written four "Daily Zoo" books, which resulted from his own battle with blood cancer.  Part of his book sales are donated to cancer-related research groups and charities.  Ayers' first movie design work came in 2000 for "Bubble Boy."  He's had more than two dozen movie credits since then -- including "Men in Black Two," "Star Trek," "The Incredible Hulk," "Austin Powers in Gold-Member," and "The Santa Clause Two."

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