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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Somerset man found dead in Apple River

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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Somerset man found dead in Apple River
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

SOMERSET - A man found dead in the Apple River in northwest Wisconsin has been identified as 47-year-old Charles Geiger of Somerset.  Saint Croix County authorities said kayakers found Geiger's body snagged on a rock in the middle of the river on Sunday. 

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The death remains under investigation, but foul play is not suspected.   An autopsy showed that Geiger drowned. Toxicology test results are pending.

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A deer made himself at home in Eau Claire, after smashing into a hotel meeting room yesterday.  A driver called the Clarion Hotel on Highway 37 to say that a deer broke one of its windows.   Hotel officials said a four-or-five point buck probably spent up to 20 minutes in an unoccupied meeting room, leaving blood and a broken mirror behind.  Nobody was hurt.  A short time later, Jeanette Lane was eating and watching TV when she heard a loud noise in her duplex near a UW-Eau Claire outdoor athletic complex.  Sure enough, a deer broke through a window, sped near her, checked out a couple of her rooms, and ran off.  Lane tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram the deer flew at her at a full speed.   DNR warden Scott Thiede said he believed the same animal broke into both places.

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A Trempealeau County moratorium on new frac-sand mines is not stopping one proposal from moving forward.  The Independence City Council voted 5-1 last night to annex property to include part a proposed silica-sand mine for Hi-Crush Partners of Texas.  Because the facility would be under municipal regulations, it would step around a temporary county moratorium on new frac-sand mines.  The Whitehall City Council will also decide next Monday whether to annex part of the Hi-Crush property.  The firm has already spent around four-million dollars to prepare the site for the $75-million-dollar mine, which would provide the fine type of sand that oil-and-gas companies use in their drilling equipment.  The mine would cover about a-thousand acres, and create 61 jobs.  Trempealeau County's moratorium was designed to study the potential health effects of frac-sand mining on local residents.  

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Two people were killed and another person was injured early Monday in a house fire in south-central Wisconsin.  It was reported around 1:30 a.m in the Adams County town of Easton, about 15 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells.  Sheriff Sam Wollin said the house was engulfed in flames when the first officers arrived.  He said two residents failed to get out of the house, and were pronounced dead at the scene.  The third resident was taken to two hospitals during the night.  There was no immediate word on that person's condition.  The cause of the blaze is still being determined.  The victims' names were not immediately released, pending notification of relatives.

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Local governments in 18 Wisconsin counties have less than a month to decide whether to prohibit rifle hunting, when the deer season begins on November 23rd.  A new rule from the state DNR allows rifle hunting statewide for the November gun season and the antlerless deer hunt in December -- except where local governments mandate otherwise.  In the past, many southern Wisconsin communities banned rifle hunting, under the assumption that shotguns were safer -- and less powerful.  However, DNR officials said they've learned in recent years that there are no real safety advantages to a shotgun-only deer season.  Studies also found that a change to rifle hunting did not noticeably increase gun accidents.  The DNR says there will no longer be any more county-wide rifle bans as of November first.  The only exception is Milwaukee County, where all communities have banned rifle hunting.  Fifty-three other counties have entirely switched to rifle usage, thus putting communities in 18 counties on the fence for now.

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A new state correctional officers' union has asked a judge to drop a requirement that it hold another certification vote next month.  The Wisconsin Association for Correctional Law Enforcement was formed in July, when it voted to engage in the limited collective bargaining for wages allowed under Act-10.  Now, state employment relations' officials say the union needs to hold another election in November -- just like the state's other unions -- in order to remain certified.  Yesterday, the new prison guards' union asked a Dane County judge to throw out a second vote, saying it already met its Act-10 obligation.  A court recently threw out re-certification votes for local government and public school unions, and the state is appealing.  However, that issue has no bearing on the correctional workers, because state employees remain covered under Act-10. 

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Almost two dozen Wisconsin charities lost millions-of-dollars to inside thieves over the past five years.  The Washington Post found that over a thousand non-profit groups in the U.S. -- and 22 in Wisconsin -- reported fraudulent "diversions" of assets on their federal tax returns from 2008-through-last year.  The Post said the 10 largest diversions drained over a half-billion-dollars from charities.  Its list included the Oneida Golf and Country Club in Green Bay, which reported on its 2008 return that a former controller embezzled $2.6 million dollars over eight years.  Waukesha Memorial Hospital lost one-point-four million dollars over five years when an employee created a fake billing scheme.  Shepherds' Baptist Ministries of Union Grove reported a half-million-dollar embezzlement from its ex-controller, Michael Lowstetter.  The president of Shepherds Ministries, William Amstutz, said it raised concerns about trust which affected his entire organization emotionally but quote, "It has not rocked our faith."  All told, four Wisconsin credit unions reported fraudulent diversions on their tax returns -- as well as a land trust, a volunteer fire department, and a chamber of commerce.  The Washington Post said the reported losses represent only a small fraction of the total.  The diversion box on the tax return is relatively new, and it only applies to larger charities.  Many don't report the amounts of their losses, or the reasons -- even though both are supposed to be listed.  Some embezzlements were made public soon after they occurred, but many never were.

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Wisconsin House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner plans to offer a bill as early as today to limit the government's ability to read your e-mails and see who you're calling.  The Menomonee Falls lawmaker says he'll propose an overhaul of the National Security Agency that's similar to a plan drafted by Democrats.  The House Intelligence Committee is considering more modest changes.  That panel is expected to hear today from top U.S. intelligence leaders who are expected to defend current surveillance efforts in the name of fighting terrorism.  National pundits say Sensenbrenner has gone 180-degrees on security issues.  That's after he championed the USA Patriot Act following 9-11, and accused privacy advocates of "exaggeration" for raising concerns about domestic spying when the act was re-authorized in 2006.  Sensenbrenner said the NSA's sweep of millions of Americans' phone and Internet records goes far beyond what he ever intended in the Patriot Act.  He recently told an interviewer there needs to be a balance between security and civil liberties.  Sensenbrenner said the intelligence committee has gotten into trouble because quote, "They apparently do not see why civil liberties have got to be protected." 

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Smokers pay more under Obama-care -- and health advocates fear that many uninsured smokers will just pay the fines for not having coverage, and keep puffing away.  Ellen Vanderboom of Marshfield Clinic says she hopes the higher premiums for smokers in the federal government's purchasing exchange won't discourage them from getting coverage they badly need.  Up to 700,000 Wisconsinites will be required to get coverage from the exchange by December 15th, or face a possible fine.  The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that a non-smoker who makes 30-thousand dollars a year would pay just over 25-hundred dollars a year for the so-called "silver" plan under Obama-care, including the tax subsidy.  Smokers would pay almost $1,300 more.  Michael Fiore of the UW-Madison Center for Tobacco Research says smokers in Obama-care will get coverage for stop-smoking counseling and medicines -- and if their rates will go up if they don't quit.  Fiore tells the Wausau Daily Herald the increase is necessary to help insure everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions.  National surveys show that higher percentages of uninsured people smoke than those already with coverage.  About one of every five total Wisconsinites smoke.

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Governor Scott Walker said today that if he rejects a proposed casino for Kenosha, a new gaming house will not be built in nearby Illinois to fill that gap.  Gov. Walker said he had Wisconsin's Gaming Division study that question -- because of a lot of people are asking it.  He said Illinois issues gaming licenses to private companies instead of Indian tribes -- all of the Prairie State's allowable casino licenses have been issued.  Walker today promised to issue a daily update on the issues dealing with the Menominee tribe's request to open an $800-million Hard Rock Casino and resort at the old Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha.  Walker has said that all of Wisconsin's 11 Indian tribes must support the project.  The Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes remain against it, even though the Menominee promised to make up gaming losses by the other tribes as a result of a new Kenosha casino.

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Governor Scott Walker's book will not hit the stores for another three weeks -- but already, critics are taking issue with segments reported in the media.  Walker's book "Unintimidated" quotes state Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville as saying he would have persuaded his 13 Democratic colleagues not to leave the state in 2011, had he been at the meeting where they decided to leave town to try-and-block a vote on Walker's Act-10 union law.  Cullen tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he never said that.  Walker also wrote that he would have laid off hundreds of workers if a Milwaukee County union did not make concessions -- and he quoted the union chief as saying, "Go ahead and do it."  Union leader Rich Abelson tells the Journal-Sentinel quote, "That is frankly just a lie ... He has no proof, and no witnesses of that."  The Republican Walker says he cannot comment on the book until it goes on sale November 19th.  However, he told WKOW-TV in Madison the book relies on extensive research from him, his aides, and legislators.  Walker said people will see that his overview of what happened over the last two-and-a-half years is the most comprehensive to date.  Walker's book was co-written by the governor and former White House speech writer Mark Thiessen. 

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A constitutional amendment is quietly speeding through the state Legislature to change the way Wisconsin's chief justice is chosen.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this afternoon to have a majority of the Supreme Court pick its chief justice every two years, and to limit that person from serving more than six years in a row.  The state Assembly Judiciary panel is scheduled to vote Thursday on the amendment -- which would need approval in two consecutive legislative sessions, and then by the voters in a statewide referendum.  Just over two dozen Republicans are sponsoring the change, which would make it more likely that the chief justice would have the same political philosophy as the rest of the Supreme Court.  The court currently has the same conservative majority as the rest of state government.  Shirley Abrahamson, one of two liberals on the seven-member court, has been the chief justice for 17 years.  The chief is currently the justice with the most seniority, and there's no limit on that term.  The Supreme Court has had a number of sharp public disagreements in recent years, but things appear to have quieted down in the last few months.

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Most of Wisconsin's public online schools have received grades of "incomplete" -- and the rest are not doing so well as a group.  The state's educational report cards included ratings for eight-of-the-28 virtual schools in the Badger State.  Of the eight, just four met or exceeded performance expectations outlined in the state's new accountability standards.  The eight schools had just over 47-hundred students in the past school year.  The other 20 virtual schools served about 17-hundred students combined.  State officials did not grade them because they were small, were less than three years old, or did not have students who took the state's achievement exam.  Teaching veteran Tom Young runs the E-Achieve Academy in Waukesha.  He says virtual schools help some students fit in with the public education system, and he believes on-line schools should no longer be judged as a whole.  It was only five years ago when those schools needed to band together to avoid become extinct.  A state appeals court had recommended that taxpayers stop funding online schools.  That sprung virtual school advocates into action, and the governor and Legislature ended up approving a new funding plan.  That was back when Wisconsin had just 12 virtual schools -- less than half of what it has now. 

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The Minnesota Innocence Project and a Minneapolis law firm are digging for legal flaws that could free five men convicted of killing a co-worker in Green Bay 21 years ago.  The five were convicted of killing Tom Monfils in 1992 at what was then the James River paper mill.  Last night, almost four dozen people took part in an annual walk-and-rally for the defendants.  Emcee Denis Gullickson told them that two Minneapolis attorneys are examining the case for free -- and so is Minnesota's equivalent of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, that has freed a number of high-profile inmates who were wrongly convicted.  The 35-year-old Monfils was found in a pulp vat, killed by co-workers reportedly upset that he went to police when one of the defendants stole scrap wire.  Michael Piaskowski was freed by a federal court 12 years ago.  The other five have been trying unsuccessfully to get paroled -- Keith Kutska, Michael Johnson, Dale Basten, Reymond Moore, and Michael Hirn.  

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Milwaukee Police investigators will spend a fourth day combing through a landfill to look for evidence involving the disappearance of Kelly Dwyer.  The 27-year-old Dwyer disappeared October 10th.  Media reports said her boyfriend was the last to see her before she vanished.  38-year-old Kris Zocco has since been arrested twice on what authorities said were unrelated charges.  Yesterday, Zocco pleaded innocent to five drug-related charges.  His lawyer tried but failed to drop two felony counts of maintaining a drug house, and possessing marijuana with the intent to sell it.  Zocco is also charged with possessing narcotics, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia.  All sides in the case will meet November 19th, when a trial date could be set.  Meanwhile, Zocco is scheduled to make his first court appearance tomorrow on 17 child pornography charges resulting from his second recent arrest late last week. 

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A Milwaukee man will spend three years in prison after he and his brother returned fire in a mob brawl.  26-year-old Steven Brooks then pointed a gun at a police officer as he was being chased -- and the officer shot him in the buttocks.  Circuit Judge J-D Watts said Brooks was lucky to be alive, because the officer emptied his entire magazine during the pursuit.  His lawyer said doctors could not remove the one bullet that struck Brooks, and he must use a wheelchair or crutches to get around.  The incident happened July 13th.  Officers later discovered that Brooks was carrying a handgun that was stolen in suburban West Allis.  He pleaded guilty earlier this month to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, and bail jumping.  A charge of pointing a gun at law enforcement was dropped in a plea deal.

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A factory in Madison has agreed to pay 32 of its residential neighbors to settle a federal environment lawsuit.  Judge Barbara Crabb approved a settlement yesterday in which Madison-Kipp will pay $4.6 million.  The settlement was reached in July.  The homeowners will get money and pollution control equipment.  They'll also get clean fill to replace the top 12-inches of their soil, which Madison-Kipp will remove.  The Wisconsin State Journal said the federal agreement is similar to one approved by a state court judge in Dane County last month.  That one involved 52 neighbors, and it cost Madison-Kipp another $2.6 milion.  Both lawsuits accused the company of lowering the neighbors' property values due to industrial contamination.  The firm denied those allegations.  Madison-Kipp makes machine components for industrial, transportation, and lawn-and-garden customers.  The company still faces a state environmental suit.  It accuses the firm of not disclosing discharges of harmful PCB's in the 1960's-and-'70's. ______________________________________________

A Wisconsin woman found dead in a car trunk in Chicago was identified yesterday as 30-year-old Erin Ziemendorf of West Allis.  Kenosha Police arrested a 40-year-old man she was dating.  WLS-TV in Chicago said the man confessed to the slaying, and he led police to her body.  Ziemendorf was left in a parked car near a Greyhound bus station in Chicago's West Loop area.  A medical examiner performed an autopsy, and found that Ziemendorf died from blunt neck trauma caused by an assault.  

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Officials in Madison are looking at ways to reduce racial disparities in Dane County's criminal justice system.  District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says one idea is to have "community courts."  Seventeen-to-25-year-olds from high-minority neighborhoods who commit minor offenses could be placed into a restorative justice program.  They could pay their debts to society without having criminal records which can hurt them in finding jobs and housing.  The second proposal would add more slots for minorities in Dane County's drug court, which lets offenders be in monitored rehab programs instead of jail.  The Wisconsin State Journal says both programs have been considered for several months.  They're coming to fruition at the same time that a consultant blames an overcrowded justice system for the county's record of racial disparity.  The Center for Effective Public Policy suggests more objective tools for assessing criminal suspects, and to improve data systems to show why more minorities than whites are prosecuted.  African-Americans make up six-percent of Dane County's population, but they make up 40-percent of the county jail population.

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Wausau school taxpayers will spend up to four-thousand-dollars to have a law firm investigate a now-scrapped idea to limit holiday music by students.  The School Board voted last night to have legal researchers from Ruder Ware find out who came up with the idea -- who made the calls -- and the community uproar once the word got out.  The controversy began earlier this month, when the Wausau West High School Master Singers were put on hiatus.  That was after director Phil Buch was told to ease up on the Christmas music his group normally sings at 15 community events during the holiday season.  Other Wausau schools put their holiday concerts on hold, amid reports that a quota was developed for the numbers of Christmas songs compared to those of other cultures and religions.  The policy was later scrapped.  Now, people want to know who did what-and-when.  Wausau Superintendent Kathleen Williams came under fire throughout the process.  She wants School Board members to be part of the investigation, and see if they fanned the flames on social media.

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A Wisconsin insurance company has paid almost $16,000 to compensate customers in Vermont whose damage claims were not properly evaluated.  The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation said it found that Dairyland Insurance of Stevens Point was wrong in its calculations of total vehicle losses for 11 claims during 2011.  The department said Dairyland has agreed to adopt new policies-and-procedures, plus extra training for all its employees who handle claims' losses in Vermont.

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A Marshfield trucking company is getting bigger.  Roehl Transport said today it purchased Brock Cold Storage and Trucking, located at Vesper in Wood County and Owen in Clark County.  CEO Rick Roehl said his firm is excited to enter the cold storage market, and his firm recognized the high-quality business-and-customer relationships built by the Brock family.  The Brock location in Owen has 120,000 square feet of cold storage space.  The Vesper facility has 38,000 square feet.  The firm will be re-named Roehl Cold Storage, and the Brock trucking operation will merge into Roehl Transport.  The company said Brian Brock will remain in a management post, and former Brock employees have been offered jobs with the new firm.

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Wisconsin's newest brewery plans to become the state's craft beer-maker by far.  The Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona is scheduled to open its tap-room on Friday.  Four types of beer will be sold in the city's bars-and-restaurants at first.  Next week, Wisconsin Brewing plans to debut its product in stores -- as well as taverns-and-eateries in 22 counties.  Craft beers are booming, while the nation's largest brewers are seeing their sales drop.  Craft breweries throughout the U.S. sold just over 13-million barrels last year -- a whopping 15-percent increase from the year before.  Eventually, Wisconsin Brewing hopes to boost its annual out-put to a quarter-million barrels a year -- twice of what the state's largest craft brewer produces now.  

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Forty-five years ago, Stoughton became the first place in the world where synchrotron light sources were used to study human cells and make huge medical breakthroughs.  Now, something newer has come along -- and the Synchrotron Radiation Center will close for good on Jan. 6.  Thirty UW-Madison scientists will be put out of work.  The National Science Foundation cut the center's funding, after scientists began using the "Aladdin" X-ray machine to improve their understanding of how cells are put together.  WKOW-TV in Madison says about half of the first-generation of synchrotron light sources remain in Stoughton, and the rest are immortalized at the Smithsonian.  Over the years, the Wisconsin scientists have found some of the answers to Alzheimer's, computer chip materials, and the use of algae as an alternative fuel.  They also discovered non-invasive treatments for brain cancer.  Center director Joseph Biognano said his facility used advanced hard drives that only later became more common.  Other UW officials say it's part of a more general trend to cut federal funds for basic science . About a-third of the 30 scientists at Stoughton are on leave.  The rest are winding down long-time experiments.

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You've heard it forever -- there's no cure for the common cold.   Now, we know why, thanks to new research at UW-Madison.  Yesterday, the journal Virology published a pair of UW studies which show that three strains of the rhino-virus make up around 85-percent of all colds.  However, there's no cure for the third strain known as the "C"-strain, and that's the one which gives us the classic cold symptoms like coughs and runny noses.  What's more, lead researcher Ann Palmenberg says the "C"-strain accounts for up to half the colds that children get -- that puts kids even more at risk.  The "C"-strain is also factor in respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma.  Rhino-virus "C" was only discovered seven years ago, and it tends to cause problems deep in the lungs.  Palmenberg says the next step is find a receptor that's unique to the "C"-strain and develop medicines for it.  That could take a long time.  Palmenberg says it's not easy to come up with a compound that would be both effective and safe.

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Even in today's ultra-high-tech society, one thing rarely goes out of style -- laser light shows.  This week, the UW-Stevens Point planetarium is putting on a series of night-time laser shows to raise money for its programs -- including new displays of astronomy.  Doctor Randy Olsen says the colorful laser light shows date back to the 1960's, and there's been a resurgence in recent years.  This week's shows in Stevens Point are being set to classic albums from Pink Floyd and the Beatles.  There's also a "Fright Night" showing on Halloween.

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