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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State traffic fatalities from holiday weekend same as last year

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It's too early for the final figures -- but we know that Wisconsin will have at least as many traffic deaths as a year ago during the Memorial Day weekend.  

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Statewide media reports have listed five deaths on the state's roadways between Friday and Monday.  That's the same as the number recorded last Memorial Day.  The Wisconsin DOT said there was an average of eight traffic deaths over the past five Memorial Day weekends, so there's a still chance the final total will be lower than that.  The latest reported death occurred in Iowa County in southwest Wisconsin.  Authorities said 83-year-old Gerhard Kolb of rural Lyndon Station lost control of his motorcycle on Highway 130 south of Lone Rock.  He was thrown from his bike, and he died yesterday at a Madison hospital from his injuries.  Also, two people from Eau Claire died when their vehicles struck deer in Jefferson and Eau Claire counties.  A motorcyclist was also killed in Saint Croix County, and a Merrill area man died in a crash in Marathon County.

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Authorities today identified two Eau Claire residents who were killed in separate deer crashes in different parts of Wisconsin.  Eau Claire County sheriff's deputies said 69-year-old James Tweet was thrown from his motorcycle after it struck a deer on a town road south of Eau Claire on Sunday night.  Tweet died at the scene.  In Jefferson County, the State Patrol said 54-year-old David Running of Eau Claire died Sunday after a deer smashed through the windshield of a vehicle in which he was a passenger in the front seat.  That happened on Memorial Day on Interstate-94 near Johnson Creek.  Running died at a hospital.  The driver, 53-year-old Joyce Running, was also taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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A family-owned meat processing company is about to get bigger in Sauk County.  Straka Meats of Plain says it will add about two-thousand square feet of production and retail space, on top of its current seven-thousand square feet.  It's designed to let the company produced vacuum-sealed sausage, venison, and other meat products.  Straka processes up to 700 cows and pigs each year, in addition to around 500 deer during the fall hunting seasons.  Owner John Straka tells Baraboo News-Republic that most of his meat is grown on farms around the Plain area.  

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A suburban Milwaukee tobacco store owner has been put on probation and electronic monitoring for not paying a quarter-million dollars in state taxes.  The attorney general's office said Mohammad Siddiqui of West Allis bought loose tobacco and cigars in Wisconsin that were never taxed.  Officials said he sold the tobacco at stores in Milwaukee and Sheboygan without keep proper tax records, or paying excise taxes.  Siddiqui pleaded guilty to three charges of distributing tobacco without a permit, two counts of tax evasion, and a charge of obstructing an officer.  A Sheboygan County judge placed him on three years of probation, plus 60 days of electronic monitoring.  Siddiqui was also fined 67-hundred-50-dollars -- plus the taxes he owes.  Also, the state won't let him obtain tobacco permits for two years.

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Wisconsin Republicans shied away from hot-button issues at their state convention this month.  Now, it remains to be seen whether state Democrats will do the same.  The party's annual convention takes place a week from Friday and Saturday in Wisconsin Dells. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says Democratic delegates will vote on resolutions to seek legalization of recreational marijuana in the Badger State, and to make it a plank in the party platform.  Delegates will also decide whether to ask Congress to adopt a single-payer health care system -- and create a carbon tax on emissions that encourage global warming.  All three are radical departures from what we've seen from Madison and Washington in recent years.  Majorities of both parties have rejected marijuana for recreational use, much less a full legalization.  Obamacare -- despised as it is by many Republicans -- uses private insurance to get people covered.  And while President Obama has campaigned on a carbon tax in the past, it has gone nowhere in the divided Congress.  Last month, Wisconsin Republicans rejected heavily-publicized conservative proposals to allow the state to secede from the U.S., have the right to nullify federal laws like Obama-care, and affirm state sovereignty. 

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State officials warned today about an e-mail scam which falsely warns people that they owe Wisconsin income taxes.  Consumer protection officials warned against opening e-mails which list a payment number in the subject line.  One such document warned the recipient that he or she owes income taxes, and to open a spreadsheet before July 11th.  Opening the spreadsheet opens the person to identity theft.  And besides that, state officials say the Revenue Department never e-mails people about tax obligations -- and even if people don't get that clue, bad grammar in the notice should give it away.  One note said, "You has the fines for income tax -- You gotta check out spreadsheet -- otherwise, you'll obtain lawsuit."  It also identified the false revenue official as a "Chief" instead of a division head, secretary, or assistant secretary.   If you get one of those e-mails, state officials suggest that you delete it, and not open any attachments.  To file a complaint, or for more information, check out the Consumer Protection Bureau, accessible at Wisconsin.gov.

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State employees who were forced out of their offices by a fire eleven days ago have been returning to work at different locations today.  The administration department said some people are still working from home -- while others are at alternate locations while the General Executive Facility-One near the State Capitol in Madison remains closed.  The fire displaced around a-thousand people who work in the state Departments of Workforce Development and Children-and-Families.  Recently, officials said the affected building would remain closed for eight weeks or longer.  Files and other materials have been cleaned so operations can resume.  Officials said around two-thousand boxes of important work were being sent to alternative facilities by today.  Both agencies affected by the fire kept their online operations going without interruption.  The same has been true for the call centers for unemployment benefits, and job service facilities.  

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A northern Wisconsin man is due in court this afternoon, after he allegedly killed a pedestrian last fall while driving under the influence of prescription drugs.  47-year-old Evan Mooney of rural Pelican is charged in Marathon County with four felonies -- homicide by negligent driving, homicide while driving under a controlled substance, fifth-or-sixth-time OWI, and causing death with a revoked driver's license.  According to prosecutors, Mooney admitted taking prescription Vicodin and Alprazolam the morning of last October 28th.  Then around mid-afternoon, police said Mooney's vehicle struck 87-year-old John Diktanas in Rothschild.  The walker died about four hours later at a hospital.  Officials said there were a half-dozen drugs in Mooney's system around the time of the crash.  He was arrested Sunday on a warrant.

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A seventh-grader from Shawano is starting to compete today at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington.  Thirteen-year-old Karelyn Malliet is making her first appearance at the nationals, after winning the State Spelling Bee in Madison a few weeks ago. The state champ is normally Wisconsin's only entrant in the field of 281.  This morning, they're taking written tests with 24 spelling questions and 24 vocabulary questions.  During those exams, they'll earn points toward tomorrow's second-and-third preliminary rounds.  That's when we'll see Karelyn for the first time, when all the spellers will compete verbally on ESPN3.  The survivors move to the semi-finals tomorrow night and Thursday.  ESPN's main channel will televise the finals Thursday night.  Karelyn volunteers at Shawano's humane society, and she plans to be a veterinarian.  

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A state appeals court was scheduled to hear testimony today in a Milwaukee case that could further clarify Wisconsin's gun laws.  37-year-old Aaron Ols said police had no right to confiscate his weapon in March of 2012, because he only brandished it on his property.  He says that's allowed under the state's castle doctrine law.  Court records show that Ols was in a park across from his house -- and he was openly carrying a gun in a holster -- when he told a family that animals were not allowed in the park, and they were there past its nightly closing time.  Ols got into an argument with the father, and he did not touch his weapon.  Ols then returned home, and the man followed him and went through a no-trespassing sign on Ols' property.  After three requests for the man to leave, Ols pointed his gun at the ground.  He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but a judge later refused to give him back his weapon.  Ols said the court mistakenly found that the incidents at the park and his house were one.  If they were regarded as two separate incidents, Ols said he would have gotten his gun back -- because he could have justified holding it under the state's castle doctrine law.

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A criminal charge is being considered against a man suspected of letting his 11-year-old daughter drive the family SUV in Wausau, because he had been drinking.  Police said the young girl slammed the vehicle into a tree last Friday evening.  The 35-year-old man was given a traffic citation for allowing an unauthorized minor to drive.  Police are also asking the Marathon County district attorney to file a criminal count of reckless endangerment.

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One of southern Wisconsin's most famous restaurants a half-century ago is being converted into a small theater for live shows.  The Gobbler Restaurant in Johnson Creek has been vacant for over ten years, but the new owner says it has been well-maintained. The Milwaukee area investment firm of Manesis-and-Associates recently bought the property.  The price was $635,000 for a 16,500-square foot building on about nine acres of land.  Owner Daniel Manesis tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the kitchen is being converted to a stage, in a theater with about 500 seats.  He expects it to attract groups that might otherwise perform at The Rave in Milwaukee or the Overture Center in Madison.  A revolving circular bar from the Gobbler's days will remain.  He said the place will be re-named the Gobbler Theater, with an opening date of late this year or by next spring.

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