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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Wolf quota of 156 approved

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MILWAUKEE - A statewide wolf-hunting quota of 156 animals was approved today by the state Natural Resources Board at a meeting in Milwaukee.  

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That's down from last year's quota of 251, as wildlife experts seek to continue a gradual reduction in the state's overall wolf population.  Wisconsin had up to 834 wolves in the spring of last year.  Last fall's hunt, plus an extremely cold winter, reduced the top estimate to 689 wolves this spring. That's still almost twice as much as state's original management goal of 350 animals.  DNR experts say they want to reduce the total gradually, so they can study the impact of hunting on wolf populations.  Today's approved quota includes 65 wolves allocated to Chippewa Indians as part of their treaty rights.  They normally don't hunt those animals, however, saying wolves are sacred to their tribes.  As a result, only 91 wolves are expected to be available to hunters when the third annual wolf season begins in mid-October.

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Wisconsin's largest annual music festival got underway today, but the traditional opening night fireworks show is being pushed back due to heavy fog in the forecast.  Milwaukee's Summerfest attracts hundreds of thousands of people in a week and a half through the July 4th weekend.  The Big Bang Fireworks Show that was scheduled for 9:30 tonight has been re-set for the same time tomorrow night.  Fog has been a problem lately on Milwaukee's lakefront, due mainly to colder-than-normal water temperatures on Lake Michigan as a result of the cold winter.  Last weekend, the fog canceled both days of flight performances at Milwaukee's Air-and-Water Show.

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The USDA has conditionally-approved the first vaccine to fight a virus that has sickened and killed pigs in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  Harris Vaccines, based in Iowa, has come up with a medicine that boosts immunity in sows with the PED virus, or porcine epidemic diarrhea.  Company spokesman Joel Harris cautions that the vaccine's immunity to PED might only last a few months in animals.  Other companies have been working on vaccines as well.  PED has killed millions of baby pigs since it appeared in the U.S. last year.  Among other things, it's been partially responsible for a jump in consumer pork prices.

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Most Wisconsin hospitals are not likely to penalized under a new Obamacare provision which seeks to reduce infections and complications due to hospital stays.  The U-S Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services listed 65 hospitals in Wisconsin, and 761 nationally, that could lose one-percent of their federal Medicare reimbursements.  However, Kaiser Health News analyzed the numbers, and found that only six Wisconsin hospitals and 175 nationally are most likely to be penalized.  That's because their preliminary scores are high enough to put them at the most risk.  The Affordable Care Act seeks to improve the way hospitals cut down on internal infections, complications, and patient injuries.  Rates for those problems will be evaluated for a two-year period ending next month.  The government's preliminary list included those with problems in the first year of the period to be checked.  Kaiser Health News said the Wisconsin facilities most in jeopardy of losing Medicare are funds are Divine Savior in Portage, Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc, Mile Bluff in Mauston, Ministry Saint Mary's of Rhinelander, Midwest Orthopedic of Franklin, and Wheaton Franciscan Saint Joseph of Milwaukee.

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A West Allis neighborhood was being canvassed this afternoon, to see if there's any evidence connected with the discovery of dead bodies in a pair of suitcases near Lake Geneva.  Walworth County Undersheriff Kurt Picknell confirms that his deputies and Geneva Town Police were working with West Allis Police in the neighborhood.  The bodies were found June fifth inside a pair of suitcases seen while a highway crew was mowing grass along Como Road near Lake Geneva.  One victim was an adult woman.  The second person was female, and likely to be an adult.  Officials have said that the suitcases were apparently moved to the grassy area from somewhere else in what they called an "isolated incident."

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Wisconsin hunters are about to have a longer mourning dove season, and an early teal-only duck hunt.  The state Natural Resources Board approved both changes today at its meeting in Milwaukee.  The teal-only duck hunt runs from September first-through-seventh, before the start of the normal duck season.  Only green-and-blue-winged teal can be taken, with a daily bag limit of six.  Also, 20 days will be added to the dove season starting this fall.  It will end on November 29th instead of the ninth.  The DNR's migratory bird game ecologist, Kent Van Horn, says duck hunters have asked for their changes for many years.  Wisconsin has around 130-thousand migratory bird hunters.

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Wisconsin's same-sex couples scored a legal victory today, when a three-judge federal appellate panel ruled for the first time that states must let gays get married.  Part of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a district judge who threw out Utah's ban on same-sex marriages.  The three appellate judges said it's "wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples."  The panel immediately put its ruling on hold, so it can be appealed either to the full 10th Circuit panel, or to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Earlier this month, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of Madison threw out Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriages, which -- like Utah's -- had been approved by voters.  She, too, put her ruling on hold while it gets appealed.  And Crabb did not say what would happen to the more than 550 same-sex marriages which took place in the week after she initially ruled the ban was unconstitutional, but before she put her ruling on hold.  State attorneys in both Wisconsin and Utah said voters exercised their legal rights to define marriage in their respective states -- but gay rights' lawyers said voters cannot act in ways which deprive certain people of their rights.  Sixteen federal judges have struck down various gay marriage bans since last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out much of the national Defense-of-Marriage Act.  The Supreme Court is not expected to take up the states' gay marriage bans until next year at the earliest.

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A national environmental group says Wisconsin has the eighth-worst beaches among 30 states which border either oceans or the Great Lakes.  The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a report today, which rated state beaches according to the bacteria levels from water samples taken a year ago.  The report said 14-percent of Wisconsin's water samples failed to meet EPA standards for safe beach swimming waters.  Nationally, ten-percent of 35-hundred beach samples exceeded new and more stringent EPA limits for E-coli bacteria.  The new maximum is 190 E-coli colony-forming units per 100-milliliters in a single sample.  The old max was 235 units.  Great Lakes beaches have higher E-coli levels than their ocean counterparts, mainly because the Great Lakes are much smaller -- and they don't have the water circulation levels that oceans have.

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A 52-year-old man has turned himself in to Milwaukee Police, admitting that he killed his 60-year-old girlfriend.  Police announced the arrest this morning.  Officials said the victim was stabbed multiple times about 5:30 p-m yesterday inside a home on Milwaukee's north side. Investigators said they knew who the suspect was before he surrendered late last night.  No names were immediately released.

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Three men are due back in court next Monday on reckless homicide charges in the overdose death of a Manitowoc man from painkillers.  A coroner ruled that 26-year-old Christopher Vogel died from an overdose of prescription Fentanyl gel patches, allegedly provided by 29-year-old Tyler Reed of Manitowoc.  Investigators said Reed bought them from 29-year-old David Radandt of Two Rivers, who purchased them from 33-year-old Thomas Fagan of Two Rivers.  Officials said Fagan had a prescription for the narcotics.  All three men are charged with first-degree reckless homicide.  Reed was put under a 10-thousand dollar bond, and Fagan under a six-thousand-dollar bond.  Online court records show that Radandt posted his five-thousand dollar cash bond.

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No charges will be filed against a 15-year-old boy who allegedly took a pellet gun to summer school classes at Green Bay East High School.  Police recommended a disorderly conduct charge against the boy, but Brown County District Attorney David Lasee said he didn't have evidence that the teen threatened anyone with the weapon.  The DA also said he didn't know why the youngster took it to school.  A staff member at Green Bay East reported seeing a boy with a gun on Monday morning.  A parade of law enforcement officers converged on the school with their guns drawn.  About 200 students were evacuated in waves, and the 15-year-old was arrested along with a girl who was with him.  

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