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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Stevens Point man burned down his apartment because he apparently wanted to go back to prison

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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Stevens Point man burned down his apartment because he apparently wanted to go back to prison
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Prosecutors said a Stevens Point man burned down his apartment because he apparently wanted to go back to prison for some reason. Investigators said 39-year-old Roy Strait poured gasoline in his apartment and lit it on fire Tuesday morning. Two people escaped unharmed, and no one else was hurt in the blaze. A Portage County judge set bond at 100-thousand dollars, and Strait is due back in court March 24th for arson and reckless endangerment. Prosecutors said Strait has been talking to police about his apparent desire to go back behind bars. Online court records showed that Strait was sent to prison in late 2006, for violating probation. That's after he was convicted in Milwaukee County of seeking sex with a child while online. Strait was living in Beloit at the time. In 2009, he was re-confined for another two years.

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Wisconsin's two Great Lakes continue to recover from dramatically-low water levels in the past decade and a half. New forecasts from the Army Corps of Engineers show that Lake Superior will rise by one-inch this month -- and the lake's average height for March will be larger than normal for the first time since 1998. By August, Lake Superior is projected to be 13-inches higher than the spring of 2013. Lakes Michigan and Huron expect to be 9-to-12 inches higher during that time period. This is all welcome news to shippers whose boats have sometimes run aground as water levels have hovered below normal since the late '90's. The newly-rising waters are mostly because of our bitterly cold winter, and the near-record ice cover on the Great Lakes. The lakes' environmental research lab said 91-percent of the five Great Lakes were covered by ice as of Tuesday -- the most since 1979, when a record 95-percent was covered. 

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A recent drop in Wisconsin's cheese production may be a blip on the screen. The U-S-D-A said the nation's top cheese-maker rebounded in January, producing two and a half percent more cheese than the same month the previous year. That followed a one and a half percent decrease in December. Cheese factories in the Badger State churned out 242-million pounds of products in January. Wisconsin made three and a half percent more Italian cheeses. Cheddar and American cheese output was down. Second-place California still caught up a little, increasing its output by four-point-six percent to 204-million pounds. Number-three producer Idaho and Number-four New Mexico also had increases.

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Environmentalists say they'll fight plans by Enbridge Energy to replace a crude oil pipeline from Canada to Wisconsin with a much larger facility. Enbridge said this week it wants to spend seven-billion dollars to replace a one-thousand mile pipeline that's been carrying crude from the Canadian tar fields to a refinery in Superior. The old line was built in 1968, and it's designed to carry 410-thousand barrels of oil per day. The new line would carry up to 760-thousand barrels. The project would accommodate the boom in North Dakota's oil production in recent years -- same as a different pipeline Enbridge wants to build between western North Dakota and Superior. Sierra Club attorney Doug Hayes says the new project would attract the same opposition as other lines from the Canadian tar sands. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is scheduled to be briefed on the matter this afternoon, when he meets with Enbridge Energy officials in Superior.

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Two men have died in an apparent murder-suicide in the small Fond du Lac County village of Brandon. Sheriff's deputies were called to a mobile home around five yesterday afternoon. A woman told a dispatcher she was in the home when a man entered with a handgun, and shot the other man before turning the gun on himself. Sheriff Mick Fink said both men were middle-aged. One was thought to be either 56 or 57. An investigation continues.

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A trial date could be set later this month for a state trooper accused of instigating a fight at a tavern in Merrill while she was off duty. 28-year-old Jennifer Latzig of Stevens Point has pleaded innocent to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Prosecutors said her blood alcohol level was point-21 when she flashed her State Patrol badge to two women she thought were drinking underage. It happened December 28th at Humphrey's Bar in Merrill. Reports said one of the women accused Latzig of harassing her, and she threw a drink in the officer's face to get away. Latzig allegedly responded by grabbing the women's hair. She's free on a signature bond, and is due back in Lincoln County Circuit Court March 27th for a pre-trial scheduling conference.

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Wisconsin's two national parks attract more than people. The National Park Service says they also create jobs and millions of dollars to the places where they're located. In a new report, the agency said 274-thousand people spent 28-million dollars in 2012 in and around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore at Bayfield, and the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Saint Croix Falls. The Park Service credits the facilities for creating 442 jobs in the areas of the parks -- both of which are in the northwest part of the state. Almost 60-percent of the total visitors went to the Apostle Islands. The Saint Croix Riverway is lesser known, since it was only established eight years ago.

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Police in Singapore are investigating the death of a 28-year-old Milwaukee area woman. A spokesman called Autumn Radtke's death "un-natural." Her body was found eight days ago at her home in Singapore. She was the C-E-O of First Meta, an exchange that traded bit-coins and other virtual currencies. Radtke also played a role in starting up two other high-tech businesses -- X-Fire and Geodelic Systems. Her funeral was held yesterday in the Milwaukee suburb of Hales Corners.

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A century-old landmark in downtown Manitowoc is coming down. Demolition has begun on the abandoned Mirro cookware manufacturing plant. Eric Spirtas bought the 900-thousand dollar square foot building almost eight years ago for 200-dollars. He said it was impossible to re-use the industrial space, due in part to the Great Recession. Instead, Spirtas says he's trying to salvage what he can -- including northern hemlock and maple floor-boards. He says the demolition should be finished within a year. Thousands of people worked at the old Mirro plant before Newell-Rubbermaid moved the work to Mexico.

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If you want to see Pope Francis come to Wisconsin, the mayor of Green Bay hopes you'll sign an online petition. Jim Schmitt has launched a Web site, with the goal of getting the pontiff to the Green Bay area during his expected visit to the U-S next year. Schmitt wrote the Vatican about a week ago. He encouraged Francis to visit the only Marian shrine in the U-S that the Catholic Church recognizes -- the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion. The church verified in 2010 that the Virgin Mary had appeared at the shrine. Mayor Schmitt says he'd also like to see the pope hold Mass at the 80-thousand-seat Lambeau Field. Francis is expected in America in September of 2015 for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. You'll find the online petition for the proposed Green Bay visit at PopeToGreenBay-Dot-Com.

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