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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS: Intel opens office in Eau Claire

EAU CLAIRE - Intel – the world-famous computer chip maker – has opened a production office in Eau Claire. It’s the result of a deal struck last year by Intel and Cray Incorporated in nearby Chippewa Falls.

Intel bought Cray’s inter-connect hardware development operation for $140-million – and part of the deal required 74 Cray employees to join Intel in Eau Claire. Officials said Intel is now operating in a 40,000-square foot building that was vacant for several months. It used to house a Web design firm.


Much of Wisconsin just completed its driest August in at least five years. The National Weather Service said La Crosse had just over one-inch of rain last month – three-and-a-quarter inches below normal. It was the eighth-driest August on record in La Crosse, and the driest since 2008 when just seven-tenths-of-an-inch fell. La Crosse’s driest August occurred in 1893, when the city only had about a-third of an inch. In general, Wisconsin has had an extremely dry two-month period. As a result, drought conditions have returned to the northwest two-thirds of the Badger State. The National Weather Service has no mention of rain in its statewide forecast until at least Saturday, when there’s a chance of precipitation.


A Minnesota man will spend the rest of his life in prison, for killing a La Crosse camera store owner and his son. A judge decided today that 40-year-old Jeffrey Lepsch will not get a chance for a supervised release at some point. A jury convicted Lepsch in July of killing 56-year-old Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A.J. at May’s Photo in downtown La Crosse last September 15th. Lepsch was also convicted of stealing $17,000 in camera equipment. Prosecutors said he hoping to sell the equipment to get cash to repay a previous debt, and support his family. Lepsch did not make a statement at today’s sentencing hearing. La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke called the incident “intentional,” “thought out,” and “calculating.”


A waste-center in Duluth is banning all brush-and-yard waste from Wisconsin. That’s after the tree-killing emerald ash borer was discovered in neighboring Superior. The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s yard waste compost site and materials recovery center has adopted what it calls a temporary ban on Wisconsin wood waste. Director Marianne Bohren said her facility had no choice, because it must do its part to stop the spread of the ash borer. She says it’s hard for staff members to recognize certain tree species, so all of them from Wisconsin are being banned. The emerald ash borer has hit southern and northeast Wisconsin hard over the past couple years, but last month was the first time it was discovered in the far north. A quarantine was adopted in Douglas County – the normal procedure where the emerald ash borer turns up. People cannot take firewood or other ash products out of the region, and local shippers of ash products must get certifications from the state that their products are pest-free.


The latest ISM manufacturing index shows positive economic growth for the state. The index rose to 55-point-seven percent for August – the fastest pace of growth in the last two years.  Marquette University Economist Dr. Abdur Chowdhury says that index, along with solid construction spending numbers, leads him to believe the economy will grow at least two-point-five percent for the third quarter. Housing numbers in the state are also attributed to the economic growth forecast, although mortgage rates have slightly increased. Dr. Chowdhury says all eyes will be on what the Federal Reserve Bank will do on September 17. He predicts asset purchases will go down, while interest rates and long-term bond yields will see a slight increase.


Authorities in Sheboygan County are looking for the suspect of an attempted burglary. The Sheriff’s office released a photo of the suspect on its Facebook page, asking the public for help. The man is wanted for the attempted burglary of a mini mart in Random Lake on August 21.


The Wisconsin National Guard received its first request for benefits from a same-sex couple. Today marks the first day that gays in the military can apply for benefits, in conjunction with new Pentagon rules. While gay marriage is still banned in Wisconsin, the state has a registry for partners to receive legal rights as a married couples.


The state Insurance Commissioner’s office released its first rate information today about the coverage to be offered through the federal health care exchanges starting next year. Health advocates immediately accused the state of not providing enough information for the estimated half-million-plus Wisconsinites who will be forced to use the exchanges – or pay a penalty under the Obama health law for not having coverage. The state’s new data shows dramatic rate increases for plans offered by the exchanges, compared to similar coverage available now. The insurance commissioner released price comparisons for what individual coverage would cost with a two-thousand-dollar deductible and prescription drug benefits. The state’s analysis compared rates for individuals age 21, 40, and 63 in nine cities. Rates would increase in every situation, from almost 10-percent for a 63-year-old in Kenosha, to 125-percent for a 21-year-old in Madison. The analysis did not take into account the federal subsidies that lower income people would get – reducing rates up to 77-percent. Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children-and-Families calls the state’s data too “sketchy” to make valid comparisons. Robert Kraig of Wisconsin Citizen Action says the state appears to be misleading the public instead of giving them valuable information. About 92,000 Badger-Care recipients will get their coverage from the exchanges – and so will about 400,000 others who are not covered now.


Eight people were killed in Labor Day Weekend crashes on Wisconsin highways. That’s what Randy Romanski of the state DOT said today. The weekend death toll was two less than a year ago – and it was slightly below the five-year average of eight-point-six Labor Day traffic deaths. State law enforcement agencies are still rounding up totals from a crackdown on drunk driving over the weekend. In Milwaukee County, officers picked up 28 alleged OWI offenders. That includes a 54-year-old Port Washington man who was found slumping at the wheel on Interstate-794 on Sunday night. He faces up to six years in prison for his fifth OWI arrest. A 50-year-old Milwaukee woman was cited, just two weeks after she got picked up for driving drunk with eight kids in her car. Milwaukee County had nine traffic crashes with injuries. Motorcyclists were involved in those of those crashes, as Harley-Davidson was celebrating its 110th anniversary.


A state lawmaker plans to hold a news conference on Thursday to explain his bill to require outside law enforcement agencies to investigate officers who kill suspects. State Assembly Republican Garey Bies of Sister Bay unveiled his proposal a week ago. Starting on Thursday, he’ll give colleagues two weeks to sign onto the measure before introducing it. Bies, a former chief sheriff’s deputy in Door County, said his bill would require outside agencies to investigate officers’ actions in the deaths of others. The bill would also make Wisconsin the first state to require a review by a panel of experts, when someone dies in a police confrontation. Bies said he’s being motivated by three officer-involved deaths whose colleagues found them to be justified in killing suspects. The deaths were those of robbery suspect Derek Williams in Milwaukee, drunk suspect Paul Heenan in Madison, and Michael Bell of Kenosha. Bies says he’s most concerned about larger police officers, like those involved in all three of the above cases. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn say they’ll review the measure, and provide input in the future. David Kaminski of Rusk County, who heads the Badger State Sheriff’s Association, says the measure could benefit everybody if both officers and victims are protected in the process.


A man killed while driving the wrong way on the Highway 29 expressway in Shawano County was identified as 35-year-old Keith Carpenter of Menasha. The crash occurred about 12:45 this morning near Pulaski on 29 at Highway 160. Sheriff’s deputies said Carpenter’s SUV was heading west in the eastbound lanes, when it collided head-on with a semi-truck. The SUV burst into flames upon impact. Carpenter died at the scene. The 42-year-old semi-truck driver from Pulaski had non-life-threatening injuries. His passenger, a 24-year-old man from Abrams, was not injured. Crews spent almost six hours putting out the fire, cleaning up a spill of diesel fuel, and clearing debris. WLUK-TV in Green Bay said Menasha Police had told other police agencies they were looking for Carpenter in connection with a domestic incident last evening.


Governor Scott Walker is scheduled to be in Seattle on Thursday for a fund-raiser put on by a conservative think tank. The Policy Center of Washington state is hosting the event. Media reports said Seattle activists and union members plan to protest Walker’s appearance. They said his quote, “divisive anti-labor, job-killing, environment-damaging policies aren’t welcome in Washington.”