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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Power outage affects thousands in southern Wisconsin

MONROE - It's not a good morning to be without heat.  But thousands of people had that problem in southern Wisconsin, as temperatures dropped to around 10-below.  

Green County sheriff's deputies said there was trouble with a high transmission line owned by the American Transmission Company.  Some people reported seeing flashes of light.  The cause of the outage was still being investigated at last word.  WKOW-TV in Madison said over three-thousand electric customers lost power for several hours in the Belleville, New Glarus, and Monticello areas of Green County, stretching north into the Verona area in Dane County.  Grant County also reported outages.  Alliant Energy's Web site only said one customer was still without power in the area, as of late this morning.  Madison Gas-and-Electric also reported a few customers out east of the Capital City.  Nine o'clock temperatures were still around seven-below in the Madison area.  It was still 18-below in Antigo at mid-morning.


The speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly says he'll consider changing a nearly 20-year-old state law requiring finalists for the UW presidency and campus chancellors to have their names publicized.  Republican Robin Vos of Burlington tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he's heard concerns that the open process has discouraged strong applicants from applying.  Vos said he favors transparency, but not if only second-or-third-tier candidates apply.  Vos said UW Regent and former Lieutenant Governor Margaret Farrow sounded the alarm, as the university looks for a new president to replace Kevin Reilly.  Board of Regents' president Michael Falbo also favors keeping finalists' names secret.  He tells the Journal-Sentinel quote, "We know for a fact we didn't get all the people who were interested because of the process."  It used to be that all candidates for top state-and-local government and school posts were kept secret.  That was until the 1990's, when former Governor Tommy Thompson brokered a compromise between the public entities that wanted secrecy, and the public's-and-media's interests in knowing who's being considered.  The result was a law in which up to five finalists' names were released for what's considered top jobs -- like department heads and school superintendents.  Bill Lueders, head of the state's Freedom of Information Council, said the disclosure is designed to prevent hiring abuses.  He said it would be an "insult to the state" to return to the secretive process of choosing top UW officials.


Fourteen new civil lawsuits have been filed against a pediatrician from Eau Claire accused of touching male patients inappropriately.  61-year-old David Van de Loo now faces a total 26 civil suits alleging malpractice by sexual abuse. That's on top of 17 felony charges of first-and-second degree sexual assault, and child sex assault, and assaults by a medical employee.  The patients told investigators that Van de Loo touched their private areas when they sought treatments for unrelated problems.  A three-week trial in the doctor's criminal case is scheduled to begin January 21st.  A final pre-trial hearing is set for January 15th.  Van de Loo was fired in September of 2012 from the Mayo Health System in Eau Claire, where he practiced pediatrics and sports medicine.  The criminal charges came down a month later.


No charges will be filed against the former tenants of a Lincoln County home found to have 56 dogs and puppies.  Officials said yesterday the tenants turned the pets over to the county Humane Society, after they were evicted from a house near Gleason where they first moved in last month.  Sheriff's Lieutenant Tim Fisher said the occupants were told they could not have so many dogs without a kennel license -- and they were going to get a license for 2014 before the eviction came.  Reports Sunday indicated that the house was condemned.  Not true, according to owners Andy and Tara Hodgkins.  They emailed WSAU Radio in Wausau, and denied that the house had no heat.  They said the heat wasn't being used, despite the sub-zero temperatures and wind-chills in the region for a good share of December.  The Wausau Daily Herald said Lincoln County health officials never condemned the house.  Fisher said there is no criminal case against the tenants, because there was no neglect -- and that the animals were fed-and-watered.  The Humane Society says it's taking steps to let people adopt the dogs, and they'll announce when it happens.  In the meantime, Humane Society officials say there's been incredible support, as they try to accommodate the pets in a place that's only designed to hold one-fifth as many.  


National Presto Industries of Eau Claire is about to get bigger.  One of its subsidaries, the Amtec Corporation, has agreed to buy Chemring Energetic Devices of Clear Lake South Dakota.  Chemring makes military products that include detonators.  Amtec is already one of Chemring's major customers, along with various national governments and defense contractors.  Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.  National Presto makes military ammunition, products to fight adult incontinence, and Presto pressure cookers and household appliances.


If you want to give Packer-Bear tickets for Christmas, you'll have to really open your wallet.  The ticket search engine Tiq-IQ says the average price is $427 to get into Sunday's contest in Chicago that will determine the NFC North champion.  The winner of the Green Bay-Chicago game will win the division crown and a playoff berth.  The loser goes home in second place, and will have to watch the playoffs on TV.  This morning, both the Ticketmaster Ticket Exchange and Stub-Hub were selling seats for as low as $170-dollars apiece.  They're located in the nosebleed sections in a corner of Soldier Field.  The weather shouldn't be a problem.  Highs Sunday are predicted in the upper-20's. And just as reminder -- the kickoff was moved from Noon to 3:25 p.m.  


Milwaukee prosecutors said a group terrorized a customer and employees at a George Webb's restaurant when one of the aggressors killed a cook.  28-year-old Delorean Bryson of Milwaukee was charged yesterday with first-degree intentional homicide in last Friday's death of 21-year-old Reginald Evans.  35-year-old Oliver Kennedy is charged with aiding a felon.  37-year-old Joycelyn Long and 32-year-old Schalanda Long are both charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the incident.  A criminal complaint said the group appeared drunk when they entered the George Webb's on Milwaukee's east side -- and they started arguing with an older man who was alone at the counter.  Evans left the kitchen and asked the group to quiet down.  Authorities said the defendants then began throwing chili and coffee, as female employees helped Evans defend the lone customer.  Bryson and Kennedy left at one point.  Prosecutors said Bryson then returned with a gun and shot Evans -- who bled to death on the restaurant's floor.  Police said they quickly identified the suspects, after one of them used a credit card to pay for their meals.


School officials in Wausau are expected to release a report January third on a two-month investigation into a school Christmas music controversy.  The report was due out by now -- but officials held it back to give rank-and-file school employees named in the report a chance to respond.  In late October, the School Board hired the Ruder Ware law firm to get to the bottom of how a plan came about to limit Christmas music in holiday concerts by school district choral groups.  The idea was scrapped after a high school director put his group on hiatus, saying the plan would eliminate 15 Christmas programs for community groups.  Last night, the School Board was told the report's disclosure could be further delayed if disciplinary action is sought against a rank-and-file worker.  Apparently, that won't be the case.  The state Open Records Law does not give administrators the same courtesies -- and Wausau Superintendent Kathleen Williams has received the brunt of the criticism.  Two School Board members wanted her to apologize for the controversy, while the investigation was still taking place.  Williams said the request would judge her guilty before all the facts are in.  


Mail carriers are making their rounds one more time before Christmas -- a final chance for people to receive a letter-or-postcard from Rudolph.  That would be Rudolph, Wisconsin, where for years the post office has used a special stamp cancellation with a picture of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  All year long, the Rudolph Post Office gets tens-of-thousands of pieces of mail which seek the special postmark.  Postmaster Becky Trzebiatowski says she gets envelopes from throughout the world wanting the special postmark.  Rudolph is located in central Wisconsin, eight miles north of Wisconsin Rapids.


All a snowmobiler wants for Christmas is an open trail -- and in Marathon County, they're about to get it.  Officials in Wausau say they'll open the county trails at eight o'clock on Christmas morning.  They'll be limited to snowmobiles for now.  ATV's can start using them in around 10 days, depending on trail conditions.  Travel says about 30 counties in the southern two-thirds of the state do not have their snowmobile trails open yet, even with all the snow we've had.  The state Tourism Department's Snow Report says the best snowmobiling conditions are in Polk, Washburn, Sawyer, Vilas, Oconto, and Marinette counties -- all in the far north.  However, trails are open in parts of far southern Wisconsin.  Racine County reports good conditions.  The National Weather Service says central and north central areas have 7-to-15 inches of snow on the ground.  Conditions should be great in the far northwest after Sunday's and Monday's heavy snows.  Ashland ended up with 31-and-a-half inches, and Benoit in Bayfield County had 22.  Other parts of the far northwest had more than a foot of lake effect snow from Lake Superior.


Federal officials have recommended a $119,000 for a Waukesha factory where an employee was severely burned this past summer.  The Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration said Pure Power Technologies committed a willful violation of safety rules -- plus seven other serious violations.  A maintenance supervisor was burned June 25th while working on a 480-volt circuit breaker.  OSHA said the employee was not given the proper protection equipment. Pure Power is based in South Carolina.  It has about 220 workers in Waukesha.  The company has not commented the OSHA citations.  It has 15 days to either pay the fine, challenge the citations, or negotiate a reduced penalty.


Wisconsin's second wolf hunting season is now history.  It ended late yesterday, as the last of six zones approached its quota.  The DNR said 69 wolves were taken in Zone-Three, which covers parts of six counties in northwest Wisconsin.  The harvest was two short of the quota for that region of 71.  Five other zones were closed by early November, as hunters-and-trappers reached those quotas just three weeks into the wolf season.  This year's statewide quota was 251 animals, 135 more than the inaugural hunt a year ago.  Both seasons ended on December 23rd -- even though they had been scheduled to run through the end of February.  


The Walker administration has hired a legal team to help the governor decide whether he'll approve a new Menominee Indian casino in Kenosha.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the national firm of Dykema Gossett could get a half-million dollars -- or more if necessary.  The legal team will be led by Lance Boldrey, who used to be an aide to former Michigan Governor John Engler.  Officials said they considered several law firms before it chose Dykema, which has a large Indian law practice.  The firm is expected to review the main arguments over the proposed casino -- and it's expected to hire a financial analyst to review competing monetary claims.  The Menominee has said its new Hard Rock Casino-and-Resort would create thousands of jobs -- but the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes said it would take away revenues from their existing casinos in southern Wisconsin.  The state's law firm will also determine how the tribes' current gambling agreements are affected by the proposal.  Several tribes require that they reimbursed if a new off-reservation gaming house cuts into their profits.  Governor Scott Walker says a lot of work needs to be done before he can make a final decision.  There's been speculation that the decision might not come until after next November's elections.


A man charged with killing his elderly parents in Bayfield County has been moved from a hospital to the county jail.  Authorities said 44-year-old Jim Crain Junior of Iron River may have stabbed himself during the incident.  He was in an induced coma at a hospital in Duluth Minnesota before he was released late last week.  A court hearing has not been set for Crain, who's charged with five felonies in the December seventh deaths of 79-year-old Jim Crain and his 76-year-old wife Eunice in Iron River.  The younger Crain is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of battery to law enforcement officers, and a count of not complying with an officer while in custody. __________________________________ 

A 13-year-old boy drowned yesterday, after a skid-loader fell through the ice on a pond in central Wisconsin.  Clark County authorities said the youngster was clearing snow from a pond near Owen when the machine fell into the water.  His family became concerned and went out looking for the boy.  A relative found his body just after 11:30 yesterday morning.  The boy died later at a Marshfield hospital.  His name was not immediately released.  The Clark County sheriff's and coroner's offices continue to investigate.


Over 100 people showed up at the State Capitol yesterday to observe Festivus, the made-up holiday from a 1997 "Seinfeld" episode.  It was an "airing of the grievances" -- and many of those grievances targeted Republican Governor Scott Walker and his policies.  The crowd gathered at a Festivus pole that's been in the Capitol Rotunda during the holiday season -- along with a nativity scene, a menorah, and a 25-foot Christmas tree.  Protestor Greg Gordon put up the Festivus pole, but not all the grievances were about the governor.  Folks also complained about not winning the lottery, homelessness, and Percy Jackson movies not being as good as his books.  One person said the world needs more egg-nog.  Another said beer glasses need to be bigger.