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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Heating fuel assistance up 42 percent this winter

Low-income Wisconsinites have received almost $50-million in assistance to heat their homes this winter -- 42-percent more than a year ago.  Today, the state said it would make another half-million dollars in federal heating funds available to help low-income propane users cope with high prices for their fuel.  

The money was given to the "Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund," a non-profit group that helps those in need.  The state previously gave a million dollars to the organization.  By getting the federal heating aid, the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund can use public and utility donations to help those with somewhat higher income levels than the people who are eligible for the federal assistance.  The fund has provided three-quarter million dollars this winter to those with incomes of 61-to-80-percent of the state's median.  Governor Scott Walker said the fund has been a valuable partner in the past couple months.  He said he's pleased that the group can leverage the state's additional support to quote, "address a segment of the population that clearly needs help."


State officials said today that Wisconsin added about 28,600 new private sector jobs during the year ending last September 30th.  That's the number to be included in the U.S. Labor Department's next quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.  The report won't come out until March 19th -- and until then, we won't know how Wisconsin's job growth compares to that of other states.  The last report showed that Wisconsin had the 37th-slowest private-sector job growth for the year ending last June.  The new report will show that Wisconsin gained 68-hundred construction jobs over the past year -- the highest year-to-year increase since 2001.


The state will ask a federal appeals court to restore the conviction of a Kenosha man for poisoning his wife with anti-freeze in 1998.  The Justice Department said today it would try to overturn Federal Judge William Griesbach's ruling in December, which cleared 54-year-old Mark Jensen.  Griesbach said a letter written by Jensen's dead wife Julie was wrongly used against him during his trial.  That's because there was no way his lawyer could cross-examine the witness. The letter said that if Julie Jensen ever died, her husband should be the first suspect -- and her neighbors should go to the police.  Jensen appealed in both state and federal courts, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that evidence from dead people should not be allowed in criminal trials.  State courts found the letter to be quote, "harmless."


Most of Wisconsin's snow-storm is over -- except in the far north, where a winter storm warning continues until three o'clock in Vilas, Oneida, and Lincoln counties.  Less than an inch of new snow was expected -- but like other parts of the state, high winds are projected to continue until late afternoon.  Southern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, still has a wind advisory in effect until three o'clock with gusts continuing in the 45-mile-an-hour range.  Southern areas have had the biggest wind gusts throughout this storm, while the far northwest has had the most snow -- 18-inches at Superior at last word.  _______________________

About 4,700  Wisconsin electric customers were without power by noon today, as high winds continued to cause problems throughout Wisconsin.  X-cel Energy had almost 2,550 customers out in the northwest part of the state.  About half those were in an area bounded by Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, and Menomonie.  We Energies had just over two-thousand outages in Waukesha County, and another 150 in the Milwaukee and Appleton areas.  Wisconsin Public Service and Wisconsin Power-and-Light only had scattered outages by noon.  _______________________

A Wisconsin athiest group wants La Crosse Police to stop using volunteer chaplains.  Madison's Freedom from Religion Foundation says the unpaid chaplains represent a government endorsement of religion -- and therefore, they violate the separation of church-and-state.  La Crosse Police have used chaplains for 13 years to join officers at emergency scenes, help them notify families of deaths, and be an ear for officers struggling with personal-and-work problems.  In a letter, Freedom-from-Religion attorney Patrick Elliott said the use of on-the-job chaplains ignores the needs of non-Christians -- and if they were to provide only secular therapy, they'd be nothing more than therapists.  Head police chaplain Mark Clements says the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that volunteer chaplains are acceptable for police to use.  He tells the La Crosse Tribune that police are careful to make sure its program follows the terms of that ruling.