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AG dislikes lawmaker tinkering with new DNA collection law; thieves net workers' personal data; more state news
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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

MADISON -- Wisconsin's attorney general says he wants lawmakers to fix the problems they caused, when they watered down his plan to make those arrested for felonies give their DNA to police.

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Lawmakers concerned about invasions of privacy required that local agencies hold onto most samples and not send them to the Justice Department's database of criminals until a defendant makes a court appearance, or a judge issues a probable cause that a felony was committed.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says the requirement could cause bureaucratic headaches for local police and sheriff's departments.

Taylor County Sheriff Bruce Daniels, president of the state sheriff's association, said rural agencies could be squeezed by the requirement -- and there should be only one repository for the thousands of new DNA samples to be collected starting in the spring of 2015.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said the law actually hurts those concerned about civil liberties -- because it would be harder for those found innocent of crimes to have their DNA purged from the government's files.

Van Hollen said he and Gov. Scott Walker carefully crafted the DNA requirement as part of the new state budget and lawmakers had no business wrecking it.

For years, the state has collected DNA only from those convicted of felonies and sex crimes.

A spokesman for Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald said it's unlikely his chamber would revisit the matter. He said lawmakers tried to balance the need to catch criminal suspects with people's right to privacy.

Lawmaker incensed by Target data loss

A U.S. Senate Democrat wants to know if the Federal Trade Commission can fine Target for last week's data security breach.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez held a news conference Thursday outside a Target store in his home state. He said he might hold hearings on whether the Minneapolis-based Target could have been more open about the data breach -- which a blogger exposed a few days after it ended.

Menendez said the threat of a fine could encourage retailers to make a bigger investment in customers' security, and not have buyers lack confidence.

Two federal agencies have been investigating the breach, in which hackers reportedly stole debit- and credit card data from 40 million customers who swiped their cards at the checkouts at all 1,800 U.S. Target stores -- including around 40 in Wisconsin.

-- Minnesota News Network

Lawsuit pending after thieves net personal data from city employees

MILWAUKEE -- Up to 9,000 Milwaukee city employees and their life partners could be exposed to lifelong identity theft, after their personal data was hauled away in a stolen car.

That's what the city alleges in a new federal complaint filed against a company that gave blood tests to city employees in a wellness program.

According to the city's complaint, a phlebotomist for Dynacare Laboratories had her car stolen in late October. It contained a laptop with a flash drive full of unencrypted data from the participants in the city wellness program.

What's more, the city said Milwaukee Police were not told for weeks that the flash drive was in the stolen car -- and that would have made the investigation more urgent. Once they discovered it, police interviewed a Dynacare employee -- and according to the complaint, the company accused the city of violating that employee's civil rights.

The city said it was Dynacare that did the violating. Dynacare said they reported the incident to the federal government, and would have no other comment.

The city contracted with Froedtert Hospital for the wellness program, and Froedtert sub-contracted with Dynacare to provide the blood tests.

A Milwaukee firefighter has filed suit against both health outfits, and at least one city employee union has sued Froedtert. The hospital says it won't comment.

Briefs filed in effort to stop investigation into illegal campaigning

MADISON -- Attorneys have filed legal briefs for- and against the latest effort to halt a John Doe investigation into the state's recall election campaigns from 2011 and 2012.

Three unnamed petitioners are trying to stop prosecutors from taking secret testimony about the allegations in the case. Special interest groups are suspected of illegally coordinating their campaigns with those of GOP candidates in the recall votes -- including Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison recently declined to halt the probe, but it asked the special prosecutor and the judges in the John Doe to file responses. They did so this month, with the state Justice Department representing the judges.

The filings are sealed, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says parts of the documents could be made public if the courts find that they don't interfere with the ongoing John Doe. Walker recently said that he encouraged those who wanted to help him in the 2012 recall vote to work directly with his campaign, and not with outside groups. That's because he had no limits on campaign fund-raising for the recall vote, unlike other elections.

Retailers report busy day-after

Many Wisconsin stores were busy on the day after Christmas as shoppers used gift cards they were given, returned clothes that didn't fit, and hunted for bargains.

David Moss, who manages the Bayshore Town Center north of Milwaukee, said the crowds grew throughout the day. By mid-afternoon, he said traffic was similar to what you'd see on a normal Saturday.

Retail analyst Marshal Cohen said the week after Christmas is an important sales period for many retailers -- especially this year, due to a shorter holiday shopping season, and rough weather in Wisconsin and other parts of the country.

More shoppers bought things online in order to escape the weather. IBM Digital Analytics said that on Christmas Day alone, Internet shoppers spent 16.5 percent more than the year before. Cohen, of the NPD Group, told the Journal Sentinel that many stores need to clear out everything they thought they'd sell before Christmas and didn't.

He also says the average shopper buys two new items for every one that's returned -- so it's vital for stores to find ways to get people through their doors.

Shoppers appear to be eager. The digital coupon company Retail-Me-Not says eight of every 10 U.S. consumers it surveyed planned to shop for year-end sales after Christmas.

Wisconsin line crews help with rebuild after Michigan ice storm

Wisconsin dodged the power outages that hit the eastern U.S. last weekend but crews from the Badger State will help fix the damage.

The Wisconsin Public Service utility and the Upper Peninsula Power Company is sending 50 workers to Flint Michigan. They'll help people who've been without power for several days.

Snow and ice pounded areas from Wisconsin to the East Coast almost as week ago. Parts of southern Wisconsin had nine inches of snow from that wide band of storms -- but the state never had the outages which kept many to the east in the dark through Christmas.

The Public Service crews are from Wausau, Merrill, Minocqua, and Wausaukee. Those crews are expected to work at least through the weekend.

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

Elderly woman perishes in Antigo house fire

ANTIGO -- An elderly woman has died in a house fire in Antigo.

Firefighters were called just before 2 p.m., Thursday, and it took over four hours to get the blaze under control.

Antigo Fire Chief Jon Petroskey said the house had a "balloon-style" construction, widely used 75-125 years ago, and the flames extended the full height of the walls causing several different basement fires plus one in the attic.

Firefighters could not get inside the house until late last night because of the way the flames were spread.

Rescuers revived the woman before taking her to an Antigo hospital where she died. Her name was not immediately released. The state Fire Marshall is investigating the blaze, with help from Langlade County's fire investigative unit.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Far more requests than puppies following animal surrender

MERRILL -- More than 500 people want to adopt 57 dogs and puppies that were surrendered to the Lincoln County Humane Society in Merrill last weekend.

The deadline was Thursday to apply for adoptions.

Officials received almost nine applications for every available pet, plus a lot of donations including money, bedding, pet supplies, and veterinary services.

The Humane Society says the storage space is tight, considering that the numbers of animals are more than five times the shelter's normal maximum.

Workers are also busy screening the applicants for the pets and they hope to place those old enough for adoptions by New Year's Eve.

A couple near Gleason voluntarily gave up the pets, after they were evicted for having so many animals in their home.

Authorities said the 57 canines are generally healthy, and there was no evidence of criminal abuse.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Search continues for pair in home invasion

MANITOWOC -- Police in Manitowoc have been looking for two men who invaded a house and robbed a female resident at gunpoint.

The incident happened just after 10:45 a.m., Thursday.

Police said one of the robbers wore a ski mask, and both had semi-automatic handguns when they demanded money at gunpoint and got away with $100 to $200 cash.

The men then ran away on foot to the south. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

-- Jack Davison, WCUB-WLTU, Manitowoc

Brother of slain Wauwatosa police officer takes his life

WAUWATOSA -- Authorities are investigating the death of man whose sister was murdered on Christmas Eve a year ago while on duty as a Wauwatosa police officer.

Police said 28-year-old Jacob Wernitznig apparently took his own life this week.

He attended numerous ceremonies over the past year which honored Jennifer Sebena, who was shot to death by her husband after she had just left a break room during an overnight work shift.

Ben Sebena, an Iraq War veteran, is serving a life prison term for the murder. He tried unsuccessfully to win an insanity defense, which he claimed was due to trauma from his war experiences.

Funeral services for Jacob Wernitznig will be held Saturday in Wauwatosa.

Wolf harvest tally exceeded quota by six

MADISON -- Wisconsin wolf hunters took six more animals than the DNR intended.

The agency said yesterday that 257 wolves were shot and trapped during the state's second wolf hunt that started Oct. 15th and ended last Monday.

The harvest was six above the quota of 251. A zone in northwest Wisconsin had 75 wolves harvested -- four more above its quota. That zone was the only one open for six weeks, after five others rapidly reached their quotas in the first three weeks of the wolf season.

The hunt was scheduled to run through the end of February but for the second straight year, the season ended on Dec. 23rd when the quotas were reached.

Last year, hunters took one additional wolf beyond the inaugural quota of 116.

Woman jailed for boyfriend's stabbing death

MILWAUKEE -- A 23-year-old woman is under arrest for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend to death in Milwaukee.

Police said a 30-year-old man was killed during an argument in an apartment. It happened around 11:30 a.m., Thursday.

Prosecutors are helping police with the investigation. The victim's name was not immediately released.

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