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CWD spread continues in Iowa, Dane counties; off-color e-mail costs DOT lawyer his job; 9 more state stories

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Hudson Star Observer
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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

MADISON -- Chronic wasting disease continues to get more prevalent in southern Wisconsin's deer population.

The DNR said Tuesday that almost one of every four adult male deer in Iowa County and western Dane County are thought to have the fatal brain disorder.

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The 25 percent prevalence rate among adult males is up from 20 percent a year ago, and 8- to 10 percent back in 2002 when CWD was first discovered in the Badger State.

Officials caution against comparing annual prevalence figures, because the numbers of deer that are tested varies from year-to-year. But the DNR says it's clear that infection rates are rising -- bucks are more likely to be infected than does -- and CWD rates are higher among older adults than yearlings.

Chronic wasting disease has been found in 18 Wisconsin counties, but it's mainly concentrated in two regions west of Madison, and in Rock and Walworth counties.

The state has spent around $45 million to try-and-control CWD in the first decade since it's been found. Federal funds covered much of the expense.

Off-color e-mail costs DOT attorney his job

MADISON -- The state Transportation Department's chief legal counsel has lost his job over an explicit e-mail he sent to Scott Walker's former Milwaukee County aides.

John Schulze Jr. was working for the American Transmission Company in 2010, when he re-sent the Walker aides an old fake news release. It joked about legalizing prostitution to increase tourism and provide jobs for those on welfare.

The e-mail was among the 27,000 released last week in the court case of former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch.

She's appealing her conviction for doing illegal campaign work in the Milwaukee County executive's office. The Madison weekly paper Isthmus first reported that Schulze left his job last Friday, two days after the e-mails were released.

Gov. Walker's chief spokesman Tom Evenson confirms it. He said "The e-mail is in poor taste, and there is no room for this poor conduct in Gov. Walker's administration."

Schulze wrote that he found the fake news release on an old zip-drive. He has not commented on his departure. Schulze was the DOT's chief lawyer since last May.

He has also been an aide to former Governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum, and has worked in the Assembly and Senate staffs.

Voter ID ruling pending from Supreme Court

MADISON -- The future of Wisconsin's voter ID law might hinge on whether there's a constitutional way to guarantee that folks don't have to pay to get the ID's they need.

The State Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on two legal challenges to the 2011 requirement that people show photo ID's to exercise their right to vote.

The law gives out free ID's to those who need them -- but to get them, voters must show birth certificates or pay $20 to get a birth record.

Justice Pat Roggensack, part of the court's four-member conservative majority, said she was bothered by the prospect of having to pay to vote.

The court considered the question of whether they could drop fees for birth certificates, but Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said it would not help Wisconsin voters who were born elsewhere.

Justice Department lawyer Clayton Kawski, who defended the ID law, said the state has the right to impose registration requirements -- and the ID law backs up the fact that a voter had registered.

He said 90 percent of Wisconsinites have ID's, the plaintiffs have not shown it's impossible to get one, and those without ID's can still cast provisional ballots.

Justice Michael Gableman got one of the plaintiffs' attorneys to concede that the law probably would be constitutional, if the cost barrier for getting the needed documents went away.

Roundabout veto bill stalls out

MADISON -- A state lawmaker does not expect approval this year for his bill to let local communities have the final say on building roundabouts at intersections.

GOP Representative David Craig of Big Bend was happy that his measure got a public hearing Tuesday, with about a month to go in the current session.

Craig told the Assembly Transportation Committee he believes the DOT is over-using roundabouts, and putting them in places where they're not workable.

Modular housing representative Amy Bliss said her company's trucks are too big to use the roundabouts, and it costs more to find detours around them.

State DOT engineer Jerry Zogg testified against letting communities veto roundabouts, saying they've reduced serious accidents. A study last year showed that roundabouts reduced severe mishaps by 38 percent, but minor fender-benders rose by 12 percent.

About 280 of the European-type traffic circles have been installed in Wisconsin since the 1990's. The DOT expects to build another 90 in the next three years.

Fake e-mailed utility bills are malware, officials warn

MADISON -- Wisconsin utility customers are being told to watch for fake bills in their in-boxes.

State consumer protection officials say they've received complaints about e-mails from the "Energy Billing Service" or "Energy Billing System."

The fake bills are in the range of $500 and people are asked to click on a link to review their most recent bills. Consumer protection official Sandy Chalmers say the bills look real, but clicking on them could make you download malicious software.

That could give your machine a virus, or lead to a fake Web site where someone will try steal your identity by coaxing out personal information. The state also says that We Energies has received about 50 complaints from its customers about the e-mails. We Energies offers e-mail billing, but the real subject line says "We Energies - My Account."

Anyone receiving a fake e-mail is urged to delete them.

Rhinelander next town to mull cell phone restrictions

RHINELANDER -- A committee in Rhinelander will spend the next month considering the idea of banning hand-held cell phones while driving, after Wausau passed a similar ban earlier this month.

Alderman George Sauer, who proposed the ban, said he saw a dozen drivers chatting on cell phones while going from his house to City Hall for Tuesday night's meeting.

Police Chief Michael Steffes says inattentive driving laws now cover the distracted chatters but a more specific cell ban would be another tool to stop dangerous situations.

Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns says he's not wild about having local police do the work, while the state grabs up most of the revenue from the fines. He wanted to know how much Madison's cut would be.

Johns also said he'd rather see a statewide ban cell ban by drivers, but it doesn't appear likely this year.

Seven minority Democrats and one Republican have signed onto a bill introduced in the Assembly earlier this month. It's parked in a committee with just over a month to go in the current legislative session.

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

EPA providing $5 million more to control invasives

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is giving another $5 million to projects that control invasive species in the Great Lakes region.

Officials announced 11 grants Tuesday as part of the ongoing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Wisconsin agencies did not directly receive any of the latest grants, but the state could indirectly benefit by a $500,000 grant to Michigan Tech University to prevent the spread of Eurasian water-milfoil in Lakes Superior and Huron.

The plant has been known to create thick canopies, cause snags to boat motors, and potentially cause problems for fish.

The Restoration Initiative has spent over $220 million over the past five years to fight invasive species.

Almost $100 million of that was spent on ways to prevent the bloated Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes from the carp-infested Mississippi River.

Jailers injured by unruly inmate

MILWAUKEE -- Three Milwaukee County jail officers were injured in an attack by a combative inmate.

Sheriff's officials said a 43-year-old homicide suspect refused to return to his cell Tuesday, and he tried striking an officer. The guard then attempted to use a stun-gun, but it failed.

Authorities said the prisoner tried tried choking another officer and then a third guard used his Taser weapon.

Other officers helped to get the suspect handcuffed. He was taken to a hospital after striking his head on a wall, and was returned to the jail after treatment.

One guard is off work with a torn tendon. Another suffered facial injuries, and a third hurt his forearm.

Green Bay deaths ruled murder-suicide

GREEN BAY -- The deaths of a man and a woman in Green Bay have been ruled a murder-suicide.

Jeffrey Fish, 52 and Linda Dickenson, 47, were found shot to death in their apartment on Monday.

Police said Fish shot Dickenson and then turned the gun on himself.

Media reports said police had been called to the couple's house several times in the past seven years often for alcohol-related domestic incidents. Officials said the two were drinking at a wedding last Friday night and Fish never showed up for a family fishing trip on Saturday.

Police checked on the two after Dickenson failed to show up for her job on Monday morning.

Mobile home fire kills one

SHEBOYGAN -- One person was killed overnight Tuesday in a mobile home fire in Sheboygan.

Media reports said three others were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The blaze broke out shortly after midnight at the Indian Meadow park.

Firefighters found the deceased individual inside the burning home.

The state Fire Marshall has been called to help investigate, and the Red Cross has been asked to provide assistance.

Ex- LaCross officer gets jail for evidence thefts

LA CROSSE -- Former La Crosse Police Lieutenant Brian Thomson will spend three months in jail for stealing and taking drugs that officers seized as evidence.

Visiting Judge Todd Ziegler also sentenced the 44-year-old Thomson Tuesday to three months under electronic monitoring, as part of a three-year probation term.

Ziegler said Thomson put a "black eye" on the La Crosse police force and betrayed the public's trust.

He admitted stealing and using meth-amphetamines three times. An audit later showed that 63 packages of drug evidence were tampered with, including meth, cocaine, heroin, and prescription medicines.

Officials said the tampered evidence resulted in two drug cases being dropped against other defendants and other such cases are still pending.

Police began investigating Thomson last June, when his captain discovered that he made unauthorized visits to the evidence storage area.

In August, he was given a bag of fake evidence to process -- and he was arrested after stealing the drugs from that package. Thomson ended up pleading guilty to his original charge of attempted illegal narcotics possession. A plea deal kept him out of a state prison.

Ripon woman scores a million with lottery game

RIPON -- A woman from Ripon has become a millionaire, thanks to the Wisconsin Lottery's first $30 instant scratch game.

Mary Ann Waltenberry won the first of four $1 million prizes in the "Instant Million" game, which went on sale for the first time last Friday.

Waltenberry will speak to reporters about her good fortune on Thursday. She'll receive just over $673,000 after taxes. Waltenberry bought her winning ticket at the Ultimart Citgo West convenience store in Ripon.

The store will get a $20,000 commission for selling the prize.

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