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Snow predicted across state; Special legislative session called to deal with BadgerCare changes; more state news

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Northern Wisconsin is bracing for its first major snowstorm of the season.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory from this morning through Wednesday evening in Douglas and Burnett counties in the far northwest, where 2-5 inches could fall through tonight. More than 8 inches are possible through Wednesday as several waves of snow move through.

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Further south, 3-4 inches are projected for tonight and early tomorrow in places like Rice Lake and Amery. Far north central and northeast Wisconsin could get 5-9 inches, tapering to 1-3 inches south of a line from Wisconsin Rapids to Shawano.

Weather Service forecasters in Green Bay say the region could also get freezing drizzle through mid-week, but no advisories are out yet for that area.

The most likely chances for snow are this evening in central areas and again late tomorrow.

In southern Wisconsin, snow and light rain are possible as a low-pressure system pushes a cold front through the state the next couple days. Once it passes, the coldest air of the season is due in.

By Friday, highs in Wisconsin could range from the single digits above zero in the north to the teens in the south. The cold snap is now expected to be with us through next weekend.

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Special legislative session called to deal with BadgerCare changes

Wisconsin lawmakers are returning to Madison this week for a special session on delaying the state's changes to BadgerCare.

The first proceeding is at 11 a.m. today when the Joint Finance Committee holds a public hearing on Gov. Scott Walker's request to wait until March 31 to cut off 77,000 people from the state's health program for the working poor.

Under the new state budget, recipients from homes above the poverty line would have to sign up for the federal purchasing exchange under Obamacare. The exchange's website has been plagued with problems although the federal government now says most are fixed.

Even so, Walker says it's only fair for those being pushed into the exchanges to have more time so they can have a better chance of beating the deadlines for signing up. The current federal deadline is Dec. 15 to get Obamacare coverage by Jan. 1.

Also, the state would delay new BadgerCare coverage for childless adults below the poverty line. Democrats say it could put people at risk, and they want Republicans to pay for the delay elsewhere.

In addition, Walker wants to push back the scheduled end of the state's high-risk health insurance pool from the end of the year to March 31. The shutdown would force another 20,000 people to use the Obamacare system for their now-mandatory coverage.

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Utility urges poverty-level customers to look for assistance now

Much of Wisconsin has already had sub-zero wind chills this fall, and with the coldest air of the season coming in this weekend, at least one utility encourages its low-income customers to be proactive in seeking help that's available to heat their homes.

Wisconsin Public Service of Green Bay urges its customers who need help to call them, and they can direct people to the right agencies that provide assistance. The federal government's annual heating assistance program is underway in each county. Kelly Zagrzebski of Public Service says there are also other avenues available for help.

If this year holds true, lots of folks will simply refuse to pay their heating bills, knowing they won't be cut off because of Wisconsin's moratorium on winter disconnections that runs until mid-April.

But then, Zagrzebski said a lot of people will lose their power until they come up with the full amount of what they owe, and that can be a very expensive proposition.

Actual temperatures in northern Wisconsin are forecast to get down to five below zero by Thursday night. Highs Friday could be in the single digits in many places, with overnight lows projected to be around 10 below on Friday night and into the weekend.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

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Gogebic protestor set to enter pleas

The only person charged in a violent protest at Gogebic Taconite's iron ore mine is scheduled to enter pleas two weeks from today.

Katie Kloth, 26, of Weston was ordered last month to stand trial in Iron County on charges of robbery by force, theft and criminal damage.

Prosecutors said Kloth led a group of protestors at a site where Gogebic Taconite was doing exploratory drilling in June. The group allegedly climbed on mining equipment, threw soda at workers, stole a video camera from an employee taping the incident and took a worker's cellphone.

Kloth apparently moved to the Wausau area after she was said to be living in Stevens Point at her arrest. She's free on a signature bond.

The protest triggered a bill that would have banned all non-mining personnel from over 3,000 acres of public lands. One sporting group said it would have expanded the punishment to hunters who've used the site for years.

Senate sponsor Tom Tiffany later scaled back the measure to ban access only near mining equipment and designated mining roads. The bill awaits Gov. Scott Walker's signature.

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Jurors agree concealed-carry holder acted in self-defense

A concealed weapons permit holder has been found not guilty of killing an unarmed man in Milwaukee after the accused convinced a jury it was all in self-defense.

Todd Hadley's acquittal is just now coming to public light after the verdict came down Nov. 20. Jurors deliberated more than two days before finding Hadley, 26, not guilty of reckless homicide and reckless endangerment.

According to his lawyer, Hadley rented out his basement for a party where a fight took place. Attorney Thomas Flanagan told the Journal Sentinel that Hadley was surrounded during the fight, and he fired toward the ceiling and the floor because he felt threatened. A man was hit in the leg, and as Stevie Jenkins was approaching from a side, Hadley fired his gun and killed him. The incident happened in November of last year.

Authorities said Hadley fled to Minnesota where he was arrested a month later. He spent 11 months in jail before he was freed last month.

The defense lawyer said Hadley might have not have been found not guilty had he had not had the concealed weapons permit on him.

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Co-ops get more federal funding to improve local economies

Groups that serve farm cooperatives in Wisconsin and Minnesota are getting a third year of federal funding to help local co-ops improve their economies.

The University of Wisconsin Center for Co-ops and the Cooperative Network are getting another $200 thousand.

The funding is designed to help increase rural access to health care, grow local food systems, provide education about co-ops and help businesses convert to being employee owned. Part of the grant will also help establish a transportation fuel purchasing co-op for Wisconsin schools, which have been plagued with rising gas costs for their bus lines.

Cooperative Network CEO Bill Oemichen told the Brownfield Ag News Network that much of the work is "unique and innovative" in helping build communities.

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Tips offered to avoid cyber scammers

Just a couple years ago, retailers were just starting to make shoppers aware of Cyber Monday. Now that most of us know about it, authorities are hammering home the importance of being safe while shopping online.

State consumer protection officials and the Better Business Bureau are out with a host of tips to make sure the gifts you buy today get to your loved ones, and that you're not scammed now and in the future.

The biggest concern is that people click on bad links and get transferred to websites that snap up their personal information. Officials say the best way to snare a deal is to go directly to a retailer's website. If you see that an ad is poorly written, misspelled or does not have contact information, it's most likely a scam and you shouldn't click further on it.

Consumer experts also remind buyers to be aware when buying things at sites like eBay and Craigslist. Officials say you should research the sale items, keep a paper trail and use credit cards so you can be protected financially.

Those who believe they're scammed should contact local police, their banks and the state's consumer protection agency.

--WSAU Wausau and the Wisconsin Radio Network

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Koch hacker scheduled to be sentenced

A northeast Wisconsin man who helped a group hack into the Koch Industries website will be sentenced today in federal court in Kansas.

Eric Rosol of Black Creek struck a plea deal in September in which prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison term at the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines. Rosol could get up to a year behind bars.

He admitted helping the group Anonymous break into the Koch Industries website in February 2011. It forced the site to go offline for about 15 minutes.

Koch only lost about $5,000 from the actual attack, but the firm spent $183,000 on a consulting group when Koch learned in advance about the planned attack.

Rosol was convicted in his plea deal on a misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer. The judge in the case is also expected to decide today how much Rosol should pay in restitution.

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Serial killer dies in prison

Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis died yesterday. He was serving seven consecutive life prison terms for killing seven female prostitutes in Milwaukee over a 21-year period ending in 2007.

Ellis, 53, was being held in a South Dakota prison under an interstate agreement. An autopsy was planned, and South Dakota authorities will investigate his death.

A prison official said he died from natural causes at a hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Ellis never said why he killed the women. He was arrested in 2009 after Milwaukee police learned that his DNA matched semen found on six of the homicide victims and a blood sample at the scene of the other murder.

Two men were convicted of killing women who were later tied to Ellis. Those men were exonerated. A third man was tried and found not guilty.

In an indirect way, Ellis helped law enforcement statewide when his arrest exposed flaws in the state's system for collecting DNA samples from convicted felons. As it turned out, Ellis persuaded a fellow jail inmate to submit his DNA under Ellis' name, and in 2009, it was learned that over 12,000 criminal suspects throughout Wisconsin never provided their required samples.

Those samples are in a database that police use to solve past and present crimes. This year, the state expanded the DNA collection requirement to include those arrested but not convicted of felonies and sex crimes, plus those found guilty of misdemeanors.

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Illinois deer hunter killed in roadside accident

A Wisconsin deer hunter from northern Illinois who was struck and killed by a car on Friday is identified as Juan Salinas of Roscoe, 52.

Taylor County sheriff's officials said Salinas and other members of his hunting party were standing near the edge of a town road when a car approached them at a high rate of speed. All but two of the hunters jumped out of the way. Juan Salinas died at the scene.

The mishap occurred near the Taylor-Chippewa County line west of Gilman.  A 53-year-old Roscoe man was taken to a Medford hospital and then flown to a Wausau hospital with leg injuries. He was in serious but stable condition at last word.

The car driver, a 42-year-old Sheldon man, was flown to an Eau Claire hospital in stable condition.

9-1-1 dispatchers were not immediately certain which county the incident occurred in -- so they sent deputies from both Taylor and Chippewa counties. The State Patrol, area ambulances and rescue choppers were also notified.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau)

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Eagle-feather headdresses returned to Menominee Tribe

A northeast Wisconsin Indian tribe is grateful to get back two eagle-feather headdresses plus other items once donated to a museum in Ohio.

The Columbus Dispatch said the Athens County Historical Society found the items in storage. The group sent them back to the Menominee Cultural Museum in Keshena.

The tribe donated the headdresses, moccasins, stone tools and other items in 1999 for a collection of Native American and natural history items at the Athens museum. A Menominee tribal chief reportedly bought the items in the 1920's.

Menominee researcher Rebecca Alegria said the pieces are highly regarded by her tribe, and they're very happy to get them back.

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Three, not four, people die in Rock County crash

Rock County sheriff’s officials now say three family members were killed in a weekend traffic crash – and not four, as originally reported.

The Sheriff’s Department said yesterday that a 14-year-old girl who was originally reported dead was actually hospitalized in stable condition at last word at UW Hospital in Madison. Officials blamed the error on a miscommunication between hospitals where the girl and her other family members were treated.

Talia Enciso, 18, of Sharon, her father Alvino Ortiz, 43, and Talia’s seven-year-old sister died at the scene.

Deputies said Enciso was driving a car that failed to yield at a stop sign, and a pickup truck struck the car from the left. The crash happened Saturday morning southeast of Janesville at Hwys. 11-14 and 140.

The truck was pulling a travel trailer at the time. Enciso was a senior at Walworth Big Foot High School.

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Fewer UW students studying to be teachers

The numbers of teacher-training candidates in the UW System has dropped since the Act 10 bargaining limits for teachers and other public workers began in 2011.

The Wisconsin State Journal said the numbers of junior and senior teaching candidates fell by 2.8% from 2010 through 2012. In the previous two years, the numbers of teaching candidates had risen by almost 7%. Nobody knows exactly why the numbers had fallen.

Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell of the UW Madison School of Education said that for the first time, some graduates said they were ill prepared for what they called the political atmosphere that surrounds teaching. Those graduates were surveyed on their experiences three years after completing the training.

Hanley-Maxwell also said the numbers of teachers planning to work until retirement, or for as long they could, dropped dramatically. In 2009, 85% of teachers said they planned to work as long as possible. Last year, that number plunged to 39%. Again, Hanley-Maxwell was not sure exactly why.

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