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Temp takes 30-degree spike; Douglas Co. deputy shoots man to death after incident at party; Two giraffes die in Dells fire; North Dakota man wins Champion Liar title; more briefs

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Temp takes 30-degree spike; Douglas Co. deputy shoots man to death after incident at party; Two giraffes die in Dells fire; North Dakota man wins Champion Liar title; more briefs
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

It's more than 30 degrees warmer than at this time New Year's Day in parts of Wisconsin.

Sparta had a reading of 12 above at 6 a.m. after shivering in 20-below temperatures just 24 hours earlier. Richland Center was the state's cold spot at minus 21 yesterday.


But this morning, temperatures are in the teens throughout Wisconsin. Waupaca and Siren were at 19 at 6 a.m. while five cities throughout the state were at 10 above. Wind chills were generally in the single digits above zero.

Low clouds moved into Wisconsin last night and warmed things up. It's supposed to stay relatively mild at least through the weekend. Highs in the teens and 20's are expected until Friday, with slightly warmer temperatures possible through the weekend.

The only precipitation in the forecast is possible scattered flurries for tonight, tomorrow morning and Saturday.


Department of Justice investigates New Year shooting

The state Department of Justice is investigating the shooting death of a northwest Wisconsin man by a Douglas County sheriff's deputy early Tuesday morning.

The Duluth News-Tribune quoted witnesses as saying that Andrew Closson, 21, snapped at a New Year's Eve party at his father's house because nobody would lend him a car to go see his ex-girlfriend, and he repeatedly claimed that he wanted to die.

A short time later, officials said Closson was walking along the Hwy. 53 expressway in the town of Gordon when he pointed a deer rifle at a deputy. The officer shot Closson on a bridge over the St. Croix River about 40 miles south of Superior.

Closson died later on New Year's morning at a hospital in Duluth, Minn.

The paper quoted friends and neighbors who said Closson was a "good kid," but he was distraught over his girlfriend.

Reports said he fired a couple shots in his father's house, and perhaps outside the home. No one was hurt in those shootings.

The sheriff's deputy who shot Closson has been placed on administrative leave.


Woman dies in Vilas County snowmobile accident

Investigators say alcohol might have been a factor in a northern Wisconsin snowmobile death.

Vilas County sheriff's deputies said a 40-year-old Morton, Ill., woman lost control of her machine on a curve, and it went down an embankment and rolled over several times. She died later at a hospital from internal injuries.

Officials continue to investigate the crash, which happened on New Year's Eve. The victim's name was not immediately released.

It's at least the third death on Wisconsin snowmobiles this season. As of last weekend, the Department of Natural Resources had reported a pair of fatal mishaps in late December in Iron and Sawyer counties.


Two giraffes die in Dells fire

A fire at the Timbavati Wildlife Park has left two four-year-old male giraffes dead.

Wisconsin Dells police say there currently is no reason to believe the fire is suspicious.

A 9-1-1 call was received Sunday at about 6 p.m. When firefighters arrived they found the giraffe enclosure fully engulfed.

That park was closed for the season. It features exotic animals, rides and other attractions. Visitors are allowed to feed the giraffes.


North Dakota man wins Champion Liar title

For the first time in a decade, the Burlington Liars Club has chosen somebody from outside Wisconsin as its annual World Champion Liar.

Rick Schaff of Devils Lake, N.D., tells the story of a secretary who learned that a branch office was out of paper for a fax machine - so she faxed some over.

Schaff gets a certificate from the Burlington Liars Club as well as his 15 minutes of fame. Gene Lasch of Shawano placed second, and Ed Zilmore of Phoenix was third.

Over 500 entries were submitted this year.


Walker works for relaxed mining laws

Gov. Scott Walker will use the first business day of the New Year to rally support from industries for more relaxed mining laws in Wisconsin.

Walker will speak at businesses in Green Bay, Schofield and Milwaukee today to discuss what he calls his "Mining for Jobs" agenda. The governor plans to have area lawmakers at his side as he makes a pitch to create mining jobs.

A bill that would have sped up the state's approval process for new mines was defeated in the last session because moderates and Democrats opposed the relaxing of environmental rules and the elimination of public challenges to parts of the approval process.

Democrats used a short-lived majority in the final months of last year to produce their own package for the new session which begins next week. It calls for a two-year time limit for the Department of Natural Resources to approve new mines while preserving environmental protections and still letting opponents challenge various items in contested-case hearings.

Gogebic Taconite says it's against the Democratic bill, and the state's largest business group says it doesn't go far enough to provide much-needed jobs.

Gogebic Taconite scrapped plans to build an iron ore mine near Hurley last year after a Republican package was defeated.

Walker recently said he wants a bill that both creates jobs and protects the environment.


Congressional delegation weighs in on 'fiscal cliff' vote

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan says it will be hard to solve the country's economic challenges if President Obama doesn't push for bipartisan solutions.

The Janesville Republican said the national debt won't be controlled until the president and Congress address high government spending and the nation's slow economic growth.

Last night, the House joined the Senate in ratifying the agreement which keeps the federal government from falling over the fiscal cliff. It holds off massive spending cuts for two months, and it prevents 98% of Americans from getting tax hikes other than the ending of a temporary Social Security tax break. It will take about $60 a month from the average person's paycheck.

Ryan said he voted for the measure to avoid much larger tax hikes for most people. He praised his colleagues for "limiting the damage as much as possible."

Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore said she is happy that the deal continues the extended unemployment benefits and higher taxes for couples making $450,000 a year.

As for the spending cuts, Moore worries what might happen in two months when the automatic cuts will take effect and another debate takes place to raise the national debt ceiling.

She said she hopes Republicans will not "try to take a hatchet to the much-needed social programs that will be necessary in keeping our economy moving forward."

Sherwood Republican Reid Ribble said he is glad the compromise avoids a large hike in consumer milk prices, and it also prevents a cut in payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients.

Wisconsin House members voted 5-3 in favor of the compromise that avoids the national fiscal cliff of massive federal spending cuts and tax hikes on the middle class. The measure passed 257-167 just before 10 p.m. last night. It was the same bill passed by the Senate on New Year's Eve, although conservatives talked about adding more spending cuts before retreating.

Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri and Sean Duffy were the state's only lawmakers to vote no.


No pardons from Walker

Gov. Scott Walker has not granted a single pardon after two years in office, and he has not set up a Pardon Advisory Board which normally reviews such requests.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie confirmed that the Walker has suspended the pardon system but would not say why.

He tells the Associated Press that Walker has received "a bunch" of requests for pardons. He did not say exactly how many.

Pardons do not overturn felony convictions, but they give those who've served their time a better chance for a new life and less of a chance of being denied jobs. It also restores the rights to own firearms, hold public licenses and serve in public office.

Incoming state Senate Democratic leader Chris Larson said Walker is shirking his duties by not considering pardons. Larson said pardons are an "important fail-safe to an imperfect judicial system."

Normally, governors appoint people to a Pardon Advisory Board. But Walker has not appointed anyone, and the panel has not met during his two years in office.

Former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle granted about 300 pardons during his eight years in office, most coming in the last 3 1/2 months. His Republican predecessor Scott McCallum granted around 25 pardons in two years. And Republican Tommy Thompson granted 62 pardons in his final seven years in office, ending in 2000.


Hundreds take frigid New Year plunge

Hundreds of people in Milwaukee, Jacksonport, Sheboygan, Stevens Point and Chippewa County started their New Year by plunging into Wisconsin's cold waters.

At the Jacksonport plunge in Door County, organizers said it was 24 degrees along the Lake Michigan beach where around 500 people had taken the plunge into a 32 degree lake.

In Milwaukee, some plungers said it was colder yesterday than it was a year ago when the state had an extremely mild winter.

In La Crosse, the National Weather Service said the mercury fell below zero just before midnight on New Year's Eve for the first time in 344 days.


Spring election filing deadline is today

State and local election officials are expected to be busy throughout Wisconsin today.

Candidates for the spring elections have until the end of the day to file their nomination papers.

There are two statewide contests on the ballot this spring.

State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack has filed her papers for a second 10-year term. She's opposed by Marquette Professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee Lemon Law attorney Vince Megna.

State Public School Supt. Tony Evers is running for a second four-year term against Assembly Republican Don Pridemore of Hartford.

There are also numerous local government and school board posts on the spring ballots.

Contests with three or more candidates will have primaries Feb. 19, and the top two vote-getters in each contest will square off in the general election April 2.


Broken water pipe extends school holiday

Some elementary students in New London are getting an extra day of holiday vacation.

The Readfield School in New London is closed today after a water pipe broke and caused flooding in the building.

It's at least the third school in Wisconsin that's had similar problems in the last month. Wisconsin Valley Lutheran High School in Mosinee was closed for a week after a water pipe was broken nearby. And a water line broke near a school in Neillsville in mid-December.