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Tennis ball-size hail pummels Chippewa area; FDIC chair hears banker gripes about regulation; 12 more state stories

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The western half of Wisconsin had more thunderstorm damage Monday afternoon and evening. Tennis ball-sized hail fell near Cornell in Chippewa County. Eau Claire had a number of vehicles damaged by hail.

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Parts of Pepin, Taylor, Monroe, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties also reported hail of up to an-inch in diameter. Winds hit 55-miles-an-hour at Ridgeville in Monroe County, and 50 at Bayfield. Marquette County reported heavy tree damage.

Trees and power lines fell at Osseo and Hatfield, with lesser damage elsewhere. Mayo Osseo medical facilities pulled power from stand-by generators for 2.5 hours while crews cleared limbs from lines to restore power. Gile in Iron County had 2.25 inches of rain in just two hours late last night. Mauston in Juneau County had 2.1 inches.

Power outages were largely resolved overnight. Xcel Energy and Wisconsin Power & Light, the two largest utilities in western Wisconsin, had a combined 50-plus customers out around 6:30 a.m.

Localized storms struck far western Wisconsin Monday afternoon with the first wave sweeping gusty winds and locally heavy rain south from Star Prairie to New Richmond around 2:15 p.m. The area got another dose early Monday evening. River Falls received 1.15 inches of rain in about 20 minutes just after 6 p.m.

A dry day was forecast for all of Wisconsin Tuesday, with highs in the 60's and 70's under partly to mostly cloudy skies.

The rain has been good for the Wisconsin corn crop. According to the National Ag Statistics Service, 77 percent of the state's corn was in good-to-excellent condition as of Sunday. Much of it is well beyond "knee-high by the Fourth-of-July." The stalks are up to five feet in the southern counties of Grant and Washington. However, low spots have yellow and stressed corn.

Weeds have become a problem in places where farmers cannot spray. Also, Wisconsin soybeans continue to do well, as 77 percent of the crop is rated good-to-excellent, along with 85 percent of oats and 72 percent of winter wheat.

Farmers also made some hay last week, in between the raindrops. Ninety-five percent of the first crop was in by Sunday, along with 24 percent of the second crop. Fifteen percent of that second crop came in last week, but the hay harvests remain behind the norms for the past five years.

Gubernatorial vote just 17 weeks away

MADISON -- The Wisconsin governor's election is 17 weeks from Monday. Both candidates have been criss-crossing the state to fire up their party bases, and attract a relatively small percentage of undecided voters.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker was to be back on the campaign trail Tuesday, with stops at powder-coating plant in Oregon and a maker of specialty wristbands in New Berlin.

Democrat Mary Burke is touring a farm in Mazomanie that produces beer hops. She'll also visit the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua.

Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and state commerce secretary, faces a primary challenge from long-shot Representative Brett Hulsey of Madison.

The fall partisan primaries are five weeks away, on Aug. 12th.

FDIC chair talks lending with community bankers

WAUSAU -- Wisconsin community bankers met with the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in Wausau Monday.

Martin Gruenberg heard concerns from smaller locally-owned banks on how a number of federal regulations affect their ability to compete. Gruenberg said many of the rules came in response to the "too big to fail" banks which almost collapsed and spurred the Great Recession and its related housing bubble. Wausau House Republican Sean Duffy, who arranged the visit, said Washington must be careful not to over-regulate community banks and the pendulum has swung to the conservative side.

River Valley Bank hosted the meeting. Its CEO, Todd Nagel, said the regulatory and compliance department is one of his bank's fastest-growing sectors when in reality, he said the lending department should grow faster.

Both Nagel and Gruenberg said banks have plenty of money to lend but the demand is not there because businesses remain conservative in their post-recession growth.

Nagel says companies have held onto their cash reserves and now is the right time for firms to expand and buy new equipment, since interest rates are low and money is available.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

New Democrat named to Joint Finance

MADISON -- A 12-year veteran of the Wisconsin Assembly has been named to the Legislature's most powerful committee.

Milladore Democrat Amy Sue Vruwink is replacing Milwaukee Democrat Jon Richards, who left the Assembly to run for state attorney general this fall. WisPolitics.com said majority Republicans blocked the appointment when GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called it a "last-minute request made for political purposes."

But Vos okayed the Vruwink appointment last Thursday, and her party's leadership announced it Monday.

Vruwink has been in the Assembly since 2003. She lost the largest city in her district, Marshfield, in the 2011 GOP redistricting -- and WisPolitics says her seat is now a top target for Republicans in the fall elections.

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) are both seated on the 16-member committee.

Candidates for Congressman Petri's seat pledge they'd limit terms

All four Republican candidates for the open U.S. House seat in eastern Wisconsin said they would impose their own term limits if they're elected.

This comes about two weeks after a report that the man they hope to replace -- 36-year incumbent Tom Petri -- raised his family in Washington and spent only a third of his available free time back in his home district.

On Monday, State Assembly Republican Duey Strobel of Saukville issued a column promising he would serve as a "citizen legislator" like the Founding Fathers intended. Strobel later said he would serve no more than ten years in Congress, which would make him 64 if he serves that long.

State Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend then said he, too, would impose a ten-year term limit, which would make him 69.

Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan vowed a 12-year term limit, serving to age 57.

Oshkosh Republican Tom Denow said he'd also agree to a term limit.

Self-imposed term limits don't always work. State Assembly Republican Scott Krug of Nekoosa is running for a third two-year term this fall -- even though he promised to serve just two terms before he defeated 40-year incumbent Marlin Schneider in 2010.

-- Rusty Mehlberg, WHBL, Sheboygan

Vigilence urged against 'Pick-and-Send' internet scams

MADISON -- If you get an e-mail offering you a job to ship and re-ship products to Russia, it might be a scam.

The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin says companies which call themselves "Send It Off" and "Pick-and-Send" are recruiting people to work-at-home, but they don't get paid.

The bureau says the scammers are using a downtown Milwaukee office address, and three local phone numbers which are voice-over-Internet numbers.

The consumer agency said it could not reach company personnel through any of those numbers. Those who take the bait could be at risk for identity theft.

The bureau said people in Missouri and Kansas who took jobs as shippers were required to send copies of their drivers' licenses. They were then sent things like iPads to send to Moscow, with a promise of $1,700 a month in wages that were never paid.

Also, job applications had spelling and grammatical errors.

The Better Business Bureau says to watch for those when you apply for a job -- and you should never accept a post that doesn't require a face-to-face interview.

Malpractice caps likely to be tested after $25 million jury award

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's limit on medical malpractice awards will apparently be tested, after a jury awarded $25 million to a Milwaukee woman who lost all four of her limbs.

Jurors agreed Monday that doctors never found a strep infection in 53-year-old Ascaris Mayo. It led to "septic shock" which caused both her arms and both her legs to be amputated in 2011.

Jurors awarded $15 million for pain and suffering, and $1.5 million for her husband's loss of companionship. Both are well above the $750,000 limit for non-economic malpractice damages set by majority Republicans in the first session after Gov. Scott Walker took office.

Attorney Daniel Rottier, who represented Mayo and her husband, expects the case to end up in the State Supreme Court.

Jurors did not say that Dr. Wyatt Jaffe and his assistant Donald Gibson were negligent. They said both failed to give Mayo alternative diagnoses which could have caused her to seek other types of treatment. Jaffe was ruled 65 percent at fault, and Gibson 35 percent.

ATV-tree crash claims Elcho man

A man killed in an all-terrain-vehicle crash on July 4th in northeast Wisconsin has been identified as Brandon Rindahl, 41, of Elcho.

Forest County authorities said Rindahl's ATV veered off a road and slammed into a tree.

Sheriff's deputies and the state DNR continue to investigate the crash, which occurred late Friday night near Crandon in the town of Nashville.

Elcho is a town of about 500 people in Langlade County, southeast of Crandon.

Madison man ID'd as victim in truck rollover

MOUNT HOREB -- A Madison man killed in a holiday weekend traffic crash was identified Monday as Joseph Stehura, age 27.

Authorities said his pick-up truck veered out of control on a curve, rolled over, and entered a creek in a farm field about 50 feet from the roadway.

The accident happened Saturday morning on Highway 92 south of Mount Horeb.

Investigators said Stehura was not wearing a seat belt, and he died at the scene.

Murderer takes own life in Portage Co. jail cell

PORTAGE -- A convicted murderer killed himself in jail, less than two months before he was to be sentenced to life in prison for raping and killing a Plover woman.

Jose Flores-Aca, 33, was found strangled late Sunday night in his Portage County jail cell.

Sheriff John Charewicz said Flores-Aca used a strip of bed linen, and a two-inch screw that was not part of the jail's hardware.

The sheriff wants to know how the prisoner obtained it. The Stevens Point Police Department is acting as an outside investigator in the jail incident.

Flores-Aca struck a plea deal last week. He pled guilty to first-degree intentional homicide and sexual assault. A third count of hiding a corpse was dropped.

Flores-Aca was to be sentenced Sept. 30th. Prosecutors suggested life in prison plus 20 years for the sexual assault conviction.

Authorities said Flores-Aca got angry with his 36-year-old apartment neighbor Jamie Koch last August. He then strangled her with her bra, wrapped her in a bed sheet, and drove her to neighboring Waupaca County where he burned her car to try and dispose of Koch's body.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Man killed by Racine Police is identified

RACINE -- The man shot and killed Sunday by Racine police officers has been identified as Rajko Utvic, age 37.

A 9-1-1 call on Sunday indicated that Utvic was suicidal. Officers said they went to a home where Utvic was armed with a knife. They told him to drop the weapon, and he didn't.

When he stepped toward the officers, one of them shot and killed Utvic. The officers' names were not immediately released.

The Racine County sheriff's department is the outside investigator in the case.

Former parochial school teacher pleads innocent to porn charge

WAUSAU -- A long-time religion teacher and soccer coach in Wausau has pleaded innocent to allegations of possessing child porn.

Michael Switalski, 50, was originally charged in March with eight felony counts of possessing child porn. Two dozen counts were added since then, and Switalski was arraigned Monday on all 32 charges in Marathon County Circuit Court. A trial date could be set at a status hearing in the case on Sept. 4th.

Switalski is on administrative leave from Wausau Newman Catholic High School, where he has coached the boys' soccer team for 20 years. His original charges stated that he allegedly possessed almost 100 photos and a dozen DVD's of child porn, including images of naked underage boys.

At the time, officials said Switalski's name was found on a customer list of a video pornography firm that was shut down in Canada.

Prosecutors said additional evidence was found since then on Switalski's electronic devices. Switalski is free on a $35,000 cash bond.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau

Innocent plea entered in homicide allegation

WAUSAU -- A Wausau man has pleaded innocent to killing another man over an argument about money.

John Lewis, 31, is charged with 26 counts -- including homicide for the shooting death of K.C. Elliott on Jan. 3rd outside of the Sidetracked Bar in Wausau. The other charges include possession of heroin and marijuana with the intent to sell it, and possessing a firearm as a previously convicted felon.

No new court dates have been set for Lewis, who remains in jail under a $1 million bond.

Prosecutors said a silencer provided by a Stratford man was used in the killing of Elliott.

Tyler Jenkens was recently sentenced to five years and three months in a federal prison for selling the silencer, plus guns and grenades to others.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

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