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Turtle Lake woman dies in collision with semi; GOP expected to unveil mining proposals today; Unemployed union contractors join Walker at podium; more briefs

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A northwest Wisconsin woman was killed Tuesday when her car slammed into an oncoming semi-truck.

Barron County sheriff's deputies said Cheryl Baglien, 52, of Turtle Lake was heading west on Hwy. 8 when she entered an opposite lane on a curve and hit the oncoming semi.

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Baglien's 17-year-old daughter suffered serious injuries. She was flown to a hospital in St. Paul, Minn.

The trucker, a man from Exeland, was not hurt.

Traffic on Hwy. 8 was detoured for eight hours yesterday so the crash could be investigated and the wreckage could be cleared out. Barron County deputies and the State Patrol are still investigating.

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GOP expected to unveil mining proposals today

We should know today what Republicans have in mind for shortening the state's time period for approving new mines while loosening regulations to attract developers.

Senate Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst said the GOP would release its proposed new mining package today.

Last night, Gov. Scott Walker said in his State of the State address that he wants "safe and environmentally sensitive mining" to provide jobs in far northern Wisconsin, where Iron County has a jobless rate of almost 12%.

That assumes Gogebic Taconite or some other developer would be interested in building a new mine in Iron and Ashland counties - which Gogebic was planning to build until the Senate rejected a mining package a year ago by one moderate vote. That bill would have loosened environmental rules and limited bureaucratic challenges by mining opponents.

Walker had unemployed private union contractors join him at the podium last night with a Wisconsin flag that depicts a miner. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the workers were from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 -- one of the few unions that supported Walker in 2010.

Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey of Madison said he doubted those people would get jobs from a new mine. He said most of the jobs would probably go to unemployed miners from nearby Michigan and Minnesota.

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Unemployed union contractors join Walker at podium

Gov. Scott Walker said last night that Wisconsin is moving forward with "bold vision and bright hope for the future."

In his annual State of the State address, the governor said unemployment is down and the economy is improving.

He also made general comments about a less divisive agenda he's seeking for the next two years that highlights tax cuts, job creation, more options for education and fewer state rules on businesses - including miners.

Walker brought a group of unemployed private union contractors to the podium to help punctuate his desire for what he called "safe, environmentally sensitive mining" legislation.

Walker's gesture was a stark contrast to two years ago when he and public unions were at odds over his bill to virtually eliminate their collective bargaining privileges and thousands protested. A few dozen protestors shouted in the Capitol Rotunda during last night's address, but they could hardly be heard in the chamber.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chris Larson called Walker's speech "high on theatrics but low on substance."

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said Walker needs to start working with Democrats on bills to create jobs and train more workers. Barca said the GOP must "stop spending large amounts of time on polarizing, less-pressing partisan issues."

This afternoon, Walker will highlight his State of the State remarks during visits to Hartford and Green Bay.

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Researcher says this year's flu vaccine is as effective as usual

A Marshfield Clinic researcher says this year's flu vaccine is 62% effective in preventing the flu.

Dr. Edward Belongia said the percentage is about the same as in recent years, despite a large increase in flu cases this winter.

As of last week, over 1,300 Wisconsinites have been hospitalized with the flu - over three times as many as all of last winter.

The Marshfield Medical Research Foundation is among five institutions in the U.S. Flu Effectiveness Network that checked over 1,100 people with acute respiratory infections between Dec. 3 and Jan. 2.

The vaccine was found to be 55% effective against Influenza "A" and 70% effective against the "B" strain. Belongia said that is an early season snapshot and those figures could change.

He says h3n2 is the major flu strain around the country this winter, but the state has also seen Influenza "B" cases in children.

Officials say there's still time to be vaccinated. Diane Rodd of the Wood County Health Department said the vaccine may not prevent flu for everybody, but it does reduce the chances of being seriously ill or hospitalized.

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Lung Association has mixed reviews for state's anti-smoking efforts

The American Lung Association loves Wisconsin's public indoor smoking ban and the fact that smokers must give $2.50 to the government for every pack of cigarettes they buy.

But the group says Wisconsin does little to encourage smokers to quit and it spends a relative pittance to discourage folks from starting to smoke.

Those conclusions are part of the Lung Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control" report that's being released today. It gives Wisconsin a grade of "F" for the $7.5 million a year the state spends on tobacco prevention. That's only 11.5% of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends.

The state also got an "F" for its overall smoking cessation efforts.

Among other things, Wisconsin was criticized for not making private insurers cover stop-smoking treatments.

The state did get an "A" for its 2 ½ year-old ban on smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants. And Wisconsin's cigarette tax of $2.52 a pack got a grade of "B."

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Walker on agenda for national conservative conference

Gov. Scott Walker has joined the list of speakers at the nation's top annual conservative gathering.

Walker has been placed on the agenda for the Conservative Political Action Conference to be held March 14-16 just outside Washington.

CNN calls it a "popular cattle call for Republicans considering bids for the White House."

So far, there are at least two speakers who've been mentioned as possible White House candidates for 2016 - House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Ryan, the GOP vice-presidential candidate last year, has been named as a featured speaker for the conservative conference.

Rand Paul is the son of former Texas Congressman and White House candidate Ron Paul.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is also on the event's agenda, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Food pantries get left-behind milk

Food pantries in southern Wisconsin are starting to receive milk that was left behind when the Golden Guernsey dairy plant in Waukesha closed Jan. 5.

A court-appointed trustee who's handling the firm's bankruptcy petition agreed to release thousands of gallons of stored milk. That was after Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force highlighted a state law in which anyone who donates food is exempt from liability if someone gets sick from it.

Sherri Tussler of the Hunger Task Force is telling pantries and their clients to act quickly to get the milk. Most of it has sell-by dates of Jan. 20-22, and it's got to be used by then or soon after.

Meanwhile, state officials will hold sessions today and tomorrow in Pewaukee to help the 100 people who lost their jobs when Golden Guernsey abruptly closed. Workers will learn about the help that's available to find new work and to get the necessary training.

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Hedge fund, papermaker feud over Wausau's future

A public feud continues to escalate between the Wausau Paper Corporation and the Wall Street firm that's trying to take control of the 114-year-old papermaker.

The Starboard Value hedge fund of New York owns much of Wausau's stock. On Monday Starboard said the company would be better off moving out of Wisconsin.

The hedge firm also promised to nominate what would be a majority on Wausau's board to push the company into a major restructuring.

Wausau Paper fired back Tuesday, calling Starboard's statement inaccurate and disturbing. Wausau said it was doing what's best for all its shareholders.

Starboard is trying to get Wausau to focus on a more profitable market for restroom towels - which are made in Ohio and Kentucky - instead of its packaging and food-wrapping lines.

Wausau closed its Brokaw writing-papers plant a year ago, amid pressure from Starboard.

Last Friday, Wausau said it would sell three mills in Mosinee, Rhinelander and Brainerd Minnesota that employ 1,000 people in all. Wausau wanted to make those plants profitable, but Starboard said it would be futile and even selling them wouldn't help.

Wausau spokesman Perry Grueber said it's natural for workers at those plants to be concerned, but he could not comment further.

Meanwhile, WSAU Radio in Wausau says the squabble is not affecting the company's stock price. It closed down a penny yesterday at $9 a share - about the same where it was since Friday's sale announcement. Wausau's stock rose about 20 cents that day.

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Man says he brought Molotov cocktail into Capitol

A 20-year-old Milwaukee man is facing possible charges after he entered the State Capitol Tuesday with a backpack in which he claimed to have a Molotov cocktail.

Capitol Police arrested Kvon Smith after they learned that he posted a video on his Facebook page which said he would go the Capitol and do harm.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said police and state troopers were posted at all entrances, and Capitol officers immediately identified Smith as he walked in. He was apprehended in the Rotunda after telling officers he was carrying a Molotov cocktail.

A bomb squad later checked the backpack. Officials did not confirm that Smith had anything dangerous, but a Madison TV crew saw bottles being removed from the backpack.

Marquis said Smith did not threaten anyone in particular, and there was no indication that he knew about Gov. Scott Walker's State of the State address last night, in which lawmakers and all top state officials gathered in one place in the Assembly chamber.

In mid-December, Smith was arrested for resisting an officer during an incident at Madison's West Towne shopping mall. He was charged with injuring an officer and disorderly conduct upon being released from jail. Those cases are still pending.

Smith also filed a federal lawsuit the day after Christmas, alleging that several state agencies -- including the Wisconsin Badger football team -- conspired to commit bankruptcy and violated his civil rights.

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Same-day registration goes to vote in Milwaukee

Milwaukee voters will be asked whether they support Wisconsin's long-time practice of letting voters register at the polls on Election Day.

The Common Council voted 11-4 yesterday to put the question on the April 2 ballot in an advisory referendum.

Supporters believe that Milwaukeeans will heavily endorse same-day registration, and they hope that will send a message to Republican state lawmakers to leave the system alone.

But Alderman Bob Bauman noted that spring elections generally have lower turnouts.

"You may not get the results you're looking for," he told supporters.

All of the aldermen said they support same-day registration in general, but they said a referendum might not be the best way to show that support.

Last November, over 54,000 Milwaukeeans - or one in every five city voters - registered at the polls, as President Obama easily carried both the city and Wisconsin.

Some Republicans have said the same-day registration favors Democrats.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker says he'd like to get rid of it. But he won't push it, because it would cost millions of dollars to follow federal election laws from which the state is now exempt due to its same-day registration system.

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Plea deal reached in case of man who killed best friend

A central Wisconsin man has made a plea deal after he admitted that he accidentally killed his best friend while he was drunk.

A trial scheduled for tomorrow has been called off, and Tyler Enkro, 22, of the town of Grand Rapids is scheduled to enter a new plea March 7 in Wood County Circuit Court.

He's currently charged with homicide by the intoxicated use of a firearm in the December 2011 death of Nick Hoffman, 31, of Wisconsin Rapids.

Enkro first reported the shooting to authorities. His blood alcohol level at the time was .17, more than twice the legal limit for drunk drivers.

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Former fireman gets prison term for torching mobile home

A former Wausau area firefighter will spend just over a year in prison for burning down his mobile home after his family was evicted from the property where the home sat.

Keith Rosenow, 46, was sentenced Tuesday to two years behind bars, but he was given credit for 350 days he spent in jail while his case was going through the court system. He must also spend three years under extended supervision when he gets out.

Rosenow was a firefighter for 16 years until 2001. He told authorities he torched his house last January to get back at the manager of the Lazy Acres Mobile Home Park for making his family leave. Two neighboring homes were damaged in the blaze.

Rosenow pleaded no contest last fall to Marathon County charges of reckless endangerment, and unsafe burning of his own structure. Two other endangerment charges were dropped in a plea deal.

Rosenow must also pay almost $3,900 in restitution.

His wife Kathleen is also charged with the same four counts her husband faced, plus obstructing an officer. She's scheduled to go on trial April 3.

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Bald eagle numbers grow along Wisconsin River

More than twice as many bald eagles as a year ago are hanging around the lower Wisconsin River.

The Department of Natural Resources conducted an aerial survey last week and counted 434 adult and baby eagles between the Mississippi River and the Petenwell Flowage. That's up from 186 birds about the same time a year ago.

DNR biologist Dan Golz said the bald eagles are hunting for fish, and they're most commonly seen from Prairie du Sac dam westward to Hwy. 14.

Golz said the numbers of eagles vary greatly each winter, depending on the ice conditions.

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Life-expectancy for state kids now about 80

State health officials said Tuesday that toddlers in Wisconsin can expect to live until they're about 80.

The State Health Services Department the average life expectancy for those born between 2009 and 2011 is about 82 1/2 for girls, and just under 78 for boys.

The data was included in a larger summary on death rates in Wisconsin. It said 37 people died in 2011 from injuries on the job - way down from 57 such deaths the year before. But the numbers of infant deaths rose by 9% to 427 statewide.

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