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Wisconsin hikers rescued in Alaska when quest turns sour; GOP plans door-to-door campaign; more state news

Three hikers, including at least two from Wisconsin, were rescued while on a pilgrimage to a famous abandoned bus in the Alaska wilderness.

Thomas Young, 45, of Horicon, Matthew Peot, 29, of Milwaukee, and Kenneth Young -- whose hometown was not disclosed -- were trying to get to the dilapidated bus made famous by the book-and-movie "Into the Wild."

A spokeswoman for the Alaska State Patrol spokeswoman said the group ran into high river water and they camped for a few days to see if the water would get low enough to cross the river.

Their journey ended when Thomas Young tripped and hurt himself with an ax. His injuries were minor.

The incident happened Aug. 6, but it was not publicized by the Alaska State Patrol until Aug. 13. It occurred about 180 miles north of Anchorage near the entrance to the Denali National Park and Reserve.

Authorities are often called to help people hiking to the bus used in the film "Into the Wild" -- which chronicled the life of Alaskan hiker Chris McCandless who spent four months living in the bus while on a hike there in 1992. He died on the bus from starvation.

GOP lobbyists plan door-knocking campaign

Don't be surprised to see a lobbyist knock on your door, to try and get you to vote Republican in November.

GOP Assembly leaders are recruiting lobbyists to help with door-to-door campaigns aimed at boosting the party's already-considerable 60- to 39 majority.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says the effort is called "Leggie-palooza," a take-off on the long-running Lolla-palooza music festivals.

The newspaper reported it's a second major effort by Republicans to get the people who ask them to pass legislation to help those same politicians stay in control.

Two years ago, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos urged lobbyists to contribute personally to the Majority GOP Conduit, which distributes campaign donations to Republican legislative candidates.

That group is holding a fund-raiser in Madison on Sept. 2, along with Gov. Scott Walker.

The Journal Sentinel says some lobbyists are not happy with being asked to knock on doors for Republicans because if they don't, they might not get the bills passed that their clients want. Other lobbyists said they didn't have a problem with it.

Analyst says 5.8 percent unemployed isn't too bad

At least one analyst believes that the new increase in Wisconsin's unemployment rate is not all that bad.

Wells Fargo economist Brian Jacobsen says a number of people who had given up looking for jobs went back into the labor force and those who didn't find work yet were added to the list of those officially unemployed. That, plus actual unemployment, drove up the state's seasonally-adjusted jobless rate to five-point-eight percent in July.

That was one-tenth of a point higher than in June.

Wisconsin remains below the national jobless rate of six-point-two percent -- which also went up one-tenth of a point from June.

Defeated sheriff's candidate mulls write-in campaign

STEVENS POINT -- If you don't think write-in campaigns work, think again. Two sheriffs in Stevens Point have been elected as write-ins since 1996 and a third candidate is thinking about going the same route. Kevin Sorenson finished second on Tuesday in a four-way Democratic primary for Portage County sheriff.

The winner of the primary, Mike Lucas, will be the only name on the ballot in November since there is no Republican candidate.

Sorenson lost by 230 votes. He says he'll wait until the ballots are canvassed next week before deciding if he'll wage a write-in bid in the fall.

Sheriff John Charewitz is stepping down this year, after he was first elected as a write-in candidate in 2002.

Stan Potocki did the same in '96. In both cases, no Republicans ran in what's considered a heavily Democratic county.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Man gets prison time for hit & run that killed child

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man will spend just over two years in prison for killing an 11-month girl while driving a U-Haul truck.

Thomas Walker III, 25, was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of extended supervision. Judge Stephanie Rothstein took 260 days off his prison term for the time he spent in jail while his court case was proceeding.

Walker was convicted of negligent homicide and causing death while driving with a suspended license.

Police said the U-Haul struck Cheyenne Jackson and her 11-month-daughter, Ariana Matosek, last December first on Milwaukee's south side. Walker drove off, and the truck was later found abandoned a short distance away.

At the sentencing Thursday, Jackson said it was the first time that her baby daughter had seen snow.

Walker was originally charged with fatal hit-and-run, but he and his lawyer contended that he didn't realize he struck the pair until he saw TV news reports about it.

Farm Tech '14 wraps up amid perfect weather

PLOVER -- Great weather and big crowds graced Wisconsin's largest farm show which ended Thursday.

Thousands of people attended Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, which completed a three-day run east of Plover in Portage County. The show was held around a month later than usual, in order to highlight the region's potato farming.

Another late show is planned next year at the Statz Brothers Farm at Sun Prairie in Dane County. Bob Wipperfurth, who heads the executive committee for that show, says it will give the hosts a chance to harvest corn silage for their large dairy operation.

He also said the show's closeness to Madison will give them a chance to show state officials examples of stewardship and "responsible agriculture."

The just-completed show also marked the end of Ron Schuler's official career. He's been the general manager of Farm Technology Days for the last four years, and has been involved with the show for 31 years. Schuler promises to return as a volunteer next year in Dane County.

DNR has no plans to remove aggressive otter

LUCK -- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says it will not kill or remove an otter that injured a 12-year-old girl in northwest Wisconsin last weekend.

A warden told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that last Saturday's attack of Rory Kliewer was an "isolated incident."

The Minneapolis girl received rabies shots as a precaution, after the otter bit and scratched her while she was getting out of Bone Lake in Polk County.

The DNR could issue permits to let people shoot or trap an otter at Bone Lake, but the agency says it won't do so for now but it will be considered if there are future attacks.

Experts say it's rare that an otter goes after a human. The last such case in northwest Wisconsin was in 2009 near Drummond.

Three injured when boat strikes break-water

MILWAUKEE -- Three elderly men were sent to a hospital Thursday evening after their boat collided with a break-wall on Lake Michigan off the shores of Milwaukee.

The Coast Guard said it rescued four people from a 25-foot cabin cruiser around 9:30 p.m. Thursday near the downtown War Memorial.

They were taken to McKinley Marina, where paramedics transported three of them to a hospital.

A 90-year-old man had non-life-threatening injuries, along with two men in their 60's.

Madison utility customers win refunds

MADISON -- Madison Gas & Electric has been ordered to refund $6.7 million that was overcharged to customers last year.

The state Public Service Commission voted Thursday to make the utility give the money back now.

Madison Gas & Electric asked for permission to keep the over-payments, and apply them to higher costs the utility is expecting next year, but regulators said no to that.

As a result, the company says it will pay 3.7 percent more for its operations and employee pensions next year, instead of its earlier projection of 2.6 percent.

Former head-shop owner gets 17-year prison term

SUPERIOR -- A man from Superior has been sentenced to 17.5 years in a federal prison for running a former head-shop in Minnesota that sold illegal synthetic drugs.

James Carlson, 57, was convicted last October on 51 charges of selling millions of dollars worth of bath salts, spice, and other synthetic drugs. He ran The Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth before authorities shut it down.

Duluth Police said synthetic drug cases are down 55 percent since the store closed. Carlson never denied selling the drugs, but he disputed that they're illegal.

His lawyer said an appeal would be filed by Monday.

In a 20-minute statement Thursday, Carlson told Federal Judge James Doty in Minneapolis that he was unfairly singled out for prosecution. He said he knew of dozens of stores in Minnesota alone, and countless others on the Internet, which sell synthetics without government interference.

Carlson said Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was among those complaining that it was difficult to regulate those products.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Surya Saxena said the prison sentence should send a clear message that synthetic drugs are illegal and their sellers will face "serious criminal consequences."

The judge also sentenced Carlson's former girlfriend, Lava Haugen, to five years in prison for role in running the head shop.

Potawatomi casino profits fall slightly

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's only big-city casino saw its gambling revenues drop by almost three percent in the past year. According to figures from the Journal Sentinel, the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee won just over $350 million from players during the year ending June 30.

It was the fourth straight year that the casino's gaming revenues were either decreased or flat. Experts say it's no surprise, since a gaming market that was once considered a popular novelty has matured.

The newspaper makes an estimate based on payments made to the city and county of Milwaukee -- both of which get 1.5 percent of the casino's net winnings after it makes it its annual payment to the state.

The Potawatomi contends that its gaming revenues will drop even further if Gov. Scott Walker approves a proposed Hard Rock Casino and hotel for nearby Kenosha, which the Menominee tribe wants to build. Supporters of the Kenosha project say it would tap into new markets not served by any of Wisconsin's casinos. The governor has until February to announce his decision, after the federal government gave its blessing to the project a few months ago.

Meanwhile, the Potawatomi is opening a large hotel this month at its Milwaukee gaming house.