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Some of Wisconsin's largest department stores are getting busier, in another sign that the recession is easing up. Kohl's of Menomonee Falls reported a 5.5 percent sales increase from last September in stores open at least a year. That's much better than the decline of 0.6 percent projected by analysts from Retail Metrics. Bon-Ton Stores, which owns Younkers, Herberger's, Elder-Beerman and Boston Stores, had a 4.8 percent sales drop, better than the projected decline of 7 percent.
Chicago gangster Al Capone's old hideout near Hayward was sold Thursday to the bank which foreclosed on it last year. The Chippewa Valley Bank was the only bidder willing to pay the minimum price of $2.6 million at a brief sheriff's sale. Bank vice president Joe Kinnear says at least four people want to buy the 407 wooded acres, possibly to make it tourist site and restaurant it used to be. But nobody has offered the $2.6 million asking price, and Kinnear says the bank might have its hands full selling the property.
Almost a third of Midwest employers expect to give pay raises next year, and about half are still not sure what they're going to do. That's according to MRA-The Management Association, which surveyed 576 companies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Twenty-eight of the firms said they would grant raises averaging 2.9 percent. Another 26 percent said they would either freeze wages and salaries, or cut them. Even though the recession may have bottomed out, MRA vice president Vicki Vought said employers are still being held back by uncertainty.
A former Marine will spend his next three Julys in jail for providing the military flare that started a massive fire at the Patrick Cudahy meat plant near Milwaukee. Joshua Popp, 23, was also put on three years of probation Thursday, and was told to perform 500 hours of community service. Popp and his brother Curtis, 25, both pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment. Curtis Popp shot the military flare at a family gathering on July 5, and it landed on top of the Cudahy meat plant.
A federal court will decide how much to fine American Family Insurance, for not initially saying why a medical claim was denied for one of its former employees. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal, after the Madison-based insurer was found liable. Sharon Mondry sued American Family in 2003, after the insurance plan for its employees refused to pay for speech therapy for her son who has autism. The claim was later paid.
Snow is in the forecast for parts of Wisconsin this weekend. The National Weather Service says a big low pressure system is moving east along with the U.S.-Canadian border, and it will push a strong cold front into Wisconsin Saturday. There's a chance of light snow in the northwest Saturday, with rain or snow in central Wisconsin, and rain elsewhere in the state. Tonight's lows are supposed to drop into the 20s in north central areas, with freeze warnings in southwest and west central Wisconsin.
A Wisconsin National Guard unit is getting ready for a possible second trip to Iraq. The 724th Engineer Battalion of Chippewa Falls has been placed on alert. It includes almost 400 soldiers from companies in Medford, Hayward, Spooner and Superior as well as the unit's headquarters in Chippewa Falls. The battalion served in Iraq from March of 2003 until July of '04. About 3,700 Wisconsin Guard members are currently on active duty in Iraq.
A sex offender from Utah has been convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old southern Wisconsin girl he met on MySpace. Joseph Hickerson, 33, Salt Lake City, struck a plea deal Thursday in Dane County. He pleaded guilty to two counts of child sexual assault, repeated sex assault of a child, and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. Child pornography charges were dropped. Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Hickerson could have faced life in prison under Wisconsin's two strikes and you're out law.
The Wisconsin football team will have its hands full Saturday, as it tries to keep its unbeaten record intact at ninth-ranked Ohio State. Junior linebacker Blake Sorenson says the key on defense is to contain Buckeyes' quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He's the third-leading passer in the Big Ten, with a completion percentage of 57.9. Pryor has thrown seven touchdown passes in his last three games, all victories over Indiana, Illinois and Toledo. Pryor is also Ohio State's leading rusher with 298 yards and three touchdowns.
The Milwaukee Bucks will try out a couple new starters Saturday in an exhibition game against the Chicago Bulls in Green Bay. Veteran Kurt Thomas will replace Ersan Ilyasova at power forward. And Carlos Delfino will start at small forward in place of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Coach Scott Skiles says he's looking for a stronger front-court to start a game, saying the Bucks were "killed on the boards" in their first two pre-season contests. Ilyasova played 22 minutes without getting a rebound in a nine-point loss at Detroit on Wednesday.