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Heat warnings expire; State’s property values drop for 5th year; 10 more state news briefs

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For the first time since last weekend, the heat index failed to reach 100 in western Wisconsin Wednesday.

Onalaska had the hottest misery index with 97 in a region where it got close to 110 Tuesday. Most of Wisconsin was under heat warnings and advisories for much of the week, but they’ve all expired.

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Yesterday’s highs were generally in the 80’s, only about 5 to 10 degrees above the normal for the date. It was still relatively warm overnight.

La Crosse and Phillips were at 72 degrees at 6 a.m. today. Burlington in Racine County was the cool spot at 58. Much of the far north was in the 60’s.

The National Weather Service says another low pressure system is heading our way. It’s expected to bring thunderstorms to northwest Wisconsin this afternoon, spreading into southern areas tonight.

More bands of storms are due in tomorrow through Sunday, with drier and cooler weather predicted for Labor Day. Statewide highs are expected to be in the 80’s each day with lows in the 60’s.

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State’s property values drop for 5th year

For the first time since World War II, Wisconsin’s total property values have dropped for five straight years. But officials say things might be looking up.

The state’s Taxpayers Alliance said Wednesday that the value of all property in the Wisconsin was $467.5 billion at the end of 2012. That’s down .8%percent from the previous year as Wisconsinites continued to lose parts of their equity and net worth.

The report is based on state figures as of Jan. 1. Dale Knapp of the Tax Alliance says the numbers don’t take this year’s double-digit increases in Wisconsin home sales into account and we could finally see an increase in land values next year.

The Taxpayers Alliance said the value of Wisconsin’s homes, businesses, farms and forests hit a peak in 2008 of $514 billion, and they’ve gone down every year since then, for a total drop of $47 billion.

The state’s top industry, manufacturing, saw its total land values rise by 2.3% last year. Metro Milwaukee had larger than average declines, while western Wisconsin counties near Minneapolis-St. Paul had increases.

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Woman fined after falling off bluff

A 22-year-old La Crosse woman was given a $303 ticket after she fell almost 100 feet down Grandad Bluff while hiking in an unauthorized area.

The woman called 911 from her cell phone around 7:30 a.m. yesterday after she fell 40 to 50 feet off the tall bluff and then tumbled another 50 feet. She landed near the base of a rock ledge.

Authorities said it took a half hour just to find the hiker, and it took two hours to rescue her, since crews had to cut down trees to reach her. Officials said the woman suffered severe but non-life-threatening injuries, but they were not more specific. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

La Crosse Police officials said that if the woman had not had a cellphone, they might not have been able to find her and she probably would have died.

She was ticketed for trespassing. She can challenge the citation next month in court.

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Other tribes oppose Menominee casino

The Potawatomi is not the only Wisconsin Indian tribe opposed to the new casino that the Menominee tribe wants to open in Kenosha.

Ho-Chunk spokesman Collin Price said there’s “no chance” his group will reach a consensus for gaming in which he called “ancestral Ho-Chunk land.”

Gov. Scott Walker has been given the final authority to approve the long-proposed Kenosha casino. The governor wants all 11 Wisconsin tribes to agree to the project before he’ll approve it and he wants them to reach a consensus themselves.

The Potawatomi tribe has fought the Kenosha project for years since it would cut into revenues for the Potawatomi Casino in nearby Milwaukee.

Yesterday, Republican state Senate President Mike Ellis said Walker’s conditions go against the free market, and it’s like letting Menards block a new Fleet Farm store nearby. Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford says Ellis’s comparison is not valid because Indian gaming is heavily regulated, and it’s not a true free-enterprise system.

“We can facilitate discussions” if there are difficulties, said Walker.

Supporters say the new casino would give $35 million new dollars to the state, while creating 3,300 jobs. Opponents say the numbers are inflated.

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Mother accused of stealing $41,000 in Social Security payments

A Wausau area woman is accused of stealing over $41,000 in Social Security disability payments on behalf of her disabled son.

A federal grand jury in Madison indicted Susan Schepp, 54, of Weston Wednesday. Her first court appearance was not immediately scheduled.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Anderson said Schepp fraudulently collected checks on her son’s disability after he was supposed to stop receiving them. The prosecutor said Schepp carried out the scam from June of 2003 through September of 2008, but her son did not discover it until a few years later, when he alerted Social Security officials.

--Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau

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Milwaukee dean faces multiple charges after driving wrong way on Interstate

A former dean of students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering is due back in court today for allegedly driving the wrong way on a freeway while drunk.

The school announced yesterday that Patrick Coffey, 69, of New Berlin has retired in the wake of his arrest.

Authorities said he drove 14 miles the wrong way Aug. 15 while in the northbound lanes of I-43 and I-94 in Milwaukee and Racine counties.

In Milwaukee County, Coffey has pleaded not guilty to felony reckless endangerment, plus misdemeanor counts of OWI and driving with a prohibited blood alcohol level.

He has a court date a week from tomorrow on Milwaukee County traffic charges of driving the wrong way on a divided highway and not telling police about an accident. Coffey also has two traffic citations -- driving the wrong way and reckless driving causing endangerment -- pending in Racine County for the incident.

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Robbery suspects allegedly kill themselves in standoff

Two robbery suspects apparently shot themselves to death after they robbed a liquor store near Oshkosh and held police at bay from their car for two hours.

It all started around 4 p.m. yesterday when a man and a woman allegedly robbed Hank’s Payne’s Point in Vinland at gunpoint, getting away with around $600.

Winnebago County sheriff’s officials said the getaway car was later stopped on a busy Hwy. 41 expressway when the two stayed in their car and engaged officers in a standoff.

Several law enforcement agencies responded, including SWAT team officers. The freeway was closed at the height of the afternoon rush hour. Traffic was backed up for miles, despite detours that were set up.

Around 6 p.m. officers said they heard two gunshots from the vehicle, and the two suspects were found dead. Officials said nobody from law enforcement fired any shots during the incident. Oshkosh police is now leading an investigation.

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Sheboygan farmer dies in barn

The death of a Sheboygan County man in his barn has been ruled an accident.

Authorities said Douglas Orzechowski, 60, was digging a hole in his barn in the town of Mitchell when he collapsed while he was three feet down.

Sheriff’s deputies said Orzechowski died from accidental positional asphyxiation. He was found dead in the hole late Tuesday afternoon.

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UW-Madison chancellor gets her own ice cream flavor

The ice cream plant at UW-Madison has named a new flavor in honor of the school’s new chancellor.

It’s called “Bec-Key Lime Pie,” and the name was among 400 suggested in a recent contest. The flavor recognizes Rebecca Blank, a former Obama White House official who became the new Madison campus leader a few weeks ago.

The Babcock Dairy Plant on campus will start selling the new “Bec-Key Lime” flavor Sunday. Only 300 gallons were made, and it’s expected to go quickly.

Babcock Hall comes up with about 75 new flavors of ice cream each year. About 20 are offered throughout the year, and four “feature flavors” are sold every month.

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Harley celebration kicks off in Milwaukee

Things are starting to rumble in Milwaukee as motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson kicks off its 110th anniversary celebration.

Milwaukee’s House of Harley-Davidson held a large ride yesterday in which Gov. Scott Walker took part. Similar rides and numerous other gatherings are planned through Labor Day.

Over 100,000 people are expected, along with their loud bikes. The center of the entertainment is at Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

Music will be featured at several stages all afternoon and evening with big-name concerts each night. Toby Keith and Kip Moore will perform tonight at the Marcus Amphitheater. Aerosmith and Cheap Trick will be there tomorrow night, along with Kid Rock and John Fogerty on Saturday.

Events are also taking place at several Harley dealerships in the Milwaukee area. A street party is planned Saturday and Sunday in downtown Milwaukee.

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Fort Hood gunman sentenced to death

It might be years or even decades before Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan could be put to death because there’s a long appeals’ process in the military justice system.

A jury ordered the death penalty Wednesday for Hasan, who killed two Wisconsinites and 11 others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood Texas in November 2009.

Amy Krueger of Kiel and Russell Saeger of Mount Pleasant lost their lives as Hasan claimed he tried to protect Muslims from U.S. troops training to serve in Afghanistan. That’s what he told the media.

Hasan, 42, was not allowed to make that argument before the jury. So he put up almost no defense during either his trial or his sentencing proceeding.

Hasan’s supporters portrayed him as a martyr, but prosecutors said he was nothing but a cold-blooded killer.

Krueger and Saeger were part of a Madison unit training to help fellow troops deal with stress while in the Middle East. Six Wisconsinites in that unit were among 32 Hasan injured.

For now, Hasan is being taken to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. In the last 30 years, military juries have handed down 16 death sentences. Eleven were overturned, and five military prisoners are on death row today. No U.S. soldier has been executed since 1961.

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State’s website ‘rings bell’ in King’s honor

Wisconsin officially marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by ringing an online bell on the anniversary’s official Website.

The slain civil rights leader delivered his plea for racial equality Aug. 28, 1963 in Washington.

Yesterday, thousands jammed the National Mall in Washington where President Obama urged each person to become a modern-day marcher for racial and economic justice.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued a proclamation declaring yesterday as “Let Freedom Ring Day.” Bell ringings were set to take place around the world at 3 p.m. local time.

Walker was in Milwaukee at the time, taking part in a motorcycle ride to mark Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary. His office said it rang a virtual bell on the commemoration’s internet site.

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