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It’s spring in southern Wisconsin – not so much in the north; Girl Scouts pass out cookies to returning soldiers at MSP; More state news briefs

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Spring has definitely sprung in southern Wisconsin where it was 64 degrees at 4 a.m. this morning in Racine. However, it's still winter in the far north -- where at least part of last week's nearly 18 inches of snow remains on the ground.

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The American Birkebeiner was still grooming parts of its cross-country ski course on Saturday near Hayward. Officials said the trail was still "white and ski-able."

Utilities in the Duluth-Superior region are waiting until this week to cut off power to those behind on their bills even though Wisconsin's winter moratorium on utility shutoffs ended last Wednesday.

Folks in parts of the north are still shivering. It was 29 in Superior and Land O'Lakes at 4 a.m. Most of the north was in the 30's and 40's. It was generally in the 50's in the state's mid-section and the 50's and summer-like 60's in the south.

The National Weather Service said a slow-moving front started to bring showers to southwest and central areas overnight. The entire state can expect thunderstorms today with some of the season's warmest temperatures in the 60's and 70's.

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Girl Scouts pass out cookies to returning soldiers at MSP

Girl Scouts from western Wisconsin helped give a big Easter surprise to U.S. troops when they flew into Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Scouts from the Wisconsin and Minnesota River Valleys handed out boxes of Girl Scout cookies to about 75 soldiers Saturday night.

Members of the 461st Engineering Company had just landed at the Twin Cities after building schools in the Dominican Republic. Several dozen Girl Scouts greeted them with signs thanking them for their service.

The cookie giveaway is part of a national program called "Operation Cookie Care Package." Customers donate boxes of cookies to the troops. About 27,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies have been donated nationally so far this year.

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Northern anglers can keep bass; 22-year-old restriction lifted

For the first time in 22 years, anglers in northern Wisconsin can keep the bass they catch.

Ever since 1992, fishing participants have had a catch-and-release bass season in the north. Now, the Department of Natural Resources says the species is doing so well that it can survive the removal of more bass.

The large-mouth season runs from May 3 until the start of next March. The take-home policy for those will take effect right away. Small-mouth bass must still be returned until June 20. They can be taken home after that. Anglers will have daily total bass limits of five.

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DNR assessing winter deer kill

The brutal winter has Wisconsin wildlife experts working overtime to see how the state's deer herd was damaged.

The Department of Natural Resources is examining deer killed by vehicles and watching the survival rates of over 200 deer that have radio-tracking collars in northern and eastern zones.

Officials said about 30% of the collared fawns in the northern Wisconsin forests have died, along with 15% in the eastern farm areas.

Adult deer are doing better. Only 6% of the northern adults with radio collars have died, along with 2% in the east farmlands. Some of those deer were snapped up by predators, while others starved to death or were hit by vehicles.

The radio-collar review is part of a four-year survival study. The DNR is looking for at least 10 deer carcasses from each of the 72 counties so it can determine the winter's effects on pregnancy rates, fat content and other key biological signs.

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Statewide tornado drill is Thursday

This is Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week in Wisconsin. A statewide tornado drill is set for Thursday to help schools, businesses and homes practice their responses to a real twister.

Also, the National Weather Service has daily lessons about pitfalls to avoid. Today's topic is something lots of folks know all too well about -- flash flooding. It's the No. 1 killer during thunderstorms. Eighty-four Americans died from floods a year ago. It's a timely lesson, since thunderstorms are in the forecast statewide, and thousands of Wisconsinites live along rivers that are swollen from melting snow.

The Weather Service notes that two feet of water is enough to make most cars float so people should steer clear of all flood waters.

Also, authorities warn people about boating or canoeing in rapid rivers. At least a couple people in Wisconsin have had to be saved from raging waters this month.

This morning, the Weather Service said the Mississippi River was six inches over its banks at Prairie du Chien. The Fox River at Berlin and the Wolf at Shiocton were all above its flood stages at last word.

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Police search for SUV that killed two motorcyclists

JANESVILLE -- Rock County authorities have been looking for an SUV that struck and killed two motorcyclists near Janesville and then drove away on Hwy. 14 around 8 p.m. yesterday.

Sheriff's deputies said five motorcycles were riding behind a vehicle that swerved to avoid the oncoming SUV that drove across the centerline. It struck the two bikers who were leading the group. Mitchell Vance, 24, and Devin Julius, 18, both of Janesville, died. The other three bikers managed to avoid the crash. Vance died at the scene. Julius died after being taken to a Janesville hospital.

At last word, sheriff's deputies were looking for witnesses and those who may have seen the hit-and-run vehicle, which was a mid-sized Nissan.

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Some Oscar Mayer wieners recalled

About 96,000 pounds of Oscar Mayer wieners were recalled on Easter Sunday because they might contain cheese by mistake.

Oscar Mayer is based in Madison and owned by Kraft Foods, but none of the hot dogs in question were made in Wisconsin. Kraft representative Joyce Hodel said the wieners came from a plant in Columbia, Mo.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Oscar Mayer's “Classic Wieners” may have ingredients from the company's “Classic Cheese Dogs.” Officials said the product labels were not correct, and they don't mention that the hot dogs in question have pasteurized cheese that contains the known allergen of milk. They have "Use By" dates of June 16.

There was no immediate word of anyone having an adverse reaction. A consumer caught the mistake and notified Kraft on Good Friday. The company alerted the federal government on Saturday. Consumers with questions are asked to contact Kraft's consumer relations department.

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500 Wisconsinites plan to run in Boston Marathon

About 500 Wisconsinites are registered to run in today's Boston Marathon -- which, of course, is more than just a 26-mile race. It's also a sign of a city's resolve to emerge stronger after a pair of terrorist bombings killed three people and injured 260 at the finish line of last year's marathon.

Wisconsin runners say they share in that resolve. Anne Coffman of New Berlin -- who watched the tragedy unfold on TV last year -- is among today's runners. She said the emotions didn't hit her until last Tuesday when the first anniversary of the bombings was observed.

Yesterday runners attended church services in downtown Boston. Marquette graduate Cynthia Schwartz left with a blue and gold hand-knit scarf. She told WTMJ TV in Milwaukee she was touched that somebody she didn't know would do something like that for her.

Normally, the Boston Marathon has a limit of 25,000 runners. Today they're letting 36,000 take part.

At least some from Wisconsin never got to finish last year's race, and they want to complete what they started. Neighboring Minnesota has 615 people running. Over 200 of them posed for a unity photo which appeared in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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AG candidates all pledge to pursue cold-case murders

All four candidates for Wisconsin attorney general promise to keep the pressure on to resolve long-running cold-case murders.

Republican Brad Schimel and Democrats Susan Happ, Jon Richards and Ismael Ozanne all had good words for the outgoing JB Van Hollen's pursuit of lingering investigations.

However, Gannett Wisconsin Media says federal cold-case funds have dried up, and the state no longer has a task force that exclusively works on those cases. Still, Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck says the 95 state criminal agents contribute to local cold-case police probes.

Happ, the Jefferson County district attorney, says funding is key. Gannett said the last major federal cold case funding was in 2010 when Wisconsin got over $500,000. Over the next year, 72 cold cases were reopened.

Richards, a Milwaukee Assembly Democrat, said he would urge lawmakers to spend more for investigations and related technology upgrades.

Ozanne, the Dane County DA, said the Legislature needs to approve more funding in this area. Schimel, the Waukesha DA and the only Republican in the race, says the Department of Justice has been effective by giving help to local police. The state homicide investigators group says it expects the new attorney general, whoever it is, to build on the progress made by Van Hollen.

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Racine Peeps exhibit attracts thousands

A popular remnant of Easter will hang around for the next three weeks in Racine.

An annual exhibit of Peeps -- the brightly colored marshmallow candies -- opened Good Friday at the Racine Art Museum.

Spokeswoman Laura Gillespie says it's the museum's most popular annual event. It attracted over 4,000 people last year, and good crowds have already been showing up for the new exhibit.

Four of the Peeps are made to look like the Beatles. Another display immortalizes kids in a school choir in Caledonia.

Gillespie says the Peep display offers a blast of color -- and it's just what folks need after the long winter.

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Law would require outside investigations in all officer-involved deaths

It appears Wisconsin's largest police departments will lose the ability to investigate their own officers involved in the deaths of suspects, and that's got officials bracing for a culture shift.

Gov. Scott Walker has indicated that he'll sign a bill requiring all Wisconsin law enforcement to use outside investigators in officer-involved deaths. That's standard procedure for smaller agencies, but for the first time, the Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay police departments will be judged by outsiders.

The Associated Press quotes experts who say those outside investigators could be treated with animosity.

Green Bay lieutenant Chad Ramos expects a number of unknowns. He said his department has transparent investigations, and he wonders why his officers cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.

Dane County and Madison have a pool of investigators that can look into any officer-involved death throughout the county. Milwaukee County has been talking about the same thing.

Lawmakers of both parties proposed the requirement after three high-profile deaths of suspects by officers in Milwaukee, Madison and Kenosha. The state Department of Justice said officers killed 41 people from 2008 through last April -- and all were found to be justified.

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Sentencing date set for man convicted to killing Family Dollar clerk

A sentencing date of June 5 has been set for a Milwaukee man convicted of killing an employee at a Family Dollar store during a robbery.

Jason Wandick, 26, had a retrial earlier this month -- where he was convicted of reckless homicide, armed robbery and illegal firearm possession as a felon.

Wandick shot store clerk William Melendez Jr. at close range last August even after the 44-year-old victim agreed to hand over the money in his cash register.

Wandick's cousin, Mikal Husun Jones, pleaded guilty to felony murder and testified against the shooter.

Jurors could not reach a verdict in Wandick's original trial, and prosecutors immediately reworked the charges and pursued the second trial.

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Milwaukee suburbs confront teen-suicide problem

Teen suicides are often quietly grieved and shoved under the rug in most communities, but not in Milwaukee's North Shore suburbs.

After three teen suicides last summer, youth minister Margaret Rhody challenged parents to find out why their teens were so overwhelmed and to find ways to stop the suicides.

Dozens showed up at Holy Family Church in Whitefish Bay for a night of hope and healing, including the parents of two suicide victims, 13-year-old Abby Goldberg and 14-year-old Rachael Salmon. The girls’ friends' parents also joined in the effort.

They created a group which the Journal Sentinel says could be a model for other communities struggling with teen suicides. The group brought in an Iowa psychologist to get ideas of how other places have dealt with the problem.

They held an "Out of the Darkness Walk" that raised $10,000. They've held seminars, and they got students involved because they knew that kids would only talk to other kids about the topic.

A retreat was held at UW-Milwaukee, where trusted ninth- and tenth-graders were trained in suicide prevention. The group also reviewed a national study showing that suburban teens have higher anxiety and depression than inner-city youths, and suburban girls are three times more likely to report significant depression.

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Road work begins on I-94 in Racine, Milwaukee counties

One of Wisconsin's busiest freeways will begin a new phase of road construction today.

Sixteen miles of I-94 will be resurfaced in Racine and Milwaukee counties -- the route that thousands of drivers take between Milwaukee and Chicago each day.

The new road work begins in Racine County close to the Kenosha County border. There will be ramp closures and detours along the way when necessary.

For now, one of the three northbound lanes will be closed during the day, and two lanes in each direction will be closed late at night starting at 9:30.

The work is part of a major rebuilding of I-94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois line. The current phase is scheduled to run through late July at a cost of almost $10 million.

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