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Suspect in custody for Hudson bank robbery; Senators split on Obama's Syrian strategy; more Wisconsin news

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A Twin Cities woman was arrested Monday evening following a bank robbery in Menomonie and is expected to soon be charged with robbing First State Bank & Trust in Hudson as well as banks in Menomonie and Minnesota, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported Wednesday.

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The woman was arrested sometime after she allegedly robbed the Menomonie bank late Monday.

Kyle Loven, a spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis, confirmed Wednesday morning that a female suspect is jailed in Minnesota, although he would not say where.

Loven said facets of the investigation and charges are still being "pieced together" due to cross-jurisdictional complexities but the woman may make a court appearance later Wednesday.

The same suspect is also believed linked to bank robberies in Cologne, Stacy and Forest Lake, Minn., over the past month.

She was described as being white, 20 to 30 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a thin build.

The Hudson case unfolded at 10:44 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 5th when a woman entered the Second Street bank and indicated to a teller that she had a weapon, although none was seen. She escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash in a black shoulder bag.

The Menomonie robbery occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9th at Dairy State Bank, 600 Second St. E. The robber received an unknown amount of money and walked out.

More details will be posted when available on Wednesday.

Judge declares Telemark Lodge 'abandoned' but Birke '14 still a go

WASHBURN -- The Telemark ski resort near Cable in northwest Wisconsin is officially closed -- again.

A Bayfield County judge has declared the property to be abandoned, which could expedite foreclosure proceedings.

Mortgage-holder Dick Short told Wisconsin Public Radio that the resort's title can be cleared of lien-holders, and make the place more attractive to potential buyers.

Telemark has had a checkered past since it first opened in 1972.

In recent court hearings, it was revealed that the resort has not had electricity or running water since March -- and there's been evidence of looting in the 150-room lodge.

Regardless of whether Telemark is sold, Short says the 900-acre property will still be used for next February's American Birkebeiner cross country ski race.

The lodge is the starting point for the annual race, which attracts contestants from throughout the world.

State wins bonuses for expanding food, medical assistance benefits

MADISON -- Politicians of both parties demand a crackdown, after learning that Wisconsin is getting millions of dollars in federal incentives to recruit people for public benefits.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says state and local workers are pressured by their bosses to sign up people in jail, and those getting benefits in other states. That prompted Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend to draft a bill to bring back asset limits to qualify for food stamps -- and reduce benefits to the lowest amount set by federal guidelines.

In 2004, Wisconsin was among nine states raising income eligibility for aid. It allowed families making $46,000 a year to get food benefits. Grothman said it created "a moral crisis as people believe they have a right to live off the government."

U.S. House Democrat Gwen Moore of Milwaukee said supervisors who order workers to sign up prisoners and dead people for public benefits should be fired and criminally charged.

In 2011, Wisconsin got the largest federal bonus in the country, $33 million, by making it easier to enroll children in medical assistance programs. Wisconsin also got $4 million for the numbers of people it recruited for food stamps the past couple years.

Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills says she's working on a number of measures -- including one to make it easier to collect improper benefits from those who received them.

Gov. Scott Walker has not commented on the fraud reports. Darling says she's working with the Republican governor on it -- and they'll be ready to roll out something more definite this fall.

Senators split on Obama's latest effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons

WASHINGTON D.C. -- U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says President Obama's latest strategy for Syria is "practical."

The president told the nation last night that diplomacy now holds the potential to remove chemical weapons from Syria without the use of military force. If that fails, Obama said the U.S. would be ready to make what he called a "targeted strike" against Syrian President Assad.

Wisconsin Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin came out Tuesday against any military action. She said the use of chemical weapons is a "global atrocity," and it demands a more global response.

Obama promised not to put Americans into another open-ended war. He said the clear objective is to deter the further use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, and to reduce Assad's capabilities.

Obama also asked Congress to delay votes he's been seeking to authorize the use of force in Syria. Johnson said the president can use force without congressional approval. He said that if Syria hands over its weapons to Russia for destruction -- which both countries have reportedly agreed to -- the door would open to replace Assad with a coalition government.

Johnson voted against military action in a committee last week but he said he wanted to see a real strategy to avoid a "failed state in Syria."

State Patrol offering free cars seats to needy families

MADISON -- Almost 1,000 low-income families in Wisconsin will soon get free car seats for their young children.

The State Patrol will distribute them next week, to help observe National Child Passenger Safety Week.

Federal funding provided the infant safety seats and booster seats. They'll be given to about two-dozen hospitals, clinics, and other groups which will hand them out to needy families.

The State Patrol and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will use the safety week to remind parents about the proper use of child safety restraints.

A state law was adopted more than six years ago requires children age three and under to be restrained in child safety seats when traveling.

All but the largest four- to seven-year-olds must sit in booster seats while buckled up.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative needs overhaul to assure effectiveness, experts say

MILWAUKEE -- Environmental experts say the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative should be revamped, to make sure it's doing what it's intended to do.

The Obama White House has spent $1.3 billion on the program since 2009. Most funding has gone to shovel-ready projects like removing dams, improving sewage plants, restoring wetlands, and cleaning toxic problems.

At this week's annual conference of Great Lakes organizations in Milwaukee, university researchers say the program's focus for the next five years should be to target larger cleanups -- like the western part of Lake Erie, where algae has caused a host of environmental problems.

Don Scavia of the University of Michigan suggests that Washington use a more competitive process for rewarding grants. He says applicants should demonstrate how their results would be measured.

Scavia says he's seen very little evidence of federal monitoring, to make sure the funded projects are paying off.

Cameron Davis of the Environmental Protection Agency disagrees, saying the Great Lakes Initiative spends a lot of money on monitoring and assessments.

Davis admits there's a need for more strategic monitoring, but he says the White House will not take the focus away from practical projects which can show immediate results.

Lancaster Jersey will wear crown as 'Cow of the Year'

MADISON -- A Jersey dairy cow from southwest Wisconsin will be honored as the Cow of the Year at next month's World Dairy Expo.

Ambition Hercules Jordan is the name of the animal, owned by Derek Orth of Lancaster and bred by Amber Elliott of Marshall.

Jordan has produced over 130,000 pounds of milk. She's also the matriarch, if you will, of a large family that includes 18 daughters and six maternal grand-daughters by both natural births and embryo transfers.

More transfers are expected this month, and Jordan is due for natural off-spring in October.

The Cow of the Year program honors all seven major dairy breeds.

State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and Alice in Dairyland Kristin Olson will present the honor to Jordan during the International Jersey Show at World Dairy Expo, set for Oct. 1-5 in Madison.

Wausau bans public drunkeness

WAUSAU -- Wausau will soon become the latest Wisconsin city to ban public intoxication.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of the ordinance.

It's aimed at discouraging people who repeatedly get drunk and cause disturbances in Wausau's downtown "400-Block" park, and the city's Big Bull Falls Park.

Those visibly intoxicated in public who cause public nuisances can be fined $150 for their first offense, and $300 plus court costs for subsequent offenses. Police say the new ordinance is the third part of a strategy to ban disruptive people from Wausau city parks.

Last month, the city gave police the authority to ban repeatedly disruptive people from parks. Three people have received temporary bans.

The second step has police asking judges to order offenders not to return to the parks where they were arrested -- and several such orders have been granted.

Manitowoc County brothers charged in death of Illinois man

Two brothers from Manitowoc County are charged with killing a man in central Illinois.

James Jacquart, 25, of Manitowoc and Alexander Jacquart, 22, of Valders are both jailed in DeWitt County under bonds of $1 million each.

They're charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the death of 21-year-old Blayne Benefield.

The victim's body was found last Saturday morning by a pedestrian in Farmer City, Ill.

The Jacquarts work for a traveling amusement company.

State's attorney Karl Koritz called the incident a "senseless act of violence," but he did not say how the suspects and the victim were connected.

Online court records show that James Jacquart had five previous convictions in Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties over the past six years for theft, criminal damage to property, and negligent handling of burning materials.

Alexander Jacquart has had Manitowoc County convictions of theft and receiving stolen property. He also had a child sexual assault charge dropped from 2011, after fulfilling terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.

-- Damon Ryan, WOMT, Manitowoc

Suspect nabbed after alleged stabbing, theft and hostage-taking spree

A 36-year-old man was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly stabbed a man in Madison, assaulted a man in Cassville and stole his guns, and took a cattle truck owner hostage before that person escaped in Dodgeville.

Authorities said James Kruger, 36, of Fall River also stole two vehicles, and he used one of them to lead officers from four counties on a high-speed chase before he was finally stopped.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said Kruger was captured near Blue Mounds, when the stolen car he was driving overturned soon after it hit road spikes set up by deputies. Kruger managed to get out before the vehicle became engulfed in flames.

Mahoney said Highway 18-151 was closed for an hour after the crash, because Kruger might have left an explosive device in the vehicle.

Kruger was wanted for stabbing a 48-year-old man in Madison on Monday. He was also wanted for the Grant County assault, gun theft, and hostage incident from Tuesday.

Also, reports said Kruger was arrested last Wednesday for eluding an officer in Dane County. He was released on a signature bond that day.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told WISC TV his staff assumed that Kruger would be automatically held for violating a previous probation -- but the probation ended in August, and Ozanne said his office "probably made a mistake" in not demanding a cash bond.

Two killed in Milwaukee in separate shootings Tuesday evening

MILWAUKEE -- Two people were killed Tuesday evening in separate shootings.

A 29-year-od man was shot to death just before 7:30 p.m. in a north side neighborhood.

About three hours later, the medical examiner's office said another person was killed almost 30 blocks north of the first incident.

No other details of the shootings were released.

National AG's group to meet in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- The state's largest city will host a meeting of the country's top law enforcement officials next week.

The National Association of Attorneys General will hold its annual presidential summit next Tuesday and Wednesday at Milwaukee's downtown Pfister Hotel.

The meeting is traditionally held in the home state of the group's president -- which for this year is Wisconsin's J.B. Van Hollen.

Almost 20 attorneys general are expected to attend and Van Hollen says they'll learn more about keeping children safe.

Topics include school violence, drug abuse, Internet crimes against kids, and child sex trafficking.

Officials from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will speak at the gathering, along with the National Child Protection Training Center.

Black Creek man accused of cyber attack on Koch computers

A northeast Wisconsin man is expected to reach a settlement Wednesday on federal charges that he helped make a cyber-attack on Koch Industries.

Eric Rosol, 37, of Black Creek has a federal plea hearing scheduled in Kansas, where Koch is headquartered.

Prosecutors said Rosol helped the hacker group "Anonymous" jam Koch's Web site with high volumes of automated requests, to the point in which the site shut down in 2011.

Rosol was also accused of sending a code which damaged a Koch computer.

He indicated in July that he accepted a plea deal, but the details have not come out. Rosol is currently charged with one count of damaging a computer, and a charge of conspiracy to damage a computer.

Rosol was indicted by a grand jury in March. A defense lawyer said nothing was hacked, and none of Koch's protected data was lost.

Black Creek is a village of about 1,300 people, located in Outagamie County, just west of Green Bay.

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Steve Dzubay
Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer since 1995. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.
(715) 426-1054
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