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First lady touts water in Watertown; Debate over raw milk sales goes on; 11 more state news briefs

A high school assembly in Watertown will kick off a national campaign to get more Americans to drink water.

First Lady Michelle Obama and actress Eva Longoria will be among those appearing at Watertown High this afternoon -- where 1,500 students will help the Partnership for a Healthier America kick off a campaign called "Drink Up."

Partnership president Lawrence Soler will also be on hand, along with water industry representatives and Watertown Mayor John David.

Michelle Obama is involved through her anti-obesity program "Let's Move."  Sam Kass of that group said the city's name was a major reason that Watertown was chosen to kick off the initiative.

The First Lady cites federal figures showing that 40% of Americans drink less than half the recommended amount of water each day, and there are days when a fourth of U.S. children don't drink any water at all.

Soler says about two dozen brands of water have joined the initiative and will have a "Drink Up" logo on their products. That includes Pepsi manufacturer WisPak of Watertown, which also bottles Aquafina and a host of flavored waters.

The program will also be promoted on the late night TV variety shows along with morning news programs and special Internet sites.


Debate over raw milk sales goes on

The safety-versus-freedom issue came up again yesterday when a state Senate committee held a public hearing on legalizing the sale of raw milk in Wisconsin.

Both sides spent hours making their cases for and against legislation proposed by Senate Republican Glenn Grothman and a similar Assembly bill offered by Trempealeau Democrat Chris Danou.

Danou says there's already a black market for raw milk, nobody can stop people from buying and drinking it, and it would be better if the product were regulated.

Previous arguments about the safety of raw milk came up. Supporters cited health benefits and freedom of choice. The dairy industry was among the opponents of the measure, saying there's risk of bacteria that could cause illnesses.

In the past, opponents have said that just one outbreak would bring Wisconsin's world-famous dairy industry to its knees. Former Gov. Jim Doyle cited that reasoning when he vetoed the last effort to legalize raw milk sales in 2010.

Mark Kastel of northern Wisconsin's Cornucopia Institute doesn't buy the claim. He says people are smart enough to know the difference between potential illnesses caused by raw milk as opposed to pasteurized dairy products.

Another public hearing on the bills is set for Monday at UW-La Crosse.


Suspect in custody; investigation into five bank robberies continues

An investigation continues into a string of bank robberies in western Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Ranya Al-Huthaili, 23, of Roseville, Minn., was arrested Monday night at a shopping mall in her home city. Federal charges had not been filed as of yesterday when the FBI issued a statement about the matter.

The five bank robberies began Aug. 15 in Cologne, Minn. They ended Monday with a heist at the Dairyland State Bank in Menomonie. The other Wisconsin holdup occurred last Thursday at First State Bank and Trust in Hudson.

FBI chief division counsel Kyle Loven said agents were still trying to find out the motives for the bank robberies. Officials said they did not recover a large amount of money, and they were still trying to find out what happened to all of it.


Fall River man accused of taking cattle truck owner hostage

A $500,000 bond has been set for a man suspected of stabbing a Madison man, assaulting a Cassville man and taking his guns, stealing two vehicles and taking a cattle truck owner hostage.

James Kruge, 36, of Fall River is still awaiting charges. For now, he's being held in the Iowa County Jail in Dodgeville, where the hostage victim reportedly got help in getting free on Monday.

Shortly after that, officials said Kruger engaged law enforcement officers from four counties in a long high-speed chase. Officials said it ended after Kruger crashed the stolen vehicle he was driving.

The Madison stabbing also occurred on Monday. Police said the victim will survive.

Media reports say Kruger faces up to seven felonies, including reckless endangerment, false imprisonment and fleeing officers. He was charged last week with eluding an officer in Dane County. Kruger was freed on a signature bond.


Memorial to murdered teens vandalized

A memorial to three teenagers killed on the Wisconsin-Michigan border in 2008 was vandalized within the past week.

The Michigan State Police said a stone memorial was damaged at a railroad bridge in the Dickinson County town of Breitung. Authorities are asking for tips on who might have committed the vandalism.

The memorial recognizes Bryan Mort,19; Anthony Spigarelli, 18; and Tiffany Pohlson, 17.  They were at a swimming hole on the Wisconsin side of the border near Niagara when former solider Scott Johnson gunned them down in the summer of 2008.

Johnson, who's now 43, sexually assaulted a woman at the same place the night before the shootings.  He pleaded no contest to 10 felonies and is serving three life prison terms plus 295 years.


Court appearance set for man accused of killing Spring Valley driver

A man accused of killing a western Wisconsin motorist while being pursued by police in Minneapolis is due in court today.

Yia Her, 34, was charged Wednesday with two felony counts of fleeing police while causing death or injury.

Authorities said Her was being chased by a Minnesota state trooper who saw him speeding and driving drunk in downtown Minneapolis early Monday. Prosecutors said his car drove over a sidewalk, breezed past red lights and went the wrong way down a one-way street before colliding in an intersection with a vehicle driven by Brody Satona, 20, of Spring Valley.

Satona died in the crash. His 24-year-old passenger from Stillwater, Minn., was still in critical condition at last word. Both were members of a local rock music band.

Her is quoted as telling officers he tried escaping because he didn't want to be caught driving with a suspended license. He said he could not remember many details of his pursuit because he was drunk at the time.

Prosecutors said Her's blood alcohol level was .16 -- twice the legal limit in Minnesota. He's in jail under a $500,000 bond.

Satona's Wisconsin family has questioned the need for the chase. A State Patrol official said it's not easy to decide when pursuits should be made, and Her should be the one at fault, not his officer.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said Her has 17 traffic violations over the last 13 years -- 10 for speeding.


Company lost $1 million worth of timber in wildfire

A timber company was the main victim of the massive wildfire in northwest Wisconsin in mid-May.

The Lyme Saint Croix company said it incurred over $1 million of damage when most of its 5,200 acres in Douglas County were burned. Executive Sean Ross said the land was not insured for fire damage.

The blaze blackened 7,400 acres, destroyed 17 homes and caused dozens of people to evacuate. It was the largest forest fire in Wisconsin in 33 years.

This week, the state Department of Natural Resources said it would bill Ray Duerr Logging of Rib Lake for the estimated $630,000 it cost to fight the wildfire. Sparks from one of the company's logging machines started the blaze.

The DNR said it later learned that the machine had a fire suppression unit that was not maintained properly. Officials cited negligence in requiring the logging firm to pay for the firefighting costs.


Plover man bound over on charges he raped, killed neighbor

A Plover man has been ordered to stand trial for allegedly raping and killing his neighbor and burning her car with her body in it to try to hide the evidence.

Jose Flores Aca, 32, was bound over at a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Portage County. He's scheduled to enter pleas Oct. 7 to charges of homicide, sexual assault and hiding a corpse.

The incident happened in early August. According to testimony from investigators, Flores Aca was upset about a fight with his girlfriend when 36-year-old Jamie Koch -- his neighbor in his Plover apartment building -- invited him into her place. As she took his wrist to lead him inside, officials said he got angry and knocked her down, strangled her with her bra, wrapped her in a bed sheet and drove her to neighboring Waupaca County.

A state Justice agent testified that Flores Aca showed up at a farm where he used to work -- about three miles from the burned car -- and asked for a ride home, claiming he was dropped off at a party.

Reporters said there was extra security at yesterday's preliminary hearing.


Redskins face protests in Green Bay

With protests planned for Sunday's Packer game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league should pay attention to those offended by the Washington Redskins name.

He told a DC radio station yesterday that the NFL needs to listen if it's offending people and to make sure, "we're doing the right things to try to address that."

The Redskins are playing the Packers in Green Bay this weekend. The Wisconsin Indian Education Association plans to have protestors at the game. It's also holding a forum on the subject tomorrow at UW-Green Bay.

Goodell says a decision to change the Redskins name is up to team owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed never to the change it.

Earlier this year, 10 members of Congress asked that the Redskins name and Indian logo be dropped. At the time, Goodell said the 'Skins name was a unifying force that "stands for strength, courage, pride and respect."

The commissioner's comments yesterday took a step back on that position. Now Goodell says the league should at least listen to concerns like those from the Wisconsin group, which says the Redskin has long been considered a derogatory term and a race-based stereotype.


Milwaukee Estuary gets $1.5 million federal grant

Wisconsin is about to get another $1.5 million from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The federal EPA says the grant will help clean up the Milwaukee Estuary and remove it from a list of highly polluted areas. The money will be used to look for uncontrolled sources of sewage, study the health of aquatic communities, restore grassland habitat in the area and create an inventory of fish and wildlife populations in Metro Milwaukee. It's another local pollution hotspot being addressed by the Great Lakes Initiative, which has provided about $1.33 billion since 2009 on various cleanups along the Great Lakes.

The program's future was discussed this week at a large gathering of environmental groups in Milwaukee. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe announced the grant at that meeting yesterday.


State nearly lost $28 million grant over United Sportsmen deal

The governor's office and state lawmakers are blaming each other after it was learned that the approval of a sportsmen's grant could have cost the state $28 million a year in federal funds.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the Legislature's finance panel put the funds in jeopardy by budgeting $500,000 in state and federal money which the politically connected United Sportsmen was awarded to promote hunting and fishing. Gov. Scott Walker preserved the federal funds by making a partial budget veto in which state covered the entire grant.

Last week Walker eliminated the grant after questions were raised about the United Sportsmen's tax status. Now the Journal Sentinel said the grant approval by GOP lawmakers came despite two warnings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That agency told the DNR that millions in federal funds could be cut off because the state would no longer have full control of them.

GOP finance member Luther Olsen said he never knew about the DNR's warnings until the Journal Sentinel brought them up, and he's speechless the administration didn't say anything. Walker's office says the governor indeed worked with key lawmakers on the matter, and Olsen should have asked questions earlier.

Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to do favors for political friends. Milwaukee Assembly Democrat Jon Richards called on the Department of Justice to investigate to see if there was "wrongdoing that goes beyond cronyism."



Light company plans to bring 400 jobs to Wisconsin

A lighting manufacturer plans to move from northern Illinois to Kenosha County, bringing 400 jobs to Wisconsin.

Media reports say Kenall Manufacturing is leaving Gurnee. Ill., and will build a larger factory and headquarters facility west of Kenosha near I-94. Kenall makes specialty lighting equipment for places like schools, prisons and hospitals.

Company Vice President Randy Hernandez said the firm has added about 100 employees during the past three years.

Kenosha County is providing $1 million in an economic incentive grant. Incentives from the state and other public bodies have not been finalized. Still, Gov. Scott Walker feels confident enough about the move that he's scheduled to announce it today at a news conference in Kenosha.

Kenall plans to spend up to $30 million on the project. Groundbreaking could come as early as December with completion in 1 1/2 to two years.

This is the second time in two weeks that Kenosha County has lured a company from Illinois. Last week, it was announced that Hanna Cylinders would move from Libertyville, Ill., to Pleasant Prairie by the end of the year, bringing 100 jobs. Kenosha County's incentive fund paid $250,000 to help the firm.


Truck driver pleads guilty in Koch hacking case

A northeast Wisconsin man pleaded guilty yesterday to a reduced charge as he admitted helping hackers pull off a cyber-attack on Koch Industries.

Eric Rosol, 37, of Black Creek faces up to a year in prison when he's sentenced Dec. 2.  He pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas to a misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer.

Rosol, a truck driver, admitted helping the hacker group "Anonymous" with a massive volume of cyber requests that shut down Koch's Website for about 15 minutes in early 2011.

The energy company's direct loss from the attack was about $5,000. Koch said it also spent $183,000 on consultants who helped protect its Websites after Koch learned the attack was coming.

Defense lawyer Kurt Kerns said his client should not have to pay a dime for that. He says it's like trying to collect the cost of a safe before it's stolen. As part of his plea deal, Rosol forfeited the computer he used in the cyber-attack.