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Wisconsin roundup: Democrats want federal monitoring of state elections; suspended UW student returns to court on sex allegations; 9 more state news stories

WASHINGTON -- If Wisconsin's congressional Democrats have their way, the U.S. Justice Department would help the state monitor next month's elections.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin and House Democrats Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and Mark Pocan have asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to send poll watchers from her agency. They cited what they call Wisconsin's "contentious" voter ID law that's being used in a presidential election for the first time.

The Democrats said the law had a "poor implementation," noting reports of conflicting information given to voters who tried applying for the required photo IDs recently. They also cited national media reports that Donald Trump supporters would try to intimidate minority voters at polling places -- an issue in which Democrats took Republicans to court Wednesday.

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Suspended UW student returns to court for sex allegations

MADISON -- Suspended UW-Madison student Alec Cook is due in court Thursday afternoon for a bond hearing on expected new charges that he molested fellow students.

He's already been charged with nine counts that include forcible second degree sex assault, battery, false imprisonment, and strangulation -- and media reports say Cook may face 30 charges in connection with four victims who have come forward. The 20-year-old Cook is a business major from Edina, Minnesota -- and he's been suspended from the UW and is barred from setting foot on campus.

Meanwhile, his attorneys say Cook has become the victim of a "modern day character assassination" due to national publicity about the case. NBC News and the Washington Post have reported on it -- the Daily Beast had the headline "Frat Boy Accused of Serial Rape" -- and social media has spread things as well.

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Four State Patrol troopers receive heroism awards

MADISON -- Four state troopers received awards Wednesday for heroism in their efforts to save lives.

Trooper Bill Lindeman of Chippewa Falls rescued a woman who suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing during a heart attack last November. Lindeman, also one of four pilots for the agency's air patrol program, was featured last summer in this RiverTown Multimedia story.

Trooper Steven Wojcik of Strum was honored for starting CPR on a man who had trouble breathing -- but later died -- after he was pulled from a burning house in Osseo Sept. 9. Trooper Daniel Restrepo of Ripon was credited with preventing a man from bleeding to death after he was hurt in a traffic crash in February -- and trooper Aaron Gross of Whitewater helped revive a man who was not breathing and did not have a pulse while in a motel room in Edgerton, but the man later died.

Also, Jennifer Schmidt and Susan Fuszard, both of Madison, received the State Patrol's Commendable Service Awards -- Schmidt for developing key law enforcement software, and Fuszard for providing stress management training.

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Efforts underway to address rural doctor shortage

As state lawmakers work to address a shortage of rural doctors, Wisconsin health care institutions say they're dealing with it.

UW-Madison has had its Academy for Rural Medicine since 2007 -- and the school was just awarded a four year, $675,000 federal grant to create more residency physicians in rural areas on a rotating basis. The Medical College of Wisconsin is training rural doctors at its new campuses in Green Bay and Wausau -- and the Marshfield and Monroe clinics, Aurora Health Care, and Gundersen of La Crosse are all in various stages of developing new or expanded rural residency programs.

But UW professor Bryan Crouse says future gains could be more difficult, as the state runs out of new training sites -- and he tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The low hanging fruit has been picked." Recently, Assembly Republican Ed Brooks of Reedsburg said his colleagues plan to introduce a package of bills on the subject in the next session.

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Camping numbers high in Wisconsin parks despite fee hikes

MADISON -- Wisconsin state park use this year is on track to be higher than average, despite fee increases that were imposed to offset the withdrawal of tax support.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the number of camping registrations and nights camped in 2016 through Friday was greater than in any year since 2008 except for last year's record. This year, there have been nearly 160,000 camping registrations and more than 386,000 nights camped for state parks, recreation areas and southern forests.

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DNR Board approves plan to sell 3,200 public acres

MADISON -- Another 3,180 acres of public land are about to go up for sale.

The state Natural Resources Board approved the action Wednesday, completing a requirement from GOP legislators that the DNR sell 10,000 acres by next summer. The mandate was part of the state budget passed in 2013, when Republicans expressed concerns about rising debt obligations from Wisconsin's Stewardship program that borrows money to preserve outdoor lands.

Of the 7,000 acres up for sale since 2014, a DNR official says it arranged contracts to sell about 900 of those acres for about $1 million. Board chairman Terry Hilgenberg called it a "horrendous project" and thanked DNR staffers for identifying affected parcels.

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Drug unit makes arrest in major meth operation

TWO RIVERS -- A 39-year-old man has been arrested in a major methamphetamine operation in Two Rivers.

Dave Remiker of the Manitowoc County Metro Drug Unit says the man was arrested at a Two Rivers home, with help from the state Justice Department and local police. Investigators say they found nearly 20 residue containers from meth production -- along with numerous chemicals, solvents, and "reaction vessels" used in making the drug.

They also say they found paraphernalia for intravenous drug use, and distribution items -- and a cleanup firm from Chicago was called in to collect and remove hazardous waste. The suspect faces a possible charge of manufacturing meth as a repeater, and the drug unit says more charges are possible as an investigation continues.

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Appleton's Houdini returns in spirit, 90 years after death

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Escape artist Harry Houdini, who grew up in Appleton, is being honored as the 90th anniversary of his death approaches on Halloween.

A Facebook post promotes the "official" 90th anniversary Houdini seance, to be held Monday night at Milwaukee's Oriental Theatre -- including music and a discussion about Houdini's life. On Wednesday, a plaque was unveiled outside his former home at the Sojourn Restaurant in New York -- and the Society of American Magicians plans a seance there Monday, as the group says it will "try to reach the master of mind tricks in the spirit world."

At the plaque dedication, Houdini's great niece Deborah Hardeen Bloom called him a "miraculous person ... not just with his magic." Many people think Houdini was born in Appleton, but the city's History Museum says he was actually born in Budapest, Hungary -- and he moved to Wisconsin when he was a toddler, as his father became Appleton's first rabbi.

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State prez race: Eric trump rallies, Stein scratches, Kaine to visit

Donald Trump's son Eric tells Milwaukee area supporters his father will work "so, so hard" for this country if he's elected in 12 days.

Eric Trump met dozens of supporters at GOP offices in Bayside and Wauwatosa on Wednesday -- and some wore "Wisconsin Women for Trump" T-shirts as they tried downplaying reports that Trump has made lewd comments about women and inappropriately touched some.

Meanwhile, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has canceled a visit to Madison Thursday due to illness, but the rally is still on. And Democrat Hillary Clinton's website says her running mate Tim Kaine is planning events in Madison and Appleton next Tuesday to encourage Democrats to vote early.

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Kenosha man accused of having child porn

KENOSHA -- A Kenosha man is accused of possessing child porn.

Donald Jervis was charged Tuesday with 17 counts of possession of child pornography and four counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Kenosha police found pornographic images and videos on a computer while searching his home last week. Jervis is facing up to 500 years in prison.

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State Supreme Court hears cases in Bayfield County

WASHBURN -- Folks in far northern Wisconsin got a chance Wednesday to see how the State Supreme Court does its business.

The justices held an all day session at the Bayfield County Courthouse in Washburn, where attorneys presented arguments in three cases that originated in the Milwaukee area. One asks whether a circuit judge can apply a newly discovered standard for DNA evidence -- and the other cases deal with a defendant's rights in reviewing evidence from medical examiners, and a liability issue from a workplace accident.

Spectators received explanations of the legal issues in each case, and the process used in deciding them. It's part of the Supreme Court's "Justice on Wheels" program which began in 1993, and has brought the legal system closer to people in 27 location outside of Dane County.

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