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Fountain City man dies in pickup vs. freight train accident; Gasoline prices dropping here but dropping faster in Minnesota; Nine more state news briefs

Yesterday's snowstorm was blamed for the death of a pickup truck driver who collided with a passing freight train in western Wisconsin.

Buffalo County authorities said Christopher Squires, 32, of Fountain City slid through an intersection, and his pickup got stuck after it scraped a crossing arm. The truck was then hit by a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe cargo train about 8:15 a.m. Monday three miles north of Fountain City at the Indian Creek crossing.

Authorities said the train and the crossing arms were running normally. The train did not have hazardous materials, and nothing spilled.

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Some Minnesota gas prices fall below $2.50

Gasoline prices continue to inch downward in Wisconsin, but not as much as in Minnesota where many folks are paying less than $2.50 a gallon.

The Wisconsin AAA said the average statewide price of regular unleaded was almost $2.84 this morning. That's seven tenths of a cent less than yesterday and 32 cents cheaper than last Thanksgiving.

At$2.79 Madison and Milwaukee had the lowest prices among Wisconsin metros.

Folks in Duluth-Superior are getting a real bargain along with Wisconsinites close to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Minnesotagasprices.com said Duluth, at $2.49, had the cheapest gas in the Gopher State yesterday.

Patrick DeHaan of gasbuddy.com credits large fuel inventories at a time when the U.S. is producing more of its own oil and drivers are going fewer miles in more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Falling crude oil prices have also been credited. The cost of oil is now around $80 a barrel. Experts say it could fall to $60 if major oil producers in the Middle East don't slash their output soon.

The Duluth News-Tribune says gas prices in that area are the lowest since 2009. DeHaan said it's misconception that fuel prices inch up for the holidays. He expects even more price drops this week.

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Gile gets another 15 inches of snow

Milwaukee got its first real taste of winter yesterday while Gile in northern Wisconsin received another 15 inches of snow on top of the 80 inches it had the past two weeks. Some of those 80 inches disappeared during the weekend when the mercury rose above freezing for a couple days.

This morning the far north is back in the teens. Gile, which is directly in the line of fire for Lake Superior's lake-effect snow, was still getting it as of 2:45 a.m.

Elsewhere in the far north, Rhinelander had six inches and counting as of 2 a.m. Gurney in Iron County had seven inches. Washburn in Bayfield County had less than four inches. Other parts of the Badger State had 3-5 inches.

Metro Milwaukee drivers had to adjust to winter conditions for the first time in months, and the result was predictable. Almost 75 vehicles drove into ditches in Waukesha County, and it had 57 crashes in which nine people were injured. Milwaukee County had around 40 crashes by mid-afternoon yesterday.

Madison broke a 127-year-old snowfall record for the date with 5.3 inches.

There's still some light snow around the state this morning, but the National Weather Service said it would soon disappear. Partly to mostly cloudy skies are predicted for today with highs in the 20's. More light snow is due in tomorrow, with minor accumulations expected.

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Baldwin, Pocan praise Obamacare during Madison visits

Two Wisconsin congressional Democrats made a pitch for Obamacare in Madison yesterday.

Senator Tammy Baldwin said the Affordable Care Act has been a clear success in Wisconsin after 139,000 people signed up by last May.

House Democrat Mark Pocan of Madison said healthcare.gov is faster, simpler and more intuitive this time around, and he joked that it actually works after last year's early bugs with the system.

The second year of Obamacare signups began ten days ago. The law requires everyone to have coverage or risk a penalty.

Prices for plans on the federal exchange had little or no increase from last year. However, consultants from Avalere Health recently said the plans themselves changed in the No. 2 silver category in all regions of Wisconsin. The firm said those who stay in their current plans could be hit with price increases and cuts in federal subsidies so even those currently in the program are being urged to check things out.

The signup deadline is Dec. 15 for coverage that takes effect at the start of the New Year.

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Three children die in on slippery road near Michigan border

Three children were killed in a snow-related traffic crash not far from the Wisconsin border in Upper Michigan.

Menominee County authorities said Susan Meade, 40, of Daggett Michigan lost control of her van on Hwy. 41 last night about 20 miles north of Marinette. The van drove into the path of a semi-truck, which struck a side of the woman's vehicle.

Fourteen-year-old Michael McCue died, along with 12-year-old Maxwell McCue and 11-year-old Joelle McCue.

Meade was critically injured. A rescue helicopter could not take her to a hospital due to the snowy conditions so a ground ambulance responded. She was later transferred to a hospital in Green Bay.

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Two Milwaukee pedestrians killed in separate hit-and-run accidents

A second pedestrian has died after being struck by a hit and run vehicle in Milwaukee early Sunday.

Both crashes happened on the city's south side within an hour of each other.

Police said yesterday that a 34-year-old man was killed around 2:30 a.m. Sunday by a car that didn't stop. Officials said they were still searching for that driver as of yesterday afternoon. An outside surveillance camera caught the vehicle as did a camera from a nearby restaurant.

The other hit-and-run crash happened about an hour earlier. Sixty-three year old Alfredo De La O was killed. Witnesses helped police locate the vehicle that hit him, and a 49-year-old Milwaukee man is in jail while awaiting charges.

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Squad car involved in fatal crash in Ashland County

A police car from the Bad River Indian tribe was involved in a fatal crash yesterday in Ashland County.

Sheriff's deputies said the squad collided head-on with another vehicle just before 11 a.m. on Hwy. 2 between Ashland and Odanah. A passenger in the civilian vehicle died at the scene.

Both drivers were taken to hospitals with injuries. Their conditions were not immediately disclosed, and it was not known whether the Bad River officer was on duty at the time.

A State Patrol team is reconstructing the accident scene to help determine what happened.

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UW-Green Bay cancels Cosby performance

UW-Green Bay is among the latest to cancel a performance by Bill Cosby.

The university said yesterday that the comedian's appearance on April 12 at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts is called off and will not be rescheduled. Those who bought tickets can get refunds.

It's just the latest cancellation for Cosby, who's been targeted recently with allegations from women that he sexually assaulted them in the past. His attorney calls the accusations "unsubstantiated" and "uncorroborated." Lawyer Martin Singer calls it a "media vilication" of Cosby that must stop.

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Opening weekend deer harvest lowest in years

Wisconsin's deer harvest was the lowest in years for the opening weekend of the nine-day gun season.

According to preliminary figures from the Department of Natural Resources, almost 90,300 deer were shot Saturday and Sunday -- down 18% from last year's tally of almost 111,000.

As expected, the far northern counties had the biggest declines. The DNR is working to increase the deer herd in that region after last year's rough winter caused major reductions.

To try to rebuild the herd, all or parts of 19 northern counties limited their hunting to bucks this season. Permits for antlerless deer are at their lowest since the 1990's in northern Wisconsin. As a result, the statewide antlerless take on the opening weekend was just over 41,000 -- down 27% from a year ago.

The buck harvest was down 9% to almost 49,000.

The DNR reported no shooting incidents in the first two days despite heavy fog and rain in a number of areas on Sunday. 2010 was the only other year in which no shootings occurred in the opening weekend.

Wisconsin sold almost 590,000 deer hunting licenses by the time the season opened. That's down by over 4% from a year ago.

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Elevator malfunction traps utility workers 150 ft. above ground

Four contracted workers were rescued last night after they got trapped on a platform 150 feet above the ground at a We Energies power plant in Milwaukee.

Officials said the four couldn't get down after an elevator in one of the two smokestacks got stuck. A fifth employee who was in the elevator was rescued early on by Milwaukee firefighters.

A We Energies spokesman said the other four took shelter in an enclosure on the platform while they waited to be rescued. The last one was brought down about 11 p.m., six hours after the elevator got stuck.

The cause of the elevator malfunction was not immediately determined.

The employees were conducting an environmental analysis of emissions at the Valley Power Plant, located in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley between the city's downtown and the Miller Park baseball stadium.

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More John Doe documents will be released today

About 70,000 more pages of documents will be released today in the long-completed John Doe probe into Scott Walker's Milwaukee County aides.

It's the fourth time this year that County Executive Chris Abele will release emails from the computers of former employees in the executive's office when Gov. Walker ran it.

Many of the items released so far described the illegal campaigning that aides conducted on taxpayer time for Walker when he ran for governor in 2010 and for Brett Davis, who ran and lost for lieutenant governor the same year.

Six Walker associates were convicted for related misconduct and for embezzling thousands of dollars from a Milwaukee County program that honored Wisconsin veterans.

In May a judge ordered that more than 500 gigabytes of data be released to the public. The three previous document dumps came once a month since August.

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