- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Fad involving cold-water challenges prompts alerts

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A recent fad in which people challenge their friends to jump into freezing water to raise money for charity has prompted warnings across the nation, as an increasing number of divers are reporting broken bones, blown-out knees or worse.

The phenomenon, which began last month as a fundraiser for a 6-month-old cancer patient, has evolved as it spread. In some cases those who are challenged must pay $100 if they fail to take the plunge within 24 or 48 hours. In other cases, people jump and still donate to charity. In another variation, the challenge is a straightforward dare with no charity involved.

Although the challenges are well-intentioned, injuries have mounted in states including Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Officials with high schools and state agencies are now urging people to forgo a jump or at least take precautions.

A 16-year-old girl in Fond du Lac who recently jumped into Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago in a challenge from a friend shredded ligaments in her knee when she landed on razor-sharp shells. Elsewhere, officials at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, alerted parents to the practice after one student fractured an ankle jumping into Lake Michigan and another suffered a head injury that required stitches.

A number of Facebook pages are dedicated to the so-called Cold Water Challenge. People post videos in which they say who “nominated” them and to whom they’re passing on the challenge. Then they jump into a lake or swimming pool, emerging wide-eyed and gasping for breath.

The idea isn’t new. The Special Olympics has polar plunges in which volunteers get friends to sponsor their jumps into freezing water. Emergency crews are always on hand for those plunges.

The cold-water challenge trend took off after the family of Landon Shaw - an infant from Tarkio, Missouri, who has a rare form of cancer - created the “Plunge for Landon” challenge, which raised more than $250,000. There was at least one severe injury: An Iowa man broke two vertebrae when he dove into water that was shallower than he realized.

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Soldier who grew up in Wisconsin dies in Kosovo

KIEL, Wis. (AP) - A soldier originally from Wisconsin has died while serving on a U.S. Army base in Kosovo, and her father said he and other relatives have questions about what happened.

The U.S. Army on Tuesday confirmed the May 9 death of Sgt. Heidi L. Ruh, a 32-year-old who lived most recently in Barrington, Illinois.

Ruh’s body was found by a civilian at a running track at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, according to the Kosovo Force’s Multinational Battle Group-East. Joe Garvey, a spokesman with U.S. Army Europe, told The Associated Press the cause and circumstances of her death are under investigation.

The soldier’s father, Scott Ruh, told WLUK-TV (https://bit.ly/1jXayKThttps://bit.ly/1jXayKT ) that officers who came to his home in Newton, Wisconsin, on Friday had few details about what happened to his daughter.

Ruh had been in the Army for 11 years and was based at Fort Hood, Texas, where she survived a shooting rampage by another Army officer in 2009, he father said. She worked in a medical unit, repairing surgical machines and volunteered to go to Kosovo in February.

“Our worst part was we thought our worries were over, you know that she was going to a non-hostile area and she was only there a couple of months,” Scott Ruh said.

Ruh grew up in Kiel along with Sgt. Amy Krueger, who was killed during the 2009 Fort Hood shootings. They graduated a year apart from Kiel High School.

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EMILY’s List says Walker race top priority

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The spokeswoman for a well-funded, pro-Democratic national group says defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker and electing Democrat Mary Burke will be a top priority this year.

EMILY’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech wouldn’t say Tuesday how much the Washington-based group that backs pro-abortion rights female candidates planned to spend on the race.

In 2012 EMILY’s List and affiliated groups spent nearly $5 million helping Democrat Tammy Baldwin win her Senate race.

Stech says women will be motivated to vote against Walker in part because of his repeal of a law repeal of a law making it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination. She also said women voters will oppose Walker’s signing of a bill last year requiring women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

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Black bear family roaming close to Wisconsin town

OSCEOLA, Wis. (AP) - Wildlife officials in northwestern Wisconsin are trying to trap a family of black bears that has been digging through trash bins in the small town of Osceola.

The sow and her two cubs have been spotted on multiple occasions in backyards and close to homes in the last week. Experts say the mother bear may weigh about 300 pounds, WCCO-TV reported (https://cbsloc.al/1sIbaXAhttps://cbsloc.al/1sIbaXA ) Monday.

It’s not unusual for the town of about 2,500 on Wisconsin’s border with Minnesota to be visited by wildlife.

Purnal Tracy, 88, told The Associated Press he’s lost two or three bird feeders since last fall. He said the bears must have recently come out of hibernation and wandered into town looking for food.

“We’ve seen bears here in town off and on for the last few years,” Tracy said.

Osceola Police Chief Tim Lauridsen said he had to shoot a 400-pound problem bear at an elementary school a few years ago after it wouldn’t leave town. But he described the latest bear intrusion as “more a disturbance.”

Officials have set a trap in Tracy’s yard near a forest. Tracy said the bears hadn’t been caught as of early Tuesday.

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