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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Barron native announces he'll challenge Ron Kind in the fall

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A second Republican is challenging U-S House Democrat Ron Kind this fall in western Wisconsin. Chris Anderson of La Crosse served in Afghanistan with the Army, and he's a former aide to Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Anderson, a 28-year-old Barron native, said he would focus on reducing the national debt if he's elected. He criticizes Kind for supporting President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Former Mauston alderman Ken Van Doren announced his Republican candidacy for Kind's seat earlier. If both Republicans get on the ballot, they'll square off in a mid-August primary for the right to face Kind in November.

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Winter's grip will apparently hang on for at least a while. What seemed like a nearly week-long heat wave in Wisconsin is about to end this weekend. Starting tomorrow, parts of the north might not see 30-degrees again until at least Tuesday. By Sunday, it could get back down to 10-below in some areas. Single-digit lows are predicted for Monday morning, before a slight warming trend builds again. This week, the Badger State saw its first 50-degree readings of the year on Monday -- jarring us from what seemed like weeks of constant sub-zero wind-chills. It got cold again Wednesday, but temperatures rebounded yesterday to around 40 -- still below normal for this time of year in parts of the state. There's a chance of rain and snow in northern Wisconsin today, and statewide tomorrow.

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The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has announced its eighth annual "Opee" awards. They recognize those who've enhanced openness in government over the last year, and expose those who've hurt the cause. The awards come in advance of next week's "Sunshine Week." It promotes the importance of government openness to a free society. Oconto Police Chief Dan Ault gets the Political Openness Award for going against a trend to withhold things like drivers' names from traffic accident reports. Becky Kostopolus and Marilyn Bartelt won the Citizen Openness Award for digging up information on how the Appleton School District dealt with teachers who made inappropriate comments about her son. Ellen Gabler and Allen James Vestal of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won the Media Openness Award for finding delays in a genetic test for newborns. David Wahlberg of the Wisconsin State Journal won the Open Records Scoop of the Year for exposing the state's lax treatment in disciplining doctors who harm or kill patients. Property-owner David Salkin was named the Whistleblower of the Year, for giving information about the A-T-F's botched storefront weapons' operation in Milwaukee. And State Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend won the No Friend of Openness Award for sponsoring bills to purge information from the state's online court records, and stop making campaigns disclose the employers of their major donors. The awards will be presented at a banquet next month.

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Inside tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin will start earlier this year. The famous house near Spring Green normally offers full tours from May through October, and more limited weekend landscape tours and shuttle rides in April and November. Those limited tours are being replaced this year with full two-hour house tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The basement and main levels of Taliesin are heated this year for restoration workers -- and that's made an early opening more feasible. Frank Lloyd Wright used the 600-acre southern Wisconsin property as a lab for his design work since 1911. He kept changing and expanding the site until he died in 1959.

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Governor Scott Walker will go to a West Bend middle school this morning to sign a bill which could let some of those kids get high school credits while in seventh-and-eighth grade. Two West Bend Republicans proposed the measure -- Senator Glenn Grothman and Representative Pat Strachota. It would give middle school youngsters a chance to get a leg up in earning high school credits, by completing the same classes which are normally taught to ninth-through-12th graders. The students would have to show their potential competence in completing those higher-level classes.

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Life is good these days for Mequon native John Ridley Junior. After he won the best screenplay Oscar for "Twelve Years a Slave," Ridley unveiled a movie about the late and enigmatic rock star Jimi Hendrix this week. He wrote and directed the film "Jimi -- All is by My Side," which had its U-S premiere at the South-by-Southwest film and music festival in Austin Texas. Ridley called the film a long-time passion of his to tell the inside story of Hendrix, so his fans could get to know him better. Observers said the film displayed a lot of passion, even though Ridley could not gain access to Hendrix's music -- which means viewers will not get hear his classic guitar pieces like "Purple Haze" and "All Along the Watchtower." Andre Benjamin plays Hendrix in the movie, to be released in June by Open Road Films. Also, Ridley has been working in Austin on a potential T-V pilot called "American Crime" which stars Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton.

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It appears that Wisconsin lawmakers will not get a chance to vote on a controversial bill to make health insurers cover expensive chemotherapy pills. Cancer patients have heavily criticized Senate G-O-P Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who called a quick public hearing on the measure this week so his house could not vote on it. He then canceled the hearing. Fitzgerald later said his fellow majority Republicans would discuss the bill next week, and see if they can agree on something. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hinted that his chamber would not take up the measure next Thursday, the final day the Assembly is scheduled to meet in the current session. Vos said he has not voted for mandates in the past like the one to make insurers cover oral chemo pills. Without Assembly action, the bill effectively dies no matter what the Senate does. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Fitzgerald's brother Jeff is lobbying against the bill on behalf of health insurers. Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton said he doubts the family connection has anything to do with the holdup, knowing Scott Fitzgerald the way he does. But Erpenbach still says the perception is not good. The bill has support from a majority of senators, including some of the top Republicans. However, Fitzgerald says it does not have a majority in his own caucus.

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Wisconsin wildlife officials have reduced the number of spring turkey hunting permits they'll sell next week, to preserve a population that was hit hard by the severe winter. Just over 425 permits in far northern zones six-and-seven will not be sold. Permits in zones four-and-five will be reduced by 25-percent, meaning that 866 will go unused. Those permits were left over after a recent lottery for applicants. D-N-R wildlife ecologist Scott Walter said a heavy snow cover in northern Wisconsin has hurt the ability of turkey flocks to find adequate food -- and weather-related deaths could be significant. He said hunters have called for a reduced harvest. Each of the five zones will have a one-day permit sale next week. Any remaining permits will be available next Saturday. The D-N-R's Web site has more information. About 38-thousand turkeys were shot in last year's spring harvest -- and that was down 11-percent from 2012, due to a stormy season.

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A newspaper group in northwest Wisconsin has a new owner. The Adams Publishing Group of Minneapolis has purchased the Superior, Ohio, and Chesapeake publishing groups. Terms were not disclosed. The acquisition includes 34 print publications, digital media, and commercial printing facilities. The Wisconsin part of the deal includes six newspapers and one other controlled-distribution publication -- including the Ashland Daily Press and the Sawyer County Record. The other publications in the deal are in Minnesota, Ohio, and Maryland.

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