WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Concerns are still being raised about United Sportsmen
Concerns are still being raised about the United Sportsmen, the group which had a controversial half-million-dollar state grant pulled last week. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today that the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin and its affiliated foundation did not file state income tax returns for 2011 and 2012. Accountants told the paper it's possible the groups are an unfamiliar subsidiary, in which case they do not have to file themselves -- but otherwise, they raised enough money to be required to file. The United Sportsmen was the only group to apply for a state grant to encourage more Wisconsinites to go hunting and fishing. Republican lawmakers included the grant in the state budget, while prohibiting some other conservation groups from applying. Questions were raised because the group did not train outdoor enthusiasts, like the others did. The Journal Sentinel also pointed to the group's political connections. Later, concerns were raised about the United Sportsmen's non-profit status. It later said it was a for-profit entity. Governor Scott Walker withdrew the grant last week, after it was learned that the group's president was cited in 2005 for shooting a bear without a proper hunting license in Langlade County.
A new push will be made today for a more objective process in the way Wisconsin handles redistricting. Outgoing state Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville and moderate Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center will hold a news conference on their ideas of redistricting reform. They'll be joined by Common Cause board member and former lawmaker Dave Martin, and long-time G-O-P political strategist Bill Kraus. Government watchdogs and minority parties have long called for changes in the way Wisconsin re-draws its state legislative and U-S House district boundaries. Right now, the Legislature handles the process, which is done every 10 years after a new Census is completed. Both parties have long refused to give up their redistricting power over the years, seeing it as a possible way to gain an edge in elections for a decade. Critics also say it shares part of the blame for today's political polarization, by letting lawmakers present more extreme views without having to worry about offending dwindling numbers of opposing voters in their districts.
Syrians in Milwaukee have mixed feelings about whether the U-S should make a limited strike on their home country's military operations. President Obama is expected to make his case for an attack in an address to the nation tonight. He blames the regime of Syria's President Assad for a gas attack last month that killed 14-hundred people in a suburb of Damascus. Muslims in Milwaukee's Syrian community have generally supported a U-S assault. They say it would weaken the Assad's power, and doing nothing would encourage others to use chemical weapons on their own people. Milwaukee Muslim Syrians interviewed by the Journal Sentinel said they want the U-S to side with the Free Syrian Army, which they consider the legitimate and moderate opposition to Assad. Meanwhile, Syrian Christians say an attack would make hostilities in the region worse. Milwaukee's Christians say their relatives in Syria already live in fear of being killed while doing their everyday business. Christians also fear a U-S assault could trigger a long-term military conflict. Those feelings were expressed at special church services in Milwaukee last week. Yesterday, Obama told a series of T-V interviewers he would press on with his plans for an attack -- even after Russia proposed to make its Syrian allies hand over their chemical weapons so they can be destroyed. The president said he was skeptical of that plan. The U-S Senate has delayed a test vote scheduled for tomorrow on a military strike, to evaluate the Russian proposal.
Hot weather is normally great for growing corn in Wisconsin -- but not now. The new drought that began in July has made almost 80-percent of the state's topsoil short-or-very short of moisture. Officials say the recent above-normal temperatures have only made matters worse. Crop reporters say more Wisconsin farmers are chopping their corn for animal feed, because it has not pollinated and it's drying up. Only 41-percent of the Wisconsin corn is rated good-to-excellent, and 30-percent is fair. Forty-two percent of soybeans are good-to-excellent, and 31-percent are fair. All but six-percent of the fields in west central Wisconsin are short-to-very short of moisture. That's where the U-S Drought Monitor reported a severe drought last week for the first time since the previous Midwest drought in 2012 and the first half of '13.
Meanwhile, it was still muggy this morning in most of the Badger State, after the heat index hit 109 yesterday in southwest Wisconsin. Milwaukee was the warm spot at seven a-m with 78 degrees. The rest of the state was in the 60's-and-70's. Southern Wisconsin could see another hot day in the 90's, with 70's-and-80's elsewhere. A new low-pressure will bring a better chance of rain tonight, with cooler highs of around 80 for tomorrow.
Production was halted for a few hours last night at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac. Workers in Plant-15 at the outboard motor complex were evacuated when about 50 gallons of gasoline spilled into a large nearby tunnel. Fire-fighters were called just after 7:15 p-m. They wanted to make sure no one was in the structure in case gas vapors were ignited. That didn't happen. The company said it brought in a remediation company to clean up the gas spill. The plant was also cleaned and ventilated before employees were allowed back in. No one was hurt.
Union workers at the Oshkosh Corporation will vote today on whether to resume negotiations on extending their contract. Local 578 of the United Auto Workers has a contract that runs through 2016. Oshkosh management says a five-year extension would help the company win a 13-billion-dollar contract to produce a new type of military vehicle to replace the Army and Marines' standard Humvees. Talks took place in July, but they broke down -- and no agreement was reached by a previous deadline of July 31st.
U-S states and Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes want to know more about plans to move crude oil both across the lakes and around them. Meeting in Milwaukee yesterday, the Great Lakes Commission ordered its staff to do a one-year study of the economic and environmental effects of moving oil. Transports are increasing due to the recent discovery of crude oil fields in North Dakota, and the Alberta tar-sands region of Canada. The Great Lakes panel said there's a lot at stake -- and there are also big risks of moving oil on ships, trains, and pipelines. The commission cited various incidents, including the derailment of an oil train in Canada last summer, and ruptures of crude oil pipelines.