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WISCONSIN STATE NEWS BRIEFS: Protestors arrested at state capitol

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WISCONSIN STATE NEWS BRIEFS: Protestors arrested at state capitol
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MADISON - Twenty-two protestors received 25 citations yesterday, as police began to crack down on the Solidarity Singers who’ve refused to get State Capitol permits for their almost-daily noon-time sing-alongs. The tickets carry fines of just over $200, and some vowed to challenge them in court.

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State Capitol police staged its first real crackdown on the daily sing-alongs. Early media reports varied on the numbers of arrests, ranging from 4-to-20. The Walker administration ordered the action, after Federal Judge William Conley ruled on July 9th that only gatherings of more than 20 people needed permits for organized activities in the Capitol. State Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter quote, “We enforce the order today.” Officials have allowed the Solidarity Singers to hold their almost daily sing-alongs in the Capitol Rotunda for more than two years. Capitol Police placed a sign in the area calling it an “unlawful event,” and those not dispersing would be subject to arrest. One protestor wondered why singing was illegal. Another called the arrests “modern-day fasicm.” Assembly Democrat Melissa Sargent of Madison said the nation has benefited from free-and-open dissent and quote, “Right now, that’s not happening in Wisconsin.” Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said something’s wrong when it’s legal to carry concealed guns in most of the Capitol, but illegal to sing without a permit. Republican Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abbotsford said the administration and police acted reasonably and quote, “I think a lot of people are happy that something is finally being done.”  Liberal Madison radio hosts Dominic Salvia and Mike Crute were among those cited. Media reports some were as old as 85. Another person was cited for disorderly conduct, for spitting on one of the singers. 

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The Medical College of Wisconsin says it will open its new Wausau campus one year later than originally planned. Last November, the Milwaukee school said it planned to open satellite campuses in 2015 in both Wausau and Green Bay. This morning, the Medical College said it would wait until 2016 to start classes in Wausau – so area residents can first get a look at how the school’s other graduates perform. The new facilities were developed after the state’s Hospital Association warned in 2011 that Wisconsin would have a severe shortage of doctors by 2030 unless more are trained. CEO John Raymond said Medical College students from the Milwaukee and Green Bay campuses would perform clinical work at hospitals in central Wisconsin and Marshfield Clinic in the year before Wausau opens. Raymond says it will show quote, “a presence and a commitment to the community.” Officials said the delay would also provide more planning time for the central Wisconsin facility – which will have both classes and office space at North-central Technical College and Aspirus Wausau Hospital. Raymond expects the first Wausau class to have 15-to-25 students, who would complete their residencies at area medical facilities. They would get three-year general medical degrees, then work in specialty fields during their residencies. Deans for both the Wausau and Green Bay facilities will be announced this fall. Students will be recruited starting next year. 

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If you want to go wolf hunting in Wisconsin this fall, apply now if you haven’t already. The state DNR says the application deadline is a week from today. It costs $10 to apply for a wolf license, and it can be done at the DNR’s Web site, or at license centers at places like sport-shops. The state will issue 2,750 permits for the second annual wolf hunt. It begins on October 15th, and ends in late February unless quotas are reached early once again. Last year’s inaugural wolf season only ran for two-and-a-half months, ending in late December. Half of this year’s wolf permits will be issued randomly to those who applied. The rest will be offered in a lottery – and those who don’t get picked will get preference points for future lotteries.  

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Wisconsin’s Harley-Davidson reports a 10-percent increase in its quarterly profits from a year ago. The company says more riders are buying new Harleys – and it resulted in a profit of $272-million, of $1.21-a-share, for April-through-June. Investors earned 14-cents more per share. Harley dealers sold just over 90,000 new bikes in the second quarter of this year, up from almost 86-thousand at the same time the previous year. As a result, Harley’s world-wide revenues totaled just under one-point-eight billion dollars – about $60-million more than the previous year. Harley CEO Keith Wandell said the company has added 104 new dealerships outside the U.S. since late 2009 – and its goal is to add up to 150 foreign dealers by the end of 2014. Harley-Davidson is based in Milwaukee, with a northern Wisconsin plant in Tomahawk. 

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Milwaukee has recorded five more cases of Legionnaire’s disease, bringing the total number to 19 in the city since June first. At least three dozen people in southeast Wisconsin are confirmed to have had the legionella bacterium, after inhaling some type of infected mist or water vapor. The new total raises the number of Wisconsin cases to over 40 for the year. At first, Milwaukee health officials thought they identified clusters of Legionnaire’s cases – but disease control director Paul Biedrzycki now says the cases involve different strains. Also, as the number of cases grew, he said geographic connections disappeared – all of which points to multiple sources of the disease. Biedrzycki has still not figured out what those sources are. He says the most likely explanation is that water for cooling towers became infected, while the owners of large buildings waited longer than usual to use those towers for their air conditioning. The late start to summer has reduced the demand for AC this year, compared to the extremely hot summer of 2012.

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Testimony continues today in the La Crosse trial of Jeffrey Lepsch, the man accused of killing two people in a camera store and stealing their equipment so he could pay off an old debt. 56-year-old Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A-J were shot-to-death last September at May’s Photo in downtown La Crosse, which Petras owned. Over $17,000 dollars in camera equipment was stolen. Sherri Petras, the victims’ mother, testified that she failed repeatedly to reach the two victims by phone – so she went to the store and found A-J dead. Dane County medical examiner Vincent Tranchida said Paul Petras was shot at close range, and his son at least three-feet away. Prosecutors also called five other witnesses who saw people in the store as it was about to close for the day. In opening arguments yesterday, prosecution said surveillance video caught Lepsch’s van at the crime scene – and he left a palm print in the store. Defense lawyer Vincent Rust said the state relied on bad science. He also claimed that Lepsch was not at the photo store that day, and he said Lepsch may be a thief but not a killer. Court records show that he owed 60-thousand dollars in judgments from a theft case a decade earlier. The trial is scheduled to continue until a week from tomorrow.

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A La Crosse woman has pleaded guilty to providing the heroin that killed a man in Trempealeau County. 27-year-old Tasha Kempfer is scheduled to be sentenced October eighth, after being convicted yesterday of first-degree reckless homicide. 32-year-old Jeremiah Harris died in July of 2011 outside the Trempealeau fire station, where paramedics tried to revive him. Authorities said Kempfer, her mother, and Harris all went to Madison where Kempfer bought the heroin that Harris died from. Kempfer is also charged in La Crosse County, where innocent pleas have been entered to a pair of felony counts of selling heroin to police informants. The status of that case will be reviewed at a hearing next Tuesday. Kempfer’s mother, 45-year-old Michelle Johnson, is on five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to conspiring to deliver heroin. 

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A retired state probation officer from Grant County in southwest Wisconsin is due in court Monday, after being charged with 67 criminal counts for stealing money from criminals she supervised. 56-year-old Sherry Buswell of Rewey is accused of taking over four-thousand-dollars from 21 victims last summer. The charges are for theft and misconduct. Twenty-one of the 67 counts are felonies. Officials said a co-worker found inconsistencies when reviewing Buswell’s cases – and offenders later began questioning the amounts of supervision fees they owed. WISC-TV in Madison said a special prosecutor from Richland County was assigned to the case, and found no more inconsistencies than what the original probe turned up. The station said a motive has not been disclosed, and the judge in the case might have to withdraw to avoid a conflict-of-interest. Buswell was put on administrative leave when the inconsistencies first came to light. She retired in January after 16 years at the Lancaster probation-and-parole office. 

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A woman from Superior has been sentenced to just over 10 years in a federal prison, for attacking a jail inmate who was a government witness in the woman’s drug-trafficking case. Authorities said 23-year-old Veronique Muckle violently attacked Angelique Vos last August at the Sherburne County Jail in Minnesota. That was after Vos testified against Lawrence Colton for his role in the same drug-ring in which Muckle participated. At the time of the attack, Muckle was awaiting placement in a federal prison after being sentenced to almost four-and-a-half years in the drug case – which was among the largest in Duluth-Superior history. Over three-dozen people were charged in an operation that reportedly transported heroin and prescription drugs to the Twin Ports area. The arrests netted large amounts of drugs, as well as firearms and around $30,000. Authorities started investigating in 2010 after they noticed a large increase in the trafficking of the prescription drug Opana in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

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Duluth-Superior is expecting a quarter-million visitors for a five-day festival of tall ships. Nine historic ships are expected to pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth around two this afternoon, kicking off a festival that runs through Monday. Terry Mattson of the group “Visit Duluth” says people love hearing the sails ripple, and cannons fired from the boats. Tours of the tall ships begin tomorrow, both on the docks, and on the boats themselves. Mattson calls it “the greatest spectacle on Lake Superior,” where the sights-and-sounds of history come alive. The festival has numerous events in an area of downtown Duluth that’s being expanded this year. 

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A 15-mile stretch of Highway 35 is open again in Crawford County, after being closed for a month due to flood damage. Heavy rains in late June caused mudslides on a number of roads in southwest Wisconsin. The Great River Road between Lynxville and Prairie du Chien was among the most heavily damaged.   

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Special interest groups spent more money than the candidates did in this year’s elections for State Supreme Court and state public school Superintendent. That’s what the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported today. The watchdog group said outside interests spent a total of one-point-eight million dollars on the two races, while the candidates themselves spent one-point-five million. Incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack won her second 10-year term over Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, in a race which followed conservative-and-liberal lines – just like other Supreme Court contests in recent years. Backed mainly by conservatives, Roggensack and her supports spent $1.7 million dollars to Fallone’s $488,000. A few months later, a State Bar committee recommended that Supreme Court justices be elected to only one 16-year term. The panel said it would at least diminish the perceived influence of special interests in the justice system. In the Superintendent’s race, the Democracy Campaign said incumbent Tony Evers and his supporters spent $842,000, to $202,000 for state Assembly Republican Don Pridemore.

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Six of Wisconsin’s eight U.S. House members voted to end the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records and e-mails. That effort fell short, when the House voted 217-205 yesterday to spare the massive surveillance project. Janesville Republican Paul Ryan and La Crosse Democrat Ron Kind were the only Wisconsin members voting to preserve the NSA program. They sided with House Speaker John Boehner, who wanted to preserve what he called “critical intelligence tools that have proven successful in preventing terrorist attacks and keeping America safe.” Menomonee Falls Republican F. James Sensenbrenner said “the time has come” to stop collections of phone records that go way beyond what he envisioned when he helped write the USA Patriot Act after 9-11. Liberals, libertarian-conservatives, and Tea Party lawmakers all say they’ll keep fighting to undo a program they call an unconstitutional intrusion on people’s rights. Michigan Democrat John Conyers said the slim vote assures that a vigorous debate on the surveillance program will continue. The effort to end the NSA project was an amendment to a defense spending bill for the next fiscal year. That package was approved 315-109. All five Republicans voted to pass the defense budget, and all three of the state’s Democrats voted no. 

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State lawmakers are considering a modified bill to let folks stay on the popular do-not-call list for telemarketers, without having to re-register every two years. A committee is reviewing a new measure from state Assembly Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi. It would merge the state’s no-call list with a national list from the Federal Trade Commission. The bill had a Senate hearing earlier this year, where consumer officials pointed out administrative problems. The new bill seeks to eliminate those problems. Phone numbers would stay on the list as long as they’re tied to their current customers – and new people would only have to register once. Meanwhile, the state could still enforce its own consumer protection laws. Ripp says his bill would save about $190,000 now spent to administer the state’s no-call list. He says the money can be used on stricter enforcement for violators. The previous bill would have also banned automated political campaign ads.

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Former Governor Tommy Thompson will help look for ways to control health care costs that both major parties can support. Thompson has joined the Bipartisan Policy Center, which calls itself the only Washington think tank that actively promotes cooperation between the parties. The center says the Republican Thompson will work on the health care project along with former U-S Senate Democrat Tom Daschle, and ex-Republican Senators Bill Frist and Pete Domenici. Thompson says he believes there’s common ground on ways to provide quality health care at affordable costs. Thompson favored a national cost-containment effort when he was George W. Bush’s health secretary. When he ran for the U.S. Senate last year, Thompson vowed to repeal the Democratic health reform law – much of which takes effect next year. Thompson lost his Senate contest to Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

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Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) was one of 18 U.S. senators to vote no yesterday, when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a compromise on student loan interest rates. The state’s other senator, Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh), was among the 81 voting yes. Undergraduate students would have a three-point-nine percent interest rate this fall on federally-subsidized Stafford loans. Grad students would borrow at five-point-four-percent, and parents at six-point-four. Those rates could go up every year, in line with the economy and the government’s borrowing costs. Democrats were able to get caps ranging from eight-and-a-quarter percent for under-grads to 10-and-a-half percent for parents. The Congressional Budget Office said it would be 10 years before the rates get that high. Even so, Baldwin told her colleagues it would put the biggest burdens on the students who could least afford it. She said college should be quote, “a path to prosperity … not a path to indebtedness.” The bill now goes to the House, which approved a student loan bill that links interest to the financial markets. Supporters say there are relatively small differences between the two versions, and they hope House leaders can get those matters worked out quickly so the new interest rates can take effect for this fall’s college classes. 

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Some national health groups have joined parents in supporting a Wisconsin bill to make hospitals screen all newborns for congenital heart defects. Both houses are considering identical bills introduced in April by Republicans Jerry Petrowski of Marathon in the Senate, and Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc in the Assembly. The March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association have all joined Reedsburg parent Gretchen Whitehurst in pushing for the measure. It would force hospitals to administer the Pulse Oximetry test to newborns. Whitehurst has also asked Congress to adopt the same requirement nationally. She said it saved the life of her son Cooper, who’s now five. An earlier media report said about a quarter of Wisconsin hospitals conduct the so-called “Pulse-Ox” test. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said today that the figure’s more like 80-percent. It said most hospitals have the proper screening equipment, so the new bill would not pose a major financial burden. Insurance normally covers the cost of the test, averaging around four-dollars per infant. The state has received a three-million dollar federal grant to educate hospitals about the test, and implement it correctly. Jay Matz of the Heart Association says some hospitals that have the test are not carrying it out properly. 

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Wisconsin is doing less than every other state in telling residents how to get square with Obama-care. The Associated Press says Wisconsin is only spending 46-cents per resident in educating people on how to make the Affordable Care Act work for them – and get the right type of insurance under the new purchasing exchanges. Claire Smith of the Health Services Department says the state could have applied for federal marketing grants, had Wisconsin created its own government purchasing exchange. Governor Scott Walker said no to that, leaving it up to the federal government to create and promote an exchange for Wisconsinites. The average state is getting almost two-and-a-half dollars per person to advertise their exchanges in radio, TV, and social media. Wisconsin is getting four-and-a-half times less. The federal government gave the state 830,000 for navigators to help people through the Obama-care maze. Sixteen health centers around the state got another one-point-eight million to promote the new health options to the poor. Steve Brenton of the Wisconsin Hospital Association says he’s a bit concerned about people being left in the dark once the purchasing exchanges begin October first. However, he believes that other groups will give out their own publicity – especially starting in September. 

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New hearing dates will be set today in a civil lawsuit against John Spooner, the 76-year-old Milwaukee man convicted of killing his 13-year-old neighbor. The victim’s mother, Patricia Larry, filed a wrongful death suit against Spooner. It was put on hold while a criminal case was moving forward. That case ended on Monday, when Spooner was sentenced to life in prison with no chance for freedom. Larry’s attorney said the civil suit tries to stop Spooner from selling his assets – even though the assets appear to be limited. A jury found him both guilty and sane when he shot-and-killed Darius Simmons in May of last year. Spooner claimed the youngster stole four of his guns – but police searched the youngster’s home and didn’t find them.

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A Waukesha County man accused of threatening a church youth group in northern Wisconsin is due back in court August 15th for pre-trial matters. 28-year-old Jesse Rutherford of Big Bend has waived the state’s time limit for a preliminary hearing. He faces eight criminal charges in Price County, after he allegedly approached a group of young people with a gun, told them to get on their knees, and help get his truck out of a nearby ditch. It happened May 18th while the group was camping in a yard south of Phillips. Circuit Judge Patrick Fox is reviewing video of the incident. Rutherford has asked the judge not to let a jury hear statements he made to police, and the results of a search of his vehicle. He’s free after posting a five-thousand-dollar cash bond. Rutherford’s charges include three felonies of false imprisonment, reckless endangerment, and narcotics possession. The misdemeanors are for operating a gun while intoxicated, third-time drunk driving, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving with a revoked license, and disorderly conduct. Rutherford was also given traffic tickets for not taking a sobriety test after his arrest, and violating a license restriction.

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 Milwaukee Police are looking for the people who broke into a house and killed a man. A 21-year-old was shot-to-death around 10:40 last night in a north side neighborhood. At last word, police were trying to identify several intruders. Two hours later, a man busted into a south side Milwaukee home and shot a 48-year-old woman. She survived. Police have not said whether the two incidents might be linked – or whether the shooters knew their victims.   

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A Milwaukee Catholic high school teacher pleaded innocent today to charges that she had sexual contact with a pair of teenage students. A trial date of October 28th was set for 28-year-old Megan Garland of Waukesha. She’s charged with two felony counts of second-degree child sexual assault. She’s been suspended from her post as a science teacher at Messmer High. Prosecutors said Garland groped a 15-year-old boy in her science class after he asked her for a ride home from school – and a witness saw her have sex with a 14-year-old boy in the parking lot of another school. A final pre-trial hearing is set for September 26th. At a previous court hearing, Garland’s attorney said the victims’ statements to police were not enough to prosecute her. The state had responded that the evidence pointed to a teacher taking advantage of her students.

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Two men killed in a southern Wisconsin highway crash were identified today as Joseph Kleiman and Mahatkumar Patel, both 20 of suburban Chicago. Dane County sheriff’s deputies said their car went through a stop sign on a county road near Cambridge yesterday, and collided with a pick-up truck coming from their right. The truck driver, a 63-year-old Illinois woman, was taken to a Madison hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Kleiman was from Schaumburg Illinois, and Patel from Hanover Park. 

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 A bicyclist was killed this morning on the northeast side of Madison. Police said a 20-year-old cyclist was heading north on First Street when he collided with an SUV going northeast on Washington Avenue. The bicyclist was wearing a helmet. He was taken to a hospital where he died a short time later. The SUV driver was not ticketed. Police said alcohol was not a factor in the mishap. The name of the person who died was not immediately released.

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Nobody won the Powerball jackpot last night, so it goes up to 196-million dollars for the next drawing on Saturday. One ticket sold in Wisconsin won 10-thousand dollars by matching four regular numbers plus the Powerball. Just over 14,000 players in the Badger State won something. Last night’s numbers were 9, 29, 40, 44, and 54. The Powerball was 7. The current jackpot has been building since June 22nd. It has rolled over nine times. Saturday’s cash option is just under $115-million for a single winner who takes the whole prize now instead of in 30 annual installments.   

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The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says unemployment rates were up in most counties and cities in June. Today’s report shows all but two of the state’s largest cities saw an increase, with Beloit recording the highest unemployment rate at 12.4 percent. The unemployment rate for the state was six-point-eight percent in June, with 56 counties seeing an increase. The national unemployment rate is at 7.6 percent. Janesville was the only Wisconsin metro area to lose jobs in June.  The report said Madison gained 5,000 of the 17,500 jobs reported to be gained in June on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Metro Milwaukee gained 4,400 jobs, and Green Bay 2,300. The numbers are expected to be subject to revisions later on, as more employers are surveyed about their June job numbers. The monthly state figures are based on surveys of only three-and-a-half percent of employers. Despite the job increases, all 12 Wisconsin metros had slight increases in their unadjusted unemployment rates compared to May. The rates ranged from 5.2 percent in Madison to 8.9 percent in Racine. Fifty-six of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had increases in their actual jobless rates last month. Menominee County had the highest unemployment at 17.7 percent. Saint Croix County, near Minnesota’s Twin Cities, was the state’s lowest at 4.6 percent.

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The newest member to the British royal family has his name, so is there a possibility some Wisconsians are related to little Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge? Joshua Taylor is the President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and says millions of Americans and several Wisconsin residents could have a link to royalty and British history - it’s a matter of finding the key to the past. He says tracking a family lineage can be a daunting task to some, but adds the best way to start is by asking living relatives for information. Once a country and community of origin is determined, Taylor says churches become a great source of accurate information. 

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Police in Janesville have asked tavern owners not to serve 10 people involved in large numbers of alcohol-related incidents with officers. The list includes people who have had at least three contacts with police in the previous six months for things like trips to jail or a detox center – or something as minor as driving a drunk person home. The Janesville Gazette says it’s not cheap for officers to handle these cases, and other communities are doing the same thing. Officer Joe McNally says a typical detox trip costs about 400-dollars, when the time for handling the case is considered. Those put on the list can appeal to a city alcohol advisory panel. One bar owner says taverns already know who the problem drinkers are – and the new policy could help them. Rock County Tavern League president Sharen Hoskins said her group worked with police to make the policy easy to enforce. She says the police list supplements one that her bar already has. Hoskins says those affected will be those who shouldn’t be drinking anyway. 

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The chairman of the Oneida Indian tribe near Green Bay is being targeted for removal. A petition is being circulated which seeks the ouster of Ed Delgado. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Delgado is targeted for mishandling some items – including $800 for an elderly tribal member in poor health, and a donation of firewood to a wellness center. Delgado guesses that the removal effort is organized by supporters of Oneida Seven Generations. It’s a tribal company which wants to build an alternative energy plant. Delgado has criticized the project. The Press-Gazette said the plant’s opponents have successfully petitioned to block the project, and it then filed a petition to dissolve the Oneida Seven group itself. 

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A fund-raising softball tournament will be held in Wausau next month, to increase the reward for information leading to a woman who’s been missing since 2010. Clark Prosser is looking for 12 teams of any age or gender, to compete in a double-elimination tournament August 9th-through-11th. Teams would pay $175 to enter, with all proceeds going to a reward fund to find Stephanie Low. The reward fund has 10-thousand dollars, and Low’s mother – Claudia Blake – hopes to raise it to $20,000 with the help of more donations. Low was 22 when she vanished in October of 2010, after she abruptly hung up while talking to a friend on the phone. At the time, her mother said Stephanie was threatened before she disappeared – but she never said how. A person of interest in the case was recently sentenced to four years in prison on unrelated charges of battery and possession of methamphetamines.   

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