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Wisconsin roundup: DNR warns hunters of emerald ash borer-weakened trees; more state news stories

Wisconsin DNR officials warned deer hunters to be careful in selecting trees for deer stands due to emerald ash borer damage in some trees. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

EAU CLAIRE — As 600,000 deer hunters hit the woods this weekend, they'll have to be more careful about where they put their tree stands.

The tree killing emerald ash borer continues to spread across Wisconsin, and the state DNR says infected trees may not be strong enough to hold tree stands — and there's also a risk that old branches can fall from above. Eau Claire forestry supervisor Matthew Staudenmaier tells television station WQOW that trees can become "very dangerous in a relatively short period of time.

He says it's not a good idea to put stands in trees that appear to be dead or dying, regardless of the species — but he says ash trees can be especially brittle and fall "quite a bit easier." The emerald ash borer arrived in Wisconsin in 2008 and has spread to 47 of the state's 72 counties.

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Charges recommended for suspects in Chippewa Falls threats

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Police are recommending charges against two students suspected of leaving threatening notes at Chippewa Falls High School.

A life-threatening message was written Monday on a girls’ bathroom stall. Soon after three more messages were found, one in the boys’ bathroom and two written on paper in both bathrooms. The police chief said charges of making terroristic threats and a bomb scare are being referred for the 16-year-old students. Because of their age, the case is being sent to Chippewa County Juvenile Intake.

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GOP leader on sex claims: ‘We may have a much smaller Congress’

Wisconsin Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke says "we have may have a much smaller Congress" if everybody guilty of sex abuse resigns.

The Kaukauna Republican tweeted Thursday that U.S. Sen. Al Franken "should resign" — Senate candidate Ray Moore "should be expelled if he wins" — abused women "should all come forward — (and) others guilty of sexual abuse should all resign." U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin was among the Democrats calling for an ethics probe into Franken, the Minnesota Democrat and comedian accused of kissing and groping L.A. radio host Leeann Tweeden on a USO trip to the Middle East in 2006.

Baldwin told MSNBC she'll give a $20,000 campaign gift from a Franken committee to a charity for female veterans. And on CNN, Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin called for Moore to end his campaign — but Moore denies his sex abuse allegations and said he wants to get back to "the issues."

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Democrats kept off study panel propose bill to prevent a repeat

MADISON — Wisconsin Assembly Democrats say it was wrong for the Republican speaker to appoint only members of his party to a study task force on a future prison.

And the Democrats have introduced a bill to prevent that from happening again. Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Gov. Scott Walker are in the process of naming members to the prison study group — and Vos chose three white Republican male lawmakers, even though black Democrat David Bowen says his district includes a zip code with one of the nation's highest incarceration rates.

The bill would force leaders to appoint lawmakers of both parties to study panels in the future — but it has little chance of passing, since almost two thirds of Assembly members are Republicans. Still, assistant minority leader Dianne Hesselbein says study groups are supposed to have a "broad cross section" of people to solve problems.

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Report: Lincoln Hills teen inmates taunt women sexually

IRMA — Female employees at Lincoln Hills say teen inmates routinely give sexual taunts to them — and they expose their genitals and masturbate in front of them.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says records and interviews have exposed the same type of sexual behavior by teen inmates that prompted a federal lawsuit in Chicago this month by employees objecting to their working conditions. Julie Giers, a guard for 20 years at the state's institution for juvenile offenders, says she's had an inmate grope her in the posterior — and she's had teens masturbate in front of her "countless times" with lewd comments made daily.

Teacher Pandora Lobacz, who recently had an inmate punch her in the face, said law enforcement is looking into one boy who masturbated at his desk when she went to check on his schoolwork. The incidents are among numerous reported abuses by teen inmates that have been the subjects of a federal investigation that's completing its third year.

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Dozens of UW-Madison students report being targeted by bias

MADISON — UW-Madison says it received more than 90 complaints from students who said they were targeted by bias this past spring.

The university said Thursday that 74 incidents were reported in which people felt they were attacked due to their race, gender, or religion. The total incidents were fewer than the 87 reported last fall, but higher than the 66 incidents in the spring and summer of 2016. Graduate students filed more than two thirds of the incident complaints from the previous semester — and whites and Asians made up two thirds of those who reported the bias. Associate dean of students Kevin Helmkamp says the Madison campus has "challenges" about the campus climate that are "important to address."

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State’s U.S. House members follow party lines on tax plan

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin's U.S. House members followed their party lines as the chamber Thursday approved a major overhaul of the nation's tax code.

Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville joined the state's four other Republicans in voting yes, and all three Wisconsin Democrats voted no as the package moved onto the Senate 227-205. It was a major victory for President Donald Trump and for Ryan, who showed he could deliver the type of congressional support the Republican Trump's been looking for.

Ryan told his colleagues the proposed tax cuts are the "single biggest thing" they could do to "grow the economy" — and he said the plan is "good for people of all walks of life" though Democrats disagreed as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it a "tax scam." The White House hailed the plan — which reduces tax brackets but eliminates some deductions and credits — but it has a shaky future in the Senate after Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson said he would against it.

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State’s ‘Big Bundle Up’ begins

MADISON — For the seventh year in a row, the state Tourism Department is heading up a collection of winter clothing items for those in need.

The "Big Bundle Up" campaign encourages Wisconsinites to donate gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, coats, and other warm weather gear. Drop off sites opened Thursday, and they'll keep collecting things through Jan. 2 at Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center, tourist information buildings, offices, and businesses across the state. More than 103,000 winter items have been donated in the first six years of the program. You can learn more about it at TravelWisconsin.com.

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