Biden appearing at UW-EC today; state's corn, bean projections lowered; door still open for Gegebic project, more state briefsWisconsin News
The firm interested in building a large iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin is now considering Michigan's Upper Peninsula but would reconsider Ashland County if politics change. Also, the state's Congressional delegation split votes on party lines for extension of a terrorism suveillance law and Census officials say earnings are up in Wisconsin but so is poverty -- plus many more state stories.
EAU CLAIRE -- Vice President Joe Biden will hold a campaign rally at U-W Eau Claire late this morning. Biden’s visit is the second to the Badger State in the last 11 days.
It comes one day after Republican vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan fired up supporters in De Pere. The Janesville congressman said President Obama’s defense spending cuts “breed weakness” – and that’s something the U.S. cannot afford after Tuesday’s attack on a U-S consulate in Libya that killed four Americans. Later in the day, Ryan told an Ohio audience that in the wake of the tragedy “We need to be reminded that the world needs American leadership.”
Ryan said the administration has sent “mixed signals” to the world, and to those who attacked the U.S. embassy in Egypt on Tuesday. “It is never too early for the U.S. to condemn attacks on Americans on our properties, and to defend our values. That’s what leadership is all about.”
The Obama campaign noted that Ryan voted for the Obama defense cuts as part of a bill last August to cut the federal deficit. Joe Zepecki of the president’s Wisconsin campaign blamed the defense cuts on Ryan and other Republicans because of “their refusal to ask for one more dime from millionaires and billionaires.”
Obama said the U.S. would work with the Libyan government to bring the attackers at the consulate to justice.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was among those killed.
Wisconsin delegation splits on party lines in renewing surveillance law
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Wisconsin’s U.S. House members voted along party lines Wednesday, renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for another five years. The law lets the government monitor phone calls by terrorist suspects and foreign spies.
The vote was 301-to-118 to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for another five years. Wisconsin Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Reid Ribble, and Sean Duffy voted yes. Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Gwen Moore, and Ron Kind voted no. Republican Paul Ryan was absent.
Supporters say the bill is aimed at stopping terrorist threats against the U.S. from foreigners and it’s not intended to spy on Americans.
The law requires approval from a secret court when Americans are targeted anywhere in the world.
Senate Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon has tried unsuccessfully to find out how many Americans have been monitored and he’s holding up a vote in the Senate for that reason. But the law’s supporters in the House have assured that Americans’ rights are being protected.
Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan says the law’s about keeping tabs on foreigners on foreign soil and it’s not a dragnet. In a briefing this week about the 11th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the Obama administration could not say how many times the program inadvertently gathered intelligence on U.S. citizens.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner he said he was happy to make it back to Washington following hip surgery so he could keep his record intact for not missing a single vote this year.
Sensenbrenner broke his right hip and dislocated it when he fell at a church festival almost three weeks ago. The Menomonee Falls Republican said he tripped over an electric cable that stretched from a building to a carnival area. It happened Aug. 25th at the St. Agnes Parish festival in Butler. The next day, Sensenbrenner underwent six hours of surgery on his hip. After the operation, doctors said he could not put much weight on his right foot for 8- to 12 weeks. He says he now gets around with the help of a walker and a wheel-chair.
The 69-year-old Sensenbrenner is a 34-year veteran of the U-S House – and he’s running for re-election in November against Democrat Dave Heaster.
Mississippi-side mayors caucus to find sustainability solutions
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Mayors of over 40 communities on the Mississippi River are meeting in Saint Louis, to look for ways to make the nation’s longest waterway more sustainable.
The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is holding its inaugural three-day meeting Thursday through Saturday.
Organizers say they hope to attract state and federal support for keeping the river vibrant.
They say the Mississippi plays a major role in moving an array of goods and farm products – and it provides drinking water for most of the 3 million people who live along the river, including those in western Wisconsin.
State's corn, soybean harvest projections down
The latest projections show that Wisconsin farmers will harvest about 13 percent less corn than they did a year ago, and almost 18 percent fewer soybeans.
According to the U.S.D.A.'s latest revised estimates, Wisconsin is expected to produce 448.5 million bushels of corn for the year. That’s down from about 518 million bushels in 2011. The state’s average corn yields per bushel are expected to remain above the national average.
A yield of 130 bushels is projected per acre, up from the national estimate of almost 123 bushels. Soybeans yields are expected to be slightly higher than the national norm.
Nationally, the U.S.D.A. says its latest crop estimates reflect the widespread impact of the drought – and the figures are well below the government’s original expectations for the year.
A new set of estimates are due out in about a month.
Wisconsinites: Earnings up but poverty rises too
Wisconsinites made a little more money last year but poverty went up, and so did the percentage of residents without health insurance.
A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau said Wisconsin’s median household income was $58,058 last year, up slightly from $51,939 in 2010.
The typical Wisconsinite made about $2,000 more than the national average but the percentage of people living in poverty went up by three percentage points to 13.1 last year. That was still lower than the national poverty rate of 15 percent.
Also, the Census Bureau said 589,000 Wisconsin residents did not have health insurance last year, or almost 10.5 percent of the state’s population. The numbers of uninsured were about 70,000 higher than in 2010.
Assembly’s education committee leader wants more student tests
MADISON -- The head of the state Assembly’s education committee says he’s cautiously optimistic that his colleagues will provide funding for more comprehensive student tests.
State Superintendent Tony Evers is asking for $7 million in the next state budget to replace the annual Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts exam. Instead, all juniors would have to take the ACT college entrance exam, plus a career skills test.
Evers also wants 9th- and 10th graders to take a pre-ACT test.
Republican Education chair Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake said there’s been a general recognition that the current tests are not getting the job done and he said lawmakers appear to be receptive to something different.
Kestell said the requested $7 million in funding might not have been considered two years ago, when the state budget was $3.6 million dollars in the hole. Now, a small surplus is expected but Kestell says it’s too early to predict whether Evers’ new proposal will be approved by the governor and Legislature next year.
Gogebic mine project may be rekindled in the UP
Gogebic Taconite, the firm that scrapped plans to build an iron ore mine in Wisconsin, is exploring possible sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Company president Bill Williams told Wisconsin Public Radio that his firm has done exploratory drilling in parts of the U.P. and it’s now studying those results.
He said the effort is in the early stages but Williams says the firm is running into less opposition, noting that public opinion and the political atmosphere are different across the border. Also, he says he likes the permit process in Michigan because it has definitive time lines.
But Williams says Gogebic Taconite is still leaving the door open to a Wisconsin project. It continues to hold options to lease minerals in the Penokee Range of Ashland and Iron counties – and the largest lease does not expire for another year.
Williams says Gogebic Taconite would answer a call from Wisconsin if enough leaders and people come to realize “This isn’t that bad – we can have some economic development and capitalize on our resource development.”
Victim in rural Athens buggy crash identified
ATHENS -- A woman killed in a buggy that collided with a pick-up truck in central Wisconsin has been identified as 73-year-old Mary Beiler of Athens.
Her 71-year-old husband, who was driving the buggy, was in critical condition at last word at a Wausau hospital. The crash happened Tuesday night at an intersection near Athens in Marathon County.
Sheriff’s deputies said it appeared that the buggy either failed to stop at a stop sign or failed to yield after stopping.
In either case, the buggy collided with a pickup truck coming from the side. The 44-year-old truck driver escaped injury.
Bail set at $1.4-, $1.2 million for brothers accused of killing 3 children
DARLINGTON -- A judge in Lafayette County set bond at over a million dollars for two brothers from Argyle accused of burning down a family house and killing three children trapped inside.
Armin Wand III, 32, and his brother Jeremy, age 18, both made their first court appearances Wednesday on a total of 13 charges of homicide, attempted homicide, and arson.
State prosecutors said Armin Wand was sick of his financial and marital problems and he wanted to kill his entire family, burn their down their house, and collect on their life- and renters’ insurance policies to get a “fresh start.”
Authorities said Armin promised to pay his brother $300 of the insurance money to help set last Friday’s blaze.
Judge William Johnston set bond at $200,000 for each count. Armin Wand’s attorney said his $1.4 million bond was “unattainable.” Jeremy Wand’s total bond is $1.2 million. Both are due back in court Nov. 13th, when the judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.
Children Allen, age 7, Jeffrey, age 5, and Joseph, age 3, were killed in the fire. Armin’s wife Sharon remains hospitalized in critical condition, after escaping the home with her two-year-old daughter Jessica.
Relatives said Sharon was 17-weeks pregnant, and the unborn child died as well. Authorities said Armin Wand tried to push Jessica back into the flames and he faces two attempted homicide charges for allegedly trying to kill her.
Also, Armin is being charged as a repeat offender – with longer sentences if he’s convicted – after a misdemeanor battery conviction from 2005. Jeremy Wand is also facing charges filed last month for illegally entering a building and obstructing police.