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Gun confrontation triggers new debate; Tomahawk records first frost; more state briefs

APPLETON -- An incident in Appleton last weekend has triggered another national debate over gun rights.

Two men openly carried AR-15 rifles and handguns as they headed to a farmer's market.

Police said they briefly detained the two men -- both in their 20's -- and let them go after they determined they were carrying their weapons legally.

The men's encounter with police has stirred up debate on the Internet, and Wisconsin's pro-and-anti-gun forces weighed in with remarks to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Nik Clark of the gun rights' group Wisconsin Carry says police need to follow up on gun complaints, but they must abide by people's constitutional rights. Clark said Appleton Police went beyond their authority when they pointed guns at the men and involuntarily detained them.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn disagrees. He said "post-Aurora-Newtown environment, it's a reckless and irresponsible stunt to strut around in public with an assault-style weapon and think police should assume you're well-intentioned."

Flynn said the incident was absurd and had nothing to do with Second Amendment gun rights. One of the men told the Journal Sentinel it's too early to decide if they'll sue the police.

Similar arrests have led to at least four lawsuit settlements in Wisconsin, in which taxpayers ended up paying those who were stopped.

Panel OK's tougher drunk penalties but House vote is uncertain

MADISON -- It's not certain whether the full state Assembly will get to vote on a package of tougher penalties for drunk drivers.

An Assembly committee Thursday endorsed several bills proposed by Mequon Republican Jim Ott and Senate Republican Alberta Darling of River Hills.

Corrections and court officials say it would cost tens of millions of dollars for the extra court time and prison space that would be needed.

GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has not given any indication that he supports the measures, or is willing to schedule them for a final vote.

A spokeswoman says Vos is reviewing the package. Among other things, the bills would make three- and four-time drunk driving a felony -- and impose a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for drunk drivers who kill someone, and at least six months for causing injuries.

Authorities could seize drunk drivers' vehicles, and all offenders would have to appear in court at least once. Ott backed off Thursday on a bill that would make first-time OWI a criminal misdemeanor for those with blood alcohol levels almost twice the legal limit.

Tomahawk records state's first frost

SULLIVAN -- It seems hard to believe after the recent hot spell, but the temperature dropped below freezing in at least one part of northern Wisconsin Friday morning.

Tomahawk reported 31 degrees at 5 a.m., just a few days after Wisconsinites sweated in the 80's and 90's for the greater part of a week.

Generally, northern Wisconsin was in the 30's and 40's this morning, while the south was in the 40's and 50's.

A high pressure system from Canada moved into northwest Wisconsin late Thursday night. Cool north winds arrived in advance of the front, and that prevented the state from seeing 80 degrees Thursday.

Forecasters predicted highs in the 60's statewide for Friday, and the more normal 70's for Saturday. The next chance of rain is on Sunday. Far southern Wisconsin could get up to an inch.

First Lady urges Watertown students to drink more water

WATERTOWN -- First Lady Michelle Obama told Watertown High School students Thursday to ignore the critics, and drink more water so they can get healthier.

Obama spoke to hundreds of students during a national kick-off to the "Drink Up" campaign, which encourages folks to drink at least one more glass of plain water each day.

Wearing Watertown High School purple-and-white, the First Lady said lots of people don't think water is a big deal -- but she calls it the single best thing we can do to get ourselves and our families healthier.

The beverage industry supports the initiative, and that triggered criticism on a couple of fronts.

New York University food scientist Marion Nestle called the campaign "a partnership with soda companies to promote their bottled waters." Marquette associate professor SuJean Choi says the campaign ignores concerns about plastic bottles ending up in landfills -- but otherwise, he called the campaign a "safe" message that's harmless to people's health. Emily Wurth of the Food-and-Water Watch environmental group said Obama should encourage people to drink more tap water.

The First Lady did give a shout-out to the natural stuff, noting that Watertown was judged as the best-tasting tap water in Wisconsin. That was back in 2010.

Wounded Reedsburg soldier praises Boston victims' progress

A wounded soldier from Reedsburg said he's impressed at how 11 people are recovering, after they lost arms and legs in the Boston Marathon bombing in April.

B.J. Ganem was part of a military group that met with the amputees soon after the bombing, to provide hope and inspiration.

On Thursday, Ganem and a dozen other veterans were reunited with the Boston amputees -- and they were all saluted by thousands last night at a New England Patriots' football game.

The 36-year-old Ganem lost part of his lower leg in Iraq in 2004. He said he's impressed by how far the Boston amputees have come -- and how well they've adjusted to their new prosthetic limbs.

Ganem says a lot of amputees are walking perfectly now -- and they're improving a lot faster than he and many of his military colleagues did.

A group called Operation Warrior Wishes brought the troops and the Boston amputees together.

'Rapids man pleads innocent to killing daughter's ex-boyfriend

WISCONSIN RAPIDS -- A former Wisconsin Rapids man has pleaded innocent to killing his daughter's ex-boyfriend 5.5 years ago.

Joseph Reinwand, 54, also entered innocent pleas yesterday to Wood County charges of arson, and two counts of felony bail jumping.

Prosecutors said Reinwand shot 35-year-old Dale Meister to death in 2008, while the victim was sitting on his couch at his mobile home. Meister and his girlfriend reportedly had a child custody dispute -- and according to prosecutors, Meister told at least 18 people that if he were ever found dead, it would be Reinwand that killed him.

The charges were not filed until May, after the defendant reportedly told fellow inmates at the Wood County jail and the Stanley prison that he killed Meister.

Authorities said Reinwand re-enacted the crime for one of the men -- and he told a Stanley prisoner that he stalked Meister before choking and shooting him. Reinwand is currently at Stanley for an unrelated conviction.

He's scheduled to go on trial next May for Meister's death.

Task force aims to help rural schools

MADISON -- A new task force will come up with ideas to help Wisconsin's rural schools improve and stay viable.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos formed the new group. He has named Rhinelander Republican Rob Swearingen as its chairman.

Vos wants the task force to look for ideas to help rural schools be more innovative and efficient. He also wants them to study ways to remain financially stable while handling declining enrollments, and dealing with transportation needs.

The rest of the task force members will be named next week. The group will hold its first two meetings in Rhinelander and Merrill. Those dates have not been set. Vos wants the group to report on its recommendations by early next year.

Neillsville's High Ground celebrates 25 years

NEILLSVILLE -- It's been 25 years since a tribute to Vietnam veterans was unveiled on a plaza above a scenic vista in central Wisconsin.

On Saturday, a ceremony will be held to observe the anniversary of the first major monument at the Highground Veterans' Memorial Park west of Neillsville in Clark County.

"Fragments" depicts a fallen soldier and those who helped him. Highground founder Tom Miller said he was inspired to put up the monument after he was caught in ambush in 1965 in Vietnam, and his partner died.

Miller says "Fragments" was the first Vietnam war tribute in the U.S. that honored women as well as men. Miller was the leading force in the opening the Highground in the late 1980's. It was solely dedicated to Vietnam veterans at first, but it has since expanded to include tributes for other wars and conflicts.

At Saturday's ceremony, the names of all 12-hundred-44 Wisconsin service members killed or missing-in-action in Vietnam will be read.

Waterspouts off Kenosha shore create excitement

KENOSHA --Waterspouts on Lake Michigan at Kenosha produced a spectacular show Thursday that went viral on the Internet.

The pictures on the Internet look like twin tornadoes touching down in Lake Michigan.

Actually, they're water-spouts -- and they put on a spectacular show at Kenosha early Thursday afternoon. They were spotted around 1:30, after reports of a funnel cloud.

Kenosha County sheriff's sergeant Bill Beth said the two water-spouts popped out of nowhere, merged into one, and then split.

Coast Guard rescuers searched the lake, after witnesses saw a sailboat disappear. Searchers could not find any evidence of a missing boat or debris. No damage or injuries were reported from the water-spouts.

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Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.