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Appeals court affirms new Buffalo Co. frac mine; cow abuse case settled; 9 more state briefs

WAUSAU -- A proposed frac-sand mine appears to have the green light in far western Wisconsin, after a state appeals court upheld Buffalo County's approval of the project.

A three-judge panel in Wausau Tuesday affirmed a circuit judge's refusal to overturn a conditional use permit for R & J Rolling Acres to run a 125-acre silica-sand operation.

Mike O'Connor of rural Gilmanton objected to higher traffic volumes of heavy trucks going to-and-from the mining site. He also challenged the Buffalo County Board of Adjustment's approval of a revised traffic proposal in 2012, saying it was similar to the one the board originally turned down.

The mine's developer, Glacier Sands, said there were no laws against non-metallic mining in the county's agricultural district and there were no laws preventing a revised application from being taken up. O'Connor's lawyer, John Ekman, told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram he might appeal the matter to the State Supreme Court.

An attorney for the board of adjustment said it acted on additional information from the mine's operator and because it addressed previous concerns, he does not believe the Supreme Court would consider an appeal request.

Rhinelander gets Earth Day 'gift' from feds

RHINELANDER -- The spirit of Tuesday's Earth Day will carry on in Rhinelander, in the form of federal money for sewage improvements.

The United States Department of Agriculture chose Rhinelander as one of 49 national Earth Day funding recipients. The hub of Wisconsin's Northwoods will get $3.7 million in grants and low-interest loans to improve its sewage and storm-water systems.

USDA Rural Development Director Stan Gruszynski gave Mayor Dick Johns an award that recognizes Rhinelander's effort to improve water quality. Gruszynski said the area is the headwaters of the Wisconsin River and it's important to keep the water clean for today's health-and-safety needs, and for future generations.

The funding includes a grant of $1.6 million and loans for $2.1 million. They'll be used for new sewer-and-water lines in downtown Rhinelander, starting in 2016.

-- Ken Krall, WXPR, Rhinelander

Grothman continues rant against affirmative action; Hulsey challenges Burke to debates

State Senator Glenn Grothman says he'll revive his proposal to ban affirmative action in Wisconsin, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed public colleges in Michigan to do the same.

The West Bend Republican told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he'll propose a constitutional amendment, but he might not be around to shepherd it through. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to session until January, and Grothman is running for Congress this fall.

His measure comes after the Supreme Court Tuesday upheld Michigan's 2006 constitutional amendment banning race as a factor in college admissions.

Grothman said people don't realize the extent of race and gender preferences in society and he cited government contracts for women and minority-owned businesses as examples. He calls such preferences "divisive."

GOP legislative leaders did not comment Tuesday on the Supreme Court decision. Neither did Governor Scott Walker and U-W officials.

U-W Madison has said that race is one of many factors reviewed in deciding who gets admitted.

Democrat Mary Burke, who's running against Walker this fall, says she would not drop the U-W's policies. She pointed to a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report, showing that Wisconsin is among the nation's worst in providing opportunities to minority children -- especially blacks.

Meanwhile, State Assembly Democrat Brett Hulsey, who recently announced his run for governor, Tuesday challenged Burke to debates in each of Wisconsin's 72 counties. He said he expected Burke to decline -- at which time he would have a volunteer in a chicken suit follow Burke around, wearing a T-shirt that says "Too Chicken to be Governor."

Hulsey announced Monday he would challenge Burke in a mid-August primary. Burke's campaign has said it remains focused on defeating Walker in November.

A.G. candidate says he'd restore environmental advocate post

MADISON -- One of three Democrats running for Wisconsin attorney general says he would restore an environmental advocate's post in the Justice Department.

Jon Richards said Tuesday he would bring back the public intervenor's office if he's elected. The post was created in 1967, as a watchdog to protect people's interests in natural resource matters that include water regulations.

Richards, an Assembly Democrat from Milwaukee, is running against district attorneys Ismael Ozanne of Dane County and Susan Happ of Jefferson County in the August primary.

The winner will face Republican D.A. Brad Schimel of Waukesha County in November and that winner will replace the retiring J.B. Van Hollen.

Ozanne says he would support bringing back the public intervenor. The other candidates have not commented. Republicans did away with the post almost two decades ago, saying it caused businesses to be hit with expensive and unfair lawsuits.

Dairy workers settle animal abuse case

Two workers at a northeast Wisconsin dairy farm have settled their court cases, after they were caught mistreating cows on a video last year.

Lucia Martinez, 39, of Wrightstown and Abelardo Jaime, 31, of Menasha both struck plea deals which mostly convicted them of non-criminal ordinance violations instead of misdemeanors. Both pleaded no contest Tuesday in Brown County.

Martinez was told to pay almost $1,300 in fines and court costs. Jaimes must pay just over $700.

The animal rights group Mercy for Animals secretly-recorded video of mistreatment at the Wiese Brothers farm near Greenleaf. The group posted video last December of employees kicking, whipping, stabbing, and suspending sick and injured cows.

Prosecutors said Martinez and Jaimes worked in an infirmary for sick cows and while force was occasionally needed to bring the animals to their feet, the techniques were excessive. Jaimes still works at the dairy. Martinez was one of two employees fired.

Two other defendants -- Crescencio Pineda of Menasha and Misael Monge-Minero of Green Bay -- are due in court early next month.

Official's removal from GAB unrelated to probe, Walker spokeswoman says

MADISON -- Scott Walker's office denies that the governor essentially removed David Deininger from the state Government Accountability Board because of the panel's support of the John Doe probe into the recall elections.

A recent court filing unveiled that the Board voted unanimously last June to approve the state's current investigation. It's looking into alleged illegal coordination between outside groups and GOP recall election candidates, including Walker in 2012.

Last fall, the governor pulled back Deininger's re-nomination to the accountability board.

Deininger, who had chaired the board, won't comment on a possible political link. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he doesn't know why his appointment was pulled. Deininger noted that two other board members -- Tim Vocke and Gerald Nichol -- also backed the John Doe probe, and their re-appointments are still pending in the Senate.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told the newspaper that Deininger simply did not have the Senate's support. She said the idea that the John Doe was a factor is "a bogus political argument" that holds no merit.

UW-Milwaukee chancellor departing early

MILWAUKEE -- The second-largest campus in the U-W System will lose its chancellor earlier than expected. Outgoing Milwaukee chancellor Mike Lowell will leave on May 31st, instead of August 1st as originally planned.

Lowell is moving his office across town, as he becomes the first lay president in the history of the Jesuit Marquette University. On Tuesday, the U-W named Milwaukee associate business school dean Mark Mone, 54, as the school's interim chancellor. He has played a major role in drafting the U-W-M strategic plan.

System President Ray Cross says the plan is far enough along for Mone to complete it while he fills in as the school's top leader.

Lovell said he was hoping to wrap up several projects at the Milwaukee campus including the strategic plan, but he says he has lots of vacation to use up and he's not sure when he'll start at Marquette.

Lovell was Milwaukee's interim chancellor for eight months before he won the job permanently, and kept it for more than three years.

Hostage situation resolved peacefully

WITTENBERG --Nobody was hurt after a two-hour hostage situation Tuesday in Wittenberg, about 30 miles east of Wausau.

It all started just before 2 p.m. when an armed 28-year-old man from Gillett walked into a combined McDonald's and Shell convenience store.

Shawano County Sheriff Randy Wright said the man allowed almost everyone to leave the building except for a male McDonald's employee. The worker was held captive for an hour before law enforcement negotiators convinced the suspect to let the worker go unharmed.

The suspect surrendered about an hour later without incident. Wright said the man had severe depression symptoms, and he was being checked out at a medical facility.

The suspect did not demand money, and was not related to the hostage. Nearby schools went under a lock-down, and Highway 45 was closed during the standoff.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Bonds set for pair in drug-related killing

KENOSHA -- Bonds are set at $200,000 for a pair of Kenosha men charged in a shooting death that reportedly stemmed from a drug-related robbery.

Joseph-Jamal Brantley, 22, and Markese Tibbs, 19, appeared in Kenosha County Circuit Court Tuesday on charges of reckless homicide, reckless endangerment, and robbery.

Brantley is also charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon in the death of 20-year-old Anthony Edwards.

Police said Edwards was driving a vehicle when he was shot late at night on April 14th, and the vehicle proceeded to hit a house a short time later. A male juvenile in the vehicle was not hurt.

Media reports said the two defendants had arranged to buy marijuana from Edwards, and then robbed him sometime before the shooting. An investigation continues.

Brantley and Tibbs are both due in court next Wednesday for preliminary hearings.

Frank Lloyd Wright-designed tower open for tours

RACINE -- One of Wisconsin's hottest tickets this spring is for something you can see for free.

The former Johnson Wax research tower -- designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- will open two of its 14 floors to public tours starting on May second at the S.C. Johnson household products' complex in Racine. Most of the available spaces have already been reserved for May and into June.

The research facility was used from 1950-82. Glass tubes circle around the tower, showing off its original purpose and achieving Wright's goal of having people work in a pleasant-looking environment.

Johnson's Greg Anderegg said the building that drove people to be innovative. Glade air freshener, Pledge furniture polish, and the Off insect repellent were all created there during its first eight years. The glass tubes provided warmth, plus light that was so bright that many workers had to wear sunglasses.

Johnson kept the building closed to tours until a renovation in recent years.

Tours of Johnson's administrative building and research tower will be conducted from 9-to-2:30 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Visit for more information.