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Wisconsin roundup: Minn. man charged in UW-Stout student's death; temps plunge to minus-26 in state; 8 more state news stories

MENOMONIE — Dunn County prosecutors filed murder charges against a Minnesota man suspected in the death of a Saudi Arabian man studying at UW-Stout.

UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer confirmed Friday in a news release that Minneapolis resident Cullen M. Osburn was charged with murder and aggravated bodily harm in the Oct. 31, 2016, death of student Hussain Saeed Alnahdi.

“I hope this arrest brings some measure of peace and comfort to Hussain’s family in Saudi Arabia,” Meyer said in a news release. “They have gone through a living nightmare, and our hearts and prayers continue to go out to them. I also hope that Hussain’s roommates and many friends on campus also feel a sense of closure and relief with the arrest. “

No court date for Osburn has yet been set in the case, which stemmed from an incident in downtown Menomonie.


Temps sink to minus-26 in northwest Wis.

Folks in northwest Wisconsin are shivering through one of its coldest mornings of the winter.

It was 26 below in Siren at 6 a.m., and minus-22 in Hayward. Wind chills were as low as 37 below at Cumberland -- but in southern Wisconsin, it was a balmy 12 above in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha with wind chills as warm as zero. Parts of the Badger State received as much as 1 inch of light snow Thursday, but forecasters say it will dry all weekend throughout Wisconsin.

It's supposed to get warmer, with highs reaching the upper teens in the north Saturday and up to 30 degrees in the far southeast. Freezing rain is possible on Sunday.


State school board plan criticized

MADISON — A candidate for state public school superintendent proposed a statewide school board, but the current superintendent and another challenger criticized the idea.

Amanda Brink, who runs incumbent Tony Evers' campaign, says the proposal from Dodgeville school consultant John Humphries would create more bureaucracy and "centralized control" of public schools. The other critic, candidate Lowell Holtz, says a state board would give more power to bureaucrats, instead of local schools and parents "where it belongs."

Humphries says the state oversight board would make the superintendent accountable to attract new ideas from local educators, parents, and students -- and he says Evers does not do enough of that. Humphries says his panel would be called the "Education Accountability Board" and have the final say over administrative rules from the Department of Public Instruction -- and it would audit the DPI's current accountability measures.


Ryan vows to both repeal, replace Obamacare at same time

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville says majority House Republicans vow to replace Obamacare at the same time the current program falls by the wayside -- and they're in "complete sync" with President Elect Donald Trump who wants a change as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the House is scheduled to vote Friday on a budget package that calls on congressional panels to start writing bills to dismantle the Obama health law. The Senate passed the same measure Thursday, rejecting Democratic amendments including one from Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin to make sure those 26 and younger can still be on their parents' health insurance. The GOP has not said how it would deal with those issues, but Speaker Ryan says the party's strategy will be outlined the weekend of Jan. 28 at a joint House/Senate Republican retreat in Philadelphia.


Nobel Prize-winning DNA researcher from UW-Madison has died

A memorial service is being planned in North Carolina for a former Nobel Prize winning researcher from UW-Madison.

Ninety-one-year-old Oliver Smithies died this week following a brief illness where he was a professor at the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus. Smithies was a genetics professor at the UW flagship campus from 1960 through 1988 -- and he was credited with starting a genetic research revolution when he figured out how to add and take away genes from the genome of mice.

Smithies won the Nobel Prize in 2007, and he gave the winnings to Madison and two other universities where he served. Madison used its share to hold symposium each spring in which top scientists speak to UW students.


Walker, health execs fear disadvantage in Obamacare dismantle

MADISON — As Republicans in Washington dismantle Obamacare, Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin health care leaders fear a permanent disadvantage in getting future federal health funds.

Wisconsin is among the states that refused to take extra federal Medicaid dollars from the Affordable Care Act, as Walker feared that the state would be left holding the bag if the federal money ran dry. At a forum in Madison Thursday, Eric Borgerding of the Wisconsin Hospital Association says the state should not be stuck forever getting fewer Medicaid dollars than others that accepted the Obamacare cash.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says the governor wants to make sure states that were "fiscally responsible" don't get punished for doing so. Borgerding says the good thing is that Wisconsin has a lot of federal influence in Washington in House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus -- and they'll be counted on to look out for the state's interests.


USDA again raises estimates for record state corn, soybean crops

MADISON — The USDA has again increased its estimates for Wisconsin's record corn and soybean crops for 2016.

Final figures won't be known for a while, but the state Ag Statistics Service now estimates that farmers made a record 573 million bushels of corn for grain. That's 16 percent higher than the previous year, and three-percent more than the forecast from November first. Officials also report a corn yield of 178 bushels per acre, 14 more than the previous record in 2015 -- although it's two bushels less than the November forecast.

Wisconsin soybean production was estimated at a record 107 million bushels last year, 16 percent more than the year before and unchanged from the last forecast two months ago. Total hay production in the state dropped by 3 percent to almost 4 million tons.


Lawmaker wants to end state mining moratorium

MADISON — A Republican state lawmaker wants to end Wisconsin's 18-year-old moratorium on new iron mines.

Hazelhurst Sen. Tom Tiffany recently told Wisconsin Public Radio he would introduce a bill in the new session to eliminate the moratorium. He told reporters he does not know of new mining projects on the horizon -- but he says a major condition to end the 1998 moratorium has been satisfied, as the old Flambeau mine near Ladysmith did not leave water pollution for more than one decade after it closed in 1997.

Another condition required that a mine operate for 10 years without pollution -- and while the Ladysmith mine ran for four years, Tiffany says it achieved the major goal of avoiding pollution for a long time after a mine shuts down. A federal judge said the Flambeau mine left minimal copper discharges, but an appeals court struck down that finding in 2013.


State Supreme Court reinstates drunken driving conviction

MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated a drunk driving conviction Thursday, after an appeals court said the defendant's blood was tested illegally.

The justices ruled 5-2 against 41-year-old Patrick Kozel of Baraboo. He pleaded no contest to his second OWI arrest from August 2013, but he later appealed, saying the blood draw that convicted him was unconstitutional because an EMT followed police orders instead of a doctor's orders while drawing it in jail instead of at a medical facility.

All five conservative Supreme Court justices ruled against Kozel, saying his blood was drawn in what they called a "constitutionally reasonable manner." But Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley said there was not enough evidence that the EMT was following a doctor's order.


Retired band director free on bond for sexual assaults in 2000

SLINGER — A retired high school band director in southeast Wisconsin is free on bond, after being charged in the sexual assault of a student dating back to 2000.

Sixty-six-year-old David Hanke of Slinger is charged in Washington County with one count of sex assault by a school staffer, for allegedly molesting one girl twice, one year apart. Prosecutors say there could be other victims, and Slinger Superintendent Daren Sievers says he's shocked by the allegations.

Hanke posted a $2,500 bond during his initial court appearance, and he waived the state's time limits for a preliminary hearing. He's due back in court Jan. 30.