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Ceremonial weapons-ban tops list of veteran complaints; Tribes not expected to pounce on relaxed marijuana enforcement; 11 more Wisconsin stories

MADISON -- Veterans presented a list of grievances at the State Capitol Thursday.

The list was wide-ranging but according to the Wisconsin Radio Network, the main beef appeared to be with the Eau Claire School District, which banned the use of ceremonial weapons on Veterans' Day last month. It forced organizers to move the event to another location.

Former state Senate Republican Dave Zien said Eau Claire is the only school system in the nation to prohibit ceremonial weapons by military color guards.

GOP Representative-elect James Edming, a former Rusk County Board member, said the weapons pose no risk.

"They're shooting blanks, there's a plug in the end of the barrel," said Edming.

Also, the veterans asked for the building of a fourth state veterans' nursing home, new veteran designations for several state highways and assurances that public school students are being made to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.

State tribes not expected to join pot-growing movement

None of Wisconsin's Indian tribes are expected to start growing marijuana, after the U.S. Justice Department relaxed enforcement of pot laws on sovereign lands.

On Friday, officials said federal prosecutors would be instructed not to prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on reservations. Wisconsin has its own laws against pot growing and selling both on and off tribal lands and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says those bans will still be enforced.

The state Justice Department has worked with tribes for many years on their efforts to get rid of illegal drugs on reservations.

Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck says those efforts will continue, along with the state's current enforcement efforts.

"If the federal government wishes to de-criminalize certain drugs, it should do so through Congress, as opposed to through executive officers who are sworn to uphold the law," said Brueck.

Timothy Purdon, who chairs a U.S. attorney general's subcommittee on Native American issues, says the new guidance will be adopted on a case-by-case basis.

He said federal charges are still possible when marijuana use leads to intoxicated driving, or when the drug is sold to minors.

The new policy comes after a 2013 decision to end most federal marijuana prosecutions in states where the drug has been legalized.

Environmental groups sue WDNR, alleging lax air-quality enforcement

MADISON -- State officials say Wisconsin is meeting the federal Environmental Protection Agency's latest air quality standards, even though the state's written standards are not updated yet to match the federal ones.

On Thursday, the Midwest Environmental Defense Center and Clean Wisconsin filed suit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They said the agency has broken the law by not updating its standards to reflect tighter federal restrictions imposed in 2010 for nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

The plaintiffs also said the state has not updated standards to reflect federal limits from 2012 on fine particulate matter.

Clean Wisconsin said the state's limits are lax and they're causing health problems that include an increase in child asthma.

The plaintiffs asked a Dane County judge to delay all pending air permit requests until the state standards are updated.

The DNR's Pat Stevens told the Associated Press that the state's been working on the updates but it's a slow process. He says it's taking a long time to analyze the economic impact of the standards, as the process requires. Stevens said almost the entire state falls within the federal limits except the Rhinelander area, where the DNR is working with Expera Specialty Solutions to solve an issue to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions there.

Baldwin, Franken opposing Obama nominee for Treasury

WASHINGTON D.C. -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is among a small number of Democrats opposed to a nomination for a top Treasury Department post.

President Obama has named Wall Street investment banker Antonio Weiss as an under-secretary for domestic finance.

Baldwin said Thursday she doesn't believe Weiss is the "right nominee" to push for strong oversight of Wall Street, based on his record and qualifications.

The Madison Democrat said she was not confident that Weiss would, in her words, "even the playing field for middle-class families and small businesses who need a fair shot to get ahead."

Minnesota Senator Al Franken has also come out against the Weiss nomination, as have several other Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders.

Ethics investigation against Petri closed

WASHINGTON D.C. -- After 36 years in Congress, Fond du Lac Republican Tom Petri will not retire with an ethics case over his head.

On Thursday, the House Ethics Committee closed an ongoing case against Petri, saying it would take no further action.

The panel cleared the lawmaker of wrong-doing, after reports that he owned stock in two companies for which he helped obtain federal grants and breaks from federal rules.

Those firms were the Oshkosh Corporation and the Manitowoc Company. Petri said he repeatedly sought advice from Ethics Committee staff members on the matter.

The panel now says it's apparent that he substantially complied with the advice.

The committee said it would not be fair to subject Petri to an additional review, just as he's about to retire at the end of the year.

Petri said the new report confirms what he's said all along, that he made sure everything was done according to the House rules.

Fog advisories warn of slick roads; soggy weekend ahead

Roads are slick this morning in west central and southwest Wisconsin, where fog residues froze on the highways overnight. The National Weather Service has a "freezing fog advisory" out until 10 a-m in 13 counties roughly west of a line from Platteville to Medford.

The fog made it hard for drivers to see before daylight. Visibilities were as low as 500 yards.

The Wisconsin State Patrol and local tow companies were busy early Friday between Black River Falls and Eau Claire, pulling vehicles from ditches.

Officials expected the slick road conditions to improve quickly Friday morning, as the fog dissipates.

Northwest Wisconsin was likely to get more fog Friday afternoon. Patchy to widespread fog was predicted statewide Friday night in advance of a low pressure system that was expected to bring rain and drizzle to the Badger State through most of the weekend.

Warmer temperatures were expected with highs reaching the 40's in much of the state tomorrow -- up to 20-degrees above normal.

Foggy and rainy conditions are forecast on-and-off through Monday. Cooler weather is predicted for Tuesday, along with a chance of light snow.

Wolf River ice-jams cause local flooding

KESHENA -- Crews were to try and break up ice-jams Friday on the Wolf River, where a dozen homes and businesses have been flooded at Keshena in Menominee County.

Ben Warrington, the Menominee tribe's emergency management director, says a mechanical process will be used.

He told WLUK TV in Green Bay that explosives will not be used to break up three ice jams that blocked the normal water flows on the Wolf River this week.

Residents and officials placed more than 1,000 sand bags along the shore to protect buildings.

As temperatures rise over the weekend, the National Weather Service said water-and-ice levels might fluctuate more, due to increased run-off.

A flood warning was to expire Friday morning but it's been extended until Saturday evening.

Woman accused in murder-for-hire scheme pleads innocent

NEILLSVILLE -- One of two women charged in a murder-for-hire scheme in central Wisconsin has pleaded innocent.

Shari Klimmer, 46, of rural Spencer was arraigned Friday in Clark County Circuit Court on two felony counts of conspiracy to commit homicide. She asked for a new judge to replace Jon Counsell.

Further proceedings are on hold for now. Klimmer and her daughter, Porscha Rizzi, age 21, are accused of trying to hire a hit-man for up to $10,000 to kill two fathers who had babies with Rizzi.

One of the fathers reportedly wanted to change his child custody arrangement, because he was about to move to Minnesota.

Rizzi was ordered this week to stand trial. She's scheduled to enter pleas on Dec. 29.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau

New charge levied against UW Oshkosh student linked to ricin

OSHKOSH -- A UW Oshkosh student has pleaded innocent to two federal counts of making the deadly toxin ricin, including a new charge that carries a life prison sentence.

A federal grand jury issued an indictment this week against Kyle Smith, 21, claiming that he intended to use the chemical as a weapon.

Smith was previously charged with simple possession of ricin. A trial is set for Feb. 17.

Smith was arrested on Halloween, after Oshkosh Police received a tip and closed off the neighborhood around the defendant's house off the university campus.

His attorney has insisted that Smith never meant to hurt anybody.

Beloit College opens fund in memory of slain alum

BELOIT -- Beloit College has started a memorial fund to honor Luke Somers, the photojournalist killed by al-Qaida captors in Yemen as U.S. force tried to free him.

The 33-year-old Somers graduated from Beloit College in 2008 with a creative writing degree.

The school announced the memorial fund Thursday, and an online vehicle for those interested in donating. The fund will give financial assistance to students studying abroad, with a preference to those studying Middle East people and cultures.

Beloit College will hold a memorial ceremony at 1 p.m., Sunday at the Eaton Chapel to highlight Somers' life and accomplishments.

Read more about the fundraiser here: http://www.beloit.edu/news/?story_id=429514

Racine child, shot Nov. 5, ready to go home

MILWAUKEE -- A four-year-old Racine girl is nearly ready to go home from the hospital, after being shot in the head more than a month ago.

Dr. Bruce Kaufman at Milwaukee Children's Hospital said Ja'Nyela Marsh-Highshaw is making an "astounding" recovery, after he had "grave concerns" that she wouldn't survive.

WITI TV in Milwaukee says Ja'Nyela is now talking and singing and her mother Janikka says the girl tries something new every day.

No one has been arrested in the shooting, which took place Nov. 5. The girl was placed in a medically-induced coma for 11 days. She is expected to undergo at least one more surgery.

Plea deal struck in animal neglect case

WAUSAU -- The second of two people charged with animal neglect during brutally-cold weather last January has struck a plea deal.

Mary Morse, 51, pleaded guilty in Marathon County Circuit Court Thursday to two misdemeanor charges of having an improper outdoor animal shelter.

Nine dogs were seized from her property near Athens on a cold January night when the wind-chill factor fell below minus-40. All the dogs recovered.

Morse, who now lives near Elma, Iowa, was fined $100. Two other counts of failing to provide water for her animals were dismissed.

Clark Petitt, 67, struck a plea deal in September on similar charges. He was ordered not to own or care for animals for five years.

In 2004, more than 250 animals were taken from Morse and Pettit, after they were found to be poorly cared for.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau

Park Service planner optimistic ice caves could re-open

ASHLAND -- Those who didn't get to see the majestic ice caves at the Apostle Islands last winter, might get another chance this year.

Chief planner Julie Van Stappen of the Apostles' National Lakeshore says there's a "very good chance" that thick ice can be formed for safe walking close to the shore of Lake Superior, if cold temperatures and light winds persist.

Van Stappen says the ice-sheet can break up within a day if it's not "locked in." That's why people could not reach the ice caves for five years until last winter's brutal cold.

Social media and international news coverage resulted in 138,000 visitors walking the two-mile trek from Meyers Beach near Cornucopia to the ice caves. It put such a strain on security and parking personnel, that the Park Service proposed a $5 fee for visitors 16 and older, and a $10 season pass. The fees have yet to be finalized.

Van Stappen says officials should know next month whether the ice caves will be open to the public this winter.

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