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Bond set at $1 million in deputy's shooting; more questions about United Sportsman; 9 more state stories

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MERRILL -- A $1 million bond has been ordered for a northern Wisconsin man accused of shooting and wounding a Taylor County sheriff's deputy during a standoff. A relative said the fallen deputy is expected to make a full recovery.

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Charges are still pending against Alexander Schneider, 27, of Westboro, who had a bond hearing yesterday before Circuit Court Judge Ann Knox-Bauer.

Authorities said they tried to take Schneider into custody on Sunday night for violating a previous court-ordered injunction.

WSAU Radio in Wausau said Schneider was previously ordered not to have contact with an underage girl with whom he allegedly was having sex since she was 13.

Officials said Schneider wounded Taylor County deputy Chad Kowalczyk and then ran away. Schneider was arrested three hours later after a regional manhunt. He's being held in the Lincoln County Jail in Merrill.

Deputy Kowalczyk was shot in the abdomen, but his condition was not disclosed. On Facebook, Schneider posted late Sunday that he shot at officers -- and he was trying to tell a woman he was sorry for the person he had become.

WSAW-TV reported it had spoken with Chippewa County Sheriff James Kowalczyk, deputy Kowalczyk's uncle.

He said Chad got out of surgery late Sunday night, and the bullet has been removed from his stomach. Sheriff Kowalczyk said Chad is expected to make a full recovery and will be back working as soon as he can.

Several Kowalczyk family members are involved in law enforcement. Sheriff Kowalczyk's brother is an investigator, and Chad's brother works as a jailer for Taylor County.

Deputy Kowalczyk has a 2-year-old son.

Online court records show Schneider was charged this summer with two counts of child sex assault and reckless endangerment, and he was freed on a signature bond. Schneider was later charged in July with five other counts including threats, battery, reckless endangerment, and bail jumping. He had posted a $5,000 cash bond in that case.

 -- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

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United Sportsmen's tax filings now under scrutiny

MILWAUKEE -- Concerns are still being raised about the United Sportsmen, the group that had a controversial $500,000 state grant pulled last week.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin and its affiliated foundation did not file state income tax returns for 2011 and 2012. Accountants told the paper it's possible the groups are an unfamiliar subsidiary in which case they do not have to file themselves -- but otherwise, they raised enough money to be required to file.

The United Sportsmen was the only group to apply for a state grant to encourage more Wisconsinites to go hunting and fishing.

Republican lawmakers included the grant in the state budget while prohibiting some other conservation groups from applying. Questions were raised because the group did not train outdoor enthusiasts like the others did.

The Journal Sentinel also pointed to the group's political connections. Later, concerns were raised about the United Sportsmen's non-profit status. It later said it was a for-profit entity.

Gov. Scott Walker withdrew the grant last week after it was learned that the group's president was cited in 2005 for shooting a bear without a proper hunting license in Langlade County.

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Push underway for more objectivity in redistricting process

MADISON -- A new push was expected to begin Tuesday for a more objective process in the way Wisconsin handles redistricting.

Outgoing state Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville and moderate Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center will hold a news conference on their ideas of redistricting reform.

They'll be joined by Common Cause board member and former lawmaker Dave Martin and longtime GOP political strategist Bill Kraus.

Government watchdogs and minority parties have long called for changes in the way Wisconsin re-draws its state legislative and U.S. House district boundaries.

Right now, the Legislature handles the process, which is done every 10 years after a new Census is completed. Both parties have long refused to give up their redistricting power over the years, seeing it as a possible way to gain an edge in elections for a decade.

Critics also say the redistricting process shares part of the blame for today's political polarization by letting lawmakers present more extreme views without having to worry about offending dwindling numbers of opposing voters in their districts.

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Spring Valley man's family questions MSP's chase policies

A western Wisconsin family is asking why the Minnesota State Patrol had to chase a driver who killed their relative by colliding with his car during the pursuit.

Brody Sotona, 20, formerly of Spring Valley died in the crash, which occurred at an intersection in downtown Minneapolis early Monday morning. The Minnesota State Patrol said it tried to stop a car for driving drunk and speeding around 1 a.m.

The pursued vehicle was going through an intersection when it broadsided Sotona's car. Sotona's passenger, a 24-year-old from Stillwater, Minn., was seriously hurt.

The driver of fleeing auto escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.

The Star-Tribune reported Tuesday that Sotona's family was asking the Patrol why the chase had to occur since the officer had already recorded the perpetrator's license number.

The State Patrol defends it, saying the pursued driver caused a public danger by speeding while driving drunk.

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Milwaukee-area Syrians mixed on topic of potential strike

MILWAUKEE -- Syrians in Milwaukee have mixed feelings about whether the U.S. should make a limited strike on their home country's military operations.

President Obama is expected to make his case for an attack in an address to the nation Tuesday evening. He blames the regime of Syria's President Assad for a gas attack last month that killed 1,400 people in a suburb of Damascus.

Muslims in Milwaukee's Syrian community have generally supported a U.S. assault. They say it would weaken the Assad's power and doing nothing would encourage others to use chemical weapons on their own people.

Milwaukee Muslim Syrians interviewed by the Journal Sentinel said they want the U.S. to side with the Free Syrian Army, which they consider the legitimate and moderate opposition to Assad.

Meanwhile, Syrian Christians say an attack would make hostilities in the region worse. Milwaukee's Christians say their relatives in Syria already live in fear of being killed while doing their everyday business. Christians also fear a U.S. assault could trigger a long-term military conflict. Those feelings were expressed at special church services in Milwaukee last week.

On Monday, Obama told a series of TV interviewers he would press on with his plans for an attack -- even after Russia proposed to make its Syrian allies hand over their chemical weapons so they can be destroyed.

The president said he was skeptical of that plan. The U.S. Senate has delayed a test vote scheduled for tomorrow on a military strike to evaluate the Russian proposal.

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State's corn crop suffering amid lack of moisture

Hot weather is normally great for growing corn in Wisconsin, but not now.

The new drought that began in July has made almost 80 percent of the state's topsoil short or very short of moisture. Officials say the recent above-normal temperatures have only made matters worse.

Crop reporters say more Wisconsin farmers are chopping their corn for animal feed because it has not pollinated and it's drying up. Only 41 percent of the Wisconsin corn is rated good to excellent and 30 percent is fair.

Forty-two percent of soybeans are good to excellent, and 31 percent are fair.

All but six percent of the fields in west central Wisconsin are short to very short of moisture. That's where the U.S. Drought Monitor reported a severe drought last week for the first time since the previous Midwest drought in 2012 and the first half of 2013.

Meanwhile, it was still muggy Tuesday morning in most of the Badger State after the heat index hit 109 Monday in southwest Wisconsin.

Milwaukee was the warm spot at 7 a.m. with 78 degrees. The rest of the state was in the 60's and 70's.

Southern Wisconsin could see another hot day in the 90's with 70's and 80's elsewhere. A new low-pressure will bring a better chance of rain tonight with cooler highs of around 80 for tomorrow.

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Oshkosh Corp. workers voting today on contract talks

OSHKOSH -- Union workers at the Oshkosh Corporation were to vote on whether to resume negotiations on extending their contract.

Local 578 of the United Auto Workers has a contract that runs through 2016.

Oshkosh management says a five-year extension would help the company win a $13 billion contract to produce a new type of military vehicle to replace the Army and Marines' standard Humvees.

Talks took place in July, but they broke down -- and no agreement was reached by a previous deadline of July 31.

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Border states, Canada will study risks of moving oil

MILWAUKEE -- U.S. and Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes want to know more about plans to move crude oil both across the lakes and around them.

Meeting in Milwaukee Monday, the Great Lakes Commission ordered its staff to do a one-year study of the economic and environmental effects of moving oil.

Transports are increasing due to the recent discovery of crude oil fields in North Dakota, and the Alberta tar-sands region of Canada.

The Great Lakes panel said there's a lot at stake -- and there are also big risks of moving oil on ships, trains, and pipelines.

The commission cited various incidents, including the derailment of an oil train in Canada last summer, and ruptures of crude oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, foreign affairs' agencies in both the U.S. and Canada are still reviewing a 2007 request to slow down the water flow at the main entry to the Great Lakes.

Water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron have dropped an estimated two feet since the last major dredging in the 1960's on the lakes' main entryway at the St. Clair River. The International Joint Commission -- a U.S.-Canadian panel which oversees the Great Lakes -- said it's still waiting for answers.

The Great Lakes Commission asked the U.S. and Canadian governments six years ago to look for ways to undo the effects of the dredging, slow down the flows, and keep the levels of Michigan and Huron higher.

In January, the levels of the two lakes hit record lows -- raising new concerns about damage along shorelines, and commercial ships carrying lighter loads due to the low waters.

Deborah Lee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says her agency believes it has congressional authorization to build a structure to slow the water flow at the St. Clair.

She said a study is needed, but Congress is not budgeting any money for it.

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Gas leak halts production at Mercury Marine

FOND DU LAC -- Production was halted for a few hours Monday night at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac.

Workers in Plant 15 at the outboard motor complex were evacuated when about 50 gallons of gasoline spilled into a large nearby tunnel.

Firefighters were called just after 7:15 p.m.

They wanted to make sure no one was in the structure in case gas vapors were ignited. That didn't happen.

The company said it brought in a remediation company to clean up the gas spill. The plant was also cleaned and ventilated before employees were allowed back in. No one was injured.

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Luxemburg man's death tied to accidental fall

LUXEMBURG -- The death of a 44-year-old man in eastern Wisconsin has been ruled an accident.

Scott Vandermause of Luxemburg was found dead outside his parents' home early on Sunday.

 Police initially said that alcohol may have caused the man's death, or there could have been some type of crime. As it turned, officials said Vandermause died from an accidental fall.

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Massage therapist accused of improper contact

GREEN BAY -- A massage therapist near Green Bay is suspected of having sexual contact with at least a couple of his clients.

Brown County sheriff's deputies said they arrested a 36-year-old man Monday who works in the Bellevue area.

Officials said they knew of two women being victimized in separate massage sessions, and they're asking other victims to come forward.

The therapist was booked on possible charges of third and fourth degree sexual assault.

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Steve Dzubay
Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer since 1995. 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.
(715) 426-1054
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