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Challenge to Alabama abortion law parallels pending Wisconsin case; 2-plus inches rain fell near Menomonie; 12 more state stories

A federal court trial is underway in Alabama in a lawsuit against a state abortion law that's similar to what's being challenged in Wisconsin.

Testimony began Monday in a lawsuit which seeks to kill an Alabama law that forces abortion doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges.

A similar trial in Madison is scheduled to begin next Tuesday before Federal Judge William Conley. On Monday, the operators of three of Alabama's five abortion clinics said they use out-of-town doctors who could not obtain hospital admitting privileges in their local areas.

Like the Wisconsin case, Planned Parenthood and another abortion clinic insist that the Alabama law would shut down clinics, and make it harder for low-income women to get abortions. The Alabama attorney general plans to introduce witnesses who will testify that an abortion doctor needs to be on hand at a hospital in case complications arise -- something the plaintiffs say is rare.

The Alabama plaintiffs said they've never had physicians in their local areas express an interest in performing abortions and the out-of-towners who do them are subject to frequent harassment. Mississippi and Texas also have similar laws. The Texas law is the only one that's in effect.

Judge Conley has rejected Wisconsin's effort to keep its law in place while it's being challenged. It was struck down soon after Gov. Scott Walker signed it last summer.

Heaviest Monday rain reported near Menomonie

Things were starting to dry out Tuesday, after a soggy night in the state's mid-section.

An early morning check of rain totals showed Cedar Falls in Dunn County getting the most last night -- 3.25 inches. Several places reported 2-plus inches, including Neillsville with 2.25 inches.

River Falls received 1.74 inches over the past 24 hours.

Far northern Wisconsin also got some sizable rain totals. Winchester in Vilas County reported 1.2 inches. Parts of west and southwest Wisconsin had hail last night. A small power outage near Rhinelander had about 75 Wisconsin Public Service customers in the dark as of 7:30 a.m.

Warmer air was expected to push into Wisconsin through the day Tuesday. It will remain dry in most areas, with highs in the 70's-and-80's. It was already 65 in Kenosha at 7 a.m.

Former Milwaukee train manufacturer will sue over project cancellation

MILWAUKEE -- While Gov. Scott Walker campaigns for re-election, one of the biggest disputes of his 2010 campaign will be fought out in court.

Train-maker Talgo says it will file a lawsuit that accuses Walker of acting in bad faith, when he effectively killed a high-speed rail line for which Talgo had built two trains in Milwaukee.

Before it could file suit, the company was required to file a damage claim. On Monday, the State Claims Board rejected $66 million in damages for Talgo, saying the matter would best be resolved in the court system. Walker's chief legal counsel is on the board, and he abstained from Monday's vote.

Had the board agreed to pay the claim, Walker and his fellow legislative Republicans would have had the final say on it, most likely making a court case inevitable.

Walker made his opposition to the proposed high-speed rail line from Milwaukee to Madison a key issue in 2010, after former Gov. Jim Doyle accepted $810 million in federal funds for it. Just before Walker took office, Doyle gave back the money.

Meanwhile, Talgo kept building the two trains during 2011. Aluminum alloy structural frame parts for the Talgo trains were manufactured in Spain and then shipped to

Wisconsin for assembly.

The state officially rejected them at the start of 2012, saying they didn't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. By the end of that year, Talgo canceled its contract with the state. State officials said Talgo never completed its manufacturing and testing process for the trains.

Talgo has since moved to Seattle.

Former warden facing felony charges for theft REEDSBURG -- A former DNR conservation warden is due in court June 11th on eight felony charges.

Sauk County prosecutors have charged 45-year-old David Horzewski of Reedsburg with six counts of theft, and two charges of misconduct in public office.

Chief Warden Todd Schaller said Horzewski was terminated last July for violating work rules, and officials found evidence of misconduct after that. The exact nature of the alleged infractions have not been disclosed.

The State Capitol Police investigated the matter, and the Monroe County district attorney's office is serving as a special prosecutor. The alleged crimes date back to 2003. The DNR said it appears to be the first time since the conservation service was created in 1879 that a state warden has faced felony charges.

Milk production down again, YOY For the sixth straight month, Wisconsin milk production is down from the same time a year ago.

The United States Department of Agriculture said Wisconsin dairy cows pumped out 2.3 billion pounds of milk in April, three-tenths of a percent less than the same month in 2013.

Once again, the Badger State bucked the national trend, in which the total milk output of 17.4 billion pounds was up by one percent.

In the 23 major dairy states, production rose 1.2 percent. Six of those states -- including Wisconsin -- saw their numbers drop. In recent months, experts blamed the severe winter for the decline in the Badger State, as evidenced by a drop in output per cow.

In April, the average Wisconsin cow made 1,815 pounds of milk. Figures from a year ago are unavailable because the USDA did not compile it due to the federal budget sequester at the time.

Meanwhile, the nation's top milk producer, California, continues to increase its output. The Golden State made 3.7 billion pounds in April, up by 1.5 percent over the previous year.

Nuclear plant's Unit 2 shut down for work RED WING, Minn. -- Prairie Island nuclear plant’s Unit 2 was safely shut down early Sunday to remove an obstruction in drain piping from a pump, according to Xcel Energy, which owns and operates the plant.

Operators shut down the unit at 2:05 a.m. Sunday to start the work, which is expected to wrap up in a few days, Xcel said. The situation does not pose any danger to the public or plant workers, and Unit 1 continues to operate at full power.

During outages, Xcel purchases electricity from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or other utilities, or increases electricity production at its other generating plants to ensure an adequate power supply for its customers. When both units are operating, Prairie Island generates enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes, Xcel said.

-- Red Wing Republican-Eagle

Burns to 7 foundry worker blamed on machine failure

SAUKVILLE -- Police in Saukville now blame a catastrophic machine failure for injuries to seven employees at a foundry.

Authorities first said an explosion occurred just after 4 p.m. at the Johnson Brass & Machine Foundry, causing molten metal to be sprayed.

Earlier today, officials said an explosion has been ruled out, the cause remains under investigation, and foul play is not suspected.

Four of the seven workers had been sent to the burn unit at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital -- two evacuated by air ambulance -- and three others were treated at nearby medical facilities.

Saukville Fire Chief Gilly Schultz said the molten brass was being poured into a rapidly-spinning centrifuge, heating the brass to 2,100 degrees.

Johnson Brass is a fourth-generation, family-owned company located near downtown Saukville in Ozaukee County.

For more information about Johnson's manufacturing process, visit

Wolf management group recommends fewer permits this fall

WAUSAU -- Wisconsin hunters will likely kill fewer grey wolves this fall. At a meeting in Wausau Monday, the state's Wolf Advisory Committee recommended a net harvest of 156 wolves -- down from 251 last year.

DNR carnivore specialist Dave MacFarland said the proposed harvest is designed to reduce the state's overall wolf population, but not by as much as this past year.

Officials said Wisconsin had 638 to 667 wolves at the end of this winter. That's down 19 percent from a year ago, but still much higher than the state's original management goal of 350. The proposed new quota is only advisory.

DNR staffers will make a final recommendation to the Natural Resources Board, which will have the last say.

This will be Wisconsin's third wolf hunt, since the Obama administration last removed Upper Midwest grey wolves from the federal endangered species list.

Wisconsin's Indian tribes consider wolves to be sacred and they urged the panel Monday to scrap the wolf hunt altogether.

An official of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association says the proposed harvest should be 300, almost twice what was recommended.

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson (right) listens as his attorney Randall Tigue talks to the media following a 2013 court hearing in Sixth District Court in Duluth. Steve Kuchera /

Lengthy prison term recommended for head-shop owner

Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson (right) listens as his attorney Randall Tigue talks to the media following a 2013 court hearing in Sixth District Court in Duluth. Steve Kuchera /

DULUTH -- A probation agent has recommended 20 to 40 years in prison for a controversial head-shop owner who lived in Superior.

Jim Carlson was convicted on 51 federal charges of drug possession, illegal product labeling, and money laundering in connection with his shop in nearby Duluth Minnesota. Authorities said "The Last Place on Earth" illegally sold synthetic drugs. Carlson is in jail, awaiting his sentencing, which is expected to occur in July.

After that, Carlson's lawyers are expected to appeal. They've been critical of several rulings made by the presiding judge in the case, and they believe Carlson is entitled to a new trial.

The judge has ordered that the head-shop, $3.5 million in assets, and other possessions of Carlson's be forfeited to the government after he's sentenced.

-- Forum News Service

Ag officials urge care to prevent spread of Ash borer

MADISON -- The week before Memorial Day is now "Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week" in Wisconsin.

As campers get ready for their holiday trips, they're reminded that the tree-killing beetle travels most extensively in firewood. Therefore, state campgrounds only allow firewood that's purchased no more than 10 miles away.

Also, no wood can be taken from the quarantined areas where the ash borer has been discovered.

Summer visitors might not know that the beetle became more widespread in Wisconsin during the past year -- including near Superior, where some were shocked to find it.

It's been confirmed in 20 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

The borers are extremely resistant to cold. Donna Gilson of the state Ag Department says their native area goes into Siberia, so they're well accustomed to severe winters.

Gilson said the beetle's population in southern Wisconsin appeared to be hardly dented -- even though the region had its share of 20-below days.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU-Wausau and Natalie Jablonski, WXPR-Rhinelander

West Nile case reported in Dodge County Wisconsin has recorded its first case of the West Nile virus this year in a dead crow found in Dodge County, south of Fond du Lac. State health officials say it's a sign that infected mosquitoes are in that area -- and folks are urged to take precautions to make sure they're not the first human victims of the year.

People, birds, and horses all get West Nile from mosquito bites. The skeeters get the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Last year, Wisconsin had 16 confirmed human cases of West Nile. That was a small number compared to 2012, when cases spiked throughout the nation's mid-section and four Wisconsinites died from the virus. State officials say most West Nile cases don't show up until August or September, but folks can protect themselves now, by staying away from standing pools of water, and using insect repellent when outdoors.

Woman killed Sunday by Madison police identified

MADISON -- A woman shot and killed by Madison Police has been identified as Ashley DiPiazza, age 26.

The state Justice Department continues to investigate the officers' role in the incident, which occurred early Sunday at the apartment DiPiazza shared with her boyfriend.

Officials said the man called 9-1-1, saying he left the apartment after his girlfriend threatened him with a handgun.

After officers arrived, they said DiPiazza refused to comply with their instructions and the officers felt threatened, so at least one of them shot her.

An autopsy confirmed that she died from gunshot wounds.

North High students uninjured after bus fire

EAU CLAIRE -- Almost three dozen Eau Claire high school students escaped injury when their charter bus was destroyed by fire as they were starting a field trip.

Officials said 32 students from Eau Claire North were heading to the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis but a problem cropped up before they could leave town.

A fire official told WEAU TV that the bus driver figured that something was wrong with one of the left tires.

The driver was heading to a transfer location when smoke and flames emerged. The students and the driver managed to get out safely, and another bus took them to Minneapolis.

A company from Rochester, Minn., owned the damaged bus.

View photos from the bus fire here:

Caravan of buses carries vets, 'Rosie' workers to 'D.C.

BELOIT -- About 200 Midwest veterans, and female factory workers who filled in during times of war, are enjoying a free trip to Washington to see the national monuments.

Eleven buses chartered by the "Vets Roll" organization departed Beloit on Sunday. The entourage spent Monday night in Hagerstown, Maryland, which will be their home base until they start heading back to the Midwest Wednesday.

The group consists of World War II and Korean veterans, plus "Rosie the Riveter" factory workers who filled in for service personnel in the 1940's.

The Vets Roll group has provided the trips for over 900 veterrans and Rosie members since 2010.

Meanwhile, veterans continue to take one-day Honor Flights to see the national monuments from the wars in which they served. Just Monday, 88 veterans from central Wisconsin took such a journey.

-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau