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Wisconsin roundup: Chinese tariffs already stinging Wis. ginseng; more state news stories

Farmers of ginseng, shown here, there say they are already having to deal with a 15 percent tariff China's government put in place three months ago. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR

The battle with China over tariffs hasn't even started in earnest and already some north-central Wisconsin farmers are feeling the pinch.

Wisconsin leads the country in exporting ginseng and China is the biggest buyer. Most of the ginseng is produced in Marathon County. Farmers there say they are already having to deal with a 15 percent tariff China's government put in place three months ago. Customers have been lost and farmers are being forced to discount their crops. Their best hope is that some kind of resolution will come before the new market for ginseng arrives in September.


4 months after fatal stabbing, man’s body finally released to family

Four months after Alexander Woodworth was stabbed to death, his body will finally be returned to his family for burial.

A defense attorney for his girlfriend had wanted time to study the autopsy report and decide if an independent examination was needed. Ezra McCandless is accused of stabbing Woodworth 16 times at a rural area near Elk Mound last March. McCandless is charged with first-degree intentional homicide. She returns to court next month. The Dunn County prosecutor says Woodworth's body should be released this week.


Baldwin, Pocan split on abolishing ICE

Two Democrats in the Wisconsin congressional delegation disagree on whether the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency should be abolished.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says ICE should be focused on targeting violent criminals and drug traffickers, not families and refugees — but she also thinks it shouldn't be abolished. Congressman Mark Pocan is joining other Democrats in backing a bill to put the agency out of business. He says ICE has been tainted by the Trump administration and it needs to go.


Bystanders praised for helping save 7-year-old from near-drowning

Emergency responders say people nearby who helped a 7-year-old girl after she almost drowned likely saved her life.

The incident happened last weekend at the Hickory Hills Campground at Rice Lake in Edgerton. Someone carried the child from the lake while calling for help and two campers jumped into action. Joining one of the girl's family members, they called 911 and started CPR. Emergency responders say it was important that the people on the scene started life-saving efforts immediately. The girl was said to be responsive Monday. The circumstances which caused the near-death experience still aren't clear and authorities say the investigation is continuing.


Report: Cities face $2.25B in unfunded health care costs

A report released Monday by the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows the state's 25 largest cities face $2.25 billion in unfunded retiree health care liability.

Most Wisconsin cities made progress over a three-year period, but the projected costs for Milwaukee and Racine wiped out the gains. Those two cities saw their unfunded commitments grow by more than $228 million over the same time frame. Many cities made deals with their workers promising generous health care benefits after retirement. In many cases, those benefits were offered if the workers would accept smaller pay hikes at the time.


School districts receive $3.5M in state grants for safety

The Wisconsin Department of Justice School Safety Program is awarding $3.5 million in grants for school building safety improvements and faculty and staff training.

Fifty-two school districts are sharing the grant money. Legislation passed earlier this year requires the districts to create a safety plan with police to become eligible for the grant money. To this point, 735 school districts have applied for $100 million set aside by state lawmakers for school safety upgrades and training.


High school pranksters won’t face criminal charges

The Rock County District Attorney has decided not to file criminal charges against three high school pranksters from Clinton.

They gave their classmates brownies which had been laced with an herbal supplement last May. Five students became sick. The students had put the male enhancement supplement Zyrexin in the brownies as a senior prank and they could have been charged with a felony. DA David O'Leary says he decided not to file the charges because the three didn't intend to hurt anyone, they expressed sincere regret, apologized and agreed to pay for the victims' medical bills.