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Author: Wisconsin Watch

Labor Trafficking: Victims accuse Wisconsin farm of prison-like conditions and exploitation

In 2016, “Roberto” legally came to the United States for the same reason many immigrants do — to earn a living and a slice of the American dream. But Roberto, a native of southern Mexico, says he suffered a nightmare of coercion, financial exploitation, threats and mistreatment while working on a Georgia farm and, later, at cabbage patches in southeastern Wisconsin. Roberto arrived in the United States legally under an H-2A visa, which allows seasonal farm laborers to work for specific employers. Roberto says he was forced to pay a fee and turn over the deed to his parents’...

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Great Lakes freighters may be required to treat ballast water to halt spread of invasive species

More than $375 billion in cargo — iron ore, coal, cement, stone, grain and more — has flowed between Great Lakes ports and foreign nations since 1959. That is when Queen Elizabeth and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower christened the St. Lawrence Seaway, heralding it as an engineering marvel. But that series of locks, dams and channels connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean also carved a pathway for foreign plants and animals to wreak billions of dollars in ecological damage to the lakes. At least 80 invasive species have arrived in the ballast water that transatlantic ships take...

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Mount Pleasant officials conspired to seize family homes in tax-payer funded land grab for Foxconn

Homeowners near the Foxconn facility say they sold their homes for road widenings that were either abandoned, embellished — or never planned. In late summer 2017, Cathy and Rodney Jensen started hearing rumors that their Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, neighborhood could be changing. Plans for a massive Foxconn flat-screen manufacturing plant had just been announced in July of that year. The Taiwanese company was planning a 20-million-square-foot complex and promised 13,000 jobs for the state. The Jensens had owned a home on nearly 3 acres along Southeast Frontage Road for more than 20 years, close to the planned Foxconn development....

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Statistics show Blacks in Wisconsin arrested for marijuana possession 4x more often than whites

During Wisconsin’s 2018 midterm election, which saw a record-breaking turnout, it was not the close gubernatorial race that motivated Milwaukee resident Marlon Rockett to cast an early ballot. It was the county’s non-binding referendum on whether recreational use of marijuana should be legalized. Racial equity is a top reason why Rockett favors legalization, which 70% of Milwaukee County voters also supported. Rockett, who co-hosts a podcast on issues affecting the black community, said laws against marijuana are a “tool that’s used to help hold everyday Americans back.” And the enforcement of these laws, Rockett said, is largely concentrated on...

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State regulators refuse to intervene in challenge between energy monopoly and solar company

As solar energy has become more popular and cost-effective, this once fringe renewable source is now at the center of an energy turf war in Wisconsin. At issue is a project in which an Iowa-based renewables company wants to partner with the city of Milwaukee to power seven municipal buildings with solar. Eagle Point Solar would help to finance the city’s project, taking advantage of federal tax breaks that local governments do not qualify for. Eagle Point is suing the public utility, We Energies, for refusing to connect a series of solar arrays to each other. We Energies says...

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Promise to reduce Wisconsin’s prison population faces numerous political hurdles

Governor Tony Evers is considering enacting an obscure 30-year-old early release program and halting re-incarceration of offenders for rule violations to reduce Wisconsin’s growing prison population. Governor Evers has expressed optimism about his ability to accomplish a major campaign promise: to reduce by 50 percent the state’s prison population, which is on course to hit an all-time high of 25,000 inmates by 2021. While 31 states saw decreases in their prison populations from 2017 to 2018, Wisconsin is not one of them. Currently, Wisconsin’s prison system is 33 percent above capacity, with 18 of the state’s 20 adult prisons...

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