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Author: Wisconsin Watch

A skeptical Corn Belt: Researchers seek methods to unobtrusively install solar stations on farmland

Extensive land across the Midwest could be used for solar power, but instead is tied up in row crops. Researchers have examined how to build solar panels without taking out that cropland. Sprouting out of the corn like a super crop are four arrays of solar panels standing 20 feet high and towering above the stalks growing below. They look both out of place, technology amid nature, and as though they have always been there. After all, both the corn and the panels are harvesting the sun. “Either way, they are storing solar energy,” said Mitch Tuinstra, a professor...

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A lack of local loyalty: Why Oshkosh Corp highlights trend by companies to fleece hometowns for subsidies

Despite tens of millions in state and local government incentives, the Wisconsin company is steering billions of dollars of work away from its namesake city. The news in early 2021 that Oshkosh Corp.’s defense subsidiary had secured a multi-billion dollar federal contract to build up to 165,000 postal trucks elicited a mix of pride and relief among Oshkosh, Wisconsin residents. Since the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has ordered fewer tactical vehicles, and employment has dropped at the corporation’s Oshkosh assembly plants. So the 2021 announcement allowed the military contractor to tout a swords-into-plowshares...

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Therapeutic Abortions: Wisconsin physicians remain unclear about ambiguous wording of 173-year-old ban

Physicians criticize the law as outdated, vague and severe. Health systems are scrambling to guide them on how to stay out of criminal trouble. The patient sat in Dr. Shefaali Sharma’s exam room, distraught. She was pregnant with her third child. Just weeks earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had revoked the federally protected, constitutional right to an abortion, restoring Wisconsin’s near-total abortion ban from the 1800s. “I need to know how this might impact, like, labor and delivery,” the patient said, referring to the court decision. Then she trailed off: “I guess, I just …” After a few moments,...

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A lingering labor shortage: Businesses struggle as long COVID sidelines thousands of Wisconsin workers

Federal government assistance for paid time off due to COVID-19 has ended, but some employers accommodate ailing workers amid a lingering labor shortage. In November 2020, Danielle Sigler tested approximately 200 residents in a Mount Horeb, Wis. nursing home during a COVID-19 outbreak. The residents were not the only ones Sigler was worried about; 25 of her staff at Ingleside Communities also got infected. And in the process of testing vulnerable residents, the 36-year-old nursing home administrator herself caught COVID-19. That was before the COVID-19 vaccination was available to Americans. Like several of her employees, Sigler experienced so-called Long...

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An Environmental Feud: Why a Lake Michigan seawall created more problems for downstream neighbors

Six years ago, David Spector bought an 80-year old house perched on a 120-foot bluff that provided a panoramic view of Lake Michigan’s endless horizon. But that priceless view may cost Spector more than he could have imagined as ongoing shoreline erosion edges his house ever closer to the bluff’s precipice and crashing waves below. Spector, who works in real estate, knows it is only a matter of time until the bluff gives way and his home will be gone. “It’s such a beautiful view. It makes up for some of the heartache,” he said. The Great Lakes collectively...

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Scarce air conditioning: Milwaukee’s most at risk residents endure a lack of cooling assistance

Wisconsin’s primary energy aid program focuses mostly on winter heating, leaving few summer cooling options. A neighborhood community group is stepping up. It was only 10 a.m. and already above 80 degrees as Freda Wright slowly walked down a residential block of Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood, clutching a clipboard under one arm. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she navigated creaky front gates and porch steps during a scorching mid-July week when temperatures eclipsed 90 degrees. Most people answered their door looking wary. Wright greeted them with a smile, maybe a joke, before asking: “Do you have an older adult...

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