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Environmentalists urge better wetlands protections in four Great Lakes states

Traverse City, MI (AP) — An environmental group reports four states in the Great Lakes region should do a better job of protecting wetlands.

The National Wildlife Federation released a report Tuesday that examines the performance of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin in safeguarding wetlands.

Wetlands such as swamps and bogs play a crucial role in maintaining water quality, preventing floods and erosion, providing wildlife habitat and boosting diversity of plant life.

The report also suggests states should produce complete wetlands inventories, provide enough staff to make sure development permits are adequately screened, and revise laws as needed to protect wetlands from drainage and other damage.

Wisconsin appeals court rules Legislature passed unconstitutional law for town

Wausau (AP) — A Wisconsin appeals court ruled the state Legislature passed an unconstitutional law when trying to help a town bypass the normal process of becoming a village.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a ruling that blocked the Brown County town of Ledgeview from becoming a village, despite a 2008 voter referendum that narrowly approved the change.

According to court records, advocates of the change convinced the Legislature to put in the 2007 state budget bill a provision that bypassed needed approval from a state Incorporation Review Board. The board rejected the village designation in 2003 because it failed to meet needed standards.

The appeals court ruled Tuesday the state Constitution prevents the Legislature from enacting any special law for incorporating any city, town or village.

Wisconsin Supreme Court deadlocks on manufacturing firm’s corporate law case

Madison (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court is deadlocked on whether the former owners of a manufacturing firm must pay millions in damages for enriching themselves while the company couldn’t pay its bills.

The court divided 3-3 on whether to uphold a jury’s decision ordering Daniel Virnich and Jack Moores to pay $6.5 million for their excessive compensation at a Lancaster firm that makes stereo speaker parts.

Justice Patience Roggensack didn’t participate in the case, which had been closely followed by corporate executives, banks and labor unions.

The court’s ruling sends the case back to an appeals court for review.

Milwaukee Public Schools reveals all of the district’s purchases on new Web site

Milwaukee (AP) — Milwaukee Public Schools is letting the public see all of the purchases made by the district.

A new Web site run by the state’s largest school district lets any visitor see purchases that have been made in a number of categories, including date, vendor name, school or department.

District officials said the new Web site is a way to provide transparency on how money is being spent.
Records will show purchases since July 1, 2005.

Banking group reports consumer loan delinquencies continue to rise

New York (AP) — A banking group reports consumer loan delinquencies rose to another record high in the first quarter.

The American Bankers Association reported a continued rise in unemployment has been the main culprit for the continued rise in delinquencies.

The trade association reported Tuesday the composite delinquency rate among eight types of closed-end installment loans rose to 3.23 percent. That is the highest recorded since the ABA began tracking the rate in the mid 1970s and tops the previous record of 3.22 percent set in the last quarter of 2008.

Aside from detailing the rising delinquencies among close-end loans, the ABA also reported credit card delinquencies moved higher in the first quarter.

One death reported among Tennessee construction laborers buried in concrete

Lenoir City, TN (AP) — Authorities say one of two workers buried in concrete at a Tennessee construction site has died and the other has been taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Police Lt. Mike Tinnel told The Knoxville News Sentinel that a form for a 30-foot wall collapsed during a concrete pour Monday afternoon at the Lenoir City Utilities Board sewage treatment plant.

Deputy Fire Chief Tony Brock said rescue crews used rappelling equipment and baskets to pull the workers from the concrete.

Tinnel said one of the workers later died. The names of the workers are not being released until families are notified.

Internal Revenue Service temporarily suspends some small business fines

Washington (AP) — The IRS reports it will temporarily stop collecting penalties from some small businesses that have been hit with big fines for not disclosing the use of questionable tax shelters.

The fines, which can reach $300,000 a year, were an unintended consequence of a 2004 law aimed at big corporations that use the shelters to avoid taxes. Lawmakers asked the Internal Revenue Service last month to suspend collections while legislators work on changing the law.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a letter to members of Congress this week that the IRS will suspend collections through September from businesses that gained less than $200,000 from using the shelters.

Saudi Aramco, Total S.A. sign $9.6 billion in refinery construction deals

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP) — State run oil giant Saudi Aramco and France’s Total S.A. on Tuesday signed $9.6 billion in deals with contractors to build the 400,000-barrel-per-day Jubail export refinery, one of the oil-rich kingdom’s top projects.

The two companies awarded 13 contracts for the project, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Jubail refinery is considered a key part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to boost overall capacity. But the joint venture had suffered delays as the two companies looked to capitalize on lower construction costs and bring the overall price tag to below $10 billion.

Last month, Aramco and Total reported they had finalized contracts for the refinery, which will process Arabian heavy crude and is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2013.

On June 30, Aramco and ConocoPhillips reported they had revived plans to build another 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery in the Red Sea city of Yanbu. The project, which was delayed as crude prices plunged last year, is in the bidding process and is targeted for the third quarter of 2014.

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