RHINELANDER - It can kill you the first time you try it, but kids and adults seem to be doing it anyway. Inhaling aerosol sprays for a simple high. It's called huffing. But it wasn't illegal in Wisconsin until 2005.
"Having a legal thing that people can do made it more appealing that you can just go to the store and get chemical sprays and dusters and get high off that and not face any consequences," Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke said. "At least now there's a consequence to that."
Helke helped lead the charge seven years ago to make huffing a crime. Now it's a class A misdemeanor. But his fight is far from over.
About a month ago, a Rhinelander driver named Matthew Taulbut crashed his car into the curb here, on Baird and Dahl streets near the county courthouse. Police found him slumped over the wheel with aerosol cans in his lap.
But ironically enough, Taulbut, who crashed just a block from where the law is upheld, couldn't be charged criminally with his 4th OWI. Huffing isn't defined as an intoxicant. At least not yet.
State Representative Rob Swearingen is a co-sponsor of this bill making its way around the Capitol. Sergeant Helke contacted him and other lawmakers with hopes of amending the drunk driving laws.
"Essentially what we're going to do is open up the word intoxicant and include the word inhalant, like huffing, and include that so that police actually have some teeth when they try to enforce the law," Swearingen said.
Lawmakers from both sides are coming together to draft the bill. The next stop will be in a legislative committee before heading to a hearing. Swearingen thinks the process should be smooth.
"It's highly likely, depending on any opposition, and I don't know why anyone would oppose this, but pending any opposition, something like this is good, common sense legislation," Swearingen said.
That's good news for Sgt. Helke and police everywhere.
"Unfortunately in most places, they aren't aware or there isn't anything spurned until somebody dies," Helke said. "And we don't want to wait until somebody dies until the awareness is risen."
Awareness and a law, that should make the roads safer.
"I think this is a simple fix, I don't think it's a big deal, but it's something that should get done, needs to get done so they can do their job," Swearingen said.
WAUSAU - Students at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau got to see Tibetan monks create a work of art steeped in Buddhist history.
The Mandala Sand Art is an ancient Tantric Buddhist tradition dating back thousands of years.
The Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are on an international tour called Mystical Arts of Tibet where they create mandalas in front of an audience.
"The colored patterns we are using, we are following the scriptures, the Buddhist scriptures. It's a very old tradition, more than 2,500 years ago," says Geshe Loden, head of the Mystical Arts of Tibet.
The monks' last visit to Northcentral Technical College in 2011 was so popular, they were invited back.
"At NTC we feel like it's important to offer our students a variety of different programming, and one of the things we feel our responsibility to do is expose our students to other cultures, other religions, other ideas," says Director of Student Development Shawn Sullivan.
The monks work hours at a time placing sand delicately in the lines of the intricate pattern.
The mandala will take them four days to complete, but the beautiful creation won't last long.
"After finishing this, making the mandala, we consecrate this completed mandala, and we dismantle it to symbolize the impermanence of all the conditioned things, all the phenomena," says Loden.
The monks' tour raises money for more than 3,000 monasteries in India. They also do it to raise awareness about the plight of Tibetans.
"Lord Buddha had started this, and that tradition keeps going on."
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
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