WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State confirms first case of human West Nile Virus
Wisconsin has confirmed its first human case of the West Nile virus for this summer. State health officials said yesterday the mosquito-borne virus infected a resident of Ashland County.
No other details were disclosed, including the person's current condition. The first confirmed case comes about a month later than a year ago. State epidemiologist Diep Hoang Johnson says a relatively cool summer has kept mosquito populations down. Last year, the Badger State had 16 confirmed West Nile cases and five probable ones, with two deaths. Those were small numbers compared to 2012, when a major West Nile infestation in the nation's mid-section caused five deaths and 44 confirmed human cases in Wisconsin. Health officials say most people who get West Nile never feel symptoms like fever, headaches, and muscle aches. Johnson tells the Wisconsin Radio Network that most West Nile infections go unreported unless the symptoms are serious. Also 20 birds and one horse have been infected with West Nile this year. The equine case was reported earlier this week.
The parents of Islamic terrorist victim James Foley said his college years at Marquette opened his eyes to the plight of others. On MSNBC this morning, John and Diane Foley talked about their 40-year-old son -- a freelance journalist who was beheaded by the Islamic State after being kidnapped in Syria in late 2012. Speaking from their home in New Hampshire, the Foleys said their son never saw poverty and human disadvantage until he came to Milwaukee for his schooling at Marquette. Diane said James Foley was a "joyful, happy kid" until he saw the suffering in Milwaukee, where he worked with kids without parents who couldn't afford breakfast. In the years that followed, she said her son's heart "grew and grew, to encompass all those people who needed help ... who needed their stories told." Diane Foley said James "began to love all -- and that was his biggest gift to the people he met ... his love and his help."
A federal appeals court in Chicago agreed today to unseal twenty-four documents related to the John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker and the state's recall elections. The Seventh Circuit Appellate Court said ten other documents should be sealed. Court officials said the actual release might not come until next week. The records involve the two-year-old John Doe probe into allegations that the governor and other top Republicans worked illegally with outside conservative groups on campaigns for GOP Senate candidates, plus Walker himself. The governor denies such a thing. The John Doe was halted by a judge in May, but prosecutors are appealing that decision.
A Republican state Assembly candidate says a pro-family group withdrew its endorsement of him, because it was not happy that a gay rights' group also endorsed him. Ashton Kirsch of Baraboo got 71-percent of the vote last week in a three-way GOP primary. Wisconsin Family Action announced its support last month for Kirsch. This week, however, the group pulled its endorsement, saying only that Kirsch's views on marriage are too different from Family Action's support for one-man, one-woman marriage. Kirsch tells the Baraboo News-Republic that the Family Action group was not okay with an endorsement he picked up from the Log Cabin Republicans group, which supports gay rights. He said he did not seek the Log Cabin endorsement, but they called him and he expressed his views then. Kirsch says churches have the right to decide who can get married. He also believes the state should have the right to regulate marriage instead of the courts. Wisconsin's gay marriage ban is now in the hands of a federal appeals court, and perhaps eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. Kirsch is running against Democrat Dave Considine in November for the Assembly seat being given by Baraboo Democrat Fred Clark.
Governor Scott Walker will take part in two debates with his Democratic challenger Mary Burke -- but not a third one that's also planned for mid-October. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association says it will sponsor debates with both candidates October 10th in the Eau Claire-La Crosse region, and October 17th in Metro Milwaukee. Both those are on Friday nights. Walker's camp says it will not participate in a debate on Thursday, October 16th. Burke has committed to that forum, to be held at UW-Stevens Point. It's sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television and Radio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Milwaukee's WTMJ-TV. The Republican Walker does not plan to attend that one. Sponsors said Burke would still get an hour on public TV that day, so voters are not penalized just because one candidate refuses to take part. Either way, the numbers of debates are in line with the recent past. Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett debated twice in the 2012 recall election, and three times in 2010.
The UW Board of Regents today agreed to ask Governor Scott Walker to allocate $95-million additional dollars for the university in next year's state budget. During a meeting in Oshkosh, the Regents voted unanimously to seek the extra funding -- even though the Republican Walker warned state agencies not to expect more money next year. UW System President Ray Cross said the extra funds are needed for a new job creation initiative, boosting graduation rates, and offsetting effects of a tuition freeze in the last state budget -- plus another freeze Walker said he would seek next year if he's re-elected.
A suburban Chicago company that packages consumer goods is moving its headquarters to Wisconsin. Quest Products says it's moving its management from Gurnee, Illinois to Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County. Production plants in Gurnee and Independence Iowa are also being moved to Pleasant Prairie, where Quest bought a 44,000 square foot building. Quest is spending $3.6 million dollars on the move. The Kenosha Area Business Alliance is kicking in $1.3 million to help Quest purchase its building and equipment. Quest says it will move 28 jobs to Kenosha County now, with 28 more jobs and one-and-a-half million dollars more of investment within the next three years. Among other things, Quest makes Alco-Hawk personal breathalyzers.
A company that owns several department store chains, including Boston Store and Younkers, reports a smaller loss than a year ago. Bon-Ton Stores reported a loss of 36-point-two million dollars in its fiscal second quarter which ended August second. That's down from a loss of $37.2 million at the same time a year earlier. Stockholders' earnings fell by $1.86-a-share -- less than the $1.95 loss from the same time in 2013. Same-store sales rose one-point-six percent. Total sales went up one-point-one percent to $563-and-a-half million. Bon-Ton is based in both Milwaukee and York, Pennsylvania. On Monday, Kathryn Bufano will become the new CEO, replacing Brendan Hoffman. He commuted to Milwaukee from New York each week, and he said it was harder than expected when he took the job in 2012. Bufano comes from Belk department stores of North Carolina. She plans to move to the Milwaukee area.
Add the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to the list of those frustrated that marketers are selling forms that motorists can get for free. Kristina Boardman, deputy administrator of the Division of Motor Vehicles, says private firms are putting up Web sites that look official, but misrepresent the DMV. And while they're not illegal, Boardman says residents could get frustrated with the information they're providing -- or fees they might have to pay. The division's official Web site is Wisconsin DMV.gov -- and as long as there's a "Dot-Gov" at the end, you can be assured that you're getting forms right from the source, at no extra cost. Boardman also said the DMV will never mail anything that offers things like recall notices or extended vehicle warranties. Those come from the automakers themselves.
State officials are reporting success in their efforts to stop identity thieves from beating income tax filers to their refunds. It's a growing problem nationally. In Wisconsin, the state Revenue Department began a program earlier this year to verify the identities of certain taxpayers before their refunds go out. The agency now says the program and other initiatives stopped just under $50-million in falsely-claimed refunds from going out during the last fiscal year. That includes almost 18-million dollars in earned income tax credits for the poor that were fraudulently claimed -- plus another $15-million for Homestead tax relief for low-income residents. The figures were announced by the governor's office. It said the revenue agency stopped a total of 134-million dollars in fraudulent refunds and tax adjustments in the past four years -- up from $60-million the previous four years. The current state budget included almost seven-and-a-half million dollars for anti-tax fraud enforcement.
A southeast Wisconsin dairy farmer has been named a national publication's Social Media Farmer of the Year. Carrie Mess of rural Johnson Creek was honored by Food Nutrition-and-Science -- and its editor called her a "stellar example" of how farmers can use social media to educate consumers and the industry. Mess runs a blog where one-point-one million pages were viewed last year. She has also had articles published by the Huffington Post and the Guardian newspaper of England. Mess, who has 100 cows on her Johnson Creek dairy farm, began using social media to connect with other farmers. Now, she has three updates each day on a blog called "The Adventures of Dairy Carrie." That blog gained notoriety after it convinced Panera Bread to drop an ad campaign that many farmers thought was offensive. She also arranged Wisconsin farmers to donate hay in 2011 to drought-stricken farmers in Texas and Oklahoma. Mess received her award last night at a show in Austin, Texas.
A volunteer fire-fighter is suspected of setting a church and two barns on fire in eastern Wisconsin. Sheboygan County sheriff's deputies said they arrested a 22-year-old volunteer from New Holstein in two of those blazes. The first was on August 5 at Saint Paul's Christian Church, and the second fire was started the next day at a barn in the town of Russell. Damage was limited to one side of the barn, but there was no immediate word on damage to the other two structures -- the church, and a barn in Calumet County for which the fire-fighter is expected to be charged.
A 35-year-old Milwaukee man was charged today with three felonies for allegedly firing a gunshot during a road rage incident on a freeway near Miller Park. James Norman is facing counts of reckless endangerment, two-time marijuana possession, and illegal firearm possession by a felon. Prosecutors said Norman shot at a driver that almost hit his vehicle to the north along Highway 41 during Monday's Milwaukee rush hour. Officials said Norman's car later pulled to the right of the victim, yelled an expletive, and fired at least one shot. The bullet broke the victim's window, but that driver was only hurt by flying glass -- not the gunshot.
A child care center in Madison says it will keep its state license, after allegations of sexual abuse were investigated. The Department of Children and Families temporarily revoked the Red Caboose center's license last month. WISC-TV said a two-year-old child was reportedly abused sexually while under the care of a volunteer at the center. The station said two employees at the facility were notified of the incident in March -- and it was not immediately reported to authorities, while the volunteer was allowed to keep helping provide care. A letter was sent to parents, saying the center paid a three-thousand dollar fine -- and its state child care rating will be temporarily dropped from five stars to two. Red Caboose said it would re-open with new policies and training procedures designed to assure child safety -- and state regulators will be monitoring.
A Purdue University student pleaded guilty today to killing a fellow student from Wisconsin. His lawyer said 23-year-old Cody Cousins did not seek a plea deal before he was convicted of murder. That leaves the door open to a consideration of Cousins' mental state when he stabbed-and-shot 21-year-old Andrew Boldt of West Bend. It happened January 21st in an electrical engineering classroom on Purdue's main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. Boldt was serving as a teaching assistant at the time. A motive was never disclosed. Cousins' public defender said in May he would check out the possibility of an insanity defense. A judge will decide the question of Cousins' mental state when he's sentenced on September 19th. Both Boldt and Cousins were electrical engineering students at the time of the slaying.
Police and school officials in Richland Center are trying to get to the bottom of a vandalism incident in which 39 pheasants were killed, and 70 more escaped. School maintenance workers found damage early yesterday on the district's athletic fields -- including a piece of irrigation equipment and a portable toilet that were tipped over. Last evening, an agricultural teacher at Richland Center High School found that a shed was broken into for a pheasant-raising project -- and there were dead birds on the floor. More dead pheasants were found in a second shed that was entered, and three walls were damaged which apparently allowed birds to escape. According to a school statement, the pheasant project has gone on for 16 years, funded by the local FFA. Baby chicks are raised from June through October, and then they're released into the wild from a landowner's property. School officials believe both the athletic field vandalism and the pheasant killings were related.
An animal shelter in Racine has temporarily halted the adoptions of cats. That's after four animals at the Wisconsin Humane Society facility tested positive for Feline Panleukopenia Virus. WISN-TV reports that an adult stray cat brought the potentially-fatal disease to the Racine shelter two weeks ago, and infected other cats. All four of those infected either died naturally, or were euthanized. Dogs and other animals at the Racine shelter can still be adopted, because the cat virus cannot be transferred to other pets. Cat adoptions will resume Sept. 2.
UW-Madison researchers are getting three-million federal dollars to perform research involving nuclear power. The U.S. Energy Department said today it's giving out 67-million dollars for 83 projects around the country. The UW has three of them. The largest one is designed to create advanced sensors for safety tests in advanced nuclear reactors. That project covers about two-million dollars, or two-thirds of the university's federal grant. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the research reflects "the key role of nuclear energy in helping ensure America's low-carbon future."
After getting a life-saving transplant three years ago, a young Green Bay area girl has met her donor. Chrestean Werth and his wife traveled from his home in northern Germany to meet Mira Erdmann of Howard. She was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that affects just one in every one-point-two million people. Doctors said her only chance of survival was to get a bone marrow transplant. Werth learned that he was a match for the young girl, just three months after he became a donor. Scientists harvested his stem cells, and they were shipped to Mira's doctors who were in Cincinnati. Mira survived several complications after her transplant. At one point, her chances of surviving were only five percent -- but she pulled through.