Wednesday State News Briefs: State ceremonies remember Pearl HarborWisconsin News
-- It was 70 years ago today when Japan pulled off its surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
It was 70 years ago today when Japan pulled off its surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Today, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and state Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos will hold a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. That event is set for late this morning at the State Veterans Home at King in Waupaca County.
The federal government will spend $416-million to help hospitals do what Wisconsin doctors did last year – put a person’s genetic codes into a sequence, and design a treatment based on those genetics. It was almost a year ago when doctors from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Children’s Hospital explained how they sequenced the genes of four-year-old Nicholas Volker of Monona. They then used the data to treat an intestinal disease that was nearly one-of-a-kind. The National Human Genome Research Institute announced the federal funding yesterday. Officials say it will help overcome barriers that hospitals face in the vast amount of work that’s required for genetic sequencing. The effort comes just over a decade after the initial draft of the Human Genome Project – which came with a full description of people’s overall genetic makeup in the form of over three-billion base pairs. After they treated the Volker boy, the Medical College developed a sequencing program for kids with unknown diseases. Other facilities, including Duke University and Partners’ Health-care, have developed similar programs based on what was learned in Wisconsin.
A $100,000 cash bond has been set for a Milwaukee man accused of killing his step-father in a fight at the victim’s home in Racine. 38-year-old Trevor Rogers was charged yesterday with first-degree intentional homicide in the stabbing death of 76-year-old Thomas Person. He died at a Racine hospital a short time after the incident, which occurred early Monday. Prosecutors said the two were arguing about items Rogers moved into Person’s living room when the fight broke out. The responding police officers said they found Rogers on a street corner near his home – and he told the officers that his step-father quote, “came at me.” Police found Person on a floor inside his house, bleeding from a four-inch wound to his throat. Authorities also found wounds on the victim’s chest, hands, and forearm plus several bruises. Rogers is due back in court a week from tomorrow, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.
A Green Bay company that makes office furniture will close one factory in Mississippi, convert another plant into a warehouse, and move the production to northeast Wisconsin. K-I says it will close its plant in Pontonoc in northern Mississippi by next June first, putting 40 people out of work. It will also convert a nearly 50-year-old plant in Tupelo into a distribution facility. Thirty of the 55 employees there will be cut. K-I says it will move the Mississippi production to its current plant at Bonduel in Shawano County. The company said the moves are based on manufacturing capacity and product demands. The plant in Pontonoc will close after being established in 1999. K-I makes furniture for schools and hospitals as well as offices.
Wisconsin lawmakers will be asked today to spend five-million-dollars to design a new maintenance facility in Milwaukee for Amtrak passenger trains. The DOT asked for the money, and the Joint Finance Committee will decide whether to allocate it. In 2009, the state agreed to buy two passenger train units for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line from Milwaukee-to-Chicago – and to pay the cost of maintaining the equipment. It was part of the arrangement that brought the Spanish train-maker Talgo to Milwaukee.
Manitowoc Cranes has told striking machinists that it’s hiring replacements to meet the demands of customers. The firm is not saying how many replacements are being brought in. About 200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers walked off their jobs November 14th. That’s a quarter of the total workforce at Manitowoc Cranes, although a number of other workers were temporarily laid off due to the strike. The company’s offer includes an eight-percent total pay raise over four years – and it would give employees the option not to join the union. Ben Elizondo, the union’s business representative, said the strike could end if the company would remove the “opt out” provision. He calls it “union-busting language.” No new negotiations have been scheduled.
A 76-year-old Wisconsin Dells woman was killed after a freight train struck her car at a crossing in New Lisbon in Juneau County. Police said the woman was heading north on Highway 80 when her vehicle got caught between the railroad warning arms, and was hit by a Canadian Pacific train that was going west. She was sent to a Mauston hospital, and was later flown to a Madison hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her name was not immediately released.
Wisconsin’s Better Business Bureau is warning people not to open to a false e-mail that claims to be from the bureau – with an attachment that contains malicious software. The BBB says it’s the second “phishing” attack in three weeks that uses the Better Business Bureau’s name. The agency says the e-mail carries a dangerous attachment about a complaint – and it appears to direct those who open it to a BBB Web site. The bureau calls the e-mail a “scam,” and it does not send complaints in e-mail attachments. The Better Business Bureau advises people not to open the e-mail – and if they do, they should immediately scan for viruses. Those who get the fraudulent e-mail are asked to contact the Better Business Bureau in Milwaukee. The agency says it’s working with the FBI and the Secret Service to see who’s behind the scam.
Eighth-graders in Milwaukee have the second-lowest reading and math test scores in 21 big-city school districts of similar size. And fourth-graders have the fourth-lowest scores in reading, and the fifth-lowest scores in math. Those results are from youngsters who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Nationally, fourth-and-eighth graders improved on their math scores from last year – but reading scores have been steady for about the last two years. Heidi Ramirez, the chief academic officer for Milwaukee’s Public Schools, downplayed the significance of the results. She said the Milwaukee schools started some big changes in the way literacy is taught, just a few months before the national exam was administered. And Ramirez said Milwaukee kids started the year further behind than similar youngsters in most other districts. Ramirez also says instructors are getting better trained in teaching a new math-and-science program – and she believes Milwaukee will be better on the next national assessment due to the tests.
At least some people in Michigan are not happy that the Wisconsin Tourism Department used a mitten to promote its Internet report on snow conditions. Lower Michigan is known for having a mitten shape – and Alex Beaton tells a Kalamazoo newspaper she was dismayed to see Wisconsin use a mitten image to promote its winter tourism. Beaton started a Web site this summer called the “Awesome Mitten,” which highlights Michigan’s best attractions and features. Michigan state official Dave Lorenz chuckled when he was asked about this. The public and industry relations’ manager said Michigan understands that Wisconsin has quote, “mitten envy.” Lisa Marshall of Wisconsin’s tourism agency said its logo – a brown mitten in the shape of Wisconsin – went on-line at the start of December. She said Wisconsinites also consider their state to have somewhat of a mitten shape. You can see the mitten for yourself at Travel Wisconsin.com.
Wisconsin appears to be a healthier state than a year ago, while the nation as a whole did not get any better. That’s according to the annual rankings by the United Health Foundation. Wisconsin is 13th among the 50 states in its overall health, up from 18th a last year. But the Badger State used to do better. It was ranked seventh when the first ratings came out in 1990 – and they were 11th in 2009. In the new survey, Wisconsin gets high scores for a large high school graduation rate, a high percentage of people with health insurance, a low rate of infectious diseases, and a relatively low child poverty rate. But Wisconsin’s obesity rate is still high at 27-percent – and for the first time, every state had at least 20-percent of its residents become obese. Officials said one big plus was that Wisconsin reduced its smoking rate. Nineteen-percent of Badger State adults smoke, down from 24-percent in the 2001 survey. Bruce Weiss of United Health Care says Wisconsin remains in an enviable position with its overall health – but there are still areas that need to be addressed. The way obesity rates are rising, Weiss says it could negate recent health improvements in other areas.
Wisconsin protestors in the Occupy Wall Street movement made unannounced visits yesterday to four congressional offices – and they got to meet with three of state’s lawmakers. It was part of a larger week-long event by Occupy groups called “Take Back the Capitol.” Organizers said about 150 people connected with labor and the Occupy movement rode from Wisconsin to Washington to meet with Republicans. And Senator Ron Johnson spent time with them, along with House members Sean Duffy of Weston and Tom Petri (pee-try) of Fond du Lac. Maria Morales of Racine wanted to meet with her congressman, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. But she and the others were told they had to schedule a meeting in advance. Morales said she recently lost a job due to funding reductions – and she wanted to talk to Ryan about extending unemployment benefits. Petri met with about 15 protestors for a half-hour. His spokesman Niel Wright said the group had plenty of disagreements – but he said there were people who had good reasons to be upset about the economy, and Petri wanted to hear them out.
Governor Scott Walker says Wisconsin’s public university system should be run by people from all parts of the state. The governor signed a bill yesterday which requires that the UW Board of Regents have at least one appointed member from each of the eight U.S. House districts. Most board members had come from Madison or Milwaukee under former Governor Jim Doyle. And half of the 14 appointed Regents are still from those two cities. The bill’s supporters said the big campuses at Madison and Milwaukee are getting extra attention, at the expense of the smaller UW schools throughout Wisconsin. Walker said it’s vital to have input from all areas. The Board of Regents has a total of 18 members. The state public school superintendent automatically sits on the panel, along with the head of the state technical college system and two UW students.
There was more legal maneuvering yesterday in an effort by Republicans to use the newly-drawn state Senate districts in any recall elections to be held next spring. The state Government Accountability Board asked the Supreme Court for a quick answer, because a federal court will consider the same issues during a trial set for February. Under current law, the new districts drawn by majority Republicans this summer cannot be used in elections until next fall. But a group of nine Republicans asked the justices to order that the new districts be used in the spring recall votes – or appoint a three-judge panel to consider the question. Since then, the group asked to have its petition with the Supreme Court withdrawn – and that a Waukesha County judge order the creation of the three-judge panel instead. This summer’s redistricting law told the Supreme Court to appoint three circuit judges to hear any challenges affecting the new maps. The justices have not acted on the request to withdraw the Republicans’ petition – and Democrats filed requests yesterday to have the Supreme Court dismiss both cases. That would force the spring recalls to use the old districts drawn up by a federal court in 2002.
A reward for leading police to the killer of a man in West Allis has been increased to $10,000. Police in the Milwaukee suburb first offered two-thousand dollars for tips that solve the brutal beating death of 57-year-old Jeffrey Garnier in the early morning hours of November 20th. Thousands more have been offered in private donations to find Garnier’s killer. Surveillance video from a nearby tavern showed what happened. Police said the victim was drinking when he crossed a street, and four unidentified men surrounded him – and one punched him in the head. Garnier fell to the street. Three of the suspects fled. One checked the victim’s pockets before running off. Meanwhile, police said yesterday that a light-colored auto may have left the scene with its lights off. A passing driver found Garnier unconscious. He died five days later from his injuries.
James Arthur Ray will appeal his three negligent homicide convictions in the deaths of a Milwaukee man and two others at a spiritual sweat-lodge ceremony he held. An appeal notice has been filed in the Arizona court where Ray was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. The notice does not spell out arguments for an appeal. But Ray’s lawyers have said his four-and-a-half month trial was tainted with mistakes by the prosecution – but the judge in the case did not agree that the errors hurt Ray’s chances for a fair verdict. 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee, 49-year-old Liz Neuman of Prior Lake, Minnesota, and 38-year-old Kirby Brown of New York State died in a heated sweat-lodge during a “Spiritual Warrior” retreat near Sedona, Arizona.
Milwaukee police say they think it’s possible 10 year old Thailan Curtis took his own life, but his parents say his death was a tragic accident. The boy was found in an upstairs room with a curtain around his neck last Saturday. His parents say they think he was playing some sort of choking game. The boy was apparently along at the time of the incident. No official ruling on his death has been made yet.
Southwest Airlines reports it is installing new wireless communications systems at all of its gates at Mitchell International Airport. The airline says the system will be in place soon at 72 airports its serves. Instead of hand signals, pilots and ground workers will use wireless headsets and devices to talk to each other. The system is expected to help avoid minor accidents and employee injuries while they are working at the gate or on the tarmac.
A Wisconsin teacher who is featured in Governor Scott Walker’s new television ad says she has been receiving threats since it started airing just before Thanksgiving. Kristi LaCroix tells a Milwaukee television station she’s not sure if she’d do it again. In the ad, LaCroix says she’s not big on recalls and says the effort, quoting here, “feels a little like sour grapes.” LaCroix says she has received negative e-mails, voice mail messages at school and messages on her Facebook page. One of those messages suggested she get protection.
The federal government said today it would crack down on getting public food assistance by fraud. That’s after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found that nine Milwaukee area residents used Facebook to illegally buy or sell Food-Share aid, or help others do so. The paper many friends responded – and later posts showed that illegal sales were made. Wisconsin officials also reported the apparent fraud to Washington – and 70 such cases were reported nationwide. U.S. Agriculture Under-secretary Kevin Concannon said the abuse is being corrected in the form of new agency rules. Concannon said the USDA would alert officials of Craigs-list to illegal public food benefits being sold there. He said claims of illegal sales in Facebook postings can be hard to prove. But Concannon said the new policy makes it illegal to offer a person’s public food benefits to somebody else online – even when sales are not actually made.
A $25,000 bond has been set for a Wisconsin Rapids man charged with threatening jurors who found him guilty of making threats against two judges in 2005. Ten felony charges of stalking were recently filed in Wood County against 49-year-old Donald Maier. Prosecutors said he threatened Circuit Judges James Mason and Edward Zappen Junior six years ago. A jury found him guilty in 2006, and he served two years in prison. Maier is due back in court December 14th, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial. If so, Maier is expected to enter pleas that day.
Wisconsin law enforcement will start a new campaign on Friday aimed at those who drive drunk and don’t wear seat belts. Extra patrols will watch for both types of offenders as part of the “Booze and Belts” program. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said the goal is not to make more arrests or give out more tickets. He hopes the campaign will save lives and cut down on injuries. Over 40-thousand drivers were convicted of OWI in Wisconsin last year. And 120,000 tickets were given for not wearing seat belts. The “Booze and Belts” campaign runs from Friday through December 17th.
The Mega Millions’ jackpot has reached $100-million for only the third time since July first. Nobody won the top prize of $87-million last night. No one from Wisconsin won the quarter-million-dollar second prize, but a ticket sold in Milwaukee won $10,000 by matching four-of-the-five regular numbers plus the Mega Ball. Last night’s numbers were 7, 21, 29, 35, and 49. The Mega Ball was 39, and the Megaplier was four. The current jackpot has been building since November first. Friday night’s cash option is just over $73-million for a single winner who takes the whole prize now instead of in annual installments.