Morning State News Briefs: UW-La Crosse dorm will be closed for the rest of the yearWisconsin News
-- A UW-La Crosse dormitory will be closed for the rest of the school year, after a basement fire last weekend.
LA CROSSE - A UW-La Crosse dormitory will be closed for the rest of the school year, after a basement fire last weekend.
Drake Hall was only expected to be closed for a day or two. But yesterday, Chancellor Joe Gow said it would take 2-to-3 months for the dorm to be inhabitable again. And rather than keep causing uncertainty for the 271 residents, Gow says they should just live elsewhere for the rest of the semester. Many have hooked up with friends-and-relatives. Others have been moved to vacant rooms in other dorms. And some faculty-and-staff members have volunteered their homes to those who need them. The fire caused smoke damage in Drake Hall. Authorities now say it started in a basement couch. They've ruled out electrical problems as the possible cause.
A motorcade will go through Mayville today, as the body of a soldier killed in Afghanistan comes home. A brief ceremony is planned at Mayville's American Legion Hall for 24-year-old Army Lieutenant David Johnson. He was killed in action January 25th. Public visitations will take place tomorrow and Sunday at Mayville High School, where a memorial service will begin at two Sunday afternoon. Johnson graduated from Mayville High School in 2006. He was the second graduate of that school to die in the Middle East. Army Specialist David Wendling was killed in Iraq in 2005.
The Susan G. Komen charity reversed itself this morning, and said it would not cut-off breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood. A statement from the group apologized for quote, "recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives." Planned Parenthood officials in Wisconsin were among those who thought Komen had bowed to political pressure from pro-lifers. But the charity said it was only following its criteria for not funding groups under government investigations, specifically a probe of Planned Parenthood launched in Congress at the urging of pro-life organizations. Komen said it would change its criteria so it would not apply to such investigations. Wisconsin's Planned Parenthood said it was not affected by Komen's original cut-off. It stopped using Komen funds a few years ago.
U.S. employers added 257,000 private sector jobs in January, and Marquette University professor Abdur Chowdhury says it reflects rising confidence among private companies. The national jobless rate went down for the fifth straight month, and it's now at eight-point-three percent -- its lowest since February of 2009. We won't know until later this month if Wisconsin can finally share in the national good news. The Badger State is the only one to lose private sector jobs in each of the last six months, even though the state's jobless rate went down slightly for all of last year.
Forty-two people were killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes last month. That's three more than last January, and three more than the average for the past five years. The state DOT said 33 drivers were killed last month, along with seven passengers and two pedestrians. Wisconsin has just finished its safest four-year period for traffic deaths since the 1920's, and State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable says officials are trying to get that to continue. Last year, Wisconsin had fewer than 600 traffic deaths for the fourth year in a row. The last time that happened was 1923-to-'27.
The president of Lawrence University in Appleton says she'll retire in about a year-and-a-half. Jill Beck became the school's 15th president in July of 2004, and is the first female to lead the private liberal arts college. Lawrence made major facility improvements at its Appleton and Door County campuses during Beck's tenure. And she said the student body has grown and become more diverse. Lawrence now has almost 15-hundred students from 44 states and 35 nations. Forbes Magazine named Beck a "barrier breaker" in 2009, as one of 15 female presidents on the magazine's list of America's 50 Best Colleges. She'll retire in June of 2013.
A school board in Alabama says it will keep letting a person known as the "Bible Man" read the Bible to grade school kids each month, despite objections from Madison's Freedom from Religion Foundation. The Jackson County School Board in Scottsboro, Alabama met for an hour before deciding to let Horace Turner Junior continue his monthly assemblies. The meetings are voluntary, but Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison says elementary kids cannot discern what's voluntary and what's not -- and the courts back her up. She also said the public schools are quote, "not to be a conduit for missionaries." But an Alabama legislator says parents who object to the "Bible Man" should pull their kids out of school and teach them at home. Senator Shadrick McGill says God is needed in government and public schools and quote, "The more we trend away from God, the more we suffer -- morally and spiritually."
A state agency found that state Senate Democrat G. Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee did not discriminate against a former aide when he fired her a year ago. Jana Williams filed a sex discrimination complaint after she was let go. Coggs' office was downsized after his fellow Democrats lost the majority in the Senate in the 2010 elections. The State Equal Rights Division ruled in November that Coggs did not discriminate. But the finding did not publicly surface until this week, after Williams filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board that accused Coggs of making his staff do his political business on the taxpayers' dime -- along with helping out his wife's business. Williams accused Senate aide Enis Ragland of spending much of his time on Coggs's unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010. But a manager of that campaign said it was impossible, because Ragland did not have access to Coggs's campaign computer accounts at the time. Ragland resigned yesterday. Coggs said he would not return from medical leave after surgery -- and Williams' complaint had nothing to do with his departure. Meanwhile, Williams is appealing the finding that Coggs did not discriminate against her.
A Milwaukee County Board member is due in court Wednesday on charges that he took $500 to help a financial firm win a contract with the county. 43-year-old Johnny Thomas Junior was charged yesterday with two felony counts of taking a bribe as a public official, and misconduct in office. Thomas was considered a top candidate for Milwaukee city comptroller in the spring elections. His attorney, Michael Maistelman, said Thomas withdrew from the race yesterday. But the attorney said his client is still innocent -- and he accused the DA of creating quote, "an unreasonably negative and false story on top of the facts." District Attorney John Chisholm plans to discuss the case in a news conference today. The charges are the result of a John Doe probe and a sting operation set up by the DA's office. That was after county Administrative Services Director Pat Farley expressed concerns about Thomas's dealings with county vendors. Authorities said Thomas was caught on tape taking 500-dollars from Farley, while promising to help the firm of Public Financial Management win a three-year contract to help the county with its borrowing for various projects.
Wisconsin's mild weather pattern will stay with us at least through next week. That's according to the National Weather Service, which says it will stay dry for most of the stretch. Most of the Badger State had fog yesterday -- and it returned last night, mainly in the southwest part of the state. A dense fog advisory continues until noon in southwest and south central areas. It's cloudy in most of Wisconsin this morning, with six o'clock readings in the upper 20's-and-low 30's statewide. Phillips and Manitowoc were the warm spots with 34. Skies should start clearing later today, and partly cloudy skies will be pretty much the rule at least through Tuesday.
Officials at UW-Parkside near Kenosha promise to punish anyone caught committing three hate crimes on campus since the start of Black History Month. It all started when a noose made of rubber bands was found Wednesday night in a common area of the Pike River Suites dormitory on campus. Yesterday, a threatening note was left near the door of a female black student who reported the noose. Then last night, fliers were found listing several black students by name, and that they would die in two days. Parkside's interim dean-of-students, Cindy Graham, called the behavior unacceptable. She said an all-campus meeting was scheduled for late last night to discuss the incidents. Graham said only residents were allowed access at the Pike River dorm last evening, and more security officers would monitor all the dorms. She said that if those responsible for the incidents are Parkside students, they would most likely be expelled.
Wisconsinites who get food stamps for the poor spent $33-million dollars of those benefits in other states last year. And state auditors said they found about $324,000 dollars in spending that was suspicious. Wisconsin Food-Share recipients are allowed to use their benefits to buy food in other states. And the Legislative Audit Bureau said most cases involve people who live near the state's borders or those who take trips. But the audit showed that some Food-Share cards were used in Wisconsin on the same day that the cards' account numbers were used in other states. And $151,000 in benefits were spent entirely in states that are not Wisconsin's neighbors. The audit said the suspicious out-of-state spending was done by just four-hundredths of one-percent of the 382-thousand Wisconsin families and individuals getting Food-Share benefits. Assembly Republican Samantha Kerkman, who co-chairs the Legislature's Joint Audit Committee, said she was not surprised by the report. She says more background checks are needed for recipients.
Wisconsin's Capital City is pretty proud of its new bicycle-sharing program. Madison started renting 270 bikes at 27 locations around the city last year. And among other things, the program's first annual report said almost 64-hundred riders got healthier by pedaling off a combined 4.3 million calories. They also made the air cleaner, by saving 103,000 pounds of carbons that would have been emitted had those people drove instead of pedaled. Almost 500 people took advantage of year-long subscriptions to rent what's called "Madison 'B'-cycles" provided by Trek Bicycles of Waterloo. Riders took over 18-thousand trips on those red bikes over 200 days ending December 15th. 38-percent of trips were longer than five miles, and the most used station was on the UW campus at the Memorial Union. The bike-sharing program will expand this year, as 80 cycles will be added to the fleet. Madison's contract with Trek runs for five years.
No charges will be filed against a Milwaukee grocery shopper who shot and wounded a man who was trying to rob the place. District Attorney John Chisholm said today that the law allows reasonable force in a threatening situation, whether-or-not the shooter has a concealed weapons permit. Chisholm said 35-year-old Nazir Al-Mujaahimid of Milwaukee disrupted an act that could have exposed himself and others to great harm -- and he acted reasonably and in a controlled manner. The incident occurred Monday night while Al-Mujaahimid and his wife were shopping at an Aldi's store on Milwaukee's northwest side. The man told reporters he was never in the store before -- and he said he was just doing what he had to do. The two alleged robbers left with nothing. Both are in custody but have not been charged yet. Al-Mujaahimid said he's a gun rights supporter with a concealed weapons' permit. And had he realized the store not allowed guns, he would have shopped somewhere else. He's an Internet marketer, and he started a Web site to share his experience and what people can learn from it. The address is ccwAdvocates-Dot-Com.
A well-known Milwaukee attorney can no longer represent defendants in the federal courts of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said Bridget Boyle-Saxton abandoned her client in a drug case, and ignored orders to explain why the court shouldn't punish her. The court said Boyle-Saxton failed to meet deadlines and respond to warnings in the appeal of a drug conviction against Candelil Rodriguez. In her most recent filing in late November, Boyle-Saxton said she had just undergone surgery that month -- and she was busy with other trials. But she did not explain why she missed earlier deadlines to file arguments in the case. The appeals court called the behavior "unprofessional ... reprehensible ... and inexcusable." The court also ordered Boyle-Saxton to verify that she has refunded any legal fees she received from Rodriguez -- or else she'll be found in contempt. Boyle-Saxton has not commented.
Are you fanatic about Facebook or hooked on Twitter? A new Midwest study says social media can be more addictive than even cigarettes. The University of Chicago tested 250 people, and found that their fix for alcohol or nicotine is less than their need to check their friends or status on-line. The survey indicated that sex and sleep are the two most longed-for events of the day -- but in the end, social media is the hardest thing to resist. Meanwhile, teens who used to avoid Twitter are going back to tweeting, now that more of their parents and grandparents are making friends on Facebook. Appleton North High School senior Sam Panzer tells the Post-Crescent that it's nice to have a place to go where his parents won't read what he's saying -- even though he'd not really trying to hide anything sinister. The Pew Internet-and-American Life Project recently found that 16-percent of young people age 12-to-17 use Twitter -- double the percentage from just two years ago.