Friday State News Briefs: New type of swine fluWisconsin has recorded its first human cases of a new type of swine flu that’s hit the Midwest and Hawaii this summer.
MADISON - Wisconsin has recorded its first human cases of a new type of swine flu that’s hit the Midwest and Hawaii this summer.
State health officials say an exhibitor and a worker at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis came down with the H3N2V virus, which normally circulates among pigs. The swine exhibitor was a teen from western Wisconsin. The worker is from southeast Wisconsin, and did not have any direct contact with pigs. Over 150 human cases have been reported this summer in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Hawaii. All of them involved at least some proximity to pigs. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of energy. Officials urge people to wash their hands with soap and running water after they get exposed to pigs.
A small women’s rally for Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney was interrupted this afternoon when a protestor spit in a supporter’s face. It happened west of Appleton at the Hanson Benefits firm. A video posted by the Appleton Post-Crescent showed state Senate Finance Co-Chair Alberta Darling speaking, when a protestor interrupted her and asked why she’s against Planned Parenthood. A Romney supporter then started arguing with the woman, and protestor spit in her face. She was identified as 83-year-old Mary Hoglund. She and another Romney protestor, Kathy Lefebvre of Green Bay, were escorted out of the meeting. Hoglund said she was scratched on her neck, and an ambulance took her for treatment. Lefebvre told the Post-Crescent that the Romney supporters shoved Hoglund – and she called that “unacceptable.” Police in the town of Grand Chute say they’re reviewing the incident for possible charges. Darling and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch headlined the event, held as part of a bus tour promoting a campaign called “Wisconsin Women for Mitt.” Chris Hanson, who owns Hanson Benefits, said her company invited a small group of friends and clients for the event, and she asked quote, “Whatever happened to grace and mercy in politics?”
Wisconsin’s total property values have gone down for the fourth year in a row. A new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance showed that total land values decreased by three-point-two percent this year compared to last. It was a bigger decline than a year ago, when the drop was one-point-eight percent from 2010. Residential property dropped four-percent – more than twice as much as the year before. Manufacturing property was the only group that had an increase, rising one-point-one percent. Only seven of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had an increase in their property values. The southeast corner of the state had the biggest declines. Kenosha County had the largest drop at seven-point-seven percent.
An Appleton woman has been sentenced to six months in jail, after she made international news for attacking her husband and daughter because the Packers lost. 36-year-old Lisa Low was also put on two-and-a-half years of probation, after she was convicted of child abuse, disorderly conduct, and bail jumping. Low became upset while watching the Packers lose their first game of the 2011 season last December at Kansas City. Authorities said she choked her 11-year-old daughter twice – and the second time, she couldn’t breathe. Police said also broke a lamp, threw her dinner on the floor, and tried to punch her husband in the face. Her attorneys said it was not fan behavior run amok – rather, it was part of her battle with alcoholism. Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dee Dyer noted that Low has five drunk driving convictions – and she threw a beer bottle at her husband as recently as last weekend because she was upset about rental expenses. The judge said quote, “This behavior has to stop, and it has to stop now.”
A second round of budget cuts that the University of Wisconsin was forced to make last year will not be permanent. The Associated Press said Governor Scott Walker has ordered most state agencies to freeze their spending levels for the next two years. And that means most funding will not be restored after agencies cut their budgets in 2011. But the AP said Walker exempted the second of two cuts ordered for the university system. The UW had to slash $66-million, after it was originally ordered to cut 250-million. That means the $66-million can be restored in the next UW budget, which will be discussed next week by the university Board of Regents. UW spokesman David Giroux told the AP there’s some comfort in seeing that the state’s finances are improving. State agencies were told to submit their budgets to Walker by September 17th. The governor will then decide what to propose to the Legislature in the budget he’ll give lawmakers next February.
Wisconsin’s largest electric utility says it wants to stop burning coal at a power plant just west of downtown Milwaukee, and burn natural gas instead. The state Public Service Commission would have to approve the change-over, which We Energies hopes to make by 2015-or-’16. The utility says it would cost up to 65-million dollars to switch fuels. But We Energies says it would save money in the long run, because an increase in domestic production has driven down the price of natural gas. The power plant is located in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley industrial area – and it’s the only We Energies’ coal plant in Wisconsin which does not have modern pollution controls. Company official Allen Leverett said the utility would have to stop burning coal at the Valley plant by 2019 at the latest, to meet new federal sulfur dioxide regulations.
Governor Scott Walker went on “CBS This Morning” and said it’s quote, “ridiculous” that Mitt Romney is being pressured to release more years of his income tax returns. Democrats are pressuring the GOP presidential candidate to release more than the complete 2010 returns and the 2011 summary that he’s put out already. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has claimed that Romney paid no taxes for a decade. But while campaigning in South Carolina yesterday, Romney said he reviewed his taxes, and he has never paid less than 13-percent of his actual income to the federal government. Walker tossed the issue aside and said quote, “Voters in my state want to hear what you’re going to do to turn things around – and only Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan really have a substantive plan to do that, for small businesses to put people back to work.” Walker also discussed the possibility that Ryan would generate votes for Romney, and help the GOP win the state’s presidential vote for the first time since 1984.
A Madison attorney lost his license to practice law today, after he billed the state public defender’s office almost $20,000 for work that he never did. 62-year-old David Stokes was convicted of felony theft-by-fraud last year. Prosecutors said he submitted almost 630 billing notices for representing low-income defendants on a contracted basis for the public defender. His law license was suspended last September, and the state’s Office of Lawyer Regulation later asked the Supreme Court to revoke it. Stokes was sent to jail for six months, and was put on two years’ probation. A judge said Stokes robbed taxpayers by taking advantage of an under-funded program. The court said Stokes did not challenge the allegations, or his license revocation.
A Kenosha County ambulance worker is free on a signature bond, after he was accused of sexually-assaulting a 17-year-old girl while she was being taken to a hospital with a seizure. Prosecutors said 37-year-old Jodin Froeber was alone with the girl in the back of the ambulance while it was heading to a Racine hospital 13 months ago. Authorities said she was too tired from her seizure and the resulting medication to move – or even open her eyes – while she was being molested. Froeber is a fire-fighter for the Somers Fire-and-Rescue Department near Kenosha. Officials said he’s still on that department. Froeber is charged with the second-degree sexual assault of an intoxicated victim. He’s due back in court August 29th, when a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to order a trial.
A new report says child care is no longer affordable for a growing number of parents – and one of the most expensive states is Wisconsin. A survey by the group “Child Care Aware of America” said it cost the average Wisconsin family almost 96-hundred-dollars a year to send a four-year-old to a day care center. Only New York and Minnesota charge more. For infants, Wisconsin’s average cost for care is $10,775 a year, the 10th highest in the country. A two-parent family in Wisconsin pays 12-to-13-percent of its income on child care – and for single parents, it eats up 40-to-45-percent of their incomes. For many, child care is their biggest expense – and it exceeds the cost of rent in all 50 states. Ollie Smith of Child Care Aware said the rough economy has made child care a bigger financial burden. Marsha Basloe of New York’s Early Care and Learning Council says more parents are turning to unlicensed centers which don’t have to meet health, safety, and training standards. And Basloe says it’s unfortunate, because high-quality child care can have a huge impact on getting a youngster ready for school.
A man killed at a neighborhood food store in Milwaukee was a member of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek where six worshippers were killed on August fifth. Milwaukee Police said 56-year-old Dalbir Singh was shot during an attempt to rob him. It happened Wednesday night, just after Harmony Foods closed for the day. The store is owned by Singh’s nephew, Jatinder. According to police, she and Singh were leaving through a side door when two men confronted them – and one put a gun to Jatinder’s head. They ran back into the store and slammed the side door, but one of the men shot through the door – and the bullet killed Dalbir Singh. Police are still looking for suspects. Jatinder Singh said Dalbir was not at the Sikh Temple when the massacre occurred – but he went to where members were gathering after he heard about the shootings.
Federal health officials say this could be the worst year for whooping cough in the last half century – and Wisconsin has the nation’s highest rate of those cases. As of July fifth, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Wisconsin had 51 cases of whooping cough for every 100,000 residents. Washington State had the second-highest rate, with 39 cases per 100,000 people. Washington has declared an epidemic for the disease. But Wisconsin has not done so, even though its whooping cough rate is almost 10 times the national average. One infant in Wisconsin died from the disease in February. Whooping cough is also known as pertussis, and it’s a highly-contagious respiratory condition.
Elvis Presley’s favorite roller-coaster is working again in Green Bay, after it was shut down for two hours yesterday on the 35th anniversary of the singer’s death. One of 25 safety sensors on the replica of the “Zippin Pippin” registered a false positive signal – and it stopped the ride and stranded 17 people on board. They had to wait for up to an hour while firefighters unloaded them. Officials at Bay Beach Amusement Park said a proxy switch was not reading properly, and it took a couple hours to fix it. Green Bay officials spent three-point-eight million dollars to buy and install the roller coaster. It attracted bigger-than-expected crowds a year ago. This year’s ridership is down by about 500, which officials blame on the extremely hot weather this summer. Yesterday, the Trip-Advisor Web site recognized the Green Bay Zippin Pippin by naming it as one of its “Top Elvis Attractions.”
The company that owns Younkers, Boston Stores, and other large department stores in Wisconsin lost 45-million dollars in its most recent quarter. Bon-Ton, which is based in Milwaukee and York Pennsylvania, said its second quarter loss was larger than its loss from a year ago, which was $32-million. Total sales dropped less than one-percent to around $595-million over the three-month period. Bon-Ton CEO Brendan Hoffman said the firm is cutting about 40-million dollars in annual expenses. And it’s re-adjusting its marketing and merchandising efforts. Hoffman said Bon-Ton was too aggressive in adding trendy styles – and some traditional customers might have been lost as a result.
Wisconsin’s Chippewa Indian tribes will not be able to protect all 167 grey wolves in the northern third of the state, where the tribes exercise their treaty rights. This week, the Great Lakes Indian Fish-and-Wildlife Commission said the tribes objected to the state’s new wolf hunting season that’s scheduled to begin in two months. And the tribes said their treaty rights allowed them to protect all the wolves in their ceded territory. But DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the treaties allowed the tribes to claim only 85 wolves, or about half the quota for the region. And her agency announced yesterday that non-hunters could take 82 wolves in northern Wisconsin in the inaugural hunt. The Indian wildlife commission says it will discuss the DNR’s response at its next meeting September sixth. Chippewa leaders say the wolf is a sacred animal which they consider as a brother. The DNR set a quota of 201 wolves statewide, with just over two-thousand available hunting permits for a season that’s scheduled to run from mid-October through next February. Over 11,000 people have applied for those hunting permits. But environmental and animal rights’ groups have filed suit to try-and-stop the wolf hunt. They said the DNR was wrong to let hunting dogs search out the animals. A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled in late August in Madison.