Thursday State News Briefs: Michelle Obama visits shooting victims in Oak CreekWisconsin News
-- First Lady Michelle Obama was scheduled to visit Oak Creek today, to meet privately with the families of those killed-and-wounded in the Sikh Temple massacre.
OAK CREEK - First Lady Michelle Obama was scheduled to visit Oak Creek today, to meet privately with the families of those killed-and-wounded in the Sikh Temple massacre.
Rajwant Singh, who heads the Sikh Council on Religion-and-Education, called the First Lady’s visit a welcome gesture. Singh said it’s important for the surviving relatives to quote, “hear first-hand how she and the president feel about this terrible tragedy.” White supremist Wade Michael Page shot-and-killed six worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August fifth, including the temple’s president Satwant Kaleka. Kaleka’s son Armadeep said the gunman sought to divide the community – but instead, it came closer together. Kaleka also said his father was educating more people about the Sikh religion in his death, than he was ever able to do while he was still living. Today, U.S. House Democrat Joseph Crowley of New York State introduced a resolution which calls on the Justice Department to start collecting data on hate crimes against Sikhs. Crowley’s district includes a large number of Sikhs. Five House members co-sponsored the resolution. It highlights the contributions made by Sikhs – and it condemns violence and discrimination against Sikh members.
Wisconsin’s official state bird is blamed for spreading the West Nile virus across the eastern half of the U.S. A research team from UW-Madison has found that the American robin is the “super-spreader” of West Nile. Infectious disease expert Tony Goldberg says robins are abundant, mosquitoes like to feed on them, and they support the infectious parts of West Nile better than other species. Mosquitoes spread the West Nile Virus to humans, birds, and horses. The Centers for Disease Control says it’s the worst year for the virus since 1999. Forty-one Americans have died, and over 11-hundred illnesses have been linked to West Nile. Wisconsin has been fairly immune so far, with just one human case reported. A Dodge County resident was treated at a hospital for the effects of West Nile. Also, 21 birds throughout the Badger State have died after being infected. The UW’s Goldberg says at least two groups have concluded that robins are the primary spreaders of the West Nile virus to mosquitoes. He has headed a national study of West Nile in the Chicago area for almost 10 years. That region is considered a major breeding ground for mosquitoes. That’s because it has a large amount of standing water from old gutters and catch-basins in backyards.
The UW Board of Regents could decide today whether to seek funding for 22 building and maintenance projects at campuses throughout the state. A $672-million capital budget is being considered separately from the budget which runs the schools themselves. The capital program includes new facilities in which private groups have already raised some of the needed money. Wisconsin’s meat-and-dairy industries are expected to cover around half the total costs for three UW-Madison facilities – a new “Meat-and-Muscle” biology lab, plus renovations for the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and Babcock Hall. The rest of the building funds would come from taxpayers in the form of two bonding initiatives. Among the other facilities in the capital budget are a new chemistry-and-biology building at UW-Stevens Point, and a new structure on the La Crosse campus for science labs.
A Manitowoc man wanted for making a couple of threats was found dead in his apartment by police who used a “flash bang” device to get in. An autopsy is planned to determine how 50-year-old Steven Augustine died. Police said there were no apparent signs of trauma, and they did not use lethal force on the man. Last weekend, police said Augustine told somebody he wanted to borrow a .45-caliber handgun – so he could retaliate against a person who got into a spat with him at a tavern. Police then got a second harassment complaint about Augustine yesterday afternoon – and that’s when they started looking for him. Someone called 911 last night after seeing Augustine outside his apartment. When a tactical unit arrived, police said they tried to reach Augustine a number of times – and officers then used a “flash bang” device to enter the apartment and try and distract the suspect. But he was apparently dead by then. Officers found Augustine’s body in a loft area of the apartment.
An Appleton businessman has donated $750,000 to his college alma mater at Purdue University. A foundation created by Geoffrey Crowley made the gift – and Purdue says it will be matched by the school’s Faculty Fund for Excellence. That means one-and-a-half million dollars will be available for what Crowley has asked for – a new professorship in Purdue’s school of engineering education. Purdue’s David Radcliffe says it will allow the university to attract a top scholar. Crowley is the president of Northshore Leasing, and he graduated in 1974 from the West Lafayette, Indiana school. Two years ago, Purdue named Crowley as one of its distinguished alumni. He says the need for top-quality educators grows every year. Last year, Crowley gave one-and-a-half million dollars for strategic programs in Purdue’s engineering college.
A mobile treatment plant is humming 24-7, as it removes and cleans up contaminated water from wells close to where a gasoline pipeline busted near Jackson last month. Scott Ferguson of the state DNR says it might take anywhere from several months to several years to pull in tainted groundwater. That’s after a West Shore Pipeline spilled almost 55,000 gallons of gasoline that was being pumped from the Chicago area to Green Bay in mid-July. Almost two dozen residential water wells have been contaminated with benzene, a major component of the spilled gas. And the fuel has spread in fractured bedrock just a few feet underground. Ferguson says the mobile treatment plant could help stop the spread of pollution in an aquifer that’s further from the spill site. Before the treatment plant arrived, contractors used vaccum trucks to get rid of contaminated gas from larger wells in a ring around the spilled pipeline. West Shore officials say the mobile treatment plant is an interim fix. They have not decided on a permanent remedy.
Federal agents have arrested 28 people in northeast Wisconsin, as part of ongoing effort to deport illegal immigrants who commit crimes. The Immigration-and-Customs Enforcement agency said the arrests took place over a five-day period between Fond du Lac and Door County. All but two of the 28 arrested had previous convictions for U.S. crimes – including child sexual assault and cocaine possession. Four of those arrested were previously deported, and had returned to the U.S. illegally.
One person was killed in a shooting incident in Milwaukee overnight. It happened around 3:30 this morning on the city’s near south side. Police said the victim was shot at least once, and died at the scene. Detectives are looking for suspects, and are trying to determine a motive.
Wisconsin’s credit unions are doing much better than a year ago. Preliminary figures show that the state’s 194 credit unions had a combined net income of almost $102-million from January-through-June. That’s 83-percent more than in the first half of 2011. Only one of the state’s 10 largest credit unions had a lower net income than the previous year. West-consin Credit Union of Menomonie saw its income fall slightly, from two-point-nine million dollars in the first half of last year to two-point-eight million this year. The state’s largest credit union, Landmark of New Berlin, made $87-million from January-through-June. CEO Ron Kase credits a big increase in home mortgage loans and re-financings, fueled by record-low interest rates. Landmark’s total loans grew by almost a quarter-billion dollars from the year before. Officials say credit unions also had fewer delinquent loans – and many were able to cut back on reserves for covering bad loans. Ginger Larson, head of the State Office of Credit Unions, said the overall loan delinquency ratio is getting close to what it was before the Great Recession.
Wisconsinites are finding more money to play the lottery. The State Lottery’s ticket sales hit a record $547-million in the year ending June 30th. That’s a nine-percent increase from the year before. And it broke the previous record of $519-million in ticket sales, set in 1995. Instant scratch tickets continue to generate the most income, with 322-million dollars in the past year. Lotto games brought in another 225-million. The lottery said it was helped by a price increase to two-dollars for Powerball starting in January. And Mega Millions’ sales jumped by 29-percent, because of the world-record $656-million jackpot in that game in March. Lottery players won over a quarter-billion dollars in prizes in the last fiscal year, and retailers got $38-million dollars for selling those winners. The lottery’s profits are used for reducing property taxes for Wisconsin homeowners – and they’ll share about 150-million dollars from this year’s take.
An autopsy will be performed today on a man who died after being injured in a rear-end crash near Sun Prairie. Authorities say a 43-year-old Madison man who caused the crash has been arrested on a possible charge of homicide by drunk driving. The suspect was still hospitalized at last word for non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities said his car slammed into the rear of another auto just after 12:30 Tuesday morning. A 20-year-old Madison man was a passenger in the car that was hit – and he died after being taken to UW Hospital. The victim’s name was not immediately released. Officials said alcohol and excessive speed were factors in the mishap.
Two men are accused of providing the heroin that killed a young woman in central Wisconsin in April. State-and-local prosecutors announced reckless homicide charges yesterday against 45-year-old John Gearnhardt of Red-granite and 28-year-old Randy Lindgren of Wautoma. Authorities said they were part of a heroin sales ring that operated in Waushara County for 14 months, ending in June when officers broke it up. Officials said the drugs from that operation caused 21-year-old Amalia Henschel of Red-granite to die from an overdose in April. Prosecutors said Lindgren claimed to get the heroin from Gearhardt, who made numerous trips to Milwaukee every week to buy it for several dealers in Waushara County. Lindgren is due in court September 17th in Wautoma. An initial court date has not been set for Gearnhardt. Six other people have been charged in the sales ring. Joshua Vetter of Berlin faces a count of delivering heroin. Conspiracy charges were filed against Theresa Lindgren, Becky Holman, and Christopher Legler, all of Red-granite – Michael Bertzyk of Wautoma – and Buckie Rehwinkel of Hancock. Gearnhardt and Randy Lindgren also face counts of conspiring to deliver heroin.