Afternoon State News Briefs: Nationa Guardsmen back from AfghanistanWisconsin News
-- Over 100 Wisconsin National Guard troops are back on U.S. soil, after spending almost a year in Afghanistan.
OSHKOSH - Over 100 Wisconsin National Guard troops are back on U.S. soil, after spending almost a year in Afghanistan.
Members of the 1157th Transportation Company of Oshkosh returned to Camp Shelby in Hatteisburg, Mississippi on Monday night. They were expected to have 8-to-10 days of debriefing before returning to Wisconsin. A ceremony is planned at the Experimental Aircraft Association grounds in Oshkosh. The soldiers escorted various convoys during their time in Afghanistan.
A special referee has recommended a six-month suspension for a Minnesota attorney who filed legal documents with anti-Catholic slurs in a case involving a Shawano group. Retired Saint Paul Judge Charles Flinn asked the Minnesota Supreme Court for the ban against 37-year-old Rebekah Nett of Hastings. Flinn said she failed to attend her own disciplinary hearing in the matter – and she showed no remorse for what she did, even though she was fined $10,000 for misconduct. But Flinn also noted that Nett has never been disciplined in her law practice before – and all the allegations involved just one client, the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology in Shawano. In a Minnesota case involving the group, Nett wrote a number of comments that have been questioned – including one that called a judge a “black robed bigot” and part of a Catholic conspiracy to deny justice to the Shawano group’s CEO. Nett accused the judge and other court officials of being part of a conspiracy by the Vatican to destroy the Samanta Roy group, which some call a cult. Nett grew up in the organization.
Wisconsin state Assembly leaders agreed on new rules today that would prevent all-night debates. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) says leaders of both parties would decide before each day’s meeting how long they’ll take on each proposal. That’s not done now – and as a result, the Assembly debated some of the most routine measures for hours in the last session. A time clock has been set up to chart the length of the discussions. To test the new system, both parties agreed to have a debate of no more than five hours on the rules which the Assembly will follow during the next two-year session. But before that happens, the two sides still need to agree on other proposals – like having members wear business clothing during their floor sessions, and cracking down on outbursts by spectators in the Assembly gallery.
An Appleton man is due back in court February 11th for allegedly bruising his two-year-old son, tying up his arms and legs, and placing him in a dog kennel in a dark room. Prosecutors said 34-year-old Michael Kitzman struck the toddler after losing his temper. He’s charged in Outagamie County with a felony charge of child abuse. Bond was set at 10-thousand dollars. At his next court appearance, a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to put him on trial.
The State Supreme Court said the owner of a Milwaukee day care center should get a hearing on whether her state child care license should be re-instated. Angelia Jamerson lost her license in 2010. That was after state lawmakers cracked down on child care fraud by operators who collected false payments under the Wisconsin Shares program. The state Department of Children-and-Families revoked Jamerson’s license for a different reason. She was convicted 20 years earlier for not reporting income that would have made her ineligible for state assistance. An administrative law judge said the hearing would have been moot – but today, the Supreme Court said it was not clear whether Jamerson had committed intentional fraud.
A search committee will soon begin to review about 60 applications for the next chancellor at UW-Madison. University President Kevin Reilly and the Board of Regents are expected to get a short list of candidates next month, with a new person to be hired this summer to replace David Ward. Some business leaders recently said the new chancellor should have a business background – someone who can turn the UW’s research into new companies and jobs. It has also been mentioned that state funding for higher education hinge on the schools’ ability to train workers for thousands of jobs for which companies cannot find qualified applicants. But Madison campus neuro-scientist Ron Kalil scoffs at such talk. He tells the Madison Capital Times quote, “The UW is not a business incubator, nor is it a job-training school.” He said the university’s role is to prepare students to quote, “take their place in the ranks of educated citizens, to keep these ranks from disappearing, and to train graduate students for sophisticated academic and professional positions.” Other large universities have brought in pro-business chancellors – including former Alliant Energy CEO Erroll (Earl) Davis at Georgia, and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at Purdue. But Kalil says the approach would not work in Madison. Molly Corbett Broad of the American Council on Education says educators are being pushed into many roles today due to an increasingly competitive global economy. She says Madison should get a lot of talented applicants because of its stellar reputation, especially in science and technology.
A state appeals court ruled today that a man was properly convicted in a plot to kill his girlfriend’s husband in Stevens Point. 29-year-old Carlos Cummings pleaded no contest to helping Carla Glodowski hire Linda Dietze to murder Glodowski’s husband James. The husband was shot at a park in Stevens Point in 2009. The victim survived, but he lost an eye. Cummings said the police violated his right to remain silent, by continuing to question him after he asked that he be taken to a jail cell. But the Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison said Cummings’ statement was unclear – and therefore, the conviction could be upheld. Cumming was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to reckless injury, and two other counts were dropped in a plea bargain. Glodowski was given 10 years in prison, and Dietze got seven years for the actual shooting.
A body was found today in the Milwaukee River in the city’s downtown. Police said the person was a 45-to-50-year-old man – and he was not 24-year-old Nick Wilcox, who was last seen leaving an Irish bar in that area in the first couple hours of the New Year. Construction workers spotted a body this morning, and fire department crews pulled the victim from the water around 9:30. The unidentified body was taken to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office as part of an investigation. Police, relatives, and friends had been searching for Wilcox. Rescue divers got a tip about the body last Thursday, but they did not find anything.
The flu season has become so bad in Wisconsin that Milwaukee area hospitals have had to send incoming ambulances to other hospitals – because their emergency rooms are packed with older flu patients. Paul Biedrzycki of the Milwaukee Health Department said this afternoon that up to eight of Milwaukee County’s 11 hospitals have had to shut down their ER’s except for life-threatening cases. That’s because their beds have been taken up by those with the most serious flu cases – and staffers have been preoccupied in treating them. Biedrzycki said the problem is unique to Milwaukee, as other cities around the state have not reported similar problems. He said Milwaukee hospitals are seeing almost as many cases as in 2009, when the H1N1 swine flu reached pandemic levels. Biedrzycki said flu shots are still available, and Tamiflu is flying off the shelves are pharmacies. Tamiflu is an anti-viral medicine that can reduce symptoms within two days before they set in. It’s often prescribed to those who are most at risk getting severe flu complications like pneumonia. If the situation continues for another week, Biedrzycki says Tamiflu may only be available for the highest-risk patients.
Former state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald will help a traffic technology company get what it wants from his former lawmaking colleagues. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the Republican Fitzgerald set up a consulting business last August, soon after he finished last in a four-way primary for the U.S. Senate. And he has registered as a lobbyist for American Traffic Solutions. The company’s Web site says it provides speeding and red-light safety cameras, plus technology to enforce toll booths. Wisconsin does not allow tolls or cameras that catch traffic violators. But there’s been talk lately about allowing tolls on certain highways and lanes, to help pay for new-and-improved highways in the Badger State. The Journal Sentinel says the firm is also represented by lobbyist Steve Foti – a former Assembly Majority Leader who pleaded guilty to illegally using his state office for political campaigning.
Madison’s police chief said this afternoon that an officer will not be disciplined for shooting-and-killing a musician during a scuffle two months ago. Chief Noble Wray said officer Stephen Heimsness will go back on patrol, after an internal investigation found that he did not violate police policies on deadly force. The state Justice Department reviewed the Madison Police findings, and Wray said the officer’s actions fell within the state’s law enforcement training curriculum. The Dane County district attorney also reviewed the matter, and said no criminal charges would be filed. Relatives have said that 30-year-old Paul Heenan mistakenly entered neighbor Kevin and Megan O’Malley’s house in the early morning hours of November 9th. It woke up the couple, and one of them called 911. Heimsness said he saw Heenan and Kevin O’Malley in a scuffle when he arrived – and when he told them to settle down, Heenan approached the officer, and tried to grab his gun. That was when Heimsness pushed back and shot Heenan three times.
The closing of Supervalu’s distribution center in Pleasant Prairie will cost 117 workers their jobs. A layoff notice was filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development yesterday. Supervalu says the layoffs will start in March and the center will be closed by the end of April. Customers will be served by the Green Bay distribution center. At the same time, 100 jobs are being added at the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation plant in Greenville. A company spokesperson says the additions are needed due to more than 200 orders for Gulfstream’s luxury G650 executive jet, the fastest civilian airplane now in production. Most of those new hires will work in purchasing and engineering.
Vice President Joe Biden heard personal stories today from victims’ rights and gun safety groups in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The vice president is drafting the White House response to the Connecticut school shootings – and he promised that the government would take action. Biden plans to meet tomorrow with the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups, as he tries to build a consensus among competing interests on ideas to curb gun violence. Biden said the administration, quote, “will not get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing. It’s critically important that we act.” An Associated Press account of Biden’s meeting did not list the Wisconsin group which attended the session. It did say that Biden met with people from states that have seen gun violence in the past year – like Wisconsin did with the Sikh Temple massacre in Oak Creek, and the domestic violence murders of three women at a Brookfield spa. President Obama wants Biden to offer policy proposals by the end of the month. President Obama has promised to move swiftly on the gun issue. But Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says federal spending and the national debt are much bigger priorities right now – and he said no other issues will have higher priorities until at least March. Still, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says it’s important to keep pressing the gun topic. Barrett says he’s especially happy that Biden is meeting with the NRA, because he’s adept at forging agreements like the one that avoided the fiscal cliff. Barrett and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will held a regional gun violence summit today in Minneapolis for law enforcement personnel from Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Wisconsin DNR said today that much of the state is at a high risk of manure pollution from farms over the next 3-to-10 days. Rain is predicted statewide tomorrow afternoon and evening. And that, plus above-freezing daytime temperatures, are prompting concerns that manure will wash off from fields and into lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. A map from the state’s Manure Management Advisory System shows a high risk from run-off throughout the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin – plus parts of north central and northeast Wisconsin and a small area at Superior. The DNR is encouraging farmers not to spread manure until the risk is reduced. Colder temperatures are expected to return on Sunday and into next week.
Almost all of Wisconsin has at least some snow on the ground, with exception of the Racine and Kenosha areas in the far southeast. But that could change in a snap, as rain is in the forecast for all of the Badger State tomorrow afternoon and evening. Temperatures are well above normal in Wisconsin right now. And it will stay that way at least through Saturday, with highs reaching into the 40’s today in the southeast half of the state, and the 50’s by Friday close to Lake Michigan. After the mild winter a year ago, the January thaw is the last thing that snowmobile and other winter recreation enthusiasts want to see. For now, at least, most of Wisconsin has two-or-more inches of snow on the ground. And places west and south of Lake Winnebago still have around 10 inches. But tomorrow’s rainfall could turn that into mud by the weekend. And some of it could freeze on Sunday, when no place in the Badger State is expected to get above 20. Dry-and-colder weather is predicted into early next week. But no significant snow is forecast during that stretch.
Fire-fighters were called this morning to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin near Milwaukee, after acetic acid spilled inside a hospital lab. A hospital spokeswoman said up to a quart of the vinegar-type acid was spilled in a facility on the third floor. The acid is used for a number of routine lab tests. Wauwatosa fire crews were called, and the spill was quickly contained and cleaned up. The hospital said none of its patients and staff members had to be evacuated – and no one was hurt.
Neighboring Minnesota is one of seven states where the average gasoline price is less than three-dollars a gallon today. The Triple-“A” says the Gopher State has an average of almost $2.97 for regular unleaded. That’s 21-cents less than Wisconsin’s average. Gail Weinholzer of the Minnesota Triple-“A” says the demand for fuel in her state has dropped more significantly than the rest of the country. And she says fuel supplies are higher, due to the fact that most Minnesota gasoline comes from Canada right now. Both trends are not expected to last – but for now, Minnesota’s average gas prices are a dollar less than they were in mid-September. The other states charging less than three-bucks-a-gallon are Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Wisconsin’s average of about $3.18 is one-tenth-of-a-cent lower than yesterday – almost four-cents lower than a week ago – 16-cents cheaper than the month before – and 21-cents less than a year ago.
A judge in Madison says an elderly woman is not mentally-competent to go on trial for leaving her sister to die. Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese has ordered 72-year-old Veronica King of Madison to get mental treatment until she can be able to help with her own defense. The judge will get progress reports every three months in the meantime. Veronica’s nephew Steven King is also ruled incompetent to stand trial in the case – and he’s getting mental treatment as well. Prosecutors said the two went out for pizza, instead of helping 70-year-old Mary Coleman after she collapsed at Veronica King’s Madison home in 2009. They were accused of hiding the body of Veronica’s sister until police found the remains a few months later. And the two allegedly wrote 64-hundred dollars in checks from the dead woman’s account where her pension and Social Security checks were automatically deposited. Both face numerous charges which include reckless homicide, hiding a corpse, and bank fraud.
Legal salvos are the only shots being taken, after a gun show was shut down by authorities in Evansville in far southern Wisconsin. The third-and-final day of the annual gun show was canceled on Sunday, after Rock County sheriff’s deputies ordered that it be closed down. Now, the owner of the hall where the event took place is considering a lawsuit against the Rock County sheriff. And gun show promoter Marv Krauss tells the Janesville Gazette he’s suing Geno’s Wild Ride Saloon – where owner Gene Heiman says the event’s been held for 40 years with no problems. On Saturday night, an anonymous person called 911 to complain that the hall might have been over its capacity. Heiman said an officer came, left, and did nothing. Then, a sergeant called right after midnight Sunday to say the gun show had to shut down because no other businesses can operate in a facility with a Class-“B” liquor license. Officials said they were not aware that the gun show existed until the complaint came in on Saturday. Heiman said his liquor license covers his entire facility and all of his events including horse pulls, auctions, and weddings. He told the Gazette that local fire-fighters ran the gun show for 34 years until he took it over six years ago.