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WISCONSIN NEWS BRIEFS:Walker approves disaster declaration for 11 counties

MILWAUKEE - Governor Scott Walker is asking for a federal disaster declaration for 11 Wisconsin counties.

Heavy rains and flooding in June caused mudslides and washed-out several roads in the Southwest part of the state. Officials estimate over nine-point-to million dollars of damage was done to public infrastructures. If the federal declaration is approved, the federal government will cover 75-percent of the cost. The request covers Ashland, Bayfield, Crawford, Dane, Grant, Iowa, Richland, Rock, St. Croix, Sauk and Vernon Counties - as well as the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.


A Milwaukee man will appear in court next week, accused of breaking his 2-month-old daughter’s leg and fracturing her skull. 26-year-old Marcel Malone, the baby’s father, will appear in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Monday. Court records show on July 18, the mother of the baby called police when she returned home and noticed the baby’s leg was swollen. Her 12-year-old daughter told police she was instructed by Malone to stay in her room. Shortly after, the girl says hear a loud boom and the baby crying. Malone allegedly denied the incident, saying there was no explanation for the baby’s injuries. Police later arrested Malone, he’s charged with physical abuse of a child and child neglect.


The state Department of Transportation says in terms of traffic deaths, July was the fourth safest month. There were 55 fatalities on Wisconsin roadways, 20 less from 2012. WisDOT reminds drivers to make responsible decisions before driving. On August 16, law enforcement will take part in the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” national campaign, cracking down on drunken drivers – a leading cause of deadly crashes in the state. As of July 31, 284 people have died in Wisconsin traffic crashes this year. 


You might see Republicans around the country bring a halt to the 170 anti-abortion bills they’ve passed in Wisconsin and the 29 other states they control. At the national governors’ meeting in Milwaukee today, Wisconsin Senate Republican Glenn Grothman of West Bend said lawmakers quote, “might not have the stomach” to pass another strong clampdown. Badger State Republicans just passed a bill to shut down abortions in many areas by forcing clinic doctors to get hospital admitting privileges – something Planned Parenthood says is almost impossible. That bill, and others around the country, are being challenged in the courts. Grothman, one of the Senate’s strongest abortion opponents, called the new law the biggest abortion bill in Wisconsin in 15 years. The AP says Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and other swing states are worried about turning off women and young voters – who favor abortion rights by large margins. Those states have passed abortion laws which are not nearly as tough as those in a dozen southern and western states – which banned abortions after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy.


A Milwaukee firm that makes industrial products is buying a company in Scotland. The Actuant Corporation said today it agreed to buy Viking Sea-Tech of Aberdeen Scotland for $225-million. Viking provides equipment and services to the off-shore oil-and-gas industry. Actuant – found 103 years ago in Milwaukee – makes industrial niche products like hydraulic tools, products for energy markets, and motion control systems. Viking had $90-million in revenues over the past year. Actuant says it will pay for the company with cash plus a revolving line of credit.


Now that two of Wisconsin’s neighboring states allow medical marijuana, Democrats in the Badger State will try again to allow the same thing here. Representative Chris Taylor and Senator Jon Erpenbach, both from the Madison area, expect to introduce their measure this fall. Taylor says it’s still being drafted. Yesterday, Illinois became the 20th state to allow medicinal marijuana. Advocate Gary Storck of the group “Is My Medicine Legal Yet” says the Wisconsin Republican majority remains staunchly opposed, in spite of strong public support for medicinal pot for over 10 years. Actually, it was Democrats who failed to get the last Wisconsin effort approved in 2009. Erpenbach and former Assembly Democrat Mark Pocan were able to get public hearings for that measure, but it went no further. Advocates lined up at those hearings to say they needed marijuana medicine for their chronic pain, and to regain their appetites after cancer treatments. Taylor says her bill would let patients grow up to 10 marijuana plants and possess up to three-ounces. Patients could also buy pot at state-controlled care centers. The Illinois law only allows medicinal marijuana to be sold at dispensaries. Storck calls it too restrictive.


A Wausau man who was married to two women at the same time is free today. 46-year-old Tim Swinea was put on three years of probation yesterday for a felony bigamy conviction in Marathon County. He was also given a jail sentence that was limited to what he had already served. Prosecutors said Swinea married Dawn Paglini of Mosinee last August – and she didn’t know he was married at the time to a Missouri woman who had three kids with him. Authorities said Swinea forged a large check from a day care center Paglini had owned, and deposited it in her personal account – leaving the business with a financial shortfall which forced it to close. Paglini told the Wausau Daily Herald that Swinea claimed that the deposit was from his Social Security payments – but she said it was one of many lies he told her. She said her five-year-old day care center had to close last December, leaving 68 kids without care and 21 people without work. Prosecutors investigated the matter, and there was no word on charges. Meanwhile, Swinea is still set to go on trial September fourth in Calumet County, where Penny Schoenke of Menasha claimed he stole thousands from her business with in a check-kiting scheme. Schoenke told the Daily Herald she met Swinea online, and she almost married him. The Wausau paper also said Swinea fathered a fourth child in Kentucky, and owed that mother 22-thousand dollars in back support.


The U.S. Justice Department will start keeping track of hate crimes committed against members of the Sikh religion and six others. The tracking will begin on Monday, the first anniversary of the attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek where six worshippers were killed. The AP said Attorney General Eric Holder was planning to announce the measure this afternoon. The department’s Policy Advisory Board recommended the tracking of hate crimes against Sikhs, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, Arabs, Orthodox Christians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sikh leaders asked Congress for the measure a few months ago. Also today, Holder is announcing a half-million dollar grant to provide trauma and mental health services to those affected by the Oak Creek tragedy. That includes family members of those killed and injured, plus other survivors. 


Just under half of the nation’s governors are at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association in Milwaukee this weekend. Organizers released a final roll call this morning. Twenty-three governors showed up, as well as leaders from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stayed home, as did Jerry Brown of California and Rick Perry of Texas. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made the trip, as did Pat Quinn of Illinois and Jan Brewer of Arizona. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin will take over on Sunday as the association’s new president. The Washington Post says people should watch for several things from this weekend’s conference. First, governors of both parties will try to seize the high ground on Obama-care and start shaping the issue for next year’s elections. Also, the report said Walker and others considering higher offices will try to use the Milwaukee conference to quote, “leave their mark on the national landscape.” Also, the Post says Democratic governors will accuse Republicans taking their eyes off the economy to focus on abortion and other social issues.


Remember Jenna Giese? She’s the Fond du Lac woman who became the first person in the world to be treated for rabies without being vaccinated. Now, two of Giese’s dogs might have rabies, after a bat swooped into their cage this week. Giese tells the Fond du Lac Reporter that she saw a bat on Tuesday in an enclosure that holds two of her three Siberian Huskies. The bat was covered with bite marks from the dogs – and the State Hygiene Lab later confirmed that the bat had rabies. All three dogs have been vaccinated for the disease. Giese immediately took them to a veterinarian for booster shots. The law requires all three dogs to be quarantined at her home for 60 days. Giese was a teenager when a bat bit her in 2004 in a Fond du Lac church. She made worldwide headlines after she was the first to be treated with an experimental combination of anti-viral medicines.