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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: First lady visits Watertown

WATERTOWN - First Lady Michelle Obama is leading a campaign for Americans to drink more water. Obama’s message included a stop in Watertown, Wisconsin today – along with actress Eva Longoria.

In a Facebook post today, Governor Scott Walker says he welcomed the First Lady to the state and gave her an “In Wisconsin” water bottle, along with a flyer about the Global Water Center in Milwaukee… opening tonight. Obama is urging people to drink at least one glass of water a day to make “a real difference in your health.”


Some national experts are throwing cold water on Michelle Obama's claim that you'll be healthier and more energetic if you drink more H2O each day.  Obama has chosen Wisconsin to be the backdrop of the new national "Drink Up" campaign that being kicked off this afternoon with an assembly at Watertown High School.  The First Lady seeks to curb childhood obesity with her "Let's Move" initiative -- and she's concluded that the best single step to make families healthier is to drink more water.  University of Pennsylvania scientist Stanley Goldfarb says there's no hard evidence which backs that up.  He tells the Washington news Web site Politico that the health benefits of drinking more water are murky -- and there's no widely-accepted standard for how much you should drink each day.  Goldfarb also called it "bizarre" to make this a major public health effort.  George Benjamin, who heads the American Public Health Association, told Politico there's a lot of controversy over how much you should drink as plain water.  He simply says quote, "You should be drinking as much fluid as you need."  The federal government says too many Americans are consuming too many sugary drinks, and not enough plain water.  The beverage industry has gotten behind the new "Drink Up" initiative.


A plan to bring off-duty Milwaukee police officers to a casino for security has been approved by the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee today. The additional security is partially in response to a shooting at the Potawatomi Bingo and Casino three months ago, when a gunman allegedly shot and wounded two people. Under the proposal, the Forest County Potawatomi tribe would pay the city about $100,000 for the additional security at the casino. If finalized, the one-year agreement would begin at the end of the month.


 The National Weather Service in Sullivan confirms two water spout occur over Lake Michigan this afternoon. Meteorologist Ed Townsend says the two non-tornadic spouts were spotted about three to five miles southeast of Kenosha. There were reports of funnel cloud activity in thunderstorms over the southeastern part of the state, but no touchdowns. Townsend says water spouts are less dangerous than tornadoes, usually occurring between August and October. The National Weather Service says thunderstorms will continue until later this afternoon. 


Earlier this week, it felt like July in Wisconsin.  By this time tomorrow, it could feel like October.  The extreme heat from Monday and Tuesday was pushed away by a cool air mass that came in from the north, led by a weak cold front which went through the Badger State last night.  As a result, it was only 57 degrees at noon in Land O'Lakes, north of Eagle River at the Wisconsin-Michigan border.  Janesville was at 79 at mid-day.  It was 97 in that city at the same time just two days ago.  Tonight, clear skies will cool things down to between the mid-30's and mid-40's in the Badger State.  As of early afternoon, the National Weather Service did not issue any frost advisories -- but that could be coming soon.  Forecasters say it might not get out of the 60's anywhere in Wisconsin tomorrow and Saturday.  There's a slight chance of rain in eastern areas this afternoon and early evening -- and only a slight chance on Saturday and Sunday.


Wisconsin's overall drought conditions did not change very much over the last week -- but a larger part of the state is said to be severely dry.  The U.S. Drought Monitor said today that around 59-percent of the state's land area is abnormally dry or worse -- one-tenth percent less than a week ago.  However, 18-percent of the Badger State is reported to be in a severe drought, the report's third-worst category.  That's way up from six-and-a-half percent last week.  The severe drought conditions extend along the Mississippi River from Vernon to Polk counties, and eastward along a curve bounded by Chippewa Falls, Neillsville, Wisconsin Dells, and Viroqua.  Almost 41-percent of Wisconsin is drought-free, northeast of a line from Sheboygan to Superior along with a couple patches in the Platteville and Beloit areas.  


Officials of Catholic and other private schools in Wisconsin's voucher program spoke out today against a plan to make their schools as accountable as the public ones.  The state Senate's Education Committee held a hearing on a bill to put private schools under more scrutiny, if they receive tax dollars to educate low-income kids under the now-statewide voucher program.  Private school supporters said the plan is flawed as to the information that would have to be provided -- and how it would be reported.  Only two other lawmakers have co-sponsored the package, offered by the heads of the Senate and Assembly education panels.  State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) recently said the measure would need to be changed to attract more support.  Under the current proposal, voucher schools would be rated as public schools are now.  Reading-and-math teaching methods would be under the microscope a little more.  Voucher schools that perform below expectations for three straight years would get three years to improve, or face penalties as severe as mandatory closure.  Voucher school advocates have said the measure gives too much power to state officials who've proclaimed their opposition to the voucher program.  Governor Scott Walker has not said what he thinks about the package.


A process server is accusing a state senator's aide of pushing him down, and calling him vulgar names as he tried serving the senator's office with a lawsuit.  The Wisconsin State Journal said the incident occurred September third, in connection with a suit filed in June by the Center for Media-and-Democracy.  The group is trying to obtain documents it believes that state Senate Republican Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa obtained during a meeting in May of the American Legislative Exchange Council.  The conservative council drafts model legislation for states to consider on various issues.  According to the lawsuit affidavits, Bruce Lowery tried serving Vukmir -- but her aide Jason Rostan chased him, pushed him down outside the Capitol building, and called him names while trying to push the papers back into the server's pockets.  The next day, the documents said Lowery's wife Chris tried serving the lawsuit -- but Rostan held his hands behind his back.  She finally touched the papers on his hands to make the service legal, and left them in the senator's office.  The Justice Department would not comment on the specific case.  A spokeswoman did tell the State Journal that most firms which sue the state know to go to the Attorney General's office where the papers will be accepted, instead of trying to chase individual lawmakers down.  Rostan told the paper he did try to give Bruce Lowery the papers back -- but Lowery tripped and fell and was not pushed.  


Lobbyists in Wisconsin spent 28-percent less than two years ago to convince your state legislators to vote their way.  The state Government Accountability Board said today that lobbyists spent around $17-million in the first half of this year -- and the number of hours they spent on lobbying activities was 25-percent less than in 2011.  That's considered an apples-to-apples comparison, because the state budget was being put together during both of those years.  Recently, we learned that public employee unions were spending much less on lobbying.  That's because they lost much of their power in the 2011 law which virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most state-and-local public unions.  This year, the new law which makes it easier to open an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin was the No. 1 issued to be lobbied.  The state Accountability Board said lobbyists spent almost 3,600 hours on the issue -- or over 27 hours for each legislator.


Governor Scott Walker says a new specialty lighting plant near Kenosha will benefit the entire state -- not just far southeast Wisconsin.  The Republican Walker today announced the relocation of Kenall Manufacturing from Gurnee, Illinois to a site west of Kenosha near Interstate-94, about 17 miles north of the company's current plant.  Kenall says it's been growing nicely over the last couple years, and it needs a larger plant to house around 400 workers.  The firm plans to spend up to $30-million on a new Wisconsin plant and headquarters' facility.  CEO Jim Hawkins expects ground to be broken by the end of this year.  Kenosha County taxpayers have ponied up a million dollars to lure Kenall.  State and other local incentive packages are pending.  Hawkins says he's confident the final agreements will be reached.  Kenall Manufacturing makes specialty lights for places like schools, hospitals, and prisons. 


U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is visiting the Marinette Marine plant today.  He'll hold a briefing on the Littoral Combat Ships which are now being built.  Mabus will also tour the shipyard in Marinette, and speak with employees.  Marinette has delivered two littoral ships, and four more are on the way. Navy officials say the littoral combat ship is a major element for the future of the Navy's entire operations, but the Government Accountability Office recently said the ship may not be able to reach its full potential.  


A middle school teacher in Oconomowoc was put on leave after his bosses learned that he ranted online against his profession.  Sixth-grade teacher Michael Krill has been away from the Nature Hill Intermediate School since last Friday.  Milwaukee's WITI-TV said his principal considered Krill one of the finest teachers at their school -- until now.  The station posted a seven-minute audio clip of Krill, in which he said gets criticized for quote, "pushing the limits of education" while other teachers get by with "minimal work."  Krill called the educational system "boring" and a "waste of time," and he added quote -- "I've hated school since I was a little boy."  Krill said he wanted to leave a Christian life, but added that Christian schools are generally no better than the public schools.  For some reason, Krill said both Christians and non-Christians are quote, "too scared to say the truth."  His podcast has been removed from its original location.


One of five people charged in the gang murder of a Milwaukee rap artist will spend at least 53 years in prison.  19-year-old Ashanti McAlister was given a mandatory life term today, but Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner allowed McAlister to become eligible for a supervised release in 2066, when he's 72.  According to testimony at his trial, McAlister shot 22-year-old Emily Young three times, after she was strangled in her basement last New Year's Day.  She performed under the name "Yung L-T," and she was known as Evon Young before she changed genders to become a woman.  Prosecutors said McAlister and three other gang members were looking for marijuana, when they went to the home Young shared with co-defendant Billy Griffin.   A scuffle followed, and Young was later shot.  28-year-old Victor Stewart and 24-year-old Devin Seaberry struck plea deals and testified against McAlister.  Those two are scheduled to be sentenced next month.  Ron Allen is set for a trial in October.  Griffin went on trial first, but jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.  He's scheduled for a re-trial in November.


A wounded Marine Corps veteran from southern Wisconsin was planning to reunite today with amputees injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.  B.J. Ganem of Reedsburg was part of a group that met with survivors just days after the April 15th blast.  The 36-year-old Ganem said he assumed he would have to do a lot of hand-holding and hear a lot of crying -- but instead, the bombing survivors showed resilience, as they looked forward to getting artificial limbs and functioning properly again.  Ganem said the new amputees asked about the prosthetic leg he received after losing his lower leg in Iraq in 2004.  He took off the limb and let them hold it.  Now, Ganem says he's looking forward to seeing the Boston amputees' progress with their own artificial limbs.