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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Gov. Walker raised $1.2 million in July

Governor Scott Walker has more than four times as much money campaign money as his Democratic challenger Mary Burke.  New campaign finance reports show that the Republican Walker had over seven-million dollars in the bank at the end of July, while Burke had one-point-seven million on hand.  Burke continues to raise more than previous gubernatorial challengers, but she's still nowhere near Walker in the money race.  The governor raised over one-point-two million dollars in July, while Burke took in around 500-thousand dollars.  Figures for the other Democrat in next week's primary, Brett Hulsey, were not immediately available.  He had less than a-thousand dollars in the bank at the end of June, and Burke's camp says it's focusing totally on defeating Walker in November.  Meanwhile, Burke is expected to benefit from a large contribution by the state's largest teachers' union.  W-E-A-C (wee-ack) filed a report showing that it gave one-point-three million dollars to the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee.  No outside groups have run campaign ads in favor of Burke yet.  Walker was helped earlier this year with ads from the national Republican Governors Association.


Wisconsin is the only state where life expectancy rates for whites and blacks grew further apart since 1990.  In a new study published in the Health Affairs Journal, scientists found that white men in the Badger State lived an average of seven-point-nine years longer than blacks in 2010.  That gap grew from seven-point-seven years in 1990.  For Wisconsin women, the gap grew even larger.  White women lived six-point-four years longer than blacks in 2010, up from four-point-nine years two decades ago.  Nationally, life expectancy differences dropped between the races over the 20 years of the study by over two-and-a-half years for men and a year-and-a-half for women.  National life expectancy gaps have been figured for some time -- but this is the first time that states were examined.  The figures were obtained using death certificates and Census data.  U-W public health professor Geoffrey Swain said one reason for Wisconsin's gap is that the state is the worst in the country for the general well-being of African-American youngsters.  That was according to the annual "Kids Count" survey released last month.  Swain and U-W Milwaukee expert David Pate said the gaps could be improved with more study.  Pate says Wisconsin needs to have a "real conversation" about this "without pointing fingers."  


Wisconsin's corn crop is still not maturing as fast as it should, due to relatively dry weather and cooler-than-normal temperatures.  Officials say the percentages of corn in the silk-and-dough stages are below the averages for the past five years.  It rained and hailed someplace in Wisconsin almost every day last week -- but the showers were spotty, and 33-percent of the state's farm fields are short to very short of moisture.  That's ten-percent higher than a week ago.  Almost two-thirds of the fields have adequate moisture.  Only three-percent report a surplus.  Maturity levels for Wisconsin soybeans are ahead of a year ago.  Seventy-one percent of the beans are rated good-to-excellent.  Twenty-two percent of the state's third hay crop is made, which is behind schedule by about six-percent.  Eighty-four percent of the hay is rated good-to-excellent.


A virus that's new to Wisconsin is being blamed for the deaths of carp in Dodge County.  The D-N-R said the "koi herpes virus" is responsible for separate die-offs of carp in the federal and state waters of the Horicon Marsh and Lake Sinissippi.  A third investigation is underway after reports of dying carp in Silver Creek, which connects to the Rock River downstream from the Hustisford (hews'-tis-ford) Dam.  The D-N-R says the virus does not harm humans or other fish -- but people are still urged to be careful in handling the affected carp, because it might cause secondary bacterial infections.  Experts urge folks to use protective clothing like gloves when removing dead carp from waterways.  Fish which have the koi herpes virus appear to show signs of sunken eyes, damaged gills, and larger-than-normal spleens.  D-N-R biologists expect the disease to keep advancing in the Rock River system until cooler weather comes this fall.  Koi herpes caused major carp die-offs as early as 2005 in New York State.  Neighboring Michigan found the virus in 2011.


Gannett has become the latest U-S media giant to split its newspaper and broadcasting businesses.  Gannett said today it would create separate entities aimed at giving its broadcast and digital operations more freedom to flourish -- while its newspaper and publishing outfits would basically be debt-free once they're spun off.  Gannett also said it would take full ownership of the Cars-Dot-Com buy-and-sell Web site for one-point-eight billion dollars. The company owns U-S-A Today and 81 other newspapers -- including six dailies in all of the Fox Valley and east central Wisconsin, plus four dailies in the central part of the state.  The A-P says Gannett will join other large media firms in letting their fast-growing broadcast and digital operations run freely, without being weighed down by declines in newspaper business.  Robert Dickey, who head Gannett's U-S Community Publishing division, will become the C-E-O of the publishing segment.  Current Gannett C-E-O Gracia Martore will keep that post with the new broadcast wing.  Headquarters for both will remain in McLean Virginia. The Gannett board must still approve the split, which could be finalized as early as next year. 


Indian casinos are about the only places in Wisconsin where the public can smoke indoors.  Now, the Lac du Flambeau tribe has studied making its gaming house smoke-free.  A survey of a-thousand gamblers by the tribe and the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council found that half said they'd be more likely to visit Lac du Flambeau's casino if smoking was banned there.  Epidemiologist Isaiah Brokenleg of the Inter-tribal Council said the survey represented all types of players at Lake-of-the-Torches casino -- and the findings refute the assumption that smoking and gaming go hand-in-hand. However, Brokenleg admits that a smoking ban would not be easy.  The tribe would have to approve it in a referendum -- and on the reservation, over 40-percent of Lac du Flambeau members smoke.  Brokenleg said the "community readiness" for a ban isn't there yet.  The survey showed that three-fourths of gamblers don't smoke -- but that's no surprise, since about four-of-every-five Wisconsinites in general don't light up.  Wisconsin banned smoking in indoor public buildings in 2010 -- but as sovereign nations, Indian tribes still allow it in their casinos.  The Lac du Flambeau survey was done in 2011.  The results will appear in next month's American Journal of Preventative Medicine.


Visitors to Wisconsin's Apostle Islands can once again use Oak Island, after two bears caused minor damage at boats and campsites last month.  The island's dock area and three campsites were closed to overnight use and most daytime activities.  Officials at the National Park Service lake-shore now say that natural foods have returned to Oak Island, and bears have resumed their normal behavior.  Park staffers still encourage visitors not to leave any food unattended -- and lockers are available at all campsites.  Acting superintendent Myra Foster said she hopes there will be no more closures -- but it will be up to the visitors to act responsibly and prevent them.  Another of the Apostles, Sand Island, was closed last summer due to similar bear activity.