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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: State confirms its first case of West Nile virus

Wisconsin has confirmed its first human case of the West Nile virus for this summer.  State health officials said yesterday the mosquito-borne virus infected a resident of Ashland County.  No other details were disclosed, including the person's current condition.  The first confirmed case comes about a month later than a year ago.  State epidemiologist Diep Hoang Johnson says a relatively cool summer has kept mosquito populations down.  Last year, the Badger State had 16 confirmed West Nile cases and five probable ones, with two deaths.  Those were small numbers compared to 2012, when a major West Nile infestation in the nation's mid-section caused five deaths and 44 confirmed human cases in Wisconsin.  Health officials say most people who get West Nile never feel symptoms like fever, headaches, and muscle aches.  Johnson tells the Wisconsin Radio Network that most West Nile infections go unreported unless the symptoms are serious.  Also 20 birds and one horse have been infected with West Nile this year.  The equine case was reported earlier this week.


State officials are reporting success in their efforts to stop identity thieves from beating income tax filers to their refunds.  It's a growing problem nationally.  In Wisconsin, the state Revenue Department began a program earlier this year to verify the identities of certain taxpayers before their refunds go out.  The agency now says the program and other initiatives stopped just under 50-million dollars in falsely-claimed refunds from going out during the last fiscal year.  That includes almost 18-million dollars in earned income tax credits for the poor that were fraudulently claimed -- plus another 15-million for Homestead tax relief for low-income residents.  The figures were announced by the governor's office.  It said the revenue agency stopped a total of 134-million dollars in fraudulent refunds and tax adjustments in the past four years -- up from 60-million the previous four years.  The current state budget included almost seven-and-a-half million dollars for anti-tax fraud enforcement.


An animal shelter in Racine has temporarily halted the adoptions of cats. That's after four animals at the Wisconsin Humane Society facility tested positive for Feline Panleukopenia Virus.  W-I-S-N T-V reports that an adult stray cat brought the potentially-fatal disease to the Racine shelter two weeks ago, and infected other cats.  All four of those infected either died naturally, or were euthanized.  Dogs and other animals at the Racine shelter can still be adopted, because the cat virus cannot be transferred to other pets.  Cat adoptions will resume September second.


President Obama sent special operations' troops to Syria this summer to rescue Marquette graduate James Foley and other hostages -- but they didn't find them.  The White House National Security Council said it never intended to disclose the operation, but they had to confirm it because a number of media outlets were preparing to report on it.  Intelligence agencies thought they identified a place in Syria where Foley, a U-S freelance journalist, was being held along with other hostages.  Several dozen forces were dropped by aircraft.  They couldn't find the hostages, and they got into a fire-fight with Islamic State militants before leaving.  Several militants were killed, but only one American had a minor injury after an aircraft was hit.  The operation was revealed one day after the Islamic State released a video showing a beheading of the 40-year-old Foley, with threats to kill a second hostage if Obama did not call off airstrikes against militants in Iraq.  The U-S responded with a new barrage of airstrikes yesterday -- and it would not rule out a military operation in Syria to bring those responsible for Foley's death to justice.  Foley, a 1996 Marquette grad, will be honored at a vigil on the Milwaukee campus next Wednesday.


Wisconsin officials say the Mississippi River could soon ship a larger share of the state's products.  That's after the Upper Mississippi was designated as a federal marine corridor from Minneapolis to Saint Louis.  Wisconsin and four other states asked for the designation, saying it would enhance trade and business growth -- while relying less on highways and railroads to ship goods.  Wisconsin D-O-T Secretary Mark Gottlieb calls it a positive step toward creating an integrated network in the region that involves all modes of transportation.  The five states estimate that about five-percent of truck merchandise, and one-and-a-half percent of rail tonnage will eventually move to the Mississippi River -- thus saving millions of dollars on highway maintenance, energy use, and air-and-noise pollution.  The new corridor will be called "M-35."  Officials say the name makes sense, since Interstate-35 runs close to the corridor's new route.


Unemployment rates have dropped in all but one of Wisconsin's 12 metro areas.  State figures released yesterday show that Racine was the only area where actual joblessness rose in July.  That city's un-adjusted rate rose one-tenth of a point to seven-point-seven percent.  That's the highest in the state.  Madison had the lowest at four-point-one percent.  Unemployment rates also fell in 63 of the 72 counties.  They rose in five counties, and stayed the same in four others.  Menominee County had the highest unadjusted jobless rate at 18-point-three percent.  Dane County, which includes Madison, had the lowest rate at four-percent.  Twenty-two of the state's 32 largest cities also saw drops in their jobless figures.


Glenn Grothman had his U-S House primary victory confirmed yesterday.  An official canvass of last Tuesday's ballots had the Campbellsport Republican winning his Sixth District primary by 219 votes over fellow state Senator Joe Leibham of Sheboygan.  Grothman gained six votes from the unofficial Election Night returns, and Leibham gained one vote.  About 64-thousand people voted in what was a four-way G-O-P primary.  Grothman's winning margin was about one-third of one-percent, the smallest for the Wisconsin congressional contest since 1970.  The canvass totals gave Grothman 23-thousand-247 votes, and Leibham 23-thousand-28.  Leibham says he and his campaign staff will review the canvass results, then decide whether to seek a recount.  For now, Grothman will face Democrat Mark Harris in November, for the right to replace retiring House Republican Tom Petri of Fond du Lac.  Meanwhile, a recount begins tomorrow in the 87th Assembly District in northwest Wisconsin.  Michael Bub asked for the recount, after losing by 17 votes to James Edming for the G-O-P nomination for the Assembly seat given up by Medford Republican Mary Williams.


A charter school in Waukesha had Wisconsin's top score in the A-C-T college entrance exam.  Nine students from the Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy average 27-point-one of a possible 36.  Whitefish Bay again had the top score among the state's traditional public high schools, at 26-point-72.  A year ago, Whitefish Bay topped the state results with a slightly lower average of 26.  These numbers are well above the statewide average of 22-point-two -- which was the nation's second-highest score among state administering the A-C-T.  Williams Bay High School near Lake Geneva had the state's third-highest score at 26-point-one.  Mequon Homestead was fourth, followed by Middleton and Waunakee.