Deputy VA secretary says Tomah hospital is now ‘model for change’; Federal Reserve: Wisconsin top performer in Midwest Economy Index; 10 more Wisconsin news briefs
After admitting past failures, the No. 2 man in the Veterans Administration said the Tomah VA Medical Center is getting to be a “model for change and best practices.”
Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified Tuesday at a hearing in Tomah on a U.S. Senate panel’s finding that “systematic failures” of the VA’s internal watchdogs resulted in drug over-prescriptions, patient deaths and punishments of employees who exposed the problems.
Gibson cited a failure of VA leadership to get things done at Tomah. He mentioned acting director Victoria Brahm’s 100 day improvement plan.
The panel’s chairman, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, said the committee has held people accountable, which he said is “somewhat unusual in the federal government.”
Tomah's director and chief of staff were both let go last year. While saying the VA inspector general's office still needs to “clean house,” Johnson praised the new leader in that office, Michael Missal.
Federal Reserve: Wisconsin top performer in Midwest Economy Index
CHICAGO -- Wisconsin had the best economic performance among five Midwest states in April, according to the newly released Midwest Economy Index from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The report says Wisconsin's overall economy grew by two-tenths above historical norms in April. Michigan was the only other state to have excess growth while Iowa and Illinois had smaller growth than normal, and Indiana's economic pace was about the usual.
The Chicago Fed says Wisconsin is the only state to report above average growth in its manufacturing, construction and service sectors as well as consumer spending.
The monthly index takes 129 state and regional economic indicators into account. The growth for the entire five-state region held steady from March.
Wisconsin zoos learn from Cincinnati mishap
Wisconsin zoos are using the much publicized gorilla incident in Cincinnati to make their own facilities safer.
At Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo, staffers checked the entire grounds Tuesday and put up additional signs urging parents to prevent their kids from standing and sitting on exhibit railings.
At the Milwaukee County Zoo, deputy animal health director Beth Rich said it would be “very, very difficult” to have an incident like Cincinnati's in which a four-year-old boy entered a gorilla exhibit, and zoo personnel killed the ape after it dragged the boy through water.
A chain-link fence helps separate gorillas from their onlookers at Milwaukee -- where it's been at least 40 years since there's been an incident involving a human in an exhibit.
At Madison, the last such incident was in 1988 when a man entered a polar bear exhibit, and the bear was killed.
Hundreds protest teen’s murder conviction in Wausau
Hundreds of demonstrators converged on downtown Wausau to protest an adult prison sentence for 16-year-old convicted murderer Dylan Yang.
He was found guilty for stabbing Isaiah Powell, 13, in February of last year after two groups of teens argued on social media before getting into a fight in front of Yang's house.
WAOW TV reported the demonstrators were mostly Hmong residents who came from throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota to protest what they called an unfair legal system. They said school leaders should have done more to ward off the groups’ conflicts and the bullying they say led to the killing.
Yang’s lawyer said his client wanted a jury trial so he did not challenge the boy's status in adult court. Yang could face up to 60 years in prison when he's sentenced July 12.
Wisconsin crops in good shape
Wisconsin crops are in good shape as the growing season begins in earnest.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says almost two thirds of the state's corn is in good condition, 21% is excellent, and only 1% of the crop is listed in poor shape. All but 3% of the corn was planted as of Sunday, much more than the average of 84% planted by this time over the past five years.
Eighty-five percent of the Wisconsin soybean crop has also been planted, and 51% has emerged -- twice as much as the norm.
The state's entire oat crop is rated fair to excellent. Less than 15% of Wisconsin's topsoil and subsoils are short of moisture.
Woman charged in husband’s murder
APPLETON -- A 34-year-old Appleton woman is jailed under a $500,000 bond after being charged in the murder of her husband.
Tina Hafeman made her first court appearance in Outagamie County Tuesday for the stabbing death of Chad Hafeman, 35, early last Friday.
According to prosecutors, the couple was out drinking to celebrate a pay raise he received at work and they got into an argument when they returned home. Chad Hafeman suffered two stab wounds to the chest as some of the couple’s six children looked on.
Tina Hafeman told investigators she did not remember getting a steak knife because she had blacked out.
She is due back in court next Wednesday when a judge will decide whether a trial should be ordered on a charge of first degree intentional homicide.
Two state pedestrian deaths investigated
The deaths of two pedestrians in Wisconsin remain under investigation.
The State Patrol says a 77-year-old Neenah man died after he was hit by the front right corner of a vehicle that was turning at an intersection near Neenah. Troopers said the victim fell backward Tuesday afternoon and hit his head on the pavement. He died later at a hospital.
Meanwhile, a woman killed by a semi-truck while running to catch her dog in Racine County has been identified as Amy Krenzke, 43, of Sturtevant. She was struck about 3 a.m. Tuesday on a street in the town of Yorkville and died later at a hospital.
Wisconsin hopes wasps can fight beetles
Wisconsin is turning to wasps to fight the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.
The state is hoping the stinging insects will attack and kill the beetles which are decimating the state’s forests.
Department of Natural Resources officials say the beetle-seeking wasps are smaller than the bugs you may see near your deck.
Wisconsin is one of 24 states turning the insects to fight the spread of EAB.
Abrams Elementary closed after shooting incident
An elementary school in northeast Wisconsin is closed Tuesday while officers look for a burglary suspect who reportedly exchanged gunshots with a deputy.
The Oconto County Sheriff's Department says no one was hurt.
Abrams Elementary was closed, but deputies said it was a precautionary measure, and the school was not involved in the incident.
Sheriff's officials said the deputy was checking a business about 1:30 a.m. after it was burglarized recently. The deputy reportedly saw the man nearby. The suspect refused orders to stop and fired a shot toward the officer, who returned fire.
Media reports say officers converged on a golf course in Abrams that made a weekend post on Facebook about a break-in to its clubhouse. Sheriff Michael Jansen said a search of the course ended at mid-morning with no sign of the suspect.
Many declared House hopefuls due to file at last minute
Nearly half the declared U.S. House of Representatives candidates in Wisconsin had not filed nomination papers as of Sunday.
The deadline is late today (Wednesday) for all Wisconsin county, state and congressional hopefuls to file their papers and get on the ballot.
Several Aug. 9 primaries are taking shape, including southern Wisconsin's First District where Janesville House Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to face fellow Republican Paul Nehlen. Democrats Tom Breu and Ryan Solen are running for the same post, and so is third party “Trump conservative” candidate Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville.
In northeast Wisconsin's Eighth District, where Republican Reid Ribble is stepping down, four Republicans and three Democrats have either filed or are expected to do so.
Milwaukee Civil War veteran finally has grave marker
A Civil War veteran buried in Milwaukee finally has a military grave marker that's been missing for 121 years.
A reenactment group raised the $275 cost for installing William Reed's marker. On Memorial Day, they gave him the military honors that all service members receive if they're discharged honorably.
Reed fought battles with Madison's Company “F” of the 29th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment.
Ricky Townsell, who is with the Company “F” reenactors, said Reed knew the horrors of the Civil War and the issues faced by African American troops at the time -- and he deserves the same honors as all other fallen soldiers.
Townsell said it would be unconscionable in these times to put any fallen military member into a unmarked grave.
Woman killed while trying to retrieve pet
YORKVILLE -- A 43-year-old woman died after she was hit by a semi-truck while trying to catch her runaway dog.
The incident happened around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning in the Racine County town of Yorkville.
Sheriff's deputies said the woman was trying to retrieve the pet when she was struck on Durand Avenue. She died later at a hospital.
Officers continue to investigate what they call an “unfortunate accident.”