Ft. McCoy celebrating first new barracks since WWII; Walker returns from sneak trip to Kosovo; 2 deaths linked to West Nile, more state briefsWisconsin News
Officials snipped a ribbon Thursday marking completion of a $6.8 million barracks -- the first of several -- which offer modern comforts like Internet and air conditioning to soldiers who train at the Sparta area base. Also, Gov. Scott Walker was expected in Madison Friday, following a quick, quiet trip to visit Guardsmen from West Bend completing a one-year mission. Read on for more state news.
SPARTA -- Fort McCoy will open its first permanent barracks’ structure later this month. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday at the Army base near Sparta for a $6.8 million housing facility. The new brick building is the first of many that will replace smaller, temporary barracks built 70 years ago during World War II.
The new building will house up to 168 soldiers, way more than the 50 in each of the current barracks. Liane Haun, the fort’s chief of master planning, says it will provide a better quality-of-life for the soldiers, while saving taxpayers’ money by being energy efficient.
Among other things, the new barracks have modern bathrooms with individual showers, an Internet café, an activity room, and facilities that can separate groups of personnel by units or gender.
And those who train at McCoy in the summer will have something their barracks have never had before – air conditioning.
Hunger in Wisconsin less problem than recent past
Hunger was a smaller problem in Wisconsin than in other states over the last three years.
The USDA said just over 11 percent of Badger State residents did not have enough money or resources to get fresh food at some point from 2009 through 2011. The state’s food insecurity rate was smaller than the national average of 14.9 percent for last year alone.
The annual U.S. rate has held about steady since 2008, when the Great Recession began in earnest. The government said a three-year average provided a more accurate reflection of food insecurity at the state level, even though it includes 2009 when the recession hit the hardest.
The government said about 50 million Americans – or about one of every six – were food insecure at some time last year. Eleven million households coped by eating less varied diets, getting emergency food from pantries, or taking part in federal food assistance programs. Almost 7 million other households disrupted or reduced their food intake because of a lack of money.
Ryan will debate Biden next month
JANESVILLE -- Janesville Republican Paul Ryan will debate Vice President Joe Biden next month – and the Democrat who’s running for Ryan’s U.S. House seat wants a debate as well.
Ryan is on the ballot for both vice president and the First District House that he’s held for the last 14 years. Former Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban is running as a Democrat for Ryan’s House seat. He says several groups have offered to sponsor two debates – and he’s considered that Ryan has not responded to either event.
Ryan’s camp has not commented. If Ryan wins both posts, a special election will be held for his congressional seat.
Judge tosses protestor lawsuit tied to Capitol picketing
MADISON -- A judge in Madison has thrown out a lawsuit filed by protestors who were ticketed when they refused orders to move their picketing to the ground floor of the State Capitol Rotunda.
Prosecutors dismissed the tickets but the protestors still filed suit, claiming their free speech rights were hampered in violation of the Constitution.
But Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington said the citations did not list the specific rule that was violated so the group could not legally challenge those rules.
The order to move the protests came in March of last year, during the height of the Capitol protests over the new state law which virtually ended collective bargaining by most public employee unions.
Remington said the protestors’ free speech rights were not restricted, because the order did not ban the plaintiffs from picketing inside the Capitol building.
Meanwhile, three more protestors were cited Thursday for displaying signs at the State Capitol without having the required permits. That brings to 11 the number of protestors arrested this week, as the new Capitol Police chief started enforcing the administration’s policy to require permits for statehouse activities involving four or more people.
One of those arrested Thursday was also cited for resisting an officer but the Madison Capital Times said police backed off after making arrests in the morning. Friday could be the biggest test yet for the new enforcement crackdown. The Solidarity Singers plan to march into the Capitol for their daily noon-time protest sing-along. That’s after they sang outside the last two days, to let a Red Cross blood drive operate in the Rotunda.
Up to now, the singers have refused to get a permit. The Capital Times said the group agreed yesterday to start performing outside, and then go inside so singers can have the option of whether they want to resist arrest.
Panel: Medicare cuts possible without rationing
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Janesville has been vilified at this week’s Democratic National Convention for his plans to reform Medicare, but a new report from the Institute of Medicine says deep Medicare spending cuts are possible without rationing care and the quality of care could actually improve.
An 18-member panel of doctors, business leaders, and public officials estimates $750 billion is wasted each year in the health care system through waste, fraud, unnecessary care, and huge piles of paperwork. That equates to 30 cents of every health care dollar.
The report did not recommend specific ways to reform Medicare and Medicaid.
Ryan has proposed a lower cost voucher system, in which seniors would get federal money to buy private coverage for their Medicare. President Obama and other Democrats favor a powerful board that cuts Medicare reimbursements to service providers, while focusing on the quality of care instead of just volume. Both parties accuse the other of putting seniors at risk by putting Medicare on a diet.
The Institute of Medicine called for a more rational, honest dialogue of what Americans are getting for their money.
Former Walker aide due in court Friday
MILWAUKEE -- A former Milwaukee County aide to Governor Scott Walker was due in court Friday for a final hearing before he’s scheduled to go on trial for embezzlement.
Kevin Kavanaugh, 62, was supposed to have his pre-trial hearing earlier this week but it was delayed.
Kavanaugh is charged with felony counts of fraud and embezzlement, for allegedly stealing $42,000 from an annual Milwaukee County event that honors Wisconsin veterans. He’s scheduled to stand trial Oct. 8th. Kavanaugh was a member of the county Veterans’ Service Commission at the time, and was appointed by Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive.
Five former Walker associates have been charged in Milwaukee County as part of a two-year-old John Doe investigation into illegal campaigning and other activities in the executive’s office.
Walker has denied being a target of the probe.
Gov. Walker visits Guard units in Kosovo
MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker quietly spent 30 hours in Kosovo this week, visiting two National Guard units from West Bend.
The governor’s office disclosed the trip Thursday, saying security concerns prevented any release of information before then.
Spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said the Republican Walker left on Tuesday, and he was expected back in Wisconsin this morning. She said the governor met with soldiers from the 238th Aviation Regiment and the 248th Aviation Support Battalion.
Those troops have spent almost a year in Kosovo, providing support for a NATO peace-keeping mission.
Webster said the two units are scheduled to return home next week.
Two Wisconsin deaths linked to West Nile virus
MADISON -- Wisconsin health officials confirmed Thursday that two elderly women died, after they had probable cases of the West Nile virus.
The victims were a 78-year-old Greenfield woman from Milwaukee County, and a 71-year-old woman from Waukesha County.
More tests are needed before federal officials can confirm that West Nile caused the deaths. If that’s the case, they would be Wisconsin’s first deaths from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus since 2008.
As of Wednesday, the state had one confirmed case and 12 probable cases – the most since 2007. West Nile has also been known to kill birds and horses. Nationally, 87 human deaths have been reported this summer – and almost 2,000 people have fallen ill.
The Centers for Disease Control says there is no licensed vaccine for West Nile. When the illness first surfaced a decade ago, common bug sprays advertised themselves as a good way to avoid the virus. Less than 1 percent of West Nile patients get seriously ill.
Paul Biedrzycki of the Milwaukee Health Department says he expects more cases in what he calls an “unusual year” for West Nile.
He says residents should make sure they don’t have stagnant water near their homes, so they don’t create breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
U.S., Canada renew Great Lakes pact
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The U.S. and Canada will renew their commitments Friday to protect the Great Lakes.
An international agreement that was first signed 40 years ago has been updated for the first time since 1987. Federal EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Canada environmental minister Peter Kent were to sign the new version of the agreement at the Canadian embassy in Washington.
It identifies contaminated areas along the Great Lakes that need to be cleaned up – and it has long advocated lower nutrient levels that cause algae blooms. Progress has been made in eliminating algae but there are new threats that the updated agreement deals with – like keeping the bloated Asian carp at bay, restoring native species, and preparing coastal places on the Great Lakes for climate change.
Mental illness claimed in slaying involving Milwaukee judge's son
MILWAUKEE -- Prosecutors said a man killed a woman in a Milwaukee city park because he thought she was after him and he believed she had a gun in her purse.
James Donegan, 32, was charged Thursday with homicide and armed robbery in the death of Teresa Boone, 45. She was stabbed and strangled on Sunday night at Kilbourn Reservoir Park on Milwaukee’s north side.
A state Justice Department lawyer is prosecuting the case to avoid possible conflicts-of-interest by the district attorney’s office because James Donegan is the son of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Thomas Donegan.
Police quoted the defendant as saying that Boone was following him so “he took her down” and stole her purse.
Boone is a mother of three who was pursuing a new career in education, and was a student at UW Milwaukee.
Judge Donegan said his son has mental health problems, and he has not taken his medications lately.
One of the victim’s relatives, Janice Quinn-Mixon, said her family is not ready to believe that mental problems drove Donegan to kill Boone. She said the suspect had the presence of mind to hide Boone’s purse and the murder weapon.