Johnson 'every bit concerned' over civil liberties; Assembly panel to vote on election changes; more state news
U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says we need a "very delicate balance" between protecting civil liberties and gathering intelligence to fight terrorism.
Johnson, a member of the Senate Homeland Security panel, was on "Fox News Sunday" to discuss the recent reports about the monitoring of phone calls and Internet usage.
Johnson said he was "every bit concerned" about civil liberties as many Americans who criticized the extent in which national security personnel search for patterns of terrorist activity. Still, Johnson calls intelligence-gathering capabilities is "our greatest line of defense" against terrorism. While calling for a balance, Johnson also said there needs to be congressional oversight. He said the reason the topic became such a big issue is "the American people have lost their faith in President Obama and his administration."
Johnson also criticized Obama's choice of Susan Rice as the new national security adviser.
The senator said Rice was "at the center of misleading America" on last year's attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Libya. He also mentioned the possibility of holding up other Obama nominations to try and dig out more information about the attack.
Those nominations include Samantha Power for the U.N. Ambassadorship, and Victoria Nuland as an assistant secretary of state.
Assembly panel to vote on compromise election package
MADISON -- A Wisconsin Assembly committee was expected to vote Monday on a compromise package of changes to the state's election laws.
The compromise, announced on Friday night, would drop some of the most controversial measures like changing the photo I.D. requirement for voting - restricting hours for early voting - and making it harder to recall local officials.
The new bill would give lawmakers of both parties something they favor - higher limits for individual campaign contributions. Those running for top offices like governor could get up to $20,000 per donor in an election cycle, up from the current $10,000.
Legislative candidates could also get double the donations from supporters, to a maximum of $2,000 per cycle for Senate hopefuls and $1,000 for Assembly candidates.
Democrats have said the change would make for cleaner government - because more donors would identify themselves by giving directly to candidates, instead of certain special interest groups that do not have to say where they get their money.
At least one watchdog disagrees. Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says it would only bring more money into politics. Racine millionaire Fred Young has also come out against the new campaign donation limits. He wants limits eliminated altogether - and he filed suit in federal court last week, calling the donation limits an infringement on free speech.
Moist start to summer optimal for deer ticks
This could be a bad summer for ticks in Wisconsin - and officials say it might lead to more cases of Lyme disease.
Experts say ticks love a moist climate and warm weather, and Wisconsin is getting both.
Kenosha County environmental health officer Mark Melotik said he began seeing ticks a month ago, but it remains to be seen whether they'll lead to more Lyme cases.
Wisconsin has at least 16 species of ticks, but UW experts say only a few bite humans. That includes the deer ticks known for causing Lyme disease.
Last year's hot, dry summer resulted in a decrease in Wisconsin Lyme cases.
Dairy farms getting grants to grow milk production
MADISON -- Forty-four Wisconsin dairy farms are getting state grants this year with the goal of boosting the state's milk production. Recipients of the "Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30-by-20" grants were recently unveiled. A total of $200,000 was available, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection web site.
The program's overall goal is to produce 30 million pounds of milk each year in the Badger State by 2020. The state made just over 27 million pounds last year.
Dairy farmers cannot use the grants for building improvements, but they can be employed in a host of other ways aimed at boosting production and profits. This year's grant recipients will focus on improving milk quality, evaluating the health of their dairy herds, making business plans, and improving relations with dairy employees. The grants can also map out future farm investments like future irrigation, manure storage, and facilities for heifers.
Chinese firm's acquistion of Smithfield woud affect 1,000 Wisconsin employees
CUDAHY -- A traditionally-secretive Chinese company is trying to be unusually open as it seeks to buy the American meat-packing giant Smithfield Foods.
Shuanghui International is offering $4.7 billion to buy the parent firm of Patrick Cudahy's bacon plant in suburban Milwaukee.
A host of concerns have been raised over the proposed acquisition - including Chinese food safety scandals, and a report that a man from Thailand made over $3 million dollars from trading Smithfield stock just before the recent sale announcement.
The chairman of the Chinese food operation, 72-year-old Wan Long, said Americans do not have anything to fear from the deal - and possibly a lot to gain. He said Smithfield has a very good control system for food safety, and Shaunghui hopes to make it better.
Wan said Smithfield's brand would not change, and neither would its production sites or U.S. jobs - including the 1,000 workers at the Patrick Cudahy packaged-meat plant in Cudahy.
Wan also expects the deal to go through "without a hitch." Shaunghui said in advance it would submit the proposed deal for a U.S. government security review.
Gays Mills, Spring Green still recovering from 2008 floods
The Wisconsin Dells area has a much-improved Lake Delton after the Floods-of-2008 - but other parts of southern Wisconsin were not as fortunate.
The Wisconsin State Journal wrote about the region's aftermath Sunday, five years to the day after a crumbling road drained Lake Delton and sent five homes down the Wisconsin River.
Lake Delton Village President Tom Diehl, who owns the Tommy Bartlett Water Show on the lake, says the new lake is much better than the old one. The breach removed carp from the water - and a new park and fishing pier have been created.
Meanwhile, Spring Green in Sauk County was hoping for a comeback that never came. Over $7 million were spent to remove a motel and 14 nearby homes - but the subdivision remains abandoned.
Gays Mills lost about 20 percent of its population after heavy floods hit the Mississippi River community in both 2008 and '09. Many of those who stayed moved to higher ground, with the help of millions in grants and loans.
Former village president Craig Anderson said Gays Mills dealt with quite a challenge as it lost taxpaying residents - plus the charm of the original village near the river.
Heroin now more popular than cocaine than from cocaine
MILWAUKEE -- There's another sign that heroin has become the drug-of-choice among users in Wisconsin.
The Journal Sentinel says that for the first time, more people in Milwaukee County are dying from the highly-addictive heroin than from cocaine.
Almost 160 drug users died from overdoses last year in the state's largest county. Thirty-eight of those deaths were caused solely from heroin, and 34 died from cocaine.
It was not that many years ago when a teenage heroin death in the Milwaukee suburbs was a major Wisconsin news story because of its rarity. Now, the drug and its lethal effects have gone statewide.
Waukesha County recorded 13 heroin-related deaths last year, after having just two deaths in 2010.
In central Wisconsin, Marathon County sheriff's investigator Gary Schneck recently said that more drug users turned to heroin after the makers of pain-killers added time-release coatings to medicines like Oxycontin to cut down on their abuse.
Other experts agree that prescription drug abuse often leads to heroin abuse. They say heroin deaths would be even higher if it wasn't for Narcan, an anti-dote which has saved many abusers - but not all.
Head-on crash claims Wausau woman's life
One woman was killed, and a couple was injured after their vehicles collided head-on in central Wisconsin.
The crash occurred about 5 p.m., Sunday east of Stevens Point near Nelsonville on Highway 161. Portage County sheriff's officials said a 23-year-old Wausau woman drove across a center-line and slammed into an oncoming vehicle.
The driver of the first vehicle died, and the couple in the other vehicle was taken to a Marshfield hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Officials said a dog in the couple's vehicle ran away after the crash. The mishap remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, a Milton woman killed in a one-vehicle crash on Saturday night has been identified as Lisa Martin, 48.
Authorities said she veered off a county road in Walworth County, and struck a tree on the left side. No one else was in the vehicle at the time.
Controversial bras to be celebrated in Milwaukee pub
MILWAUKEE -- A big party is planned on Friday night at a Milwaukee bar and bowling alley where the city told the owner to take down dozens of bras from a ceiling - and then changed its mind.
Marcy Skowronski expects a big crowd at the Holler House, where all the bras will be hung from the ceiling again.
In April, a city inspector told the 87-year-old Skowronski to take down the bras - some of which were tossed to the ceiling 45 years ago. The official said the bras were a fire hazard.
She complained to the Journal Sentinel and her alderman. It created a controversy in which the city backed down. Skowronski said the tradition began when she and her friends had a few drinks, and then tossed their bras from skis that hung on the ceiling.
The bar's been in business since 1908. It has two bowling lanes downstairs, which are said to be the oldest certified lanes in the U.S.