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Wisconsin's third state-run nursing home for veterans was dedicated the afternoon of Jan. 17 in Chippewa Falls. Governor Scott Walker and state Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos appeared at the the ceremony. It took a year-and-a-half to build the $20 million facility, which will have more than 70 beds and provide skilled nursing care to veterans their spouses. It took a while to find a site and get the project going, after lawmakers approved funding in 2003 for a veterans' facility to serve northwest Wisconsin.
Governor Scott Walker says his office will meet in a week-or-so with mental health and law enforcement experts, to see what types of mental health services need to be improved. In Hartford yesterday the Republican Walker was asked about President Obama's gun control measures that he announced earlier in the day. The governor said the Obama proposals don't get to the heart of the problem - and neither does the pro-gun view putting armed personnel in schools.
For the first time, more people in Wisconsin are being cremated than are being buried after their lives are done. The state Health Services Department said Jan. 15 that about 47% of people were cremated in 2011, and 46% were buried. About 6.5% were entombed, and fewer than 1% donated their bodies to medicine or science. Barbara Kemmis is not surprised by the new trend. She heads the Cremation Association of North America and says more folks are choosing cremation because it's cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than burials.
Milwaukee County sheriff's officials are crying foul, after an insurance company settled a lawsuit from a jail inmate over the food he was being served. Sheriff David Clarke was hoping to have a trial this week so a judge could back up his decision to serve what prisoner Terrance Prude called a rancid mixture known as Nutraloaf. But sheriff's inspector Edward Bailey said an insurer for the company that makes Nutraloaf settled the case at the last minute. Officials have not said how much Prude will get.
A Wisconsin senator wants to let public schools exceed their state-mandated taxing limits to improve their safety, but the head of the Assembly says he won't go along with the idea. Democrats agreed in 2009 to let schools exceed their revenue limits by a total of $86 million to pay for safety measures. But Republican Governor Scott Walker dropped the exemption in the current state budget. Senate Democrat John Lehman of Racine wants to bring it back in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.
Programs that encourage Wisconsinites to turn in their unused prescription drugs are not working very well. State officials say only 2% of Wisconsin's unused medicines are taken to collection programs. The rest are either abused by somebody - tossed in the garbage - flushed down the toilet - or are still in medicine cabinets even though they've long been expired. For the last several years, many Wisconsin communities have had collection programs to make sure that old prescription pills do not get abused, or pollute local groundwater.
Packer fans looking for playoff tickets not only have to watch for possible fakes - they also have to make sure nobody can steal the barcodes on what they buy. Sandy Chalmers of the state's Consumer Protection agency says the barcode issue is a real problem. That's because those who buy from other individuals want to see the actual tickets online before they shell out the money. Chalmers says people also like to brag about snagging tickets by showing them off on social media - where again, thieves can help themselves to the bar-code numbers.
Milwaukee County has recorded its first death from a designer drug called methoxetamine (meth-ux-et'-uh-meen) - Mexxy for short. Douglas Peters, 23, was found dead May 6, after he passed out during a party at the home of a DJ in Milwaukee. The county medical examiner has just now attributed the death to Mexxy. The drug comes in powder form that can be injected, swallowed, or snorted - and it's generally legal to buy-and-use since it's uncontrolled in the United States.
I often receive books that make me think of old friends and relatives no longer here to enjoy them. Whenever I receive a book by Jerry Apps, the Madison retired professor who writes novels and non-fiction about farms and farming, I think of my father, a frustrated farmer who would have enjoyed Apps immensely.