TODAY’S NEWS BRIEFS – Friday, January 20, 2023

Briefs are posted weekday mornings, M-F

We Energies’ stunning Dec. 23 request for customers to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas upended customers’ confidence in a steadily reliable supply of gas and set off a wave of online recrimination against the utility.

The unprecedented request arrived shortly after 6 p.m. as families hunkered down for the start of the Christmas weekend — and cranked up the heat as nighttime temperatures headed below zero.

We Energies asked its customers to turn down thermostats to 60 or 62 degrees at the tail end of a chaotic day in which the utility, which serves 1.1 million customers in southeast Wisconsin, scrambled to reduce consumption by its biggest customers, tap its reserves and find natural gas supplies from other sources. The emergency was triggered when Guardian Pipeline LLC, the company that operates the largest pipeline that feeds We Energies, dramatically cut the utility’s supply because of a problem at an Illinois compression station.

Had pressure dropped to the point that We Energies needed to begin cutting off service areas to maintain the integrity of the larger system, customers could have been without gas service for days or even weeks.

Once gas service is lost, utility workers need to go door to door to restore gas service and make sure pilot lights are relit and working properly, PSC Chair Rebecca Cameron Valcq said. The process is labor-intensive and time-consuming, she said.

“Fortunately, they didn’t get even close to that part,” Valcq said.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A constitutional amendment will be included on the spring election ballot asking voters to give judges more discretion when making bail decisions.

The state Assembly on Thursday approved the proposal in a bipartisan vote 74-23, with 10 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.

The bail amendment was introduced last year at a time when the topic was under fresh scrutiny following the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy months earlier when a Milwaukee man free on $1,000 in a felony domestic violence case drove an SUV through the route, killing six people and injuring more than 60 others. It passed the Assembly and Senate during the last session with bipartisan support. The legislation had been in the works for years before the attack.

A constitutional amendment must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by voters.

The Assembly also passed along party lines an advisory referendum question on the same ballot polling voters on whether Wisconsinites should be required to work for welfare programs.

Both measures passed the Senate Tuesday.

The bail amendment would allow judges to consider the totality of the circumstances of a defendant, including a person’s past criminal record and the need to protect the public from “serious harm,” when setting the monetary amount of bail.

Bill author Rep. Cindi Duchow, R-Town of Delafield, said Thursday she and co-author Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, are working on companion legislation that would define exactly what kind of crimes judges could take into account when setting cash bail.

Duchow said it will likely include offenses like child molestation, human trafficking, sexual assault, stalking and carjacking.

Assembly lawmakers also voted 62-35 on a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that would ask voters on the spring ballot, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?”

If passed, the referendum would have no effect.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Four people have been indicted in connection with the fatal shooting of U.S. Postal Service employee Aundre Cross, federal prosecutors in Milwaukee announced Thursday.

Lakisha Ducksworth, 38, was indicted on charges of lying to investigators, prosecutors said. Three other people had already been charged in the case: Kevin McCaa, 36, and Charles Ducksworth Jr., 26, were indicted on murder and gun charges, and Shanelle McCoy, 34, was also indicted on charges of lying to investigators.

McCaa also was charged with unlawfully possessing ammunition and Charles Ducksworth also was charged with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, prosecutors said.

It’s not clear whether Charles Ducksworth Jr. and Lakisha Ducksworth are related.

Prosecutors said surveillance videos showed two suspects following Cross for about an hour on Dec. 9. After exiting a vehicle without license plates, someone approached Cross from behind and a gunshot was heard.

The vehicle belonged to McCoy. She told law enforcement that she was using the vehicle at the time of the shooting to make DoorDash deliveries. However, investigators found footage of McCoy using a different vehicle — one that belonged to Charles Ducksworth — at that time to make deliveries and switching back to her own vehicle later.

It was not clear why Cross was shot. He had worked for the USPS for 18 years. A former co-worker said he had four children, and others said they remembered him for his positive attitude.

—Wisconsin AP

After a historically warm start to the year in Milwaukee, the second half of January could bring more typical temperatures.

The National Weather Service is predicting that arctic winds, which have been absent thus far in 2023, will make their way back into Wisconsin and could bring a colder-than-normal end to the month.

The NWS also warns of a mix of precipitation that will move through the state of Wisconsin this week, and Milwaukee should continue to see some snow and rain.

According to the NWS, the lack of arctic air this January has resulted in the hottest start to a year in Milwaukee history, pacing ahead of 1880, which currently holds the record as the hottest January ever in Milwaukee.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While on a trip out west to tour storm damage in Northern California on Thursday evening, President Biden was predictably asked again about his mishandling of at least 20 pages of classified documents that have surfaced at his post-VP office and in his garage and home in Wilmington, Delaware.

After making a statement, Biden decided to take questions and a Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs asked whether the president had any regrets that he didn’t reveal that classified documents had been found in his possession in November, just before the midterms, when the first set of sensitive materials were found in his Penn Biden Center office in Washington, D.C.

“As we found, uh, we found a handful of documents that were failed- uh, filed in the wrong place,” Biden responded, seemingly struggling to read from an answer that was previously prepared for him.

“We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department,” Biden continued, missing the point of the question which was: Shouldn’t Biden have told Americans about the documents when they were first discovered since he promised — almost exactly two years ago on day one of his administration — that his would be the most transparent administration in history?

“We’re fully cooperating, looking forward to getting this resolved quickly,” Biden claimed. “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there,” he added in a wishful-sounding way.

“I have no regrets,” Biden declared. “I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do, it’s exactly what we’re doing, there’s no there, there,” the president insisted.

“No regrets,” huh? Even the mainstream media has been merciless in grilling White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — who hasn’t given any real answers other than to claim Biden takes classified documents “very seriously.”

Correspondents from NBC, CBS, and other normally docile outlets that frequently go along with the White House’s narrative have pointed out that the White House is nuts to think the American people believe Biden takes classified documents seriously if he was tossing them around his garage, home, and former offices.

—Townhall

Biden is the most destructive president in American history. More things have broken under his watch than under any other president.

It seems like every day, one of Joe Biden’s lawyers shows up with more sheaves of classified documents like a dog who has found another dead chipmunk under the house. This bunch was in his office at Penn, the one paid for by the Communist Party of China. These were found next to his sad, little midlife crisis sports car in a garage in Delaware and so on. You keep waiting for the White House physician to announce another document trove has been discovered after a routine colonoscopy.

Permanent Washington does not want Joe Biden to run for president again. This is how they’re sending that message. Even CNN has decided to become interested in Joe Biden’s misdeeds two years into his presidency. They’re doing segments in how classification laws protect this country from its mortal enemies like Russia. So, you know for certain the order has gone out. Biden is done. What a missed opportunity this is. If you’re looking for crimes that Joe Biden has committed, there is a very long list.

Our country is being invaded. The world is on the brink of nuclear war. American cities have become slums. Our economy is in shambles. Even our airplanes no longer take off on time. It’s a disaster and Joe Biden and his staff have a hand in all of it. In a country with a functioning government, Joe Biden would have been impeached before the first million illegal aliens crossed over our southern border, but no one did anything to stop it. So now they’re arriving at the rate of a quarter-million a month.

—Tucker Carlson

The Supreme Court said Thursday it cannot identify who leaking the draft opinion of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., the landmark case that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

The Supreme Court marshal investigating the leak “has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence,” the court said.

The leak led to protests outside of justices’ homes and conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh was targeted in an assassination attempt before the final decision was released on June 24, 2022.

“After examining the Court’s computer devices, networks, printers, and available call and text logs, investigators have found no forensic evidence indicating who disclosed the draft opinion,” the marshal’s office wrote in a report on the probe.

Investigators interviewed 97 employees, all of whom denied sending the draft opinion to Politico, also according to the marshal’s office.

All of the interviewed employees signed an affidavit under the penalty of perjury stating that they did not share the draft opinion, officials said. If investigators later find they lied, then the personnel would be subject to prosecution.

“Investigators continue to review and process some electronic data that has been collected and a few other inquiries remain pending. To the extent that additional investigation yields new evidence or leads, the investigators will pursue them,” the marshal wrote.

—Just the News

A report by the left-wing Society of Family Planning shows that abortions nationwide dropped 6% after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022 in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The report shows that in April 2022 there were 85,020 surgical abortions nationwide. But in July, after the Dobbs decision, there were 79,750 abortions and in August 79,620 abortions. That’s a 6% decline between April and August 2022.

“Since the Dobbs decision, there were 5,270 fewer abortions in July and 5,400 fewer in August, for a cumulative total of 10,670 fewer people who had abortions in those months,” reported the Society of Family Planning. “The national abortion rate decreased from 14 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in April to 13 per 1,000 in August.”

“Overturning Roe v. Wade created a sudden disruption in abortion care, compounding the crisis in access that people in some states had already experienced before the decision,” said Alison Norris, MD, co-chair of the Society’s #WeCount initiative and associate professor at The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health.

“If this trend were to continue for the next 12 months, we’d project more than 60,000 people who need abortion care will be unable to obtain it,” she added.

The Society of Family Planning further reported, “By August [2022], abortion became completely unavailable in several states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.”

—CNS News

Alec Baldwin will be charged in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer during a rehearsal on the New Mexico set of his Western movie “Rust,” the Santa Fe district attorney announced Thursday.

Baldwin, 64, who was holding the gun at the time it fired, and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and Special Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said in a news release.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, died shortly after being wounded by a gunshot while setting up a scene at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a prop pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the film’s director, Joel Souza.

Assistant director David Halls, who handed Baldwin the gun that day, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, according to the DA’s office. He has a suspended sentence and six months probation.

No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza.

—USA TODAY

The search is on for British actor Julian Sands in treacherous conditions after he went missing in the Southern California mountains after going on a hike last Friday.

Sands, 65, whose filmography includes dozens of well-known movies and shows, went for a hike last Friday on a trail in the Mt. Baldy area, around 35 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains.

His wife then reported him missing when he didn’t return later that day. His car was later found nearby. The San Bernardino County sheriff’s office announced to the public that Sands was missing on Wednesday.

A sheriff’s office spokesperson said that ground searches had to be abandoned over the weekend because of treacherous conditions, including the threat of avalanches. The search has continued by air since then.

A series of atmospheric river-fueled storms dumped snow on Mt. Baldy and other peaks in the area before Sands went missing. Conditions were clear on Friday when he went missing, but another storm moved through the area starting on Saturday and had dumped another 10 to 18 inches of snow at the nearby ski area by Tuesday.

It’s unclear what trail Sands departed on, but a 4.5-mile hike to the top of Mt. Baldy is described by the U.S. Forest Service as “strenuous” and says the 3,412-foot ascent is “aggressive.” And that’s without adverse weather. Sands is considered a very experienced hiker and said in a recent Guardian interview that he was happiest “Close to a mountain summit on a glorious cold morning.”

“We strongly urge the community to just stay out of that area [Mt. Baldy] because even the most skilled hiker, like Mr. Sands, will find themselves in trouble just because it’s too icy and the weather plays a big factor in whether we can deploy resources to that area,” Gloria Huerta, public information officer for the San Bernardino County sheriff’s department told NBC.

—The Weather Channel

Singer-songwriter-guitarist David Crosby, a founding member of two popular and enormously influential ’60s rock units, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), has died, his representative says. He was 81 years old. A cause of death has not been revealed.

The death came as a surprise to those who followed his very active Twitter account, which he’d kept tweeting on as recently as Wednesday. One of Crosby’s final tweets the day before he died was to make a typically jocular comment about heaven: “I heard the place is overrated… cloudy.”

Eight months ago, Crosby made headlines when he said he was done performing live, declaring, “I’m too old to do it anymore. I don’t have the stamina; I don’t have the strength.” But he said he was recording as busily as possible: “I’ve been making records at a startling rate. … Now I’m 80 years old so I’m gonna die fairly soon. That’s how that works. And so I’m trying really hard to crank out as much music as I possibly can, as long as it’s really good… I have another one already in the can waiting.” Crosby subsequently backtracked about having retired from performing live, saying in mid-December that he’d changed his mind: “Dare I say it?… I think I’m starting yet another band and going back out to play live.”

With bandmates Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, Crosby set down the template for ’60s L.A. folk-rock in the Byrds during his stormy 1964-67 tenure in the group.

Bonding with Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash of the Hollies amid the glitter of L.A.’s late-’60s Laurel Canyon scene, Crosby launched CS&N, whose multi-platinum 1968 debut inaugurated rock’s supergroup era.

The addition of another volatile member, Stills’ erstwhile Buffalo Springfield colleague Neil Young, added to the act’s commercial luster. However, a constant clash of egos within Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, fueled by the rock excesses of the era, toppled the act during the ’70s, though its members would regroup sporadically over the years as a recording and touring unit.

—Variety

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

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