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Jason Moon’s music helps fellow veterans to heal

Continue reading Jason Moon’s music helps fellow veterans to heal

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters celebrate, remain at camp

Thousands of protesters in North Dakota celebrated after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline project but were mindful the fight is not over, as the company building the line said it had no plans for re-routing the pipe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it rejected an application to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The decision came after months of protests from Native Americans and activists, who argued that the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would damage sacred lands and could contaminate the tribe’s water source.
Energy Transfer Partners, in a joint statement with its partner, Sunoco Logistics Partners, said late on Sunday they do not intend to reroute the line, calling the Obama administration’s decision a “political action.” They said they still expect the project to be completed, noting that the Army Corps said they had followed all required legal procedures in the permitting process.

The mood among protesters has been upbeat since the rejection was announced at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Activists were seen hugging and letting out war cries in response to the news.

With the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump supportive of the project, activists were concerned a reversal could be coming.

“This is a temporary celebration. I think this is just a rest,” said Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. “With a new government it could turn and we could be at it again.”

The pipeline is complete except for a 1-mile (1.61 km)segment to run under Lake Oahe. That stretch required an easement from federal authorities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will analyze possible alternate routes, although any other route also is likely to cross the Missouri River.

The protest camp’s numbers have swelled in recent days, as hundreds of U.S. veterans have flocked to North Dakota in support of the protesters.

Some of those in a long line of traffic along Highway 1806 heading into the camp hollered and honked their horns after the news was announced.

Craig Edward Morning, 30, a carpenter from Stony Point, New York, said he will leave when the tribe says he should and the company agrees to stop building the line.

“They retreat first,” he said. “They’re the ones that aren’t welcome.”


Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement, said he hoped ETP, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and Trump would respect the decision.
“When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes,” he said.

Trump could direct authorities to approve the line, even if before he takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 federal authorities will be studying alternative routes. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who has advised Trump on energy policy, said the decision ignores the rule of law.

Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota from Minnesota, and a co-founder of Indigenous Environmental Network, said he expects Trump to try to reverse the decision.

“I think we’re going to be in this for the long haul. That’s what my fear is,” he said.

In November, ETP moved equipment to the edge of the Missouri River to prepare for drilling, and later asked a federal court to disregard the Army Corps, and declare that the company could finish the line. That ruling is still pending.

Several veterans who recently arrived in camp told Reuters they thought Sunday’s decision, which came just as Oceti Sakowin has seen an influx of service members, was a tactic to convince protesters to leave.

Those spoken to after the decision said they had no plans to leave because they anticipate heated opposition from ETP and the incoming administration.

“That drill is still on the drill pad. Until that’s gone, this is not over,” said Matthew Crane, 32, from Buffalo, New York, who arrived with a contingent of veterans last week.

On the Web

Stand with Standing Rock.

Q&A: A look at the cancer some believe linked to Vietnam War

A rare bile duct cancer that may be linked to time served in the Vietnam War is quietly killing some former soldiers.

The disease can be caused by liver flukes, a parasite found in raw or undercooked fish that is common in parts of Asia.

Some veterans are fighting for the Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize their disease as service-related so they can receive benefits, but most claims are denied.



Liver flukes are parasites ingested in raw or undercooked freshwater fish. They are endemic in parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, along with other areas, mainly in China and South Korea. Some 25 million people are infected with the worms. Liver flukes die when frozen, but they can survive fermentation or pickling. Visitors traveling in endemic areas can also be infected.



Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare cancer that affects the bile duct. Liver flukes are a risk factor; others include hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis and bile duct stones. After the worms are ingested, they can live for more than 25 years in the bile duct, causing inflammation and scarring that can eventually lead to cancer. The disease is difficult to treat, with many victims dying within months of diagnosis. A patient typically does not experience any symptoms, such as jaundice, until the end stages.



Bile duct cancer is unusual because it can be prevented in some cases. Pills can wipe out liver flukes early on, but the medicine is not effective in later stages after the worms have died and scarring has occurred. Surgery is possible in some cases, but the survival rate is only about 30 percent for five years, said Dr. Gregory Gores, a gastroenterologist and executive dean of research at Mayo Clinic. Affected countries, such as Vietnam and Laos, have not conducted extensive research to determine the extent of the problem. The world’s highest rate of cholangiocarcinoma _ about 84 new cases per 100,000 people — is found in northeastern Thailand where many people eat a popular raw fish dish. In the U.S., cholangiocarcinoma is extremely rare, with around 1.7 in 100,000 people diagnosed each year.



Men who served in the Vietnam War and ate raw or poorly cooked fish, sometimes while on patrol in the jungle after their rations ran out, could have been infected by liver flukes. Left untreated, they can experience symptoms related to bile duct cancer decades later. Because the disease is so rare and awareness about liver flukes is poor in the U.S., many veterans may not be aware of the possible connection to their service time.



Each case is examined individually, and it’s up to veterans to prove to the Department of Veterans Affairs that their cancer is “as likely as not” related to their service time. The VA says fewer than 700 cholangiocarcinoma patients have passed through its medical system in the past 15 years. In part because they are unaware of the potential link to their war days, only 307 of the veterans submitted claims for benefits over that period. Even though the VA sometimes approves the link between wartime service and cholangiocarcinoma, the vast majority of claims — 3 out of 4 — are rejected, according to data obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.


Wisconsin veterans denounce Trump’s attacks on Gold Star family

With the Trump campaign preparing for a visit to Green Bay on Friday, Wisconsin veterans are denouncing Donald Trump’s attacks on the parents of an Army Capt. killed in Iraq.

Trump is running 9-10 points behind Hillary Clinton in a CNN poll conducted after the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. And also conducted after the GOP presidential candidate widely criticized the parents of a fallen U.S. soldier, Capt. Humayun Khan.

Khan was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004. His parents, Ghazala Khan and Khizr Kahn, were at the podium at the DNC.

Khizr Kahn addressed the delegates and a TV audience, with his wife at his side.

He criticized Trump for proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States and said that the billionaire candidate has “sacrificed nothing” for his country.

Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan did not address the convention, suggesting that she was forbidden because of her religion.

In the back and forth that followed, Ghazala Khan wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post, saying, “Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.”

She also wrote, “Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?”

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin issued a statement on the issue that did not name Trump but still criticized the candidate.

Ryan said: “America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.”

The controversy continued into this week, as Trump campaigned in Virginia and prepared to travel to Wisconsin.

Randy Bryce, army veteran and chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Veterans Caucus, released this statement on Aug. 2: “The disrespect and contempt Donald Trump has shown for our brave men and women serving in uniform disqualifies him from ever being our commander-in-chief. Trump has gone out of his way time and again to insult Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim-American parents of Army Capt. Humayan Khan, who made the ultimate sacrifice defending his troops in Iraq.

“The audacity Donald Trump has to slander Gold Star parents who lost their son defending this country is unconscionable and he has no idea what real sacrifice is. When Donald Trump insults one of us, he insults all of us. We need a president who respects and understands the sacrifice our soldiers make everyday. Donald Trump has shown time and again he does not have the temperament or judgement to be President of the United States.”

Former U.S. Navy Capt. Mary Kolar of Madison said, “Instead of showing respect to a Gold Star family brave enough to share the story of their son’s sacrifice, Donald Trump demonized them. He made it clear he finds patriotism and Islam incompatible, even though soldiers like Captain Humayun Khan prove his bigotry wrong every day on the battlefield. Our country’s diversity is our strength and what makes our military the envy of the world – we should honor each and every man and woman who makes the courageous pledge to defend it.”

“This divisive, dangerous rhetoric from Donald Trump proves exactly why he is unfit to commander-in-chief,” added former U.S. Army Corporal Jerry LaPoint of La Crosse. “As a veteran, I know our soldiers give themselves selflessly in service to our country — they deserve a president who will give them and their families the respect of honoring that service before making decisions to deploy them in our nation’s defense. This is no way to honor a Gold Star family who has made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Donald Trump clearly does not understand all that our service members give when they join the military,” said former Navy Petty Officer Leon Burzynski of Pewaukee. “Instead, he thinks his failed business dealings are a sacrifice comparable to that of a fallen soldier and the grief of a Gold Star family. This is despicable and we cannot allow someone this out of touch with the values that define America and its military to become our next commander-in-chief.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign, in a news release, said, “Trump’s comments on the Khan family are the latest in a series of his disrespectful rhetoric and record aimed at American veterans and military families such as lying about donations to veterans’ charities, firing employees because of their military service and verbally attacking prisoners of war.”

Action outside the convention: Protesters’ stories

For some of the protesters outside the Democratic convention this week, the demonstrations in Philadelphia are the latest in a lifetime of political activism. For others, they’re a first.

The demonstrators have come from near and far, some driven by specific issues, some inspired by a candidate.

Here are some of their stories.


Sue Kirby needed a second seat on the bus from Boston for her traveling and protesting companion: a larger-than-life Bernie Sanders doll with a papier-mache head and foam body.

Kirby, 65, built the doll about a year ago for Sanders rallies near home in Salem, Massachusetts. She learned from a lifetime of activism that having a prop is a good way to get public (and media) attention.

It works: People take pictures with him, and reporters ask questions.

Back in the 1970s, Kirby protested against the Vietnam War and in favor of women’s rights. The slightly built Kirby later worked as a welder at a factory so she could be a union organizer. She also worked for a policy organizing group for senior citizens.

Now she’s retired. “This is my job,” she said.

She sees younger Sanders supporters on the same activism path she was on 40 years ago. “I sort of see the next generation coming forward, being helped by the generation before them,” she said.


Living abroad helped Daisy Chacon tune into politics in the U.S., her home country.

Chacon, 31, returned to Boston in May after spending two years teaching English in Spain. She found that people there knew what was going on in their country – and hers. “They stand up for things,” Chacon said.

At the same time, she caught wind of Sanders and his populist movement. “To be honest, Bernie lit a fire under me,” she said. “I really didn’t believe in the political system before Bernie.”

As protesters began to show up for a rally Wednesday, Chacon, a student at Salem State University in Massachusetts, carried a sign calling for a ban on the gas-drilling technique known as fracking. She also had a plastic bag of “Latinos for Bernie” buttons to hand out.


Twenty-two-year-old Arthur Ryshov (REE-jawv), born in Russia and adopted by a family in Indiana, recently became a U.S. citizen, and now he is exercising his right to free speech.

Ryshov, who works for an engineering firm, came to Philadelphia from Bedford, Indiana, with his mother and has joined rallies and protests near City Hall and outside the Wells Fargo Center, where the evening convention proceedings are held.

Like most of the protesters, Ryshov is a Sanders supporter. He became one only in the last few months. Before researching Sanders and following his speeches on YouTube, Ryshov said, he wasn’t interested in politics at all.

“He opened my eyes to the reality we live in,” Ryshov said.


At the edge of a rally on Wednesday, Drew Webb held a sign with a line drawn through the word “oligarchy.”

Webb, 32, said he really hadn’t given any thought to destroying oligarchy, but he does like the idea of the rally’s hero, Sanders. “He’s got a good cause,” Webb said. “He’s bringing people together.”

Even though he was off to the side, Webb considers himself a protester.

Webb, a Philadelphian who served just over two years in prison for drug trafficking, volunteers with a prison reform group. A few weeks ago, he joined his first march, making his way from impoverished North Philadelphia to Center City to protest violence by police against black people.

After witnessing nearly two years of similar demonstrations across the country, he finally felt compelled to join in: “Now it’s a boiling point.”


Wednesday was the third or fourth day for many protesters. They nursed foot blisters and sunburns and were generally haggard.

Not Jorge Ruvalcaba, 28, a computer technician from Palmdale, California, who was born in California but grew up in Mexico.

He arrived Tuesday night and was fresh for a day of protest. Despite temperatures in the 90s, he had on long pants and a long-sleeve shirt with a T-shirt over it reading “Our Political Revolution Bernie.”

Ruvalcaba is also a political neophyte, becoming a Sanders supporter just a few months ago.

While many protesters have spent days railing against Hillary Clinton and pledging not to support her, Ruvalcaba said his mission is to try to make sure she fights for key elements of Sanders’ agenda.

“If Bernie says we need to support her,” he said, “I guess, you know, what the heck?”

Racine nonprofit builds tiny houses for local veterans

To those unfamiliar with the “tiny house” movement, the small structure being constructed in a barn in rural Racine County might look more like a kid’s clubhouse than an actual home in the making.

Take a look at the building through the eyes of Jeff Gustin, however, and it’s easy to see the 128-square-foot house as the perfect solution to eliminating veteran homelessness in Racine.

A demonstration model, the home is being built by volunteers of Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin, The Journal Times reported.

Once completed it will be used to help the nonprofit raise enough funds to create a total of 15 tiny houses — homes that will soon become a part of a “veterans village” for unhoused vets in the city of Racine.

Giving a quick tour of the unfinished model last week, Gustin, the executive director of Veterans Outreach, explained what each home will feature.

“Up here you will have a lofted bed, and beneath it a couch. There will be a desk here in the corner with an outlet. You can put a microwave here and little refrigerator, and over there would be the composting toilet,” he explained.

The tiny houses will not have running water, but a community building in the center of the village would have bathrooms with shower facilities and flush toilets. The center also is where homeless vets could go for free meals, camaraderie, drug and alcohol addiction counseling and veterans’ services.

The nonprofit has yet to officially secure a site for the village, but it is looking at a property near Uptown.


Curbing homelessness

Dedicated to curbing veteran homelessness, Veterans Outreach was founded in December 2013. Today, it runs a food pantry that serves 30 to 40 veterans a week. And in 2015, the furniture warehouse it maintains helped furnish the homes of 225 veterans.

Gustin said he other members of the nonprofit started thinking about creating a village of tiny houses for homeless vets last year, after hearing about similar developments for the homeless in cities such as Madison and Seattle.

“For some people, it’s hard to envision living in a space this small. They might wonder how they could fit all their clothes inside. These are people recovering from homelessness. They are going to be coming in here with a duffel bag,” said Gustin, whose son is a combat veteran.

In order to live in the village, a veteran could not have a dishonorable discharge, nor any sex-crime convictions on his or her record. They also cannot be homeless because they choose to be homeless, Gustin said.

The veterans would enroll in a two-year program, after which they would secure their own permanent housing.

“We want to ensure they have broken the cycle,” Gustin said. “The goal is to get them stabilized.”


A village for vets

To make the village a reality, Gustin estimates Veterans Outreach will need to raise about $125,000. That money would include the cost to construct all 15 houses, as well as money needed for the community building and site acquisition.

The plan would be to build the homes in three phases, with five homes being built during each phase. The hope would be that much of the labor and materials would be donated. The nonprofit has already received donations from Van’s Electric and Bliffert Lumber, and Gustin recently learned that Racine Habitat for Humanity might be constructing one of the houses this May.

Gustin said his hope to have at least the first phase completed before the snow flies this fall.

“I don’t want to find out in November that there is a veteran sleeping on the streets and it’s below freezing,” he said.


City hall help

Mayor John Dickert, who has been helping the nonprofit with its efforts, said he sees the project as being something that could help the city reach its goal of having zero homeless veterans.

“We are very, very close (to reaching that goal). The problem is we are finding we have a lot of transitional veterans and they are not being assessed because they are moving around,” Dickert said.

By providing transitional housing to the homeless veterans that end up in Racine, Veterans Outreach can help those veterans get the assessments they need, he said.

“The credit goes to these guys who are working this project,” Dickert said. “Three years ago, President Barack Obama asked us to end homelessness among veterans, and they have been working non-stop to do that.”


An AP member exchange feature.


Madison’s ‘little’ museums offer big ideas

Gone are the days when museums were dusty archives of half-forgotten lore. Wisconsin is full of bright, interactive learning environments that stress teaching important lessons over merely archiving historical minutiae, and some of the most interesting and unique examples are tightly condensed into downtown Madison.

Spring is coming, but there are still stormy days that beg for indoor activity. Five of Madison’s “little” museums – three on the Capitol Square and two on the University of Wisconsin campus – offer some big ideas for visitors to consider.


In the vertebrate room at the Geology Museum, replicas of a Mastadon and Edmontosaurus dinosaur skeletons tower over undergraduate student and tour guide Summer Ostrowski, center, as she takes questions from a group of 2nd grade children visiting from Northside Elementary School in Sun Prairie. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller Date: 04/04 File#: D100 digital camera frame 3537
In the vertebrate room at the Geology Museum, replicas of a Mastadon and Edmontosaurus dinosaur skeletons tower over undergraduate student and tour guide Summer Ostrowski.
Photo: Jeff Miller

UW-Madison is a world-renowned research university with countless resources at its disposal. Two different schools within the university share their wealth with the general public via two innovative museums.

Those who think geology is merely the study of rocks will have their eyes opened by a visit to the UW-Madison Geology Museum, housed in Weeks Hall on the south edge of campus. Founded in 1848, the same year Wisconsin became a state, the Geology Museum is a perennial favorite among visitors thanks to its large collection of rocks, minerals and fossils.

Home to 120,000 geological and paleontological specimens, UWMGM is best known for its fossilized dinosaur and early mammal skeletons. The collection also includes reptiles, fish, birds and paleogene mammals from the Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleozoic and Early Silurian periods. The museum also is a repository for vertebrate fossils from federal lands and National Park specimens.

Clearly, UWMGM really rocks, and in more ways than one.

The UW-Madison Geology Museum, located in Weeks Hall at 1215 W. Dayton St., is free and open to the public from 8:30 to 4:40 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Guided tours are available at a nominal cost of $2 per visitor. For more information, visit geoscience.wisc.edu/museum_wp.


UW-Madison's Physics Museum features numerous hands-on exhibits.
UW-Madison’s Physics Museum features numerous hands-on exhibits.

Those who want to get their physics on – and who among us doesn’t? – will want to visit the L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum, located in Chamberlin Hall in the heart of the UW campus. Established in 1918 and celebrating its centennial in 2018, the museum was one of the first in the nation devoted to the study of physics.

It’s also an incredibly interactive museum, asking patrons to dive into physics hand-first. The museum’s six subject areas are mechanics, computer-based physics, electricity and magnetism, light and optics, wave and sound, and modern physics, and each features multiple experiments to explore. “Light and Optics” alone offers 14 different interactive activities, giving visitors to the smallest of these five options some of the most vibrant experiences.

The L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum, located in Chamberlin Hall at 1150 University Ave., is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The experience is self-guided, but guided group tours can be arranged. For tour and other information, contact Program and Museum Manager Steve Narf at 608-262-3898 or .


The Wisconsin Veterans Museum has existed in multiple locations over the last century, but has had a permanent home on the Capitol Square since 1993.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum has existed in multiple locations over the last century, but has had a permanent home on the Capitol Square since 1993. Photo: Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum would boast a bigger collection were it not for tragedy: a 1904 fire that gutted the city’s Capitol building and destroyed many of the Civil War relics stored there. The remaining collection was itinerant for many years afterward, moving around the Capitol and growing with each armed national conflict. In 1993, it finally found a home right across the street.

The Veterans Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate institution, boasts 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. Its displays chronicle American wars from the Civil War to modern-day Middle East conflicts. The museum has more than 3,000 artifacts, and an estimated 90,000 visitors pass through its doors each year.

Its first-class permanent exhibitions bring visitors into dioramas with the men and women who have served. The museum also offers online exhibits, to explore subjects in greater depth, and a traveling exhibit program that brings the museum’s collection to different locations around the state.

And it hosts temporary exhibitions, many featuring works from outside the museum’s collection. Its current exhibit even dabbles in the realm of visual art. War: Raw features 59 dramatic pieces of art created by Wisconsin veterans as a way of recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. The art therapy program is sponsored by the nonprofit Artists for the Humanities, and helps veterans confront unresolved trauma, embrace personal growth and successfully reintegrate into civilian life.

War: Raw is on display through May 8. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum at 30 W. Mifflin St. is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Call 608-267-1799 or visit wisvetsmuseum.com for more details.


The Wisconsin Historical Museum includes items from the frontier period, as well as earlier Native American artifacts and more recent items.
The Wisconsin Historical Museum includes items from the frontier period, as well as earlier Native American artifacts and more recent items. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Museum.

Across the street from the Veterans Museum you can learn even more about our state’s past by visiting the Wisconsin Historical Museum. As the public face of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the museum has extensive archives, and displays them through exhibits, programs and lectures about the growth and development of the Badger State.

Three floors of exhibition space chart Wisconsin’s history, from the first Native American residents through its frontier period to the establishment of cities and towns. Historical artifacts are joined by photos, maps, paintings and other objects to tell Wisconsin’s story.

The museum may be best known for its “History Sandwiched In” noon lunch lecture series. Upcoming installments include discussions of Ole Evinrude, the Wisconsinite who invented the first outboard motor for boats (March 15), the lavish Lake Geneva mansion Black Point Estate (April 5), Wisconsin families during World War II (April 19), and Native American effigy mounds (May 3). Bring a bag lunch, sit back and experience history.

The Wisconsin Historical Museum at 30 N. Carroll St. is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on major holidays. Admission is free to Historical Society members; nonmembers are asked for an admission donation of $5 for adults and $3 for children. For more information, call 608-264-6555 or visit historicalmusuem.wisconsinhistory.org.


The Capitol rotunda is
The Capitol rotunda features “Resources of Wisconsin,” a mural by Edwin Blashfield, on its ceiling. Photo: Michael Muckian.

The final option is by far the largest and best known — and technically isn’t a “museum,” per se. But the Wisconsin State Capitol, in the center of Madison’s isthmus, offers plenty of history as well as an occasional chance to see history in the making.

The current Capitol building is the state’s third structure in that spot. The first Capitol, built in 1838, was replaced by a larger structure in 1863. When the 1904 fire destroyed that building, a third, even grander Capitol was built between 1906 and 1917 at a cost of $7.25 million.

Legend has that the current Capitol building was originally five inches taller than the national Capitol in Washington D.C., due to a statue of an eagle that graced the top of the dome. The eagle was subsequently replaced by Daniel Chester French’s shorter (but no less elegant) statue “Wisconsin” — not, as it’s often mistakenly called, “Miss Forward,” the name of a smaller statue on the Capitol grounds. The Athena-like bronze statue of a woman with a badger on her head reduces the building’s height to a nationally acceptable level below that of the national Capitol.

The State Capitol’s biggest draw is its monumental architecture, produced from 43 varieties of stone, and the series of murals located throughout the building. The Capitol dome, which peaks at 200 feet above the ground, is the country’s only granite dome. Artist Edwin Blashfield’s mural “Resources of Wisconsin” lavishly decorates the ceiling of the rotunda.

The murals continue through the state Supreme Court, Senate and Assembly chambers. The Governor’s Conference Room also boasts a decorated ceiling and historic portraiture.

History buffs may want to look for the small statute of Old Abe, the American bald eagle that accompanied the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment and served as mascot during more than 30 bloody Civil War battles. His likeness presides over the state Assembly Chamber.

Free tours of the State Capitol are offered on the hour 358 days per year. Report to the tour desk in the lobby of the Capitol a 2 E. Main St. or call 608-266-0382 for large group reservations. Self-guided tours also are allowed.

Wisconsin vets urge Ron Johnson to return campaign check

Wisconsin veterans are calling on U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to return a $5,400 campaign donation from a California corporate executive said to have manipulated national and international law to charge U.S. servicemembers exorbitant rates for phone calls to family.

Gregorio Galicot, president of BBG Communications Inc., racked up profits by “fleecing” U.S. troops and charging up to $400 to make a phone call to loved ones from overseas, according to the veterans in a letter to the senator.

His practices drew national headlines in 2012 and were widely condemned while a class action lawsuit was brought.

“It is an unacceptable and outrageous decision for you to accept thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from an individual whose wealth is built in part by fleecing American service members attempting to call their loved ones. It’s utterly disrespectful to those who serve our country,” the veterans wrote to Johnson, who is a Republican.

The letter is signed by retired U.S. Army Spc. Randy Bryce of Caledonia, retired U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Mike Balistriere of Wauwatosa, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Marriah Gatling of Milwaukee and retired U.S. Navy E-5 Tracy Sperko of Milwaukee.

The letter follows …

To: Senator Ron Johnson 
CC: Betsey Ankey, Campaign Manager, Ron Johnson for Senate 
Ron Johnson for Senate, Inc. 
2810 Crossroads Drive #3900 
Madison, Wisconsin 53718 

Senator Ron Johnson, 

On behalf of Wisconsin veterans, active military members, reservists, and National Guard members, we write to demand you return $5,400 in campaign contributions from Gregorio Galicot, President of BBG Communications Inc, who has manipulated national and international law to defraud American service members by charging exorbitant rates for phone calls to family members from overseas. 

It is an unacceptable and outrageous decision for you to accept thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from an individual whose wealth is built in part by fleecing American service members attempting to call their loved ones. It’s utterly disrespectful to those who serve our country: 

Two Companies Accused Of Fleecing U.S. Troops [Daily Beast, 3/6/12] 
Gregorio Galicot’s Company, BBG, Was Subject Of A Class Action Suit Alleging That It Charged Returning Soldiers More Than $40 For Calls Lasting Seconds [Daily Beast, 3/6/12] 
Army Staff Sgt. Eric Lamotte Was Charged $265 To Leave A Voicemail And $400 To Make A Call [San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/6/12] 
Specialist Reynald Matias Was Charged $51 For A Two-Minute Call [New York Times, 3/2/12] 
Sgt. Kyle Herman Was Charged $83.92 For Four Minutes [New York Times, 3/2/12] 

Furthering our concern, other members of the U.S. Senate condemned this company and its actions as early as 2012, leading us to believe you should be aware of this issue and have chosen to accept this money anyway. 

The right thing to do and the proper way to show respect for the American men and women who serve is to return this campaign contribution. 


Randy Bryce, U.S. Army, Spc4 (Ret.), Caledonia 
Mike Balistriere, U.S. Marine Corps, Lance Corporal (Ret.), Wauwatosa 
Marriah Gatling, U.S. Army, E-5 Sergeant (Ret.), Milwaukee 
Tracy Sperko, U.S. Navy, E-5 (Ret.), Milwaukee

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is underway | What to do, what not to do

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is underway. And Because children are the most vulnerable and easily injured, the American Veterinary Medical Association is focusing on teaching kids how to deal with dogs.

Of the 4.5 million people bitten every year by dogs, more than half are kids, said Dr. Jose Arce, an American Veterinary Medical Association board member. 

Bites kill about 16 people a year. However, specific numbers on dog bites are lacking because few people seek treatment. And no one tracks bites by breed.


_ Stare into a dog’s eyes.

_ Tease a dog.

_ Approach one that’s chained up or injured.

_ Touch a dog you don’t know that’s off a leash.

_ Run or scream if one charges.

_ Play with a dog while it’s eating.

_ Touch one while it’s sleeping.

_ Get close to one that’s nursing puppies.

_ Leave a small child alone with a dog, even if it’s the family pet.


_ Ask an owner before petting a dog you don’t know.

_ Let the dog sniff your closed fist before touching it.

_ Freeze if a dog runs toward you.

_ Socialize puppies so they are comfortable around people and other animals.

_ Use a leash in public.


When the mail arrives, place your pet in a closed room so it can’t go through a window or screen door to possibly attack the carrier. Tell children not to take mail from the carrier in front of the dog because the animal could see it as threatening. 

Also, teach children to treat dogs with respect and avoid rough or aggressive play.


The veterinary group made YouTube videos describing miscommunication between dogs and kids. A new short will be released each day through the week. One gap is that most pooches don’t like to be hugged. That helps explain why two-thirds of young victims get bites on the head or neck, according to the American Humane Association.


Bites and other dog-related injuries cost insurers $530 million last year, about a third of their paid claims, the Insurance Information Institute said. 

The number of dog-bite claims decreased 4.7 percent from 2013, but the average cost per claim rose by 15 percent because of higher medical costs and settlements. The average claim in 2014 was $32,072, up from $27,862.

Veterans for Peace: Withdraw Maryland National Guard from Baltimore

Veterans For Peace would like to extend our condolences to the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Black man who died in police custody from a fatal spinal cord injury. The loss of a child under any circumstance is tragic. However, losing a child to violence adds a deeper pain.

Veterans For Peace stands with the family and the people of Baltimore in their call for peace and non-violent change. As veterans who know war and the horror it brings, we know that violence only serves to cause more violence. Those who are most vulnerable are caught in the crossfire of violence, disrupting lives and destroying families. Violence is like a virus that escalates and spreads. It can easily spiral out of control into a dark morass of death. Knowing this, because we have participated in it, we call on all parties to take a step back and search for non-violent means to address the tensions in Baltimore and around the nation.

Veterans For Peace calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard. We are appalled to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment once again deployed in U.S. cities to control U.S. citizens who are in fact reacting to a long history of state sanctioned violence and appalling economic and social conditions. Conditions that give them little hope of providing for themselves and their families. We are highly concerned as we approach the 45th anniversary of Kent State this May 4th and Jackson State this May 15th, that we will see another example of nervous and fearful National Guard troops shoot and possibly kill people in the streets of this nation.

With our call for peace and as an organization waging peace, we must also seek justice. Those most responsible for the rebellions in Baltimore and Ferguson are not the disenfranchised and the victims of police violence. Those most responsible are the economic and political leaders who do not address the chronic economic and social instability of neighborhoods like that of Freddie Gray’s. One only has to drive through Baltimore neighborhoods like his to see and understand the frustration of residents. But the numbers also speak for themselves; unemployment 16-64 years old – 51.8%, population 25 and older with less than a high school diploma – 60.7 percent, vacant or abandon building – 33.1 percent and 9th-12th graders chronically absent from school – 49.3 percent.

Under these conditions there are few possibilities other than street violence and confrontations with police. The truth is that police are like soldiers, working class people who are manipulated and used by the same economic and political interests who gain the most from the neglect of these neighborhoods. Mirroring working class soldiers who are sent to foreign lands to impose U.S. ruling class interests on the poor of the world, the police are sent to control poor populations ere at home who have legitimate complaints and grievances, but have been ignored for decades.

In both cases, the police and soldiers’ sense of wanting to do the right thing and serve people and country are exploited for greed and profit. Two time Medal of Honor winner and highly respected Marine Corps General Smedley Butler said it best, “I served in all commissioned ranks from a second Lieutenant to a Major General. And during that time, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.” In cases like Ferguson and Baltimore, the police are tools for the same interests.

President Barack Obama and many others have called for the end to violence in response to police brutality. We agree, but we must also remind the President and others that today just as in 1968 as tated by Dr. King, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” Veterans For Peace can cannot be silent.

We call on our nation to hold police accountable for lawless violence against communities, and we call on the rich and powerful to end global wars, to end their indifference and pursuit of profit over humanity and to use the trillions devoted to Pentagon war spending to invest in human needs around the world. The quickest path to end violence is to provide a path to a bright future. Education, jobs and opportunity will lead to stable families and prosperity. If we continue to ignore the cries of the global poor and disenfranchised, we will continue to see violent reaction and the spread of organizations like ISIL. People rise up because they must, not because they want to. They have no choice. They will use whatever means is at their disposal.

Veterans For Peace will continue to use nonviolent means, including direct action and civil disobedience to push for the change we seek. We call on all peacemakers and justice seekers to join together to bring into fruition a system that places humanity and human needs over profit. That is what we need and what we must build if we want to end the violence sweeping the world.

Editor’s note: Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.