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Doug Mell photo  

This sign serves as the gateway to the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site in Atlanta.

Central Press/Getty Images/Tribune News Service  

The life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. is commemorated each year on the third Monday of January.

Women in rural Wisconsin lack access to maternity care

MADISON (AP) — Women in rural Wisconsin often have to travel long distances to access maternity care.

Twenty of Wisconsin’s 72 counties don’t have an OB-GYN, according to the American Medical Association. For some women, that means driving more than an hour to reach a hospital, while a few have even given birth in their cars.

Beth Miller lives in the small northwestern town of Trego, a 45-minute drive from the closest hospital that delivers babies. Miller told Wisconsin Public Radio that she didn’t think she would make it to the hospital in Barron in time when she went into labor in February.

Miller gave birth to her son, Eli, just 10 minutes after arriving at the hospital.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “I thought at multiple points that I was going to deliver my baby in my car.”

For Miller, it’s not an unrealistic concern. She knows of several mothers who haven’t reached the hospital in time for delivery, as well as some who drive more than an hour to appointments, she said.

“These are women who lots of times are the primary caregiver for the family,” said Melissa Weise, the Mayo Clinic’s only certified midwife in Barron who also helped deliver Miller’s son. “Sometimes that means finding child care, taking a day off work, things like that just to get into your clinic appointments.”

Wisconsin’s shortage of obstetric services isn’t unique. The U.S. will have between 6,000 and 8,000 fewer OB-GYNs than needed by 2020, according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates.

Less than one-half of rural American women live within a 30-minute drive of a hospital that offers maternity services, according to the national association of physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.

President Donald Trump recently signed a bipartisan bill in response to the issue, placing trained obstetricians, gynecologists and maternity care nurses in underserved areas. The legislation also adds maternity care to the types of health care measured for gaps in care.

Bounties considered to CWD-infected deer

MADISON (AP) — The Wisconsin Conservation Congress plans to ask outdoor lovers this spring whether state wildlife officials should again offer bounties for deer infected with chronic wasting disease to get a better read on the disease’s prevalence and control its spread.

The congress, a citizen group that advises the state Department of Natural Resources, plans to put the question to attendees at its statewide spring hearings April 8. It’s advisory only but could influence how new Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled Legislature approaches the issue. Evers has not said whether he supports returning to bounties, which were offered from 2003 to 2005.

“It’s time we tried this again,” said Mike Foy, a retired DNR wildlife director who is spearheading the incentive program along with retired DNR Wildlife Director Tom Hauge. “I do think people have realized this is not going away on its own and we need to do something more significant.”

The DNR ran a similar reward program under Hauge in 2003 through 2005, although the payouts were hundreds of dollars less than the current proposal. The agency paid out about $645,000 total those three seasons, according to state auditors. Hunters and outdoor interest groups told the auditors that monetary rewards probably don’t increase the likelihood of more deer being shot, and 40 percent of respondents to a 2003 DNR landowner survey were opposed to any monetary incentives for killing deer. Some hunters said the program was akin to unethical bounty hunting.

Foy said he prefers the word “reward” to “bounty” and the incentives were too low the first time around. He said society has come to realize how serious CWD is over the last 16 years.

The question this year asks if people would support a DNR pilot program dubbed Payment4Positives that would pay hunters and the landowners who let them onto their property for every CWD-positive deer that hunters kill. A smaller payout would go to businesses with sampling stations to encourage more turn-in sites.

The DNR would generate maps showing areas with high infection rates to help hunters target their efforts. Hunter and landowner payouts could range from $750 per deer to $1,250 per deer. Businesses that open sampling drop-off sites would get $300.

Funding would come through the state budget.

Republican Tom Tiffany, chairman of the state Senate’s sporting heritage committee and a member of the Legislature’s powerful budget committee, didn’t immediately return an email message seeking comment. Republican state Rep. Rob Stafsholt, chairman of the Assembly’s sporting heritage committee, also didn’t immediately return an email message.

The program’s cost would depend on reward levels but it could run from $900,000 to $1.4 million in its first year, according to a summary on the congress ballot. The question states the money would come from taxes generated through the deer hunting economy.

CWD was discovered in Wisconsin in 2002 near Mount Horeb, creating shock waves in a state known for deer hunting. The DNR initially encouraged hunters to kill as many deer as possible to thin the herd and slow transmission.

Hunters balked at that plan and the DNR abandoned it. During the last 16 years the infection rate among bucks has risen from about 10 percent to nearly 35 percent, according to the DNR.

Wary of angering hunters, former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration took a largely hands-off approach to CWD, choosing to monitor its spread rather than undertake any major initiatives to curtail it. Evers hasn’t announced his approach.

Mike Samuel, a UW-Madison emeritus wildlife professor who has studied CWD since 2002, said the program could work in areas with new outbreaks but wouldn’t be effective in southern Wisconsin where the disease prevalence is highest. Hunters would have to kill an overwhelming proportion of the herd to make any difference there and they already rejected that approach in the early 2000s, he said.

“People don’t want you to kill that many deer,” he said. “The only difference (since the early 2000s) is we’re offering to buy people out of that social pushback.”

Conservation Congress Chairman Larry Bonde said the congress’ deer and elk committee initially rejected Foy’s and Hauge’s request to place the question on the spring hearing ballot. But he said Evers’ transition team contacted him and asked the congress to reconsider because they want to gauge public reaction. The congress’ district leadership council agreed earlier this month.

Bonde thinks the idea will fail.

“I think it’s an awfully big price tag that’s going to scare the hell out of people,” Bonde said. “What if they want to implement it on a large scale? Where the hell does all that money come from? What we’ve got to do is some social science surveying and figuring out, do people just not care about CWD? Is an incentive going to do anything?”

At 30-day mark, shutdown logjam remains over border funding

WASHINGTON — Thirty days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse Sunday than when it began, with President Donald Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he’d billed as a compromise.

Trump had offered the previous day to temporarily extend protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall. But Democrats said the three-year proposal didn’t go nearly far enough.

On Sunday, Trump branded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “radical” and said she was acting “irrationally.” The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservatives accused him of embracing “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,” Trump tweeted, noting that he’d offered temporary, three-year extensions — not permanent relief. But he added: “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.”

The criticism from both sides underscored Trump’s boxed in-position as he tries to win at least some Democratic buy-in without alienating his base.

With hundreds of thousands of federal workers set to face another federal pay period without paychecks, the issue passed to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring Trump’s proposal to the floor this week.

Democrats say there’s little chance the measure will reach the 60-vote threshold usually required to advance legislation in the Senate. Republicans have a 53-47 majority, which means they need at least some Democrats to vote in favor.

McConnell has long tried to avoid votes on legislation that is unlikely to become law. And the Kentucky Republican has said for weeks that he has no interest in “show votes” aimed only at forcing members to take sides after Trump rejected the Senate’s earlier bipartisan bill to avert the shutdown.

What’s unclear is how McConnell will bring Trump’s plan forward — or when voting will begin. The Republican leader is a well-known architect of complicated legislative maneuvers. One question is whether he would allow a broader immigration debate with amendments to Trump’s plan on the Senate floor.

McConnell spokesman David Popp said Sunday, “When we have (a plan) we will be sure to let everyone know.”

One key Republican, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, said he and other lawmakers had been encouraging the White House to put an offer on the table — any offer — to get both sides talking.

“Get something out there the president can say, ‘I can support this,’ and it has elements from both sides, put it on the table, then open it up for debate,” Lankford said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The vote this week in the Senate is not to pass the bill; it is to open up and say ‘Can we debate this? Can we amend it? Can we make changes?’” Lankford said. “Let’s find a way to be able to get the government open because there are elements in this that are clearly elements that have been supported by Democrats strongly in the past.”

“The president really wants to come to an agreement here. He has put offers on the table,” said Rep Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ‘’The responsible thing for the Democrats to do is put a counteroffer on the table if you don’t like this one.”

Vice President Mike Pence said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump had “set the table for a deal that will address the crisis on our border, secure our border and give us a pathway” to reopen the government.

Democrats, however, continue to say they will not negotiate with Trump until he ends the shutdown, the longest in American history.

“The starting point of this negotiation ought to be reopening the government,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told NBC. “We cannot reward the kind of behavior of hostage taking. Because if the president can arbitrarily shut down the government now, he will do it time and again.”

As news media reported the outline of Trump’s proposal ahead of his Saturday speech, Pelosi and other Democrats made clear the president’s plan was a nonstarter — a quick reaction Trump took issue with Sunday.

“Nancy Pelosi and some of the Democrats turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak. They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020,” he said in first of a flurry of morning tweets.

Trump also lashed out at Pelosi personally — something he had refrained from early on — and accused her, without evidence, of having “behaved so irrationally” and moving “so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat.”

He also appeared to threaten to target millions of people living in the country illegally if he doesn’t eventually get his way, writing that “there will be no big push to remove the 11,000,000 plus people who are here illegally-but be careful Nancy!”

Pelosi responded with a tweet of her own, urging Trump to “Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also dug in during an appearance in New York, where he predicted Democrats would block the president’s proposal from passing the Senate.

“If he opens the government, we’ll discuss whatever he offers, but hostage taking should not work,” Schumer said as he pushed legislation that would protect government workers who can’t pay their bills because of the government shutdown. “It’s very hard to negotiate when a gun is held to your head.”

Eau Claire remembers MLK

A Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance event will begin at 6 tonight at St. James the Greater Catholic Church, 2502 11th St.

Students and faculty from area elementary, middle and high schools, along with UW-Eau Claire students and community members, will participate in the remembrance ceremony. Also participating in the ceremony are faculty members from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and Chippewa Valley Technical College, and representatives of business, government and education in Eau Claire.

State representatives Warren Petryk, R-town of Pleasant Valley, and Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, along with UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt, will be among the featured speakers.

The ceremony will include readings from several of King’s works, including his “Give Us the Ballot” speech, and music and multimedia presentations of the history of the civil rights movement. The Chippewa Valley Youth Chorus, the Eau Claire CollECtive Choir and soloist Keith Johnathan will perform.