April 26, 2015

Settlement reached with family of ‘Baby Bou Bou’

Bounkham "Baby Bou Bou" Phonesavanh (WRN PHOTO)

Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh (WRN PHOTO)

A nearly one million dollar settlement has been reached between Habersham County, Georgia and the family of a toddler who was seriously injured in a law enforcement raid nearly a year ago. The little boy, Bounkham “Baby Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, and the rest of his family were staying with relatives in the town of Cornelia, Georgia, after their Janesville home was destroyed by fire. Deputies executing a no knock warrant tossed a flashbang grenade into the home, which landed in the child’s crib, resulting in disfiguring facial injuries.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the settlement was announced Tuesday evening by Habersham County Commission Chairwoman Andrea Harper. According to documents obtained by the newspaper, the settlement would include a structured payout of $964,000. An attorney for the Phonesavanh family, Mawuli Davis, said the case “continues to be litigated,” but declined to comment further.

The agreement would essentially direct any further legal action by the Phonesavanhs to claims against insurance policies held by the county. The settlement would prevent any suits against individuals or the county’s general fund.. The family has previously estimated the medical bills related to Bou Bou’s injuries would reach $1 million, the paper reported.

Walker not feeling pressure to announce presidential plans

Gov. Scott Walker addresses an NRA convention in Tennessee.

Gov. Scott Walker addresses an NRA convention in Tennessee.

Despite several Republicans announcing they are running for president in 2016, Governor Scott Walker says his attention remains on other priorities.

Even though several Republicans have already made their plans public, Walker says he’s not feeling any pressure to push up his decision. During a stop in Appleton this week, Walker said “I’m focused on the state budget. I won’t make any decision until after the budget is complete.”
That may not happen until the end of June.

While he’s not an announced candidate, the governor hs continued to travel the country to speak with conservatives. He said he’s been getting good feedback on his message during those trips and has found that “certainly people want leaders who both fight and win for hard-working taxpayers.”

The governor is on the road again this weekend, with several stops planned in Iowa.

Madison man pleads not guilty to trying to join terrorist group

Joshua R. Van Haften

Joshua R. Van Haften

A Madison man accused of trying to join the Islamic State has entered a not guilty plea.

Appearing in a US District Court in Madison Friday morning, 34-year-old Joshua Van Haften plead not guilty to a charge of attempting to provide material aid to the enemy. Prosecutors allege Van Haften traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to join the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, also known and ISIS or ISIL.

Van Haften was arrested earlier this month after he returned to the United States from Turkey, following a failed attempt to join the group in Syria. U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil asked that he be kept in custody while awaiting trial.

Van Haften faces up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted. He’s due back in court May 27.

Infant immunizations keep kids healthy

Measles virus (PHOTO CDC)

Measles virus (PHOTO CDC)

Despite the fact that concerns over the safety of vaccinations have been categorically disproven, some parents still won’t get their children vaccinated against common, preventable childhood diseases. That can have consequences, as illustrated by a measles outbreak this past winter.

Dan Hopfensperger, Director of the Wisconsin Immunization Program in the state Department of Health Services, said the Disneyland measles outbreak, which sickened 147 people as it spread to at least five states, showed the importance of getting children vaccinated on schedule and making sure booster shots are received.

“It spread pretty significantly, and a lot of people who contracted the disease weren’t immunized against measles because of either themselves or their parents having personal convictions or personal reasons for not immunizing,” Hopfensperger said. This is National Infant Immunization Week.

“It’s an opportunity for us to promote the use of vaccines to prevent some serious vaccine preventable diseases,” including measles,” Hopfensperger said. He added that parents who have questions about vaccine safety can get answers from their primary care physicians, local county health agencies, or the Centers for Disease Control website.

Bill would keep Wisconsin lawmakers from rolling over sick days

Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard)

Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard)

A Republican state lawmaker wants to eliminate a sick leave policy that greatly benefits members of the legislature.

The proposal, from state Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay), would keep lawmakers from being able to rollover unused sick time at the end of the year. Members get 10.5 days a year, which can be carried over until they retire. What’s left can be cashed out to help pay for medical benefits in retirement, and Steffen says some lawmakers have more than $100,000 in their accounts. Overall, the current 132 state senators and representative have built up $2.5 million in unused sick leave benefits.

The Green Bay Republican, who is a freshman this session, says members of the state legislature have very flexible schedules, so there’s no reason for them to have paid sick days. “It is not a situation where they will be able to use it or lose it,” he said. “They simply will not have sick leave days at the end of their current elective term.”

Steffen says his bill would not impact other state employees with similar benefits.