Wis. recalls leave both GOP, Dems claiming victory

Posted Aug. 17, 2011, at 9:02 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. — Recall elections prompted by anger over lawmaker handling of a proposal to curb union rights let Wisconsin Democrats narrow the Republican majority in the state Senate, but not capture control, and left both sides claiming victory while looking ahead to 2012.

The recalls targeting six Republicans and three Democrats were the largest single attempt ever to oust sitting U.S. lawmakers, bringing together powerful national unions and conservative forces that turned Wisconsin into a microcosm of the battle over union rights and a testing ground for messaging in next year’s presidential race.

Republican senators who backed Walker’s plan to eliminate nearly all public employee collective bargaining rights found themselves defending their seats alongside Democrats targeted for fleeing the state in an ultimately futile attempt to block a vote on the law.

More than $40 million was estimated to have been spent on the recalls, an unprecedented amount on nine local races that would exceed the $37 million spent statewide last year on the race that put Walker in power.

Vermont governor presides over lesbians’ marriage

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Making good on a campaign promise, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin married a lesbian couple in a small ceremony in his office.

The first-term Democrat presided over the marriage Wednesday of 55-year-old Michele “Mitch” Beck and 56-year-old Ann Beck, of Royalton. Shumlin led the push to legalize same-sex weddings in Vermont as a state lawmaker in 2009.

Shumlin met the couple at a campaign event when he was running for governor last summer and told them he’d be happy to perform their wedding ceremony if he were elected.

He paid $100 to the Secretary of State’s office to be certified as a “temporary officiant,” donned a crisp navy suit and did the honors.

Bedbug infestations grow in some settings, survey finds

WASHINGTON — Just as students head back to college and families finish summer vacations comes the latest bad news from pest control companies: Bedbug infestations are getting worse and becoming more common in some places, including dorms, hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, office buildings, and schools and day-care centers.

According to a survey released Wednesday by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, pest control companies say there has been double-digit growth in infestations in the past year.

About 54 percent of pest companies reported treating bedbugs in college dorms, compared with 35 percent in 2010; 80 percent reported treating hotels, compared with 67 percent the year before, and 36 percent report treating schools and day-care settings for the bugs, more than triple the 10 percent in 2010.

A spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association said rapidly growing bedbug populations as well as heightened public awareness were the likely causes for the increases.

Rising hunger in south Ethiopia despite lush green

SHEBEDINO, Ethiopia — Malnourished children are flocking into feeding centers in this forested corner of southern Ethiopia after a drought in East Africa extended into this normally fertile region.

While the famine in southern Somalia has grabbed headlines, southern Ethiopia is teetering on the brink of a food crisis. The Ethiopian government says 250,000 people need food aid amid what the U.N. says is the worst drought in 60 years. An aid organization and agricultural officials say the number of people who need emergency food aid in Ethiopia is bigger, around 700,000.

The rains never came as they usually do late February to the end of May. If they fail again in August, there won’t be a harvest in September.

About 1.3 million southerners received aid earlier this year from a government safety net program that ended in June, World Food Program officer Yohannes Desta said. Most of those people, whom he calls the “poorest of the poor,” still require emergency relief, but instead must scrape by on the few crops they have left or through the goodwill of more fortunate family members or neighbors.

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