Thumbs up/down for Monday, Aug. 21

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Thumbs down to Paul Nehlen. He believes in fake news, “pizzagate” in particular. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s challenger admitted he thinks “it is real” during a question-and-answer session with voters on Reddit this month. The conspiracy alleges Democrats harbor sex slaves at a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C., and it gained traction leading up to the November election. It’s fake news at its worst—propaganda created explicitly to hurt a political party. Not that Nehlen’s campaign had a lot of credibility to start, but he flushed away what’s left by advancing this unfounded allegation. Rock County voters are thinking and talking about many issues, including health care and trade policies, but “pizzagate” is not one of them. A serious candidate wouldn’t latch onto such nonsense.

Thumbs up to Fred the police dog. Officers sent the dog into a bar on Center Avenue last week to find a burglar, and the dog grabbed a mouthful. He found a woman hiding within a pile of bags of empty cans and latched onto her right forearm until ordered to let go, according to the officer who oversees the department’s K-9 program. Police sent in Fred after repeatedly ordering the 25-year-old woman to come out of the bar. She didn’t listen. Not knowing whether she was armed, police directed Fred to find her. He did exactly what he’s trained to do and deserves a big treat for his efforts. Police say the woman is connected to several burglaries, and this particular arrest is further evidence of the value of police dogs. They help solve crimes and protect police officers—and all without complaint.

Thumbs down to Indianford Dam dispute. The allegation sounds like a parody on small-town politics: A Rock Koshkonong Lake District resident, George Wellenkotter, is accusing the district’s chairman of allowing the dam’s wicket gates to become clogged with debris as part of a scheme to elevate the lake’s water levels. In countering the accusation, Chairman Brian Christianson invited Wellenkotter to inspect the gates for himself. “We will hand Mr. Wellenkotter a rake and ask him to find the blockage he claims exists,” Christianson wrote in an email. A waterproof camera was used to examine the gates, but both sides still disagree on what’s causing the lake’s unusually high levels. And so the Indianford Dam mystery deepens. Maybe it’s time to put Scooby-Doo on the case (no offense to Fred).

Thumbs up to no youth suicides. The statistics could prove to be an anomaly, but a report showing no youth suicides last year in Rock County is a hopeful sign amid a nationwide surge in the youth suicide rate. The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest in 40 years, doubling from 2007 to 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For boys, the rate increased by 30 percent. Experts say many factors are contributing to the spike, while smartphones are increasingly getting more blame. An article in The Atlantic this month, “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?”, argues the devices are breeding dysfunctional lifestyles, causing teens to isolate themselves and obsess over social media posts. While Rock County didn’t experience any youth suicides last year, that doesn’t mean local teens are leading healthy, well-balanced lives. Parents must stay vigilant and monitor for signs of their child’s phone use contributing to mental-health problems.

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