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Gazette file photo 

In this 2016 file photo, Logan Bennett tosses cooked pork chops into a bin while helping at the Rock County Pork Fest at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville.

Trump, North Korea's Kim come together for momentous summit


President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un came together for a momentous summit today that could determine historic peace or raise the specter of a growing nuclear threat, with Trump pledging that “working together we will get it taken care of.”

In a meeting that seemed unthinkable just months ago, the leaders met at a Singapore island resort, shaking hands warmly in front of a row of alternating U.S. and North Korean flags. They then moved into a roughly 40-minute one-on-one meeting, joined only by their interpreters, before including their advisers.

For all the upbeat talk, it remained to be seen what, if any, concrete results the sit-down would produce.

“We are going to have a great discussion and I think tremendous success. We will be tremendously successful,” Trump said before their private session.

Kim said through an interpreter: “It wasn’t easy for us to come here. There was a past that grabbed our ankles and wrong prejudices and practices that at times covered our eyes and ears. We overcame all that and we are here now.”

Aware that the eyes of the world were on a moment that many people never expected to ever see, Kim remarked that many of those watching “will think of this as a scene from a fantasy ... science fiction movie.”

In the run-up to the meeting, Trump had predicted the two men might strike a nuclear deal or forge a formal end to the Korean War in the course of a single meeting or over several days. But on the eve of the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Trump would depart Singapore tonight, raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back.

The meeting was the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Critics of the summit leapt at the handshake and the moonlight stroll Kim took Monday night along the Singapore waterfront, saying it was further evidence Trump was helping legitimize Kim on the world stage as an equal of the U.S. president. Kim has been accused of horrific rights abuses against his people. During his stroll, crowds yelled out Kim’s name and jostled to take pictures, and the North Korean leader posed for a selfie with Singapore officials.

Trump responded to that commentary Tuesday on Twitter, saying: “The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers.” But he added “our hostages” are back home and testing, research and launches have stopped.

Trump also tweeted: “Meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly ... but in the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!”

Addressing reporters on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to keep expectations in check, saying: “We are hopeful this summit will have set the conditions for future successful talks.”

The summit capped a dizzying few days of foreign policy activity for Trump, who shocked U.S. allies over the weekend by using a meeting in Canada of the Group of Seven industrialized economies to alienate America’s closest friends in the West. Lashing out over trade practices, Trump lobbed insults at his G-7 host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump left that summit early and, as he flew to Singapore, tweeted that he was yanking the U.S. out of the group’s traditional closing statement.

As for Singapore, the White House said Trump was leaving early because negotiations had moved “more quickly than expected” but gave no details. On the eve of the meeting, weeks of preparation appeared to pick up in pace, with U.S. and North Korean officials meeting throughout Monday at a Singapore hotel.

The president planned to stop in Guam and Hawaii on the way back to Washington.

Trump spoke only briefly in public Monday, forecasting a “nice” outcome. Kim spent the day mostly out of view—until he embarked on the late-night sightseeing tour of Singapore, including the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, billed as the world’s biggest glass greenhouse.

Less than a year ago, Trump was threatening “fire and fury” against Kim, who in turn scorned the American president as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” As it happens, the North Korean and the American share a tendency to act unpredictably on the world stage.

Beyond the impact on both leaders’ political fortunes, the summit could shape the fate of countless people—the citizens of impoverished North Korea, the tens of millions living in the shadow of the North’s nuclear threat, and millions more worldwide. Or it could amount to little more than a much-photographed handshake.

U.S. and North Korean officials huddled throughout Monday at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, outlining specific goals for what the leaders should try to accomplish and multiple scenarios for resolving key issues, a senior U.S official said, adding that the meetings were also an ice breaker of sorts, allowing the teams to get better acquainted after decades of minimal contact between their nations.

As Trump sought to build a bridge with Kim, he was smashing longtime alliances with Western allies with his abrasive performance at the G-7 and angry tweets directed at Trudeau and sent from aboard Air Force One as Trump flew from Quebec to Singapore.

Trump advisers cast his actions as a show of strength before the Kim meeting.

Alluding to the North’s concerns that giving up its nuclear weapons could surrender its primary deterrent to forced regime change, Pompeo told reporters the U.S. was prepared to take action to provide North Korea with “sufficient certainty” that denuclearization “is not something that ends badly for them.”

He would not say whether that included the possibility of withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula but said the context of the discussions was “radically different than ever before.”

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Jefferson Elementary students help children across the globe


Kindness from Jefferson Elementary School students traveled continents Monday.

Students presented donations of flip-flops, pencils, clothing, umbrellas, lip balm, first-aid kits and more to SizaBantwana, a nonprofit organization from South Africa.

Minky and Frank Mashego are the founders of SizaBantwana, an organization that helps nearly 800 children in South Africa gain access to food, water and other needs. After school, the kids walk to care centers, where volunteers with the organization feed them and give them areas to play and roam. Many are orphans. Volunteers also travel to the homes of the kids and give them care.

When Jefferson third-grade teacher Jen Schrab learned of the organization five years ago, she thought about her Janesville students. She and other faculty created a charity cart.

When students at the Janesville school do well on an assignment or do the right thing, they earn what school officials call Positive Paws. The paws are used as currency to buy things for themselves such as toys, or they can be donated to items for SizaBantwana.

Urta Gashi, 9, has donated her paws many times. She likes the idea of helping other kids like her.

“It’s really fun because we can use our paws for good,” she said.

Monday’s event included a surprise visit from members of the UW-Madison marching band.

“We always heard their messages, but now our relationship with them is stronger because we get to see them and spend time with them,” Gashi said.

Schrab said she didn’t know what to expect when launching the project in 2014. Fast forward to Monday afternoon, when the Mashegos stood in the Jefferson gymnasium with their own children, Wayne and Emmanuel, and all Schrab could do was smile.

The Jefferson students paid for the Mashegos’ trip to the United States by writing persuasive letters to teachers and other organizations in Janesville asking for their help. Schrab said it was important to allow the students to meet the Mashegos.

“We want to connect the people we are helping with the kids who are helping them,” she said.

Jefferson is considered a school of poverty—more than 70 percent of students at the school take part in the free and reduced lunch program. Despite this, Principal Kurt Krueger and Schrab said the kids are determined to help others worse off than them.

“We as humans are wired to help people, and that’s exactly what our kids do,” Krueger said.

Schrab said the project helps everybody involved.

“The charity cart allows the kids to be purveyors of hope for the other kids. It empowers them because they make that choice to help on their own, and they know what it feels like to give to others. That feeling doesn’t disappear,” she said.

Students at the event gave hugs and high-fives to the Mashego family and presented them with the gifts and fundraising products. The family will leave the United States in a few days, but Minky Mashego said the kindness from Wisconsin will be felt by hundreds of children nearly 9,000 miles away.

“They are encouraging and motivating,” she said of the Jefferson students. “They reach out to poor countries, and we are learning a lot from them about kindness. These kids are making a difference to other kids all the way across the world.”

Schrab and other teachers are already planning their next trip to visit SizaBantwana and the Mashego family next summer.

Janesville airport lands new restaurant after years without one


After years of being vacant, the restaurant space at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport soon will fly again.

This time, it’ll fly with fresh-baked biscuits, cinnamon rolls and other early-bird and lunch-hour specialties, the new restaurant tenant said.

Beloit restaurant group Geronimo Hospitality Group plans this summer to open Bessie’s Diner—a new, aviation-themed breakfast and lunch restaurant in 3,600 square feet inside the airport’s terminal, 1716 W. Airport Road, off Highway 51.

A buildout is underway to turn the space into a 1950s-themed diner with a “family-friendly” theme that celebrates classic diner food and the history of flight.

It’s named after Beloit native Bessica “Bessie” Raiche, who is credited with being the first woman to fly an airplane solo.

The Rock County-owned airport had a restaurant in its terminal from the 1960s until 2013, although its ownership and occupancy changed frequently in recent years. The restaurant space has been vacant since 2013.

The Great Recession and its lingering effects put a dent in airport traffic, but in the years since, the county has invested money into the terminal. In 2016, the county finished $3.2 million in renovations to the terminal, including $70,000 in work to ready the restaurant space in hopes of luring a new tenant.

Airport officials and a Geronimo executive said they hope the restaurant will boost visits by diners who are pilots and draw new local visitors.

Jeff Whiteman, Geronimo’s chief operating officer, said his hospitality group has had its eye on the airport for years. He said the company got serious about it when it developed an aviation concept wrapped around Bessie Raiche, who in 1910 made the first female solo flight of a biplane she’d built in her yard. Raiche had no flight experience and no training.

“The airport had a long history of having a restaurant or diner on the (terminal) property. It’s something we’ve heard for many years that people missed. The location is well-placed between Beloit and Janesville, and people flying in could fly in with the purpose of having a nice meal,” Whiteman said.

Greg Cullen, the airport’s manager, said traffic has plateaued over the last year, but he believes a new restaurant will boost leisure flights into the airport.

“We get calls literally every day,” he said. “People are asking, ‘When does it open? When does it open?’ It’s good news for people.”

Cullen said officials hope to open Bessie’s in time for the Janesville Warbird Weekend, a classic warplane fly-in and show planned for July 21-22 at the airport.

Geronimo is a subsidiary of Hendricks Commercial Properties, one of several companies owned by Beloit business mogul Diane Hendricks. It owns and operates several hotels and a growing list of restaurants, including Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar and Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint, both in downtown Beloit.

The Rock County Board agreed in February to a five-year lease deal with Geronimo. Under the agreement, Geronimo is required to pay the county a lease totaling 7 percent of its adjusted gross sales at Bessie’s. Geronimo will be charged rent only if Bessie’s sales total at least $800,000 a year.

Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said under the lease structure, the county doesn’t expect Geronimo to pay rent for the first year or two. He said the agreement is designed to give Bessie’s a chance to get established and pay down its custom buildout.

“We recognized that it would take a new restaurant some time to become established, attract a customer base and recoup its investment, and this structure allows them to have success before paying the county,” Smith said. “In the long run, the county does not benefit if we require too much up front and it causes a restaurant to close.”

Smith said even without an initial rent payout, the airport could benefit from increased fuel sales based on more people flying in to eat at Bessie’s.

Whiteman said Bessie’s will serve all-day breakfast and lunch, with specials such as a Monte Cristo sandwich—a ham, turkey and Swiss cheese melt fried between French toast slices and topped with powdered sugar.

According to Bessie’s web page, the restaurant will feature a specialty bloody mary bar.

“We’d offer classic breakfast dishes with some different twists on eggs Benedict items,” Whiteman said.

“Plus we’d make our own biscuits and cinnamon rolls. This is what you’d have expected to find with a diner 30, 40, 50 years ago.”

Evan Vucci 

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un during their first meeting today at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore.


Mary E. Bell

Betty Bollinger

Richard E. Giese

Barbara Mazeika

Gloria Jean Rosa

David W. Stuver

Eugene Wagie

Morry Gash 

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo hits a home run during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, June 11, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Family of suicide victim makes case for anti-bullying ordinance


The mother and aunt of a 12-year-old Janesville girl who recently committed suicide made impassioned pleas for an anti-bullying ordinance at Monday’s city council meeting.

Ellizabeth Jacobson’s death May 26 might not be Janesville’s first child suicide, but with the city’s help, hers could be the last, Jacobson’s mother, Rebecka Coughlin, said during the public comment period.

Her remarks left council President Doug Marklein and many in the audience teary-eyed as she gave details of her daughter’s trauma and death.

Whether the city enacts an anti-bullying ordinance is still uncertain. Monday’s agenda contained no discussion item on that topic.

Marklein said he has done a little research online about a possible ordinance, but he has yet to contact other Wisconsin cities with similar policies, such as Shawano and Monona.

Ashley Jacobson, Ellizabeth’s aunt, criticized Marklein during public comment for something he said in a June 3 email response to Angie Babcock, leader of local anti-bullying group Be a Rooney.

“Why does our own president city councilman insensitively refer to my niece’s suicide as ‘It’s not our first nor will it be our last?’” Jacobson said. “It’s heartbreaking that a man heading our city would refer to her and our other children as if they are disposable. Our children are not disposable, Mr. Marklein.”

Babcock shared that email exchange with The Gazette last week. She and several others outside the family also spoke for the ordinance Monday.

In the same email thread, Marklein called a city anti-bullying policy a “feel-good ordinance” and questioned if it could effectively prevent bullying.

Babcock’s original email contained no reference to potential punishment for bullies. She didn’t reply to Marklein’s response, so he couldn’t get more information about what the ordinance might look like, he told The Gazette last week.

Monday, Jacobson said the overdue and much-needed ordinance would work if it had specific penalties for bullies and their families, such as fines or community service. She brought a framed photo of her niece to the lectern.

If Janesville does decide to create an ordinance, it would realistically take two or three months to get enacted. It would take time to develop an effective policy, review its legality and gain necessary council approval, Marklein said.

That amount of time would be necessary to ensure it’s more than a feel-good resolution, he said.

“We need to look at what, if anything, can the city do that would meet the concerns that we heard here this evening,” he said after the meeting. “As a parent, I understand completely what they were going through. I don’t think anybody who had any kids or anybody even alive would not be moved by their stories. It was a very emotional evening.”

Earlier in the night, Coughlin described the moments when she found her daughter’s body and a note that read, “I love you Mom, and I just want you to be happy.”

Other students struggling with bullying or contemplating suicide have reached out to her on Facebook. Hearing their stories makes it clear Janesville needs to do something to address bad behavior, she said.

“No kid should be made to feel this way, and we need to change it,” Coughlin said. “Like my sister-in-law said, she might not be the first, but we’re hoping she’s the last.

“And if this is where it starts, this is where we have to do it.”


Douglas I. Marklein