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Alex Brandon 

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Iran fires missiles at two bases housing US forces in Iraq


Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at two military bases used by U.S. forces in Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday night, as long-simmering tensions between Washington and Tehran erupted into fiery explosions and fears of all-out war after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general.

Eleven missiles hit the bases in western and northern Iraq and four failed in flight, according to a U.S. Defense official, who said there were no confirmed reports of U.S. casualties in the audacious predawn attack.

There was no immediate U.S. military response or statement from President Donald Trump after the barrage, although he tweeted that he would address the nation today. Aides said he had been briefed and was monitoring the crisis with his national security advisers.

The U.S. has many options for retaliation if Trump chooses to escalate the conflict further. But in the immediate aftermath of the strike, both Tehran and Washington appeared to signal a possible pause in the cycle of attack and retaliation in which they have been locked for the last several weeks.

“All is well!” Trump wrote on Twitter a few hours after the attack. “Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, sent his own tweet suggesting the missile strike could be the beginning and end of Iran’s retaliation for the U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday in Baghdad, an event that infuriated Iran and sparked fresh turmoil in the volatile region.

“Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting (the) base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched,” he said, referring to the sprawling Asad Air Base in western Iraq, which is a major base for U.S. drone attacks.

“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” he wrote.

Whether Zarif fully speaks for all factions of Iran’s government, however, is unclear. He has frequently been denounced by figures allied with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Trump’s advisers also have had divided counsel over Iran. At least some administration hard-liners have openly rooted for a wider confrontation, seeing that as an opportunity to severely damage, or perhaps overthrow, Iran’s theocratic government, and at least one informal adviser called Tuesday night for Trump to hit Iran hard.

“If we don’t react, we’re incentivizing more” Iranian misconduct, Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s favorite TV commentators, said on his Fox TV program Tuesday night.

Despite his often bellicose language, however, Trump has repeatedly said his administration does “not seek regime change” in Iran. In June, when Iran shot down a U.S. drone, Trump stopped a planned U.S. retaliatory strike, noting that no Americans had been killed.

The Iranian missile strikes apparently mark the first time Tehran has directly attacked U.S. positions and openly acknowledged doing so. U.S. officials have frequently accused Iran of being behind attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, but those assaults generally involved Iranian-backed militias, not Iranian security forces.

Ten missiles hit the Asad Air Base in Iraq’s Anbar province, which is used by U.S. and Iraqi troops. U.S. radar tracked the missiles in flight and as a result, personnel at the base had time to take cover before they struck, according to the Defense official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. The U.S. made no effort to intercept the missiles, the official said.

Another missile hit the Combined Joint Operations Center in Irbil, in northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region, where U.S. forces train Iraqi Kurdish fighters and run an air operations control center covering northern Iraq and parts of Syria.

The official said U.S. Central Command was aware of reports of Iraqi casualties in Irbil but that they were unconfirmed.

Both bases were on high alert as U.S. and coalition forces braced for Tehran’s reprisals for the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani, the charismatic general who led Iran’s efforts to expand its influence across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen with proxy forces.

Iranian state television called the missiles “harsh Iranian revenge” for Soleimani’s death and warned that if the United States launched a military retaliation, Tehran would escalate as well and the two longtime adversaries would face a wider war.

Iran announced the attack on state-run television, which showed video of what it said were “tens” of missile launches aimed at the bases. Roughly an hour later, state-run TV showed video of what it called a “second wave” of missiles being launched.

The first missiles were launched at 1:20 a.m. today, the Iranian broadcast said, noting that was the time that Soleimani “was martyred by the Americans” as he left Baghdad’s airport.

The Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, subsequently confirmed the attacks. “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran,” he said.

“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners and allies in the region,” he added.

At least some U.S. analysts said that if Iran did not launch a follow-up attack, it might not generate a military response from the U.S.

“If there are no U.S. casualties, and this is the extent of Iranian retaliation, then the U.S. does not need to escalate,” said Faysal Itani, deputy director of the Center for Global Policy, a Washington think tank that specializes in Muslim politics.

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation in Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that has advocated a hard line against Iran, tweeted Tuesday night asking if it was “plausible that this could be the extent” of Iran’s retaliation for Soleimani’s death.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “said he would attack (the) military directly. He seems to have done that,” Dubowitz wrote. If there are “no US casualties, is the smart play not to respond and wait to see what else they do?”

A representative of Khamenei tweeted the image of the Iranian flag after the missiles were launched. It echoed Trump’s tweet of the U.S. flag when Soleimani was killed.

James Carafano, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Americans still have an overwhelming military advantage, one that could dissuade the Iranians from trying to draw the U.S. into an even deeper conflict.

“The problem with escalating is, where does that go?” he asked.

If the U.S. unleashes its own missiles, possible targets could include the Iranian bases that launched the missiles and military command-and-control facilities.

In addition to fighters and bombers at bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. aircraft carrier, the Truman, is deployed in the Persian Gulf with two destroyers that are capable of firing Tomahawk missiles. The Air Force also has bomber planes based in the United States that could be used.

By any standard, the Iranian attack is a major escalation of a struggle between Iran and the U.S. that was conducted for years in the shadows, or via proxy forces, but that quickly spiraled out of control after Trump authorized the killing of Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful military commanders.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina Haspel are scheduled to brief members of Congress behind closed-doors on Wednesday about the Soleimani killing, but they undoubtedly will be asked about Iran’s missile attacks.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee called a hearing on Iran for Jan. 14 and asked Pompeo to testify.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was notified of the attacks in a note handed to her during a meeting of House Democratic leaders, according to Democrats in the room.

“She told us it had happened and (added:) ‘We’re all praying,’ ” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who was in the meeting.

The attack overshadowed, at least for the moment, Trump’s pending impeachment trial in the Senate. It also added a new challenge for Democrats battling for attention and votes in the presidential primaries that start next month.

“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable,” former Vice President Joe Biden said at a campaign event in Philadelphia when news of the attack broke. “Not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the drone strike that killed Soleimani.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a frequent critic of U.S. military intervention, voiced concerns that the violence was spiraling.

“I am praying for the safety of our troops in Iraq tonight,” he tweeted. “We need to stop the escalation before it leads to another endless war in the Middle East.”

Earlier, Trump shifted his justification for authorizing the killing of Soleimani as the top U.S. national security official belatedly provided classified briefings to congressional leaders about the administration’s claim that he had been planning an imminent attack on Americans.

Trump and his aides previously had insisted that Friday’s deadly drone strike was intended to stop the Quds Force commander from killing “hundreds” of Americans.

But his death in Baghdad instead saw Iranian leaders vow to “set ablaze” scores of Western targets, prompted ally Iraq’s threat to expel U.S. military forces and pushed the Pentagon to beef up U.S. troops and bolster defenses in the region.

With tensions rising, and unable to convincingly argue that Americans were safer, Trump and his aides instead pointed to Soleimani’s role supplying insurgents who killed hundreds of U.S. troops during the Iraq war.

“It was retaliation,” Trump said Tuesday.

The change in emphasis fueled growing concerns about the administration’s still-murky strategy for dealing with Iran. It also underscored the unique challenge for a president who has uttered thousands of falsehoods since taking office as he and his aides sought to reassure Americans they can navigate a major foreign policy crisis, largely of their own making, before it spirals into all-out war.

“I don’t think any American president can simply say to the world, ‘Trust me,’ ” said Richard Haass, president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. “Trump has the added problem of his own record with the truth.”

“If you’re trying to justify something that could ultimately take you to war, you better damn well do that as quickly and directly as you can,” said Leon E. Panetta, who served as secretary of Defense and CIA director under President Barack Obama. “The last thing that you need is to have an American public that questions why the hell we’re going to war.”

For the second day in a row, senior U.S. officials were forced to walk back Trump’s threats to bomb Iranian cultural sites, a potential war crime, if Iran launches retaliatory attacks. As criticism poured in, Trump appeared to back down, saying for the first time that he would not deliberately target Iran’s antiquities.

“If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” he said.

In Baghdad, Iraq’s government demanded clarification over whether the approximately 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq were making plans to pull out after receiving a letter—twice—from a U.S. commander that the Pentagon said was sent in error.

Iraqi officials said the letter was delivered around 8 p.m., but the Arabic translation did not match the English-language version. Iraqi officials pointed out the discrepancy and later received a correct translation via official channels.

“It wasn’t a matter of a paper falling from a photocopier or something that came by accident,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a speech Tuesday, adding that the Pentagon’s subsequent claims that the letter was a draft had bewildered the Iraqis.

“OK, this is a draft,” he said. “But we got it. So how should we behave?”

Abdul Mahdi urged Trump to withdraw U.S. troops, but Esper—holding his second news conference in two days—repeated his assertion that no pullout was underway or had been ordered.

“A draft, unsigned letter does not constitute a policy change,” Esper said. “And there is no signed letter, to the best of my knowledge. I’ve asked the question.”

Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, provided classified briefings Tuesday to the leaders of the House and Senate, and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence committees on the evidence available before last week’s drone strike. Normally the so-called Gang of Eight is informed before such a sensitive military operation takes place.

At the State Department, Pompeo told reporters that Soleimani had posed an “imminent threat” to Americans. But he declined to provide evidence of the threat, instead blaming the veteran commander for a “terror campaign” as he oversaw Iranian military and proxy-force operations across the Middle East.

He dismissed Iraq’s claim that Soleimani had flown into Baghdad for talks aimed at easing tensions with Saudi Arabia, its chief regional rival, as part of an initiative to ease tensions. “Anyone here believe that?” Pompeo said.

Teen sentenced for having video of 14-year-old girl engaged in sex act on his phone


Many high school students have sex. A few take nude photos or film intimate acts and share them on social media.

A 17-year-old high school student did both and was sentenced for it in Rock County Court on Tuesday.

Davonte McAlister, 2555 W. Deer Path Trail, Janesville, had just turned 17 when the incident took place Feb. 25. He was an Evansville High School student at the time.

“The use of cellphones by people who record things that they really shouldn’t is exploding, and it’s mind-boggling, frankly, especially by high school students who don’t seem to think beyond the end of their nose,” Assistant District Attorney Rich Sullivan said.

Defense attorney Jack Hoag said the sharing of intimate images of classmates happens in every school he knows of through his high school coaching.

“It is amazing … the power we put into the hands of people whose brains are not fully formed,” Sullivan said.

“We are carrying around computers in our pockets that are more capable than what was used to put men on the moon, and then we expect children to act like adults with those phones,” Sullivan said.

McAlister pleaded guilty to felony possession of child pornography for making the video of himself and a 14-year-old girl in a sex act.

He also pleaded no contest to fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct.

The prosecutor and defense attorney asked that McAlister, a good student with no criminal record, be given a break: He would not be sentenced on the felony charge, and he would serve two years of probation, to include 30 days in jail, for the two misdemeanors.

If he violates the rules of probation, he could be sentenced to prison on the child porn charge for a maximum of 3½ years. If not, attorneys will petition for the felony charge to be vacated.

Sullivan said McAlister had recorded similar liaisons with others.

One of those “young women” knew McAlister’s Snapchat password and was trying to remove a video of herself when she saw the video of the 14-year-old. That’s how others learned of it, leading to the girl’s public humiliation, Sullivan said.

McAlister used his status as an athlete to persuade the girl to go along, Sullivan said.

The girl was “vulnerable, anxious, looking for acceptance and has a strong desire to be popular,” her mother wrote to the court.

She was humiliated at school, leading to anxiety attacks, loss of school days, angry outbursts at home, plummeting grades and therapy, the mother wrote.

Hoag said young people are exposed to sexualized media on TV and online every day at a time in their lives when they lack decision-making abilities.

McAlister went to live with Gretchen Anderson and her family after the incident. She wrote to the court that McAlister has been a model of good behavior and that she has “no qualms” about him being around her two teen daughters.

Anderson said she has talked to McAlister about his mistakes and believes he has learned from them.

McAlister read a statement of apology for the pain he caused to the victim, her family and his family.

“I have talked a lot about why it was wrong and have learned a lot about respect, responsibility and accountability,” he said.

McAlister is now a student at Milton High School, where he is well behaved, Hoag said.

Hoag described McAlister as an excellent basketball and football player last school year who cannot participate in interscholastic athletics as he completes his senior year because of a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association rule. He still hopes to play sports in college, Hoag said.

Hoag suggested the victim bore some responsibility for what happened, saying the situation was “complicated.”

“I don’t care if she was 100% involved in wanting to do this,” Judge John Wood said to McAlister. “That does not excuse your conduct one bit.” The judge added he didn’t want anyone in the courtroom to think the victim deserved what happened to her.

The victims of pornography are re-victimized every time someone downloads the image for the rest of their lives, Wood said.

The judge said his gut told him McAlister should get more punishment, but he decided to go along with the plea agreement, in large part because McAlister had positive things in his background.

“I hope and pray that this is just one horrifically bad decision in your life and it doesn’t get repeated,” Wood said.

Wood allowed McAlister to leave jail to go to school or work and to apply to the sheriff for the chance to serve his time at home with a monitoring bracelet.

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Five vie for three seats on Janesville City Council


Two newcomers will challenge three incumbents for three seats on the Janesville City Council in April, based on nomination papers filed by Tuesday’s deadline.

Newcomers Susan Johnson and William Beil are not Janesville natives, but both say they admire the city and hope to bring fresh perspectives to the council.

Incumbents Richard Gruber, Paul Williams and Paul Benson are running for re-election.

The city will not schedule a primary election because the council race does not have more than twice the number of candidates as seats available, said Dave Godek, city clerk-treasurer.

Gruber was appointed to the council in 2015. Williams served on the council from 2000 to 2008 and returned in 2016. Benson was appointed this year to replace former council member Jens Jorgensen.

All three incumbents said they are running again in hopes of working on ongoing issues and seeing projects come to fruition.

They agreed they want to see changes in state-shared revenue because the current formula is unfair to Janesville.

Gruber, 66, said the city has made progress during his five years on the council by improving infrastructure, bumping up road repairs, increasing economic development and investing in water and wastewater improvements.

He said balancing the budget will continue to be a priority for him.

Williams, 68, said he wants to be in office to see the former General Motors plant site redeveloped, the downtown re-energized and the Monterey lagoon restored.

Affordable housing and homelessness are ongoing issues Williams wants the council to continue addressing.

Benson, 34, considers the city’s proposed indoor sports complex a high priority.

He also wants the council to look at property assessments. He said he has heard from residents who are upset that last year’s citywide revaluation shifted the property tax burden from commercial to residential properties.

“My wife and I have two young kids, and I think it’s important to give young families a voice on the council,” Benson said.

Johnson, 65, has lived in Janesville for 15 years. She grew up in Kenosha and said she is proud that she comes from a “former car town.”

Since she retired from teaching in Kenosha, Johnson has served on the Sustainable Janesville Committee and has encouraged the city to join the state Department of Natural Resources’ Green Tier Legacy Communities network, which promotes sustainable practices.

If elected, Johnson said she wants to address the housing shortage and encourage the creation of family-supporting jobs.

“I feel like it (Janesville) is home and I can contribute in a way I could not when I was working because I am able to focus on our community and really work hard to do what we need for the future,” Johnson said.

Beil, 67, moved to Janesville five years ago to be closer to family. Before moving here, he was an environmental manager for Abbyland Foods in Abbotsford and will retire once the company fills his position.

Before that, Beil worked for the city of Abbotsford as the director of public works and later the city administrator.

He wants to use his experience to promote economic development and improve the welfare of residents, he said.

Beil loves living on the city’s south side. He said his neighborhood is nice and quiet but would be greatly improved by a grocery store.

If elected, he said he would work for the entire city while providing a voice for the south side.

City council members serve at large rather than representing districts or wards.

Some officials and residents oppose that system, and two former council members pushed unsuccessfully in 2017 to change it.

Critics contend an at-large system does not represent the entire community and leaves decisions in the hands of a homogeneous group. No sitting council members live on the south or west sides of the city.

Gruber said Monday he likes the city’s at-large system.

“I do my darnedest to make sure every corner of the city is represented,” he said.

The election is April 7. The city will draw names for ballot placement at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

To register to vote, visit myvote.wi.gov. Voters can register the day of the election with a state ID or driver’s license and proof of residence.

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 8, 2020

Ralph W. Carlson

Marlene Jeanette Faivre

William “Bill” Flynn

Clayton M. Foss

Verna J. Hulick

Roger Allen Johnson

Richard “Dick” Koller

Arlene A. Lamb

Margaret Ann “Peggy” Lawrence

Jeffrey E. Nelson

Lorraine Elizabeth Robertson

Lori Ann Turner

Mary E. Utzig

Anthony Wahl 

Evansville’s Trey Louis tries a difficult reverse layup during their away game against Edgerton on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Edgerton held off Evansville 51-48 for the win.