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Kavanaugh says he 'might have been too emotional' at hearing

WASHINGTON

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged Thursday he “might have been too emotional” when testifying about sexual misconduct allegations as he made a bid to win over wavering GOP senators on the eve of a crucial vote to advance his confirmation.

The 53-year-old judge said in an op-ed that he knows his “tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said” during testimony last week to the Judiciary Committee. He forcefully denied the allegations.

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

Kavanaugh’s column appeared aimed at winning over the three GOP senators who remain undecided. He got an additional boost late Thursday from President Donald Trump, who praised his nominee’s “incredible intellect” and scoffed at detractors during a campaign rally in Minnesota.

Trump said the protesters and “their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level nobody has ever seen before.” He was referring to polling that shows some improvement for Republicans heading into the midterm election.

Earlier Thursday, a pair of undeclared Republican senators accepted a confidential new FBI report into sex-abuse allegations against Kavanaugh as “thorough,” bolstering GOP hopes for confirmation as the Senate plunged toward showdown votes.

One of the senators hinted he was open to supporting Kavanaugh as party leaders set a pivotal preliminary vote for 10:30 a.m. today. If that succeeds, a final roll call was expected Saturday as the long, emotional battle over the conservative jurist drew toward its climax.

Six days after Trump reluctantly ordered the FBI to scrutinize the accusations— which allegedly occurred in the 1980s and Kavanaugh has denied—leading GOP lawmakers briefed on the agency’s confidential document all reached the same conclusion: There was no verification of the women’s past claims and nothing new.

Democrats complained that the investigation was shoddy, omitting interviews with numerous potential witnesses, and accused the White House of limiting the FBI’s leeway. Those not interviewed in the reopened background investigation included Kavanaugh himself and Christine Blasey Ford, who ignited the furor by alleging Kavanaugh had molested her in a locked room at a 1982 high school gathering.

A week after a televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which Kavanaugh and Ford transfixed the nation, the Capitol campus remained a stew of tension as the election-season cliff-hanger neared its conclusion. A hefty police presence added an air of anxiety, as did thousands of noisy anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators who gathered outside the Supreme Court and in Senate office buildings. U.S. Capitol Police said 302 were arrested—among them comedian Amy Schumer, a distant relative of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“What we know for sure is the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters about the document, which was sent to Congress overnight. On the Senate floor, he witheringly called the accusations “uncorroborated mud.”

Democrats also objected to a statement by committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who said the investigation “found no hint of misconduct.” The Judiciary panel’s 10 Democrats said in a statement that based on their briefing and study of the document, “That is not true.”

Grassley also said the FBI could not “locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations,” and he said there is “no contemporaneous evidence.”

Neither side specified what they were referring to. Under rules Congress and the White House have used for years, FBI background checks are considered confidential, and lawmakers and aides are not supposed to reveal details.

White House spokesman Raj Shah rebuffed Democrats’ complaints, saying, “What critics want is a never-ending fishing expedition into high school drinking.” He said the FBI reached out to 10 people and interviewed nine, including “several individuals at the request of the Senate, and had a series of follow-up interviews ... following certain leads.”

Senators said the documents they examined totaled about 50 pages. Some said there were notes on interviews with nine people, though others said 10.

Trump, who Tuesday scornfully mocked Ford’s Judiciary panel testimony, tweeted that Kavanaugh’s “great life cannot be ruined by mean” and “despicable Democrats and totally uncorroborated allegations!”


Agriculture
top story
Rain could delay crop harvest by several weeks

JANESVILLE

The local corn and soybean harvest appears headed for yet another year of productive yields—if only farmers can get their crops out of the ground.

A late-summer deluge has made fields too wet for heavy combines. It could push the final harvest into late November or early December, delaying completion by several weeks, said Nick Baker, UW Extension’s Rock County agriculture agent.

Normal rainfalls this time of year usually mean fields need a day or two to dry sufficiently. But the ground is so saturated in some places, fields might need three or four dry days after a moderate storm before a farmer can fire up the machinery, Baker said.

Low-lying areas might have to wait until the ground freezes.

“It keeps raining. Right now, people are kind of struggling. We’re seeing some water pockets pop up in fields,” he said. “There’s going to be acres we can’t get in to harvest because it’s just too wet. The yields should be good, but harvestability is going to be tricky.”

Gazette weather records show that, since May, Janesville has seen higher-than-average rainfall every month except for July. And as summer wound down, the rains became even steadier.

August’s 8.1-inch rain total more than doubled the 4-inch average. September was an even bigger anomaly, with more than 13 inches of rain in a month that averages about 3 inches.

And in just the first few days of this month, Janesville is already approaching October’s average of 2.7 inches.

Thursday was a rare dry day, the first in nearly a week. But Accuweather predicts rain throughout the weekend and possibly into early next week.

Early October is typically the end of soybean season, and the corn season ends shortly after that. But a new disease this year caused some corn plants to die early, affecting the stalks’ ability to stand upright, Baker said.

If high winds or a severe storm passed through the area, those crops might be flattened, and that would prevent them from being harvested.

To reduce potential storm damage, it would be better for farmers to get that corn out as soon as possible. But rain has gotten in the way, Baker said.

Rain might have caused that disease, too. It’s a condition that usually thrives in cool, wet conditions, he said.

A tighter harvest window could cause commotion at local grain elevators. Farmers want to get their grains to market as early as they can so they don’t have to battle snow and shortened days.

But if every farmer drops off backlogged harvests at the same time, the elevators could fill up and close early. Then some will have to wait another day until the elevators can clear space, Baker said.

John Reilly, a local custom farmer who harvests other people’s crops and his own, is trying not to let the rain affect him too much. Rain is part of the season, he said, and he must adjust accordingly.

He wasn’t sure if his harvest was significantly delayed, but he said he faced plenty of different conditions among his fields. Some have received more rain than others.

As for when he’ll be finished, that will all depend on the weather.

“You just watch the forecast like anybody else would,” Reilly said. “That’s what I do anyway.”


Education
Data points: School districts react to test scores

JANESVILLE

Results for the Wisconsin Forward Exam show some smaller Rock County school districts outscored their larger counterparts.

In the Janesville School District, scores went down in 11 of 17 grade level/subject categories, according to a Gazette analysis of data released this week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The tests cover English/language arts and math for third through eighth grades.

In addition, fourth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students were tested in science and social studies.

Students are given one of four rankings: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced.

Critics of testing say it’s not fair to make comparisons from year to year because each group of students is different. But the demand for “improved test scores” makes those comparisons routine.

Parkview

Parkview School District in Orfordville, which has struggled with the loss of students through open enrollment, made significant gains in all subjects at the fourth-grade level. The number of fourth-grade students at the proficient or advanced levels increased 19.7 percentage points in language arts, 17.5 percentage points in math, and 13.1 percentage points in science and social studies.

In addition, when scores of Rock County school districts were averaged across grades in a particular subject, Parkview had the highest percentage of students scoring at the proficient or advanced level in math: 57.1 percent.

Parkview Superintendent Steve Lutzke said the district has a ways to go in some areas, but he was pleased with the results.

The district changed its math curriculum, and he thinks that has helped significantly.

More importantly, the district is developing consistent leadership, both on the school board and in schools, Lutzke said.

When leadership changes, it usually means course changes and a period of readjustment, he said.

But it’s what happens at the classroom level that’s most important, he said.

“We hire really, really good teachers, and we give them good mentors to help them learn the Parkview system and curriculum,” Lutzke said.

The 2017-18 school year is the first in more than a decade Parkview has seen an increase in student numbers due to open enrollment, and Lutzke hopes that trend will continue.

Milton

Milton School District also did well when compared to Rock County’s other school districts. When scores are averaged across grades, Milton placed first or second in every grade level/subject category.

Ryan Ruggles, director of curriculum and instruction, said he was pleased with Milton’s results but acknowledged they make up only one set of data points.

“They’re important, we take them into consideration, but we try to look at a lot of different data points,” Ruggles said.

Teachers do a number of screening tests throughout the year to make sure students are making progress, he said.

Janesville

The Janesville School District’s scores dipped in 11 of the 17 grade/subject categories.

In an email to The Gazette, District Director of Teaching and Innovation Allison DeGraaf wrote that the Forward Exam is just one set of data of many used to track student progress and knowledge.

“We did see some slight decline in scores, a drop that mirrors the statewide results,” DeGraaf wrote in her email.

As the needs of the students change, the district’s teachers change their instruction and look for new ways to help students, she wrote.

An example of one of those changes?

“Based on multiple data sources and teacher feedback, during the 2018-19 year in math we have implemented new math resources at the secondary level,” wrote DeGraaf.

Teachers and district officials also did a complete review of textbooks and other teaching material and provided more professional development opportunities for teachers, DeGraaf wrote.

“While it would be great to see nothing but increasing scores on these types of assessments, the important thing is to view the results and find ways to modify instruction when you see areas for improvement,” DeGraaf wrote.


Angela Major 

Bystanders look at apartments damaged by a fire at 1616 Morningside Drive in Janesville on Thursday.