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Shutdown begins after talks fail


A partial federal shutdown took hold early Saturday after Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump’s demands for $5 billion to start erecting his cherished Mexican border wall, a chaotic postscript for Republicans in the waning days of their two-year reign controlling government.

Vice President Mike Pence, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney left the Capitol late Friday after hours of bargaining with congressional leaders produced no apparent compromise. “We don’t have a deal. We’re still talking,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told reporters.

Late Friday, Mulvaney sent agency heads a memorandum telling them to “execute plans for an orderly shutdown.” He wrote that administration officials were “hopeful that this lapse in appropriations will be of short duration”—an expectation that was widely shared.

With negotiations expected to continue, the House and Senate both scheduled rare Saturday sessions. House members were told they would get 24 hours’ notice before a vote.

The gridlock blocks money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

The lack of funds will disrupt many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas, while 380,000 will be furloughed, meaning they’ll stay home without pay.

Those being furloughed include nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service will stay home, and many parks were expected to close.

The Senate passed legislation ensuring workers will receive back pay, which the House seemed sure to approve.

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded for the year in agreements reached earlier, and they will operate as usual.

The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, will not be affected because it’s an independent agency. Social Security checks will still be mailed, troops will remain on duty and food inspections will continue.

Also still functioning will be the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers will continue to staff airport checkpoints. Air traffic controllers will also remain at work.

Trump has openly savored a shutdown over the wall for months, saying last week he’d be “proud” to have one and saying Friday he was “totally prepared for a very long” closure. While many of Congress’ most conservative Republicans were welcoming such a confrontation, most GOP lawmakers have wanted to avoid one, because polling shows the public broadly opposes the wall and a shutdown over it.

“None of them have succeeded,” veteran Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said of past shutdowns. He said the political fallout has always damaged “Republicans who said, ‘By God, we’ll show them.’ It doesn’t work that way, it just doesn’t.”

Despite saying last week he would not blame Democrats for the closure, Trump and his GOP allies spent the last two days blaming Democrats anyway. Trump said now was the time for Congress to provide taxpayers’ money for the wall, even though he has said repeatedly that Mexico will pay for it—something that country has repeatedly rebuffed.

“This is our only chance that we’ll ever have, in our opinion, because of the world and the way it breaks out, to get great border security,” Trump said Friday. Democrats will take control of the House on Jan. 3, and they oppose major funding for wall construction.

Looking for a way to claim victory, Trump said he would accept money for a “Steel Slat Barrier” with spikes on the top, which he said would be just as effective as a “wall” and “at the same time beautiful.”

Trump called GOP senators to the White House on Friday morning, but Republicans said afterward that the session did not produce a strategy.

Early this week, the Senate approved a bipartisan deal keeping government open into February and providing $1.3 billion for border security projects but not the wall. In a GOP victory Thursday, the House rebelled and approved a package temporarily financing the government but also providing $5.7 billion for the border wall.

Friday afternoon, a Senate procedural vote showed that Republicans lacked the 60 votes they’d need to force that measure through their chamber. That jump-started negotiations between Congress and the White House.

Republicans conceded that one of their biggest hurdles was Trump’s legendary unpredictability and proclivity for abruptly changing his mind.

“The biggest problem is, we just don’t know what the president will sign,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

So restive were senators returning to Washington that McConnell and others sported lapel buttons declaring them members of the “Cranky Senate Coalition.”

The White House said Trump did not go to Florida on Friday as planned for the Christmas holiday.

Higher order thinking: Middle school students do it themselves


They easiest way to teach seventh-grade science is to lecture while students take notes.

The eight systems of the body are …

The six steps of the scientific method include …

The most difficult way to teach seventh-grade science—or any other subject—is to make the kids do it themselves.

For more than a year, the Janesville School District has been working with Discovery Education and Ignite My Future to change the way teachers teach and challenge students to think in complicated ways.

It’s a skill they’ll need. In a world where information is at everyone’s fingertips, students will need to do more than regurgitate facts.

Educators refer to it as “computational thinking” or “higher- order thinking.”

“Lower-order thinking is knowledge, understanding, comprehension,” explained Franklin Middle School Principal Charles Urness. “Higher-order thinking is evaluating, analyzing and creating.”

Think of it this way: Lower-order thinking is memorizing the eight systems of the body. Higher-order thinking is designing an athletic shoe for people with a bad back or flat feet—or a wonky hip, bunions, the early stages of Parkinson’s or any of the other ailments that afflict the eight systems of the body.

In the week before Christmas break, students at Franklin Middle School worked on a projects found on the Ignite My Future website.

Urness described the website as a resource with project ideas and curriculum. It was developed with Discovery Education, a company that describes itself as a content provider for students and a source of professional development for teachers and staff.

The Janesville School District has budgeted $443,581 this year for services from Discovery Education, said Patrick Gasper, district public information officer. The money comes from grants, not the local tax levy, Gasper said.

It’s unknown if the district will use all of that money in the 2018-19 school year, Gasper said.

The lessons work across all the main subjects, such as language arts, math, social studies, science, computer science and engineering. They also frequently include music, art and physical education.

Consider Jenna Rosienski’s “Science of Sports” lesson. Kids were charged with designing an athletic shoe for a specific user: Dahlia, a 14-year-old with asthma and seasonal allergies who plays in a variety of sports; Fred, 73, who is recovering from a stroke; or David, 45, a trucker who spends long hours on the road and has recently been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

Each of those users have a complicated problem that goes beyond an easy answer.

Another class is working on a “Resilient Cities” lesson. The students pick an issue and try to find the best possible outcome.

Earlier this year, a class worked on finding a use for the former GM site.

The latest group was working on the Monterey Dam. What were the benefits of taking it out? What user groups lost out? How should the area near Wilson Elementary School be reclaimed?

And yet another group of students pondered the challenges of delivering a pizza with a drone.

But how will students learn all the science—or math, social studies or reading—they’ll need to know for the next grade with this method?

Rosienski said students not only learn what they need to know, but they remember it, too.

“How many times have you memorized something for a test and then just forgot it?” Rosienski said. “It also teaches them how to be able to solve complex problems. They’re achieving something greater than just looking something up on the internet.”

Such “project-based learning” has been going on for a long time, Urness acknowledged.

“It’s not new, but it’s being used less often than it should be,” Urness said. “It’s a lot of work, so people fall back on what’s easy—having kids take notes for 48 minutes. Then you have disengagement, you have discipline problems and there’s not transference of learning.”

Janesville trucker sentenced in Interstate slingshot shootings

URBANA, Illinois

A Janesville truck driver who had east central Illinois drivers on edge for months this past spring as he shot out windows with a slingshot for sport is headed to prison.

Kevin Casey, 53, pleaded guilty Friday before Judge Roger Webber to a single count of aggravated battery in connection with a May 2 incident in which a 3-year-old Monticello boy was cut by flying glass when the window of the van his mother was driving was shot out.

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz and assistant public defender Tony Allegretti worked out a plea agreement that calls for Casey to serve 2½ years in prison and make restitution of $6,222 to 16 victims in seven Illinois cities.

Casey had also been formally charged with aggravated battery for a May 11 incident and criminal damage to property for May 18 and June 1 incidents. In all those counts, he was accused of using a slingshot and ball bearings to shatter the windows of motorists passing the opposite direction on Interstate 74. Those counts were dismissed in return for his guilty plea.

Although charged in connection with three incidents, Illinois State Police had reports of as many as 45 vandalisms between late March and June 1 when Casey was arrested.

According to facts Rietz laid out for Webber, state police investigators caught Casey in the act of using a slingshot to shatter a window of an eastbound van on Interstate 74 as he headed west.

In his truck, police found a slingshot, metal ball bearings of various sizes and materials used to make slingshots.

Police had analyzed the reports to find a pattern that showed the majority of the vandalisms were happening to minivan drivers in the Champaign area on Wednesdays and Fridays on I-74. The victims of the Wednesday incidents were headed west; the victims of the Friday attacks were going east.

Rietz said Casey admitted picking minivans because they were larger targets.

Armed with that information and reports from victims of seeing a white semitrailer truck near them when the vandalisms happened, police obtained video footage from Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation and business cameras and got a license plate number for a white semi that was near the victim of the May 18 vandalism.

The truck registered to Casey, the sole driver of the rig, who routinely traveled on I-74 as part of his route.

Although Rietz had filed a petition to forfeit Casey’s rig, that was resolved when the financing company that held the title repossessed it.

Rietz explained that the company had the right to do so because it was used in criminal activity.

Besides, she said, he owed more on the truck than it was worth, and her ultimate goal in seeking its forfeiture was to keep Casey from going back to driving it. The financing company took care of that.

Casey was given credit on his sentence for 204 days already served in jail.

Rietz said Casey had prior convictions in Wisconsin for recklessly endangering the safety of a child and domestic battery, from 1998 and 1994.

Her office originally believed the endangerment conviction was a child sex offense, but Allegretti supplied her with information that showed that after an appeal, Casey pleaded guilty to a less serious charge of endangering the safety of a child.

One victim was present in court to hear Casey’s plea. It was her van in which troopers found a ball bearing that helped them focus the investigation into how the vandalisms were happening.

Rietz said the victims are satisfied with the outcomes.

“Many didn’t expect to get any restitution out of this,” she said.

Rietz said the victims were “understandably dismayed” when Casey was charged with Class 3 and 4 felonies.

“This is a pretty unique offense,” she said, adding that aggravated battery to a child was the most serious offense she could charge.

“We are very thankful we were limited in the offenses we could charge because the injuries were not worse,” she said.

Anthony Wahl 

Rowan Shelton motions the movements of the song during their holiday singing event to end the school day at Kennedy Elementary School on Friday in Janesville.

Anthony Wahl 

Lydia Hall, Brynley Utzig and Ella Oswald all sing in the front row during a holiday program to end the school day at Kennedy Elementary School on Friday in Janesville.

Kevin Casey

Obituaries and death notices for Dec. 22,2018

David Rolf Harrer

James “Jim” Prochniak

Edythe L. Swanson

Cheryl Green