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Thousands of reptiles--and some bugs--on display at show


Royce’s pupils narrowed to vertical slits.

It was like watching two glass doors close over the dome of a spaceship, rather than a creature adjusting to the light. In his clear bowl, his skin and feet looked tough and scaly, like a crocodile’s, but when Royce crawled across your hand, his feet were delicately thin, and his skin and body were smooth, soft and almost weightless.

Royce the gecko was one of thousands of animals on display at Sunday’s Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show at the Holiday Inn Express. And yes, “thousands” of animals is an accurate description, especially if you count the dubias.

But more about those later.

Anthony Wahl 

Sara Richter holds out a chameleon gecko on her finger at the Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show on Sunday.

Blue-tongued skinks, Herman’s tortoises, children’s pythons, bearded dragons, mata matas, tree frogs, spiny-tailed lizards, arboreal trap door tarantulas, sugar gliders and a lemur—just one—were gathered in one large room. Most were displayed in clear Plexiglas boxes or bowls with lids, but a few crawled or slithered across their owners’ or visitors’ bodies.

Whenever you have the opportunity to allow a large charcoal-colored snake glide up your arm and encircle your ball cap you should take it, right?

Visitors seemed to think this made sense.

Emile Ellwanger from Belvidere, Illinois, allowed a small snake to weave around her hand and forearm. It looked like an elegant bracelet, something Cleopatra would have worn to a state dinner. But then the bracelet flicked out its tongue and spoiled the effect.

Ellwanger said she loves reptiles, but her dad wouldn’t let her get one.

Anthony Wahl 

Matt Winkler sports of live ball python on his head at the Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show on Sunday.

Kevin Moody of Streamwood, Illinois, is an exotics breeder and the proud owner of Royce the crested gecko. He said geckos are a good starter pet for children interested in reptiles because they are fine at room temperature, don’t require a heat lamp and can be fed powdered food as opposed to, say, dubias, meal worms or live mice. And they don’t bite.

By “room temperature,” Moody means 70 to 78 degrees. Apparently, he has never lived with a spouse who thinks 63 degrees is warm enough and won’t turn on the heat until Nov. 1 on principle.

But we digress.

About seven varieties of gecko—there are approximately 1,850 varieties, according to Wikipedia—make good pets, Moody said.

Their skin coloration and patterns range from yellow with leopard-like spots to brownish-green with a thin white stripe down their backs. Others are banded. Some have eyelash-like spikes around protruding eyes. One variety, the giant day gecko, is vivid green with red highlights.

Anthony Wahl 

Keilana Stahl of Rockford, Illinois, wears a centralian carpet python around her neck at the Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show on Sunday.

That seemed to be part of the attraction of the reptile show. The variety and coloration of the snakes, geckos, chameleons, frogs, turtles, lizards and all other things reptilian was astonishing. It was as though the universal paint box was open and tossed into the air.

Samuel Gomez raises and breeds bearded dragons, and these lizards eat dubia roaches.

“It started to get expensive to buy them, so I decided to breed them,” Gomez said.

Now, he does a brisk business in live dubia roaches, selling them in small, medium and large sizes, just like soda.

On Sunday, he fed some small roaches to his bearded dragons, and they ate them like a dog with a McDonald’s hamburger—a flash of tongue, a cursorily chew and then gone.

Anthony Wahl 

A bearded dragon at the booth of Samual Gomez inside the Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville on Sunday.

But his bug breeding efforts but a dent into his human love life.

“I used to have a girlfriend, but then she said, ‘It’s either me or the bugs,’ and I picked the bugs,” Gomez said. “She was costing me money, and the bugs were making me money.”

So, not a good match for her.

Micky Meyer, the show organizer, said Janesville is one of four locations for the show, and this year they are hosting a new show in Paducah, Kentucky.

If you missed Sunday’s show, it will be back May 3 at the same location.

Anthony Wahl 

The back end of a giant tegus can be seen at the Show Me Reptile & Exotics Show on Sunday.

Not on form, but brawl over citizenship question continues

The U.S. Supreme Court decided a citizenship question won’t be on this spring’s census form, but that doesn’t mean the fight over it has ended in courtrooms across the country.

In Maryland, civil rights groups are trying to block an order from President Donald Trump to gather citizenship data through administrative records. In New York, other civil rights groups are seeking sanctions against Trump administration attorneys for not turning over documents related to the citizenship question’s origins. Democratic lawmakers in the District of Columbia are fighting for similar documents, and Alabama officials are suing the Census Bureau to keep immigrants living in the country illegally from being counted during the process that determines the number of congressional seats each state gets.

All of the lawsuits touch on whether the number of citizens, instead of the total population, will be used for redistricting or apportionment—the process of divvying up congressional seats among the states after the 2020 census. Opponents say doing so would dilute the influence of minorities and Democrats, which they argue was the true intent of the Trump administration’s desire to add a citizenship question in the first place.

The U.S. Constitution specifies that congressional districts should be based on how many people—not citizens—live there. But the legal requirements are murkier for state legislative districts.

“The country is changing demographically, and people in power believe that the only way to stay in power is to disadvantage minority voters,” said Andrea Senteno, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the civil rights groups that sued Trump in the Maryland case. “What we’re seeing now is a reflection of that. It’s really about political power in the long term.”

Supporters of the question say the U.S. should know how many citizens there are.

“It’s important for us as a country to know how many people are citizens,” U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican from Georgia, said last week during a congressional hearing.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The administration had said the question was being added to aid in enforcement of a law that protects minority voters’ access to the ballot box. But the high court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.”

Opponents argued it would intimidate immigrants, Hispanics and others from participating in the once-a-decade head count that determines how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is allocated and how many congressional seats each state gets.

House Democrats investigating the citizenship question’s origins said a Trump transition adviser was in contact with an influential Republican redistricting guru, Thomas Hofeller, when the citizenship question was being drafted in 2017. Hofeller, who died in 2018, advocated using voting-age citizens, instead of the total population, as the population base for redistricting. In documents that surfaced after his death, he acknowledged his intent was to help Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

In the District of Columbia, Democratic lawmakers sued Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr for refusing to provide information for their investigation. The lawmakers say they need documents being withheld to determine whether Congress should take emergency action to protect the census from partisan political interference.

In New York, civil rights groups that helped win the Supreme Court case are seeking sanctions against Trump administration attorneys, saying they hid Hofeller’s role in concocting the citizenship question.

After the Supreme Court blocked the question, Trump issued an executive order for the Census Bureau to gather citizenship information through administrative records from federal agencies and the 50 states.

Gathering the citizenship data would give the states the option to design districts using voter-age citizen numbers instead of the total population, Trump said in his July order. A short time later, civil rights groups sued in federal court in Maryland, claiming the citizenship-data gathering was motivated by “a racially discriminatory scheme” to reduce the political power of Latinos and increase the representation of non-Latino whites.”

The civil rights groups said in court papers last week that members of the Trump administration “conspired to reduce the political power of people of color” by following Hofeller’s recommendation.

In Alabama, state officials and Republican U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks sued the Census Bureau to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted when determining congressional seats for each state. Their 2018 lawsuit claims Alabama stands to lose a seat if people living in the country illegally are included, diluting the state’s representation in the Electoral College.

Even though the citizenship question won’t be on the 2020 questionnaire, its opponents said plenty of damage has already been done. But Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said last month in an interview with The Associated Press that he doesn’t think the fight over citizenship will diminish participation.

“The citizenship question is over. We have experienced litigation, but I don’t think there’s any legacy to that,” Dillingham said. “We want to make sure that we reach everyone and that everyone gets counted.”

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Real ID mandates for airport, federal building security coming in October


If you already have a passport, you’re in luck.

If you don’t, prepare to start gathering documents.

On Oct. 1, anyone who wants to board an airline flight or enter a federal building or military base will need a passport or a Real ID.

Submitted Photo 

A star in the upper right corner of the driver’s license indicates it is compliant with federal Real ID Act requirements.

You shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get one. Why? Because everyone else will, and that means you’ll end up in the longest line ever at the state Division of Motor Vehicles office. That wait is in addition to the time it will take to find documents such as your Social Security card and a certified copy of your birth certificate.

What’s this about?

The Real ID Act was part of HR 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Tsunami Relief, 2005. The idea was to set minimum standards for sources of identification such as driver’s licenses. When ID holders go through airport security, the guards know they’ve been vetted.

Why now?

Most states already have implemented the Real ID system, said Leslie Kopke, a travel agent at Travel Scope, 425 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville. Wisconsin received an extension.

How do I get a Real ID?

Through the state Division of Motor Vehicles. You’ll need proof of your name, date of birth, legal presence in the U.S., identity, name change, Social Security number and address.

The DMV has an extensive list of documents that can be used to prove your identity at wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/license-drvs/how-to-apply/realid.aspx.

The basics include:

  • A passport, which meets most requirements. Without one, you’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate. Photocopies are not allowed. You can get your birth certificate at the register of deeds office in the county of your birth. You also can go to the Rock County Register of Deeds’ website and use VitalChek to get your documents from another state. The fee ranges from $20 to $40.
  • A Social Security card. A photocopy of the card isn’t acceptable, but a W-2 form, pay stub or paycheck with your Social Security number on it also works. To apply for a new card, go to ssa.gov/myaccount/replacement-card.html or visit your local Social Security office. The Janesville office is located at 222 N. Academy St.
  • Your address. The DMV accepted a Gazette reporter’s driver’s license and passport as proof. The DMV’s website suggests a paycheck or pay stub, a utility bill, a valid Wisconsin hunting or fishing license, or a bank statement.

Can I do this online?


In November, the DMV sent out a news release stating, “DMV customers should start online, wisconsindmv.gov/REALID, to prepare the paperwork, make an appointment at the DMV and reduce their time in line.”

A Gazette reporter spent about 25 minutes online trying to make an appointment and got nowhere.

At the Janesville office, 645 S. Wright Road, the whole process took about 25 minutes.

Here are some Real ID tips gleaned from clerks:

  • It takes eight to 10 days to get your Real ID. In the meantime, your old driver’s license will be invalid, and you’ll need to carry a paper copy of the new one.
  • The Real ID is not interchangeable with a passport.
  • A Real ID is not needed for voting. A ordinary driver’s license will do the trick.

Death notices and obituaries for Jan. 13, 2020

Dorothy Jean Farley

Alice “Dee Dee” M. (Romack) Lintvedt

Nina Gail Kosak

Ronda R. (Uglum) St. Clair

Clifford O. Storlie

Stuart Charles Wulf