Islamic State Kills 97 People in Nigeria

I’ve been informed by my president that these kinds of killings only happen in America.

The people of Kukawa were in several mosques, praying ahead of breaking their daylong fast, when the extremists attacked. They killed 97 people, mainly men, said self-defense spokesman Abbas Gava and a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters.

Gava said his group’s fighters in Kukawa said some militants also broke into people’s homes, killing women and children as they prepared the evening meal.

Kukawa is 180 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria and the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Nigeria’s homegrown extremist group often defiles mosques where it believes clerics espouse too moderate a form of Islam. Wednesday’s attack follows a directive from the Islamic State group for fighters to increase attacks during Ramadan. Boko Haram this year became the IS group’s West African franchise.

County Supervisor Advises Strike

This is a perfect illustration of the problem with public employee unions and why even the liberals of old opposed them. Here we have management (Weishan)  conspiring with the employees (bus union) to screw the customers and owners (public).

Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan is blaming County Executive Chris Abele for forcing bus drivers for the Milwaukee County Transit System to go on strike.

“It’s easy for Abele to demean the work that these employees provide as he rides around in his expensive, chauffeured SUV,” Weishan said in a Wednesday news release.

But a memo written by a top official with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 says Weishan was privately advising the bus drivers union as recently as Sunday to hit the picket line or stage a sickout.

“Supervisor Weishan states that if an agreement can’t be reached, we should attempt a one day strike or a wide spread ‘flu day’ to stress the importance of the situation,” wrote Thomas Stawicki, legislative director for the local, summarizing a conversation with Weishan, a liberal County Board member from West Allis.

Stawicki concluded, “We must give the public the appearance that the drivers have ‘NO OTHER CHOICE’ then (sic) to strike.”

The internal memo, obtained Wednesday by No Quarter, prompted one of Weishan’s conservative colleagues to call his actions “reprehensible.”

Meanwhile, Summerfest is losing gobs of money with lower attendance, poor people can’t get to work, and public safety is endangered with more drunks on the road at a time when police are already stretched to watch for potential terrorist attacks over the Independence Day holiday. This is how Weishan serves the public?

Wisconsin Republicans Come to Agreement on Budget

Well, sort of. There are three major issues of contention that have been holding up the budget and the Republican legislative leaders have come to enough agreement to move ahead. Let’s take a look.

Issue #1: Prevailing Wage

Under the agreement leadership reached, the Assembly will bring to the floor next week a bill introduced in that chamber to fully repeal the prevailing wage. Assembly Republicans will then offer an amendment to the bill that reflects a package Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, has put together. It would repeal the prevailing wage statutes for local governments and federalize it for state work. State thresholds currently on the books would remain in effect.

The jury is out on whether this is good or not. I’m worried that the repeal of prevailing wage has been separated from the budget. Several conservatives, including my own Senator, have said that they won’t vote for a budget without a repeal of prevailing wage. This removes it from the budget, but it is being taken up in tandem with the budget. That makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for those conservatives to stick to their guns.

As for the proposal itself, it is better than what Vos floated yesterday, but it still isn’t a full repeal. Eliminating prevailing wage for local governments would be huge and using federal standards for wage calculations would help make compliance easier and more sensible. This proposal admits how much money repealing prevailing wage would save, but doesn’t extend those savings into state projects. I’d take the deal if we can’t get to full repeal, but it leaves a lot of work left to be done.

Issue #2: Transportation

The transportation package includes $500 million in bonding with another $350 million the committee can issue as the Department of Transportation submits requests for work. That would still be a significant reduction from the $1.3 billion in borrowing Gov. Scott Walker proposed.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the reduction would be felt fairly evenly between out-state projects and the Zoo Interchange. Still, work on the core of the Zoo would not be impacted. Rather work on the north leg would be delayed.

It’s an improvement over Walker’s budget, but it still borrows too much and spends too much.

Issue #3: Bucks Arena

The deal for taxpayer support of a new arena for the Bucks will be removed from the budget and taken up as a separate bill. This is fantastic. Yes, it makes it more difficult to pass a deal because now the Republicans have to get some of the Democrats to agree, but that’s a good thing. Any funding deal will be controversial and should be passed with bipartisan support. This allows the deal to be fully debated and vetted with everyone’s cards on the table.

 

 

Milwaukee Bus Drivers Strike

I wonder how many more drunks are going to be driving away from Summerfest because they can’t take the bus? In any case, the drivers are reminding Wisconsinites why unions suck.

MILWAUKEE —Milwaukee County Transit System drivers walked off the job at 3 a.m., beginning a 72-hour strike. The union said it’s holding a “work stoppage” and will return to work at 3 a.m. Saturday.

[…]

“Today, when push came to shove, they asked for $8 million over two years, so I guess the question would be for them, ‘Why have you been telling everybody it’s not about the money. Why did you approach the county executive last week and yell, ‘It’s not about the money.’ And you just asked for more money.’ I mean, if was about the money, be honest about it, but I think that they are trying to publicly bargain for some reason,” Conway said. “Just be honest. You make good money. Fine. We’re not begrudging you that. We’re going to give you a raise. We were just asking you to pay a little more for your health care.”

The latest contract offer from MCTS included a 7.6 percent raise over the next two years, including a cost of living adjustment. Hourly wages would increase from $23.78 to $24.45 in two years.

Union workers were also asked to pay for more health care.

Iranian Deadline Extended

Obama’s not so good with the deadlines.

U.S. and other world powers gave themselves seven more days to seal the deal with Iran on limiting its nuclear program as President Obama reiterated Tuesday he would walk away from a bad agreement.

I’m sure the guy who exchanged 5 terrorists for one deserter knows how to spot a bad deal.

 

Islamic State: Hamas Not Terroristy Enough

Lovely. I can’t wait to see them try to out-Islamist each other.

CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic State insurgents threatened on Tuesday to turn the Gaza Strip into another of their Middle East fiefdoms, accusing Hamas, the organization that rules the Palestinian territory, of being insufficiently stringent about religious enforcement.

Tammy Baldwin Objects to People Exercising their Religion

NewsBusters caught this statement from Wisconsin’s senator.

“Certainly the first amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don’t think it extends far beyond that.”

Notice that she extends the right to exercise religion to religious institutions and not to individuals. The last time I checked, the Bill of Rights enumerates and protects individual rights – not institutional rights.

The rise and fall of the Supreme Court

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:

The Supreme Court issued a series of bad rulings last week that indicate this court has lurched from being an austere arbiter of the law to a highly partisan legislative body. Unfortunately for the American people, it is a legislative body that consists of members appointed for life and not accountable to the people. In no case did the Supreme Court belittle itself more than in the case of King v. Burwell — the case about the Obamacare subsidies.


This was a case that was about the plain reading of the English language. The Obamacare law gave each state the ability to create a health care exchange, but if a state chose not to do so, the federal government would create one. The Obamacare law also clearly states in several places that the federal government would provide a means-tested subsidy for participants in the state Obamacare exchanges, but only for participants in the state exchanges. The law specifically excludes giving a subsidy to participants in the federal exchange.

The purpose for the law’s language on subsidies was obvious and clearly stated by advocates of the law in the press and in official Congressional debates. The advocates of Obamacare wanted the states to create the Obamacare exchanges so that the states, and not the federal government, would bear the brunt of the cost of Obamacare. In this way, Obamacare could be sold to the public without having to disclose its actual, and enormous, cost to the taxpayers. The subsidies were used as a political cudgel to incent the states to create Obamacare exchanges under the calculation that no state would dare to turn down “free” subsidies to their citizens.

The law did not play out the way the Obamacare advocates planned. Many states, including Wisconsin, wisely saw through the game they were playing and refused to create a state exchange. This left President Barack Obama a political disaster with the prospect of millions of Americans being forced into the federal Obamacare exchange without a subsidy. So, Obama and team did what they have always done: They ignored their own law and issued subsidies to participants in the federal exchange anyway.

This is what King v. Burwell was about. Does Obamacare say what it actually says — that the subsidies only apply to participants in the state exchanges and not those in the federal exchange? The Supreme Court ignored the plain language of the law, the context in which it was written and the purposeful intent for why it was written. Instead, the court ruled that the law means whatever Obama and team want it to mean. The Supreme Court has officially sanctioned arbitrary rule.

Chief Justice John Roberts admits as much in the majority opinion. He writes, “If the statutory language is plain, we must enforce it according to its terms. But oftentimes the meaning — or ambiguity — of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context.” Brown & Williamson, 529 U.S., at 132. So when deciding whether the language is plain, we must read the words “in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme.”

In other words, it does not matter to Roberts what the actual words mean. He and his fellow legislators in black robes will give the words whatever definitions they choose irrespective of the clear meaning of words in the English language.

As usually happens, Justice Antonin Scalia perfectly eviscerates the majority’s bad decision in his dissent. He says, “… the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites. I dissent.”

As do I.

Owen Robinson is a West Bend resident. Reach him at

“Rally” for Liberal Education Agenda in West Bend

Apparently, there was a rally on Sunday by a group promoting the liberal education agenda.

By LINDA MCALPINE

Daily News

Those at a rally in support of public education that drew more than 70 people to Old Settlers Park in West Bend on Sunday called for full funding for schools from the state, a moratorium on vouchers and private charter school expansion, the restoration of social workers and librarians in West Bend schools and the creation of a 4K program in the district.

Anne Molineu, a parent from West Bend and a member of Benders For Better Public Education, the group that organized the rally, shared with the crowd a students’ bill of rights, pertaining to the West Bend School District.

Eh, whatever. It is their right. I would point out a couple of things. First, if you read through the story, it appears that most of the speakers came from outside of West Bend (Wauwatosa, Appleton, Milwaukee, Lake Mills). Second, this group really dislikes the current superintendent. Third, if you check out this video from the rally by Judy Steffes, “70 people” would be a very generous crowd estimate.

Once you filter out the people from out of town and the organizers, how many Benders were actually at this rally?

Assembly Republicans Advance Prevailing Wage Changes

Make no mistake, this is an effort to derail an actual repeal of this ridiculous and expensive law.

The Assembly plan would significantly increase the minimum threshold for the cost of projects that are subject to prevailing wage — putting that threshold at $450,000, which Assembly Republicans said would be the second-highest of any state. The current thresholds in Wisconsin are between $48,000 and $100,000, depending on the project. The Assembly plan also would link the threshold to future increases through indexing.

The proposal would change the state’s formula for calculating prevailing wage, in an effort to address what some say are artificially high wages in rural areas. It also would carve out prevailing-wage exemptions for technical college projects, residential and agricultural projects and projects funded primarily by charitable donations.

You know, I keep hearing Vos say that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a full repeal in the Assembly, but he won’t call a vote to prove it. There are 35 co-sponsors of the bill for full repeal. They are:

Hutton, Sanfelippo, Jacque, Knodl,Kapenga, Craig, Kooyenga, Allen, August, Ballweg, Bernier, Born,Brandtjen, E. Brooks, R. Brooks, Czaja, Gannon, Jagler, Jarchow,Katsma, Kleefisch, Knudson, Kremer, Kuglitsch, Kulp, T. Larson,Neylon, J. Ott, Petersen, Schraa, Skowronski, Swearingen, Thiesfeldt,Tittl and Weatherston;

 

The bill needs 50 votes to pass, so assuming that all of the Democrats will vote against repeal and all of the Republican co-sponsors will vote for it, that means that Vos thinks that at least 11 of the following Republicans will vote against a full repeal:

Tyler August – Lake Geneva – 32nd (on this list in error – is a co-sponsor. He’s for full repeal!)
Dave Craig – Big Bend – 83rd
James Edming – Glen Flora – 87th
Dave Heaton – Wausau – 85th
Cody Horlacher – Mukwonago – 33rd
Terry Katsma – Oostburg – 26th
Samantha Kerkman – Randall – 61st
Joel Kitchens – Sturgeon Bay – 1st
Scott Krug – Wisconsin Rapids – 72nd
Amy Laudenbeck – Clinton – 31st
John Macco – Ledgeview – 88th
Dave Murphy – Greenville – 56th
Jeff Mursau – Crivitz – 36th
John Murtha – Baldwin – 29th
Lee Nerison – Westby – 96th
Todd Novak – Dodgeville – 51st
John Nygren – Marinette – 89th
Al Ott – Forest Junction – 3rd
Warren Petryk – Elva – 93rd
Romaine Quinn – Rice Lake – 75th
Keith Ripp – Lodi – 42nd
Jessie Rodriguez – Franklin – 21st
Mike Rohrkaste – Neenah – 55th
John Spiros – Marshfield – 86th
David Steffen – Green Bay – 4th
Jim Steineke – Kaukauna – 5th
Gary Tauchen – Bonduel – 6th
Travis Tranel – Cuba City – 49th
Nancy VanderMeer – Tomah – 70th
Tyler Vorpagel – Plymouth – 27th
And, of course, Robin Vos – Rochester – 63rd

So who are the hold outs? Let’s try to narrow it down some. Vos has claimed to be in support of full repeal, so that’s 36 votes in favor. Who else is on record? Jessie Rodriguez was elected as a conservative darling in Franklin, does she support full repeal? What about John Nygren? Scott Krug?

As Speaker, Vos won’t name names, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t. Which Republican Assemblymen are preventing Vos from calling for a vote on full repeal?

Obama Goes Begging to Tehran

Consider what’s going on here

Tehran (AFP) – US President Barack Obama recently sent a private message to Iran’s leadership via Iraq’s prime minister, an Iranian newspaper reported Monday on the eve of a deadline for a nuclear deal.

Hamshahri, Iran’s highest-circulation daily, citing a lawmaker, said “one of the leaders of a neighbouring country” took the message from Obama to officials in Tehran.

The subject discussed was the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers led by the United States it said, without giving further details on its content.

Iran is a totalitarian regime. Given that, this story does not get published in their largest newspaper without official sanction. So, assuming the story is true, it means that the leaders of Iran are intentionally taunting the U.S. and thumping their chests for their regional allies and enemies that the President of the United States is begging them for a deal through back channels. Iranian leaders are showing the world that they have Obama wrapped around their little finger.

Obama is belittling our nation in a desperate attempt to secure a foreign policy legacy for himself – even at the expense of a nuclear Middle East.

Greece Freezes Banks

Ouch.

Banks in Greece stayed shut on Monday as officials scrambled to prevent the country’s financial system from collapsing in panic.

Account holders were also facing tough limits on what they can withdraw from ATMs, and trading in Greek stocks and bonds was also halted.

The measures were announced Sunday as Greece slid rapidly toward default and exit from the eurozone.

Greece’s troubles will affect us all as the world’s markets react, but it is also a cautionary tale. Yes, an entire’s country’s economy can collapse if the government is financially reckless.

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Facelift in store for Ponderosa

The weary Ponderosa restaurant, 2020 W. Washington Street, in West Bend is going to get a facelift. The building, owned by Steve Kilian and his son Steve Jr., has not weathered well and neighbors in the community have noticed.

The Kilians said they too have noticed and they’re going to do some work to make it less of an eyesore in the city. “We don’t have anything in the works,” said Steve Kilian regarding any potential development. “We just took a look at it a week ago and decided we should do something to make it look better.”

Some of the improvements include a fresh coat of paint and some landscaping. Kilian said he’s received a couple of quotes and he hopes to start on the project shortly.

The former Ponderosa closed in 2008. The Kilians purchased the property in October 2011 and the past few years the building has sat empty.

The Kilians have worked to market the property but so far they’ve had little luck.

OWLT reaches 6,000 acre milestone

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust secured its 6,000-acre parcel of property on Friday afternoon as it closed on the purchase of a 155-acre site on Bonniwell Road in Mequon.

“This is a milestone as far as land protection is concerned,” said OWLT’s executive director Shawn Graff. “It’s also the 100th project Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has helped support.”

The preserve includes a state and natural area and it’s adjacent to Rotary Park in Mequon.

“This situation allows us to work in cooperation with the Mequon/Thiensville Rotary Clubs to have an active recreational park setting next to a passive park setting and we hope to make sure the two preserves work well together,” Graff said.

The acquisition of 6,000 acres for the OWLT has taken 22 years. “It feels terrific every time we hit one of these milestones,” he said. “It was 2011 when we hit 5,000 acres and ever since then we’ve been on an accelerated pace to hit 6,000.”

Graff said there are so many opportunities in the pipeline where acquisitions are actually becoming easier. “We have good landowners that are either donating conservation easements or discounting the value of their properties when we go for acquisitions,” he said.

“Just last week we closed on the Schoofs property in the Town of Erin in Washington County and then the property on Bonniwell Road today; both landowners were so pleased to be able to see their lands protected they discounted the value of the property so we’re actually purchasing it for less than the appraised value.”

Flowersmith closed

On Monday the Flowersmith, 403 S. Main Street, will be sold. Florist Suzanne Hall owns both the building and the business. “I moved in here in July 2008,” Hall said while working Thursday afternoon on a bouquet of flowers. “This used to be Boerger’s Floral and we made some cosmetic improvements and it’s a great run.”

Prior to moving, Hall was located at 112 N. Main St., in what is now home to Shooting Star Travel. “I started the floral business in 2003 and back then I always said when I turn 55 I’m out,” she said.

Hall is moving on and will become the creative director for Tom Masters, owner of Fox and Hounds restaurant and The Mineshaft in Hartford. “This is going to be a great way to move onto a challenge I’ll excel at,” she said.

The Flowersmith was open for business until last Saturday, June 20. “I’m still going to continue with the weddings and bigger events; I like that it’s fun to do,” she said. “That’s if my business doesn’t sell but if it sells I’m going to forward all that to the new owner.”

Hall confirmed she knew who was buying the building, but declined to identify them. She feels confident the business will be sold as well next week but also deferred commenting on the potential buyer. “I do know the new owner of the building will not put the flower business back in here,” she said. Jim Emmer Real Estate is handling the sale of the building.

New principal named for St. Frances Cabrini

A new school principal has been named for St. Frances Cabrini in West Bend. Rev. Nathan Reesman made the announcement this week. “Today we have officially filled our position of school principal at Saint Frances Cabrini. We are pleased to welcome Mr. Aaron Hilts who comes to us from the Grafton School District,” wrote Rev. Reesman.

“Mr. Hilts is married and has one daughter; he comes to us with 15 years of existing administrative experience, and 22 years of experience in education total, spending time in both the Catholic and the public school settings.  As he gets settled-in at our school he will share more with everyone about his own background and story.

“Mr. Hilts begins his time with us officially on July 1, but given some other current commitments, he will be free to be fully present without interruption on the campus beginning Monday, July 13.  He is also planning to join us for our Linked School committee meeting at Immaculate Conception.  Later in August he will also be introducing himself at the St. Frances Cabrini Masses, and he will of course be eager to begin greeting parents and parishioners.   Please welcome him when you see him!”  Blessings- Father Nate

St. Frances Cabrini posted the job opening in Spring after principal Richard Krainz chose not to return next year.  Krainz had been principal since July 2012.

25-year anniversary for Pleasant Valley Tennis

An anniversary celebration Sunday as owners of Pleasant Valley Tennis & Fitness Club remember 25 years since they purchased the club

The Jacci and John Gambucci bought the business in 1990.

In 1992 the Gambuccis added three outdoor courts. “The courts were bubbled between Labor Day and Memorial Day for indoor play,” Jacci said.  The added courts meant expanded membership however the average temperature inside the bubbled “was probably five degrees warmer in the winter due to the inefficient heating,” said Jacci.

“Also when it snowed John left me and our three small children to snow blow around the bubble. He’d snow blow through the night to keep the weight of the snow that slid off the roof from pulling out the anchors.”

Jacci remembers during the winter neighbor Leroy Young would clear their driveway out of kindness because he knew she was home alone.

“We had “Bubble Parties” to take the bubble up and down,” said Jacci. “Members came to help and have a good time.  Stressful times in some respects, but some of the best memories.”

In 1997 Pleasant Valley underwent a major expansion, adding a fitness center and five indoor tennis courts while expanding the bar and lounge area and doubling the size of the locker rooms and pro shop.

“We also added two outdoor courts, which helped during summer leagues which used five courts; it allowed us to have a team inside and a team outside in any given night,” said Jacci.

In 2010 the Gambuccis took over the fitness center which had been previously leased; that too underwent a complete renovation.

Over the last two decades manager Jean Sundblad has been a key player at Pleasant Valley Tennis & Fitness. “Many of our pros have been with us for years and our membership is made up of the most wonderful people that have created a community, ages 4-87 and all walks of life,” said Jacci.

On June 28 the Gambuccis will be throwing a party for members and current-and-former staff to celebrate 25 years of Pleasant Valley bliss.

New car wash to open at Paradise Mobil Mart

The owners of the Shell station on Paradise Drive are looking to add a car wash on the south side of their business. Paradise Mobil Mart is located at 815 W. Paradise Drive. Site plans call for a single bay, stand-alone car wash.

A canopy constructed at Quality Inn & Suites

A new canopy is being proposed over the entrance to Quality Inn & Suites, 2433 W. Washington St., in West Bend. The site plan would be at the motel lobby entrance to provide shelter for patrons.

Security Financial moving into former Radio Shack

Security Financial is relocating from 912 S. Main St. to the former RadioShack location, 842 S. Main St., in West Bend. RadioShack filed bankruptcy Feb. 5, 2015. The store in the West Bend Plaza closed at the end of May. There’s some remodel currently underway and Security Financial should make the move in the next couple months.

New cellular tower and Facility proposed for Stonebridge Circle

There will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. on July 7 at West Bend City Hall, 1115 S. Main Street, for a conditional use request to allow a 96-foot tall communication tower at 2185 Stonebridge Circle.  A site plan will also be reviewed for a 11’6″ x 25′ 5 1/2″ equipment shelter with an internal generator for the communication tower. The property previously belonged to Ron Albiero.

Concept Plan for Basco Development

During the July 7 Plan Commission meeting in West Bend a concept plan for a multi-family development south of the intersection of W. Progress Drive and Sylvan Way will be discussed. The property involves a 19-acre parcel. The early proposal has 13 buildings ranging in size from four units to eight units to 16 unit complexes.

Updates & tidbits

-There will be no Farmers’ Market on Saturday, July 4 in West Bend. The July 4 parade will march through downtown West Bend that day.

-A new antique, craft and vintage up cycle store is opening in downtown West Bend. The Bee’s Knees will open next month at 258 N. Main St. Advertisement in the window of the shop said ‘The Bee’s Knees is now looking for vendors!’ The business is moving into Jeanne Mueller’s former store Jeanne’s Collectibles.

-The Walmart in West Bend has expanded its liquor section. The liquor department relocated to the back wall at the south end of the store; the space was formerly home to Subway restaurant which closed at the end of May. The space where liquor previously was is being turned into aisles for chips.

-Congressman James Sensenbrenner will hold town hall meetings Tuesday, June 30 at Newburg Village Hall at 9 a.m., Kewaskum Village Hall at 10 a.m., Addison Town Hall at 11 a.m. and Jackson Village Hall at 1 p.m.

-With the July 4 travel holiday on the horizon folks in West Bend and Washington County are seeing a spike in gas prices. The lowest price in West Bend earlier this week was $2.89 at the Paradise Mobil Mart/ Shell South.  In Milwaukee the price was $2.86. A bump is obviously on the way as prices at the Speedway on Highway Q at $2.95 for a gallon of regular unleaded. It was $2.94 at Mad Max BP on S. Main Street in West Bend.

-Regner Fest, Saturday, July 11, at Regner Park in West Bend, Noon – 11 p.m. Entertainment will include three bands, Tom Brusky (polka), Monro (variety rock) and Rebel Grace (country). Free swimming and splash pad from noon until 7 p.m.; family activities from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. that includes bounce houses, Love Bug face painting, Adventure Rock climbing wall, lacrosse, disc golf, martial arts demos, make and takes for the kids and much more. Food and drink available for purchase.

Wrapping up Italy tour with ‘Silent supper’

There’s normally one event on each tour that really has an overall impact. I can’t plan it or pay for it to happen and often the scenario could be the basis of a movie.

The silent supper and my stay at the sanctuary, Santuario S. Maria del font,  is that story.

I’m about 20 miles outside Milan and since it’s almost 5 p.m. I figure it’s best to start scouting out a place to stay. Once I get to Milan, it’s going to be a big city and an expensive zoo. Although I still have a lot of steam left in my engine, I might be running on fumes in two hours and generally the campgrounds are 30 kilometers from where I land.

I jump over to a restaurant where men have gathered outdoors. My note is not well accepted.

I move to the library where the clerk points me in the direction of the sanctuary.

You can’t miss it,’ said the librarian. She wore a somewhat dressy t-shirt from the Hard Rock Cafe.

I pedal to the end of the street, which dead ends at the sanctuary; it’s no small outfit.

A couple were standing in the arched entryway. The woman gives me a finger wag and an audible “tsk tsk.” I pull out the note about biking for Alzheimer’s and she changes her tune and points me to an open door across the garden.

That’s where I find Sister Sara Amelia. She’s in her late 80s, dressed in a white habit and robe, with those soft nun shoes.

She sends me along my way. I run into a pair of priests and the note gets another workout. Nobody has anything reasonably close to an English vocabulary, so it’s a lot of “follow me” waving.

Rev. Gabriel makes a couple unanswered phone calls, then finally leads me to a hall where I can stow my bike.

Sister Sara re-enters the picture and it looks like I’m her assignment. She shows me the bathroom, and then a small prayer room. She speaks Italian; I nod like a dope pretending to understand. She continues to lead me down the long hall and to the automated cafe machine. I think it’s sweet how she’s trying to make me so comfortable.

Sister Sara leaves and I start to unpack, but I’m quickly distracted by food. About 20 minutes later I head to the bathroom to clean up. Half finished, the door opens and Sister Sara has tracked me down.

“Camera” is what it sounds like she is saying. A quick sprint and I’m by her side. We take an elevator up one floor and she opens Room 102. Looks like I have a more comfortable place for the night; bed, bathroom and Bible – what more do I need?

“Seven o’clock,” she says, as she points to her watch and mimes eating…then she’s off.

Right now it’s 6:45 p.m., so was she inviting me to dinner or breakfast?

It was dinner. They sat me at a table by myself. The priests ate in a room by themselves, and the nuns did likewise – all behind closed doors.

A skinny guy with cigarettes on his breath served me. I was right by the kitchen. It was very “Downton Abbey.”

The Sister keeping an eye on me has her hands full.

I came downstairs after cleaning up and the priest walked by saying something obviously negative; I could sense it in his tense tone and the rigid walk. The nun took me in another room, she was fast-talking in Italian, getting exasperated, then pulls down her eye….like a spy signal.

Oh my, God. It’s the knees again. I can’t find my trusty scarf, so I get my pants.

When I walk in for dinner, the priest hangs back and gives me a look to see if I measure up.

Dinner was hot rice soup and a hard roll.

One priest, Rev. Gabriel from my earlier encounter, sat behind me. He was at a table alone, too.  I waited for Rev. Gabriel to eat first. I wasn’t going to look back, so I just listened for the clink of silverware or the murmur of a prayer – you’d think somebody would pray, right?

I said a prayer in my head. Soup was getting cold.

No conversation. It felt like I was eating in the principal’s office. He could watch me. I felt it a violation to snap a photo of my food at that moment.

After the soup, the main course was a cut up potato, a halved hard-boiled egg, and a bit of raw tuna.  Feels like a Friday menu that’s desperately close to running out of ideas – but I’m not complaining.

After dinner, Sister Sara stumbles upon me in the courtyard. She points out things of note and I take pictures. Sister indicates she should take a photo of me in front of the Blessed Virgin statue. We work through a couple mishaps, some shots of unsuspecting feet and the push of a wrong button. Finally, sister gets it right. We review. She’s clipped off 18 shots of me; the last few look like I’m telling a kid, “OK, that’s enough. Give me the camera now.”

I take a short video and play it back for Sister, and she is beyond thrilled! It’s a true reaction and I know she’s never seen cellphone technology before.

Sister takes me for a tour of the chapel and shows me some unique paintings, including a wall mural of Pope John Paul. She seems to indicate he visited the sanctuary once.

I’d better wrap up; lights out at 10 p.m.

Insights from the tour in Italy

-Did not see a Walmart or Starbucks in Italy. “You would embarrass yourselves with a Starbucks here,” said one man at a cafe. There are independent coffee shops on nearly every corner in Italy.

-Three weeks on a bicycle pedaling over lots of cobblestone streets and not one flat tire or broken spoke the entire tour. I consider that a miracle.

-The kindness of strangers has been over the top on this tour from someone lending me their camper to sleep in during a stormy night at a campground in Pisa to a person at a flea market offering me a seat in the shade and giving me a bowl of gelato. There was a fruit vendor in a dirty white t-shirt at the side of the road that filled my lap with cherries as I stopped to rest. His son then gave me a cold bottle of water and they sliced a melon open and shared it. A nun in Rome saw I was struggling with securing a scarf around my waist so I could visit St. Peter’s Basilica and she came over and helped. Such small gifts but they really make the tour special

 

Sanctuary+meal

Terrorists Attack Tunisia

I thought that other countries didn’t have mass killings?

(CNN)Terrorists killed at least 27 people in an attack Friday on a beachfront Tunisian hotel, Tunisian officials said, according to the state-run TAP news agency.

Tunisia’s interior minister reported 27 dead — at least some of whom were guests at the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba in Sousse, TAP reported.

SCOTUS Rules on Housing Discrimination

And in case you didn’t think SCOTUS had beclowned itself enough, they also released this ruling.

WASHINGTON — A deeply divided Supreme Court delivered an unexpected reprieve to civil rights groups Thursday, ruling that housing discrimination need not be intentional in order to be illegal.

The justices said people objecting to lending, zoning, sales and rental practices can base their legal claim on the disparate impact those practices have on blacks or other minorities.

You got it. The government can still whack you for housing discrimination even if you weren’t intentionally discriminating.

Obamacare Ruling

I can’t say much more than Scalia already did. The Supreme Court beclowned itself in its Obamacare ruling and rendered themselves just another political judicial body. Unfortunately, it’s one with lifetime appointments.

On the argument the state subsidies violates the act:
“Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State. You would think the answer be obvious — so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a state.”

And he added…
“The Court solves that problem (believe it or not) by simply saying that federal exchanges count as state exchanges only…for purposes of the tax credits.  How wonderfully convenient and how utterly contrary to normal principles of interpretation.”

Knowing Your Spouse’s Finances

I’m surprised by this statistic.

Yet 43% of people don’t know one of the most basic things about their spouses’ finances: how much they make.

Four in 10 married people surveyed by Fidelity could not correctly identify which salary range their spouse falls into. About 10% of those who got it wrong were off by more than $25,000.
It’s not just women, or men, who are in the dark. Both were wrong 43% of the time.

I can see someone not being able to exactly identify their spouse’s income, but to not be within a range? Or to be off by $25k!? Clearly those couples don’t have any communication on budgeting their spending either.

Walker to Sign Two Laws Expanding Liberty

These are quite sensible.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) plans to sign two new laws on Wednesday that expand the rights of gun owners by removing a 48-hour waiting period for those looking to purchase a firearm and allowing off-duty or retired police officers to carry concealed weapons at public schools. This action will come one week after a suspected gunman shot and killed nine people in an African American church in South Carolina, yet again prompting a national discussion about gun laws in the U.S.

Walker plans to sign the two pieces of legislation — Senate bills 35 and 70 — at a ceremony at the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday afternoon, according to a Tuesday evening press release from the governor’s office. Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, said this bill-signing was scheduled and announced about two weeks ago, several days before the shooting occurred in South Carolina.

The reporter’s bias is telling. The assumption underneath the article is that it is somehow a scandal that Walker is signing laws expanding gun rights after a shooting that has prompted “a national discussion about gun laws in the U.S.” Why? If it is truly a discussion, couldn’t the result of that discussion be that we need to permit the wider spread of firearm possession by stand-up folks? Clearly the report doesn’t think so. She assumes that the “discussion” should result in stricter gun laws, in which case, Walker’s actions would be considered scandalous.

In any case, good for the legislature for passing these laws and for Walker for signing them.

 

40-Year-Old Meat Seized in China

Ew.

(CNN)Some 800 tonnes of smuggled frozen meat have been seized by Chinese authorities, including one batch dating from the 1970s, state media reported.

The meat was bound for restaurants, retailers and supermarkets in Hunan province, where it was found, and other Chinese provinces and major cities, according to a report from Xinhua, China’s official news agency, on Tuesday.

The seized meat included poultry and beef and was reported to be worth 10 million yuan ($1.6 million).

Some packages were rotten and others were around 40 years old — packed and stamped at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution.

France Upset Over U.S. Spying

Coddling enemies and enraging allies… that’s how we roll nowadays.

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.