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News from around Wisconsin (9:39 p.m. 1/27/10)

Deadly VHS fish virus found in Lake Superior

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A fatal fish virus has been detected in Lake Superior for the first time, meaning it has spread to all the Great Lakes, researchers said Wednesday.

Cornell University scientists said they recently detected viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, while testing fish in the largest of the Great Lakes.

VHS has been identified in 28 freshwater fish species within the Great Lakes watershed since 2005, including popular sport and commercial varieties such as walleye, muskellunge and whitefish.

Although not dangerous for humans, the virus has caused large fish kills in Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron. It also has turned up in Lake Michigan.

Even so, officials in Michigan and Wisconsin said Wednesday there was no evidence of a widespread outbreak in Lake Superior. They said the Cornell findings would not lead to any immediate changes in boating or fishing regulations.

Both states already limit movement of bait fish and have other rules aimed at preventing VHS from spreading.

“VHS remains a threat to all the Great Lakes, and we will increase our efforts to slow the spread through public awareness of the simple things boaters and anglers can do to help,” said Rebecca Humphries, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Bill would restrict access to Wis. court records

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s newspapers and advocates for freedom of information spoke up against a bill Wednesday that would restrict public access to online court records.

The measure considered by a state Assembly committee would remove from public view pending cases and those where there was no conviction. The panel did not take immediate action on the bill.

The Wisconsin Newspapers Association testified that the proposal attempts to revise history by wiping the record clean for anyone not found guilty and assumes the general public cannot be trusted to view all the records available.

“This proposal insults the people of Wisconsin,” said WNA executive director Peter Fox.

Other opponents included the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Wisconsin Land Title Association and the Wisconsin Housing Alliance.

The online database is an offshoot of the Consolidated Court Automation Programs. Commonly known as CCAP, it contains information about civil and criminal cases filed in Wisconsin circuit courts. Access to some records, like those of juveniles, are restricted under the law.

Nevertheless, the database Web site is extremely popular and gets up to 4 million hits daily. It is used frequently by attorneys, court officials, bill collectors, landlords and the media but is available to anyone who wants to use it.

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