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News from around Wisconsin (10:54 p.m. 1/29/10)

Mega Millions, Powerball to cross-sell tickets

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — No need to cross state lines to get the big-jackpot lotto tickets. Dozens of states will begin selling both Mega Millions and Powerball tickets on Sunday, moving the U.S. a step closer to having a national lottery.

By the time all the states sign on to the new system this spring, the nation’s two biggest lotteries will be sold in 43 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We expect there will be larger jackpots faster. We expect there to be more winners,” said Margaret DeFrancisco, co-chair of a committee for both lotteries and president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

Powerball, with drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is played in 31 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S Virgin Islands. Twenty-three of those places will sell tickets for Mega Millions beginning with the Feb. 2 drawing. Mega Millions, with drawings on Tuesdays and Fridays, is played in 12 states. Ten of them will sell tickets for Powerball starting with the Feb. 3 drawing.

The change could end the tradition of driving into a border state to buy tickets for another game when jackpots climb.

Ermelinda Ribero, a Powerball customer at Angie’s State Line Package Store on the Connecticut/Massachusetts line in Enfield, Conn., usually buys her Mega Millions tickets in her hometown of Longmeadow, Mass. She said Friday that the change will let her make one stop instead of two.

“Since I never win in Massachusetts, maybe I’ll win here,” she joked.

For Toyota drivers, confusion and growing anger

Toyota executives have been virtually silent amid a recall of millions of their cars because gas pedals can become dangerously stuck. For their customers, oh, what a feeling — fear, frustration, confusion and anger.

Since Tuesday, when the Japanese automaker said it would stop making and selling some of its top-selling models, the company has had few answers for dealers and drivers — most notably when Toyota owners could get their cars fixed and hit the road without worrying.

“I’m stuck with this car,” said Tony Raasch of Hales Corners, Wis., who said he hit another driver in his 2010 Corolla two weeks ago when the car suddenly accelerated. “I really don’t know what to do. I just feel — I guess — ripped off is the best way to put it.”

Toyota first recalled 2.3 million vehicles, including the popular Camry and Corolla, because of faulty gas pedals. Later in the week, it expanded the recall to Europe and recalled 1.1 million more in the U.S. because of floor mats that can catch the accelerator.

Almost certainly adding to driver frustration, Toyota is sending new gas pedal systems to its factories, not to dealerships that want the parts to take care of customers’ cars, The Associated Press learned.

In its worst crisis in recent memory, the company has communicated with the public in a series of very limited statements from spokesmen. One of them, Brian Lyons, said he was restricted to describing the problem as “rare and infrequent.”

For days, there was no indication of how long it might take to get the affected Toyotas fixed, whether the fix would be a repair or a replacement, or whether it was even safe for drivers to take their cars to the dealership.

Democrat Decker collected most per diems in ’09

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker of Weston collected more in travel reimbursements than any other state lawmaker last year.

Records released on Friday by the Legislature’s clerk’s offices show that Decker received $16,368 in per diems in 2009. The next highest was Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican from Juneau, who received $15,488.

State lawmakers from outside Dane County can collect $88 per day in reimbursement. Legislators from Dane County can collect $44 a day.

Five Assembly lawmakers were tied for third highest with $13,464 each in claims. They were Democrats Kim Hixson of Whitewater, Ann Hraychuck of Balsam Lake, Cory Mason of Racine, Marlin Schneider of Wisconsin Rapids, and Leon Young of Milwaukee.

W.Va. racetrack downplays report of 707 injuries

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A national group determined to outlaw greyhound racing says 62 dogs died or had to be euthanized at a West Virginia racetrack between January 2008 and September 2009, while more than 700 were injured.

GREY2K USA, a Massachusetts group that helped outlaw racing last year in that state, said Friday the injury rate at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack is the highest of any track it’s studied so far.

Executive Director Carey Theil said his organization has conducted similar studies of greyhound injuries at tracks in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin.

“Dogs are suffering broken legs and other serious injuries on a daily basis,” he said, adding the problems included skull fractures and spinal injuries. “This is the West Virginia dog racing industry’s dirty little secret.”

But a state veterinarian who developed a database to track greyhound injuries six years ago said late Friday the group misconstrued her data. Dr. Lori Bohenko said it’s simply wrong to suggest dogs are seriously injured on a daily basis.

“There are some days I just sit here and watch races and do not touch a dog,” she said.

The track also issued a statement calling GREY2K’s numbers “a skewed version of the facts” and said more than 98 percent of its races are run without serious injury.

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