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Trimble County junior James Thomas Wilcoxson

Firefighters respond to two fires
  • Updated

An electrical fire Saturday night on Madison’s hilltop was contained to a small area of the roof and ceiling as well as some smoke damage and there were no injuries.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday, Madison Fire Department responded to the 2700 block of Springwood Drive in Madison for an initial report of a carbon monoxide alarm activation after a dual-purpose detector alerted to the presence of smoke and/or carbon monoxide.

The resident initially thought the alarm was a carbon monoxide incident, but upon arrival, firefighters reported smoke coming from the gable vents of the residence.

All occupants and pets had exited the structure prior to arrival of Madison Fire Department and the fire was extinguished and smoldering insulation was removed from the house.

Records indicate the home’s owner is Jacklyn Davis. The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical.

Madison Salvation Army assisted the occupants in finding temporary shelter.

“This is a great reminder that working smoke detectors save lives,” Madison Fire Chief Bill DeVries said of the dual-purpose detector that alerted of the issue. He said anyone needing a smoke detector installed, can arrange to have that done by Madison Fire Department for free by registering for installation at and then click on the smoke detector installation request.

Responding agencies included the Madison Fire Department, Madison Police Department, King’s Daughters’ Hospital EMS, Duke Energy and the Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, Milton Fire and Rescue responded to a fire on Friday and contained the blaze to a closet area of an upstairs bedroom at a home in the 300 block of School Hollow Road in Milton.

Milton firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 5:26 p.m., and upon arrival found smoke coming from the roof of the two-story structure. Entry was made into the second floor rear door and the fire was located in the bedroom closet and extinguished.

The female occupant of the home and her four children were able to escape the residence with no injuries.

The fire is still under investigation but no foul play is suspected.

In addition to Milton Fire and Rescue, those responding to the scene included Bedford Fire and Rescue, Madison Fire Department, Trimble County EMS and the Trimble County Sheriff’s Department.

For additional coverage, visit our media partner, WKMNEWS.COM.

City throws switch on holiday season
  • Updated

The holiday season in Madison officially kicked off Friday with the annual Light Up Madison event at the Broadway Fountain.

“What a great crowd!” said Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. “The last couple of years have been hard but we’ve made it through the gauntlet and it’s so great to be here.”

People gathered around the Broadway Fountain to see the colorful lights switched on while checking out the downtown business district. “Merry Christmas, shop local,” said Courtney. “We have great shops, restaurants and businesses here. Let’s support Madison.”

Courtney commented how “beautiful” the decorations were, and commended the work of everyone involved in getting Madison decorated for the holidays.

“This event wouldn’t be possible without all the hard work from everybody here in town,” noting the efforts of Hannah Fagen, community relations director, along with “our fantastic City of Madison street department who makes downtown Madison and the hilltop beautiful.”

He also noted the contributions of Visit Madison Inc., Madison Main Street and the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, along with “all our local city and county elected officials.”

The weekend also brought the return of the community’s annual Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes, which drew long lines at all the sites. There’s one more weekend of the tour slated for next weekend from 5-9 p.m. on Friday and 3-9 p.m. on Saturday.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12, and may be purchased online at then picked up at the Visit Madison Visitors Center at 601 West First Street. Tickets also may be purchased at the Visitors Center during tour hours. Homes may be toured in any order but cannot be repeated. All tickets are pick-up only at the Visitors Center.

Awards were also announced by Visit Madison Inc., for the Merry Madison Decorating Contest for businesses. Horst’s Little Bakery Haus on Clifty Drive won the People’s Choice prize, Olde Tyme Marketplace won Best on Brand, and the Attic/Coffee Mill Cafe won for Classic Christmas. Registration is now closed for the community’s home decorating contest with winners slated to be announced Dec. 14.

This coming Saturday will feature “A Very Merry Madison Christmas Parade” on Main Street in downtown Madison starting at 11 a.m. After the parade, there will be the “A Very Merry Madison Christmas Celebration” at Broadway Street with vendors, free crafts for children and more. Santa Claus and his reindeer will make an appearance until 1:30 p.m. while there will be a trackless train and ice skating rink until 3 p.m.

Last weekend the Hanover Tinsel Twinkle Trail opened at Hanover Community Park where more than 250,000 holiday lights and 50 plus holiday sculptures may be viewed. Coming up Saturday at Hanover will be the Mistletoe Market Christmas Craft Center that will be be held at both the Community Center building and Southwestern Elementary School cafeteria from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Friday, Dec. 17, and Saturday, Dec. 18, there will be the Holly Jolly Santa Celebration at the Hanover Community Park. The event will feature two dozen holiday characters throughout the park. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be there. Additionally, there is the Sugar Plum Bake-off Competition in three categories — holiday candy, holiday cookie and holiday decorated cookie — for a top prize of $250 in each category. Entries of a three dozen cookies must be submitted at the Community Building Thursday, Dec. 16, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Friday, Dec. 17, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, the 21st annual Christmas at Hanover will take place at 5 p.m. at Hanover’s Recital Hall, featuring the Hanover College Chamber Singers. On Friday at 5 p.m. at Recital Hall, there will be Christmas with Hanover, an instrumental Christmas celeebration directed by Dr. David Mruzek, professor of music at the college.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, from 7-9 p.m., the Madison Performing Arts Foundation will feature “A Madison Holiday Tradition” with the Louisville Brass, which includes brass faculty from the University of Louisville, at Trinity United Methodist Church.

On Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 6 p.m., the Jefferson/Switzerland County Master Gardner Association will have a holiday wreath making workshop at the Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds. Limited participation and pre-registered is required by calling 812-265-8919.

In addition to Santa Claus being on Broadway Street this Saturday, children can visit Santa Claus at the Madison Comfort Station at 221 West Main Street on the following dates: Friday, Dec. 10, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 11, 2-5 p.m. ; Friday, Dec. 17, 5-8 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 18, 2-5 p.m.

Letters for Santa can be dropped off in Santa’s mailbox outside Madison City Hall at 101 West Main Street until Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. Letters with a return address will receive a note from Santa. For more information, call 812-265-8300.

Supreme Court set for all-or-nothing abortion fight
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Both sides are telling the Supreme Court there’s no middle ground in Wednesday’s showdown over abortion. The justices can either reaffirm the constitutional right to an abortion or wipe it away altogether.

Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion, is facing its most serious challenge in 30 years in front of a court with a 6-3 conservative majority that has been remade by three appointees of President Donald Trump.

“There are no half measures here,” said Sherif Girgis, a Notre Dame law professor who once served as a law clerk for Justice Samuel Alito.

A ruling that overturned Roe and the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a resewarch organization that supports abortion rights.

The case being argued Wednesday comes from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability. The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before the point at roughly 24 weeks when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

The justices are separately weighing disputes over Texas’ much earlier abortion ban, at roughly six weeks, though those cases turn on the unique structure of the law and how it can be challenged in court, not the abortion right. Still, abortion rights advocates were troubled by the court’s 5-4 vote in September to allow the Texas law, which relies on citizen lawsuits to enforce it, to take effect in the first place.

“This is the most worried I’ve ever been,” said Shannon Brewer, who runs the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The clinic offers abortions up to 16 weeks of pregnancy and about 10% of abortions it performs take place after the 15th week, Brewer said.

She also noted that since the Texas law took effect, the clinic has seen a substantial increase in patients, operating five days or six days a week instead of two or three.

Lower courts blocked the Mississippi law, as they have other abortion bans that employ traditional enforcement methods by state and local officials.

The Supreme Court had never before even agreed to hear a case over a pre-viability abortion ban. But after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last year and her replacement by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the third of Trump’s appointees, the court said it would take up the case.

Trump had pledged to appoint “pro-life justices” and predicted they would lead the way in overturning the abortion rulings. Only one justice, Clarence Thomas, has publicly called for Roe to be overruled.

The court could uphold the Mississippi law without explicitly overruling Roe and Casey, an outcome that would satisfy neither side.

Abortion-rights advocates say that result would amount to the same thing as an outright ruling overturning the earlier cases because it would erase the rationale undergirding nearly a half-century of Supreme Court law.

“A decision upholding this ban is tantamount to overruling Roe. The ban prohibits abortion around two months before viability,” said Julie Rikelman, who will argue the case for the clinic.

On the other side, abortion opponents argue that the court essentially invented abortion law in Roe and Casey, and shouldn’t repeat that mistake in this case.

If the justices uphold Mississippi’s law, they’ll have to explain why, said Thomas Jipping, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow. They can either overrule the two big cases, Jipping said, “or they’re going to have to come up with another made-up rule.”

Conservative commentator Ed Whelan said such an outcome would be a “massive defeat” on par with the Casey decision in 1992, in which a court with eight justices appointed by Republican presidents unexpectedly reaffirmed Roe.

This court appears far more conservative than the one that decided Casey, and legal historian Mary Ziegler at Florida State University’s law school, said the court probably would “overrule Roe or set us on a path to doing so.”

Chief Justice John Roberts might find the more incremental approach appealing if he can persuade a majority of the court to go along. Since Roberts became chief justice in 2005, the court has moved in smaller steps on some issues, even when it appeared there was only a binary choice.

It took two cases for the court to rip out the heart of the federal Voting Rights Act that curbed potentially discriminatory voting laws in states with a history of discrimination.

In the area of organized labor, the court moved through a series of cases that chipped away at public sector unions’ power.

The high court also heard two rounds of arguments over restrictions on independent spending in the political arena before removing limits on how much money corporations and unions can pour into election advocacy.

If the court looks to public sentiment, it would find poll after poll that shows support for preserving Roe, though some surveys also find backing for greater restrictions on abortion.

Mississippi is one of 12 states ready to act almost immediately if Roe is overturned. Those states have enacted so-called abortion trigger laws that would take effect and ban all or nearly all abortions.

Women in those states wanting abortions could face drives of hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic or they might obtain abortion pills by mail. Medication abortions now account for 40% of abortions.

Some legal briefs in the case make clear that the end of Roe is not the ultimate goal of abortion opponents.

The court should recognize that “unborn children are persons” under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, a conclusion that would compel an end to almost all legal abortions, Princeton professor Robert George and scholar John Finnis wrote. Finnis was Justice Neil Gorsuch’s adviser on his Oxford dissertation, an argument against assisted suicide.

Two more COVID deaths reported locally
  • Updated

The local COVID-19 death toll climbed again in reporting on Monday as the 103rd virus-related death was reported in Jefferson County and the 31st was announced in Carroll County.

The two new deaths increase the overall death toll for the four local counties to 167 with 21 in Trimble County and 12 in Switzerland County.

Jefferson County’s total positive cases during the pandemic is now 5,689, an increase of 72 since Wednesday, the last time the state health department had updated statistics heading into the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The county’s positivity rate is currently 11%.

In Switzerland County, the number of positive cases has now reached 1,451, an increase of 14 since Wednesday. Switzerland County’s positivity rate is 16%.

Both Jefferson and Switzerland counties are in the “Orange” metric for moderate to high spread.

Carroll and Trimble are both in the “red” metric for high spread with Carroll’s positivity rate now 17.6% and Trimble’s 16.1%.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Monday called the new coronavirus variant omicron a cause for concern but “not a cause for panic” and said he was not considering any widespread U.S. lockdown. He urged Americans anew to get fully vaccinated, including booster shots, and return to face masks indoors in public settings to slow any spread.

Speaking Monday at the White House, Biden said it was inevitable that the new variant would reach the U.S., but he also said the country has the tools necessary to protect Americans — particularly the approved vaccines and booster shots.

When omicron arrives, and it will, Biden said, America will “face this new threat just as we’ve faced those that have come before it.”

He appealed to the roughly 80 million unvaccinated Americans aged 5 and up to get their shots, and for the rest of the country to seek out booster shots six months after their second dose. He also encouraged everyone to get back to wearing face masks in all indoor public settings — a pandemic precaution that has fallen out of use across much of the country.