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Lake Holcombe/Cornell's Luke Geist

Chippewa Falls company announces partnership to develop world's most powerful supercomputer

Chippewa Falls based supercomputer company Cray Inc. announced Tuesday a large partnership, expected to debut the world’s most powerful computer in 2021.


The new system, named Frontier, is based on Cray’s Shasta supercomputer architecture and their Slingshot interconnect and is expected to have the performance of the top 160 fastest supercomputers in the world combined, according to their announcement.

This is the third major contract award for the Shasta architecture and Slingshot interconnect, with previous awards for the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center’s NERSC-9 pre-exascale system, and the Argonne National Laboratory’s Aurora exascale system.

It is being developed with the U.S. Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and valued at more than $600 million.

The system, according to the developers, is hoped to provide performance of more than 1.5 exaFlops. An exaFlop is a billion billion — a quintillion — calculations per second.

According to Cray, Shasta supercomputers are set to be the technology underpinning of the exascale era (computers systems capable of at least one exaFLOP), which is characterized by a deluge of new data and a convergence of modeling, simulation, analytics and AI workloads.

To enable this fusion of workloads to run simultaneously across the system, Slingshot was designed to incorporate intelligent features like adaptive routing, quality-of-service and congestion management.

Frontier will utilize Cray’s new Shasta system software for monitoring, orchestration and application development to provide a single developer interface across the system.

Steve Scott, chief technology officer at Cray, said in the announcement that the exascale systems require a complex balance of computing, interconneting, and software capabilities to enable HPC and AI applications to execute simultaneously and with optimal performance.

“This poses a number of architectural challenges … ranging from the development of new high density compute infrastructure, to modernizing developer software for the creation of extreme scale, data-intensive applications,” Scott said.

“Delivering these technologies for Frontier is incredibly exciting, as they will also become standard product offerings from Cray, enabling us to deliver enhanced performance and productivity to businesses large and small.”

To further accelerate user adoption of the system, a Center of Excellence will be established by Cray and Oak Ridge National Lab to drive collaboration and innovation, and to assist in the porting and tuning of key DOE applications and libraries for the Frontier system.

The Department of Energy also spoke enthusiastically about the project in their own announcements, saying it will “accelerate innovation in science and technology and maintain U.S. leadership in high-performance computing and artificial intelligence.”

Department of Energy secretary Rick Perry said in the announcement that by promoting technology like Frontier, Americans will directly benefit.

“Frontier’s record-breaking performance will ensure our country’s ability to lead the world in science that improves the lives and economic prosperity of all Americans and the entire world,” said Perry said.

“Frontier will accelerate innovation in AI by giving American researchers world-class data and computing resources to ensure the next great inventions are made in the United States.”

Who are Chippewa County's top 10 property taxpayers? Here's the list
Who are Chippewa County's top 10 property taxpayers? Here's the list


A doctor performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman Aug. 7, 2018 at a hospital in Chicago. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday in about 17 out of every 100,000 U.S. births each year, the mother dies from pregnancy-related causes — around 700 deaths a year. But the rate has been slowly climbing for decades. The rate was around 12 per 100,000 a quarter century ago.

US pregnancy deaths up, and report says most are preventable

More U.S. women are dying from pregnancy-related causes, and more than half of those deaths are preventable, government health officials said in a report Tuesday.

Although these deaths are rare — about 700 a year — they have been rising for decades, especially among black women.

“An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was,” said Dr. Neel Shah, a Harvard Medical School obstetrician.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meanwhile has released new guidelines saying women should have a comprehensive heart-risk evaluation 12 weeks after delivery, but up to 40% of women don’t return for that visit and payment issues may be one reason.

Bleeding and infections used to cause most pregnancy-related deaths, but heart-related problems do now.

“Pregnancy is really a stress test” because of the extra blood the heart is moving for mom and child, said the head of the guidelines panel, Dr. James Martin. That can reveal previously unknown problems or lead to new ones.

Tuesday’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that about one-third of maternal deaths happened during pregnancy, a third were during or within a week of birth, and the rest were up to a year later.

Globally, maternal mortality fell about 44% between 1990 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. But the U.S. is out of step: Moms die in about 17 out of every 100,000 U.S. births each year, up from 12 per 100,000 a quarter century ago.

Possible factors include the high C-section rates in the U.S. and soaring rates of obesity, which raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other complications.

Black women in the U.S. are about three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as others, partly because of racial bias they may experience in getting care and doctors not recognizing risk factors such as high blood pressure, said Dr. Lisa Hollier, the obstetrician group’s president.

Stacy Ann Walker may be an example. She was 29, healthy and excited to be expecting her first child eight years ago “when the unimaginable happened and left both of us fighting for our life.”

The Hartford, Connecticut, woman said her doctor brushed off her complaints of shortness of breath, exhaustion and swelling in her legs as normal aches and pains of pregnancy. Her baby developed life-threatening complications requiring an emergency cesarean section, and weighed less than 3 pounds at delivery.

But her ordeal wasn’t over. After the birth, she developed heart valve problems and heart failure, requiring surgery.

“Never did I think my life would be in danger,” said Walker, who is black. She spoke at a news conference the obstetricians group held on the guidelines.

The CDC looked at about 3,000 pregnancy-related deaths from 2011 through 2015, using death certificates. Researchers also looked at more intensive investigations of about 250 deaths done in 13 states.

The latter review determined that 60% of deaths were preventable. Often, three or four problems contributed to a death, ranging from doctors’ mistakes to the difficulty some women had getting housing and healthy food.

The report shows the need to educate doctors and patients about risks for new moms, and to expand Medicaid health coverage in all states so that postpartum care is available for all moms up to a year after giving birth, said Dr. Alison Stuebe of the University of North Carolina.

“We as a society do a terrible job of taking care of mothers after the baby comes out,” she said.

“It’s like the baby is the candy and the mama is the wrapper,” she added. “Once the baby is out of the wrapper, the wrapper is tossed aside.”

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State will spray for gypsy moths in Chippewa County starting in mid-May

Some Chippewa County residents can expect to see loud, low-flying planes as the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection works to push back gypsy moth populations.

As soon as mid-May, planes may be seen as early sunrise spraying in areas of western Wisconsin where gypsy moth populations are low or beginning to build, in an attempt to slow their spread.

There are three sites planned to be sprayed in Chippewa County, two in the Town of Howard and one in the Town of Lake Holcombe.

In addition to Chippewa County, Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Crawford, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Iowa, Grant, Green, La Crosse, Lafayette, Pepin, Vernon and Washburn counties will also be getting some treatment.

According to the DATCP, they are expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in mid-May and end in northern Wisconsin during July.

The moths, a non-native pest, defoliate many kinds of trees and plants during their caterpillar stage, causing stress and potentially tree death and their harmful effects include the cost of removing dead trees and potential loss of property value.

They can also bother people by shedding their skins several times as they feed, and these bristly skins can irritate eyes, skin and the respiratory system.

Christopher Foelker, gypsy moth program manager for the DATCP, said in their announcement of the schedule and moth treatment that where the gypsy moth is well established in eastern North America, it has been a periodic public nuisance and damaging forestry pest.

“These aerial treatments are the most efficient and effective method to delay the impacts associated with gypsy moth outbreaks,” Foelker said.

They will be spraying Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk), targeting gypsy moth caterpillars.

According to the DATCP, Btk is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars feeding on canopy foliage. Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during nearby treatment applications.

They also noted that Btk is used in certified organic food production.

Spraying will begin as caterpillars hatch, and requires good weather for spraying, so calm, with no precipitation and high humidity.

Planes may start applying as early as 5 a.m., flying just above treetops over treatment sites, and continue until finished with the day’s plan or as long as weather conditions remain favorable.

Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon and may be done on weekends.

In a second phase, starting in late June to early July, planes will spray an organic, biodegradable mating disruptor containing gypsy moth pheromone, targeting adult male moths in certain areas.

It inhibits the adult male gypsy moth’s ability to locate females, preventing breeding.

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Holcombe man facing homicide charge has related felony charge dismissed

A Holcombe man accused of shooting and killing Robert Petit last May in Rusk County had a connected case dismissed Tuesday in Chippewa County Court.


Preston D. Kraft, 32, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Rusk County Court. Kraft also had been charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety and bail jumping in Chippewa County, after he reportedly fired his gun toward Petit on April 28, 2018, in the town of Ruby, northeast of Holcombe. He then reportedly shot and killed Petit on May 18.

The hearing Tuesday was supposed to be a preliminary hearing; instead, Chippewa County Assistant District Attorney Roy Gay dropped the felony charge.

“I dismissed the felony because I don’t have a witness, because he is dead,” Gay explained to Judge Steve Gibbs.

The bail jumping charge remains, with a court date on that matter to be set. Gibbs recommended that case continue through video conferencing rather than transfer Kraft from the Rusk County Jail.

Kraft was deemed competent to stand trial in March. He was slated to return to Rusk County Court next Tuesday, but that has been canceled as Kraft’s attorney has requested a substitute judge.

Kraft has been in the custody of the Department of Health Services, and was transferred to a mental institute after a hearing last fall.

According to the criminal complaint, Petit had told police that he approached Kraft’s camper on April 28 when Kraft fired a gun in the air, in his direction. Kraft reportedly told him, “If you come any closer, I am going to kill you.” Petit fled the area and alerted authorities.

Three officers approached the camper but found it unoccupied. However, officers found a spent shell casing on the step outside the camper, and that was seized as evidence. No gun was located.

According to the criminal complaint in the Rusk County case, Kraft shot and killed Petit at N1796 S. Blueberry Road in the town of Willard on May 18. An officer found Petit lying in the driveway at the residence with a head injury. He was flown to Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Eau Claire where he was pronounced dead. Kraft was arrested in Rusk County after a five-day manhunt. Officers located him after a tip he was northwest of Ladysmith.

Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest
Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest