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Johnson says solar flares, pulse attacks among threats
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MADISON (AP) - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson warned Wisconsin emergency officials they need to be prepared for electromagnetic pulse attacks and solar flares that could disable power infrastructures during a wide-ranging town hall meeting Friday.

Johnson, the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, took questions for about 45 minutes at the state National Guard headquarters in Madison but did most of the talking.

He began the session by warning that a pulse attack or a massive solar flare could have "horrific" effects on energy infrastructure. He questioned why emergency officials haven't done more to protect power transformers from those threats.

"We really have not taken steps," Johnson said. "This is something serious. This is a real threat."

Mark Hazelbaker, an attorney for the Dane County Towns Association, told Johnson he believes Americans need to know how to deal with natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

"More people need to respond like the people on Flight 93 than running around with our hands in the air," Hazelbaker said, referring to the passengers who attacked the hijackers who had taken over their plane during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Johnson said he had visited the memorial to the flight in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and was awed at some of the recorded messages from the passengers he listened to there. He said people need to understand the ideology of Al-Qaida and the Islamic State and what both groups want.

"Then the question is, are we going to face it upfront or bury our head in the sand?" he said.

He praised federal authorities after news Thursday that two men in California and Texas had been arrested and faced terror-related charges. He told reporters before the meeting started that people need to face the reality that no community is safe from terrorists.

Johnson also quickly touched on how Americans' appetite for drugs has contributed to the nation's porous borders and how the nation shouldn't have pulled out of Iraq. The United States needs to stabilize countries if the effort will benefit Americans, he said.

Johnson faces a tough re-election fight against Democrat Russ Feingold, a longtime senator whom Johnson defeated in 2010. Feingold spokesman Josh Orton declined immediate comment Friday evening.