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Madison community marches in solidarity with women around the country and world

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 9:56pm

The footsteps of women in Madison echoed those from around the world as they marched in solidarity Saturday to protest the upcoming presidency of Donald Trump.

In Madison alone, what was estimated to be an event of at least 10,000 participants quickly turned into a peaceful crowd of 75,000 to 100,000, according to a Madison Police Department incident report.

The Women’s March on Madison started off at a packed Library Mall, filled with University of Wisconsin students and Madison residents alike. Despite the light rain, women of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations came together to show support for one another and voice their resistance to the rollback of women’s, reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights.

But women were not alone in this march.

Alongside them marched men of all ages, donning signs that read messages such as “Men Of Quality Do Not Fear Equality” and “Keep Your Tiny Hands To Yourself!”

In Photos: Women’s March turns downtown Madison into a sea of pinkOn a gray Saturday, downtown Madison was bathed in a sea of pink. The Women’s March on Madison was one …

Signs echo messages support for women's rights, LGBTQ+ equality and overall acceptance. @BadgerHerald

— Maija Inveiss (@minveiss) January 21, 2017

For Madison resident Mark Plane, it is important for young feminists to become engaged in political activism, citing pride for his two daughters marching in the original Washington demonstration.

Others, like UW graduate student Robert Christal, said it was important to fight against the normalization of Trump’s misogynistic behavior and continue upholding democracy.

As protestors made their way to the State Capitol, with them they carried chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Pussy grabs back.”

Madison's Raging Grannies sing a song on the Capitol steps for Susan B. Anthony #womensmarchmadison

— Hayley Sperling (@hksperl) January 21, 2017

At the Capitol steps, a variety of speakers ranging from legislators to local leaders spoke on the importance of being part of the resistance.

Instead of attending the “inaugural pageantry” as he called it, U.S Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., decided to come back home and show support for his constituents.

During his speech, Pocan said the crowd at the capital steps reminded him of the Act 10 protests that occurred six years ago. Upon the mention of Gov. Scott Walker’s name, the crowd immediately started booing.

Pocan had one simple request from the crowd: “Don’t boo, organize.”

UW students walk out of class in opposition to Trump’s inaugurationAt 11 a.m. Friday morning, Donald Trump was sworn into the Oval Office, effectively becoming the 45th president of the …

In the same vein, State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, quoted Beyoncé when asking the fellow ladies in the crowd to “get in formation.”

State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee echoed a similar sentiment to Zamarripa’s.

“If you stand up, I’m with you,” Taylor said to the crowd that stretched across the Capitol lawn.

One of the last speakers, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, spoke on the importance of working at the local level to find solutions to some of the problems at home.

Even though he said it is important to work with our neighbors at home, Soglin said it is necessary to show solidarity beyond just Wisconsin.

“We have to go beyond the borders of Madison and Dane County and share our feelings of empathy,” Soglin said.

Local leaders reaffirm commitment to community in light of Trump’s electionTuesday night, the nation held its breath as the race for the presidency between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee …

With Washington D.C. and the state Legislature becoming entirely Republican-controlled, the speakers agreed that now is the time to be fighting for progressive values and legislation.

And when you’re loud enough, Madison resident Jenny Sligh said, you can create a ripple effect.

“I think younger women, especially girls a generation or two behind us get to re-experience everything that our mother’s generation and the work they went through so they can fight apparently a fight we still have to be fighting,” Sligh said.

Montana Leggett contributed to reporting to this article. 

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Categories: Local Media

UW students walk out of class in opposition to Trump’s inauguration

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 6:47pm

At 11 a.m. Friday morning, Donald Trump was sworn into the Oval Office, effectively becoming the 45th president of the United States of America.

At noon, thousands of students across the country staged walkouts in a united national opposition to the newly sworn-in president.

At the University of Wisconsin, hundreds of students and Madison community members gathered at Library Mall and marched to the State Capitol Building to protest Trump’s inauguration.

Riley Steinbrenner/The Badger Herald

In photos: Hundreds gather to protest 45th president’s inaugurationOn the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, hundreds exercised their first-amendment right …

Throughout the march, protesters advocated protecting refugees and undocumented immigrants, taxing millionaires and making college free.

The rally, organized by the Madison Socialist Alternative, aimed to unite the community and launch further demonstrations.

Participants ranged from City Council members to undocumented immigrants. They took to the streets to chant messages like “Don’t give in to racists’ fear, refugees are welcome here” and “No Trump, no hate and racists in the USA.”

Teddy Shibabaw, one of the event organizers, said the rally showed the power of ordinary people, ranging from the working class to young people, defending their rights.

“Trump’s policy agenda is racism and sexism,” Shibabaw said with regard to Trump’s views on immigration, environmental issues and taxes.

In addition to speaking up against Trump’s policies at the national level, local leaders touched on the importance of influencing legislators closer to home.

Local leaders reaffirm commitment to community in light of Trump’s electionTuesday night, the nation held its breath as the race for the presidency between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee …

Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, encouraged people to show up to their local institutions and voice their concerns.

“Because of the concentration of power and influence of money, people organized for social justice are shut out of national and state politics,” Kemble said. “But that’s not yet the case locally, we still have power in our local institutions.”

Community members and students also agreed it is necessary to unite to fight against injustices and work on solutions together.

Raven Meyers, a protester, said she was concerned people were not aware of the problems in the community. She said she decided to come out to the rally to support those whose voices needed to be heard.

Students protest Trump’s presidency, proposed policiesMore than a thousand University of Wisconsin students and Wisconsin residents gathered at the Capitol Thursday evening to protest sexual …

As for UW student Iseli Hernandez, she considered the protest an avenue for people to come together and collaborate to work out solutions.

“Obviously our president isn’t going to be here to help us, so we need to start small so we can get to the big picture,” Meyers said. “I feel like as a generation, we need to grow stronger together.”

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Categories: Local Media

Cook to be arraigned on 21 counts of criminal charges

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 5:24pm

After a judge struck down a motion to dismiss four of the six recently introduced charges, University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook will be arraigned on all 21 counts of varying criminal charges.

At the moment, Cook faces 16 felonies and five misdemeanors against 10 women. His charges are as follows:

  • Seven counts of second-degree sexual assault
  • Three counts of third-degree sexual assault
  • Two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault
  • Two counts of strangulation and suffocation
  • Two counts of false imprisonment
  • Two counts of stalking
  • Three counts of disorderly conduct

At the last bail hearing, Cook’s defense team, Christopher Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson, said they planned on filing a motion to dismiss some of the more recently introduced charges, particularly those related to disorderly conduct and stalking.

Investigators pursue stalking claims against CookIn light of a recent search warrant, it is possible that suspended University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook may face …

At the Friday morning motion hearing, however, Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn struck down the team’s motion to dismiss the four charges — two counts of stalking, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of fourth-degree sexual assault.

Nearly one month after being released from the Dane County Jail, Cook returned to Madison for his preliminary hearing Friday afternoon.

The preliminary hearing is meant to determine whether or not there is enough probable cause to charge the defendant and require them to stand trial.

In 2013, a new law enacted Wis. Stat. §970.038, which permits hearsay testimony to establish probable cause, meaning that police officers can testify on behalf of victims.

Cook to be released on reduced $100,000 cash bailA day after University of Wisconsin student Alec Cook received six new criminal charges, he posted a reduced $100,000 cash bail. …

Madison Police Department detectives Tracie Jokala and Grant Humerickhouse, along with UW Police Department detective Carol Ann Kashishian, testified on behalf of the 10 victims.

Throughout the preliminary hearing, both Van Wagner and Nicholson pointed to their client’s full cooperation with the investigation, adding that he has not withheld any information from detectives since being arrested last October.

In addition to his cooperation, Van Wagner pointed to how Cook acted with the victim both prior to and after the alleged incidents. Particularly for the initial complainant, Van Wagner asked detectives “why she would text messages such as ‘LMAO’  to her alleged rapist?”

Alice Vagun/The Badger Herald

After four hours of testimony, Bailey-Rihn ruled Cook to be arraigned on all 21 counts.

Despite losing the motion to dismiss four charges and having to defend against all 21 counts, both Van Wagner and Nicholson said they didn’t feel the least bit defeated.

“I feel that today was the very tip of the iceberg in terms of showing some of the significant problems that are here with this case,” Nicholson said.

Saying she looks forward to defending it, Nicholson said she felt better walking out than she did walking in at the beginning of the day.

Along with Nicholson, Van Wagner said Cook said he can’t wait for trial.

Cook’s arraignment has not been set yet.

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Categories: Local Media

Wisconsin congressman joins nearly 70 Democrats protesting Trump’s inauguration

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 8:00am

As a new political session begins, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., laid out his priorities and explained his reasons for not attending the presidential inauguration in a press conference Thursday morning.

Joining the nearly 70 House Democrats who have declared they will not attend the inauguration, according to The Washington Post, Pocan discussed federal issues relevant to Wisconsinites.

Pocan is set to assume new responsibilities in Congress on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education as well as the Subcommittee on Agriculture.

He repeatedly drew attention to Wisconsin’s infrastructure needs, particularly for rural broadband. An infrastructure package is one of three major issues in focus for the Republican majority-led Congress, Pocan said.

In addition to mentioning the possibility of meaningful tax reform by August, Pocan said Republicans have differing ideas of how to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t know if they’re all on the same page or even reading the same book,” Pocan said. “I think it’s going to be something we have to watch, but obviously our concerns are that 431,000 people by 2019 in Wisconsin will lose health care potentially if they don’t have some sort of replacement.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported this statistic based on Urban Institute estimates.

As the first Congressional Progressive Caucus vice chair, Pocan said he and Co-Chairs Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison — who recently announced his candidacy for the next Democratic National Committee chair — plan to “lead the resistance” to ideas they oppose while offering positive, progressive alternatives.

Democrats look to grassroots approach with Keith Ellison endorsementDemocratic Party members are looking to boost grassroots efforts in the wake of sweeping Republican wins at both the state …

Pocan said though he intended to go the presidential inauguration regardless of who won, the past week had raised some prominent concerns for him.

He criticized President-elect Donald Trump for not fully separating his financial interests from his presidential responsibilities.

“[The lack of separation] could potentially put us in lots of conflicts of interest in a lot of problems, from international affairs to tax policy to everything else in between,” Pocan said. “It’s setting a new precedent, and I think a very negative precedent.”

Pocan also addressed Russian hacking and interference in the Unites States presidential election based on his reading of a classified briefing. The congressman said Trump has been almost trivializing the hacking despite concerns about future interference.

The final factor in his decision to not attend the inauguration, Pocan said, came down to a Twitter feud between Trump and “civil rights hero and national icon” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Pocan said politicians need to focus on breaking Trump’s “potentially devastating Twitter habit.”

How social media made waves in the 2016 electionIn 140 characters or less, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s tweets have the power to …

“I’m just trying to figure out how to get his attention, and clearly he cares about how many people show up at the inauguration,” Pocan said.

After touching on issues including the “near-gutting” of congressional ethics law, controversial cabinet appointee Betsy DeVos and an anticipated walk-out at the University of Wisconsin, Pocan emphasized the power of grassroots support.

Pocan said he plans to participate in the Women’s March on Madison protest Saturday. He said he believes success will come from grassroots efforts.

“It’s not going to be because of Congress … it’s going to happen from the grassroots,” Pocan said. “So if people really get upset about the changes to reproductive health care access, or if they really get upset about big cuts to things like food stamps that the Republicans want to do, then they’ve got to speak out and call us and honestly get in our faces … even in this new Congress, we’ve proved that people power works.”

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Categories: Local Media

MPD arrests three suspects for delivering heroin

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 8:00am

In the first push against the opioid epidemic in Dane County for 2017, Madison Police Department arrested three suspects during a drug bust Tuesday.

According to the incident report, the Dane County Narcotics Task Force seized more than $28,000 in the drug investigation, which started in October of 2016.

The suspects, 22-year old Recardo Fonza, 19-year old Geonni Bryant and 30-year old Anthony Douglas, have been arrested for delivery of heroin.

The Task Force also recovered three handguns, along with ammunition, four digital scales and eight cell phones.

Rallying for recovery: Naloxone offers opportunity to fight Wisconsin’s opioid epidemicGathered at the top of the Capitol steps Saturday, a crowd shouted “Recovery is possible!” Joined hand in hand, recovering addicts, …

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Categories: Local Media

SERF will accomplish its own new year resolutions with revamped facility

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 8:00am

As students make their way to the gym to fulfill New Year’s resolutions, the Southeast Recreational Facility will be fulfilling its own through a series of renovations.

University of Wisconsin staff and architecture team met at a neighborhood open house Thursday to present information on the upcoming project.

Internal and external changes will allow UW students to have increased access to equipment and an improved visual experience while using the facility, John Horn, director of UW Recreational Sports, said.

The new SERF building will be similar in scope to the current building. The exception, Horn said, is an expansion into the current parking lot 87.

Rec Sports renovation plans will make SERF look less like ‘a dungeon’University of Wisconsin’s Division of Recreational Sports is moving on to the next stage of its renovations of the Natatorium and …

The plan will also move the bus stop west of its current location to improve the pedestrian traffic flow, Horn said. In addition, the new SERF will have a lobby area which will allow students and community members who use the building to wait inside for a gym partner or a program to start, he added.

“I don’t know if anybody used the SERF this week between the hours of about 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., but if you go over there right now, I can probably bet that there is a line of people standing outside in the rain right now,” Horn said. “This lobby will eliminate that from ever happening again.”

Another way pedestrian traffic will be improved is by the addition of a second entrance to the pool and diving well area, Horn said. With this second entrance, UW will be able to host athletic events in the swimming and diving areas without interfering with students’ use of the SERF, he added.

Rec Sports presents master plan to update recreational facilitiesAssociated Students of Madison’s Shared Governance Committee listened to University of Wisconsin’s Recreational Sports presentation on its master plan to update recreational …

The plan for the new SERF building will also double the current 4,500 square feet of strength training area, Horn said. The total fitness space will increase by four times.

“Every single one of the 96 pieces of equipment are being used — there’s 20 people in the back of the room waiting for that first person to jump off the piece to beat them to the spot,” Horn said. “With this facility, we will not have that problem any longer.”

UW staff will be presenting the new SERF plan at several committee meetings through January and February. There are no solid dates set for start construction, but Horn said they hope to start in October of this year.

“I presented to [Associated Students of Madison] student council before the December break and when I brought this up, there were audible gasps,” Horn said. “I think that we’re achieving what we want to achieve.”

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Categories: Local Media

Badger Caring Closet to open its doors to low-income students seeking extra resources

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 8:00am

As University of Wisconsin students rush to buy new school supplies for the semester ahead, others facing financial constraints will now be able to prepare for the remainder of the year with the help of Badger Caring Closet.

The project, spearheaded by UW’s chapter of Enactus — a community outreach organization that focuses on social entrepreneurship — aims to provide homeless or financially insecure students with items such as clothing, hygiene products and school supplies.

In the shadows: UW’s homeless students struggle to succeedFor Brooke Evans, nightfall marked the start of a new day. She could barely sleep at night. Instead, her moments of unconsciousness …

Having been involved with the organization since first arriving on campus, UW sophomore and project manager Sheila Griffin saw BCC as another way to fulfill Enactus’ purpose: Solve problems in a sustainable manner.

“Our main goal [as an organization] is to solve a problem in a sustainable way so we can eventually take a step back and know it will run by itself so we can keep going and solve other problems on campus,” Griffin said.

The idea originated from a similar project her co-manager, Chayce Cornette, had at her high school in Green Bay, Griffin said. Around last May, Griffin said Cornette brought up the idea of starting a similar project on campus.

Report challenges food, housing assumptions for community college studentsA new report by the University of Wisconsin HOPE Lab found that 52 percent of community college students in America are at risk …

Now, with the help of clothing donations from the community and a $500 grant provided by Lutheran Memorial Church, BCC will open its doors to the UW community starting Feb. 5, Griffin said.

As someone who experienced homelessness first-hand, UW senior and McNair Scholar Brooke Evans said she becomes critical when organizations claiming to want to help the homeless community open up on campus.

Part of her hesitation, she said, stems from the fact that she feels many of those projects don’t put in enough research into the issue and have not talked to community organizations.

“If you’re going to help the homeless community, you need to get committed to what that actually means,” Evans said.

For Evans, who now serves as an advisor for BCC, that means getting out and talking to the community about what they actually need.

Instead, Evans pointed to making a push for other needed resources, like creating a service for helping write a new resume for those looking to get back to work.

“There are other things we need,” Evans said. “We don’t need 1,000 blankets.”

While there are no official parameters set for who can come in to obtain donated items, Griffin said BCC is largely available on a need basis for students who are looking for extra help.

The project, located at 325 North Mills Street, will be open from Sundays at 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesdays at 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. BCC is open at the same time as Open Seat, the campus food pantry run by Associated Students of Madison.

Limited options for UW students who face food insecurityAlong with increasing costs, many students are facing food insecurity on college campuses across Wisconsin. One study by the Wisconsin …

“While the Wisconsin Idea is great, it promotes a lot of work abroad, and we begin to forget about the work we have to do here,” Evans said. “People are just as deserving of our help here and we forget about that.”

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Categories: Local Media

UW professor shines for his work with stars

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 7:16am

Some reach for the stars. Others, like University of Wisconsin professor James Lawler, devise ways to measure their chemical elements.

For his longstanding and ongoing contributions to the field of astrophysics, the American Astronomical Society awarded Lawler the 2017 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize.

Over the past four decades, Lawler helped develop various methods and technologies that further the scientific understanding of galactic nucleosynthesis and chemical evolution.

UW scientists fight for NASA dollars to study outer spaceHundreds of millions of dollars flow into University of Wisconsin each year for research on planetary and Earth sciences, as a …

The UW Arthur and Aurelia Schawlow professor of physics began his career as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–Rolla in 1973. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in physics, he continued his studies at UW, finishing with a master’s in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 1978.

His interest in the field began as more spectroscopy — the study of how light interacts with matter — technology became available in the ’70s and ’80s. The basic business of atomic spectroscopy, he said, played a central role in the development of quantum mechanics and modern physics.

“What pushed me in this field was the lasting significance [of it],” Lawler said. “It’s the way we learn about the remote universe; it gives us the details of chemistry.”

‘Space screws up biology:’ UW botanist grows plants in NASA space stationTaking his research and questions to space, a University of Wisconsin faculty member now works closely with NASA to study how …

During his tenure at UW, Lawler has overseen more than 30 graduate students, published more than 250 peer-reviewed articles and secured two patents.

Currently, Lawler said his two main research interests involve gas discharge plasmas and laser spectroscopy. At the moment, he and his research group are looking at ways to study discharge plasmas for applications including electric power switches.

“We do applied science and try to figure out what turns out to be more efficient and what can result in better and cheaper switches,” he said.

He and his research group work closely with major lighting companies, such as General Motors and Philips Lighting.

For NASA Commander, breaking glass ceiling meant aiming for outer spaceHighly decorated astronaut Eileen Collins visited the University of Wisconsin Monday to discuss her adversity in NASA’s mostly-male industry. Collins, …

While astrophysicist is a title well-earned, Lawler also has a lesser-known identity: long-distance bicyclist.

Describing himself as a “very avid” long-distance bicyclist, Lawler has enjoyed Wisconsin’s latest push for converting old railroad tracks into bike paths.

“The trails are easy and the countryside is magnificent,” Lawler said.

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Categories: Local Media

City committee denies liquor application for new State Street restaurant

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 7:02am

In an effort to reduce the amount of alcohol-serving establishments on State Street, Madison’s Alcohol License Review Committee denied a downtown restaurant’s application for a liquor license Wednesday evening. 

In a 3-2 vote, the committee denied Laura Garden — a restaurant set to open on the 500 block of State Street — a proper liquor license. The committee raised concern with opening yet another alcohol-serving established on the already liquor-crowded 500 block.

City Council overrides Soglin’s veto on Lotsa Pizza’s liquor licenseIn a unanimous vote, the Madison City Council voted to override Mayor Paul Soglin’s veto on a liquor license for Lotsa Stone Fired …

Ald. Ledell Zellers, District 2, pointed to the safety issue on State Street when considering approval for the license. 

“Alcohol license is a privilege — not a right. I’m concerned about the density of alcohol licenses on State Street and we do really need to be cautious,” she said.

Laila D’Costa, a member of Mayor Paul Soglin’s administrative staff, spoke on behalf of the mayor during the meeting, addressing a comment he had made on the application.   

In the past, Soglin has been a vocal advocate for revitalizing retail on State Street and cutting down on the amount of alcohol-serving establishments.

Eating, drinking establishments crowding out retail on State Street, mayor tells committeeMayor Paul Soglin came before the Alcohol License Review Committee Wednesday to discuss the impact of liquor-licensing on the commercial …

“The mayor does not approve granting the license. He has been very consistent in focusing on the future of the downtown area,” D’Costa said. “We’ll continue the mix-use of retail, business and establishments.” 

The current downtown plan focuses on creating a mix-use of small, local retail businesses.

In addition to reshaping the downtown area, Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, also expressed his concern over the numerous police records relating to the building owner.

“I wasn’t convinced that this will be a bonafide restaurant because we had issues with the applicant’s family in the past with operating State Street establishments,” Verveer said.

Preliminary report reveals new strategies for State StreetThe results are in: State Street has some work to do. After five months of analyzing the state of retail …

Allegedly, one of the building owner’s properties had records of illegally operating a night club within the restaurant, Verveer said. 

Xi Wang, the restaurant owner, defended herself, saying the restaurant had nothing to do with the property owner.

“It’s hard to accept the result because I’m not the one who had police records,” Wang said. “I should not be blamed for my family members’ faults considering my clear background.”  

Wang’s application for the liquor license will be reconsidered at the Feb. 7 City Council meeting.

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Categories: Local Media

ASM starts off semester by passing its internal budget

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 6:02am

After hours of lengthy discussion, the Associated Students of Madison passed its internal budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year in their first meeting of the semester.

The budget passed with 22 members voting in favor, one opposed and three abstentions.

During a Dec. 9 meeting, ASM’s finance committee voted to dedicate $20,000 for creating legal services for students in need, particularly those seeking help for an immigration manner. At the Wednesday meeting, however, the internal budget listed $50,000 to be allocated toward the creation of a student legal service center.

SSFC roundup: Committee approves $20,000 to support student legal servicesThis week, the University of Wisconsin’s Student Services Finance Committee approved a $20,000 request to support legal services for students …

Despite the overwhelming support for the service, many representatives were hesitant to approve $50,000 for a project that did not have a set proposal.

Newly admitted Rep. Brooke Evans said more research and planning should go into the program before any funds are set aside for it. With an estimated four to six months of planning ahead, Rep. Colin Barushok said it would not be wise for ASM to “put the cart before the horse.”

“[Approving the legal services center] means all we’ll end up doing is taxing students for something to go into effect for something that isn’t going there,” Barushok said. “Like Chair Carmen Goséy says, you don’t tax the students for an idea.”

Veteran Law Center outfits services to extend reach to more veterans in needEvery fourth Thursday of the month, the front corner room of Porchlight Inc. turns into a makeshift law office. A team …

Additionally, pointing to the high reserves ASM already has, Barushok said approving the $50,000 for legal services would not be smart budgeting.

The body voted to clear the $50,000 from the internal budget and are creating a task force of members interested in exploring opportunities to provide legal services to students.

In addition to discussing clearing the money set aside for student legal services, representatives also debated an amendment proposed by Rep. Katrina Morrison.

ASM supports sexual assault survivors, undocumented students on campusThe Associated Students of Madison stood in solidarity with sexual assault survivors and undocumented students at the University of Wisconsin …

Morrison moved to increase support for students with disabilities from $10,000 to $20,000 after the student finance committee cut the amount in half.

The money set aside to support students with disabilities provides accommodations for students participating in extracurricular events.

“Cutting [the funding] in half shows a dangerous message — it shows we don’t care about necessary accommodation for students with disabilities,” Morrison said. “I think we need to take diverse abilities and necessary accommodations more seriously.”

For disabled students, campus accessibility falls shortFor Karen Brown, a disabled 63-year-old returning student who suffers from lupus, commuting to campus is unbearable. Despite university efforts to adhere …

As chair of the student finance committee, Barushok said their main reasoning to cutting the funding came from its historical use. In past years, not all of the funds were used up, meaning that money went into ASM’s already high reserves, Barushok said.

Having met with a member from the McBurney Disability Resource Center, Goséy said she was recommended to allocate $10,000 to support students with disabilities.

“Caring doesn’t mean putting a dollar amount on something that won’t be used,” Goséy said. “It becomes a problem when we increase [funding] just because we want to send messages.”

Morrison’s amendment failed and the support for students with disabilities remained at $10,000.

Along with passing the internal budget, Evans passed her first constitutional amendment, which sought to revamp ASM’s nondiscrimination policy to include other underrepresented groups of people on campus.

ASM receives complaint about Black Lives Matter signThe Associated Students of Madison chair addressed an anonymous complaint about a Black Lives Matter sign mounted on the window …

During open forum, Barushok also took three minutes to address the complaint ASM received last semester regarding the Black Lives Matter sign in their office window.

In a previous meeting, ASM was accused of being “too political” for having the sign in the window. Barushok, however, disagreed with this notion.

“What good is a student association if we can’t stand for anything?” Barushok said.

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Categories: Local Media

UW System sues two UW-Oshkosh officials for illegal financial activities

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 3:29pm

Two University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh officials have been accused of illegally transferring university money to a private foundation to support real estate projects in and around the Oshkosh area.

Former UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells, who served from 2000 to 2014, and former Vice Chancellor Thomas Sonnleitner, who served from 2000 to 2016, were served with a lawsuit from the UW System Wednesday.

The lawsuit, which was jointly filed by the UW System and the state Department of Justice, alleged the two men approved the transfer of money from UW-Oshkosh to the UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

According to the foundation’s website, the private nonprofit aims to “promote, receive, invest and disburse gifts to meet the goals and needs of UW-Oshkosh.”

Money from the foundation is supposed to sent to the university — not the other way around.

UW Chancellor’s Scholarship Program receives anonymous $10 million donationAnonymous donors gifted $10 million to University of Wisconsin’s Chancellor’s Scholarship Program to help support underrepresented ethnic minority students and …

According to a UW-Oshkosh statement, the university’s current chancellor, Andrew Leavitt, fired Art Rathjen Tuesday, who served as the foundation’s president. Another undisclosed campus employee involved in the matter was placed on paid leave.

“I want to apologize for what has transpired. It is unacceptable to violate the public trust and to act without regard for ethics and the law. We must be ethical, accountable and transparent in our service to students and the citizens of Wisconsin,” Leavitt said in a statement. “To that end, I will take immediate action to ensure this type of activity does not happen again on our campus.”

Since the discovery, state Republicans have voiced their outrage at the mishandling of university money.

In a joint statement Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, called the situation “alarming” as it threatened to undermine the integrity of UW-Oshkosh and the UW System as a whole.

UW Faculty Senate passed no-confidence resolution toward UW System leadershipAfter heated debate, the University of Wisconsin Faculty Senate passed a resolution Monday that highlights its lack of confidence in UW …

“The misuse of funds, whether it pertains to taxpayer dollars, student fees or foundation money, should never be tolerated,” the joint statement said.

Others are demanding accountability not only on the part of the accused, but on the UW System for their lack in financial oversight.

While Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater said in a statement the UW System deserves credit for taking action against the two men, he also pointed to how “woefully inadequate” the financial oversight has been within the institution.

Regents approve $42.5 million budget focused on developing workforce, college affordabilityAmid a series of power outages, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan to help …

In light of the discovery at Oshkosh, Vos, Steineke and Nygren said the system will be reviewing financial transactions at other universities.

“It is the legislature’s role to ensure proper oversight in matters affecting the state. We look forward to learning more about the UW System’s report on the matter and if criminal prosecution will be pursued,” their joint statement said. “We will then determine whether legislative action is warranted, which may include an audit of the relationship between universities and their foundations.”

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Categories: Local Media

City Council approves additional absentee voting locations

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 6:00am

In an effort to facilitate easy access to voting, the Madison City Council passed a resolution Tuesday evening expanding in-person absentee voting opportunities throughout the city.

With the approval of the resolution, 12 additional absentee voting locations will be established in the city in time for the 2017 spring primary.

Madison to expand early, in-person absentee voting sites across the cityFor the first time ever, Madison is opening multiple doors around the city for residents and students to cast early …

A decision from a federal judge related to Wisconsin’s voter ID law gave cities the ability to establish more locations for absentee voting. Increasing the number of locations around the city and on the University of Wisconsin campus will increase voter turnout, Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, said.

Absentee voting has always been important to people, especially students, Wood said. As the Student Activities Center is one of the newer locations for absentee voting, Wood said it will be more convenient for students to cast an absentee ballot on campus.

With the establishment of these locations, Wood hopes overall voter turnout will increase.

Madison sees record-setting early voting numbersMadison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl announced a record-setting number of absentee ballots and early votes in …

“We want to expand opportunities for young people and all people to participate in their democracy,” Wood said.

Before last year’s ruling, the only location to cast an absentee ballot was the City County Building near the Capitol, Wood said.

While the resolution will still allow people to cast their absentee ballot at the City County Building, it also creates additional locations at the many branches of the Madison Public Library system, including the Central Library and Monroe Street neighborhood locations.

The February primary elections will be the first time these locations will be in place, Wood said. Most students will cast their ballots there as well in the general elections in April, he added.

Local leaders reaffirm commitment to community in light of Trump’s electionTuesday night, the nation held its breath as the race for the presidency between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee …

The results of the 2016 presidential election may also increase voter turnout at the local level, Wood said.

“I think there’s a lot of people who still have a very bitter taste in their mouth because of November and are committed to acting at the local level,” Wood said.

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Categories: Local Media

Sigma Chi fraternity officially placed on suspension

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 5:14pm

On the first day of classes, the University of Wisconsin chapter of Sigma Chi has been officially suspended from all university activities.

The organization, located at 211 Langdon St., received the notification Tuesday after being found in violation of the Student Organization Code of Conduct.

UW’s Sigma Chi fraternity under suspension for second time this academic yearUniversity of Wisconsin’s chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity is under suspension for the second time this academic year for violating …

According to an email sent to The Badger Herald from UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone, the fraternity had served or permitted the serving of alcohol to minors during an event in October.

Along with the infraction in October, the chapter has been found of multiple violations in the past.

Alleged rape at Sigma ChiThe Sigma Chi fraternity has placed itself on a form of social probation amid a controversial investigation into at least …

Until the suspension is lifted, Sigma Chi is prohibited from operating as a Registered Student Organization, meaning they are not permitted to hold events and activities.

Once the suspension is lifted May 8, the chapter will be on probation with alcohol restriction — meaning no alcohol will be allowed at any of their events. Sigma Chi will still remain on a general probation until Jan. 23, 2018.

The chapter has the right to appeal the decision to the Division of Student Life.

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Categories: Local Media

Expanded restorative justice programs offer young offenders an escape from life behind bars

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 4:09pm

For most young people, the changes associated with coming of age can seem daunting, and when combined with the instability that comes with an arrest, it can become unmanageable. Restorative justice systems help youth stay away from a path of repeat offenses while introducing positive influences.

Restorative justice programs like the TimeBank’s Youth Court Program and the Dane County Community Restorative Courts work toward reshaping the traditional criminal justice model.

These programs allow victims and offenders to interact with one another and help repair the offender’s relationship with the community. In Dane County, the Community Restorative Courts act as an alternative to the judicial system for first-time offenders who are 17 to 25 years old.

Using funds from the Department of Children and Families, Madison has also expanded the reach of its youth peer courts in the past year. Any person between the ages of 12 and 16 who receives a municipal violation may now “opt-in” to one of the restorative justice courts run by the YWCA, Briarpatch or TimeBank.

Jonathan Scharrer, director of the Restorative Justice Project through the University of Wisconsin Law School, said restorative justice programs allow crime victims to get many of their lingering questions answered. These types of interactions decrease the victim’s fear toward the offender.

“When a serious offense occurs it dramatically impacts people’s lives in a way that is substantially altering from the day that it occurs, really, for the rest of their life,” Scharrer said.

Restorative courts give young adults a second chanceA Dane County pilot program designed to address racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system is underway, and already garnering …

In comparison to the traditional system, Scharrer said victims can feel better when given the chance to discuss how their lives may have changed from a crime. Before these discussions, most offenders do not have a full understanding of what their actions caused the victim to experience or how they impacted others in the community.

A community partnership

About two years ago, the Community Restorative Courts were established in South Madison as a pilot program. Today, the program has spread to not only the entire city of Madison, but to all of Dane County, dealing primarily with charges of simple battery, disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer, theft and community damage to property.

“When a serious offense occurs it dramatically impacts people’s lives in a way that is substantially altering from the day that it occurs, really, for the rest of their life.”Jonathan Scharrer

Ron Johnson, the coordinator for the program, said originally the charges were part of the pilot launch, but they intend to widen the charges as the program continues to grow.

Johnson said Dane County wanted to give the traditional justice system another tool to tackle the same issues through a different lens.

“We work with people that have been affected by the crime, the communities that have been affected, to help restore the balance,” Johnson said.

When a case is referred to the Community Restorative Courts, Johnson said there are no longer police, courts or a jury involved. The process involves the victim, the offender or respondent, Johnson and a group of community member volunteers called peacemakers, who go through a 16-hour training on restorative justice and policing.

Restorative courts expand, give victims, community a voiceWith the goal of giving second chances and alternatives to prison, the Dane County Community Restorative Justice Court program has …

Throughout the process, Johnson said the peacemakers speak to the respondent to learn about their background and who they are as a person outside of their case. The peacemakers help determine the proper action, whether that is an apology, community service or alternative assignment. Once completed, all charges and fines are dropped and the respondents are not put in the Circuit Court Access System, which is open to the public.

“We discuss not only the case, but who are you and what brought you to this point in your life,” Johnson said.

Preventing a cycle of arrests

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, within three years of release, about two-thirds of offenders were rearrested. Within five years of release about three-quarters of released convicts found themselves back behind bars. Restorative justice programs work to reduce these numbers through victim and offender dialogues and less punitive approaches sentencing for minor offences.

Council approves 2017 budget, funding restorative justice programs, police stationAfter two days of deliberation, the Madison City Council on Tuesday approved a $369 million capital and $300 million operating …

Scharrer said restorative justice programs help reduce recidivism and that there is a correlation to reduced crime severity if former participants in the program commit a crime again.

To date, there have been more than 60 participants in the Community Restorative Courts program. Only one person did not complete the program and two others chose to pay fines instead of joining the program. Johnson said examining the exact reoffense data of the participants is a 2017 project.

“We want to be able to hold the respondent accountable for what they did … but also provide them with support systems that will prevent them from reoffending,” Johnson said.

During the summer, the controversial arrest of Genele Laird at East Towne Mall sparked a renewed conversation on the restorative courts after a video of her arrest went viral.

Alice Vagun/The Badger Herald

Though her case was originally ineligible, the District Attorney Ismael Ozanne decided to transfer her to the program. Ozanne said for Laird, it gave her a chance to reduce her risk to reoffend. To have her charges fully lifted, she needed to complete all the terms of the program.

But Laird’s arrest met criticism from activists like Alix Shabazz, a member of Freedom, Inc., who said Laird’s referral to the restorative justice program was not enough to address unequal treatment of black citizens. Many said Laird shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.

Community members gather at East Towne Mall to protest Genele Laird arrestMadison civil rights activists and community members returned to East Towne Mall Friday to protest the arrest of 18-year-old Genele …

Expanding the reach of youth courts

According to an internal progress report, 81 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 17 were referred to the Municipal Diversion Program youth courts. Of that 81 percent, 70 percent successfully complete all portions of their agreement. Those who do not must go through the traditional juvenile justice process.

Youth courts are unique from other restorative justice methods in that they involve youth of the same age to come up with a plan appropriate to each case. Kris Moelter, a program facilitator and former criminal attorney, said the process requires only minor support from adult coordinators who occasionally step in during the informal proceedings and to offer advice when the young jurors deliberate.

The restorative plan for each offender is tailored to meet their specific needs and take advantage of their interests, Moelter said. Lorrie Hurckes, a member of the Dane County TimeBank and a youth court coordinator, said this allows kids to get involved with something positive while also fostering a positive relationship with a member of the community.

“If someone is interested in becoming a lawyer they may have to do a bit of mentoring with a lawyer in the TimeBank,” Hurckes said. “If someone is interested in music they might have to do a few music lessons through the TimeBank as one component of their agreement.”

A central component of many of these agreements is the community-embedded exchange system created by the TimeBank itself. The nonprofit offers a way for community members to exchange goods and services with each other using service hours instead of money. The system is free and serves to bring community members closer together.

The system further entwines the community with peer courts while also incentivizing jurors to take part in the system since they receive hours for hearing cases. Hurckes said the system also benefits from a host of community members and organizations that are always interested in employing or working with young people.

“The idea is you help your community, your community helps you,” Hurckes said.

Even though cases the peer courts hear can include charges of stealing, fighting, drug use and vandalism, Moelter said the students and youth she deals with are pretty well-behaved. Often, Moelter said the incidents in question are simply mistakes which any teenager might make and she rarely encounters a student reoffending after an agreement is reached and completed.

Local officials announce program to reduce disparities in criminal justice systemCity and County officials announced the implementation of a pilot program Tuesday that would help decrease the number of youths in …

Moelter, who has worked in restorative justice courts since 1999 in and outside of Dane County, said she is continually impressed by the maturity and insight jurors show. Still, she is working with teenagers, so she said she’s learned to be flexible.

“I’m pretty much just there to facilitate … sometimes I can help by asking questions but that’s rare,” Moelter said.

While the program has been successful for the most part, the report also outlined several areas for improvement. Not all officers communicate the restorative justice option to offenders when issuing tickets and staffers encountered difficulty contacting youth who went through the process.

Restorative justice and racial equity

Programs such as these also aim to curb the negative impact of the juvenile justice system on communities of color by offering alternatives to traditional punitive sentences. According to Madison Police Department data, 75 percent of the 861 municipal citations issued to those ages 12 to 16 in 2014 were to people of color.

“The idea is you help your community, your community helps you.”Lorrie Hurckes

In September 2015, Dane County Criminal Justice Workgroups were asked to make recommendations to improve the criminal justice system in a resolution focused on racial disparities and mental health challenges in the jail. One of the suggestions was expanding restorative justice as an alternative to incarceration.

Latest Dane County work group to address racial disparities in jail diversion programsA new work group will seek to shed light on the shortcomings and successes of Dane County’s many jail diversion …

Before the report came out, the Wisconsin State Journal found black people were arrested at a rate more than 10 times higher than white people. One of the goals of restorative justice is to eliminate racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

Scharrer said in restorative justice some of the disparities fade away when people are looked at holistically, through a more complete picture of the person’s background and factors that led to the crime.

“When we look at this person in a more complete picture you can help, hopefully help, eliminate some of the implicit bias or some of the bias of the traditional system,” Scharrer said. “Some of those disparities tend to fall away when you look at people as people.”

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Categories: Local Media

UW looks to create ‘educational pipelines’ for students interested in health care

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:47am

As more Wisconsin health care professionals retire, University of Wisconsin looks to create programs that will drive up health care enrollment and alleviate shortages around the state.

Wisconsin Hospital Association’s 2016 Health Care Workforce report showed a shortage in several different health care fields — primarily because of increasing retirement rates. Elizabeth Petty, senior associate dean for academic affairs at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said the report reflects a growing, nationwide problem. UW is looking to step in with preparatory programs encouraging students to fill the gaps, Petty said.

UW launches first OBGYN rural residency program in nationOne third of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are without a practicing obstetrician or gynecologist — a figure that predominantly affects the state’s …

“We’re kind of creating pipelines in educational programs that help our students gain the expertise to work in some of the areas where we have the highest unmet needs,” Petty said.

According to the report, physician assistants are the highest in demand with a 10.8 percent vacancy, followed by certified nursing assistants with a 10.1 percent vacancy. Dietitians and nutritionists are at a 5.9 percent vacancy and pharmacists are at 3.1 percent, and Petty said mental health care also faces a shortage.

While Wisconsin’s rural regions have faced a shortage for a long time, increasing retirement rates are affecting all other regions as well. This is a particularly prominent trend among nurses and nursing assistants, UW School of Nursing spokesperson Sue Gaard said.

UW focuses on increasing quality health care in rural areasThanks to a four-year grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the University of Wisconsin will increase the number of resident physicians in …

To combat the shortage of nurses, the School of Nursing will launch an accelerated degree program in 2018. The program looks to shorten the path to practice for nursing students who already have a degree in a different subject. It will initially admit 32 students a year but will increase enrollment as the program grows, Gaard said.

Gaard said the School of Nursing is also trying to train nurses using a preceptor model instead of its normal faculty-supervised model. The preceptor model will allow nurses to practice in a medical setting and teach, closing gaps in shortages of both nurse educators and general staff.

Campaign looks to address discrimination in health careAIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and Harvard Law School have partnered for a campaign aimed at ensuring patients’ health care …

UW School of Nursing and UW Health signed a historic partnership agreement in October 2016 in which both agreed to work together to advance nurse education and research and improve health outcomes, Gaard said. UW also partnered with other school systems of nursing in the Nurses for Wisconsin initiative in an effort to retain nursing faculty in the state, Gaard said. 

Petty said the state economy plays a key role in the shortage as well. As Wisconsin’s economy improves, nurses who previously stayed in their jobs now have the financial means to retire or shorten work hours. This means people are retiring faster than they can be replaced.

UW System aims to connect state universities to Wisconsin businessesPresident Ray Cross announced the formation of a new council aimed at fulfilling initiatives from the 2020FWD strategic framework plan. Last …

One way to counteract the state economy’s effect would be to increase state support for the kind of education training programs that UW offers, Petty said. This includes making medical school more affordable to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Other resources that can be used to provide scholarships and other financial incentives can also come from the state, she said.

Petty said it is critical to continue investing in more residency programs and creating partnerships that will build long-lasting educational pipelines for students looking to join health care. She said having a mix of age groups working in the field will also be crucial to counteract the effects of increasing retirement rates.

“It is important to figure out how a variety of health care providers can work together to build health care teams that would deliver the services that are really needed,” Petty said.

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Categories: Local Media

New study predicts collapse of key global climate regulator

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:17am

Earth’s oceanic conveyor belt, responsible for transporting heat and warming continents surrounding the Northern Atlantic, may be at risk of collapse in 300 years, contrary to what current climate models predict.

A University of Wisconsin professor and alumnus are trying to fix the bias in current climate models, which assume the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation — a movement of water in the Atlantic which scientists compare to a “conveyor belt” — is stable with moderate climate changes as greenhouse gases, such as CO2, increase.

Wei Liu, a UW graduate who is now a Yale postdoctoral research associate, led a study emphasizing the importance of fixing this AMOC stability bias in current models to better predict future climate change.

New study looks at how climate change will impact animalsThe key to unlocking the future of climate change may just lie in the past. Using historical data, researchers from …

The AMOC brings warm water up from the equator along Western Europe toward the poles where it makes a U-turn and sinks below cold, freshwater headed south along the east coast of the Americas.

This circular motion is repeated as long as the warm, saltier water coming from the south is able to sink beneath the fresher water in the Norwegian Sea near Greenland, helping maintain the mild climate of Western Europe despite the continent’s high latitude.

A complete shutdown of this conveyor belt would have chilling consequences for regions of the North Atlantic, Liu said.

“AMOC stability is very important, not only in the past but also the future,” Liu said. “In the past we’ve had abrupt climate change which is associated with the AMOC change, and in the future [scientists] also wonder whether AMOC collapse will bring the earth into the next ice age.”

But according to current models, a complete shutdown is unlikely, even in the distant future. These models predict there would only be a 15 percent decrease in AMOC activity after several hundred years of global warming, said UW professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and co-author of the study Zhengyu Liu.

Since the late 20th century, Zhengyu Liu said, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ climate body, has favored this “conservative” climate model.

“In IPCC, all models are supposed to be stable,” Zhengyu Liu said. “All of them show that the AMOC changes very slowly and very gradually so there is nothing very substantial happening. Most people think, ‘Ok, this may not be so dramatic.’ But what we found was that the current models are all over-stabilized.”

The over-stabilization of current models means they fail to predict a potential AMOC collapse from the increase in carbon dioxide projected over the next several decades.

To fix this bias toward over-stabilization, Wei Liu created a new model which more accurately measures AMOC stability.

When Wei Liu ran both the current, biased model and new, fixed model for several centuries in conditions containing double the amount of CO2 found currently in the atmosphere, he made an eye-opening discovery.

UW researchers use NASA satellites to find reason behind Greenland’s melting iceUsing NASA satellites, University of Wisconsin researchers were able to measure the impact of the cloud coverage over Greenland’s melting ice sheet and …

Contrary to the current model, which predicted a slower AMOC with insignificant change from doubled-CO2 conditions, his model predicted a total collapse in the AMOC after 300 years.

A collapse in the AMOC could onset a 3.6 degree cooling effect over the Great Lakes region and Western Europe, Zhengyu Liu said, as well as “counteract” temperature increases induced by global warming overall.

“So, theoretically, like ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ if you say ‘a decade’ it could happen [over a decade],” Zhengyu Liu said, explaining that a complete shutdown of the heat-transporting AMOC doesn’t happen overnight.

A southward shift in the tropical rain belt, sea-level rise along eastern North America and expansion of sea-ice across the Northern Atlantic are also possible, Zhengyu Liu said, but an ice age that destroys life as we know it is unlikely.

This doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, however, is an “idealized” prediction given there are many other global warming scenarios that can occur over this period of time, Wei Liu said.

For example, increasing CO2, and thus global temperatures, could cause increased melting of ice sheets. Most significantly, Zhengyu Liu said, the amount of ice-sheet melt water feeding into the Northern Atlantic from Greenland could actually slow down the AMOC.

Since ice sheets are frozen freshwater, their melt water is too light to mix with the saltier ocean water. This failure to mix at this U-turn point in the AMOC process — where saltier water brought up from the south sinks underneath fresher water in the north — causes it to slow down, Zhengyu Liu said.

The Greenland ice sheets, however, started melting even before humans roamed the earth, Zhengyu Liu said, so the AMOC has the tendency to “go on and off” in a natural cycle.

By observing this fluctuation of AMOC stability in the past and further observing the AMOC’s freshwater transport in the North and South Atlantic, both researchers believe their model can help reduce AMOC stability bias in the future.

“The model becomes crucial,” Zhengyu Liu said. “But the past does provide an understanding, and we can use that understanding to say what will happen in the future for climate models.”

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Categories: Local Media

Here’s what city, county budgets are hoping to improve in 2017

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:05am

Projects in the 2017 Madison City Council and Dane County Board budgets are starting to become a reality as the new calendar year begins.

The budgets provide funding for restorative justice and court mentoring programs, as well as a $15 living wage for county employees, which County Board members believe to be a preliminary step toward pay equity.

County Board budget pushes wage equity, criminal justice reformsThe Dane County Board passed its 2017 budget Monday evening, laying the groundwork toward a $15 hourly minimum wage and …

Council approves 2017 budget, funding restorative justice programs, police stationAfter two days of deliberation, the Madison City Council on Tuesday approved a $369 million capital and $300 million operating …

Alternatives to jail, court system serve to help community

County Supervisor Jenni Dye, District 33, and Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, both discussed the restorative justice program, a major item continued in the 2017 city budget. The program aims to help young criminal offenders rebuild damages and improve relationships with people in the community, Dye said.

“We partner with other organizations…[to] create other alternatives for kids instead of just sending everybody to community court and then to a jail sentence,” Wood said.

The city partners with outside organizations like the YWCA to create those alternatives, Wood said.

Restorative courts expand, give victims, community a voiceWith the goal of giving second chances and alternatives to prison, the Dane County Community Restorative Justice Court program has …

The court mentoring program was a prominent item in the 2017 County Board budget as it helps people navigate through the criminal justice system, Dye said. It also seeks to prevent issues for individuals in the system who may have suffered penalties because they lacked information on what they needed to do while in the system, Dye said.

“We make sure people aren’t finding themselves in a bad position just because they didn’t know they needed to be in court on a specific day,” Dye said.

New living wage highlights county focus on pay equity 

Another main focus of the County Board’s budget is pay equity, County Supervisor Hayley Young, District 5, said.

The steps to create a $15 living wage for county employees will become a reality in the new year as it was incorporated and fully funded in the approved 2017 County Board budget, Young said. Many people who provide important services to Dane County — including students — will benefit from this wage increase, Dye said.

Dane County Board passes $15 minimum wage for county employeesThe Dane County Board on Thursday voted to increase the minimum wage for all county employees and people working under a …

“People who make Dane County work deserve to have a living wage that allows them to enjoy all of the great things about living in the Dane County area,” Dye said.

The living wage initiative is just one part in a larger step toward pay equity, Young said. Cost-of-living adjustments for Purchase of Service contracts is another component in this step, she said.

Dane County hires various outside organizations through POS contracts to provide critical services which help the community. One example of services through POS contracts is providing daily living skills assistance to individuals with disabilities, Dye said.

The County Board budget will provide a two percent increase in POS wages, Dye said. The POS contracts have not seen increases which reflect the rate of inflation, Dye added.

An increase close to the inflation rate allows individuals to retain a level of buying power similar to what they had with their previous year’s wage.

“Investing in making Dane County a better place to live, work and play impacts everyone,” Young said.

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Categories: Local Media

One-of-a-kind center looks to boost Latino startup scene in Wisconsin

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:03am

In hope of bringing Wisconsin out of its startup slump, Dane County’s Latino Chamber of Commerce opened a new center that would mentor and assist the county’s Latino community in starting their own businesses.

With Wisconsin lagging behind national levels for startup activity, the chamber’s executive director, Jessica Cavazos, said resource centers for startups specified for certain populations are in high demand. Latinos account for 54 percent of the nation’s population growth between 2000-14. Assisting this community in Wisconsin is an instrumental part of increasing the state’s number of startups, Cavazos said.

New Latino Chamber of Commerce executive director wants to revitalize Madison’s abandoned buildingsJessica Cavazos is in the business of creating hope. As the new executive director of the Latino Chamber of Commerce, …

Cavazos said the center’s mission is to make the road to starting a business easier for Latino entrepreneurs. This process, she said, often differs from their home country and can be difficult to get used to without the right information.

“It’s the fact that you have someone motivating you and providing you with support,” Cavazos said.

Wisconsin ranked lowest for startup business activityEven with the creation of new businesses, Wisconsin has landed in last place for the second year in a row …

Brandie De La Rosa, one entrepreneur who is using the center’s services for her new startup — which helps businesses respond to possible domestic violence cases — said one of the largest barriers to the success of new businesses in Wisconsin is lack of knowledge about the legalities involved. Many people want to start a business, but do not know about resources available to them.

One of the center’s key aspects is its multilingual services. Many of Wisconsin’s startup resources are only available in English, limiting access to non-English speakers. With the center’s help, Latino immigrants can gain information in their own language if they wish to do so, Cavazos said.

Startup activity in Wisconsin lags, while small businesses excelTwo recent reports seem to be telling two different stories about business in Wisconsin. Back in August, in it’s annual …

The center’s services are also customized to a person’s startup, Cavazos said. The startup plan is thoroughly assessed before advice on business requirements and further steps is given. The only limitation is startups older than two years cannot access these services.

“Whether it’s a food business, a salon or a county firm, we do our research and try to customize the information to that person,” Cavazos said. “We really care that our businesses are successful.”

De La Rosa said the center has mentored her and connected her with useful contacts in her field. Many of these connections have generated business for her startup.

The center also provides workspace for entrepreneurs to rent. This includes workshop, meeting and office spaces, Cavazos said. 

Cavazos said the center is also open to students in the Latino community. Though no student startups have visited yet, the center does not turn anyone away based on background. She said she hopes to start a new program in the future specifically for university students.

Wisconsin startup opportunities lacking for student entrepreneursWisconsin’s dead last position for startup activity nationwide has impacted students looking to start their own businesses, leading some to seek …

“Our facilities are really beautiful and give you pride to want to come in and work for a day,” Cavazos said.

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Categories: Local Media

New UW federal relations director plans to work with leaders on both sides of aisle

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:01am

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s new federal relations director, Michael Lenn, is a Wisconsin native, but he’s no stranger to Washington.

Blank links faculty retention issues, fall in research ranking to UW System budget cutsUniversity of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank has had a tumultuous 2016. With high-profile sexual assault cases and a spike in hate …

A native of Sheboygan, Lenn attended UW-La Crosse for his undergraduate degree before earning his law degree at the George Mason University School of Law.

After passing the Wisconsin Bar Exam, Lenn served on the House Judiciary Committee and later managed the Washington office of U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, as chief of staff. Lenn eventually moved to a position at the Insured Retirement Institute as the primary contact in Washington.

These experiences taught him valuable lessons he plans to use in his new position, Lenn said. From Sensenbrenner, he learned to put aside political differences to work for the greater good. Lenn said Sensenbrenner and colleagues like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, did not always see eye-to-eye on every issue, but had to work together to create jobs in Wisconsin.

As the federal and state budgets start to form in the coming month, Lenn said he plans to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to continue the success of UW-Madison and find new ways to move the university forward.

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“I will follow that model and work closely with members of Congress regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum,” Lenn said.

Ben Miller, the former federal relations director for UW-Madison, created many relationships with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress — relationships Lenn said he hopes to cultivate during his time at UW-Madison.

While Lenn said he does not know what to expect in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, he said working with Trump should have no more an impact on UW-Madison than working with other presidents has had. Regardless of the shift to a stronger Republican-controlled government, Lenn said he is optimistic UW-Madison’s federal relations will continue to remain strong.

“The incoming Trump administration is a wild card, but I am confident UW will continue to thrive in this new environment,” Lenn said.

The federal budget process will begin in February, shortly after the country transitions to Trump’s administration.

In light of this transition, Lenn expects Wisconsin state legislators to do what is best for the university and their constituents. He said he will be monitoring policy changes and working with higher education organizations to ensure UW-Madison’s interests are taken care of.

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Despite having a prominently Republican background, Lenn believes his experience and background will play a stronger role than his politics in his position.

UW-Madison officials like Chancellor Rebecca Blank and those in the Federal Relations Office have worked well with others regardless of political affiliation and he wants to lead through that example, Lenn said. He also said his job is to build on the success of those relationships and find new ways to move Wisconsin forward.

“While there may be policy differences on both sides of the aisle,” Lenn said. “I would note, by and large, the delegation supports the university.”

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Aldo Leopold’s Legacy program aims to connect community with nature

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 6:00am

Through observing plants and hearing nature sounds in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, the campus community will now have the chance to follow the footsteps of Aldo Leopold and honor his legacy of environmental conservation.

Running from January to June, the Aldo Leopold’s Legacy program will provide a series of classes, lectures and workshops focused on journaling experience with nature, creating artwork and reflecting on Leopold’s ideas of observing and documenting nature in the field.

Leopold, no stranger to Wisconsin, served as a UW professor while maintaining his reputation as both an ecologist and a philosopher.   

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Parts of the program would emulate the observation process so people can experience the historic approach to documenting nature, program director Jessica Courtier said. Leopold’s environmental idea is based on a long-term practice of observing nature changes, she added.

The program’s other aspect is to engage Leopold’s idea of land ethic, which features human beings’ responsibility to manage natural sources with respect, Courtier said. The observation of nature allows people to slow down and contemplate exactly  what they’re viewing, she added.

As Leopold described in his book “A Sand County Almanac,” all ethics that have evolved thus far rest upon a single premise: The individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals and, collectively, the land.

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The series will involve a multitude of resources including UW professors, arboretum staff and landscape architects.

“Although the workshops and classes have different focuses, there is a connection between them — from observation to idea,” Courtier said.

The program intends to put Leopold’s concept, originated 50 years ago, into modern day and figure out what it means for today’s environmental discussion.

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Calvin B. DeWitt, a former UW professor from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, highly recommended the program because it would be very helpful to refresh Leopold’s way of journaling nature.

“The environmental support has put Wisconsin at the forefront of caring for the earth,” DeWitt said. “It would be vital for us to celebrate the involvement and also what is done in program is to review and refresh nature journaling.”

Dewitt considered Leopold as one of the top five environmentalist in U.S. history.

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As UW is surrounded by natural resources such as paths and arboretums, it is important to continue the environmental discussion with the community at large, Courier said. In the future, the program aims to inform the community on the urgency of environmental issues and help them learn how to manage the resources, she added.

“The workshops and classes would provide resources and tools for people to think about actions that they could take on afterward,” Courtier said.

The first workshop, Writing Nature – Signatures in the Wild, is set to begin Jan. 25. All members of the Madison community at large are welcome to participate.

To sign up for future workshops and lecture series, check the Aldo Leopold’s Legacy program page.

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