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What UW students should take away from Milwaukee’s Democratic Debate

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 3:10pm

Two days removed from the New Hampshire primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, went head to head again at the Facebook and PBS Democratic debate at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Sanders sought to keep his momentum rolling fresh off his primary win, while Clinton aimed to sell her presidential goals as more achievable than her competitor’s.

Clinton made an effort to connect to the debate’s home state by calling out Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to the UW System, referencing Milwaukee’s high incarceration rates and the death of Dontre Hamilton at the hands of a police officer. Sanders encouraged citizens to engage in the political process in order to help him decrease Wall Street’s role in government and promoted his goal of free public higher education for everyone.

Making higher education affordable

Clinton and Sanders shared the goal of making college more affordable for students, but disagreed on how to accomplish it.

Sanders said tuition for public universities and colleges should be free for all Americans.

In light of Walker’s $250 million budget cut to the UW System, Clinton said Sanders’ plan would be difficult to execute since it depends on state cooperation.

“Senator Sanders’s plan really rests on making sure that governors like Scott Walker contribute $23 billion on the first day to make college free,” Clinton said. “I am a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that.”

What you need to know about the Wisconsin budgetWisconsin legislators worked through disagreement and controversy to pass a $73 billion 2015-17 state biennial budget, more than one week after the July …

.@HillaryClinton, while you took big speaking fees, we froze tuition 4 years in a row to make college affordable. #DemDebate

— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) February 12, 2016

After the debate, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, a Clinton supporter, called Walker’s College Affordability Package “nibbling around the edge of a crisis.”

With 40 million Americans carrying student debts right now, there needs to be a bold response, she told reporters.

“This is night and day between Democrats and Republicans. I am so proud that both of our candidates are supportive of making a greater commitment to public education beyond high school,” Baldwin said.

Walker meets with College Republicans, talks tuition freeze, student loan debtGov. Scott Walker responded to Democratic criticism Tuesday regarding his college affordability package by saying Democrats are responsible for making tuition …

Addressing incarceration and over-policing

Sanders and Clinton both agreed the criminal justice system needs to be reformed to decrease national incarceration rates.

Clinton said she finds Wisconsin’s black incarceration rate especially upsetting because not only is it the highest in America, it is also twice the national average.

Sanders said to reduce incarceration, law enforcement has to stop over-policing black communities. He cited the fact that while white people and black people use marijuana at equal rates, black people are about four times more likely to get arrested for the drug.

New bill aims to reduce prison costs, ‘get smart on crime’New legislation proposed by Democrats to combat high prison costs would require fiscal estimates for bills that change criminal sentencing. The bill — …

Sanders said he hopes everyone is tired of seeing unarmed people, often black, shot by police officers. Clinton referred to the death of unarmed Hamilton at the hands of a Milwaukee officer in 2014 as an example of a young man who should still be alive. She advocated for restoring policing that actually protects communities.

.@HillaryClinton on death of MKE's Dontre Hamilton: "a young man, unarmed who should still be with us" #DemDebate @BadgerHerald

— Hayley Sperling (@hksperl) February 12, 2016

Clinton and Sanders agreed that to end mass incarceration, there must be a discussion about jobs, education and housing.

“We will invest in education, and jobs for our kids, not incarceration and more jails,” Sanders said.

Challenges to employment after imprisonment incite movement to change application processA simple check mark stands between thousands of ex-convicts and their access to employment across the country, but Wisconsin may join …

After the debate U.S. Sen. Nina Turner, D-Ohio, a Sanders supporter, said to have both candidates agree on the topic and call for reform was a powerful statement.

Looking to make history

Clinton responded to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s assertion that “there is a special place in hell” for women who do not support other women and losing 55 percent of New Hampshire women voters to Sanders.


— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) February 7, 2016

Clinton said she has spent her entire adult life working to empower women to make their own choices, even if it does not fall in her favor.

Referring to PBS co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, who moderated the event, and herself, Clinton noted historical progress for women’s rights on the primary stage.

“Somebody told me earlier today we’ve had like 200 presidential primary debates, and this is the first time there have been a majority of women on the stage,” Clinton said. “So, you know, we’ll take our progress wherever we can find it.”

Sanders said he is fighting for every vote he can get from every demographic because his goal is to bring America together around an agenda that works for working families and the middle class.

While Clinton would be the first woman in the White House, Sanders argued that for somebody who has spent his life opposing big money interests, a Sanders’ victory would also be a historical accomplishment.

.@BernieSanders: "I think a Sanders victory would be of some historical accomplishment as well" #DemDebate @BadgerHerald

— Hayley Sperling (@hksperl) February 12, 2016

Discussing race relations and poverty

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, Clinton said progress was made on race relations in the country, but there was still room for improvement.

Race relations would be better under a Sanders presidency than in the past, he said, because instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, his administration will create millions of jobs for low-income people.

Would race relations be better under a Sanders presidency?
"Absolutely" — @BernieSanders #DemDebate @BadgerHerald

— Hayley Sperling (@hksperl) February 12, 2016

While poverty is a general economic issue, Sanders said race plays a role that makes low-income status even harder for black people and Latinos. He said when speaking just to the economic issue, though, the wages high school graduates receive today are significantly less than they used to  be.

Prior to the debate, Fight for 15 protestors made their way inside the press room demanding a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour.

Closing statements

Sanders ended the debate by saying no president has the power to take on Wall Street and big money interests alone. He said his campaign is meant to draw young people and low-income people back into the political process and spark a “political revolution.”

.@SenSanders "Don’t give up on the political process. Don’t let the Donald Trumps of the world divide us." #DemDebate

— Margaret Duffey (@duffey_margaret) February 12, 2016

Clinton said she agrees with Sanders that “Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck Main Street again,” but she believes there is more than one issue in the country.

To fix the issues, she said the government has to help break down the barriers holding people back, like racism, sexism and discrimination.

.@HillaryClinton "I am not a single issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single issue country." #DemDebate

— Margaret Duffey (@duffey_margaret) February 12, 2016

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Categories: Local Media

UW initiates interdisciplinary effort to study Zika virus

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 11:22am

An interdisciplinary group, including hospitals and the veterinary school at University of Wisconsin, is gearing up to study the Zika virus using monkeys.

UW researchers might be the first to contribute data and knowledge to this effort that will help clarify how the virus works, David O’Connor, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said.

Zika is a mosquito-born virus that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to, which can lead to their children being born with birth defects.

O’Connor, who was involved in the UW research group that discovered the Zika virus in Colombia, was among the first to start paying attention to the virus.

When O’Connor was in Brazil last October, his colleague told him about several local babies infected with the virus who were born with unusually small heads. O’Connor said he decided to use the knowledge he has to help these children.

Using primates, like macaque monkeys, O’Connor hopes to answer questions about how the virus behaves.

“In monkeys we know exactly when the Zika virus is administered, so we can figure out how the timing of infection impacts the likelihood of developing these birth defects,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said a paper published Wednesday highlighted a single mother with Zika virus during her first trimester of pregnancy. After she aborted the child, doctors autopsied the fetus and found Zika virus in its brain.

The case raised questions, O’Connor said, such as whether the infection from the mother’s body to the fetus can only happen in the first trimester of pregnancy, or also later on.

That’s the reason the research team will infect the monkeys with a specific type of Zika virus and sample them everyday, O’Connor said — to understand where in the body the virus is replicating and the extent of that replication.

Zika virus has been around for 50 to 60 years, O’Connor said, but the reason they are only starting to study it is because it doesn’t have clear symptoms like some other viruses, which makes it difficult to analyze the infection pattern in the human body.

Moreover, O’Connor said, people who study diseases usually focus on viruses that make people obviously sick, such as HIV and Ebola. When there is a limited amount of funds for disease research, there is less enthusiasm for studying viruses like Zika that don’t have an apparent impact. 

“The money to study diseases will go toward those diseases that have the greatest impact on public health, either in the U.S. or globally,” O’Connor said.

Dawn Dudley, assistant researcher in O’Connor’s lab, said while Zika virus doesn’t show clear symptoms in normal, healthy people, there is potentially an increased risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome with Zika virus infection.

According to National Institute of Neurology Disorders and Stroke, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, causing muscle weakness or tingling in the legs.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome in the past has been linked with different virus infections, Dudley said, but it’s unclear now if Zika virus causes increased risk of the syndrome, or if multiple incidents of the syndrome are occuring because there’s a large number of people infected with Zika virus.

There are many mysteries about Zika virus at the current stage, O’Connor said, but a year from now, they are going to know an enormous amount about Zika virus, as a huge amount of research is just getting underway at UW.

As governments are deciding how to respond to the Zika virus and what plans they want to create, O’Connor said it’s important to be guided by large amounts of accurate data, because the public often presses the government to take actions immediately.

“The decisions [the government makes] are comforting to some people because it looks like the government is taking action, but … if that action isn’t guided by science, it does more harm than good,” O’Connor said.

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Categories: Local Media

In photos: Behind the scenes of Milwaukee’s Democratic Debate

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 11:18am

Four Heralders made the trip to Milwaukee for Thursday’s Democratic Debate. It was a unique opportunity for student journalists with primary season underway and nine months until the election.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the presidential debate and what it was like for media members to cover it:

Marissa Haegele and Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

The debate was sponsored by Facebook and PBS. Journalists, photographers and members of the media mingled in the Facebook room.

Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

In the filing room, Badger Herald News Editor Hayley Sperling sits behind Wall Street Journal writer Peter Nicholas, who offered words of advice. 

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Protesters from many causes rallied outside University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Helen Bader Concert Hall before and throughout the debate.

Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

Photographers stood alongside the stage waiting for the opportunity to take photos.

Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

Photographers were given 60 seconds to photograph the candidates during a break following their opening statements. Audience members laughed as photographers eagerly approached the stage, one observer noting the horde of anxious photojournalists resembled “a stampede of wildebeests.”

Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

Back in the filing room, Herald Digital News Editor Margaret Duffey feverishly takes notes as candidates address questions about various issues and policies.

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Almost 400 journalists from across the nation were packed tightly in the media filing room within the UW-Milwaukee Student Union across the street from the debate location.

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

After the debate, journalists filled the spin room where they were able to ask senators, DNC spokespeople and other politicians reactionary questions.

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Categories: Local Media

Bill would give lawmakers access to secret John Doe investigations

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 7:00am

Under a new bill, legislators would be able to access records from closed John Doe investigations and police would be required to report new surveillance technology to lawmakers.

John Doe investigations are secret investigations where the identities of parties in the case are kept private until the case is closed. Wisconsin is the only state to have this law on the books.

Gov. Scott Walker was the subject of a John Doe investigation which closed, but is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Three district attorneys push to appeal John Doe IIThree district attorneys have made an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the decision for the John Doe II investigation …

Under the bill, the details of the John Doe investigations would only be viewed by a single committee,  not by the entire Legislature, author of the bill, Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend, said. The information would also not be released to the public. He said legislators need to oversee what’s happening to know whether or not reforms need to be made to law enforcement’s processes.

Craig said lawmakers have the “authority and duty” to review John Doe investigations once they’re closed, and find out whether state policies should be revised.

“If there’s something that’s secret in the executive branch, how are you supposed to know whether a policy is working?” Craig said. “We’re elected to do a job and a main part of that job is executive oversight.”

Craig said if a policy needs to be changed, the committee could bring forward legislation to reform it without revealing the details of the John Doe investigations.

But Robert Drechsel, UW journalism and mass communications professor, said the timing of this legislation raises suspicion.

“It seems more than coincidental that is something that is happening in the context of two highly controversial … John Doe investigations that have reached all the way up to the State Supreme Court and continue to be litigated,” Drechsel said.

Drechsel doesn’t think there’s reason for that kind of government intervention to be necessary.

Another provision of the bill would require law enforcement to send a notification to a committee whenever they use new technology.

Some new surveillance technologies such as sting ray phone trackers and x-ray devices have the potential to infringe on citizens’ civil liberties, Craig said. The Legislature should have information about these technologies to prevent this from happening.

“We have all this technology out there and we have no idea if departments have it in Wisconsin,” Craig said. “It’s just a level of irresponsibility for the Legislature not to have a firm grasp of what’s out there.”

Drechsel said many are concerned with whether police should have these sophisticated military technologies.

Craig said in a meeting with law enforcement last month, police expressed a variety of concerns with the bill. He said he hopes they will be able to work out a compromise.

“I’m very optimistic that we can work out a compromise …. [so] that law enforcement doesn’t feel the Legislature is overstepping its bounds or interfering with investigations,” Craig said. “None of us want to do that.”

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Categories: Local Media

Student government funding body passes election ballot resolution, discusses increase of UHS funding

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 6:45am

University of Wisconsin Student Services Finance Committee passed a referendum Thursday to include a question on the Associated Students of Madison election ballot regarding use of ASM resources to support statewide student grassroots movements.

The referendum, which passed 5-4-1, was designed to allow ASM to better gauge student body support for the use of these resources. However, some student representatives expressed concerns over the vagueness of the question and the fact there was not a specific dollar amount attached to the question.

Rep. David Morel, who supported the referendum, said before focusing on financial details attached to the question, it’s more important for students to first consider the implications of allowing such use of resources.

“This is simply asking students if they support a certain idea,” Morel said.

UHS Budget

Another topic on the council’s agenda was whether to increase the budget for University Health Services. During the open forum, the council heard student voices on the need to increase the UHS budget, particularly for mental health services.

Danielle Oakley, UHS mental health services director, said UHS is in need of more staff. She said compared to universities of similar size, UW lacks the staff to meet demand for mental health services.

Oakley said to put UHS’ mental health services on par with comparable universities, UHS would need to hire 12.5 more staff members.

Currently, she said UW students in need of mental health services only receive roughly half the individual visitations to mental health professionals that students at comparable universities do.

The council will reconvene Monday to vote on increasing the UHS budget.

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Categories: Local Media

CALS receives $2 million endowment to research organic farming

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 6:30am

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has received a $2 million endowment to promote research in organic farming.

Organic Valley and Clif Bar and Co. established the endowment to expand research in organic plant breeding in particular. Hans Eisenbeis, Organic Valley’s spokesperson, said partnering with Clif Bar to endow the Wisconsin chair was a “natural fit.”

Wisconsin is the second largest organic farming producer in the U.S., second only to California, Eisenbeis said. Wisconsin’s hilly topography limits how much farms can expand, which makes organic farming more attractive in the state, he said. Most farms in Wisconsin are between 100 and 200 acres with an average dairy herd of about 70 cows, he added.

Agronomy professor Bill Tracy, who specializes in researching organic plant breeding, has been selected as the first endowed chair. Tracy said because organic farmers are not able to use pesticides or antibiotics, they tend to have different needs than conventional farmers, such as developing new ways to scavenge nutrients out of the soil or developing plants that compete better with weeds.

Some University of Wisconsin graduate students are already researching organic plant breeding. One of them is working on developing crops that could compete with wheat and another is trying to make sweet corn more insect resistant, Tracy said. In the future, he envisions expanding applications of sweet corn by making it more versatile in culinary applications.

“I’ve been breeding sweet corn for a long time and the stuff that I’ve developed is extremely high quality,” Tracy said. “It’s very sweet and very tender, which are good things, but they’re not good things for chefs and people who want to make savory dishes and soup.”

Tracy anticipates that the endowment will have widespread benefits. He hopes it will encourage other faculty members both at UW and other institutions to breed plants for organic systems.

“I think there’s at least a three-fold benefit [to the endowment],” Tracy said. “New cultivars for Wisconsin, new plant breeders for the world and hopefully more organic plant breeding programs here at UW.”

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Categories: Local Media

Bill would create standards for police body camera usage

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 6:15am

A bill currently being circulated in the Capitol would set standards for law enforcement’s use of body cameras to ensure police accountability, but some have expressed concerns it could violate privacy.

Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, co-author of the bill, said in a statement the legislation is in response to public outcry over police shootings across the country.

“All Wisconsinites deserve to live in a safe community,” Larson said in the statement. “Tragedies that have occurred across the nation as well as in our own neighborhoods have ignited an interest for law enforcement officers to be equipped with body cameras — both by law enforcement themselves and the public.”

According to the bill, body cameras must be active at all times when officers are responding to a situation, and officers are required to inform individuals that the event is being recorded to ensure the privacy interests of the victim are preserved. Body camera usage without civilian consent in school, hospitals, and non-emergency situations is strictly prohibited under the bill.

Madison Police Department does not currently supply its officers with body cameras, but Joel DeSpain, MPD spokesperson, said he expects MPD will use body cameras in the future.

City council tackles police body cameras, lobbyist rules, talks Judge Doyle SquareMadison’s City Council accepted recommendations on the use of police body cameras, an ordinance prohibiting conviction questions in hiring processes …

“The mayor’s office [has] been looking at whether there should be more body cameras in the city,” DeSpain said. “So what [MPD Chief Mike Koval] said is it’s not a matter of if, but when it’s going to happen,” DeSpain said. “Then again, it’s up to the city leaders to determine when that’s going to be.”

Videos taken with body cameras will have to be held for a minimum of 42 months for public records requests. Law enforcement agencies would also be required to make all of their body camera policies publicly available.

All MPD videos are currently subject to open records requests, DeSpain said.

But Robert Drechsel, University of Wisconsin journalism and mass communications professor, said the availability of police body camera videos under open records could violate the privacy of subjects of police investigations.

“The privacy issue really gets magnified when you start talking about who gets availability to the video for the body cameras,” Drechsel said.

Drechsel said the use of body cams would create an excessive amount of surveillance, as seen with drones.

Taylor said in a statement the standards the bill would put in place would protect public interests.

“This bill doesn’t mandate that any law enforcement agency use body cameras, only that when they do, privacy interests of victims and the public’s interest in law enforcement accountability is protected,” Taylor said in the statement. “By establishing statewide standards for the use of body cameras, we are ensuring accountability, consistency and transparency.”

There is currently no bipartisan support for the bill, according to Lacy Fox, Larson’s spokesperson.

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Categories: Local Media

Assembly unanimously passes bill that would change workers’ compensation law

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 6:00am

The Assembly unanimously passed a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would alter workers’ compensation laws.

The bill, that passed 97-0, would increase employee compensation for workplace injuries, but would eliminate compensation if the cause of the injury was related to drug or alcohol use, Chris Reader, Health & Human Resources Policy director at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said.

Reader said the bill would fix a problem with current law that gives undeserving employees compensation.

“Even if someone was going off on their lunch hour and having a few too many beers and that caused them to get injured at work … they still receive benefits even though that’s clearly their fault,” Reader said.

The bill, Reader said, would increase the maximum weekly worker compensation rate from $322 to $342 for injuries occurring before Jan. 1, 2017. Workers injured on or after that date will receive $362, he said.     

Another provision of the bill would allow the state to go more aggressively after cases of worker and employee fraud, Reader said. The Department of Workforce Development could invite the Department of Justice to investigate these cases of fraud, which are currently only investigated by prosecutors.

Right now, Reader said, prosecutors are busy investigating more serious crimes, and workers’ compensation cases are often not a priority.

Wisconsin AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale said under the bill, DHS would be able to investigate fraud committed not just by employees but also involved employers, hospitals, medical providers and insurance companies.

“We want to make sure we don’t have any fraud from anyone in the system,” Bloomingdale said.

The bill would also decrease the amount of time workers have to make a claim for benefits from 12 years to six, Reader said. Workers should know within six years whether they have been injured, Reader added.

The only opposition the bill faced was from those who felt the bill should correct additional issues with worker compensation, Reader said.

Reader said there are two sides to worker compensation: one half of the money is paid to the hospital and the other half is paid to the worker. Costs paid out on the medical side have been rising in recent years and “getting out of control,” Reader said. Some have expressed disappointment that the bill should have addressed those rising costs, Reader added.

Drafting a bill to reform workers’ compensation is a process that happens every two years, Reader said.

Reader said the bill has been highly supported because it has been drafted as a compromise between management and workers, who are usually at odds. Bloomingdale said the process of compromise has been in place for approximately 50 to 60 years.

“It’s an important and traditional system that’s there for workers who are injured on the job,” Bloomingdale said. “Nobody goes to work to be injured or be disabled. We need to make sure that we have a system to take care of those workers.”

The bill will next head to the Senate.

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Categories: Local Media

Coat tossed on toaster heats up dorm room, catches fire

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:26am

A student received a firsthand lesson in fire safety after an accidental jacket toasting.

According to a Madison Fire Department incident report:

Firefighters were dispatched to Tripp Hall Wednesday afternoon after an alarm activation. Upon arrival, they discovered a staff member and student who reported a smoke-filled dorm room.

Once firefighters entered the room, they discovered a warm toaster with strange burn marks on it.

Upon questioning, the occupant revealed he had thrown his jacket on the floor when entering the room, which activated the toaster and ignited the coat. The owner then grabbed the coat, ran outside and extinguished the flames.

Besides the coat, there was no reported damage. University of Wisconsin housing has confiscated the toaster.

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Categories: Local Media

Report finds some homeless individuals have fines in excess of $10,000

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:16am

A community activist presented a report on arrest warrants and excessive fines for the chronically homeless to the Equal Opportunity Commission Thursday.

Brenda Konkel, homeless advocate, presented a report to the EOC on 32 homeless people who together had 378 warrants issued against them. A key problem for these individuals is a lack of awareness of fines and warrants, Konkel said.

Konkel, who retrieved and drafted the report, said the 32 individuals represented a particularly vulnerable segment of the homeless population. She said the group is comprised almost entirely of people over the age of 40, and many have mental and physical health illness.

“These are the people no one wants to deal with,” Konkel said

In addition to the warrants, a considerable number have outstanding fines worth more than $10,000, Konkel said. After speaking with a handful within the group, Konkel said she discovered all were surprised and disheartened at hearing the total amount of fines they had accumulated.

Because these individuals have no mailing address, the only notification they receive is during the initial citation, Konkel said.

Brian Austin, Madison Police Department central district lieutenant, said the fines are handed out only in cases where the offender has a long history of offenses. Konkel said these warrants have no deterrent effect since the recipients are unaware a warrant has even been issued.

MPD officers working the central district, where most of these people reside, are aware of the issues faced by those without a home, Austin said. The offenses that generate the fines usually consist of fighting, trespassing and retail theft, he said.

The fines can be paid off by spending time in jail, which pays off $100 dollars per day, Austin said.

Committee members discussed the need for MPD officers to be better prepared to help these individuals and the need for intervention when a warrant leads to jail time. One suggestion for police to better interact with these individuals would be to notify officers of the vulnerable individuals so may take extra care to be non threatening.

Committee member Moriah Grace said advising these individuals of a court date is not enough.

“These people don’t have agendas,” Grace said.

The use of impromptu court hearings to ensure the individuals can be connected to resources through the courts was also discussed. This would entail officers taking individuals to court when they are encountered on the street.

Committee members ended by referring the issue to the executive council for discussion.

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Categories: Local Media

Get out the vote: What UW students need to cast their ballots Feb. 16

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 11:01pm

To participate in the spring primary elections Tuesday, it’ll take a bit more effort than simply showing up to the polling place. Here’s what University of Wisconsin students need to know to cast their votes.

Sandra Miller, Common Cause of Wisconsin’s information services and outreach director, said there are two things every student needs to do to be ready at the polls: be registered to vote and have the correct voter ID ready.

To vote or not to vote: Many still unaware of voter photo ID lawWisconsin’s voter ID law has come under fire, and a University of Wisconsin expert said efforts to educate the public about …

The spring primary elections are Wisconsin elections where people vote for nonpartisan offices such as the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Miller said. Students can vote for candidates running for the positions of Supreme Court justice and Dane County district supervisor.

Normally, students can pre-register through several means — mail registration, with a special registration deputy and at the city clerk’s office, Miller said.

Because, however, the spring primary is less than 20 days away, the only ways to register are at the polls on the day of election or at the city clerk’s office by 6 p.m. Friday, Miller said.

The Madison city clerk’s office is located in room 103 of the City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Students can also use this website to check if they have been registered. Miller said students will want to take action as soon as possible.

The second thing students must do is acquire the right type of ID. Common Cause in Wisconsin has made an information sheet outlining voter photo ID law compliant options.

UW and Associated Students of Madison have collaborated to create a website that also outlines the voting process for students, what they need to prepare and where the closest polls on campus are.

According to the website, students can get a special UW voter ID card at the Wiscard office at Union South for free, which they can use as acceptable photo ID if they do not have any of the options on the information sheet.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited online registration as a voter registration option. The article has been updated to reflect the correct voter registration options. The Badger Herald regrets this error.

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Categories: Local Media

UW physicists react to monumental cosmic discovery

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 10:14pm

A scientific breakthrough had the whole physics community on the edge of their seats Thursday morning, when National Science Foundation announced the observation of gravitational waves caused by a merger between two black holes.

Einstein predicted 100 years ago that space and time are woven together in a space-time fabric that can swing, vibrate and transmit waves, Sebastian Heinz, University of Wisconsin astronomy professor, said.

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a highly sensitive, large-scale physics experiment designed to detect gravitational waves, has allowed scientists to finally observe Einstein’s theory of gravity after years of countless calculations, Heinz said.

“It’s basically like sound waves except that it’s space-time itself that vibrates,” Heinz said. “It’s something fundamental to the theory of gravity.” 

LIGO, sponsored by National Science Foundation, is the joint effort of about 1,000 scientists from around the world, with most of them in the U.S. A group of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology developed the idea in the 1970s, and began officially operating it in 1999.

The two black holes of roughly similar mass and close proximity are orbiting each other like the earth orbits the sun, Heinz said. In a process Heinz described as “spiraling toward collapse,” they run into each other and merge into a single black hole with approximately twice the original size.

Heinz said a massive object like a black hole that oscillates in space or orbits around another body, will send spacetime ripples, or gravitational waves, propagating close to the speed of light.

“When you have two black holes, they have basically the highest concentrations and bending of spacetime fabrics that Einstein discussed,” Heinz said. “When the black holes orbit each other, it’s like having a violin string or guitar string. If you pluck it extremely hard and extremely fast and sit across the room [from it], you can hear the vibrations from that echo.”

Peter Timbie, another UW physics professor, said the discovery of the black hole merger will lead to observations of a similar nature.

“The neat thing about this discovery is that it’s really just the beginning,” Timbie said.

In fact, Timbie said the LIGO team announced they are likely to see another black hole merger every two weeks. The team is even planning to make LIGO several times more sensitive, Timbie said, which means they’ll likely see similar events not only more frequently, but also farther away in the universe.

At the NSF press conference, Timbie said the researchers made the analogy that this observation is like a deaf person suddenly being able to hear.

Timbie said while most cosmic discoveries are revealed through light, such as with telescopes, the merging of the two black holes equates to hearing a violent collision.

UW-Madison scientists are excited about the breakthrough, Timbie said, but the university is not putting forth a large amount of energy into this field of research because about 20 scientists from UW-Milwaukee are already part of the LIGO collaboration.

While scientists haven’t found the best way to apply the theory to the benefit of the general public, Timbie said, it is a groundbreaking discovery in the field of physics and astronomy.

“It’s inspiring. It is like being able to see the world with a brand new set of eyes,” Timbie said.

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Underage e-cig purchases continue in Dane County despite efforts

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 6:30am

A report shows tobacco purchases by minors in Dane County decreased slightly in 2015, but youth access to e-cigarettes is still high compared to traditional cigarettes.

A growing national trend in youth e-cig consumption means the data is cause for concern, Nina Gregerson, Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition assistant coordinator, said. While the county has efforts in place to curb traditional smoking, programs targeting e-cigs have lagged behind, she said.

The county relies on compliance reports on retailers conducted each year to monitor the prevalence of underage sales and the 2015 report indicates a large increase in youth consumption of e-cigs in recent years, Gregerson said.

There was also a disparity between compliance reports on tobacco sales in the city of Madison versus Dane County.

In Dane County, the report showed three out of five establishments sold e-cig products to minors. In the city of Madison rates were slightly lower, with three out of eight establishments found selling e-cig products to minors.

Youth e-cig use tripled between 2013 and 2014 reports, making the county’s compliance findings troubling, Gregerson said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not released the 2015 report yet.

E-cig use is a growing concern due to the lack of studies concerning its long term health effects, Gregerson said. Currently, e-cig retailers aren’t required to have a license and she said she believes requiring them to get licensed would solve part of the problem.

Last year’s compliance report also revealed that in 48 out of 55 illicit sales instances clerks asked for ID, but failed to properly identify the purchasers age, Gregerson said. She said this likely indicates a lack of proper training, which would be required if the retailer held a tobacco license.

“Research shows that with tobacco licenses compliance actually increases,” Gregerson said.

Unfortunately, she said, there are no current efforts to introduce new regulations at the local level.

Dane County Supervisor Leland Pan, District 5, said the issue of e-cig use is a conversation worth having, especially with regards to public health. In the past, he said the county has voted to treat smoking e-cigs in public places the same way as regular cigarettes.

The county currently combats youth tobacco use through compliance checks and a youth-led movement known as FACT.

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Walker, Wisconsin officials applaud US Supreme Court decision to stay Clean Power Plan

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 11:26pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to temporarily block President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan would establish federal limits on carbon emissions across the country, Brett Healy, John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy president, said. Each state would have the flexibility to adapt this plan according to its needs.

Wisconsin officials voice disapproval over federal Clean Power PlanWisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel recently expressed his discontent with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, making its future in the …

Healy said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was rooted in its concern of the plan’s future impact.

“Supreme Court recognizes significant damage the plan will have on economy and way of life,” Healy said.

According to a statement from Attorney General Brad Schimel, 24 states, including Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit against the plan in the D.C. Court of Appeals to remove the plan altogether. While this lawsuit was unsuccessful, the states filed another lawsuit, this time in the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on the second lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on the plan’s implementation until further debate.

Schimel said in another statement the plan was unconstitutional, and he commends the Supreme Court’s recent decision.

“It is an extraordinary action for the Supreme Court of the United States to grant a stay and is telling of the obvious illegality of the rule,” Schimel said. “It’s imperative that we fight back against the federal government’s intrusion into the affairs of the State of Wisconsin.”

Gov. Scott Walker also expressed his support for the decision in a statement and said it was a “win for Wisconsin.” He said the plan surpassed the president’s authority and would cost Wisconsin ratepayers and businesses approximately $13 billion.

Lucas Vebber, director of environmental and energy policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said WMC is very happy with the plan’s stay because the plan would have cost jobs and increased electricity prices in the state.

“This will be good for Wisconsin’s families and employers, especially manufacturers,” Vebber said.

Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement the Supreme Court’s decision does not reflect a decision on the plan’s merits. When implemented, the plan would have several environmental and health benefits including reducing carbon emissions and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks annually. It would also save $85 on annual energy bills, Patton said.

Patton said the Supreme Court made the decision to stay the plan by a 5-4 vote. Attorney generals of 18 states, 10 power companies, clean energy organizations and public health and environmental organizations have formed a coalition that will defend the plan.

“The Clean Power Plan has a firm anchor in our nation’s clean air laws and a strong scientific record, and we look forward to presenting our case on the merits in the courts,” Patton said.

Healy said the plan’s fate would not be finalized until summer 2017. It will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court once the lawsuit against it has been completed.

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Startup SnapSnackz delivers more than just munchies

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 10:40pm

Local startup SnapSnackz, launched Feb. 1, wants to bring the corner store to your doorstep.

The Madison-based company offers a range of snacks and household items with free delivery. Co-owner Justin Southern said the company hopes to expand its selection and one day branch out to other cities.

But Southern said first the company has to complete its standalone website. Currently all orders are conducted through Grubhub, which Southern said limits the items his business can sell.

For now, SnapSnackz is targeting a specific demographic, as can be seen by their sales.

“Lighters have been very popular, which makes sense because we sell snacks,” Southern said.

Last week, the company made around 250 sales, a considerable number given that the company has done little in the way of marketing, Southern said.

While all purchases are delivered for free, there is a $5 minimum purchase, Southern said. Given the cold weather, Southern believes consumers will be attracted to the prospect of purchasing food without having to leave their homes.

In the coming weeks, Southern hopes to have a website running. Looking to the future, Southern said he and his three partners aim to add items such as pizza, before eventually expanding out of Madison.

“We’d like to be all over the country one day,” Southern said.

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UW-Extension Cooperative moves ahead with $3.6 million cut to county, research, administration

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 9:22pm

After substantial consideration and discussion, University of Wisconsin Extension confirmed Wednesday it will cut $3.6 million from its Cooperative Extension division.

UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said the cuts will affect three major areas of the Cooperative Extension division: county, research and administration.

UW-Extension draws concern as it is expected to cut numerous positions throughout stateUniversity of Wisconsin-Extension is expected to cut numerous county and administrative positions around the state to compensate for budget cuts to …

The Cooperative Extension division provides services and resources to people around the state and holds offices in all 72 counties.

The largest cut, $1.7 million, will impact the campus-based specialist researchers. County programs will be cut $1.2 million and Cooperative’s administration overhead will have a $700,000 cut, Sandeen said.

Sandeen said if UW-Extension can work efficiently, hopefully it can relieve some of the impact caused by the biennium budget’s cuts.

She recommended UW-Extension’s steering committee look at alternative forms of revenue to account for cuts, including marketing some of the services UW-Extension has developed, she said.

“Much of what we do is of great interest and demand outside of the state and outside of the country, so it makes sense that we might think about ways that we might monetize outside of the state of Wisconsin if that’s possible,” Sandeen said.

One development is E-Parenting, an entire technology curriculum for parent instruction. It teaches parents how to use technology with their children, but also can be used to help parents monitor and manage their children’s use of technology, Sandeen said.

A group of campus specialist researchers presented the program at a national conference. Following the conference, Sandeen said they were approached by several people from around the country interested in the curriculum E-parenting provides. E-Parenting is one example of UW-Extension developments that the institution plans to trademark in order to create another source of revenue, Sandeen said.

Despite all of the cuts to Cooperative Extension, Sandeen believes the division will still remain a model for extension services in other states, a UW-Extension statement said.

“Cooperative Extension’s people and programs bring the Wisconsin Idea to life in unique and immediate ways,” Sandeen said. “We’re building on a century-old commitment and imagining how we best connect with communities for generations to come.”

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Spotted: Chickenpox on University of Wisconsin campus

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 2:45pm

University of Wisconsin Health Services reported one confirmed case of a student with chickenpox Wednesday.

UHS relayed to students via a campus-wide email that a UW student has chickenpox and said they are currently monitoring the situation.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is considered highly contagious and can spread from an infected person through coughing or sneezing. UHS said the virus may appear as a rash on the head before it spreads to other parts of the body.

Common symptoms include fatigue, headaches and a fever that lasts for several days. UHS said someone may be more at risk for chickenpox if they have a chronic disease or are on medication that suppresses their immune system.

UHS urged students to check their immunization records to confirm they have received two doses of the vaccine for chickenpox. Students who haven’t may receive the vaccine for free if they schedule an appointment with UHS.

More information on chickenpox can be found on the UHS website, and Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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UW’s Biotron’s terrestrial capabilities surpass labs around the country

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 7:51am

Though the word “Biotron” might sound more like a Transformer than a laboratory, the research that takes place there is anything but science fiction.

While the UW lab itself is no work of fiction, it does help scientists turn their wildest ideas into reality. The Biotron lab is able to recreate any terrestrial environment on earth, allowing researchers to conduct more versatile experiments on campus than anywhere else in the country. Located on Observatory Drive, it is one of only four research facilities in the world that provide precise simulated environments for plant, animal, material and product testing. 

The power of light in Biotron’s controlled environment rooms can reach half the power of the sun and researchers can lower or elevate carbon dioxide levels. Room temperatures can range from minus 5 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity can range from 10 to 90 percent, according to the Biotron website

Hannah Carey, Biotron director, said the rooms are carefully monitored to ensure accurate results for experiments. Carey is one of many researchers who has conducted groundbreaking research at the Biotron since it was built in the 1960s.

A control panel and staff closely monitor each room’s conditions, Carey said. Staff members carry pagers with them after hours should a room deviate at all from its set simulation, and rooms are equipped with multiple alarms that detect those changes.

“As a researcher, I don’t have to be on top of it all the time because we have this excellent staff and monitoring system,” Carey said.

The Biotron is the first place on earth where LED lights were used to grow plants, Bjorn Karlsson, Biotron’s greenhouse manager, said. In addition, the Biotron lab has conducted numerous space projects that have examined plant responses to microgravity. Because of this research, NASA astronauts at the International Space Station were able to produce food in space for the first time, he said.

Back on Earth, the Biotron is a major hub for potato research. Wisconsin is ranked third in the nation for potato production and 5 percent of the potatoes grown in the U.S. every year can be traced back to Biotron. 

Due to the recent rise of year-round temperatures, knowing how potatoes respond to heat stress has become increasingly important to the industry.

Currently at the lab, Paul Bethke and Jim Busse, professors from the department of horticulture, are studying how heat stress causes defects in potatoes and lowers their value. Another researcher from the horticulture department, Jiwan Palta, is studying how plants from a variety of genetic backgrounds might adapt differently to higher temperatures.

Though mostly plant and animal research occupy the Biotron lab, commercial clients also use the rooms to test how products withstand extreme conditions. Harley-Davidson, for example, tested gas tanks for durability under high light and temperature, according to the Biotron media packet.

Recently, Biotron has been in the spotlight due to a multi-year renovation, which was completed last year. But most of the upgrades cannot be seen because they took place behind the walls.

“The [purpose] was to optimize energy efficiency so that we can continue to have desert environments right next to arctic environments without consuming huge amounts of energy,” Isabelle Girard, associate director of Biotron, said.

Karlsson said the lab’s work in expanding technology will become even more important in the future.

“I see the future of the Biotron as becoming increasingly important because the world is becoming more urbanized. By 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will be urban,” Karlsson said. “This will push people to create and grow food in urban areas — in controlled environments. The Biotron can provide a very strong research platform from which to expand those technologies.”

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Immigration status bill passes through committee, spurs opposition from activists

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 7:13am

Legislation allowing law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of criminals passed the Assembly Committee on Urban and Local Affairs Tuesday, but was met with outcry from immigration activists.

While the bill would prohibit local law enforcement from reporting undocumented workers to immigration officials and from inquiring about people’s citizenship, it would allow law enforcement to ask about citizenship only for those that have committed a crime.

Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, supported the bill because it does not put reporters of crime at risk of deportation. Steffen said undocumented people could be deterred from reporting crimes in their community out of fear of being asked whether or not they are legal citizens. This bill, he said, protects them from that question.

“There was a lot of concern from people that testified about a situation in which they were concerned about how they would be engaging with their law enforcement,” Steffen said. “With the passage of amendment two, we have protected people from that situation.”

But Voces De La Frontera, an immigration rights group, expressed fear the bill would allow police to “act like immigration agents,” according to a flyer passed out at the meeting. 

Under the bill, nonviolent crimes and other low-level misdemeanors could be grounds for law enforcement to ask someone whether or not they are a legal citizen, Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, said.

Genrich said immigrants should only be deported if they are involved in terrorist or gang activity or have committed felonies. He said immigrants who commit minor crimes should not be deported.

Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee, said the bill is anti-immigrant and goes too far.

“This is a horrible bill. It, to me, is bringing Donald Trump politics into Wisconsin,” Young said. “It’s extreme, it’s anti-immigration, anti-local government. It just sends a message that people of Hispanic descent and other heritage are not welcome here.”

Karma Chávez, University of Wisconsin communication arts professor, said immigrants are an important part of society and shouldn’t be marginalized.

“Immigrants contribute greatly and receive very little when they come to the U.S.,” Chávez said. 

Following the committee hearing, protesters gathered outside, holding signs and banners promoting immigration rights. They advertised “Day Without Latinos,” a “mass mobilization” to oppose the bill scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Capitol.

Only Genrich and Young voted against the bill. It will next head to the Assembly.

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Poverty matters: Arthur Brooks talks about importance of shared abundance without attachments

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 7:07am

Offering new perspectives on social policy, renowned author and social scientist Arthur Brooks spoke at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Tuesday about the importance of fighting for free enterprise.

Every year the annual Institute for Research on Poverties’ New Perspectives in Social Policy Seminar aims to reach beyond familiar fields of poverty study and open new paths of methodology. At this year’s seminar, Brooks and Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin public affairs and economics professor, discussed addressing poverty through increasing understanding of shared abundance.

For the past two years Brooks has worked closely with the Dalai Lama to discover new boundaries related to consciousness and the moral importance within the free enterprise system.

One of the lessons Brooks said he learned was that the true definition of wealth is having the ability and willingness to help others.

When discussing poverty, Brooks said one must recognize the importance of abundance of wealth. But there are two primary concepts of abundance to understand: the moral importance of abundance and the danger of abundance.

This concept can be applied to helping the poor, Brooks said. While alms for the poor are good for the individual soul, to really help the poor, there needs to be a a system, and the only system that can do this is free enterprise, he said.

“The reason I want you to join me in the fight for free enterprise is because I want you to join me in the fight for the world’s poorest people,” Brooks said.

In addition, Brooks said abundance is dangerous for everyday people as well. People who become attached to material items like money are not as happy as people who invest in relationships and love, he said.

To live a happier life, Brooks directed audience members to give away the material items they are most attached to. The more you give away the richer you become, he said.

Rather than obsessing over the price of indigenous items, Brooks said people should invest more time and energy into indigenous relationships with the people they love.

“We all need to work together to help this system to achieve greater fairness because poverty matters a lot and there is still a lot of it,” he said. “What matters is our ability to help other people. Abundance without attachment is a new way of thinking of things that goes beyond right and left.” 

Smeeding agreed with Brooks’ argument that having opportunities is key to decreasing poverty. He said this is possible through globalization, free trade, property rights, rule of law and entrepreneurship.

Smeeding said there needs to be an increase in skills training, employment access and income for the bottom 40 percent of people. If winners in globalization compensated the losers, social upward mobility would be made possible, he said.

“[Brooks] and I have same social goals: opportunity, responsibly and security,” Smeeding said. “We would probably pursue them with different means and emphases.”

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