WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: State could be affected by FDA ruling on cheese
Wisconsin could be greatly affected by a federal ruling which said it's not sanitary to use wooden boards for the aging of cheese.
The Food-and-Drug Administration recently cited several plants in New York State for using wooden boards, despite state laws which permit them. They've been used around the world for more than a century in the process of aging a wide variety of cheese products. For now, Wisconsin says it will not change its inspection policy for cheese-makers. State ag department spokesman Jim Dick says his agency will first seek clarification on the FDA ruling before America's Dairyland does anything. The owner of the Roelli Cheese Haus in Shullsburg tells the Wisconsin State Journal he's worried about the ruling -- because his place uses wooden boards to age 85-percent of its cheeses. Chris Roelli calls it a "potential game-changer" for the face of America's artisan cheeses. Wisconsin is the nation's top cheese producer.
A 12-year-old Waukesha girl will get a mental competency exam, to see if she can help defend herself against an adult charge that she stabbed a classmate last month. Morgan Geyser's lawyer asked for the test, and a court commissioner granted it during a hearing this afternoon. A state-appointed doctor will examine Morgan within 15 days. The attorney for the other defendant, did not seek a similar competency exam for 12-year-old Anissa Weyer -- but he can do so later. Both girls are charged with attempted homicide, after they allegedly stabbed a 12-year-old girl 19 times May 30th to curry favor with fictional horror character Slender Man. The defendants are scheduled to be back in court July second. Attorneys for both say they'll try to move their clients to juvenile court, where they could get more treatment with less confinement if they're found delinquent. Media reports said the victim has been released from a hospital, and she's recovering at home. A judge ordered a media pool camera not to show the defendants' faces, and a request to drop the order was turned down today. Media groups said it didn't make much difference, since the girl's faces have been shown worldwide, along with the case itself.
Federal Judge Barbara Crabb will hold a hearing Friday afternoon, to consider arguments over what state officials should do next in handling gay marriages. The hearing is set for 1 p.m. Friday in Madison. Crabb ruled a week ago that the state's 2006 ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, but she did not tell the state or its counties how to proceed. Since then, the main plaintiff in the case -- the ACLU -- filed a request to force the state to allow same-sex marriages, and to legally recognize gay marriages performed in other states. State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says the ACLU's request is too broad. He's trying to get the ban re-instated, at least until higher courts can consider Crabb's ruling. Van Hollen has asked both Crabb and a federal appeals court to put the ruling on hold while it's being appealed.
The state Vital Records Office did an about-face today, and agreed to process marriage licenses from same-sex couples. A spokeswoman for Governor Scott Walker said the decision was made to process the licenses, after talking with the Justice Department about it. As Jocelyn Webster put it, "It's incumbent upon them to fulfill their administrative duties, and that's what they're going to do in this case." At first, the state said it would set the marriage licenses aside until Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen provides more guidance on the subject. About 50 counties have been granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled last Friday that the state's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. Crabb refused, however, to tell counties what to do in the aftermath. Both Crabb and a federal appeals court are considering the state's request to put her ruling on hold -- and restore the gay marriage ban -- until the judge's ruling is appealed.
A Milwaukee restaurant got some big-time publicity, after it gave a free meal to one of the first same-sex couples to get married in Wisconsin. Christopher Graham posted his receipt from the Transfer Pizza-and-Cafe on the restaurant's Facebook page -- and it's gone viral since then. Graham and Andrew Cappelle were married late Friday at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. That was right after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the state's ban on gay marriages was unconstitutional. At the restaurant, server Melissa Tashjian couldn't help but see how happy the couple was. She quoted them as saying they were the 12th same-sex couple to get married -- and they made history by tying the knot. The server asked her boss whether the couple deserved a free dessert -- and the boss treated Cappelle and Graham to their entire meal.
A 20-year-old man killed in a shooting incident in Milwaukee was identified today as Johnny Winston Jr. He died, and another man was wounded Monday evening on Milwaukee's north side. Investigators say they don't have a motive. Police have not said exactly how Winston was killed.
No charges will be filed against a 16-year-old boy who reportedly started a fire in April that caused five-million-dollars of damage to Oconto High School. Oconto County District Attorney Ed Burke said he could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. Police said they were convinced the blaze was not set on purpose. Oconto Police Chief Dan Ault says his department will not issue non-criminal citations against the youngster. Officials said the blaze started when the boy was smoking in a bathroom stall -- and embers started tissue on fire.
A 32-year-old man has been arrested in the shooting death of a woman in Watertown. Police took a Waterloo man into custody, as a suspect in the death of 28-year-old Heather Stewart of Clyman. Her body was found May 30th in a vehicle parked in the lot of a former Watertown grocery store. Police Chief Tim Roets says the investigation remains active, and detectives are still gathering information.
Bond has been set at $100,000 for a Manitowoc County man arrested in a large marijuana bust. Thirty-nine year old Brian Guilmette of Collins was arrested over the weekend. Authorities said yesterday that Calumet County officers were planning to buy drugs from Guilmette, when they caught him with eight pounds of pot and a thousand dollars in his vehicle. The Manitowoc County Metro Drug Unit then searched his home. There, officials said they seized 78 pounds of marijuana, and around $35,000 in cash. The pot was said to be worth $300,000 dollars. Investigators said the drug apparently came from California -- and some of the bags had coffee grounds which may have tried to hide the drug's scent during shipping. Guilmette appeared in Manitowoc County Circuit Court yesterday for a bond hearing. Charges are expected to be filed by the time he's due back in court June 23rd.
A child care provider is on trial in the death of a four-year-old girl in southern Wisconsin. A Sauk County jury heard opening statements yesterday in the case of 27-year-old Jeannette Janusiak of Reedsburg. She's charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the death of young Peyton Shearer in 2011. Janusiak told authorities that the girl fell from a bed, and struck her head on the open drawer of a night-stand. Doctors told police the infant was brain-dead after she suffered skull fractures. Prosecutors said the girl suffered three blows to the head. Janusiak's trial is scheduled to run through next Wednesday.
A Kenosha County man who was killed by an alleged drunk driver was identified today as 27-year-old Brian Smith of Salem. The driver, a 29-year-old Paddock Lake man, was arrested for drunken homicide. Criminal action is pending. Authorities also ticketed the driver for traffic violations. The crash occurred right around the time the bars were closing early Sunday. Authorities said the vehicle lost control on a curve, slid into a ditch, hit a culvert, rolled over several times, hit a fire hydrant, and chopped off a utility pole. The driver was treated at a Kenosha hospital before being taken to jail.
The recent heavy rains are causing frustrations for boaters on the Saint Croix River on the northwest Wisconsin border at Minnesota. No-wake orders have been on-and-off along the Saint Croix. For now, Minnesota's DNR says the restrictions will continue until the river falls below 683-feet above sea level. The National Weather Service said it was almost a foot-and-a-half above the threshold as of late yesterday morning -- and the Saint Croix was expected to remain high at least into today. Officials say they're putting up signs at boat ramps and marinas, so boaters know what's happening. No-wake restrictions are designed to reduce erosion damage on the Saint Croix's most sensitive shorelines. Hydrologist Molly Shodeen says she knows people are anxious to go boating, but the Saint Croix has been stuck in a cycle of wet springs. Officials say conditions remain rough, as evidenced by the drowning of a man last month on the Minnesota side near Taylors Falls.
The ice has finally disappeared from the Great Lakes. Scientists in Ann Arbor, Michigan said the last patch of ice melted last Saturday, June 7th -- the latest melting date on record. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab said the five Great Lakes had at least some ice for seven straight months. That's the longest period since records have been kept, and it's six weeks longer than the average. Meanwhile, those who try to swim on the Great Lakes are still shivering. The average water temperature on Lake Superior is still in the 30's.
Building permits for new homes are down from a year ago in Wisconsin's five largest metro areas. MTD Marketing Services said today that five-and-a-half percent fewer building permits for one-and-two-family homes were issued in May in the Milwaukee, Madison, Fox Valley, Racine-Kenosha, and Green Bay-Door County regions. Only the Green Bay region reported an increase in permits for last month. For the year as a whole, only Metro Milwaukee reported an increase. MTD said 1,450 building permits were issued in the five metros from January through May. That's about 20 fewer than the first five months of 2013.
Waukesha County's chief prosecutor says he will not investigate a state legislator who proposed a bill that would have meant thousands-of-dollars for a campaign donor. State Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc unveiled a bill in January to limit the amount of a person's income that's subject to child support to $150,000 a year. Kleefisch trashed the bill after news stories pointed out that GOP donor Michael Eisenga helped draft the bill after giving almost $52,000 to Republicans since 2005. Today, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on an e-mail sent by District Attorney Brad Schimel to the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, which called for the investigation. Schimel -- a Republican who's running for attorney general -- asked why a lawmaker cannot press for a bill that benefits a campaign contributor, and it's the "essence of representative government." Schimel also accused the group of wanting him to go on a "witch hunt." Kleefisch tells the Journal-Sentinel there's nothing to investigate, and his bill was put together "in good faith."
U.S. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville blasted both President Obama and China today in a speech to a security conference in Washington. Ryan told a meeting of the Center for a New American Security, "Our friends think we're adrift, our rivals think we're sinking, our credibility is at risk, and so with it, our security." Ryan called for a new build-up of the military, a stronger vision for foreign policy, and not to leave Afghanistan "before we finish the job." Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, said Obama deeply cuts defense budgets every year, and it's "hurting both our current and our future capabilities." Ryan also had harsh words for China, as at least a couple of large Wisconsin industries accuse that country of under-pricing its products and hurting domestic production. In Ryan's words, China is "stealing our intellectual property" and "attacking our companies" in a "narrow-minded pursuit of its narrow self-interest."
A company that makes freight-hauling containers in southern Wisconsin has won its first battle to stop Chinese competitors from illegal under-pricing. The U.S. International Trade Commission says the Commerce Department can keep investigating alleged harmful trade practices against Stoughton Trailers. The Stoughton-based firm filed a complaint in April, accusing Chinese firms of charging less than its production costs for 53-foot-long steel boxes. Stoughton Trailers calls it unfair competition that has resulted in a near-shutdown of its factory in Evansville. Stoughton Trailers has asked Washington to improve duties on Chinese containers to offset the alleged unfair pricing. The Wisconsin firm says Chinese companies control 95-percent of the U.S. market for 53-foot containers, by pricing its products for about half their normal value.
It will cost taxpayers more than expected for a new rail concourse at Milwaukee's inter-modal transportation system. The state DOT said today that the total price-tag went up from almost $19-million dollars to about $23.5 million. Higher construction costs were blamed -- along with additional costs for design and engineering work. The Milwaukee station serves Amtrak and freight lines that go through the city. The project includes a new roof, escalators and elevators for passengers to reach various boarding platforms, and an improved pedestrian tunnel for emergencies. The state is picking up $12-million dollars for the project, and the federal government $11-million. Construction is expected to begin sometime this summer. The changes are required by the Federal Railroad Administration.
A large Wisconsin blood bank is kicking off a donation drive, to try and collect at least 1,500 pints by two months from today. The Blood Center of Wisconsin is having first responders take appointment calls at its Milwaukee headquarters, to raise awareness of the need, in a campaign that's called "You to the Rescue." Blood Center officials say the demand for blood rises during the center, as more people are outdoors and get into things like traffic accidents. However, blood supplies are often reduced in the summer because some of the steadiest donors -- high school and college students -- are gone on vacation. The Blood Center of Wisconsin has a dozen donation sites around the state. It supplies blood to 50 hospitals and 29 counties throughout Wisconsin -- and it provides specialized blood tests to help doctors diagnose things like genetic disorders.
Milwaukee high school graduate Mark Rylance was the only Wisconsinite to win a major Tony Award. He received the first trophy presented in last Sunday's Broadway honors, for best actor in a featured role in the show "Twelfth Night." Rylance was also nominated for best leading actor in a play, along with Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub for "Act One." Both were beaten out by Bryan Cranston, who won the Tony for his performance in "All the Way." Also, Madison native Tyne Daly fell short in her bid for a Broadway honor. She was nominated for leading actress in a play for "Mothers and Sons." Audra McDonald took home that Tony for "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill."
Cheeseheads can be extremely generous. That's what Green Bay Packers' fan Steve Tate of DeForest is finding out, after somebody stole his over-sized Super Bowl ring during the Memorial Day Weekend. If you watch the Packers on TV, you'll often see Tate as the fan with the phrase "NFL Owner" on his cheese hat. He bought a paperweight Packers' 2010 Super Bowl championship ring, which he took to a fund-raiser in West Bend May 24th. He handed it to a fan, like he had done hundreds of times -- and it disappeared. The Green Bay Press-Gazette said Tate received two offers to replace the ring -- one from Packers' executive committee member John Bergstrom, and the other from the company which made the ring, Jostens. Tate accepted Jostens' offer. Numerous others went on Tate's Facebook page to say they'd contribute to a replacement fund, and-or help him look for the ring. Washington County sheriff's deputies are treating the incident as a theft. At last word, they were given several leads which have not panned out.