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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: 50 years of the federal government recognizing cigarette smoking were harmful

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This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the federal government's first recognition that cigarette smoking was harmful. Pulmonologist Steven Brown, who volunteers for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Lung Association, said the Surgeon General's report came at a time when half of American adults smoked. He said teachers smoked in classrooms, bank tellers smoked at their windows, fliers smoked on airplanes, and cigarettes were given out as party favors. At the same time, he said tobacco companies cried foul against Surgeon General Luther Terry's report on January 11th of 1964. They gave all sorts of denials that the product was hazardous to your health. They paid billions for that stand more than three decades later, in the form of settlements with state governments. Smoking is still prevalent -- and it's much more expensive due all of the taxes slapped on cigarettes. About 18-percent of Americans smoke, and Brown tells the Wisconsin Radio Network he'd like to see that cut to 10-percent or less over the next decade. The Lung Association and others also want to see reduced exposures to second-hand smoke, and to ultimately eliminate diseases and deaths caused by tobacco.

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Wisconsin's retail and factory workers would no longer be required to get a day off each week, under a bill proposed by Republicans in both houses. West Bend Senator Glenn Grothman and Beaver Dam Republican Mark Born are seeking co-sponsors for the measure. They said the state's largest business group first suggested the change, after noticing that federal law does not require what the state mandates -- at least 24 hours off for each seven-day week. The bill's authors say it would let employees volunteer for a seventh day each week, so they could make a little extra money and their companies can boost production. Democrats and labor leaders say bosses would pressure their workers into volunteering -- and the employees might have to go along or get fired. Grothman says he's never heard of that happening, and he wonders why Democrats want to hold back employees who want extra money. Racine Assembly Democrat Cory Mason says the required day off is a legal protection that exists for a reason. Mason calls the G-O-P measure a "slap in the face to ordinary working folks," saying they've fought long-and-hard for 40-hour work-weeks and weekends off. Republican legislative leaders and Governor Scott Walker's office have not said whether they back the measure.

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A search for a missing La Crosse man is entering its second week on the Mississippi River near Winona Minnesota. 29-year-old Andrew Kingsbury was one of four people in an S-U-V that missed a turn, struck a guard-rail, slid down an embankment, and went through the ice on the river. The driver and a passenger were in the vehicle when it was pulled out last Sunday. A third person's body was recovered last Monday. Rescuers from as far away as Black River Falls have used sonar equipment, cameras, and cadaver dogs -- and they've found no trace of Kingsbury. Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand says about 95-percent of the searchers are volunteers, and it's not an easy search because they can only see 4-to-10-feet underwater. Brand says it's possible that Kingsbury's body might be hidden behind a rock or a crevice that no one's been able to see yet. Kingsbury's brother Chad tells WXOW TV in La Crosse the search has been heart-wrenching -- and he says he's grateful for all the help and persistence. He said he makes sure the volunteers are fed, in gratitude for their efforts. Officials say the search will continue as long as the weather is still safe for divers.

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Wisconsin officials will consider tighter restrictions on moving firewood, in an effort to slow the spread of the tree-killing emerald ash borer. The Natural Resources Board will consider new rules on January 22nd to allow those in state recreation areas to use firewood from just 10 miles away. Firewood is a main carrier of the emerald ash borer, which has been spreading more rapidly throughout Wisconsin. In 2006, the D-N-R prohibited campers from using out-of-state firewood in state parks and forests. A year later, the state barred any firewood within 50 miles of a state property. That was reduced to 25 miles in 2010. Now, a 10-mile limit will be considered -- and out-of-state firewood would also be allowed if it comes from within 10 miles. D-N-R staff members say the tighter perimeters have been known to slow the spread of the ash borer, which first appeared in the Badger State five-and-a-half years ago.

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At least two people were killed in Wisconsin snowmobile crashes this weekend. A 70-year-old woman died Saturday afternoon in Price County in the northwest part of the state. Sheriff's officials said her snowmobile left a public trail near Phillips and struck a wire, and then a tree. She died at the scene. In Racine County, 52-year-old Thomas Dretzka of Caledonia was killed Saturday morning when his machine crashed in his home community. The D-N-R continues to investigate the crash. Officials said speed and alcohol were the main factors. At least seven people have been killed in Wisconsin snowmobile mishaps this winter. The D-N-R's Web site listed five deaths before the weekend.

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A committee of 21 people will look for U-W Stout's next chancellor. Interim System President Richard Telfer has named a search panel that includes 11 faculty members and two students from the Menomonie campus. They're looking to replace Charles Sorenson, who plans to retire in August. The panel will nominate up to five finalists, and another selection panel from the Board of Regents will choose the final nominee.

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An H-B-O movie about Wisconsin native Liberace won a pair of Golden Globe awards last night. "Behind the Candelabra" received the Best T-V Mini-Series or Movie award. Michael Douglas was named the Best Actor for a mini-series or movie, for his portrayal of the flamboyant pianist from West Milwaukee. Milwaukee native John Ridley Junior was nominated for the best movie screenplay for his film "12 Years a Slave" -- but he lost out to Spike Jonze for "Her." "Twelve Years a Slave" won the Golden Globe for the best dramatic film.

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A former "Jeopardy" champion from Wisconsin will compete in a tournament that features the top players from the 30 years that Alex Trebek has been the host. Viewers chose Michael Falk of West Allis to be among 45 players in "Jeopardy's Battle-of-the-Decades." Fifteen players from each of the current show's three decades will starting squaring off later this month. The contest will be televised this spring. Falk won 310-thousand dollars during eight appearances on "Jeopardy" in 2006. He won 60-thousand in his original run, and another quarter-million in the 2006 "Tournament of Champions." Falk is now a math teacher at Saint Mary's Visitation School in Elm Grove. Naturally, he's the coach of the school's quiz bowl team. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the "Jeopardy" winnings helped him change jobs, buy a house, and have a son.

If you think snowmobiling conditions are perfect across Wisconsin, think again. Travel Wisconsin-Dot-Com says trails are closed in most of the southern half of the state. In the northern half, most trails are good-to-excellent. Portage County lies in the middle -- and those trails are now closed. Officials said about 20-inches of snow have fallen in central Wisconsin this winter -- but most of it's been light-and-fluffy, and it doesn't last under the weight of high-powered sleds. Many snowmobile clubs in Portage County are looking for another 4-to-6 inches. This time, they need it to be wet-and-heavy. They might not have to wait long. The National Weather Service has issued winter weather watches for central-and-southern Wisconsin. Two-to-six inches is predicted for the region tonight and tomorrow. For now, temperatures are above freezing in most of Wisconsin -- and just below freezing in central areas where rain turned to ice on some roads in that area.  

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