WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Madison armed robbery, chase based on drug deal gone bad
MADISON - Madison police say a robbery that lead to a University of Wisconsin-Madison lock-down was drug related.
The robbery occurred before 6:30 p.m. last night. Police say a 19-year-old man was robbed at gunpoint by two men… his bag, keys and wallet were taken. Authorities say the lock-down was issued when a friend of the victim chased the suspects and a shot was fired. Police are still investigating the crime, but say they've recovered the stolen bag and the gun used in the robbery.
With the cold and flu season right around the corner, Wisconsinites have a new website to “forecast” illnesses across the state and the U-S. Graham Dodge is the CEO and founder of SICKWEATHER.com(sickweather.com) says the website provides a detailed map of 24 different illnesses, including chicken pox and the flu, being reported on social media. He says the data is accurate and faster than health department reports. The site recently did a ranking of chicken pox across the U-S, showing Wisconsin had “low reports” of the illness.
A Winnebago County city has passed a new ordinance that’s getting some statewide attention. Bartenders in Neenah will not be allowed to work if they are legally drunk. Under the ordinance, bartenders with a blood-alcohol level of point-oh-eight or higher are considered legally drunk and not allowed to be on the clock. The city council took up the issue in February and originally called for absolute sobriety, leading to an outcry from several bar owners. Alderman Shiloh Ramos, who supported the proposal, says the blood-alcohol threshold makes sense because it’s the same as the driving limit.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate went down slightly in August -- but not necessarily because more people found jobs. Officials said today that the seasonally-adjusted statewide jobless rate was six-point-seven percent for last month. That's down one-tenth of a point from July. More Wisconsinites gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force -- thus making people with jobs a higher-percentage of the workforce that's listed. About six-thousand people dropped out in August, leaving 68-percent of state residents in the labor force -- two-tenths of a percent less than in July. Meanwhile, preliminary figures show that 73-hundred private sector jobs were created in the Badger State last month. However, those numbers are subject to heavy revisions because of the small sample of employers surveyed for the monthly updates -- just three-and-a-half percent. For now, officials said 33-hundred construction jobs were added in the past month. Job increases were also reported for professional-and-business services, and leisure-and-hospitality.
A new poll shows that Paul Ryan is the clear choice among Wisconsinites who expect to vote in the Republican primary for president in 2016. The firm of Public Policy Polling said today that 27-percent of likely primary voters favor the 2012 vice-presidential nominee from Janesville. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a distant second at 14-percent, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at 12-percent. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul are fourth-and-fifth in the Wisconsin poll, which interviewed almost 450 regular primary voters from each party last weekend -- and 1,180 likely voters overall. The poll showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton would run even with Ryan in the final race for the White House -- and she would beat Walker by five points with other Republicans losing by wider margins. The Public Policy poll also gives U.S. Senate Republican Ron Johnson at 38-percent approval rating, with 38-percent disapproving. Johnson has already said he would run for re-election in 2016. The new poll has Johnson trailing Democrat Russ Feingold by seven points in a head-to-head match. Johnson unseated Feingold in 2010. The margins of error are plus-or-minus four-point-six percent for the primary polling, and two-point-nine percent for questions asked to all participants.
'Tis the season for bees in Wisconsin -- but there's a disagreement over how bad it really is. Dennis Huber of Hartford makes a living by eradicating bee nests. He tells Green Bay Press-Gazette Media that he's getting a lot more calls than a year ago -- and his business could end up being 40-to-50-percent higher than last year. When he makes house calls, Huber says he'll find 3-or-4 nests instead of just one. UW-Madison entomologist Phil Pelliterri does not see that kind of an increase. In fact, he estimates that the problems with yellow jackets are only a-tenth of what we might see in a really bad year -- when you can hardly be at an outdoor restaurant or farmers' market without getting stung. Pelliterri says yellow jacket populations grow exponentially throughout the year, so it's no surprise that we're seeing them now. But in the overall scheme of things, he says it's not a bad year.
Most Wisconsinites will get to choose from more than one health insurance plan, if they have to use the state's purchasing exchange to get coverage under Obama-care. The state Insurance Commissioner's office released a coverage map to the Associated Press this morning, before it goes out to others. Residents in 59 of the state's 72 counties will have multiple providers available in the state's official exchange, which is run by the federal government. At least one private carrier is on board in all the counties. Earlier, we learned that 13 private insurers would offer individual plans in the state's Obama-care exchange -- along with nine group plans. Today, we're learning for the first time how much choice people will actually have. Around a half-million state residents will use the exchange for the coverage they're required to buy under the Affordable Care Act. Clients can enroll starting next month, and the coverage takes effect at the start of next year.
A National Weather Service radar unit is back online, after it was temporarily knocked out by a storm yesterday. Wisconsin's main Weather Service office in Sullivan was hit by lightning -- and it destroyed a surge protector for the radar system. Agency officials said the surge protector did its job before it died out -- and it saved the radar from serious damage. Four weather service radios were knocked off the air during the storm, serving Janesville, Racine, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac. Weather Service officials were still trying today to get a handle on everything that was damaged. Repairs are starting to be made. Strong thunderstorms went through Wisconsin this morning, dumping a half-inch hail southwest of Green Bay. More storms are in the forecast from late this afternoon into tomorrow, followed by a drop-off in temperatures for the weekend.
Western Wisconsin continues to be in the grip of a severe drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor said today that just over 18-percent of the state's land area is severely dry, same as a week ago. Parts of 14 western counties are the driest, bordered roughly by Turtle Lake, Neillsville, Wisconsin Dells, Viroqua, and the Mississippi River from Vernon to Polk counties. A wet spring brought an end to the previous drought from 2012, but dry weather since July brought those conditions back. Almost 60-percent of Wisconsin is abnormally dry or worse, almost one-percent more than a week ago. Just over 40-percent of the state is drought-free, northeast of a line from Superior-to-Sheboygan. Parts of Wisconsin got rain this morning, when a wave of thunderstorms went through. Ontario in Vernon County picked up more than an inch. Southeast Wisconsin was getting heavy rain late this morning. Forecasts there called for 1-to-2 inches this morning. Another wave of storms is due in statewide late this afternoon through early tomorrow.
More Wisconsinites are relying on the government for their health insurance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the numbers of state residents covered by public plans like Badger-Care jumped to over 20-percent last year. That's almost four-and-a-half percent more than in 2008, when the Great Recession began in earnest. Today's Census report said almost 10-and-a-half percent of Wisconsinites are not insured at all. That's about the same as the previous year. The uninsured and workers who don't get private coverage will have to buy insurance from the federal government's purchasing exchange starting in January. So will those on Badger-Care who make more than poverty-level incomes. Over a half-million Wisconsinites are expected to rely on the exchanges to meet their legal requirement to have health insurance under Obama-care. The percentage of state residents covered by private plans dropped by almost five points from 2008 through last year. The new total is about 69-and-a-half percent.
The Wisconsin-based Kohl's Department Stores plan to hire over 50,000 temporary employees for the holiday shopping season. That's about three-thousand fewer people than in a similar announcement it made a year ago. Kohl's, which is based in Menomonee Falls, said today it would hire an average of 40 seasonal workers for each of its 11-hundred-plus department stores in 49 states. It also plans to hire an extra 64-hundred people for Kohl's distribution centers, plus 350 to work on credit issues. The hiring began earlier this month. Kohl's says most jobs will be filled by the middle of November. Some of the jobs will only be for a few hours a week. Others will offer more than 20-hours of work each week.
Health officials have just confirmed two human cases of the West Nile virus in Wisconsin. The state Health Services department said yesterday that a case in Dane County has been confirmed by federal health analysts -- along with a newly-reported case of the mosquito-borne illness in Lafayette County. Four other human West Nile cases are still listed as "suspected," pending final analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. This year's toll is still a pittance compared to the 50-plus confirmed cases and four deaths that Wisconsin had last year. That was when the nation's mid-section was hit hard by West Nile -- something which has not happened this year. Fifty-seven birds have been infected by the virus this year. Horses can also get West Nile, but state officials report no such cases in 2013. Most human West Nile cases crop up in August and September.
In Neenah, the City Council has approved a compromise plan to make sure bartenders are not drunk when serving their customers. Aldermen voted last night to let bartenders drink a little while they're on the job -- but they must stay under the point-zero-eight blood alcohol limit for drivers. It was first proposed in February that servers not be allowed to share a drink with those on the other side of the bar. Tavern owners objected, and that led to the new compromise. Alderman Shiloh Ramos said bartenders have to make judgments about whether customers have had one-too-many -- so it's important that they not be impaired by alcohol themselves. Not many places in Wisconsin regulate drinking behind the bar. La Crosse, Madison, and Jackson are among those that do. Green Bay considered a total ban on drinking by bartenders -- but an alderman withdrew it after being told in no uncertain terms that quote, "alcohol is part of the culture" in Wisconsin.
Four teachers have been named Wisconsin's best. Richard Erickson of Bayfield, Jane McMahon of Baraboo, Anne Haase of Menomonie, and Lynne Kohlhepp from Wausau were chosen as the state's Teachers-of-the-Year by the state Department of Public Instruction. All four received awards of three-thousand dollars from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. Erickson was named the best high school instructor. He created a mentoring program that put Bayfield youngsters in a science teaching role. He also has connects students with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. McMahon was named the middle school teacher-of-the-year for establishing a class called "Young Adult Literature." It uses technology like I-Movie to create book trailers. Haase is a fifth-grade teacher at Wakanda Elementary School in the Menomonie system. She uses hands-on experiences and technology innovations to keep students interested. Kohlhepp is a Wausau high school learning disabilities' instructor. Among other things, she uses a host of items that help youngsters learn freshman English.