Tuesday State News Briefs: Kraft fined for selling meat products lighter than listed weightWisconsin News
-- Kraft Foods has paid a fine of almost $37,000, for selling meat products that were lighter than the weights listed on the packages.
MADISON - Kraft Foods has paid a fine of almost $37,000, for selling meat products that were lighter than the weights listed on the packages.
The state’s consumer protection division announced the penalty today. Weights-and-measures inspectors said they found two dozen cases of short-weighted quantities in several Wisconsin stores between last August and February. The short-weight items include 11 packs of Oscar Mayer light beef franks, a dozen packages of Oscar Mayer roast beef, and one pack of Oscar Mayer roaster turkey breasts. Officials said Kraft was also penalized last July for selling under-sized packages – so the new penalties are higher than the minimums.
Tommy Thompson’s U.S. Senate campaign says its three Republican primary opponents should stop attacking each other – because it might hurt the GOP’s chances of re-electing Governor Scott Walker. Thompson aide Darrin Schmitz slammed a fund-raising appeal put out by fellow GOP candidate Eric Hovde. Schmitz said the attack was unexpected at quote, “the very moment Republicans are rallying together on behalf of Governor Scott Walker and our embattled state senators.” Six GOP office-holders are targets of recall elections, and their Democratic challengers are being picked today in statewide primaries. Hovde, Thompson, Mark Neumann, and Jeff Fitzgerald are squaring off in an August 14th primary for the U.S. Senate to be vacated by the retiring Herb Kohl. In Hovde’s fund-raising appeal, he accused Thompson of proposing new taxes on explorations for energy sources. That was based on what Thompson said at a recent debate. The former governor said he supported the use of drilling fees to create a national fund for new-and-improved highways. And Hovde said it was no surprise, given that Thompson grew state spending and raised taxes-and-fees by $400-million while he was the governor for 14 years. Thompson’s camp called that a “dishonest and desperate attack.”
A funeral service was held this morning in Janesville for the latest Wisconsinite to be killed in Afghanistan. 21-year-old Army Corporal Benjamin Neal of Orfordville died April 25th, after his unit was hit by a roadside bomb. Hundreds of people lined the streets in Orfordville on Saturday, when a procession was held in his honor. Many more attended a public visitation yesterday at Parkview High School in Orfordville, where Neal graduated in 2009.
The polls are open in Wisconsin – and voters are choosing nominees for only the third gubernatorial recall election in the nation’s history. Four Democrats are vying for the right to face first-term Republican Scott Walker in the general election on June fifth. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk are the front-runners. Democrats and other critics petitioned for the recall vote mainly because Walker and GOP lawmakers rammed through a law last spring which virtually ended collective bargaining by most state-and-local public employee unions. It has made Walker a conservative hero around the country, where he has raised $25-million in anticipation of a bitter campaign. But in recent weeks, Democrats have gone away from the union issue – and they’re focusing on jobs instead. The Democrats have hammered away at a federal report which said Wisconsin lost almost 24,000 jobs in the year ending March 31st. Walker and his supporters counter that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since before the recession began in earnest in 2008. Democrats are also choosing nominees today for lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats. All polls close at eight tonight.
Wisconsin poll workers will be busier-than-normal tonight handling absentee ballots in today’s recall primaries. That’s because those ballots were not printed on time for the earliest absentee voters to receive them. Absentee ballots were supposed to be printed by April 16th – but that was the day the Government Accountability Board decided to allow fake Democrats to be on the ballot, in spite of objections from the State Democratic Party. The issue delayed the printing of absentee ballots by several days. So the first applicants were given facsimile ballots which listed the candidates. And they were not made so they could be put directly into electronic scanning machines to be counted tonight. That means poll workers will be transferring people’s votes from the facsimile ballots to the ones that can be scanned. And that could cause some holdups tonight at polling places with large turnouts. In Milwaukee, Election Commission director Sue Edman does not expect delays. She said only about 250 facsimile ballots were used among the six-thousand total absentee ballots that Milwaukee handed out. Voters are deciding Democratic nominees today for recall contests against six Republicans – the governor, lieutenant governor, and four senators.
Eighteen Wisconsin state parks are adding electricity to a number of their campsites. The state DNR says it’s part of a seven-million-dollar plan to improve over 200 publicly-owned sites around the state. Work is underway on 66 new or improved campsites with electricity at 11 state parks. Those parks are Big Foot Beach, Blue Mound, Bong, Buckhorn, Hartman Creek, Interstate, Kegonsa, Kohler-Andrae, Point Beach, Rocky Arbor, and Roche-a-Cri. Seven other state parks expect to get almost 340 new-or-improved electrical camp-sites beginning in the fall. Those parks are Devil’s Lake, High Cliff, Peninsula, Wildcat Mountain, Kettle Moraine North-and-South, and Yellowstone Lake.
Green Bay continues to struggle with the issue of where sex offenders should be allowed to live. Last night, a committee rejected a measure that would let sex offenders live in town – but they could never legally go within 150-feet of schools, parks, or other places where kids hang out. Committee members questioned how the ordinance would work – and they believe the city’s tougher existing ordinance can be salvaged. The panel referred the issue back to city staff members and attorneys for more study. Green Bay was one of many communities in Wisconsin which passed laws a few years ago, barring sex offenders from living within two-thousand-feet of where children congregate. That effectively banned those offenders from living in town, unless they get city approval to live in a restricted area. But police say offenders have been ignoring the ordinance with the help of state probation agents, who believe the city’s approval process is too much of a hassle to deal with.
Wisconsin farmers are still ahead of schedule in getting their corn planted – but the heavy rains from the past week could put them behind. Some farm fields have been flooded after the Fox and Black rivers went above their banks in several places. Farmers report soil erosion in a number of places around the Badger State. And 95-percent of fields have either adequate or surplus moisture. Despite the rain, 34-percent of the Wisconsin corn crop was in the ground as of Sunday. That’s 16-percent more than a week ago, and it’s four-percent ahead of the average for the past five years. Oat planting is 23-percent ahead of the norm, and 51-percent of that crop has emerged. Soybean planting is still a bit slow. Five-percent of the beans are in the ground, one-percent behind the norm for this date. Crop reporters are still trying to figure out how much frost damage was done to the cherry and apple crops. In Door County, observers said the tart cherries were hit harder than the sweet varieties. And in Marathon County, some frost damage is reported to the ginseng crop.
A half-million-dollar cash bond was set yesterday for a Green Bay woman accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death. 46-year-old Lois Velaszquez is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of 35-year-old Derrick House. The incident took place early Sunday at the couple’s home. Velaszquez is due back in Brown County Circuit Court on May 23rd. Prosecutors said she told a 15-year-old family member to tell the police that other men broke into the house and stabbed House – but he told officers the couple was arguing when she committed the killing. Authorities said the argument involved infidelity – and House missed a family baptism celebration on Saturday, after he returned home 12 hours late from work.
Tomorrow is the first “National Bike to School Day,” and Wisconsin youngsters are being urged to join in by pedaling to class. Several schools are holding organized events, but state officials are urging all youngsters to bike-to-school if they can safely do so. Renee Callaway says the day fits in nicely with the state DOT’s “Safe Routes to School” program. Callaway is the coordinator of that program, which encourages kindergarten-through-eighth-graders to walk-and-bike to school using safer routes that are created. There are 130 Safe Routes’ projects around the state, and the DOT has spent $13.5 million on them since 2007.
Former Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan has pleaded innocent to two misdemeanor sexual assault charges. He made his first appearance yesterday in Sheboygan County Circuit Court, after he was charged last month. Ryan is accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts twice at a bar in Elkhart Lake last July. It was part of a three-day drinking binge that Ryan admitted having – and it spurred the former mayor’s opponents to seek a recall election. He lost that election in February to current mayor Terry Van Akkeren. Yesterday, Ryan was freed on a 15-hundred-dollar signature bond, on the conditions that he maintain absolute sobriety – and that he not have contact with the alleged victim. A two-day trial was scheduled for August 18th-and-19th. The alleged sexual assault incidents were uncovered as part of an investigation by the Common Council last year into the possibility of removing Ryan from office for three alcohol-related episodes during his term, including the Elkhart Lake binge. The recall election averted the need for Council action.
Donald Driver tied for third place last night on “Dancing With the Stars.” The Packers’ receiver and his partner Peta Murgatroyd scored 55-of-a-possible-60 points with a pair of dances – a tango to the Stevie Wonder hit “Higher Ground” and a trio dance with Karina Smirnoff to Little Richard’s “Rip It Up.” Six couples remain among the original 12 – and the viewers have decided who goes home. Two more contestants will be shipped out during tonight’s results show on ABC.