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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Wisconsin's health system named among the best in the nation

Another study shows that Wisconsin's health system is among the best in the nation.  The Badger State's overall health performance is ranked seventh by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York group that fosters health policy research.  The survey looks at 42 factors -- including the cost, outcomes, and quality of health care, and how easily people can gain access to the system.  Wisconsin improved on 11 of the 42 measures since the group put out its last survey five years ago.  Among other things, the state improved its key vaccinations for young children, and reduced hospital re-admissions for Medicare patients.  The survey said Wisconsin either did worse or had no change in the percentage of obese adults, hospitalizations for pediatric asthma, and the numbers of years of potential life lost before age-75.  Minnesota's health system has the highest ranking by the Commonwealth Fund.  Mississippi has the lowest.


A special state program helps high school students who are about to become the first in their families to go to college.  The Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Program identifies elementary and middle school youngsters who may need some extra guidance and college prep work.  Last night, about 250 graduates in that program were honored at a banquet in Wausau.  State public school Superintendent Tony Evers says many of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or from different cultures like Hmong kids.  The program operates statewide, but Evers says it's especially successful in central Wisconsin.  He says the key is to identify eligible youngsters early -- in the fifth or sixth grades, or perhaps in middle school -- and get them thinking about college in a way their parents might not be familiar with.  He says over 90-percent of the program's participants graduate from high school, and almost all attend college with support from their parents, their schools, and the state.


The Oshkosh Corporation continues to suffer from the ending of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The maker of military vehicles reports a 17-percent drop in its quarterly net income.  Oshkosh said yesterday it netted 71-and-a-half million dollars in sales from January through March, down from 86-million at the same time a year ago.  Earnings slipped from 96-cents a share to 83-cents.  Oshkosh did say it's aerial construction equipment sales rose by six-percent, but sales of fire-and-emergency vehicles fell 10-percent.  Oshkosh C-E-O Charles Szews told investment analysts that his firm is another extension with the Pentagon to produce a smaller number of heavy tactical trucks.  It's also looking to sell military vehicles to foreign governments, and it expects contract announcements over the next two years.  Oshkosh is now having one of its vehicle types tested in Saudi Arabia.  Szews said the tensions in Russia and the Ukraine provide a potential opportunity.   


State officials in Michigan are looking for proof that two crude oil pipelines buried under the Great Lakes are in good condition and maintained properly.  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant wrote Enbridge Energy yesterday.  The A-P obtained the letter, which asked the oil pipeline operator for extensive documentation and answers to a long series of questions.  The 61-year-old pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac, between Lakes Michigan and Huron.  The officials said any failure of those pipelines would cause "catastrophic" effects.  Enbridge said it had not received the letter as of last night.  In the past, the company said the pipelines are safe, and they're inspected on a regular basis.  One of the lines runs through northern Wisconsin on its way to the water link between Upper and Lower Michigan.  The firm says only light crude flows under the Mackinac Straits.  There's been mounting criticism of the Mackinac pipelines, in the wake of a ruptured Enbridge pipeline in 2010 that spilled 843-thousand gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River in Lower Michigan.  A smaller spill occurred in an Enbridge line in Adams County in 2012.


Parts of west central Wisconsin had a surprise dose of winter yesterday, while the far north got more snow than expected.  Places along Lake Superior were only planning for an inch or two of the white stuff.  But Drummond in Bayfield County had six inches on the ground by last night.  Washburn had four inches, and Ashland three.  To the south, Arcadia in Trempealeau County had two inches of snow, after rain was forecast.  Parts of Taylor and Jackson counties also had light snow.  Buffalo County in west central Wisconsin was heavily rained on.  Mondovi had two-point-eight inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at seven last evening.  Other west central and southwest areas had from one-and-a-third to one-point-eight inches of rain.  Moisture is just now soaking into the ground, as the winter's heavy underground frost disappears.  Wausau finally lifted its order for selected homes and businesses to run a light stream of water 24-7, as the danger of frozen pipes is now over.  More rain is predicted statewide at least through tomorrow, with snow mixed in at night in the far northwest.  Highs will be in the 40's-and-50's at least through Sunday.  That's well below the normal highs for late April, which are mainly in the 60's.


The average Wisconsin dairy cow made almost 21-thousand-700 pounds of milk last year -- almost 130 pounds less than the national average.  The National Ag Statistics Service has issued its final dairy production numbers for 2013.  They show that Wisconsin remains a distant second to California in its milk output.  The Badger State made 27-and-a-half billion pounds last year from one-point-three million cows.  California pumped out 41-billion pounds, with a half-million cows more than Wisconsin had.  However, the Badger State is still the nation's big cheese, producing 26-percent of all the cheese made throughout the country.  About one of every six dairy plants throughout the U-S is located in Wisconsin.  The state had 203 plants making at least one type of product in 2013.  That's three less than the year before.  The nation also had a small decrease in its nearly 13-hundred dairy plants.  Still, U-S milk production rose by three-tenths of a percent last year, and cheese production was up two-percent. -4/30- Two people have died in a head-on traffic crash in southwest Wisconsin.  It happened yesterday afternoon on Highway 35 near Stoddard in Vernon County.  Authorities said a vehicle driven by 70-year-old Robert Williams of Stoddard was in the opposite lane while passing another unit -- and he collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by 55-year-old Margaret Springborn of rural De Soto.  Williams died at the scene.  Springborn died later at a hospital.


Wisconsin's state veterinarian has been asked to help establish a national program to fight a disease that has killed millions of farm pigs.  The U-S-D-A said earlier this month it would require farmers to report infections of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.  Those farmers would also have to take part in a program to help keep the virus from spreading -- and the U-S-D-A wants state veterinarian Paul McGraw to help develop that program.  State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel said McGraw was asked to be involved because he has raised pigs himself -- and he has worked to increase bio-security in Wisconsin.  The Badger State is among two dozen where the P-E-D pig disease has turned up.  It was first detected in the U-S last May, and it apparently came from China.-4/30-Two former T-V stars from Wisconsin were given Tony Award nominations yesterday for their performances on the Broadway stage.  Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub was nominated as the best leading actor, for his portrayal of playwright George Kaufman in "Act One."  Madison native Tyne Daly was nominated as the best leading actress for "Mothers and Sons."  Both those shows were also nominated for Best Play.  Also, former Milwaukeean Mark Rylance was given a pair of Tony nominations for Shakespeare performances.  One nomination was for a leading role in "Richard-the-Third," and the other was for a featured role as a female character in the show "Twelfth Night."  The 68th Tony Awards show will take place June 8th on C-B-S.