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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Video tape shows NEW dairy farm employees abusing dairy cows

APPLETON - The maker of DiGiorno frozen pizza has stopped taking milk from a northeast Wisconsin dairy farm where cows were being abused.  

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said the animal rights group Mercy-for-Animals shot undercover video of dairy cows being stabbed, beaten, and kicked at the Wiese Brothers farm near Greenleaf.  In response, the farm said it fired two employees, removed a third from animal handling, and promised to cooperate with law enforcement investigators.  Nestle USA owns DiGiorno, the nation's largest frozen pizza-maker.  The firm issued a statement this morning that Nestle is quote, "outraged and deeply saddened by the mistreatment of animals shown" in the video.  The Wiese farm supplies cheese to Foremost Farms of Baraboo, which then sells it to DiGiorno.  Nestle said it advised Foremost not to provide any more cheese from the farm.  The Wiese Brothers told the Journal-Sentinel it was shocked to quote, "see a few of our employees not following our farm's policies for proper animal care."  The farm said it has "zero tolerance" for animal abuse.


The Madison headquarters of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources closed today due to a pipe burst in the heating and cooling system. Witnesses say water poured down the west side of the building, causing damage to seven floors. The building was closed because of concerns that fluid from the system could pose a health risk. The department says subzero temperatures caused the pipes to burst.  Crews are working to clean up and repair the damage by tomorrow morning.


The proposal from state Representative Melissa Sargent, a Democrat from Madison, would allow counties to accept the Medicaid expansion funding Governor Scott Walker and Republicans rejected earlier this year. Counties could then use that money to offer more coverage to their low-income residents, if the county board makes a request. Eighteen Wisconsin county boards have already passed resolutions asking the state to help them obtain the funding. The bill is not expected to gain much traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature. GOP lawmakers have frequently rejected efforts by Democrats to take up legislation that would have the state accept the federal funding.


When it comes to clothing shopping, a new survey shows a Wisconsin-based department store is beating the competition. The survey by Market Force shows consumers prefer Kohl’s Department Stores, a Menomonee Falls-based company, over other department stores… ranking at the top of the list. Consumers across the U.S. and Canada were surveyed. The report shows Kohl’s was a top choice for business and children’s clothing over second-ranked Macy’s. In casual clothing, Kohl’s outpolled Macy’s by a two-to-one margin.


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was released from a hospital today, after he over-exerted himself at the end of a 20-kilometer run two days ago.  City officials did not say what the 60-year-old Barrett suffered from.  He was expected to show up at work this afternoon, after spending two nights at the Wheaton Franciscan-Wisconsin Heart Hospital.  Barrett is an avid runner.  Officials said he was planning to celebrate his 60th birthday by running 60 minutes on Sunday, and he took part in a 20-K run by the Badgerland Striders at the Pettit National Ice Center at State Fair Park.  Race director David Finch said afterward that Barrett quote, "got a little woozy and blacked out."


About 7,200 Wisconsinites have bought health insurance through Obama-care.  State deputy insurance commissioner Dan Schwartzer announced the figure today.  It's way up from the 800-plus Wisconsin residents who were able to buy coverage from in October.  The Web site has had numerous problems, but Schwartzer and others in a panel discussion in Madison today said improvements are being made.  Schwartzer said officials are quote, "delighted" to see more Wisconsinites logging in.  Insurance providers and agents are also reporting improvements.  Still, the 7,200 people represents just over one-percent of the estimated 700-thousand Wisconsinites who will have to buy health insurance from the federal exchange.  For that reason, Governor Scott Walker wants to delay the proposed changes to BadgerCare and the elimination of the state's high-risk insurance pool from December 31st to March 31st.  The state Assembly has approved the three-month delays.  They're now pending in the state Senate.


The leader of a drug trafficking group that did business between Texas and Wisconsin has been sentenced to just over 10 years in federal prison.  30-year-old Randy Martinez of Sheboygan pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking, after he was arrested just over a year-and-a-half ago.  Authorities said Martinez ran the Balderas Organization, which conspired to deliver a-thousand kilograms of marijuana and five kilos of cocaine to the Sheboygan and Manitowoc areas.  Officials said Martinez hired couriers to drive the drugs out of Texas with as little interference as possible at border checkpoints -- and each carried small amounts to avoid major criminal drug charges in Texas.  Officials said the group laundered up to half-million dollars to hide drug revenues.


Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke came out today in favor of a bill to put statewide limits on when the police can tap into people's cellphones to check their whereabouts.  Lawmakers of both parties are getting behind a bill from Madison Assembly Democrat Melissa Sargent.  Generally, it would require law enforcement to show cause of a past or future crime before it can get a search warrant to track a suspect's cellphone.  Warrants would not be needed in cases like emergencies where deaths or injuries are at stake -- or efforts to find missing persons.  Clarke said his department has used the technology, but he knows of no area police agency abusing it.  However, Clarke said the potential for abuse should concern people.  Wisconsin Chiefs-of-Police Association president Steve Riffel says law enforcement's main concern would be to track phones and navigation systems of vehicles in emergencies -- and he believes the proposed bill would cover that.  The bill was made public yesterday, the same day that USA Today wrote about police agencies around the country snapping up large numbers of cell data from innocent people.  Among other things, the paper said 25 U.S. police agencies have "Stingrays," which are fake cell towers in which police can go into neighborhoods and gather cell data of residents. 


Four protestors were ticketed for holding a cross and flags on an Interstate overpass near La Crosse.  The citations came during a weekend protest of a new ordinance in the town of Campbell, banning signs, banners, and flags within 100-feet of a foot bridge over I-90.  Organizer Jerry Miller tells the La Crosse Tribune that about 50 people attended the three-hour protest on Saturday -- but the Campbell police did not cite anyone holding signs, and those who did not provide their names escaped the $133 tickets.  Town attorney Brent Smith said officers exercised discretion -- and there was likely a wise rationale for not trying to ticket everybody.  Miller says the ordinance is unconstitutional, and at least two legal challenges are being prepared.  None have been filed yet.   The town of Campbell passed two ordinances in October, after Tea Party supporters held up signs at the foot bridge in August calling for the impeachment of President Obama.  Officials said the measures are needed for traffic safety.


The founder of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras has died.  His family said today that 97-year-old Marvin Rabin  passed away last Thursday after a short illness.  Ralph Rabin calls his father a visionary who devoted much of his life to introducing music to children.  He was known for his musical talents, and his commitment to help young people learn the craft.  A number of his students later became conductors in their own rights.  Ralph Rabin said his father enjoyed watching how music brought communities together -- and how it deeply it can touch a person's emotions.  


A state appeals court says the parents of a northeast Wisconsin murder victim cannot sue the company that insured the home where the slaying occurred.  The Third District Appellate Court in Wausau rejected an effort to include Wilson Mutual Insurance in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of 19-year-old Shawn Dobry.  The firm insured the home of Robert and Sande Walker of Oconto Falls.  They were out-of-town when their 19-year-old son Jordan hosted a party in 2010, just before he was about to join the Marines -- and Dobry was shot by a new gun that Walker was showing off.  Dobry's parents said Wilson Mutual should be liable.  The parents said it was ambiguous whether the case fell under a clause that does not allow coverage for criminal acts.  A circuit court said the exception applies, and the appellate judges agreed today.  Jordan Walker was criminally found guilty of negligent homicide and obstructing police, and was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.  Walker claimed to police that Dobry injured himself -- but authorities said Walker fired the fatal shot, and he obstructed police, and encouraged others at the party to do the same.