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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: New UW Prez promises better relations with legislature

MADISON - The new president of the UW System promises to be more open about the university's finances, and to collaborate more closely with state lawmakers.  Ray Cross told reporters at the Milwaukee campus today that he's excited about taking over next month.

 He replaces Kevin Reilly, who -- like Cross -- was the extension-and-colleges chancellor just before being promoted to the presidency.  Cross had held the post since 2011.  Earlier, Cross said he established a number of contacts with legislators, and he promises to keep them more in the loop about what's happening.  Cross said he also wants to make it easier to understand the UW's finances -- which can get complicated at times.  The Board of Regents chose Cross over two other finalists, both the heads of higher education systems in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.


 A former airline crew member, who was part of the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing in 2009, will be a keynote speaker at the AirVenture museum in Oshkosh next week. Jeff Skiles was First Officer aboard the U.S. Airways flight, piloted by Captain Sully Sullenberger , that hit a flock of geese and landed safely in the Hudson River near New York City. Skiles is now the vice president of communities and member programs for the EAA. A spokesman says Skiles, a Wisconsin-native, will recount that experience on January 16 at 7:00 p.m. More information on this and other presentations is available on the museum’s website at


 A Milwaukee plant has announced plans to expand one of its three facilities. HellermannTyton North America says it will expand the Good Hope Road plant by almost 50-percent, adding an additional 50 new jobs to the area over the next two year. The expansion will also add up to 125 new hires over the next five years. The plant manufactures plastic parts, such as cable ties and clamps. The proposed expansion is expected to be reviewed by the Milwaukee Planning Commission on February 17.


 A woman killed at a housing complex fire on Wednesday night has been identified. The Dane County Medical Examiner’s office says 56-year-old Raeanne Ticker died when a blaze broke out at the 16-unit complex in Waunakee. The office has rules her death accidental. Meanwhile, investigators say they have not determines what caused the fire.


 Former U.S. House Democrat Dave Obey of Wausau says there should be a statewide referendum on having an independent group re-draw legislative districts every 10 years.  The party that's in control in Madison normally gets that task after every census -- and Obey says he doesn't trust either party to play it straight.  His comments came today at a public hearing held in Marshfield by minority state Democrats on their proposal to have the Legislative Audit Bureau handle redistricting.  Freshman Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright of Wausau says it's similar to the process used in Iowa for over 30 years.  Obey said redistricting is meant to spread equal numbers of voters across communities-of-interest -- not piling up voters in various regions to make re-election easier. Majority Republicans have refused to consider the proposed independent process, so Democrats have taken it up.  G-O-P leaders say what they did was constitutional, after a federal court agreed that the maps had equal numbers of voters.  The court also criticized the secrecy Republicans maintained in the re-mapping process.  It was the first time in several decades that a single party re-drew the maps.  Federal courts did the deed in recent decades, since the Legislature had split control -- and the parties could not agree on final district maps. 


A new bill would require most divorced couples to spend equal amounts of time with their kids -- and wealthier parents would be limited in what they pay for child support.  A public hearing is set for Wednesday on the measure, proposed by Assembly Republican Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc.  It would calculate child-support payments only on the first 150-thousand dollars of a parent's income -- and it would require equal visitation time unless there's clear evidence it's not in the best interest of the child. Kleefisch says the bill is designed to quote, "equalize" the roles of fathers in child custody matters.  However, the Wisconsin State Journal says family law practitioners and advocates against domestic violence strongly oppose the measure.  They say it would remove much of a judge's discretion in determining what's best for the affected children. Steve Blake of "Dads of Wisconsin" says he knows of one father who pays $15,000 a month to a wife who does not work to support their three children.  And he wants to prevent, quote, "gold-diggers."  Tony Gibart of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says the Badger State would be the first to presume that parents would get equal time with their kids.  The State Journal says other versions of that provision have failed to pass in at least two previous sessions.  


A state prison's drug-and-alcohol counselor is free on a signature bond, after she allegedly gave prisoners cell phones in exchange for money.  52-year-old Karen Robertson of Sparta is a contracted employee at the Jackson Correctional Institution in Jackson County.  She's due back in court January 27th on two felony counts of delivering illegal articles to inmates.  Prison officials said they recovered a pair of cell phones from inmates last month, after being tipped off about them.  


A second-and-larger security breach has hit the Target Corporation.  The Minneapolis-based department store chain said today that up to 70-million customers had personal information stolen from company computers -- things like names, home addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.  The breach was in addition to one reported just over a week before Christmas, when 40-million Target customers had data from credit-and-debit cards stolen.  The company said a number of the same customers were most likely affected by both breaches.  Target has about 40 Wisconsin stores among its 1,800 in the U.S.  The company said the latest breach was not new, but it was uncovered as part of its ongoing investigation of the matter -- a probe that also involves the federal government.  Target's CEO said he knows it's frustrating that customers must endure the data theft.  Target says it will send information to customers with e-mail addresses on file with the firm.  They'll provide tips on avoiding identity theft and consumer scams.  Media reports said Target would also provide a year's worth of free credit monitoring to its shoppers.  More information on that is expected next week.  Also today, Target said the initial breach hurt its sales during the holiday season.


The state DNR has written an internal report outlining possible health and pollution threats from the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine.  The agency released the report today, after a copy was leaked to the conservative Media Trackers' Web site.  It listed potential acid mine drainage from sulfides in the site's rock formations -- possible toxic effects on wild rice produced near mining site -- possible mercury pollution in the formation of taconite pellets -- and asbestos-like mineral fibers which have been mentioned before. Bob Seitz of Gogebic Taconite said the report shows that some in the DNR have a "bias against mining."  He noted that the effects were spelled out before the company could test core rock samples.  Media Trackers said the DNR's report implied criticism of the project -- although the agency sharply denied it.  The DNR's Jack Sullivan said the report was an effort to highlight issues that his personnel will review after Gogebic applies for state permits for the new mine.  Sullivan says the report does not take sides, and does not try to persuade anyone.


A Madison man has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, for taking photos of a 17-year-old girl after she fell asleep in late 2002.  The girl was among a half-dozen females victimized by 29-year-old Brian Stowe.  He pleaded guilty late last year to a federal charge of child sexual exploitation -- and he awaits an additional sentence in state court in March, where he pleaded guilty to 27 of 62 charges against him.  He was accused of drugging women, and then molesting them and shooting nude videos after they passed out.  Federal Judge Barbara Crabb said Stowe -- who has a master's degree in business -- is a bright-and-talented man.  She said she could not fathom what triggered him into acting as a quote, "predator." 


Things got icy-and-dicey in Wisconsin this morning, as fog froze, and sleet fell in some places.  Light snow is forecast for this afternoon through late tonight, on top of an icy coating that's possible in central and east central areas.  Northeast Wisconsin is expected to get the most snow -- 2-to-5 inches along a line from Waupaca to Wausaukee.  West central areas expect a dusting to two-inches, plus a little ice in southwest areas.  The far northwest expects 2-to-4 inches of snow through tomorrow, mainly in Price County.  Lesser amounts of snow are forecast between Sawyer and Iron counties.  Far southern Wisconsin is under an air quality advisory until this evening, due to fine particles that are not blowing very much.  Tomorrow will be dry in most of Wisconsin.  Another wintry mix is possible on Sunday.  


The technology transfer operation for the UW System has a new chairman and executive director. Arjun Sanga is the new director of the Wi-Sys Technology Foundation.  David Ward becomes the new Wi-Sys board chairman.  Sanga was most recently an associate vice chancellor for the University of Texas technology transfer office in South Texas -- as well as the transfer agent for the university's Health Science Center in San Antonio.  Sanga replaces Maliyakal John, who will become the new director of patents and market assessment for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.  Ward is the CEO of Madison's Northstar Consulting firm.  He replaces Carl Gulbrandsen, who will stay on the board.  Gulbrandsen is the Research Foundation's managing director.


A woman killed in a fire at a Dane County apartment complex was identified today as 56-year-old Raeanne Tucker.  She lived in the 16-unit complex that started on fire Wednesday night in Waunakee.  Officials said the blaze apparently started in Tucker's unit, but the cause remains under investigation.  The Dane County medical examiner said Tucker's death was accidental.  A 65-year-old woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the fire.  About 10-to-15 residents were evacuated, and were staying with relatives or at a hotel at last word.


The remains of at least one person have been found in a house east of Wausau that was destroyed by an explosion-and-fire.  Marathon County sheriff's officials also said today that the blast was intentionally set, and the man responsible appeared to have been killed.  Deputies said five explosive devices planted in the home, as well as a car nearby.  Detective Jim Armstrong said the intent was to quote, "cause as much damage to the vehicles and home as possible."  The blast occurred yesterday morning in the town of Wausau.  Deputies said the devices have been quote, "taken care of," and the scene is now safe.  The types of explosive devices used have not been disclosed.  The car never blew up during the incident, officials later said it was safely detonated.  Neighbors who were asked to evacuate returned yesterday afternoon.  The state Justice Department's Criminal Investigation team is helping local authorities get to the bottom of the incident.  The Wausau Daily Herald said Jesse Jehn owned the house.


Authorities in Merrill said more today about a high school band director who resigned after a complaint of what was called "questionable behavior."  Police Chief Ken Neff tells WJMT Radio in Merrill that 27-year-old Matt Callope apparently had a relationship with a 16-year-old student.  The chief said no evidence of illegal conduct has turned up so far.  Police received an anonymous call last Friday about the purported relationship. The caller also said the teacher's wife intercepted messages between Callope and the girl. Callope was put on paid leave a week ago, before school officials could fully investigate.  School officials turned the matter over to police. Callope was in his fourth year directing two high school music groups and a middle school's sixth-grade bands.