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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Court rules unpaid interns not protected by state whistleblower law

MADISON - Unpaid health care interns who expose problems at work are not protected under a state law for whistleblowers.  The State Supreme Court ruled today against Asma Masri, a doctoral student who was let go from the Medical College of Wisconsin after she filed an ethics complaint.  

The justices said Masri did not qualify as an employee under the whistle-blower protection law, because she was not paid.  Still, she worked 40 hours a week and total access to patient records.  Justice David Prosser said he agreed with the state Labor-and-Industry Review Commission, which said that Masri was not an employee of the Medical College because she did not get compensation or tangible benefits.  Masri said her internship ended after she told the front office that she was ordered to create a diagnosis to discredit a patient who may have filed a malpractice suit.  The college said it dismissed Masri because of performance issues.


 The Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with a railroad this morning, in a question of whether a train had to stop to accommodate heavy traffic heading to a holiday parade.  The justices ruled against Scott Partenfelder and his wife Monica, whose van was struck by a passing Soo Line train while it was stopped on a track in heavy traffic that was heading to Elm Grove's Memorial Day parade.  Partenfelder was seriously injured while trying to rescue his toddler from the van -- and an Elm Grove police officer was hurt while trying to save Monica.  The plaintiffs said the Soo Line should have known there would be extra traffic due to the parade.  But the Supreme Court said the event did not constitute a specific hazard under the federal laws which require trains to slow down or stop.  The justice said the parade created a "generally dangerous traffic condition" that did not require the train to adjust.  The van was pushed 94-feet by the train.  The incident resulted in the parade being canceled.  


Once again, politics makes strange bedfellows.  Republican Governor Scott Walker and U.S. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) are both attacking the out-sourcing of Wisconsin jobs to foreign countries -- albeit for very different reasons.  The Republican Walker is trying to win votes by attacking his main Democratic challenger Mary Burke for her association with Trek Bicycle, which sent some of its jobs to China.  Baldwin has been tweeting in an effort to get Congress to vote on a bill called "Bring the Jobs Home" -- which would give tax credits to U.S. companies that bring overseas jobs back home to America, while dropping tax breaks for those that continue out-sourcing.  According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the state GOP has tied the two developments together.  Party director Joe Fadness said that even Senator Baldwin takes issue with the "overseas job shipping that made Mary Burke millions."  Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said Walker should do more than just take shots at Trek Bicycle -- he should support the measure pushed by Baldwin and other Senate Democrats.  Burke's campaign says it has its own strategy for encouraging Wisconsin companies to keep jobs in the state.


Not all of Wisconsin is hot and sticky today.  Temperatures were in the 70's in most of the northern third of the Badger State as of two o'clock this afternoon.  That's where the index had jumped above 100 in some spots yesterday.  There were a few 90-plus readings around Wisconsin today -- Boscobel and Middleton were the hot spots with 91.  Most of the southern two-thirds of the state was basking in the 80's.  It was dry statewide.  Thunderstorms were still possible this afternoon, as a cold front moves through the state.  The National Weather Service had no storm watches or warnings posted through mid-afternoon.  Heat advisories remain in effect until seven tonight for about the southwest quarter of Wisconsin.  Much cooler readings are expected throughout the state tomorrow, with highs in the 70's.  It could get down into the 40's in some places early Thursday morning.


Wisconsinites who expect tax subsidies to cover part of their Obamacare are confused by a pair of conflicting court rulings today.  This morning, the federal appeals court in Washington ruled that the subsidies do not apply to buyers in Wisconsin and the other 35 states that use the federal purchasing exchange.  Later, a federal appeals panel in Richmond Virginia acted the other way in a similar case -- ruling that the IRS correctly ordered consumers in all 50 states to get federal Obama-care subsidies.  The White House declared that policy-holders -- including the 100,000-plus in Wisconsin -- will keep getting the financial aid they expect, while the administration sorts out the implications of today's rulings.  State Republicans pointed their fingers toward the White House.  A spokesman for Governor Scott Walker said the federal government's "one size fits all" approach is unsustainable.  Supporters of Obama-care said Walker's the one who can fix this.  Robert Kraig of Wisconsin Citizen Action said now might be a good time for Wisconsin to revisit its refusal to set up a tailor-made state exchange.  He said any decision that upholds the lack of subsidies in a federal exchange could make it hard for four-and-a-half million Americans nationwide to keep paying for their coverage.  He said Wisconsin already developed a proto-type for a state exchange, and it behooves the state to take second look at it, just in case.


A 41-year-old man wants a new trial, after he was sent to prison for life for killing a La Crosse camera shop owner and his son.  Jeffrey Lepsch of Dakota Minnesota told a circuit judge that nine of the 12 jurors in his trial last summer thought he was guilty before the testimony even began.  Lepsch was convicted of killing Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A.J. in 2012 at May's Photo in downtown La Crosse.  Lepsch also stole 27 items of camera equipment valued at $17,000.  He was convicted on two counts of homicide, armed robbery by force, and illegally owning a firearm as a convicted felon.  A hearing date has not been set on the request for a new trial.  If the judge turns it down, Lepsch can take his case to a state appeals court.


A Reedsburg woman convicted of killing an infant she was baby-sitting has taken the first step to try and clear her name.  Twenty-seven year old Jeanette Janusiak was found guilty last month of homicide in the beating death of four-month-old Payten Shearer.  Janusiak still claims somebody else did it, and the truth will eventually come out.  After the jury verdict, Janusiak wrote a Sauk County judge to beg for leniency.  That judge sentenced her to the mandatory life in prison, with her first chance for a supervised release coming in 40 years at age 67.  Medical experts said Payten was battered about the same time Janusiak first called rescuers for help.  \