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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: State's two largest cable TV companies are about to become one

Wisconsin's two largest cable T-V companies are about to become one.  Charter Communications said yesterday it will acquire most of Time Warner's operations in the eastern half of Wisconsin, and will become the main carrier in virtually all of the Badger State.  U-W Madison telecommunications professor Barry Orton says the acquisition should not affect cable rates in-and-of itself.  He says rates will keep going up, mainly because of programming and what he calls "the ridiculous amounts of money we give to actors, sports figures, and directors."  Charter Communications tried but failed to acquire all of Time Warner Cable in February.  Now, Comcast is buying Time Warner -- and Charter is about to pick up one-point-four million customers that Comcast plans to shed to avoid regulatory issues.  Charter says Time Warner customers will get the same services they receive now -- cable T-V, Internet, and phone service.  Orton notes that Charter will continue to have limited competition from satellite and A-T-and-T's U-Verse.  He tells the Journal Sentinel that the biggest impact should be a reduction in the total numbers of jobs.  Charter has around 19-hundred employees and Time Warner about two-thousand.


Almost one of every five acres of this year's corn crop has been planted throughout the nation -- but in Wisconsin, it's more like one of every 100 acres.  The National Ag Statistics Service said one-percent of the Badger State's corn crop was in the ground as of Sunday.  Ten-percent has normally been planted by this time in the past five years.  The cold wet winter and spring have gotten farmers behind.  Spring field tillage is only nine-percent complete.  That's five-percent more than a week ago, but the average is 33-percent by now.  Only 13-percent of the Wisconsin oat crop is in the ground.  That's normally 47-percent.  A crop reporter in Juneau County says the weather continues to frustrate everyone -- and things are not expected to get much better this week with rain and some snow in the forecast.  Farmers do have one piece of good news.  Winter wheat is getting greener, and 55-percent of it is rated good-to-excellent.


If you need to pick up somebody at Wisconsin's largest airport, don't plan to use the roadway near the baggage claim area -- not for a while, anyway.  Officials at Milwaukee's Mitchell International say the current road is being replaced, and a new glass canopy will cover the lanes.  It's part of a major renovation at Mitchell, and the baggage claim area is among the last to be modernized.  Motorists who pick up passengers are urged to use the hourly parking area instead.  Free parking has been extended to one hour, to allow enough time to pick up those who fly in.  Interim airport director Terry Blue says all traffic along the terminal will follow the check-in areas -- and they'll get congested if drivers circle the roadways while waiting for passengers to arrive.  It's been almost 30 years since Mitchell's baggage claim area was remodeled.  


All of Wisconsin will get more April showers today.  But they could be snow showers in the far north, enough for another inch-or-two of the heavy white stuff.  Hawthorne in Douglas County picked up a half-inch of snow-and-sleet as of early last evening.  The rest of Wisconsin got a quarter to a half inch of rain for most of yesterday.  Stueben in the southwest had just over one-and-a-quarter inches of rain.  The National Weather Service said a slow-moving low pressure system brought several bands of showers into the Badger State.  That will continue through Thursday.  Forecasters say today will be the roughest weather day, with snow in the north and thunderstorms possible throughout southern Wisconsin.  Rain showers are predicted statewide tomorrow and Thursday, with a chance of rain continuing into the weekend.  Temperatures will stay colder than normal, with highs in the 40's-and-50's and lows ranging down into the 30's statewide most nights this week.


Wisconsin's education agency is encouraging schools to adopt new safety regulations.  The Department of Public Instruction is highlighting measures developed jointly by education and emergency response leaders.  The proposals include the creations of local-and-statewide crisis response teams, safety planning teams for each school, and training so school staffers know what to do in the event of emergencies.  Other recommendations include controlled access to schools, managing visitors, and new security technology like surveillance cameras and two-way radios.  Wisconsin schools are already required to have their own safety plans -- and to review them every three years.  The education-and-emergency response team proposed model policies for both schools and local communities to adopt together.


Police in suburban Milwaukee said a school bus driver might have suffered a medical condition just before he got into a crash with four students aboard.  It happened yesterday afternoon in Muskego.  Two people were hurt, including the driver.  He was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  A Muskego High School student was hurt but not hospitalized.  Three other youngsters escaped injury.  One of the four youngsters called 9-1-1 to alert police to the incident.  It was still being investigated at last word.


Wisconsin wine-makers are among the latest to feel the aftermath of our extremely cold winter.  Phillipe Coquard says he's not crying wolf just yet -- but it appears that 30-to-50 percent of his grape crop is lost at the Wollersheim Winery near Sauk City.  Coquard tells the Wisconsin Radio Network that the buds are swelling now, and he'll soon get a better idea of the extent of the damage to the grapes.  He said wine-makers in the Badger State are used to rough winters, but this one was especially bad.  He said wineries have had colder stretches -- but nothing like the 10-to-12-below temperatures and winds that stretched out for almost three straight weeks.  Coquard said grape damage is widespread across the northern U-S, also affecting wineries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.