High-risk behavior on decline with high schoolers; Move Over' law expanded; more 10 more state stories
MADISON -- Today's Wisconsin high school students smoke less, drink less, and have less sex than teens did 20 years ago, according to the new Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the state Department of Public Instruction.
One of every three high school youngsters surveyed in 2013 said they recently had a drink. That's down from half in 1993.
Thirty-three percent of students said they tried cigarettes, way down from 64 percent in the early '90's. Thirty-five percent of last year's students admitted having sex, down from 47 percent two decades earlier -- and two-thirds used condoms. Officials attribute that to better health education and they said high cigarette taxes keep more kids from smoking.
However, the survey shows that lots of teens engage in more modern risks. Over half of Wisconsin juniors and seniors have texted while driving, and 15 percent admitted driving after having alcohol.
The percentage of teens playing on computers or video games for at least three hours a day jumped from 20 percent to 34. Over half of girls believe that bullying and student harassment are problems at their schools and a third of the boys feel the same way.
The state has given 88 mini-grants to schools to try and fight these risky behaviors. The grants totaled $85,000 last year. Alcohol offenders covered most of those costs with their fines.
Readers can view the complete report at http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/files/sspw/pdf/yrbs13execsum.pdf.
Walker continues to call for teacher's dismissal
MIDDLETON -- Gov. Scott Walker continues to disagree with the decision to keep Middleton middle school teacher Andrew Harris in the classroom.
State education officials refused this week to revoke Harris' teaching license, after he was fired in 2010 for receiving and sharing explicit e-mails at school. An arbitrator ruled that the Middleton-Cross Plains district was wrong to fire Harris. He was reinstated in January after the State Supreme Court refused to consider overturning the arbitrator's decision.
On Thursday, the DPI said Harris's online conduct was highly inappropriate -- but it did not approach what was legally considered to be immoral conduct at the time.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the Republican governor still believes the DPI has the authority to revoke Harris' license, and it should do it. Back in January, Walker said the case justified the need for his 2011 clampdown on public union bargaining.
Media reports said he spoke out after one of his aides -- a parent of a youngster at Harris' school -- asked Walker to seek the teachers' license revocation.
The governor's office said at the time that the aide's concerns were not why Walker asked the DPI to take action.
'Move Over' law now applies to utility crews too
MADISON -- Wisconsin drivers will have to be more careful, under a bill Gov. Scott Walker signed this week. Utility workers were added to the list of those that motorists must move over and slow down for.
Bill Skewes of the Wisconsin Utility Association says it will make electric and water employees safer when they're making roadside repairs.
Wisconsin's "Move Over" law was first adopted a few years ago, after a rash of law enforcement officers were killed on the Milwaukee freeways while investigating crashes or stopping motorists.
Besides police officers, motorists have also been required to slow down and accommodate fire personnel, towing, and construction vehicles.
-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau
Gopher firm seeks Wisconsin blessing for pipeline expansion
A Minnesota company is asking that state to endorse improvements to a crude oil pipeline that helps provide gas and diesel fuel to a good share of Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Pipe Line Company has asked the Public Utilities Commission in the Gopher State to approve a half-dozen new pumping stations, and improvements at two existing sites. It would allow the newest of the company's four pipelines to carry 350,000 barrels of crude each day to two refineries in the Twin Cities region. That's twice the line's current capacity.
The firm says the added capacity is not meant to increase the amount of refined oil but it will keep the raw product flowing whenever the other three pipelines are down for maintenance or emergencies.
The output at the two refineries is already close to their capacities most of the time. The firm also emphasizes that the project would not expand its actual pipelines, or create new ones.
Rhinelander breaks snowfall record with nearly 9 feet
RHINELANDER -- Rhinelander now has its snowiest winter on record, thanks to this week's storm. The city got just over 11 inches the past couple days, for a total of 107.8 inches of the white stuff this season. That's the most since the National Weather Service started keeping records for Rhinelander in 1908.
This week's snowstorm was the fourth-largest for an April in that city. Lac du Flambeau in Vilas County had the most snow in northern Wisconsin this week with 19 inches.
Don't ban chocolate milk, study advises
A new study shows that banning chocolate milk from school lunches might not be a good idea.
Cornell University studied the effects of banning chocolate milk from 11 elementary schools at a school district in Oregon. Total milk sales dropped 10 percent -- certainly not good news for milk producers in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Students did buy more white milk, but they tossed 30 percent of it in the garbage.
The study also found that seven percent fewer students bought school lunches after the chocolate milk disappeared. Cornell also said 78 percent of all students throughout the U.S. took milk when the chocolate variety was offered -- and that dropped to 71 percent where the item was banned.
Schools have talked for years about banning chocolate milk in the name of reducing sugar and calorie consumption. However, Cornell says it also reduces childrens' intake of proteins and calcium.
House fire claims life of elderly man
TOMAHAWK -- A 70-year-old man was killed in a fire at his home near Tomahawk.
Authorities said the fire was discovered when another man arrived at the victim's house to plow snow Thursday afternoon. He then spotted flames from windows that were already broken by heat or an explosion.
The state Fire Marshal's office is helping Lincoln County authorities investigate. The home had extensive damage.
The victim's name was not immediately released. Officials said his wife was away in Wausau when the blaze broke out.
-- Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau
$5 million Oconco school fire called 'suspicious'
OCONTO -- Students at Oconto High School in northeast Wisconsin have been off since Wednesday morning, when a fire caused $5 million in smoke damage.
Police and fire officials say it appears to be suspicious, and they have several leads on what started the blaze. Investigators have been reviewing security videos and interviewing students and staff members.
The fire started in a boys' bathroom. Officials said a plastic composite in the stalls helped make the smoke thick and heavy.
WLUK TV of Green Bay said the 300 Oconto High School students and 42 staffers will return to class on Monday at the middle school, where there are empty classrooms available.
School officials hope the high school can re-open on May 12th.
Milwaukee Archdiocese worked to escape bankruptcy
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese took a small step forward Thursday to re-organize its finances and get out of its three-year-old bankruptcy.
Federal Judge Susan Kelley agreed to work toward approving a disclosure statement, so creditors can learn details of the church's re-organization plan before voting on it.
Most of the 575 creditors said they were sexually-abused many years ago by priests and others in the archdiocese.
Kelley said the church needs to do more to explain why it created groups of creditors to be compensated, instead of just giving them money and have them divvy it up. Only 128 abuse victims would share about $4 million in damages while almost 450 others would get nothing.
The archdiocese has claimed that it's only liable for abuse caused by its own priests and those abused by lay people and ministers in religious orders should ask them or their groups for compensation.
The victims said the archdiocese is responsible for all priests and lay people working in its 10-county territory.
Judge Kelley was hoping to set a date yesterday for a hearing on the church re-organization plan but both sides could not agree on how to proceed. She'll try again Tuesday.
Data breach at Michael's may affect millions of Wisconsin customers
Seventeen Michaels' arts and crafts stores in Wisconsin were affected by a recent data breach. That's what the company confirmed Thursday, when it offered a free year of identity theft protection and credit monitoring to the affected customers.
An estimated 2.6 million debit and credit cards had data stolen from Michaels' stores nationally from last May through January 19th. Hackers used malicious software to steal the cards' payment numbers and expiration dates.
Michaels said no personal information was taken -- and customers names and addresses remain safe along with their PIN numbers.
The Wisconsin stores affected by the breach are in Brookfield, Brown Deer, Eau Claire, Germantown, Grafton, Grand Chute near Appleton, Green Bay, Janesville, Madison, Middleton, Milwaukee, Mount Pleasant, New Berlin, Onalaska, Plover, Wausau, and West Allis. More information is available online at www.Michaels.com.
Complaint states man killed wife over chronic 'nagging'
OAK CREEK -- Prosecutors said an Oak Creek man killed his blind wife of 56 years because he couldn't take her nagging anymore.
Jack Lang, 76, was charged Thursday in Milwaukee County with first-degree intentional homicide.
A criminal complaint said Lang and his wife June were driving to lunch on Wednesday when she called him a baby, because he didn't feel well and he wanted to go home. When they got there, authorities said Lang took a 22-caliber gun from his closet, told his wife again to stop nagging him, and shot her when she didn't.
Officials said he also tried killing himself, but two bullets missed and the other grazed him in the head. Lang then called 9-1-1 to report the shooting.
Prosecutors said June had criticized her husband for no longer being able to do work around the house and quote, "He could not give her a good time anymore."
Former CFO at Cable resort convicted of fraud
MADISON -- The former chief financial officer at Lakewoods Resort in Cable was sentenced in Madison on Thursday to three years in prison for fraud.
Lori Hall, 50, of Glidden plead guilty to embezzling more than $700,000 between 2006 and 2012.
In sentencing Hall, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb told her she wouldn’t get a light sentence because she was the consummate actor playing the role of trusted friend while stealing her employers blind.
Hall worked at Lakewoods Resort for 13 years.
-- Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio