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Poll: Climate change, budget deficit, income distribution are top concerns for Wisconsinites

Wisconsin Public Radio

A new poll of Wisconsin residents shows that climate change, the federal budget deficit, income distribution and race relations are among the top concerns heading into the 2022 midterms, although many of the same respondents felt issues were a larger problem at the national level.

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs sent an eight-page survey to 5,000 residents between July and September 2020. Nearly 1,600 individuals from all over the state except Menomonee County responded, with a response rate of 33 percent.

UW-Madison researchers using Tai Chi, video games to improve balance among adolescents with autism

Wisconsin Public Radio

New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows balance training using video games changed the brain structure of adolescents with autism and helped improve balance, posture and the severity of autism symptoms.

Brittany Travers, a UW-Madison occupational therapy professor and Waisman Center lead researcher, said she and her colleagues are interested in finding ways to better interventions that improve the motor skills of individuals with autism. She said prior research has shown balance control appears to plateau earlier in kids with autism than those without. As people age balance becomes more of a challenge for everyone, Travers said.

“But the speculation is that autistic individuals may be more at risk for falls and later in life if these balance challenges are not addressed,” Travers said.

UW-Madison researchers studying more targeted alternative to pesticides

Wisconsin Public Radio

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are digging into a different, more targeted method of controlling crop-attacking pests, a tactic that could prove to be less harmful to the environment than traditional pesticides.

Russell Groves, professor and chair of the university’s entomology department, recently joined Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Larry Meiller Show” to explain the present and future of RNA interference.

Wisconsin’s Chris McIntosh hires two deputy athletic directors, one of them a UW grad

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

University of Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh is redesigning his administrative team.

UW officials announced Friday that Marcus Sedberry, the senior associate athletic director for student-athlete success at Baylor, and Mitchell Pinta, the National Football League’s director of business development and partnership management, are joining the UW athletic department as deputy athletic directors.

The snow season is shortening in Wisconsin, forcing the snowshoe hare north in search of a landscape to blend into

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: According to data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, Wisconsin’s average winter temperature rose about 2 to 6 degrees between 1950 and 2018, depending on the part of the state. And in the coming years, those temperatures could rise another 6 degrees, greatly impacting the amount of snow the state sees, and the areas where snow is present for the entire winter season.

But what is really impacting the hares isn’t the amount of snow falling in Wisconsin — that has largely stayed the same, said Michael Notaro, the associate director for the Nelson Institute. It’s the amount of snowpack, or snow on the ground, that is impacting animals.

As the Earth’s temperature increases, snow melts quicker, meaning the snow season doesn’t last as long.

“In the future, as it keeps getting warmer, eventually (precipitation) is going to be more in the form of a liquid, but so far that hasn’t necessarily occurred, but (snow) is just not staying on the ground very long,” Notaro said.

More than 1,100 Wisconsin nursing home workers test positive for COVID-19, the highest weekly total of the pandemic

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “We’re likely to see more infections, and those breakthrough infections can be quite serious,” said Patrick Remington, a former epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program. “I think any place where outbreaks are likely to happen – and certainly long-term care facilities are places where that can happen – we should be concerned.”

Bice: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson blames LBJ and Great Society for high percentage of out-of-wedlock births

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “Correlation does not mean causation,” said Timothy Smeeding, professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In other words, if two variables run parallel historically, it doesn’t mean the one is causing the other.

A number of factors have contributed to the rise in out-of-wedlock births, he said.

There has been a rise in cohabitation, more permissive sexual mores, a decline in shotgun weddings, easier divorce laws, a drop in manufacturing jobs for males without college degrees and greater financial independence for women.

Road salt threatens Michigan lakes and rivers. Can an alternative take hold?

Michigan Radio

Quoted: Last month, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University released results of a study revealing that society’s reliance on rock salt is salinating Lake Michigan.

Even small increases can trigger unknown ecosystem changes and secondary effects such as drinking water pipe corrosion, said Hilary Dugan, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology and lead author of the study.

Lake Michigan is still “extremely fresh” water, Dugan said. “There’s no cause for alarm. But I think people should be aware that it is rising and that is fully because of human-derived salts.”

Ron Johnson’s decision on Senate run sets up an expensive battle to be Wisconsin’s next governor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “If the GOP primary becomes a three-way race, it will likely quickly become one of the most costly in the country,” said Barry Burden, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Elections Research Center.

“The funding will need to emerge quickly because the primary is only seven months away and two of the prime candidates have not even officially entered the race.”

‘We’re just a sitting duck’: UW Health pediatrician says child COVID-19 vaccination rates are too low

Wisconsin Public Radio

The American Academy of Pediatrics says in its latest report that COVID-19 cases among children have reached the highest case count ever reported since the start of the pandemic — and hospitalizations are rising across the country.

In Wisconsin, 13 pediatric patients on average are being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 every day, according to federal data for the week ending Jan. 5. That’s a 71 percent increase from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number is concerning to UW Health pediatrician Dr. James Conway.

“You know we’re certainly seeing more hospitalizations in adults. But kids, we’re still worried that we’re actually on the front end of the curve,” Conway said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson uses God in one of multiple attempts at sowing doubt over the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Ajay Sethi, associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that “viruses like SARS-CoV-2 evolve as they replicate in a person with infection and as they spread from one person to the next. When that evolutionary process yields a strain that has a genetic make-up which is very different from the original virus, it is considered a ‘variant.’ ”

He added that “a virus is a ‘variant of concern’ if it has the potential to threaten the pandemic response in some way. It may be more infectious than other variants, cause more severe illness, not be detectable by current tests, less affected by current treatments, partially escape immunity provided by current vaccines, or a combination of these.”

Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, Pewaukee native and former Wisconsin Badgers star, ties single-season NFL sack record vs. Ravens

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Pewaukee native T.J. Watt has entered rare NFL company. His name is now at the top of the NFL single-season sack list.

The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and former University of Wisconsin star tied Michael Strahan’s mark of 22½ sacks in a season when he wrapped up Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley for a loss on  a 1st-and goal from the 3-yard line with 23 seconds left in the second quarter Sunday in Baltimore.

Some private colleges, universities delaying start of spring semester classes, requiring vaccinations amid COVID-19 surge

Wisconsin Public Radio

Some private colleges and universities in Wisconsin are delaying the start of spring semester classes, requiring negative COVID-19 tests or vaccinations and boosters for students and employees amid a rapid surge of new COVID-19 infections. At the same time, the University of Wisconsin System says students “will return on-time and as normal” for classes starting this month.

Omicron variant drives new, faster spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Examiner

Quoted: “This current increase is being fueled by the new omicron variant, which is more infectious than delta” — until recently, the predominant variant of the virus in Wisconsin, said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and faculty director of the master’s degree in public health program at the University of Wisconsin  School of Medicine and Public Health.

Tommy Thompson resigning from post as interim president of UW System

Wisconsin Public Radio

University of Wisconsin System interim President Tommy Thompson plans to resign from the position March 18.

The former Wisconsin governor took on the role July 1, 2020, after being hired that June by the system’s Board of Regents. Thompson has been filling the void after a failed search for a replacement for former UW System President Ray Cross, who retired in 2020 after serving as president since 2014. Thompson was 78 at the time of being hired for the interim role.

UW-Madison professor pens haiku collection detailing medical treatment

Wisconsin Public Radio

Ellen Samuels has spent a lot of hours in loud, cramped MRI machines.

She said medical personnel would give her these “little headphones” to play music, but the sound of banging metal coils and vibrating electrical pulses all but muted that music.

So to pass the time, she would craft poems in her head. Without the ability to jot them down, she imagined haiku because the five-seven-five-syllable format was easier to remember.

Wisconsin’s Endless Election Investigation Is Carrying The Jan. 6 Banner Forward

Talking Points Memo

Quoted: “This has gotten worse, not better,” said Michael Wagner, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication whose research focuses on the functioning of American democracy. “I think we had a moment a year ago to try to push the reset button on how we think about democratic elections, and instead, we kept playing.”

“It’s made it convenient for people who want to doubt the election to cling to that — and that was part of what motivated the insurrectionists,” said Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison.

Fourth-graders from Green Bay schools ask professor about environment, renewable energy

Wisconsin Public Radio

A class of fourth graders from Green Bay public schools recently submitted questions about renewable energy and the environment to WPR’s “The Morning Show.”

Greg Nemet, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, joined the show to answer those questions.

Wisconsin budget reserves, federal funds could be factors in governor’s race

Wisconsin Public Radio

“(Evers) has resources to do things that I think were not expected and are available without him having to raise taxes to make it possible,” said Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The fact that he is basically in sole control of distributing the federal COVID relief funds means that he’s satisfying a lot of different constituencies heading into the 2022 midterm elections without paying the price of being branded as a liberal Democrat who has raised taxes to make that happen.”

People are ditching traditional jobs for social media careers. Here’s how five Wisconsinites did it themselves.

Appleton Post-Crescent

Noted: If you’re an aspiring content creator and you want to learn how to make YouTube video thumbnails, attract sponsorships or gain more followers, then Muaaz Shakeel is your guy.

As Shakeel’s freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was approaching, he decided he wanted to give content creation another try. This time, he took it seriously, he said, and taught himself everything he needed to know about being a YouTuber.

UW researchers working to show perennials are profitable through new $10M project

Wisconsin Public Radio

Valentin Picasso, an agronomist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said researchers in his field have known for a long time that planting perennial crops in farm fields has a long list of environmental benefits.

The plants’ year-round presence protects the soil from erosion and helps absorb nutrients that would otherwise runoff into lakes and rivers. The forages, which are used for livestock feed, also create an environment for increased biodiversity and can even help fix carbon into the soil, mediating the effects of climate change.

“We’ve shown, in looking at long term research here in Wisconsin, that the more diversity we have in a cropping system, the more resilient it is to weather extremes like drought. And we’ve also shown that the more perennials in the system, we have more stability in production,” Picasso said.

New principal at a Burlington middle school has a background in restorative practices. What’s that mean?

Kenosha News

Noted: With a new building, the Burlington Area School District needed a new middle school principal. Nick Ryan’s the man for the job.

Before landing in Burlington, Ryan taught in Oconomowoc and Watertown. After receiving his master’s degree from UW-Madison, he ventured back to his birth state, Wyoming, to serve as an assistant principal before taking a similar job back in Watertown.

UW-Madison researchers pour themselves into 40-year History of Cartography Project

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Embedded within a four-decade-long endeavor to document the history of cartography is a deceptively simple question: What is a map?

In a world where most people interact with maps almost daily, pulling them up on their smartphone to effortlessly chart a path through the lattice of streets that lie between Point A and Point B, the map, at first glance, is a tool.

But ask a generations-spanning team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison what a map is, and they’ll give you a more complex answer. Maps are more than a flattened rendering of the land around us, said Matthew Edney, a senior scientist at UW and a professor of geography at the University of Southern Maine.

“They’re cultural documents,” he said. “They’re social instruments.”

UW Madison Cartography Lab’s “We Are Here: Local Mapmakers Explore the World That Connects Us” Exhibit


We Are Here: Local Mapmakers Explore the World That Connects Us is an exhibit that was developed by the UW Madison Cartography Lab and currently showing at the Overture Center until January 16th. The exhibit features work from both current students and alumni from their current places of employment and aims to let people know that Madison is a hub and important place of cartography training.

The most-watched ‘Here & Now’ interviews of 2021

PBS Wisconsin

List includes:

April 16: A Johnson & Johnson vaccine update and vaccinating children
Dr. Jim Conway, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, explained why distribution was paused for one type of COVID-19 vaccine, and expanding vaccination eligibility to teenagers and younger children.

June 25: The roots of ‘critical race theory’
Gloria Ladson-Billings, a professor emerita at the UW-Madison School of Education, and John Witte, a professor emeritus at the UW’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, discussed the academic origins and underpinnings of critical race theory.

Oct. 29: Ground rules for the Rittenhouse trial
Lanny Glinberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and a former prosecutor, explained pretrial rulings made by a Kenosha Circuit Court judge in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and legal requirements of a self-defense argument.

Price for grocies, gas and more are rising at a pace not seen in decades. Your inflation questions answered.

Appleton Post-Crescent

Quoted: At the beginning of the pandemic, the rate of inflation was almost zero and prices were falling, said Dr. Menzie Chinn, an economics professor at the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs.

In response, the government passed robust support packages — including stimulus checks, enhances unemployment benefits and tax cuts — to boost spending. The spending those programs created was concentrated more on goods than services, Chinn said.

“We have kind of a weird time where people have shifted more towards buying goods and we get a lot of our goods from China and abroad,” Chinn said. “So that means you have this collision, at least in the goods sector, of enhanced demand and not quite enough supply to keep up. And what happens is prices go up. Supply and demand.”

UW Expert: Child Tax Credit End Could Be ‘Devastating’ for WI Families


Wisconsin families may have received their last Child Tax Credit payment for a while, as Congress has missed its year-end deadline to pass President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better framework.

The roughly $2 trillion package would have reauthorized the expanded Child Tax Credit through 2022. Parents received their last credit on Dec. 15, and Timothy Smeeding, professor of public affairs and economics at the University of Wisconsin Madison, said to get the rest of the aid, they’ll need to file their income tax returns for 2021.

“So, there’s still another $1,500 or $1,800, depending on how old the child is, that will come to them once they file their taxes this next spring,” he said.

How Shark Antibodies Could Aid the Fight Against Coronavirus and Prepare for Future Outbreaks

Smithsonian Magazine

Nurse sharks (Ginglymostomatidae) are slow-moving, bottom-dwelling predators that stalk prey in warm shallow waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In a new study published in Nature Communications, scientists suggest the sharks could lend a fin in a new, more effective treatment for Covid-19.

‘Drug cocktail’ may be needed as COVID variants attack immune system on multiple fronts

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “If you’re a virus and you turn off the innate immune system, it’s like a thief cutting off the alarms in a bank in order to sneak in,” said Thomas Friedrich, a professor in the department of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Wisconsin’s athletic director tests positive for COVID-19 and will not be able to travel for the Badgers’ bowl game

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

University of Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not travel to Las Vegas for UW’s bowl game.

McIntosh must quarantine for 10 days.

“I would encourage everyone to follow the advice of medical professionals and get vaccinated, boosted, tested and wear a mask,” McIntosh said. “Those mitigation measures may not keep us from contracting COVID, but there’s a good chance they will keep us from having a severe outcome.”

Several UW football players and staffers affected by latest COVID-19 wave on UW campus

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The latest COVID-19 wave that is sweeping across the University of Wisconsin campus has affected the UW football team.

Multiple sources close to the program told the Journal Sentinel Saturday both players and staffers tested positive in recent days and that the Badgers would be short-handed when they face Arizona State Thursday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bryson Williams parlayed his UW football scholarship into an opportunity to succeed away from the field, after the cheering stopped

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Bryson Williams’ life changed in 2019.

The young nose tackle was preparing for his sophomore season that summer when he learned his application to the University of Wisconsin School of Business had been denied.

“That was the eye-opener for me,” Williams acknowledged. “I said: ‘Let’s get working. Let’s get going.’”

In visits to Milwaukee and Madison, Desmond Tutu preached against racial injustice, apartheid

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: Nearly 12,000 people gathered in the University of Wisconsin Field House to hear Desmond Tutu in 1998 and gave him a “thunderous standing ovation,” according to a Milwaukee Sentinel article from the time.

Speaking about racism toward Wisconsin’s Native American population, Tutu urged the crowd to “be committed to racial justice here as you are committed to racial justice in South Africa.”

Tutu, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize four years earlier, also detailed why Americans should not support apartheid, calling it “as evil, as unacceptable, as immoral as Nazism.” He encouraged people to see each other as brothers and sisters and to find strength in diversity.

“Brothers and sisters sometimes disagree, and disagree violently, but they still remain brothers and sisters,” he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal.

Sick of Wisconsin’s fractious politics? Get involved and help make the system more responsive.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Barry Burden, director of the Election Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, notes that running for office is a remedy “as long as it is done in the spirit of genuine public service and not merely to implement a dogmatic agenda.”

He notes: Volunteering on local boards and commissions is “an underappreciated way to contribute and see what good is happening in the public sphere.”

31 movies with Wisconsin ties in 2021, from ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ to ‘No Time to Die’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”: In this franchise reboot, Carrie Coon plays the daughter of OG (original Ghostbuster) Egon. After he dies, Coon, who got her start at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in Madison-area theater, brings her kids to his rural Oklahoma house and discovers the ghosts are coming back.

“Enemies of the State”: Oscar-winning documentarian and University of Wisconsin-Madison alum Errol Morris is executive producer of this true tale of a family that caught up in intrigue when their hacker son is targeted by the federal government.

The alien beauty and creepy fascination of insect art

Knowable Magazine

Noted: Another striking example is the singing shawls made by the Karen people of Myanmar and northern Thailand, says Jennifer Angus, who teaches textile design at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. These woven garments, so named because they’re worn at funeral ceremonies where mourners sing around the clock for several days, sometimes have a fringe made from the shiny, iridescent elytra, or hard outer wings, of jewel beetles. Angus, who grew up in Canada, had never seen anything like it. “I really had trouble believing that it was real,” she says.

The discovery inspired Angus to start incorporating insects into her own work. Her first installation was at a storefront gallery in Toronto, where she arranged hundreds of weevils into a wallpaper-like pattern on the walls. When people walked up to take a closer look, Angus says, “literally, I saw them take a step back as they realized the wallpaper was composed of insects.” The piece created tension, she says, between what people expect when they see a pattern they associate with domestic spaces and the realization that the pattern is composed of bugs, which most people don’t like to find in their homes.

Study finds more than 1M tons of salt is flowing into Lake Michigan each year

Wisconsin Public Radio

More than 1 million metric tons of salt is flowing into Lake Michigan each year, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The findings come as the state has been making significant strides to reduce salt use on roads to curb pollution.

Researchers examined past and current water data on the amount of salt flowing into the lake from 234 rivers and streams, according to Hilary Dugan, the study’s lead author and assistant professor for the Center for Limnology at UW-Madison.

“There’s a tremendous amount of salt going into the lake each year,” said Dugan. “But because of the volume of Lake Michigan, that concentration is still pretty low.”

Wisconsin’s population growth stagnated over the last year

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: In Wisconsin, there were more deaths than births for the first time since the state began keeping vital records, said demographer David Egan-Robertson of the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“It’s just been a complete sea change in terms of how we view the population,” Egan-Robertson said.

Jails and prisons have always struggled to find and keep workers. COVID-19 and a nationwide labor shortage made it worse.

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Recruitment and retention has always been difficult in corrections due to grueling work conditions and lower pay, according to Jirs Meuris, assistant professor of management and human resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“You have a job that’s already difficult to get people to apply to, to join and then to retain those people. And then you add a labor shortage, as well as a pandemic, that’s going to make that job even harder to do,” said Meuris.

Why is Wisconsin a great state for great sausage? (Hint: it’s more than just German heritage)

Green Bay Press-Gazette

Noted: Jeff Sindelar, associate professor in the meat and science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, agrees 100% with the European influence when it comes to Wisconsin’s sausage skills.

It started with people with strong meat-processing skill sets putting down roots here, but having people who wanted to purchase those foods provided a sustainable market throughout the generations.

Wisconsin was also well-positioned geographically to help carry on those traditions, Sindelar said. Being located between the large population centers of the Twin Cities and Chicago, the latter with its famous stockyards, brought railways to Wisconsin.