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Category: Experts Guide

The census is months behind schedule. What that means for the fight over Wisconsin’s election maps

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: The new maps are supposed to be in place for the 2022 elections. But the delays could be so severe that Wisconsin’s existing, Republican-friendly maps will have to be used for those elections, said Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It seems unlikely I think that the litigation would be resolved in time for elections to happen in new districts in 2022,” he said.

Keeping the old maps for another cycle “doesn’t feel right,” he said. “But I think courts often view it as the least bad option, as opposed to forcing candidates to make very quick decisions or changing the dates of primaries or something else.”

Business experts: Rebuilding consumer and employee confidence a joint project

Wisconsin State Journal

“We know that individuals do have different tolerance for the kind of risks-and-benefits trade-off,” said Nancy Wong, a consumer psychology professor at UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology. “Some people are just naturally risk-takers and some are not.” Evan Polman, an associate professor at the university’s School of Business who researches decision-making and moral psychology, said risk aversion is “probably the most important dimension” for someone deciding when to resume activities outside the home. The community they live in factors into that decision, Wong and Polman said.

State health insurance pool for schools could save money, has bipartisan interest

Wisconsin State Journal

UW-Madison business professor Justin Sydnor, who specializes in risk and insurance, said insuring more school districts through ETF could be beneficial but questioned the need for a separate pool. “The high-level idea of leveraging ETF’s expertise at creating a big pooled plan and getting some competition among insurers makes some sense,” he said. “But why propose an entirely new program? Why not just work on whatever the issues are that are preventing more school districts from taking advantage of it?”

A minor change could bring the state $1.6 billion in federal dollars. Republican legislators are uninterested.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Republicans in Wisconsin first took their stance when Scott Walker was governor, contending that the federal government eventually could stop paying as much as promised for the expansion.

“There might be a little bit of Scott Walker legacy in all of this,” said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Paul Fanlund: Do science advocates share blame for anti-vaccination pushback?

The Capital Times

Professor Dietram Scheufele is an award-winning and nationally recognized expert on science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and someone I’ve written about for years. He recently shared with me five thoughts about what could have been done differently to mitigate this stark divide over vaccine attitudes.

Post-pandemic retail: What’s in, what’s out

Wisconsin State Journal

Since the early days of e-commerce, many big-box retailers saw their brick-and-mortar stores as almost separate businesses from their online operations, said Hart Posen, a professor of management and retail expert at UW-Madison. The pandemic gave them an opportunity to experiment, and they discovered that one is not a substitute for the other. Rather, they complement each other. “Sometimes a customer wants to order online, drive there and pick it up,” Posen said. “Other times that customer wants to come to the store and look around.”

As participation in youth sports grows, more are winding up on the injured list

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Noted: The prime injury culprits are specialization — which the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health defines as participation in a single sport for more than 8 months of the year — and overtraining.

A groundbreaking 2017 University of Wisconsin study of 1,544 Wisconsin high school athletes found that those who specialized were 70% more likely to sustain a lower extremity injury than athletes who played multiple sports.

“Should we really be asking our young kids to do what we’re asking our collegiate athletes?” asked David Bell, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory.

“Kids aren’t programmed to do a single sport for 15 to 20 hours a week for the entire year.”

Just 0.03% of fully vaccinated in Wisconsin have gotten COVID-19, state says

Wisconsin State Journal

Dr. James Conway, a UW Health pediatrician and vaccine expert, called the very low rates of breakthrough cases “reassuring” and proof the vaccines are working as well or better than expected. But the cases also serve as a reminder that people should keep taking coronavirus precautions for now even if fully vaccinated, especially given that more contagious variants are circulating, health officials say.

Ron Johnson disputes scientific consensus on the effectiveness of masks in preventing spread of COVID-19

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “People who wear masks in close settings have a lower risk of being infected than people who don’t,” said Patrick Remington, former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program.

Wisconsin not saying how many fully vaccinated residents have acquired COVID-19

Wisconsin State Journal

Still, the relatively low tally of reported infections among those fully immunized should be taken as encouraging news, said Dr. James Conway, a UW Health pediatrician and vaccine expert. “I think this is reassuring. Four months into this, these vaccines are working as good, if not better, than we hoped they would,” Conway said. “It should be more incentive for those who are on the fence or wondering whether they should get these vaccines. … These things work.”

Ed. Leaders: Discuss Race, Call Out White Supremacy

Education Week

Written by John B. Diamond, the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s education school, and Jennifer Cheatham, a senior lecturer on education and the co-chair of the Public Education Leadership Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former superintendent of the Madison school district in Wisconsin.

Michigan is overwhelmed by another COVID-19 surge, this one driven by young people. Is Wisconsin next?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “I think we’re all at the edge of our seat, fingers crossed we don’t experience that, but all the signs indicate that we could experience it,” said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “We’re headed in the wrong direction.”

Although vaccines appear to be highly effective against new variants of COVID-19, not enough of the population is yet vaccinated to prevent a surge without other precautions, Sethi said.

Absentee voting declines from last year’s sky-high levels as more voters resume the habit of going to the polls.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “I think it’s safe to say Wisconsin elections are now going to be mixed-mode operations for the foreseeable future,” said political scientist Barry Burden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“A good chunk will vote on election day, as they always have, but there will also be a good chunk voting earlier,” either in person or with a mail ballot, Burden said.

Parents’ hesitancy could impede efforts to vaccinate school kids

The Capital Times

UW epidemiologist Ajay Sethi calls the potential eligibility of 12- to 15-year-olds “a very important step to increase immunity to the virus in our community.” But he said it may take time to get some parents on board. Some, he said, will probably wait and see if the virus is under control in terms of infection rates before making a decision, and some may decide to vaccinate their children after more is known about the disease.

Will economic growth always rely on population growth?


Quoted: Basically, capital and investment are the main ingredients in economic growth, said Charles Engel, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But capital and investment can only take you so far. Simeon Alder, a visiting assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said exponential economic growth requires exponential new ideas, as new ideas are the fundamental engine of growth. (Think about the economic growth and improvement in standards of living that occurred during and since the Industrial Revolution.)

“The challenge with that is the more ideas you already have, the more new ideas you need to create in order to sustain that growth rate,” he said. “To get these extra ideas, you just need more and more people as sort of a general result.”

Here’s how pop culture has perpetuated harmful stereotypes of Asian women


Quoted: When a national tour of the musical came to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2019, Lori Kido Lopez — a media and cultural studies professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison — protested outside of the theater. As she told TODAY over Zoom, “Miss Saigon” embodies “the classic story of the self-sacrificing Asian woman.”

Kim, the protagonist, is a sex worker who falls passionately in love with an American GI — a romance that is, as Lopez pointed out, “already extremely uncomfortable because there’s a power dynamic where he’s paying her for sex.” He promises to take her back to the states; she promptly becomes pregnant. But the plan fails, leaving her languishing in war-torn Vietnam with a child to raise on her own.

Mentees of Dr. Melvin C. Terrell Reflect on the Role of Mentorship in Diversity Work

Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Quoted: Dr. Jerlando F.L. Jackson described mentoring as “the sharing of information and guidance that helps demystify a pathway, whether that’s a pathway to and through a graduate program or a career pathway.” He’s the chair of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a Vilas Distinguished Professor.

For him, a meaningful mentee-mentor relationship means the two “walk together through one’s journey,” sharing successes and concerns.

Jumping Worms Are Eating — And Altering — Wisconsin’s Forest and Garden Soils

PBS Wisconsin

Noted: Jumping worms were first identified in Wisconsin in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. Just eight years later, the worms have been reported just about everywhere in the state and are highlighted as an invasive species by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“They are, if not in every county, close to it,” said Brad Herrick, an ecologist at the UW Arboretum.

One of QAnon’s most widely quoted critics reveals his real name. Hint: It’s not Travis View.

The Washington Post

Quoted: “They didn’t give these news outlets a chance to engage this ethical reasoning, and I think that’s a problem,” said Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. “But I can see how this person thought it was not a problem” because such journalistic standards are not widely understood by the public.

Kimberly-Clark Hiking Prices On Toilet Paper, Diapers


Quoted: Moses Altsech, an expert in consumer behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Business, said if the price increases are small enough, some consumers might not even notice.

Altsech added that the company might also not have to worry about their customers buying different products because Kimberly-Clark’s competitors might take the opportunity to increase their prices, too.

“If commodity prices are the reason, the same reason that hurt Kimberly-Clark hurt its competitors, too,” Altsech said. “So everybody’s motivated to increase.”

Republicans keep grip on Legislature despite Democratic spending spree

Madison 365

Quoted: Gerrymandered districts are “the most important driver of election outcomes,” said Barry Burden, a political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Although there are improvements to be made in the campaign finance system and in other election rules and practices,” he said, “the configuration of districts has proved to be the most powerful determinant of state legislative election results.”

Should College Students Be Prioritized for Covid-19 Vaccines Now?

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Quoted: The known benefits of directly protecting vulnerable people outweigh those of indirectly protecting them through immunizing less at-risk community members, said R. Alta Charo, professor emerita of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “While the data is showing good signs of reduced spread by vaccinated individuals, that data is still not as robust as the data demonstrating personal protection from being vaccinated,” she wrote in an email. Meanwhile, for high-risk individuals — “until they are vaccinated, they have limited ways to protect themselves.”

Biden braces for fight with both parties over broadly defined infrastructure packages

Washington Examiner

Quoted: For University of Wisconsin, Madison Elections Research Center Director Barry Burden, the final bill text for Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” could be bipartisan, especially given the return of earmarks. Earmarks permit lawmakers to sneak funding for nonprofit projects in their states or districts into certain measures.

“Many Republican legislators will want a piece of the package to claim credit for in their districts,” Burden said. “At least for some Republican legislators, the spending is an essential part of both national security at ports and borders and economic competitiveness with China.”

Wisconsin Dairy Marketing Group Nationally Recognized For ‘Cheeselandia’ Social Media Campaign

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Sarah Botham teaches agriculture and life sciences marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She said the Cheeselandia campaign is a successful example of the way that agriculture is trying to “market smarter” and with a new customer in mind.

“They are reaching, first of all, people who are really interested in Wisconsin cheese and secondly people who are of a younger demographic,” Botham said. “That generation is interested in not just eating but in understanding where their food comes from, in experiencing the food and sharing it with friends.”

What you need to know about vaccine passports — and the ‘double privilege’ dilemma they raise


Noted: Taken together, while vaccine supply is still limited, if vaccine passports are widely used not only for travel but for other social events such as concerts, broadway shows, nightclubs, it would “double privilege” people got vaccinated early on, said Christine Whelan, clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison.

When Will Kids Get COVID Vaccines?

Scientific American

Quoted: Given that most kids are at low risk for complications from COVID, the need for a pediatric vaccine for the disease may not seem pressing. But scientists say the pandemic may never be fully controlled until kids are inoculated. When we only vaccinate adults, we leave vulnerable “an enormous, immunologically naive population,” says James H. Conway, a pediatrician and associate director for health sciences at the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Without a pediatric vaccine, “the disease, even if our kids don’t get super sick with it, is going to be there and continue to circulate routinely.”

How school lunch could improve when classrooms are full again

The Conversation

Jennifer Gaddis, Assistant Professor of Civil Society & Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Before the pandemic, a growing number of schools were employing cafeteria staff to cook nutritious meals from scratch, and implementing farm-to-school programs and other practicesto improve jobs, local economies and the environment.

Due to fewer kids eating school meals during the pandemic and the increased costs associated with COVID-19 safety protocols, these positive changes may stall, or even be reversed.

My research suggests these reforms are needed to transform the school lunch experience and maximize the ability of school meals to improve public health and contribute to a post-pandemic economic recovery.

‘I’m empty.’ Pandemic scientists are burning out—and don’t see an end in sight

Science Magazine

Quoted: “The pace that led to the incredible generation of knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 has put enormous demands on the people who are expected to generate that knowledge,” says David O’Connor, a viral sequencing expert at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has been tracking the spread of the virus, doing Zoom Q&A sessions with the vaccine hesitant, and helping neighborhood schools set up diagnostic testing. “This is a terrible time and we should all do what we can to help. But is it going to be sustainable?”

The depths of Lake Michigan are getting warmer, new study reveals. That could mean more snow and less ice

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: The warming of the lake could also result in changes in the amount of snow seen around the lake, said Michael Notaro, the associate director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The warming lake waters and declining lake ice cover support enhanced lake evaporation and lake-effect precipitation during the cold season. As the lakes warm in the cold season, the temperature difference between the water and overlying air increases, supporting greater turbulent fluxes of heat and moisture from the lake to the atmosphere,” he said in an email. “That favors more vertical atmospheric motion that can support cloud and precipitation formation in the cold season.”

Wisconsin is debating how to conduct its elections. Here are some ways to improve the process for voters and poll workers.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Implementing a two-way tracking system would increase transparency, said Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It likely would attract support from both parties.

“I think Democrats liked them, because their main worries are about ballots not being received or returned, and a voter being disenfranchised,” he said. “For Republicans, I think it provides some security about the integrity of the election. … If the election official ever thought that someone was fraudulently stealing ballots out of mailboxes and sending them, they could simply check the online tracking system, and the voter could do that as well.”

Amid uptick in COVID-19 cases, Wisconsin health official urges masks, preventive measures

Wisconsin State Journal

Meanwhile, UW-Madison experts disagreed during an online forum Wednesday about when the state might reach herd immunity, typically defined as a 60%-90% vaccination rate or combined rate of vaccination and natural immunity from recent infection. The state health department has been aiming for a 80% vaccination rate, saying it could be reached by June if enough people seek injections.

U.S. States Throw Open Vaccine Eligibility Before May 1 Goal


Quoted: And opening eligibility doesn’t necessarily mean administration is going efficiently, said Ajay Sethi, an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. In some cases, states are reaching the limits of vaccine acceptance.

For those still waiting to get it, he said, just knowing they’re eligible can make an emotional difference. “Sometimes people feel better standing in line than not having any line at all,” Sethi said Thursday. “Once a few states do it, other states decide to do it as well, especially if leaders are finding that they don’t want to hit the wall, they want to keep the momentum, they might as well open up the eligibility criteria.”

Hair Loss Is A Surprisingly Common Side Effect Of the Pandemic—Here Are 13 Possible Reasons Why It Might Be Happening


Quoted: “Telogen effluvium is commonly triggered by stress, and COVID-19 has definitely contributed to a lot of stress these days,” says Apple Bodemer, MD, Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Department of Dermatology. “I am seeing a significant increase in this type of hair loss.”

‘Dangerous for democracy’: Why these GOP state legislatures want to restrict voting rights

USA Today

Quoted: Trump complained about mail-in voting early in 2020 and never stopped. Despite all the suspicions, the 2020 election still had a record turnout.

That’s why Barry Burden, political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, isn’t convinced voting reform bills in battleground states is about restoring voter confidence.

“They were confident. They participated at extremely high rates,” he said.

Atlanta Spa Massacres Expose a Glaring Media Blindspot: Anti-Asian Racism

The Daily Beast

Quoted: “It has been infuriating to see how this racist and sexist killing spree has been handled by U.S. media outlets,” communications professor Lori Kido Lopez, director of the University of Wisconsin’s Asian American Studies Program, told The Daily Beast. “It is also infuriating to see the news media taking seriously the idea that ‘sexual addiction’ is relevant here. There is a long history of sexual predators using this kind of faux medical diagnosis as a way of escaping responsibility.

“It was particularly insulting and offensive to see headlines repeating the suspect’s description that he was having ‘a bad day.’ That is such a callous statement that minimizes the massive loss of life, but also the way that this kind of terrorism radiates fear and pain throughout the entire community.”

Fungi are key to our survival. Are we doing enough to protect them?

National Geographic

Quoted: “We think the true biodiversity of fungi is somewhere between one million and six million species,” says Anne Pringle, a University of Wisconsin-Madison mycologist—as fungus experts are called—and a National Geographic explorer. Yet despite their global prevalence, fungi have historically been left out of conservation initiatives.

Why the U.S. is rethinking its approach to poverty


Quoted: Lawmakers in the U.S. have for years debated how to track poverty, and child poverty in particular. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, when the country is caught in a deep recession that has forced families deeper into financial difficulty amid widening inequalities, “it’s not surprising” that politicians have found renewed interest in curbing this hardship, said Rebecca Blank, a macroeconomist who worked on anti-poverty policy for the the Clinton and Obama administrations and now serves as chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Unpacking Hate Crimes Against Asian American Women With Dr. Cindy Cheng


At its meeting tomorrow night, the Dane County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution condemning hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The vote comes as lawmakers across the country are speaking out against hate crimes against Asian Americans after a series of shootings yesterday in Georgia left eight people — six of whom were Asian — dead.

But do those resolutions and condemnations go far enough?

For more, our producer Jonah Chester spoke with Doctor Cindy Cheng, a Professor of History and Asian American studies at UW-Madison.

Pfizer, Moderna, J&J? Most in Wisconsin won’t be given a choice of COVID-19 vaccine — and doctors say that’s OK

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: The clinical trials for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were done later, when the virus may have been more widespread, and in different countries with different populations, said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and an associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Graham said the same.

“People should not shun the J&J vaccine,” she said.

Here’s where Wisconsin’s neighboring states are on vaccine eligibility and how they compare to us

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Wisconsin’s slightly later move to Phase 1C doesn’t mean the state’s rollout is sluggish, though. It’s likely an indicator that demand has been high in Wisconsin among currently eligible groups, said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Some of the states have been opening up eligibility criteria earlier because I think in some ways they’ve hit a little bit of a wall,” Sethi said.

A newspaper has a novel strategy for covering one politician’s falsehoods: Don’t

Washington Post

Quoted: Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, praised the Plain Dealer’s transparency. She said journalists should be thoughtful about when to cover disinformation and when doing so would simply give the falsehood a platform. They should also consider how a politician might say or do something to distract from an inconvenient news story, she said.

“They have a responsibility to serve the public interest,” Culver said. “And giving a platform to things that are not true does not serve that public interest.”

American Indians incarcerated at among highest rates in Wisconsin, as many as half the inmates in some jails

Green Bay Press Gazette

Quoted: Pamela Oliver, a professor emerita of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has studied racial disparities in the justice system. She said communities of color are surveilled by police more frequently than white communities, and as a result, officers arrest a disproportionate number of people of color.

Many crimes are committed at the same rates between young white people and people of color, but people of color have been arrested for them at higher rates.

“White kids screw up just as much,” she said. “They do bad stuff, but nobody sees it because they’re not being watched.”

Warmer weather, looser restrictions draw students to gather outdoors

Badger Herald

Students are ready to take advantage of the warm spring weather and the CDC verified gathering outside as the notably safer option, but the risk of increasing COVID-19 cases is largely dependent on how students chose to gather. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Professor Oguzhan Alagoz spoke on students gathering outdoors. “Yes, people are going to spend more time outdoors, which is great. But are they going to wear masks or are they going to let their guard down?” Alagoz said. “And that’s where I think it’s a big unknown.”